GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG – ISSUE NO. 176

5 APRIL 2013

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

 

BREAKING NEWS: BRAND NEW ENDORSEMENT BY MIKE CARLTON

“[Henderson] You are mad.   In the 18th century you would have been caged, with the mob invited to poke you with sticks.”

– Mike Carlton, 5.23 pm (Gin & Tonic Time) 25 March 2013

THIS WEEK – READ ALL ABOUT:

7.30 Does Polyamory; A (Sort-of) Conservative Star is Born; Welcome Back La Trioli

Nancy’s Five Paws Award: Step Forward Rebecca Weisser & Professor Murry Salby on Climate Change 

Can You Bear It? : The Age’s Death Obsession; Ned Kelly as Jesus Christ and Michael Gordon’s Strange Choice For Conservative Team Selector

New Feature: Your Taxes at Work: Academic Reveals How Alcohol Can Get You Drunk

● Nancy’s Pick-of-the-Week – “I’m Happy, I’m Sad” Phil Kafcaloudes Analyses Newspoll

The Thought of Mark Latham: The Sky News Period

● Is Chris Kenny Channelling Point of View?

● History Corner:  A Look Back On Richard Neville’s Past

●Correspondence: With a Little Help from La Trobe University Academic Dominic Kelly (in Support of Judith Brett) & Mike Carlton (supported by Gin & Tonic)

 

 STOP PRESS – A NIGHT AND A MORNING WITH AUNTY

● Who Were The Adulterers In The (7.30) Room?

It was a good move for 7.30 executive producer Sally Neighbour to remove the Clarke and Dawe comedy sketch from the end of the program each Thursday.  For starters, John Clarke and Brian Dawe mocked Labor and Coalition politicians alike – but invariably from the left.  Also it was never clear whether the Thursday program was current affairs or (predictable) leftist comedy. Or both.

How strange, then, to see comedy – not current affairs – as the final item of last night’s 7.30 .  Polyamory was the topic but it seemed like some of the cast had declined to front.  You see there was Pete and Anne and Darren and Jennifer and Vanessa and Shane who talked about their sexual partners. But where was the third man/or the third woman – or the fourth of either gender – in this set up?  7.30  did not make this clear.

You see, Pete and Anne did not want to break up Pete’s marriage because they were “good Christians”.  So they took the adult-in-the-room option and engaged in some adultery in the side-room. With whom? Alas neither Pete nor Anne are saying.

Then there is Darren who had a go at the “swinging scene” but abandoned this in favour of, wait for it, meaningful relations with multiple people.  Darren has a girlfriend in Adelaide who also has a partner.  And Darren and Jennifer had a mutual girlfriend who recently separated from both of them. However, they all remain “on good terms”.  Thank God.

Then there was Vanessa and Shane.  Vanessa currently has chronic fatigue syndrome [No wonder – Ed].  Shane was once married and Vanessa once had a boyfriend.  Then Vanessa lived with Shane and his ex-wife for a couple of months before Vanessa decided that it was all very well to have lotsa male princes in your life but once a night (with Shane) is enough – otherwise it’s just so tiring. Are you following?

So there you have it, this particular polyamory set up should have involved at least 9 – and probably 12 – individuals but only seven were named.

All this brought to you by the taxpayer funded public broadcaster’s leading current affairs program – a place of comedy. Really.

Conservative Bags ASIS/Gets Lateline Gig

MWD could be wrong [You can say that again – Ed]. But it appears that on the ABC 1 Lateline program last night a new conservative star was born. Welcome Simon Breheny of the Institute of Public Affairs.

Mr Breheny is just the type of conservative that the ABC and The Age love.  Namely, a self-proclaimed conservative who sounds like a leftie on foreign policy, on national security, or whatever.

Last night, the ABC’s defence and national security correspondent Michael Brissenden rolled out Mr Breheny to criticise the Australian Security Intelligence Service (ASIS)in its attempt to increase its powers with respect to surveillance.  This is the kind of job that normally falls to Rob Stary and Julian Burnside. [You’ve forgotten his QC – Ed].

In view of the ongoing threat to national security, ASIS’s position makes perfect sense. But Simon Breheny does not agree.  Here’s how last night’s Lateline segment ended:

Michael Brissenden: The ASIS submission has drawn criticism from civil rights groups on the left and the right.

Simon Breheny, Institute Of Public Affairs: We're allowing them more and more to take away Australian civil liberties and in particular our right to privacy.

Michael Brissenden: The committee’s report is expected to be tabled before the election.

In fact, there are very few civil rights groups on the right-of-centre which oppose ASIS or ASIO having adequate powers.  Simon Breheny is one. Consequently, he seems destined for a star career in the media as a chosen conservative “balance” to the left. Consequently he should expect invitations from The Drum and The Age’s Opinion Page editor and more besides.  Moreover, it was no surprise when Simon Breheny fronted up on ABC 1’s News Breakfast today to continue to proclaim this morning precisely what he had said the night before. No conservative or social democrat who supports strong national security legislation was invited on to Lateline or News Breakfast to state their case.

Virginia Trioli’s Welcome Return

Meanwhile MWD is just so excited that Virginia Trioli will return as co-presenter of News Breakfast on Monday.  La Trioli is one of MWD’s  favourites because she does not attempt to disguise what she really thinks of some Coalition MPs. Remember how Virginia Trioli performed at the end of the interview which she did with National Party frontbencher Barnaby Joyce in 2009. In case you have forgotten, here’s how:

La Trioli – welcome back. MWD has missed you.

NANCY’S FIVE PAWS AWARD: AND THE WINNERS ARE MURRY SALBY & REBECCA WEISSER RE CLIMATE CHANGE

Professor Murry Salby (Chair of Climate at Macquarie University) addressed The Sydney Institute in 2011 and 2012 on climate change and related issues.  However, until now, Professor Salby’s work has not appeared in brief form in the broadsheet press.

Yesterday The Australian's Opinon Page editor Rebecca Weisser published an article by Murry Salby titled “Last Summer Was Not Actually Angrier Than Other Summers”. Unlike Climate Commission Chairman Tim Flannery, Professor Salby is a Climate scientist. Yesterday he discredited the Climate Commission’s recently published alarmist report titled The Angry Summer. Murry Salby also confirmed “the absence of any systematic change in global temperature for almost two decades”.

CAN YOU BEAR IT? : A WEEK IN THE LIFE OF THE GUARDIAN-ON-THE-YARRA

The Age’s Death Obsession

What is the Guardian-on-the-Yarra up to?  Or was The Age a day out in its April Fool’s Day joke?  You be the judge.

On Tuesday 2 April, The Age – in its new compact edition – devoted the entire first page to a story about the late Beverley Broadbent – under the heading “Rational Suicide – Why Beverley Broadbent Chose to Die”. The story spilled to Pages 4 and 5.  There was also a large Page 1 photo of Ms Broadbent and her (now orphaned) dog Lucy.

The point of the (long) story by Age health editor Julia Medew was that Ms Broadbent, at age 83, had grown tired of life.  So the woman The Age described as an “environmental activist” decided to end her life. Interested?  Let’s hope so because all of Pages 10, 11 and 12 was also devoted to yet more of the life and death of Ms Broadbent (environmental activist).  At the bottom of Page 12, Age readers were finally told the ending:

On the night of February 11, Beverley Broadbent hopped into her nightie, climbed under her bedspread and swallowed her lethal elixir. The next morning when her friend came by to return Lucy, there was no answer. When the door was finally opened, Beverley was found quiet and still beneath the covers, still clutching a chocolate frog.

How frightfully interesting – as in HOLD THE FRONT PAGE – 83 YEAR OLD ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST (RETIRED) COMMITS RATIONAL SUICIDE.  Age readers were invited to view a  “Why I’m ready to die” video by Ms Broadbent and – wait for it – to take part in a “Live Debate” where readers could blog with “euthanasia advocate Dr Rodney Syme” and discuss death, of the rational variety. As it turned out, only the pro-euthanasia side was presented in this “debate”. [Sounds like the ABC – Ed].

Now there was a fair bit of real news around last Tuesday. The compact Sydney Morning Herald  led with the tension on the Korean Peninsula and North Korea’s nuclear threat to South Korea and the United States.  Meanwhile, The Australian broadsheet gave Page 1 focus to the debate over 457 visas along with political analysis and business investment stories plus a reference to the Korean Peninsula.

The Guardian-on-the-Yarra, however, was obsessed with what it called “rational suicide”.  But it didn’t stop there. On Wednesday, there was another story on Pages 2 and 3 by Julia Medew titled “Suicide, a calm and beautiful ending, says a witness” and another one on Page 4 by the same author.  The first piece revealed that Ms Broadbent’s last chocolate frog was of the peppermint flavour [Go on – or perhaps not – Ed]. The second quoted Exit Australia director Dr Philip Nitschke as supporting the use of the term rational suicide.  No surprise there.

Then on Friday, The Age devoted its entire editorial space to the Beverley Broadbent case – under the title “A time to live, a time to die, a time to debate”. But for space considerations, no doubt, the title could have included the words “a time to editorialise”. The Age concluded its editorial by agreeing with the recommendations of unnamed “mental health experts” that reports of suicide should “neither highlight nor soften a major community issue”. This after The Age had highlighted Ms Broadbent’s exit as the major story of the day on Tuesday and the third most important on Wednesday.

Perhaps the powers-that-be at The Age do not realise that the dead do not buy – or advertise in – newspapers. Can you bear it?

▪ Martin Flanagan Compares Ned Kelly to Jesus Christ

On Easter Saturday, the Guardian-on-the-Yarra ran a piece by Martin Flanagan, one of The Age’s many left-wing journalists.  Titled “Rebels who knew the end was coming, but stood up anyway”, Flanagan’s article was devoted to the proposition that Jesus Christ was a bit like – wait for it – the Victorian bush ranger Ned Kelly (1854-1880). Really.  The article was accompanied by a drawing of Jesus and a photo of Ned which contained the caption: “Jesus and Ned Kelly: plenty of differences, but much in common.”

Once again, maybe The Age intended this piece for April Fool’s Day. Martin Flanagan is apparently convinced that Christ was a “rebel”.  He also believes that Kelly enjoyed the support “of one portion of the populace” in Victoria in the late 19th Century. Namely, those of Irish Catholic descent.

It’s just that Jesus Christ never murdered three unarmed policemen.  Moreover, all of Kelly’s victims were of Irish Catholic descent – namely Thomas Lonigan, Michael Kennedy and Thomas Scanlan. Clearly Ned Kelly did not enjoy their support – otherwise he would not have murdered them when they were unarmed.

And Mr Flanagan reckons that Ned Kelly was a bit like Christ. Can you bear it?

▪ Michael Gordon’s Pre-Easter Team Effort

Michael (“I’m a sensitive guy”) Gordon writes a Saturday column in “The-Guardian- on-the-Yarra”.

Last week he came up with a brilliant idea for an Easter column. Namely find a left-wing and a conservative academic and get them to nominate their Political Team of the Century.  Twelve names each and a bit of comment.  And it’s Bob’s-your-uncle, file a column and let’s head off for the Easter Hols.

Your (sensitive) man Gordon approached the left-wing historian Stuart McIntyre and the learned professor took the opportunity to get a hearing in The Age.  Like many a leftist, he considered that the occasional pacifist John Curtin (who died in office) and the occasional socialist Ben Chifley (who was defeated at an election) – both of whom won an election – as Labor’s best prime ministers. Not Bob Hawke – who won four elections and initiated the economic reform process. That’s the left for you. Macintyre even put the hopeless perjurer leftist Dr Jim Cairns (for a doctor he was) in his Top Labor XII.

It turned out that the designated choice for a conservative historian did not accept the offer.  Mr Gordon’s desire for a quick response followed by a quick get-away. So Michael Gordon approached Professor Patrick Weller, who is not a conservative. Weller gave due ranking to Robert Menzies and John Howard but did not place Joseph Lyons (who led the political conservatives to three election victories and oversaw Australia’s economic recovery in the late 1930s) or Peter Costello (whom John Howard described as Australia’s best treasurer) in his top Conservative XII.

Can you bear it?

NEW FEATURE:  YOUR TAXES AT WORK

RESEARCH FINDS THAT ALCOHOL DRINKERS GET MORE THIRSTY

Thanks to one of the hundreds of thousands of MWD readers in Victoria who drew attention to an article in the Herald-Sun of 21 March 2013 by Peter Mickelburough.

The intrepid Mickelburough reported on a report titled Patron Offending and Intoxication in Night-Time Entertainment Districts  headed by Professor Peter Miller (School of Psychology, Deakin University) and funded by the National Drug Law Enforcement Research Fund.

According to the Herald-Sun report, Professor Miller and his, yes, 13 co-authors made the following (truly startling) findings:

1. Drinkers who engage in “escalating intoxication” get progressively more drunk as the night and the morning wears on. Fancy that.

2. Individuals who drink alcohol before “going out” get drunker than those who commence sober.  How about that?  Whoever would have imagined this? – without the assistance of a taxpayer funded research grant.

3. Heavy drinkers behave more aggressively than sober types. Go on.

 

NANCY’S PICK-OF-THE-WEEK

EXCITEMENT, FOLLOWED BY DISAPPOINTMENT, AS PHIL KAFCALOUDES ANALYSES LABOR’S POLL FORTUNES

What a stunning performance by Phil Kafcaloudes on the “Newspapers” segment of the ABC 1 News Breakfast program on Monday 11 March 2013.

Your man Kafcaloudes – like many an ABC presenter/producer/editor – is very much a person of left-Labor/Greens disposition.  So it’s not surprising when he gets just so excited when Labor does well – and Tony Abbott and the Coalition not so well – in the opinion polls.

This is how an excited Phil K. greeted the news that Labor’s vote had increased by 3 per cent in the Newspoll published in The Australian on 11 March 2013 – despite the fact that a movement of 3 per cent is within Newspoll’s margin of error:

Phil Kafcaloudes: You know what.  This week – I said about a year ago that I thought Julia Gillard could win this next election.  I thought it was possible she could win it. It was really only this week I started to turn and say:  “No, there is no way, no chance she could win.”  And then we get this poll that’s come out today which puts her in a position which…is a strike position.  And that is six months out from an election being 4 percentage points behind is not a bad place to be –

Michael Rowland: In the two party preferred poll, yes…

Phil Kafcaloudes :  You know we’ve still got Kevin Rudd’s supporters who are still saying things such as “You need, you need to tap Julia Gillard on the shoulder”. It forgets what Kevin Rudd said only a week or so ago and that was Kevin Rudd said that “No, I’m not going to be doing it, I will not be challenging and if I am tapped I will not be a candidate”. I mean, he’s made that pretty clear. I mean, we know history says that doesn’t mean anything – you know, that people say: “Well I changed my mind.”  And, you know, you’re allowed to change your mind as a politician, clearly. But no, it is interesting. And the question we’ve got to ask is why has there been this turn around – and it is a significant turnaround when you consider the trend has gone so much against Julia Gillard.

Beverley O’Connor: Well she did spend a week in the west, Sydney’s west, last week in a very you know concentrated campaign, made some big announcements around traffic congestion and other things and now you wonder whether that didn’t give her a bit of a bounce.

Phil Kafcaloudes: Or whether it could be that people now are seeing that Tony Abbott is really the favourite here and they’re just pulling back a little bit from it.  Like they’re saying, you know, “It’s not just about a protest against Julia Gillard”.  Now they’ve said: “Right, now the protest has worked, maybe we’re pulling back”. You don’t know.  I don’t know. But something has happened.

Just over a week after Phil K’s excitement, ACNielsen poll – published in Fairfax Media newspapers – indicated that Labor’s polling had not improved. And then on the following Thursday (21 March) Julia Gillard was forced to call a spill motion in response to Labor frontbencher Simon Crean’s insistence.  The Prime Minister did not face a challenger as Kevin Rudd decided not to run.

It just so happened that Mr Kafcaloudes’ next appearance on News Breakfast coincided with the Newspoll published in The Australian on Tuesday 26 March 2013.  The poll was not good for Labor as presenter Beverley O’Connor made clear when she greeted PK with the following comment:

 Beverley O’Connor : Errr, dismal Newspolls

 Phil Kafcaloudes:  I know but, durrrrr, did we not expect it?  You know what I mean?

 Beverley O’Connor : Exactly, but they’re pretty bad. The lowest in 19 months.

 Well, it depends where you are coming from.  For opponents of Tony Abbott and the Coalition, the Newspoll published on 26 March 2013 was both “dismal” and “pretty bad”. However, for supporters of Tony Abbott and the Coalition it was, well, encouraging and pretty good.

Let’s return to the transcript, as PK analysed the dismal/pretty bad news – for Labor, that is – on 22 March:

 Phil Kafcaloudes: I know, that is extraordinary. And you look at the two-party preferred 58 to 42 –  you know, it doesn’t get much worse than that. And I think the way it’s described in The Australian is that, err, I think it was The Australian, they said that this takes us back to Paul Keating era times. You know, 1996 when John Howard got in – which is quite extraordinary. You look at the figures how they’re shown there and the Prime Ministers, umm, well I mean you look at Tony Abbott as preferred prime Minister –  43 to 35.  Wasn’t that only about 10 minutes  ago that Julia Gillard was ahead of Tony Abbott?

 So there you have it.  Labor did well in the Newspoll on 11 March and your man Kafcaloudes was so excited.  And Labor did poorly in the Newspoll on 26 March and your man Kafcaloudes was so disappointed.

Phil Kafcaloudes, as a presenter on Radio Australia, tells overseas listeners what is really happening in Australia. Really.

THE THOUGHT OF (THE SUPERANNUATED) MARK LATHAM: A CONTINUING SAGA

 “Why is it that every time I come to Adelaide there’s a problem?”

– Mark Latham, 25 November 2004, The Latham Diaries (MUP, 2005, p 377)

 As the above quotation demonstrates, the Lair of Liverpool is somewhat short on self-awareness.  However, he is long on abuse.  Which helps explain why Mark Latham has so many rows with one-time friends and supporters.  Even including his early mentor Gough Whitlam who helped him achieve his life-time aim of securing a taxpayer funded (fully indexed) parliamentary pension.

Until recently, the Lair of Liverpool wrote the “Latham’s Law” column in The Spectator Australia. However, Latham resigned in anger when – after reading MWD Issue 160 he learnt that his editor Tom Switzer had won Nancy’s prestigious Five Paws Award for drawing attention to Latham’s double standards in misogyny.

Until recently, Mark Latham appeared weekly on Sky News’ Paul Murray Live program.  However, on Wednesday 27 March, Mr Murray announced that the Lair of Liverpool would no longer be appearing on Sky News.  Let’s go to the transcript:

 Paul Murray:  …there’s something I need to tell you about this very show. You know that I’m a big fan of Mark Latham.  I count him as a personal friend and he’s been part of our show for a very, very long time. Well, I’m sad to announce that Mark has finished off here at Sky News and last night was his final appearance here on Paul Murray Live. It’s nothing personal, don’t worry about that. He’s focusing on a new book and when that book is done he will return and we will talk.

 So, for quite some time, there’ll be no Mark Latham on this show or on Sky News. I wish him and his family all the best and I will say publicly what I told him privately today, I’m very thankful for everything he’s done for me on and off the air. We’ve had very big moments and he’s very much welcome on this show whenever he wants to return.

It’s true that Paul Murray is an admirer of Mark Latham.  So much so that he made it possible for the Lair of Liverpool to use Paul Murray Live as a bully pulpit for his attacks on his (many) enemies.  But Nancy will give free accommodation in her kennel if the Lair of Liverpool returns to Sky News any time soon.  For the following reasons:

▪ In late 2012 Mark Latham mated-up with his former enemy Michael Kroger.  There were intimate dinner parties, visits to the Australian Football League matches and so on – even a Financial Review lunch.  For a while, Sky News ran a Kroger & Latham program once a month in its Showdown slot. Then Latham picked a fight with Kroger on air and the program soon folded.

▪ On Thursday 21 March Latham appeared on Sky News and attacked Sky News  presenter Graham Richardson who fronts the Richo program each Wednesday. The next morning Latham appeared on Mornings with Linda Mottram on ABC Metropolitan Radio 702 and bagged David Speers, the face of Sky News.

▪ Latham was scheduled to appear on Paul Murray Live on Monday 25 March but did not make it.  He appeared the following evening channelling the director of Dodgy Brothers Funerals who had just advised the relatives of a recently departed soul that the body has gone missing.  In other words, your man Latham did not look happy.  On Wednesday, Paul Murray announced that Latham had finished at Sky News.

▪ On Thursday 28 Mark Latham used his fortnightly column in the Australian Financial Review  to bag most of his former Sky News colleagues. Namely David Speers, Kiernan Gilbert, Chris Kenny, Peter Van Onselen and Graham Richardson.

So don’t expect Mark Latham back at Sky News.  Currently he is writing for Crikey which suits the Latham style – since it publishes unsourced rumours and does not employ a fact-checker. He is also contributing to the leftist house journal The Monthly, the publishing play-thing of multi-millionaire property developer Morry Schwartz.  In the current issue, Latham attacks – surprise/surprise –  Richo.

 * * * * *

 Just in case Mr Latham really is contemplating yet another book, MWD suggests some working titles and themes.  Just to be helpful, of course :

▪ “Once Were Mentors, Then Were Enemies – Mark Latham’s Rows – from Gough Whitlam to Julia Gillard”.  1347 Pages with the very real possibility of an enlarged second edition.

▪ “How to Live Well in the Suburbs on a Lousy taxpayer funded Superannuation Handout – of a mere $78,000 per year (fully indexed).”  113 Pages. All profits to help taxpayer funded superannuants in the Mount Hunter region of Sydney.

▪ “You Go the Short Road and I’ll Argue for the Long Road : How to Handle Sydney Taxi-drivers”.  477 Pages – including such important advice as “How to break taxi-drivers’ arms when tired and emotional and he is going the short road when the long road looks shorter from the back seat” after a Labor knees up.

▪ “Why I no longer Accuse Julia Gillard of being a Childless Liar : Mark Latham Reflects”.  87 Pages plus exclusive photos of Mark Latham – as a 60 Minutes reporter – confronting Prime Minister Julia Gillard in Brisbane during the 2010 election.

CALL-OUT TO POINT OF VIEW  TRAGICS – IN THE MATTER OF B.A. SANTAMARIA’S POINT OF VIEW  v CHRIS KENNY’S VIEWPOINT

Nancy’s (male) co-owner has videos of B.A. (“call me Bob”) Santamaria’s Point of View program which went to air on Channel 9 on Sunday mornings in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s – often immediately before or after the wrestling. However, the videos are currently in storage.

Hence this call-out.  Here is the set of Chris Kenny’s Viewpoint program, which airs at 8 pm on Sky News each Sunday.

From memory, the use of the compass in Viewpoint bears a certain resemblance to the introductory set of Point of View – in that BAS appeared on the screen immediately after the name of the program was shown against a background dominated by a compass.  Can this be correct?

HISTORY CORNER

 OZ  RICHARD NEVILLE’S REVEALING PAST

The 50th Anniversary of the leftist Oz magazine – founded by Richard Walsh and Richard Neville – just happened to coincide this week with the opening session of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.  What a coincidence, as the saying goes.
To celebrate the occasion of the former event, MWD took a copy of Richard Neville’s book Play Power (Jonathan Cape, 1970) from the bookshelves.  It just happened to fall open at the chapter titled “Group Grope” in which the following paragraph appears concerning the author’s part in the sexual revolution of recent memory:

 I meet a moderately attractive, intelligent, cherubic fourteen-year-old from a nearby London comprehensive school. I ask her home, she rolls a joint and we begin to watch the mid-week TV move. It is The Woman of the Year, and Spencer Tracy, almost against his will, finds himself in Katharine Hepburn’s apartment. (He kisses her, flashes his look of “there’s a volcano bubbling inside me” and hurriedly leaves).  Comes the Heinz Souperday commercial, a hurricane fu _k, another joint. No feigned love or hollow promises….  A farewell kiss, and the girl rushes off to finish her homework.

For the record, Richard Neville was born in December 1941.  He moved temporarily to London in late 1966. So when the incident with the 14 year old took place, Mr Neville was aged somewhere between 25 and 29. Happy Birthday Oz.

CORRESPONDENCE

 DOMINIC KELLY (LA TROBE UNIVERSITY) AND MIKE CARLTON (GIN & TONIC COUNTRY) STEP FORWARD

 This (enormously popular) segment of Media Watch Dog usually works this way. Nancy’s (male) co-owner waits for someone foolish enough to write to him. He then replies.  And, then, lo and behold, the correspondence is published in full – much to the delight of MWD’s numerous prying readers.

A certain Dominic Kelly – who is apparently a tutor and a Ph.D. student at La Trobe University, the tenured abode for eons of such Nancy favourites as Professor Robert Manne and Professor Judith Brett, has obliged.  And this week Mike Carlton stepped forward once again – perhaps stumbled is a better word – with an angry email from Sydney’s Northern Beaches.   Here we go:

Dominic Kelly and Gerard Henderson – And a certain Dr Judith Brett

Dominic Kelly to Gerard Henderson – 26 February 2013

Dear Gerard,

I refer to your comments about Judith Brett in last week's Media Watch Dog. You state that her article in The Monthly is “incomprehensible,” and that it “bags ‘neo-liberal’ economics, without saying what it is”. I found this strange when I read the article myself, given the following:

 By the end of the decade, neo-liberalism had emerged as a new policy regime. Its overarching argument was to give more scope to markets by decreasing the role of the state in the distribution of resources. This was the goal of Australia’s “reform decades” and it had bipartisan acceptance. Privatisation, deregulation, government budget surpluses and national competition policy were the means to achieve it.

Did you not read this part of the article, or did you find it incomprehensible? I find the latter difficult to believe, for a doctor you are. Would it be overly cynical of me to suggest that when it comes to those you happen to disagree with politically, representing them fairly is less important to you than taking cheap shots? No doubt you'll correct this misrepresentation on your blog.

Regards,

Dominic Kelly

Dominic Kelly to Gerard Henderson – 22 March 2013

So no response and no correction? How hypocritical can you get?

Gerard Henderson to Dominic Kelly – 27 March 2013

Dear Mr Kelly

I refer to your emails of 26 February 2013 and 22 March 2013.

How wonderful that you go to the trouble to read Media Watch Dog – which is referred to by one of my (many) critics as merely a “little blog”.

I note that you have taken exception to my comment in MWD Issue 171 that Judith Brett’s article in the current issue of The Monthly is “incomprehensible” and that she “bags neo-liberal economics without saying what it is”.  In fact, my full comments read as follows:

 … 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.

 You maintain that Judith Brett’s article in the March 2013 issue of The Monthly is comprehensible – and draw my attention to her comment which reads as follows:

 By the end of the decade, neo-liberalism had emerged as a new policy regime. Its overarching argument was to give more scope to markets by decreasing the role of the state in the distribution of resources.  This was the goal of Australia’s “reform decades” and it had bipartisan acceptance.  Privatisation, deregulation, government budget surpluses and national competition policy were the means to achieve it.

 The sentence which precedes this comment makes it clear that Dr Brett is referring to the decade of the 1970s.  In other words, she maintains that by 1980 – under Malcolm Fraser’s government – Australia was into privatisation, deregulation, budget surpluses and national competition policy.  This is sheer nonsense.  Especially from someone who accuses others of “lazy thinking”.

Even if you accept that neo-liberalism commenced circa 1983, with the advent of the Hawke Labor government, for the Brett thesis to work you have to assume that there has been policy unanimity from Mr Hawke to Prime Minister Julia Gillard.  This is manifestly not so – since both Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard have substantially re-regulated labour markets and presided over large budget deficites.  In other words, Rudd and Gillard have wound-back some of the Hawke/Keating and Howard reforms.

As a regular contributor to The Monthly, Judith Brett should know that Kevin Rudd condemned neo-liberalism in his February 2009 article in The Monthly.

Judith Brett blames the (alleged) implementation of neo-liberalism for the (alleged) shortcomings of Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott.  But she provides no evidence for the assertion.  Nor does she say precisely what neo-liberalism is – or what the alternative to it might look like.

I understand that Judith Brett has been employed in universities for most of her adult life and has never worked in a politician’s office or in the public service or in a political party. In other words, she has no experience of government, broadly defined.

It’s easy for an intellectual – in the (taxpayer funded) groves of academe – to use such terms as “neo-liberalism” to condemn recent Australian governments.  The point is this – what would Judith Brett have done and what would she do now?

The fact that Australia has one of the strongest economies among the OECD nations suggests that the policy direction in Australia from early 1983 to late 2007 was broadly correct. If it wasn’t – precisely what would Dr Brett have done?  If she does not indicate this, what is the point of her critique?  That’s why I regard Dr Brett’s Monthly piece as incomprehensible.

Best wishes – and keep reading MWD every Friday, after lunch of course.

Gerard Henderson

Dominic Kelly to Gerard Henderson – 2 April 2013

Dear Gerard,

Thanks for your response. I see you're sticking to your guns, which is hardly a surprise. Your analysis seems to be a combination of wilful misreading of Judith Brett's article and (as in so much of your work) interpreting a difference of opinion as an error of fact.

Regarding Brett's definition of neo-liberalism, you write:

 The sentence which precedes this comment makes it clear that Dr Brett is referring to the decade of the 1970s.  In other words, she maintains that by 1980 – under Malcolm Fraser’s government – Australia was into privatisation, deregulation, budget surpluses and national competition policy.  This is sheer nonsense.  Especially from someone who accuses others of “lazy thinking”.

 In fact, Brett wrote: “By the end of the decade [yes, the 1970s], neo-liberalism had emerged as a new policy regime” [my emphasis]. Self-evidently, Brett is not saying that from 1 January 1980 neo-liberalism was formally instituted as government policy without argument. It is patently obvious to me (and I'm sure to most readers) that she is talking about the general ideological trend that was sweeping the western world at this time, especially with the elections of Margaret Thatcher in the UK and Ronald Reagan in the US. Neo-liberalism would take longer to fully flower in Australia, but it cannot be disputed that the debate had begun by 1980. As I said earlier, yours is a wilful misreading of the point Brett was making.

You then go on to write:

 Even if you accept that neo-liberalism commenced circa 1983, with the advent of the Hawke Labor government, for the Brett thesis to work you have to assume that there has been policy unanimity from Mr Hawke to Prime Minister Julia Gillard.  This is manifestly not so – since both Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard have substantially re-regulated labour markets and presided over large budget surpluses.  In other words, Rudd and Gillard have wound-back some of the Hawke/Keating and Howard reforms.

 Putting aside the fact that you have already abandoned the nonsensical claim you made in the preceding paragraph, you now take an unnecessary logical leap in order to confuse the issue. For neo-liberalism to be accepted as the dominant policy regime of the past 30 years one does not “have to assume that there has been policy unanimity from Mr Hawke to Prime Minister Julia Gillard.” Governments can have different ways of trying to achieve the same overarching policy goals. The point is that there has been broad agreement about these goals for three decades, in spite of the significant debates about how best to achieve them.

You assert that “both Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard have substantially re-regulated labour markets.” While this may be the mantra of the business lobby, it is not really supported by the facts. Undoubtedly, John Howard's WorkChoices laws were wound back by Labor after coming to office in 2007, but if you're going to argue that there has been substantial re-regulation you might like to provide substantial evidence. In any case, this is a classic example of what I mentioned above: your penchant for seeing a different interpretation of events to your own as someone else's error of fact.

As for Kevin Rudd's condemnation of neo-liberalism in The Monthly, Rudd also called himself a fiscal conservative in the 2007 election campaign. Rudd has said many things that he has later recanted or ignored. I think it best to judge politicians on what they do rather than what they say.

You then repeat your original false assertion that Brett does not “say precisely what neo-liberalism is.” I again draw your attention to this quote from the article:

 Its overarching argument was to give more scope to markets by decreasing the role of the state in the distribution of resources. This was the goal of Australia’s “reform decades” and it had bipartisan acceptance. Privatisation, deregulation, government budget surpluses and national competition policy were the means to achieve it.

 What is this if not a definition? I accept that it is not the most expansive definition one could write, but we are talking about a 1400-word comment piece in a magazine, not a peer-reviewed journal article or scholarly monograph. If you cannot accept that you are mistaken on this matter, you are again choosing to wilfully disregard the facts.

You then go on to scold Brett for condemning governments but not offering any alternatives. Are you seriously suggesting that academics and commentators should not be allowed to criticise governments unless they propose alternatives? This is what political historians do – they analyse and evaluate governments and politicians. You have spent much of your professional life criticising politicians and others from your privileged pulpits at such avowedly 'leftist' organisations as Fairfax and the ABC. Should you cease to do so because you're not prepared to immediately take the reins of government and put in place your own alternatives? (Incidentally, if you despise their politics so much, why continue to take the tainted Fairfax and ABC dollars?)

Finally, you make the (fair, I think) point that Australia's policy direction from 1983 to 2007 was broadly correct, implying that Brett disagrees. However, there is nothing in her article to suggest this. Her main point is made very clear in the second paragraph. You appear to have missed it, so here it is again: “the neo-liberal policy regime which enabled the big structural reforms of the 1980s and '90s is nearing its use-by-date, with nothing on the horizon to replace it.”

Perhaps if you stopped letting your own preconceived notions of what people think getting in the way of actual thoughtful reading and comprehension, you wouldn't make such basic errors.

Regards,

Dominic Kelly

Gerard Henderson to Dominic Kelly – 5 April 2013

Dear Mr Kelly

I refer to your email. My responses to your points – in the order they were made – are as follows.

▪ In her article in The Monthly (March 2013), Judith Brett did say that by the end of the 1970s “neo-liberalism had emerged as a new policy regime”.  Despite your denial, Dr Brett’s claim is hopelessly wrong.  What JB described as the neo-liberal agenda in Australia – namely privatisation, deregulation, budget surpluses and national competition policy – had not emerged by 1980, which was mid-way through Malcolm Fraser’s government. Ask Mr Fraser.

By the way, contrary to your claim, Ronald Reagan was not the US president in January 1980.  He was elected in November 1980 and came to office in January 1981.

You are defending claims which Judith Brett did not make – while overlooking what she specifically wrote in an article on Australia (not Britain or the United States).  I understand that you are a fan of Dr Brett.  However, as a Ph.D. student and occasional tutor at La Trobe University, you would be well advised to be empirical and to desist from barracking.

▪ Contrary to your denial, the Rudd/Gillard government has re-regulated the labour market.  Labor acknowledges this – that’s what the abolition of WorkChoices was all about.  And the Coalition understands this – even though it is reluctant to do much about it.  The only debate turns to the extent of re-regulation – whether it is substantial or complete.  In my view, the re-regulation is so substantial that the Australian industrial relations system is now more regulated than during Paul Keating’s prime ministership and at least as regulated as when I worked in the Department of Industrial Relations in the early 1980s.

▪ The fact is that, when prime minister, Kevin Rudd condemned neo-liberalism. Wayne Swan, the treasurer in both the Rudd and Gillard governments, has run a similar line.  The idea that Rudd and Swan are into neo-liberalism is bizarre.  I don’t know where Judith Brett – or you – got this idea from.  Kevin Rudd certainly did say that he was an economic conservative before the 2007 election but he never repeated the claim as prime minister.

▪ I am an empiricist, not an academic.  I left my last academic job – at La Trobe University (where I taught for three years) – almost four decades ago.  I do not think in abstracts – unlike Dr Brett.  As I recall, neither Bob Hawke nor Paul Keating nor John Howard ever used the term “neo-liberalism” to explain their economic policies.  Successful prime ministers also do not think in abstracts.  That’s what many academics do – along with a few Ph.D. students in the social sciences.

As I understand it, the term neo-liberalism was popularised in Australia by academics Robert Manne and David McKnight in their edited collection Goodbye to All That? : On the Failure of Neo-Liberalism & The Urgency of Change (Black Inc, 2010).  As you will be aware, La Trobe University’s Robert Manne and Dr McKnight were both critics of the Hawke/Keating economic reforms.

Contrary to your denial, it’s ludicrous to claim that Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and John Howard presided over a neo-liberal economy when they ended office in 1991, 1996 and 2007 respectively.  By 2007 there was still considerable government regulation and some government ownership in place.  Australia was hardly a neo-liberal nation in 2007. There is much more regulation today.

▪ Your (undocumented) assertion that I have spent “much of my professional life criticising politicians” is false.  As an academic, you should not make allegations unsupported by any evidence. It is a matter of record that I broadly supported the economic reforms and foreign policy direction of the Hawke, Keating and Howard governments.  If you did any research, you would know this.  Also, if you did any research on The Sydney Institute you would note that past speakers include such political leaders as Paul Keating, John Howard, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard – along with Bob Brown and Christine Milne.  The record shows that I have a healthy relationship with most politicians.

▪ It is a myth for you to claim – without evidence of course – that I despise Fairfax Media.  I have a very good relationship with Fairfax Media’s senior management and with the editorial teams at the Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian Financial Review.  I believe that The Sydney Morning Herald – for which I have written since 1990 – is a fine newspaper which presents a range of views on its Opinion Page.  The SMH is a pluralistic organisation – unlike the ABC – and I have been proud to have written for it for over two decades.

▪ It is a myth for you to assert that I enjoy a privileged platform at the ABC.  In fact, I rarely get invited to appear on the taxpayer funded public broadcaster.  Which is no surprise, since the ABC is very much a Conservative Free Zone these days.  Insiders  is an exception.  When I am invited occasionally to appear on Insiders,  I accept the invitation.  What’s wrong with that?

▪ It is nonsense for you to imply that Judith Brett was a supporter of the economic reform agenda of the Hawke, Keating and Howard governments. What is your evidence for this?  Around 2006 I appeared on a panel with Judith Brett and Julia Gillard at Gleebooks in Sydney. Dr Brett bagged the Howard government and its economic performance. I do not recall her praising the Hawke/Keating economic reform agenda – which John Howard had broadly supported from opposition.

▪ Contrary to your assertion, I have not said that long-time academics, like Dr Brett, “should never be allowed to criticise governments unless they propose alternatives”. You just made this up.  However, it is fair to ask social science academics like Judith Brett – who criticise government policy and who have benefited for decades from government directed taxpayer subsidised wages and conditions – precisely what they would do if they were in office.

▪ Dr Brett once edited the Marxist journal Arena.  But, to my knowledge, she has never worked in government, in opposition, in the public service, in a trade union, or in business and has spent much of her adult life on the tenured staff at La Trobe University. This is a limited practical experience for someone who criticises contemporary governments.

▪ Most historians are equipped to look back on past events.  However, if Dr Brett wants to be accepted as a contemporary commentator, she should expect criticism if she fails to state precisely what she believes the likes of Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott should do.  In her Monthly essay, Dr Brett arrogantly declared that neither Julia Gillard nor Tony Abbott are “up to the job”.  Which raises the question – what would your mentor Dr Brett do if she was Prime Minister or Opposition leader? There was no indication of this in her essay in the March 2013 issue of The Monthly.

 * * * * *

 In conclusion, I should counsel you against false pretences.  In June last year, you emailed me requesting an interview concerning your Ph.D. study about H.R. Nicholls Society, the Lavoisier Group, the Samuel Griffith Society and the Bennelong Society – all right-of-centre advocacy organisations.

As you are aware, I declined the invitation since I am busy and since I am not involved in any of the above organisations.

In your email, you presented yourself as a fair-minded seeker after truth who is engaged in empirical study at La Trobe University.  However, your recent email exchange indicates that you are hostile to my stances and to my critique of the ABC and that you make manifestly false assertions about my professional career.  This suggests that you are yet another fashionable leftist with a fixed mind-set and with a political agenda to advance.  There is nothing wrong with this – provided you do not attempt to disguise your position.

Come to think of it, it’s a pity that your La Trobe University Ph.D. supervisor did not see fit to suggest that you use your substantial critical facilities on such leftist groups as Get Up! or leftist trade unions like the CFMEU instead of facilitating yet another leftist critique of right-of-centre political organisations.  Just a thought.

Best wishes – and good luck with your Ph.D.  I look forward to the date when I can refer to “Dr Dominic Kelly (for a doctor he is)”.

Gerard Henderson

Mike Carlton and Gerard Henderson – Before the Gin & Tonic Turned to Spam

 Mike Carlton to Gerard Henderson – 25 March 2013

Crate ?  Crete ?   Cyprus ?   Any other island starting with “C” ?

Do try to pay attention,

Sincerely

Carlton.

Gerard Henderson to Mike Carlton – 25 March 2013

Mike

Delighted to receive your (very) latest missive received this afternoon – without, I regret, your usual sign-off.

Anne immediately noticed my John Laws style “deliberate mistake”.  She texted to advise that there has been a run on the banks in Crete – with money being sent to Cyprus.

Now that I have acknowledged my verbal typo, when are you going to correct your (false) prophecy that Julia Gillard would be replaced as Labor leader in August 2012?  I hear that Bob Ellis, the (False) Prophet of Palm Beach, is somewhat jealous about your on-going success as a Labor leadership (failed) soothsayer.

Lotsa love

Gerard

Mike Carlton to Gerard Henderson – 25 March 2013

This, your latest “missive”,  from a man who’s not sure if Tony Abbott is the Member for Warringah or Mackellar ?   You are mad.   In the 18th century you would have been caged, with the mob invited to poke you with sticks.

Is that rather repetitive trope about a “deliberate mistake” meant to be funny ?   You haven’t written a humorous or witty line in your life, Henderson.  It’s a bit late now.

But I tire of replying to your inanity.   No doubt you will cobble together another neurotic reply to shove into your little blog.  At this end, you now go straight to the spam file.

For the last time:  go fuck yourself.

Carlton

Gerard Henderson to Mike Carlton – 28 March 2013

Mike

Lotsa thanks for your latest missive.

I note that you claim that you “tire of replying” to my “inanity”. However, it was you who initiated this email correspondence concerning your SMH column and my appearance on Insiders last Sunday.  Perhaps you have forgotten.

You may not believe it but I anticipated one final abusive email from you.  Late on Monday afternoon, the wind was blowing from the Northern Beaches to the CBD.  Downwind, I distinctly heard the ice hitting the bottom of your glass followed by the pouring of gin and tonic.  It was, after all, Gin & Tonic time. Then at 5.23 pm your email arrived. Wonderful.

I still remain uncertain as to how you know what is on what you term my “little blog”. Especially since you claim that neither you nor anyone you know reads Media Watch Dog.  Despite your avoidance of this issue, I’m sure that Divine inspiration is involved.

Since, apparently, you do not intend to write to me again – I should express my condolences about your disappointment with the behaviour of the Prime Minister’s Office with respect to yourself.

I was devastated, just devastated, to read in your Herald column on 23 February 2013 that you had emailed Ms Gillard’s communications manager John McTernan “last Christmas suggesting a drink or lunch but he didn’t bother to reply”. Shucks.

How rude can someone get?  There you were, prepared to offer some (gratuitous) advice to the Prime Minister – over a drink or lunch, to be sure. And here is this ungrateful Scotsman – a certain John McTernan Esquire – not bothering to reply.

How could this have come to pass? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Perhaps Mr McTernan was worried that, over lunch, you might – so to speak – dominate the bottle. Or, indeed, bottles.

2. Perhaps Mr McTernan read your Herald column of 21 July 2012 – where you predicted that Kevin Rudd would depose Julia Gillard as prime minister in late August last year – and he does not trust your political judgement.

3. Or perhaps – being aware of your (false) prophecy of 22-23 March 2003 that Mark Latham “will most likely be its [Labor’s] next prime minister” – Mr McTernan confused you with the False Prophet Bob Ellis and did not want to risk lunch.

In any event, I feel your pain – and congratulate you on your decision to share it with Sydney Morning Herald readers. I understand why – failed suitor that you are you now describe Mr McTernan as an “abrasive Scottish blow-in”. Although this seems now at odds with your past condemnation of “puerile beer-garden insults”.

Have a Happy Easter – you obviously need it.  It being circa 5 pm, I suggest a Gin & Tonic – before we all turn to spam.

Gerard Henderson

* * * *

READ ALL ABOUT IT – COMMENTS ON/ENDORSEMENTS OF MWD

 

 “[Media Watch Dog is] not a moan, more of a miserable dribble”

– Peter Munro, 21 March 2013

“You are a fool, Henderson, a malicious and mendacious piece of shit…Now F_ck off”

– Mike Carlton, 11 March 2013 (Hangover Time).

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

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

– Michael Rowland, 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.

* * * * * *

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