GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG – ISSUE NO. 134
27 APRIL 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.
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
– 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are private correspondence and not for publication” – ABC News Radio’s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: Jayne Dullard Mocks Abbott Job Vacancy
● Nancy’s Pick-of-the-Week: Read All About It – Bruce Hawker Tells Labor How to Win Elections
● Great U-Turns of Our Time: Mark Latham on Chifley and Curtin
● Can You Bear It? Catherine Harris & Michael Spence
● History Corner: Paul Ham’s Anti-Catholic Sectarianism
● On the Couch: Guy Rundle and Andrew Crook
● Correspondence: With Special Thanks to Jonathan Green, Kim Dalton and Paul Ham
Jayne Dullard Even Finds Employment in Tony Abbott’s Office A Bit of a Joke
MWD just loves the images and sounds of ABC TV’s News Breakfast in the morning. Today Jayne Dullard, chief executive of CPR (Communications & Public Relations), had the gig of discussing what is in this morning’s newspapers. Today, once again, Ms Dullard was into the BIG STORY of the day. After advising Prime Minister Gillard that she should spend more time attacking Tony Abbott, Jayne Dullard reported that – wait for it – Tony Abbott had advertised in the Australian Financial Review for a senior adviser. How about that? Hold the presses – and so forth.
Perhaps in order to give a lead to the Prime Minister, Ms Dullard attempted to trivialise the job vacancy – with a little help from the normally sensible Michael Rowland. Let’s go to the DVD:
Jayne Dullard : And speaking of Tony Abbott
Michael Rowland: Speaking Tony Abbott
Jayne Dullard : – because a lot of people who like to think about their own jobs and future career prospects over the weekend, I found this on page – I think it was 9 – of the Fin Review and I thought it would be worthwhile for anybody interested in a political career.
Michael Rowland : I saw that too, yes [with meaning]
Jayne Dullard : So…were you tempted?
Michael Rowland: Ah, no [laughter from both] Yeah, wondering who’s left and you know – what is it a new job?
Jayne Dullard: Senior adviser to Tony Abbott. So if you don’t want a life at all and you’d like to earn somewhere around 120K with a 25K allowance for travel with unreasonable working hours, this could be for you.
Michael Rowland: See the attraction of the job is – given the way the polls are going, the government is going – you could turn out to be senior adviser to a prime minister…
Jayne Dullard : …It could be, it doesn’t always work that way. And, Canberra is littered with the corpses of advisers who didn’t make the transition to government
Karina Carvalho : And interestingly in The Fin Review Magazine today, the magazine, there is a huge cover story spread on Tony Abbott.
Michael Rowland : He’s getting lots of coverage at the moment…
Karina Carvalho: So how many people do you think will apply for this job?
Michael Rowland : Oh listen, as you know, as you said there’s always been a very big turnover of people applying for these jobs. So I’d say quite a few on the conservative side of things who would see this, based on their current situation of being a very easy passageway to the PM’s office.
Jayne Dullard: Yeah, it’s a great position of influence to be in. And whether you think he’s doing a great job or would like to be a part of the action or think that there’s some room for some adjustments in the strategy there.
Michael Rowland: We’ll wait and see.
So there you have it. According to Jayne Dullard, employment in the Opposition Leader’s office at a salary package of around $150,000 is not much of a job. And, in any event, whoever takes it up should tell Mr Abbott that there’s room for him to improve (according to the Thought of Jayne Dullard).
Jayne Dullard is a former ABC producer.
The previous Friday (20 April 2012) Australian Conservation Foundation supremo Don Henry used the slot to tell viewers not what was in that day’s newspapers – but, rather, what should have been in the papers.
Don Henry told News Breakfast viewers that the mining industry is the recipient of “heavy subsidies” and is “on welfare”. Enough said.
Stand by for next Friday.
Bruce Hawker on How Labor Can Win Again
Nancy admires front. So she just loved Bruce Hawker’s article in The Australian yesterday titled “No Better Time For Change Within Labor”.
Bruce Hawker is a product of the NSW Labor Right who recently ran Labor’s disastrous campaign in Queensland. In the middle of the election campaign, the unelected Mr Hawker called on Labor MPs to dump Julia Gillard for Kevin Rudd.
Yet on Thursday Bruce Hawker lectured readers of The Australian about how Labor can win elections. Nancy was so impressed, she ate last night’s dinner off The Australian’s Opinion Page to have one last look at Mr Hawker’s epistle to the social democrats.
GREAT U-TURNS OF OUR TIME – A CONTINUING SAGA
Mark Latham on Why Labor Should Follow John Curtin & Ben Chifley
In his column in last Tuesday’s Australian Financial Review, former (and failed) Labor leader Mark Latham urged ALP supporters to look back in happiness on the legacy of former Labor prime ministers John Curtin and Ben Chifley:
Unhappily, my 2005 prophecy has been fulfilled. The erosion of Labor’s moral core now has a public face: its association with [Craig] Thomson and [Peter] Slipper. I cannot imagine anything more gut-wrenching for a party faithful, the salt-of-the-earth types who grew up with the legends of working class decency under Ben Chifley and John Curtin.
Mark Latham on Why Labor Should Not Follow John Curtin and Ben Chifley
In the Latham Diaries (MUP, 2005), former (and failed) Labor leader Mark Latham urged Labor not to look back in happiness on the kind of party that it was under leaders John Curtin and Ben Chifley:
In every other crisis in its history, the ALP has been able to draw strength from its past. We have all heard and used the bravado of Labor being a resilient beast and so forth. But this is merely a rhetorical device: it doesn’t actually change things or guarantee success for the future. Today, romanticism of this kind is a long way removed from the depth and seriousness of Labor’s structural problems. Fond memories of Curtin and Chifley are not going to resolve the crisis.
So there you have it. Or not – as the case may be. [Aren’t you being a bit tough on Mark Latham? After all, he only gets a taxpayer funded superannuation of a lousy $75,000 a year (fully indexed). So to put bread on the table, he needs to find a topic to opine about in the AFR – Ed].
CAN YOU BEAR IT?
▪ Catherine Harris – On Why We Should Pay For Bananas and Wagner but Not Films
What a stunning performance by Catherine Harris AO, chairman of Harris Farm Markets, on Richard Glover’s Drive program on ABC Radio 702 last Monday. Discussion turned on intellectual property and copyright and Ms Harris – who sells bananas by the day – indicated that she had little time for business types who wanted to make money out of selling films by night. Let’s go to the audio tape:
Richard Glover : Are the film and music industries being overly worried about illegal file sharing? Should the government help them out by changing the law to force internet providers to do more? Or is it just impossible to fight the pirates? Cathy Harris.
Catherine Harris : Well, I mean, intellectual property, really important, and we need to have a sensible discussion about that; with the internet, everything’s changed. But, just a little, sort of, sideways thing on that, Richard. My feeling is that the movies that are created today, it’s like churn, I mean, it’s just coming out. And, people just don’t feel like they want to pay for it. Like, you can just download it, you have a look at it in a minute. I’ve never done it, by the way –
Richard Glover : They producing it what, like a, an extruded –
Catherine Harris : That’s right, they’re producing it like it’s extruded nothing. You get better value on free TV. So why the hell would you pay for it? So, I just think, you know, there’s a bit of a, you know, quality issue here. Like, intellectual property has to be intellectual property!
So there you have it. A banana is just a banana. So anyone who wishes to purchase a banana is required to pay for the product at Harris Farm Markets. However, according to Ms Harris, a film is not just a film. In order to protect the intellectual property in a film, the film maker needs to demonstrate – to Ms Harris’ satisfaction – that the product is of a sufficient intellectual standard.
When fellow panellist Malcolm Turnbull MP put it to Catherine Harris that “whether it is the finest work of literature ever written or the worst piece of schlock every written, pinching it is a crime in each case” – the chairman of Harris Farm Markets responded:
Catherine Harris: I absolutely agree. But we still pay $200 to go and watch Wagner’s Ring Cycle, because it is a magnificent piece.
So there you have it. We pay $200 to watch Wagner’s Ring Cycle. And we will pay $2 to buy a banana. But why should anyone pay to download a recently released film – especially if it is not up to Ms Harris’ intellectual standards? Can you bear it?[Does Catherine Harris really believe that most Australians can afford to attend Wagner’s Ring Cycle? Or is she a candidate for MWD’s Snob-of-the-Year award? You tell me – Ed].
▪ Michael Spence – On Why Communist Dictatorships Work Better Than Western Democracies
The previous Monday (16 April 2012), Sydney University Vice Chancellor Michael Spence appeared on Richard Glover’s Drive program. Professor Spence got somewhat carried away and seemed to be suggesting that if Australia wants to get ahead we should all follow China’s one-party state. Let’s go to the audio tape:
Michael Spence : …I was having lunch with a Chinese vice-chancellor who is a great fan of democracy. But he said one of the problems with democracy, of course, is we know – looking internationally now – that it does not produce leaders of ability. And well, I had difficulty disagreeing with him – I have to say, given the quality of the debate that we were having in Canberra at the time. Now, in fact, I think there are many fine political leaders in Australia but we need to make sure that they are allowed to engage with the real issues.
So there you go. Professor Spence’s message seems to be that Australia would have done better without a Robert Menzies or a Bob Hawke and produced a leader of such “ability” as, say Mao ZeDong, who was responsible for the deaths of some 40 million Chinese before and after the disastrous Great Leap Forward. At least the likes of Menzies and Hawke did not believe that initiating forced famines was a you-beaut idea and did not see fit to mow down Australians demonstrating in, say, Martin Place or outside the Melbourne Town Hall.
Can you bear it? Michael Spence is an academic.
PAUL HAM’S ANTI-CATHOLIC SECTARIANISM
Anti-Catholic sectarianism remains remarkably strong in Australia in the early part of the 21st Century – and finds expression, inter alia, on the ABC and in the Fairfax Media (particularly The Age). Even so, it was surprising that the taxpayer funded ABC did not do any sectarian-checking – or, indeed, any fact-checking – before airing the documentary All The Way on 12 April 2012 in the lead-up to Anzac Day.
All The Way’s Catholic Conspiracy Theory
All The Way was co-written by Anne Delaney, Paul Ham and Toby Creswell. In their taxpayer funded film, Delaney/Ham/Creswell wrote:
[South Vietnam president Ngo Dinh] Diem and his family were orthodox Catholics…Diem was greatly admired by Ted Serong and Australia’s powerful conservative Catholic leaders. They saw the war in Vietnam as a defence of a Catholic outpost in a sea of communism.
This is a sectarian comment, devoid of substance but consistent with the line of All The Way that Catholics were somehow responsible for the Australian commitment to Vietnam. Diem was assassinated during a coup in November 1963. Australia decided in April 1965 to send combat troops in defence of South Vietnam. The Cabinet records reveal that the key drivers of the decision to send combat forces to Vietnam were Prime Minister Robert Menzies, Deputy Prime Minister Jack McEwen and Treasurer Harold Holt. Not one was a Catholic. When Menzies announced Australia’s Vietnam commitment in April 1965, Phan Khac Suu was president of South Vietnam.
Kim Dalton, the ABC’s Director of Television, has not contested the claim that ABC TV refuses to engage a fact-checker for the documentaries which it purchases and shows. Had Mr Dalton and his colleagues done any checking, they would have discovered that Paul Ham has form as an obsessive anti-Catholic sectarian. The evidence can be found not only in All The Way but in Paul Ham’s book Vietnam: The Australian War on which All The Way was based.
Anti-Catholic Sectarianism In Vietnam: The Australian War
▪ B.A. Santamaria as a Spanish “Inquisitor”
Page 46. Paul Ham writes of the unsuccessful attempt by the Menzies Government to ban the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) in 1951:
Within a few years the CPA became “a stumbling, groping, limping movement”. Even so, the 1950s were fraught with political intrigues against the Red menace, the most influential of which were “the Movement” and the “Groupers”: staunchly anti-communist Labor Catholics who were determined to stamp out Marxist infiltrators in the ALP and the unions. Their methods were clandestine and inquisitorial and, fired by the will and eloquence of their spiritual leader, “Bob” Santamaria, their activities culminated in the great Split: the formation of the breakaway Democratic Labor Party (DLP) in 1956, which divided the ALP’s ranks and sealed the Liberal Party’s control of politics for their foreseeable future.
▪ Circa 1950 there were communist dictatorships throughout Eastern Europe, Mao Zedong controlled China and Ho Chi Minh presided over a communist regime in North Vietnam. Yet Ham mocks the concept of the “Red menace” – which he implies was a term used only by “staunchly anti-communist Labor Catholics”.
▪ B. A. Santamaria’s Catholic Social Studies Movement – sometimes termed The Movement – opposed CPA activities within the trade unions and the ALP. The Movement supported the anti-communist Industrial Groups. All members of The Movement were Catholic. However, many supporters of the anti-communist Industrial Groups were not Catholic. The implication in Ham’s book that only Catholics were anti-communist at the time is simply false. Indeed, some of the leading opponents of the CPA were ex-communists and followers of Leon Trotsky.
▪ Ham’s use of the term “inquisitional” to describe The Movement is nothing but an attempt by a sectarian to equate Santamaria and his supporters with the Spanish Inquisition. The Movement always acted in accordance with the law – it was not influenced by the aims or actions of the Spanish Inquisition.
▪ Bob Santamaria was a traditional Catholic of his time. He was not of a pious disposition and he was not – and did not claim to be – a “spiritual leader” of anyone or any organisation. This is yet more Ham sneering sectarianism.
▪ Santamaria and his supporters were players in the Labor Split of the mid 1950s. Yet it is simplistic in the extreme for Ham to allege that their “activities culminated in the great Split”. The principal cause of the Labor Split of 1955 was the (then) Labor leader Bert Evatt, who unilaterally attacked the ALP’s Victorian branch along with Daniel Mannix, the Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne. Dr Evatt is now widely acknowledged as having suffered from a mental illness around the time of the Labor Split.
▪ B.A. Santamaria as a “Spiritual Leader”
Page 55. Paul Ham alleges that Diem’s “austere strain of Catholicism impressed prominent Australian Catholics, such as the ailing Archbishop Daniel Mannix and the DLP’s spiritual leader, Bob Santamaria”.
▪ Diem lived between 1901 and 1963 – i.e. before the changes to the Catholic Church which took place after the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council. For a Catholic of his generation, Diem was not notably “austere”. Nor was he, as Ham also asserts, into “medieval asceticism”.
▪ Daniel Mannix died in November 1963 at the age of 99. During the late 1950s and early 1960s he was certainly old. But there is no evidence that he was “ailing” and he remained mentally alert until his sudden death.
▪ B.A. (Bob) Santamaria was never a member of the Democratic Labor Party. Ham’s suggestion that Santamaria was the DLP’s “spiritual leader” is just an inaccurate smear. The DLP was not a religious party. Sure, there were many Catholics in the DLP. But the party’s inaugural leader Robert Joshua was not a Catholic. Nor was Jack Little (DLP Senator for Victoria between July 1968 and May 1974). Bob Santamaria was president of the National Civic Council from 1957 until his death in 1998. He had a strong personal faith in Catholicism but he was not a “spiritual leader” to anyone.
▪ The Christian Brothers’ “Demagogic” Influence on Ted Serong
Page 89: Paul Ham comments about the Catholic Brigadier Ted Serong:
Serong attended St Kevin’s College, in East Melbourne, where Irish Catholicism and Marxism was in rancorous disagreement: God and Marx were antithetical, the Christian Brothers preached, although the zeal with which they condemned communism suggested that it served a kind of symbiotic role, as a dependable demon. Catholicism was the begetter of faith, hope and charity, and Marxism the begetter of brutal atheistic regimes. If the two institutions bore interesting similarities – the control of mind and deed by an absolute, incontrovertible power (God or state); and the biblical, or historic, inevitability of a promised land (Heaven, or the dictatorship of the proletariat), young Ted Serong was not about to argue with the demagogues of St Kevin’s.
As Anne Blair documents in her book There to the Bitter End: Ted Serong in Vietnam (Allen & Unwin, 2001), Ted Serong attended St Kevin’s in 1931 and 1932. At the time, the Christian Brothers were not particularly concerned about the philosopher Karl Marx (1818-1883). Rather, their concern was with the communist totalitarian regime which had been established in the Soviet Union and which was ruled initially by Vladimir Lenin and in the 1930s by Josef Stalin. So the political “disagreement” at St Kevin’s was not between God and Marx but between Australian democracy and Soviet communism.
Once again, Ham’s views on Catholicism are based on ignorance and prejudice. To Ham, all the Christian Brothers at St Kevin’s in 1930 and 1931 were “demagogues”. Yet Ham does not appear to even know the name of even one of the Catholic men he dismisses with a term of abuse.
▪ The DLP’s Leaders – Mad and Even “Madder”
Page 263. Paul Ham writes:
The Democratic Labor Party, whose madder leaders supported an Australian nuclear capability, helped to scupper the ALP’s hopes by absorbing the working class Catholic vote.
To Ham, all the DLP leaders were mad – it’s just that some were “madder” than others. Moreover, Ham’s sectarianism diminishes his historical judgment. The DLP attracted supporters from well-off, middle class and working class alike – especially in Victoria and Queensland. Moreover, not all DLP voters were Catholic. Indeed in New South Wales and South Australia most members of the Catholic Hierarchy opposed both the DLP and Santamaria. In these States archbishops and most bishops publicly supported the Australian Labor Party – not the Democratic Labor Party.
▪ Catholic Anti-Communism Explained as Merely Religion Based
Page 457. Paul Ham writes:
…Roman Catholic Church leaders tended to support the [Vietnam] war, with the strong backing of the breakaway Democratic Labor Party. Notwithstanding the vocal exceptions of a few younger, radical priests, such as Father Val Noone and his Melbourne comrades, most Catholics viewed South Vietnam and the Philippines as the last bastions of Christian teaching in South-East Asia. Sydney’s Catholic Information Bureau had declared that Menzies’ decision to send troops was “not only morally justifiable but right and commendable”, the innocent people of South Vietnam were “facing a threat [from] a godless regime which they certainly don’t desire.
Once again, Ham’s sectarianism confuses him. It is simply false to suggest that most Catholics opposed communism in South Vietnam and the Philippines because they were “the last bastions of Christian teaching in South East Asia”. Most Catholics also opposed communism in China, North Korea and North Vietnam – which are not predominantly Christian nations – and in such places as the Soviet Union, in which the Catholic Church was very small.
Ham also seems unaware that about half the Catholic Hierarchy supported the DLP while half opposed it. For example, the Catholic Church in Sydney opposed the DLP and supported the ALP. Arthur Calwell, Labor leader between 1960 and 1966, opposed the Australian Vietnam commitment. Calwell was a Catholic.
In today’s Correspondence section, Paul Ham denies that All The Way or Vietnam: The Australian War contain anti-Catholic sectarianism. Mr Ham’s only evidence is to state that his “mother is Catholic”. Well, that settles the matter – to be sure.
NANCY (ON THE COUCH) TALKS TO INKY – A CONTINUING SERIES
Guy Rundle – And The Cliché In the Room
Nancy Asks: I have become very confused about rooms. My confusion deepened after reading Guy Rundle – my favourite Marxist comedian – in Crikey on 16 April. Mr Rundle used the cliché “adult in the room” with reference to former Greens’ leader Bob Brown. According to this guy, by the mid 2000s
Brown now became not merely a bulwark against craziness, but a rule-proving exception – a brave and wise man of the people, the Green who wasn’t a Green, the adult in the room.
How can Bob Brown be “the Green who wasn’t a Green”? And why is it that my co-owner’s favourite Marxist comedian refers to the adult in the room when we are continually told about the elephant in the room? How do you fit both an adult and an elephant in the same room?
Inky Responds : This is a very good question. But my answer is also good. We should all learn from Guy Rundle. Just as Bob Brown is a “Green who wasn’t a Green” – so the elephant in the room is not really in the room at all. That’s why the elephant can’t be seen. This means that there is room for an adult in the room if – in terms of the cliché – such an adult can be located.
Andrew Crook’s Transparent Vision
Nancy Asks : I note that the senior Crikey journalist – young Andrew Crook – wrote in the newsletter on 16 April about the anti-South African demonstrations in Australia some four decades ago. Young Mr Crook told Crikey readers that the leftie-luvvies Meredith Burgmann and her sister Verity Burgmann “ran naked on to the SCG in 1971 to protest the Springboks [Rugby Union] tour”.
My co-owner well remembers the media coverage of the SCG protest engaged in by the Misses Burgmann all those decades ago. But he recalls that both were fully dressed. How can this be so?
Inky Responds : Your co-owner is a man of a certain age. As males get older, they tend to see clothed women. Some men of a younger age, however, tend to observe nakedness when they view young females – even fully clothed ones. This condition applies to some men who were not alive when the perceived “flash” took place. They see the footage of a clothes female pitch-invader and imagine that she is naked – even if the film is of the black and white genre.
I know it seems implausible that the Burgmanns would have invaded a sporting ground in 1971 in the buff in the middle of winter. And I know that the extant footage of the occasion does not support young Mr Crook’s claim. However, there is a certain essential truth to young Mr Crook’s assessment and I would accept this view. Even though he writes for Crikey – whose publisher Eric Beecher cannot afford to employ a fact-checker. There are some truths which surpass mere facts – and they come cheaper than truth itself. Learn from them.
The Correspondence section is an immensely popular section of the immensely popular MWD. Nancy and her co-owner are forever grateful if anyone writes to her – or, indeed, to him.
This MWD is delighted to present the (contested) views of Jonathan Green, Kim Dalton and Paul Ham. Here we go:
● JONATHAN GREEN CORRECTS MWD’s REFERENCE TO HIM AS “TERTIARY EDUCATED” IN ISSUE 133
Jonathan Green to Gerard Henderson – 20 April 2012
Just for the record, I am not tertiary educated. I’d have thought that would have been obvious.
RN Sunday Extra
Gerard Henderson to Jonathan Green – 20 April 2012
Apologies – you always sounded like a PH D to me.
I have made the correction. Unlike The Drum and ABC TV, I acknowledge errors and make corrections as soon as possible. I note that The Drum still has Robert Manne’s demonstratively erroneous claims about me on its website.
Have a great weekend. I hope to listen in on Sunday morning, for a while at least.
Keep morale high.
Jonathan Green to Gerard Henderson – 20 April 2012
What greater fillip could there be than to sense your listening presence.
● KIM DALTON WRITES TO MWD ABOUT WHY HE WILL NOT WRITE TO MWD
Kim Dalton to Gerard Henderson – 26 April 2012
Thanks again for your response.
I do not intend to enter into a debate directly with you about about All The Way, other ABC TV documentaries and ABC TV”s documentary slate in general. You would be aware of the ABC”s complaints process (http://www.abc.net.au/contact/complaints_process.htm) if you wish to pursue these matters further.
With regard to your comments about ABC TV”s Anzac Day programming in recent years it seems we will continue to disagree albeit I have provided you with a list of programs which contradicts your claim and in my view in reply you have failed to substantiate it.
Director of Television
Gerard Henderson to Kim Dalton – 26 April 2012
Thanks for your note in response to my email of 19 April 2012 about the Anne Delaney/Paul Ham documentary All The Way, which recently aired on ABC 1.
I am not surprised to learn that “you do not intend to enter into a debate directly” with me about All The Way. I tend to find that the response of ABC managers and producers and presenters is to deny all factual errors and to defend every program’s political slant – however left-wing and however unprofessional.
In the past, I have found Mark Scott, on occasions, willing to accept criticism of some ABC programs and to require corrections. But he is the exception in this regard. The three key political documentaries shown on the ABC during your watch – John Moore’s Menzies & Churchill at War; Peter Butt’s I Spry and All The Way by Anne Delaney/Paul Ham have all presented a left-wing interpretation of Australian history and all have contained serious factual errors. On each occasion, you have dismissed all criticism and refuted the suggestion of error. It’s called denial.
As to your suggestion that I should engage with the ABC’s complaints procedure – well, forget about it. The record indicates that the ABC types who run the ABC complaints procedure overwhelmingly find in favour of the ABC programs. It’s not worth wasting the time involved in lodging a formal complaint.
I know that you will not respond to the following comments – but I make them, nevertheless, for the record.
▪ I note that you have declined my invitation to nominate one – just one – ABC TV or ABC Radio documentary since 1962 which supported the involvement of the Australian Defence Force in the following past overseas commitments:
World War I
World War II between 1939 and 1941 – when the ADF was involved in the hostilities against Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.
Confrontation by Indonesia of Malaysia
First Gulf War
Second Gulf War – including the invasion of Iraq by the Coalition of the Willing.
▪ I note that you have defended All The Way. The final minutes of All The Way has Paul Ham delivering the following left-wing rant to camera – in which he attacks all of Australia’s military engagements listed above – against the background of a banner criticising Australia’s involvement in Afghanistan which has the support of Labor and the Coalition (but not, of course, the Greens):
Paul Ham : In the end we lost what we hoped for. America retreated across the Pacific and Australia faced an uncertain future in Asia. The Vietnam War dragged us screaming and kicking to an obvious reality; that we are part of Asia and that we can only rely on ourselves for our security. And yet, we fight on in new wars with old allies. Still in the dark, still trusting our friends.
This supports my thesis about the ABC’s tendency to run a left-wing interpretation of history concerning the ADF’s overseas commitments. Paul Ham’s final comment in All The Way covered all Australia’s commitments, except the Pacific War. His criticism even covered Australia’s support for Britain in the war against Hitler between 1939 and 1941.
▪ As you are aware, I immediately corrected the small error I made about Anne Delaney in my column – on the Herald’s website and on The Sydney Institute’s website. You, on the other hand, refuse to correct any of the errors in Menzies & Churchill at War or I Spry or All The Way. That, as I understand it, is very much the ABC way. It’s part of what you term declining to “enter into debate directly”.
Best wishes – as always. And keep morale high.
● TWO VIEWS ON THE VIETNAM WAR AND CONSCRIPTION
In his Sydney Morning Herald column on 17 April 2012 (see here) Gerard Henderson, inter alia, criticised the documentary All The Way which aired on ABC 1. Mr Ham replied in a letter to the Herald which was published on 24 April 2012 – see here. Since Gerard Henderson cannot write to the Herald’s Letters Page in defence of his own columns, he wrote to Paul Ham direct. The following correspondence ensued:
Gerard Henderson to Paul Ham – 26 April 2012
I guess I am a bit old-fashioned. It’s just that I do not believe that the Letters Page of such an important newspaper as The Sydney Morning Herald should carry wilfully false information as a rationalisation for what you said in the documentary All The Way, which aired recently on ABC TV.
In my Herald column on 17 April 2012, I wrote:
All the Way also claimed that the Americans forced “conscription on Canberra” because the US wanted more American troops in Vietnam. This is mythology. Conscription for overseas services was introduced in November 1964, well before Australia decided to send combat forces to South Vietnam. Also, as Peter Edwards makes clear in the 1992 official history Crises and Commitments, the prime reason for conscription was to help Britain defend Malaysia against an attack from Indonesia, and to help defend Papua New Guinea.
In your letter published on the Herald’s Letters Page on 24 April 2012 – concerning which I have no right of reply – you wrote:
The film is grounded in hard facts. It is a fact, for example, that America pressured Australia to introduce conscription in 1964 – after the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, which was the closest thing America came to a declaration of war against Vietnam. They well knew the likely combat zone was Vietnam and not the Malayan barrier.
This comment is intellectually dishonest. Your Herald claim is inconsistent with the account of the official war historian Peter Edwards. In Crises and Commitments, Dr Edwards wrote that when announcing the introduction of conscription on 10 November 1964, Prime Minister Robert Menzies dwelt primarily on the military situation in Indonesia and Malaysia. Dr Edwards summed up the situation as follows: “In short, Australian ministers were only willing to make short-term commitments in Vietnam, but they were looking seriously at the possibility of becoming involved in a major conflict between the United Kingdom and Indonesia.”
Moreover, your letter in the Herald contradicts your own assessment in your book Vietnam: The Australian War – on which All The Way is based. In your book, you wrote:
In the teeth of army resistance, the politicians decided on 4 November 1964 to introduce a compulsory national service scheme. Several events – the Tonkin Gulf Incident, Indonesian Confrontation (the stand-off between Indonesia and the newly formed Federation of Malaysia), unrest in Papua New Guinea and the insurgency in Vietnam – outweighed the army’s objections. Conscription was seen as necessary. The Sydney Morning Herald welcomed the decision as “Preparing Against War with Indonesia”. Menzies announced the new policy in his Budget Speech on 10 November 1964….
Menzies’ announcement on 10 November was not part of a “Budget Speech” – as you would know, had you read the original Hansard. It was titled “Defence Review”. This is but one of many errors in your book. However, your account in Vietnam: The Australian War about the introduction of conscription is essentially correct.
In his speech, Sir Robert Menzies listed “the range of likely military situations we must be prepared to face” in the following order. First, “recent Indonesian policies and actions”. Second, “the growth of Communist influence and armed activity in Laos and South Vietnam”. The focus of his address was based on the former threat, which was made clear when Menzies said:
If Indonesia attacks continue, Malaysia may find it intolerable to confine defensive measures to the guarding of Malaysia’s shores and jungles against Indonesian intrusion. These Indonesian attacks may create a real risk of war…. Indeed we must prepare for all eventualities including the control and, if necessary, defence of the frontier between West New Guinea and the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. Meanwhile, by his cultivation of the Communist powers, President Sukarno is exercising an influence in South East Asia which could weaken resistance to Communism.
In other words, in your own book you acknowledged that Indonesia’s Confrontation with Malaysia and unrest in Papua New Guinea were part of “several events” which led the Menzies Government to introduce conscription in November 1964. But neither were mentioned in All The Way. Moreover, both events were specifically denied in your Herald letter published on 24 April 2012 – where you ran the line that conscription was introduced solely to support the United States in Vietnam. As previously stated, this is intellectually dishonest.
It comes as no surprise to me that you defend All The Way as grounded in “hard facts” or that you support ABC documentaries. After all, All The Way is your film which was financed by the Australian taxpayer per courtesy of Screen Australia and Screen NSW and shown on the taxpayer funded ABC 1.
For the record, I wrote in my Herald column that All The Way and your book both contained “valuable information along with some valid criticisms about how the US military fought the war and how the Australian Coalition government at the time failed to adequately explain the conflict”.
I stand by this assessment. I also stand by my claim that there are serious factual errors in All The Way and in your book – and that All The Way was yet another ABC documentary which presented a left wing interpretation of Australian history.
Paul Ham to Gerard Henderson – 26 April 2012
I”m reluctant to engage in a dialogue with you, because I don”t actually know in what capacity you”re addressing me.
As the boss of the Sydney Institute? A Herald columnist? A political lobbyist? An Australian bloke?
Each implies a different use of my words: eg I don”t wish to appear on your web site, which seems to serve as a kind of Hendersonian vortex for your admirers and detractors; nor do I wish to appear in your column. We have completed that round.
(Incidentally, on a personal note, I see that you regard me as an anti-catholic; a left winger; and an “anti-American”. All utterly false presumptions: my mother is catholic; my politics, centrist, or slightly right of centre; and I”m a great admirer of America and the Americans – in so far as one can say such a thing. But when the alliance comes apart, as history shows it so obviously did in Vietnam, I feel inclined to write an 800-word book about it. But your presumptuousness to lunge for “isms” to describe me, in complete ignorance of the truth, suggests that I should approach your with trepidation)
Perhaps you could clarify your position?
Gerard Henderson to Paul Ham – 27 April 2012
What an odd missive to receive from a journalist and documentary maker – your email received last night refers.
When I am asked to provide evidence for comments I make in books, newspapers or on television/radio – I provide evidence.
When you are asked to provide evidence for comments you have made in books or films – your initial response is to query the “capacity” in which you are addressed. How strange.
In any event, here is your answer. I wrote to you as someone who takes part in the public debate – as do you. I also happen to be a taxpayer who has an interest in your film All The Way – which was financed by the taxpayer subsidised Screen Australia and Screen NSW and shown on the taxpayer funded ABC. I trust this clarifies my position.
In relation to the penultimate paragraph in your letter, I make the following comments:
▪ Your film All The Way and your book Vietnam: The Australian War exhibit anti-Catholic sectarianism. I have mentioned this last Friday in my Media Watch Dog blog and intend to document the matter in detail today. Your response is to state that your “mother is a Catholic”. Well fancy that. My father used to say that he had a brother in the navy and a sister in the waxworks. But this did not say anything with respect to my views or either institution.
The fact is that All The Way and Vietnam: The Australian War are replete with anti-Catholic sectarianism – of the sneering genre.
▪ I have never said, nor written, that you are “anti-American”. Like so much in your film and book – you just made this up. What I have written is that in All The Way you embraced the left-wing interpretation of Australian history and opposed the overseas deployment, outside of the South West Pacific, of the Australian Defence Force to all conflicts in which Australia has been involved since 1914. In contemporary Australian politics, this position is embraced by the Greens – but opposed by Labor and the Coalition.
As to your self-assessment that you are “centrist, or slightly right of centre” – well, as the saying goes: “You shall judge them by their fruits”. I concede, however, that All The Way more readily embraced the left-wing interpretation of Australian history that did your book. I assume this reflected the influence of ABC types on your film.
▪ Contrary to your assertion, I have never “lunged” for an “ism” to describe you. For example, I have not said that you are into communism or socialism or nationalism. Once again, you just made this up.
In conclusion, I am surprised that you are so sensitive to criticism – especially since you are so willing to criticise others, many of whom are dead and cannot defend themselves.
In view of your sensitivity to criticism, you would be well advised to engage a fact-checker before completing any future films or books. In his review of Vietnam: The Australian War in The Sydney Morning Herald (9 February 2008), Professor Ross Fitzgerald drew attention to some factual errors in your book. He referred to Vietnam: The Australian War as “sometimes revealing and insightful, sometimes sloppy and sparsely referenced”. I agree with Fitzgerald’s critique and I note that you did not respond to his criticisms in the SMH.
Now, how about providing some evidence to support your assertions in All The Way and Vietnam: The Australian War? Over to you.
Paul Ham to Gerard Henderson – 27 April 2012 – 10.11 am
I have read this over again, and I am perfectly willing to correct errors of fact in my book – as I have done, several times, in a book so big.
However, most of those “errors” you cite below are, I believe, your errors of interpretation.
My original letter to the Herald was a lot longer, so what you call “intellectual dishonesty” is simply a lack of space.
Yes, there were “several events” on paper that put the case for National Service; but the paramount driving force was concern about Vietnam. It was cryingly obvious to everyone in power at the time (1964) that Vietnam was the theatre for which conscripts were likely to be used, regardless of the legalese of the wording of the Act, which you hold up, somewhat pedantically, as revealed truth (as does Edwards).
A historian has to peer beyond the mere words of men – especially politicians! – and into their hearts and minds… There, and only there, does one find a scrap of truth.
May I remind you that by 1964, the USA had virtually declared war on Vietnam (Tonkin Gulf Resolution), and the Australian Govt had shifted the line of forward defence to the 17th parallel, in defiance of our defence experts, who argued our line of fwd defence should be the Malayan Barrier.
You are gravely mistaken if you think the US had not urged conscription on Australia (not that Australia resisted that pressure, of course!). I urge you to read p167 of my book, 2nd par, starting: “[Conscription] is a policy which the United States has been pressing on Australian for some time…” – these are the words of McGeorge Bundy, whose name and stature you will be aware of.
I could elaborate, but I simply haven”t the time. For what it”s worth, I do not give you permission to use my words in your various forums – simply because I haven”t the time to monitor any wilful manipulation of what I”m saying.
As for your last remark, “a left wing interpretation of Australian history” – this is so facile as to render me amazed that a man of your stature could still readily divide the world along such crude, undergraduate, demarcation lines. I mean this literally: I remember arguing with left wingers, when I was a student, against their simple categorisation of Left and Right, at a time when these terms seemed utterly inadequate to me as ways of seeing the world and its past.
Now I find myself, somewhat wearily, at the age of 51, arguing the same line with you: I do not decide on a “left” or “right” wing position, and then populate it with selective facts. I work from the ground up, with a clean sheet, in an effort to find some semblance of the truth. I am, in most things, an extreme moderate.
But thank you for seeing some merit in both the book and film. That is sincerely gratifying.
With best wishes in your endeavours,
Paul Ham to Gerard Henderson – 27 April 2012 – 11.29 am
I presume you have received my second email, relating to your points.
Yes my caution may seem odd, but you wear several hats. And I simply wish to know which one is on.
I see that you are a pedant of a rather vexatious kind. You completely misunderstand or wilfully misinterpret the spirit behind the meaning of my words… Eg To call my work Left wing interpretation, or that I”m anti-catholic, ascribes it to an agenda that readily falls into a category, or ism. But maybe I”m reading too much into your critique? After all Gerard, you”re the one who branded us “left wing”…er, heard of socialism? Anti-Americanism? Anti-Catholicism? You accuse me of “making things up”. But you”re just playing with words…
I have received a great deal of criticism over my book, from some ferocious Vietnam veterans and former protestors. If their complaints were correct, I amended the record. I took it quite happily on the chin.
Poor Ross Fitzgerald. His review made one correction of fact: a single footnote I got wrong. Incidentally he seemed to think my book a right-wing interpretation, at least in part. Odd that..
Anyway, if there are errors in All the way I”ll pass them in to ABC. And I”m happy to hypothecate your tax payment and refund forthwith. I don”t mean that cynically: if you don”t feel you”ve got your money”s worth, well, the customer I suppose, is king.
I trust you will continue to find left and right wing interpretations to explain the world around you. It seems a dismal, lonely “science”. if so I wish you well, but I simply cannot understand that mindset at all,
Gerard Henderson to Paul Ham – 26 April 2012
Yes, our emails did cross – I was away from the computer for a while this morning.
Your last two letters are quite revealing. I note that you are into “hearts and minds” evidence. I prefer empirical data.
You are so into “hearts and minds” history that you do not even know your own book. On Page 167 of Vietnam: The Australian War, you did not quote McGeorge Bundy as saying that “[conscription] is a policy which the United States has been pressing on Australia for some time”. In fact, these words came from a memo which a certain Benjamin Read forwarded to McGeorge Bundy – they are not Bundy’s own words. Moreover, the memo which you quote makes no reference to Vietnam. By the way, I know quite a lot about McGeorge Bundy – but I have never previously heard of Benjamin Read.
I have not met Paul Terracini. He has written a Ph.D. thesis on the Menzies Government – and has thoroughly examined the Cabinet Papers for the early 1960s. Mr Terracini has forwarded me a copy of a letter which he has submitted to the Sydney Morning Herald for publication.
In his (so far unpublished) letter, Paul Terracini describes your view that America pressured Australia to introduce conscription in 1964 as “simplistic”. Mr Terracini has written to the Herald that “the Cabinet documents for 1964 and early 1965 reveal great concern over a possible escalation of the Indonesian/Malaysia conflict in which Australian soldiers were already involved”.
There are the known facts. Bob Menzies, Jack McEwen and Harold Holt are long dead. Unlike you, I do not claim access to their “hearts and minds”.
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Until next time.