GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG – ISSUE NO. 156
28 SEPTEMBER 2012
“Media Watch Dog on Fridays…is a sort of popular read in the Crikey office”
– Crikey’s Andrew Crook on ABC 2 News Breakfast, 24 September 2010.
Lately it’s Hendo’s tendency to self-harm that has us losing sleep. For example, peruse the correspondence he’s published
in his latest Media Watch Dog blog…..There’s a part of us that just wants to ask:
“Hendo, are you OK?”
– James Jeffrey’s “Strewth!” column, The Australian, 8 November 2010.
I 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are private correspondence and not for publication” – ABC News Radio’s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)
● Dangerous Ideas? – Not at the Opera House but in MWD
● Can You Bear It? RN Breakfast Forgets the Workers; Mark Latham’s Back and Emma Alberici’s “Thing”
● Nancy’s Pick-of-the-Week: Dennis Altman Outs Clover Moore’s Egotism
● Nancy on the Couch Talks to Inky About Leigh Sales’ 7.30 and The Australian’s Phillip Adams
● Jim Spigelman, Michael Danby and Miranda Devine Win Five Paws
● Documentation: A Barbara Ramjan Update Re David Marr and Bruce Hawker
● Correspondence : How The Age censored a Robert Manne Critic
● A Self Indulgent Flashback: 50 years Since Essendon’s Grand Final Win
STILL NOT A DANGEROUS IDEA IN THE (OPERA) HOUSE THIS WEEKEND
Lotsa men and women will be putting on their boots and heading to the Australian Football League and National Rugby League grand finals on Saturday and Sunday respectively. Many more will be watching the contests on TV. Quite a few intelligentsia types, however, will be putting on their sandals, Che Guevara tee-shirts and hemp trousers and cycling to the (so-called) Festival of Dangerous Ideas at the Sydney Opera House over the long weekend in New South Wales. On arrival they will be invited to feel DANGEROUS. How exciting.
On 8-9 September 2012, the Sydney Morning Herald carried a “Special Promotion” for this year’s event. In an article titled “Strong opinions pique interest”, Katrina Lobley wrote:
Of all the ideas to be aired at this year’s Festival of Dangerous Ideas, two stand out as most dangerous. “We’ve got some sessions that are more explicitly provocative”, says the Opera House’s head of public programs, Ann Mossop, who co-curates the festival with Simon Longstaff from the St James Ethics Centre.
“We’ve got two controversial sessions led by philosophers: Engineer Humans to Stop Climate Change and A Foetus is Not A Person (both on September 30). Those are ones that really go to people’s quite profound beliefs – not just religious beliefs, but beliefs about what it is to be a human being.”
Fair dinkum. Ms Mossop is asking us to believe that such discussion topics as “Engineer Humans to Stop Climate Change” and “A Foetus is Not a Person” are dangerous ideas. What a load of tripe. This is just standard fare left-liberal propositions.
Ann Mossop went on to describe Germaine Greer, who will make three appearances at the weekend, as one of the Festival’s “biggest rebels of all”. Go on. She said that Dr Greer (for a doctor she is) will follow this year “in the footsteps of the former High Court justice Michael Kirby”. Turn it up. Michael Kirby has more fashionable opinions than Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.
It is regrettable that the Festival of Dangerous Ideas has not taken up Nancy’s suggestion about incorporating some REALLY AND TRULY DANGEROUS IDEAS in the weekend’s program. Here they are – as first announced in MWD Issue 147.
Nancy’s Really Dangerous Ideas That Challenge Leftist Sensibilities
▪ Abortion Is Murder
▪ If We All Become Gay, Western Civilisation Will End
▪ George W. Bush is America’s Greatest President and Tony Blair is Britain’s Greatest Prime Minister
▪ If The Arab States Were As Good as Israel, The Middle East Would Be A Better Place
▪ Julian Assange Should Stand Trial For Treason In the United States
▪ Germaine Greer Has Become A Dreadfully Boring Media Tart
▪ Only Re-Colonisation Can Solve Africa’s Problems
▪ Private Schools Are Best
▪ Human Induced Climate Change Is A Load Of Crap
▪ Greed Is Good
▪ Vietnam Was a Just War
IMPORTANT ANNIVERSARY THIS SATURDAY
Tomorrow is the 50th Anniversary of Essendon’s win in the Victorian Football League (now AFL) grand final. Nancy has dug away this week and come up with a copy of the Record published on Saturday 29 September 1962 – this includes the Essendon and Carlton Grand Final teams. See “Self-Indulgent Flashbacks” at the end.
CAN YOU BEAR IT?
● What About the Workers?
On Wednesday, Radio National Breakfast covered the financial collapse of the Gunns timber company in Tasmania. This will lead to the immediate unemployment of hundreds of Tasmanian workers.
Presenter Geraldine Doogue interviewed Sydney based conservationist Geoffrey Cousins who led the campaign against the proposed Gunns pulp mill on the Tamar River. For “balance”, Ms Doogue interviewed Tasmanian conservationist Alec Marr – currently the general manager of Triabunna Investments but a long time environmental activist in Tasmania who has a record of opposition to Gunns and its proposed pulp mill.
The powers-that-be at RN Breakfast apparently could not find even one worker who supported a viable timber industry in Tasmania.
Can you bear it?
● Mark Latham’s Back – on Sky News and in AFR & “Aussie Speccie”
The news is that Mark Latham has returned from his well-earned break, which took the form of a family holiday in the United States. On his return Down Under, the former failed Labor leader immediately embraced the media industry which he once loathed and journalists whom he once despised.
▪ On Monday, Mark Latham appeared on Paul Murray Live program on Sky News Channel. He boasted to viewers about just how smart his eldest son is. Fancy that.
▪ On Tuesday, Mark Latham co-hosted the Showdown program on Sky News. This time he vigorously defended Julia Gillard – forgetting that he had personally criticised the Prime Minister during and after the 2010 election.
Mark Latham co-hosted Showdown with his new best friend Michael Kroger [Strange that. As I recall Mr Latham used to claim that he had taught his children to hate Liberals like Mr Kroger – Ed]. Guests included Liberal MP Christopher Pyne (with whom Latham recently lunched for an Australian Financial Review profile) and Tom Switzer (editor of The Spectator Australia for which Latham writes).
Come to think of it, the format was a bit like the recently rumoured private dinner at Mr Kroger’s abode in Melbourne in the presence of the gorgeous Janet Albrechtsen (whom Latham once called a skanky-ho), Andrew Bolt, Tom Switzer and Paul Howes. [That must have been some occasion – you’ve got to be kidding. – Ed].
▪ Yesterday, Mark Latham wrote a column for the Australian Financial Review in which he reported the fact that, in 1978, Tony Abbott bent a “street sign” while on the turps. Really. Truly shocking, don’t you think? Especially for a 20 year old student out on the town. [Just as well Abbott never became Labor leader circa 2003 – otherwise he would have been expected to break a taxi-driver’s arm (like Latham did) at age 40 when tired and emotional – Ed].
▪ Then, today, “Latham’s Law” returned to Tommie Switzer’s “Aussie Speccie”. The failed Labor leader told readers of The Australian Spectator that he cannot read the British version of the magazine. Too much “Pommie stuff”, you see. He also wrote about his “eldest son” and declared that at Halloween “neighbours get to meet each other and talk face to face”. Just once a year apparently. [Don’t tell me that Tommie Switzer pays out good Pommie money for such vacuous sludge – Ed].
So Latham’s back. Can you bear it?
● Emma Alberici’s Abbott “Thing”
Mark Latham is not the only scribbler who is worried about Tony Abbott’s alleged “hooligan” past. On last Friday’s Lateline, Emma Alberici asked the following question to Coalition frontbencher Peter Dutton, viz:
Emma Alberici: Peter Dutton,… isn”t Tony Abbott sometimes his own worst enemy? I mean, he denies punching the wall near his university political rival Barbara Ramjan, but certainly doesn”t shy away from the fact he called her “chair-thing” instead of “chairwoman”. That doesn”t endear him to female voters I would imagine.
So there you have it. Ms Alberici really believes that, in 2012, female voters in the suburbs and regional centres are not endeared by Tony Abbott. Why? Well, because Abbott has admitted calling Barbara Ramjan “chairthing” as long ago as 1977.
Can you bear it?
DENNIS ALTMAN BAGS CLOVER MOORE’S EGOTISM – ON 702 BUT NOT ON 7.30
Clover Moore, the Lord Mayor of Sydney, is the ABC’s kind of guy. Ms Moore is a sandal-wearing, bike-riding environmentalist – except when she’s driving her automobile which resides in her off-street garage in inner-city Sydney. What’s more, Clover Moore doesn’t much like development and is a firm supporter of gay marriage. As Nancy’s co-owner has declared: “ABC types believe in same sex marriage in much the same way as American Southern Baptists believe in the Second Coming”. That is – with a belief in their own self-righteousness and a contempt for dissenting opinions.
Last week Clover Moore stepped down as the Independent MP for Sydney. Barry O’Farrell’s Coalition government has passed legislation to the effect that a person can be full-time State politician or a full-time member of local government. But not both. The change in the law – which forced Clover Moore to step down from State Parliament so that she can continue as Lord Mayor – brings New South Wales into line with the practice that already prevails in Victoria and some other states.
Last Friday, 7.30 NSW on ABC1 paid tribute to the retiring parliamentarian Clover Moore and gave huge free publicity to her designated successor Alex Greenwich, who is the national convenor of Australian Marriage Equality.
The 7.30 NSW report, which was introduced by Quentin Dempster and presented by Sharon O’Neill, was a paean of praise for Clover Moore – and not a dissenting voice was heard. Nancy teared up when7.30 showed footage of the straight couple formally meeting the gay couple. Let’s go to the transcript:
Clover Moore to Alex Greenwich : This is my husband, Victor.
Alex Greenwich to Clover Moore: This is Peter. This is my husband.
How frightfully twee – in any inner-city kind of way.
There was more of such emotive sludge. Not a word of criticism was heard of Clover Moore and her time in the NSW Parliament since 1988. Sharon O’Neill was totally supportive of Independent MP Clover Moore along with past Independent MPs Ted Mack and John Hatton and potential Independent MP Alex Greenwich. And Premier O’Farrell’s decision to stop Moore from being the MP for Sydney as well as Lord Mayor of Sydney was presented as an attack on democracy. No alternative view was presented.
It’s a pity that 7.30 NSW did not interview Melbourne-based academic and gay activist Dennis Altman, who is currently director of the Institute for Human Security at La Trobe University (“Proudly One Of Australia’s Top 500 Big Polluters”).
On Friday, Mornings with Linda Mottram had interviewed Dr Altman. Ms Mottram gave the impression to listeners that this was going to be a soft interview in which Dennis would praise Clover. But it did not work out that way. Let’s go to the transcript:
Linda Mottram: …just take us back to when Clover Moore was first popping up on the political scene in Sydney – and particularly around gay and lesbian issues. What was the climate like then as she attempted to sort of help raise the profile of those issues?
Dennis Altman: Well, look, I don’t want to sound negative about Clover Moore who clearly has played a very significant role over the last 20 years. But I think it’s fair to say that basically she came in on a wave of activism that she really didn’t have that much to do with. I think she was the classic case of someone being in the right place at the right time…
Linda Mottram: So, jumping on a bandwagon to some extent. But has she been a useful ally for the gay and lesbian community?
Dennis Altman: Look, she’s been a terrific ally, I think, in that she’s clearly used her position as an Independent in State Parliament to support a whole number of issues. She’s articulate; she carries a fair amount of media interest with her. There was of course a period in the ‘80s when New South Wales had a lot of Independent MPs….
I think Clover Moore overreached herself. I mean, I”m one of these people who felt it was not proper for a State parliamentarian to become Lord Mayor. And I quite frankly think it was deeply, deeply egotistical and selfish. That was an opportunity for her to have groomed a new person. The argument that somehow I can be a better State Member and a better Lord Mayor, I thought just reeked of egoism.
Linda Mottram: It’s interesting isn’t it? Because in this week leading up to her leaving the State Parliament, it’s been a fairly gilded celebration of her career I think.
Dennis Altman: Well, I suspect that’s why you’re talking to someone in Melbourne, because who in Sydney would dare say anything critical of Saint Clover? And, you know, I don’t want to be too critical. I wish we had more members of Parliament with her guts, with her integrity and with her commitment. But I think it’s also important to point out that she’s had a pretty good run and that I think she could well have used her influence to have stood back a lot earlier and to have helped promote new people, and indeed to have helped bring openly gay and lesbian people into the political arena. So, I hope very much it’s true that she is going to endorse Alex [Greenwich]. Can I also say, I hope that he – if he is endorsed – recognises that same sex marriage is only one issue and it is not necessarily the most important issue – even for many lesbians and gay men….
Clearly, Dennis Altman is tops for heresy. Not only did he go on ABC Metropolitan Radio and brand Clover Moore egotistical – Dr Altman also declared that gay marriage is not necessarily the most important issue for the homosexual community.[Maybe you should have awarded Dennis Altman a prestigious Five Paws Award – Ed].
NANCY ON THE COUCH TALKS TO INKY
● On How To Get A Soft Interview on 7.30
Nancy Asks: There has been much discussion of late about the feisty 7.30 presenter Leigh Sales. She’s so tough. In my kennel at night recently, I have seen Ms Sales tear strips off the likes of Lindsay Tanner, Tony Abbott, Julia Gillard and Joe Hockey. So here’s a question. How do you go about getting a touchy-feely empathetic interview with the formidable Leigh Sales?
Inky Responds: It’s not so difficult, really. Become a left-liberal Liberal like Malcolm Turnbull. That certainly worked for the real Mr Turnbull last Monday. The alternative is – join the Greens and talk about dental health. This worked for Senator Richard Di Natale on 29 August 2012. Or maybe criticise Mitt Romney – this worked for Bob Woodward on 18 September 2012. This should do the trick. However, do not present yourself to Ms Sales as a mainstream social democratic or conservative politician who has to make tough decisions and necessary compromises.
● On Phillip Adams (Rupert Murdoch’s Star Aussie Columnist) and the Forgetting of Extreme Left “Traitors”
Nancy Asks : I have been so concerned that Phillip Adams – Rupert Murdoch’s longest-serving Aussie columnist – has been all in a tizz latterly. You see, the Man In Black was criticised by the Australian Press Council last month for describing the anti-Semite League of Rights founder Eric Butler (1916-2006) as “traitor”. A certain Nigel Jackson complained about Adams’ column in The Weekend Australian Magazine on 9-10 April 2011. It only took the APC just over a year to issue a ruling against Mr Adams. The Man In Black seems so upset. What advice would you offer?
Inky Responds: Yes, Eric Butler was a vicious anti-Semite. Phillip Adams’ problem is that, when the Allies finally went to war with Nazi Germany and later Imperial Japan, Eric Butler put on the khaki and joined the Australian Army. In other words, in the final analysis Butler supported King and Country rather than the Fuehrer and the One Thousand Year Reich.
Sure, Eric Butler went slowly to war. However, unlike Phillip Adams’ many friends who were once members of the Communist Party of Australia (CPA), Butler did not attempt to sabotage the war effort in the initial phase of World War II. Adams’ one-time CPA mates did attempt to sabotage the war against Germany during the period of the Nazi-Soviet Pact when Adolf Hitler and (Uncle) Joe Stalin were allies busy dividing up Eastern Europe between Germany and the Soviet Union.
The Man In Black would sound more convincing in depicting Eric Butler as a “traitor” for the period during the Second World War if he applied the same description – between August 1939 and June 1941 – to such comrades as Laurie Aarons, Katherine Susannah Pritchard, Ian Turner and Stephen Murray – Smith. But, alas, I suspect that Mr Adams is still in denial about the fact that many of his one-time CPA friends wanted Hitler to win the war between mid 1939 and mid 1941.
AND THE WINNERS ARE – JIM SPIGELMAN, MICHAEL DANBY & MIRANDA DEVINE
Due to overwhelming public demand, the prestigious Five Paws Award segment returns this week. It had been dropped from the last couple of issues due to the overwhelming public demand for other prestigious segments of MWD. This time around, Nancy was oh so impressed by the following award winning media interventions. So, here we go.
▪ ABC Chairman Indentifies ABC Self-Indulgence in ABC Book
Like film stars, journalists just love frocking-up and heading off to award nights where they award one another awards for award winning performances.
The ABC’s Sally Neighbour has just edited The Stories That Changed Australia: 50 Years of Four Corners (ABC Books). It contains essays by past and present Four Corners presenters/producers – Kerry O’Brien, James Penlington, Peter Reid, Caroline Jones, Allan Hogan, Mary Delahunty, Chris Masters, Peter Manning, Jenny Brockie, Liz Jackson, Sally Neighbour, Debbie Whitmont and Sarah Ferguson. It is notable that the book does not contain even one chapter by a conservative. But, then, the ABC does not employ conservatives. [Quite so. I note that nice Mr Scott has not been able to provide the name of even one conservative who is a presenter, producer or editor of any ABC television or radio or online productions. – Ed]
Kerry O’Brien set the tone of The Stories That Changed Australia in his introduction to Sally Neighbour’s edited collection. The first sentence of his essay describes Four Corners as “a television miracle” while the final paragraph refers to the program’s “excellence”. Get the picture?
ABC chairman James Spigelman launched Sally Neighbour’s book on 5 July 2012. Mr Spigelman commented that he was doing something “unusual for a person launching a book”. Namely, he had “actually read” the tome in question. Good point.
The ABC chairman then went on to compare a book on journalism by journalists to “a regimental dinner where you have consecutive generations of officers comparing war stories”. First, “there are continuous complaints about those people in Central Command who are out of touch”. Second, there “is a concentration on the core function and ideology of the peer group”. Third, there is “an imbalance” in the book since it only takes up such themes as “This is the Shameful Consequence” and “These are the Guilty Men”.
Jim Spigelman concluded his launch of the Four Corners types book on Four Corners as follows:
Let me conclude with the third feature, also typical of regimental dinner discussion. On such occasions military men do not discuss their mistakes. Similarly, there is nothing like that in this book. …There are dangers in the culture of self-congratulation.
You can say that again. [Okay, I’ll say it again: There are dangers in the culture of self-congratulation. – Ed]
James Spigelman – Five Paws[Interesting. The ABC Media Watch program also partook of such a culture of self-congratulation when it looked back in self-congratulation on itself. The program on the twentieth anniversary of Media Watch – which aired on 7 May 2009 – was produced by the program’s then producer (Jo Puccini) and presented by the program’s presenter (Jonathan Holmes). How cosy can you get? The program was a case study in self-congratulatory taxpayer funded self-indulgence. It was analysed in the June 2009 issue of The Sydney Institute Quarterly – see here. – Ed].
▪ Michael Danby Bags the Spectator Australia For Its Attack on, Wait for it, John Howard
Michael Danby, the Labor MP for Melbourne Ports, gave a speech in the House of Representatives on 13 September 2012, devoted to the saying: “Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad”.
Mr Danby focused on the conservative movement in Australia identifying various targets – Queensland Premier Campbell Newman, New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell and the Institute of Public Affairs’ Chris Berg. However, Michael Danby’s most telling point turned on Tom Switzer’s The Spectator Australia. Let’s go to the Hansard report:
Moving to what one might call the intellectual front, if one looks at the Australian Spectator, the palaeoconservative flagship, one sees that it more and more resembles the world view of the isolationist Pat Buchanan. The Spectator not only has sectarian attacks on other centre right forces such as Gerard Henderson on its front page in its current edition but it contains an article pushing the idea that there should be an investigation into reasons for so called war crimes of the Iraq War. I would remind all of the people who support the Australian Spectator that Mr John Howard, a former conservative Prime Minister of Australia, would be subject to such an investigation and presumably prosecution by the very people being advocated by the Australian Spectator. Who can forget its front page attack on the ANZUS alliance portraying Australia as a poodle of the United States.
Good point. Michael Danby was referring to the article titled “War Stories” by the continuing leftist and former diplomat Richard Broinowski in The Spectator Australia on 8 September 2012. After bagging John Howard over Australia’s decision to join the Coalition of the Willing (United States, Britain, Australia and Poland) in the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Broinowski turned his attention to Julia Gillard and fired away again:
The kindest interpretation is that Gillard lacks confidence about foreign and defence issues, and prefers to stay on what she considers “safe” ground. This means believing Washington’s portrayals of Iran, North Korea and even China as potential enemies of Australia, just as we believed its spin about Iraq. It means keeping Australian troops in Afghanistan until the Americans pull out, because in her own fatuous expression, “It’s the right thing to do.” It also means agreeing to station US forces in Darwin, Western Australia, and probably anywhere else the Pentagon desires, including Cocos Island, despite the hostile signals these bases (which is what they are) send to China.
So there you have it. Tommie Switzer’s “Aussie Speccie” has given lotsa space to Richard Broinowski to bag the conservative hero John Howard and to declare that the Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been induced by the United States to look without affection on – wait for it – North Korea and Iran. How bad is that? Meanwhile, the social democrat Member for Melbourne Ports has had to stand up in defence of the conservative John Howard – who had been targeted by the “Aussie Speccie”. [What do you think the conservative types who buy The Spectator Australia think of this? – Ed].
Michael Danby – Five Paws.
▪ Miranda Devine’s Q&A Prophecy Fulfilled – In Just Two Days
Interviewed by Nick Leys for his article on the ABC1 Q&A program in The Weekend Australian last Saturday, News Limited columnist Miranda Devine had this to say about the program:
It used to be Jerry Springer for the faux intellectual set. Now it”s like a drunk mad woman pulling up her skirt in a last-ditch effort to attract attention.
Any interesting guest, usually a foreigner who doesn’t know any better, is drowned out by the guest moron. The topics are always the same: gay marriage, global warming, Malcolm is better than Tony.
Worst of all are the Tweets, which are the opposite of witty, insightful and generous-spirited. Australians are hungry for intelligent, witty panels show. Q&A insults them.
Nancy’s co-owner read Ms Devine’s comment in The Weekend Australian on Saturday. Then on Monday evening he turned on Q&A. Here’s how the program kicked off:
Tony Jones : Good evening and welcome to Q&A. I”m Tony Jones.,..
Will Berthelot : Tony, the YMCA New South Wales Youth Parliament, of which ten of us tonight were recently involved in, recently debated same-sex marriage, where it passed overwhelmingly 79 to 11. With the recent landslide defeats in both the Senate and House of Representatives, do you think this is a younger generational issue or do you think the tides will turn for the current generation?
Tony Jones : Jason, let”s start with you. This is a big issue in the United States as well. Obama has endorsed gay marriage now.
Jason Silva: Yeah, finally.
So there you have it. Last Monday night (Australian time) there was a raging civil war in Syria, Iran was apparently moving closer to acquiring nuclear weapons, the United States presidential election campaign was under way, doubts were being expressed about the composition of China’s leadership, there was growing tension in the South China Sea – and so on. And Q&A kicked off with what is called the conversation with a chosen question on gay marriage in the US.
Miranda Devine – Five Paws.[I note that the four members of last Monday’s Q&A supported gay marriage. Namely Jason Silva, Labor MP Tanya Plibersek, Elliot Perlman and Mark Carnegie. Kelly O’Dwyer declared her support for civil unions for same sex couples. Not one panellist supported the traditional Christian/Muslim/Jewish view on marriage. A typical Q&A “balance” it seems. – Ed].
A BARBARA RAMJAN UPDATE
It is a well-known phenomenon that people believe what they want to believe. In Political Animal: The Making of Tony Abbott (Quarterly Essay, 47, 2012), David Marr believed Barbara Ramjan’s claim that Tony Abbott had punched the wall behind her head at Sydney University on 7 September 1977.
David Marr’s Belief – Without Evidence
David Marr believed Barbara Ramjan despite the following facts:
▪ Barbara Ramjan did not mention “the punch” when she wrote to Honi Soit on 13 September 1977 and 3 October 1977 complaining about the behaviour of Tony Abbott and his colleagues. David Marr was too lazy to check Honi Soit’s records before writing his Quarterly Essay. By failing to read Honi Soit, David Marr overlooked the only contemporaneous evidence there was of what Barbara Ramjan said and did at the time of the alleged incident.
▪ Ms Ramjan was known to make allegations about her political rivals at the time. For example, on 3 August 1978 she claimed in a leaflet that a number of members of the Spartacist Group at Sydney University had “threatened to arrange her battering to death”. For the record, Ramjan’s assertion was denied at the time.
Barbara Ramjan’s claim that she had been threatened with death by battering can be found on Pages 16 and 17 of the Spartacist Bulletin tilted “Is a little bit of scabbing alright” which contains a collection of documents and leaflets from the Sydney University “campus war” circa 1978. See here.
If Barbara Ramjan was willing to allege that Spartacist League members had intimidated her in 1978, it would stand to reason that she would have reported an act of intimidation by Tony Abbott in 1977. She didn’t.
▪ No one witnessed the alleged “punch”. David Patch claims that he was a witness but concedes that he did not see the incident. An anonymous person claims to have seen the beginning of the punch but not where it landed. So he/she is not a witness – since he/she did not see what Ramjan claimed happened. See MWD 154. Despite the lack of witnesses, many journalists embraced the Ramjan allegation.
▪ Barbara Ramjan’s allegations about “the punch” were not reported until the publication of David Marr’s Quarterly Essay – some 35 years after the event.
▪ Samantha Maiden wrote in the Sunday Telegraph that Ramjan had told journalist Andrew West about “the punch” in 2001 or 2002. However, Mr West has no recollection of having been told this by Ramjan. See MWD Issue 155.
Bruce Hawker’s Contradictory Intervention
The only other person who is on the record as claiming that he heard about “the punch” allegation before the publication of David Marr’s Quarterly Essay is Labor apparatchik Bruce Hawker. The following exchange took place on the Sky News PM Agenda program on 17 September 2012:
David Speers: Bruce, we’re nearly out of time. But just finally, I did want to get you to respond to something Julie Bishop was saying earlier – that you knew about the allegations from Barbara Ramjan that Tony Abbott punched the wall back in student politics days. This was, she’s [i.e. Bishop’s] now suggested, part of a Labor operation to attack Tony Abbott. Did you know about it?
Bruce Hawker: I – absolutely I knew about it. And because I didn’t say anything about it, I think that gives the lie to what Julie Bishop was saying. I’ve known Barbara Ramjan –
David Speers: So you didn’t say anything to David Marr or anyone else associated with this story?
Bruce Hawker: No, not at all. And I think David Marr will confirm that as well. But I did know about it. And it was several years ago – about two or three years ago – that she told me about it. And I’ve known Barbara for twenty years or more. And it was in the general discussion about Tony Abbott and his days at Sydney University that it came up. And the account that she gave was pretty much verbatim what she told me. So the reason I made that comment publicly yesterday was that Liberals around the place were doubting the honesty of her statements. Well she’s made that statement a long time ago privately – and she’s made it publicly. And I think there are a lot more people who have heard the story and there were witnesses to it as well.
David Speers : Alright. We’re going to have to wrap it up on that point.
In fact, there are no witnesses to “the punch”. None. Moreover, Bruce Hawker’s response to David Speers was contradictory – for the following reasons:
▪ Hawker said that Ramjan told him about “the punch” some “two or three years ago”. This would mean that Ramjan told Hawker in 2010 or 2009 about an event which (allegedly) took place in 1977 – i.e. over three decades previously. This in spite of the fact that Hawker has known Ramjan since around 1992 and Tony Abbott has been a public figure since at least 1993 and a parliamentarian since 1994.
▪ Hawker also said that Ramjan made “the statement a long time ago privately”. There is no evidence to support this claim. Certainly Hawker did not name anyone who was a recipient of this information.
▪ Hawker said that “there are a lot of people who have heard the story” before the publication of David Marr’s essay. Once again, he did not name one such person. Not one.
How The Age Censored Criticism Of Robert Manne’s Failure To Disclose His One-Time Association With Bob Santamaria and the National Civic Council
Last week’s MWD documented how The Age had run a campaign against Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott over the (alleged) “punch” allegation of 1977 – on its news, opinion and letters pages. For example, The Age did not publish in its print edition an article by Gerard Henderson on the issue – but it gave prominence to a reply by David Patch to Henderson. See MWD 155. Consequently, readers of The Age’s print edition read an article responding to a column which it had not published in the first place.
In response to enormous reader interest on this issue, MWD Issue 156 now documents how The Age effectively censored criticism of Robert Manne’s attempt to discredit the Liberal Party leader by linking him to the late B.A. Santamaria and the National Civic Council – without Manne declaring his own close association with Santamaria and the NCC. Robert Manne’s article took the form of a response to Henderson’s column (which The Age did not run).
Here is the correspondence – including Gerard Henderson’s unpublished letter to The Age in response to Robert Manne. It also provides an interesting case study of how The Age controls and censors the content of its Letters Page – even when dealing with a high profile correspondent whom it publishes on its online edition (i.e. The National Times).
Gerard Henderson to Elizabeth Minter, The Age Letters Editor, 17 September 2012
Thanks for publishing my letter in the print edition of The Saturday Age [15 September 2012]. I note, however, that you cut my comment that The Age published David Patch’s reply to my SMH column – but did not publish my original article in the print edition.
This has occurred again today. The Age has published another response to my SMH column in its print edition – this time by Robert Manne – without having published my original piece. This is in addition to numerous pieces critical of Tony Abbott by Michelle Grattan over the past week.
In view of the evident lack of balance on The Age’s “Comment & Debate” page, I would be grateful if you could publish the letter below. I believe that many Age readers and advertisers will appreciate reading both sides of the debate – which so far they have not been able to do in The Age’s print edition.
Gerard Henderson’s (Unpublished) Letter to The Age – Dated 17 September 2012
In his article (“Sparring in the ring of truth”, 17/9), Robert Manne comments that Greg Sheridan and myself were once associates of B.A. Santamaria’s National Civic Council – as was Tony Abbott. This is accurate. I was associated with Santamaria between 1965 and 1974.
However, Manne failed to tell Age readers about his own close association with Santamaria. In 1991, Manne was a keynote speaker at the NCC’s 50th anniversary celebrations – along with the now Cardinal George Pell. Moreover, as the author Patrick Morgan has documented, in the 1990s Manne was in discussion with Santamaria and Malcolm Fraser about the possibility of establishing a new political movement. When Santamaria died in 1998, Manne commented favourably on him.
Contrary to Manne’s claim, I have never said that Barbara Ramjan, who spoke on the record to David Marr in 2012 about Abbott’s behaviour in 1977, is “delusional”. All I have said is that some people have bad memories and some exaggerate.
In my Media Watch Dog blog last Friday, which is on The Sydney Institute website, I document that Ramjan never made “the punch” allegation when she complained about Abbott’s behaviour in the Honi Soit student newspaper in late 1977. I also pointed out that there is still no person who witnessed the alleged punch as described by Ramjan. Not David Patch and not the anonymous person to whom Manne referred to in his article yesterday. I invite Age readers who are interested in my views on the Abbott/Ramjan controversy to read my blog.
41 Phillip Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Gerard Henderson to Elizabeth Minter – The Age Letters Editor – 19 September 2012
I note that you did not publish my letter to The Age in the print or online editions today.
I ask the following questions:
▪ Has my letter sent yesterday been rejected by The Age?
▪ If so, what is the reason for this decision? – in view of the fact that I was replying to Robert Manne’s criticism of me in his article on my SMH column of last week (which, as you know, The Age did not run in its print edition). This is the second occasion in which such an occurrence has taken place – although the Saturday Age did publish, albeit in edited form, my reply to David Patch.
For the record, I should point out that the print edition of The Age has run two articles supporting David Marr’s criticisms of Tony Abbott along with extracts of Marr’s Quarterly Essay. The Age has also run numerous pieces by Michelle Grattan highly critical of Tony Abbott on this issue. Correct me if I am wrong. However, according to my count, The Age has not run one piece even vaguely supporting Tony Abbott on this issue. Not one.
As previously pointed out, The Age has conservative-inclined readers and advertisers. Yet, The Age on this issue gives the impression of running a campaign against the Liberal Party leader and excluding any evidence in support of his case. I note that Ms Grattan has declined to report Barbara Ramjan’s specific complaints about Tony Abbott in the student newspaper Honi Soit in late 1977. Could this be because Ramjan’s contemporary account is inconsistent with her memory of the event as told to David Marr 35 years later?
I still hope you will publish my letter. In my view, it is grossly unprofessional for Robert Manne to imply criticism of Tony Abbott’s past links with Bob Santamaria’s National Civic Council without mentioning that he (Manne) was extremely close to Mr Santamaria when he was alive.
Over to you.
Andrew Kaplan Letters Co-Editor, The Age to Gerard Henderson – 20 September 2012
Thank you for your letter. I am intending to publish the paragraph, “Contrary to Manne”s claim… exaggerate”, in tomorrow”s paper.
Given you made the point about Honi Soit on Saturday”s letters page, I don”t think it needs to be repeated.
Gerard Henderson to Andrew Kaplan – 20 September 2012
I refer to your note received this morning – which I do not fully understand.
Are you proposing to publish only one paragraph of the letter which I sent to The Age last Monday? – i.e. the paragraph which reads as follows:
Contrary to Manne’s claim, I have never said that Barbara Ramjan, who spoke on the record to David Marr in 2012 about Abbott’s behaviour in 1977, is “delusional”. All I have said that some people have bad memories and some exaggerate.
I cannot believe that this could be so. But I would be grateful if you could clarify your intentions.
In my view, The Age should publish my letter in its entirety. Especially since The Age has already published two pieces on its Opinion Page which replied to my SMH column which was not published in The Age and a total of 7 letters very critical of Tony Abbott. As you know, the only letter supporting Abbott was the one you published from me on Saturday (which was cut). Also, I know there was at least another letter supporting Tony Abbott which was spiked by the Letters Editor.
The letter you currently have is only 250 words. It is not unreasonable to expect that The Age would publish the entire letter because it contains significant information concerning how readers of The Age’s print edition can find the case which I made to which David Patch and Robert Manne responded. Also it indentifies the lack of full disclosure in Robert Manne’s article.
Gerard Henderson to Andrew Kaplan – 20 September 2012
I have not received an acknowledgement to my email sent a while ago. It is attached below.
This is to formally advise that you have no authority to cut my letter without my permission. You can publish it in full – or not at all.
Andrew Kaplan to Gerard Henderson – 20 September 2012
As you would understand, we are not in a position to enter into long correspondence about Letters to the Editor.
But, just to reiterate, we are keen to publish a letter from you making the point that you have never said Ramjan is delusional (and we would be happy to include a reference to where your column can be read online). Please let us know if you want us to do so.
Gerard Henderson to Andrew Kaplan – 20 September 2012
This is not acceptable.
First, by deleting the first two paragraphs of my letter you are covering up Robert Manne’s failure to disclose (in his article last Monday) his own close involvement with Santamaria and the National Civic Council. Yet Manne implies criticism of Tony Abbott, Greg Sheridan and myself for this very same association. This was the crux of my letter which The Age now wants to censor.
Second, having published 7 out of 8 letters critical of Abbott you now want to cut my letter from 250 words to 40 words.
I am generally surprised at The Age’s lack of professionalism. Over the past week The Age has run an obsessive campaign against Abbott and has either not published, cut or censored alternative views.
I repeat, I do not want my letter (as cut by you) published in The Age since it implies that this is my only response to Manne’s article when this is manifestly not the case.
In conclusion, I never wanted to “enter into long correspondence about Letters to the Editor”. I just wanted my letter sent last Monday published in an uncensored form. Not an unreasonable request, I believe. But one, alas, which The Age will not meet.
Until next time.