“Media Watch Dog on Fridays…is a sort of popular read in the Crikey office”

Crikey’s Andrew Crook on ABC 2 News Breakfast, 24 September 2010.

“Gerard Henderson is big enough to take care of himself, but that doesn’t stop us worrying about him from time to time.

Lately it’s Hendo’s tendency to self-harm that has us losing sleep. For example, peruse the

correspondence he’s published in his latest Media Watch Dog blog…..There’s a part of us that just wants to ask: “Hendo, are you OK?”

– James Jeffrey’s “Strewth!” column, The Australian, 8 November 2010.

“I realise this makes me practically retarded, but until five minutes ago

I thought Nancy was Gerard Henderson’s wife, not his dog.”

– Byronbache via Twitter, Monday 7 February 2011

“Before going further can you write to confirm that these emails

are private correspondence and not for publication” – ABC News Radio’s

Marius Benson, 11 March 2011. He did go further – see MWD Issue 86.

Media Watch Dog – “disgraceful”, “sick”

– Professor Robert Manne, April Fool’s Day 2011.

“Go to the Sydney Institute Media Watch Dog website to marvel at [its] work”

– Mark Latham The Spectator Australia 11 June 2011.

“Henderson…What a pompous, pretentious turd you are.”

– Mike Carlton, Saturday 13 August 2011 (after lunch)

Stop Press: Does Mark Scott Have a View of At Home With Julia?;

Graham Richardson Forgets Labor’s Asylum Seeker Past

● Professor Rai Gaita’s ABC-Style Debates

● Nancy’s Five Paws Award: Judith Sloan Scores With The Age

● Can You Bear It?  Marieke Hardy On Frank Hardy; Dominic Knight On the Carbon Tax; Misha Schubert on Oppositions

Present and Past;  Lindsay Murdoch Fudges Wilfred Burchett’s Stalinist Past

● Nancy’s Howlers of the Week: Cassandra Wilkinson and Malcolm Fraser on Asylum Seekers

● Still No Evidence at UNSW: Dr D and Dr S Still Silent Despite Precedents

● History Corner:  Robert Manne’s Bad Memory On Chris Mitchell/Julian Assange and the Spy Ric Throssell


▪ Julia’s At Home – But Where Is Mark Scott?

At Home With Julia, ABC 1’s very own soap opera, continues apace.  Last week MWD raised the issue of whether ABC TV would ever run a comedy along the lines of, say, “At Home with Bob Brown” which dealt with the Greens’ leader’s political and personal life.  [Not on your nelly – Ed].

This week’s episode of At Home With Julia had the Julia Gillard figure having it off with the Tim Mathieson figure under an Australian flag on the floor of the Prime Minister’s Office in Canberra – after which the standard was removed for the purposes of dry-cleaning. Get it?

Today’s Australian carries a report on At Home with Julia by Amanda Meade, which contains the following quote by a “spokesman” for the ABC:

If it’s OK for others to drape themselves in our flag for all manner of occasions, I really don’t see why it can’t be draped over our prime minister as a symbol of love.

Come off it.  A “symbol of love”?  Go on.  Now here’s a question.  What does ABC managing director and editor-in-chief Mark Scott think about At Home With Julia? And the sex scene?  And the flag?  And the (subsequent) dry cleaning?  And the sneers at Tim Mathiesons profession of hairdresser?  MWD says: Let’s hear from nice Mr Scott.

▪ Richo Forgets Labor’s Mandatory Detention Past

At long last some balance is being returned to the political debate.  For yonks, such former Liberal Party heavies as Malcolm Fraser and John Hewson have lined up to publicly bag the political party they once led.  Now former Labor heavy Graham Richardson is becoming one of the most vocal critics of the ALP in general and the Gillard Government in particular.  In The Australian today, Graham Richardson has this to say about Julia Gillard’s asylum seeker policy:

And that is what really burns me up. How is it possible that Labor could get to a point where it was out-rednecking the Coalition on refugees? Where is this great party of principle? Does any true believer think Gough Whitlam, Bob Hawke or Paul Keating would have signed up to this? The only win Labor has had in the past 12 months is in this mad race to the bottom on asylum-seekers.

And now for some facts.  When he was prime minister in 1975 and the Vietnam war ended, Gough Whitlam did all in his power to prevent Indo-Chinese refugees, who were in fear of persecution from the communist regimes of Saigon, Phnom Penh and Vientiane from coming to Australia.  This was documented by Gerard Henderson in his article in The Sydney Morning Herald on 18 April 2006.  See here.

Moreover, mandatory detention – for asylum seekers arriving by boat and air – was introduced by, wait for it, Paul Keating in 1992.  In 1994, the mid-point of the Keating Government, some 350 children were being held in detention. And what was Graham Richardson doing in 1992, 1993 and 1994.  Why, he was a minister in the Keating Labor Government and was busy out red-necking the Coalition.  That’s what. [Should you have placed this item in your “Can You Bear It?” segment? – Ed].


What a stunning performance by Professor Raimond (“Call me Rai”) Gaita on Q&A last Monday.   He is the son of Romulus Gaita and author of Romulus My Father and After Romulus. [What’s next?  Perhaps After, After Romulus – Ed].  Nancy is quite an admirer of the learned philosopher, who has spent his entire career in taxpayer funded universities, since she read Professor Gaita’s The Philosopher’s Dog.  Nancy could not understand the work – but it had a great title.

What was good about the philosopher’s Q&A appearance turned on the fact that his answers were so long and so slow that it was possible for viewers to get up from the couch when Professor Gaita got the call from compere Tony Jones, to go to the kitchen, make a cup of tea and return to the couch before the Philosopher’s answer was completed.

In fact, MWD believes that your man Rai is of such talent that he should be given his own ABC show – perhaps on Radio National.  Professor Gaita would fit in well.  There is lotsa time to fill on RN. Moreover, Professor Gaita is well practised in the ABC  tradition of conducting so called “debates” where everyone agrees with everyone else and a fine ideological time is had by all. At the taxpayer’s expense, of course.

Currently Raimond Gaita hosts The Wednesday Lectures at the Melbourne Law School.  Here’s how the series is described on the University of Melbourne’s website:

After ten years at Australian Catholic University, Raimond Gaita is bringing his remarkable program of Wednesday Lectures to Melbourne Law School, from 8 June to 6 July 2011.  Join us for these five free public lecture events, each Wednesday evening from 8 June, to hear thought-provoking insights and ideas on the issues of secrecy, power and democracy, from writers, academics and commentators.

8 June – Guy Rundle will present “From Coldwar to Cyberwar: Power, the State and the Wikileaks Effect”

15 June – Raimond Gaita will present “Power and Consent”

22 June – Robert Manne, Guy Rundle, Gerry Simpson (Panel Discussion)

29 June – Kevin Heller will present “Prosecuting WikiLeaks for Espionage”

6 July – Helen Pringle will present “Secrecy and Power in Democracy”

What a bag of thought-provoking insights. First up, leftist and one-time Marxist Guy Rundle.  Followed by leftist Raimond Gaita.  Followed by a panel discussion of three leftists – Robert Manne and Guy Rundle and Gerry Simpson.  Following by human rights lawyer Dr Kevin Jon Heller. Followed by human rights academic Dr Helen Pringle.  You can attend the whole series without ever hearing a conservative or right-of-centre voice.  All at the taxpayers’ expense, of course.



This week’s prestigious gong goes to Judith Sloan who has commented about how The Age runs so many campaigns – it loves David Hicks and windmills but hates the dredging of Port Phillip Bay.  And so on.  Writing in the Catallaxy Files blog on 8 September, Dr Sloan had this to say about “The-Guardian-on-the-Yarra’s” Opinion Page:

I heard a good joke about The Age recently. What is the difference between the Age’s op-ed page and the crossword?  You need clues to know what’s in the crossword.

Judith Sloan – Five Paws.


▪ Marieke Hardy On Frank Hardy (Again)

ABC favourite Marieke Hardy was interviewed by Paul Connolly for the “What I know about men” feature in last Sunday’s Sunday Life magazine.  Ms Hardy spoke at some length about her favourite topic of choice – namely HERSELF. She continued:

My father wishes I would protect myself more in my writing and fictionalise my stories. It’s not so much self-preservation for him as his concern for me. Growing up with his father [author Frank Hardy] writing about himself and his family, Dad’s now been sandwiched between two people who feel compelled to tell the truth, even at their own peril.

What a load of tripe.  First, Frank Hardy (Marieke’s grandfather) did not feel compelled to tell the truth.  In fact, he received financial rewards for lying.  Frank Hardy’s Journey Into the Future, which was published by the Australasian Book Society in 1952, is a Stalinist tract written when Frank Hardy was a member of the Communist Party of Australia.  There is barely a true word in Frank Hardy’s book about the Soviet Union and the Soviet empire in Eastern Europe.

Then there is Frank Hardy’s quasi-novel Power Without Glory – in which the author alleged, without any evidence, that the then 75 year old Ellen Wren (the wife of the Catholic business entrepreneur John Wren) had an extra-marital affair. Power Without Glory was a hatchet job, which was commissioned by the Communist Party, designed to attack both the Labor Party and the Catholic Church.

Frank Hardy’s career as a congenital, unmitigated liar is documented by Pauline Armstrong in her book Frank Hardy and the Making of Power Without Glory (MUP, 2000).  Yet Marieke Hardy reckons that Frank Hardy always felt compelled to tell the truth. Can you bear it?

▪ Dominic Knight On The Carbon Tax “Masterstroke”

On 14 September, Dominic Knight (aged around 40, which qualifies him to be regarded as one of “The Chaser Boys”) appeared on the Sky News program Paul Murray Live.  This is what Dominic Knight had to say about the Gillard Government’s carbon tax which will become an emissions trading scheme. Let’s go to the tape:

Dominic Knight : I’m starting to think that this whole thing is a masterpiece – a masterstroke. I mean, it’s so boring, we’re so sick of it, it’s so going to happen. We’ve had – even on this show – we’ve had dozens or arguments about the whole thing that people probably are sick of it. So maybe the tactic of – you know – spending the whole year talking about it, was actually a smart one in hindsight…The package is done in such a way that there is compensation, it’s not going to affect most people’s bottom line.  So it’s going to end up, like the GST, being a pretty minor thing that we’ll probably end up worrying – wondering why we made such a fuss about it in the first place.

So there you have it.  On Wednesday 14 September 2011, Dominic Knight described the Gillard Government’s carbon tax as a “masterstroke”. On Tuesday 20 September 2011, the Newspoll (published in The Australian) had the Labor Party’s primary vote at a record low of 26 per cent.

And Dominic Knight reckons that Labor’s carbon tax is a masterstroke?  Can you bear it?

Misha Schubert Ignores Oppositions Past

On Insiders last Sunday, The Sunday Age’s Misha Schubert saw fit to join the Canberra Press Gallery’s familiar chorus that Opposition leader Tony Abbott is too negative. She took particular exception to the fact that Abbott and the Opposition had vacated the House of Representatives when Prime Minister Julia Gillard introduced the carbon tax legislation.

Misha Schubert: This is the way that Tony Abbott has broken the traditional Opposition leader’s playbook, in my view. He’s sort of jettisoned a lot of those kind of niceties. In a previous era, the Opposition leader would have sat there and listened to the prime minister of the day’s speech.  And he says: ”We’ll, I’ve got better things to do, to go and ram home my message in this muscular aggressive campaign.”

Ms Schubert seems unaware that  in early 1976, following the double dissolution election of December 1975, the Labor Opposition – led by Gough Whitlam – boycotted the opening of the parliament by the Governor-General Sir John Kerr.

Misha Schubert maintains that, traditionally, Opposition leaders have exhibited niceties. She seems to have forgotten the likes of Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser.  Can you bear it?

▪ Lindsay Murdoch’s Half-Life of Wilfred Burchett (Traitor)

Yesterday Lindsay Murdoch, The Age’s South East Asia Correspondent, wrote an article titled “Hanoi rolls out the red carpet for war correspondent”.  The story was about the fact that George Burchett had established a photographic exhibition of his father Wilfred Burchett (1911-1983) to mark the one hundredth anniversary of Wilfred Burchett’s birth.

In an ambivalent (and-oh-so-“Guardian-on-the-Yarra”) piece, Lindsay Murdoch referred to Wilfred Burchett as a “controversial Australian war correspondent” who was “branded a traitor”.

What Murdoch neglected to write was that Wilfred Burchett was a secret member of the Communist Party who was financed by various communist regimes in Eastern Europe and Asia. In his book People’s Democracies (World Unity Publications, 1951), Wilfred Burchett defended all the Stalinist regimes of Eastern Europe and the communist dictators who ran them.  He also participated in the interrogation of Allied (including Australian) POWs who had been captured by North Korean forces in the Korean War.  Wilfred Burchett also barracked for the communist dictators in Beijing and Hanoi.

Yet Lindsay Murdoch gave the impression that there is a genuine debate as to whether Wilfred Burchett was a traitor or a mere war correspondent. Can you bear it?


▪ Cassandra Wilkinson Stumbles On Boat Arrivals

On The Nation with David Speers last night, Cassandra Wilkinson ploughed into howler territory with this account of Vietnamese refugees who arrived in Australia in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Cassandra Wilkinson: We should be celebrating the boats, we should be celebrating the fact that Vietnamese came here – – – We should celebrate the fact that the Vietnamese people who came here on the first boats have become a fantastic part of the Australian community… We should celebrate the fact that waves of immigration have built this country into the magnificent democracy that it is today, and that we are a small nation, that can take more people, that it would be magnificent to be a haven for the world’s persecuted.

Ms Wilkinson’s sentiments are fine.  Pity, however, about the facts.  Some tens of thousands of Indo-Chinese refugees settled in Australia in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  But only 2059 Indo-Chinese refugees arrived in unauthorised boats during the seven years of the Fraser Government – i.e. on average about 300 a year. The situation then and now is not comparable.

No one celebrated boat arrivals during the Fraser years – since it is an established fact that many people, who attempt to come to Australia in leaky boats, drown.

Malcolm Fraser Fudges On Off-Shore Processing

Cassandra Wilkinson is young and has no first-hand knowledge of Australia in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  So her howler can be excused.  Malcolm Fraser has no such excuse.

Last Wednesday Malcolm Fraser was interviewed by ABC’s Afghanistan correspondent Sally Sara on PM. Let’s go to the transcript:

Sally Sara: Malcolm Fraser believes the debate has deteriorated since the Howard government turned around the ship the Tampa, which was carrying asylum seekers in 2001. He accuses both sides of playing politics ahead of human rights.

Malcolm Fraser: That began a descent into I think the most terrible debates that have ever occurred in the Australian Parliament. The great migration of the late ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, including the migration of people from Indochina after Vietnam, could not have occurred if today’s politicians had been in power, because during that earlier time, both the Liberal Party and the Labor Party said we are not going to play politics with this issue. When I said that we were going to take refugees from Indochina, Gough Whitlam did not oppose it; so the policy was still bipartisan.

Sally Sara: What did that influx of people after the Vietnam War mean for Australia?

Malcolm Fraser: It’s been one of the most important and successful movements of people in the history of Australia.  There were three years in a row when our humanitarian intake was over 20,000 a year and we were able to accommodate that. And the Vietnamese communities around Australia have contributed enormously to the richness and culture of this country.

Malcolm Fraser’s comments were misleading – unbeknown to Sally Sara and PM presenter Mark Colvin.  The fact is that virtually all the Indo-Chinese refugees who arrived in Australia during the time of the Fraser Government were processed overseas.  Only 2059 arrived unlawfully by boat and were processed on shore.  Also, when Whitlam was prime minister in 1975, and Opposition leader in 1977, he opposed Indo-Chinese asylum seekers – including boat people – settling in Australia.


In MWD Issue 100 it was reported that it had taken the ABC TV Media Watch program 20 years to correct an erroneous statement made by Stuart Littlemore (remember him?) concerning Angela Pearman (remember her?) about the collapse of the Soviet Union (remember it?).  A mere two decades – that’s all.

Writing in The Australian’s “Media” section on 12 September 2011, Nick Leys reported that it took Morry Schwartz’s Black Inc one full year to acknowledge a howler in the book on the 2010 Federal election by Mungo MacCallum titled Punch and Judy. Just twelve months.

In Punch and Judy, MacCallum claimed that journalist Dennis Shanahan had described immigration detention centres as “holiday resorts”.  Shanahan did not say this – MacCallum just invented the claim for effect.  Since Black Inc does not employ a fact-checker, MacCallum’s furphy made it into Punch and Judy.  In any event, just one year on from the publication of Punch and Judy, Black Inc has apologised for the error and pledged to correct the matter in all future editions. [Is Black Inc seriously suggesting that it might re-print your man Mungo’s error-laden sludge? – By the way, is this the same Mungo MacCallum who blamed John Howard for his thirst, which was relieved only by alcohol? – Ed].

Nancy’s co-owner has taken great heart from the above precedents.  So far, neither Dr Nick Dyrenfurth nor Dr Tim Soutphommasane have been able to come up with any evidence of any kind to support their claim in All That’s Left (UNSW Press) that Gerard Henderson believes that “Labor has returned to its socialist ways”, that “everything is symbolic and hollow” and so on.  What’s more, both UNSW Press and the University of New South Wales have gone into a post-modernist-facts-don’t-matter zone and declined to insist that UNSW Press authors support their assertions with evidence.

But, who knows?  In a year – or 20 years – the powers that be at UNSW may take a lead from the ABC or Black Inc and finally concede that Dr Dyrenfurth and Dr Soutphommasane have no evidence for their assertions.  And that – like Mungo – they just invented their claims.  Stand by for more reports.



It was a bit like a university academic common room when Professor Peter Van Onselen interviewed Professor Robert Manne on the Sky News Showdown program on Tuesday.  Except that Dr Van Onselen recently decided to take leave from university life and has worked in politics and the media – while Mr Manne is heading for four decades as a tenured academic at La Trobe University.

Under discussion was Quarterly Essay 43 – Robert Manne’s Bad News: Murdoch Australia and the Shaping of the Nation. Before writing this 40,000 word tome, Professor Manne requested – and was granted – a two hour interview with The Australian’s editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell and editor-at-large Paul Kelly.  Even so, Bad News did not contain one direct quote from Mr Mitchell or Mr Kelly.  On Showdown this week,  Robert Manne was asked about this.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Peter Van Onselen: Something that really caught my attention out of the essay was the fact that it is a long essay – you had two hours with Chris Mitchell, the editor-in- chief, whom you’ve effectively suggested is, certainly over the last number of decades, probably one of the most, if not the most, significant editors in the country. Why not even one quote from him in the piece?

Robert Manne : Because I didn’t find, you know, any of the things that he said sufficiently sharp or interesting to quote directly. I picked up and I have, very clear about all sorts of things he said. But I’m actually, I spoke I would say to twenty people, most off the record, some on. I don’t quote from Bob Brown either, it’s just not my style. I internalise what people say and if other people want me to have a different style so be it. But, it’s not. I, I listened very carefully and took in what Chris Mitchell and half a dozen other journalists were saying. But I didn’t feel the need to quote directly.

It seems that Robert Manne has forgotten that, on some occasions at least, quoting from people he has interviewed is his style.

The March 2011 edition of The Monthly contains a lengthy article by Robert Manne on Julian Assange, titled “The Cypherpunk Revolutionary”. The author did not interview the subject for the original article – which is not surprising since Mr Assange is a somewhat evasive personality.  However, when Julian  Assange read the article, he entered into email correspondence with Robert Manne.  This is the tech version of a face-to-face interview.

And guess what?  Robert Manne inserted some six direct quotations from Julian Assange in the revised version of “The Cypherpunk Revolutionary” essay – which is on The Monthly’s website.  One quote ran for 50 words and another for 40 words.  So Professor Manne’s claim on Showdown that it is just not his “style” to quote from people he has interviewed is incorrect.  Presumably, when talking to Van Onselen, Manne simply forgot his email interview with Assange. Memory can play tricks – even on tenured academics.

Then there is the matter of Ric Throssell (1922-1989), who joined the Department of External Affairs in 1943 and who was posted to Moscow in 1945-1946.  Ric was the son of well known communist Katherine Susannah Prichard.

In Media Watch Dog Issue 91 (15 April 2011), Ric Throssell was referred to as an Australian who had spied for the Soviet Union. This comment was repeated in Media Watch Dog Issue 92 (29 April 2011).

On 17 June 2011 Robert Manne forwarded an email to Gerard Henderson in which he contrasted what Henderson had written in MWD with his own coverage of Throssell in his 1987 book The Petrov Affair: Politics and Espionage. Professor Manne’s email stated in part:

…in Media Watch Dog of April 15 you call Ric Throssell a “spy”. A fortnight later, on April 29, you wrote that “we know the names of some Australians who were involved in espionage on behalf of the Soviet Union.” One of those who you claimed was a Soviet spy was Ric Throssell.

In The Petrov Affair I quoted the critical passage from the conclusions of the Royal Commission on Espionage, namely that “it would be wrong to hold that [Throssell] had been a member of Klod’s group or that he had willingly given any information.” I am interested in how you think “we” know something that the Commissioners did not. Is there some new evidence not available to the Commissioners on which you rely? This is a real question. It is perfectly possible that more recent solid information has emerged. If not, this should also be corrected. Involvement in espionage is about the most serious charge to lay against a citizen.

On 23 June 2011 Gerard Henderson wrote to Robert Manne in the following terms – indicating that Manne appeared to have forgotten that considerable new evidence came to light about Ric Throssell after the publication by Manne in 1987 of his book The Petrov Affair. This material was not available to the Royal Commission on Espionage (the Petrov Inquiry) when it reported in 1954. Henderson’s email correspondence stated in part:

The fact is that, following the publication of the Venona decrypts after the end of the Cold War, Ric Throssell was revealed as an agent of the Soviet Union. I am genuinely surprised that you appear not to have read Breaking the Codes by Des Ball and David Horner (which was published in 1998) and seem not to remember the release of the Venona decrypts in the mid-1990s.

The new information concerning Ric Throssell and others in the Venona decrypts was not available to the Petrov Inquiry royal commissioners – nor was it available to you for your 1987 book The Petrov Affair. You should know this. Especially since you wrote an article in The Weekend Australian on 26-27 October 1996 in which you commented that the Petrov Inquiry “commissioners were almost certainly unaware of material in the Venona transcripts”.

Breaking the Codes was written when Rick Throssell was still alive.  Even so, the authors made it clear that they believed Ric Throssell provided information knowingly to Wally Clayton (Klod).  In The Weekend Australian on 16-17 April 2011 (after Rick Throssell’s death), Des Ball wrote that the War Cabinet and War Advisory Council documents were probably given to the KGB by Throssell in 1944 – either directly or indirectly through his mother, Katherine Susannah Prichard.

I am also surprised that you appear not to have read Mark Aarons’ The Family File. At Page 144-145 of The Family File, Mark Aarons writes: “By early 1945 [Wally] Clayton was an officially recruited KGB agent with the codename Klod (sometimes just K). Canberra used this codename when transmitting Clayton’s intelligence to Moscow after Nosov delivered it to Makarov in Canberra.  From this time Clayton was regularly paid for his work. His output for Nosov included official documents and other material gathered from at least half-a-dozen agents, including the prominent communist author Katherine Susannah Prichard (codenamed Academician), who transmitted information from her son, Ric Throssell, an officer in the Department of External Affairs (codenamed Ferro), and who later provided information directly to Clayton.” At Page 168 of The Family File, Mark Aarons describes Ric Throssell as an “agent” of Wally Clayton (i.e. “Klod”).

That’s pretty clear. According to both Des Ball/David Horner and Mark Aarons, Dr Throssell was a spy for the Soviet Union.

Professor Manne responded that he had read the books of Des Ball/David Horner and Mark Aarons when they were published in 1998 and 2010 respectively. So he must have forgotten their content before emailing Henderson on 17 June 2011.  Clearly, Robert Manne forgot that the Venona Decrypts – which were released by the United States in the late 1980s and early 1990s and which published material which had been obtained when the US broke the Soviet Union’s code in the 1940s – proved that Ric Throssell was a spy.  Professor Manne also forgot that the likes of Des Ball, David Horner and Mark Aarons had concluded that Ric Throssell was a Soviet spy.

There is no other plausible explanation for Manne’s email to Henderson in which he queried whether any “recent solid information has emerged” about Ric Throssell since Manne’s The Petrov Affair was published in 1987.  The fact is that such material about the Soviet Union’s spy ring in Australia came out after Manne finished his book The Petrov Affair.

The evidence indicates that Robert Manne’s memory is faulty.

* * * *

Until next time.