GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG – ISSUE NO. 150

17 AUGUST 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are private correspondence and not for publication” – ABC News Radio’s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: Mrs Assange & Mr Burnside Over the Top on Ecuador

● Clarifications: Concerning An Aussie Rules Football and a Manning Clark Absurdity

MWD Exclusive: Cardinal Pell Censored by Four Corners : The Full Story Plus The Correspondence

● Can You Bear It?  Russell Mark Fails to Score at London Olympics; ABC’s Peter Lloyd: One Man/Two Jobs; John Menadue’s Moralising Forgets 1975;

Geoff Kitney Crowns “PM” Malcolm; Alan Rusbridger’s Yet More Red-Ink

● On the Couch with Nancy/Inky:  How Johann Hari Still Fools Professor Manne

● Five Paws Awards : Step Forward Hamish Fitzsimons (ABC) & Greg Sheridan (The Australian)

● Correspondence: Michael Kirby on German Nouns and Capital Letters

STOP PRESS

● Catherine Assange Fudges Ecuador’s Suppression of Press Freedom

What a stunning performance by Catherine Assange (mother of the more famous Julian Assange) on AM this morning. Let’s go to the transcript:

Michael Vincent : Do you think your son will ever see the light of day in Ecuador?

Christine Assange : Yes I do. Julian is a fighter, his family are fighters and he has millions of people around the world supporting him. Now we’ve got a brave government actually standing up. We’re looking to ask more governments now to stand up and put their hands up. Those governments who haven’t been doing the right thing should be hanging their heads in shame. But it’s not too late; you can stand up now and have your place in the sun with Ecuador, who’s holding its head high as a champion of human rights and free speech.

So, according to Catherine Assange, Ecuador is “a champion of human rights and free speech”.  Oh, yeah. According to the Committee to Protect Journalism, “President Rafael Correa’s press freedom record is among the very worst in the Americas”.  Recently the Correa administration closed down a number of radio stations which were critical of his government.

Julian Burnside’s Falklands Confusion

And how about Julian Burnside Melbourne barrister – who made the following comment on AM yesterday following reports that British authorities might take action to ensure that Julian Assange left the Ecuador Embassy in London?  Let’s go to the transcript:

Tony Eastley: Julian Assange’s Australian lawyer is the Melbourne barrister Julian Burnside QC. He’s told AM’s Samantha Donovan he’s amazed at the alleged threat by the British to extract Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

Julian Burnside: I think it’s extraordinary. That would involve invading Ecuadorian territory. It would be like going back to the invasion of the Falklands. I have difficulty believing that the British would be so foolish to invade a foreign country’s embassy.

Reality check.  Britain did not invade the Falklands in 1982. The Falklands is British territory – and a nation cannot invade itself. Mr Burnside is a QC.

CLARIFICATIONS

When Nancy’s co-owner receives an ironic/witty email, he invariably responds with an ironic reply. Alas, it has been drawn to MWD’s attention that a couple of readers have taken two recent correspondence segments seriously. Now hear this.  The recent emails from Darren (“Maws”) Mawson and Bill James to MWD were NOT SERIOUS.

● Re Darren Mawson/Bonge/Pell

Maws Mawson did not really defend Paul Bongiorno’s claim that the young George Pell could punch an Australian Rules football from the centre of the St Patrick’s College Ballarat oval to the forward pocket – a distance of at least 50 metres.   Maws’ suggestion that perhaps Bonge had seen Master Pell in action at the St Andrews Primary School in Werribee – where the entire oval was only 50 meters in length and the forward pocket was quite close to the centre – was a JOKE [And a good one, too. – Ed]. See MWD Issue 147.

Re Bill James/Latham/Lenin/Manning Clark

Bill James did not really defend Mark Latham’s ill-informed claim that Vladimir Lenin was a cool guy who really knew how to relax outside of politics.  James’ suggestion that Latham’s assessment of the dictator Lenin must be correct because the late Manning Clark had referred to Lenin as “Christ-like” was A JOKE. [I picked it first-up – Ed].  See MWD Issue 149.

MWD EXCLUSIVE – WHAT CARDINAL PELL REALLY TOLD FOUR CORNERS WHICH VIEWERS WERE NOT ALLOWED TO KNOW

On Monday 3 July 2012, Four Corners aired the program “Unholy Silence”. It was presented by Kerry O’Brien and reported by Geoff Thompson.  Mary Ann Jolley was the producer.  “Unholy Silence” focused on sexual abuse within the Catholic Church in the dioceses of Parramatta and Armidale and the archdiocese of Melbourne in the 1980s/1990s  and 1970s respectively. The Armidale/Parramatta case involved a diocesan priest who was responsible to his bishop who was responsible to the Pope.  The Melbourne case involved a priest who belonged to a religious order that was not responsible to an archbishop or bishop but rather to the provincial of the order who, in turn, was responsible to the Pope.

For the record, in the late 1980s and early 1990s George Pell was auxiliary bishop of Melbourne.  In the 1970s, he was the episcopal vicar for education  in the Ballarat diocese.

Gerard Henderson commenced his Sydney Morning Herald column on 17 July 2012 as follows:

The status of Cardinal George Pell, the Catholic archbishop of Sydney, seems to differ according to the issues in which he is involved. When Pell expresses scepticism about human-induced climate change, there is invariably a rush to computers and microphones to declare that he is not head of the Catholic Church in Australia. Last month, Bishop Pat Power, a long-time critic of Pell, declared the Cardinal’s position on climate change was not in the tradition of “mainstream Australian Catholicism” and was contrary to the position of Pope Benedict XVI.

Yet when Pell is involved, however indirectly, in a controversy about sexual abuse or any other scandal, there is a tendency to depict him as managing director of Australian Catholicism, responsible for all its sins of commission and omission.  This is not the case – as ABC producers and presenters should know. The formal head of the church is the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference – Archbishop Denis Hart.

Pell should never have appeared in the Four Corners program “Unholy Silence”, by Geoff Thompson and Mary Ann Jolley, which aired on ABC1 on July 2. These days the ABC should be regarded as hostile territory for Catholics who follow the teachings of the Vatican. The ABC is replete with disillusioned current or former Catholics. Also, it provides a cheer squad for the same-sex marriage cause, which is opposed by the Catholic Church – along with some other Christian churches, Islam and the majority of Hindus.

What Four Corners failed to make clear is that Pell is not responsible for dioceses other than the one over which he presides – Sydney. Moreover, no archbishops or bishops are responsible for the activities within religious orders of priests, sisters or brothers. They have provincials who report directly to Rome.

Four Corners’ Letter to the Sydney Morning Herald

ABC presenters, reporters and producers are good at dishing out criticism.  But they are very sensitive to criticism when it is directed at them.  Late in the afternoon of 17 July, Mary Ann Jolley and Geoff Thompson submitted a letter to the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald . It was published the following morning and read as follows:

Beyond the unsubstantiated and inaccurate accusation that Four Corners reporting is driven by disillusioned Catholics, Gerard Henderson’s column principally suggests the Four Corners episode ”Unholy Silence” dragged Cardinal George Pell into a Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal in which he had no direct involvement.

Here are some facts:

Four Corners referred to Cardinal Pell as Australia’s most senior Catholic. This is how he was described to us by the director of Catholic Communications for the Sydney Archdiocese.

Four Corners requested interviews with the president of the Catholic Bishops Conference, Denis Hart, and its general secretary, Brian Lucas. Both declined but Cardinal Pell accepted.

Brian Lucas’s response to our request was: ”I would not be available for such an interview as I am aware that you have approached others in the Church more senior than me.”

In his Four Corners interview, Cardinal Pell said, ”I think it’s fair enough for Brian Lucas as one of those three priests to have me speak for him.”

In addition, Cardinal Pell agreed to be interviewed after Four Corners provided him with a list of detailed questions about the Father F case and Salesian priests accused of sexual abuse.

– Mary Ann Jolley producer, Geoff Thompson reporter, Four Corners

The Jolley/Thompson letter was disingenuous.  Gerard Henderson never said “Unholy Silence” was “driven by disillusioned Catholics”. What he wrote was that the ABC “is replete with disillusioned current or former Catholics”. This happens to be true.  As for “Unholy Silence” this was presented by Kerry O’Brien, a baptised Catholic, who does not claim to be supportive of the teachings of the Vatican. But this is not the main point.

Four Corners’ intellectual dishonesty did not stop there.  The fact is that Cardinal Pell told the Four Corners crew that he was not responsible for dioceses other than his own and that he is not responsible for religious orders located in any archdiocese.  In their letter to the SMH, Jolley and Thompson fudged this issue.

Sydney Archdiocese’s (Unpublished) Letter to the Sydney Morning Herald

On 20 July 2012, Katrina Lee, the Director of Catholic Communications in the Archdiocese, sent the following letter to the Sydney Morning Herald :


Four Corners’ Mary Ann Jolley and Geoff Thompson (18 July) disregard Gerard Henderson’s claim (17 July) that the program “failed to make clear that (Cardinal) Pell is not responsible for dioceses other than the one over which he presides”. This was explained prior to the interview, and this is what Cardinal Pell told Geoff Thompson in the interview:

Asked “Aren’t you the appropriate authority?” Cardinal Pell said: “No, no see. I am not general manager of Australia. I am not the grand inquisitor. In the church there is something like a division of powers that there is in a democracy – legislative, executive and judicial. In the church, separated in certain dioceses, religious orders and each diocese are responsible to Rome for itself. Religious orders have significant independence from bishops, apart from some public activities a bishop can’t order a religious order to do something. But I do agree these particular agencies have an obligation to give out basic truth”.

These comments were not aired in the program or in the longer version of the interview on the Four Corners’ website. It would have helped public understanding if they were.

Katrina Lee

Director Catholic Communications

Archdiocese of Sydney

What Cardinal Pell Really Said to Four Corners

It is not clear why the Sydney Morning Herald declined to publish Katrina Lee’s letter which set out the details of what Cardinal Pell told Four Corners and refuted a misleading claim made on the SMH’s Letters Page by Four Corners.  As Ms Lee’s letter makes clear:

▪ Cardinal Pell did tell Geoff Thompson that he was not responsible for matters outside the Archdiocese of Sydney and that he was not responsible for religious orders within or outside of the archdiocese.

Four Corners declined to report Cardinal Pell’s comment that he is not the “general manager” of the Catholic Church in Australia in “Unholy Silence”.

▪ Moreover, Four Corners declined to report Cardinal Pell’s comment that he is not the “general manager” of the Catholic Church in Australia in a longer version of the Thompson/Pell interview which it placed on the Four Corners website.  In view of the fact that there was no space problem involved, this was – and remains – a clear act of censorship on Four Corners’ behalf.

Four Corners’ Misleading Comment

Towards the end of “Unholy Silence”, Geoff Thompson made the following gratuitous and misleading comment.

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

This was an unfair – and unprofessional – comment.  The facts of the case are set out in Tess Livingstone’s George Pell (Duffy & Snellgrove, 2002). Cardinal Pell is one of the best known Australians. In his entire career he has faced one allegation of improper behaviour. The allegation was made by a Melbourne man who alleged that, in 1961 at age 12, he had been molested in a holiday camp by Pell (then aged around 21).

The man “X” who made the allegation cannot be named for legal reasons.  It turns out that he has served time in prison, having been convicted after pleading guilty to drug trafficking. “X” also has convictions for street and alcohol-induced offences.    X’s past includes an association with Melbourne criminals.

Geoff Thompson’s claim on “Unholy Silence” that the allegations against George Pell “were not upheld by a church investigation” is wilfully misleading. The inquiry was not a church investigation. Rather it was conducted by retired Victorian Supreme Court judge Alec Southwell Q.C., a non-Catholic. Mr Southwell said that his inquiry was similar to a royal commission or a statutory board of inquiry.

In his finding, Southwell Q.C. referred to “some valid criticism of the complainant’s credibility” and the “lack of corroborative evidence”.  He found that X’s complaint had not been established.  Southwell Q.C. also found that George Pell gave him “the impression that he was speaking the truth”.

The Public Broadcaster As Hostile Territory For Practising Catholics

Four Corners’ deceit about Cardinal Pell’s responsibility for events outside the Archdiocese of Sydney – and its gratuitous attempt to link Pell to a sexual misconduct allegation concerning which he had been emphatically cleared – demonstrates the validity of Gerard Henderson’s warning that Four Corners is hostile territory for practising Catholics who follow the teachings of the Vatican.

It may be that the Catholic Church is coming to realise that the ABC really is hostile territory for those who follow the teachings of Pope Benedict XVI. On 31 July 2012, Lateline reported on another child sexual abuse case involving a deceased Catholic priest.  At the end of her report, Suzanne Smith said that Lateline had requested an interview with Cardinal Pell but he “was not available and declined our request”.

Good move.  Having been mugged by Four Corners, why should Cardinal Pell risk another mugging on Lateline?


An Email Exchange

Yesterday Gerard Henderson wrote to Four Corners (with a copy to ABC managing director Mark Scott in his capacity as ABC Editor-in-Chief) asking why it had cut Cardinal Pell’s response on its website. This was a straight-forward request for information especially for a public broadcaster which has signed up to the Right-to-Know-Coalition.  A reply from Mary Ann Jolley arrived this morning and a response was emailed this afternoon.

The full (and unedited) email exchange can be found in the Correspondence section.

CAN YOU BEAR IT?

▪ Mr and Mrs Mark – No Spark in London

In Nancy’s co-owner’s mind, the Games of the 30th Olympiad will always be associated with the failed attempt by Australian Trap shooter Russell Mark to room with his wife Skeet shooter Lauryn Mark – due to the policy of the Australian Olympic Committee to separate men and women in the Olympic Village.  This controversy seemed to go on and on and on. It even led to an opinion piece by Eddie McGuire in the Sunday Herald-Sun [Don’t tell me you read this – Ed] and a response by Russell Mark in the same paper on 5 August 2012.  There were also numerous electronic media interviews.

The media’s attention on “The Great London Olympics Sex Lock-Out” was sparked by the fact that Russell Mark is a regular guest on Red Symonds’ morning program on ABC Radio 774 in Melbourne and the gorgeous Ms Mark’s appearance on the front cover of Zoo magazine wearing only a very small green and gold bikini and a very large rifle. [Shouldn’t you mention that the money raised for the Zoo shoot went to charity?  It invariably does. – Ed].

Male Mark and Female Mark were the star Aussie couple of the London Olympics.  Many followers of the rifle-range could not sleep each night knowing that Male Mark and Female Mark had been confined to separate rooms for the duration of the Games.

And what about the results?  Despite all the media publicity, Russell Mark finished 20 out of 23 in the Men’s Double Trap and Lauryn Mark finished 15 out of 17 in the Women’s Skeet.  Can you bear it? [Er, no. They should have focused more on shooting and less on rooting – Ed].

Peter Lloyd – One Man/Two Jobs

An avid reader has drawn MWD’s attention to ABC journalist Peter Lloyd’s LinkedIn entry. Here it is:

So, according to LinkedIn, Peter Lloyd is an ABC journalist and an adviser to the Timor Leste (or East Timor) government. Both at the same time. Can you bear it?

John Menadue Forgets the South Vietnam Refugees in Gough Whitlam’s Time

Last Monday, shortly before the release of the Report of the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers,The Age ran an opinion piece by John Menadue and Arja Keski-Nummi tilted “Refugees: what we should do”.  The article was replete with what Julia Gillard’s government SHOULD DO.  Malaysia was okay, Nauru was not okay and so on.

John Menadue was described as a former secretary of the Immigration Department.  And so he was – 1980 to 1983. What The Age did not mention was that John Menadue was also secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet from 1974 to 1976.

In other words, Mr Menadue was head of the Prime Minister’s Department during 1975 – Gough Whitlam’s third and final year as prime minister.  From the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975 until his dismissal on 11 November 1975, Mr Whitlam went out of his way to prevent South Vietnamese – who feared persecution from the North Vietnamese communist dictatorship – from seeking refuge in Australia.  This has been documented by Gerard Henderson (see here), Hal Colebatch and others.

There is no evidence in the 1975 Cabinet Papers that John Menadue ever sought to have Mr Whitlam mitigate his hostility to South Vietnamese asylum seekers. And now the very same John Menadue is lecturing Julia Gillard and others about the “best way” to handle “desperate people” seeking refuge in Australia. Can you bear it?

▪ Geoff Kitney Joins Malcolm Turnbull Admiration Society

The Canberra Parliamentary Press Gallery’s infatuation with Malcolm Turnbull continues.  This is what the Australian Financial Review’s Geoff Kitney wrote about Malcolm Turnbull’s speech last Tuesday on the late Robert Hughes (the uncle of Malcolm’s wife Lucy) – under the heading “Would-be PM Stole the Show”:

Three forms of leadership – by a would-be prime minister, a prime minister-in-waiting and the incumbent – put on difference faces in Parliament on Tuesday. The would-be prime minister stole the show.And for about 15 minutes, as former Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull paid glorious tribute to his uncle-in-law, Robert Hughes, it was a privilege to bear witness to the proceedings of the House of Representatives.

It was, of course, something of an indulgence for Turnbull to be able to make such as speech.Very few ordinary Australians (not least the family of SAS sergeant Blaine Diddams, whose death in Afghanistan was noted perfunctorily just before Turnbull spoke) ever get the chance to use the platform of the floor of the Parliament to deliver a eulogy for a recently deceased family member.But Malcolm Turnbull is not an ordinary Australian and Robert Hughes was much less so.

The Hansard record of the Turnbull speech will glow for a very long time as a great parliamentary moment.A ripple of applause followed Turnbull back to his seat, an unusual way for a speech of condolence to end.

Well how about that?  Sure, Malcolm Turnbull gave a fine address on the occasion of alienated Robert Hughes’ death. But how does Geoff Kitney maintain that the Member for Wentworth is “a would-be Prime Minister”?

Right now, Malcolm Turnbull’s support for an Emissions Trading Scheme is opposed by a large majority of Liberal MPs and all the National MPs.  A restoration of Turnbull to the position of Opposition leader – whereby he could be accurately described as a “prime minister in-waiting” – could deeply divide the Liberal Party.  Moreover, it would fracture the Liberal Party-National’s Coalition.

The likes of Geoff Kitney are desperate for Malcolm Turnbull to replace Tony Abbott as Liberal Party leader.  It’s just that a majority of Liberal MPs do not follow Mr Kitney’s advice.  Can you bear it?

Alan Rusbridger – (Still) Waiting for Something to Turn Up

It’s just two years since Alan Rusbridger, The Guardian’s editor, delivered the 2010 Andrew Olle Lecture in Sydney.  The taxpayer funded ABC types in the audience just loved Mr Rusbridger castigating News Corporation and boasted about The Guardian’s performance.  No one mentioned The Guardian’s losses under the Rusbridger editorship.  Around this time Alan Rusbridger told the ABC’s Mark Colvin that soon someone would work out how to “monetise” The Guardian’s print and on-line losses.  See MWD Issue 142.

Last Monday Sarah Marshall reported in journalism.co.uk that the Guardian Media Group had lost £ 75.6 million for the year ending 1 April 2012. This follows losses of 54.5 million in the previous year and £ 53.9 in the year before that.  GMG is the parent company of the Guardian News & Media – which last month reported an annual loss of £ 44.2 million.

Meanwhile Alan Rusbridger lectures-at-large about how to run newspapers despite the fact that he has yet to monetise his product which is rapidly running out of financial reserves.  Can you bear it?

NANCY ON THE COUCH TALKS TO INKY – ON ROBERT MANNE FORGETTING OF JOHANN HARI’S FRAUD

Nancy Asks: I am a moderately fast reader.  But it has taken me almost a week to read Robert Manne’s most recent 69,000 word article in Morry Schwartz’s The Monthly.  Perhaps Mr Manne believes that his essays should be as long as his multi-millionaire developer/publisher’s office blocks are high.  Just a thought. But I digress.  Two thirds of the way through Robert Manne’s “A Dark Victory” essay, he defends the errors in Michael Mann’s scientific work warning of eco-catastrophe due to human induced climate change.

In doing so Professor Manne criticised the work of the “denialist echo chamber” and quoted from Johann Hari as having “captured perfectly” the flawed political logic of climate sceptics.  I ask: Could this be the same Johann Hari who admitted to fraud when a journalist on The Independent..  If so, how come that Robert Manne quotes favourably from a self-confessed fraudster in order to criticise someone else?

Inky Responds: You are correct.  Johann Hari, whom Robert Manne quotes so favourably in the August 2012 issue of The Monthly, is the very same Johann Hari who has admitted to making up quotes when writing profiles for The Independent. He also confessed to writing false and dishonest comments about people – with whom he had arguments – on their Wikipedia entries.

I would counsel you not to be too hard on Robert Manne.  After all, he has not worked outside of La Trobe University (“Proudly One Of Australia’s Top 500 Big Polluters) for four decades.  Professor Manne has convinced himself that the end-of-the-world is nigh due to human induced climate change.

With such a  mindset, it’s not surprising that Robert Manne will quote anyone favourably who is in dispute with those he calls climate change denialists – or what others calls climate change sceptics.  So he quoted the self-confessed fraudster Johann Hari favourably in The Monthly. I suspect that Robert Manne will also quote Genghis Khan if his collected works happen to reveal a concern for warming – of any kind.

FIVE PAWS AWARD  

Due to overwhelming demand, the Five Paws Awards resumes after a brief absence.  And the winners are:

Hamish Fitzsimons – On the Pointless Finklestein Report Etc

On ABC News Breakfast on Monday 6 August, Hamish Fitzsimons discussed newspaper reports of Tony Abbott’s soon-to-be released speech on the media. Let’s go to the DVD:

Hamish Fitzsimmons: Yes this speech that he’s giving to the Institute of Public Affairs tonight sounds like it’s going to be really interesting. He’s repeated his vow to repeal Section 18 of the Racial Discrimination Act, which was the legislation, I think, under which Andrew Bolt was prosecuted. And he’s saying that Labor’s yielding to this authoritarian streak, to muzzle free speech. I mean, it’s very interesting.  It just raises that question again. Does the media need a government-appointed body to regulate it? I mean, there’s an outcry over the amount of red tape in this country. Do we need to add more and more red tape?

Michael Rowland: The big question is –  does the average punter out there give a toss about media reform? It’s a very esoteric debate and it excites all of us. But really, how does it play out in voter-land?

Hamish Fitzsimmons: That is the major question. I don’t think there’s any votes for any politician in this. I think it’s a sort of in-house game, so to speak.

Hamish Fitzsimons –  Five Paws.  [Perhaps you could have given young Mr Rowland, say, three paws for a sensible leading question – Ed].

Greg Sheridan – on the Chinese Interest of Bob Hawke and Paul Keating

On the Sky News Australian Agenda program last Sunday, The Australian’s Greg Sheridan spoke out about the controversy generated following the publication of Hugh White’s The China Choice: Why America Should Share Power (Black Inc, 2012). Let’s go to the DVD:

Greg Sheridan : …the United States has actually managed the China relationship extremely well for at least the last 40 years. Washington has treated Beijing as a major power, accommodated its rise, given it space, given it greater voting rights on the IMF, instituted the G20 so that China is in the premier economic club, facilitated Chinese participation in regionalism….

Washington has done tremendous things to help China. It got Taiwan to give up a nuclear weapons program. That’s an enormous benefit to China. So the idea, which is emerging out of a quite hysterical Australian debate, that the Americans – poor clumsy fools – can’t manage China as well as we can, is absurd.

Secondly, a certain hysteria is gripping some of our commentators, some of whom make a lot of money out of China. And I wish they would just disclose that when they make their comments.  Not that they’re –

Peter van Onselen: Throw a name or two out.

Greg Sheridan: Well, our former prime ministers, Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, who were extremely pro-American in office and often very critical of Beijing on values matters, now seem to take the view that the Chinese government can do no wrong, ever. Now, I admire Bob Hawke and Paul Keating very, very much. But I think it would be a useful thing to know how much of their income is derived from business with China. Now, there is emerging out of this debate an hysterical notion that Australia has somehow or other mismanaged fundamentally its China relationship. And, the evidence for this is bizarre. That you’ve got 250 Marines going through Darwin is a threat, apparently, to the 1.3 billion people and 3 million-strong People’s Liberation Army of China. Now, to believe that you just have to ask – what’s the person taking in their coffee?

Greg Sheridan – Five Paws.

CORRESPONDENCE

● MICHAEL KIRBY AND GERARD HENDERSON – RE GERMAN AND ENGLISH

Dedicated MWD reader Michael Kirby to makes an important correction about the need to capitalise German nouns. Reader beware – the following correspondence is not to be taken too seriously.

Michael Kirby to Anne Henderson – 10 August 2012

Dear Anne,

Never miss reading my copy of the original Media Watch.

Knowing what a stickler Gerard is for accuracy, may I just mention that the 2 German nouns at the end of the item on the late, great Robert Hughes should be in upper case. German nouns always are. At least you and Gerard will know what a noun is. Unlike most students today.

Best wishes,

Michael

The Hon. Michael Kirby AC CMG,

Gerard Henderson to Michael Kirby – 16 August 2012

Dear Michael

Anne passed me your note from last Friday.  Thanks for the tip.  I have left the inaugural reference to the words “Weltanschauung Weltschmerz” in lower case – since this is how they appeared in Guy Rundle’s pretentious and overwritten Robert Hughes obituary in Crikey which I quoted in MWD Issue 149.

However, I have made the correction  – as you suggest – in the final paragraph of the segment when I refer to Guy Rundle’s comment.

Without being immodest, it is fair to say that I do know what a noun is.  Although, as I have previously commented, grammar at Fort Street Boys High in Sydney seems to have been more thoroughly taught than at Xavier College in Melbourne. Or was it taught more thoroughly (without split infinitives)?  Moreover, I do not recall any German lessons at Xavier – although it is possible that I slept through German classes.

As to Guy Rundle. Well, I understand that he was the Marxist Comedy stream at Brighton Grammar School (in Melbourne). I seem to recall that he referred to his alma mater – or is it Alma Mater? – when making fun of a male BGS teacher who was charged with possessing child pornography.  Laugh? – I couldn’t stop.

It may be worth contacting Mr Rundle – who, I understand, is currently in the northern hemisphere (read Northern Hemisphere) and correcting his German.   The Marxist comedian goes under the (pretentious) title of Crikey’s global correspondent-at-large.  Which is pretty funny when you think of it – or even if you don’t.

Best wishes

Gerard

Michael Kirby to Gerard Henderson – 16 August 2012

Dear Gerard,

You are a very good writer of the English language.

With English like yours, who needs German?

Xavier College was clearly a great school. It is North Sydney Boys’ High School’s centenary this year. Not that this is an excuse for you to criticise those lower North Shore aspirational parents again. They probably vote Coalition.

All good wishes to you and Anne. I enjoy Media Watch. Even when I don’t enjoy it.

Michael.

The Hon. Michael Kirby AC CMG,

GERARD HENDERSON AND MARY ANN JOLLEY – RE FOUR CORNERS

MWD’s exclusive – on what Cardinal George Pell really told Four Corners but was censored – led to the following exchange between Gerard Henderson and Four Corners producer Mary Ann Jolley. MWD will publish any follow-up correspondence on this important issue.

Gerard Henderson to Mary Ann Jolley – 16 August 2012

Mary Ann

I know how busy you are, so this is a very simple question.

When Geoff Thompson interviewed Cardinal George Pell for the Four Corners “Unholy Silence” program (which aired on 3 July 2012), I understand that the following exchange took place:

Geoff  Thompson : Aren’t you the appropriate authority?

Cardinal Pell :  No, no. See, I am not general manager of Australia. I am not the grand inquisitor. In the church there is something like a division of powers that there is in a democracy – legislative, executive and judicial. In the church, separated in certain dioceses, religious orders and each diocese is responsible to Rome for itself. Religious orders have significant independence from bishops, apart from some public activities a bishop can’t order a religious order to do something. But I do agree these particular agencies have an obligation to give out basic truth.

In other words, Cardinal Pell specifically told Four Corners that he was not the general manager of the Catholic Church in Australia.  He added the dioceses and religious orders were directly responsible to the Vatican.  The Cardinal was making the point that the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney was not responsible for dioceses other that his own.

As you will recall, you and Geoff Thompson wrote to the Sydney Morning Herald on 18 July 2012 concerning the circumstances of the Pell/Thompson interview and stated that Cardinal Pell was “Australia’s most senior Catholic”.  This was in response to my column on 16 July where I wrote that Cardinal Pell was not the “managing director of Australian Catholicism responsible for all its sins of commission and omission”.

I understand why, due to space reasons, Four Corners may have seen fit not to run Cardinal Pell’s comment in the “Unholy Silence” program.   However, this important quote from Cardinal Pell has been deleted from the extended interview which is on the Four Corners website.

In view of the fact that there are no time/word constraints when an interview is published on-line, I ask this question:  Why did Four Corners edit the Pell interview and exclude the above statement?  If this had not been edited out by Four Corners, it would be evident to viewers that Cardinal Pell is not directly  responsible for events which occurred in such dioceses as Armidale and Parramatta or for the affairs of the Salesian order in the State of Victoria.

It would also be evident that the comment which I made in my SMH column, to which you and Geoff Thompson objected, was both correct and consistent with Cardinal Pell’s own statement to Four Corners which is deliberately deleted from the extended interview on the website.

Here’s hoping for a quick response. Note that this is not a formal complaint.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

cc:      Sue Spencer, Executive Producer

Mark Bannerman, Supervising Producer

Mark Scott, Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief

Mary Ann Jolley to Gerard Henderson – 17 August 2012

Dear Gerard

I would like to make it clear that Four Corners made no claim Cardinal Pell was directly responsible for the handling of the case outlined in the program “Unholy Silence”.

Four Corners requested interviews with a number of other people within the Catholic Church – The Archbishop of Armidale, the Reverend Michael Kennedy, the Australian Head of the Salesians of don Bosco, Father Greg Chambers, and Father Brian Lucas. All declined to be interviewed. Father Brian Lucas told the program, “I would not available for such an interview as I am aware that you have approached others in the Church more senior than me.”

Cardinal Pell agreed to be interviewed by Four Corners after receiving detailed questions about the areas that would be covered in the proposed interview, which included details of the Father F case and the Salesian examples. This followed a number of conversations with the Sydney Archdiocese’s communications director, Katrina Lee, who told the program that Cardinal Pell would be able to “speak about the two “F” matters touching on Sydney” and that “the Cardinal will address any questions of which he is able to do so.” Four Corners went out of its way to make sure the Cardinal knew the details of the questions we wanted to ask, precisely because we understood the complicated structure of the Church in Australia and we wanted to be fair to him.

In the interview, which is posted online, it is clear that Cardinal Pell was more than happy to answer these questions and in those instances where, he did not have detailed knowledge, this was clearly stated.

The program has received no complaints from Cardinal Pell that he was misrepresented in any way in the Four Corners program.

Regarding the online interview with Cardinal Pell – all Four Corners online interviews are edited for duration reasons. In this instance, approximately 10 minutes was cut from the full interview. The program stands by its editing and believes it fairly reflects the range of answers provided by Cardinal Pell to questions posed by Four Corners.

Kind regards

Mary Ann

Mary Ann Jolley

ABC

Gerard Henderson to Mary Ann Jolley – 17 August 2012

Dear Mary Ann

Thanks for  your prompt response to my email sent yesterday.  The only problem is that you have deliberately avoided answering the specific question which I asked.  This is the kind of behaviour which journalists (including those employed by the public broadcaster) invariably complain about when Labor and Coalition politicians run lines and refuse to answer specific questions.

The specific question I asked was this: Why did Four Corners edit the George Pell/Geoff Thompson interview so as to deliberately exclude Cardinal Pell’s statement that he is not the general manager of the Catholic Church in Australia?  My technical adviser, who has examined the edit, has advised me that a deliberate cut was made after Cardinal Pell referred to the need for Geoff Thompson to question “the appropriate authorities”.  The cut meant that those who viewed the extended interview were deprived of knowing that Cardinal Pell did not regard himself as the appropriate authority with respect to the sexual assault allegations in “Unholy Silence” concerning certain priests in the dioceses of Armidale and Parramatta and certain priests of the Salesian religious order.

In your email you state that “all Four Corners on-line interviews are edited for duration reasons”.  You provide no plausible reason why Four Corners should have edited the George Pell/Geoff Thomson interview to 21 minutes  in the way it did.  Nor do you state why this  was done without consulting Cardinal Pell’s office.

By the way, the Four Corners website currently contains an extended interview with Prime Minister Julia Gillard which runs for 29 minutes. So, clearly, the length of extended interviews run by Four Corners is a decision made by Four Corners in accordance with what suits it.  For the record,  the specific Pell comment which Four Corners cut ran for a mere 30 seconds.

There is also a degree of intellectual dishonesty involved.  You and Geoff Thompson had a letter published in the Sydney Morning Herald on  17 July 2012 disputing my column – where I wrote that Four Corners had falsely implied that George Pell was the general manager of the Catholic Church in Australia.  Yet you and Mr Thompson hid the fact from Herald readers that Cardinal Pell had made this very point to Four Corners – and that it had been deleted from not only the part of the interview which went to air but from the so-called extended interview on the Four Corners website.  This is grossly unprofessional behaviour.

By the way, it is incorrect for you to imply that Cardinal Pell has not expressed the view that he “was misrepresented in any way in the Four Corners program”.

In fact Katrina Lee (Director, Catholic Communication, Archdiocese of Sydney) wrote a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald on 20 July 2012 stating what Cardinal Pell had told Four Corners about his position in the church. Ms Lee wrote that this comment had not made it into “Unholy Silence” and had even been edited out of the extended interview on the Four Corners website.

I do not know why the SMH chose not to run Ms Lee’s letter about the Four Corners program. But I do know that the implication in your email that the Cardinal is happy with the way his comment was edited by Four Corners is simply incorrect.

In my view, in the interests of intellectual honesty, Four Corners should have run the entire George Pell/Geoff Thompson interview on its website and allowed viewers to form their own conclusions.

It is not too late to resolve the issue. I suggest that you restore the cuts which were made to the  interview. A refusal to do so is tantamount to Four Corners censorship of an issue of public interest.

One final point.  You write that “the program has received no complaints from Cardinal Pell”. This should come as no surprise.  It is a foolish exercise to complain to the ABC about ABC programs. The statistics demonstrate that complaints about ABC programs are overwhelmingly dismissed by ABC staff.

Cardinal Pell and his office are not fools.  They would understand the futility of complaining to the ABC about the ABC. They chose, unsuccessfully as it turned out, to raise their objection to “Unholy Silence” on the Letters Page of the SMH.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

cc:      Sue Spencer, Executive Producer

Mark Bannerman, Supervising Producer

Bruce Belsham, Head of Current Affairs

Mark Scott, Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief

* * * *

Until next time.

Three forms of leadership – by a would-be prime minister, a prime minister-in-waiting and the incumbent – put on difference faces in Parliament on Tuesday.

The would-be prime minister stole the show.

And for about 15 minutes, as former Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull paid glorious tribute to his uncle-in-law, Robert Hughes, it was a privilege to bear witness to the proceedings of the House of Representatives.

It was, of course, something of an indulgence for Turnbull to be able to make such as speech.

Very few ordinary Australians (not least the family of SAS sergeant Blaine Diddams, whose death in Afghanistan was noted perfunctorily just before Turnbull spoke) ever get the chance to use the platform of the floor of the Parliament to deliver a eulogy for a recently deceased family member.

But Malcolm Turnbull is not an ordinary Australian and Robert Hughes was much less so.

The Hansard record of the Turnbull speech will glow for a very long time as a great parliamentary moment.

A ripple of applause followed Turnbull back to his seat, an unusual way for a speech of condolence to end.