19 JULY 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.




Burnside QC – Long on Morality But Hopeless on Facts
Did anyone catch News Breakfast on ABC 1 this morning? The discussion on asylum seekers was a you-beaut demonstration about how the morality of left-liberals is superior to the rest of us mere mortals. Presenters Beverley O’Connor and Michael Rowland appeared in awe of their guest Julian Burnside QC – who advocated a vote for the Greens in the 2010 Senate election in the State of Victoria. Ms O’Connor and Mr Rowland laughed at Mr Burnside’s little jokes and celebrated his higher morality – as the Melbourne QC criticised Labor and the Coalition alike on boat arrivals. So much so that the News Breakfastteam did not see fit to correct Julian Burnside’s howlers – which were contained in the following comment:

Julian Burnside: Of course it [the asylum seeker issue] will resonate with the people – as long as the people have been deceived by politicians who call boat people “illegals” and “queue jumpers” and paint them as if they are a threat to the community. Now, you know, everyone was hysterical about the quote/unquote “invasion” of boat people [sic] last twelve months. The number who arrived in Australia in the last twelve months was slightly fewer than the number who arrived each year from Indo-China in the late 1970s. There was no fuss about it then because Whitlam and Fraser decided to make a bi-partisan approach.

First Michael Rowland and then Beverley O’Connor indicated their agreement with Burnside QC’s comments. There were a number of factual errors. First, only 2059 Indo-Chinese arrived in Australia by boat during the entire period of the Fraser government – i.e. effectively the years from the beginning of 1976 to the end of 1982. The rest arrived in Australia by plane with valid visas following off-shore processing which was supervised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Second, there was no bipartisanship on Indo-Chinese refugees in 1976 and 1977 when Malcolm Fraser was prime minister and Gough Whitlam was Opposition leader. In fact, Mr Whitlam opposed Vietnamese coming to Australia in 1975 when he was prime minister. When Whitlam was Opposition leader, Labor opposed the arrival of an asylum seeker boat which landed in Darwin during the 1977 Federal election campaign. A bipartisan approach to Indo-Chinese refugees only became a reality when Bill Hayden became Opposition leader after the 1977 election.

Julian Burnside’s comments on News Breakfast this morning – which were hopelessly wrong – were not corrected. Mr Burnside just fantasised about events which never took place. But don’t hold your breath for a correction on Monday.

Professor Dunn Calls Almost Everyone a Racist

What a stunning report on the asylum seeker issue by Sally Sara on the ABC 1 News last night. Currently unlawful boat arrivals are running at around 800 a week and, on average, deaths by drowning totals a tragic three a week. Ms Sara apparently could not find anyone to support the approach to the problem of either Kevin Rudd or Tony Abbott. Instead, she produced an academic from the University of Western Sydney – a certain Professor Kevin Dunn. The learned professor had one message – the problem lies in the fact that we’re all racists, except for taxpayer subsidised academics at the University of Western Sydney, apparently. Here’s what he had to say when alleging that, despite the drowning, asylum seekers are being deliberately dehumanised:

Kevin Dunn: Racist attitudes, I’m afraid. And right now not only is there a poor politics around asylum seekers, it’s a racialised politics around asylum seekers as well.

So there you have it. Anyone who believes that drowning is not good for you – or that asylum seekers who pay people smugglers should not get preference over asylum seekers who are in refugee camps – they are all racists. Thus spoke the voice of a higher morality at the University of Western Sydney. No other view was heard.


British celebrity Boris Johnson is the token conservative at the 2013 Melbourne Writers’ Festival. Just like John Howard was the token political conservative at the 2011 Sydney Writers’ Festival which was a left-wing stack curated by Chip Rolley.

Apart from “Bozzer” Boris, the Melbourne Writers’ Festival is yet another taxpayer funded leftist or left-of-centre stack with barely a conservative in sight. Here an edited list of the dramatis personae, as published in The Age today:

Gay Alcorn, Cathy Alexander, Dennis Altman, Wendy Bacon, The Bedroom Philosopher, Eric Beecher, Larissa Behrendt, Sophie Black, Julian Burnside, Jennifer Byrne, Fiona Capp, Jane Caro, Michael Cathcart, Alison Croggon, Mary Crooks, Sushi Das, Catherine Deveny, Anne Deveson, Charles Firth, Morag Fraser, Anna Goldsworthy, Jonathan Green, Libbi Gorr, Wendy Harmer, Joan Kirner, Ramona Koval, Mark Latham, Benjamin Law, Antony Loewenstein, Amanda Lohrey, Miriam Lyons, Father Bob Maguire, Anne Manne, David McKnight, Peter McPhee, George Megalogenis, Tony Moore, Terry Moran, Denis Muller, Ben Pobje, Henry Reynolds, Peter Rose, Julianne Schultz, Margaret Simons, Peter Singer, Tim Soutphommasane, Jeff Sparrow, Fiona Stanley, Anne Summers, Magda Szubanski, Arnold Zable.

Say no more.


La Trioli – Carbon Tax Denier
ABC types continue to complain that Opposition leader Tony Abbott is not giving priority to doing interviews on such programs as Q&A, Lateline and Radio National Breakfast.

In a special segment next week, MWD will examine a few recent interviews conducted by key ABC presenters with leading Coalition frontbenchers. Namely Jon Faine & Tony Abbott, Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly & Joe Hockey and Virginia Trioli and Greg Hunt.

The La Trioli v Greg Hunt conflict on Monday was a beauty – see here. She insisted that Hunt was wrong calling the carbon tax a carbon tax. This in spite of the fact that the former prime minister Julia Gillard said that she had introduced a carbon tax and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said this week that he was intent on terminating the Gillard government’s carbon tax. And yet Virginia Trioli lectured Greg Hunt that there never was a carbon tax.

Can you bear it?

Mark Latham Repeats Himself Yet Again (Yet Again)
Nancy’s (male) co-owner supports Mark Latham’s columns in the Australian Financial Review out of social concern. After all, the Lair of Liverpool is struggling to make do on his taxpayer superannuation hand-out of a mere $78,000 a year (fully indexed). This is not much for your man Latham who has a wife, three children, a horse and six bookmakers to support.

The only problem is that Mark (“Kevin Rudd will never challenge Julia Gillard”) Latham has a tendency to repeat himself. A tendency to repeat himself. Take this week, for example.

Last Saturday, Latham repeated his familiar story of how he had stalked Laurie Oakes when engaged by Channel 9’s 60 Minutes to cover the 2010 Federal election. Here’s how his AFR column commenced:

When I was working for 60 Minutes during the last federal election, I witnessed a strange incident with a senior journalist. It was the day of Tony Abbott’s campaign launch in Brisbane, with the Liberals cock-a-hoop that Kevin Rudd’s leaks to Nine’s Laurie Oakes had sabotaged Labor’s electoral standing. In a room set aside for the media, I approached Oakes for an interview to discuss Rudd’s spoiling tactics. The big man was sitting at a table not far from a deserted bar area. Instead of co-operating with a fraternal Channel Nine program, he looked timid, almost fearful.

I expected Oakes to respond to my request in the normal manner – with a straightforward “yes” or “no” – but he sat frozen and mute. Then he did the weirdest thing. He got out of his chair and ran to the other side of the room, turning his back on me, as if this would somehow make me go away.

Yawn. Latham has written this before. The failed former Labor leader never bothers to declare that at this election he urged 60 Minutes viewers not to vote for Julia Gillard and Labor.

On Tuesday, the AFR published the following reply from Laurie Oakes:

Mark Latham has a talent for personal abuse but little interest in accuracy. When he claims to have approached me for an interview for his 60 Minutes assignment during the 2010 election campaign, he fails to mention that I had already given a very blunt refusal to his producer. I regarded the Nine Network’s employment of Latham as a mistake and made it clear I would not touch the project with a barge pole. What Latham wanted that day was confrontation. That would not have been in the interests of the network, so I walked away….

Then, on Thursday, Latham repeated a claim which he had previously made about Kevin Rudd :

One of the standard jokes in the NSW Labor Party is about the way in which Kevin Rudd rolled Kim Beazley for the federal leadership in 2006. In the months leading up to the ballot, Rudd undertook a lobbying program known as the “Sussex Street suck-up”. Each Friday morning, after completing his funny-ha-ha session in the Sydney studio of the Channel 7 Sunrise program, the ambitious Queenslander would wander down Martin Place towards Sussex Street, the factional cathedral of the NSW Right.

Any party or union official willing to talk to Rudd was subjected to a long spiel about the greatness of Kevin. “Well, that’s enough from me,” Rudd would say, pausing for effect. “What do you think about me?” The conversations were as ­lopsided as a Greater Western Sydney footy match.

No one in Labor history has lobbied harder for support among the party’s sub-factions. Rudd was a regular face among the faceless men. It was said of his relationship with Joe de Bruyn, the powerful head of the religious-right Shoppies’ union, that Kevin spent more time with Joe than de Bruyn spent with his parish priest.

The “Well, that’s enough from me; what do you think about me” line got a run in the film Beaches some 25 years ago. As for the anti-Catholic sectarian “joke” about Joe de Bruyn – well this is the 19th time Latham has run this. Or is it the 27th?

Can you bear it?

Nice Mr Scott Wonders Why CEOs Boycott

Sure, it was a brilliant idea for The Spectator Australia editor Tom Switzer to get the ABC general manager Mark Scott to write the guest “Diary” column in last week’s edition. This is how Nice Mr Scott concluded his piece:

The panels on Q&A sometimes generate a bit of heat and debate. My personal bugbear is our inability to get high-profile corporate CEOs and chairmen to join the panel. Gail Kelly appeared once and, as always, was refreshingly direct, a great communicator and contributor. I almost talked a high-profile chairman into it when I ran into him outside a Blue Mountains coffee shop, but then his charming wife arrived and immediately exercised her veto. I know spin doctors and media minders warn CEOs of the risk in being drawn on issues beyond the corporate talking points. Plus, it’s a live program, and public questions are unpredictable. But a business leader should be able to answer tough questions without preparation. And if you want to shape public debate, engage a large audience and show some leadership, there are few better places to start than the Q&A panel.

Nice Mr Scott’s thought for the day had barely arrived at newsagents’ counters when Grace (“Call me Darl”) Collier sent a perceptive tweet:

grace collier@MsGraceCollier 12 Jul

Check the last para of this…Mark Scott can’t work out why business people won’t go on Q&A.

Quite so. It seems that Nice Mr Scott has forgotten how Gail Kelly – who performed very well on Q&A on 7 March 2011 – was treated on the program.

First up there was a web question from a Mike Kidd who told Ms Kelly that “she earned $10 million in 2009”. Q&A presenter Tony Jones facilitated this question – despite the fact that Mr Jones’ own taxpayer funded remuneration package is regarded by the ABC as akin to a state secret.

Then Tony Jones allowed Q&A panellist Mike (“I’ll pour the gin”) Carlton to berate the Westpac chief executive about her salary. Panellist Joe Hockey described these questions as “unfair” – but the Q&A presenter regarded this as a legitimate form of inquiry.

Yet Nice Mr Scott believes that other CEOs should front up on Q&A each Monday in order to “show some leadership”. Can you bear it? [Why doesn’t Nice Mr Scott, as one of Australia’s highest paid public sector CEOs, front up on Q&A one day? I’m sure Nancy’s (male) co-owner could pick a suitable panel]. Grace Collier should be on the short-list. Despite the fact that she referred to Q&A in last week’s Spectator Australia as a “boring, morally smug version of America’s Jerry Springer Show with a dumber audience”. This might pose a problem for Nice Mr Scott in his new role as Q&A talent spotter.


Charles Moore & The BBC as (Another) Conservative-Free-Zone
Great piece by Charles Moore in the London Daily Telegraph last Friday (see here) on Stuart Prebble, the former ITV chief who has just finished his report for the BBC Trust titled Review of the Breadth of Opinion Reflected in the BBC’s Output.

In his report Mr Prebble conceded that most of the criticisms of the BBC’s lack of impartiality are “based on the notion that it is largely run by a group with similar backgrounds and attitudes, loosely described as ‘liberal progressives’”. Stuart Prebble said that “of course” he is a liberal progressive. Of course. But he went on to assert that “in common with the overwhelming number of journalists within the BBC…I leave my politics at home when I go to work”. Oh yeah. How convenient.

Interesting that Stuart Prebble’s line on the BBC is much the same as that of Mark Scott when he attempts to rationalise the fact that the ABC is a Conservative-Free-Zone since it does not employ one conservative presenter or producer or editor on any of its mainstream television or radio or online products. Not one. Nice Mr Scott simply says that this does not matter since liberal progressive types leave their politics at home when they go to work at the taxpayer funded public broadcaster each day.

Charles Moore raised an important point:

If the place of “personal politics” is to be kept firmly in the home like the Eastern European au pairs on whom so many media power couples depend, why is that most of the people behaving in this way are, to use Mr Prebble’s terminology, “liberal progressives”? If personal politics are irrelevant, why do people with the same personal politics keep getting chosen to work for the BBC?

The answer, I suggest, is that one of the most important elements in the creed of “liberal progressives” is that they are fair and open-minded, and the rest of us aren’t. With beautiful, circular logic, it follows that the only people who can be trusted to ensure that there is a proper breadth of opinion in BBC coverage are liberal progressives. Mr Prebble’s considered finding is that impartiality “runs through the BBC veins like Blackpool through a stick of rock”. Of course it does: the place is run by liberal progressives! QED.

Charles Moore – Five Paws. [What about a special gong for Rod Liddle for his article in The Sunday Times on 7 July titled “Wrong, BBC – your bias in today’s news, not a history special”? – Ed].

Jonathan Leake Documents the Benefits of Climate Change
Also worthy of MWD’s most distinguished gong is Jonathan Leake’s report in The Sunday Times on 30 June 2013. He covered the Climate Change Risk Assessment report published by Britain’s Department of Environment Food & Rural Affairs and opined:

A surge in global temperatures caused by greenhouse gas emissions could create a boost for parts of the British economy, a government report will suggest this week.

The National Adaptation programme, to be published tomorrow by DEFRA, the environment ministry, will suggest that farming, forestry and tourism will all benefit from warmer summers, while shipping will profit from the shorter sea routes caused by the melting of the ice caps. It will even say that rising warmth might boost Britons’ health, encouraging them to spend more time outdoors, where exposure to sunshine would boost vitamin D levels.

Jonathan Leake : Five Paws – The delivery of the prize will be delayed in order to benefit from the lower shippings costs due to the forthcoming shorter sea routes.


Nancy: I am honoured that you have agreed to go “In Conversation” with me. You are the leftist anti-business journalist I most admire. I note that you seem to have an obsessive interest in my (male) co-owner Gerard Henderson. So do I. How come you keep writing about Hendo in your “CBD” column in the “Business Day” section of The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald? He’s not a big player in the big end of town and he runs a small business. By the way, Hendo just loved the two illustrations of him by John Shakespeare which accompanied two of your pieces on him.

Ben Butler : Well, it’s like this. I have to file some 600 words for Fairfax Media every day, which is a big ask for an old-fashioned journo like me. It’s easier to write about Hendo than, say, BHP Billiton or Fairfax Media. And why should someone go to the trouble of illustrating some important business figure when Hendo is available?

I put a “Got a tip?” invitation at the end of “CBD” every day. By lunch time, I usually have enough rumours to puff my column to the required 600 words – even if I have to repeat things. Since all but nobody reads my column, all but nobody knows that I repeat myself. Clever, don’t you think?

Nancy : Thanks for being so frank. As I said, I much admire your work – even though I have rarely met anyone in the business community who reads your “CBD” column. Most of my contacts read Joe Aston’s “Rear Window” column in the Australian Financial Review which combines wit and content with an irreverent style which stops short of sneering at business – and they also read The Australian’s business pages.

Ben Butler : I don’t know why that would be so. Sure, the Fin sucks up to business while me and my comrades at The Age – we loath business. Nevertheless, I write a business column and, so, I expect business to read it. I also expect that business will continue to support me in my role as The Age’s business reporter by advertising in The Age. After all, I have to pay the rent and repair my sandals from time to time.

Nancy Your directness is appreciated. As someone who shares at least one of your obsessions, how did you get to be a business reporter at The Age?

Ben Butler : Well, I have never run a business. So I have all the qualifications to write knowingly about business for what your (male) co-owner terms “The-Guardian-on-the-Yarra”. Who could be better equipped to write knowingly for The Age about business? At least I’m not corrupted by reality.

Nancy : Fascinating. Tell me about your topics They seem, at times, at the margin – don’t you think?

Ben Butler : Yes. No. I don’t know. I believe that my topics cover the burning issues discussed around the boardroom tables each day. For example – remember when on 15 October last year I devoted part of my column to a discussion on whether the former Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne Daniel Mannix (1864-1963) requested that his papers be burnt on his death. Maybe this was half a century ago. But I got a tip that very day the board members of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia could talk of nothing else but that Mannix burnt his papers in the middle of the last century. You see, “CBD” is a trend setter. For good measure I also wrote about a meeting which one-time Labor leader Bert Evatt did not turn up at in 1939. I know that at the Melbourne Club that morning business types discussed little else. Such was the influence of my “CBD” column in The Age that day.

Nancy : I see. How frightfully interesting. But what about your captivating column of 5 July 2013 where you wrote about the 1985 IBF World Super Featherweight Title fight in Darwin between Barry Michael and Lester Ellis?

Ben Butler : Well, I assume that the big-end-of-town’s interested in big events of three decades ago. Okay, I got the location wrong. The fight was held at Festival Hall in Melbourne – not Darwin. But, hey, what are a few thousand kilometres between friends? Only nit-pickers like that scum-bag Hendo worries about such howlers.

Nancy : But in defence of my (male) co-owner. This was one of the biggest fights in Australian history. How come you thought it look place in Darwin?

Ben Butler : Well, I wrote my column in a hurry. Don’t worry. I corrected it after breakfast the next day. In any event, I have it on good authority that the matter was discussed at length in the Cabinet economic sub-committee that very day. Cabinet members know the big business stories of the day. They know that in 1985 Michael v Ellis match is a bigger issue today than unemployment or interest rates or the carbon tax. Only someone who went to Melbourne Grammar and who inherited shares in BHP would think otherwise.

Nancy: I note that you sometimes turn your attention to media matters. For example, on 12 July, you wrote about the Sunday morning TV current affairs programs – Insiders, The Bolt Report, Financial Review Sunday and so on. I also note that you sneered at their alleged low ratings. How many people do you think read “CBD” everyday?

Ben Butler : Well, I don’t know. Once again, I’ve heard (via a tip, of course) that my 12 July “CBD” piece was discussed later that day by Mark Carney who, as you may or may not know, is the new governor of the Bank of England. It’s a pity that in this article I referred to Barrie Cassidy as “Barry[sic] Cassidy”. The good news is that, being a Canadian, Mr Carney did not notice. As I said, the guys and gals at the Bank of England were fascinated to learn, via The Age’s business reporter, that the top item on the business agenda Down Under that day was the relative ratings of the Sunday morning talk programs. Also I had nothing else to write about because no one had provided me with a tip. I take exception to your second question. The number of readers of “CBD” is a business-in-confidence secret.

Nancy : I will not delay you. After all, lunch is approaching. But let me ask – can we expect any key business stories in “CBD” any time soon?

Ben Butler : I expect so. I don’t want to give too much away. I’m working on a story that the Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne – a certain Frederick Waldegrave Head – instructed his butler to destroy his unwashed socks when he died in 1941. I know that this is the type of thing that my “CBD” readers just love. I actually met one several months ago – outside the Melbourne Club on Collins Street. Believe it or not, he was sleeping under “Business Day” with my “CBD” column facing the elements. For passers-by to read. My reader is wonderfully astute.

Nancy : Wow. You found one reader? Care to share his name?

Ben Butler : Yes. It was that academic Tom Soutphommasane. Like me, he’s never worked in business. So he just loves the fact that I sneer at the very businesses – big, small and medium alike – which help pay his taxpayer subsidised salary.

Nancy : Finally. Any new, exciting projects on the horizon?

Ben Butler : You bet. I’m hoping to locate a second reader of my “CBD” column. Also, since I have only written 87 stories on Gerard Henderson so far this year, I intend to return to my favourite topic and have worded-up John Shakespeare to draw your (male) co-owner as a donkey. Pretty subtle, eh? Writing for The Age sure beats having to do any real work about important business. The truth is I hate business. But please don’t tell my employers at The Age – they don’t read my stuff either and, right now, they don’t know this.

Nancy: I don’t want to defend my (male) co-owner. But don’t you think that plagiarising his “for a doctor he is” refrain and demanding that he reveal his salary is a bit over the top? I mean he’s just a canine loving guy who runs a small business.

Ben Butler : No. Not really. As to the first issue, I got the idea from Mark Latham. He also has imitated Hendo’s humour to have a go at Hendo. It’s called being clever. Also I do not have any original sayings of my own – being a journalist, I learnt to steal other people’s ideas a long time ago while manning the barricades at the Old Spencer Street Soviet in Melbourne. As to the second issue. Sure, I would never ask my editor at The Age to reveal how much he earns. But, then, Hendo is a persona non grata at The Age – we even refuse to run him on the “Letters Page”. All in the interest of freedom of speech, of course.

Nancy : So, what’s your future at The Age?

Ben Butler: Great. Just great. I propose to continue to sneer at businesses which advertise in The Age and to attack the good people in the suburbs and regional centres who actually buy the printed edition – until The Age runs out of advertisers and readers. Have I told you about what Karl Marx wrote about dialectical materialism? In Das Kapital, Comrade Karl drew attention to –

Nancy (interrupting) : Er, no. Er, thanks for giving so generously of your time.


Dominic Knight and the Once-upon-a-time Magnificent Carbon Tax
There was Dominic Knight (one of the Chaser Boys – average age 371/2) on Paul Murray Live earlier this week saying what a great idea it was that Kevin Rudd was terminating the carbon tax and moving a year earlier than planned to an emissions trading scheme.

Yep. This was the very same Dominic Knight who appeared on Paul Murray Live on 14 September 2011 and described the carbon tax as brilliant – a masterstroke, in fact. Let’s go to the archives:

Dominic Knight : I’m starting to think that this whole thing is a masterpiece – a masterstroke. I mean, it’s so boring, we’re so sick of it, it’s so going to happen. We’ve had – even on this show – we’ve had dozens of arguments about the whole thing so that people probably are sick of it. So maybe the tactic of – you know – spending the whole year talking about it, was actually a smart one in hindsight…The package is done in such a way that there is compensation, it’s not going to affect most people’s bottom line. So it’s going to end up, like the GST, being a pretty minor thing that we’ll probably end up worrying – wondering why we made such a fuss about it in the first place.

So there you have it. In 2011 Dominic Knight described the carbon tax as a masterstroke and that it was boring because it was “not going to affect most people’s bottom line”. When Kevin Rudd scrapped the carbon tax because of its contribution to the increase in electricity prices, Mr Knight seemed to believe that this was a masterstroke too since the carbon tax was not really boring at all but was pushing up prices.


MALCOLM TURNBULL v TONY (“I’LL MAKE THIS AN INTERRUPTION”) JONES What a refreshing performance by Opposition frontbencher Malcolm Turnbull – who is very much the ABC’s candidate to become leader of the Opposition – on Lateline last night.

At the end of the interview, Tony Jones raised the perennial question as to whether Malcolm Turnbull should replace Tony Abbott as Liberal Party leader before the election. The problem was that, as usual, Mr Jones wanted to do all the talking – and went into his familiar interruption mode. Mr Turnbull called him out on the tactic. Let’s go to the transcript:

Tony Jones: We’ve got a little time left. Why is Tony Abbott so unpopular? What’s going on in the polls?

Malcolm Turnbull: Well, he is very popular and the Coalition –

Tony Jones: [interjecting] – according to the polls he’s not particularly popular

Malcolm Turnbull: Oh, the polls, you know, the polls they – I’m not suggesting politicians don’t read polls but, you know, you –

Tony Jones: [Interjecting] But what is it in his style that people are not warming to?

Malcolm Turnbull: Well, you’d have to ask somebody that wasn’t warming to it. I mean, I’ve known Tony Abbott for most of my life and while we’ve had a few differences over the years, we’ve always got on very well –

Tony Jones: [Interjecting] But is it something, do you think you –

Malcolm Turnbull: – I can’t psychoanalyse. I can’t give you a, you know, a psychological explanation of why somebody doesn’t like Tony Abbott. I mean, it is a – you’ve got to ask the people that don’t like him.

Tony Jones: But could it be that having been an Opposition leader for so long, you have that attack dog kind of behaviour and people don’t warm to it?

Malcolm Turnbull: Well, that’s an opinion you’re free to express but I –

Tony Jones: [Interjecting] But it’s a question –

Malcolm Turnbull: Well. the question is “do I agree with you?” I don’t know the answer to your question.

Tony Jones: But you do know how to make yourself quite popular. In fact, you’ve said of yourself it’s ridiculous to deny that there are a lot of people out there who’d rather you were the leader of the Liberal Party, you said that at the weekend. Has he [Tony Abbott] asked you for his advice?

Malcolm Turnbull: Who’s advice?

Tony Jones: – Has he asked you for your advice?

Malcolm Turnbull: Tony Abbott? Oh gosh you’re doing – you’re mischief making at a hundred miles an hour

Tony Jones: Mmm

Malcolm Turnbull: No, look I – that’s, that’s. The answer is no. Of course not and the fact is that you’ve put it to me in the past and people say, the polls say, a lot of people say you should be leader of the Liberal Party instead of Tony Abbott and I say I “thank you for the compliment” –

Tony Jones: [interjecting] Now you say it’s ridiculous to pretend otherwise –

Malcolm Turnbull: Well it’s ridiculous – no it’s ridiculous to deny the fact of what those polls say but my point is, the only point I was making there –

Tony Jones: [interjecting] Is anyone, sorry, is anyone – is it actually –

Malcolm Turnbull: – is it possible for me to finish a sentence on this show?

Tony Jones: Well, we’re nearly at the end. Is anyone actually –

Malcolm Turnbull: Good. Well just talk all the way through to the end.

Tony Jones: Go ahead.

Malcolm Turnbull: Oh okay. The point, the only point I make is that yes there are a lot of people who would prefer me to be leader of the Liberal party than Tony – how many I’ve no idea – my –

Tony Jones: [interjecting] What if it’s the majority of people?

Malcolm Turnbull: My only point, Tony, is, Tony Jones, is this: That we are a team, that we have been unlike Labor which has been a rabble, we have been thoroughly united enduring this Parliament and if people think I’m a good bloke and I’m, you know, a good person to be in Parliament, a good person to be a minister – then vote for the Coalition. I am part of the package. That’s my message. We are a package deal so you might prefer me or you might prefer Joe [Hockey] or you might prefer Julie [Bishop] or you might prefer Christopher Pyne, doesn’t matter, we’re all in it together. Tony’s the captain, we’re all part of a united team.

Tony Jones: Malcolm Turnbull, we’ll have to leave it there. We thank you very much for joining us tonight

Malcolm Turnbull: Thanks very much

Enough said.


correspondence header caps

ON MACQUARIE UNIVERSITY, VICE-CHANCELLOR DOWTON, CLIMATE CHANGE, PROFESSOR MURRY SALBY, PROFESSOR TIM FLANNERY AND DAMS This overwhelmingly popular segment of MWD works like this. Someone believes it would be a you-beaut idea to write to Gerard Henderson. He thinks it would be a you-beaut idea to respond. And, lo and behold, the exchange is published in MWD.

This week Professor S. Bruce Dowton MBBS, MD, FACMG, FRACP, Macquarie University’s Vice-Chancellor and President, wrote to Gerard Henderson about his institution’s decision to terminate the employment of Professor Murry Salby. The recipient used the occasion to write to Professor Dowton about Professor Tim Flannery and more besides. Why not? And so it was done that the Correspondence section might be filled. Here we go:

Professor Bruce Dowton to Gerard Henderson – 17 July 2013

Re: Professor Murry Salby

Mr Henderson

As I know the Sydney Institute and its members have a longstanding interest in the views of Professor Murry Salby and in recent media reportage of his termination from Macquarie University, I hope you will not mind me contacting you to provide further information.

The following facts have been provided to me around the matters raise by Professor Salby in the public area. I am happy for you to share them as you think appropriate.

Climate change and academic freedom

Macquarie University strongly supports the rights of academic staff to academic freedom in their research work, and associated opinions. I can confirm that Professor Salby’s termination of employment was not in any way related to his views on climate science or any other aspects of his research work.

Termination of employment

Professor Salby’s termination was the result of two specific matters of misconduct. The first was failure to fulfil his teaching obligations, repeatedly and consistently over several months. Once management of this issue became formalised with allegations of misconduct made, the University continued to follow established and required processes, this included a formal inquiry chaired by an independent person and involving a union representative. Professor Salby’s actions in refusing to teach were in contravention of his contract of employment.

The second matter relates to his travel to Europe. In late 2012 Professor Salby sought approval to travel to Europe in early 2013. This approval was declined by an appropriate authority as his proposed travel clashed with the requirement for him to teach. The nature of the proposed travel had no bearing on this decision. Despite repeated written instruction not to travel, Professor Salby did travel, having purchased a ticket with a University credit card through an external travel agency – this is in contravention of Macquarie University policy.

Provision of resources promised to complete research

Start-up funds totalling $300,000 were made available, in a named account under Professor Salby’s control. Most funds remain unspent. Furthermore the University provided additional funds for other research purposes and provided support for two ARC Laureate Fellowship (each included a commitment of over $1 million over five years) demonstrating the support for professor Salby, and his research, contingent on the success of his application.

Due Process

At all times, due process has been followed in these matters, both before, during and since formal proceedings commenced. All appropriate human resources and industrial processes have been followed in accordance with the University’s Enterprise Agreement, with external independent oversight.

In closing, I feel it most unfortunate that the appointment did not work out as intended by all, and we wish Professor Salby well in his future endeavours.

Thank you for your time in considering this email.


S. Bruce Dowton

cc: Ms Anne Henderson

Gerard Henderson to Professor Bruce Dowton – 18 July 2013

Dear Professor Dowton

Thank you for your letter of 17 July 2013 concerning Professor Murry Salby.

It is true, as you say, that The Sydney Institute has “a longstanding interest in the views of Professor Murry Salby”. It is also true that the Institute has a longstanding interest in others who have addressed it over the years – including Macquarie University’s very own Professor Tim Flannery who, as you know, is also chairman of the Climate Commission. On Tuesday Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus addressed The Sydney Institute on climate change – thus initiating what will become a longstanding interest in his views.

In your second paragraph you wrote:

The following facts have been provided to me around the matters raised by Professor Salby in the public arena. I am happy for you to share them as you think appropriate.

I do not fully understand what this paragraph means. I assumed that, as Vice-Chancellor and President of Macquarie University, you make decisions with respect to the University’s employees – after forming an opinion on the available facts. So I am not sure what you mean when you write that “facts” have been provided to you “around the matters raised by Professor Salby in the public arena”. I assume that you are referring to the coverage of Murry Salby’s termination by Macquarie University in The Australian on 12 July 2013.

I do not have any independent knowledge about what you refer to as the “two specific matters of misconduct” which led to the termination. I have only spoken to Professor Salby twice – when he addressed The Sydney Institute on 2 August 2011 and on 24 July 2012.

I note that you describe the “second matter” relating to the termination as follows:

The second matter relates to his travel to Europe. In late 2012 Professor Salby sought approval to travel to Europe in early 2013. This approval was declined by the appropriate authority as his proposed travel clashed with the requirement for him to teach. The nature of the proposed travel had no bearing on this decision. Despite repeated written instruction not to travel, Professor Salby did travel, having purchased a ticket with a University credit card through an external travel agency – this is in contravention of Macquarie University policy.

I note that your letter to me does not include the following paragraph, which was contained in your media release of 12 July 2013, viz:

It is true that his [Salby’s] return flight was cancelled in an attempt to prevent the unauthorised travel and limit the unauthorised expenditure. This was done in error and the University is reviewing relevant processes.

As you are aware, this comment followed a report that Macquarie University cancelled the return ticket of Professor Salby’s non-refundable airfare. It’s many years now since I was an academic. But this seems a somewhat heavy-handed response – since what you refer to as funds relating to “unauthorised travel” had already been spent. Or expended – as they say in modern management language.

For the record, I have no scientific qualifications and do not comment on matters outside my field of expertise. I’m interested in hearing views on science by scientists – including the likes of Professor Salby and Professor Flannery.

That’s why I am still hoping that Macquarie University’s very own Professor Tim Flannery will reply to the email I sent him on 1 March 2011 asking him to explain his prediction of 2007 that the dams in Eastern Australian “no longer fill even when it does rain”. The reference was to Tim Flannery’s article in the New Scientist on 16 June 2007, which commenced as follows:

Over the past 50 years southern Australia has lost about 20 per cent of its rainfall, and one cause is almost certainly global warming. Similar losses have been experienced in eastern Australia, and although the science is less certain it is probable that global warming is behind these losses too. But by far the most dangerous trend is the decline in the flow of Australian rivers: it has fallen by around 70 per cent in recent decades, so dams no longer fill even when it does rain. Growing evidence suggests that hotter soils, caused directly by global warming, have increased evaporation and transpiration and that the change is permanent. I believe the first thing Australians need to do is to stop worrying about “the drought” – which is transient – and start talking about the new climate.

Professor Flannery’s 2007 prophecy was written in a scientific journal some four years before the Brisbane Flood of January 2011 which saw the Wivenhoe Dam overflow.

I’m still hoping that, when he gets time out of his duties at Macquarie University and on the Climate Commission, Professor Flannery will respond to the question I directed to him some two years ago about this particular (false) prophecy with respect to rain in Brisbane. Anything you could do to assist in this matter would be greatly appreciated.

There is no need to respond to this letter.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson



“The nation mourns Gerard Henderson. He’s in perfect health.”

– Phillip Adams, via Twitter, 2 July 2013 (favourited by Virginia Trioli)

“Old Australian saying. ‘He wouldn’t know a tram was up him unless the bell rang’. Wholly appropriate to Gerard Henderson”

– Phillip Adams, via Twitter, 7 May 2013

“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.

“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.