GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG – ISSUE NO. 123
3 FEBRUARY 2012
“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 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are private correspondence and not for publication” – ABC News Radio’s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)
“We’d better be careful what we say, just in case Gerard’s offsider pooch Nancy is keeping an eye on us for his delightfully earnest Media Watch Dog”
– Tom Cowie of The Power Index, Crikey 20 January 2012
● Stop Press: 7.30 Gives Jennifer Robinson Soft Interview on Assange
● A Fran Kelly Moment: Follow the Interruptions
● Nancy’s Pick-of-the-Week: Jonathan Holmes Bags “Gina” re Fairfax Media
● Clive Hamilton (or is it Jacob?) Sounds Off on Ms Rinehart
● Nancy Channels Robert Manne’s Diary “Right, Left, Right”
● Inky Provides Psychological Advice on Leslie Cannold and Mark Latham
● Nancy’s Five Paws Award: Step Forward Kirsten Powers (Fox News) &
Philip Mendes re Julian Assange and Lee Rhiannon
● Can You Bear It? Hayden Cooper’s (Latest) Murdoch Conspiracy
● Correspondence: Greg Baum, Peter Roebuck and The Age’s Double Standards & Michael Brull Bangs on About Doctors (of the academic variety)
MS ROBINSON’S SOFT INTERVIEW RE WIKILEAKS FOUNDER
What a stunning performance by Jennifer Robinson – she of the Julian Assange Fan Club and legal team – on 7.30 last night.
For yonks Assange’s supporters have been saying that he was opposing extradition to Sweden, from his current abode in Britain, because he feared that, from Sweden, he would be extradited to the United States and be charged with breaching US national security. Assange is wanted in Sweden to answer questions about alleged sexual assault on two young women. So far he has not been charged with any offence in Sweden or elsewhere.
However, last night it was very much a matter of don’t-talk-about-the-sexual-assault allegations. Rather, Ms Robinson focused only on her claim that the US authorities wanted to charge Assange. And Mr Uhlmann seemed to be so captivated by her talent that he failed to ask the relevant question. Which is this – Why has the Assange legal team changed it’s position and no longer maintains that he is more likely to be extradited to the US from Sweden than from Britain? Let’s go to the transcript:
Chris Uhlmann: Is your major concern if he is extradited to Sweden that he might be convicted of a crime there or that he might be extradited to the United States?
Jennifer Robinson: Of course our concerns are numerous with respect to the Swedish justice system on these sorts of cases. But a key concern is the risk of his extradition to the US, whether it be – irrespective of whether he wins his appeal. If he’s released here in the UK, the US could seek his extradition from here. Or whether he ends up in Sweden, he could also be extradited from Sweden to the US. … So we are very concerned about the risk of onward extradition to the US.
So there you have it. At long last one of Julia Assange’s legal team has acknowledged that he could be as readily extradited to the US from Britain or from Sweden. So what has been the point in Assange refusing to return to Sweden to answer questions from Swedish police?
Alas, Chris Uhlmann did not ask – and Jennifer Robinson did not say.
A FRAN KELLY MOMENT: COUNTING THE INTERRUPTIONS
Fran Kelly, the left-of-centre presenter of the RN Breakfast program, is just so transparent. MWD has learnt to judge where she is coming from by counting the number of times she interrupts her guests. Here’s a little list:
▪ Interview with Treasurer Wayne Swan – 30 January 2012
Fran Kelly Interruptions: Nil
▪ Interview with Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey – 1 February 2012
Fran Kelly Interruptions: 5
▪ Discussion between Professor John Dwyer (an opponent of universities offering qualifications in alternative medicine) and Professor Kerryn Phelps (a supporter of universities offering qualifications in alternative medicine) – 30 January 2012.
Fran Kelly Interruptions of John Dwyer – 10
Fran Kelly Interruptions of Kerryn Phelps – Nil
JONATHAN HOLMES & LINDA MOTTRAM ON “GINA”
Most Fairfax Media and ABC types tend to have a similar world view. So it was no surprise, then, that there was a shock within the taxpayer funded broadcaster when news emerged last Wednesday morning that the Western Australian mining proprietor Gina Rinehart had increased her share holdings in Fairfax Media, whose businesses include the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
The host of Mornings with Linda Mottram admitted to being a bit obsessed with the subject. She invited two Fairfax journalists to the program – James Chessel, deputy editor of the Australian Financial Review, and Age and SMH columnist Adele Ferguson. In between, ABC 1 Media Watch presenter Jonathan Holmes was invited on the program to discuss the morning’s BIG STORY.
The News Watch program on Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News (which is shown in Australia on Foxtel and Austar) contains a diverse panel each week – usually two conservatives and two left liberals – and media issues of the week are debated and contested. Not so with Media Watch. Since its inception in 1989, Media Watch has had seven presenters – all of whom have been on the left. What’s more, there is no discussion on Media Watch. Rather the leftist presenter lays down the media law – a bit like a preacher in a religious congregation.
It is one of the ironies of Australian media life that – in so far as analysis of journalism is concerned – there is more diversity on the privately funded Fox News than on the publicly funded ABC.
Jonathan Holmes is the latest in a long list of leftist Media Watch presenters – following Stuart Littlemore, Richard Ackland, Paul Barry, David Marr, Liz Jackson and Monica Attard. Readers of MWD will be familiar with Mr Holmes (see Issue 93). He arrived in Australia from Britain in 1982 to take up the position of executive director of Four Corners – despite the fact that he knew nothing about Australia. A case of the left appointing the left, apparently.
In any event, it was all very matey on ABC Metropolitan Radio 702 on Wednesday. Mottram agreed with Holmes who agreed with Mottram who agreed with Holmes that the reported decision of Gina Rinehart to increase her stake in Fairfax Media to around 15 per cent was a BAD THING. Linda Mottram referred to Ms Rinehart as “Gina Rinehart” on two occasions and called her “Gina” once. Jonathan Holmes was more familiar – he made five references to “Gina” and three to “Gina Rinehart”. Neither the presenter nor her guest referred to the subject of their attentions by her proper title – namely, Ms Rinehart.
Every week, when he is not on Media Watch’s well-earned break, Jonathan Holmes lectures proprietors, editors, presenters and journalists about media standards. So, let’s go to the transcript to see how Mr Holmes fared in his unique spot as the subject of an interview.
▪ First up, Holmes responded to Mottram’s leading question which was: “What do you think of Gina Rinehart’s raid on Fairfax?” He replied that this could not be a business decision because, if it were, Ms Rinehart would be going against “the mainstream opinion” that media is not a good financial investment. [Do you think Mottram would have regarded an investment in Fairfax Media by such left-of-centre business types as Graeme Wood, Janet Holmes a Court or Morry Schwartz as a “raid”? – Ed]
▪ Then Holmes declared that: “According to that Good Weekend profile – and I don’t know how much truth there is in it, she [Gina Rinehart] believes that most journalists in Australia are communists”. He went on to declare that, if Gina Rinehart’s attitudes were as presented in the Good Weekend, then she is “not in the mainstream of political thought in Australia”. [How shocking – Ed.] This, Holmes declared, was “perhaps the most concerning” matter about her share purchase.
The reference was to the article by Jane Cadzow titled “The iron lady”, which appeared in the Good Weekend on 21 January 2012. Here Holmes was engaging in hearsay upon hearsay. The fact is that Jane Cadzow’s only source for her assertion was “a person who has known her [Ms Rinehart] for a long time”. This anonymous male admitted that the saying “all journalists are communists” was his interpretation of Gina Rinehart’s attitude. That’s all.
▪ Finally, Holmes took up Mottram’s suggestion that Gina Rinehart’s bid for a bigger share of Fairfax was motivated by a desire to increase Western Australia’s “political influence”.
Jonathan Holmes : If Gina wants to – I mean I think the main concern is that mining is a very specific interest in this country. It’s already got far more influence arguably than its actual contribution to the GDP of the country would warrant. And, as we saw with the mining tax, the people who run that industry are not at all afraid to exercise clout in the political arena.
Linda Mottram : Yeah. Yeah.
Jonathan Holmes : It’s the coverage of that particular industry and how it’s covered by Fairfax, that would concern me a bit. And whether, you know, it is healthy for people whose major financial interests are in one particular industry as a by-product of that to be trying to exercise influence in the media.
Linda Mottram : Jonathan Holmes, thank you very much for your time this morning.
Yeah, yeah indeed. Jonathan Holmes and Linda Mottram are paid by the taxpayer and enjoy relatively secure employment. It seems not to have dawned on either of them that there might be a public benefit in a mining company buying an increased stake in Fairfax Media at a time when newspapers are experiencing difficulties in responding to the challenge of the internet and when Fairfax Media’s share price has been in decline.
THE “GINA” CRISIS – THE GUARDIAN-ON-THE-YARRA OPINES
Yesterday The Age ran a lengthy piece by leftist and one-time Greens candidate Clive Hamilton titled “Mining in a new vein”. Professor (for he is a professor of public ethics at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga) bagged out (i) Gina Rinehart, (ii) Andrew Bolt, (iii) Alan Jones, (iv) Ray Hadley, (v) anti-communist scientist Edward Teller (vi) Hugh Morgan (vii) the H.R. Nicholls Society, (viii) the Institute of Public Affairs (ix) Christopher Monckton and (x) Ian Plimer. [Did he miss Pope Benedict XVI and Attila the Hun? – Ed.]
Clive Hamilton’s piece was nothing but a rant. It is not known who The Age paid for this opinion piece. As MWD previously reported (see Issue 34), Professor Hamilton admits to having two personas – as in a split personality. There is Dr Clive, who Professor Hamilton reckons is a good chap. And there is Mr Jacob, who Professor Hamilton acknowledges is an aggressive nutter. Reading this piece, Nancy reckons that payment ought to go to your man Jacob.
ROBERT MANNE’S DIARY – RIGHT, LEFT, RIGHT
[Once again, Nancy has intercepted Robert Manne’s Diary. See MWD Issues 88, 89 and 119 for previous examples of Nancy channelling Manne. Professor Manne is an intellectual. Indeed, on his “Left, Right, Left” blog on The Monthly’s website, the learned professor lets it be known that he has been twice voted Australia’s leading public intellectual. Twice. This diary update bears a certain resemblance to the learned intellectual’s most recent blog titled “The Second Rudd Government?” which appeared on The Monthly’s website on 23 January 2012. Nancy’s version is called “Right, Left, Right” to distinguish it from the “Left, Right, Left” real thing – if such distinction is warranted.]
For better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, unlike most commentators my judgments about Australian politics are generally formed not by conversations with Canberra insiders but almost solely by reading history books, listening to radio, watching old films and following the newspapers published last century. When you do all this, you tend to write in very long sentences, with lots of commas sprinkled around here and there, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer. And I always find that I write better about Australian politics from my Cottles Bridge abode, without having to meet the people I’m writing about. I’m a taxpayer funded academic who was twice voted Australia’s leading public intellectual.
I came to the conclusion in June 2011 that Kevin Rudd was so hopeless that he could not wash the left-over coffee cups in the La Trobe University Politics Department – after reading all about the Peloponnesian War and watching Gone With The Wind. The war between Athens and Sparta reminds me of the war between Rudd and Gillard, and so does the Civil War. I also know an awful lot about the Thirty Years War, the Great War and the Whore of Babylon (aka Rupert Murdoch). My speciality is conflict and my time commenced in 1975 when Professor Hugo Wolfsohn gave me life tenure at La Trobe University. I have maintained in recent years that I was never close to Wolfsohn. You do not have to be close to anyone once you have life tenure, especially if, like Hugo, they were anti-communist and you are now a leftie.
In the history of Australia there has never been a collapse as dramatic, unexpected and unnecessary as the one experienced by Julia Gillard during the past nine months. I know this is a similar comment to the one that I made about Kevin Rudd in the July 2011 issue of The Monthly. But, then, this is how it was in the Peloponnesian War. Sometimes Athens was on top, and sometimes Sparta was on top. Eventually, the Spartans won through. I think that this had something to do with the Trojan Horse but I am not so sure about this. It is not true, as Gerard Henderson claims, that my memory is failing, but the truth is that, when you type in all these commas, it is sometimes difficult to remember at the end of a long sentence, what you said at the beginning of the sentence, and it is easy to confuse Troy with Athens, or Sparta, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, or, indeed, Gillard with Rudd, or Rudd with Gillard.
My principal critics believe that I was in the Trojan Horse that brought down Rudd. Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they, because their first names are Rupert and Wendi. As an academic, these days I use numbers to keep me on the topic, otherwise you tend to forget what you have said and what you are saying.
The story of this event falls neatly into three discrete chapters. The first involves the fact that I condemned the asylum seeker policies of the racist Howard regime. The second chapter describes how I urged Labor, when it was in opposition, to abandon the racist Howard policy and introduce a humanitarian asylum seeker policy, when it gained office in November 2007. The third chapter took place on Q&A on 4 April 2011 when I turned on my former friend, the former prime minister, and told Rudd that he had been wrong to dismantle Howard’s stop-the-boats policy and introduce a humanitarian policy. I also wrote this in The Age on 22 November 2011, the very same pages where I had once said that Labor would be wrong not to dismantle Howard’s policy.
The fourth point (out of three) is that we have to stop the drownings. I said nothing when boat loads of asylum seekers sank between 1999 and 2001 but I regard the one thousand or so drownings between 2008 and 2011 as a sobering and terrible fact. The drowning of others is a small price to pay when one is campaigning against the racist Howard regime but it is a price too high when one is barracking for Rudd, then Gillard, then Rudd, as well as, of course, one’s new best friend, Bob Brown.
On another point, my many admirers at the ABC, The Age and sandal-wearing inner-city Melbourne have been kind enough to praise my brilliant suggestions for holiday reading which appeared in The Age on 10 December 2011. One of my recommendations was Paul Keating’s After Words. As I wrote: “Keating believes leadership requires courage and imagination; he had both.” I also opined that reading After Words was a “painful reminder of the hopes for a better Australia that have either temporarily or permanently, been forfeited” since Keating’s defeat. I did not mention that I voted for John Howard and the Liberals at the March 1996 election – when Keating lost the prime ministership. I’m hoping that Nancy will not have, in her kennel, a copy of my Age column of 31 August 1998 where I wrote: “At the last federal election I voted for the Howard Coalition”.
This would have been so painful to acknowledge that, suffering stress, I might run out of commas, and numbers and, of course, credibility among my sandal-wearing, taxpayer funded, friends who voted for me, as Australia’s leading intellectual, on two occasions, an assessment I happen to agree with, and which I mention, on my blog, on two occasions, in between commas.
NEW FEATURE – NANCY ON THE COUCH TALKS TO INKY
Nancy is forever concerned that her co-owner is suffering stress and may take extended stress leave. [Surely, a well-earned break? – Ed.] So she has decided to seek occasional advice from that well-known psychologist Inky – who featured initially in MWD Issue 96.– and pass it on to her co-owner. Welcome to some reality psychology.
▪ About Doctor Leslie Cannold
Nancy Asks: My co-owner has not been able to sleep recently. GH was recently warned by ethicist Dr (for a doctor she is) Leslie Cannold that he was harassing her and she threatened to initiate legal action against him. Is this normal practice when someone like GH asks one of Australia’s leading public intellectuals for evidence to support their undocumented claims about unnamed high-profile American politicians?
Inky Responds: It certainly is. These days many intellectuals regard being asked for evidence as a form of assault, a kind of intellectual rape. Remember how Dr Tim Dyrenfurth and Dr Tim Soutphommasane – for doctors they are – took offence when GH asked them to back up their assertions in the look-mum-no-documentation UNSW Press tome All That’s Left? (see MWD passim and ad nauseum).
GH should be very, very worried . I would advise him never to ask Dr Cannold for evidence again. She usually doesn’t have it and there is nothing quite so scary as an angry, factless ethicist. As for sleep, I would recommend watching The Drum on ABC 1 or 2 from 6 pm to 7 pm and then switching to Waleed Aly’s Drive program on Radio National. It works for me.
▪ About Mark Latham’s Book – Lost In Transition
Nancy Asks: In Tommie Switzer’s “Aussie Speccie” on 21 January 2012, Mark Latham wrote:
When I was at university a girlfriend gave me a prescient book, Tamara Deutscher’s Not By Politics Alone (1973). I have now posted a copy to Hendo. Gerard needs to read this book.
My co-owner, GH, has been waiting for the post-person to arrive every morning – eagerly anticipating the arrival of the promised tome. But, alas, it hasn’t come. What should he do?
Inky Responds: I would handle this one carefully. I’m sure if you ask Mr Latham he will advise that Not By Politics Alone is “in the mail”. So I would approach Tommie Switzer at the “Aussie Speccie” and threaten to take The Australian Spectator to the ACCC for publishing misleading information if Mr Latham does not post the Deutscher book immediately. See how this works and let me know.
NANCY’S FIVE PAWS AWARD
GONGS IN THE MATTER OF JULIAN ASSANGE & LEE RHIANNON
The inaugural winners of this prestigious gong for 2012 are Kirsten Powers (the left-liberal panellist on Fox News’ News Watch program) and Dr Philip Mendes.
▪ Kirsten Powers Criticises Assange’s Moscow Link
On Fox News last weekend, there was comment about the fact that Julian Assange has been signed up to present ten 30 minute programs on Russia Today News National – a television station which is owned by the Russian government and controlled by the Kremlin. When asked to comment about the fact that the founder of Wikileaks has agreed to work for – and be paid by – the Kremlin, Kirsten Powers responded: “The Russian government is murdering journalists”.
Good point. Thanks for the reality dose. Five Paws.
▪ Philip Mendes Nails Lee Rhiannon
Philip Mendes wrote to The Australian on Monday, following the publication of Christian Kerr’s articles in The Weekend Australian about aspects of Lee Rhiannon’s involvement with the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s, when she was Lee Brown and then Lee O’Gorman.
Dr Mendes’ letter was a timely reminder that, when the current Greens’ senator supported the Soviet Union, the dictators in Moscow were profoundly anti-semitic. This is the letter in full:
Christian Kerr highlights Senator Lee Rhiannon’s communist past including her support for the Soviet Union at a time of “heightened persecution of Soviet Jews” (“Secret past of Greens senator”, 28-29/1).
The Soviet anti-Semitic campaign included allegations that Zionism was a tool of Western imperialism and Jewish capitalism, that Zionists had collaborated with the Nazis to perpetrate the Holocaust and that Zionism was a racist philosophy.
Rhiannon’s support for the Soviet regime during this period poses questions about the motivation behind her support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign.
Philip Mendes, Kew, Vic
Good point. Five Paws.
CAN YOU BEAR IT?
HAYDEN COOPER PINPOINTS MURDOCH “CONSPIRACY” BUT LETS FLANNERY OFF THE HOOK ON CLIMATE CHANGE
On 27 January 2012, the Wall Street Journal ran a letter signed by 16 scientists and engineers under the title “No Need to Panic About Global Warming”.
On 30 January 2012 the letter was reported by The World Today. Reporter Hayden Cooper opened his report as follows:
Hayden Cooper: The Rupert Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal added petrol to an already flaming debate on Friday when it printed the headline: “No need to panic about global warming”.
Get the point? Rupert Murdoch owns The Wall Street Journal. So anyone whose views are reported in the newspaper must be suss, surely.
Then Cooper proceeded to ask several tough questions of William Kninmonth, one of the signatories of the letter. Dr Kninmonth is the former head of climate research at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.
Then Cooper interviewed Tim Flannery, recently appointed by the Gillard government as chief of the Climate Commission. Cooper offered no objection when Dr Flannery:
▪ implied that the Wall Street Journal ran the letter in an election year because there is a chance that a Republican president “may decide that climate change doesn’t need addressing”.
▪ queried the qualifications of many of the signatories of the letter in the Wall Street Journal.
Hayden Cooper did not inform The World Today listeners that President Obama’s Democratic administration has abandoned the proposed American emissions trading scheme or that Tim Flannery has no qualifications in climate science but is a paleontologist.
Can you bear it?
● GERARD HENDERSON AND GREG BAUM – RE PETER ROEBUCK AND THE AGE’S DOUBLE STANDARD ON SEXUAL ABUSE
Media Watch Dog Issue 121, 18 November 2011, was the last edition of the year – after which Nancy and her co-owner went on what journalists call a well-earned break.
MWD Issue 121 contained a piece titled “The Media’s Double Standards on the late Peter Roebuck and Senator Lee Rhiannon”. The reference to Peter Roebuck (1956-2011) turned on his death, apparently by his own hand, in South Africa the previous weekend. MWD drew particular attention to the soft coverage of Roebuck in the Australian media – particularly in The Age and on ABC radio and television – compared with the coverage by both media outlets of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
On 5 December 2011, MWD received an angry missive from Greg Baum, The Age’s chief sport columnist. In view of the fact that MWD was in recess over the holiday period, Gerard Henderson did not respond until late January. The entire correspondence is published below – in the public interest, of course.
GREG BAUM TO MWD – 5 DECEMBER 2011
Gerard Henderson might wish to bend the facts to suit his agenda as he likes. But it is simply not true that the assault charges against Peter Roebuck in 2001 were not reported in the Australian media.
GERARD HENDERSON TO GREG BAUM – 23 JANUARY 2012
I refer to your email of 5 December 2011, which was sent to The Sydney Institute’s email address – from your email at The Age – when I was overseas.
Since your email referred to material published in Media Watch Dog Issue 121 on 18 November 2011 – which was the last issue for the year – I decided to get back to you now. The first MWD for 2012 – Issue 122 – will be published on 27 January.
Your False Claim Re My Comments On Peter Roebuck
In your email of 5 December 2011, you alleged that, in MWD 121, I asserted “that the assault charges against Peter Roebuck in 2001 were not reported in the Australian media”.
This claim is wilfully false. The relevant section of my piece on Peter Roebuck read as follows:
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. [Emphasis added]
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.
As you would have noted had you read my MWD piece on Roebuck carefully, my criticism of The Age did not turn on a claim that his convictions for assault were not reported in the Australian media in 2001. Not at all. In fact, I said the opposite. My point was that Roebuck’s media career blossomed after his convictions in 2001 for the 1999 assaults – and despite the fact that his assaults had a disturbing sexual motivation and his victims were young, poor, black African men.
The Age’s Ambivalence On Peter Roebuck
I remained surprised at The Age’s infatuation with Peter Roebuck. A few recent examples illustrate the point.
▪ On Friday 23 December 2011, The Age ran a report on Page 3, by Nick Ralston, titled “Roebuck, writer and philanthropist, remembered”. It covered a Sydney Cricket Ground memorial service for Peter Roebuck and foreshadowed a similar event in Melbourne on 28 December 2011.
▪ On Wednesday 28 December 2011, The Age ran another free plug for the Melbourne memorial service titled “Melbourne honours Roebuck”. “Senior Age journalist Greg Baum” was listed as one of the speakers.
▪ On Thursday 29 December 2011, The Age ran a report by Vince Chadwick titled “Friends and fans pay tribute to Peter Roebuck” concerning the service for Roebuck in Smith Street, Collingwood.
▪ On Sunday 1 January 2012, The Sunday Age ran a long article by Adam Shand titled “The Roebuck tragedy: a tale of love, beatings and blackmail”. As you know, Shand is a freelance journalist. His piece was accepted by Fairfax Media and ran in its Sunday papers in Sydney and Melbourne. Shand presented an honest appraisal of Roebuck – who emerged from the story as a sexual predator who targeted young, poor, black Africans.
▪ As if to compensate for the harsh reality of the Shand article, in the same paper on 1 January 2012 The Sunday Age published a large editorial titled “Peter Roebuck: the public agony and private life” along with photos of Roebuck. This was a highly ambivalent piece which included the claim that “Roebuck was also a victim”. In other words, according to The Sunday Age, the young men Roebuck assaulted were victims – and so was Roebuck himself.
Unlike The Sunday Age, the Sun-Herald did not editorialise about Roebuck in an ambivalent manner on New Year’s Day. Rather it ran an editorial on civility.
▪ The following Sunday, 8 January 2012, the lead segment on The Sunday Age’s Letters and Emails page was headed “The Big Issue Peter Roebuck”. The lead letter supported the editorial – the remaining three did not. The final letter, written by Marion Ingram of Bacchus Marsh, concluded: “Peter Roebuck was allowed to indulge his sadistic behaviour and the ‘good old boys’ club’ allowed this because he was a brilliant cricket commentator. I am disgusted and ashamed that The Age seems fit to join that club.”
▪ On 4 January 2012, The Age ran an opinion piece by Dmetri Kakmi titled “Stalked by his shame”. This was another ambivalent piece – like The Sunday Age editorial. Dmetri Kakmi wrote: “The act of caning for sexual purposes is a two-way psycho-drama. Both parties receive temporary benefit.” This is offensive tosh which should never have got past The Age’s Opinion Page editor. There is no evidence that the young, black African men whom Roebuck assaulted received a “benefit” – temporary or otherwise.
Kakmi concluded his apologetic piece by blaming “society” for Roebuck’s apparent suicide. Presumably Kakmi believes that “society” is also responsible for assaults inflicted by Roebuck on others. What a cop-out.
The Age’s Double Standard – Peter Roebuck And The Catholic Church Compared
What is of note in the material published about the late Peter Roebuck in The Age is the unpleasant double standard.
For years, The Age has been conducting a campaign against the Christian churches – in particular, the Catholic Church – over sexual assaults by Catholic priests and brothers.
Imagine what would have been the case if in 2001 – like Peter Roebuck – a Catholic bishop had been found guilty of caning young men or women – and then insisting that they remove clothing so that he could inspect the welts on their naked bodies.
I ask you. Would The Age have continued to pay for, and publish, the articles of a Catholic bishop for a decade after he had pleaded guilty to such a crime? Not on your nelly. Would The Age have published numerous eulogies if the same Catholic bishop had committed suicide, following the commencement of a police investigation into a fresh allegation of sexual assault? Surely not.
So why the double standard? Your email to me of 5 December 2011 simply avoided this issue.
GREG BAUM TO GERARD HENDERSON – 24 JANUARY 2012
Your sentence concerning the reporting of Peter Roebuck’s previous conviction was misreported to me by a friend. I looked up your piece and with the misreporting fixed in my mind also misread it. For that, I apologise.
But the length and tone of the rest of your email astonishes me, leaving me to wonder what it is that really is eating you. As I am working now, I won’t attempt to address it all, but I would make these points.
1. I attended the scene of Roebuck’s death on the night at about 10 pm, and was there with three colleagues until 2.30 am. I returned to my hotel at 3, slept for an hour-and-a-half, then wrote the piece you quote between 4.30 am and 7.30 am, to oblige an Australian deadline. I stand by every sentiment in the story, but if some of the conveying of it is clumsy and offensive to you, at least you understand the circumstances.
2. The piece was not intended in any way to be a comprehensive obituary. It was an assembly of thoughts and feelings at the time. There was much else, good and not so good, that was NOT in the story. I also believe that the period after someone dies, especially if it is untimely, is not the time for forensic examination. It is a period of grace.
3. I cannot answer for the totality of Fairfax’s coverage. I was not even in the country. But I know that The Age has a policy of reporting the affairs of its own, for better or worse, prominently.
4. You accuse me of wilful falsification. You then claim that Fairfax ”accepted” Adam Shand’s piece. Fairfax commissioned Shand. Originally, the piece was intended to run in Good Weekend, but when editors saw it, they thought it best to run it immediately and prominently. So much for your implied suggestion of cover-up.
5. I don’t know if you ever met Roebuck. I knew him as a friend. I knew him to be different, and sometimes difficult, and have been troubled by some of what has emerged since his death, and encouraged of some of it. It astounds me that you feel able to make such sweeping judgements about him.
6. I don’t know who was looking over whose shoulder, you or Bolt, but I am mystified by the allusion to priests. Roebuck was not a priest. End of story.
Yours in indignation.
GERARD HENDERSON TO GREG BAUM – 24 FEBRUARY 2011
Thanks for your note. I just love receiving missives which are signed “Yours in indignation”. How touching.
You are The Age’s chief sport columnist. You wrote to me on 5 December 2011 and made an allegation which, as you concede, was a misreading by you based on a misreport. I accept your apology for this howler. And – guess what? I am not at all indignant. But, then, I don’t write for The Age – and I am not sensitive to criticism.
In reply, I offer a few responses:
▪ If you do not want me to write to you, then do not initiate correspondence – based on a misreading that was inspired by a false report. It’s that simple.
▪ I understand that you, and others, were distressed by Peter Roebuck’s death. However, as I pointed out in my email, The Age’s infatuation with the late Peter Roebuck has extended well beyond the immediate period after his death.
▪ I tried, without success, to contact Adam Shand. I was not sure whether Fairfax Media commissioned his piece on Peter Roebuck or whether he submitted copy which was accepted. But that was not my key point and I praised Shand’s appraisal. My point was that Shand’s honest critique was not initiated by The Age or The Sunday Age. You have confirmed that it was commissioned by Good Weekend.
As you know, The Sun Herald published Adam Shand’s article without comment. However, The Sunday Age published an ambivalent editorial on the same day as Shand’s piece which claimed that “Roebuck was also a victim”. I interpreted this as an attempt by The Sunday Age to dilute Shand’s critique of Peter Roebuck.
▪ I don’t understand your reference to Andrew Bolt – who, as I understand, is one of The Age’s obsessions, judging by your paper’s coverage of him. I rarely speak to Bolt and have never discussed Roebuck with him.
▪ I never said that Peter Roebuck was a priest. What I did say was that I doubted if The Age – and, earlier on, the ABC – would have given such generous coverage to a priest, who was a convicted criminal and who enjoyed inflicting beatings on poor, young, black African men – and who then insisted on viewing the impact of his assaults on their naked bodies.
▪ In conclusion, I should state that I have no criticism about how the Sydney Morning Herald and the Sun Herald handled Roebuck’s death. But, then, neither paper attempted to rationalise his criminality.
● LEFTIST MICHAEL BRULL TAKES OFFENCE – AND GETS SOME MORE
Last week’s MWD made reference to the Australia Day debate on the brand new Radio National Drive Program presented by Waleed Aly. Aly introduced panellist Michael Brull as someone who is studying for a Juris Doctor at UNSW. Mr Brull became upset at the reference to him as “the alienated soon-to-be-Doctor Brull”. As the following correspondence demonstrates.
MICHAEL BRULL TO GERARD HENDERSON – 29 JANUARY 2012
Dear Mr Henderson,
I’m pleased to know you listened to my radio debate. As you might expect, I’m devastated to hear you didn’t find it interesting. Anyway, you wrote “soon-to-be-Doctor Brull”. I appreciate the title, but people who graduate with a Juris Doctor don’t actually get to call themselves doctors.
GERARD HENDERSON TO MICHAEL BRULL – 2 FEBRUARY 2012
Dear Mr Brull
I refer to your email of last Sunday in which you advised that “people who graduate with a Juris Doctor don’t actually get to call themselves doctors”. The reference was to MWD report last Friday on the incomprehensible debate you took in part in on Australia Day – with Dr Tim Soutphommasane and presenter Waleed Aly, who happens to be a Ph.D. candidate, on the ABC RN Drive program.
I wonder about your correction – or is it a clarification? I’m old enough to remember when vets were titled “Mr”, or “Mrs” or, indeed, “Miss”. Then vets argued that they were as well qualified as medical doctors practising in humancentric surgeries. So, in time, vets became “Dr”. I’m sure that, in time, those who qualify for the Doctor Juris degree will win the right to call themselves “Doctor”. Along with Ph.Ds, holders of honorary doctorates and the like.
Indeed, the prevalence of the term “doctor” is now so pervasive that there is a case for governments to issue doctorates along with birth certificates. Alternatively, parents should make “Doctor” the first name of each newborn child. Presumably this is how some of our best known doctors obtained their title. I’m thinking of Dr Who, Dr No, Dr Seuss and Doctor Inthehouse.
In my view, you should be entitled to call yourself “Doctor” already. On Australia Day on RN, your performance was Ph.D. like. I refer, in particular to your comment which followed Waleed (soon-to-be-Doctor) Aly, who had read out an anonymous text message which said: “What we need is an alien invasion from outer space so we can learn to love our planet.” Presumably Aly took his nonsense seriously because the anonymous texter was going on about climate change and believed that only an alien invasion could reduce carbon emissions.
Then, when the presenter read another tweet which said that the date for Australia Day – 26 January – was “far too bad”, you opined:
Michael Brull : Oh well I do agree very strongly and I’d like to know what Tim thinks about it. I think that um, you know, the date is not when Australia was formed, which was, you know, when we federated. The date is on the anniversary of um, you know, the invasion of Australia by, you know, the colonisers. And um, you know, Justices Deane and Gaudron in Mabo 2, you know, talked about, you know, the oppression and um the dispossession, degradation and devastation of the Aboriginal peoples – national legacy of unutterable shame.
And um, you know, choosing it on the arrival of, the date of the arrival of the First Fleet is such an outrageous offence to indigenous Australians. Um I think that, you know, even if I wasn’t, even if I was patriotic I would refuse to be patriotic on a day like today.
Go on. Well done. If you can talk like this, you can hold your own with the likes of Dr Tim Soutphommasane and (soon to be Dr) Aly in the Ph.D.-infested morning tea room of a Sociology Department in any university.
I make one final point which, as someone undertaking a Doctor Juris, you might want to think about. Many indigenous Australians who complain about “Invasion Day” have European ancestors. Why is it an “outrageous offence” to them if Australia Day is celebrated on 26 January – since without um, you know, the colonisers, some indigenous Australians would not be able to demonstrate on Australia Day. I’m thinking of um, you know, Patrick Dodson who has, you know, an Irish grandfather.
MICHAEL BRULL TO GERARD HENDERSON – 2 FEBRUARY 2011
Hi Mr Henderson,
I was a little surprised by the length of your reflections on who get to call themselves doctors. After sustained deliberation, I’ve determined that you were probably trying to be funny. I congratulate you on your attempt, which I’m sure was in good faith. I hope you get there one day. As you tend to insist on accuracy in what people write, I assume you will be happy to correct your error.
I don’t know what exactly you attribute to people with PhDs. I can happily agree I am not particularly comfortable appearing on radio. This was, by my reckoning, my 3rd or 4th appearance, and my first appearance for more than 5 minutes. I don’t feel I owe you an apology for not being as at ease as more seasoned radio performers, but evidently some people are interested in my perspective, regardless of how much a Mr Henderson may disagree with it.
I have no idea what you think the relevance of your inane and unoriginal final point is. I quoted Justices Deane and Gaudron on a “national legacy of unutterable shame”. If you accept this premise, the idea that someone having mixed ancestry is a little mistifying refutes anything is a little strange. Would you think a similar paradox applied to someone who’s Jewish and German? The point is that I don’t object to Irish people. I object to how Aboriginal people have been treated in what we now call Australia, starting with the First Fleet.
I would also like to note – I’m not entirely sure why you felt it appropriate to send such a snarky email to me. Do you often write to abuse people you disagree with, who do not perform on the radio with what you regard as appropriate levels of eloquence?
GERARD HENDERSON TO MICHAEL BRULL – 3 FEBRUARY 2012
I refer to your latest email.
Here’s some (gratuitous) advice. If you don’t want me to write to you, don’t initiate the correspondence.
In response, I make a few modest points.
▪ If you are going to criticise others, you should not be surprised if others criticise you. It’s called debate. I note that you are on record as describing Tony Blair and John Howard as “extremists” who are intent on “the slaughter of innocents”. (See MWD, Issue 34). Someone who likes accusing others of murder should not get too upset if someone makes fun of their syntax. A sense of proportion is a useful thing.
▪ I did not ask for an apology for anything you said on radio on Australia Day.
▪ You missed my point about 26 January. It was this. It does not make much sense for an Aborigine to complain about “the invasion” of 1788 if he or she has one or more European ancestors. This point is neither “inane” nor “unoriginal” – and it has nothing to do with German Jews or the Irish. All I am saying is that – in the current parlance of the Australia Day debate – it does not make sense to complain about the invasion of Australia if you are a descendant of one or more of the so-called “invaders”. This point should be readily understandable to a candidate for a Doctor Juris – or is it Juris Doctor?
▪ As requested, I will ensure that your correction is noted in MWD. Thanks for the opportunity.
* * * *
Until next time.