GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG – ISSUE NO. 157
5 October 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are private correspondence and not for publication” – ABC News Radio’s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)
● Stop Press: Ms Sanger Takes Liberty of Another Abbott-Bash; Stephen FitzGerald Forgets That He Once Bagged Whitlam on China
● Crikey’s Tom Cowie – This Week’s Anti-Catholic Sectarian
● Can You Bear It? Sabra Lane Runs Leftist Line on Howard; John Laws Runs No Lines At All on Alan Jones
● Nancy’s Five-Paws Award: Louis Nowra Outs David Marr as Sneerer-in-Chief
● Maurice Newman Segment: It’s All On Board the Dr Summers/Mr Windsor Bandwagon
● MWD Exclusive: An Early Draft of Mark Latham’s Aussie Speccie Rant As Hacked by Nancy
● MWD Essay: Anne Summers – Strong on Sexism and Misogyny But Light On Evidence
● Correction Re Tom Switzer : The Man Who Didn’t Go To Dinner
● Correspondence: With A Little Help From Richard Aedy & Mornings with Linda Mottram
● Liberty Sanger’s Gender Oversight
What a stunning performance by Liberty Sanger – MWD’s favourite labour lawyer – on ABC 1 News Breakfast this morning.
You have to admire the chosen few who perform in the “Newspapers” segment on News Breakfast every weekday. They arise before the rooster crows, arrive at the ABC studio in Southbank Melbourne at no later than 6 am and proceed to pick the top three stories of the morning. All on a pro-bono basis.
This morning the sassy Ms Sanger could have discussed, say, the arrest in Sydney of the former ALP national president and former head of the NSW branch of the Health Services Union – a certain Michael Williamson. But the Melbourne-based Maurice Blackburn lawyer declined to go there, in the words of the cliché. Instead Ms Sanger chose to comment on – you’ve guessed it – Tony Abbott and comments by Mrs Abbott on her husband in today’s News Limited papers. [Fancy that. I note that the ABC TV News introduced its story on Michael Williamson’s arrest last night without mentioning his high standing within Labor – Ed].
With a little help from News Breakfast co-presenter Beverley O’Connor, Liberty Sanger proceeded to run the line that Tony Abbott has a problem with a certain kind of woman. Let’s go to the DVD :
Beverley O’Connor: Well it’s sort of this, this changing landscape of male/female relationships and what you can get away with, I guess. And where you fit in, in that dynamic. Tony Abbott clearly not, I guess, fitting in with the more modern woman.
Liberty Sanger: Yes, well in the News Limited tabloids today we see Margy [Abbott] coming out in support of Tony Abbott, talking about the fact that he’s a very good family man, been a great husband, great father to her children. And she’s sick of the criticism about Tony Abbott being anti-women. And I think all of that’s fair enough, and no one would dispute her analysis of him as a husband and father.
Ah, but I think Tony Abbott’s real problem, as you say, has been that a lot of his language in public life has been out of step with where women have been, either professionally or simply as carers and people responsible for the household. So he will talk about things like – or has talked about things like – not supporting paid parental leave and then appearing to have come, dragged kicking and screaming to that agenda and then almost over-corrected. He’s talked in a strange way in the past about things like virginity or reproductive rights and that’s been a bit out of step with where modern woman seem to be.
So, I think Tony Abbott’s challenge, really, is that in his language in public life he’s been out of step. Interestingly enough – I”m jumping around a bit, [You can say that again – Ed] but interestingly enough, there’s a Newspoll today that reports on the fact that Tony Abbott still has problems with women. And it’s particularly talking about Queensland. And what we see in Queensland is cuts to the public service –
Michael Rowland : Yeah
Liberty Sanger: – and again I think that’s something that really resonates with women because women really appreciate what that means to frontline services, whether it be in health or education, childcare – those are the sorts of services that are being affected. And that’s where Tony Abbott, I think, needs to cut through. I think this article, these articles today will do something. But I don’t think anyone really doubted his bona fides as a father or family man.
It is true that the Newspoll in today’s Australian indicates that there are more men (42 per cent) than women (34 per cent) who believe that Tony Abbott would be a better prime minister than Julia Gillard. This backs the claim by Ms Sanger and Ms O’Connor that Abbott has a problem with women. However, on the same analysis, Gillard has a problem with men – in that more women (41 per cent) than men (34 per cent) believe that Julia Gillard would be a better prime minister than Tony Abbott.
Neither Ms Sanger nor her urger Ms O’Connor made this point this morning. Discussion soon turned on the Abbott family. Beverly O’Connor was quick to suggest that neither Margie Abbott nor the Abbott adult female children represent the face of the modern woman. That description, O’Connor agreed, belongs to aid worker Pippi Bean who featured on the front page of this morning’s Fairfax Media newspapers. Ms Sanger agreed:
Beverley O’Connor: [Pippi Bean] she exactly epitomises the kind of woman who would – there she is, young Australian woman in a very dangerous, I mean, completely different stories but, you know –
Liberty Sanger: Yes
Beverley O’Connor: – there’s the modern woman.
Liberty Sanger: Yes, yes. There you have it. Quite, quite starkly, don’t you?
Beverley O’Connor: That’s true.
Liberty Sanger: The articles in the tabloids – I have to get the right word out there – the articles on the tabloids do talk about the fact that one of Tony Abbott’s daughters is living and working in Europe. Different to what Pippi Bean was up to. But again, I think that you’re right that Pippi Bean sort of epitomises what the younger women – younger, modern woman might be up to and doing today and sort of at that independent –
Beverley O’Connor: Trail blazer.
Liberty Sanger: Exactly
It was at this point that Michael Rowland felt the need to remind Sanger and O’Connor that the “modern women” Pippi Bean was on the front page this morning because she had complained of being let down by the Gillard Labor government – in particular Labor Foreign Minister Bob Carr. [Perhaps you should have awarded Young Mr Rowland a distinguished Five Paws Award for this acute observation. – Ed]
● Stephen FitzGerald Forgets His (China) Past
Brilliant piece by Stephen FitzGerald in today’s Australian Financial Review don’t you think? But oh, so long.
Professor FitzGerald ran the line that Gough Whitlam’s Labor government did the right thing in recognising China soon after it came to office in December 1972. Wacko. The only problem is that, in his pages and pages in praise of Australia’s recognition of China four decades ago, Stephen FitzGerald never once referred to his 1989 George Ernest Morrison Lecture titled “Australia’s China”.
Why could this be so? Here’s a suggestion. In 1989 FitzGerald accused the governments led by Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser of having kowtowed to the Communist Party rulers in Beijing and declared that Australia’s political leaders had become “the lap dogs of China”. Professor FitzGerald also criticised the terms of Australia’s recognition of China – declaring that Australia had been too tough on Taiwan. That’s why. (See MWD Issue 149).
ANTI CATHOLIC SECTARIAN OF THE WEEK – STEP FOWARD TOM COWIE
A Bigger Catholic Conspiracy Than Previously Feared: Crikey Identifies 13 Million Micks Down Under
Nancy just loves Tom Cowie of Crikey’s “The Power Index” fame – since he kindly provided an endorsement for MWD. See Cover Page. So MWD gave immediate attention to Mr Cowie’s piece in Crikey yesterday titled: “The Power Index: Why Pell (and God) is religion’s most influential.”
First up, Mr Cowie declared that “if Tony Abbott becomes our next prime minister…there is one holy man best placed to whisper in his ear”. Namely, Cardinal George Pell.
Get it? If Mr Abbott makes it to the Lodge, various interest groups – say, business and trade union leaders – will talk to him. But the “holy man” Cardinal Pell will “whisper in his ear”. [Did young Tom say which ear? – Ed]. So, according to “The Power Index”, there is something improper in Australia having a Catholic prime minister – since he might be improperly influenced by a member of the curia. Tom Cowie gave full (Crikey) vent to his Look-Out-The-Catholics-Are-Coming warning when he wrote:
While much of Pell’s sway lies in his strong personality and the company he keeps, it doesn’t hurt that he has also become de facto leader for Australia’s 13 million Catholics.
It has generally been accepted that those who regard themselves as Catholic comprise some 25 per cent of the Australian population. So, according to “The Power Index”’s analysis, Australia’s population must have increased to 52 million. Or else, Mr Cowie is talking through his ears.
Oh yes, Tom Cowie suggested that in seeming “reluctant to play up his Catholicism in his pitch for prime ministership”, Tony Abbott is “faking his vow of silence, only to go back to his roots once he gets the keys to the Lodge”. In fact, the Liberal Party leader, whom Cowie refers to as a “former priest-in-training”, has never taken a vow of silence. That’s what Trappist monks do. [Interesting. Tony Abbott was a seminarian some three decades ago. Around this time Paul Bongiorno was an ordained priest. Yet no one has ever suggested that his holy orders ever contributed to his fashionable leftism. – Ed].
Tom Cowie concluded his piece by suggesting that, following the Four Corners program on 3 July 2012, the Catholic Church issued a misleading statement underplaying George Pell’s power and claiming that his responsibility with respect to priests only extended to those within the archdiocese of Sydney. In fact, this statement was true. Cardinal Pell told Four Corners about the extent of his authority – but the program censored his comment. See MWD Issue 150. [Interesting. You should return to this topic in the future – Ed].
CAN YOU BEAR IT?
▪ Sabra Lane Channels Howard-Haters Of Old
During the time of the Howard government, Labor and the Greens accused the AWB of participating in a wheat-for-weapons scandal rather than wheat-for-oil program. That’s what political opponents do.
However, you expect journalists at the taxpayer funded public broadcaster to avoid the propaganda lines of political operatives. They do not always achieve such a goal. Consider yesterday’s The World Today program – where the following exchange took place concerning the wheat deregulation bill which is currently before the Commonwealth Parliament :
Alby Schultz: Well if the bill comes to the House as it should do, I will be abstaining. I won”t be voting with the Labor Party because I have a personal philosophical view not to and that”s how I”ve maintained my politics in that direction over the years.
Sabra Lane: Mr Schultz says he supports the intention of the bill, as it essentially mirrors a decision made by the former Howard government to deregulate the industry. That decision was made in the wake of the “wheat for weapons” Australian Wheat Board (AWB) scandal.
There was no “wheat for weapons” scandal. That’s Labor/Greens talk. There was a scandal which involved the rorting of the United Nations approved “wheat for oil” scandal. Can you bear it?
▪ John Laws (Jones Expert) Knows Nothing – Or Something
And how about John Laws’ performance on the supposedly news focused 7.30 under new executive producer Sally Neighbour last Tuesday?
Interviewed about 2GB presenter Alan Jones (yawn) on 7.30 on Wednesday, Mr Laws – bourbon and coke in hand – declared: (i) that he did not know whether Jones owned a sizeable part of 2GB, (ii) that he has been led to believe that Jones is “a paid up member or something of the Liberal Party”, (iii) that he did not know a lot about Jones, (iv) that he did not know a lot “about Alan’s friends” and (v) that he did not know how long it would take advertisers who had quit 2GB in protest of Jones to return to the program.
Otherwise, John Laws is quite an expert on Alan Jones and 2GB. Can you bear it?
Louis Nowra on David Marr – Sneerer
And the winner is Louis Nowra, who reviewed David Marr’s Political Animal: The Making of Tony Abbott (Quarterly Essay 47) in The Weekend Australian on 29-30 September 2012.
In a wide ranging critique, Louis Nowra
▪ accused Marr of lacking objectivity concerning his subject.
▪ referred to David Marr’s “feline sensibility” and his capacity to “smirk” at people like Abbott who enjoy sport.
▪ depicted Marr’s approach to Abbott as sneering and involving the tactic of ridicule.
In reflecting on Barbara Ramjan’s apparent recovered memory concerning Tony Abbott’s university days three decades ago, Nowra wrote:
It’s laughable how seriously this story has been taken by the press. When I was at university, leftists, men and women, would sharpen the tops of flag sticks to stab police horses. They spat on lecturers they didn’t like, brawled with conservatives, and loony Maoists used a shotgun to blast the windows of IBM. Many of these people are now Labor Party hacks and MPs.
Louis Nowra – Five Paws.
MAURICE NEWMAN SEGMENT
In Which Everyone Agrees with Everyone Else on Civility
Due to unprecedented demand, the Maurice Newman Segment gets another run this week. As MWD readers will know, this (hugely popular) segment is devoted to former ABC chairman Maurice Newman’s suggestion that a certain “group think” might be prevalent at the ABC – and to ABC 1 Media Watch presenter Jonathan Holmes’ certainty that no such phenomenon is extant within the public broadcaster. See MWD passim.
MWD’s attention has been drawn to the ABC Radio National Life Matters program titled “Civility, Sexism and Democracy” which aired on 20 September 2012.
Presenter Natasha Mitchell agreed with author Anne Summers who agreed with Independent MP Tony Windsor who agreed with Anne Summers who agreed with Natasha Mitchell who agreed with Tony Windsor that Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been a victim of misogyny and sexual harassment within and outside the House of Representatives. No one, but no one, mentioned Mr Windsor’s past indiscretions – such as equating the National Party with cancer and his false personal attack on former National Party leader John Anderson.
Maurice Newman: 2
Jonathan Holmes: Zip
[See also MWD Essay in this issue]
LATHAM’S LORE – AN AUSSIE SPECCIE EXCLUSIVE
AS HACKED BY NANCY
Nancy, clever animal that she is, was able to hack into Mark Latham’s computer again last week. She came up with the Lair of Liverpool’s early draft column for Tom Switzer’s The Spectator Australia last Friday (or was it Saturday?). It bears a disturbingly, eerie resemblance to the real thing which was published in Tommie Switzer’s Aussie Speccie on 29 September 2012 – see here.
* * * * *
For many readers, The Spectator Australia is like The Real Housewives of Orange County. Okay, I’m not really sure that the Aussie Speccie has “many readers”. But, if it did, it would be like The Real Housewives etc. Know what I’m saying? You know, only the front bits of Aussie Speccie are worth touching. And, you know, only the front bits of those Orange County housewives. Know what I mean?
Well it’s like this. Every Friday morning I take the long walk from the front porch of my abode at Mount Hunter in south west Sydney down to the front gate to retrieve my copy of the Aussie Speccie from the letterbox. Then I pierce the Aussie Speccie’s plastic coating – usually with the precision of a plastic surgeon’s knife. Sometimes I have to use a butcher’s knife, which I invariably carry just in case I have to slaughter a bull on the way to or from my letter box. I like steak for breakfast. And killing your own food sure helps with the domestic budget. Especially for a bloke with three brilliant kids to feed (and several bookmakers to support), who has to eke out a living on a lousy taxpayer funded superannuation handout of a mere $78,000 a year (fully indexed).
Perhaps I take my place in the Aussie Speccie too seriously. But I rather fancy myself in the role of my editor Tommie Switzer’s gate keeper. Up to “Latham’s Lore”, there is Australian content. It’s a case of : Apres Moi La Deluge, as the French frogs would say. This week, for example, I am preceded in the Aussie Speccie by such brilliant talent as Greg Lindsay, Peter Coleman, Mary Kissel (okay, she’s American) and Rowan Dean (who this week opens his heart to advise readers how he once served hot chips at a kiosk 20 miles outside Canberra). Outstanding. After this lot, and, of course, Yours Truly – who would keep turning the pages to read the Pommie contributors in The Spectator itself?
Sure, I know that Rowan Dean and company are all conservative Liberal types whom I once said I would teach my (brilliant) kids to hate. But no Labor people will talk to me. These days, I only do political conversation with a few of Tommie Switzer’s Liberal mates like Michael Kroger and the wonderful Janet Albrechtsen. She’s so wonderful that I no longer call her a skanky-ho. Well, certainly not when we dine at Mr Kroger’s luxurious Melbourne abode in the presence of my new best friends Andrew Bolt and Paul Howes.
But I digress. The point I’m making is that, beyond “Latham’s Lore”, The Spectator is full of crap. Foreign crap. Can you believe it? The other Friday, for the very first time, I turned the pages beyond “Latham’s Lore” and read the rest of the magazine which is written of the Poms, by the Poms and for the Poms. Fair dinkum. You wonder how The Spectator has survived over a century. It publishes articles on British politics, foreign policy, books (other than my own), arts, music, theatre, cinema, television and travel. It’s an absolute wank for the conga line of intellectual Old Etonian suckholes who like to crap on about life and letters. Some of this lot have even obtained the degree of Doctor of (French) Letters. I suspect from some junkyard like Oxford or bloody Cambridge. Complete arseholes, the lot of them.
I found The Spectator useful for my recent trip to the United States. I set off on QF11 bound for Los Angeles. I always thought that America stinks. So it’s not surprising that the initials of the president are BO. Get it? Notwithstanding Barack Obama’s initials, my vacation was a stroll in the rose garden of nice smells – and some thorns.
The only person who knocked me over was a heavily perfumed fat-arsed matron on Rodeo Drive. One of the real housewives of Beverley Hills perhaps. Or perhaps a reject from the set of The Real Housewives of Orange County. It’s much the same thing when you think about it. Or smell it. Anyrate, brandishing her shopping bags in the manner of Julia Roberts on Big Macs in Pretty Woman, this scented Beverley Hills sheila skittled my brilliant eldest child and bumped me sideways. Anyrate, it gave me something to write home about to my Aussie Speccie readers.
At least my brilliant eldest son’s sense of fun was undiminished by this trauma on Rodeo Drive. For him, LA posed more questions than even I could answer. For instance, why is the Ronald Reagan Library named after that fascist Ronald Reagan? Or why does the Hollywood sign spell out H-O-L-L-Y-W-O-O-D? Or why isn’t the Oscar award ever returned to Oscar since it’s his property? Or why doesn’t Beverley Hills have any hills like the Blue Mountains has mountains? I told my (brilliant) son that Mount Hunter doesn’t have a mount either – and neither does Alice Springs have a spring (or even an autumn). As you can see, the boy’s brilliance was inherited from his paternal side. My brilliant son is so bright he could one day lead the Labor Party just like his old man – for a full 13 months and a 100 per cent failure rate.
In the Latham neighbourhood, one of the most treasured community events is Halloween – a time for children to dress up and for households to experience the joy of giving. I always join in the fun. Each year, I get out the vomit-stained bag-of-fruit that I wore to Gough Whitlam’s 85th birthday bash in 2001 and trick or treat. If a wog taxi driver with three dependent children answers the door, I give him a broken arm. A trick followed by a treat. It’s the old-fashioned idea called humanity.
This year we plan to celebrate Halloween with extra gusto. The inspiration for this burst of All Saintly enthusiasm? The words and wisdom of Toby “Happy” Young. And, yeah, the need to file some sludge for Tommie Switzer to publish in the Aussie Speccie. Last year, Toby Young complained in The Spectator about Halloween and the fact that he had to buy all sorts of ridiculous costumes to accompany his “motley crew on their rounds”. How do I know what Toby Young wrote about Halloween in 2011, since I have declared that before this week I have not read “the Pommie stuff” in The Spectator? It’s a good question. And my answer is: “Piss off”.
Toby Young may not like his children. But I like my (brilliant) offspring. That’s why I write and talk about them all the time. And that’s why I believe that the worst BO of all is the stench of the self-indulgent elites who treat children as one of life’s nuisances. Not for me. I parade my (brilliant) kids around. When I was elected Labor leader in December 2003, I fronted up at the post victory media conference with my two boys Oliver and Isaac and showed them to the cameras. I may be a failed Labor leader, like my three-times-a-loser hero Bert Evatt. But at least I’ve got brilliant kids to write and talk about.
Did you know that when motoring down Marilyn Monroe Drive in LA last month, we came to a T intersection. And young Oliver said: “Dad. We can’t go ahead. We must go left or right”. “Brilliant,” I replied: “I will write about your brilliance in the Aussie Speccie. (Tommie, will this do for a first draft? – Mark).
MWD ESSAY: ANNE SUMMERS AO, PH.D. – ON JULIA GILLARD PM
Sure journalists just love talking about journalism. It reinforces their view that they really work for an important profession. Even so, has there ever been a media beat-up in Australia to match that which accompanied Jonathan Marshall’s report in last Sunday’s News Limited newspapers that 2GB broadcaster Alan Jones had declared that John Gillard – the Prime Minister’s father – died of shame because he daughter was a liar? Jones’ rant was delivered to a somewhat wild dinner hosted by the University of Sydney Liberal Club on 22 September 2012.
This was an insensitive and senseless remark which never should have been made. Alan Jones has delivered numerous apologies – some more fulsome than others – all of which Ms Gillard has refused to accept. However, the controversy has gone on and on. Labor and Greens operatives have blamed Tony Abbott for the offence. Numerous left-wing activists (many of whom are taxpayer funded academics) have called for an advertisers boycott of 2GB – a commercial radio station they never listen to. And feminists have declared that Gillard Labor is behind the Coalition in most of the opinion polls on account of the Australian electorates’ inherent sexism.
Leading the latter charge is none other than Anne Summers – who has worked for governments led by Bob Hawke and Paul Keating. It so happened that on 31 August 2012 Dr Summers (for a doctor she is) delivered the 2012 Human Rights and Social Justice Lecture at the University of Newcastle. The lecture, titled “The Political Persecution of Australia’s First Female Prime Minister By Anne Summers AO, PhD” can be found on Dr Summers’ website.
Since Summers criticised Alan Jones’ treatment of Julia Gillard well before his University of Sydney Liberal Club meltdown, it stands to reason that Summers has been prominent in the debate this week. For example, she was interviewed on the ABC 702 program Mornings with Linda Mottram on Tuesday. In this interview, Anne Summers made two central points, viz :
▪ Summers told Mottram that the media treatment of Julia Gillard was so bad that major newspapers – she specifically named the Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian Financial Review – “now routinely describe the Prime Minister as a liar” and “they do not put” the word liar “in inverted commas”.
▪ Summers also told Mottram that it was “terrible” to call the Prime Minister a liar.
Following the interview, Gerard Henderson emailed Anne Summers asking two questions (See Correspondence Section), namely:
▪ What evidence does Anne Summers have to support her claim that major newspapers directly refer to the Prime Minister as a liar?
▪ Did Anne Summers declare it “terrible” when John Howard was called a liar during his prime ministership?
Anne Summers declined to answer either question. Her reply to Gerard Henderson read in full:
Thank you for your ongoing interest in my work. I am further developing the themes included in my most recent lectures and articles into a larger piece and will be documenting my arguments there. Meanwhile, I look forward to reading your article.
This is just a fudge. There is no evidence that the major newspapers in Australia “now routinely describe the Prime Minister as a liar and do not put it [i.e. the word liar] in inverted commas”. None whatsoever. If Anne Summers has such evidence, she could provide it now.
Moreover, there is no evidence that Anne Summers ever declared it “terrible” when John Howard was called a liar during his prime ministership. This was a common occurrence – and involved people more prominent than radio presenters.
For example, on 16 March 2006 the (then) Labor frontbencher Kevin Rudd declared with reference to the AWB food-for-oil scandal :
The documents demonstrate that we have an Australian prime minister [John Howard] who is a liar…and I use the term precisely and intentionally.
A week after calling John Howard a wilful liar, Kevin Rudd attended a function at the Lodge in Canberra and was formally greeted by Mr and Mrs Howard.
The fact is that, when prime minister, John Howard was called a liar – and worse. He was also labelled a Nazi and a fascist. And he was depicted cruelly in effigies – most notably as having sexual relations with George W. Bush. It is a matter of record that Anne Summers AO Ph.D. never delivered a lecture at a taxpayer subsidised university circa 2003 titled “The Political Persecution of Australia’s 25th Male Prime Minister”.
There is no doubt that Julia Gillard has been a victim of sexist misogyny – most notably by retired cartoonist Larry Pickering. She has also been insultingly labelled as “childless” by Liberal Party Senator Bill Heffernan and former Labor leader Mark Latham. For the most part, however, there is little evidence in Dr Summers’ Newcastle University Lecture to support her wide-sweeping claims. Summers’ sources include a “taxi driver”, “a stallholder in the flower market in Flemington” and an unnamed person at “a medical office in Albury”. Anne Summers AO Ph.D should be able to do better than this.
Anne Summers cannot believe that much of the (current) dislike of the Prime Minister turns on the fact that she broke her pre-election promise not to introduce a carbon tax. Summers claims, for example, that John Howard did a backflip and broke a promise on the GST but was never called a liar. The fact is that Howard took the GST to an election in 1998 and only implemented it after the Coalition was returned to government. In any event, Mr Howard was constantly called a liar – particularly with reference to Australia’s involvement in the Coalition of the Willing in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
In her Newcastle University Lecture, Summers rationalised Gillard Labor’s decision to introduce a carbon tax since it was done “in order to secure a deal with the Greens” which was necessary for the creation of a minority government. Not so. Adam Bandt, the one Greens member of the House of Representatives, said before the 2010 election that – if elected to the seat of Melbourne – he would support Julia Gillard and Labor over Tony Abbott and the Coalition.
In her Newcastle University Lecture, Summers also asserted that previous prime ministers like Howard and Keating, were “always accorded the basic respect of being referred to by their last names”. Again, not so – Howard and Keating were frequently referred to as “John” and “Paul” respectively. Just as Abbott is referred to as “Tony” today. Also, Summers’ claim that Ms Gillard is constantly referred to as a “she” and “her” by Tony Abbott and that the terms “he” and “him” were never used with respect to Howard and Keating is not supported by any evidence. Who knows? Perhaps Anne Summers AO PhD might be able to stump up the evidence when she further develops her thesis. She has not been able to do so yet.
Even before the Alan Jones outburst, Anne Summers’ Newcastle University Lecture had attracted widespread attention. For example, it inspired an open letter to all members of the Commonwealth Parliament by some 22 members of the Melbourne University Law School. They criticised the behaviour of “some members of Parliament” with respect to the Prime Minister – but did not name one single person.
CORRECTION – RE MR TOM SWITZER
Unlike the ABC (re which see today’s Correspondence Section), MWD is always willing to make corrections or clarifications.
In last Friday’s MWD (Issue 156), reference was made to a recent “rumoured private dinner at Mr Kroger’s abode” in Melbourne attended by Mark Latham, Janet Albrechtsen, Andrew Bolt, Tom Switzer and Paul Howes as well as Michael Kroger himself. Nancy’s editor commented at the time: “This must have been some occasion – you’ve got to be kidding”.
The (anonymous) editor was correct. It seems that Nancy’s co-owner took a record of the (rumoured) dinner list on a mobile phone with a dog’s lead in one hand and a glass of wine in the other. That is, not very accurately. Hence the mistake. MWD understands that Tom Switzer has never attended a dinner at Michael Kroger’s home. [ That’s all very well. But were the others there? You’ve still got to be kidding. – Ed].
CORRESPONDENCE – ON FACTS, NON-FACTS AND FACT-CHECKERS
Nancy is oh-so-grateful to anyone, and everyone, who returns her co-owners’ correspondence to fill this most popular section of MWD. This time around, the ABC’s Richard Aedy and the writer Dr Anne Summers have obliged.
● GERARD HENDERSON AND RICHARD AEDY – SEPTEMBER 2012
On The ABC As A Possible Fact-Checker For The Errors Of Others: With Particular Reference To Paul Ham and Robert Manne
Gerard Henderson to Richard Aedy – 12 September 2012
I usually walk my dog, Nancy, in the late afternoon. When I do, I invariably listen to The Media Report on Radio National on Fridays. What better way to relax and exercise before Matins on the eve of the weekend?
As you will recall, last Friday The Media Report devoted a segment to a discussion of the emergence of fact-checking organisations in the United States. Your principal interview was with Brooks Jackson, the director of factcheck.org which has come out of the University of Pennsylvania. It was clear to listeners that you were suggesting that we need something like factcheck.org in Australia.
Later on, taking on the fact-checker issue, Greg Jericho said that “the closest we’ve got at the moment is Crikey”. This would have come as some surprise to those who know that Crikey does not fact-check its own material and readily publishes undocumented rumours. You concluded The Media Report segment as follows:
Richard Aedy: Actually, if you are listening Mark Scott, isn’t this [fact-checking] something the most trusted brand in the country could think about? Just a thought.
I wonder if you were really serious when you suggested that the ABC should become the bespoke fact-checker in Australia checking the journalism of others. From my own experience, the ABC makes numerous factual howlers – and then invariably refuses to acknowledge or correct them.
Let me provide you with two examples, from 2012 alone. One historical – the other personal.
● ABC TV’s Howlers on the Vietnam War and Conscription
In the documentary All The Way, which aired on ABC1 on 12 April 2012 – and which was co-written by Paul Ham and Anne Delaney – the following claim was made concerning the arrival of the Australian Task Force at Phuc Tuy province in South Vietnam in May 1966, viz:
More men were needed to take control of an entire Vietnamese province, so Menzies resorted to conscription. The Americans applauded the move – they’d been pushing conscription on Canberra. [Presenter Paul Ham’s comment can be found at the 26 minute 16 seconds segment of All The Way].
These are the facts:
1. Robert Menzies was not prime minister in May 1966 – he retired in January 1966. Harold Holt was prime minister in May 1966 when the Australian Task Force arrived in Phuc Toy province.
2. All The Way made no mention of the fact that conscription was introduced in late 1964 – not early 1966. Peter Edwards, the official historian, wrote in Crises and Commitments that, when introducing conscription for overseas service in November 1964, Robert Menzies “dwelt at greater length on Indonesia and Malaysia” and that in late 1964 “Australian ministers were only willing to make short-term commitments in Vietnam but they were looking seriously at the possibility of becoming involved in a major conflict between the United Kingdom and Indonesia”. As Dr Edwards makes clear, the situation in Indonesia – not Vietnam – was the prime reason for the introduction of conscription in November 1964.
3. In his book Vietnam: The Australian War (HarperCollins, 2007), Paul Ham acknowledged that several events led to the introduction of conscription in November 1964 – including Confrontation between Indonesia and Malaysia and concern about the threat to Papua New Guinea from Indonesia. Peter Ham wrote:
Conscription was seen as necessary. The Sydney Morning Herald welcomed the decision as “Preparing Against War with Indonesia”.
When I pointed out the errors in All The Way to Kim Dalton, the ABC’s Director of Television, he declined to comment on – or attempt to defend – the factual content of All The Way. And yet you state that the ABC should become Australia’s fact-checker-in-chief. Clearly Mr Dalton is not interested in the factual content of documentaries shown on ABC TV. There were similar factual errors/gross exaggerations in such recent ABC TV documentaries as Menzies & Churchill At War (2009) and Peter Butt’s I Spy which Mr Dalton refused to address.
● ABC The Drum’s Howlers
On 6 March 2012, Robert Manne posted the following sentence about me on the ABC’s Drum Opinion website concerning Larry Adler and his FAI Insurances Ltd viz:
When the National Companies and Securities Commission conducted a raid on its [FAI’s] offices, Henderson used his column in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age to launch a vitriolic attack on its chairman, Henry Bosch.
This comment is still on the ABC’s website. These are the facts:
1. The NCSC did not raid the office of FAI Insurance Ltd in the late 1980s.
2. I did not write for either the Sydney Morning Herald or The Age during Larry Adler’s lifetime. Mr Adler died on 13 December 1988. I commenced writing for the Sydney Morning Herald in 1990 and for The Age in 1992.
3. I never launched a “vitriolic” attack on NCSC chairman Henry Bosch concerning any raid on FAI Insurance Ltd in The Sydney Morning Herald or The Age. See 1 and 2 above.
When I wrote to The Drum drawing attention to Professor Manne’s trio of errors within just one sentence, the matter was taken over by Bruce Belsham in his capacity as Acting/Director ABC Innovation. Mr Belsham refused to concede that Robert Manne’s article on The Drum Opinion contained any errors at all concerning me and declared – without evidence of course – that my refutations of Professor Manne’s column were “strongly contested with disputed evidence”. Mr Belsham did not state the nature of the (alleged) evidence. Nor did Mr Belsham say how Robert Manne was able to “contest” my claim that I did not write for the SMH in the late 1980s. After all, Robert Manne’s error can be tested with just one Google entry.
I respectfully suggest that you do not advance the cause that ABC should play a similar role in Australia to that performed by such organisations as factcheck.org in the United States. Certainly not when the ABC does not fact-check its own documentaries and refuses to correct even basic errors on the ABC website concerning (non-existent) NCSC raids, wrong dates and so on. Just a thought.
Best wishes – and well done on your role as a stand-in presenter on RN News Breakfast this morning.
cc: Kim Dalton, Director of Television
Bruce Belsham, Head of Current Affairs
Michael Millett, Director of Communications
Richard Aedy to Gerard Henderson – 13 September 2012
Thanks for your feedback – I’m glad that you’re listening to the Media Report.
I wasn’t formally suggesting the ABC become fact checker in chief. I’m not about to start advocating for this.
But I do think there is merit in the idea of a fact checking service and perhaps Greg Jericho’s suggestion that it might come out of The Conversation is worthwhile.
Thank you for your kindness about RN Breakfast – I’m doing it again tomorrow!
Gerard Henderson to Richard Aedy – 19 September 2012
Thanks for your gracious email of 13 September 2012.
I’m pleased that you are not formally suggesting that the ABC should become Australia’s fact-checker-in-chief. As I have indicated to you, if such senior ABC executives as Kim Dalton and Bruce Belsham do not care about the ABC’s own documented howlers – then the ABC is in no position to pass judgment on the apparent howlers of others.
I would also have some doubts about Andrew Jaspan doing such a job at the taxpayer funded The Conversation. The evidence from the United States indicates that many self-proclaimed fact-checkers are, in fact, left-liberal activists. Until he was dismissed as editor of The Age, Mr Jaspan ran the most unbalanced newspaper in Australia. At the end of Mr Jaspan’s period as Age editor, the paper did not even have one conservative reporter, columnist or cartoonist – but it had numerous leftists on the payroll. So, I would not be looking to Andrew Jaspan, and his taxpayer funded mates, to fact-check the publicly and privately funded media.
In conclusion, I should thank you for the recent offer to appear on your Sunday Profile program. As Shelley Gare has commented, critics of the ABC rarely get invited on to ABC programs. For example, I can only recall two invitations to appear on any Radio National program in over four years. Namely, your Sunday Profile invitation – and one last Friday from Jonathan Green at Sunday Extra. I’m not alleging a conspiracy here. The ABC has not one conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its outlets. Some ABC types appear to be unaware that there is a considered alternative to their position on some issues.
As I explained to your producer, I do not like talking about myself. So I declined the Sunday Profile invitation. However, I did appreciate your kind gesture. I plan to listen to The Media Report when walking Nancy this Friday.
There is no need to reply to this.
cc: Kim Dalton
● GERARD HENDERSON AND ANNE SUMMERS – OCTOBER 2012
On Julia Gillard, Alan Jones, Kevin Rudd & John Howard
Gerard Henderson to Anne Summers – 2 October 2012
Interesting interview with Linda Mottram on 702 this morning.
I may write about the Gillard/Jones issue and I may mention your comments in the media and on your blog.
If you have time, I would be grateful for your response to two questions:
▪ What is the evidence for your claim this morning that “the Sydney Morning Herald, the Financial Review – all the papers now routinely describe the Prime Minister as a liar and they do not put in inverted commas”?
▪ I note your view that it is “terrible” to call the Prime Minister a liar. I agree. My question is this. Did you hold this view when Kevin Rudd obtained widespread publicity for calling John Howard a “liar” in March 2006?
Anne Summers to Gerard Henderson – 3 October 2012
Thank you for your ongoing interest in my work. I am further developing the themes included in my most recent lectures and articles into a larger piece and will be documenting my arguments there. Meanwhile, I look forward to reading your article.
Until next time.