GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG – ISSUE NO. 158
12 OCTOBER 2012
t-align: center;”>“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?”
“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are private correspondence and not for publication” – ABC News Radio’s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: Jenna Price’s Hypocritical Pledge; A Bloke-Free Hour: Feisty Sheilas Slug It Out On The Nation
● Nancy’s Pick-of-the-Week: Dr Summers’ Constitutional Confusion
● Can You Bear It? Last Monday’s Q&A: George Megalogenis; David Stratton’s Love Affair with Che Guevara; Another Non-Debate At The Wheeler Centre?;
ABC Finds A Professor Who Called Obama A Debate-Winner
●Five Paws Award: Helen McCabe Steps Up on Anti-Catholic Sectarianism
● Maurice Newman Segment: Everyone Agrees With Everyone Else on LNL (Again)
● Documentation: Leslie Cannold’s Fact-Free “Suggestion”
● Correspondence: With a Little Help From Stephen Koukoulas and the Whitlam Fan Club
● Jenna Price’s Double Standard on Abuse
Today’s Daily Telegraph reports that the social media group Destroy the Joint – headed by UTS academic and Canberra Times columnist Jenna Price – has called on Macquarie Radio Network and Alan Jones to commit to challenge “anyone who uses sex, race, religion or sexual orientation to incite hatred or demean or vilify”. The full pledge can be found on Destroy the Joint’s Facebook page. Ms Price wants Alan Jones to broadcast on 2GB a pledge which includes the following statement:
I want an Australia where girls and women, where men and boys, can take part in our society without enduring discrimination, sexism and violence. And I will challenge anyone who uses sex, race, religion or sexual orientation to incite hatred or demean or vilify any of us. I will not stand by and let others do so without speaking up.
Well, that’s pretty clear then. Or is it? Er, not really.
On the Q&A program on April 2011, the Northern Territory indigenous activist Bess Price broadly supported the Commonwealth’s intervention in the Northern Territory which is aimed at protecting Aboriginal women and children from abuse. This led to a tweet from inner-city indigenous lawyer and UTS academic Larissa Behrendt – who has taken the fashionable position of opposing the intervention under both the Howard and Gillard governments – which read as follows:
I watched the show where a guy had sex with a horse and I’m sure it was less offensive than Bess Price.
So what did Jenna Price say about the put down of Bess Price by Larissa Behrendt? Well, she thought it was quite okay. That’s what. Writing in the Canberra Times on 19 April 2011, Jenna Price commented:
She [Larissa Behrendt] heads the Gillard Government’s review of Aboriginal higher education and is under attack because she tweeted during last week’s episode of Q&A that she thought watching a show where a guy had sex with a horse was less offensive than Bess Price. Price (no relation) is an indigenous activist and she and Behrendt are in fierce disagreement over federal intervention in the Northern Territory. Now disclosure here. She [Behrendt] works at the same place as I do….
Now, I’m getting sick of the hysteria that Twitter generates. People have always been indiscreet and Twitter is just making our offhand comments much more accessible to the universe…. The tweet means that Behrendt finds Price’s politics offensive. Why is that a sacking offence? Behrendt may well be seriously offended by Price’s position on the intervention. Plenty of people use fascist analogies when trying to show how exactly how angry they are. Are we less offended by that?
So there you have it. Ms Price demands that Alan Jones condemn anyone who uses sex to demean or vilify someone else. That’s bad – despite the fact that Alan Jones has never been accused of sexual vilification or discrimination. However, the very same Ms Price publicly supported Larissa Behrendt using sex to demean and vilify Bess Price just last year.
Jenna Price is a leftist academic at the University of Technology, Sydney. She wants Jones to stop abusing people – but is unfussed by Behrendt’s abuse. Apparently Jenna Price’s courses at the UTS include Double Standards 101 [This must have lotsa enrolments. – Ed].
● Have Glass For Breakfast – Will Discuss Misogyny On The Nation
What a stunning debate on The Nation With David Speers on Sky News last night. Except that David Speers was not there – so it was more like “The Nation Without David Speers”. The Nation is often a somewhat blokey affair. However, last night it was an all-sheilas event with Helen Dalley in the chair. At issue was the blight of misogyny and sexism which, we are told, pervades the land. Never before, in the annals of Australian history, has so much of womanhood been hated by so many men for so long a time. Or something like that.
The Nation is usually a balanced debate. Not last night. Liberal MP Kelly O’Dwyer defended her leader Tony Abbott and criticised Prime Minister Julia Gillard. For most of the program, O’Dwyer was opposed by Federal Minister Julie Collins, journalist Julia Baird and advertising creative director Dee Madigan – with occasional help from Helen Dalley. In other words, it was more like an ABC debate where everybody – or nearly everybody – agrees with everyone else. Fittingly, Ms Baird joined The Nation at Chatswood as a panellist at 8 pm – having presented The Drum on ABC 24 at 6 pm at Ultimo where the same issue (among others) was discussed.
O’Dwyer put in a feisty performance (in the 3 to 1 tag match). But she was occasionally hailed down by the weight of numbers. Had it been an all-male occasion, the likes of Eva Cox would have complained about an over-dose of testosterone in the room. [I know you cannot say this in these anti-misogyny and anti-sexism times. But the famous Nancy reckons The Nation last night sounded like an old-fashioned cat-fight. Apologies to all – Ed].
There were many highlights of the debate. Including:
▪ Dee Madigan said that it took Tony Abbott “four or five days” to fully criticise Alan Jones’ indefensible remarks about Julia Gillard’s late father. In fact it took, at most, one day. [Is this the same Ms Madigan who said on Paul Murray Live last Monday that “Tony Abbott is only the Opposition leader by one vote” – forgetting that he was re-elected unopposed as Liberal Party leader after the 2010 election? – Ed].
▪ Dr Julia Baird on one occasion referred to Julia Gillard as “she” – despite the fact that Dr Anne Summers has declared that “she” is a sexist word when used with reference to the Prime Minister (See MWD Issue 157).
▪ Ms Collins argued that Tony Abbott is a misogynist but, when challenged by O’Dwyer about what the term means, said that she was “not going to get into a debate about the meaning of words”.
▪ Ms O’Dwyer objected to the use of the word misogynist – meaning woman-hater – with respect to Tony Abbott. She maintained that the 14 year old Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai – who was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman for advocating that girls be educated – was a victim of real misogyny. Whereupon Dee Madigan engaged in a dismissive artificial laugh. Madigan declared that O’Dwyer should know there are degrees of misogyny.
So according to the Thought of Dee Madigan, the attempted murder of a teenage girl by the Taliban is one kind of misogyny. And referring to Julia Gillard on any occasion as “she” is another kind of misogyny. Really.
▪ At the end of the debate, the issue of the leadership of both Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott was raised. Ms Dalley responded “We’re going back to where we started”. Not so. The debate never left where it started.
All up, a great occasion. There should be more of them. What about a bit of gender balance? Why not try a dog-fight with Bob Katter, Wilson Tuckey and the late Al Grasby on the panel – with Alan Jones in the chair? Who knows? Such a debate might even out-do last night’s for the number of interruptions.
Anne Summers AO Ph.D. With Much Fudge
Politicians run lines. That’s what they do. And that’s fair enough. But journalists and commentators are expected to be more than just barrackers.
On the ABC The Drum on Wednesday, Anne Summers described the Prime Minister’s speech in the House of Representatives the previous day as “exhilarating”. Dr Summers (for a doctor she is) referred to “Julia Gillard’s extraordinary speech on misogyny”.
But it wasn’t supposed to be a speech on this topic. In fact, the Prime Minister spoke opposing an Opposition motion which called for Peter Slipper to step down as Speaker. A few days before the debate, the media had published private texts from the Speaker of the House to a staff member which were distasteful and sexist.
On 10 October, Summers appeared on Channel 10’s The Project where the following exchange took place.
Dr Chris Brown: Just on those texts that Peter Slipper wrote – there’s no doubt they’re disgusting, they’re offensive. I”m just interested though, if Julia Gillard is so up for standing up for women, why didn’t she vote to oust him?
Anne Summers: Well I think it wasn’t to do with the content of the texts, which she certainly condemned in her speech – she attacked them, she said they were sexist, they were anti-women, and she was grossly offended by them. But I think what the procedure in Parliament yesterday with that was a sort of more constitutional thing. And that is that the parliament, ah, the executive can’t be telling the courts what to do in this matter of whether or not Peter Slipper is guilty, is before the court. In fact the judge has reserved his judgement and is gonna be telling us any day now what the verdict is.
Charlie Pickering: Fascinating stuff, Anne, thanks for your insights tonight.
What a load of tosh. The House of Representatives can choose its Speaker at any time. The sexual harassment case in which Peter Slipper is involved is before a judge alone – no jury is involved. Therefore there is no reason why the case cannot be discussed. Moreover, it has nothing whatsoever to do with the Executive or the Constitution. That’s just Anne Summers’ fudge – but it worked with Charles Pickering.
There was nothing to stop Labor supporting the Coalition’s motion that Peter Slipper be removed as Speaker last Tuesday. Also when Judge Rares hands down his decision, he will have nothing to say about whether Peter Slipper is an anti-female sexist. Absolutely nothing. This is not a matter which is before the court. The case turns on whether Mr Slipper sexually harassed his (former) male staffer. Dr Summers should know this.
CAN YOU BEAR IT?
▪ Piers Akerman’s Little (Q&A) Voice
The consensus of comments on the Mornings With Linda Mottram program last Tuesday was that Liberal MP Christopher Pyne and former Labor MP Lindsay Tanner had been frightfully rude to Employment Minister Kate Ellis on Monday’s Q&A last Monday. Linda Mottram clearly agreed with the consensus.
MWD invariably views Q&A with a glass of red wine in the left hand – and a glass of white wine in the right
. The program seems to make more sense this way. MWD was of the view that the formidable Ms Ellis more than held her own on Q&A – as would be expected. Here’s the break-down of words spoken on the night by the principal performers according to Nancy’s count:
Tony Jones (presenter) : 17.6 per cent
Christopher Pyne: 22.6 per cent
Lindsay Tanner : 20.1 per cent
Kate Ellis: 18.4 per cent
Nijala Sun: 11.4 per cent
Piers Akerman: 9.9 per cent
This suggests that Kate Ellis certainly held her own. If anyone found it hard to get a word in edgeways, it was Mr Akerman. Yet ABC Radio 702 listeners reckon that Kate Ellis – who had twice as much to say as the Daily Telegraph columnist – was howled down. Can you bear it?
▪ George Megalogenis Bags Old White Males – With Some (Labor) Exceptions
These days misogyny’s out. Completely non de rigueur. But what about ageism? Well a bit of ageism – between consenting adults, of course – is quite okay.
Step forward George Megalogenis. In The Weekend Australian on 6-7 October 2012, Megalogenis used Alan Jones’ distasteful reference to the death of Julia Gillard’s father to draw a distinction between “old Australia” and “new Australia”. George M, you will be pleased to know, is a “new Australia” kind of guy. Wacko. According to GM:
Jones represents the heartfelt, but self-defeating, cry of old Australia. What he and his listeners crave is a restoration of the Western moment that existed between the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 and September 10, 2001. They know this task is beyond our system. But they confuse cause and effect in blaming Julia Gillard’s minority Labor government for the loss of confidence.
Parliament has struggled to meet the many challenges of the Asian Century…not because power has fallen into the wrong hands but because old Australia still exercises a disproportionate influence on the thinking of the main parties and the media. We are cursed by a bipartisanship of hacks who are whiter and more male than the nation itself.
So there you have it. Australia is cursed by the dominance of the old, the white and the male. The only problem is that George Megalogenis’s political heroes include Gough Whitlam, Bob Hawke and Paul Keating. What this trio have in common is that they are all old, and white and male. Can you bear it?
▪ David Stratton Praises Murderer
Thanks to an avid MWD reader who drew attention to David Stratton’s “Movies on TV” column in the 22 September 2012 issue of TV Week. This is what Mr Stratton had to say about The Motorcycle Diaries :
Gael Garcia Bernal stars in this marvellous mix of biography and road movie as revolutionary hero Ernesto “Che” Guevara. Co-starring Rodrigo De La Serna. It’s a wonderful human story. ★★★★★
A “wonderful human story” deserving of 5 stars, indeed. Che Guevara was a one-time admirer of communist dictator Josef Stalin. Moreover, Che Guevara really enjoyed killing and incarcerating people. How wonderful can you be?
This is what Yale Professor Carlos Eire wrote about Che Guevara in response to the proposal that the City of Galway in Ireland should erect a statue to the revolutionary. The Irish Times declined to publish Professor Eire’s letter but it was printed in the Galway Advertiser. The full letter can be located on the National Review Online’s website:
As a victim of Che Guevara’s atrocities, as a historian, and as a Cuban of Irish descent, I am deeply disturbed by the fact that the city of Galway is planning to erect a monument to Ernesto “Che” Guevara. I don’t mind one bit if those behind this monstrous project want to believe lies — that’s their right in a truly free society — but it would be wrong to allow their abysmal ignorance or wilful blindness to stand unchallenged. Those who think highly of Che may be surprised to hear it, but they have way too much in common with Holocaust deniers.
Che was my neighbor in Havana, and I actually saw him in the flesh several times. He lived in an opulent mansion just a few blocks from my very small house, and also ran the prison of La Cabaña, where some of my relatives ended up being tortured and murdered. Their crime? Voicing an opinion different from Che’s. Or, in the case of my uncle, simply having a son who voiced an opinion contrary to Che’s. The awful truth about Ernesto “Che” Guevara is that he was a violent thug with despotic tendencies. Che’s admirers prefer to think of him as a righteous warrior, and often cite certain books that portray him as a saint. I hate to break the news to them: Some books are full of lies. Fortunately, others are not, like the memoir Cuba 1959, La Galera de la Muerte, written by Javier Arzuaga, the priest who accompanied all of Che’s victims to the firing squad during the first nine months of the so-called Revolution. Read it and weep, please, all of you who love Che. We Cubans are the only people on earth who knew the real Che — as opposed to the icon stamped on all sorts of merchandise — but there are many in the world who tune us out, discredit our testimony, and would love to gag us. Somehow, the lie is preferable.
And David Stratton maintains that the life of Guevara makes a wonderful human story. Can you bear it?
▪ Another No-Debate Debate At The Taxpayer Subsidised Wheeler Centre
It seems that the taxpayer subsidised Wheeler Centre is channelling the taxpayer funded ABC in so far as the concept of “debate” is concerned.
Last night the Wheeler Centre hosted a discussion on universities in the 21st Century. Nancy’s co-owner could not make it. But he is quite sure that the following scenario would have occurred. Professor Robert Manne would have agreed with Professor Rai Gaita who would have agreed with Professor Glyn Davis (vice-chancellor, Melbourne University) who would have agreed with Professor Robert Manne. And that all three speakers would have been encouraged in their agreement by the chair Professor Margaret Gardner (vice-chancellor, RMIT).
At the Wheeler Centre, such consensus is called debate. Can you bear it?
▪ ABC Finds Professor Who Thought Obama Won Debate
On 3 October 2012, on the morning after the inaugural presidential debate, a CBS Poll asked the following question: “Who Won The First Presidential Debate?” And the answer was:
Mitt Romney – 46 per cent
Barack Obama – 22 per cent
Tie – 32 per cent
So it was some achievement that The World Today reporter Eleanor Hall was able to find an academic who believed President Obama won the debate. Step forward Stanford University’s Simon Jackman. Professor Jackman told Eleanor Hall last Friday that “Obama won narrowly”. Can you bear it?
Helen McCabe Nails Anti-Catholic Sectarianism
Appearing on the Paul Murray Live program on Sky News last Monday, Women’s Weekly editor-in-chief Helen McCabe spoke about an unfashionable truth. Namely, that much of the opposition to Tony Abbott is an example of anti-Catholic sectarianism. Let’s go to the tape:
Helen McCabe: He [Tony Abbott] really does relate very well to women. Anyone that spends any time with him [knows] he does like women. He hires them, he treats everyone the same. Yeah he’s blokey, yeah he’s kind of an alpha male, yeah he surfs and he fights fires and is saving little old ladies and stuff. I mean, that is Tony Abbott. But, the Labor Party seems completely obsessed with it.
Now is it coming up in the focus groups? Perhaps it is amongst Labor voters so it must play with them and there must be some unease in sections of the community about that blokiness about Abbott. But it is a little bit related to his Catholicism and the abortion debate as well, I think there is a bit of the anti-Catholic element in there as well.
But, from personal experience, can I just say? Any time I’ve spent with Tony Abbott, I don’t find him to have a problem with women at all. And a lot of female journalists who spend time with him – we’ve discussed this in private – many of us feel very similarly about it.
Helen McCabe – Five Paws.
MAURICE NEWMAN SEGMENT
In Which The American Lefties Agree With Leftie Phillip Adams To Criticise President Obama And Mr Romney From The Left
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, ad nauseam.
At MWD’s last count, there were some 300 million citizens of the United States. Yet the taxpayer funded ABC Radio National cannot find one Republican inclined American to discuss the US presidential election. Not one.
The social democrat E.J. Dionne comments on American politics on RN Breakfast and the leftist Bruce Shapiro has the regular US commentary gig on Late Night Live. Also ABC outlets frequently use James Fallows without bothering to mention that he is a onetime speech writer to President Jimmy Carter. [ Interesting. You should follow this up next week – Ed].
On Tuesday Phillip Adams spoke to three left-of-centre American commentators on Late Night Live about the presidential race. All of whom criticised Mitt Romney and/or Barack Obama – from the left, of course.
And so it came to pass that Phillip Adams agreed with Bruce Shapiro (columnist for The Nation) who agreed with Thomas Frank (author of The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule) who agreed with Philip Howard (an Al Gore enthusiast) who agreed with Phillip Adams who agreed with Bruce Shapiro in a leftist kind of way – [That’s enough – Ed.]
Maurice Newman : 4
Jonathan Holmes: Zip
LESLIE CANNOLD HAS A “FEELING” – BUT NO FACTS
MWD held over this segment out of respect for the ABC employee Jill Meagher – who was killed on 22 September and buried last Friday. It is published today to illustrate a familiar MWD theme. Namely how some commentators on the ABC 1 News Breakfast program use the occasion to opine about not what is in the news – but, rather, what should be in the news.
On Wednesday 26 September 2012, Dr Leslie Cannold used the occasion of Ms Meagher’s disappearance in the vicinity of Sydney Road, Brunswick to castigate the media for (allegedly) suggesting that she had somehow been responsible for her own abduction. The only problem is that Dr Cannold could not produce any evidence to support her assertions – which became evident when she was asked to do so by co-presenter Michael Rowland. Let’s go to the DVD:
Leslie Cannold : ….I just feel quite upset about it. And I feel quite upset in some ways about, you know, the way that the coverage has proceeded. But, I think, you know, the investigation’s moving on and it’s good to see some developments.
Karina Carvalho: What issues do you have with the coverage that you’ve seen?
Leslie Cannold: I guess, you know – one of the things – the reason I think sometimes these cases can really move you is that you can imagine yourself into the place of it. Because the coverage of it is so extensive, you start to think of your own actions. And it’s good, I think, to remember that even though this is a terrible thing that’s happened, it’s important to remember that the blame doesn’t lie with the person who is the victim. It’s just important to keep in mind that –
Michael Rowland: What coverage was suggesting that?
Leslie Cannold: Well I think sometimes you can feel – and I don’t mean to blame anybody about it, but I think you could feel, as a woman, that often the suggestion is you ought not to have been
walking home alone.
Michael Rowland: I disagree –
Leslie Cannold: Really?
Michael Rowland: – I’ve read lots of coverage, we’ve covered this story intensively. I think that’s a very big call to make.
Leslie Cannold: Do you?
Michael Rowland: Yeah.
Leslie Cannold: Oh, okay. Maybe –
Michael Rowland: What coverage do you think –
Leslie Cannold : Well like I said I think it’s –
Michael Rowland: – has suggested that Jill Meagher brought this disappearance upon herself?
Leslie Cannold: – No. I, I, I, I, I – I don’t mean to get you – get you – offside at all on this Mike.
Michael Rowland: I”m not offside, I”m just asking. You said you had –
Leslie Cannold: I feel, I feel, as a woman, that often the feeling when the emphasis is on her decision to walk home, that you can feel, a person can feel, not because anyone has said: “You ought not to have walked home”. Absolutely nobody has said that. And I think that’s fantastic that nobody’s said that.
Michael Rowland: Indeed.
Leslie Cannold: But I think often –
Michael Rowland : And I’ve not read a single suggestion in all the coverage, ABC and other outlets.
Leslie Cannold: [interrupting] I have expressedly not read that. And I guess all I’m saying is because you imagine yourself into the place you sometimes can feel as if that there is something in it for you. That you ought to take a lesson from it. And I think it’s been terrific that the coverage has not suggested that. But I feel, as a woman, that sometimes you can take that away from it. And I think it’s been terrific that that’s not been the case.
How confusing can anyone get on morning television? Initially, Leslie Cannold claimed that there had been a “suggestion” that Jill Meagher “ought not to have been walking home alone”. However, when asked by Michael Rowland to name names as to who made such a suggestion, Dr Cannold said she merely had a “feeling” before conceding that “the coverage has not suggested” any such thing.
For the record, MWD’s view is that the media – and especially the ABC – covered this tragedy with sensitivity and professionalism.
On 7 August 2012 Gerard Henderson’s Sydney Morning Herald column was titled “Toss ‘The Boss’ palaver, leader’s economic legacy the real issue”. See here. The column dealt in passing with the economic failure of Gough Whitlam’s Labor government in the early 1970s and compared it with the successful Labor government in the 1980s and early 1990s.
On 8 August 2012, Gerard Henderson received an email from Jason Koukoulas advising him that the sender had highlighted “some errors of fact” on his Market Economic website the previous day. The full correspondence is published below. Mr Koukoulas’ changing type-faces have been retained in order to give the full flavour of his message.
Stephen Koukoulas to Gerard Henderson – 8 August 2012
I am emailing you to highlight some errors of fact in your article in yesterday”s SMH.
I wrote this on my blog yesterday and would like to know if you will be contacting the editor of the SMH and ask for a correction to be made.
Now It’s Gerard Henderson getting facts wrong
The executive director of The Sydney Institute, Gerard Henderson, ventures into economics in today’s column in the SMH….
In writing about budget, Mr Henderson makes some howlers – he gets deficits and surpluses mixed up and percentage changes are wrong. And have a guess which direction those errors are? Do you think they make a Labor government look worse or better?
Yep – you got it! All of the errors make Labor look worse, not the other way around.
Below are a few things written by Mr Henderson and the facts are presented below that. Those facts are from the Statement 10 of the 2012-13 Budget papers, pages 10-6 and 10-7.
- “The statistics tell the story. In 1974-75 Commonwealth outlays increased by close to 50 per cent. This equated to an increase in spending of more than 5 per cent of gross domestic product in just one year. Taxes rose by close to 30 per cent and the budget deficit increased substantially.”
According to Treasury data:
In 1974-75, Commonwealth outlays increased by 39.6%, not “close to 50%”. In today’s dollar terms, a 10% change in government spending is around $36 billion – in a single year! What an error.
The increase in spending as a share of GDP in 1974-75 was 3.3%, from 18.4% in 1973-74 to 21.7% in 1974-75. Everyone knows, including Mr Henderson in his heart of hearts, that 3.3% is not “more than 5%”. In today’s dollar terms, the difference between 3.3% and 5.0% of GDP is around $26 billion. Whoa!
In 1974-75, tax collections rose by 30.5% – well done Gerard, you got one largely right.
But the howler of all howlers:
- “the budget deficit increased substantially” is wrong.
In 1974-75, the Government recorded a budget surplus of 0.3%, after the Whitlam Budget of 1973-74 recorded a surplus of 1.9% of GDP (the fourth highest on record) and in 1972-73 there was a surplus of 0.7% of GDP.
I look forward to your reply.
Stephen Koukoulas to Gerard Henderson – 23 August 2012
Has Mr Henderson had a chance to rely to this?
Gerard Henderson to Stephen Koukoulas – 12 October 2012
What a thrill to hear from you on 8 August 2012. And lotsa apologies for the delaying responding to your courageous defence of Gough Whitlam’s economic record. Alas, I have been busy of late. So I valued your reminder of my tardiness sent on 23 August 2012.
As I recall, we last met in Sydney when in 2007… It all seems a long time ago now. Since then you have worked for Julia Gillard and the most prestigious Market Economics – which even devotes space to me on its (prestigious) blog. A (continuing) brilliant career, to be sure. [The first sentence of this paragraph has been cut to remove an error. GH]
As you will recall, you wrote on your Market Economics website on 8 August 2012 that I had made some factual “howlers” in my Herald column of that day concerning the Whitlam government’s economic performance.
You ignored the thesis of my column – which was that Gough Whitlam lost control of the economy in 1974. Perhaps you have not read about such economic disasters as Jim (“call me Doctor”) Cairns, Tom Uren, Clyde Cameron, Rex Connor and – of course – Mr Whitlam himself. In any event, you focused on statistics. My focus, on the other hand, was on economic performance.
Here is the apparent disagreement between us:
▪ I wrote that in 1974-75 Commonwealth outlays increased by close to 50 per cent. You say that it was 39.6 per cent. Phew. What a relief. Good to know that Gough Whitlam and the team increased spending by only 39.6 per cent in a single financial year.
▪ I wrote that in 1974-75 spending increased by more than 5 per cent of gross domestic product in just one year. You say it was 3.3 per cent. Well, that’s alright then. Whoa, indeed.
▪ I wrote that taxes in 1974-75 increased by close to 30 per cent. You say the correct figure was 30.5 per cent and suggest that I was only “largely right”. This seems like a quibble to me. But it’s good to know that taxation increased by only a third in a single year.
▪ I wrote that in 1974-75 the budget deficit increased substantially. You say that there was a budget surplus in 1974-75.
Unlike the ABC, I am always willing to make corrections and issue clarifications.
As indicated in my Sydney Morning Herald column, the principal source for my comments on the Whitlam government was John Kunkel’s article “`It Was Like a Lunatic Asylum’: Remembering Labor’s 1974 Budget” which was published in the December 2004 issue of The Sydney Institute Quarterly. Over the years I have also relied on the statistics contained in W.E. Norton The Deterioration in Economic Performance: A study of the 1970s with particular reference to Australia (Reserve Bank of Australia, Occasional Paper No 9, September 1982).
I make the following points:
▪ According to Table 4 A 2 of W.E. Norton’s book, Commonwealth outlays increased by 45.9 per cent in 1974-75 (See Page 95). In my SMH column. I rounded this up to “close to 50 per cent”. In my view, 45.9 per cent is close to 50 per cent.
▪ According to Table 4 A 2, spending increased by 4.2 per cent of the GDP in 1974-75 (see page 95). In my SMH column I made an error by giving the figure as “more” than 5 per cent – the reference should have been to “less” than five per cent. I concede this error. You should concede that this is a minor error in view of the fact that I was pointing to what any reasonable commentator would concede was a huge increase in spending in just one year.
▪ According to Table 4 A 2, the deficit amounted to 4.2 per cent of GDP in 1974-75 compared with 0.6 per cent in 1973-74. In my SMH column I wrote that the deficit increased substantially in 1974-75. You maintain that the 1974-75 budget was in surplus.
* * * * *
As you know, statistics are revised from time to time. I will make corrections where such are necessary. My problem is that your focus on minor points overlooks the big picture. Namely, that Whitlam Labor lost control of the economy in the middle of his three year term.
As you should be aware, such Labor identities as Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and Peter Walsh hold the view that Mr Whitlam was a disastrous economic manager. This was a principal motivator for Messrs Hawke, Keating and Walsh – among others – when Labor occupied the government benches from March 1983. They wanted to prove that – unlike during Mr Whitlam’s time – Labor could run a competent and reformist government. And they did. Your email of 8 August 2012 overlooked this central point.
Until next time.