GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG – ISSUE NO. 129
16 MARCH 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.
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are private correspondence and not for publication” – ABC News Radio’s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: Leslie Cannold’s Carbon-tax Confusion
● Can You Bear It? : Jonathan Holmes, Mark Latham, Scott Burchill and Mia Freedman
● A Fran Kelly Moment : Ms Kelly As Political Activist
● Nancy’s Five Paws Award : Step Forward AFR for Revealing The Return of The False Prophet as Court (read Carr) Jester
● Nancy’s Pick-of-the-Week: Q&A As Sandal-Wearer Central
● Margaret Simons Special : A Bit Each Way on The Fink
● Jonathan Holmes Defends Simons Against Post-Modernist Charge
● Documentation: Business Man Kieran Kelly Supports Gina Rinehart
● Correspondence : Gerard Henderson’s Continuing Correspondence with the Fact-Free Drum
LESLIE CANNOLD (ETHICAL) CARBON TAX CONFUSION
What a stunning – if somewhat angry – performance by Dr (for a doctor she is) Leslie Cannold on The Drum last night. Dr Cannold is an ethicist – and has a degree to prove it. [I’ve heard she acquired this at Essex University – Ed].
Last night Leslie Cannold told viewers of ABC2 – in an occasionally incoherent fashion:
Leslie Cannold: We can definitely have an argument as to whether or not the carbon tax, you know, and Australia acting alone, is or isn’t going to do things. But I really do take issue with this constant repetition which is, sort of, you repeat a lie long enough it becomes the truth, that most people, most Australians have a problem with the carbon tax. So yes, there’s been a huge ramping up of, you know, when we think back to where this all started, most Australians were in favour of a carbon tax. And then there’s been lots of deep-pocketed people who’ve tried to, sort of, you know, sway public opinion. And, surprise surprise, that’s been effective.
But deep down, once people realise that, in fact, it really isn’t going to be so problematic for them in terms of their hip-pocket and in terms of this vague sort of gesturing that all of their jobs are at risk – and they find that there’s going to be new, you know, opportunities for people in the new, you know, carbon economy, they probably won’t be so against it.
So there you have it. The Drum’s Melbourne based ethicist says that it is a “lie” to maintain “that Australians have a problem with the carbon tax”. This in spite of the fact that opinion polls reveal that a majority of Australians do not support such a tax. Which explains why, on the eve of the August 2010 election, Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Treasurer Wayne Swan promised that Labor would not introduce a carbon tax.
However, Leslie Cannold predicts that the carbon tax will become popular in the future – even though she also claims that it is already popular now. Work that out if you can. [I’m off to Essex – Ed].
CAN YOU BEAR IT?
▪ Jonathan Holmes’ Double Standards On Political Abuse
On 6 July 2011 2GB radio presenter Alan Jones made the following comment about Julia Gillard:
The woman’s off her tree. And, quite frankly, they should shove her and Bob Brown in a chaff bag and take them as far out to sea as they can and tell them to swim home.
On the ABC1 Media Watch program on 11 October 2011, Jonathan Holmes mocked Alan Jones’ “proposal for how to deal with the Prime Minister and the leader of the Greens” and condemned name-calling. Fair enough. Alan Jones is a political conservative.
Last Saturday in his Sydney Morning Herald column, Mike Carlton had this to say about Defence Minister Stephen Smith:
It is [Stephen] Smith himself who is somewhere between completely insensitive and completely stupid. But the last thing Julia Gillard needs is yet another round of cabinet bloodshed. So, special sea duty men close up. Hands to stations for leaving harbour. Best if the minister were to be towed out to sea and sunk by gunfire, to become an artificial reef for fish. [How funny is this? – Ed].
So, according to Mike Carlton, Stephen Smith is “completely stupid” and should be “towed out to sea” and murdered. So did Jonathan Holmes, in his rather lack-lustre program last Monday, condemn such name-calling or distance himself from Mike Carlton’s proposal on how to deal with Mr Smith? Not on your nelly. Mike Carlton is a fashionable leftie – a bit like Jonathan Holmes.
Can you bear it?
▪ Mark Latham’s Somersault on Childless Politicians
Mark Latham on why there is something wrong with Julia Gillard being childless:
Gillard, in effect, has become a one-trick pony, with a carefully measured media style, bordering on the robotic, even when circumstances require something more freewheeling. Perhaps the real Julia and the fake Julia should swap roles. Even if this were to occur, however, the real Julia is still a fairly dry fish. She is not a naturally empathetic person – displaying, for instance, noticeable discomfort around infant children. The femocrats will not like this statement, but I believe it to be true: anyone who chooses a life without children, as Gillard has, cannot have much love in them.
– “Latham’s Law”, The Spectator Australia, 5 February 2011.
▪ Mark Latham on why there is nothing wrong with Julia Gillard being childless.
In the best bower bird tradition, I offer an intriguing slice of political history. Mark Arbib resigned from parliament citing the responsibilities of young children. His successor in the Senate will have no such difficulty. Indeed, against the trend of Australian political history, two of the Federal Government’s three highest-ranked ministers (Gillard and [Bob] Carr) are childless (not that there is anything wrong with that). With the rise of the 24/7 media cycle and increased pressure of political life, more frontbenchers are likely to reflect this lifestyle choice, dedicating themselves to party politics, not children.
– “Latham’s Law”, The Spectator Australia, 10 March 2012.
So there you have it. Or not. Can you bear it?
▪ Scott Burchill – All Dressed Up: Pity About The Opinion
Once upon a time Dr Scott Burchill used to appear on the ABC News Breakfast program before – or after – a visit to the tip. There he was unshaven and dressed in what once resembled clothing. He looked, in short, like something the cat just dragged in.
Not anymore. Since this matter was raised in MWD, Dr Burchill is – in the words of presenter Michael Rowland – sartorially elegant. Last Tuesday, for example, your man Burchill looked just fine – shaved and dressed in a light brown, finely tailored shirt. Pity, then, about the opinions. Let’s go to the video tape to check out what the sartorially elegant commentator had to say about Israel and Gaza.
Scott Burchill: Very interesting footage of the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the UN, where she made what I think may be a regrettable statement – that there’s no comparison between military forces using force and civilians defending themselves. Now, she’s of course referring to the situation in Syria. But I suspect that line may come up in relation to the Israeli attacks on Gaza, which are occurring just as we speak.
It’s interesting. That’s the argument, of course, that people defending the Palestinian position have used for years. Is that you can’t compare someone under occupation, resisting that occupation, with the full force of the Israeli military forces. Well she used that argument against the Syrian Government because the Russians don’t want to play ball and are not going to pass the Security Council resolution authorising force, or putting further pressure on the Syrian Government.
The well-dressed doctor overlooked one central fact. The Syrian government is at war with its own people – Syrians. The Israeli government, on the other hand, is taking military action against Palestinian terrorists in Gaza – which is ruled by Hamas, not by Israel. The aim of Israel’s attacks is to stop rockets being fired from Gaza into southern Israel. But Dr Burchill reckons that Israel and Syria are acting alike.
Can you bear it?
▪ Mia Freedman’s Back to Basics Column
As Nancy knows, it’s not long before some sheilas commence talking about their lingerie. Or, in a canine’s case, lack of lingerie.
Here’s how Mia Freedman commenced her column in last weekend’s Sunday Telegraph :
So I bought these undies. Look, it was bound to happen, me telling you about my underwear in this column. It’s actually surprising I waited this long but it’s been more than a month now so I think we can officially dispense with the formalities.[That’s enough, I can’t bear it. – Ed].
A FRAN KELLY MOMENT
IN WHICH MS KELLY ADMITS TO BEING AN ACTIVIST
Great profile by Tim Elliott in Wednesday’s Sydney Morning Herald on RN Breakfast presenter Fran Kelly. Highlights of the article included:
▪ Fran Kelly’s “What I am really is an activist” admission. She also told her story about moving into journalism at the ABC at the age of 29 with no experience apart from volunteering at the left-wing community station Triple R. Within a couple of years she was reporting for AM. Fancy that.
▪ Fran Kelly’s statement to Tim Elliott: “I’m usually am so exhausted by the end of the day that by the time I get home you usually don’t have the energy to pay bills”. Strange, then, that Ms Kelly finds time on occasions to front up at the ABC’s Ultimo studios to appear on The Drum at 6 pm where she invariably reverts to type and assumes the role of left-wing activist who trained on Triple R. Last night, for example.
▪ Fran Kelly’s acknowledgement that she believes that politicians who do not support same sex marriages are irrational. She named Defence Minister Stephen Smith. [It seems that Ms Kelly is just another ABC leftie who criticises both the Coalition and Labor from the left. You should return to this topic next week – with an emphasis on the increasing tendency of ABC presenters to become advocates on other programs – Ed].
NANCY’S FIVE PAWS AWARD
AFR REVEALS THE RE-BIRTH OF COURT-JESTER ELLIS
This most prestigious gong is shared this week by the Australian Financial Review’ journalists Pamela Williams and Joe Aston.
In her article “Carr driven to accept Gillard’s offer” (AFR, 9 March 2012), Pamela Williams revealed that Bob Carr was driven to Canberra on the evening before the Prime Minister surprised the Canberra Press Gallery by announcing that Mr Carr would become a senator and Foreign Minister. A key section of the Williams scoop about Bob Carr’s long drive to Canberra reads as follows:
Carr phoned his former speech writer Bob Ellis….Ellis was on the train to Adelaide, and the two old friends pondered the right words Carr might use should he be writing an article about the crazed events of the week gone by.
This was the first evidence that Bob Ellis – otherwise known as the False Prophet of Palm Beach and the Court Jester of Macquarie Tower – was back in the Labor tent. Ellis had previously written for Kim Beazley, Mike Rann and Bob Carr himself (when he was NSW premier, with an office in Sydney’s Macquarie Tower).
Move forward to last Wednesday’s “Rear Window”. Here’s Joe Aston’s report:
Bob Carr has arrived in Canberra and this time he came through the front door. No disguises. Before he was even sworn in, the incoming Senator for NSW and Foreign Minister was holding his first morning doorstop outside the doors of Parliament.
And when he uttered the words, “I thought of this over breakfast…” we knew, we just knew, something good was about to roll off his silken tongue. Because Bob Carr thinking about something over breakfast is a well-worn euphemism for Bob Carr telephoning Bob Ellis over breakfast. And so it goes:
“Can I just say something about that poll in the paper today?” Carr asks the gathered journos, all faux-casual. (Sure Bob, just off the top of your head). “I think people are waking up to the fact that – I thought of this over breakfast – Tony Abbott is like a cheapskate hypnotist in a run-down circus. He’s saying to the electorate “Look into my eyes, You’re growing weaker. No more boats”…. “He’s trying to hypnotise the electorate with these slogans and it’s a very cheap performance. If you paid five bucks to get into Wirths Circus and that’s all you got you’d ask for your money back….”
So there. The False Prophet of Palm Beach (re which see MWD passim) is back. Bob Carr is a great bloke. It’s just that he has always needed the services of a court jester to enliven what might otherwise be a boring day – or, indeed, a boring night.
For his part, Nancy’s co-owner looks forward to seeing Bob Ellis back at his old beat near Macquarie Tower – and buying (more) boiled lollies at the nearby AMP Centre.
Q&A : THE INEXORABLE ADVANCE OF THE SANDAL-WEARERS
Last Monday, Q&A dispensed with its usual three left-of-centre panellists plus presenter Tony Jones versus two right-of-centre panellists. It went, instead, for a 4/1 set up. Or 5/1, if you place Tony Jones where he belongs – on the left of the political spectrum. The change was caused by the fact that Liberal frontbencher Malcolm Turnbull accepted Q&A’s invitation to appear on the program. It’s just that on many or most issues, he is on the left of both the conservatives in the Coalition and Labor’s mainstream social democrats.
According to Q&A, last Monday the political composition of the audience was : Coalition 45 per cent, Labor 36 per cent and Greens 14 per cent. This is a deliberately misleading figure, since political allegiance is by self-identification.
All a leftist, who wants to get into the Q&A audience, has to do is the following: Take off Che Guvera tee-shirt and replace it with a shirt; Remove sandals and put on shoes; Express admiration for Tony Abbott. And, hey presto, you’ve got a ticket to Q&A. Then you can join the Greens and other leftists in barracking for leftist causes and sneering at conservatives and social democrats alike.
And so it came to pass last Monday. There were five left-of-centre identities on the panel – presenter Tony Jones, Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda, Health Minister Tanya Plibersek, writer and feminist Clementine Ford and Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull. The subject of Q&A’s sneers was 65-something year old 2009 NSW Farmer of the Year, Michael O’Brien.
Last Monday evening, President Bashar al-Assad was continuing to wage war on his own people in Syria, there was increasing tension in Iran, and there were reports of job losses in Australia. However, as usual, Q&A ran on its assessments of the big issues of the day. So, once again, Tony Jones led off with one of the ABC’s many obsessions – namely, same sex marriage and gay rights. There were also segments on climate change, indigenous disadvantage, asylum seekers and the Liberal Party leadership. On nearly all issues, Jones agreed with Gooda who agreed with Plibersek who agreed with Ford who agreed with Turnbull who agreed with Jones. Or something like that.
Which left Michael O’Brien as the outsider. He is of a certain age, a farmer who does not live in inner-city Balmain or Brunswick, a social conservative with a Catholic-sounding name. What a target for Q&A’s sneering set. And so it turned out to be. Here are some highlights:
▪ Michael O’Brien said that Tim Flannery had “reckoned that the dams weren’t going to fill Brisbane” but they had. This was instantly ridiculed by Turnbull, Plibersek and Gooda. Turnbull accused O’Brien and others of inventing stories about Professor Flannery, declaring:
I have to say, I think Tim Flannery’s been verballed, by the way, about the dams.
Fact-Check Occasion. O’Brien was right and Turnbull was wrong. Tim Flannery did say that Brisbane was at risk of running out of water – and that, even if it rained on the East Coast, the rain would not fall where the dams were located. [See MWD Issues 93 and 118].
▪ Then Plibersek got stuck into Michael O’Brien on indigenous matters and climate change. And then Gooda did the same – referring to the famer as “poor old Michael”. [I note that Mick Gooda does not give his date of birth in Who’s Who in Australia. Strange that. – Ed].
Later on Mick Gooda declared that he would not like a movement like the Kony campaign in Uganda coming to Australia.
Mick Gooda : I’d worry about a similar campaign of Kony 2012 coming in and a great heap of white people ending up in our communities. I think we’ve already tried that a fair bit. [Sustained applause from audience].
Fact-check Occasion. Mick Gooda is one of the indigenous Australians whom Justice Mordy Bromberg described in Eatock v Bolt as light-skinned Aborigines. The fact is that Mr Gooda, who has both Aboriginal and European ancestors, would not be with us if it were not for European Settlement. But no one was willing to say this on Q&A last Monday. On Q&A it’s conservatives who get challenged.
Then it was time for one last question – which was chosen by Q&A’s executive producer. It went like this:
Ralph Panebianco : Malcolm, I think there should be a new political party in Australia. It should be socially progressive and economically rational. Its doors should be open to all – be they trade unionists, environmentalists, white collar worker, academic, farmer, civil society leader or other. It should be an organisation that people are proud to join and associate with and one that breaks the back of the political apathy and disappointment that is defining my generation. No such party and no such place currently exists in the Australian politic. Malcolm, will you create it for us?
It was a familiar leftist call for a left-of-centre environmentalist to lead the Liberal Party of Australia – or for a creation of a party to be led by Malcolm Turnbull.
This led Clementine Ford to ask: “When is Malcolm going to take back the rightful leadership of the Liberal Party that belongs to him.” This comment was followed by sustained audience applause.
This overlooks the fact that the “rightful” leadership of the Liberal Party of Australia is decided by Liberal MPs – and not by leftists like Ms Ford or Q&A’s leftist-inclined audience.
MARGARET SIMONS – TWO BOB EACH WAY ON RAY
It’s some years now since Dr (for a doctor she is) Margaret Simons broke off all contact with The Sydney Institute. Why, you might ask. [No. I didn’t – Ed] Well, Dr Simons took offence at Gerard Henderson’s reference to her in The Sydney Institute Quarterly as a leftist sandal-wearer. Even so, Nancy’s co-owner said nothing when, late last year, Dr Simons fronted up at Ray Finkelstein QC’s Media Inquiry in Sydney wearing – wait for it – sandals.
When the sandal-wearing Simons was reported by Miranda Devine (in the Daily Telegraph) as wearing sandals, La Simons decided to make a point. So she wrote a piece in Crikey declaring that the said sandals were up for auction – with the proceeds going to charity. On 21 November 2011, Simons revealed in Crikey that her sandals had sold to the highest bidder for (a lousy) $160. Here’s how Simons revealed the historic event:
During a brisk day of bidding on Twitter under the hashtag #journosandals, the deal was negotiated up by the bidders to include signatures on the sandals from me, the Crikey news team and ABC Media Watch host Jonathan Holmes, plus coffee with me and Crikey editor Sophie Black. Devine was also asked if she would be willing to sign, but so far there is no response.
Bids for this package of goodies were received from as far away as Seattle, from public servants involved in helping to run the media inquiry, who claimed to have a plinth ready for the items, and from journalists and media watchers far and wide. Late in the day the sandals were sold for $160 to the person behind Twitter name @maybeee2011. The buyer wishes to remain anonymous – but is not a journalist. Nor a chiropodist. The buyer has donated the purchase price to Amnesty International, and the sandals are currently on the way to Holmes to collect his signature.
Who would have thought it? The sandals, dear reader, are very boring in themselves. Basic, comfy, black and flat heeled, originally purchased from Ziera Shoes.
So all that trouble, and all that publicity, for a lousy $160 from a Crikey reader – which is unlikely to increase the viability Amnesty International to, say, campaign for human rights in Syria.
Earlier this week, Simons was back in the news. Last Monday, she wrote to both Crikey and The Australian claiming that she had been misrepresented in Cameron Stewart’s article in The Weekend Australian last Saturday. In her letter to The Australian – in which she described herself as an “eminent journalist” – Simons declared:
Readers of Cameron Stewart’s article “Media great divide” (10-11/3) will have got the impression I was one of the academics who enthusiastically embraced the Finkelstein report’s recommendation for a statutory regulator of the news media. This is not true. I don’t like Finkelstein’s recommendation for enforced self-regulation. Self-regulation hasn’t worked, and the industry is culpable for this. I argue that the best outcome would be a strengthened Press Council.
It’s true that Simons – who is now on the taxpayer subsidised drip as director of the Centre for Advanced Journalism at Melbourne University – commenced her article in Crikey on 5 March as follows:
Bottom line: I don’t like the Finkelstein inquiry’s recommendation for enforced self-regulation for news media.
However, Simons soon qualified her initial statement. So much so that she ended up supporting Mr Finkelstein’s recommendations. Here is how she put it:
I have arguments around the edges of what the Fink recommends. For a start, he clearly knows nothing about new media. But in the big sweep, what he recommends is a reasonable balance in the circumstances. It is not government regulation, but mandatory self-regulation with a big stick in the background, for use only if news media fail to comply with standards they set for themselves with adjudication being by an independently appointed council.
So, in fact, Margaret Simons’ real “bottom line” is to support the recommendations of the Media Inquiry – with its proposal for a News Media Council whose findings, ultimately, would be enforced by the law of contempt. Meaning fines or imprisonment for journalists/producers/editors who did not comply with its findings.
So there you have it. Dr Simons wrote a piece for Crikey which commenced with her as an opponent of the findings of the Media Inquiry but ended with her as a supporter of the very same findings.
Margaret Simons is an academic. What are the students of the person whom Farrago describes as “the star recruit to the Centre for Advanced Journalism” to make of this? (see Sally White report in Farrago, 26 February 2012)
Jonathan Holmes Helps Out Dr Simons
Meanwhile, in The Australian on 14 March 2012, Media Watch presenter Jonathan Holmes jumped to Margaret Simons’ defence. He believed that there was an implication in Cameron Stewart’s article that Margaret Simons made factual errors and was infested with post-modernism syndrome. Not so, declared Holmes. Mr Holmes wrote that he was “unaware” that Dr Simons had made “factual errors” and did not agree with the claim that she is “infected with postmodernism or has disregarded the facts”.
Perhaps Jonathan Holmes has not read Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs (MUP 2010) – which the former prime minister wrote with Margaret Simons. This book is literally littered with factual errors and there are numerous omissions of key events in Mr Fraser’s life. For example, Simons claimed that Fraser won four elections – he won three. And Simons claimed that Fraser maintained the universal health insurance scheme Medibank – he abandoned it. There are numerous such howlers.
Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs is post-modernism in biographical form. And, yet, Margaret Simons has a high paying post at the University of Melbourne teaching journalists, who are supposed to accurately report facts. [Not if they write for Jonathon Green and the team at the Drum – Ed]
EDITOR’S NOTE RE MWD’S BACKLOG AND AN ABC RESPONSE.
The (valiant) attempts by journalists, presenters, producers and editors to get a run in MWD has led to a back-log of material – especially due to the space devoted last week to an analysis of the report of Ray Finkelstein QC’s Media Inquiry. So, over the next few weeks, some of this held-over material will be covered – in order to ensure that as little as possible is missed.
And now for an update on MWD Issue 128’s Correspondence Section. At 3.41 pm on Friday 9 March 2012 shortly after MWD Issue 128 came out, ABC management in Sydney formally advised Gerard Henderson that ABC Audience and Consumer Affairs would not be pursuing his disagreement with The Drum as a formal complaint. Gerard Henderson accepted this assurance.
DOCUMENTATION – KIERAN KELLY BACKS GINA RINEHART’S BRAVE INVESTMENT
MWD Issue 123 covered the discussion on ABC Radio 702 on 3 February where 702 presenter Linda Mottram interviewed ABC 1 Media Watch presenter Jonathan Holmes on Gina Rinehart’s decision to buy shares in Fairfax Media. Needless to say, it was one of those ABC conversations where Ms Mottram agreed with Mr Holmes who agreed with Ms Mottram that it would be a bad idea if “Gina” (as Jonathan Holmes referred to her) bought into Fairfax Media.
On reading the report of the Mottram/Holmes exchange, investor/explorer/author Kiernan Kelly wrote to MWD. His letter is printed, in full, below:
I note in the latest issue of MWD a discussion relating to an interview between Jonathan Holmes and Linda Mottram on the subject of Gina Rinehart’s investment in Fairfax Media. I find it amazing that the ABC continues to have journalists interviewing journalists on matters relating to investment. Why do they never have investment professionals commenting on matters of investment? The weakness of their approach shows in the very shallow analysis and lack of corporate memory, displayed in the interview.
Rinehart joins a long list of businessmen/women who have sought the perceived political influence/prestige associated with owning television stations or broadsheet newspapers. Christopher Skase in Channel 7, Frank Lowy at Channel 10, Allan Bond at Channel 9, Kerry Stokes at the West Australian, and that outrageous old felon Conrad Black at Fairfax, discovered to their horror that media companies are diabolically difficult to manage and often low return investments which carry little of the political influence anticipated. Media organisations, suffused as they are not with production lines but with creative types who have agendas far removed from maximising profit, have shown they can defeat the most ardent capitalist. Gina Rinehart, I fear, will just be the latest to join this line-up and learn to her dismay that a newspaper is not nearly as much fun to manage as an iron ore mine.
Furthermore, journalists such as Holmes and Mottram should know more than most, that the halcyon days of newspaper and television influence are long gone. You will well remember examples of thundering editorials in the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age or The Daily Telegraph removing governments or deciding close fought elections. No more. Gina Rinehart will find that she can fulminate as much as she likes from the pages of the Australian Financial Review or the Sydney Morning Herald, and it will have next to no influence in Canberra. Media is now a fragmented business with diverse voices delivered over numerous channels from blogs, to tweets, to Facebook. Much of this is noise and much of it uniformed, but it still muddies the waters of public opinion to such an extent that broadsheet newspaper editorials are diluted in their impact in a way never before seen. This applies particularly to the young.
Jonathan Holmes and Linda Mottram can froth all they wish. If they had a deeper knowledge of investment or the slightest acquaintance with Australian corporate history, they may welcome Rinehart’s recycling of her mineral wealth into the media. Given the parlous outlook of broadsheet newspapers, it may be the only way that a company such as Fairfax can survive. I’m a professional investment manager and I take my hat off to Gina Rinehart. She is braver than me.
Sirius Fund Management
Milsons Point NSW
10 February 2012
Gerard Henderson to Bruce Belsham – 15 March 2012
Subject: The Post Modernist Drum Where Facts Do Not Matter
As you are aware, late on Friday ABC management in Sydney intervened in the disagreement between myself and The Drum and decided to agree to my request that Audience and Consumer Affairs not pursue this matter as a formal complaint. I thanked ABC management for this sensible decision.
Now that this particular matter has been resolved, I would like to draw your attention to a larger problem. Namely,The Drum’s apparent conversion to a facts-don’t-matter form of post-modernism.
In your email of 9 March 2012 you wrote:
This is just a quick note as Jonathan Green’s manager with responsibility for The Drum. I’ve had a look at your comments about the Robert Manne piece and reviewed further investigation by The Drum staff. To my mind the points you raise as factual errors are in fact strongly contested with disputed evidence.
How frightfully interesting, in a post-modernist kind of way. I have set out below the “points” which you, Jonathan Green and The Drum staff regard as “contestable” concerning Robert Manne’s article in The Drum Online on 6 March 2012 with respect to me.
▪ Robert Manne wrote in The Drum Online that The Sydney Institute “was funded generously by Larry Adler’s FAI Insurance”. Yet the fact is that Larry Adler died in December 1988 while The Sydney Institute was founded in April 1989.
How can my refutation of Professor Manne’s false assertion be “strongly contested with disputed evidence”? What is this (alleged) evidence?
▪ Robert Manne wrote in The Drum Online that “when the National Companies and Securities Commission conducted a raid on its [FAI’s] offices, Henderson used his column in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age to launch a vitriolic attack on its chairman, Henry Bosch”.
The fact is that I never criticised Henry Bosch’s NCSC for his alleged “raid” on FAI Insurance. I have checked with academics, business journalists and public servants and I have examined available documents. I can find no evidence that the NCSC ever “raided” FAI Insurance. It seems that Professor Manne just made this up. Here it is significant that he has not cited a date on which – or a place where – this “raid” took place. In other words, Professor Manne has not produced any evidentiary material to support his assertion. Even so, you support him.
Moreover, I did not write columns for either the Sydney Morning Herald or The Age in the late 1980s, during Larry Adler’s life time. How can my refutation of Professor Manne’s claims be “strongly contested with disputed evidence” when the readily checkable evidence reveals that his statements are clearly inaccurate?
I can only assume that you and Jonathan Green have taken The Drum on a post-modernist adventure, where facts are not checked because you believe that they do not matter.
For example, Professor Manne can write in The Drum Online that I was a columnist for the Sydney Morning Herald circa 1988. When I state that I did not write for the SMH until 1990 and for The Age until late 1994 – facts which can readily be checked – you respond that this matter “is strongly contested with disputed evidence”. How post-modernist can you get?
I can understand why a polemicist like Robert Manne, with a failing memory, can make errors. However, I am genuinely surprised that you, Jonathan Green and the team at the taxpayer funded Drum, appear to have no regard for accuracy. Over the last week some writers for The Drum and The Drum Online have told me that their articles are never fact-checked by Jonathan Green prior to publication. I am surprised that Mark Scott proclaims the editorial standards of the ABC when its on-line site does not even check facts.
Keep your (post-modernist) morale high.
cc: Mark Scott
* * * * *
We’ll let you know if The Drum produces any facts of support Robert Manne’s undocumented assertions. Don’t hold your breath.
Until next time.