GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG – ISSUE NO. 172
1 MARCH 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.
THIS WEEK – READ ALL ABOUT:
● Stop Press – The Robert Manne Mutual Respect Society Knees-Up; Bloomberg on the Prospects of a Double Disillusion [Sic]
● MWD Editorial on the Burgas Terrorist Attack and the Ben Zygier Case – Media Double Standards?
● Can You Bear It? Jane Caro as Surplus Sheila; Mike Seccombe Praises Mike Seccombe; Katie Walsh Admires Balmain Basket-Weaver; Alecia Simmonds Bags Tony Abbott; Grace Collier Strikes a Blow For Snobbery
● Nancy’s Pick Of The Week: The Invincible Ignorance of Jim Middleton & Stephen Crittenden
● Mark Latham’s Newspoll Confusion
● Five Paws Award – Step Forward Mark Aarons on Ian Macdonald
● New Feature on Modern Prophecy: A Case Study on Jewish Australians Invited on to Q&A
● Documentation – An Open Letter to David Marr Concerning his Political Animal Tract
▪ Your Taxes At Work – Manning-Up For Professor Manne
Nancy just loves Joe Aston’s work – and play. For it is a fact that the Australian Financial Review’s “Rear Window” columnist breaks lotsa big stories. Recently it was Stuart Littlemore’s handling of an intrepid Channel 10 female reporter outside the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s (ICAC) enquiry in Sydney. M’learned friend Littlemore QC is representing Eddie Obeid at this particular gig.
Now, today, young Mr Aston has revealed details of Thinking for Yourself: A Conference in Honour of Professor Robert Manne currently underway at the taxpayer funded La Trobe University. [Great scoop. I wonder where he got the information from. Ed] Speakers include Professor Robert Manne, Anne Manne and David Manne plus such Robert Manne besties as Pat Dodson, Rai Gaita, Australia’s leading socialist multi-millionaire property developer Morry Schwartz, Carmen Lawrence and Clive Hamilton (whom Professor Manne thought just might win the by-election in Higgins in late 2009 for the Greens).
For the record, Nancy’s (male) co-owner would never let Anne Henderson speak at a conference about him – she might tell the truth. If there is a follow-up conference, Gerard Henderson is willing to deliver a paper entitled: “Professor Manne – From Student Leftie to Mature Age Conservative Lawn-Mowing Counsellor and a Revert to the Left: Towards an understanding of how constant opinion change can advance a tenured academic career.”
▪ Bloomberg Takes A Stand Against Disillusion [very sic]
Nice (free) plug – if you can get it.
Last night on ABC News 24’s The Drum, Seb Henbest Head of Carbon and Renewable Research for Bloomberg New Energy Finance received five minutes air time to proclaim his professional view that a Tony Abbott led Coalition government would not be able to dismantle the carbon tax. Mr Henbest was speaking to his company’s document titled “Will Australia’s carbon price last? A 2013 update”
Fine thoughts, to be sure. First up, Seb Henbest advised ABC viewers that a half Senate election would result in the election of – wait for it – only half the senators. Then, on no fewer than four occasions, Seb Henbest opined that Tony Abbott, if elected, would not call a “double disillusion”.
Nancy (respectfully) hopes that Mr Henbest is correct in his analysis. There is enough disillusion around without the masses having to put up with a double dose.
MWD EDITORIAL: THE SILENCE OF THE FOURTH ESTATE
There are two issues which have received remarkable little media coverage. Here they are.
What is the identity of the Australian alleged to have murdered civilians in the Burgas terrorist attack?
The Bulgarian government has revealed that an Australian passport holder took part in a terrorist attack on Israeli tourists in the town of Burgas in July 2012. Five civilians were murdered and one terrorist died by accident.
According to Bulgaria, now a member of the European Union, one of the terrorists was an Australian citizen or resident who has since sought refuge in Lebanon.
The Australian has covered this story. Yet, for the most part, it has been ignored by the media – including the ABC which has staff located in the Middle East and Europe.
What did Jason Koutsoukis tell the late Ben Zygier?
Former Fairfax Media Middle East correspondent Jason Koutsoukis told Lateline on 14 February 2013 that he spoke to Ben Zygier shortly before his arrest by Israeli authorities. The Australian/Israeli dual national committed suicide in an Israeli prison in 2010.
According to Koutsoukis, he was “contacted by an Australian intelligence source” who advised him in late 2009 that Zygier was spying for Israel and using Australia as a base for this purpose. Koutsoukis told Lateline presenter Tony Jones that he spoke to Ben Zygier in Israel shortly before his arrest and that Zygier fervently denied the allegation.
Both the Israeli and the Australian governments have denied that Zygier had any involvement with Australian intelligence agencies.
Which raises some questions. Who was the alleged “Australian intelligence source” who spoke to Koutsoukis about Zygier? Was the person really an “Australian intelligence source” or did he/she fool Koutsoukis as to his/her real identity? Precisely what did Koutsoukis tell Zygier about the alleged Australian intelligence source?
Journalists, in Australia and elsewhere, invariably demand that people respond to their questions. However, many journalists decline to account for their own activities and simply refuse to accept responsibility for the veracity of their sources.
CAN YOU BEAR IT?
▪ Jane Caro as Big Borrowing/Spending Talkista
What a stunning performance by consultant/activist Jane Caro on Richard Glover’s 702 Drive program on Monday. Ms Caro is one of the new breed of talkistas who can be seen and heard talking about anything – and everything – on ABC TV and ABC Radio and SKY News – in such programs as The Drum, Paul Murray Live, Lateline, The Conversation, Q&A and so on. The list is a long one and includes former failed Liberal leader Dr John Hewson (for a doctor he is), Labor apparatchik Bruce Hawker and Jane Caro herself.
The talkistas will rock-up to any studio, at virtually any time for no fee, and respond to questions on anything irrespective of whether it is their field of competence.
On 702 Drive last Monday, Jane Caro made the following comment about the surplus/deficit debate:
Who cares about a surplus? When a government is in surplus, the community is in deficit.
Ms Caro went on to say that her eldest daughter is a teacher and so is her niece and so is her sister – and all in public (government) schools. [Did she mention her cat? Ed.]
So, there you have it. According to Jane Caro, a deficit is always good and a surplus always bad. In which case, such nations as Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Spain (PIGS) should be doing really well since they are tops at borrowing and spending. Can you bear it?
▪ Mike (“I’m the greatest”) Seccombe and life at The Global Mail
Thanks to an avid MWD reader who drew attention to the wonderful egotistical performance by journalist Mike Seccombe on ABC 1’s The Drum on Friday 15 February 2013.
Mike Seccombe used to work for the Sydney Morning Herald where, like quite a few Fairfax Media colleagues, he excelled in bashing readers and advertisers who used to buy and financially support Fairfax newspapers. Like social conservatives, business men and women, parents who send their children to non-government schools, believers, Coalition voters and so on. To Seccombe and company, they were the political enemy.
Some years ago, Mike Seccombe moved to the United States where his wife acquired a position. Not so long ago, the journalistic couple returned to Sydney where both work happily in multi-millionaire Graeme Wood’s on-line publication The Global Mail.
Global what? It is no surprise you ask. According to The Australian’s Christian Kerr, The Global Mail has more staff than readers. This is a slight exaggeration. But only slight. Writing in the Crikey newsletter on 6 February 2013, Matthew Knott revealed that, according to Nielsen Online Ratings, “24,000 people visited the site in November.” As few as that.
Young Mr Knott was also the author of a piece on The Global Mail on 25 January 2013 which depicted the on-line publication as equating to what, in another context, has been called a general rehearsal for the end of the world.
It seems that The Global Mail has filled the role of a form of purgatory for displaced journos from the ABC and Fairfax Media who are awaiting ascension into journalistic heaven by means of another job in their profession. In the meantime, they have to work with each other putting out a product that virtually no one reads.
Matthew Knott revealed a place which resembles a stage in Dante’s Inferno. It is replete with narcissism, nepotism and nascent narkiness. Plus unfair dismissals and blatant favouritism. Just the kind of work environment which you might expect in a business funded by a Greens-supporting environmental activist and staffed by leftie journos
One of the benefits of working for The Global Mail is that it provides a guernsey for its talkistas to play the talkista game on such programs as The Drum. And so it came to pass that the ever-smirking Mr Seccombe appeared on ABC News 24 on Friday 15 February 2013. Julia Baird was in the chair and the fellow talkistas were Chip Rolley (editor of The Drum Opinion) and Women’s Weekly editor Helen McCabe. Let’s go to the transcript when The Drum panel was addressing the declining sales in the print editions of newspapers:
Julia Baird: Mike, you worked at Fairfax for a long time.
Mike Seccombe: I did.
Julia Baird: But these are very troubling results. What can we attribute this to?
Mike Seccombe: Well I think we can attribute it to bad management quite frankly. … The Fairfax papers decided that they would go down market, they shed a lot of staff and now they’re looking at going behind a pay-wall when, I suspect, a lot of people aren’t gonna be that interested to see what’s behind that pay-wall because all the people that they thought were good aren’t there anymore.
So there you have it. According to Mr Seccombe, “all” the “good” people have left Fairfax Media. Like him, and his leftist mates. Can you bear it?
▪ Katie Walsh’s non-story about a whingeing Green who had a soy flat white in Balmain
While on the topic of leftists, how about Katie Walsh’s story in last weekend’s Australian Financial Review titled “Regrets if PM excludes progressives”.
How twee can you get? This is how Ms Walsh commenced her non-news news story about not very much at all concerning retired public servant Dr Alan Stewart (for a doctor he is) who happens to live in Tony Abbott’s electorate of Warringah in Sydney’s leafy northern suburbs and who visits inner-city Balmain for coffee, a hair-cut and to talk to AFR journalists:
The Labor Party is lucky that Alan Stewart isn’t younger. If he were, it might well lose the vote of the environmental scientist who sits pondering politics over a flat white in the leafy quiet while visiting the inner Sydney suburb of Balmain. “If I was starting out as a voter now, if I were one of my grandkids, I might join the Greens,” he says. “I can understand why they might do that.”
It turned out that Dr Stewart’s comments were about as flat as his coffee – with soy, of course. He said, well, not very much at all. Which perhaps explains why the photo in the piece was around the same size as the print (see below). Dr Alan Stewart seems to support socialism and trees and, er, that’s it. Can you bear it?
▪ Alecia Simmonds on Abbott as Neanderthal Man
What a truly thoughtful contribution by self-declared Greens-voting writer Alecia Simmonds on Monday in Fairfax media's Daily Life online publication. Alecia (“I still weep when I watch Julia Gillard’s misogyny speech”) Simmonds declared that “we live in a culture that normalises the relationship between masculinity and power and which casts any powerful woman as an abject figure of disgust”.
Really. So, according to Ms Simmonds, Australian society casts the likes of Governor-General Quentin Bryce, Justice Virginia Bell, Westpac chief Gail Kelly and Liberal Party deputy leader Julie Bishop as figures of “disgust”.
And what about blokes? Apparently, Ms Simmonds would like us to believe that her statement about Tony Abbott in Daily Life was absolutely disgust-free. Here is is:
Alecia Simmonds: At a time when Gillard is being pummelled in the polls and Abbott is loping towards Kirribilli, like a maniacal Neanderthal who has only just learned to use cutlery, I say it’s time we remember how great Gillard has been on a number of issues.
So there you have it. Alecia Simmonds condemns personal attacks on the (female) Prime Minister. But she believes that it is appropriate to depict the (male) Opposition leader as a “maniacal Neanderthal who has only just learned to use cutlery”. Can you bear it?
▪ Snobbery Buys The Bacon – The Grace Collier Experience
Sky News’ Paul Murray likes Melbourne based commentator Grace Collier. He has referred to her as good-looking and on occasions addresses her as “Darl”.
Last Sunday, the host of Paul Murray Live suggested to “Darl” Collier that neither Kevin Rudd nor Julia Gillard has been in charge of the government during their time as prime minister. The latter agreed with the former and then threw the switch to snobbery. Let’s go to the DVD:
Paul Murray: …I suppose you do get a bit of a sense around a Hawke, a Keating and a Howard is that there was no question. Those people were in charge. Why don’t we have that same feeling about a Kevin Rudd or a Julia Gillard … The sense of “this person is in charge”?
Grace Collier: Well, look, Paul I do agree with you. If you think that the prime minister is like the parent and we are the – the country – we are the children. When we were led by John Howard, he was like a sort of a daggy, middle class, boring sort of dad. But he bought [sic] home the bacon, the mortgage was paid, we were put in private schools, we felt like we had a future. We felt like he was a little bit – you know, he wasn’t so inspiring or whatever. But we had a future, we had prospects. Now, with the current prime minister we feel very much like we are in reduced circumstances. So we feel like we’re living in a caravan park. We feel like we’ve got a trashy family with, you know relatives that are unsavoury and frightening and we feel like there’s no future, there’s no hope on the horizon. We’re poor, we’re disadvantaged and we’re on the wrong side of the tracks and we desperately want to get back into a family on the right side of the tracks and that’s how we feel.
Paul Murray: Very nice.
Er, perhaps. But what about alleged trashy caravan park residents who watch Sky News or Foxtel or Austar? Can you bear it?
Invincible Ignorance On ABC News Breakfast: With Thanks To Jim Middleton And Stephen Crittenden
At the end of last Monday’s ABC 1 News Breakfast program, the score read:
Invincible Ignorance 2
Historical Accuracy Zip
According to reports, nice Mr Scott (who pretends to run the taxpayer funded public broadcaster) has talked the Gillard Government into giving the ABC an additional $10 million for, among other things, fact-checking. Alas, it’s too late to correct the historical howlers on the News Breakfast program that aired on 25 February 2013.
Jim Middleton forgets Enid Lyons
First up, ABC journalist Jim Middleton fronted the “Newspapers” segment. He decided to kick of with a report on the death of Joan Child (1921-2013), the first female speaker of the House of Representatives. The only problem is that Mr Middleton decided to go beyond what was in the papers and simply invented achievements in Ms Child’s successful career. See below:
Jim Middleton: Small story in the papers but quite a major turning point moment in fact. Joan Child, and a reminder too of how different things were not so long along in Australian politics. Joan Child, who died at the age of 91, was not only the first woman speaker of the House of Representatives, indeed the first woman speaker of any parliament in Australia. But she was the first woman elected to the House of Representatives. Happened in 1974.
At the end of his comments, Mr Middleton repeated his claim that Joan Child was “the first female member of the House of Representatives.”
This is hopelessly wrong. Enid Lyons (1897-1981) was the first woman elected to the House of Representatives. She won the Tasmanian seat of Darwin for the United Australia Party in August 1943 and joined the newly formed Liberal Pary in 1944. Dame Enid was the first female Cabinet member in Australia – she served in Robert Menzies’ government between December 1949 and March 1951.
Contrary to Jim Middleton’s claim, Joan Child was the fourth woman to hold a House of Representatives seat. Doris Blackburn (1889-1976) was the second – she was the Independent Labor MP for Bourke from 1946-1949. The third was Kay Brownbill.
Stephen Crittenden forgets the Reformation
Soon after Jim Middleton’s fallible performance, it was Stephen Crittenden’s turn to give invincible ignorance a nudge. He was introduced by Karina Carvalho as “a former presenter of The Religion Report on RN and is now with The Global Mail.” It is true that Mr Crittenden is one of the many journalists to move from the ABC to The Global Mail . But he is also one of the many journalists on The Global Mail who are reported to have moved on.
Mr Crittenden is a disillusioned Catholic who disagrees with the Catholic Church’s teaching – including on same sex marriage. So it was no surprise to see save on auto repairs him bobbing up on the public broadcaster to state his opinion about what the Church should do. It is a matter of fact that virtually all the Catholics and ex-Catholics asked by the ABC to discuss the resignation of Benedict XVI and his likely replacement are grossly disillusioned with the Vatican. How very ABC. [You’re not wrong here. I see that John Buggy from an organisation called Australian Reforming Catholics got a run on News Breakfast this morning. Ed.]
And so it came to pass that it was not long before the “expert” Mr Crittenden stumbled into invincible ignorance. Let’s go to the transcript:
Karina Carvalho: What about these allegations that have been levelled against the UK’s top Catholic, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, and the fact that the Pontiff was made aware of them?
Stephen Crittenden: I wonder will Keith O’Brien be the Archbishop of St Edinburgh, err, St. Andrews and Edinburgh, by the end of the week. He’s 74 years old, he’s only a few weeks off his retirement age anyway. Here’s an interesting question. If for any reason he was to be prevented from taking part in the conclave, there would be no UK cardinal in the conclave. You know I think, I think that’s – you’d probably have to go back 1000 years to see something like that.
Not so. You see, Mr Crittenden seems to have forgotten King Henry VIII’s split with Rome, the Protestant Reformation and all that. The Catholic Church was banned in Britain from the time of the Reformation until the 19th Century. There were no British cardinals in the conclave during this period because there were no British cardinals.
Mr Crittenden also predicted on Monday that there would be no “great big farewell” function for Benedict XVI with “hundreds of thousands of people in St Peter’s Square.” But there were – on Wednesday.
THE THOUGHT OF MARK LATHAM: A CONTINUING SAGA IN WHICH THE LAIR OF LIVERPOOL BAGS – AND THEN DECLINES TO BAG – NEWSPOLL
“The poll itself should be closed down because it’s a heap pf rubbish .. [It’s] a statistical heap of crap that deserves no place in an intelligent sophisticated program like this … I wouldn’t wipe my backside with it.” – Mark Latham, Paul Murray Live, 4 February 2013
“I avow, I refuse to comment on the Newspoll.” – Mark Latham, Paul Murray Live, 25 February 2013
We’ll keep you posted about the thinking of the failed Labor leader who apparently needs the money he receives from Sky news to supplement his lousy taxpayer funded superannuation of a mere $78,000 per year (fully indexed).
5 PAWS AWARD – MARK AARONS ON IAN MACDONALD
Great piece by former NSW Labor government adviser Mark Aaarons in the March 2013 issue of The Monthly. Titled “Mate of the Union: NSW Labor’s eroded ways”, Aarons’ article profiles one-time student radical Ian Macdonald, whose activities as a Labor minister in NSW are currently being investigated by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).
According to Mark Aarons, Macdonald’s principal backing in the NSW Labor Party came from the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU). And who ran the AMWU in NSW at that time? Well, none other than former Senator George Campbell and current Senator Doug Cameron. As Aarons writes:
Campbell’s (and later Cameron’s) support was critical to Macdonald for 20 years. As the largest Left union, the AMWU’s support for Macdonald ensured his preselection.
Meanwhile, Senator Doug Cameron remains the hero of the Labor/Greens Left – and has (too) many admirers in the Canberra Press Gallery.
Mark Aarons – 5 Paws
NEW FEATURE: AND IT WAS DONE SO THAT THE PROPHECY MIGHT BE FULFILLED (MATTHEW 2.23)
Q&A’s selective choice of Jewish Australian talent
Nancy’s (male) co-owner has been transfixed by the words of the Old Testament: “And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets” (Matthew 2.23) [I thought you left-footer types only read the New Testament. Ed]. It always seems somewhat unfair that something was done in AD zone merely to fulfil a prophecy in the BC zone. But there you go.
In any event, the evidence suggests that the phenomenon referred to in Matthew 2-23 is very much with us today. All of us – including MWD.
In MWD Issue 171 (15 February 2013), the following point was made in an article about the ABC as a Conservative-Free-Zone:
In recent times discussion about a perceived lack of balance at the ABC has turned on the ABC 1 Insiders and Q&A programs. The former provides an important insight into the thinking of the Canberra Press Gallery and the latter invariably demonstrates the inner-city left at play. But at least some conservative voices are heard on Insiders and Q&A. With one exception. According to MWD’s count, no Israeli or Australian Jew who supports Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has ever appeared on the program. Q&A only hears the views of left-liberal and leftist Jews.
MWD has thousands upon thousands of readers – some of whom write thoughtful emails. Shortly after publication, the following email was received from a reader somewhere or other, viz:
I’d like to respectfully query this claim: “According to MWD’s count, no Israeli or Australia Jew who supports Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has ever appeared on the program” To be sure I’m no fan of Q & A. Turned off years ago. That said, I recall a show I did watch which included Sandy Gutman AKA Austen Tayshus. I’d be interested to know if Sandy’s appearance contradicts MWD’s count.”
Point conceded. It’s true that Sandy Gutman (AKA Austen Tayshus) put in a great performance on 6 June 2011. He took it up to Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon (B Sc. Sydney; Dip. Revolution, Lenin School Moscow) and Fairfax media commentator Paul McGeogh concerning their double standards on Israel. Unfortunately Gutman/Tayshus has not appeared on the program since. There has also been one overseas panellist – Daniel Pipes – who broadly supports Benjamin Netanyahu’s approach to national security.
That’s about it. There must be around 20 Jewish Australians who broadly oppose the national security approach of Benjamin Netanyahu and have appeared on the program – quite a few more than once. Also Q&A built a program on Israel around Ilan Pappe, a staunch opponent of the state of Israel. This was scheduled to fit in with Pappe’s visit to Australia. The Q&A program happened to coincide with the Rosh Hashanah Jewish Holiday – which meant that most Jewish Australians were unavailable for places on the panel or in the audience. Barrister Irving Wallach turned up but he was all but useless when it came to defending Israel against Pappe’s rantings.
Such prominent Jewish Australians as Labor MP Michael Danby, Liberal MP Joshua Frydenberg, Dr. Colin Rubenstein and Dr Leanne Piggott have not appeared at Q&A. They all assert the absolute primacy of Israel’s right to exist within secure boundaries.
Last Monday’s Q&A illuminates MWD’s point. The first question for discussion was titled “Israel and Ben Zygier”. The panel consisted of Foreign Minister Bob Carr (a critic of the Netanyahu government), Ahdaf Soueif (an Egyptian born commentator who founded the Palestine Festival of Literature), Liberal MP Malcolm Turnbull (who criticised Israel’s alleged use of the passports of dual nationals), US ambassador to Australia Jeffrey Bleich (who, properly, avoided direct comment on a matter pertaining to Australia and Israel) and leftist feminist commentator Eva Cox. Not one of the panellists support Netanyahu’s approach to national security.
Ms Cox fits the stereotype of Jewish Australians who are invited on to Q&A. Last Monday, she criticised Israel’s handling of the Mordechai Vanunu case (remember him?) and declared that there are “some serious” questions about the legitimacy of the claims the democracy that Israel puts up”. In other words, according to Eva Cox, Israel lacks legitimacy.
Which reaffirms MWD’s point that the only Jewish Australians who get a run on Q&A are critics of Israel in general and Netanyahu in particular like Eva Cox – which confirms Matthew 2.23.
A VERY OPEN LETTER TO THE SOMEWHAT CLOSED DAVID MARR ON TONY ABBOTT AS A POLITICAL ANIMAL
When we met on Insiders early last month, you said that you were in the process of revising for publication your Political Animal: The Making of Tony Abbott (Quarterly Essay, Issue 47). I understand that you are currently interviewing some people for the revised edition. I expect that you also intend to make revisions/corrections.
You may, or may not, recall our (somewhat heated) discussion in the Insiders green room on Sunday 18 November 2012 concerning Tony Abbott. As I recall, the argument continued on the set – albeit on a slightly different topic.
In our green room discussion last November, I pointed out some errors in Political Animal and in your subsequent “Response to Correspondence” which was published in Quarterly Essay Issue 48 late last year.
I also drew attention to the fact that Chris Feik, the Quarterly Essay editor, had censored a letter from Chris Curtis intended for the “Correspondence” section in Issue 48 – containing responses to Political Animal. Since Quarterly Essay is essentially a publication of the left, by the left, for the left – it was not surprising to see comments from the likes of Judith Brett, Mark Latham and Jack Waterford – in addition to your response to their responses.
Nevertheless, Chris Curtis was attempting to be helpful in correcting a significant error concerning your description of political affiliations during Tony Abbott’s university days. As you may or may not know, I published Chris Curtis’ letter in Media Watch Dog Issue 164 (23 November 2012)
You said that, prior to our Insiders green room conversation, you were unaware that Chris Curtis had written to Quarterly Essay – but you subsequently defended Chris Feik’s decision to spike his letter. As I recall, you maintained that Chris Curtis’ correction was unimportant.
According to reports, Political Animal was a big seller for Morry Schwartz and the leftist team at Schwartz Media’s Black Inc. In view of the importance of Political Animal, I have set out below some comments/corrections which you may – or may not – find useful. Here we go.
ERRORS/FLAWS IN DAVID MARR’S QUARTERLY ESSAY
. Page 1 Political Animal commences with the comment: “Australia doesn’t want Tony Abbott. We never have.” When we last met in February, I mentioned that Malcolm Fraser, in his last poll as Opposition leader in November 1975, was not popular but went on to win one of the greatest victories in Australian political history. You said that you were unaware of this but would look in to the matter. Well, here are the figures.
In the 1970s, the most authoritative poll was the Morgan Gallup Poll which was published in The Bulletin around every fortnight. The last opinion poll published before the dismissal of Gough Whitlam’s Labor government read as follows:
Coalition: 46 per cent
Labor: 44 per cent
Democratic Labor Party: 3 per cent
Australia Party: 2 per cent
Others: 5 per cent
The approval/disapproval figures of the political leaders were as follows:
Approve: 46 per cent
Disapprove: 46 per cent
Undecided: 8 per cent
Approve: 33 per cent
Disapprove: 54 per cent
Undecided: 13 per cent
In other words, Tony Abbott’s disapproval rating around the time when Political Animal was published last year was about identical to that of Malcolm Fraser shortly before the Liberal-National Party’s huge victory in the 1975 election.
There is another side to this argument. The evidence suggests that only three Opposition leaders have been very popular before winning elections. Namely Joseph Lyons in 1931, Bob Hawke in 1983 and Kevin Rudd in 2007. Robert Menzies and John Howard – Australia’s most electorally successful prime ministers – were never particularly popular before they became prime minister.
Your assertion, at Page 4, that high disapproval ratings for political leaders equate with “roadkill” is not supported by the available evidence.
. Page 2 – The reference to Julie Bishop’s (alleged) “coquettish amusement” at Tony Abbott’s election as Liberal leader in December 2009 overlooks the fact that Ms Bishop is on record as saying that she is a friend of Mr Abbott and worked well with him in John Howard’s government.
. Page 2 – You assert that Tony Abbott is a “profoundly Catholic man”. It’s not clear precisely what you mean by this. In my view, the suggestion that Abbott is “profoundly Catholic” amounts to a significant misunderstanding of the Liberal leader.
. Page 6 – The description of St Ignatius College Riverview as an “Italian palace” is somewhat over the top.
. Page 8 – Your sneering claim that Fr Emmett Costello SJ “ministered to the rich, pursuing death-bed conversions in harbour mansions” is somewhat hyperbolic. Who? How many?
. Page 8 – If the B A Santamaria aligned front organisation called Peace with Freedom was so “secret,” how did Abbott (as you claim) attend a PWF function in 1976 without an invitation? By the way, two of the three men you mention as running Peace with Freedom – i.e. Peter Samuel and Warren Hogan – were not Catholic and were not members of B A Santamaria’s National Civic Council.
. Page 9 – As readers of my work, including my book Mr Santamaria and The Bishops (1982) will know, I was a critic of B A Santamaria in the late 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. However, your description of Santamaria is significantly exaggerated. I refer in particular to the following comment on Page 9, viz:
Inside and outside politics, inside and outside the Catholic Church, Santamaria was also widely hated. His venom was phenomenal; his energy inextinguishable; and his fears legion. In the Whitlam crisis … he had privately discussed the need to raise a secret army to defend democracy against the scourge of Labor.
Sure, Santamaria was widely hated by some in and outside the Catholic Church. But he was also widely admired by some Catholics and non-Catholics alike. The (unsourced) claim that Santamaria wanted “to raise a secret army to defend democracy against the scourge of Labor” is far-fetched.
. Page 10 – Here you refer to the campus Democratic Clubs, which were supported by B A Santamaria’s National Civic Council in the 1970s and 1980s, in the following terms:
The Democratic Clubs were small and their membership carefully controlled. The correct line was strictly enforced. They used tactics Santamaria developed to fight the Reds in the unions: provocative campaigning, ceaseless leafleting and infiltrating rival organisations. They called themselves moderates but their position was extreme: as far to the right as the Maoists and Trotskyists on campus were to the left. They were accused of rough-house tactics and wrecking what they couldn’t control.
This comment is profoundly false. As Chris Curtis pointed out in his unpublished letter to Quarterly Essay, membership of Democratic Clubs was not “carefully controlled”. Moreover, the members of the Democratic Clubs cannot be equated with the Maoists and the Trotskyites on campuses at that time.
Some Maoists and Trotskyites used violence against both individuals and property. Peter Costello, when a student at Monash University, was bashed by a Maoist. As a senior tutor at La Trobe University in the early 1970s, my office was broken into and the wheel-bolts were loosened on my car following my support of a South Vietnamese Embassy member who was attacked by the campus left. There are many such examples – of which you seem blissfully ignorant.
By the way, your one source in support of your position is the left-wing dominated Honi Soit. This would be a bit like quoting The Catholic Weekly as an authoritative source for an undocumented attack on, say, Patrick White.
. Page 13 – Here again, your anti-Catholic sectarianism is evident when you write:
His [Abbott’s] girlfriend Kathy McDonald was three months pregnant. It was the old Catholic catastrophe: no chastity, no contraception, no abortion and, it would turn out, no marriage.
There was nothing particularly “Catholic” about such a “catastrophe”.
. Page 16 – This section of your essay contains the media-grabbing allegation that Tony Abbott engaged in an act of violence against left-wing student Barbara Ramjan following her victory in the Student Representative Council elections at Sydney University on 7 September 1977:
Barbara Ramjan … was of the left but her work as the SRC’s welfare officer made her a popular figure on campus. The night her victory was declared, the SRC offices saw wild scenes of bad boy behaviour: flashing, mooning, jeering and abuse. Abbott watched all this. His loss was a very public disappointment, one of the first defeats of his life that mattered, one he would remember for a long time. He approached Ramjan. She thought he was coming over to congratulate her. “But no, that’s not what he wanted. He came up to within an inch of my nose and punched the wall on either side of my head.”
This was effectively a recovered memory on Ms Ramjan’s behalf – made for the first time on the public record some 35 years after the alleged event. There is no contemporaneous evidence of damage to a wall or to Tony Abbott’s hands and there are no independent witnesses.
In our discussion last November, you exhibited anger at my long-standing comment that, in Political Animal, you did not refer to the contemporaneous evidence concerning this matter – including the two letters which Ms Ramjan wrote to Honi Soit complaining about Tony Abbott in late 1977. In response, I said that, if this was the case, and you were aware of the correspondence, then it was unprofessional for you not to mention these letters in Political Animal since they support Abbott’s case and discredit Ramjan’s case.
The fact is that Barbara Ramjan had letters about Tony Abbott’s behaviour published in Honi Soit on 13 September 1977 and 3 October 1977. On neither occasion did she refer to any wall-punching incident – even though there was ample opportunity to do so and even though she complained about Abbott’s behavior following the SRC election.
In our discussion last November, you described David Patch’s article in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age on 13 September 2012 as evidence in support of Ramjan’s allegation. But Patch, a friend of Barbara Ramjan admitted that he did not see the incident. The fact is that a person cannot be a witness to an event that he/she did not see. As someone with a law degree, you should understand this. In any event, you don’t need a law degree to know what the word “witness” means.
. Page 17 – Here you quote Barbara Ramjan as referring to Tony Abbott as a “DLP type”. You made a similar point in your (soft) interview with Emma Alberici on Lateline last year (10 September 2012).
In fact, the Democratic Labor Party (DLP) effectively went out of existence after its five sitting senators were defeated in the 1974 double dissolution election. The DLP was formally wound up in 1978. The entity which emerged around a decade ago is not legally linked to the original DLP.
The fact is that Tony Abbott had no connection with the DLP when he was a university student for the simple reason that the DLP did not exist. By the way, Bob Santamaria was never a member of the DLP and was frequently in disagreement with DLP senators.
. Page 19 – Anonymous sources are not worth much. You refer to a critic of Abbott’s time at university as a “distinguished Sydney lawyer”. Why does he/she seek anonymity? And does it matter whether or not a lawyer is distinguished?
. Page 22 – The reference to Tony Abbott’s Rhodes Scholarship seems unnecessarily mocking. You wrote:
… he was awarded one of those great scholarships of the world: two years at Oxford courtesy of the diamond-mining fortune of Cecil Rhodes. For Anglophiles and rugby players, the Rhodes was died-and-gone-to-heaven time. Winners must be scholars fond of sport who display “moral force of character and instincts to lead”.
Bob Hawke also enjoyed his Rhodes Scholarship. Hawke was neither an Anglophile nor a rugby player – but he enjoyed it all the same.
. Page 38 – You refer to the “old DLP reverence for John Kerr”. There is no evidence that the DLP revered Sir John Kerr, who was appointed governor-general by Labor’s Gough Whitlam. In fact, some DLP supporters were disappointed that Kerr had declined an invitation to join the DLP in the mid-1950s. Kerr was never close to the DLP – and the DLP was never close to Kerr.
. Page 39 – Here you simply verbal Bob Santamaria when you write:
That was always the Santamaria way: when you haven’t got the numbers, be vicious. It’s called minority politics.
There is no evidence – and you provide no evidence – that Santamaria was “vicious” with respect to his political opponents. If you have the evidence, then you should cite it in the next edition of Political Animal. No one has ever equated Santamaria or his organisation with political violence.
. Page 61 – You refer to Tony Abbott’s speech on abortion to the Adelaide UniversityDemocratic Club in March 2004 as containing the language of a “Vatican ideologue”. Maybe. But there are many non-Catholic Christians and Muslims who have stated stronger opposition to abortion than that made by Abbott. Opposition to abortion is not an exclusively Catholic position.
Page 71 – Your comment that “Santamaria raged against working mothers” is an overstatement. As I recall, at least one – and possibly more – of Santamaria’s children was a working mother.
. Page 85 – Your suggestion that “all de facto couples, everyone who doesn’t believe in God, and republicans who make up half the country” are “not Abbott’s people” requires a re-write. If you are correct, then the opinion polls are wrong
ERRORS/ FLAWS IN DAVID MARR’S RESPONSE
. Page 98 – You describe David Patch’s defence of his long-time friend Barbara Ramjan as “devastating” with respect to Tony Abbott. Yet, as previously mentioned, Patch claimed to be a “witness” to an alleged event that he did not see. The Sydney Morning Herald subsequently changed its headline which originally referred to Patch as a witness by putting the word “witness” in inverted commas. You should note this precedent.
. Page 99 – You cite another male witness in addition to David Patch. Not only is this person anonymous – more seriously, he subsequently alleged to have seen Abbott deliver the punch but in fact had not seen it land. Pretty worthless, don’t you think? Especially since there would be less than a second between a punch being thrown and landing.
. Page 100 – You write that Barbara Ramjan “is a respected figure in Sydney, with connections to the highest levels of the judiciary”. Are you seriously suggesting that a person’s 35 year old memory is more reliable if they know a lot of judges in later life?
. Page 101 – You imply that commentators who criticised Ms Ramjan and Mr Patch were “attack dogs” who had been “unleashed” by Mr Abbott. You provide no evidence for this assertion.
For the record, this comment is completely false with respect to me. I wrote my column criticising Ms Ramjan in The Sydney Morning Herald on 11 September 2012 without communicating with Tony Abbott or the Opposition leader’s office. If you had asked me about this, I would have advised that your conspiracy theory was false. You should have done some fact-checking – you have my email and phone contacts.
. Page 101 – Your claim that Tony Abbott “is an old-fashioned Catholic sexist” says much about your old-fashioned anti-Catholic sectarianism. But it says nothing about Tony Abbott that is worth hearing, let alone fresh. What’s missing from Political Animal and your follow-up is any assessment about how it is that Tony Abbott came so close to defeating a first-term government in August 2010 and is currently performing so well in the polls.
. Page 102 – I note with interest your opinion, proffered in early 2013, that “the numbers are going the wrong way for Abbott”. This reminded me of the thesis of your 2010 Quarterly Essay (Issue 38) titled “Power Trip: The Political Journey of Kevin Rudd” There you described the suggestion that Kevin Rudd would be replaced by Julia Gillard before the 2010 election as “rubbish.”
As a matter of personal experience, I have always found that today’s prophet is tomorrow’s false prophet. But what would I know?
All the best with the revised edition of Political Animal.
Until next time. In the meantime, keep morale high.
READ ALL ABOUT IT – COMMENTS ON/ENDORSEMENTS OF MWD
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.