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

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Stop Press:  Jonathan Holmes Declines to Answer Queries on His (Apparent) Double Standards

Nancy’s Pick-of-the-Week:  Mark Scott, With a Little Help from Stephen Conroy, Defends Conservative-Hater Russell Skelton’s Appointment As The Checker of (Non-ABC) Facts

Can You Bear It?  The Daily Show Makes Fun of Tornado Victims; Mark Latham Sends Medicare Gold Down Memory Hole; Latika Bourke’s Non-Sources; Q&A’s Theological Commitment to Same-Sex Marriage;  Mike Seccombe’s Insensitive Tweet

You’ve Got To Be Kidding – George Souris On the Left-Wing Stack That Was the 2013 Sydney Writers’ Festival Which Saw Feminist Collective in Furious Agreement 

Sandalista Update – Lindy Edwards in The Age (Say No More – But MWD Did)

Five Paws Award: Step Forward Roger Corbett & Michael Duffy On Aunty’s Dumping of News & Opinion

Correspondence:  Greenpeace Pitches for Robert Manne to Support Civil Disobedience at The Sydney Institute (Really)



On ABC 1’s Media Watch last Monday, declared that “we” – meaning, presumably, all of us – are being told too little about political allegiances and financial backing of commentators.  Especially since 2013 is an election year.

Mr Holmes had two essential gripes.  First, we are not always told whether or not political commentators are members of political parties.  And, second, we are not told who funds such think-tanks as the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS) and the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA).

Last week, Gerard Henderson sent a list of questions to Jonathan Holmes – which Mr Holmes refused to answer. They are repeated below, in a slightly revamped form.

 Question 1 to Mr Holmes

 Speaking as Media Watch presenter, you have stated that all commentators (including the likes of Tim Wilson and Liberty Sanger) who comment on politics should declare whether, or not, they are members of a political party.  In view of this, do you also believe that ABC presenters, reporters and editors along with those who comment on the ABC should declare – before discussing a political issue – whether they are members of a trade union or an advocacy group like GetUp!?  If not, why not?

 Question 2 to Mr Holmes

 Speaking as Media Watch presenter, you have stated that we should know who funds the IPA (which employs John Roskam) and the CIS (which employs Simon Cowan). As I understand it, Mr Roskam and Mr Cowan are employed by the board of the IPA and CIS respectively and do not receive direct funding from companies or organisations.

 In view of your stated position on the likes of Mr Roskam and Mr Cowan, do you believe that ABC presenters/personalities should declare the source and quantum of money they which they receive from companies and organisations for speaking at/compering functions organised by companies and organisations?  Especially since such money is paid direct to the presenters/personalities and not paid to the ABC.  If not, why not?

 Question 3 to Mr Holmes

 Why do you appear to have one set of standards for commentators who are employed by a right-of-centre think tank and another set of standards for ABC presenters/commentators (who receive a stream of income, in addition to their ABC salaries, from businesses and organisations direct)?

 Question 4 to Mr Holmes

 Do you believe that the ABC should establish a website which lists payments by companies and organisations directly into the bank account of ABC presenters/personalities. If not, why not?

MWD will keep readers advised if Jonathan Holmes finally answers the above questions concerning perceived conflicts of interest at the taxpayer funded public broadcaster.  It is important that Mr Holmes should answer these questions – made in the public interest – since he raised the issue in the first instance.  If Mr Holmes had not raised this issue, MWD would not have done so.


What a truly stunning performance by Mark Scott – the ABC’s managing director and (sort of) editor-in-chief at the Senate Estimates Committee on Wednesday.  Now approaching middle-age, nice Mr Scott has entered his post-modernist phase.  Meaning that facts don’t matter much, if at all.

Mark Scott does not query the claim that the taxpayer funded public broadcaster is a Conservative-Free-Zone in that it does not have one conservative presenter or producer or editor for any of its main TV or radio or online outlets.  He just says that this does not matter since there is no causal relationship between belief and action. How frightfully post-modern.  How frightfully convenient.

The latest big name to enter the ABC Conservative-Free-Zone is Russell Skelton – who has moved to Aunty’s Southbank studio in Melbourne from The-Guardian-on-the-Yarra (aka The Age). Mr Skelton has been appointed to the newly created position of head of the ABC Fact Checking Unit – see Issue 183.  This you-beaut outfit will not be concerned with checking what passes for facts on the ABC – but, rather, will look at the facts claimed by other organisations.  Including political parties in the lead up to the September 2013 election. A very political role, indeed – as the experience of fact-checking in the United States has demonstrated.

In MWD Issue 183, attention was drawn to Russell Skelton’s published work bagging conservatives including John Howard.  At the Senate Commitee Estimates on Wednesday, Senator Eric Abetz (the leader of the Opposition in the Senate) queried Mark Scott about the twitter stream of Russell Skelton bagging the likes of Opposition leader Tony Abbott and Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey – but, not, apparently, Greens leader Senator Christine Milne or Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

The response was predictable. Nice Mr Scott went into post-modernist mode and declared that Russell Skelton’s political views would have no impact whatsoever on the way he will do his job.  As Mark Scott went into his familiar denial stage, he was avidly cheered on by Communications Minister Stephen Conroy.  That’s a fact.  [Well, not really.  Nothing is truly factual any more until it has been checked by the conservative-hater Russell Skelton – Ed].

The ABC 1 Lateline program covered the Abetz/Scott exchange on Wednesday evening.  But neither presenter Tony Jones nor political correspondent Tom Iggulden mentioned the fact that the head of the ABC Fact Checking Unit is married to MWD’s favourite ABC presenter Virginia Trioli. Just as well the head of the ABC Fact Checking Unit will not be checking the “facts” as presented each morning by La Trioli  [Have the Skelton/Trioli item got a cat or a dog who could also get a job on the taxpayer funded public broadcaster’s payroll? Perhaps as a fact-checking mice or rat catcher – Ed].

MWD just loved the following exchange as reported on the ABC’s official transcript of Lateline’s coverage of the Abetz/Scott/Conroy argument. Let’s go to the ABC Lateline transcript as at 10 am yesterday morning (it was subsequently amended):

Eric Abetz, Liberal Senator : But what about last August when Mr Abbott – when Mr Skelton tweeted that Mr Abbott was revealed to be a, “… shameless opportunist that he is and he was red-faced. Windsor nailed him to the floor.” Is that another clear exhibition of the absence of bias by Mr Skelton, Mr Scott?

Mark Scott, MD, ABC : I'm confident that's factually accurate. I am confident that that was a factually accurate statement. His job will be to test statements against objective facts. I am confident that he has the capacity to do that.

Eric Abetz: How on Earth, given Mr Skelton's public denigration of Mr Hockey that he is, “Not the sharpest pencil in the box when it comes to numbers,” how can Mr Skelton possibly claim to be unbiased and fairly assess the Coalition's economic statements?

Stephen Conroy, Communications Minister : John Howard demoted him after he watched HIH collapse underneath him. He was actually demoted by John Howard.

Mark Scott: Working upstairs, working along the corridor in the press gallery are many journalists, many of whom write opinion pieces and commentary and analysis, sometimes quite withering of different politicians’ performance over time.

Stephen Conroy: You’d have Niki Savva put in charge of everything, OK?

Mark Scott: What I'd simply say is that they may have a view about a certain performance at a certain time. Does that mean that they are all disqualified?


So according to the ABC’s official transcript at 10 am yesterday, nice Mr Scott was “confident” that it was accurate to say that Tony Abbott is a “shameless opportunist” and had been in a “red-faced” condition when he was “nailed to the floor” by Independent MP Tony Windsor.  How about that? 

In fact, the first two sentences in the response to Senator Abetz were by Senator Conroy i.e. “I'm confident that's factually accurate. I am confident that that was a factually accurate statement.”  And the second two sentences i.e. “His job will be to test statements against objective facts. I am confident that he has the capacity to do that.” were by Mark Scott.  The ABC transcript producer conflated the two. Perhaps, in his current post-modernist mode, Mark Scott should have thought about leaving the transcript as it  was – since according to The-Thought-of-Nice-Mr-Scott any view he holds on Mr Abbott or Mr Hockey would have no effect on anything.



The Daily Show Laughs at Conservatives in Oklahoma City

While on the topic of nice Mr Scott, remember his comment of 15 May 2013 that the ABC wants “to be relevant to all Australians, not just older Australians”. The ABC’s managing director continued: “Younger audiences are interested in news…but they don’t particularly want it formatted and delivered in a way that it would’ve been delivered to their parents”.  Mark Scott went on to suggest that the ABC might do a popular satirical program like The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report. He seemed unaware that both shows are avowedly left-liberal in approach and, if copied in Australia, would further enhance the ABC’s status as a Conservative-Free-Zone.

Mark Scott’s call for an Australian version of The Daily Show was made on 15 May. On 20 May this is what Lizz Winstead, co-creator of The Daily Show, tweeted about the tornado which devastated the Oklahoma City Area:

This tornado is in Oklahoma so clearly it has been ordered to only target conservatives.

— Lizz Winstead (@lizzwinstead) May 20, 2013

Funny, eh?  Well, some folk didn’t think so. So Ms Winstead dug herself into a deeper hole.

Lizz Winstead        ✔ @lizzwinstead

@swashamokc If Its not OK to YOU for me to combine news stories to point out hypocrisy AND Im not making fun of victims u shld Unfollow

6:45 AM – 21 May 2013

Still, some Americans did not believe that it was appropriate to make jokes about the Oklahoma City tragedy – where the victims included school children.  So, eventually, The Daily Show’s co-creator put up the white flag:

Lizz Winstead        ✔ @lizzwinstead

Made a political joke, Twas before devastation revealed. In hindsight, had I understood, I would have refrained. Beyond sorry. #LetMeHaveIt

8:59 AM – 21 May 2013

That’s just what the ABC needs – don’t you think?  Yet another leftist program – presented and produced by leftists – which targets conservatives. Can you bear it?

▪ The Lair of Liverpool Forgets Medicare Gold

Thank God for the decency – and the charity – of the Australian Financial Review Editor Michael Stutchbury.  After failed Labor leader Mark Latham got dumped by Sky News a few months ago, he had only one AFR column to supplement his lousy taxpayer funded annual superannuation handout of $78,000 (fully indexed). This was not a lot of moolah for the Lair of Liverpool – who had numerous mouths to feed.  Namely – a wife, three young children, half a dozen bookmakers and a dozen or so chaff-eaters.

Thank God, then, that Mr Stutchbury offered Mark Latham a second AFR column – this one on a Saturday, no less – to expand his deepest thoughts.  The first Latham column in this series was published on 18-19 May and covered – wait for it – horseracing.  The end of the column contained the following extract:

Mark Latham is a former Labor leader and keen horse-breeder and racegoer. In 2011 he applied unsuccessfully to the NSW government to be on the new board of Racing NSW.

Enough said.  Perhaps the NSW State Government, in its wisdom, decided not to put any failed Labor leader – with a tendency to break the arms of migrant taxi drivers – on the Racing NSW board. Just a thought.

Mark Latham’s most recent column was published in the AFR on Thursday 23 May.  Titled “Abbott fosters ‘age of entitlement’”, it was very much a rant against Opposition leader Tony Abbott.  Latham’s point was that, in his budget night speech, Abbott had abandoned the cause of smaller government and instead, he had “rubber-stamped most of Labor’s [spending] measures and added his own burst of profligacy”.

This is the very same Mark Latham who, when he led Labor in the 2004 election campaign, promised to introduce a substantially under-funded “Medicare Gold” scheme where anyone over the age of 75 years old would be entitled to receive free health coverage in public and private hospitals – irrespective of whether they had paid private health insurance premiums. Moreover, Medicare Gold was not to be means tested.

Medicare Gold was one of the largest proposed welfare handouts in Australian political history.  Even so, less than a decade later, the Lair of Liverpool is lecturing AFR readers to beware the culture of entitlement. Can you bear it?

Ms Bourke’s Truly Amazing Liberal Sources

Amazing insight by the ABC political and social media reporter Latika Bourke on the ABC’s The Drum website yesterday.

Titled: “Here’s what the Liberals really think of Tony Abbott”, Ms Bourke’s apparently informed sources consisted of the following: (i) “many”, (ii) “some Liberal parliamentarians”, (iii) “some shadow ministers”, (iv) “one Liberal”, (v) “another”, (vi) “most Liberals”, (vii) “another Liberal”, (viii) “a senior Liberal”, (ix) “another”, (x) “one Liberal” [Could this be the same “one Liberal” as the other “one Liberal”? – Ed], (xi) “Liberals” and (xii) “one frontbencher”.

Terrific.  Latika Bourke deserves a Walkley Award for this.  But, on a more serious note:  Can you bear it?

The ABC’s Same-Sex Marriage Lobby at Prayer

These days ABC types don’t have much religion – except for a belief in human-induced climate change and a commitment to the sacrament of same-sex marriage. On Q&A last Monday, the traditional 3:2 “balance” became a 4:1 imbalance as Susan Ryan agreed with Amanda Vanstone who agreed with Lawrence Krauss who agreed with Gene Robinson who agreed with the other three that same-sex marriage is a really good thing.

Q&A did not invite on to the panel a young man or woman who opposes same-sex marriage.  Rather, it trotted out a seventy-something Christian fundamentalist – to wit – the Reverend Fred Nile.  This made it possible for Ryan and Vanstone and Krauss and Robinson – and even Tony Jones – to demonstrate their moral and intellectual superiority on this issue against a rather weak defence.  Can you bear it?

Mike Seccombe – What A Tweet

Insightful tweet by The Global Mail’s Mike Seccombe – otherwise known as the Canberra Press Gallery’s Sneerer-in-Chief. This is what Mr Seccombe had to say about “the mob” and Tony Abbott on Tuesday:

The murder of that soldier in London fired up the mobs there. Why wouldn't it fire up the mobs here, Tony Abbott?

So there you have it. Lee Rigby is not yet buried in London while Mike Seccombe in Canberra is attempting to use Drummer Rigby’s murder to score political points against Tony Abbott and around half the population who happen to support the Coalition. Can you bear it?


MWD readers have been enthralled over the past few weeks to learn that the 2013 taxpayer funded Sydney Writers’ Festival (directed by Jemma Birrell) is as big a left-wing stack as the taxpayer funded 2011 Sydney Writers’ Festival (directed by Chip Rolley)  Since Mr Rowley moved from the SWF to the ABC, it seems likely – and only fair – that Ms Birrell should be placed on the taxpayer funded drip at the ABC within a few years.  But let’s not digress.

George Souris, the NSW Minister for the Arts, declared before the 2013 SWF commenced that it would present, inter alia, a wide range of leading Australian intellectuals and politicians.  As the saying goes: “YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING”. The list of leftist or left-of-centre Australians who addressed the SWF (see here) far outweighed the small number of conservatives.

Nancy’s favourite session was the “50 Shades of Feminism” segment which she heard on ABC Radio National while walking in a park on the South Coast last Saturday.  Compere Natasha Mitchell agreed with author Kate Mosse who agreed with lawyer Shami Chakrabarti who agreed with artistic director Jude Kelly who agreed with Natasha Mitchell about feminism and all that.

After a while, it became so UTTERLY BORING that even the panellists started to hint that the evident unanimity was not without problems.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Kate Mosse: The thing about novels in particular is that we can be anyone we want in the pages of a novel not just as a writer but as a reader. We can go anywhere in the world. We can inhabit any space, any time, any imagination, any sensibility and that’s why novels are the most subversive of any sort of art form you can have

Natasha Mitchell : Do we have agreement from the audience?

Audience : YEAH (widescale applause)

Kate Mosse : And in countries where there is a restriction to reading and an attempt to stop women writing and reading – we know why that is because the minute you educate a women you educate a community. The minute a women has the power to read outside her own experience life changes. And in a novel it’s not a political tract, it’s not you are this person you shouldn’t be reading this, it’s not censored often. Fiction is often not censored.

Shami Chakrabarti : You’re so right, you’re so right. Kate Look –

Kate Mosse : And it’s so important –

Shami Chakrabarti : I come from a different world of law and campaigning and so on but I think you’re completely right and I think about what moved me when I was –

Kate Mosse: Slipped under the wire

Shami Chakrabarti : It was To Kill a Mockingbird even more than it was any piece of legislation or political speech including the great Luther King one.

Jude Kelly:  Yeah for me it was Dorris Lessing

Shami Chakrabarti : Yeah, there you go.

Jude Kelly : And, actually, let me just in this mutual admiration moment –

Kate Mosse : It’s becoming rather sickening now isn’t it?

Right on.  But the serious question is this. What’s the benefit of a taxpayer funded mutual admiration society where everyone agrees with everyone else.  “50 Shades of Feminism” was but one segment at the 2013 Sydney Writers’ Festival which fitted this genre.


The Age has no regular conservative or free market or right-of-centre weekly columnist in its print edition.  In recent years “The-Guardian-on-the-Yarra” has become the abode of inner-city sandalistas.  Former Treasurer Peter Costello had a lively fortnightly column for a while – but he bailed out after a disagreement with The Age’s editorial management team and took his considerable talents to the rival Herald-Sun.

These days The Age’s  Opinion Page is replete with boring left-wing academics who bore for various fashionable left-wing causes. One in this particular cart is Lindy Edwards, a senior lecturer in politics at the University of New South Wales, no less. [I’m sure she must be a doctor – you should check. – Ed].

Yesterday Dr Edwards (for a doctor she is or should be) had a column published in The Age titled “Whitewashed culture has dark implications”. The breakout indicated the author’s argument – for wont of a better word. It read: “Our Anglo-Celtic identity is a threat to social cohesion.”

According to Edwards, Australia is “a country with a predisposition towards a truly dangerous cultural policy”.  There followed a rave in which the academic Edwards only mentioned three names – i.e. “Howard”, “Christopher Pyne” and “Abbott”.  It seems that John Howard and Tony Abbott do not have first names in the politics department at UNSW. Fancy that.

Edwards asserted – without a skerrick of evidence – that “implicit in the Howard narrative is that the real Australians are British-derived”. In fact, the former prime minister never said this.  That’s why Edwards cannot find a quote to support her assertion.  In fact, in academic-speak, a direct quote cannot be located since Mr Howard’ position was “implicit” – not explicit. Clever eh?

The highlights of Lindy Edwards’ rant occurred when she alleged that (i) Australia “is inviting migrants to this country and then creating a cultural policy which locks them into being outsiders” and (ii) that “kids whose skin marks them as outside the Anglo tradition…will grow up being treated like foreigners in the only country they have known”.

Lindy Edwards seems unaware that Prime Minister Julia Gillard is the daughter of Welsh migrants and that Usman Khawaja is a member of the Australian Cricket Squad currently in England for the Ashes series.

In deep sandalista mode, Ms Edwards declared:

The question of how we create a cohesive society in which everyone feels able to fulfil their dreams is a national security issue. The disenfranchised of the past simply became isolated Marxists or anarchists. These days, an increasing number are becoming jihadis with an ideology of violence and an internet of resources on how to take out their vengeance.

This is an issue on which our political leadership has been missing in action. The Labor government has continued singing from Howard's song sheet, reinforcing rather than challenging the approach. Recent comments by Christopher Pyne suggest an Abbott government is lining up for more of the same.

Nonsense.  The Marxists and anarchists of old were neither disfranchised nor isolated.  Many held taxpayer funded tenured positions in universities, schools, the public service and so on.  Many of the Jihadists in contemporary Western societies live comfortably on welfare payments along with free healthcare.

Lindy Edwards ran the familiar line – evident so often on the ABC and the printed pages of The Age – of criticising both Labor and the Coalition from the left.  Presumably Lindy Edwards is (yet another) Greens supporter within the groves of the taxpayer subsidised academy with special access to the “Guardian-on-the-Yarra”.  A real sandalista.



This was the week that saw the launch of The Guardian Australia website – featuring Down Under’s very own David Marr and Lenore Taylor.  Katharine Viner, the editor of the new online newspaper, appeared on ABC 1’s News Breakfast last Monday. No mention was made of the fact that The Guardian is dumping news and comment for free – while losing a staggering $100 million a year.

However, there was some media reality during the week. Reporting on AM, 28 May 2013, business editor Peter Ryan quoted from comments made by Fairfax Media chairman Roger Corbett – in the following way:

…like other commercial media organisations, Mr Corbett is worried, as chairman of Fairfax Media, about the growth and influence of public broadcasters like the ABC. He said restrictions needed to be placed on the ABC's taxpayer funded activities because, at the moment, commercial companies like Fairfax are finding it difficult to compete in the new digital era where traditional models are hurting badly.

Quite so. The ABC’s move into dumping news and opinion online poses special problems for Fairfax Media since it has a similar audience/readership profile to the ABC.

Meanwhile, in a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday, Michael Duffy made a hard point about the ABC’s increasing use of taxpayers’ funds to compete against the private sector media. This is what he said:

In claiming we need the ABC to counter the decline of newspapers, Alex Nikulin (Letters, May 24) misses two points.

Without the ABC website, our serious newspapers would be in better condition. Their own websites would be more popular, with extra advertising revenue flowing to the papers themselves. With a vigorous website, the Bulletin might still exist; without state-funded competition online, the Herald would have more pages and more news.

In weakening newspapers and magazines the ABC is weakening its own journalism, which relies heavily on the print media for stories and information. If the ABC took advertising, as has been proposed, it would change none of this.

Michael Duffy Randwick

Roger Corbett and Michael Duffy – Five Paws a piece.



This hugely popular segment usually works like this.  Someone or other gets it into their head that it would be a good idea to send an email or write a letter to Nancy’s (male) co-owner about something or other.  He responds.  And, lo and behold, the resultant correspondence is published in MWD – much to the delight of Nancy’s ever-growing fan club.

This week, believe it or not, Greenpeace’s Julie Macken emailed Gerard Henderson pitching for Professor Robert Manne of La Trobe University (“Proudly one of Australia’s Top 500 Big Polluters”) to address The Sydney Institute in support of civil disobedience.

Now read on.

Julie Macken to Gerard Henderson – 24 May 2013

Dear Gerard,

I hope this finds you well. I am writing to ask if you would consider a “right of reply” style of speech to Dr Nikki Williams' speech of the other night.

As you would no doubt be aware, her speech was centred around a decision taken by Greenpeace to use direct action to call on all Australians to consider using civil disobedience to halt the expansion of Australia's coal export trade. Dr Williams speech has set of a flurry of media queries we are fielding as best we can.

However in the interests of having an open and transparent debate about these clearly important issues I would like to suggest the Sydney Institute allow a response by Professor Robert Manne, one of a number of public intellectuals who spoke out in support of this action and a panel discussion that would include Greenpeace CEO David Ritter and Ian Dunlop, former head of the Australian Coal Association.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the proposal.

Kind regards,

Julie Macken
Media and Communications
Greenpeace Australia Pacific

Gerard Henderson to Julie Macken – 28 May 2013


I refer to your note of last Friday. Apologies for the delay in replying but I was finalising my Media Watch Dog blog when you made contact on Friday and was very busy yesterday.  It was good to catch up when Jim Macken addressed The Sydney Institute last year.  Let’s have a coffee at a mutually convenient time to discuss old times.

And now for a formal response to your email of 24 May 2013. As you are aware, The Sydney Institute is a forum for debate and discussion which hears many views.  Politicians who have addressed the Institute over the past six months include Senator Christine Milne, Senator Bob Carr and Tony Abbott.

I invited Nikki Williams to address the Institute because I thought she would have something interesting to say about coal – which, as you know, is Australia’s second largest export earner. Moreover, the coal industry both pays taxes and royalties. It also employs many Australians.  Dr Williams gave a 30 minute address followed by a 30 minute question/discussion period.  One of the first comments was from ABC Radio National’s Robyn Williams. The speech was filmed by Channel 648 and is on our podcast – but I was not aware that it sparked what you refer to as “a flurry” of media interest.

I note that Greenpeace has requested a formal “right of reply” to the Nikki Williams talk – featuring Professor Robert Manne, Greenpeace CEO David Ritter and Ian Dunlop (who, by the way, has already addressed the Institute on climate change).

As a rule, The Sydney Institute does not do formal rights of reply – for the obvious reason that this would severely curtail the topics discussed at our policy forums. When Professor Andy Pitman addressed the Institute on climate change, I declined to give a formal right of reply to some climate change sceptics.  I do not propose to invite Robert Manne or David Ritter or Ian Dunlop to address The Sydney Institute on coal.

That’s my main response. The specific problems I have with your proposal are set out below:

▪  Professor Robert Manne supports Greenpeace’s decision to engage in civil disobedience to halt what you term “the expansion of Australia’s coal export trade”. As I understand it, Robert Manne is proposing that he receive a fair hearing at The Sydney Institute – which is our practice – while he uses the Institute’s platform to advocate campaigns of civil disobedience to thwart the words and actions of others.

The Sydney Institute does diversity – but the Institute does not do hypocrisy.

▪  For years, Robert Manne has questioned the legitimacy of The Sydney Institute – in newspaper columns and elsewhere.  Now he is requesting a platform at the Institute to advocate civil disobedience and to support Greenpeace activists who, for example, are attempting to stop Australia’s coal exports to  South Korea.

I note in passing that Professor Manne spent almost his entire professional career on the taxpayer funded or subsidised payroll at La Trobe University teaching politics – and, as such, has benefited considerably from the coal industry’s contribution to the Australian economy.

▪ Professor Manne recently alleged that some two decades ago I sought to have him sacked as a columnist for The Age.  This is a serious allegation which is damaging to my professional reputation.  Robert Manne has asserted, without evidence, that my request to have him sacked was faxed to The Age’s Opinion Editor and that I sent a copy of this fax to Morag Fraser (a friend of Manne).  Manne also asserts that The Age’s  Opinion Editor gave a copy of my fax to him.

So, according to Manne, there are at least three copies of this (alleged) fax to The Age.  However, despite my constant requests, he has not produced any letter nor provided one scrap of evidence to support his assertion.  Clearly, Professor Manne has a (false) memory of an event which never happened.  I do not believe that  I should host a function addressed by Robert Manne until he has withdrawn his false allegation about me.

▪ Professor Robert Manne recently participated in a so-called discussion on climate change at the Sydney Writers’ Festival where everyone agreed with everyone else.  You are proposing that we have a discussion at The Sydney Institute where Robert Manne will agree with David Ritter who will agree with Ian Dunlop who will agree with Robert Manne.  That’s the kind of debate which is common at the SWF and the ABC – but not found at The Sydney Institute.

In conclusion I should state that we will have more Greens and environmentalists at The Sydney Institute in the months and years to come.  However, I decline your offer that we should have a Greenpeace “stack” at the Institute in which our practice of open exchange would be used to advocate that the freedom of others be restrained in accordance with Greenpeace’s desires.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

Julie Macken to Gerard Henderson – 29 May 2013

Dear Gerard,

thanks for laying out your reasons so clearly. Obviously I am sorry Greenpeace won't have an opportunity to reply to Dr Williams but I do understand the point you make about why that is.

As I wasn't in a position to speak for Robert Manne on whether he would be willing to apologise or not, I have taken the liberty of sending your email on to him so he can make his own decision about that.

Again, thanks for your consideration, regards Julie Macken


Gerard Henderson to Julie Macken – 30 May 2013


Thanks for your realistic response.

I just want to clarify one point. I never asked Robert Manne to apologise for his false claim about me.  I accept he either has a very bad memory or is at times delusional – and that his (false) assertion was not motivated by ill will.  So an apology is unwarranted.

What I have sought is a correction.  I appreciate your interest, but I do not want – or expect – you to make any approaches to Professor Manne on my behalf.

Let’s keep in touch.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson


* * * * *



 “[Gerard Henderson] is a moral dwarf …Gerard, pull your head in”

– Professor Sinclair Davidson, 24 April 2013.

“[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.

“I like to think of Gerard [Henderson] as the Inspector Clouseau of forensic journalism”

– David Marr, ABC News 24 The Drum, 21 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).

“[Gerard Henderson is] an internet pest”

– Dr (for a doctor he is) Jeff Sparrow, 26 February 2013.

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

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

– ABC 1 News Breakfast, 18 October 2012.

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

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

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

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

“We’d better be careful what we say, just in case Gerard’s offsider pooch Nancy is keeping an eye on us for his delightfully earnest Media Watch Dog”

– Tom Cowie of The Power Index, Crikey 20 January 2012

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

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

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

– Mark Latham The Spectator Australia 11 June 2011.

Media Watch Dog – “disgraceful”, “sick”

– Professor Robert Manne, April Fool’s Day 2011.

“Before going further can you write to confirm that these emails are private correspondence and not for publication”

– ABC News Radio’s Marius Benson, 11 March 2011. He did go further – see MWD Issue 86.

“I realise this makes me practically retarded, but until five minutes ago I thought Nancy was Gerard Henderson’s wife, not his dog.”

– Byronbache via Twitter, Monday 7 February 2011

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

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

“Media Watch Dog on Fridays…is a sort of popular read in the Crikey office”

– Crikey’s Andrew Crook on ABC 2 News Breakfast, 24 September 2010.

* * * * * *

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