Jonathan Green: “Nancy, will be taking notes, I suspect”

Michael Rowland: “Nancy…yes.  We’ll get a nice write-up on Friday.  Good morning as well, Gerard. Thanks for watching, by the way.

– ABC 1 News Breakfast, 18 October 2012

“Gerard [Henderson] is a complete f-ckwit”

– Malcolm Farr, via Twitter, 29 June 2012 (circa pre-dinner drinks)

“What a haughty flapping half-arsed buffoon he [Henderson] is”

– Bob Ellis on his Table Talk blog, 8 May 2012 (before breakfast)

“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

“Henderson…What a pompous, pretentious turd you are.”

– Mike Carlton, Saturday 13 August 2011 (after lunch)

“Go to the Sydney Institute Media Watch Dog website to marvel at [its] work”

– Mark Latham The Spectator Australia 11 June 2011.

Media Watch Dog – “disgraceful”, “sick”

– Professor Robert Manne, April Fool’s Day 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are private correspondence and not for publication” – ABC News Radio’s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.

“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

“Gerard Henderson is big enough to take care of himself, but that doesn’t stop us worrying about him from time to time.  Lately it’s Hendo’s tendency to self-harm that has us losing sleep. For example, peruse the correspondence he’s published in his latest Media Watch Dog blog…..There’s a part of us that just wants to ask: “Hendo, are you OK?”

– James Jeffrey’s “Strewth!” column, The Australian, 8 November 2010.

“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.

Stop Press: Fran Kelly Gets Conned by Roland Perry; Who is Alan R.M. Jones?; The Guardian Takes over “The-Guardian-on-the-Yarra”

● Nancy’s Pick-of-the-Week: Jacqueline Maley Criticises Tony Abbott’s Neon Jacket

MWD Scoop : Why Mark Latham Quit the Speccie – Nancy’s Role Revealed

● Can You Bear It?  Deborah Rice, Body Soul, Robert Macklin’s Open Letter & Jonathan Holmes’ Trivia Night

● Maurice Newman Segment: Gregg Borschmann Comes Out as an Environmental Activist

● Anti-Catholic Sectarian of the Week: The Chaser Boys Bag George Pell (Again)

● New Feature: Stephen Koukoulas Wins Inaugural Narcissistic Fool Prize

MWD Exclusive – Correspondence: Sue Spencer Steps Up On Why Four Corners is Always Right about Tony Abbott and George Pell and Everything Else



▪ Fran Kelly Stumbles on World War II History

The ABC’s Radio National Breakfast program – presented by Fran (“I’m an Activist”) Kelly – is one of the most influential outlets in the Australian media.  Like all other significant ABC products, it lacks a conservative presenter or producer or regular commentator or editor.  But that’s “Our ABC” – as the saying goes.  Even so, the program can be very informative – witness this morning’s discussion with Kevin Rudd on China’s leadership change.

What is evident about RN Breakfast is that it is remarkably weak on history.  This is true of both Ms Kelly and her production team.  Today’s program illustrates the problem.

At around 8.15 am, Fran Kelly interviewed writer Ronald Perry about his recently released book Pacific 360°: Australia’s Battle For Survival During World War Two (Hachette, 2012). At the end of the interview, Ms Kelly referred to the “terrific stuff” that Perry has (allegedly) unearthed in Pacific 360° and referred to the “real eye-opener” in his book concerning “stories really untold”.

According to Fran Kelly, one such “real eye-opener” turned on the day in February 1942 when Labor Prime Minister John Curtin went missing on Canberra’s Mount Ainslie.  Let’s go to the CD:

Fran Kelly: …But you also detail to some length about how the pressure did get to him [John Curtin]. He stood firm in the end. But you tell of this day when he effectively went missing for I think eight hours at a very crucial time. The decision needed to be made about these Australian troops that Britain was wrangling for, America wanted and Curtin in the end was adamant they would not go. Tell us about the day that Curtin went missing.

Roland Perry: Oh, this was, as I say, a nation-defining moment. This was the 21st [of February]. He woke up, got the cables, quickly within hours answered the Roosevelt cable because he knew he was a stooge for Churchill in this situation –  he was just doing what Churchill wanted and trying to bully him, went into a private session of Parliament, a very panicky nervous Parliament. Darwin had just been smashed and so forth and Singapore had fallen four days earlier, made a speech to parliament and at 4:30 walked out and disappeared. It was Harold Holt, you know, twenty odd, thirty years earlier. And what had happened? They didn’t know what had happened. There were ads posted in cinemas “have you seen our Prime Minister?” with a photograph.

Fran Kelly: Extraordinary.

Roland Perry: Amazing.

Fran Kelly: You think that might have rung a few alarm bells in the cinemas with the populace.

Roland Perry: Well, that’s right. It was amazing and he was actually – he’d had a bit of a breakdown, he’d had a depression moment and he was walking around Mount Ainslie, across the lake, for eight hours, came back in the early hours of the 22nd, the Sunday….

And now for a reality check. There is nothing new in what Fran Kelly regards as a “real eye-opener”.  John Curtin’s disappearance on Saturday 21 February 1942 on Mount Ainslie for about eight hours – and his reappearance during the early hours of Sunday 22 February 1942 – is fully documented in David Day’s John Curtin: A Life (HarperCollins), which was first published in 1999. See Pages 452-470. Dr Day also documented the fact that, as Frederick Shedden recalled, when Curtin went missing, messages were placed on the screens in Canberra theatres searching for him.

If  Fran Kelly is going to interview the likes of Roland Perry she should be advised as to what is new, and what is re-hashed, history.

Checking up on the Joneses


Interesting piece by Alan R.M. Jones in today’s Australian who is described as “an adviser in the Howard government” and a “political staffer in Washington during the presidency of Ronald Reagan”. An adviser to the Howard government, presumably, must have worked for a Howard government minister. If so, precisely who?  On previous occasions, Alan R.M. Jones has declined to disclose this information to Nancy’s co-owner. We’ll keep you posted.

The “Guardian-on-the-Yarra” Imitates the Real Thing


Today’s Opinion Page in The Age contains three articles on the US Presidential election. One by Emma Brockes, a leftie on The Guardian.  One by Michael White, another Guardian leftie.  And the other one by John Dickerson, the leftist’s chief political editor.  How about this for “balance” in Down Under’s very own “Guardian-on-the-Yarra”?  [Doesn’t The Age run any Aussie opinion? – Ed].


Jacqueline Maley on Tony Abbott as a Neon-Stylist


Nancy, being a fashionista at heart and sometimes at hoof, always reads the Daily Life online each day – usually as an escape from Australian national politics.  So imagine Nancy’s surprise to read Jacqueline Maley’s piece this morning titled “Five summer fashion trends to be highly suspicious of”. It included the following entry:

Seriously, could it be any more everywhere? Shopping the high street has become a visual hazard. You basically need sunglasses just to enter Country Road. The neon trend – incidentally no friend of the pasty lady – started as a sort of winking tribute to the ‘80s but now every time I turn on breakfast television my eyes are blinded by high-vis blazers and blouses. When did it become okay to dress like Tony Abbott on a factory visit? I give this trend half a summer, at most, before the nation’s women collectively wonder what crack they’ve been smoking to want to dress like highlighter pens.

How obsessive can you get?  Ms Maley somehow managed to bag Tony Abbott in a reference to the neon jacket.  Next she will be complaining about traffic controllers but only, it would seem, those who wear high-visibility clothing and vote Liberal.


The evidence is building that, in this increasingly globalised world, there are only three prizes that really matter – in this order.  First, the Nobel Prize. Second, the Oscar Academy Award. And third, Nancy’s Five Paws gong.

In MWD Issue 160, The Spectator Australia editor Tom Switzer was awarded this most prestigious gong for his comments on the ABC Radio National Sunday Extra program on14 October 2012.  Here’s a little secret. Not many people listen to this gem of taxpayer funded radio – which is presented by Nancy admirer Jonathan Green. So “talent” can get up early on Sunday morning, put on their slippers and arrive – all pyjamaed up – at the local ABC studio. Once there, he or she can say pretty much whatever he or she thinks about this or that – confident in the knowledge that nobody is listening, perhaps not even Mr Green himself.

And so it came to pass that the “Aussie Speccie’s” editor Tommie Switzer told Jonathan Green that in November 2002, Mark Latham had called Janet Albrechtsen a “skanky-ho” (meaning dirty-whore) in the House of Representatives.  Mr Switzer wondered out loud why Mr Latham had not been dressed-down at the time by such feminist colleagues as Julia Gillard and Nicola Roxon for misogyny and sexism.

It seems that nobody much heard Tom Switzer’s comment – and that anyone who did, declined to mention what had occurred to the Lair of Liverpool.  But Nancy’s co-owner was listening.  And Mr Switzer was awarded the Five Paws gong on Friday 26 October 2012 in MWD 160.

Mark Latham may not listen to Jonathan Green on a Sunday.  But he does read MWD each Friday.  And Mr Latham learnt, via MWD, that Mr Switzer had criticised his one-time misogyny.  Then all hell broke loose as, once again, Mark Latham turned on someone who had helped his career.  You see, Mr Latham had been using money from The Spectator Australia to boost his lousy $78,000 a year (full indexed) taxpayer funded superannuation pension.

In any event, on learning of Tom Switzer’s (prestigious) Five Paws Award, Mark Latham spat the dummy and severed his connection with The Spectator Australia.  The BIG STORY was broken by Nick Leys in his “The Diary” column in The Australian on Monday.  Nick Leys quoted Tom Switzer as follows:

The Spectator is profoundly sad that Mark has ended his regular column with us.  …I am sorry if Gerard Henderson’s Five Paws award discouraged Mark from writing for the Speccie.  Perhaps he has heeded the wisdom of Harry Truman:  If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

Quite so.   However, for its part, MWD will miss Mark Latham’s occasional ravings in The Spectator Australia. He provided great copy for Nancy’s co-owner who is yet to fully recover from the fact that nice Mr Mark Scott did not renew the contract for Deborah Cameron – presenter of ABC 702’s Mornings with Deborah Cameron program – at the end of last year.

Nancy says: “Come back Mark: Nothing is forgiven” and “Bring Back Deb: There’s nothing quite like a Deborah Cameron Moment”.




▪ Deborah Rice’s “What If Hillary Clinton Were President?” Moment

This is how ABC TV News led its report on the United States’ presidential election on Sunday evening:

Deborah Rice: With just three days before US voters go to the polls, the candidates have embarked on a last ditch attempt to shore up support.  A new poll out today shows the Democrats would win in a landslide if Hillary Clinton was their candidate instead of Barack Obama. But it’s too late for Democrat supporters to worry about hypotheticals.

You can say that again.  It seems that ABC News’ writers have fallen for what Nancy calls the hypothetical folly – namely the “If my aunt had testicles she would be my uncle” scenario.

If may be that Hillary  Clinton may have won in a landslide against Mitt Romney.  And so may have F.D. Roosevelt and Nelson Mandela and Marilyn Monroe and Rin Tin Tin. It’s just that not one was a candidate last Tuesday. Can you bear it?

▪ Body Soul on Female Arousal and the Yuck Factor

It’s great to hear that recent consciousness-raising activities concerning the existence of rampant sexism in our midst have not distracted the lasses and lads at the Body & Soul magazine which appears in the News Limited papers on Sunday.  On Page 3 of Body Soul last Sunday, there appeared the following piece of essential “news”, which was by-lined: “With Fiona Baker and B S nutritionist Lisa Guy”, under the heading “Arousal Helps Women Overcome Yuck Factor”, viz:

When you are faced with a disgusting task, watching an erotic film beforehand may ease your revulsion.  A Dutch study has suggested sexual arousal can override a woman’s sense of disgust. Researchers found women who watched “female-friendly” erotica were better able to complete tasks such as wiping their hands with used tissue, eating a biscuit that was next to a live worm or putting their fingers into a tray of what they were told were used condoms.

Pretty important information this – don’t you think?  Meanwhile, Nancy has headed off to watch “Lassie Does Dallas” in preparation for overcoming the yuck factor involved in nipping at the ankles of sandal-wearing leftist cyclists on their way for a live-recording of Q&A in inner-city Ultimo. Can you bear it?

▪ “Fawn-Again” Biographer Robert Macklin Dumps Kevin Rudd for Julia Gillard

While on the topic of the yuck factor, consider the recent Open Letter to Kevin Rudd which was written by Robert Macklin and placed on the taxpayer funded The Drum Opinion website. [That’s odd. Can’t Mr Macklin afford a stamp? – Ed]

Robert Macklin is the author of Kevin Rudd: The Biography (2010) – a tome which gives fawning a bad name.  The Macklin biography of Rudd was a suck-up job, from cover to cover.  According to the ABC, Robert Macklin is “Kevin Rudd’s official biographer”. MWD has heard of such a concept as an “official” war historian.  But “official biographer”?  What could this mean?

In any event, Robert Macklin is a fawn-again biographer.  In his Open Letter, Mr Macklin urged the man he calls “Kevin” to ease-up on the woman he calls “Julia”. Get out your vomit bucket and read on:

You think because you are popular now that you could retain the people’s good graces back in The Lodge. It isn’t true. You are popular because you’re no longer being tested on the front line. You talk a great game, Kevin, but that’s not what governing is about. That’s what Julia does – with great aplomb – in the most difficult parliamentary environment since the last minority government 70 years ago. Back in The Lodge your popularity would evaporate overnight, just like it did when you squibbed “the greatest moral challenge of our time”.

Your current destabilising tactics might have been justified when Labor was in the doldrums with the PM unable to make that vital emotional connection with the electorate. But those days are passed. The people have shared her grief and are now listening to her. Moreover, they are beginning to like what they hear and see – genuine compassionate Labor leadership with a record of legislative achievement.

Tony Abbott (who had you on the run) is now wounded. He is eminently beatable. The only major impediment to an election win and the continuation of the government’s excellent and well-regarded policies (many of which you initiated) is your sense of entitlement.

Kevin, the time has come to stop the agitation from your handful of malcontents and acknowledge that Julia Gillard has your complete and undivided support. If you were to declare publicly that, in Julia, Australia has found a true and effective leader – and if you were to take that message to every electorate you campaign in – you would have the power to throw the Opposition into total confusion and virtually guarantee Labor’s return.

So in just over four years Robert Macklin has gone from fawning over Kevin Rudd to fawning all over Julia Gillard.  According to Macklin, all that stands between the Gillard Government and victory in the 2013 election is Kevin Rudd.  Can you bear it?

▪ Jonathan Holmes’ Trivia Night

According to Jonathan Holmes, presenter of the taxpayer funded public broadcaster’s Media Watch, the program employs some seven journalists alone.  See MWD Issue 119.

It seems that Media Watch staff were directed last Monday to put together the most trivial program for the year.  In the week of the US elections, and in the wake of the recently released Australia in the Asian Century white paper, here’s what Mr Holmes and his colleagues regarded as the TOP MEDIA STORIES for last week.

▪ First up, Holmes corrected a report in The Mercury in Hobart on 3 November 2012 that Barack Obama is a Muslim.  This despite the fact that The Mercury had already effectively corrected the error – on both 4 November and 5 November. Big deal.

▪ Next up. Holmes and his colleagues reported that, due to a subbing error, the words “please leave in subs” were left in an article on former swimmer Geoff Huegill.  Really and truly.  Holmes also made the point that it is wrong to include reference to a sponsor’s name – like Swisse – in a story on a sporting identity.  Golly.

▪ Then Holmes and his colleagues provided a long report about how BAM Media founder Brett “Crusher” Murray had not revealed his clients in his weekly column in the Gold Coast Bulletin.  Gee whiz.

▪ Finally, to end with a BIG BANG rather than a whimper, Holmes and his colleagues revealed how The Hamilton Spectator had taken an article it ran on the merger of two football and netball clubs in the Victorian Western District from the new manager of the merged clubs.  OMG, as the saying goes.

After this collection of trivia, Jonathan Holmes said that Media Watch would not be on next Monday.  It will resume on Monday 26 November.  This, apparently, will be the final program of the year for what Nancy calls “Mr Holmes’ Trivia Watch”.  Can you bear it?


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.

A wonderful ideological time was had on ABC RN News Breakfast this morning when RN Breakfast environment editor Gregg Borschmann interviewed environmentalist Jorgen Randers and environmentalist Paul Erlich on the environment – with particular reference to Australia’s Energy White Paper: 2012 The segment was introduced by Fran (“I’m an Activist”) Kelly.

It so happens that Gregg Borschmann really is an environmental activist. So it came as no surprise that when Mr Borschmann agreed with Professor Randers who agreed with Dr Erlich who agreed with Mr Borschmann. No other view was heard.

The highlight of the leftist-ideological-love-in occurred when Jorgen Randers called for the introduction of “the one child family” but only in what he termed “the rich world” and advocated the banning of “the use of coal, oil, gas” – commencing, once again, in “the rich world”.

How about that?  Mr Borschmann is paid by the ABC, which is funded by the Australian taxpayer to the tune of around $1 billion per year.  Obviously he has not thought much about where the money would come from to fund the ABC if Australia stopped using coal, oil and gas and dramatically reduced its population.


Maurice Newman : 3

Jonathan Holmes : Zip


This is an extract from The Hamster Wheel which aired on ABC1 on Wednesday:

Craig Reucassel: The Catholic Church has been dragged into the scandal surrounding the degrading initiation rituals at St John’s College at Sydney Uni, which last year nearly killed a girl.

Julian Morrow: Yes. The Archbishop of Sydney, Archbishop Pell, has intervened, thankfully. He says it’s the role of the Church, not the College, to abuse young people.

How funny – and dishonest – can you get?


MWD readers have been riveted, absolutely riveted, by the argument between former Julia Gillard economics adviser Stephen Koukoulas and News Limited columnist Terry McCrann concerning Gough Whitlam’s disastrous 1974 budget.

The story so far.  On his Market Economics blog on 6 August 2012, Stephen Koukoulas challenged Gerard Henderson’s claim that, under Gough Whitlam, in 1974-75 Commonwealth outlays increased by close to 50 per cent.  According to SK, it was only 39.6 per cent.  SK also challenged Gerard Henderson’s claim that in 1974-75 the budget deficit increased substantially. According to SK, there was a budget surplus. See MWD passim.

Koukoulas – Long on Abuse; Short on Evidence

When Gerard Henderson cited W.E. Norton’s The Deterioration in Economic Performance: A study of the 1970s with particular reference torelationship advice


(Reserve Bank of Australia Occasional Paper No 9, 1982) as his source, Stephen Koukoulas went on the attack.  SK depicted referring to the economist Bill Norton’s work as “a bit like relying on a sharp pencil and a pocket calculator for some economic regressions”.  In his book In Reserve: Central Banking in Australia, 1945-75, C.B. Schedvin described W.E. Norton as “an economics graduate from Melbourne and Manchester with a strong background in quantitative techniques”.  Yet, according to Stephen (“My CV is better than your CV”) Koukoulas, Bill Norton was but a  penciler.

When Terry McCrann criticised Stephen Koukoulas’s economic revisionism in last week’s MWD, SK went on the attack again in his Market Economics blog. He reproduced Terry McCrann’s letter to Gerard Henderson which was published in MWD Issue 161. However, SK failed to publish the extract from the 1974-75 Budget which proved McCrann’s point that Commonwealth outlays did increase by 45.9 per cent and that the Commonwealth deficit increased to $2.57 billion. Convenient, eh? The extract from the 1974-75 budget papers, which was censored by SK, is reproduced (again) below.

In fact, in his reply to Terry McCrann, Stephen Koukoulas did not produce even one piece of evidence in support of his case. Not one. Instead, once again, he went for a personal attack – asserting that Terry McCrann’s position as the Herald-Sun’s economics writer was “akin to the cordon bleu chef at McDonald’s or peeling potatoes at Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck”.

This is pure snobbery. McCrann writes for the News Limited dailies as well as for The Weekend Australian – which also publishes SK on occasions.  If as SK implies, McCrann is not up to Koukoulas’ intellectual standard, how is it that they both get published in The Weekend Australian?


Koukoulas on why Koukoulas is a Genius

Rather than advancing an argument with sources, statistics and the like, Stephen Koukoulas then went into self-praise mode – boasting that his CV was better than McCrann’s. This is what Mr Koukoulas wrote in self-praise of Mr Koukoulas – in what reads like a job application.  Here we go:

My brief CV is below. Terry, can you please present your CV and let’s have readers decide who might be better placed to discuss budget matters and, in fact, any issue relating to the economy? Is it you or me?…

Well Terry, he is my background:

  • Bachelor of Economics from ANU, Honours year 1985.
  • 8 years in Treasury working on Budget policy, economic forecasting, State financial relations, debt management and monetary policy.
  • 5 years in Citibank economics department, with 3 years as Chief Economist, a position attained at age 33.
  • 2 years as Economics Analyst at The Australian Financial Review.
  • 5 years Chief Economics Strategist TD Securities, Asia Pacific.
  • 3 years Global Head of Economic and Market Research at TD Securities in London.
  • 6 months Senior Economic Advisor, Treasury.
  • 10 months Economic Advisor to the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.
  • 1 year Managing Director of my own business, Market Economics Pty Ltd.

In those 25 years or so, I was involved in some way in more than a dozen Budgets, mini-Budgets or fiscal updates. I advised the Treasury Secretary on monetary policy matters and prepared forecasts that underpinned government policy deliberations and budget revenue and expenditure estimates. I had frequent complex interactions with the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the RBA to discuss conceptual data issues, national accounting concepts, public sector finances and the veracity of the forecasting process. In these undertakings, it was important to use facts without fear or favour and to use the latest techniques and data.

In the private sector, I had around 2,000 client meetings with the biggest bond and foreign exchange fund managers in the world, including the reserves managers of 40 central banks. I also advised hedge funds and real money investors in at least 45 countries, ranging from Japan to the US, China to Algeria, France to Poland, Hong Kong to Botswana, Saudi Arabia to Finland. In aggregate, these fund managers oversaw a cumulative total of many trillions of dollars. I must say that it was interesting to engage with a fund manager who was about to embark on a program of buying or selling a few billions dollars of bonds and then revisiting those calls as market trends evolved. I had a legal obligation to use facts and not make things up. I learnt so much with these wonderful contacts that I am now able to apply to issues when I look at the budget, financial markets, policy and economics.

In advising the Prime Minister and her government on economic policy matters, it was important to make sure that going into a G20 meeting, for example, everyone was aware of issues that were involved in the US/China “currency war”; and what was involved in directing the AOFM to be active in the RMBS market, to name a few. Again, a high level of responsibility and a need for attention to detail. A 400 word spray based on numbers that I made up could have been damaging.

So Terry, can you present your CV so that readers can benchmark your bona fides?

Koukoulas’s Erroneous Defence of Whitlam’s Economic Performance

Okay, so according to Mr Koukoulas, Mr Koukoulas is a genius.  So much of a genius that in the private sector he “had around 2000 client meetings”. Wow.  What’s more, your man Koukoulas was all that stood between Prime Minister Gillard and abysmal ignorance. Go on.   Without SK, you see, Ms Gillard would never been aware of the issues involved in the US/China “currency war”.  Thank God for Stephen Koukoulas for saving the Prime Minister from making countless howlers at the G20 meeting. [I note that Mr Koukoulas, for a doctor he is not, worked for the Prime Minister for a mere 10 months. Just imagine what a brilliant economist Julia Gillard would be if Mr Koukoulas had been able to tutor her for, say, a full 11 months – Ed].

So, who cares if the Whitlam Government itself acknowledged that (i)  Commonwealth outlays increased by close to 50 per cent in 1974-75 and (ii) that the Commonwealth deficit increased substantially during the same financial year?  Stephen Koukoulas B.Ec reckons that this never happened – and he has done 2000 client meetings and spoke to Julia Gillard before she attended the G20 meeting. Case closed, apparently.

Step forward Stephen Koukoulas – Narcissistic Fool of the Week.







Congratulations on “The World According to Lance Armstrong”.

A Request for Information

And now for something completely different.  I know you are busy. However, I would be grateful if Four Corners would release the material referred to below.  I make this request conscious of the fact that, in so far as I am aware, the ABC is still a signatory to the Right to Know Coalition.

As you may or may not know, Liz Jackson addressed The Sydney Institute on Sally Neighbour’s edited collection The Stories That Changed Australia: 50 Years of Four Corners (ABC Books, 2012) – at ABC Books’ request – on 18 September 2012.  During the questions/discussion period that followed the talk, two matters related to Four Corners were raised – the first concerning the program entitled “The Authentic Mr Abbott” on Tony Abbott (which aired on 15 March 2010) and the second regarding the program titled “Unholy Silence” on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church (which aired on 5 July 2012).

Greg Sheridan and Four Corners

During the question/discussion period, the following exchange took place – following a comment that Paul Keating had declined to be interviewed for Four Corners in the lead-up to the March 1996 election.

Richard Beattie : Can I follow up on the comments about Keating, and why he didn’t want to do it, with the contemporary situation. Greg Sheridan wrote in The Australian at the weekend – that he felt that he’d been interviewed for a very extensive period of time about Tony Abbott, I’m not sure if he said ninety minutes, maybe it was less –

Liz Jackson: He said ninety minutes.

Richard Beattie: He said ninety minutes. And he said that he had a real concern that the questions were all aimed at him making negative comments about Abbott. That sort of problem, I would suggest, really affects the credibility of the programming that you’re doing these days – when that sort of criticism can be made, that it’s biased in the way that Sheridan alleges. Would you like to comment about this idea of this sort of bias that is implied in what was published at the weekend?

Liz Jackson: Well I’ll just say two things, really. One, he wasn’t interviewed for ninety minutes.  I think it’s a little bit of exaggeration on Greg’s part. And two, if you look at the quotes that are used by Four Corners in that profile of Tony Abbott, that Greg contributed – and we’re very grateful to him for them – they’re very, they’re not in any sense derogatory or derisory of Tony Abbott.

Richard Beattie : So it wasn’t really a fair thing for him to have written that –

Liz Jackson: Well I don’t – I’d have to go back and read the whole interview, but I really don’t think people go to Greg Sheridan to get negative comments about Tony Abbott….

Richard Beattie: So were you surprised at what he wrote?

Liz Jackson: Was I surprised? I thought ninety minutes was a little long. I tell you what does take time, and I actually do feel, you know, grateful to people for the time they give us as well. And Gerard would confirm this – it takes you about twenty minutes, half an hour to set up. And then, you know, you do the interview and at the end of the interview, you know, you want to do two-shots, you know, and then you want to do reverses and then you want to do noddies, and then you’ve got to break down the set. So it may well take ninety minutes…I don’t think the interview took ninety minutes. I just don’t think I’d be allowed to spend that much tape on it.

Gerard Henderson : But it’s easily resolved, you can just release the transcript. There will be a transcript of the Sheridan interview. There always is –

Liz Jackson: Yeah – I’m talking about the ninety minutes question at the moment.

Gerard Henderson: But you could release the transcript, we could work it out.

Liz Jackson: What, how long he took?

Gerard Henderson: Well, I mean, whether Greg is edited or not – it’ll be all in the transcript. I mean, if you released the transcript, we’d all know whether he’s right or not….

Liz Jackson: Well I don’t think it’s a great issue of national importance, how long we interviewed Greg for….


So this is the situation. Writing in The Weekend Australian on 15-16 September 2012, Greg Sheridan claimed that he had been interviewed for “The Authentic Mr Abbott” for ninety minutes that “almost all the questions seemed designed” to get him to say “that Abbott had a problem with women”. Liz Jackson denied both allegations. But Ms Jackson rejected the idea that the matter could be resolved by Four Corners releasing the full transcript of the interview and allowing interested parties to draw their own conclusions.

My question is this: Will Four Corners release the full unedited interview and/or transcript of Liz Jackson’s 2010 interview with Greg Sheridan by placing it on your website?

Cardinal George Pell and Four Corners

Toward the end of the question/discussion period, the issue of Cardinal Pell’s interview on “Unholy Silence” was raised.

As you know, during the full interview, Cardinal Pell told Four Corners’ reporter Geoff Thompson (i) that he is not the “general manager” of the Catholic Church in Australia, (ii) that he is not responsible for diocesan matters outside the Archdiocese of Sydney and (iii) that he is not responsible for religious orders within or outside the Archdiocese of Sydney.

However, as you also know, this important statement by Cardinal Pell was cut not only from that part of the interview which was aired on Four Corners but also from the extended interview which is on the Four Corners website.

When I pointed this out to Liz Jackson, she replied: “Well, that’s a question you’re in dispute with our executive producer over”. To which I replied: “Well, I’m not in any dispute”.

I went on to point out that no one at Four Corners has disputed my claim that Cardinal Pell’s comment that he was not the general manager of the Catholic Church in Australia was twice cut by Four Corners – once in the “Unholy Silence” program and once in the extended interview on the Four Corners website. You have not challenged this.  Nor has Geoff Thompson.  Nor has Mary Ann Jolley.

My question is this.  Will Four Corners release the full unedited interview and/or transcript of Geoff Thompson’s interview with Cardinal Pell by placing it on your website?

Conclusion: A Request for Full Disclosure


As you know, Tony Abbott and George Pell are significant figures in contemporary Australia.  Since Greg Sheridan has criticised the way his interview on Tony Abbott with Liz Jackson for Four Corners was handled – and since Cardinal Pell’s office has criticised the way his interview with Geoff Thompson for Four Corners was cut, both in the shortened and expanded interviews, there are good policy reasons to release all transcripts/footage and allow Australians to draw their own conclusions.

Please note, this is not a formal complaint – just a request for information. I have sent a copy of this email to Mark Scott in his capacity as the ABC’s editor-in-chief.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

cc:      – Mark Scott AO, Managing Director, ABC

– Cardinal George Pell AC, Archbishop of Sydney

– Greg  Sheridan, Foreign Editor, The Australian




As you may recall, I emailed you last week seeking an answer to two questions – viz:

▪ Will Four Corners release the full unedited interview and/or transcript of Liz Jackson’s interview with Greg Sheridan for the program “The Authentic Mr Abbott” which aired on 15 March 2010?

▪ Will Four Corners release the full unedited interview and/or transcript of Geoff Thomson’s interview with Cardinal George Pell for the program “Unholy Silence” which aired on 5 July 2012?

I know you are busy. But all I am after is a simple “Yes” or “No” answer. Needless to say I am expecting a “Yes” response – especially in view of the ABC’S public support for The Right To Know Coalition.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

cc:  Mark Scott, ABC Managing Director & Editor-in-Chief


Dear Gerard,

Thank you for your email and request for two unedited transcripts to be placed on the Four Corners’ website. Four Corners (as well as other ABC programs) only releases unedited transcripts for legitimate research reasons, police investigations and legal subpoenas. All material on the Four Corners’ website is edited for duration, accuracy and editorial reasons. As you are not the subject of the two transcripts in question and there appears to be no legitimate research reason,  I see no reason to agree to your request. If Greg Sheridan and Cardinal Pell have complaints related to their representation in the Four Corners’ programs in question, I would be happy to receive these and address them through the ABC complaint handling procedures.

In regard to Greg Sheridan’s assertion that the interview conducted by Liz Jackson about Tony Abbott, was 90 minutes in duration, this is incorrect. I have checked the tape and the interview lasted for 39 minutes and 26 seconds. The questions were wide ranging and fair and all related to Greg Sheridan’s friendship with Tony Abbott while they were both students at Sydney University.

Needless to say, I stand by the accuracy and the impartially of  our treatment of both interviews as they appeared in the programs and online.

In addition and with the greatest of respect, you have not been charged with the role of examining all of the source material and the processes of our journalism to determine its accuracy, fairness or otherwise. That is not a privilege we grant to anyone and nor should we. Nor would any responsible journalist anywhere. As you would know, it is ACMA, through its established complaint handling procedures that determines whether programs like Four Corners  have acted fairly and appropriately.

Yours sincerely,

Sue Spencer

Executive Producer

Four Corners


cc:      Katrina Lee

Michael Casey

Greg Sheridan

Mark Scott

Bruce Belsham




Thanks for your email of yesterday in response to my email of 31 October 2012.  I note your refusal to place the two unedited transcripts on the Four Corners’ website.  This despite the fact that my request was made for legitimate research reasons and despite the fact that the ABC has signed up to the Right To Know Coalition.

Contrary to the implication in your email, Greg Sheridan has complained about his representation in the Four Corners program The Authentic Mr Abbott which aired on 15 March 2010.  He was reported as having done so in The Weekend Australian on 15-16 September 2012.

Contrary to the implication in your email, Cardinal George Pell has complained about his representation in the Four Corners program “Unholy Silence” which aired on 5 July 2012.  Katrina Lee, the Director of Catholic Communications in the Archdiocese of Sydney, wrote to the Sydney Morning Herald on 20 July 2012 on behalf of Cardinal Pell.  She responded to the letter to the Herald concerning this issue written by Mary Anne Jolley (the producer of “Unholy Silence”) and Geoff Thompson (the reporter of “Unholy Silence”).  Ms Lee regretted the fact that Cardinal Pell’s comments to Four Corners about his responsibility concerning the Catholic Church in Australia were not aired either in “Unholy Silence” nor in the longer version of the interview which was placed on the Four Corners website.  Katrina Lee’s letter was not published by the Sydney Morning Herald but it was printed in full in Media Watch Dog (Issue 150 – 17 August 2012) and, as such, it can be found on the web.

I am not surprised to learn that you “would be happy” to receive complaints from Mr Sheridan and/or Cardinal Pell and that you would “address them through the ABC complaint handling procedures”.  As you know, ABC employees in the public broadcaster’s complaints handling procedures area overwhelmingly find in favour of their public broadcaster colleagues and against complainants.  Mr Sheridan and Cardinal Pell are unlikely to be so foolish as to put their case in the hands of the ABC Audience and Consumer Affairs department in Canberra in view of its all-but-predictable responses to criticism of the ABC.

Four Corners Defends Four Corners

I note your comment that Liz Jackson’s interview with Greg Sheridan “lasted for 39 minutes and 26 seconds”.  According to my count, Four Corners used the 26 seconds part in “The Authentic Mr Abbott”.  You maintain that all the questions posed by Ms Jackson to Mr Sheridan “were wide ranging and fair”. Liz Jackson says much the same thing. However, there is no way to fact-check such self-serving statements since you will not release the interview.

I note your comment that you also stand by “the impartiality” of Four Corners’ treatment of Cardinal Pell.  But you would, wouldn’t you?  And, again, there is no way to judge your self-serving assessment since you will not release the full interview with George Pell on the Four Corners website.

I appreciate you extending your “greatest respect  to me”.  It is a gesture that I will treasure always. However, my point remains this:

▪ Liz Jackson criticised Greg Sheridan at The Sydney Institute on 18 September 2012.  But Ms Jackson – and you – refuse to release the evidence which would support her undocumented assertion with respect to Mr Sheridan.

▪ Mary Anne Jolley and Geoff Thompson criticised my claim in the Sydney Morning Herald that Cardinal Pell’s interview with Four Corners had been unfairly cut.  But you refuse to release the evidence which allegedly supports the undocumented assertion by Ms Jolley and Mr Thompson with respect to the Cardinal Pell interview.

Four Corners’ Cut to the Cardinal Pell Interview: The Facts

As I understand, this is the crucial part of  Cardinal Pell’s interview with Geoff Thompson which you did not run and which you deleted from the longer interview which is on the Four Corners’ website, viz:

Geoff Thompson:  Aren’t you the appropriate authority?

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

My technical adviser, who forensically examined the edit, has advised me that a deliberate cut to the extended interview was made after Cardinal Pell referred to the need for Geoff Thompson to question “the appropriate authorities”. The cut meant that those who viewed the extended interview were deprived of knowing that Cardinal Pell actually told Four Corners that he did not regard himself as the appropriate authority outside the Archdiocese of Sydney with respect to sexual assault allegations in “Unholy Silence”. In view of this, the cut in question looks like an act of deliberate censorship.

Katrina Lee, in her unpublished letter, advised the Herald that “it would have helped public understanding” if Cardinal Pell’s comments had been reported in “Unholy Silence” and/or published on the Four Corners’ website.  For example, on Radio 702’s “Mornings with Linda Mottram” today it was evident that Ms Mottram did not understand that bishops and archbishops in the Catholic Church are responsible to the Vatican in Rome direct and not to the Cardinal Archbishop in Sydney.

An Unpleasant Double-Standard

Four Corners presents itself as a searcher for truth.  But it refuses to release information concerning its own edits and cuts.  There is an unpleasant double standard here.

After Liz Jackson addressed The Sydney Institute, her entire speech was placed on the Institute’s website.  It was not edited or cut in any way.  Anyone who wishes to know what Liz Jackson actually said at the Institute can check out her own words on the podcast.  Four Corners, on the other hand, does not allow taxpayers to know what Mr Sheridan and/or Cardinal Pell said to Four Corners on the record.  You insist on Four Corners’ right to make edits and cuts without supervision – others might call such action censorship.

I was the presenter of the Four Corners program on Bob Hawke which aired in August 1994.  After the event, I was asked permission by a researcher to quote from parts of my interviews, with Mr Hawke and others, which did not make the final cut.  I said that I had no problem with the request and told the person concerned to advise Four Corners to this effect.

However, in your capacity as executive producer of Four Corners , you hold the view that no one has the right to access material which was filmed at – and is maintained at – taxpayers’ expense.

I say all this – with the greatest respect, of course.   Of course.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

cc:      Katrina Lee

Michael Casey

Greg Sheridan

Mark Scott

Bruce Belsham

* * * *

Until next time.