18 NOVEMBER 2011

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are private correspondence and not for publication” – ABC News Radio’s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

Margaret Simons and Stuart Littlemore at Media Inquiry; Occupy Ultimo Movement Failing; Radio National Appoints Brand New “Young” Lefties

● The Media’s Double Standards – The Cases of Peter Roebuck and Lee Rhiannon

● Can You Bear It? Geoff Kitney on Prime Ministerial Kisses; Mike Carlton’s Call for Polite Debate and the Outcome; Tony Wright As Fashionista Commentator

● Nancy’s Howlers-of-the-Week: Bruce Hawker and Phil Kafcaloudes

● Nancy’s Pick of the Week Incorporating Five Paws Award: The Age on the Royal Family; The Chaser on Robert Manne

● Correspondence: Still Factless at UNSW – A Letter to Professor Hilmer


▪ Nancy To Take A  Well-Earned Break

This is the last MWD until 27 January 2012.  Like her journalistic colleagues, Nancy does not do holidays.  But she certainly does well-earned breaks.  So, as from (after lunch) today, Nancy will be heading for the kennels and her WEB.  Some material scheduled for this week has had to be held over until next year.  Here’s hoping youse all can wait.

However, be warned. Nancy is now in theTwitter Zone and may send out occasional Media Watch Dog messages over the Festive Season.

Media Inquiry Ploughs On

What exciting, truly exciting, reports in this morning’s newspapers about the hearings of the taxpayer funded Independent Inquiry into Media Regulation which were held in Sydney yesterday.  The Inquiry is headed by Ray Finkelstein QC who is assisted by Professor Matthew Ricketson.

▪  Sandal-Wearer Simons Steps Out

In today’s Daily Telegraph, Miranda Devine reports as follows:

When sandal-wearing freelance journalist and prolific tweeter Margaret Simons told the print media inquiry newspapers had “hundreds” of journalists sitting around in their newsrooms, smirks and discreet eye rolls swept the ranks of working reporters.

Those who’ve worked in a newsroom any time in the past decade are painfully aware of rows of empty desks that tell a story of declining circulations and shrinking revenue. But that reality doesn’t seem to have intruded much on the inquiry in a small tatty room in the bowels of Sydney University’s School of Tropical Medicine.

Quite so.  Don’t say MWD hasn’t warned the world at large about leftist sandal-wearers. Or Sandalistas.  It’s not so long ago that Ms Simons entered into personal correspondence with MWD objecting to the fact that Nancy’s co-owner had described her as a sandal wearer. [I’m surprised you did not publish this personal correspondence – Ed].

Ms Simons also became upset when Nancy’s co-owner described her as a compost-sexual and revealed that her award winning book Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoir – which she co-authored with Malcolm Fraser – was littered with factual errors. As to the compost-sexual reference, this is what Margaret Simons told The Age on 27 May 2004. Here we go:

Compost is earthy and sexy in both the literal and metaphorical sense. The smells of sweet, well-made compost are not dissimilar to the smells of a bedroom after sex. It is the smell of the stuff of life. To my mind, a good composter is likely to be a good lover – in touch with their sensuality and aware that sex has nothing to do with airbrushing and deodorising and shaving and counsels of supposed perfection. Sex is animal. It is to do with smells, tastes, fertility and growth. The same things are true of compost.

According to Tim Dick’s report in this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald, Margaret Simons told the Media Inquiry:

When I’ve criticised the ABC, I’ve been quoted in The Australian as an independent and respected media commentator.  When I criticise News Ltd, I’m a gardening writer and a blogger.

For the record, MWD regards Ms Simons as a “gardening writer” – which helps explain the howlers in her Malcolm Fraser book.

Unfortunately, Nancy has never been invited around to Margaret Simons’ inner-city Melbourne digs to check-out her compost.  But, if, as the saying goes, she’s up for it – then Nancy would sure like an offer to get-down-and-dirty in the Simons’ compost.

In the meantime, Nancy fantasises that there was a scent of compost on the sandals that the sandal-wearer Simons wore to Ray Finkelstein QC’s inquiry in Sydney yesterday.

Stuart Littlemore – Remember Him?

Meanwhile The Australian Errol Simper reported that former ABC TV Media Watch presenter Stuart Littlemore QC had elected to give his opinions to the Media Inquiry in Sydney yesterday.  Simper wrote that Littlemore has been “a defamation lawyer since leaving journalism and the ABC behind”

Er, not so.  When presenting Media Watch, Littlemore was paid by the ABC on contract rates.  His full-time job was as a barrister and his areas or practice included defamation.  These days, Littlemore believes that journalists should be regulated like dentists.  This is not the view which Littlemore held when he was a journalist. By the way, Littlemore used his appearance before the Media Inquiry to bag Tony Abbott. Sometimes nothing changes.

Bad News – Occupy Ultimo Movement Faltering

Alas, it seems that Nancy’s Occupy Ultimo movement is not succeeding.  ABC managing director and editor-in-chief Mark Scott has not responded to the BRING BACK DEB campaign (See Issue 120). This is sad.  As the saying goes (or went), the “Mornings with Deborah Cameron” program was so bad it was good.

Every Monday to Friday, Ms Cameron would rise in her inner-city abode, put on her sandals and hemp, devour some muesli and cycle to the ABC headquarters in Harris Street, with a copy of the Green Left Weekly under her left arm.  She would then get into “Green-Left-Daily” mode and provide lotsa copy for MWD – along with “Cut & Paste” in The Australian.  As the saying goes (or went), Deborah Cameron will be missed.

▪ Good News.  Radio National Appoints No-So-Young Left-Wing Talent

However, all is not lost.  Just when it looked like the taxpayer funded public broadcaster might be abandoning the infantile disorder that is left-wing politics, news has come out of new appointments of young talent to present programs on ABC Radio National.

Five years after nice Mr Scott became managing director, the taxpayer funded public broadcaster still does not have one conservative presenter or executive producer for any of its key programs on television or radio.  Not one.  And the left-of-centre Jonathan Green edits the on-line edition of The Drum. In other words, the taxpayer funded broadcaster remains a conservative-free zone.

According to Michael Bodey’s report in The Australian on Wednesday, Radio National has appointed some “young radio talent”  The list includes such left-of-centre personalities as Julian Morrow (one of “The Chaser Boys” – average age 39), Waleed Aly, Robbie Buck and Andrew West. Not a conservative among them – and nor are all this lot obviously “young”.

On the assumption that WORSE IS BETTER, this is good news for Nancy. Since it will mean that the left-of-centre Mr Morrow and Mr Aly and Mr Buck and Mr West will join such Radio National ingrained leftists as Phillip Adams and Fran Kelly and Robyn Williams.  This should ensure  lotsa material for MWD in 2012. [Did you cite Mr Williams in this list because he complained to Nancy’s co-owner recently that he had been omitted from a MWD list of sandal-wearing leftists, thus embarrassing him in the presence of his sandal-wearing leftist friends? – Ed].


Just imagine that a Catholic cardinal or an Anglican archbishop decided to discipline several young black men, whom they were supporting financially, for alleged bad behaviour by administering corporate punishment on their buttocks with a cane.  And imagine that the cardinal or bishop then asked the victims to take off their trousers so that he could examine their welts in their naked state.

Surely, the media would be outraged.  Such leading clerics would be driven from office due to public disgrace – and they would never get a job writing or broadcasting about religion in newspapers or the television or radio.

And just imagine that a middle-aged Liberal Party MP, or an ALP parliamentarian from the party’s New South Wales right-wing faction, had joined a fascist movement at a young age and remained in such an organisation until age 39 – when the international arm of the movement faltered.  And then imagine that the person involved had frequently travelled to visit – or study in – such fascist dictatorships until he/she was almost 40 years old.

Surely, the media would be outraged.  Such politicians would be hounded for past associations with right-wing extremism and they would be asked to account for any benefits – in cash or kind – which they received from foreign fascist-like dictatorships.

And now consider the cases of Peter Roebuck and Lee Rhiannon.

▪ Peter Roebuck (1956-2011)

Peter Roebuck, the former English country cricketer who became a cricket commentator for Fairfax Media and the ABC, died by his own hand last weekend in Cape Town, South Africa.  According to reports, he jumped from a hotel window after being questioned by police concerning an alleged sexual assault on a young black man.

The allegation against Roebuck is just that – an allegation.  However, before his death it was widely known that Roebuck had pleaded guilty in an English court to three charges of common assault in 2001 – following his caning of three young male South Africans, whom he offered to coach cricket, some two years earlier.

Evidence was presented before the court that – following the caning – Roebuck had sought to examine the naked buttocks of his victims.  At best, this was disturbing behaviour. At worst, it suggested that Roebuck was a sexual predator with a particular interest in young, poor, male Africans.

The fact that Peter Roebuck had been convicted of assault was reported in the Australian media at the time.  However, after a temporary time-out, the convictions did not halt Roebuck’s brilliant career as a cricket writer and broadcaster from resuming.   In fact, his media career blossomed after he had become a convicted criminal.

So, as the saying goes, Mr Roebuck had form when the South African police visited his hotel in Cape Town last weekend and sought to arrest him.  Yet you would hardly know this from initial reports in the Australian media – the worst examples of which occurred in The Age and on ABC TV and ABC Radio.

On Monday, believe it or not, The Age ran no fewer than eight pieces on Peter Roebuck – including an editorial.  There were six photographs of Roebuck published.

Peter Roebuck’s death was the main story on Page 1 last Monday, accompanied by a large colour photograph. The story was by cricket writer Greg Baum – it made no mention of the fact that Roebuck had three criminal convictions for assault, or the nature of the charges.

Mr Baum’s tribute contained the following statement: “He [Roebuck] was a loyal friend who felt the pain of others as acutely as only the highly intelligent do.”  This is sheer nonsense.  There is no evidence that Peter Roebuck “felt the pain” of the three young black men he caned for his own personal gratification.  And it is rank elitism for Greg Baum to assert that “only the highly intelligent” feel the pain of others.  This suggests that the less intelligent are less sensitive to the pain or others – an assertion for which Baum has no evidence.

Greg Baum’s tribute to Roebuck spilled to Page 2 – which also contained a news report of the journalist’s death by apparent suicide. The news report did refer to the fact that he was being questioned for sexual assault and to the 1999 canings.  This occupied two paragraphs of a 14 paragraph story. Then all of Page 9 was devoted to Peter Roebuck, including an obituary by Malcolm Knox.  The obituary made no reference to Roebuck’s criminal convictions.

The Age’s editorial, titled “Vale Roebuck, master wordsmith”, continued the coverage.  The editorial made a brief mention of the caning incident and the recent allegation of sexual assault.  It described Roebuck as “a humanist”.  Which raises the question: Is it an act of humanity to cane others for one’s own pleasure?

Roebuck’s death also occupied the entire back page of The Age’s “Sport” section last Monday.  There were additional tributes on Page 27 and Pages 24-25 to Peter Roebuck by (i) Chris Barrett and Andrew Yu, (ii) Tim Lane, (iii) Peter Hanlon and (iv) Chloe Saltau.

ABC cricket journalist Jim Maxwell, a personal friend of Roebuck, spoke to ABC TV and ABC Radio following the death.  In an interview with Ginny Stein, which was reported on ABC TV News on Monday and on the AM program on Tuesday, Maxwell declared that Roebuck was a “very caring human being” who “really did have a strong motivation for a better world”.  There was no mention of Roebuck’s convictions for common assault.

Even the Jesuit on-line publication Eureka Street eulogised Peter Roebuck.  Roebuck had written occasional  pieces for Eureka Street and Andrew Hamilton, the publication’s consulting editor, wrote that “he seemed to understand and appreciate the moral centre that we try to encourage”.  Andrew Hamilton did not explain how Roebuck’s convictions for assault equated with his search for the “moral centre”.  Jesuit funded publications should be able to do better than this.

Perhaps the media can be excused for giving Roebuck a second chance, so to speak, by employing him after his conviction for assault.  However, there was no excuse for the outpouring of ambiguous and misleading sentiment which followed his death.  Peter Roebuck never apologised for his behaviour while he lived.  It is not clear why journalists should gloss over his behaviour in death, just because he was a gifted writer and broadcaster.

Journalist Peter Roebuck should have received the same treatment as that which journalists would extend to anyone else when convicted for assault – especially sexual predators.

▪ Lee Rhiannon (1951-   )

Generally, journalists show considerable interest in the Greens as a political entity and in particular in Greens politicians – such as Bob Brown, Christine Milne, Sarah Hanson-Young and Lee Rhiannon.  Except when it comes to Senator Rhiannon’s political past, apparently.

As readers of MWD will be aware (see MWD passim), Lee Rhiannon has refused to respond to questions as to why she remained attached to the pro-Moscow wing of the communist movement in Australia until the collapse of European Communism around 1990.  There is documentary evidence that Lee Rhiannon (under her previous name of Lee O’Gorman) edited the pro-Moscow magazine Survey, which was financed by the Soviet Union, until its final edition in July-August 1990.

MWD has asked Senator Rhiannon whether she did a course at the Lenin School in Moscow in 1976.  Alumni of the Lenin School include such Stalinist dictators as East Germany’s Erich Honecker and Poland’s Wladysaw Gomulka.  Senator Rhiannon has declined to confirm or deny the allegation.

In the House of Representatives, Lee Rhiannon’s political background has been pursued by Michael Danby (the Labor MP for Melbourne Ports) and Tony Smith (the Liberal MP for Casey). However, apart from Christian Kerr in The Australian, there has been scant journalistic interest in Lee Rhiannon’s years as a radical communist – despite the fact that it was documented by Mark Aarons’ book The Family File and in his profile on Rhiannon which was published in the May 2011 edition of The Monthly.

In a contribution to The Drum on 9 November 2011, Greg Jericho criticised what he depicted as light-weight and unfair criticism of the Greens.  He had this to say about Lee Rhiannon’s past :

The Greens are not the ALP-Far Left. Sure Lee Rhiannon might have had parents who were members of the Communist Party, but if your criticism of The Greens is focussed purely on that you might as well give up now, be like Gerard Henderson and start posting missives on the web pretending to have been written by your dog.

Greg Jericho’s comment is intellectually dishonest.  Gerard Henderson’s criticism of Senator Rhiannon’s past political involvement has not been posted as missives on his blog under the pretence that they were written by his dog. Rather, Gerard Henderson wrote two substantial letters to Senator Rhiannon on 28 September 2011 (see here.) and 6 October 2011 (see here).  The Greens senator has declined to answer the questions raised.

Also, the case against Lee Rhiannon (nee Brown who, for a time, went by her married surname O’Gorman) does not turn on the claim that “Lee Rhiannon might have had parents who were members of the Communist Party”. The fact is that Lee Rhiannon’s parents – W.J. (Bill) Brown and Freda Brown – were members of the Communist Party when it was aligned with – and financed by – the Soviet Union.  But that’s not the point.

The essential point about Lee Rhiannon’s political past does not involve her parents. Not at all.  The fact is that Lee Rhiannon herself joined the Socialist Party of Australia – the pro-Moscow segment of the Australian communist movement in 1970/71 and remained part of the pro-Moscow communist movement until 1990, when European communism collapsed.  In 1990, when Lee Rhiannon’s infatuation with Soviet Communism ended, she was 39 years of age.

The Canberra Press Gallery would not ignore a Coalition or Labor politician who spent half of his/her adult life as  a member of the right-wing extremist outfit which received funding from foreign fascist regimes.

But many journalists seem uninterested in the fact that – between the age of 16 and 39 – Lee Rhiannon supported the brutal communist regimes of Eastern Europe which persecuted minorities, including members of the intelligentsia.

As a Greens politician with a pro-Moscow background Lee Rhiannon should receive the same treatment as any Coalition or Labor politician who had a long-term association with fascist movements in Australia and fascist dictatorships abroad.


▪ Kitney on Kissing

This is how Australian Financial Review’s Geoff Kitney reported the meeting between Prime Minister Julia Gillard and President Obama at Canberra Airport on Wednesday:

When Prime Minister Julia Gillard greeted President Barack Obama at Canberra airport at 3.21 pm yesterday she did it with a peck on each cheek – a first in the US presidential visit to Australia.  But the warm informality of the arrival should not be misinterpreted as suggesting this is a “business as usual” presidential visit.

The gushing continued.  But note Mr Kitney’s astute comment that this was the first time an Australian prime minister had, er, planted one on a  US president.  In other words, Harold Holt didn’t kiss L.B. Johnson in 1966, Paul Keating did not kiss George Bush Senior in 1991 and John Howard did not kiss Bill Clinton in 1996 or George W. Bush in 2007. Can you bear it?

Mike Carlton’s Urbane Best

In his Sydney Morning Herald column on 23-24 July 2011, Mike Carlton praised the debate in the House of Commons as polite, urbane and civilised.  He contrasted the British Parliament with the House of Representatives – where he claimed “both sides” of politics engage in “puerile beer-garden insults of third rate minds”.

That was then.  Last Saturday in his SMH column,  Mike Carlton had this to say about Italian politics:

The week saw another spiky moment of truth for Silvio Berlusconi, forced from office at last as the Italian economy collapses into just one more Roman ruin. Poor man. Cosmetic surgery has left the ludicrous old roue with a face as smooth and blank as a condom full of water, but fires still burn within. You might have seen that exquisite shot on the TV news the other night, of Silvio not-so-subtly perving on Julia Gillard’s bum as she took her place beside him for the G20 photo opp.

This, apparently, is Mike Carlton’s idea of polite, urbane and civilised debate. Can you bear it?

Tony Wright’s Frock Shock

No doubt about it. “The Guardian-on-the-Yarra” got the BIG STORY out of President Obama’s visit to Canberra on Wednesday.  There is the front page of Thursday Age. Top of Page 1 is a fashion piece by – wait for it – Canberra journalist Tony Wright headed: “G-G dresses (twice) to impress President.

Sure other media outlets covered Governor-General Quentin Bryce’s dash from lemon to blood-orange with polka dots.  But only The Age gave it Page One coverage.  Can you bear it?


▪ Bruce Hawker’s Evidence-Free Claim

On the Sky News PM Agenda program last Monday, Labor apparatchik Bruce Hawker declared that in 2007 John Howard said that “a victory for Senator Obama would be a victory for al Qaeda” and that Howard had claimed that Obama “supported al Qaeda”  In fact, John Howard made neither comment.  It seems that your man Bruce just made this up. [Perhaps he might get a gig with UNSW Press, editing a second edition of What’s Left. Just a thought. See Correspondence. – Ed].

Phil K Stumbles On India

On ABC TV News Breakfast last Tuesday, Phil Kafcaloudes declared that the Coalition was “still against India getting uranium” and that “they certainly were during the Howard years”.  Co-presenter Michael Rowland piped up that this represented “another policy challenge for Tony Abbott”.

Not really.  The Howard Government – along with the United States and Canada – decided in principle in 2007 that Australia should supply uranium to India.  The Rudd Government changed the policy in 2008.  And Julia Gillard is intent on changing the policy again in 2011.


The Age on Death and Forgetting in the Royal Family

Nancy’s pick of this week goes to the following report from the Press Association’s Sam Marsden in London – which was published in The Age on 14 November 2011:

Nurses who cared for two cousins of the Queen who were born with learning difficulties have spoken of how the sisters were never visited by the royal family during decades in an institution.

Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon, nieces to the Queen Mother, were sent to the Royal Earlswood Hospital in Redhill, Surrey, in 1941, aged 15 and 22 respectively.

Hospital staff interviewed for a British Channel 4 documentary said they were not aware of them ever receiving visits, Christmas cards or birthday cards over the years. They described how Nerissa, who died in 1986 aged 66, had no members of her family other than her sister at her funeral and was buried in a ”pauper’s grave”.

Five Paws – for taking some of the “royal” out of the Royal Family.

▪  The Chaser Pins Robert Manne

Nancy’s Pick for last week goes to The Chaser “Boys” who, in Episode 6 of Hamster Wheel, got to the essence of the Robert-Manne-Cult-of-Personality in the following voice over:

Voiceover : In the latest issue of The Monthly, Robert Manne slams conservatives whose politics aren’t like Robert Manne’s. Robert Manne on why Julia Gillard is not running the country as well as Robert Manne would. Plus, Robert Manne’s critique of News Limited’s response to Robert Manne’s Quarterly Essay critique of News Limited. With an additional afterword by Robert Manne. And does Robert Manne write too often for The Monthly? Robert Manne thinks not. The Monthly: The Magazine for the Every Manne.

The Chaser “Boys” (average age 38) – Five Paws


As MWD readers will know, Gerard Henderson is still trying to get Dr Nick Dyrenfurth and Dr Tim Soutphommasane to document – or withdraw – the undocumented claims they made about him in their book What’s Left which was published by UNSW Press Limited.

Gerard Henderson advised UNSW Press Limited some time ago he would take the matter up with Professor Hilmer if the issue was not resolved by early November.  It wasn’t.  Here is the latest letter in this saga.  It has yet to be acknowledged.  MWD understands that Fred Hilmer is currently in India.  We will let you know next year if Professor Hilmer responds to this letter.

From Gerard Henderson To Fred Hilmer – 10 November 2011

Professor Fred Hilmer AO

President & Vice Chancellor

University of New South Wales

Dear Professor Hilmer

I am writing to you in your capacity as President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of New South Wales.  As you are aware, the University of New South Wales Press Limited – and its various titles including UNSW Press and New South – is a part of the University of New South Wales.

I am genuinely concerned about the indifference of the University of New South Wales towards University of New South Wales Press Limited and its publications.  I am also surprised at the refusal of senior management at the University of New South Wales – along with UNSW Press Limited’s management – to enter into discussion about UNSW Press publications or ever to answer correspondence.  It is as if both the University and its publishing arm accepts no responsibility for the content of books which it publishes.

As you will recall, in 1993 you were the principal author of Strictly Boardroom: Improving Governance to Enhance Company Performance (which was published by Information Australia in association with The Sydney Institute).  Among the findings of Strictly Boardroom was the conviction that “executives have primary responsibility for managing the corporation”.  This letter is directed to you in your capacity as the chief executive of the University of New South Wales in the light of your responsibility for managing the University of New South Wales, including UNSW Press Limited.

I know that you are familiar with this issue.  I also know that you effectively passed the matter on to Professor Richard Henry (UNSW’s Deputy Vice Chancellor, Academic). And I know that Professor Henry refused to deal properly with the issue – and subsequently declined to answer correspondence.  I would be surprised if you – and UNSW’s Council – would describe such behaviour as amounting to good governance.

For the sake of clarity, I briefly repeat the key facts.  In the introduction of their co-edited book All That’s Left: What Labor Should Stand For (New South, 2010), Nick Dyrenfurth and Tim Soutphommasane referred to members of “the Right” and continued:

Whether it is Gerard Henderson, Janet Albrechtsen, Andrew Bolt or Christopher Pearson, there is only carping and invective.  To be on the Right is to believe that Labor has returned to its socialist ways: that everything is symbolic and hollow; that political correctness has run riot; and, of course, that Judeo-Christian values are under threat.   Such poor emulation of American neoconservative strategies – the crass pseudo-populism of the tea-party patriots, the vapidity of Sarah Palin and the blathering of the Fox News demagogues – diminishes not only conservatives but also the wider public debate.

The fact is that I have never written or said (i) that “Labor has returned to its socialist ways”, (ii) or that “everything is symbolic and hollow”, (iii) or that “political correctness has run riot”, (iv) or that “Judeo-Christian values are under threat”.

Dr Dyrenfurth and Dr Soutphommasane just made all this up with respect to me.  All That’s Left is replete with such abusive terms as “blathering” and “vapidity” – but contains neither footnotes/endnotes nor a bibliography.

The co-editors have not been able to provide any evidence to document their assertions with respect to me.  In their one and only (belated) response to me, Dr Dyrenfurth and Dr Soutphommasane simply resorted to abuse and denial.  Borrowing a term from Mark Latham, they accused me of suffering from “pathological corresponditis” and alleged that I had trashed my “own reputation”.  They also denied that they ever made the claims about me which appear on Page 9 of All That’s Left.

You may be interested to know that, in their letter to me, Dr Dyrenfurth and Dr Soutphommasane claimed to be speaking in defence of UNSW Press.  As I understand it, neither is an academic at the University of New South Wales.  I am not certain whether the University of New South Wales needs to be “defended” in such a way.

As you are aware, no one at UNSW Press is prepared to either defend the claims about me in All That’s Left or require that the book’s co-editors produce documentation in support of their assertions.  Kathy Bail and Phillipa McGuinness have advised me that it is completely up to Dr Dyrenfurth and Dr Soutphommasane whether they even acknowledge correspondence concerning the contents of All That’s Left. Professor Henry, on behalf of the University of New South Wales, has supported the co-editors’ tactic.  As previously mentioned, Professor Henry himself now refuses to enter into correspondence concerning this matter with either myself or others.

So, we have the situation where the principal author of Strictly Boardroom is now the chief executive of a taxpayer subsidised university which has a publishing arm that refuses to document assertions or correct errors.  To me at least, this seems inconsistent with the concept that corporate governance entails that executives accept responsibility for managing all aspects of a corporation.

When Kathy Bail phoned me on 29 July 2011, she expressed no concern about whether All That’s Left contained undocumented assertions and errors.  All she cared about was that I had involved you and Professor Henry in the dispute.  I advised Ms Bail that I had no alternative – since UNSW Press had indicated that it chose not to exercise quality control concerning its publications.

Traditionally, I have enjoyed good relations with UNSW Press Limited.  Anne Henderson’s biography Joseph Lyons (New South) was launched recently by John Howard and has received very good reviews.  Last Tuesday, the Institute put on Geoffrey Lehmann and Robert Gray discussing their excellent Australian Poetry Since 1788 (UNSW Press).  Both events were podcast and filmed by Foxtel/Austar Channel 648.  Unlike All That’s Left, both books were fact-checked prior to publication and contain documentary material.

I am surprised that you, in your capacity as UNSW President and
Vice-Chancellor, appear unwilling to become involved in this matter in any way – beyond passing my correspondence on to Professor Henry who passed it on to UNSW Press who passed it on to the co-editors of All That’s Left who went into denial and abuse mode.

I would have thought that the University of New South Wales would insist on UNSW Press Limited exercising the highest of professional standards with respect to all of its publications.

As I have explained to Ms Bail and Professor Henry, the matter is easily resolved.  All the co-editors of All That’s Left have to do is to either produce evidence in support of their assertions or acknowledge that they made an error in attributing positions to me that I do not hold.

I would appreciate hearing your views on the issue before taking the issue further.  When you were chief executive of Fairfax Media, the company had a process of promptly handling any false claims made in its newspapers.  It would seem to me that the standards of the University of New South Wales with respect to evidence should be no less than those that applied when you were the chief executive of Fairfax Media.

Best wishes

Yours sincerely

Gerard Henderson

PS: For convenience sake, I have attached a copy of the entire correspondence concerning this matter.  Most of this has been published in my Media Watch Dog blog which appears on The Sydney Institute’s website each Friday afternoon.

* *  * *

Until next year.  Best wishes for the Festive Season.