GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG – ISSUE NO. 145

13 JULY 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 realise this makes me practically retarded, but until five minutes ago

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

– Byronbache via Twitter, Monday 7 February 2011

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

are private correspondence and not for publication” – ABC News Radio’s

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

Media Watch Dog – “disgraceful”, “sick”

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

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

– Mark Latham The Spectator Australia 11 June 2011.

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

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

“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

“What a haughty flapping half-arsed buffoon he [Henderson] is”

– Bob Ellis on his Table Talk blog, 8 May 2012 (before breakfast)

“Gerard [Henderson] is a complete f-ckwit”

– Malcolm Farr, via Twitter, 29 June 2012 (circa pre-dinner drinks)

Stop Press : The Steve Fielding/WorkChoices Howler

● Can You Bear It?  Graham Wilson on RN, Amanda Lowrey,

Liberty Sanger, Ian Thorpe on ABC1, Q&A Plus P

● Hyperbole of the Week: Ian Robinson in the Guardian-on-the-Yarra Links Abbott and Hitler

● Friday 13th Special: Is It Dr Clive Hamilton or Mr Jacob Hamilton?

● Mark Latham’s Broken Promise and Lenin Confusion

● Correspondence : Matthew Ricketson on The Finkelstein Report; Plus Andrew Millard (A Chaser Boy Advocate)

STOP PRESS

MEDIA FALLS FOR STEPHEN MAYNE/BOB BROWN HOWLER ON STEVE FIELDING AND WORKCHOICES

The mythology commenced after NSW Labor Party secretary Sam Dastyari suggested that Labor should not give its preferences to the Greens.  The pro-Greens’ line in response was that the ALP’s decision to preference Family First’s Steve Fielding ahead of the Greens on its how-to-vote ticket in Victoria in the 2004 election was disastrous because it allowed John Howard’s WorkChoices legislation to pass the Senate.  The claim was that Fielding had voted for WorkChoices in the Senate.

Here’s where the rumour appears to have started – on the ABC News 24’s The Drum program last Monday:

Steve Cannane : But Stephen, what if they [Labor] – what if they preference, say, for example, Family First, or the DLP over the Greens? Could that then lead to a different make up of the Senate and could that then help the Coalition repeal the Carbon Tax?

Stephen Mayne : Well absolutely it will. I mean, Steve Fielding only got in because of Labor preferences in Victoria in 2004, when the Latham vote, you know, sent Labor’s primary vote tumbling. That’s why we got John Howard with the Senate, that’s why we got Work Choices, that’s why we got a free for all on media ownership and the most concentrated media ownership in the world. All that flowed from the Labor Party recklessly doing a sleazy deal with the religious right and putting the Greens and other progressives behind them. If they haven’t learned the lesson of that, then they’re mugs and they deserve the double-digit crash in their primary vote that they’re gonna cop next year.

This is pure mythology.  If Stephen Mayne – who is a candidate in the Victorian State seat of Melbourne at the by-election on 21 July – had done any research he would have realised that he was hopelessly wrong.

In fact, Senator Steve Fielding opposed the Howard Government’s WorkChoices legislation when the division on the third reading of the bill was taken on 2 December 2005.  John Howard got his WorkChoices through the Senate because, from 1 July 2005, the Coalition had a Senate majority.  Stephen Mayne should know this.

Yet the myth is spreading fast.  Writing on The Age’s website on 12 July, former Greens’ leader Bob Brown declared :

In The Age last Monday, the leader of the state opposition, Daniel Andrews, attacked the Greens and did nothing to dispel growing fears of a de facto deal with Abbott”s Liberals on preferences. He seems ready to ride the same Liberal dumper. Labor is discarding its constituency, no less than it did when its preferences elected far-right Family First”s Steven Fielding to the Senate instead of the Greens” David Risstrom in 2004. That mistake led to the draconian WorkChoices laws under prime minister John Howard.

MWD understands that The Age declined to publish a letter from ALP member Chris Curtis correcting Brown’s howler and documenting Steve Fielding’s opposition to WorkChoices.

In The Australian on 12 July Stuart Rintoul also reported Bob Brown’s (false) claim about Steve Fielding and WorkChoices – without correction.

CAN YOU BEAR IT?

▪ Graham Wilson Reflects on His First Wife – An RN Exclusive

Did anyone catch Jonathan Green’s interview with Graham Wilson (author Dust, Donkeys and Delusions – The Myth of Simpson and his Donkey Exposed) and Marilyn Lake (author What’s Wrong With ANZAC? The Militarisation of Australian History) on RN Drive last Wednesday?

It was a typical ABC discussion where everyone agreed with everyone else and a fine leftist ideological time is had by all.  However, a highlight of “the conversation” occurred when the Simpson expert saw certain comparisons between the hostilities at Gallipoli and hostilities on his own home front of recent memory.

Let’s go to the CD where discussion turned on the fact that some New Zealanders get upset that Australians get the credit for many of their fine performances – on the field of battle and elsewhere.

Graham Wilson: …people in Australia can’t understand why the Kiwis get upset about it.  There’s a very, very paternalistic view of supposed ANZAC military history. You know, Australia hogs all the glory and the Kiwis sometimes get upset about it. And then Australians sort of – they remind me a little bit of my first wife – they snap back and go: “Why are you upset?”.

So there you have it.  Australians’ response to war reminds Graham Wilson of the response of his first wife to him.

Can you bear it?

Amanda Lohrey Tables Her Thoughts

And then there is the case of the novelist and academic Amanda Lohrey who recently (3 July) saw fit to whinge in Crikey about her masseuse’s  parents. Here we go:

Recently my masseuse complained to me – while I was prone on the massage table – about the fact that her parents, in their seventies, can’t get a concession health card.

I happen to know her parents, former business people, are well-off with substantial property holdings. Why don’t they sell a property if they need cash, I (foolishly) asked. Well, she replied, “Dad’s the kind who likes to hold on to things. But he’s paid his taxes all his life, so he’s as entitled to a health card as anyone else.”

This “tax-paying” rant went on for some time and despite my attempt at diplomatic remonstrations she would not be budged, and the rest  of her (large) family apparently agree with her.  This woman is a good woman, and I like her, but I left her house with a feeling that there is no hope for Labor governments – the degree of irrational entitlement, anger and grievance out there is unfathomable.

Why rely on Newspoll or ACNielsen to gauge opinion when Ms Lohrey will report from the thought of her masseuse for nothing. And what other personal encounters might Ms Lohrey see fit to write to Crikey about.  Can you bear it?

Liberty Sanger On the News As It Should Be

MWD’s favourite Maurice Blackburn lawyer, Liberty Sanger, was on the ABC 1 News Breakfast segment again this week. Last Wednesday, in fact.

Once again, Ms Sanger did not bother too much about what was in the morning’s newspapers.  Rather she focused on what should have been in the papers.  She bagged Tony Abbott and the Coalition on asylum seekers. Let’s go to the DVD:

… some of the slogans that he’s [Tony Abbott’s] advancing don’t stand up to scrutiny. Because it’s not that you can’t simply turn back the boats. That might have worked once but Indonesia is not going to receive those boats, so what happens next? It’s the detail that really – we deserve answers to, given the place that we’re in. But I think what this Newspoll speaks to is, certainly in my perspective and I”m sure for many others’, we want a result. This is just too distressing. Lives have been lost. 90 lives lost in the last sitting of parliament, in the last days of parliament. Not good enough. We expect more from our political leaders.

So Liberty Sanger criticised Tony Abbott – but did not specifically mention either Prime Minister Julia Gillard or Greens’ leader Christine Milne. Yet Labor is in an agreement with the Greens and the Greens have the balance of power in the Senate.  Can you bear it?

Ian Thorpe’s (Apparent) Choice

According to Richard Clune in last weekend’s Sunday Telegraph, in the ABC 1 documentary on Ian Thorpe on Sunday there is a BIG QUESTION about whether the swimmer would prefer to go to bed with Julia Gillard or Helen Clark.  This is how Richard Clune described the matter:

Thorpe was asked whether he rather “do” Prime Minister Julia Gillard or her former New Zealand counterpart Helen Clark.  “Julia, so long as she doesn’t speak,” Thorpe responds.

Funny, eh? Once upon a time the public broadcaster regarded itself as an arbiter of good taste.  Even today, ABC managing director Mark Scott says that the public broadcaster is a conduit for Australia’s “soft power”.  Yet, according to reports, Mr Thorpe is asked on the ABC 1 documentary whether he would prefer “to bed” Ms Gillard or Ms Clark – and selects the former provided she shuts up.  Can you bear it?

Q&A plus P (as in Placards)

It seems that the ABC 1 Q&A program has become a gig when the audience plus presenter Tony Jones asks the questions – and panellists answer them and/or hold up placards.  It should be named Q&A plus P.

Last week ended with the predictable Q&A question on same sex marriage.  It was a familiar ABC discussion in support of gay marriage.  Malcolm Turnbull agreed with Craig Limkin’s question.  In turn, panellist Thierry De Duve supported same sex marriage while Chris Bowen supported Malcolm Turnbull’s backing of a conscience vote on the issue.  Then panellist Liz Ann Macgregor supported same sex marriage. Nahji Chu was not asked – but she had already declared her support for Malcolm Turnbull by holding up a sign.

In fact, Ms Chu held up three placards on Q&A – see below.  The first of which declared “Malcolm for PM”. It’s called barracking. Can you bear it?

HYPERBOLE OF THE WEEK JUDGED BY LUKE & LEIA


READ ALL ABOUT IT: IAN ROBINSON LOOKS AT TONY ABBOTT – SEES ADOLF HITLER

It’s so great – and so predictable – to see long-time Melbourne leftie get the feature spot on the Opinion Page of last weekend’s Saturday Age.

The president emeritus of the Rationalist Society of Australia made full use of The-Guardian-on-the-Yarra to bag Tony Abbott with references to Nazi Germany and all that. Robinson was defending Julia Gillard’s broken promise not to introduce a carbon tax.

Ian Robinson used the following terms with respect to the Opposition leader – viz (i) methods of Nazi propaganda, (ii) Adolf Hitler, (iii) “big lie”, (iv) Mein Kampf, (v) Goebbels-esque, (vi) Germany in the 30s and (vii) Nazi propaganda techniques.

Robinson then went into denial by claiming “No one is claiming Abbott is a Nazi”. How so very Guardian-on-the-Yarra. Clearly the editor of the Saturday Age’s Opinion Page thought Robinson’s hyperbole worthy of publication in a prominent place.

SPECIAL FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH FEATURE – THE GOOD CLIVE HAMILTON ON THE CLIMATE CHANGE AUTHORITY BOARD.  OR COULD IT BE THE BAD JACOB HAMILTON?


On 21 June 2012, Greg Combet – the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency – announced the appointment of seven members of the board of the Climate Change Authority.  One of the appointees is Professor Clive Hamilton – formerly executive director of the Australia Institute in Canberra and currently Professor of Public Ethics at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at Charles Sturt University.

Clive Hamilton is a true believer in the need to combat human induced climate change.  He is on record as questioning the ability of democracies to deal with climate change and has advocated “the suspension of the democratic process” to tackle this issue.  Professor Hamilton has also declared that those who do not follow his dire predictions about this “new climate on Earth” are suffering from a mental illness – which he has diagnosed as cognitive dissonance. Dr Hamilton (for a doctor he is) has no qualifications in medicine or science.

So there you have it.  Professor Hamilton does not really believe in democracy.  Moreover, he regards those who oppose him as having mental health problems. (You need to correct your terminology here. These days, no one has health problems, just health “issues” – Ed].  Yet Hamilton has been appointed by a democratically elected government to make recommendations on what Mr Combet calls “pollution caps”.

This is a big responsibility.  So the question arises – did Greg Combet know precisely who he was appointing when he announced that Clive Hamilton would join the Climate Change Authority?  You see, as Gerard Henderson documented in the Sydney Morning Herald on 29 September 2007 (see here) and in The Sydney Institute Quarterly Issue 31– see here – there is a Clive Hamilton and there is Jacob Hamilton.

All was revealed when Clive Hamilton was interviewed by Caroline Jones on the ABC Radio program The Search for Meaning on 27 February 1994.  Dr Hamilton told Ms Jones how he had been influenced by the philosopher Carl Jung.  So much so that Clive is convinced that he has an “other self”. Step forward, Jacob.

It goes like this. Your man Clive is a pretty good bloke devoted to warning the masses that “The-end-of-the-world-is-nigh”. Clive is really a hand-holder and a sandal-wearer.  Sure he wants to suspend democracy.  But not for very long – only until the end of the world.  And, sure, Clive believes that his opponents have a mental illness.  But this will be cured the minute they convert to his belief system. In other words, Clive is a healer.  All up, the Professor’s okay.

But not Jacob.  Not at all.  Clive Hamilton told Caroline Jones that Jacob (Hamilton) is a foul-mouthed murderer and an abuser of women.  Clive also said that Jacob was “part of” himself.

Talk about a government is crisis.  There are the opinion polls and the broken carbon tax promise and break-down of border protection and so on.

But, on Friday the 13th, it can be revealed that Greg Combet has appointed not only nice Clive Hamilton to the Climate Change Authority but also the foul-mouthed murderer Jacob (Hamilton). Could this bring down the Gillard Government?

MWD is a huge fan of Climate Change Authority chairman Bernie Fraser – and has been since Mr Fraser, then living alone, revealed some years ago to the Sydney Morning Herald how he had become fond of a mouse which inhabited his lonely kitchen in Sydney.

Clive Hamilton may be a mouse on the Climate Change Authority – in which case Mr Fraser will handle him well.  But what if Jacob (Hamilton) turns up, exhibiting the aggression of a rat on the attack?  What then?  [You are being a bit pessimistic here, surely. I’m sure that fellow board member Professor John Quiggin can help Bernie Fraser in any such eventuality.  After all, Professor Quiggin is the author of Generalized Expected Utility Theory: The Rank-Dependent Expected Utility Model.  I haven’t read this tome. I’m not sure anyone has.  But I’m sure Quiggin’s model can be applied to turning Jacob (Hamilton) back into Clive Hamilton. You wait and see – Ed].

MARK LATHAM – A BROKEN PROMISE AND A GENEROUS GIFT REVEAL FAILED LABOR LEADER’S TOTAL CONFUSION ON VLADIMIR LENIN

On April Fool’s Day this year, during an appearance on Sky News Australian Agenda program, former (failed) Labor leader Mark Latham accused Prime Minister Julia Gillard of being a “liar” and urged Australians to “bring in a non-liar as prime minister”. He also told Sky News viewers that “if you make a promise, you’ve just got to keep it these days”.

Sky News, part-owned by Rupert Murdoch, is one of the media outlets Mr Latham relies on nowadays to support his family’s livelihood.  After all, who could be expected to live in south-west Sydney on a lousy taxpayer funded superannuation pension of a mere $78,000 a year (fully indexed)? So these days Mr Latham readily mixes with those whom he used to regard as journalistic scum.  His outlets include the Australian Financial Review, The Spectator Australia and Paul Murray Live on Sky News.

Writing in Tommie Switzer’s “Aussie Speccie” on 21 January 2012, Mark Latham made the following comment:

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 Henderson].  It offers a portrait of “the other Lenin…the Lenin of work and leisure, geared to his life’s purpose and yet enjoying to the full all the pleasures of a healthy human existence…”.  Gerard…needs to read this book.

Martin English Overcomes Latham’s Broken Promise

In fact, it was yet another broken promise. In Lathamism terminology, Latham was lying.  He never posted his copy of Not By Politics Alone to Gerard Henderson.  He just made this up – perhaps to impress Tommie Switzer or a former girlfriend. Or perhaps as a manifestation of  a pathological condition.

However, many MWD readers are both conscientious an generous.  A certain Martin English emailed MWD on 8 May 2012 as follows:

Mr Henderson

With reference to Media Watch Dog – Issue No. 133 and the book Not by Politics Alone by Tamara Deutscher.  Given Mr Latham”s financial state (this is being written prior to the Treasurer’s Budget speech), I have taken the liberty of ordering, for delivery to your Phillip St address, a copy of this book, via Amazon.com. The book is being sourced from an Amazon reseller, and the delivery estimate is between June 8, 2012 and July 10, 2012.

Given that Mr Latham”s ascent to leadership of the ALP can be considered a major part of the history behind their (the ALP”s) current state of disarray, I would appreciate any insight that this book provides about Mr Latham.

Martin English

Unlike Mark Latham, Martin English does not lie and keeps his promises. Tamara Deutscher’s Not by Politics Alone arrived in late June – and has now been read by Nancy’s co-owner.  Martin English was certainly on to something – in that (once) Young Mark’s favourite book tells us more about him than the author or her subject.

What’s Really in Not By Politics Alone

According to Latham, Vladimir Lenin had a light-hearted, soft-side. You know, the kind of chap who constructs sandcastles on the banks of the Caspian Sea.  Latham wants us all to follow this Lenin – a man of both work and leisure, geared to life’s purpose and yet enjoying all the pleasures of a healthy human existence.  In short, a balanced Bolshevik.

It seems that Mark Latham has two heroes – both middle-aged blokes who were, at times, somewhat erratic men.  Namely, former Australian Labor leader Bert (“Call me Doctor”) Evatt and Vladimir Ilyich (“Call me Lenin”) Ulyanov.

According to Latham, Lenin was a kind of Russian bloke who knew how to work and play.  How does Latham know?  Well, the Marxist Tamara Deutscher told him so – or so he claims.  However, it seems that Latham never read Not By Politics Alone: The Other Lenin when it was given to him by a girlfriend all those decades ago.

Here’s an example of Lenin’s work/life balances as told by Tamara Deutscher in Not By Politics Alone.

▪ It’s October 1902 and Trotsky meets Lenin for the very first time.  The location is in London.  This is what happened:

…the two men went out ostensibly to look at the sights of London. But, says Trotsky, “Vladimir Ilyich had something else in mind…he wanted to get to know me and to examine me”. And, indeed, during the long walk Trotsky was answering questions – all sorts of questions on the composition of the colony of deportees, on the formation of political groupings, on the various tendencies among them, on theoretical differences in the assessment of Bernstein and Kautsky, on philosophical, political and organisational quarrels, on what Trotsky’s companions read and discussed in the Moscow transfer prison, and what were their comments on The Development of Capitalism in Russia.

So there you have it.  It was a lovely day in London Town.  Lenin and Trotsky could have (i) discussed the wonder of the falling Autumn leaves, (ii) conversed about the latest acquisitions of the British Museum or (iii) admired the wonder of Big Ben in silence.

But, no. Your man Lenin insisted on grilling Trotsky about the theoretical differences in the assessment of Bernstein and Kautsky.  According to Tamara Deutscher, Lenin “subjected anyone” he came across to much “persistent questioning”. Yet Mark Latham reckons that Lenin knew how to relax.

▪ It’s September 1914 and the Great War has just commenced.  Lenin finds that his mistress Inessa Armand has a different view to him on the outbreak of hostilities.  Let Tamara Deutscher take up the story:

The only problem on which there seemed to have been a disagreement between them was that the “defence of the fatherland”, where, in September 1914, she tended for a time to adopt a somewhat pacifist position. For Lenin the question was of supreme importance: “It would be most unpleasant for me if we differed on this”. He chided her for her “formalistic” and “non-historical” approach and patiently explained what was more than obvious to him and what he had already stated more than once in pamphlets and articles.  Whether Inessa became genuinely convinced of the correctness of Lenin’s attitude or not, she seemed to have adopted it as her own.

How about that?  According to Mark Latham, Lenin was geared to life’s purpose.  Yet Lenin demanded that his women agree with him.  In other words, he was just another bloke who wanted women to be on side – or shut up.

▪  It’s May 1922.  Lenin writes to Comrade Feliks Dzerzhinsky about what he should do with counter-revolutionary writers.  Here’s Lenin’s advice about how to handle the Petrograd magazine Economist:

This to my mind, is clearly a centre of white-guardists. In Nr 3 (only Nr 3!!! This nota bene!) there is on the cover of a list of contributors.  These, I think are nearly all most legitimate candidates for exile abroad. They are all openly counter-revolutionaries, accomplices of the Entente, an organisation of its servants and spies and corrupters of the student youth.  Arrangements could be made to have these “military spies” seized and constantly and systematically caught and dispatched abroad.

I am asking that this should be, secretly and without making any copies, shown to the members of the Politbureau, returned to you and to me, and that I should be informed about their reaction and your conclusion.

So there.  According to Mark Latham, Lenin enjoyed the full pleasures of a healthy human existence.  Yet such activities included advising Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the Secret Police (the Cheka, GPU and later the KGB) to deport those who wrote for the journal Economist. In fact, following the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, Lenin ordered the deportation of hundreds of intellectuals – in his words, “without mercy”.

A Certain Lack of Self-Awareness

Without question, Martin English is on to something.  No wonder Mark Latham was such a disastrous Labor leader – emulating his hero Dr Evatt (for a doctor he was) in losing every election campaign in which he led Labor.

There is also a lack of self-awareness here. Mark Latham told readers of The Spectator Australia that a girlfriend at university gave him a copy of Not By Politics Alone which he came to regard as “prescient”.  Perhaps the gift was a joke.  Or, perhaps, the girlfriend was attempting to clear out her digs and was junking her Lenin collection and moving into a Trotsky or Che Guevera phase.  Or maybe she looked at Latham and saw a mini-Lenin. You know, a bloke who talked incessantly, who didn’t like sheilas to disagree with him and who wanted to thump his perceived enemies. Who knows?

Lest the Lair of Liverpool, in his invincible ignorance, continues to regard Vladimir Lenin as a bloke geared to life’s purpose – who was a sensitive sandcastle constructor – here are a few quotes from the REAL THING.

What Latham Does Not Know – The Real Lenin

In 1998, Richard Pipes’ The Unknown Lenin: From The Secret Archive (Yale University Press) was published.  This was based on documents released from Soviet archives following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

In his introduction, Professor Pipes documented how Lenin “resorted to unbridled violence”. Here’s a take of Pipe’s assessment of Lenin – based on a reading of original sources:

Another trait of Lenin’s which emerges with stark clarity from these documents is his policeman’s mentality. No head of the tsarist Okhrana ever tracked dissident intellectuals so closely as he did, classifying them according to their attitude towards his regime and turning the information over to the Cheka or GPU for repressive action. He had lists drawn up of those he wanted expelled from Soviet Russia: he ordered the GPU to prepare a roster of “several hundred [intellectuals] who must be deported abroad without mercy” (Document 1007)….

Lenin treated his vast realm like a private estate, ordering remote provinces on one day to ship logs, specified to a fraction of an inch (Document 79), and on another, to deliver sheep and pigs (Document 46). Nothing escaped him, except the causes of the boundless corruption of the communist apparatus which he had placed above the law, and the reason the world did not follow the Soviet example.

So there you have it. Lenin was a violent obsessive thug who was a German agent during the First World War and established the Bolshevik regime which persecuted independent scribblers like Mark Latham.  And Latham – based on a misreading or, more likely, non-reading of Tamara Deutscher’s Not By Politics Alone – reckons that Lenin was a touchy-feely guy geared to life’s purpose. What a load of tosh.

[I thought Mark Latham was terrific on Paul Murray Live last Monday. I just loved the way he boasted how he got rid of the politicians’ generous superannuation scheme without mentioning that he abolished it for other MPs – not for himself.  You should go back and look at some of ML’s Sky News appearances – Ed].

CORRESPONDENCE – ON THE FINKELSTEIN REPORT AND THE MID-WINTER BALL (AGAIN)

● Matthew Ricketson Defends Finkelstein’s News Media Council Recommendations

MWD Issue 143 contained an essay titled “Mission Unaccomplished: The ABC and Diversity Under Mark Scott”. Reference was made to the fact that Mr Scott launched a book edited by Professor Matthew Ricketson without referring to the attempt to further regulate the media recommended by the Report of the Independent Inquiry Into The Media and Media Regulation by The Hon. R. Finkelstein QC assisted by Professor Ricketson.

This led to correspondence between Matthew Ricketson and Gerard Henderson which is published below – at Professor Ricketson’s request:

Matthew Ricketson to Gerard/Anne Henderson – 9 July 2012

Hi Gerard, Anne,

I”ve seen mention on the talk I gave along with Gail Hambly at the Sydney Institute on Media Watch Dog. I don”t know if The Sydney Papers is out yet, but I”m pretty sure Gail Hambly said in answer to a question from the floor that under the proposed new system the contracts signed between the Press Council and the publishers (minus West Australian Newspapers) will be legally enforceable, and that that means if a company broke the contract the ultimate sanction would be court-enforced: ie, someone going to gaol.

In other words, under that system a media company could end up in the same place as that recommended under the proposed News Media Council.

The item in Media Watch Dog is critical of the proposed NMC but silent on the beefed up system proposed by the Press Council and agreed to by most of the major publishers.

The item also does not grapple with the problems of voluntary self-regulation of the news media, which are documented in the independent inquiry into the media. That is, if there is not means of giving a voluntary regulator some teeth, those who agree to be bound by its decisions actually aren”t. And history has shown that on some occasions.

There is a range of possible solutions to the problems of self-regulation and you can debate them, but as it stands the item is, I think, misleading.

I”m not sending you this email for publication, though I”m open to discuss that possibility. I”m really asking you to check the transcript of the “Q and A” that followed our talk at the Institute.

Cheers

Matthew Ricketson

Gerard Henderson to Matthew Ricketson – 11 July 2012

Matthew

Re your email of Monday. I”m currently in Melbourne and was very busy yesterday.

I am confident that the reference to you in MWD No 143 is accurate. You can check this for yourself. The Ricketson/ Hambly talk is on the Sydney Institute”s podcast and the quote is from the first question/ answer.

In my piece on the ABC in MWD, I was referring only to the proposed News Media Council and I am confident that what I wrote about the NMC proposal is correct. I was not referring to the revamped Australian Press Council. If this might entail editors/ journalists being jailed for refusing to abide by decisions to which there is no right of appeal – then I would be opposed to this as well.

I am happy to run a letter/ article from you in MWD. I will be back in the office on Thursday morning.

Best wishes

Gerard

Matthew Ricketson to Gerard Henderson – 11 July 2012

Hi Gerard,

Thanks for your reply. I am not so much questioning the accuracy of what you have reported in Media Watch Dog as pointing to the importance of what you have omitted. I”ve just listened to the podcast of the talk and at the 50 minute mark there is a question from the floor to Gail Hambly where she acknowledges that under the revised proposed Press Council arrangements, there is a legally enforceable contract between the council and its members.

She acknowledges that this means if one of the media company members is found by a court to have breached their contract and the company refuses to abide by the court”s decision they can be found in contempt of court and would then suffer the consequences for that, including going to gaol.

In other words, if there is a dispute between a media outlet and either the proposed Press Council contractual system or the News Media Council they end up in the same place – a court of law.

That is one important piece of contextual information – provided in the same evening talk from which you quoted in Media Watch Dog – that you have omitted for your readers.

The second important piece of contextual information that you have not provided for your readers is that the media inquiry was presented with evidence from three of the four present and past Press Council chairs that the voluntary system of self-regulation was not working. At the same time, most of those who regulated – the media company members – believed that it was working just fine thank you, and that the council did not need more money, and that it was not a problem that the members could withdraw at any time if they liked.

The third important piece of contextual information that you have not provided for your readers is to spell out the circumstances under which a media company and/or one of its editors might find themselves in gaol.

Running through much of the commentary in the mainstream news media about the Finkelstein inquiry is a suggestion that somehow a fearless newspaper editor might be forced to go to gaol for defying the censorship of an oppressive government.

However, such an eventuality could only happen after a media outlet had first published something that had prompted a complaint from a reader. That is, the media outlet has the first word on the issue. It could only happen after the complaint was heard by the News Media Council based, it is recommended, on the same standards of journalistic practice that are included in the MEAA code of ethics and the many other codes in place within various media companies. It could only happen if the media outlet refused to publish the adjudication.

In other words, none of this is different from the existing system except that instead of media outlets refusing to publish adverse adjudications (as has happened occasionally in the past) or burying adverse adjudications (as has happened frequently), they would need to publish them with due prominence.

How, exactly, do these proposed improvements to a complaints-handling system represent anything like the supposedly Stalinist crushing of freedom of speech. Requiring publication of an adjudication may discomfort an editor but it adds to speech; it does not suppress or detract from it, which is what  often happens at present when news outlets treat complainants with disdain.

Frankly, Gerard, the kind of analogies that various commentators and industry representatives have drawn between the Finkelstein inquiry”s recommendations and Stalinist Russia or Nazi Germany are offensive, not only to Mr Finkelstein and me, but more importantly, to the memory of those people who suffered and died under those regimes.

Yours

Matthew Ricketson

Gerard Henderson to Matthew Ricketson – 13 July 2012

Matthew

Re your note of last night.

Unlike many journalists and academics, I can accept criticism and I readily acknowledge errors and make corrections.

As requested, I am happy to run this correspondence in MWD. However, I stand by everything I wrote.  We disagree on policy in this instance – there is no argument between us as to the facts.

The point is that the Finkelstein Report’s recommendation that the proposed News Media Council should come into play with respect to a website which has 15,000 hits a year means that almost every blogger in the nation would come under the proposed NWC’s purview.  Certainly The Sydney Institute would.

Barristers and judges, like Ray Finkelstein, do not necessarily know much about running a business.  Even apart from the merits of the case, the recommendations of the Finkelstein Report – if implemented – would lead to a massive regulation of virtually all media outlets in the country.

Moreover, I still believe that it is wrong in principle that the threat of fines and/or imprisonment should hang over editors/journalists/bloggers who decline to abide by a determination to which there is no right of reply.

Best wishes

Gerard

● Andrew Millard Rushes to Defend Julian Morrow’s  Speech at the Mid-Winter Ball

It seems that the oh-so-sensitive Julian Morrow – the lead boy of The Chaser Boys (average age 36 or is it 37?) has some friends who share his pain at being criticised in MWD. Step forward Andrew Millard – who saw fit to write to MWD in defence of The Chaser Boy’s (long) monologue at the Mid-Winter Ball of recent memory;

Here’s Mr Millard’s defence of The Chaser Boy:

Andrew Millard to Gerard Henderson – 1 July 2012

Dear Mr Henderson,

Further to your correspondence with Mr Morrow regarding the remuneration of the ABC”s CEO, you write:

“I do know what Mark Scott’s annual salary is – even though I have not been able to locate it within the ABC Report.”

His remuneration is stated on page 201 of the ABC Report for 2010/11 listed under “Officers” Remuneration” (oddly enough).

You could be excused for having not seen it buried deep in the report, although it was heavily reported in the most major news outlets when the figure was made public, including these few:

News.com.au (Oct 13 2011)

Daily Telegraph (Oct 13 2011)

Herald Sun (Oct 13 2011)

Courier Mail (Oct 13 2011)

The Australian (Oct 13 2011)

The Australian”s Media Diary (Oct 20 2011)

I assume that like me you prefer to avoid reading the News Ltd stories too.

The only fault of Mr Morrow seems to be pointing out something that the rest of us knew a full 8 months ago.

Better luck next time.

Andrew Millard

Gerard Henderson to Andrew Millard –  6 July 2012

Dear Mr Millard

Thanks for your note of last Tuesday.

I was aware of references to Mark Scott’s salary in the media. It’s just that I could not locate it in the ABC Annual Report. Your tip was appreciated.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

Andrew Millard to Gerard Henderson – 6 July 2012

Dear Mr Henderson,

I”m glad I could be of assistance.

Further to your comment regarding the evening: “Julian Morrow should be advised that it is bad manners to cite Mark Scott’s salary before an audience of 600 – unless Mr Morrow is prepared to reveal how much money he also receives from the ABC in front of the same audience.   Especially since the ABC was one of the sponsors of the 2012 Mid-Winter Ball.”

Can you explain to me why it was bad form for Mr Morrow to cite Mr Scott”s remuneration publicly, yet you see to find it necessary (humorous even?) to remind us of Mark Latham”s pension (fully indexed) at every opportunity.

Both are a matter of public record surely? And perhaps when you remind us again next week you would be so kind as to reveal your own financial position?

[unsigned]

Gerard Henderson to Andrew Millard – 10 July 2012

Dear Mr Millard

I refer to your note. I’m delighted that you appear to be a regular MWD reader and with your offer to help with research tasks on occasions.

It would seem that you and I have differing attitudes to (i) good manners and (ii) double standards.

Julian Morrow currently has a program on Radio National – on which Mark Scott was gracious enough to appear recently.  During his time as ABC managing director, Mr Scott gave ABC sanction to the unlawful trespass activities engaged in by The Chaser Boys – led by Julian Morrow.  Mr Morrow has made a substantial amount of (taxpayers’) money due to the support he had attained from ABC management over the years.

The point is that Julian Morrow did not need to cite Mark Scott’s salary to make his joke at the Mid-Winter’s Ball in front of 600 guests, including the ABC managing director himself. In this sense, his comment was gratuitous.

Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I regard such behaviour as bad manners.

As to Mark Latham – well, he was primarily responsible for ending the generous superannuation scheme which MPs enjoyed. He resigned from politics soon after – and lives substantially off the (taxpayer funded) pension which he successfully denied to others.  The fact is that Mr Latham – not me – made the parliamentary superannuation scheme a matter of public comment.

I am always surprised why the likes of Julian Morrow and Mark Latham, who so readily criticise others, get so upset when someone criticises them – even in a blog like MWD. However, I expect that both will appreciate your support in this instance.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

* * * *

Until next time.