GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG – ISSUE NO. 196
23 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.



    Fran Kelly’s [Liberal] Complaint

    Fran (“I’m-an-activist”) Kelly had another whinge about Tony Abbott on her ABC Radio National Breakfast program this morning. This time she expressed a wish that the Opposition leader would appear on her program before the election and again pointed out that he had not been on RN Breakfast for over a year. See MWD Issue 175. Not long after, Ms Kelly commented that what had been planned as an on-air debate between Labor’s Jenny Macklin and the Coalition’s Kevin Andrews this morning had fallen through due to Mr Andrews’ unavailability.

    The fact is that senior politicians receive more media requests than they can meet. There is no reason why Mr Abbott and his senior colleagues should devote scarce time to RN Breakfast. As MWD has documented, Ms Kelly is invariably softer on Greens politicians than she is on Liberals and Nationals. It is a matter of record that RN Breakfast does not have one regular conservative commentator on the program. But it has leftists (e.g. Paul Bongiorno) and social democrat (E.J. Dionne) commentators aplenty.

    Not only does Fran Kelly consider herself to be an activist. Moreover, Gregg Borschmann (RN Breakfast’s environment editor) is an environmental activist. Mr Borschmann’s commitment to the environmental cause was evident on 13 August 2013 when he interviewed Bret Harper (Director of Research, RepuTex) on his report titled Renewable Energy and the Carbon Price. Late in the interview, it was revealed that the report had been commissioned by an environment group – WWF Australia.

    Gregg Borschmann delivered a number of soft and leading questions to Bret Harper – designed to demonstrate that the Coalition’s commitment to abandon the carbon price would increase power prices. At one stage Mr Borschmann even declared that the Coalition’s policy is “completely counter-intuitive to the public debate”.

    Radio National Breakfast, produced by Tim Latham and presented by Fran Kelly, is an example of why the ABC is properly described as a Conservative-Free-Zone. In view of this, it is hardly surprising if Tony Abbott and some senior Coalition MPs give priority to other programs. This matter is discussed in this week’s MWD’s “Editorial”.


    MARK SCOTT’S ELECTION DILEMMA CONTINUES: ABC LOSES LEADERS’ DEBATES ZIP TO 3

    Last Wednesday’s lively Leaders Debate at the Broncos Club in Brisbane was the first occasion in an Australian election that the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition have gone head-to-heard in a televised debate – where the questions were asked by members of the public and where there was interaction between the leaders.

    What was particularly notable from a media perspective turned on the fact that the debate was organised by Sky News and News Limited’s Courier-Mail, and compered by Sky News’ political editor David Speers. The ABC took a feed and showed the event on its News 24 channel.

    The format of the second Leaders Debate was effectively chosen by Tony Abbott. He wanted a Sky News event where questions came from the public – not from journalists. Kevin Rudd preferred a more formal debate where the leaders were interviewed by journalists. In the event, the Prime Minister conceded to the Opposition leader’s demands. Both Mr Rudd and Mr Abbott acquitted themselves well in the debate.

    Not so the public broadcaster. As mentioned in MWD Issue 195, ABC managing director Mark Scott wrote to both Labor and the Liberal Party proposing that the ABC host the second debate in a regional area. This offer was rejected by either the Liberal Party or Labor – or both. The ABC’s proposal that an ABC employee should compere the first Leaders’ Debate was also rejected by the Liberal Party or Labor – or both – and the event was hosted by the National Press Club in Canberra.

    Mark Scott vented his frustrations in an article titled “Set debates free from the party machine constraints” which was posted on the ABC’s The Drum website on 14 August 2013. The ABC managing director criticised the format of the first Leaders’ Debate and commented:

    The ABC was not even afforded the right to select a host or the panel. Instead, those roles were assigned by the party chieftains, with the National Press Club stuck helplessly in the middle. That is not to denigrate those who took part. The fault is with the system and the ability of the parties to manipulate outcomes. Privately, the politicians know this is wrong. Senior ministers on both sides have told me that robust questioning is important to good administration and to democracy. They know that a grilling by Leigh Sales or Chris Uhlmann simply involves being asked the questions that voters want answered.

    Mr Scott’s self-serving comment – run on the ABC’s taxpayer funded website – is condescending. The idea that only ABC journalists can ask questions that voters want answered is self-pleading. The liveliest and most informative Leaders’ Debate in Australian history took place at the Broncos Leagues Club on Wednesday and it was compered by Sky News’ David Speers.

    In his piece in The Drum, Mark Scott proposed a debate between Mr Rudd and Mr Abbott in Cairns, Townsville or Rockhampton with “an ABC moderator who would pose questions themselves, take pre-prepared questions from the audience, and also take pre-prepared questions via Skype or other means from other parts of regional Australia”.

    Mark Scott also argued that:

    There has been a lot of talk in recent days about bringing the debates to the people. Well, Q&A has been successfully conducting town hall debates with politicians for years now. The ABC will continue to argue, as it has in formal submissions to the parties, that Q&A is best-suited to running a head-to-head contest with an audience, and this should be done in the final weeks of the campaign.

    It should be a matter of some embarrassment to the ABC that Mark Scott’s entreaties have been ignored or rejected. Either the Liberal Party or Labor – or both – did not agree to an ABC moderated debate in regional Australia. The third – and final – Leaders’ Debate will be held at the Rooty Hill RSL Club in Sydney next Wednesday. It will be a Sky News and News Limited’s Daily Telegraph event moderated by David Speers. Moreover, at this stage it appears that Mr Abbott or Mr Rudd will not appear on Q&A in a debate moderated by Tony Jones. Last Monday, Fran Kelly complained again that Tony Abbott had declined an invitation to appear on Radio National Breakfast. She complained again today (see “Stop Press”).

    Mark Scott, who presides over a Conservative-Free-Zone, invariably goes into denial whenever considered criticism is made of the ABC. But the fact is that, in the 2013 election campaign, the public broadcaster has been sidelined in so far as leaders’ debates are concerned. Moreover, the alternative prime minister Tony Abbott appears to have boycotted some key ABC programs. The fact is that the ABC needs to have good relations with the Coalition – irrespective of which party wins the election on 7 September. The ABC’s managing director should appreciate this.

    Writing in The Drum, Mark Scott boasted that, “as a public broadcaster”, the ABC’s “responsibility is to inform, educate and entertain the public, not to maximise profits. Obviously, the ABC does not need to maximise – or even make – profits because it is funded by government with taxpayer funds. Sky News is required to maximise profits. However, unlike the ABC, it is trusted by Australia’s political leaders to moderate debates. It is a matter of record that, in The Drum, Mark Scott criticised the commercial TV channels for not running the first Leaders’ Debate on their main networks. But the ABC did not run the second Leaders’ Debate on its main channel. A double standard, for sure.




    A VOTE FOR WIKILEAKS LUVVIES IN THE NSW SENATE IS A VOTE FOR THE LUNAR RIGHT

    What a wonderful footage in Lateline last night of the WikiLeaks Party’s NSW Senate candidate Kellie Tranter and Alison Broinowski walking together in the streets of Sydney. And what a wonderful rationalisation both luvvies made in attempting to explain why the WikiLeaks Party in NSW had preferenced the Lunar Right Australia First Party ahead of the Greens and other consciousness-raising types.

    MWD Issue 193 pointed out that the WikiLeaks Party’s Senate line-ups consisted in the main of current or superannuated beneficiaries of taxpayer funded largesse. In Victoria, there is Julian Assange (currently living at the expense of the Ecuador taxpayers at that repressive dictatorship’s embassy in London) along with taxpayer subsidised academics Dr Leslie Cannold and Dr Bindy Kampmark. In New South Wales there is current academic and superannuated public servant Dr Alison Broinowski and human rights lawyer Kellie Tranter. And so on.

    As a rule, taxpayer subsidised types are not all that flash at running government organisations. And so it came to pass that the WikiLeaks Party did the unexpected and decided to give its preferences to the Lunar Right’s Australia First Party in NSW ahead of the Greens – and to preference the Nationals in Western Australia ahead of the Greens. This led to Dr Cannold (for a doctor she is) resigning from the WikiLeaks Party – even though she will appear in the Number 2 spot on the WikiLeaks Senate ticket in Victoria since her resignation came too late for her name to be removed from the ballot paper.

    Yesterday Dr Cannold, an ethicist by profession, appeared on the ABC 1 News Breakfast program to exhibit her pain and to announce her resignation. Later that day, Ms Tranter and Dr Broinowski appeared on Lateline to concede that an error had been made but implying that they were to remain members of the WikiLeaks Party’s Senate team.

    Which means that if you vote for the Tranter/Broinowski WikiLeaks Party ticket in NSW your preferences could help elected a senator from the extreme right Australia First Party.



    WITH ALISON BROINOWSKI & JULIAN ASSANGE

    Imagine the reaction if Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott or Liberal Party federal director Brian Loughnane proposed that the Liberals should preference an extreme right-wing party like the Australia First Party or Pauline Hanson’s One Nation ahead of, say, a moderate organisation. Especially when the preference flows in the Senate have led to the election of minor party candidates who score very low primary votes.

    However, on Mornings With Linda Mottram on ABC Radio 702 yesterday, Ms Mottram was most forgiving when interviewing first Alison Broinowski and then Julian Assange. Let’s go to the transcript:

    Linda Mottram: So, I mean, how do you get past the fact that not only does it appear that the democratic decision of the party has been overruled somehow. But also that you’ve ended up with preferences that seem completely contrary to the ethos of the party itself.

    Alison Broinowski: Well first of all – as you know with the preference system – we as a party would prefer not to have allocated preferences at all. But because of the rules that apply to a Senate we are obliged to distribute – to list all other parties that are standing in order of preference. So we had to do that and basically – although I was not part of this decision making process because I wasn’t on the National Council that did decide it over a long and painful period – I should say. The party decided that basically to make it easy to follow to divide the preference list into three broad groups. The top third would be very small parties who would automatically – because they wouldn’t get elected – their preferences would fall down, cascade down if you like, to the major parties. So the only level at which it starts to get serious – for your preference in that group – is when you find out whom they are preferencing among the major parties. So then, in the middle if you like in the, sort of, second tier in the preferences you’ve got the Greens, you’ve got Labor and you’ve got the Coalition.

    Linda Mottram: Yeah, where you would most likely want your preferences to really go.

    Alison Broinowski: Well, you’d certainly want to, to be in control of where they went.

    Linda Mottram: Where they went, yeah. But, of course – but for all of the effort, for all of the effort of the National Council it has failed. Do you know how that process failed?

    This is complete nonsense. When political parties determine their preferences for the Senate – it is they who make the decision. There is no reason to make the ticket “easy” for voters to follow since all a voter has to do is place the number 1 in the WikiLeaks Party box. That’s easy. In short, Ms Mottram let Dr Broinowski off the hook.

    It was much the same when Linda Mottram interviewed Julian Assange. Mottram did put it to Assange that the WikiLeaks Party was in chaos. But she did not raise the evident hypocrisy involved in the WikiLeaks Party preferencing an extreme right wing party – or, indeed, the hypocrisy in Assange having gained sanctuary in London embassy of an authoritarian nation which suppresses free speech.

    Verily, a Linda Mottram Moment.



    STEP FORWARD MATTHEW DRUMMOND & TONY WALKER

    This occasional award is shared by Matthew Drummond and Tony Walker for their article titled “Abbott’s unfashionable economics” which was published in The Weekend Australian Financial Review on 17-18 August 2013.

    There were references to the Catholic political activist B.A. Santamaria (1915-1998) – and to the Democratic Labor Party (1955-1978) which had a high percentage of Catholic members but was not a Catholic party. Drummond and Walker continued:

    Abbott is reluctant to embrace industrial relations reform, pledge a date for getting the budget back to surplus, countenance any changes to the GST and is insisting on Rolls-Royce welfare such as his un-means tested maternity leave scheme. All this leaves many wondering whether even today the former trainee seminarian would rather the economy be steered by the hand of God – as conceived by the DLP – than by the invisible hand of market forces.

    A sectarian sneer, to be sure. The DLP never advocated that “the economy be steered by the hand of God”. This is verballing in the extreme. The DLP was anti-communist in foreign policy and conservative in social policy. On economics, the DLP’s direction was social democratic – much like that of the Labor Party from which it had split in the mid-1950s. Tony Abbott does not believe that God steers the economy – and nor did the DLP. Messers Drummond and Walker should be able to do better than this.



    MIKE (“I’LL POUR THE GIN”) CARLTON IGNITES THE TALENT OF JOE ASTON & RITA PANAHI

    In his Sydney Morning Herald column last Saturday, Mike Carlton devoted two thirds of his available words to a boring pretend interview with Tony Abbott. The line was to present the Opposition leader as a sexist, misogynist, homophobic man who is stuck in the early 1960s. This from your man Carlton who once wrote about a female premier’s legs and who spoke about the (alleged) sexual acts of young females on Q&A earlier this year. Even the ratbag Marieke Hardy thought he went too far on this occasion.

    MWD was hoping that MC would use the occasion of last week’s column to explain how he woke up a couple of weeks ago only to discover he had two cracked ribs. See MWD Issue 195. But it was not to be. Two young commentators called him out.

    Writing in the AFR’s Rear Window column on Monday, the genuinely witty Joe Aston commented:

    World-famous ambulance passenger Mike Carlton had the gall on Saturday to mock Tony Abbott over his views on women. In a fictional script devoid of humour, he had the almost PM referring to a candidate as having “great tits and a fantastic arse” in spite of her many achievements. This from a newspaper columnist who recently joked in writing about columnist Miranda Devine having group sex with the NSW Police riot squad. Who’s unreconstructed?….

    And MWD just loved the following exchange between Mike (“I’ll-pour-the-gin despite-my-cracked-ribs”) Carlton and Herald-Sun commentator Rita Panahi.

    Mike Carlton@MikeCarlton01 20 Aug

    Still heaps of tweets, emails asking if Saturday's column on Abbott was genuine. Interesting thing is most people believe it was plausible.

    Rita Panahi @Rita Panahi 20 Aug

    @MikeCarlton01 @Michael Byrnes wow, that doesn’t say much about the intelligence of your readers.

    Mike Carlton@MikeCarlton01 20 Aug

    @Rita Panahi @Michael Byrnes Not at all. It was the right wing knuckledraggers like you who had trouble making any sense of it.

    ▪ Rita Panahi@Rita Panahi 20 Aug

    @MikeCarlton01 immediately resorting to personal abuse? Bravo. Just like your irrational, bile filled columns. Consistent.

    Spot on.

    Joe Aston and Rita Panahi: Five Paws Each.



    Q&A: Where the ABC Asks Questions About the ABC

    To many ABC types, only the ABC really matters. So it came as no surprise when on last Monday’s Q&A debate between the Treasurer Chris Bowen and Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey focus turned on the public broadcaster. Let’s go to the transcript towards the end of the program when Q&A presenter Tony Jones called the really important question of the night:

    Tony Jones: Okay. …we are running out of time. The next question is a video. It’s from Gregory Core in Red Hill, Queensland.

    Gregory Core : Is the Coalition considering the sale and/or the privatisation of the ABC in their fiscal review or in the foreseeable future?

    Tony Jones : Joe Hockey?

    Joe Hockey : There was a striking resemblance to you there actually. No, we're not. The ABC is not for sale. It doesn't make a profit does it, Tony? It is a cost centre, so it is not worth anything for sale. So, no, it is not for sale.

    Tony Jones : Okay.

    Joe Hockey: I can guarantee that.

    Tony Jones : They did it in New Zealand, so it’s a legitimate question.

    Joe Hockey : No. Well, they must have ads running in New Zealand.

    Tony Jones : They do.

    Joe Hockey : But we love our ABC. Believe it or not Tony, we love our ABC.

    Tony Jones : Well, while you are on the subject – while you are on the subject, is the ABC immune from cuts? Because the Howard government, when they first came in, cut the ABC 10 and then 2% in two years?….. All right. We have got time for one last question. This one from Carol Trewick.

    Talk about self-serving. No leading figure in the Coalition has proposed that the ABC should be privatised. But the Q&A team thought that Mr Core’s question was one of the most important economic issues to raise in the presence of the Treasurer and the Shadow Treasurer. Subsequently Mr Jones declined to ask about real cuts to the child support pension but thought it appropriate to ask Mr Hockey about theoretical cuts to the ABC’s $1 billion budget.

    Having dealt with the really important issue of the ABC, Tony Jones called a question on Western Sydney where unemployment is very high – especially among young Australians. Clearly to the Q&A team, the taxpayer funded jobs of ABC types have a higher priority than private sector jobs in the suburbs. Can you bear it?

    Anthony McClellan Believes Q&A Fudge

    While on the topic of last Monday’s Q&A, did anyone watch the Sky News Paul Murray Live program the following evening? What a stunning performance by PR guru Anthony McClellan, who come up with this gem when discussing the Coalition’s election costings:

    Anthony McClellan: …I think the key hole in their [the Coalition’s] campaign which the Labor Party is now trying to absolutely laser and focus in on, is a simple question of saying, “Mr Abbott I’m not going to vote for you unless you tell me by twelve o’clock tomorrow how you’re going to pay for everything in your policies.” And I think, you know, I mean, I think he has to be put – I know people watched Q&A on the ABC last night and that was Hockey’s big – I think Hockey did quite well, Joe Hockey – but his big exposure was. He was actually booed by the audience. Now – and it was an audience that was predominantly, according to the people sitting there, Liberal voters, right?

    Er, wrong actually. Mr McClellan is surprisingly inarticulate for a self-proclaimed expert in communications. More seriously, your man McClellan is quite naive.

    It is true that at the start of last Monday’s Q&A, the ABC advised that the political composition of the audience in the Riverside Theatre at Parramatta was: ALP 35 per cent, Coalition: 45 per cent, Greens 10 per cent, Others 2 per cent and Non-specified 8 per cent.

    If this was accurate, then around half the audience were Liberal Party supporters. This does not support McClellan’s claim that the audience predominantly consisted of Liberal Party voters. But a Coalition 45 per cent turn-out compared with a combined Labor/Greens turn out of 45 per cent is at least break even.

    The problem here is that the PR guru Anthony McClellan is naive enough to believe what people say. The political composition of the Q&A audience is gauged by self-disclosure. See MWD passim. A Labor or Greens supporter can join the audience after (falsely) declaring that they really vote Liberal.

    As those who watch Q&A regularly will know, the audiences are predominantly left-of-centre. That’s because some leftists gain access to the audience by taking off their Che Guevara tee-shirts and Ho Chi Minh style sandals, putting on a shirt and sensible shoes and declaring their (faux) support for Tony Abbott.

    Last Monday’s Q&A audience was not sympathetic to Joe Hockey or the Coalition. You would have been pretty naive to believe otherwise. But Anthony McClellan did. Can you bear it?

    Guardian-on-the-Yarra Discovers That Malcolm Fraser is Now a Leftie

    The Bendigo Writers’ Festival, now in its second year, has become yet another leftist stack. As readers of Malcolm Fraser’s error ridden political memoirs (which he co-wrote with Melbourne-based sandal wearer and compost-sexual Margaret Simons) will be aware, these days the former Liberal Party prime minister just loves receiving standing ovations at writers’ festivals.

    In the Saturday Age last weekend, Jane Sullivan reported on the 2013 Bendigo Writers Festival – which she attended as a guest. This is how she commenced her column:

    Writers' festival audiences don't often get questions from a former prime minister. But at Bendigo last weekend, Malcolm Fraser asked a packed theatre how he should finish his next book. He had reached the last chapter and was facing a dilemma. Everything seemed to be leading to a drastic conclusion that would require the Australian people's verdict. So: should we cut our defence alliance ties with the US? Fraser provided plenty of evidence and opinions. ''We don't want Pine Gap to be used for the murder of people in countries where we are not at war … It's utterly foolish to allow Australia to be subject to whatever the US wants.''

    So that’s pretty clear then. You don’t need to buy the latest Fraser tome to work out what his conclusion will be. Namely, that Australia should junk its alliance with the United States. This from the former Liberal MP who was a steadfast defender of the Australian-American alliance in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s.

    The Guardian-on-the-Yarra’s ace reporter then did an uncritical analysis of what the 114 speakers and presenters (yep, 114) had said at Bendigo. She seemed to take the event very, very seriously – even to the extent of regarding The Grunt as a new form of taxpayer-funded award winning literary endeavour:

    Everyone from best-selling sensation Graeme Simsion to Shane Maloney's dog was there, and we witnessed the unusual spectacle of a Miles Franklin Award-winning author emitting loud grunts on stage. That was Steven Carroll, illustrating the magic of rhythm in sentences, which he said might have come from his days as a rock musician. ''Sometimes I trust the rhythm alone will lead me to the words,'' he said. ''The grunt is the key word. I don't care if I'm not making any sense, I'll follow the rhythm.''

    How about that? I grunt, therefore I write. Ms Sullivan concluded her uncritical assessment of the Bendigo Writers’ Festival as follows:

    So how did the readers of Bendigo tell Fraser to finish his book? Nobody offered him advice, but they had a show of hands for how they would vote. Mostly Green, with a lot of undecideds. Given the chance, I suspect they'd vote for him.

    So there you have it. According to opinion polls, the Greens will record a primary vote of around 10 per cent at the election on 7 September. Yet, according to Jane Sullivan, a clear majority of the audience which heard Malcolm Fraser at Bendigo were Greens voters with the many of the rest undecided. Yet she made no reference to the leftist stack which was the 2013 Bendigo Writers’ Festival. Can you bear it?

    Sassy Sanger Stumbles on Climate Institute

    It was great to see Liberty Sanger back in the “Newspapers” slot on ABC 1 News Breakfast last Monday. Initially she was asked to again declare her membership of the Labor Party – an unnecessary gesture which appears to have been imposed on the ABC by former ABC Media Watch host Jonathan Holmes. Unnecessary because ABC presenters are never asked to declare whether or not they are trade union members.

    In any event, the sassy Ms Sanger was doing very well indeed until she referred to “the independent Climate Institute”. Independent of what? The Climate Institute (headed by John Connor BA, LLB) is an environmental advocacy group which receives government funding. It is less independent than the Lavoisier Group which takes a totally different stance on climate change and receives no government funding. Yet, on the ABC, the Climate Institute is invariably described as “independent”. Can you bear it?



    Nancy, who just loves eyeing off blokes, just can’t wait to get out of her kennel each Friday around afternoon tea time to view Peter Van Onselen’s The Contrarians on Sky News.

    It seems that PVO does not know many sheilas. So each Friday at 4 pm – and again at 5 pm – he lines up three blokes or more who sit in red chairs and talk and talk and talk. Last week’s programs were a real treat. At 4 pm PVO hosted John McTernan and Greg O’Mahoney and Julian Leeser who all talked and talked and talked. At 5 pm the Sky News “Men’s Shed” was cleared out and replaced by brand new talent. Namely, Tanveer Ahmed and Peter Bentley and Rowan Dean who all talked and talked and talked.

    Being totally deaf, Nancy was not at all bored by the discussion. Moreover, as a sensitive sheila, she understands that some men need to hang out with other men – lest they have to go on stress leave or whatever.



    Documentation

    MWD’S EXCLUSIVE: NANCY’S ACCOUNT OF THE DAVID MARR vs GERARD HENDERSON VERBAL (PUNCH-UP) AT MELBOURNE AIRPORT CONCERNING “TH PUNCH” – SATURDAY 17 AUGUST

    In The Australian on Monday, “Cut & Paste” reported an argument between David Marr and Gerard Henderson on Insiders at the weekend. Marr took exception to Henderson’s claim that Labor’s 2013 election campaign had been “influenced by people like David Marr who said that Australians never wanted…Tony Abbott”.

    For the record, the inaugural sentences of the first edition of David Marr’s Political Animal: The Making of Tony Abbott (published in September 2012) read as follows: “Australia doesn’t want Tony Abbott. We never have.”
    In fact, the argument which occurred on the Insiders couch in between the televised segment and the Scott Morrison interview was even more, em, robust than that which took place when the cameras were filming. Indeed, your man Marr suggested that Henderson was a liar and proposed that he should subject himself to a certain horizontal act. Enough said. [I hope you will give MWD readers full details in due course – Ed].

    It so happened that Nancy accompanied her (male) co-owner to Melbourne last weekend for the Insiders filming at the ABC’s Southbank studio. She was present when an even more robust “conversation” took place between the two men soon after disembarking QF 487 at Melbourne Airport on Saturday evening. Here is Nancy’s (exclusive, of course) report.

    * * * * *

    David Marr waited for Gerard Henderson as he got off QF 487 at around 9.30 pm and they walked together to the Taxi pick-up point where both men were heading for different destinations.

    The discussion turned on David Marr’s forthcoming Quarterly Essay on Cardinal George Pell, the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney. It was pleasant until Marr commented that Pell had refused to talk to him for his essay. Henderson commented that, from the Cardinal’s perspective, this was a wise decision. Whereupon Marr said that he regarded this statement as a gross insult . Henderson responded that if Marr could get so offended by so mundane a comment – then he was extraordinarily sensitive to criticism. Henderson said that if Pell had spoken to Marr he would have given an authenticity to the study which would probably be a hatchet job. Once again, Marr became extremely angry at the suggestion that he might bucket Pell in his Quarterly Essay.

    Marr then turned the discussion to the coverage of his Tony Abbott essay in MWD Issue 194. He said that his attention had been drawn to the statement below in MWD Issue 194 and that it was false. This is what the segment in MWD Issue 194 said:

    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 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.

    MWD will keep you posted.

    At Melbourne Airport , Marr angrily declared that he had answered all Henderson’s queries in email correspondence (which was published in MWD Issue 181). Henderson responded that Marr had not answered any of his queries. The following exchange then took place:

    • Henderson asked Marr why Marr had changed the date of the alleged “Punch” from September 1977 to 28 July 1977. Marr declined to reply. Henderson then asked Marr who the person was who had told him that “the Punch” incident occurred in September 1977 and who had told him that the alleged incident actually took place on 28 July 1977. Marr declined to reply.
    • Henderson asked Marr how he had got the date of the Ku-Ring-Gai College of Advanced Education wrong in the first edition of Political Animal. In the first edition Marr said it was July 1977 and in the second edition he said it was October 1977. Marr said he did not know how he made this error.
    • Henderson reminded Marr that he (Henderson) had first discovered the inconsistencies between the first edition of Political Animal and the second edition of Political Animal. He asked why Marr had not drawn attention to these changes himself. Marr avoided the question – and merely asked whether Henderson believed that this should have been done in an endnote.
    • Marr said that the change in the date for “The Punch” explained why there was no contemporaneous evidence of the event. His thesis was that when Barbara Ramjan wrote to Honi Soit complaining of Abbott’s behaviour on 13 September 1977 and again on 3 October 1977 this was about a Students Representative Council election in September 1977 – not the one which occurred on 28 July 1977 when the (alleged) “Punch” incident occurred.
    • Henderson said that this was not the case – since when objecting to Abbott’s behaviour with respect to a student election in September 1977 it would have made sense for Ms Ramjan to refer to his (alleged) similar behaviour of 28 July 1977. Marr simply denied this.
    • An angry Marr then demanded that Henderson answer this question. Namely, whether he denied that “The Punch” had occurred. Henderson replied that he was an empirical person who was influenced by facts and that there was no independent witness to “The Punch” and no contemporaneous evidence that such an event ever took place. Henderson said that Marr had not produced evidence to support his claim and that he had got away with sloppy work because he had many mates in the media.
    • Marr responded that the incident was widely spoken about in Sydney and that he had learned of it at the 40Year Reunion of the Sydney University LLB Class of 1971. Henderson replied that the event [which took place on 21 April 2012] had occurred over three decades after the alleged “Punch” and that none of the Sydney University Law School LLB Class of 1971 were at Sydney University in 1977 when the alleged “Punch” took place. Henderson said that Marr was relying on hearsay upon hearsay.
    • The argument concluded when an angry Marr told Henderson that he would never talk to/or write to him about this issue again.

    David Marr and Gerard Henderson then got into their respective taxis and headed into the Melbourne night – looking forward to an Insiders encounter the following morning after the (Melbourne airport) night before. Nancy, somewhat embarrassed at so public – and loud – an argument, pretended someone else was her master.


    “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.