10 MAY 2013


The inaugural issue of “Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch” was published in April 1988 – over a year before the first edition of the ABC TV Media Watch program went to air. Since November 1997 “Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch” has been published as part of The Sydney Institute Quarterly. In 2009 Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch Dog blog commenced publication.


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Nancy’s (male) co-owner has just discovered two brand new endorsements.  The first from Professor Sinclair Davidson – who is employed at the taxpayer subsidised RMIT University in Melbourne and is a fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs.  And the second from Dr Jeff Sparrow – the taxpayer subsidised academic at the taxpayer subsidised Victoria University in Melbourne who edits the taxpayer subsidised left-wing house journal Overland.  Lotsa thanks to Professor Davidson (for a professor he is) and Dr Sparrow (for a doctor he is).  Here are the brand new endorsements:


“[Gerard Henderson] is a moral dwarf …Gerard, pull your head in” – Professor Sinclair Davidson, 24 April 2013.


“[Gerard Henderson is] an internet pest” – Dr Jeff Sparrow, 26 February 2013.


For other endorsements see the end of this issue.


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● Stop Press: David Marr Finally Admits to Howlers Concerning Tony Abbott and “The Punch”


● Nancy’s Pick-of-the-Week: Richard Ackland and Jonathan Green Defend Aunty


● Can You Bear It?  The ABC Overreacts on Juanita Phillips; Mr El-Leissy

Forgets; Phil Kafkaloudes’ Polling Confusion (continues); Peter FitzSimons’ discovers old Rupert Murdoch Story; Grace (“call me Darl”) Collier and the Stain She Tries to Explain


● The Guardian-on-the-Yarra : Andrew Holden’s Blunder


● Occupy Macquarie Park: A Dismal Failure


●Anne Summers’ Erroneous Defence of Mark Latham


● Correspondence: Gerard Henderson and David Marr on Political Animal I versus Political Animal II


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In the first edition of his Political Animal: The Making of Tony Abbott (published in late 2012), David Marr claimed that Tony Abbott had punched a wall behind the head of left-wing student activist Barbara Ramjan at Sydney University in September 1977.  In subsequent comments, Mr Marr declared unequivocally about “The Punch” that “it happened”. Yet in the second edition of Political Animal, David Marr changed his timing of “The Punch” to 28 July 1977.  He did so without explanation.  It was not the only correction.


In the first edition of Political Animal (published in early 2013), David Marr wrote of an incident at the Ku-Ring-Gai College of Advanced Education involving Tony Abbott which he said took place in August 1977.  Yet in the second edition of Political Animal, David Marr changed the timing of this event to October 1977. Again, without explanation.  Mr Marr has subsequently denied that the two editions are inconsistent but later conceded that there is an inconsistency.


The evidence suggests that David Marr’s position on “The Punch” is confused.  Yet he has received a soft run in the media concerning his inconsistencies and his unwillingness to acknowledge them publicly.  All is explained – and documented – in today’s Correspondence section. Go for it.






Richard Ackland’s column in today’s Sydney Morning Herald in a beauty.  M ‘learned friend supports the view that it would be better for a “wombat” to become the next attorney-general of Australia than for Coalition front-bencher George Brandis SC to attain the position.  What a profound thinker your man Ackland is, don’t you think?


Moreover, the one-time presenter of the ABC 1 Media Watch program suggests that the reason why the taxpayer funded public broadcaster has no – what he terms – “right-wing voices” is that because only left-of-centre types can “get there by wit”.  The alternative, you see, is a witless ABC.


Go on.  There are literally millions of conservatives and right-of-centre types in Australia.  But Richard Ackland reckons that no one from the right has the “wit” required to hold down the position of presenter or producer or editor or any one of the ABC’s main television or radio or on-line outlets.  Really.


But, of course, your man Ackland had the “wit” to present Media Watch once upon a time.  And now he has the wit to reckon that a wombat is more suitable to become Australia’ first law officer than Brandis SC.


ABC Radio National Drive presenter Jonathan Green has much the same idea as Ackland.  He maintains in The Drum yesterday that the fact that the ABC is a conservative-free-zone does not entail that it is a “leftist collective”.  By the way, your man Green used to edit The Drum.


Mr Green – a long time Howard-hater – used the taxpayer funded The Drum website to defend his taxpayer funded employer.  He said much the same on ABC 702 yesterday during a 20 minute self-indulgent interview. [Don’t you mean conversation?].  Green did much better in the slot last week when he spoke at (tedious) length on the value of screw-tops on wine bottles.  Perhaps Mr Green might ask Mr Ackland whether wombat is best served with white or a really radical red.




▪ ABC Over the Top re Juanita Phillips


Last Friday night, Nancy returned home after a long day away from her kennel – and turned on ABC 1 to watch the News read by the gorgeous Juanita Phillips – author of that wonderful tome A Pressure Cooker Saved My Life: How to Have it all, Do it all, and Keep it all Together [HarperCollins, 2010]. Alas, Ms Phillips had been stood down for the evening and replaced by Jeremy Fernandez.


Juanita Phillips is the partner of Gillard government minister Greg Combet – who appeared at the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) hearings in Sydney last Friday concerning the granting of mining licences by the former Labor government of New South Wales.  Mr Combet was a witness only – at issue was his decision to write a reference for former senior trade union official John Maitland who had applied for a mining licence.


These are the facts. Greg Combet is not under investigation by ICAC.  Moreover, Juanita Phillips does not report the news or even write the scripts that she reads on ABC 1’s News. Yet she was stood down last Friday by ABC management concerned that there might be a perception of, wait for it, a conflict of interest.


Fair dinkum. The ABC is a conservative-free-zone and does not employ a conservative presenter or producer or editor for any of its main television or radio online outlets. And yet ABC management is worried that there may be a perception of bias if Juanita Phillips merely reads a news item – written by someone else – about Greg Combet. This is evidence of substantial lack of corporate self-awareness.  Can you bear it?


Mohammed El-Leissy : A Proud (But Forgetful) Liberal


MWD just loves the performances of Melbourne based social worker and stand-up (and occasionally sit-down) comedian Mohammed El-Leissy – who appears every now and then in the “Newspapers” segment on the ABC 1 News Breakfast program.  And so it came to pass on Monday 29 April – when the following exchange took place:


Virginia Trioli: Can I ask you, are you a member of a political party?


Mohammed El-Leissy:  Yes – Liberals. [How frightfully interesting. According to the Wikipedia entry on El-Leissy, he is a Greens supporter – Ed].


Virginia Trioli: Excellent. Thank you for that.


Mohammed El-Leissy: But, can I just say that now hopefully Gerard Henderson can stop criticising me on his blog every time I have a go at Tony Abbott.




Mohammed El-Leissy: He’s always – he does it.  And I, I, say – well it comes from love.


Virginia Trioli:  It comes from love.

[Laughter ]


Mohammed El-Leissy:  It does.


Virginia Trioli : That’s a nice approach to take, I think. And you sort of think that all this attention comes from love, at least people are caring


Michael Rowland: That’s right.


Mohammed El-Leissy: Absolutely, Absolutely.


The fact is that Media Watch Dog has only referred to El-Leissy’s views on Tony Abbott once in over four years – on 2 November 2012.  Not “always”. Just once.  On this occasion, MWD criticised a comment by Mohammed El-Leissy that Tony Abbott needed to answer the allegation made by the Prime Minister that he is a misogynist.  According to El-Leissy, Mr Abbott had “put his wife out on the parading tour” to defend him from such attacks.  He described the situation – which involved Margie Abbott defending her husband as – “just horrible”.


This is what appeared in MWD Issue 161 on 2 November 2012:


Mohammed El-Leissy claims that Tony Abbott put his “wife out” on a “parading tour” to declare that he was not a misogynist.  He seems unaware that Margie Abbott decided herself to speak out against criticisms that her husband had a problem with women – and that she did so before Julia Gillard described Tony Abbott as misogynist.


That was all, folks.  And yet Mohammed El-Leissy maintains that he is bagged in MWD “every time” he criticises Tony Abbott.  Turn it up.


The conversation concluded:


Virginia Trioli: We need to get Mohammed and Tony Windsor  on the couch [concerning same-sex marriage] to get –

Michael Rowland: I think we do – or at least Gerard Henderson.

Mohammed: Absolutely

Virginia Trioli: Let’s get Gerard on as well

 Michael Rowland: I’d buy tickets for that one –


The fact is that Gerard Henderson rarely receives invitations to appear on key ABC programs.  So young Mr Rowland is unlikely to have to fork out money for ringside-seats any time soon.  Can you bear it?


▪ Phil Kafcaloudes – Behind the Labor/Greens Alliance (Of Recent Memory)


While on the topic of News Breakfast, did anyone happen to see ABC Radio Australia’s Phil Kafcaloudes do the “Newspapers” gig on Tuesday?  PK often does the Tuesday slot – which sometimes coincides with the release of Newspoll or an AC Nielsen poll.  PK invariably gets excited when Labor’s two-party preferred vote rises – and disappointed when it falls.  This despite the fact that a rise or fall of 3 percentage points is within Newspoll’s margin of error.


Last Tuesday, Mr Kafcaloudes reported that Julia Gillard “has gone up in the polls” and that the Labor vote “hasn’t gone down”.  Eh?


In fact, the Labor primary and two-party preferred vote went down 1 per cent – as did Julia Gillard’s satisfaction rating. The Prime Minister’s “better prime minister” rating went up by 2 per cent – as did Tony Abbott’s.


In view of the margin of error, nothing much happened in Tuesday’s Newspoll.  But your man Kafkaloudes still managed to find some good news for Labor and the Greens.  Can you bear it?


The Fitz Discovers Long-Known Fact About Vladimir Lenin and Rupert Murdoch


Hold the presses.  Last Sunday, Peter Fitzsimons revealed in his Sun-Herald column that, when a student at Oxford’s Worcester College in the 1950s, Rupert Murdoch had “a bust of Lenin on his mantelpiece”. PF read this recently in The Guardian. Commented the red-bandannaed one:


Staggering.  Wait ‘til Piers [Akerman] finds out about this!


Well!!!!!  It’s likely that Mr Akerman knows all about this story. After all, it has been around for a long time.  For example, in his book Rupert Murdoch: Ringmaster of the Information Circus – which was published in 1992 – William Shawcross wrote that Rupert Murdoch “had a bust of Lenin in pride of place on his mantelpiece” at Oxford in the early 1950s.  Staggering – as the saying goes or went. Can you bear it?


The Late Night Wisdom of Grace (“Call me Darl”) Collier


What a stunning performance by Grace Collier on Paul Murray Live last Sunday.  MWD just loves La Collier.  So, presumably does Mr Murray – since he invariably calls her “Darl”.


Below are Grace (“call me darl”) Collier’s most profound thoughts on Orthodox Easter Sunday [Why don’t you just say Sunday 5 May? – Ed].




Grace Collier:   …everyone loves an optimist. And I do enjoy the wild predictions. But, you know, I was thinking about it and I think umm I’ve got a few predictions to add. I’m going to become the world heavyweight boxing champion. John [Kehoe] is going to become the world’s highest paid drag queen –

Paul Murray:  Oh, congratulations!

Grace Collier:  Miranda Kerr’s – yes – gonna leave her husband and shack up with Jayce  [Jason Morrison] and Paul, you’re going to win gold in the next Olympics in the hundred metre sprint!


Paul Murray: Fan –

Grace Collier: For the Australian team!

Paul Murray:  Excellent –


Grace Collier: There you go –

Paul Murray:  I look forward to it


Grace Collier: We’ve all got a bright future!


What a wonderful insight.  Especially for a sober commentator. Go Darl.




Grace Collier:  I think that when they [i.e. Labor] lose she [Julia Gillard] won’t stand down. Her own party are going to have to drag her out of The Lodge by the ankles. And there’ll be claw marks in the carpet. It’s just not going to happen. I mean, she’s not just going to just say “Oh yes, I’m leaving – so sorry”.

Paul Murray: [interjecting] I’m outta here.


Good move.  It seems that Grace (“Call me Darl”) Collier is confusing government and politics.  If Labor loses the election on 14 September, Julia Gillard will depart The Lodge voluntarily.  That’s a constitutional requirement.  However, she may – or may not – stand down as Labor leader.  That’s a matter for the Labor Caucus.  La Collier does not seem to understand the difference.  Consequently she seems to be suggesting that Julia Gillard might refuse to abide by the results of the election and thus ignite a revolution. In Canberra, no less.  Can you bear it?




But there is more [Oh, no – Ed].  This is what Paul Murray’s “Darl” had to say on Paul Murray Live on Sunday 14 April – just two weeks after April Fool’s Day.  She responded to the suggestion that the gap between Labor and the Coalition might be narrowing in the polls. Let’s go the transcript:


Grace Collier: The only thing narrowing is their [Labor’s] sphincter muscles, guys. That’s the only thing that’s narrowing. And the only focus they’ve got is holding themselves together – so they don’t put a brown stain on the floor.


Paul Murray: [interjecting] Thank you, thank you.


Enough – or too much said.  As the question goes:  Can you bear it?




MWD  is grateful to Judith Sloan for this update concerning The-Guardian-on-the-Yarra. Last Friday, Professor Sloan heard ABC 702 Drive presenter Raphael Epstein interviewing Age editor-in-chief Andrew Holden and the  editor of the Herald-Sun.


According to Sloan, a listener phoned in to complain about the rough treatment handed out to Julia Gillard over her broken promise on the carbon tax.  Andrew Holden, the former editor of The Press in Christchurch, agreed with the caller.  He declared that John Howard had also broken an election promise when he introduced a Goods and Services Tax after the 1998 election.


Mr Holden seemed totally unaware that John Howard took his GST proposal to the 1998 election – and won.  Julia Gillard declared before the 2010 election that there would be no carbon tax if she won.  Mr Howard was elected and honoured his promise.  Julia Gillard was elected and broke her promise.


As Professor Sloan has commented about Andrew Holden: “And to think we have this ignoramus running The Age”. That’s life – at the Guardian-on-the-Yarra. [And to think that Aunty’s very own Mr Epstein refrained from correcting Mr Holden. – Ed].




MWD regrets to advise of the cessation of the “Occupy Macquarie Park: Restore Mark Latham to Sky News” campaign.   Like MWD’s  earlier unsuccessful attempt to have Deborah Cameron’s contract renewed on ABC Radio 702, this has been a dismal failure.  Clearly, Sky News does not want the Lair of Liverpool back on Paul Murray Live and other programs anytime soon.


However, MWD is remaining on the case – with its campaign to make sure that Mark Latham retains his fortnightly slot as a columnist for the Australian Financial Review. Right now, it seems that the only threat to the Lair of Liverpool’s tenure at the AFR comes, disturbingly, from MARK LATHAM HIMSELF.  But it is a serious threat.


You see, Mark Latham is into plagiarism of the egotistical kind.  On 28 February 2013, the AFR ran a column by Mark Latham bagging Coalition front bencher Andrew Robb, who suffers from depression.  Latham’s line was that Robb is unfit to hold a position on the Opposition front bench since he is a “troubled character”.  The only problem is that Latham had already stated his case about Andrew Robb on Paul Murray Live before he was junked by Sky News.  On Sky News on 2 February Latham called Robb a “troubled character” – a case of Latham imitating Latham.


Yesterday’s column by Mark Latham in the AFR was titled “Abbott rallies round the lunar right”.  For the record, the term “Lunar Right” was coined by Gerard Henderson some two decades ago.  As Mark Latham confessed when he addressed The Sydney Institute in 1998, he is very much a “bower bird” picking up other people’s ideas and concepts and using this as his own.


Latham’s most recent AFR column was devoted to an attack on Nick Cater’s book The Lucky Culture.  The only problem was that this was very much a recycled version of an article Latham wrote just a couple of days earlier on the Chifley Institute’s website on 2 May 2013. Another case of Latham imitating Latham.


MWD readers are invited to send in topic suggestions and they will be forwarded to the Latham abode in Mount Hunter, where your man ekes out a living supporting a wife, three kids and half a dozen bookmakers on a lousy taxpayer funded superannuation handout of a mere $78,000 per year (fully indexed).




In any event, Mark Latham has one big fan who believes that his constant references to Andrew Robb’s mental illness is just what the doctor ordered.  So to speak.


Last Friday on RN Drive, leftist commentator Anne Summers received a soft interview from leftist presenter Julian Morrow.  Mr Morrow, of course, is one of the Chaser Boys – Average age 371/2 (not 371.2) as suggested last week in what was, yes, MWD’s very own John Laws style “deliberate mistake”.


This is what Dr Summers (for a doctor she is) had to say:


Anne Summers:  This was a really fantastic piece of journalism. And what Mark Latham has done in his Fin. Review column was to have a look at the way in which Andrew Robb set up and betrayed Malcolm Turnbull way back in 2006 [sic], I think it was, when there was a vote on the leadership. And Andrew Robb had promised to support Malcolm Turnbull and in the end didn’t.  And as we all know there was one vote in it when Tony Abbott took over.

Julian Morrow:   Yes.

Anne Summers : And what Mark Latham has done is really just go to Andrew Robb’s own book and – where he’s told this story – and Mark Latham says, with some frustration, that he has tried to get journalists to take this story up and take it seriously and everybody says: “Oh no, we don’t, it’s not interesting.”

 Julian Morrow: And the allegation is that Andrew Robb referred to his battle with depression, and the medication that he was taking at the time, essentially strategically to try and up himself in the batting order in a party room discussion.

Anne Summers: Yes, so he could influence it yes

 Julian Morrow: So he could then influence the – the outcome.

Anne Summers:  Yes. He did two things.  That was one thing he did and the other thing he did was that he handed, during a particularly critical time in this discussion, he handed Malcolm a note saying that he was going to vote a certain way and then he voted the other way.

 Julian Morrow: Hmmm.

Anne Summers: But it’s a really – I mean, I just called my tweet “Mark Latham – Ace Journalist”. And it was, it was a fantastic piece of journalism.


Dr Summers went on to declare that Mark Latham is a “must-read every week” in the AFR. Which is quite an achievement for a fortnightly columnist, when you think about it.  [Don’t you mean – if you think about it? – Ed].


Everything is true about Anne Summers’ account – except for the facts.   For example, the occasion was 2009 – not 2006 when John Howard was the Liberal Party leader. Moreover the note referred to did not state the position Robb intended to take.


The reason most journalists have not been interested in Mark Latham’s story turns on the fact that there is nothing in it. Chapter 16 of Andrew Robb’s book Black Dog Daze: Public Life, Private Demons is titled “An Act of Treachery”.  In it, Robb concedes that in late 2009 he used the fact that he was tired, on account of his anti-depressant medication, to get up earlier in the speaking list in the Liberal Party discussion of the Rudd government’s proposed Canberra Pollution Reduction Scheme. That’s about it.  Robb makes it clear that he did not tell a lie in that he was tired. But he acknowledges that he used his illness to speak earlier in the debate than would otherwise have been the case. Shucks.  Robb used his speech to criticise Turnbull’s decision to support Rudd’s CPRS legislation.


Anne Summers’ story – which Julian Morrow did not challenge – is hopelessly wrong.  The CPRS debate occurred on 24 November 2009.  Tony Abbott’s successful challenge to Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership of the Liberal Party took place on 1 December 2009.


It is not clear whether Anne Summers has read Andrew Robb’s book. However, the implication in her account of Black Dog Daze is that Andrew Robb’s alleged treachery contributed to Abbott’s defeat of Turnbull by one vote.  No so.  The first event was not related to the second – and much took place in between, including a challenge by Kevin Andrews to Turnbull’s leadership. 




This highly popular segment of Media Watch Dog usually works like this.  Someone contacts or writes to Gerard Henderson. Being a well-mannered kind of guy, he responds.  In the fashionable terminology of the day, “The Conversation” continues. Until it is published in full in MWD.  Read on.






Good afternoon David


Concerning  George Pell


As requested, I have attached a copy of the 2002 forum at The Sydney Institute on Archbishop (as he then was) George Pell featuring Tess Livingstone and Stephen Crittenden.  These are the final papers submitted for publication in The Sydney Papers – and seem somewhat larger than the original 15 minute talks.  I have also attached Cardinal Pell’s address to the Institute in 2007 concerning his book God and Caesar.  Unlike some of the ABC programs on which you appear, we do diversity at the Institute. Why, even you have given talks here.


Concerning Tony Abbott


In return for the above favour, I make the following request concerning what you have termed “The Punch”.  I note that in the new edition of Political Animal: The Making of Tony Abbott  (Black Inc, 2013) you have changed the timing of the (alleged) punch which Tony Abbott made on either side of Barbara Ramjan’s head at the University of Sydney in 1977.  This despite the fact that in your (soft) interview with Emma Alberici on Lateline on 10 September 2012 you said that you had “no doubt” about the accuracy of your account.


In the first edition of Political Animal (Quarterly Essay 2012), you dated “The Punch” as occurring after August – when you reported the controversy involving Abbott at Ku-Ring-Gai College as having taken place.  It is clear that in the first edition of Political Animal  you dated “The Punch” in September 1977. However, in the second edition of Political Animal you dated “The Punch” as occurring on 28 July 1977 – and you have re-dated the Ku-Ring-Gai incident to October (not August) 1977.


In view of the lack of any contemporaneous evidence concerning “The Punch”, this is a significant change in your account of this incident.   Yet, as far as I can see, there is no explanation in the second edition of Political Animal for the change in your story. More seriously, you do not mention that the dates you cited in the first edition are wrong.


I note that when you appeared on The Drum on 21 March – and were provided by the ABC with an opportunity to have a “free kick” at my expense – you said that “there were two separate bad nights involved in this single election”.  The first on 28 July 1977 – your revised date for “The Punch”. And the second in “early September” – your original date for “The Punch”.  But in the first edition of Political Animal you only referred to one incident.


My questions are as follows:


▪ Precisely why did you change the date for “The Punch” from September 1977 to July 1977?


▪ Precisely why did you change the date for the Ku-Ring-Gai incident from August 1977 to October 1977?


▪  Why did you not specifically inform readers that you had changed these dates?


▪ Did you check if, in late 1977, Tony Abbott reported damage to his hand/hands or whether a damaged wall was reported to Sydney University authorities?  I am advised by medical authorities that men who punch walls/trees in anger invariably suffer serious injuries. I also understand that walls can be damaged when they are hit by fists.


Over to you.


Concerning David Marr


As requested, I will talk to Anne concerning your wish – as a former speaker – to be returned to The Sydney Institute’s list.  As I recall, you asked on two occasions to be deleted from the list  because you were upset by something or other. But you maintain that there was only one such occasion. In any event, Anne will probably put you back on – until your next request to be taken off.


Keep morale high.


Best wishes


Gerard Henderson






Many thanks.


The second edition of the essay brings greater clarity to the order of events in 1977. There are many revisions, editions and changes throughout the essay. That’s what revised editions are for. You’re upset because the separation of the nights of bad behaviour knocks out your always feeble reply that it couldn’t have happened because it wasn’t complained about in Honi Soit. I’ve said this over and over again but let me say it again: I don’t think the Tony Abbott who punched the wall then is the Tony Abbott we know today. I don’t think punching the wall disqualifies him from being prime minister. It was an ugly incident a long time ago. But it happened.


On another front: I did indeed say those words you quoted in the column this morning. I misrepresented myself badly and said so in a letter published in the Oz on 19 March 2005. Here it is for your records:


Journos don’t have to be leftists, says Marr

TWO bashings in one week sets a new record for The Australian. And this time Paddy McGuinness (Opinion, 18/3) takes the attack down to the loony depths by lumping me in with Lefties who once supported eugenics, apartheid, labour camps, Stalin and Mao. I have to ask Paddy, are you OK?

While he was raging at me he claimed Media Watch isn’t required to air “rebuttals or replies” by the ABC. It is and we did so throughout the three years in which I was the show’s presenter. Just check the website. As claims go, it’s almost as barmy as having me barracking for Uncle Joe.

On the ABC’s Big Ideas program last September, I described the “natural culture” of journalism as “vaguely soft Left” and “sceptical of authority”. Hardly controversial. But I sloppily suggested journalists had to come out of the world of the Left. That’s emphatically — and obviously — not so. Good journalism is found right across the political spectrum. What’s crucial is scepticism of authority. Good judgment and fairness help.

David Marr
Newtown, NSW


Thanks again for the scan,








I refer to your note yesterday in which you show evidence of being in post-modernist (or facts don’t really matter) mode.


Concerning the Alleged “Punch” of September 1977 – Now Revised to July 1977 (without explanation)


In the first edition of Political Animal: The Making of Tony Abbott (Quarterly Essay, 2012) you made the serious allegation that in September 1977 Tony Abbott had punched a wall at Sydney University on either side of the head of Barbara Ramjan.  In interviews with Emma Alberici (on Lateline) and Geraldine Doogue (on Radio National Breakfast) in late 2012 you expressed absolute confidence in the accuracy of your account.


In the first edition of Political Animal, you also wrote that an incident involving Abbott – which occurred at the Ku-Ring-Gai College of Advanced Education in August 1977 – was “still hanging over him [Abbott] as he went into the university election season and lost – to a woman – his campaign for the presidency of SRC” in September 1977. The woman was Barbara Ramjan.


When you appeared on News 24’s The Drum on 21 March 2013, you ridiculed the fact that I had challenged your evidence concerning what  you termed “The Punch” – and sneeringly referred to me as “the Inspector Clouseau of forensic journalism”.


Yet, in the second edition of Political Animal (Black Inc. 2013) you changed your account of “The Punch” – without advising readers of this revision and without explaining why it was necessary.


According to the second edition of Political Animal, “The Punch” occurred on 28 July 1977 – not sometime in September 1977. This is not the only revision.  In the second edition of Political Animal, you date the incident at Ku-Ring-Gai as occurring in October 1977 – not, as you initially claimed, August 1977.  Yet in the first edition you clearly wrote that Abbott faced Ramjan in the 1977 SRC election with the Ku-Ring-Gai allegations “hanging over him”.  Clearly this was not the case – since you now claim that the SRC election took place before the Ku-Ring-Gai incident.


You don’t have to be Inspector Clouseau to work out that there are some unanswered questions with respect to your contradictory accounts. Namely:


▪ Who told you that “The Punch” took place in September 1977? –  i.e. your initial story.   Was it Barbara Ramjan?


▪ Who told you that “The Punch” really took place on 28 July 1977? – i.e. your subsequent story.   Was it Barbara Ramjan?  If so, why did she change her story?  If not, who provided the evidence which has led you to change your initial story?


In your email yesterday you explained your move from one confident account of “The Punch” to another confident account of “The Punch” as follows:


The second edition of the essay brings greater clarity to the order of events in 1977. There are many revisions, editions and changes throughout the essay. That’s what revised editions are for. You’re upset because the separation of the nights of bad behaviour knocks out your always feeble reply that it couldn’t have happened because it wasn’t complained about in Honi Soit.


This is the most unprofessional way to dismiss legitimate criticism as to the evidentiary base of your accounts of “The Punch” in Political Animal.

You assert that Tony Abbott was involved in an “ugly incident” in 1977 which “happened”.  But what happened, precisely?


In the first edition of Political Animal, there was just one night which saw “bad boy behaviour” at Sydney University following an SRC election in 1977. But in the second edition there were two such nights.


In the first edition, “The Punch” took place on an uncited date in September. In the second edition, “The Punch” occurred on a specific day in July.


You assert that the introduction of a new date “knocks out” my argument that Barbara Ramjan had occasion to complain about “The Punch” in her letters to Honi Soit (dated 13 September 1977 and 3 October 1977) but failed to do so.  This overlooks the fact Ms Ramjan could have complained about “The Punch” in her letters to Honi Soit – whether the incident occurred in late July or early September.  As you know, Barbara Ramjan’s letters criticised the behaviour of Tony Abbott and his colleagues. As you also know, Tony Abbott wrote to Honi Soit at the time criticising the behaviour of Barbara Ramjan and her colleagues.


Also, it is somewhat disingenuous for you to assert that you have deauthorised my critique simply by you changing your account of the date on which you allege “The Punch” occurred.


The change in your dating of the alleged incident does not alter the central fact that there is no contemporaneous evidence to support your assertion about “The Punch”.  Rather, the change in your story further discredits your whole account.  Moreover, you have not explained why the first edition of Political Animal is inconsistent with the second edition.


One final point.  I note that in your “Response to Correspondence” in Quarterly Essay  Issue 48, which was published in November 2012, you wrote:


I’d first heard about the punch early this year from a number of judges at the fortieth anniversary of my law school graduation class.


This is a somewhat misleading comment. The 40th Year Reunion at the Sydney Law School – which was held on 21 April 2012 –  was for the LLB Class of 1971.  That is, this group of lawyers graduated in 1971 – i.e. some six years before “The Punch” occurred.  This indicates that what you heard was hearsay – perhaps hearsay upon hearsay – and helps to explain why you have changed your story between the first and second editions.


Concerning your 2004 comment that all Journalists must be Lefties


I do recall that you wrote to The Australian on 19 March 2005 in an attempt to clarify your position that journalists had to come from the left.  I originally drew  attention to your 2004 address at the University of Technology, Sydney in my Sydney Morning Herald column which was published on Tuesday 8 March 2005.


You may recall that your initial response was to claim that I had misrepresented your position.  You emailed me to this effect at 9.40 am on 8 March. After I responded quoting your comments in full, you apologised and added that your “memory was wrong” and that my interpretation of what you said was “fair enough”.  You then wrote that you had misspoken.  After The Australian picked up my reference to your UTS comments, you wrote the letter-of-clarification which you cite in this correspondence.


I have always held the view that you meant what you said at the UTS in 2004 – and only modified your stance when I publicly criticised your comments.  That’s why I quoted accurately your 2004 statements in my Sydney Morning Herald column yesterday.


Best wishes. Keep morale high.


Gerard Henderson





You are, as far as the punch goes, repeating yourself. I have nothing further to add. Your charge that I “modified” my remarks about the soft left culture of journalism only because you brought them to my attention is not true.






Thanks for your prompt response. I note, for the record, that you have no explanation as to why you changed the date of the alleged “Punch” between the first and second editions of Political Animal.








One last time. Like many people, including you, I believed the election of the SRC president and office bearers happened on the same night in 1977. After publication of my essay, several people pointed out to me that, in fact, several weeks separated those events. I checked Honi Soit and other documents held in the Sydney University archive – as you can too – and made the changes to the essay.


David Marr.






I refer to yesterday afternoon’s email.   You seem to have confused our roles concerning the publication of the two editions of Political Animal: The Making of Tony Abbott.  You are the author.    And I am the reviewer/critic.  Yet, you make the following claim with respect to both of us in your email, viz:


Like many people, including you, I believed the election of the SRC president and office bearers happened on the same night in 1977. After publication of my essay, several people pointed out to me that, in fact, several weeks separated those events. I checked Honi Soit and other documents held in the Sydney University archive – as you can too – and made the changes to the essay.


The fact is that, when writing the first edition of Political Animal, you believed that what you termed “The Punch” took place in September 1977 and that there was one – and only one – night of bad behaviour after an SRC election at Sydney University that year. I queried what you now concede was merely your belief – and asked for evidence to support your assertion.


This is an important point since it was your allegation about “The Punch” which gave the first edition of Political Animal such widescale publicity in the media.  It was up to you – as the author – to check facts before publication.  Especially since you have said constantly about “The Punch” that “it happened”.  The question is – what (if anything) happened – and when?


One of my criticisms of the first edition of Political Animal was that your essay contained no evidence – in the text or in the endnotes – that you had read the contemporaneous account of the September 1977 SRC elections as reported in Honi Soit.  After the publication of Political Animal, I read Honi Soit and checked your facts. It was I – not you – who first revealed that Barbara Ramjan had written on two occasions to Honi Soit  criticising the behaviour of Tony Abbott and his colleagues immediately after the September 1977 SRC election – but did not complain about, or even mention, “The Punch”.  I also revealed that Tony Abbott had written to Honi Soit in late 1977 criticising the claims made about him by Barbara Ramjan and others as “false and malicious”.


You ridiculed my research when you appeared on News 24’s The Drum  on 21 March 2013 – depicting me as the “Inspector Clouseau of forensic journalism” and  complaining that I had advanced a “negative, negative argument” with respect to your essay.  You told Steve Cannane, The Drum’s  presenter, that you or your researcher had gone to the Fisher Library at Sydney University “and looked at all…documents” , including Honi Soit.


Now, in your most recent email, you wrote that you fully “checked Hn oni Soitafter the publication of the first edition of Political Animal – since your initial account was queried by “several people”.   You now maintain that “The Punch” took place on 28 July 1977 and that there were two nights of bad behaviour – not one as you had initially claimed.  Had you done a thorough check of Honi Soit in 1977 before finalising the first edition of Political Animal, this crucial error about the timing of the alleged incident would not have been made.


I note, for the record, that you proffer no explanation concerning the other error concerning timing in Political Animal – which had the Ku-Ring-Gai College of Advanced Education incident occurring after, rather than before (as you initially claimed), “The Punch”.  Why did you make this mistake?  Who gave you the wrong information concerning the matter? – which led you to wrongly date the incident as having taken place in August 1977 rather than October 1977?


These are significant revisions – which are not explained in the second edition of Political Animal.  The first edition of your essay makes it clear that Barbara Ramjan was a key source for your account of “The Punch”, which you then asserted occurred in September 1977.  Ms Ramjan gave you direct statements concerning “The Punch” – which are quoted in both editions of your essay and which obtained substantial publicity.


Here is the point.  If Barbara Ramjan’s memory is faulty as to when “The Punch” took place – then it stands to reason that her memory may be faulty as to “The Punch” itself.  This is a matter of genuine interest since, as you know, there is no independent witness who saw Tony Abbott punch a wall on both sides of Ms Ramjan’s head in 1977.  And there is no contemporaneous record of such an incident having taken place.  Moreover, there are no reports of injury to Tony Abbott’s hand/s or of damage to a Sydney University wall at any time while he was a student on the campus.


In my view, you owe the readers of Political Animal a full and frank account as to precisely how you got the dates wrong of both “The Punch” and the Ku-Ring-Gai incident – and why you failed to specifically acknowledge these errors in the second edition of Political Animal.


In conclusion, I ask a specific question – did Barbara Ramjan tell you that “The Punch” took place in September 1977, prior to you writing the first edition of Political Animal?


Over to you.


Best wishes








Where do you find the time? I could spend the day disentangling your dark suspicions and wonky logic but I have said what I have to say. Said it several times. The date of the punch was confused in the first edition of the essay and clarified in the second. The date of the Ku-ring-gai incident is the same in both. This correspondence (for me anyway) ends here.








That’s fine.  I am happy to end the correspondence – with just a few comments.


▪ In the first edition of Political Animal, you date the Ku-Ring-Gail incident as having taken place in August 1977 – see Page 16.  In the second edition of Political Animal, you date the Ku-Ring-Gai incident as having taken place in October 1977 – see Page 32.  Clearly, you cannot remember what you wrote about the incident since you now assert that “the date of the Ku-Ring-Gai incident is the same in both” editions. It is not.


▪ I note that in his article in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age on 13 September 2012, David Patch (who was Barbara Ramjan’s campaign manager) supported your original assertion in the first edition of Political Animal concerning  “The Punch”.  Clearly, Mr Patch’s account of this event is also in need of revision.


▪ I note that you continue to decline to answer my question whether Barbara Ramjan (incorrectly) told you “The Punch” took place in September 1977.


▪ I also note that Barbara Ramjan told journalists Kerry-Anne Walsh and Candace Sutton about her disagreement with Tony Abbott following an SRC election in September 1977 (not July 1977) – see Sun-Herald, 18 July 2004. As you will be aware, Ms Ramjan made no mention of “The Punch” in this interview or any other interview prior to her interview with you before the publication of the first edition of Political Animal.


In response to your opening query as to how I find the time to write correspondence – I tend to get up early.  This morning included.


Over and out.


Best wishes








You have at last landed a blow! In honour of that here’s a final round of replies.

I had forgot. The date of the Ku-ring-gai incident is corrected in the second edition to October. Well sighted.


David Patch, in his magisterial reply to your column of September last year, wrote exactly what Ramjan told me: the punch happened “the night in 1977 when Barbara Ramjan was elected president of the SRC”. He gives no date but there can be no dispute it was July 28, the date I give in the second edition of my essay.


Ramjan has, as you know, says she has been telling the story of the punch for years. See her 15 September 2012 interview with Phil Coorey in the Sydney Morning Herald. Patch backs her on this.


As for other journalists, Ramjan spoke of briefing Andrew West about the punch over ten years ago at the Bar Italia in Leichhardt. See her interview with Sam Maiden in the Sunday Telegraph of 16 September 2012. You have a letter from West saying: “I can put my hand on my heart and tell you that I cannot remember if Barbara mentioned it or not. If she says she did, then I am happy to accept her word for it.”


I wasn’t the first to hear the story. I was the first to publish.


That’s it from me. Already I can hear the sound of goal posts being torn from the ground and trucked around the field. But I’m not playing this game any longer.


David Marr.






In response to your “final round of replies”, I make a few comments:


▪  It is unprofessional to change the date of the Ku-Ring-Gai incident without explanation.  In the first edition of Political Animal, you said that it occurred before “The Punch”.  The clear implication was that this incident helped explain Tony Abbott’s alleged state of mind at the time of “The Punch”.  Now, however, you are saying that the incident took place after “The Punch” – and, consequently, that it had no relationship to Tony Abbott’s alleged state of mind at the time of “The Punch”.  This is no minor error.


▪ After your interview with Barbara Ramjan, you dated “The Punch” in the first edition of Political Animal as having occurred in September 1977.  David Patch supported your account of “The Punch” as related by you in the first edition of Political Animal.    In the revised edition of Political Animal,  you have changed to date to 28 July 1977. No one – not you, not Barbara Ramjan and not David Patch – mentioned the July date before the second (corrected) edition of Political Animal appeared this year.  Once again, this is no minor error.


▪ You describe David Patch’s article as “magisterial”. As I recall, he claimed to be a witness to an event which he admitted he “did not see”.  When I studied law, such a claim would not have been described as “magisterial”.  I do not understand how David Patch can be a witness to an event which he did not see.


▪  Barbara Ramjan did say to Samantha Maiden that she briefed Andrew West about “The Punch” a decade ago. But, as you know, Andrew West told me that he “cannot remember” her doing so.  Andrew West is a fine journalist with a very good memory.  Once again, there is no evidence to support Barbara Ramjan’s claim.


▪ You still have declined to explain how it is that in the first edition of Political Animal  you said that “The Punch” occurred in September 1977 while in the second edition you say it occurred in July 1977.  Also, you have not explained how it is that you also got the date of the Ku-Ring-Gai incident wrong.  Both are significant errors –  in view of the fact that you are attempting to associate Tony Abbott with an act which allegedly took place close to four decades ago and for which there is no contemporaneous evidence.


In conclusion, I should point out that – contrary to your assertion – I am not moving the “goal posts”.  I am just critically examining what you have written and the claims of the sources on which you have relied.


Over and out.


Best wishes


Gerard Henderson



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“[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


 “[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.


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