28 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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“I said publicly once that I thought that Gerard’s views on the ABC came not from his brain but from his spinal cord”

– Tim Bowden as told to Phillip (“I was a teenage Stalinist”) Adams, Late Night Live, 11 June 2013 – Queen’s Birthday Public Holiday.

Regular Late Night Live listeners know when a long weekend is nearing completion.  Having departed his fashionable inner-city abode for his farm in fashionable Scone, your man Adams invariably pads-out his Monday night LNL gig with a long 55 minute pre-recorded interview so that he can enjoy what journalists call a WEB – as in Well Earned Break.

The long interview is often both long-winded and boring.  No more boring than on the 2013 Queen’s Birthday public holiday when the ABC’s Man-in-Black spent the entire program talking to Tim Bowden about Tim Bowden.  The only highlight occurred when Mr Bowden AM, BA, D.Litt (Honorary) – a one-time ABC presenter who retired from the ABC in 1993 – provided an endorsement for Nancy’s co-owner which is cited above.  For which, many thanks.

For further MWD endorsements, see the end of this issue.  Now read on.

Stop Press:  Lachlan Harris’ 7.30 Ramble; Rod Cameron’s Lateline Free Kick; Jonathan Holmes’ Complaint about Sarcasm (Really)


● Can You Bear It?  Samantha Maiden’s Anonymous Sources; Peter FitzSimons’ Selective Atheism; Julia Gillard Sensibly Rejects the Advice of the Guardian-on-the-Yarra and Mike (“I’ll pour the Gin”) Carlton


● Great Media U-Turns of Our Time:  Waleed Aly on Tony Abbott


● Nancy’s Pick-of-the-Week: Mark Latham’s Bob-Ellis-Style False Prophecy on Kevin Rudd


● A Modest Proposal for Nice Mr Scott’s Fact-Checker: What About Checking the Q&A Audience Profile?


● History Corner: Spinner Bruce Hawker’s Howler on Gough Whitlam & Indo-Chinese Refugees


● Correspondence: A Student Writes About The Dismissal, Gough Whitlam, Dr Jenny Hocking, Sir John Kerr, Sir Anthony Mason and all that

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● Lachlan Harris Rod Cameron Get Free-Kicks on ABC 1

What stunning performances by former Kevin Rudd staffer Lachlan Harris and former ALP pollster Rod Cameron on last night’s 7.30 and Lateline respectively.  And what soft questioning.

During her interview with Lachlan Harris, Leigh Sales never once mentioned that one of the perceived failures of the first Rudd government turned on the weakness of the Prime Minister’s Office – in which Mr Harris played a prominent role.

As to the value of what Lachlan Harris had to say, you can be the judge.  Here is his answer to Ms Sales’ inaugural question – as taken from the ABC’s very own transcript (with a few minor typographical corrections).

Leigh Sales : Lachlan Harris, does a leopard change its spots?

Lachlan Harris, Former Kevin Rudd Press Secretary : Well I think a PM who basically – PMs, the one thing they don't really understand I think when they're in the office is that it's all gonna end one day. The car's gonna go, the security guards, the power, the staff and all you're left with is your legacy.  And I think you really only learn that the day you stop being PM.

And so, Rudd – that's happened to Rudd. That's gonna change him. How exactly it changes him, I don't think it's gonna be clear until he's put back into the pressure cooker, which is what is being down now, into the office again. And I think over the next couple of weeks you'll see it. There's no doubt he's changed. You would imagine understanding that all you're left with is your legacy is gonna be a force for positive change. We'll have to wait and see over the next few weeks.

Well, that’s all clear then?  Harris was also of the view that the best way to reinvigorate the traditional Labor vote was for Kevin Rudd “to move on…gay marriage and the republic”. Really.

Leigh Sales’ final question turned on when the former Rudd adviser thought that the election would be held.  Young Mr Harris replied:

They need to go as soon as possible once they have all their ducks in a row.

So there.  [Nancy advises that the next official Duck Season in Australia commences in March 2014 and hopes that this information is helpful. – Ed].

During his interview with Rod Cameron, Lateline presenter Tony Jones never once mentioned that one of the errors of the first Rudd government turned on its under-estimation of Tony Abbott – in which Mr Cameron had a major role.  After all, it was Rod Cameron who, in December 2009, described the newly elected Liberal Party Opposition leader as “unelectable”. Kevin Rudd’s view that he could easily defeat Tony Abbott was a factor in his decision not to call an election in early 2010 – a decision which ALP supporters now concede was an error.

Moreover, Rod Cameron was allowed to take a swipe at the Opposition leader on Lateline  – without having his opinion challenged by, say, a former Liberal Party pollster.  How very ABC.

Jonathan Holmes Rails Against Sarcasm (Of Others)


The good news is that ABC 1 Media Watch presenter Jonathan Holmes is still at work – even though next Monday’s program will be his final outing as the judge and jury of the media in Australia.  Needless to say, Jonathan Holmes will be replaced by another leftie – thus continuing ABC 1’s Media Watch’s  long tradition as a sinecure for left-of-centre presenters along with the ABC’s status as a Conservative Free Zone.

At 10.23 pm last night, Mr Holmes wrote to Gerard Henderson saying that he could “survive quite well without” Nancy’s (male) co-owner’s “leaden sarcasm”.  How about that?  Jonathan Holmes, who has smirked through hundreds of sarcasm-laden Media Watch programs, is accusing someone else of “leaden sarcasm”.  [Perhaps you should have placed this item in your popular “Can You Bear It?” segment. – Ed].

It was Jonathan Holmes who initiated a debate recently about the political accountability of commentators who appear on the public broadcaster.  He demanded (successfully, as it turned out) that commentators on the ABC 1 News Breakfast  “Newspapers” segment should declare whether or not they are members of a political party.  And he demanded (unsuccessfully, so far) that commentators from the Institute of Public Affairs, who appear on the ABC, should reveal the sources of all their employer’s funding.

However Jonathan Holmes, who for years has sent letters-of-demand to journalists, producers and presenters, simply refuses to answer MWD’s questions on a number of issues.  In particular:

▪ Does Mr Holmes believe that commentators appearing on the ABC, including ABC staff, should declare whether they are members of a trade union and/or an environment organisation?

▪ Does Mr Holmes believe that ABC presenters should declare all the income they receive – or have received – from companies and organisations for chairing or speaking at conferences –  in addition to their ABC salaries?

These are quite simple questions to answer for a prominent taxpayer funded broadcaster – who has moralised about the (alleged) lack of accountability of non-ABC types. Yet  Jonathan Holmes refuses to respond to these straight-forward questions. He has elected, as the saying goes, to “take-the-fifth” and to pass the matter on to ABC management – sure in the knowledge that ABC management will support ABC staff as it invariably does.  See Correspondence section.



● Samantha Maiden’s Sunday Picnic

Great scoop by Samantha Maiden in the News Limited Sunday newspapers last weekend.  In the Sunday Telegraph, Ms Maiden’s article was headed “Rats in the ranks”. Her line was that Greg Combet had “been accused of double dealing with Kevin Rudd’s supporters with his eye on his own leadership ambitions”.  According to Maiden’s sources, Combet pretended to be a Julia Gillard supporter while sending out signals to the Rudd camp.

Who were the News Limited journalist’s sources?  Well, here they are.  Namely, (i) Labor MPs, (ii) the Rudd camp, (iii) a Labor MP, (iv) Rudd backers, (v) a Labor MP, (vi) Rudd supporters, (vii) a Labor MP, (viii) other MPs, (ix) a Labor MP and, of course, (x) a Labor MP. Pretty conclusive, eh?

For the record, the Samantha Maiden story was hopelessly wrong.  When Rudd defeated Gillard in the leadership ballot on Wednesday, Greg Combet resigned from the Cabinet and went to the backbench.  So clearly he was not double-dealing with the Rudd camp while pretending to support Julia Gillard.  It was just one of three pro-Rudd “exclusives” which Ms Maiden wrote last Sunday. Can you bear it?

Fitz Silent on Prayers for Mandela

Where is Peter FitzSimons when atheists need him? Right now, Nelson Mandela is on life-support in Pretoria. South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma has called on fellow South Africans to pray to God for Mr Mandela – many South Africans have gathered outside the hospital where he is being treated and are chanting evocations to God about their hero.

The question is this. Will Down Under’s atheist-in-chief fly to South Africa and tell the Mandela Fan Club that they are wasting their time praying to a man-with-a-beard-in-the-sky (to use a familiar Fitz phrase)?  Or will he rail against such (alleged) irrationality in his forthcoming Sun-Herald column?

For the record, MWD doubts it.  Peter Fitz enjoys sneering at the religious beliefs of white Christians.  But he rarely complains about the religious beliefs of Africans or  African Americans or, indeed, Muslims or Hindus.  Can you bear it?

By the way, in his “The Fitz Files” in the Sun-Herald  last Sunday, Peter FitzSimons predicted that Julia Gillard would be “rolled” on Friday and that Bill Shorten would take over “as PM”.  Ms Gillard was rolled on Wednesday and replaced by Kevin Rudd on Thursday.  Your man Fitz needs some Divine intervention insofar as political prophecy is concerned.

Julia Gillard Rejects Gratuitous Advice from the Guardian-on-the-Yarra and Mike (“I’ll pour the gin”) Carlton.


Last weekend, The Saturday Age splashed with an “It’s time” call over much of Page One.  The Guardian-on-the-Yarra ran a section from its editorial which read: “It is time for Julia Gillard to stand aside as leader so that vigorous, policy-driven democratic debate can flourish once again”.  There followed a tediously-written editorial on Page 18 titled : “For the sake of the nation, Ms Gillard should stand aside”. The Age’s essential concern seemed to be that Tony Abbott might lead the Coalition to victory at the forthcoming Federal election. Gosh – that would really upset the Guardian-on-the-Yarra’s online readership in Melbourne’s North Fitzroy, otherwise known as Sandalista Central.

In the event, Ms Gillard did not take The Age’s gratuitous advice.  Rather the (then) Prime Minister called on a leadership vote which she lost.  Julia Gillard also rejected the advice of Victorian Labor MP Kaye Darveniza (who wrote an article in The Age on 24 June 2013) and Mike (“I’ll pour the gin”) Carlton who told Ms Gillard to step down in his Sydney Morning Herald column last Saturday:

This is what Mr Carlton had to say:

Prime Minister, it's time. Time for you to quit. As this Parliament draws to its close, it's time for you to recognise that, for all your achievements, you are leading your government and your party to an electoral defeat of unprecedented disaster.

As painful as it must be, it's time for you to stand aside for the good of your colleagues, for Labor people everywhere, and for the nation itself. The plain fact is that Australians are no longer listening to you.

Kevin Rudd is the most popular politician in the country, far and away better liked and respected than Tony Abbott. For all his many faults, he alone has a fighting chance of keeping Abbott out of The Lodge. Every opinion poll shows that you do not. Better to go now, with dignity, at your own chosen speed, than to be flung aside by your party and the people….But there is no choice. It gives me no pleasure to write this, Prime Minister. The decision is yours.

Yes, the decision was Julia Gillard’s. And she had the sense to reject Mike Carlton’s gratuitous advice and to have the matter determined by a Caucus ballot.

Meanwhile, followers of Mike Carlton’s Twitter feed noted that Mike Carlton watched the events of last Wednesday evening – assisted by the odd Chardonnay, or five.  And we’re talking bottles here.  Finally, your man Carlton tweeted:


What a wonderful chardonnay-fuelled prediction. On Thursday 27 June 2013, contrary to Mike Carlton’s prediction Tony Abbott did not “go feral” and the Governor-General did not “have to make a call”.  Let’s raise a bottle (or six) to that.  Can you bear it?



● Waleed Aly on Tony Abbott as a Reactionary – 2010

Waleed Aly concluded his 2010 “Quarterly Essay” titled “What’s Right: The Failure of Conservatism in Australia” as follows:

What is certain is that it is time to conceive of a politics that leaves behind neo-liberal neo-conservatism in search of something less reactionary and more principled. No doubt this will be an immensely difficult task, particularly in Australia where traditional conservatism seems crushingly absent at present, but that does not make it less imperative.

In the two preceding paragraphs, Dr Aly (for a doctor he surely will be one day) had depicted Tony Abbott as embracing the “contradictory but symbolic relationship between neo-liberalism and neo-conservatism”. The implication was clear.  In 2010 Waleed Aly regarded the Liberal Party leader as something of a reactionary.

Waleed Aly on Why Tony Abbott is Not a Reactionary – 2013

This is how Dr Aly concluded his article titled “This is Serious: Inside the mind of Tony Abbott” in the July 2013 issue of The Monthly – which came out when Julia Gillard was still prime minister:

An Abbott government will probably not be the muscularly reactionary force so many critics fear.  Abbott’s instincts are too incremental for that. But he won’t be terribly inclusive, either.  He won’t govern for everyone.  He won’t even try.

So there you have it.  According to Waleed Aly in 2010, Tony Abbott was somewhat reactionary.  But according to Waleed Aly in 2013, Tony Abbott is less reactionary than his critics fear.  Dr Aly is an academic. Say no more.



In his valedictory address in the House of Representatives last Monday, Harry Jenkins (Labor MP for Scullin) referred to failed Labor leader Mark Latham as “Lord Voldemort”. As MWD readers well know, Lord Voldemort was Harry Potter’s arch-enemy.  It is true that the Lair of Liverpool and Lord Voldemort bear a certain resemblance.

MWD supports Australian Financial Review editor Michael Stutchbury’s decision to employ Mark Latham as a columnist.  After all, it is a matter of social justice.  The Lair of Liverpool has to live on a lousy taxpayer funded superannuation handout of a mere $78,000 per year (fully indexed). It’s not much for a retired man who has a wife, three children, one horse and half a dozen bookmakers to support.  The AFR column is a very useful top-up for the Lair of Liverpool in his apparent financial stress.

And what a column it is. This is what Mark Latham wrote about Kevin Rudd in the Australian Financial Review on Thursday 20 June 2013 – just six days before Kevin Rudd replaced Julia Gillard as Labor leader and prime minister:

…Rudd has had no intention of resuming the Labor leadership in this term of Parliament. Why would he? As a phenomenal egotist, he looks at politics through the prism of vanity. The worst thing that could happen to Rudd in 2013 is to run against Tony Abbott and lose. This would destroy his self-image and self-belief. It would also blow his status as a Labor Party martyr….

For Rudd, “saving the furniture is not enough”.  To return to the leadership, he needs a guarantee of victory. Having sabotaged Gillard’s 2010 campaign and destabilised the government since then, he has created a civil war inside the ALP. The electorate cannot wait to vote out this chaotic, divided party, no matter who leads it to the polls. Rudd’s thinking is obvious: why should he take an election defeat which belongs to Gillard.

History tells us Rudd often backs away from a fight….  Given the preconditions Rudd has placed on returning to the leadership, it is impossible to take his bid seriously. He has said he will not challenge for the job, he wants a caucus coronation. That is, he expects the Gillard camp to surrender unconditionally and recognise him as a unifying, consensus leader.

This is why Rudd has set the comeback bar so high, knowing his enemies can never jump it. A no-change scenario gives him the perfect outcome. The chaos inside the government will continue, driving Gillard to a heavy defeat, while Rudd himself enjoys carefully selected public appearances, lapping up the media attention. His three-year campaign of revenge against the Prime Minister will be complete.

After the election, Rudd wants to look like a martyr, the only Labor hero still standing. He can say he offered himself as an electoral saviour but the factions rejected him (yet again). This way, he can start undermining the ALP’s next leader, using calls for party reform to add to his martyrdom.

In effect, Rudd is wrecking, not running. He embodies a destructive brand of selfishness, drawing people close to him but then abusing their goodwill. Just as he left Simon Crean stranded in the aborted leadership coup in March. Rudd is encouraging his caucus supporters to work for a goal which can never be realised. MPs like Joel Fitzgibbon and Eddie Husic are not smart enough to know how badly they are being used. Scores of journalists have also gone along for the ride, writing their 82nd Labor leadership story – in substance, a story about nothing.

Brilliant effort by Lord Voldemort, don’t you think?  On Tuesday 20 June 2013, Mark Latham wrote that the Labor leadership issue was “a story about nothing”.  A week later Kevin Rudd was sworn in as prime minister, having replaced Julia Gillard as Labor leader.

The Lair of Liverpool deserves a raise for such insight. There is, of course, an alternative.  Writing in the AFR on 28 March 2013, your man Latham criticised the fact that some Sky News journalists had erroneously predicted that Kevin Rudd would succeed Julia Gillard in March 2013.

Here is Mark Latham’s (then) solution to errors – of others, of course:

With few exceptions, the Canberra press gallery overestimated the strength of Kevin Rudd’s numbers and organising ability.  Undeterred by Rudd’s serial inflation of his caucus support over the past decade, the media went down the same error-ridden path, reporting fantasy as fact. Based on performance, the gallery should be disbanded, its office space in Parliament House rented to bloggers.

In watching the coverage last Thursday afternoon, I don’t know which way to look: at the train wreck of Rudd Labor or the train wreck of media credibility.  On Sky News, both forms of political pyrotechnics featured heavily. David Speers, Kieran Gilbert, Chris Kenny, Peter van Onselen and Graham Richardson made more mistakes than the Australian batting line-up in India.  Sky’s viewers would have been more accurately informed if the station had simply broadcast a test pattern.

If Mark Latham is to be judged by his own standard, Michael Stutchbury would be entitled to disband Mark Latham’s column and replace it with an AFR advertisement – since, in his coverage of the June 2013 Labor leadership challenge, the Lair of Liverpool made more mistakes than Australia’s batting line-up in India.

But let’s hope not.  The failed Labor leader needs financial support.  And MWD needs the Lair of Liverpool so that he can be the subject of an occasional exclusive interview with Nancy.  See MWD 187.  Please Mr Stutchbury – don’t terminate the failed Labor leader just on account of a Bob Ellis style failed prophecy.


This series, which commenced last week, is already an instant success.  Except for the fact that Russell (“Tony Abbott is a Mad Monk”) Skelton does not seem to have fact-checked the following assertions which have been made in recent times in the ABC 1 News Breakfast program.  Namely:

▪ Dr Gael Jennings’ evidence-free assertion that abortion has been “at the front and centre” of past Federal election campaigns and

▪ Mohammed El-leissy’s evidence-free assertion that John Howard, when prime minister, declared that “Muslims and refugees…and lefties and everyone else” were “un-Australian”. Alas, so far the newly appointed head of the ABC Fact Checking Unit has not fact-checked the above assertions.  How sad.

Here’s a new challenge for Nice Mr Scott’s taxpayer funded fact-checker. Let’s go to the transcript of last Monday’s Q&A where Opposition deputy Senate leader George Brandis and Q&A presenter Tony Jones disputed the political make-up of the audience:

Tony Jones : Let’s just go back to the reaction we just got from the audience there and it may be reflective of the fact that there is a lot of Coalition voters in the audience and they actually don’t want a change of [Labor] leadership.

George Brandis : Well, I don't think so. Don’t think so. Well, you know, as Richo [Graham Richardson] says, it’s an ABC audience. It has its own views.

Tony Jones : Well, it is an ABC audience, you might say that, but there is an awful lot of Coalition voters in this audience.

Now were there, really?  It’s true that, at the commencement of the program, Q&A announced  that the political break-up of the audience was as follows:

ALP – 35 per cent

Coalition – 48 per cent

Greens – 10 per cent

However, this figure is meaningless – since the political allegiances of Q&A audiences are determined by self-identification.  For example, if you’re a leftist hanging around the ABC’s inner-city Sydney Ultimo abode and you want to attend a live filming of Q&A, here’s what you have to do.  Take off your Che Guevara tee-shirt and leather sandals and put on a shirt and sensible shoes.  Then tell Q&A that you are a Coalition voter and – hey presto – you will get a Q&A admission ticket.

This was confirmed when a certain Rob Davies wrote to the ABC in March 2013 pointing out that the audience at the Q&A filming on 4 March 2013 had been “overwhelmingly hostile” to Liberal Party deputy leader Julie Bishop “while both Christine Milne [Greens] and Bill Shorten [Labor] were warmly received”.  This despite the fact that the banner at the commencement of Q&A stated: “In the audience tonight: ALP 35%; Coalition 45%; Greens 10%.”

Mr Davies then posed a number of questions – to which Q&A provided the following responses:

Rob Davies : Do you let anyone join the audience before asking their political allegiance?

Q&A: No.

 Rob Davies: Do you attempt to assemble an audience roughly representing current poll outcomes?

Q&A: The Q&A team seeks to fairly represent the diversity of political views within the Australian community within the audience rather than mimic the volatile and sometimes contradictory estimates of the various opinion polls.

Rob Davies: At what point do you ask potential audience members their political allegiance?

Q&A: Audience members have to register online before joining the audience . They are asked who they’d vote for as part of that registration process.

Rob Davies: Do you reject any Labor, Greens, or Coalition supporters because a desired audience quota has been reached?

Q&A: Yes.

Rob Davies : Is it really possible to detect an individual's allegiance or are they trusted to be honest?

Q&A: Q&A uses exactly the same process that opinion polls use – we ask people to nominate who they’d vote for if an election was  held.  We have no reason to believe that there’s significant dishonesty.

Q&A’s answers make it clear that the program has no idea whatsoever whether the number of declared Coalition voters in the audience do, in fact, support the Coalition.  No idea at all.  In fact, Q&A’s official position is that there is a degree of “dishonesty” in the nomination of voting intentions – it’s just that it’s not “significant”. Whatever that might mean.

Consequently Tony Jones’ assertion last Monday that there was “an awful lot of Coalition voters” in the Q&A audience last Monday requires fact-checking. Clearly a case for Nice Mr Scott’s newly employed fact-checker.]



Come in Spinner:  Bruce Hawker Denies Gough Whitlam’s Opposition to Indo-Chinese Refugees


MWD’s attention has been drawn to a tweet sent out by Labor Party spin doctor Bruce Hawker on 20 June 2013. Here it is:

Bruce Hawker’s claim is wilfully false – and involves a re-write of Australian history.

Both Cambodia and South Vietnam fell to communist forces in April 1975. At the time, Gough Whitlam was prime minister. Mr Whitlam set out to stop Vietnamese anti-communists, including some who had worked for the Australian Embassy in Saigon, from seeking refuge in Australia.  These are the facts:

▪ Gough Whitlam never disputed one-time Labor MP Clyde Cameron’s account in his 1980 book China, Communism and Coca-Cola that he (Whitlam) told a Cabinet meeting in 1975 that he was “not having hundreds of f—ing Vietnamese Balts coming into this country”.

This account has been confirmed by the historical research of Nancy Viviani and Hal G. Colebatch and has been acknowledged by John Menadue. Following research on the 1975 Cabinet papers, Gerard Henderson wrote a documented account in the Sydney Morning Herald on 18 April 2006 and 13 July 2010 of Gough Whitlam’s response to Vietnamese refugees when he was prime minister.  See also Gerard Henderson’s correspondence with Gough Whitlam published in the March 2003 issue of The Sydney Institute Quarterly.

▪ In the 1977 Federal election campaign, Gough Whitlam (by the then Leader of the Opposition) attempted to make political capital out of the arrival of a boat of Vietnamese refugees in Darwin in November 1977.  He supported Bob Hawke who, as ALP national president, declared that Australia should not accept refugees who “simply landed on its doorstep”.

▪ In a paper delivered to a conference at the Australian National University in September 1978, Gough Whitlam said that it was “arguable” whether those who were fleeing Vietnam were in fact refugees.  In this speech, Mr Whitlam also went so far as to deny the atrocities committed by Pol Pot’s communist Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia.  Gough Whitlam said:

I make bold to doubt all the stories that appear in the newspapers about the treatment of people in Cambodia.  I am sufficiently hardened to believe that the last refuge of the patriot in Australia is to blast the regimes in post-war Indochina.

In other words, Mr Whitlam denied Pol Pot’s atrocities and he defended the communist regimes in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

▪ Labor only supported Malcolm Fraser’s Coalition Government’s policy on Vietnamese asylum seekers after Gough Whitlam was replaced as Opposition leader by Bill Hayden, following Labor’s defeat in the 1977 election.

▪  During the entire period of the Fraser Government, a total of 2059 asylum seekers arrived by boat. This is as many as the unlawful boat arrivals which have taken place under Labor in just one month. In other words, Bruce Hawker’s reference to what happened between November 1975 and March 1983 with respect to Vietnamese refugees has no relevance to contemporary Australia.





This overwhelmingly popular segment of Media Watch Dog usually works like this.  Someone writes to Gerard Henderson and he replies.  Then the correspondence is printed in full in MWD – for the greater good of human kind, to be sure.

This week Gerard Henderson resumes the correspondence which ABC 1 Media Watch staffer Xanthe Kleinig commenced and which ABC 1 Media Watch executive producer Lin Buckfield continued – on behalf of Jonathan Holmes.  Finally Jonathan Holmes bought into his very own correspondence – see below.

Also, this week a student – who for the sake of anonymity will be called Student – wrote to Nancy’s (male) co-owner about Sir John Kerr’s dismissal of Gough Whitlam on 11 November 1975 and how this had been interpreted by historian Dr Jenny Hocking.


Gerard Henderson to Jonathan Holmes – 27 June 2013


I was saddened, so saddened, to hear you confirm on ABC 1 Media Watch last Monday that next week’s program will be your last.

I know that you have been busy of late. However, I wonder if you have had – or will be able to find – the time to answer the questions which I directed to you on 14 May 2013.  As you should be aware, my letter to your researcher Xanthe Kleinig is on the Media Watch  website.  I asked Ms Kleinig to pass on my questions to you. Your executive producer Lin Buckfield replied on your behalf advising that you had chosen not to respond.

Here’s hoping that, in your final week as Media Watch  presenter for the taxpayer funded public broadcaster, you will change your mind.  Especially since you and your staff are in the habit of sending letters-of-demand to others.

Here are the questions:

▪ Does Media Watch believe it is proper that Australians are entitled to know the taxpayer funded salaries of Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott but not the taxpayer funded salaries of Jonathan Holmes, Leigh Sales, Tony Jones, Fran Kelly and Julian Morrow?  If so, what is the rationale for this view?

▪ Does Media Watch believe that the salaries paid to key ABC presenters should be subjected to full disclosure?  Especially in Julian Morrow’s case – since last year he used a public forum to remark on Mr Scott’s salary while subsequently claiming that his own entitlements from the ABC are “commercial-in-confidence”.  If not, why not?

▪ Does Media Watch believe that ABC presenters should declare on-air and online all payments they receive, or have previously received, from corporations and other organisations for hosting, and/or speaking at, non-ABC events – along with the quantum involved in each case?  If not, why not?

▪ If asked by a panellist on, say, the Q&A program to disclose what non-ABC payments Tony Jones has received – what should the presenter do?

▪ On Media Watch on 13 May 2013, you expressed the view that commentators on ABC 1 News Breakfast should declare if they are a member of a political party on each occasion they appear on the program. In view of this, should all ABC presenters and reporters declare if they are members of a trade union or an environment group on each occasion when they comment or report on a matter concerning industrial relations or the environment?  If not, why not?

Note, this is not a letter-of-demand.  Even so, it would be just wonderful if you explained your position on these questions – asked in the public interest, of course.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

Jonathan Holmes to Gerard Henderson – 27 June 2013


I can survive quite well without your leaden sarcasm.

Lin Buckfield’s response to your original email stands.  You didn’t answer any of our questions, so I shan’t be answering any of yours.  No doubt if you want the ABC’s official response to any of them, you can ask the managing director.


Jonathan Holmes

Presenter, Media Watch, ABC TV



Student to Gerard Henderson – 21 June 2013

Dear Mr Henderson,

I am a senior student at [name withheld] High School undertaking Extension Modern History for my HSC program.  I have an interest in Australian political history and am currently completing a major essay on a critique of Jenny Hocking’s biography of Gough Whitlam. My thesis is entitled “Hagiography or Biography?”.

I have read the full biography and compared it against my understanding from texts and available sources.  I am now working my way through the various book reviews.

I have read your SMH article of 28 August 2012 – “Left closes ranks to consign Kerr to wrong side of history” and also the comments contained in Media Watch Dog, Issue 152, 31 August 2012.

I note and agree with your comments that Hocking’s recording that Sir Anthony Mason was “the third man” was not a revelation at all, as yourself and others previously reported it as early as 1994. However from my reading it appears that it was the media, not Hocking herself, that made a “breaking news” issue out of this. In fact she actually acknowledged your previous disclosure by reference in the book.

I am also interested in your comments that Hocking is “the left’s bespoke biographer”. I note that you have criticised Hocking for her choice of left wing subjects in her biographies and her overly positive portrayal of them. I understand the inference you have made, but I am struggling to find specific criticisms of Hocking’s biography of Gough Whitlam in your comments. Other reviewers such as Ross Fitzgerald have offered more specific examples of how Hocking has treated Whitlam in an overly positive way. In light of this, I was hoping if you could outline for me what are your main substantive criticisms of Hocking’s biography? This will assist me to collate the information to form a balanced view of my central thesis question. Thank you in advance.

Yours sincerely

Student (name withheld)

Gerard Henderson to Student – 26 June 2013

Dear (name withheld)

I refer to your email of 20 June 2013 concerning your essay on Jenny Hocking’s biography Gough Whitlam: His Time – The Biography Volume 11.

I regret to advise that, due to my work commitments, I do not have time to advise on students’ essays.  However, I have made a few comments which may be of assistance.

▪ You write that Dr Hocking “acknowledged” my disclosure (in 1994) that Sir Anthony Mason was the Third Man in the Dismissal “by reference in the book”.  In fact, there is no reference to me in the text of the biography and I am not cited in the index.  In other words, a reader could read the entire text of Gough Whitlam: His Time without being aware that I first revealed Anthony Mason’s role in the Dismissal almost two decades ago.

There is one reference to my Sydney Morning Herald article of 8 January 1994 – which revealed that Anthony Mason advised Sir John Kerr on the Dismissal. But it is in an endnote on Page 517.  There, the reference to my 1994 SMH  article comes after a reference to Paul Kelly’s book November 1975 (published in 1995) and Garfield Barwick’s book A Radical Tory (also published in 1995).  My book Menzies Child,  my Sydney Morning Herald  column of 8 January 1994 and my article in The Australian on 30-31 January 1988 are cited in the Bibliography.  That’s all.

▪ Your claim that it was the media that made “breaking news” of the fact that Dr Hocking had revealed Anthony Mason as the Third Man in the Dismissal is not accurate.  In fact, this claim was made by MUP in its widescale pre-publication publicity.  As far as I can work it out, some journalists uncritically accepted MUP’s spin. I commenced my Sydney Morning Herald column on 28 August 2012 as follows:

You have to admire the sassy and media savvy Louise Adler, the managing director of Melbourne University Press. Since Saturday the print and electronic media have given a huge amount of publicity to Jenny Hocking's Gough Whitlam: His Time, which is published under MUP's The Miegunyah Press imprint.  The big story in the second volume of Hocking's Whitlam biography turns on the revelation that Sir Anthony Mason was “the third man” involved in the dismissal of the Whitlam Labor government on November 11, 1975….

▪ The fact is that the left-wing Jenny Hocking has written taxpayer subsidised biographies of such leftist heroes as Lionel Murphy, Frank Hardy and now Gough Whitlam.  That’s why I described her as “the left’s bespoke biographer”.

▪ I was not asked to – and did not – review Gough Whitlam: His Time.  I only wrote about Dr Hocking’s comments on the Dismissal.  I have not had time to list all my substantive criticisms of the book.  However, I did make a couple of criticisms of Gough Whitlam: His Time during the question/discussion period, when Dr Hocking addressed the Institute last year.

▪ At MUP’s suggestion, I invited Jenny Hocking to address The Sydney Institute on both volumes of her Whitlam biography.  Dr Hocking’s talk on Gough Whitlam: His Time is published in The Sydney Papers Online and the event (including the questions/discussion period) was podcast and is on the Institute’s website – which is accessible online. I also invited Sir David Smith to respond to Jenny Hocking’s comments on the Dismissal – Dr Hocking attended this function and made comments during the question/discussion period.  The talk was also published and podcast.

As you will note, I have given Dr Hocking a platform to air her views at The Sydney Institute despite the fact that I do not agree with her own assessment on either Gough Whitlam or John Kerr.

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In conclusion, I should state that The Sydney Institute is a forum for debate and discussion. I am pleased that Jenny Hocking has spoken at the Institute about her Whitlam biography and that you seem to have found the discussion useful.

Best wishes for the success of your essay.

Gerard Henderson



“Gerard Henderson is a crank” –

David Marr at the 2013 Sydney Writers’ Festival (as reported by Mike Carlton )

“The great Australian media nutter Gerard [Henderson is an] ungrateful bastard”.

– Mark Latham, Q&A, 10 June 2013.

“[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.