GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG – ISSUE NO. 194
9 AUGUST 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.
- Nancy’s Law Report on Barbara Ramjan v Michael Kroger and Nationwide News; David Marr’s continuing silence
- Can you Bear It? Mike Seccombe bags Howard on economics; Malcolm Mackerras’ safe prophecy; Vikki Champion overestimates Malcolm Turnbull; John McTernan’s hyperbole; Maxine McKew’s short lived prediction; Tim Soutphommasane – still no evidence but nice government job
ABC Radio National does not employ one conservative as the presenter of, or a commentator on, any of its main programs. RN is the embodiment of the ABC as a Conservative-Free-Zone.
Channel 10 political editor Paul Bongiorno is regarded by the Coalition as the journalist of the commercial wing of the Canberra Press Gallery who is most opposed to the political conservatives. So it came as no surprise when, early this year, Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly announced that Mr Bongiorno would join Michelle Grattan as a regular commentator on national politics for RN Breakfast.
These days, Ms Grattan writes for The Conversation – which RN Breakfast declines to disclose is a taxpayer subsidised entity. Michelle Grattan’s comments this week have been fair and balanced. But Paul Bongiorno’s contributions give the impression that in a former life he was a spinner for the Greens/Labor alliance.
This morning, after 8am, Fran Kelly introduced the Friday Panel, which will examine the media’s coverage of the election campaign. There was not a conservative in sight. The panel comprised ABC1 Media Watch presenter Paul Barry, Polifact’s Peter Fray and SBS’ engagement editor John Bergin. Mr Fray engaged in a bit of product endorsement for Polifact – quite an achievement on the advertisement-free ABC, to be sure.
Ms Kelly also declared that Paul Barry’s book on Rupert Murdoch will be released next week. Another free plug, to be sure. Fran Kelly then launched the discussion by inviting Paul Brry to have a swing at Rupert Murdoch’s Daily Telegraph which on Monday ran its “Kick This Mob Out” page one editorial. Let’s go to the transcript:
Fran Kelly: Paul, let’s start with you and start with that headline in the Daily Telegraph on Monday. Really no surprise – the editorial position of “The Tele” is to get rid of Labor. But the timing, I think, is what surprised people. Day one of the campaign. Have we seen that before?
Paul Barry: I think, well, we saw it in the Fin. Review on the same day
Fran Kelly: [interjecting] – No. But I mean in other elections. Day one I’m coming at with that.
Paul Barry: I think it’s unusual. I think normally papers wait until the last day of the campaign to tell voters which way to vote. I don’t think you also see it normally on the front page like that in such bald message. It’s very reminiscent of the way that The Sun behaved in England for many, many, many years and what you then saw in a follow up on Thursday with Kevin Rudd and Albanese dressed up in Nazi uniforms – [In fact, Kevin Rudd and Anthony Albanese were depicted as characters from the TV comedy Hogan’s Heroes]
Fran Kelly: [interjecting] “I know nuthink.”
Paul Barry: – Again, is very reminiscent of The Sun and the way The Sunbehaved with Kinnock and Michael Foot – dressing Michael Foot with – forever pictured in a dirty old duffel coat. And, you know, Kinnock was inside a light bulb saying “if you elect this guy, please will the last person in Britain turn off the lights”. So it’s very, very scathing and very powerful and always on the front page.
So Fran Kelly criticised the Daily Telegraph. And Paul Barry criticized the Daily Telegraph and the Australian Financial Review. But no one mentioned the Guardian-on-the-Yarra’s Page One instruction on 22 June 2013 that Labor should dump Julia Gillard for Kevin Rudd – in order to stop Tony Abbott from becoming prime minister. There was an “It’s Time” instruction followed by a pompous editorial rant by editor-in-chief Andrew Holden.
It seems that when the Daily Telegraph editorialises against Kevin Rudd on Page 1 – this is a reason for condemnation on RN Breakfast. But when The Age editorialised against Julia Gillard on Page 1 – this was a matter for the “forgettery” since a higher cause (namely the defeat of Tony Abbott) was involved.
NEWS FROM M’LEARNED BRETHREN IN THE MATTER OF BARBARA RAMJAN V MICHAEL KROGER & NATIONWIDE NEWS LIMITED
The Consent Order
On Tuesday, Paul Bibby reported in the Sydney Morning Herald (“Kroger unapologetic as News says sorry”) that News Limited had issued an apology to Barbara Ramjan concerning the controversy that followed the publication of David Marr’s Quarterly Essay titled “Political Animal: The Making of Tony Abbott” which was published in September 2012.
MWD has accessed the consent orders covering this matter. On Monday, News Limited delivered the following apology in the Supreme Court of New South Wales:
An article published on September 24, 2012 (“Ramjan’s death threats” page 1; “Ramjan serial accuser: Kroger.”, page 6) concerned allegations by Michael Kroger about Barbara Ramjan’s conduct in student politics in 1977 and 1978, and that of opposition leader Tony Abbott. The Australian apologises to Ms Ramjan for any suggestion that she lied about those events and acknowledges that the recollection of those events was contested by all participants, who were sincere in what they recalled. The Australian did not intend to suggest that one account should prevail over another.
That’s it. Michael Kroger did not issue an apology. The Terms of Judgment/Order Made By The Court By Consent reads as follows:
1. The proceedings be dismissed
2. No order as to costs
3. Any existing costs be vacated
4. Each party to the proceedings consents to this dismissal
Once again, that’s it.
David Marr’s (Unusual) Silence
Meanwhile, there is some unfinished business in so far as David Marr and Gerard Henderson are concerned. Mr Marr is always banging on about the importance of journalism in revealing truth. However, as viewers of Insiders on 7 July and MWD readers will be aware:
1. David Marr refuses to explain why he changed the date of the alleged
“Punch” which Tony Abbott administered to either side of Barbara Ramjan’s head at Sydney University from September 1977 (first edition Political Animal) to 28 July 1977 (second edition Political Animal)
2. David Marr refuses to explain why he changed the date of an event
involving Tony Abbott at Ku-ring-gai College of Advanced Education from from August 1977 (first edition of Political Animal) to October 1977 (second edition of Political Animal)
3. David Marr refuses to explain why he failed to explain – or even
acknowledge – the changes in his timing of the alleged “Punch” and the Ku-ring-gai incident in the second edition of Political Animal. It remains one of the few secrets of contemporary Australian journalism.
Mike Seccombe – From Howard-Hater to Howard-Blamer
It’s was just super to see Mike (“Private schools make us dumber”) Seccombe of the Insiders last Sunday. These days your man Seccombe writes for the give-away The Global Mail (sponsored by Graeme Wood) which competes with the give-away The Guardian Australia (partly sponsored by Graeme Wood) in what is called on-line newspaper space.
Mr Seccombe’s visceral dislike of the Coalition is a sight to behold. And so it was last Sunday when the following exchange took place:
Mike Seccombe: It was the Coalition, under[John] Howard, that implemented a lot of these things. They’re the ones who inflated it in the first place. When the economic history is written, the Howard-Costello government will go down looking absolutely dreadful as economic managers.
Kerry-Anne Walsh: Well, they were the creator of the affluent middle class.
Mike Seccombe: They blew the boom. Labor continued the tradition to a certain extent – but they’re the ones who principally blew the boom.
Pretty shocking, don’t you think? Not only did the Coalition – with John Howard as prime minister and Peter Costello as treasurer – create an affluent middle class (pace Kerry-Anne Walsh). They also blew the boom (pace Mike Seccombe). This despite the fact that the Howard/Costello government left Australia with a surplus, no net debt, the Future Fund and a higher education fund, along with relatively low inflation and low unemployment. Yet, according to Mr Seccombe, the likes of Howard and Costello will go down as “dreadful … economic managers”. Can you bear it?
Malcolm Mackerras plays it safe
There’s a lot to be said for democracy – except that it has led to the birth of the non-science of psephology. In Australia, every three years or so, elections see the re-emergence of Canberra based psephologist Malcolm Mackerras – with the Mackerras Pendulum.
Sure, Mr Mackerras – as a prophet – has a better track record than Bob Elis (the False Prophet of Palm Beach). But not by much. Thanks to Julian Assange, Wikileaks and all that, a document has emerged from the US diplomatic cables circa 1974. An American diplomat reported from Canberra back to Washigton DC that Malcolm Mackerras had predicted that Bill Snedden and the Coalition was “certain” to win the May 1974 election. The diplomat informed Washington that B.A. Santamaria (a strong critic of Whitlam Labor) had told the US Consul-General in Melbourne that he hated “to think about it but it looks like the ALP will return” to government. Sure enough, this was another erroneous Mackerras prediction- and another fulfilment of Bob Santamaria’s essential pessimism.
Over the past four decades, Malcolm Mackerras has refined his prediction technique, after consultations with the Delphic Oracle. This is how your man Mackerras concluded his article in The Australian on Monday:
A serious campaign error by Tony Abbott could give Kevin Rudd a landslide win – and vice versa. The reason is that there are so many marginal seats. So I conclude by saying I confidently predict there will be a result – and that result will lie somewhere in a range between a landslide to Rudd and a landslide to Abbott.
Brilliant. According to MM, there will be a result on Saturday 7 September. There could be a landslide to Labor. Or there could be a landslide to the Coalition. Or the result could be somewhere between the two extremes. Your man Mackerras is an expert psephologist. Can you bear it?
Vikki Champion falls at the deputy PM’s gate
Malcolm Turnbull, the anti-hero of the Sandalistas who frequent Q & A each Monday, is one of Australia’s best-known politicians. Even so, intrepid Daily Telegraph reporter Vikki Champion does not know his position. Yesterday, Ms Champion wrote about “Malcolm Turnbull, potential deputy prime minister of Australia”.
No. Currently Julie Bishop is the deputy leader of the Opposition. If the Coalition wins on 7 September, she will remain deputy leader of the Liberal Party but will not become deputy prime minister. This position will be assumed by National Party leader Warren Truss. Vikki Champion seems blissfully unaware how the Liberal Party works or how the Coalition is structured. Can you bear it?
John McTernan bags the Weekend Australian
MWD really missed what was expected to be John McTernan’s third column in the Sunday Telegraph at the weekend. The former Julia Gillard spin doctor had a column in the News Limited Sunday newspaper on 21 July and another on 28 July. But on 4 August – just zip.
MWD cannot explain McTernan’s absence last Sunday and hopes for a return this weekend. He was on Peter van Onselen’s Men’s Shed last Friday – otherwise known as The Contrarians. There, when defending his stunningly successful move to have Julia Gillard photographed knitting for the Women’s Weekly during her final days as prime minister, John McTernan declared that at least this magazine had a wide readership. Unlike The Weekend Australian which, he asserted, “is read by five people”.
During his The Contrarians appearance last Friday, your man McTernan demonstrated all the diplomatic skills which he flaunted when in the Prime Minister’s Office. How smart to declare that News Limited’s broadsheet The Weekend Australian “is read by five people”. Mr McTernan is a communications expert. Can you bear it?
Maxine McKew’s prediction discredited within a week
Kevin Rudd’s surprise move to have former Queensland premier Peter Beattie parachuted in to contest the Coalition seat of Forde, south of Brisbane, suggests that Labor’s campaign is struggling. This has been confirmed by Graham Richardson in The Australian this morning – he believes that the Coalition’s 52/48 lead in Newspoll is reflected in Labor’s own polling.
How could this be? So soon after Maxine McKew wrote in her Australian Financial Review column on 30 July 2013 that Kevin Rudd had “forced Tony Abbott and his team back into the position where Howard was six years ago playing catch-up and a poorly executed defence”. In November 2007, Rudd led Labor to one of its greatest election victories. On 30 July, Ms McKew foretold a similar victory in September 2013.
So deep were the Coalition’s problems, Ms McKew declared, that “at least some” Coalition heavies “must be hitting the speed dial for Malcolm Turnbull”. Go on. MWD just loved Maxin McKew’s prediction that “Rudd won’t spend too much time talking about his rival”. On Monday 5 August, just six days after Maxine McKew’s attempt at soothsaying, Kevin Rudd did his first major interview of the 2013 campaign – with Sabra Lane on the ABC AM program. In a 13 minute interview, the Prime Minister mentioned Tony Abbott’s name on 16 occasions. This despite McKew’s confident assertion that Rudd “won’t spend too much time talking about his rival”. Can you bear it?
THE CASE OF TIM SOUTPHOMMASANE
What frightfully good news. Just before the Rudd Government went into caretaker mode, pending the 7 September election, it was announced that Tim Soutphommasane had been appointed Australia’s new Race Discrimination Commissioner.
Dr Soutphommasane (for a doctor he is) is well known to MWD readers. He is the co-editor of the boring All that’s left tome and co-wrote the main essay in the book which made assertions not supported by any evidence of any kind. Dr S used to write the “Ask the Philosopher” column in The Weekend Australian until someone worked out that no one was asking the philosopher anything – presumably because his column was little read.
So the Sydney based Dr S sought refuge at The Age in Melbourne. This is how “The-Guardian-on-the-Yarra” described its brand new columnist on 20 May 2013:
Tim Soutphommasane is an Age columnist, a political philosopher at the University of Sydney, and has worked as a Labor speechwriter.
In other words, Dr S is a taxpayer funded kind of guy with good links to the Labor Party. Just the kind of guy who could expect to get a five year contract at the taxpayer funded Australian Human Rights Commission where, no doubt, he will set about attempting to regulate the rights of others.
MWD will certainly miss Dr S’s contributions to the public debate – including his recent series on the taxpayer funded public broadcaster. The reference is to Tim Southphommasne’s role as presenter of “Mongrel Nation” on ABC Radio National.
Here are two of MWD’s favourite Dr S columns of recent times:
entitlement” and Australia’s “hysterical fear of outsiders” – without providing evidence for either assertion. He claimed that “many of [Tony] Abbott’s critics view him as someone who clings to sexist views about gender roles” – without saying who comprise the “many”. And, of course, there was a bagging of (unnamed of course) “conservative ideologues”. This is how the column concluded:
It is revealing that in Britain, the Labour Party under Ed Miliband's leadership has moved decisively towards ''One Nation Labour''. British Labour, in appropriating the moderate One Nation Toryism associated with Benjamin Disraeli, has moved on from technocratic Blairism. In the face of a radical, mutated conservatism, social democracy may ironically be the most traditionally conservative force left. Who, after all, will stand to preserve the political culture of the common good, and defend it against the all-conquering market?
Brilliant, eh? But what is Dr S talking about?
Watson and our great cultural malaise”. You see, Dr S has been wondering whether Australia’s “collapse as a cricketing power may also say something about the state of the nation”. Go on. Alas, he did.
According to Dr S, Michael Clarke and Shane Watson “symbolise all that is wrong with contemporary Australian society”. Not some. All. He continued:
From a nation of tough street fighters, we've turned into a nation of fragile show ponies. It is all too tempting, at least for those of us who find cricket's real meaning beyond the boundary, to say that we are seeing the cultural expression of a mollycoddled generation of Australians. A generation that has inherited a golden age, but stands to squander it because of its blithe assumption that the good times would inevitably continue. …
A middle class that has never had it so good cries poor and moans about an illusory cost-of-living crisis. There is clamour for more investment in public services and infrastructure, yet predictable horror when it is pointed out that any such things might require higher taxes.
Australians seem to want to take all they can, but seem willing to give only little. There are times when we appear like a nation consumed by expectation. Wanting everything now without wishing to pay the price. Assuming that success is a birthright rather than an achievement. Increasingly giving the impression of unwarranted arrogance. Sound familiar?
Yeah, sure. Sounds like absolute tosh. Here is Tim Soutphommasane, who has spent most of his career on the taxpayer teat, complaining about middle class Australians who are concerned about the cost of living and unwilling to pay yet more taxes to fund the likes of Dr S.
DOWN THE SNOBBERY TRACK – GUY RUNDLE STEPS UP
Guy Rundle is MWD’s favourite Marxist Comedian. And one of MWD’s favourite Brighton Grammar School graduates – along with Peter Reith, of course. So Nancy’s (male) co-owner always reads Mr Rundle’s lengthy and all but unreadable sludge in the Crikey newsletter each day. Or is it each hour?
And what a great piece it was in Crikey on Wednesday titled “Rundle: among the fibros and McMansions, Blacktown’s diverse voice”. You see, MC (as in Marxist Comedian) Rundle travelled all the way out to Blacktown in Western Sydney. To demonstrate just how far he journeyed, Crikey published a map of Blacktown. There it is – just to the left of International Peace Park. Thanks for that.
Guy (MC) Rundle commenced his comment as follows: “Christ almighty, Blacktown is a dump”. It did not get any better as G(MC)R:
eh? Worthy of a Marxist comedian to be sure
Dandenong in a way, but also it isn’t Darlinghurst or Newtown or even Petersham”. Gee, thanks for that. Blacktown’s not even Petersham. Or even Fitzroy North, come to think of it.
federation by an arrangement that sometimes feels like a treaty between principalities, whatever obeisances we may make towards a larger identity”. [What’s he talking about? Ed]
them elsewhere it will be because of Eddie Obeid …”. It’s as simple as this, apparently.
peak body will decide which way its members will swing their votes”. See, the masses living beyond the edge of Rundle’s world are told how to vote by community leaders.
As the map in Crikey indicates, Blacktown is a very long way from Snobbery Central, where MWD’s favourite Marxist Comedian resides.
The historian James (Jim) Griffin died on 9 May 2010 aged 80. James Griffin’s last book Daniel Mannix: Beyond the Myths (Garratt Publishing) has just been released. It was edited for publication by Paul Ormonde.
Reviewing Daniel Mannix for The Weekend Australian (13-14 July 2013), Professor Ross Fitzgerald wrote that, before he died, the Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne from 1917 to 1963 “burned almost all his few remaining letters and other documents”. It is not certain that this is the case – see the correspondence between Gerard Henderson and Brenda Niall in The Sydney Institute Quarterly Issues 38 & 39.
In her review of the Mannix biography in The Age (27 July 2013), Morag Fraser wrote that “Mannix wilfully destroyed most of the personal papers that might have illuminated his private soul”. She provided no evidence in support of this allegation. Certainly Dr Mannix did not keep many files – but some letters and documents survived him. Also, it is not clear that he ever engaged in the kind of personal correspondence which might have illuminated his private soul.
In her review, Morag Fraser commented:
Mannix, his era and close associates (including B.A. Santamaria and John Wren), consumed Griffin's scholarly energies for decades. Griffin's iconoclastic Mannix entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography sparked fierce reaction when it was published in 1986. It was deemed heresy (Santamaria and George Pell were among its most vehement repudiators), and all the more heinous for coming from an insider – a Catholic historian who, ironically, was one of the beneficiaries of Mannix's promotion of Catholic higher education and Catholic lay action.
Jim Griffin’s entry on Daniel Mannix in Volume 10 of The Australian Dictionary of Biography (published in 1986) is controversial and it was criticised by such Mannix supporters as B. A. (Bob) Santamaria and the now Cardinal George Pell. But neither man invoked the “heresy” attack.
In view of the interest in the ADB entry on Daniel Mannix, the following correspondence is published between Jim Griffin and Gerard Henderson which covers the issue. During his final years, Griffin was not well and this was reflected in both his handwriting and his content. The correspondence below has been edited to exclude personal and other matters not related to the ADB controversy and to clarify some issues. It gives an insight into how far Jim Griffin viewed his most controversial piece of writing.
Jim Griffin to Gerard Henderson – 8 February 2008
I understand from Di Langmore that some (not unfavourable) mention was made about my Mannix article in the Australian Dictionary of Biography Volume 10 when she talked at your institute. I am sending you a copy of my reply to the Santamaria criticism which I delivered at the Irish-Australian History Conference in Hobart in July 1995, titled “Daniel Mannix in The Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10 – Revisionism or Reality”. It may interest, perhaps even amuse, you. Hope you read this. I’m still recuperating from some nearly fatal “indispositions”.
Cheers to Anne and yourself
Gerard Henderson to Jim Griffin – 2 September 2008.
Many thanks for your letter of 8 February 2008 enclosing a copy of your 1995 paper titled “Daniel Mannix” in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10: Revisionism or Reality?”. Apologies for the delay in responding but I have been very busy of late. I had not seen your paper before although I had heard about it. I read it with interest and have placed a copy in my files.
Di Langmore is correct in stating that some attention was given to your ADB entry on Daniel Mannix when she addressed The Sydney Institute on 13 November 2007. This occurred during the question/discussion period when the focus was on how the ADBcommissioned authors and the editorial guidelines under which they wrote.
I was the person who raised the Mannix entry with Di Langmore at the Institute. I admire your essay in ADB as a work of scholarship which demolishes, in whole or in part, some of the Mannix mythology. My criticism turns on the view that it is very much a polemic – albeit a well written and informative one – and it was compiled by a well-known antagonist of Mannix. As you know, you were associated with the Catholic Worker – which Mannix opposed from at least the early 1950s until his death in 1963. Commissioning you to write the ADB entry on Archbishop Daniel Mannix would not be unlike commissioning, say, B.A. Santamaria to write the ADB entry on Cardinal Norman Gilroy. As you know, Santamaria was an antagonist of Gilroy.
I am not aware that the ADB has a record of asking one-time participants in the political debate to write about those they opposed – except, of course, your entry on Archbishop Mannix. Having said this I should point out – as I have done previously – that I regard your work on Mannix as informative and that I agree with much of it.
It would be good to catch up again.
PS : I note that there is a handwritten amendment to your typewritten paper concerning Bishop Arthur Fox’s alleged comment of circa 1960 that it would be a mortal sin for Catholics to vote Labor on account of what he regarded as the ALP’s closeness to the Communist Party in Victoria at the time. The reference is to your sentence on Page 8 of your paper where you wrote:
He [Mannix] used his auxiliary bishop [Fox] to say it was virtually a mortal sin for a Catholic to vote for the Labor Party.
As you are aware, you added the word “virtually” to your typed manuscript. I have never found any evidence that Bishop Fox ever said it would be a mortal sin for Catholics to vote Labor. Your use of the word “virtually” confirms this since the word “virtually” is invariably used to cover a situation which might have occurred but did not, in fact, take place.
Extract from Jim Griffin to Gerard Henderson – 13 November 2008
Sorry this has taken so long but I’m in my 80th year. I’m finding even writing difficult, not to mention finding your letter which I’m damned if I can …
You raised an interesting question re the selection of writers of ADB. The application of the working principle to choose, if possible, sympathetic scribes for the entries, is a good one and was taken into consideration by those two admirable scholar-editors, Bede Nairn and Geoffrey Serle.
But first let me ask you what you would do if you were general editor of the Dictionary of German Biography. Who would you choose to biog Goebbels, Goering, the great maniac himself, or even Speer. A relative, an offspring of an associate? No? Or would your criterion be one of fairness rather than sympathy?
Mannix is not, of course, such an extreme case. However, when the editors called for applications, was Santamaria, “the cleverest man Mannix had ever met”, the proper person to write about the “most intelligent man Santamaria had ever met”, and one who was “more politically astute than Adenauer” (whom Santamaria had never met) etc etc.?
As you would know, there were in the early 80s eight so-called “biogs” or, better, monographs on Mannix. I talked to the ADB editors about them and convinced them there was little real scholarship in them. Simple fellows, they saw the point. (Bob Santamaria went apoplectic, I believe). But I assured them that I would not be giving Mannix the full barrel, that I would look for consensus on controversial points so that Australian Dictionary of Biography Volume 10 does not just represent my ripest opinions about that irrational hierarch. I have also been led to understand that my entry is rather better “crafted” than some others might do. The text passed several times between the editors and myself for modification or whatever. I will send you copies of a few missives between Serle and myself to give some idea of how we worked. You may note that Serle and others wanted a more polemical conclusion. I opted for something more sentimental – with reason.
I’m also including bibliographical notes I gave out to ANU students when I gave a guest lecture on “Mannix and Conscription” there in 1986. Oddly it doesn’t seem biased to me. They were sent to and cited by Bob later.
I gather Bob denied having met me. Well, we all knew our mendacious Bob! In the 60s/70s he complained that I had never been to see him, the assumption being that, like so many others, I would succumb to his charming and brilliant conversation. I had no intention of paying court. If he wanted to see me he had only to write. Then in the 80s when I took up the ADB project I thought I should “consult” him. So I did. Two morning sessions and he even gave me a few documents which I still have, of very little use. We had an interesting (for me, at any rate) Italianale tussle. (You may know I spent some time in Italy and adjusted enjoyably to their courteous negotiating-conversational skills). A good ploy is to find first a common butt for criticism such as Arthur Calwell or dopey Colm Kiernan or similar. I thought we got on well. He seemed as curious as I. How could anyone think such thoughts as I did of him, all bounce and gesticulation and geniality? But you know him well, and may think differently.
Anyway, my dear Gerard, I am now old and frail. I’m trying to finish my biog of Mannix and, if I survive, should do so by Easter. If it is publishable, bon! If I can’t do it, I’m happy to consign it to a MS archive for someone else to plumb.
I don’t know if your Institute is interested in hearing me on Mannix. You could invite George Pell with blunderbuss. Certainly, you’ll get an audience, although I may need to be propped up – a high stool? –
Wishing you and your wife the best cheer for xmas and continued productivity – and critique.
PS. I’ve just recalled that I asked to write either Nellie Melba or Daniel Mannix for the ADB. Jim Davidson grabbed Melba. At a preview seminar, Sir Keith Hancock said he hoped he’d never have to read me on Mannix. At the launch by Hancock, he mentioned all and sundry and carefully left me out. To his generation having a villainous Mannix was as important as having an heroic Mannix to Catholics.
Gerard Henderson to Jim Griffin – 20 November 2008
Thanks for your letter of 13 November 2008. I read your comments and attached documents with much interest.
As previously indicated, I admire much in your ADB entry on Daniel Mannix. My only concern is that you were one of DM’s antagonists. For the record, I do not believe that B.A. Santamaria should have done the piece – he was too much of a barracker. By the way, I enjoyed your description of meeting BAS – it sounds very plausible to me.
As you will be aware, since the initial controversy about your Mannix entry, Robert Pascoe’s book on Monsignor John. F. Kelly has appeared. In The Feasts & Seasons of John F. Kelly, Pascoe suggests that Kelly was involved in the “production” of the Mannix ADB entry. Once again, Kelly was an antagonist of Mannix.
Two final points:
Jim Griffin to Gerard Henderson – 3 December 2008
[Note. This letter was forwarded in an unfinished form]
Thanks for yours of 20 November 2008…
Firstly, the Australian Dictionary of Biography on Mannix. You did not answer my question re the Dictionary of German Biography – a “reduction ad absurdum” of course, but it makes a point. As I think I said before, scholarship and fairness were the criteria. Myself, Serle and Nairn were not aware anyone better was available. And a point of view can be unavoidable – indeed, should be.
But I deny being an antagonist of Mannix. A critic, yes, a very different thing. Probably the same should be said for Monsignor Kelly. He would hardly have been Director of Catholic Education if he’d been an antagonist. Wrong word. And Pascoe is quite wrong to suggest that Kelly was involved in the “production”. Very much the wrong word.
There was no “production” but rather a consultation with an honest, responsible bureaucrat chosen by Mannix – a highly intelligent one as conversant with ecclesiastical lore as any cleric I’ve known. Who should be consulted? Frank Maher? I have two lengthy letters to prove it which I shall archive eventually, aside from the collegiality and friendship I shared with him for years. And others too numerous to recall – e.g. Gerard Herffey who, after sharing memories, nevertheless said of my “product”: very good, but you missed the majesty of the man. (I’ve been trying to catch it in prose since).
I was not at all clear what Pascoe wanted from me when he came (no doubt, my fault). He took down every garrulous spontaneous word and, of course, checked nothing. I’ll leave you to imagine what I think of his slapdash book. (Never an unpublished thought’, we used to say of Doug Atkens!)
Kelly wrote me some notes on the finished entry. He was doddering by then: they are illegible. I’ll see if I can find them. I mean that I’m not sure precisely what he said in the end except that he liked the Mannix entry.
As I pointed out in my Hobart 1995 paper, “Revisionism or Reality?”, which I think you’ve seen, I said lots of pleasant things about Mannix in the ADB some of which I would modify but it’s necessary to keep an eye on consensus in the ADB where idiosyncrasy is not wanted.
If the good Di Langmore thinks that entries have to be sympathetic rather than empathetic she is not in line with her admirable predecessors, Geoffrey Pike, Geoffrey Serle and Bede Nairn, scholars of a different order (cf their books)…
Gerard Henderson to Jim Griffin – 20 January 2009
Thank you for forwarding your unfinished note dated 3 December 2008 to me. I am sorry to hear that you are unwell but, in spite of this, you still write an interesting letter…
You are correct that I did not answer your hypothetical question on the Dictionary of German Biography. In fact, I always avoid comparisons between democratic societies and totalitarian regimes. So, in my view, there is no point in discussing a biographical essay on an Adolf Hitler and on a Daniel Mannix in the same breath.
I believe that someone like Patrick O’Farrell would have been well placed to do the Mannix entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography. He was not directly involved in the dispute within the Catholic Church in the 1950s and 1960s and was neither an antagonist of, nor a protagonist for, Mannix. In my view, members and supporters of the Catholic Worker were antagonists of Mannix – because they had attacked his political involvements and he had effectively banned the CW from being sold outside Catholic churches.
I was interested in your material on Monsignor John Kelly and his comments on Mannix (even though they are difficult to read at times). I look forward to reading your Mannix biography. It will be an important book. It is true that most of the existing works on Mannix are either very supportive or hagiography – so it will be good to have some balance on the book shelves….
I would very much like you to address The Sydney Institute on your Mannix manuscript in due course. As advised, you would be able to give such a paper seated if this were necessary.
Best wishes. Regards to Helga.
It’s back to the Phil Craig/Gerard Henderson exchange on Gough Whitlam
This enormously popular section of Media Watch Dog usually works like this. Someone thinks it is a you-beaut idea to engage Nancy’s (male) co-owner in correspondence. And he, being a gentleman kind of guy, forwards a reply. Then the exchange is published in MWD – even when the correspondence is marked “Not For Publication”. After all, there are limits to gentlemanship. Now read on.
Phil Craig to Gerard Henderson – 2 August 2013
Unlike my formal reply to you this is not for publication
This genuinely saddens me. I have tried to explain my thought processes in relation to television storytelling as I understand and practice it. I have accepted you may have a point on the Head of State thing, my punchy shorthand comparison was potentially too “shorthandy”. I don’t expect you to agree with all my reasoning. But I had hoped you might treat it seriously.
If you don’t wish to reply then that’s fine, but I cannot accept you fitting me into a demonology about the ABC that may exist in your mind but does not exist in the building where I’m proud to work.
I don’t believe this is relevant to Whitlam, but I’ve worked with many conservatives over the years. You can google ‘Phil Craig Richard Perle’ if you like… [Sentence deleted – commercial in confidence] But I don’t regard my personal political beliefs as being relevant to the job that I do, and neither did the people who hired me at the ABC because they never once asked me about them.
I still think we could have a stimulating conversation in person and leave that offer open.
With best wishes,
Gerard Henderson to Phil Craig – 8 August 2013
I refer to your email of last Friday. I am surprised that someone employed by the ABC (which frequently reveals private correspondence) writing in the mid-afternoon should send a “not for publication” letter. I understand that one sentence in your letter is commercial-in-confidence. But it seems that the remainder of your email is of public interest.
Once again, your response is condescending. I do know some things about documentary film. Indeed, in 1994, I did a Four Corners program on Bob Hawke (Mick O’Regan was my producer). This documentary rated well and was favourably reviewed within and outside the ABC. Mick and I fact-checked all the material. Also, we did not run gossip or re-enact events which probably never happened. Nor did we interview left-wing commentators who were at school during key parts of Mr Hawke’s career.
In your correspondence, you have instructed me about your views on story-telling and you have told me that Whitlam: The Power & The Passion embraced “a lyrical, colourful style of narration”. However, you are the ABC Head of Factual – not the ABC’s “Head of Story-telling” or the ABC’s “Head of Lyrical”. As such, you are responsible for the errors and undocumented gossip in the film. That’s why I wrote to you in the first place.
My point is a simple one. If the ABC presents a documentary on Gough Whitlam as “definitive” it should not contain errors and exaggerations – and when errors/exaggerations are pointed out, they should be acknowledged and – where possible – corrected.
One final point. I have never made any comment on your “political beliefs” and I am not really interested in them. I know that you neither wrote nor directed Whitlam: The Power & The Passion. My point is that, as ABC Head of Factual, you have a responsibility for fact-checking material in taxpayer-funded documentaries which appear on the ABC.
Contrary to your claim, I do not possess a “demonology” about the ABC. My prime critique of the public broadcaster is that it is a Conservative-Free-Zone employing not one conservative presenter or producer or editor for any of its main television or radio or online products. This is a fact which no one has challenged. My secondary critique of the ABC is that it invariably goes into denial or avoidance when confronted by considered criticism. Whitlam: The Power & The Passion is an example of the former. Your defence of the documentary is an example of the latter.
As promised, I shall send you a copy of my forthcoming analysis of the film to be published in The Sydney Institute Quarterly – and I will print your response in the following edition. Unlike the taxpayer funded ABC, the privately funded The Sydney Institute Quarterly practises diversity.
The Sydney Institute
Tel: (02) 9252 3366
Phil Craig to Gerard Henderson – 8 August 2013
I think I've stated my case clearly in the emails that you have already published. Your readers can be the judge of whether you have, in fact, identified any real errors or plausible evidence of bias.
With the possible exception of the head of state line, I believe you have not.
It appears we disagree on some fundamental points but I did not intend to condescend.
I remain very proud of Whitlam, a series that was enjoyed and valued by a very large audience and which attracted praise from people of all political beliefs for its evident fair mindedness.
With best wishes,
“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.