22 FEBRUARY 2013

See the end of this week’s MWD for details of much appreciated comments on/endorsements of Nancy’s work by Jonathan Green & Michael Rowland, Malcolm Farr, Bob Ellis, Tom Cowie, Mike Carlton, Mark Latham, Robert Manne, Marius Benson, James Jeffrey, Andrew Crook and more besides. Well done chaps – and lotsa thanks.


  • Stop Press: News Breakfast Misses IPCC Scoop; Judith Brett’s Confusion
  • Maurice Newman Segment: RN Drive All In Agreement On A Climate Tipping Point With Waleed Aly, Helen Caldicott & Nick Feik
  • Nancy’s Pick Of The Week: Ben Saul Bags Israel (Without Evidence) in The Guardian-On-The-Yarra
  • The Thought Of Mark Latham: Up The Pole on the Opinion Polls
  • Crikey’s Grammatical Confusion

  • Can You Bear It? Jeff Sparrow’s Conspiracy; William Wilberforce Ignored on Q&A; Anjali Rao Joins the “Abbott Obsession”
  • Five Paws Award: Step Forward Kevin Donnelly, Quynh Dao & Tory Maguire
  • Correspondence: On John Wren, Good Old Collingwood Forever, Essendon, Geelong, James Griffin, Pauline Armstrong & Frank Hardy plus Warwick Hadfield



Nancy’s male co-owner turned on the “Newspapers” segment of the ABC1 News Breakfast program this morning. Surely there would be coverage of the page one story in The Australian about Rajendra Pachauri’s current visit to the Antipodes. Especially since Dr Pachauri confirmed that there has been no global temperature rise for the past 17 years. This is in spite of the substantial increases in carbon emissions over the period.

But, no. There was no reference to the views of the chairman of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Not a word. Dr Pachauri has confirmed the findings of the Met Office in Britain – released on the eve of Christmas 2012. Come to think of it, the Met Office’s acknowledgment that the global temperature has stabilised received scant coverage on the taxpayer funded public broadcaster over the past couple of months. Apparently it does not fit the public broadcaster’s group-think.

Rajendra Pachauri also told The Australian’s Graham Lloyd that it was good for controversial issues to be “thrashed out in the public arena.” A view apparently not heard by the taxpayer subsidised Professor of Climate Change Robert Manne, who has branded any debate on climate change as “denial” of climate change.


A truly remarkable piece by Judith Brett in the March 2013 issue of The Monthly has just landed outside Nancy’s kennel.

Dr Brett’s article (for a doctor she is) carries the title “A Taxing Year”. Brett is of the view that it “appears inevitable” that “Labor will be swept from office” on Saturday 14 September.

This particular prophecy could be good news for Julia Gillard and Labor. After all, La Brett is not too good on the prediction front. In 1993 she wrote in The Age that “the Liberal Party in the 1990s seems doomed.” It was in office three years later with John Howard as prime minister. How about that?

Then in December 2009 Dr Brett wrote another article in The Age. Here she argued that, following Tony Abbott’s election as Liberal Party leader, “the Liberals risk becoming a down-market protest party of angry old men and the outer suburbs.” [What’s wrong with the outer suburbs? I thought that’s where most of the marginal seats are located. Ed] Now, in March 2013, La Brett regards it as all but inevitable that Abbott will become prime minister. How about that?

Apart from this, Judith Brett’s article in The Monthly is incomprehensible. She bags “neo-liberal” economics, without saying what it is. Moreover, La Brett criticises Australia’s economic performance without seeming to realise that for the past two decades or so Australia has had one of the strongest performing economies in the Western World. Needless to say, Judith Brett has spent virtually her entire adult life as an academic.


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 taxpayer funded public broadcaster. See MWD passim.

Monash University academic Waleed Aly is a recent addition to ABC Radio National’s already substantial stable of leftist or left-of-centre presenters in Australia’s own Conservative-Free-Zone. On his “Drawing Room” segment on Radio National Drive on Wednesday, the topic was “The Tipping Point of Climate Change.”

This was foreshadowed as a “debate” but it was your typical ABC discussion where presenter Waleed Aly essentially agreed with green activist Helen Caldicott who essentially agreed with green activist Nick Feik who essentially agreed with Waleed Aly. Enough said. [No. Go on – and do some more next week. Ed.]

The highlights of the oh-so-ABC debate, where everyone agreed with everyone else, occurred when:

  • Nick Feik (The Monthly’s online editor) declared that the failure of nations to act on climate change was due to Fox News in the United States and News Limited in Australia. This stopped the US and Australia from having a “reasonable and intelligent, sort of, national dialogue.” Sort of.
  • Helen Caldicott declared that climate change sceptic Christopher Monckton has “got thyrotoxicosis and bilateral exophthalmos”. She gave the impression that such conditions should prevent Monckton from engaging in the public debate. Waleed Aly said nothing to stop Dr Caldicott’s ad hominem attack on Monckton’s alleged medical condition.
  • Dr Caldicott referred to “the lovely Bob Brown”. [How lovely – Ed.]. She also criticised a person she called “that guy Jenkins from Western Australia”. Apparently, Caldicott was referring to Liberal Party MP Dr Dennis Jensen. Aly did not correct this error.
  • Caldicott opposed Australia’s coal exports to China. All of them, apparently.
  • Caldicott declared: “What about their children’s futures? I’ve got a grandson called Liam, who’s three and a half, in Boston. I could eat him he’s so gorgeous. And I look at him and I think: ‘My God, when he’s 20 how hot is it gonna be?’” No one bothered to inform Caldicott that since the world has not warmed for 17 years (see Stop Press) it’s possible that it will not warm for the next 17 years. In which case, it’s possible that the world will not be hotter when Liam turns 20. How about that?
  • Aly concluded by declaring that Helen Caldicott’s most recent book – which suggests that the planet will run out of water – is realistic.

Say no more – as the saying goes


Maurice Newman – 2

Jonathan Homes – Zip


Guardian-on-the-Yarra runs anti-Israel/anti-Jewish diatribe by Ben Saul

Ben Saul is Professor of International Law at the University of Sydney and a barrister. In spite of his distinguished academic position (for a doctor he is), Dr Saul is apparently prepared to write with authority about matters of which he knows little or nothing. And The Age  is prepared to run his leftist analysis on its Opinion Page. No other Fairfax Media newspaper published his attack on Israel last week.

On Wednesday, “The Guardian-on-the-Yarra” ran a Ben Saul article titled “Zygier spy case gets even curiouser”. The reference is to the death in prison of the Australian/Israel dual national Ben Zygier. [See also the reference to Jeff Sparrow’s article on The Drum Online in MWD’s “Can You Bear It?” segment]

The truth is that we know little about this case which is subject to enquiries in both Israel and Australia. However, the lack of evidentiary material did not stop Professor Saul from commenting at length on The Age’s Opinion Page.

Ben Saul’s piece was the kind of light-weight analysis that is written when facts are scarce. Here’s an analysis of what he had to say:

  • Professor’s Saul’s Age piece is littered with such words as “may have been”, “may not have appreciated”, “if the reports are true”, “would”, “if foreign security agencies routinely abuse”, “the ability of Australians to travel may be impeded because other countries may view our passports with suspicion”, “if other countries suspect that Australian passport holders might be Mossad spies or assassins”, “it could cause”, “if a person betrays one country (Australia) to help another (Israel)”, “Zigier may have had a change of heart, “no doubt there are other Australia-Jewish-Israelis who play both sides”, “most Australians would expect Australian Jews”, “undoubtedly Israelis would wish”, “Israel’s apparent willingness”, “Israel might question” and so on. The use of such vague language suggests that Ben Saul did not really know what he was talking about.
  • Professor Saul’s article contains the kind of undocumented generalisations which would not be acceptable in an undergraduate law essay at the University of Sydney. For example:

–      Saul asserts that “the Australian government and people” entered into a state of “fury” when it was revealed that some Mossad agents, who engaged in an action in Dubai, carried Australian passports. There is no evidence of “fury” on the part of Australian citizens about the matter.

–      Saul asserts that Zygier told what he calls “Australian spooks” (the reference is to ASIO) that Israel has been using “Australian passports to run security operations”. There is no evidence to support such a claim – and it has been subsequently denied by the governments of Australia and Israel.

–      Saul asserts that “Australians have been concerned that their governments have not protected citizens at risk strongly enough, from David Hicks in Guantanamo Bay to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange”. He provided no evidence to support this assertion.

–      Saul implies that Zygier betrayed Australia to help Israel. There is no evidence for this allegation against a deceased person who cannot defend himself.

–      Saul asserts that “Zygier was under investigation in Australia for illegally misusing his passport to help Israel”. There is no evidence to support this assertion.

  • Professor Saul’s article is replete with imputations that what he calls “Australian Jews” are not loyal to their country.

–      Saul runs the line that there is a “problem of divided loyalties among Australians with multiple national identities”. He focuses on Jewish Australians who are also Israeli citizens and also mentions “Americans” and “Chinese”. But not Lebanese or Turks or Egyptians.

–      Saul runs the line that dual Australian/Israeli citizens “put themselves in a position of having to choose between competing obligations of different countries, whether by spying or through military service”. But there is no reference to Lebanese or Turkish or Egyptian Australians.

–      Saul runs the line that “Australian Jews” choose loyalty to Israel over Australia. But he makes no comparable claim with respect to Lebanese or Turkish or Egyptian Australians.

None of the above imputations would be acceptable – or indeed, publishable in The Age – if they were directed at an entity which might be termed (following Saul’s style) Australian Muslims with respect to any country. There seems to be one rule for Jewish Australians and quite another one for Muslim Australians.

The allegation that Australians have loyalty to a nation other than Australia is as old as the Commonwealth of Australia. And, as offensive. Despite Ben Saul’s imputations, there is no evidence that Jewish Australians – whether or not they hold joint nationality – are anything other than Australian citizens loyal to Australia.

If Professor Saul, or The Age, have any evidence, then it should be provided. The Age should judge Professor Saul by the same intellectual standards that he judges his students at Sydney University.

Dr Saul’s Age article also contained an unfavourable comparison between Australia and Israel which overlooked the fact that, unlike Australia, Israel is fighting for its very existence against nations and forces that want to destroy it.


The evidence suggests that the Sky News Paul Murray Live show provides financial consideration in inverse relationship to the quality of the talent gathered on its panel. Most guests are expected to front up at 9pm Sunday to Monday for jam. However, the failed Labor leader Mark Latham gets paid. [Don’t be too hard on the Lair of Liverpool. You can’t expect him to support a wife, three children and half a dozen bookmakers on his taxpayer funded annual superannuation handout of a mere $78,000 (fully indexed). Ed]

In recent years, Mr Latham’s volte-face experiences have been a thing to behold. In 2010, he urged voters to vote informal. If Mr Latham influences anyone it would be Labor voters. So it is reasonable to assume that Latham’s advocacy that Labor voters vote informal in August 2010 deprived the Gillard Labor of votes in an extremely close contest. Now, however, your man is back in the Labor cart and condemning Kevin Rudd for (allegedly) preferring Tony Abbott as prime minister over Julia Gillard.

In early 2011, Latham criticised the Prime Minister for being both childless and a liar. Now he is one of Julia Gillard’s strongest supporters. And then there are the opinion polls.

Here is how Mark Latham responded to the Newspoll, released in The Australian on Monday 4 February 2013, on the Paul Murray Live program that evening:

Mark Latham:  … it’s [Newspoll] lost all credibility. … In the real world of politics, the electorate’s not that volatile. This thing is consistently outside its margin of error. We should be the first intelligent, sophisticated program in this election year to resolve we’ll never again talk about Newspoll. The poll itself should be closed down because it’s a heap of rubbish.

And the bloke who pumps it up on Mondays or Tuesdays, Dennis Shanahan, should be closed down as well because he only ever uses it to back his DLP mate Abbott. He’s just the ultimate Abbott barracker. So Shanahan’s a disgrace and so too the poll.

Latham went on to describe Newspoll as “a statistical heap of crap” and declared: “I wouldn’t wipe my backside with it.” And all this on what Mark Latham declares is an intelligent, sophisticated program.

So there you have it. On 4 February 2013, Newspoll had the Coalition ahead of Labor by 56 per cent to 44 per cent and Latham said that it should be closed down and The Australian’s Dennis Shanahan sacked.

This is how Mark Latham responded to the AC Nielsen poll, released on Monday 18 February 2013, on the Paul Murray Live program last Monday:

Paul Murray: … Mark, what did you think of the opinion poll?

Mark Latham: Well I think … that John Stirton’s got it right that, three main factors would be Craig Thomson, Eddie Obeid and the return of Kevin Rudd divisiveness. And this probably is the problem for Labor going forward in that they needed to start the year well, they had built some momentum towards the end of 2012. They’re now substantially behind. How do you get that momentum back when you’ve got an ex-leader out there knowing that every single media appearance drains oxygen away from the Prime Minister?

So there you have it. On 18 February 2013, AC Nielsen had the Coalition ahead of Labor by 56 per cent to 44 per cent – the same as Newspoll some two weeks earlier – and Latham said that it was correct.

Yet Sky News pays for such contradictory analysis.

Mark Latham went on to explain Julia Gillard’s poor polling on the basis that there are three ex-Labor leaders “who have hung around in Parliament and spent a substantial amount of time on the backbench”. He named Arthur Calwell, Kim Beazley and Kevin Rudd. However, Calwell did not inhibit Gough Whitlam’s strong performance in 1969 or his victory in 1972. And Beazley did not inhibit Latham’s performance in 2004 – he was his own worst enemy. Moreover, former Labor leader Bill Hayden was a long-serving foreign minister in the Hawke Labor government in the 1980s.


While on the topic of Mark Latham, the Crikey newsletter editor Jason Whittaker just loves to run the Lair of Liverpool’s scoops in which he reveals a typographical error [Don’t you mean a deliberate mistake? Ed.] somewhere or other and makes numerous false claims about his critics. However, Crikey is surprisingly slack about its own standards.

On 22 January 2013, Crikey’s anonymous “Tips and Rumours” section paid out on a town in Queensland which, it alleged, “has no room for people who can spell”. The problem? Well, apparently the town has a sign outside the local airport which reads: “F..K OFF WERE [sic] FULL”. How about that? Shocking, don’t you think?

Yet on 14 February 2013, Crikey referred, in the “Media Briefs” section, to someone who “hung himself in his cell”.

Not so. A prisoner might have hung, say, a painting in his cell. But if suicide was involved, he hanged himself. Crikey editors should be aware of the difference between “hung” and “hanged” if they are going to lecture others about typos and the difference between “we’re” and “were”. [I tried to ring Crikey the other day – but the staffer hanged up the phone. Attention Mark Latham. This is an attempted joke. Ed]


One Sparrow makes a conspiracy: or how comrade Jeff Sparrow bagged Israel on the taxpayer-funded Drum

Meet Jeff Sparrow, editor of Overland – the taxpayer subsidised journal of left-wing opinion [Yes, I know. I’m a subscriber. Ed.]

On Monday, the taxpayer funded The Drum Opinion website – edited by leftist Chip Rolley – published a rant by Mr Sparrow titled “Silence over Zygier echoes attitudes of Stalinism”. Now the Overland editor should know a bit about Josef Stalin (1879-1953) – one of the creators of the communist totalitarian police state that was the Soviet Union.

After all, Overland was established in 1954 by Stephen Murray-Smith (1922-1988). By all accounts, Murray-Smith was a good bloke. However, between 1945 and 1958, he was a member of the Communist Party of Australia and, as such, a follower of Stalin – including Stalin’s anti-semitic Doctors’ Plot.

In 1954, Stephen Murray-Smith’s pamphlet There’s No Iron Curtain: An Australian Journalist in Eastern Europe was published by the Communist Party’s International Bookshop. See below. This was essentially a white-wash of the communist dictatorship in Czechoslovakia – one of the worst totalitarian regimes in Eastern Europe. Some years after the publication of this tosh, Murray-Smith turned his back on Moscow. Not before time.

Jeff Sparrow’s piece in The Drum Opinion is intellectually dishonest. So is the lead-in which was authorised by Chip Rolley, The Drum’s taxpayer funded editor. It reads as follows:

Israel today is not the Soviet Union of the ‘30s. But that attitude of turning a blind eye to obvious injustices is all too familiar from the history of Stalinism, writes Jeff Sparrow.

Cunning, eh? Rolley and Sparrow are saying that Israel in 2013 is not the Soviet Union of the 1930s – but then, again, it really is. Here’s how the fudge works.

It is well known that a number of naïve members of the Communist Party in the West travelled to the Soviet Union in the 1930s when Stalin’s Great Purge was at its peak – and were killed by Stalin’s henchmen. One of these was the British activist Rose Cohen who was shot in the back of the head in the basement of the Lubyanka Prison in Moscow in 1937. The trumped-up charge was spying. Cohen was the girlfriend of the British Communist Party activist Harry Pollitt – who lacked the courage to speak up on her behalf.

In his piece in The Drum Opinion, Jeff Sparrow attempts to link Rose Cohen’s case with that of the Australian/Israeli joint national Ben Zygier, who died in an Israeli prison in 2010. Little detail is known about the Zygier case and formal enquiries are currently under way in both Israel and Australia.

Yet, Jeff Sparrow apparently knows a lot. According to Sparrow, Zygier died “supposedly by hanging – despite 24-hour surveillance in a ‘suicide proof’ cell.” The implication is clear – Sparrow believes that Zygier was murdered. Just like Rose Cohen. There are further references to “the ghost of Rose Cohen” and to “supposed suicide” and so on.

Sparrow concluded his piece by comparing contemporary Israel to Stalin’s USSR – while claiming that he was not doing so, viz:

Israel is not the Soviet Union of the ‘30s. But that attitude of turning a blind eye to obvious injustices is all too familiar from the history of Stalinism.

Writing about Cohen’s case, Francis Reckitt noted “the corrosive influence of Communist ideology upon rudimentary morals and natural affection”. The response – or rather the lack of one – to the Zygier revelations suggests that a blind loyalty to Israel produces a similar moral corrosion.

This is garbage. Israel is a democracy with an elected government and an independent judicial system. Israeli intelligence organisations are beholden to the law. The Soviet Union was a totalitarian police state without an independent judiciary and its secret police were only accountable to Stalin.

The truth is that we do not know much about why Zygier was arrested and incarcerated or how he died in prison. However, according to reports, an Israeli judge who investigated his death did not find evidence of murder or manslaughter.

Yet, Jeff Sparrow – without any evidence of any kind – has implied that Zygier was unlawfully killed (read murdered) and has consciously compared Israel with Stalin’s Soviet Union while pretending that he is not doing so.

By the way, Jeff Sparrow is an academic and a continuing Trotskyist. Can you bear it?

Professor Krauss forgets William Wilberforce

What a stunning performance by theoretical physicist Professor Lawrence Krauss, director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University, on the ABC 1 (light) entertainment program Q & A on Monday.

It was the familiar Q & A “struggle” – in which two right-of-centre types confront three left-of-centre types with left-of-centre Tony Jones as compere.

As usual, last week’s audience registered Coalition 44 per cent, ALP 38 per cent and Greens 12 per cent. This is a totally worthless statistic since, on Q & A , political allegiance is determined by self-identification. Since most Q & A programs have a queue of leftists at the studio door, the best chance a leftie has of joining the audience is to proclaim that he/she is really a conservative. This is readily done by taking off sandals, removing Che Guevara T-shirts, putting on a business shirt and shoes, and declaring love for Tony Abbott.

Needless to say, last Monday’s audience was really geeing for Lawrence Krauss, Gillard government member Tanya Plibersek and commentator and author Cindy Pan at the expense of John Dickson (director, Centre for Public Christianity) and Opposition frontbencher Greg Hunt. The former group are atheists, the latter Christians.

The program had barely begun when Professor Krauss attacked the Catholic Church and Pope Benedict XVI. Soon after, Dr Pan joined in. Listening to these two, you would get the impression that the Catholic Church is primarily responsible for the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa – even in non-Catholic nations.

However, the highlight of the moment took place when the somewhat loquacious Lawrence Krauss jumped into the debate to have a go at Greg Hunt. Let’s go to the transcript:

Lawrence Krauss: I think your determination of the good life you want to live, to a great extent, is based on science. In fact, you know, it’s based on the fact that you shouldn’t have slaves, that women are actually equals of man, that all the things that science has ultimately led us to have produced, I think, most of what you would describe as a good life.

So, according to Professor Krauss, it was science – enacted by atheists – that led to the abolition of slavery. Krauss conveniently forgot – and no one reminded him – that the campaign to abolish slavery was led by William Wilberforce (1759-1833). Wilberforce was an Evangelical Christian. Yet, according to Professor Krauss, it was science-based atheists who ensured the abolition of slavery. Can you bear it?


Anjali Rao hints that Tony Abbott may be soft on child abusers

Here’s how SBS Dateline presenter Anjali Rao introduced Evan Williams’ report, titled “Judgement Day”, on child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church on Tuesday:

Anjali Rao: When Julia Gillard announced recently that Australia would hold a royal commission into child sexual abuse, the decision drew universal acclaim – even Tony Abbott was on board with the idea. Victims of abuse said, “At last, our stories will be heard.” But where to begin with such a massive exercise? Well, Ireland is the only other country to hold a national inquiry like this. What became known as the Ryan Commission ran for an extraordinary nine years. But as Evan Williams found in Dublin, many victims were unhappy with the result, and they have plenty of advice for Australia. [emphasis added]

Get it? You see, according to Dateline, even Tony Abbott supported a royal commission into child sexual abuse. Even the leader of the Liberal Party. Can you bear it?


The lobbying to win this most prestigious gong continues apace. However, so far at least, Nancy’s male co-owner has refused to be influenced by bribery offers or bucket loads of flattery. This week’s award is shared.

$1 Million buys access to Balwyn High School

Step forward Melbourne author Kevin Donnelly, who had this to say on Sky News’ “State of the Nation” with David Speers on Monday – in a debate with Education Minister Peter Garrett:

Peter Garrett: …A government school’s got to open its doors to all-comers. Private schools can determine who they may or may not accept.

Kevin Donnelly: That’s not true.

David Speers: Sorry, which parts aren’t true, Kevin?

Kevin Donnelly: Well [entry to] a selective high school, for example, it’s on merit or ability. And, in Melbourne, Balwyn High for example, you have to spend a million dollars to buy a house to be in the enrolment zone. … So a lot of government schools actually are elitist in that sense.

David Speers:  So, sorry, you’re saying some public schools are elitist.

Kevin Donnelly: Absolutely, they’re not open to all. I mean, that’s a matter of fact…

Correct. Some wealthy Australians consciously buy $1 million plus homes in expensive suburbs which feed some of the best government schools where education is provided to the children of rich parents for free. Balwyn in Melbourne is a case in point. North Sydney is another.

Kevin Donnelly – Five Paws for pointing out an unfashionable fact.

Human Rights abuses in Vietnam

The Melbourne based Vietnamese Australian author Quynh Dao (with Que Me) wrote in The Australian on 12 February 2013 about communist repression in Vietnam:

Two prominent Vietnamese democracy and human rights advocates, Thich Quang Do and Nguyen Van Ly, have been nominated for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize. This is encouraging news for a long-suffering people whose oppression is little reported.

Quang Do, 84, is the Patriarch of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam and an eminent scholar, lecturer and writer in oriental philosophy and Buddhist studies. He has spent nearly three decades in detention for his peaceful advocacy for more freedom for his people…

The 66-year-old Catholic priest Father Ly, who suffers paralysis of one side of his body as a result of a stroke while he was in prison and was recently diagnosed with a brain tumour, is also considered dangerous by Vietnamese authorities. He has spent the past 37 years either in prison or under house arrest. He founded Block 8406, an organisation that brings together peaceful advocates for freedom and human rights both within and outside Vietnam.

Quynh Dao’s article is a timely reminder that there was no “liberation” following North Vietnam’s conquest of South Vietnam in April 1975.

Quynh Dao – Five Paws

Tory Maguire dismisses Malcolm Turnbull myth

On Paul Murray Live last Monday, Tory Maguire critically analysed the excitement of certain media types who believe that Malcolm Turnbull – not Tony Abbott – should lead the Liberal Party to the 2013 election. Let’s go to the transcript:

Tory Maguire: There’s something in that poll that everyone sort of glosses over because the headline is, “Both sides – the alternative is more popular” But if you look at the figures – I wrote them down.  Amongst Liberal voters, Turnbull had 45 per cent support and Abbott 52 per cent support. And, amongst Labor voters, Rudd had 45 per cent support and Gillard had 53 per cent support. So that headline figure that everyone’s talking about today is meaningless.

Quite so. Tory Maguire – Five Paws.



There has been a huge, absolutely huge, interest in last Friday’s “History Corner” segment titled “Warwick Hadfield Defames the Late John Wren – And the Collingwood Football Club”.

Among the first to respond was Warwick Hadfield Esquire. The resultant email correspondence is published below. In the public interest, of course.

Warwick Hadfield to Gerard Henderson 15 February 2013

Hi Gerard,

I am not sure if I have been damned with faint praise, or praised with faint damn.

I interviewed James Griffin who wrote a book on Wren a few years back. He was generally a huge admirer of Wren, but he talked openly about Wren's illegal activities.  I also talked to people who were at Collingwood when Wren was around, paying players and coach Jock McHale alike.  One of those people told me the reason that Wren never held an official position with the club persons of his “extra curricular activities”.

Not that long ago [name deleted], a Collingwood player, was found to be in a motor car being driven by members of the Melbourne underworld at a time when shots were fired, from memory. One of those people was convicted murderer Christopher Hudson.

And yes, I did change my view on the ACC stuff, partly due to reading one of your pieces.  It hit me like a brick after I came off air on Friday that it was wrong, but of course, I didn't have another crack until Monday.

I hope you are well, I do watch you on Insiders.



Gerard Henderson to Warwick Hadfield 20 February 2013


Thanks for your note of last Friday. It’s great to know that you read Media Watch Dog – on occasions, at least. I listen to your sports report on RN Breakfast and note, with approval, that you have been restored to a more prominent place this year. And given more time. Good show – well, the sports commentary is. Unfortunately, like much of the ABC, RN Breakfast is very much a Conservative–Free-Zone when it comes to a discussion of national and international affairs.

As to John Wren. It is true that James Griffin was sympathetic to Wren – as was the journalist Hugh Buggy who wrote The Real John Wren. This, of course, does not mean that Griffin was wrong about Wren. In my view, Griffin resented the anti-Catholic sectarianism which was evident in the work of the one-time Stalinist hack Frank Hardy. Moreover, Griffin regarded such Wren critics as Manning Clark and Stuart Macintyre as sloppy researchers who detested Wren.

You associated John Wren (1871-1953) with organised crime. However, no one has produced evidence to support the claim. Not Hardy, not Clark and not Macintyre. Hardy was an unmitigated liar – as Pauline Armstrong documented in her book Frank Hardy and the Making of Power Without Glory. Clark’s allegations against Wren were made without evidence. Likewise the undocumented assertions of Professor Macintyre.

I do not agree with some of Griffin’s historical work. But he was on sound ground with respect to Wren. Griffin merely asked for evidence of the case against John Wren as master criminal. It was never provided.

Sure, as a young adult, John Wren ran an illegal totalizator in Collingwood. At the time – and later – SP bookmaking was rife in Melbourne and elsewhere. It provided entertainment to the working class who did not have the money or the connections to attend such racecourses as Caulfield and Flemington.

During your RN Breakfast comments, you did not refer to John Wren’s illegal tote around 1900. Rather, you associated Wren with organised crime – which suggests drug running, widescale fraud, theft, assault, even murder. There is no evidence to support this claim. If you have evidence, you should provide it. If you do not have evidence, you should withdraw the allegation that John Wren was associated with organised crime.

There are numerous possibilities as to why John Wren never held an official position at the Collingwood Football Club. Perhaps, being a retiring type, he did not want one. Or, maybe –  as you suggest – some members at Collingwood objected to his “extra-curricular activities”, whatever they were or had been. But this is not evidence of involvement in organised crime.

I recall the [name deleted] case. It occurred half a century after Wren died. So it is not evidence with respect to Wren. And it is not evidence with respect to the Collingwood Football Club. As you know, there are many players in a football team and the management cannot be held responsible for all their personal behaviour.

As I recall, in the late 1950s/early 1960s, star Carlton ruckman [name deleted] went to prison for theft. This did not mean that the Carlton Football Club was associated with his criminal behaviour.

As to the Australian Crime Commission report on Organised Crime and Drugs in Sport, I note that – on Offsiders  last Sunday –  Roy Masters, Gerard Whateley and Caroline Wilson said that critics of the way the ACC’s report was released do not know what they are talking about. Masters declared that he had spoken to ACC chairman John Lawler. Whateley said that he had been “briefed” on the “classified version of the report” by Mr Lawler.

This raises the question as to how the ACC justifies briefing selected journalists on classified parts of a supposedly secret report. Sounds somewhat unprofessional behaviour to me – but I would not call it a crime.

Best wishes. And keep morale high.

Gerard Henderson

Cheers Gerard

Warwick Hadfield to Gerard Henderson 20 February 2013

Great to hear back.

I am told that the 1953 grand final, in which Collingwood held off a fast-finishing Geelong, was  attributed as the cause of death of both John Wren and his friend, the Collingwood coach Jock McHale.

Both stood together for the final quarter. And both died of apparent heart failure within a month of the game and the legend is that the strain caused by the Geelong comeback affected the health of both.

Best wishes,


Gerard Henderson to Warwick Hadfield 22 February 2013


Thanks for your response. I note, however, that you seem to have shifted the goal-posts. So to speak.

I have heard the tales about the last weeks of John Wren (1871-1953) and Jock McHale (1882-1953) following Collingwood’s defeat of Geelong in the 1953 Victorian Football League Grand Final. But I wonder.

In late 1953, Wren was 82 and McHale was 71 at a time when men did not live as long as they do now. I would have thought that both would have faced greater stress if Collingwood had lost – even though the score was close at 11-11-77 to 8-17-65.

As a Geelong man, you no doubt would be aware that George Goninon was dropped from the team after the Second Semi-Final (which Geelong won) in which he kicked one goal. This was a surprise since he was Geelong’s leading goal-kicker for the 1953 season (65 goals) and kicked 4 goals and 6 goals respectively in Geelong’s 1951 and 1952 premiership teams.

Goninon told the Sunday Herald-Sun (23 September 2007) that he was dropped by Geelong for committing, as a married man, adultery with a female nurse. This is a sin against the Sixth Commandment (Catholic version) or the Seventh Commandment (Protestant version) – as I expect you know – but such behaviour was not usually taken into account when VFL teams were being selected.

Malcolm Muggeridge once said that the Ten Commandments were best viewed as an exam paper – with only eight to be attempted. According to George Goninon, the powers-that-be at Geelong circa 1953 were Catholics – led by the coach Reg Hickey. Goninon had been cleared by Essendon (a Protestant club in those days) to Geelong in 1950. The late Fred Flanagan confirmed Goninon’s story. He told the Sunday Herald-Sun: “It was a silly decision. George was by far our leading goal-kicker.”

I drew Barrie Cassidy’s attention to George Goninon’s claim before the Offsiders program on 23 September 2007. I do not know whether he referred to the matter since I was travelling back to Sydney after appearing on Insiders that morning. Maybe not – after all, Mr Cassidy is a proud Collingwood member of the “Good Old Collingwood Forever” set. No doubt he did not want to believe that the Magpies prevailed in 1953 due to the unintended consequence of some hanky-panky by Geelong’s top goal-kicker.

As mentioned, in my view, stress follows football failure – not success. I am still to get over Essendon star full forward John Coleman’s (unfair) suspension which kept him out of the 1951 final series. It was my first experience with trauma – made all the more severe due to the fact that Goninon (ex Essendon) kicked 4 goals for Geelong in its defeat of Essendon in the 1951 Grand Final. You should understand how I feel. After all, it was only six decades ago.

Best wishes



Until next time. In the meantime, keep morale high.



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.