GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG – ISSUE NO. 146

20 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are private correspondence and not for publication” – ABC News Radio’s 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 : Melbourne Writers Festival – Another Left Turnout

Mark Scott Countdown Clock Launched

Dr Greer’s Medical Assessment of Clive James

● Nancy On the Couch: Reflections on “The Thick of It” and Mark Latham channelling John Howard

● Can You Bear It? : Jonathan Holmes’ True Confession; Q&A Panel Votes for Sharks

● A Fran Kelly Moment: A US Conspiracy in Syria Identified

● Paul Bongiorno – Failed Prophet but Great Fable-Teller

Four Corners and the Mugging of Cardinal Pell

● Nancy’s Howler-of-the-Week : Julian Burnside QC Fudges Gough Whitlam’s Record on Vietnamese Refugees

STOP PRESS

2012 MELBOURNE WRITERS FESTIVAL – ANOTHER SANDALISTA OCCASION FOR INNER CITY LEFTIST LUVVIES

Governments come.  And governments go.  But left-wing literary festivals go on forever – irrespective of whether Labor or the Coalition is in office.

The Age today contains the program for the 2012 Melbourne Writers Festival which will run from 23 August to 2 September. Clearly the advent of Ted Baillieu’s Coalition government – in office for two years – has not changed the political composition of the taxpayer subsidised Melbourne Writers Festival.  The major partners of this year’s festival include The Age, ABC Radio 774, The Monthly and the government subsidised Wheeler Centre. Enough said.

There are leftists and left-of-centre guests aplenty – including Louise Adler, Gay Alcorn, Waleed Aly, Tim Costello, Sophie Cunningham, Robert Dessaix, Tim Dunlop, Tim Flannery, Raimond Gaita, Jonathan Green, Germaine Greer, Rodney Hall, Marieke Hardy, Jenny Hocking, Tom Keneally, Marilyn Lake, David Marr, Maxine McKew, Ross McMullin, George Megalogenis, Tony Moore, Ben Pobjie, Henry Rosenbloom, John Ralston Saul, Margaret Simons, Jeff Sparrow, Laura Tingle, Don Watson, Margaret Wertheim, Arnold Zable

Spencer Zifcak and many more.

As to conservatives. Well there is Geoffrey Blainey. That’s pretty much it – although there are a few guests whose political views are either not clear or not known.

Clearly the 2012 Melbourne Writers Festival reflects the predominant fashionable opinion found in The Age, the ABC and The Monthly.

The fact is that more diverse views can be heard on Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News channel in the United States than will be heard at the taxpayer subsidised Melbourne Writers Festival.

BRAND NEW FEATURE – THE AUNTY (BALANCE) CLOCK

This new segment is dedicated to holding ABC managing director Mark Scott to account for his promise – made on 16 October 2006 – that, under his watch, there would be a “further diversity of voices” on the ABC.

– Number of weeks since Mark Scott

promised greater diversity on ABC                   300

– Number of conservative presenters/

producers/editors on prominent ABC Radio/

ABC TV/ABC Online outlets                               Zip

[If nice Mr Scott – or any of his colleagues or anyone else – maintains there is a conservative presenter/producer/editor on any prominent taxpayer funded public broadcaster outlet – he or she should just name the name and the above score-board will be altered in future issues – Ed].

THE GUARDIAN-ON-THE-YARRA” – AN UPDATE: IN WHICH GERMAINE GREER BAGS CLIVE JAMES

It is just a few weeks since The Saturday Age announced that Germaine Greer (for a doctor she is) would be its brand new columnist. It turns out that Dr Greer writes fortnightly – not weekly as initially implied – for the Saturday edition of “The Guardian-on-the-Yarra”.  The columnist for The Guardian (i.e. the REAL THING) has covered such immensely important issues in The Age as Julia Gillard’s jackets and ugg boots with the insight that you would expect of an intellectual who went to the Star of the Sea, Gardenvale and Melbourne University in her youth.

Dr Greer”s column in The Saturday Age on 14 July was certainly up to her past standard.  Titled “On love and loathing in the life of Clive James”, GG initially referred to the fact that “for some time, we’ve all known that Clive James is seriously ill” and commented that he “has now begun his long goodbye in the best Nellie Melba tradition”.  She then commenced to dance on your man Clive’s (yet to be filled) coffin.

In her column, Germs:

▪ whinged that while she and James “had lived within a few miles of each other for 25 years” she has never been to his house and he has never been to her house.  Really.  What’s more, GG has never met James’ daughters. Shocking.

▪ complained that the last time she saw Clive James’ wife Prue “ we were on a train” and “she pretended not to have seen me”. Go on.

▪ objected to what Clive James wrote about her in his book Unreliable Memoirs – even though she claimed not to have read it.

▪ recalled that “at a literary luncheon in Sydney in 1980-something” she was asked what Clive James was like in bed and she responded: “There was very little information available as Clive seemed to have great difficulty in getting anyone into bed, and even greater difficulty in doing anything on the rare occasions that he did.” Funny, eh?

▪ declared that none of the above matters. [In which case why did Germs take a whole two paras writing about it? – Ed].

▪ revealed that “at one point” she got an official letter asking if she thought “Clive was an appropriate person to be receive [sic] the Order of Australia”.  According to Germs, she replied that she “didn’t know anyone who would appreciate it more”.  She added: “They didn’t give it to him.” No surprise there.

[In fact, Clive James received an AM in the Order of Australia in 1992. By the way, Germs seems to love honorary gongs as much as Phillip Adams. According to Who’s Who in Australia, it is Germaine Greer, BA (Hons), MA (Hons), Ph.D., Hon DUniv (Griffith), Hon DUniv (York Toronto), Hon DUniv (UMIST), Hon DUniv (Essex), LL.D (honoris causa) (Melb), Hon DLitt (Anglia Polytechnic) Hon. D. Litt (Syd).  Well done. – Ed.]

No wonder, then, that Dr Germaine Greer is The Age’s top columnist.  What’s next?  Perhaps an analysis of what Patrick White was like in bed.  Or perhaps to slag off at someone, anyone, in extremis.

NANCY ON THE COUCH TALKS TO INKY

● ON “THE THICK OF IT” – OBE

Nancy Asks: I’m a huge fan of the TV satire The Thick of It. It’s such an irreverent put-down of modern democratic politics. You know, foul mouthed minders, useless poll-driven politicians, that sort of thing.  I have often thought that young Lachlan Harris – who worked for Kevin Rudd – was a younger version of the character Malcolm Tucker who worked for Tony Blair. Or was that Alastair Campbell?

When reading the British press online recently, I saw that the irreverent leftist Armando Iannucci – who created The Thick of It – has recently accepted an OBE from Her Majesty the Queen – as in Elizabeth II.  Can this be true? Can an irreverent leftie readily accept an Order of the British Empire?

Inky Responds: I’m afraid so.  Leftists like Mr Iannucci love bagging what they call The Establishment.  But when it comes to the honours and the like, the left just love being recognised by The Establishment.

Sure, Armando Iannucci OBE sounds pretty silly.  But no sillier than our very own Phillip Adams whose entry in Who’s Who in Australia reads as follows:  “Phillip Adams AO 1992, AM 1987, Hon. DUniv (Griffith), Hon DLitt (ECU), Hon DUniv (SA), Hon FAHA”.

Mr Adams AO seems to spend his evenings mocking pretentious conservatives. Then, during the mornings, he devotes his time to accepting gongs and arranging to receive honorary awards by professors wearing funny hats and dressed in flowing frocks. Why, Mr Adams even has his own correspondence paper embossed with “Phillip Adams AO”. This is to remind himself and others of his gong.

I expect that Armando Iannucci will be the flatterer-in-chief when Investiture day comes around at The Palace.  Particularly as Mrs King pins an OBE on to his leftist chest.  My advice to you is – get over it.

● ON MARK LATHAM’S CALL FOR LABOUR MARKET DE-REGULATION

Nancy Asks : I’m a great fan of Paul Murray Live on Sky News – especially on Monday when Mark Latham usually joins the panel.  I note that in recent weeks Mr Latham has been saying that the public has never had it so good and that all Australia needs is a leader who will turn back asylum seeker boats and de-regulate the labour market.  Is this the same Mark Latham who led Labor to defeat at the 2004 election against John Howard? If so, how come he is sounding more and more like John Howard?

Inky Responds :  Yes, it’s him.  There seems to be a psychological phenomenon at work in Australia where some former political leaders morph into their one-time opponents.  Take Malcolm Fraser, for example.  These days he sounds increasingly like Gough Whitlam.

And then there’s Mark Latham.  When he led Labor in the 2004 election, Mr Latham had only a slogan. Namely: “Ease the Squeeze”. Less than a decade later, the Lair of Liverpool reckons that there is no squeeze and the masses never had it so good.  What’s more, Mr Latham (who is eking out a living on his taxpayer funded pension of a lousy $78,000 a year, fully indexed) now sounds like John Howard on industrial relations and border protection.

The problem with morphing is that you never know where it will stop.  Who knows?  In years to come Mark Latham might morph into Kevin Rudd or Julia Gillard. For a hint to understanding The Thought of Latham, it is worth reading the psychological assessment of the Lair of Liverpool by his former staffer Mike Richards for the International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies. It’s titled “Portrait of a paranoid: An insider”s account of the Latham years” and is available on the web.  If you’re looking for keywords – try “paranoid”,  “rage” and “narcissistic”.

CAN YOU BEAR IT?

▪ Jonathan Holmes ‘Fesses Up to Giving Free-Kicks To His ABC Comrades

It was never a secret that the ABC 1 Media Watch program was a Conservative-Free-Zone in so far as presenters are concerned.  That’s why all presenters since the program commenced have been leftists – Stuart Littlemore, Richard Ackland, Paul Barry, Liz Jackson, David Marr, Monica Attard and Jonathan Holmes.

However, the ABC management and its Media Watch presenters have always claimed that it was a “no-favours” program –  in that the ABC was subjected to as much criticism as its commercial rivals and SBS.  Now Jonathan Holmes has let the cat out of the bag, so to speak. [Will this cause special problems if there is an elephant in the room? – Ed].

Interviewed by Jane Gilmore for the online journal The King’s Tribune in July 2012 ABC staffer Jonathan Holmes admitted that he goes soft on fellow ABC types when working out who to bag each Monday on Media Watch.  In responding to Jane Gilmore’s query as to how he handled his ABC colleagues, the Media Watch presenter replied:

Jonathan Holmes: It’s undoubtedly the most difficult and knottiest part of the job, and the most unpleasant for me personally because I know all these [ABC] people.  Shaming them publicly is very unpleasant.  To be honest I tend not to do that kind of flip, mocking take on ABC programs that I may do about other programs. If anyone says “you don’t treat other programs the way you treat ABC programs”, well, to some extent, that’s unavoidably true.  And of course there is some degree of conflict, but if there is something to criticise we do it, and we do it reasonably readily.

So there you have it.  The taxpayer funded public broadcaster presents Media Watch – which is supposed to critique all media.  But Jonathan Holmes has acknowledged that he consciously chooses not to mock his colleagues at the taxpayer funded public broadcaster. Can you bear it?

Q&A Panel Roots For the Sharks in Sharks vs Humans Encounter

It’s good to see that the ABC 1 Q&A team was really on the mark last Monday. It seems that the all-but-compulsory question about same sex marriage was put aside for the week – and the program commenced with a question from a female shark-lover about the recent fatal attack on a young Western Australian man by a great white shark.

First up, panellist Melbourne scribbler Peter Craven declared: “I’m on the side of the great white shark, of course.”  Of course.  American writer Richard Ford concurred – stating: “Preserving sharks seems to me to be much more valuable than preserving surfers or swimmers”.  Of course.  Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon declared that he was “with the sharks”.

When Jennifer Hewitt and Liberal MP Greg Hunt prevaricated somewhat, Peter Craven interjected “I’m still with the sharks”. Of course.  Meanwhile, at the invitation of presenter Tony Jones, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young addressed the question from the floor as to “whether offshore mining is actually causing sharks to eat people”.  [I thought the reason turned on human induced climate change and hunger on the part of the shark. – Ed].  Predictably the Greens senator called for more (taxpayer funded) “research about shark behaviour” to determine any causal behaviour between off-shore mining and shark attacks. After all, it was Q&A.

Meanwhile, no one on the program expressed condolences to the family and friends of the deceased. Can you bear it?

A FRAN KELLY MOMENT : IN WHICH ANOTHER UNITED STATES CONSPIRACY IS MOOTED

What a truly stunning performance by Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly on Radio National Breakfast yesterday.  Ms Kelly interviewed Daniel Kurtzer (a former United States ambassador to Israel) about the latest development in the Syrian Civil War which had seen some key members of Bashar al-Assad’s regime killed in a bomb blast.  Let’s go to the audio tape:

Fran Kelly : There’s all sorts of conspiracy theories flying around, we heard some of them earlier – some [that] this was even done by the regime itself, but also suggesting, you know, outside forces.  Can we discount any American involvement in this?

Daniel Kurtzer : I think you can discount American, Western involvement.

You can say that again.  Not even a super conspiracy theorist would believe that the US would be able to organise an assassination within the headquarters of the Syrian regime.  But the RN Breakfast presenter thought there was a possibility.

Verily, a Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly Moment.

BONGE’S (STILL UNFULFILLED) PROPHECY: AN UPDATE

As MWD readers will be aware, Nancy’s co-owner is awaiting the fulfilment of Paul Bongiorno’s prophecy that the Federal Police will interview Tony Abbott about the Peter Slipper affair – in much the same way that a born-again Christian awaits the Second Coming.

To refresh memories, on 25 May 2012 Paul Bongiorno described a decision of the Australian Federal Police to investigate Tony Abbott’s call for Craig Thomson MP to quit Parliament as a “stark example” of political trench warfare.

The only problem is that Paul Bongiorno’s prophecy is yet to be fulfilled.  Perhaps next week. We will keep you posted.

Don’t be surprised, however, if Bonge’s soothsaying about the future is as confused as his memory about the past.  Interviewed by Jane  Cadzow for her profile on Cardinal George Pell – which was published in the Good Weekend on 16 June 2012 – Bonge reflected on the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney. Here’s an excerpt from the Cadzow profile:

Pell is such a standout Australian rules player that in 1959, his last year at school, he signed a professional contract with the Richmond Football Club. “He was big and fast,” remembers Paul Bongiorno, the Ten television network”s national affairs editor. “So big that at the centre bounce he could knock the ball down to the forward pocket if he put his mind to it.” Bongiorno and Pell both come from Ballarat, 100 kilometres north-west of Melbourne, where the newsman”s family lived near Pell”s parents” pub, the Royal Oak. Both were educated at Loreto Convent and St Patrick”s College, then trained to be priests at the Corpus Christi seminary at Werribee before continuing their studies in Rome.

The distance from the centre of the ground to the forward pocket – even on a small Australian Rules Football ground – would be at least 50 metres.  And Bonge expects us to believe that young George – aged about 18 – could punch a football at least 50 metres. What a load of tosh. Pell was reputedly a good footballer. But no one could hit an Aussie Rules ball so far.

HOW FOUR CORNERS MUGGED GEORGE PELL

While on the topic of George Pell, how about his treatment by Four Corners on 2 July 2012?

If anyone is criticised on the ABC1 Four Corners program, there is no right of reply on the same medium.  But if Four Corners presenters/reporters/producers are criticised in the print media they invariably demand a right-of-reply.

So it came as no surprise when the producer (Mary Ann Jolley) and reporter (Geoff Thomson) of the “Unholy Silence” program, which aired on 2 July, wrote to the Sydney Morning Herald to defend themselves against Gerard Henderson’s critique of the program in his Sydney Morning Herald column last Tuesday.

In their letter to the SMH, published last Wednesday, Jolly and Thompson, stuck by the thesis in “Unholy Silence” that Cardinal George Pell had some responsibility for the alleged sexual assaults by a Fr F in the dioceses of Armidale and Parramatta.  In fact Pell is not – and never has been – responsible for either diocese.  This was made clear by Fr Frank Brennan, often a Pell critic, when he was interviewed on 7.30 last Tuesday:

Leigh Sales : Is – and should that full disclosure come before that [Tony Whitlam Q.C] inquiry completes its findings, should that full disclosure come now from Archbishop Pell?

Frank Brennan : No, I think the disclosure comes best from Tony Whitlam being able to interview all the key persons. I think trial by media on this sort of thing is not altogether helpful and of course Cardinal Pell in this instance didn”t have a formal role to play. He was not the Bishop of Armidale, he was not the Bishop of Parramatta and he was not the bishop of any of those three priests at the time that they conducted the inquiries.

In “Unholy Silence” Thompson also declared:

Geoff Thompson: In the past Cardinal Pell himself has faced allegations of sexual abuse, which were not upheld by a church investigation.

Geoff Thompson’s comment is grossly deficient.  The facts are documented in Tess  Livingstone’s George Pell (Duffy and Snellgrove, 2002). In April 2002 Pell was accused, when a young seminarian, of allegedly molesting a 12 year old boy in 1961.  The accuser was a convicted criminal with a serious alcohol problem.  Pell was cleared by an independent inquiry by retired Victorian Supreme Court judge Alec Southwell QC.  Southwell, who described his inquiry as similar to a royal commission, was not a Catholic and had no connection with the Catholic Church.

Geoff Thompson did not draw this fact to the attention of Four Corners viewers.  Nor did Four Corners mention that Southwell QC found that there was some valid criticism of the complainant’s credibility and that his evidence lacked corroboration. Southwell also said that Pell gave him “the impression that he was speaking the truth”.

Nancy’s co-owner believes that no Christian should venture on to ABC hostile territory unless an agreed interview is either live or live-to-air.

NANCY’S HOWLER-OF-THE-WEEK : JULIAN BURNSIDE’S CONFUSION ABOUT MALCOLM FRASER AND GOUGH WHITLAM ON INDO-CHINESE REFUGEES IN THE 1970s

Among the civil libertarian lawyers, Julian Burnside QC was one of the most outspoken critics of the Howard Government’s asylum seeker policies.  Among the members of the Canberra Parliamentary Press Gallery, Paul Bongiorno was one of the most outspoken critics of detention in such places as Nauru and Manus Island.

Following John Howard’s defeat in November 2007, the Labor Party – led in this instance by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his Immigration Minister Senator Chris Evans – set about dismantling the “Red Flag” message which the Howard Government had sent out to people smugglers and their clients.  The “Red Flag” approach was fully implemented by the end of 2001. At the end of the Coalition government over five years later, there were only a handful of asylum seekers in detention.  People smugglers understood that John Howard had a tough-minded approach to unauthorised arrivals – by sea or by air.

In early 2008 the Rudd Government pulled down the Howard Government’s “Red Flag” and replaced it with a “Green Flag”.  The likes of Burnside and Bongiorno cheered as Prime Minister Rudd and Senator Evans announced that Australia was committed to onshore processing for asylum seekers and was opposed to Temporary Protection Visas.  This led to an increase in unauthorised boat arrivals – and also a tragic spike in the number of asylum seekers who drown at sea.

The official figures tell the story – they are summarised in the document Boat Arrivals in Australia since 1976 which is published by the Parliamentary Library in Canberra.

Boat Arrivals Since 2000 By Calendar Year

Year Number of Boats Number of people
2001 43 5516
2002 1 1
2003 1 53
2004 1 15
2005 4 11
2006 6 60
2007 5 148
2008 7 161
Year Number of Boats Crew Number of people excludes crew
2009 60 141 2726
2010 134 345 6555
2011 69 168 4565
2012(to 9.7.12) 75 138 5459

So, do the like of Burnside and Bongiorno take any responsibility for the implementation of a policy which had the unintended consequence of leading to a substantial increase in the number of boats reaching Australian territory since Rudd Labor put up the Green Flag in 2008?  Not on your nelly.  Despite the fact that it is estimated that at least 800 asylum seekers have drowned attempting to reach Australia by sea in the last three years.  This amounts to a staggering 5 per cent of asylum seekers who take to sea on rickety boats.

Needless to say, Paul Bongiorno did not raise any of these issues with Julian Burnside when he interviewed him on Channel 10’s Meet the Press last Sunday.  However, panellist Patricia Karvelas did ask some tough questions and Paul Osborne was neutral in his questioning:

Let’s go to the transcript – about half way through the interview:

Paul Osborne : Do you fear that what Angus Houston comes up with might have a balance of the left and right solution, tending one way or the other?

Julian Burnside :  Well that would be a weird balance, because the left and right solutions at the moment are almost undistinguishable. And frankly it is only the Greens who have got a somewhat different approach. And the Greens approach seems to proceed from the proposition that receiving refugees is not such a terrible thing – and we can actually do it and we can get by.

When you consider the number of boat people we received during Malcolm Fraser’s years after the end of the Vietnam War, we were getting about 20,000 a year, the population of Australia was smaller, the economy was smaller – we coped perfectly well, because he and Whitlam agreed not to make a fuss about it.

Julia Burnside’s response to the Meet the Press question was replete with howlers. Here are the facts:

▪ Very few asylum seekers came to Australia by boat during the period of the Fraser Government – which ran from November 1975 to March 1983. These are the total number of arrivals by boat from 1976 to 1983 :

Year Number of People
1976 111
1977 868
1978 746
1979 304
1980 0
1981 30
1982 0
1983 0
Total 2059

In other words, the total number of asylum seekers arriving by boat for over seven years of the Fraser Government was a mere 2059 persons – this is around one third of the likely number of arrivals in 2012 alone.

▪ During the Fraser years, asylum seekers fled to such places as Philippines, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia  and Singapore by boat.  They were processed off-shore, primarily by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Those refugees who were chosen by Australia for settlement in Australia flew into Australia on valid visas with identity papers.

▪ Today many asylum seekers tend to fly into such places as Indonesia and Malaysia on valid visas.  Many then discard their identity papers and attempt to reach Australia by boat.  In short, there is little comparison between the asylum seekers of three decades ago and today.

▪ With the chance of surviving a boat journey to Australia about 95 per cent, many asylum seekers are likely to take the sea voyage – unless the Australian Government advises that it is willing to accept all asylum seekers currently located in Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Southern India.  This is not likely to happen – even if the Gillard Government agrees to increase the Refugee and Humanitarian quota from the current annual figure of 13,750 to – say – 18,000 or even 20,000.

▪ Contrary to Julian Burnside’s claim on Meet the Press, Malcolm Fraser and Gough Whitlam did not agree to avoid making “a fuss” about Indo-Chinese refugees.  In fact, at times, Mr Whitlam made quite a fuss.

When he was prime minister after the fall of South Vietnam and Cambodia to communist forces in April 1975, Gough Whitlam attempted to stop South Vietnamese refugees from reaching Australia.

As Clyde Cameron (who was a cabinet minister in the Whitlam Government) wrote in his book China, Communism and Coca-Cola (1980), Whitlam once told Foreign Minister Don Willesee that he was “not having hundreds of f—— Vietnamese  Balts coming into this country”. Whitlam went out of his way to prevent South Vietnamese, who worked at or with the Australian Embassy in Saigon, from gaining entry to Australia. Gough Whitlam did not essentially disagree with this analysis of his handling of Indo-Chinese refugees in 1975 – see his correspondence with Gerard Henderson in “The Whitlam Government and Indo-Chinese Refugees, The Sydney Institute Quarterly, March 2003, pages 12-18.

In his Sydney Morning Herald column of 18 April 2006 (see here), Gerard Henderson analysed the Cabinet Papers and related documents for 1975 which had recently been released.  The 1975 documents revealed that Gough Whitlam’s opposition to Vietnamese refugees being settled in Australia was motivated by a policy not to upset the communist regime in Hanoi. The Whitlam Cabinet Papers confirm the assessment made by Dr Nancy Viviani in her book The Long Journey: Vietnamese migration and settlement in Australia (1984) that the Whitlam Government’s hostility to refugees was partly motivated by a “care for the attitudes” of the North Vietnamese communist leadership.

Also Whitlam did not want anti-communist Vietnamese settling in Australia. A hand-written note on one of Whitlam’s 1975 office files reads as follows: “Do not accept that a person claiming to be a refugee…is entitled to claim residence in Australia.”

▪ Malcolm Fraser took over as caretaker prime minister on 11 November 1975 and was sworn in again as prime minister on 22 December 1975, shortly after the December 1975 election.

A total number of 979 people arrived by boat in Australia in 1976 and 1977 when Gough Whitlam was Leader of the Opposition. In late 1977, Whitlam Labor attempted to use the arrival of a boat in Darwin, containing some 150 refugees, against Fraser in the 1977 election.  Contrary to the mythology put about by Julian Burnside and other members of the Whitlam Fan Club, there was no bipartisan support for handling Indo-Chinese refugees in 1976 and 1977.

▪ The orderly entry into Australia of Indo-Chinese refugees from UNHCR refugee camps did not commence until 1979 – by which time Bill Hayden was Opposition leader.  It is true that Labor under Hayden’s leadership gave bipartisan support to Fraser on Indo-Chinese refugees. But not Whitlam.  Andrew Peacock and John Howard continued the bipartisan support when they held the position of Opposition leader during Bob Hawke’s Labor Government in the 1980s.

Mr Burnside’s Confusion

So there you have it.  Julian Burnside QC will not accept any responsibility for the fact that Kevin Rudd essentially implemented the policy embraced by Burnside and the Greens on handling asylum seekers in early 2008 – following which close to a thousand asylum seekers have died by drowning.  In the 2010 election Mr Burnside advocated a vote for the Greens.  He now joins Greens leaders Bob Brown and Christine Milne in refusing to accept any responsibility for the consequences of his advocacy.

Moreover, Julian Burnside has distorted the history of how Australia handled the Indo-Chinese asylum seekers in the late 1970s and 1980s – seemingly in order not to tarnish the record of the left’s hero Gough Whitlam.

Yet Paul Bongiorno did not raise any of these matters during the soft interview with Julian Burnside on Meet the Press last Sunday.

* * * *

Until next time.