GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG – ISSUE NO. 192
26 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.
- The ABC and the Coalition – Problem, What Problem? Three Case Studies with Jon Faine & Virginia Trioli & Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly
- Can You Bear It? Aussie Delegation in Stalinst Pyongyang; Scott Burchill Almost in Harrods; David Flint in Monarchist Confusion
● La Tingle Adopts the Ramsey Option
In days of yore, when Alan Ramsey wrote a column for the Saturday Sydney Morning Herald, he was known on a couple of occasions to have phoned up one-time ALP pollster Rod Cameron to have a chat – with a view to filing a piece when he had nothing else to write about. Rod Cameron once told Gerard Henderson that he was surprised to read what he thought were private comments printed at length in the Herald on the morning after the conversation had taken place – and ironically wondered if he would receive payment as the author of his column.
It seems that the tradition continues. Laura Tingle’s “Canberra Observed” column in today’s Australian Financial Review is replete with quotations from Rod Cameron. The big news is that your man Cameron wishes that he had not said in December 2009 that Tony Abbott was “unelectable”. The problem here, of course, is that Mr Abbott nearly won in August 2010 – somewhat tarnishing the Cameron 2009 prophecy. According to La Tingle, Rod Cameron now wishes that he had said that Tony Abbott is unelectable “in normal circumstances”. How about that?
Laura Tingle takes some 1082 words to argue that Tony Abbott might well be unelectable after all. If this is the case, then Kevin Rudd would be well advised to go to the Governor-General by Monday and call an election on Saturday 31 August against the “unelectable” Abbott.
There are two comments in today’s “Canberra Observed” column which require clarification.
Laura Tingle commenced her AFR column as follows:
Rod Cameron is often referred to as “Labor’s former pollster”. It’s not clear what the statute of limitations is on such descriptions, since the last time Cameron’s ANOP Research Services polled for the ALP in a federal election was 1990. Maybe we will stop describing Cameron in this way when we stop describing Gerard Henderson as John Howard’s chief of staff during his only period of abject political failure.
Gerard Henderson joined John Howard’s office in January 1984 and resigned in December 1986. This information is accessible in Who’s Who in Australia had Ms Tingle bothered to access it. During this time, John Howard became Liberal Party leader (in September 1985). At the time, the most authoritative opinion poll was the Morgan Gallup Poll which was published in The Bulletin. On 16 December 1986, just before Gerard Henderson left Mr Howard’s office, the Morgan Gallup Poll was as follows:
Coalition: 48 per cent
Labor: 42 per cent
Democrats: 8 per cent
Others: 2 per cent
Support for the Coalition dissipated in January 1987 when Joh Bjelke Petersen commenced his ludicrous “Joh-for-PM” campaign which derailed both the Liberal Party and the National Party. Mr Howard lost the July 1987 election and lost the Liberal Party leadership in May 1989.
John Howard was not regarded by many people as an “abject political failure” in 1984, 1985 and 1986 – with the obvious exception of Laura Tingle.
Towards the end of Laura Tingle’s column, the following paragraph appears:
For three years, Julia Gillard and her ministers talked of little other than Tony Abbott. Kevin Rudd has been talking about government policies rather than about Abbott, but in doing so has only highlighted questions over Abbott’s policies or, more accurately, lack of them.
Perhaps La Tingle has been on light duties over the past month since Kevin Rudd resumed the prime ministership. The fact is that Prime Minister Rudd has spoken at length about Tony Abbott over recent weeks. For example, in his interview with Leigh Sales on 7.30 on 3 July 2013 the Prime Minister mentioned “Mr Abbott” on no fewer than 13 occasions. La Tingle’s assertion that Kevin Rudd “has been talking about government policies rather than about Abbott” is not supported by the available evidence.
Leigh Sales Admires Her Boss Nice Mr Scott Who Admires The ABC Which Employs Him – Or Something Like That
What a gorgeous tweet from 7.30 presenter Leigh Sales yesterday afternoon which read:
Speech by @abcmarkscott on the enormous public support for, and trust in, the ABC + its place in the media scape.
Here was one of the ABC’s leading journalists drawing attention to a speech by her boss Mark Scott – in which Nice Mr Scott spoke about the “enormous” support for, and trust in, the ABC. It was hold-the-front-page stuff. Ms Sales obviously knows the news significance of the ABC managing director and editor-in-chief declaring that the ABC is doing enormously well. Stand by for subsequent excitement as Leigh Sales draws attention to a speech by the Pope declaring that the Catholic Church is doing really well or an address by Vice-Chancellor of Melbourne University declaring that his institution is enormously successful.
Like Nice Mr Scott, Leigh Sales was excited about a Newspoll finding that 78 per cent of Australians believe that the ABC does a good job of being balanced and even handed. Well done. Good show and so on.
Needless to say, Nice Mr Scott did not bother to mention that, on these figures, presumably, around 20 per cent of Australians did not believe that the ABC does a good job in being balanced and even handed. As Nice Mr Scott declared , at the ABC “we mostly get it right”. In any event, what’s wrong with a mere 4 million unhappy customers? As far as MWD can determine, the ABC has yet to release the Newspoll findings – so we have take Nice Mr Scott at his word.
Unfortunately, Mark Scott did not find time in his speech to the American Chamber of Commerce in Australia to explain why the ABC does not have one conservative presenter or producer or editor for any of its main television or radio or online products. Nor did he indicate why he had broken his promise, made to The Sydney Institute in October 2006, that he would ensure a genuine diversity of views at the taxpayer funded public broadcaster and how it has come to pass that the ABC remains a Conservative-Free-Zone under his management.
What, I hear you ask, was Nancy’s favourite line from Nice Mr Scott’s speech yesterday? It appears at Page 3 of the text, where the ABC managing director declared:
Never in its existence has the ABC been purely a “market failure” broadcaster.
Could this be the very same Mark Scott, who, in a soft interview with The Guardian newspaper on 23 May 2011, spoke of the ABC as a “market failure broadcaster”?
Sure could. [Perhaps you should have put these quotes in your hugely popular “Great Media U-turns of Our Time Segment”. Just a thought – Ed].
Three Case Studies With Jon Faine, Virginia Trioli And Fran Kelly
While on the topic of Nice Mr Scott, it seems that the ABC managing director was unfazed in his address yesterday about the apparent reluctance of the Opposition leader and alternative prime minister to appear on such key ABC programs as Radio National Breakfast, Lateline, Q&A and News Breakfast.
On Q&A last Monday, presenter Tony Jones once again complained that Tony Abbott was not accepting invitations to appear on the program. Lateline co-presenter Emma Alberici had an on-air whinge on 4 July 2013 that Mr Abbott had not taken up “an open invitation…to join us since the start of last year”. And, as reported in MWD Issue 168, Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly rebuked the Opposition leader on ABC News 24 on 31 January 2013 for not appearing on RN Breakfast.
It’s not that Tony Abbott is media shy – as his appearance at the public forum in Launceston on Sky News last night demonstrates. It appears that the alternative prime minister is of the view that he does not get a fair go on the taxpayer funded public broadcaster – a matter which appears to be of scant concern to the ABC managing director who is busy affirming the ABC’s fairness.
Yet a few case studies suggest that key ABC personnel sometimes are quite unprofessional when interviewing leading Coalition parliamentarians.
▪ Tony Abbott & Jon Faine
On 11 July Tony Abbott was interviewed on ABC Radio 774’s Mornings with Jon Faine program. Mr Faine did a lot of interjecting – even though Mr Abbott’s responses were brief. At times the ABC presenter gave the impression that he should be running for elected office – even to the extent of depicting one of the Opposition leader’s responses as “absurd” (which Faine over-pronounced to make a point). Let’s go to the transcript as the interview concludes commencing with the part where Mr Faine declares that his time is very limited. [Perhaps this should have been an item in Can You Bear It? – Ed] :
Jon Faine: Okay moving on, my time is very limited, the News is only a few moments away. Some argy bargy between the Federal Government at the moment and the Napthine State Liberal Government over whether to sign up to the Better Schools Plan. Fundamentally, do you accept that it’s good policy and once the creases are ironed out, everyone’s going to sign up aren’t they?
Tony Abbott: No, I don’t believe they will because you’ve got to be confident that change is actually change for the better and that it’s affordable –
Jon Faine: [interjecting] How can it not be?
Tony Abbott: What’s this?
Jon Faine: How can hundreds of millions of dollars for schools not be for the better?
Tony Abbott: It’s got to be affordable and –
Jon Faine: [interjecting] Well it clearly is, it’s in the budget
Tony Abbott: Well, I’m not sure that it is. We’ve got – on the official figures – we’ve got almost $20 billion of deficits, we’ve got deficits stretching out into the future –
Jon Faine: [interjecting] Minimal, minimal. Tiny manageable deficits, Tony Abbott
Tony Abbott: [continuing] and after this government we will never get surplus. What’s that?
Jon Faine: [interjecting] Minimal deficits, manageable and irrelevant in the overall scheme of the economy
Tony Abbott: Well, I’m not sure that’s right. These “tiny”, “manageable”, “irrelevant” deficits can bring countries into terrible, terrible trouble. Just look at what’s happening in Europe. In the end governments –
Jon Faine: [interjecting] Comparing our economy to Europe is absurd, with respect –
Tony Abbott: Governments, no less than families and business, Jon, have got to live within their means
Jon Faine: Going into a almost statistically irrelevant – a tiny small amount of deficit to get over a difficult patch in the cycle of global economies, is regarded by the OECD and elsewhere as sensible, sustainable, manageable and good policy. But Tony Abbott doesn’t agree –
Tony Abbott: Well, I think that if we are going to commit to billions of dollars a year in extra spending and – let’s face it – Gonski requires six and a half billion dollars a year in extra spending if no school is to be worse off, that is a very serious additional commitment –
Jon Faine: [interjecting] You want smarter kids, better education, better schools, better skills but you don’t want to pay for it
Tony Abbott: Yeah, and the – and you’re saying that we’re not getting a reasonable outcome from the current spending?
Jon Faine: Well, there you go. The news is upon us and we’ve only just started which is why it would be great if you’d come in for a longer time next time and take some calls as well.
Well, there you go. Tony Abbott’s position on public debt may be correct or incorrect. But his position is not “absurd” – as Jon Faine advised his listeners. The Reserve Bank Governor Glenn Stevens said recently that it was important that there be a budget surplus over the economic cycle and pointed out that this was the policy approach of both Labor and the Coalition. However, Jon Faine believes that Tony Abbott’s comment on the economic dangers of building up debt is “absurd”. Perhaps Tony Abbott should have interviewed Jon Faine about his views on debt and deficits.
● Greg Hunt and Virginia Trioli
On 15 July Opposition frontbencher Greg Hunt was interviewed by Virginia Trioli on the ABC 1 News Breakfast program and, inter alia, criticised Labor’s carbon tax.
Former prime minister Julia Gillard said that Labor had introduced a carbon tax and current prime minister Kevin Rudd has said that Labor will “terminate” the carbon tax. However, according to Virginia Trioli, there is no carbon tax in Australia and she berated Greg Hunt for suggesting otherwise. Let’s go to the transcript:
Virginia Trioli: Hang on, how do you make all of those assertions out? If we move from a price on carbon to a market based mechanism such as the emissions trading scheme, where there is a floating price, how do you still call that? I mean, it’s not even a tax in the first place. But how do you go on incorrectly calling it a tax?
Greg Hunt: Well, of course it’s a tax. It’s an impost on the activities in terms of electricity and gas, use of refrigerants –
Virginia Trioli: [interjecting] No. It’s the equivalent of a speeding fine, which is not actually a tax, but moving on –
Greg Hunt: Well no it’s not –
Virginia Trioli: How do you, how do you call an emissions trading scheme –
Greg Hunt: Let’s be clear the carbon tax is here today and it’s tomorrow
Virginia Trioli: How do you describe this new emissions trading scheme as still a tax?
Like Jon Faine with Tony Abbott, Virginia Trioli clearly thought that Greg Hunt’s position was absurd. And she was intent on proclaiming her position – rather than interviewing the Opposition Shadow Minister for Climate Action, Environment & Heritage and allowing the listeners to decide for themselves.
When the issue returned later in the interview, Virginia Trioli stamped her foot and – in full intolerant mode – declared that Greg Hunt was simply wrong.
Virginia Trioli: – [Interjecting] I don’t know how many times this morning I can say that it’s not a tax –
Greg Hunt: Well, of course it is.
Virginia Trioli: – But I’m just going to put it on the record that it’s not
Greg Hunt: – The price of electricity –
Virginia Trioli: [interjecting] Just one more time and then viewers can make up their own mind
Greg Hunt: – It’s intended to drive up the price of electricity and that’s what it does
Virginia Trioli: What’ve you got Michael? [Laughs]
Like Jon Faine, Virginia Trioli was more intent on proclaiming her own position than discovering Greg Hunt’s. And, like Faine, Trioli ridiculed the Liberal MP’s stance. She went on to suggest that Malcolm Turnbull might replace Tony Abbott as Liberal Party leader before the election. Yawn.
● Joe Hockey & Fran Kelly
On 17 July Fran Kelly interviewed Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey. Like Jon Faine and Virginia Trioli, Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly was more intent in stating her position than listening to what Joe Hockey had to say. In a 14 minute interview, Fran Kelly interjected, or cut off, Joe Hockey on no fewer than 18 occasions as she attempted to prove that she was correct and the Shadow Treasurer was wrong.
Around the same time, Fran Kelly interviewed Labor’s Finance Minister Penny Wong (17 July), Labor’s Industry Minister Kim Carr (16 July) and Greens’ Deputy Leader Adam Bandt (15 July). Fran Kelly gave all three soft interviews with virtually no interjections or cut-offs. Ms Kelly’s personal position is of green/left persuasion.
The Faine/Trioli/Kelly Lesson
In view of the unprofessional interviewing style to which some ABC presenters subject leading Coalition MPs, it is scarcely surprising if the likes of Tony Abbott decide that they could make better use of their scant media time away from key ABC programs. The truth is that not many swinging voters watch or listen to the public broadcaster. It is unlikely that any election has been won on the ABC.
Mark Scott believes that the ABC is balanced and even handed – and seems unconcerned that the alternative prime minister appears to hold a different view. It’s called denial.
What a stunning tweet by Mike (“I’ll pour the gin”) Carlton on Wednesday. He had this to say about The Australian’s Janet Albrechtsen:
Rising hysteria in the Tory media claque at the chance of a Labor win. Albrechtsen madder than usual today.
So, according to Mike Carlton, Janet Albrechtsen was not merely mad this week – but, rather, madder than usual. Which scores a High on the Mike Carlton abuse level.
● Call-Out Re The Dear Leader’s Dear Followers Down Under
Many thanks to the avid MWD reader who has advised that an Australian delegation is in Pyongyang to celebrate what the Stalinists in North Korea describe as “the Korean people’s Fatherland Liberation War”. This is a reference to the Korean War where communist North Korea with the assistance of communist China invaded South Korea and was driven back by the United Nation’s force led by the United States with the support of Australia and other countries.
According to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) – the state news agency of North Korea – Australia’s delegation to this event comprises representatives of the Australia-DPRK Association of Friendship and Culture led by a certain Raymond Ferguson.
Does anyone know anything about Raymond Ferguson or his side-kick Neil Fitzgerald? And how come they are in Pyongyang to pay homage to the (very latest) Dear Leader who presides over a totalitarian regime which is part police state and a part mass prison. Can you bear it?
● Scott Burchill’s Julian Assange Story
It must have been “Go-to-the-Tip” day in Melbourne last Tuesday – which saw Scott Burchill drop in to the ABC Studio at Southbank on his way to dropping a load. Dr Burchill (for a doctor he is) usually does the “Newspapers” segment on ABC 1 News Breakfast on his way to the tip. Hence his dress sense for the occasion.
Scott Burchill told co-presenter Virginia Trioli that he had just been to London to see not the Queen but Julian Assange. He declared that the WikiLeaks founder was “severely lacking sunlight”. A perceptive comment, surely, since your man Assange has been voluntarily locked up in Ecuador’s Embassy in London for over a year. La Trioli then asked The Learned Doctor what conditions are like within the Embassy – which elicited the following response:
Scott Burchill: Err, small, he has kind of two rooms, a living quarters where eh and a kind of media room which is set up to do live feeds and interviews. But clearly the, you know, even though he’s just across the road from Harrods and Knightsbridge in London it’s a pretty difficult existence. And I think you go stir crazy. He’s now been there over 12 months and err you know I think anyone, no matter what the environment, would err like to be err having a free walk around in the sunlight, the beautiful British sun that they’re having now.
Virginia Trioli: Well if he decides to go and actually stand up to the charges then he will be out in the sunlight.
Scott Burchill: Well he will, the “Bobbies” outside are kind of in large numbers during the day but dwindle at night. So I would imagine that it wouldn’t be hard for him to slip out for a quick
Michael Rowland : Walk around?
Scott Burchill: A couple of nights and came back in before anyone would notice he would be gone.
What a load of tosh. The police presence outside the Ecuador Embassy in London is strong both during the day and at night. The Embassy is not across the road from Harrods. And even if Julian Assange happened to escape the Embassy at night he would not cop any of the English sun. Dr Burchill is an academic. Can you bear it?
● David Flint – Monarchist Revisionist
Does anyone catch Professor David Flint, Down Under’s top monarchist – on Radio 702 Mornings with Linda Mottram – last Tuesday?
Your man Flint (whose mother was born in Tasmania and whose father was born in Batavia – or is it the other way around?) was busy spinning the monarchist line. First up, he declared that the “Monarchy in Britain is self-funded”. Bollocks. Buckingham Palace is funded out of the Crown Estate which was ceded to the British people by a previous monarch. Also the Duchy of Cornwall – which funds the Prince of Wales – is tax exempt. Moreover the Duchy of Lancashire – which partly funds the Queen – is subsidised by the British taxpayer.
Also David Flint declared that the republican referendum was rejected in 1999 in “72 per cent of electorates”. So what? As a law professor, David Flint should know that, for a constitutional referendum to be successful, it requires a majority of votes at a national level along with a majority in a majority of states. Electorates have nothing to do with it. David Flint simply overlooked the fact that 45.13 per cent of all Australians voted “Yes”. Can you bear it?
Tom Switzer Scores In Identifying Left-Wing Hypocrisy
Step forward Tom Switzer, editor of The Spectator Australia. Mr Switzer offered the lead column in this week’s issue to any left-wing luminary who would criticise Kevin Rudd’s Pacific Solution the way he or she once criticised John Howard’s Pacific Solution.
Tom Switzer got no takers – along with a gratuitous put-down by Professor Robert Manne, who has been published previously in The Spectator Australia. It seems that the Howard-hating Sandalistas have adopted the approach of leading luvvie Julian Burnside who tweeted on Monday:
Let’s face it: the PNG Arrangement is a shabby deal, but at least if might stop Scott (“illegals”) Morrison becoming Immi Minister
Burnside said much the same thing to Helen Dalley on Sky News that evening. In other words, according to Julian Burnside QC, when it comes to keeping Tony Abbott out of The Lodge the end justifies the means.
DAVID MARR’S ASYLUM SEEKER HOWLERS AS TOLD TO THE GUARDIAN AUSTRALIA
In a recent speech to The Sydney Institute, historian David Pryce Jones commented that one of the defining features of intellectuals who engage in public debate is an over-use of the word “must”. The point was that intellectuals like telling governments and others what they “must” do.
Last Monday David Marr re-entered the debate on asylum seekers with a denunciation in The Guardian Australia of Kevin Rudd’s decision to send all asylum seekers arriving by boat to Papua New Guinea. Towards the end of his article, titled “Captain Rudd steers Australia into new depths of shame”. David Marr wrote:
Bogus asylum seekers must be weeded out and returned. The entry points of the trade – the airports of Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur – must be plugged, as the foreign minister, Bob Carr, has gone some way to do in the last week. The criminal combines driving the trade must be broken. We need to redouble the help we give Indonesian police. Australia must make it easier – rather than harder – for asylum seekers to come by air.
That’s four “musts” in just five sentences. David Marr proffered no such advice – about returning bogus asylum seekers or plugging Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur airports or tackling people smugglers – when John Howard was prime minister. Indeed Marr was one of the principal critics of the Howard government’s policies on preventing unauthorised boat arrivals. Yet the situation which Rudd faces today is not significantly different from the situation which Howard faced in the early 2000s. Then, as today, there were bogus asylum seekers and many asylum seekers sought entry to Australia by boat after flying into Jakarta or Kuala Lumpur. Also criminal gangs were driving the people smuggler industry.
Responding to criticism by Nick Cater that Marr might not criticise Rudd for his PNG solution, Marr wrote to The Australian on Wednesday saying that he had denounced Rudd in his Guardian piece. Well, not really. Sure, Marr said that “Kevin Rudd has taken Australia lower than it has ever gone before”. But Marr partly rationalised Rudd’s stance as due to “the relentless encouragement of Tony Abbott” – the familiar “Blame Abbott” line. Marr also attacked the stance of such Coalition figures as Scott Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull – but not former Labor prime minister Julia Gillard.
Since David Marr is an influential figure in the Australian public debate, who has ready access to ABC TV and ABC Radio studios, it is important to correct the errors in his Guardian piece before they become enmeshed in Australian mythology. Here they are.
● According to Marr:
Bribing Papua New Guinea to take our refugees may seem an unimaginable course for a civilised country to take. But this is Australia. We do xenophobia well. We shut our doors on Jews before the second world war.
In fact, Australia did not shut its doors on Jews before the Second World War. Certainly Australia could have settled more Jews, who were fleeing the Nazi regime, than it did. But Australia settled more European Jews than many other nations and Jews were not excluded from Australia at the time. Anne Henderson documents in Joseph Lyons: The People’s Prime Minister, in late 1938 – after Kristallnacht – the Lyons-led United Australia Party government agreed to settle 15,000 refugees over three years – to consist of Aryans, non-Aryan Christians and Jews alike. As Hilary L. Rubenstein pointed out in The Jews in Australia Volume 1 1788-1945, 4000 of the 5000 annual places were reserved for Jews. Refugee intake ceased with the commencement of hostilities in September 1939. But 5000 Jewish refugees arrived in Australia in 1939. In Edge of the Diaspora, Suzanne D. Rutland recorded that the Lyons government eased the restrictions on non-British Jews entering Australia in 1936.
● According to Marr:
From the time that first boat arrived – the Kein Giang with five Vietnamese men on board – in April 1976, both sides of politics have made the same promise to the nation: to stop the boats, every single boat. There are too many coming now. Too many people are dying on the way. But we are not going to get anywhere while that toxic promise stays on the table…. No leader since has had the courage to tell Australians what the rest of the world knows: that refugees flee however they may – by air, by land and by sea. Instead, every prime minister since the Kein Giang tied up in Darwin harbor has promoted the Australian delusion that it’s wrong – indeed evil – for refugees to climb into a boat.
It is true that, when prime minister, Malcolm Fraser favoured the off-shore processing of Indo-Chinese refugees and that only 2059 Indo-Chinese arrived in Australia by boat between the beginning of 1976 and the end of 1982. But it is not true that Fraser declared that it was “evil” for asylum seekers to enter Australia by boat. Quite the contrary – as the arrival in Darwin in late 1977 of an asylum seeker boat demonstrated.
In November 1977, just before the Federal election of that year, the HMAS Ardent intercepted a boat containing some 180 Vietnamese refugees, heading for Darwin. Bob Hawke was ALP Federal president at the time. In words that sounded remarkably similar to John Howard’s over two decades later, the (then) ALP president opposed the arrival on Australian shores of “queue-jumping” boat people. Bob Hawke told a media conference in Hobart on 28 November 1977:
Obviously there are people all around the world who have a strong case for entry into this country and successive governments have said we have an obligation, but we also have an obligation to people who are already here…Of course we should have compassion, but people who are coming in this way are not the only people in the world who have rights to our compassion. Any sovereign country has the right to determine how it will exercise its compassion and how it will increase its population.
Bob Hawke was reported as calling on the Coalition government in late 1977 to make it clear that the asylum seekers had no right to land in Australia. Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser rejected his advice. He said that Australia needed to make sure that the Vietnamese boat people were genuine refugees – but felt that the situation was under control. (See the broadsheet press of 29 November 1977 and after).
It is true that Bob Hawke was not alone in calling for a tough line on asylum seekers a quarter of a century ago. According to a contemporaneous report in The National Times (12 December 1977), Hawke’s position was shared by senior Fraser government minister Peter Nixon. The Coalition’s Transport Minister was reported to have told a media conference in Darwin that refugees arriving illegally by boat in Australia would be turned around and sent back. Peter Nixon was quickly hauled into line by Malcolm Fraser and the Immigration Minister (Michael Mackellar) issued a statement declaring that “Australia will continue to accept Indo-Chinese refugees”. The Fraser Government went to the December 1977 Federal election with this policy.
Gough Whitlam, as Labor leader in 1977, did not repudiate Bob Hawke’s statement. Moreover, while acknowledging that “any genuine refugees should be accepted”, Whitlam maintained that “the [Fraser] Government has a responsibility to ensure they are genuine refugees” and that “it should also see that they don’t get ahead in the queue over people who have been sponsored and who are already coming here” (The Age, 29 November 1977). The National Times reported that, speaking in Darwin, Whitlam blamed Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew for the boat people reaching Australia’s shores. He was quoted as alleging that Singapore supplied the Indo-Chinese boat people with the “plans and petrol and the maps to get here” (The National Times, 12 December 1977).
In The Guardian, David Marr implied that Malcolm Fraser had declared when prime minister that it was “evil” for asylum seekers to arrive in Australia by boat. This is simply wrong. Also Marr overlooked Gough Whitlam’s hostility to boat arrivals in the mid 1970s. This is quite misleading since it implies that Gough Whitlam was accepting of Indo-Chinese refugees in 1975, 1976 and 1977 when this was emphatically not the case.
● According to Marr:
Asylum seekers coming by air don’t trouble us. They aren’t dragged away from Tullamarine [Airport] and thrown into immigration prisons. But we have spent the best part of 40 years devising new insults and tougher punishments for those who dare to do what asylum seekers do in the Persian Gulf, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean: arrive by sea.
This comment is hopelessly wrong – as has been pointed out to David Marr previously by Gerard Henderson. Speaking on Insiders on Sunday 14 November 2010, Marr said that asylum seekers who arrive by air are not put into mandatory detention. This led to the following email exchange:
Gerard Henderson to David Marr – 16 November 2010
I enjoyed the discussion on Insiders last Sunday about asylum seekers. However, I believe it is appropriate to draw your attention to one error you made in case the issue is raised again on Insiders or elsewhere. On Insiders you said: “Nobody who flies into Australia and asks for refugee protection – they’re not put in detention and they have always been given access to the courts.”
The fact is that numerous asylum seekers who arrive by air and claim asylum are put into detention. This is common procedure.
As you are aware, over recent years I have supported Anne Henderson’s advocacy on behalf of asylum seekers held in detention – many in Villawood. We have succeeded in all these cases – including the case of the three African Christians who were scheduled for immediate deportation and whose case I mentioned on Insiders on 11 July. The three Nigerians arrived at Melbourne Airport and were immediately placed in detention in Maribyrnong. They were subsequently transferred to detention in Villawood. In other words, they were treated no differently to asylum seekers who reach the Australian mainland by boat. In fact, most of the detainees which Anne and I helped over the years have arrived by air and were immediately placed in detention.
I know it is a widely held belief that asylum seekers who arrive by air are not placed in detention. But it is just a myth.
David Marr to Gerard Henderson – 16 November 2010
Thanks. While obviously those who fly in seeking asylum often end up in detention some way down the track, I hadn’t realised some are immediately thrown into the slammer on arrival. For what reason? I suppose being black doesn’t help.
Gerard Henderson to David Marr – 22 November 2010
Just to clarify. As I understand it, everyone who arrives in Australia by air without a valid visa – or who claims asylum on arrival – is placed into detention.
As you know, it’s very difficult to get on a flight destined for Australia without a valid visa. That is why large numbers of asylum seekers invariably arrive by boat. Also, it is not just Africans who come by air and seek asylum – so do Chinese and Vietnamese and some Sri Lankans. The Iraqis, Afghans and Sri Lankans tend to come by boat because they can get access into such nations as Indonesia and Malaysia.
David Marr’s confusion underlies his lack of understanding of the asylum seeker issue. On Insiders on 7 July 2013, Marr said that it was “inexplicable” why asylum seekers who arrive by boat destroy their passports and/or identity papers. On the contrary, it is completely explicable. Asylum seekers who arrive by boat are invariably told by people smugglers to destroy their papers. This makes it much more difficult to determine whether those seeking asylum are genuine refugees.
David Marr’s article in The Guardian was not as critical of Kevin Rudd’s Papua New Guinea Solution as he maintains. Certainly there was none of the scathing criticism which Marr directed at John Howard in the early 2000s. Double standards aside, David Marr’s recent contribution to the asylum debate demonstrates that he does not fully understand the problems faced by the Rudd, Gillard and Howard governments. Moreover, there are numerous holes in his understanding of the history of asylum seekers and refugees in Australia.
“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.