HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG – ISSUE NO. 186
14 JUNE 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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BRAND NEW ENDORSEMENT FROM THE LAIR OF LIVERPOOL
Due to overwhelming popular demand, Mark Latham’s reference to Gerard Henderson on Q&A last Monday has been added to the ever-growing list of Media Watch Dog endorsements. The avid MWD reader was given a right-of-reply to the final question on Q&A and no other panellists were allowed to comment. Mark Latham used the occasion to bag both of Nancy’s co-owners – Anne Henderson and Gerard Henderson. Fancy that.
According to Malcolm Turnbull, Q&A has one million viewers. So it was really you-beaut that the Lair of Liverpool gave Nancy’s owners nation-wide publicity. Especially since Anne H. has not been invited on to Q&A since 2009 and Gerard H. has not been invited on to Q&A since 2011. Lotsa thanks to the Lair of Liverpool for the free plug on the taxpayer funded public broadcaster.
And here is the brand new endorsement:
“The great Australian media nutter Gerard [Henderson is an] ungrateful bastard”.
– Mark Latham, Q&A, 10 June 2013.
For other MWD endorsements see the end of this issue. Now read on.
● Nancy’s Pick-of-the-Week: The “Guardian-on-the-Yarra” Demeans the Late Donald Mackay
● Five Paws Award: Step Forward H. Ronald of Jerrabomberra & Katharine Murphy of The (Real Thing) Guardian on Tony Abbott
● Can You Bear It? Dulcie Boling and & Nene King benefit from Double Standards; Bob Ellis on Weight; Peter FitzSimons on Embarrassment and Mark Day’s ABC Error
● Mark Latham Fudges It on Q&A
● Correspondence: Dr Andrew Leigh Defends his Academic Sludge Concerning Insiders & Meet the Press Commentators
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● HOWARD SATTLER – FOOL OF THE WEEK
Well done Fairfax Radio for suspending 6PR Drive Time presenter Howard Sattler for asking unprofessional and disrespectful questions of Prime Minister Julia Gillard in Perth yesterday. Mr Sattler was in a privileged position to talk to the Prime Minister on a range of issues. He blew it – and was rude and unprofessional in the process. Good riddance.
● PAUL BONGIORNO’s FACT-FREE CONSPIRACY THEORY
It all started with a series of tweets from Paul Bongiorno, Channel 10’s political editor who appears regularly on Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly’s Radio National Breakfast program and Mornings with Linda Mottram on ABC Metropolitan Radio 702. The twitter stream was as follows:
Now, Coalition sources in Canberra regard Paul (“The Greens are 100 per cent right”) Bongiorno as the member of the Canberra Press Gallery who is most consistently hostile to the Liberal Party and The Nationals and most supportive of green-left causes. So it is no surprise, for example, that he is a regular commentator on RNB Breakfast – which does not have one presenter or contributor who happens to be a conservative while it engages numerous leftist and social democratic commentators. Your man Bonge fits the RN Breakfast coda.
The facts are as follows. Tony Abbott, on behalf of the Opposition, supported Julia Gillard’s decision to establish a Royal Commission into sexual abuse within religious and secular organisations. So did George Pell, the Cardinal Archbishop of Sydney.
In his tweets on Tuesday, Bonge did not have even a skerrick of evidence to support his claim that “some” unnamed bishops are counting on Tony Abbott to shut down the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Bonge had merely unnamed “sources” within the Catholic Church.
Yesterday on Mornings with Linda Mottram, the following exchange took place:
Linda Mottram : I noticed a tweet from you yesterday – and I'm reading it here – you’ll recognise the words since they’re yours I presume: “I’m told some bishop’s counting on Abbott to shut ‘it’ [The Royal Commission] down”, referring to the Royal Commission into child abuse. Tell us about the background of that.
Paul Bongiorno: Well, look, my sources are very good sources in the Catholic Church. And there is no doubt that – I mean you only have to look and see the way in which the Church has struggled to come to terms with the Royal Commission. But there is no doubt that many in the Church aren’t happy with the calling of the Royal Commission. And there’s also no doubt that Tony Abbott, while he came on side, wasn’t all that thrilled about Gillard calling the Royal Commission.
Now, my sources tell me that there are several bishops who, reading Tony Abbot’s somewhat reluctant endorsement of the Royal Commission and also seizing on the idea that the Commission could go for years and cost millions of dollars, that he’ll close it down.
Now that’s what they’re hoping. We know that the enquiry, parliamentary enquiry in Victoria, went a long way to further embarrass the Church. We know that the appearance of Cardinal Pell and of Archbishop Hart in Melbourne didn’t seem to do much to allay people’s suspicion of the Church or condemnation of the Church and the feeling I’m told within, among the bishops, is that the Royal Commission will only be worse.
So this is a view that I’ve been told about that I believe is true. But my tweet did not say – and I am not saying to you today – that Tony Abbott will in fact quickly shut the Royal Commission down. I suspect even if he wanted to – and I don’t know that and I suspect he doesn’t want to – but even if he did want to, I think the pressure would be on him to let it take its course.
Linda Mottram : It would be enormously – it would be explosive to attempt to, I would have thought
Paul Bongiorno: Yes indeed, and I think that’s the unreality of some of the bishops who would hope that the whole thing would quickly go away with the help of Tony.
Linda Mottram: Yes, that’s really the insight here.
What a load of absolute dross. This is the reality:
▪ There is no evidence that Cardinal Pell or other members of the Catholic Hierarchy in Australia want the Royal Commission into child abuse shut down.
▪ There is no evidence that, if he becomes prime minister, Tony Abbott would attempt to shut down the Royal Commission – with or without support of the Catholic Hierarchy.
▪ Paul Bongiorno did not say whether his anonymous “several bishops” happen to be critics of Cardinal Pell or Mr Abbott. Bonge implied that his sources supported closing down the Royal Commission but provided no evidence to this effect. MWD can think immediately of three Catholic bishops who, like the Bonge himself, are critical of Tony Abbott and George Pell and may be anticipating that Abbott would act in a certain way. So what?
Paul Bongiorno’s anti-Coalition rants are increasingly unprofessional. [Okay. But this will not exclude your man from receiving a Walkley – Ed].
GUARDIAN-ON-THE-YARRA SCORES OWN GOAL ON THE LATE DONALD MACKAY
What a stunning performance by The Age’s editorial team yesterday concerning the NSW Police’s search for the body of Donald Mackay (1933-1977) near Hay. Mackay was murdered on 15 July 1977 by a contract killer acting on behalf of organised crime which was into illegal marijuana production in the town of Griffith. He was married with four young children and ran the family furniture store.
On Thursday 13 June 2013 The Age devoted most of its first page to the search of Mr Mackay’s remains. Under the heading “NSW police dig for body of Donald Mackay”, the break out story was as follows:
In a lettuce paddock outside the New South Wales Riverina town of Hay, police may be about to solve one of the biggest mysteries in the nation's history: the 1977 murder of anti-drugs campaigner Donald Mackay.
A political wannabe and police informant, Mackay was murdered more than 30 years ago, just two days after confessing he was a marked man, the target of the notorious local Mafia.
This was a cheap shot concerning a courageous small businessman. For starters Donald Mackay was not a “political wannabe”. As the Australian Dictionary of Biography makes clear, Mackay contested the State seat of Murrumbidgee as a Liberal Party candidate in the 1973 and 1976 elections. At the 1974 Federal elections, Mackay’s Liberal Party preferences helped to defeat Labor MP Al Grassby (who was a minister in the Whitlam government) and to elect the Country Party’s John Sullivan. It turned out that Al Grassby (1926-2005) was involved with organised crime in Griffith.
The Federal seat of Riverina is usually held by the National Party (formerly Country Party) and occasionally by the Labor Party. However, as a well educated small businessman, it is possible that Donald Mackay could have won a Senate seat in NSW. In any event, The Age’s claim that the late Donald Mackay was a “political wannabe” is an unprofessional put-down. It reflects the anti-business and anti-Liberal Party ethos which has prevailed at The Age in recent years – especially in The Age’s anti-business “business section”.
Also, the suggestion that Donald Mackay was a “police informant” is also an unnecessary put-down. Mr Mackay and his wife Barbara informed NSW Police of their concern about the prevalence of organised crime in the Griffith area. The term “police informant” is commonly used to describe a criminal who turns King’s evidence.
The-Guardian-on-the-Yarra should be able to do better than this.
● H. Ronald of Jerrabomberra Nails Tony Abbott Beat-Up
Last Saturday The Canberra Times – along with other Fairfax Media newspapers – carried a story by Deborah Snow and James Robertson titled “Swinging ‘70s and president Abbott”. The intrepid reporters told readers that on 25 September 1978, Tony Abbott (then aged 19), when president of the Sydney University SRC, swung a punch at 25 year old Peter Woof. And missed. According to the now 60 year old Mr Woof : “I don’t think he meant to connect. I had to duck.”
According to the story, young Mr Woof laid a civil claim for assault against an even younger Mr Abbott. As Snow and Robertson related:
When the case came on Mr Woof represented himself. Across the room was the young Mr Abbott accompanied by a team of half a dozen middle-aged men in suits, whom Mr Woof took to be his opponent's legal team. “Perhaps he could have got his friends to wear wigs and gowns, but they were dressed like practising barristers and solicitors,” he says.
After giving evidence to the magistrate and being asked to call witnesses, Mr Woof decided his cause was doomed in the face of this firepower, and withdrew. “One way or another, I could see I would be outmanoeuvred.”
The reference to wigs and gowns is confused. As a MWD reader has advised, barristers never have robed in the Local Court of NSW and solicitors never robe in any court in NSW. To do so would have been in contempt of court.
On Tuesday, The Canberra Times carried the following letter from H. Ronald of Jerrabomberra NSW :
I had to read it twice just to make sure it wasn't a spoof (''Swinging '70s and president Abbott'', June 8, p1). In the febrile world of 1970s student politics where it seems everyone was behaving badly, Tony Abbott is singled out as a fist-swinging thug, by none other than one of his political opponents on the left who has just decided to raise the matter some 40 years later. Yet no one was actually assaulted and no charges were pressed.
If this is the best Abbott's political opponents can dredge up in an attempt to smear him before the election, then they really are in dire straits. A truly pathetic piece for the front page of The Canberra Times.
H. Ronald, Jerrabomberra, NSW
Right on. H. Ronald: Five Stars
● Katharine Murphy’s Realistic Portrayal of Tony Abbott
David Marr still refuses to answer MWD’s questions as to why he changed the date for the (alleged) “Punch” which Tony Abbott (allegedly) delivered to both sides of Barbara Ramjan’s head at Sydney University during the second half of the 1977. Mr Marr has also failed to explain why he failed to reveal the changes himself in the second edition of Political Animal: The Making of Tony Abbott. The alterations were discovered by Gerard Henderson.
What is evident in David Marr’s profile of Tony Abbott is that he does not really understand the Liberal Party leader. Not so former Age journalist Katharine Murphy who wrote a perceptive piece on Tony Abbott in the online issue of The Guardian on 12 June 2013 see here.
Katharine Murphy: Five Paws
CAN YOU BEAR IT?
● Dulcie Boling & Nene King Judged by a Lesser Standard
How frightfully interesting that not one member of the (journalistic) fourth estate went into moral outrage following the portrayal of Dulcie Boling (New Idea) and Nene King (Woman’s Day) on the ABC Paper Giants: Magazine Wars program.
The very same journalists who got so upset at the phone hacking scandal in Britain of recent memory raised not a critical comment concerning the depiction of Ms Boling releasing illegally secured conversations between Charles and Camilla. Which suggests that there may be one standard for News International’s Rebecca Brooks and quite another one for Dulcie Boling.
Nene King’s cover story of Sarah, Duchess of York having her toe sucked – by a financial adviser, no less – caused no disquiet to reviewers. Yet the topless shots of recent memory of Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge caused outrage.
So it seems that there was one rule for Ms Boling and Ms King and quite another for everyone else. Can you bear it?
● Bob Ellis Thinks Thin in the Presence of Phillip Adams
Bob Ellis was interviewed by Phillip Adams on Late Night Live last night. MWD may, or may not, report on the self-indulgent love-in as the ABC’s Man-in-Black spoke to the False Prophet of Palm Beach about the latter’s latest tome The Year It All Fell Down.
Nancy just loved it when Ellis told Adams that he liked having his books destroyed on account of defamatory comments. This is not Nancy’s memory of how the False Prophet reacted when his ostensibly non-fiction Goodbye Jerusalem became pulped fiction following the publication of a libel with respect to Tanya Costello and Margie Abbott.
Nancy was also most amused when Adams appeared to take seriously Ellis’ comments on terrorism. This is the very same False Prophet of Palm Beach who claimed on his Table Talk blog on 16 April 2013 that the Boston marathon bombings “could be” the work of North Korea or the National Rifle Association or the CIA. But not, of course, Islamist terrorists – which, of course, they were.
Meanwhile MWD has noticed of late that the not-so-thin Bob Ellis has decided to comment on the shape of others in Table Talk. On 6 June 2013, the False Prophet of Palm Beach referred to former Labor MP Barry Cohen as “corpulent”. Then on Monday, Ellis described the late Christopher Pearson (1951-2013) as “obese”.
Bob Ellis is not thin. Perhaps he just thinks thin commenting on the appearances of others. Can you bear it?
● Peter FitzSimons’ Table Manners
Nancy’s (male) co-owner, having been educated in a Catholic educational kennel some decades ago, is into good behaviour – courtesy, respect and all that. So he objected at the poor taste involved in those at the Richards-Richards restaurant in Brisbane who attempted to make fun of Prime Minister Julia Gillard on a mock menu which, according to the available evidence, was not distributed to guests.
However, MWD became concerned when certain media commentators alleged, without evidence, that the Liberal National Party candidate Mal Brough – and, by implication, Tony Abbott were involved in this poor joke in bad taste. It was not just the moralising involved – but also the double standards. This is what Sun-Herald columnist Peter FitzSimons tweeted on Tuesday:
Re the Brough dinner menu, on Gillard. No kidding, some day it is embarrassing to be an Australian male. #Auspol
Fair enough. But how should an Australian male perform at dinner? Well, according to the Daily Telegraph on 29 May 2013, at a recent dinner in Brisbane your man FitzSimons got somewhat tired and emotional and attempted to eat from the plate of other guests. No kidding. To coin a phrase, sometimes it’s embarrassing to be an Australian male. Can you bear it?
● Mark Day Gets One Right/One Wrong on MWD
Mark Day, who writes the “On Media” column in The Australian’s “Media” section on Mondays, reads MWD – but, alas, not always accurately. Last Monday, Mr Day made two points about MWD. Here they are – along with MWD’s assessment:
▪ First up Mark Day commented on the ABC:
The ABC has been front and centre of the bias debate in recent years. The Sydney Institute's Gerard Henderson, through his Media Watch Dog blog, relentlessly gibes at “the nice Mr Mark Scott's” stable of presenters, interviewers, panellists et al as being almost entirely of the Left. The only exception he acknowledges is former Howard government minister Amanda Vanstone's Counterpoint program on Radio National. I don't take issue with Henderson on his numbers. But I do suggest it doesn't matter.
Fair enough. Mark Day agrees with Gerard Henderson that, under nice Mr Scott’s management, the ABC remains a Conservative-Free-Zone. Especially since Counterpoint is not one of the ABC’s main programs. It’s just that Mark Day happens to believe that this does not matter.
▪ Then Mark Day made the following comment about MWD :
Henderson has been niggling the ABC News 24 breakfast team over the daily segment where the nation's newspapers are discussed. He has been alarmed at the parade of left-leaning folk who comment on the day's headlines and has succeeded in getting the hosts to ask for and identify any party political affiliations among the commentators. It may all add up to further grist for his mill in his efforts to expose the national broadcaster's leftish tilt, but I can't see it mattering a hill of beans.
Mark Day’s comment is wilfully false – obviously he did not check the facts.
Gerard Henderson has never complained about the ABC1 News Breakfast’s “Newspapers” segment. By the way, Mr Day is also wrong in implying that this is an ABC News 24 program. Sure, MWD likes having fun at some of the contributors to this segment – but has acknowledged that Labor sympathisers like Liberty Sanger are matched by Liberal Party sympathisers like Tim Wilson. Moreover, MWD likes the contributions of Ms Sanger and Mr Wilson.
In fact, it was Jonathan Holmes on the ABC 1 Media Watch program who demanded that all who appeared on the “Newspapers” segment on News Breakfast should be asked to declare if they are members of a political party. All Gerard Henderson ever said was that Jonathan Holmes is inconsistent – in that if he demands that everyone who appears on the ABC should declare whether or not they are members of political parties then he should also insist that everyone who appears on the ABC (ABC presenters and journalists included) should declare whether or not they are members of trade unions.
Jonathan Holmes refuses to answer MWD’s questions as to where he stands on this issue – See MWD Issues 184 and 185.
Mark Day writes an “On Media” column without bothering to engage in fact-checking or contacting those he writes about before making (false) assertions. Can you bear it?
DOUBTING LEIGH SALES’ DOUBT – A CONTINUING SAGA
In her essay On Doubt (MUP, 2008), 7.30 presenter Leigh Sales declared that she was heavily into doubt. In the final paragraph of this (brief) tome, Ms Sales declared that she looked at “people who are particularly self-assured or laid back or passionate” and envied them. [Didn’t she also assert that the oh-so-certain Martin Luther was a bit of a doubter? Perhaps you should mention this (yet) again – Ed].
Regrettably, Ms Sales was not exhibiting much doubt when she introduced 7.30’s segment on the misogynistic menu controversy. Let’s go to the transcript for last Wednesday’s 7.30 as Leigh Sales goes live-to-air at 7.30 pm.
Leigh Sales, Presenter: The gender war in federal politics has exploded back onto centrestage after a provocative speech by Prime Minister Julia Gillard and a shocking sexist misstep by a prominent Coalition MP [sic]. In the speech the Prime Minister claimed an Abbott government would banish women's voices from political life and turn abortion into the political plaything of men who think they know better.
The speech was roundly condemned, dismissed by her critics as the opportunistic move of a desperate leader. But today the tables turned, with the release of a menu from a Liberal-National fundraiser that ridiculed Julia Gillard in infantile, crude and deeply sexist terms.
In fact, by 7.30 pm on Wednesday it was known that Mal Brough, the prominent Coalition candidate – not MP – involved in the controversy had not made any mis-steps since he had nothing to do with the distribution of the offensive menu.
If Leigh Sales had a bit more doubt when she really needed it, the howler would not have gone to air.
MARK LATHAM RE-CYCLES MARK LATHAM ON Q&A
In recent weeks MWD has regretted the failure of Nancy’s “Occupy Macquarie Park: Return the Lair of Liverpool to Sky News” campaign. Alas Mark Latham has not been offered his gig back on Paul Murray Live and other Sky News program.
So MWD was delighted, absolutely delighted, when Mr Latham reneged on his commitment never to accept an invitation to appear on Q&A – which he depicted as a dentist’s chair for political tragics and those into self-flagellation – and turned up at Sandalista Centre in Ultimo on Monday.
At the end of Q&A, Latham falsely claimed that Gerard Henderson was critical of him being on the show. Not really. The criticism was directed at the Lair of Liverpool’s somersault. That’s all. MWD wants Mr Latham to be as busy as possible – since it’s hard to get by on a lousy $78,000 (fully indexed) taxpayer funded superannuation handout. Especially if a person in this position has a wife, three children and half a dozen bookmakers to support.
What did upset MWD was the lack of originality in the Latham performance. His criticism of Kevin Rudd and the modern Labor Party was a repeat of what he had told Geraldine Doogue on RN Saturday Extra at the weekend. And his joke about Gerard Henderson’s letter-writing habit was a repeat of what he told the Australian Financial Review “Rear Window” columnist Joe Aston a couple of weeks ago.
Obviously the Lair of Liverpool needs some fresh material. Fortunately Mark Latham has agreed to be interviewed by Nancy for next Friday’s MWD – where this and other matters will be raised. Stay tuned.
CONCERNING DR ANDREW LEIGH, HEDGEHOGS, FOXES, INSIDERS, MEET THE PRESS AND MUCH FACTLESS ACADEMIC SLUDGE
As MWD readers are aware, this increasingly popular segment usually works like this. Believe it or not, someone sees fit to email Nancy’s (male) co-owner and he then replies. There may – or may not – be follow-up correspondence. In any event, all the exchanges are published in MWD. Here we go – yet again – this time sparked by Dr Leigh (for a doctor he is) – the Labor MP for Fraser.
ANDREW LEIGH TO GERARD HENDERSON – 11 JUNE 2013
My paper on the predictive power of pundits – co-authored with Phillip Metaxas – has now been published by the journal Media International Australia.
We’ve made quite a few changes since the last version you saw – including classifying all our pundits as “foxes” or “hedgehogs”.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister
Federal Member for Fraser
GERARD HENDERSON TO ANDREW LEIGH – 12 JUNE 2013
I refer to your email of 11 June 2012 attaching your paper on the predictive power of pundits – which you co-authored with Phillip Metaxas and which has been published in the May 2013 issue of the journal Media International Australia. Well done – yet another refereed article to advance your CV, should you need it.
Academic Sludge Dropped On Fin Review
I recall that you did send me an earlier version of the paper. I did not read it. Life is too short to spend time reading obtusely written academic sludge. However, I decided to read the final version of your paper “The Predictive Power of Political Pundits: Prescient or Pitiful?” since you dropped a copy on Joanna Heath at the Australian Financial Review and Michael Stutchbury and his team was foolish enough to run it yesterday on the top of Page 5 along with colour pics of Ian Kortlang, Phillip Coorey, Andrew Bolt, David Marr and yours truly. I can only assume that the AFR was short of news on the morning after the Queen’s Birthday night before.
What fun that as the Federal Member for Fraser since August 2010 – and more recently with added responsibility as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister – you have found time to work with the self-declared “independent researcher” Phillip Metaxas on so trivial a topic.
A Hedgehog Responds
In response to your evident labours, I offer a few comments:
● You have written a 5500 word journal article on the alleged “predictive
power” of political pundits as assessed by the appearance of commentators (who, by the way, do not call themselves pundits) on the Channel 10’s Meet the Press and ABC 1’s Insiders programs for designated periods in the lead-up to the 2007 and 2010 Federal elections. Yet, on the first page of your paper, you acknowledge that you were “struck by the paucity of such predictions” and that this “suggests that Australian pundits are hesitant to make predictions”. What’s more, your 32 hours of studying tapes revealed that “less than 0.2 per cent of airtime was used” on Meet The Press and Insiders by pundits to make predictions.
So, if your chosen pundits do not make predictions, if would make sense for you and Mr Metaxas to junk your thesis. But the academic that you were once were – with a doctorate and all that – obviously entailed that you should plough for another 11 pages in a vain attempt to make a scarcity of facts fit your debunked thesis.
It’s all very well to brand me – along with Paul Kelly, Andrew Bolt, David Marr, Piers Akerman, Brian Toohey, George Megalogenis, Glenn Milne, Michael Stutchbury, Bruce Hawker and Ian Kortlang – as a “hedgehog”. According to this theory, we hedgehogs all “know one big theory”. Just one. Compared with you, who is a fox – as you told The Drum last night. Foxes like you know “many things”. Well done. Congratulations. And so on.
I can understand why academics might like to divide commentators into hedgehogs and foxes. After all, many academics in the social sciences like to engage in theoretical modelling. But a practical politician like you should appreciate that such a division is difficult to understand. Try explaining it to, say, the electors of Fraser. In my view, the division between hedgehogs and foxes is junk.
● At Page 3 you write that you researched “for falsifiable predictions made by
pundits on the state of the world at sometime in the future”. You later claim that, on Insiders on 27 September 2007, I made the following comment:
Whatever the outcome of the election, I suspect next time around in three years’ time there will be less focus on opinion polls.
You do not place this comment in any context. As I recall, the comment was directed not at politicians but rather at the media. Moreover, it was not a firm prediction – I used the word “suspect”. By the way, contrary to your assertion, the comment was not rehearsed. I note that you have not cited any empirical evidence to refute my comment. You acknowledge this, seemingly reluctantly, when you write:
While a statement like this is difficult to prove, the subsequent election in 2010 was widely derided for being overly focused on opinion polls at the expense of public policy.
This is a contentious statement. In my view the 2010 election was dominated by a debate on public policy – including such issues as the proposed emissions trading scheme, carbon tax and asylum seekers. As I recall, my comment in September 2007 was directed at the use of polls in the immediate lead-up to the election to determine whether John Howard should remain as Liberal Party leader and, consequently, prime minister. The fact is that there was no similar use of opinion polls in the immediate lead-up to the August 2010 election – since Julia Gillard had replaced Kevin Rudd as prime minister on 24 June 2010.
Since the September 2007 election I have written some 300 columns in the Sydney Morning Herald and made around 35 appearances on Insiders. Yet you have branded me a “pitiful” pundit on the bases of one ambiguous comment given against a tight deadline in the final brief “Observations/Predictions” segment which took place at the end of an Insiders program around six years ago.
● At Page 8, you acknowledge that “40 per cent of all Insiders predictions” in
the lead up to the 2007 and 2010 elections turned on “the timing of the election”. You acknowledge that this “seems at face value to be a relatively trivial issue”. You can say that again.
● At Page 9 you also acknowledge that “in a small samples such as ours, the
paucity of data means that definitive conclusions should not be drawn”. Yet there you were on ABC News 24’s The Drum last night drawing definitive conclusions about your study which – as you concede – contains a paucity of data.
● The fact is that I go out of my way to avoid making predictions – since I
understand that all we know about the future is that we really know nothing about the future at all. You concede this when you wrote on Page 9 that “one of the most noteworthy things we observed in the data was the general unwillingness of leading pundits to make falsifiable predictions”. Yet the title of your paper states that you have (allegedly) indentified a collection of “pitiful pundits” – myself included along with the Lord High Sneerer David Marr and more besides.
● In your conclusion you propose that Barrie Cassidy should “insist on ‘falsible predictions’ in his final segment, rather than the current ‘observations or predictions’ from the pundits”. Yet on The Drum last night you suggested that you would “like to see” either “a ban on forecasting” or commentators being forced to only engage in punditry where the “track record” of the predictions can be judged. You ended up declaring on The Drum that:
It turns out that people place straight faith in the prognostication of pundits and I think we can do something to improve the quality of punditry or maybe replace it with deeper analysis that doesn’t pretend to have a crystal ball.
But in your paper you concede that the pundits you have named rarely involved themselves in what you term “prognostication”. So what’s your point?
Conclusion – Your Incoherent & Contradictory Thesis
This leads to an even more serious situation. First, you do not have a coherent thesis. And, second, your proposal to deal with this non-problem is totally contradictory – in that you want pundits to both make, and desist from making, predictions.
Best wishes for the 2013 election, which may – or may not – be held on 14 September 2013. I enjoyed your address at The Sydney Institute last year and look forward to you addressing the Institute in the next year or so. Remember to bring some facts with you – as you did on the previous occasion.
ANDREW LEIGH TO GERARD HENDERSON – 12 JUNE 2013
Thanks for the feedback, and the election wishes.
On another matter, I wanted to let you know that my 2012 talk to the Sydney Institute helped spark more thinking on inequality, which eventually turned into Battlers & Billionaires: The Story of Inequality in Australia. It’ll be in the bookstores next month. Fact-filled, I promise.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister
Federal Member for Fraser
GERARD HENDERSON TO ANDREW LEIGH – 13 JUNE 2013
Thanks for your prompt response. It’s good to hear that you are planning to return to the field of empiricism with the forthcoming fact-filled publication of Battlers & Billionaires. Well done.
If you decide to revert – with, or without, that independent researcher Phillip Metaxas – I have a you-beaut-look-mum-no-facts topic to follow your “The Predictive Power of Political Pundits: Prescient or Pitiful?” Here is a modest proposal. How about devoting the combined fact-free talents of a Dr Leigh and Mr Metaxas to the following topic? In suitable academic jargon, the topic might be :
Towards an understanding of why some Federal MPs – Prescient and Pitiful, Hedgehogs and Foxes alike – feel the urge to write turgid, academic-driven, theoretical-model inspired, 5500 word essays making widescale generalisations on the basis of material – 99.8 per cent of which is inconsistent with their thesis: Some initial theoretical insights as a prompt to further research.
I really and truly hope that you and Mr Metaxas will revert to academic sludge and direct your considerable talents to an examination of this topic. If you do, I’m sure it will get a really big run in The Australian Financial Review as well as on the ABC News 24’s The Drum – especially in the wake of the Queen’s Birthday weekend.
Keep morale high.
READ ALL ABOUT IT – COMMENTS ON/ENDORSEMENTS OF MWD
“[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”
“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.