GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG – ISSUE NO. 198
6 SEPTEMBER 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.
- Stop Press: News Breakfast’s Phil Kafcaloudes’ Shirt; Nada Gilmore on Liberal Party Decadence & Bob Ellis’s Mossad Conspiracy
- Nancy’s Awards for Election Coverage in 2013: And the Winners are Laura Tingle, Peter Van Onselen, Bob Ellis & Anne Brooksbank, PVO’s Men’s Shed, Lateline, The Guardian-on-the-Yarra’s Royce Millar, Fran (“I’m An Activist”) Kelly, Beverley O’Connor, Michael Rowland, Paul Bongiorno & Christine Milne’s Transcript
- Correspondence: More on David Marr’s Unproven “Punch” & Tony Abbott + The Economist’s Hopeless Interpretation of Australian Politics
News Breakfast : Phil Kafcaloudes Covers Up After Nada Gilmore Reports on Liberal Party “Decadence”
Disappointing performance by Radio Australia presenter Phil Kafcaloudes on the ABC 1 “Newspapers” segment this morning. Disappointing because Nancy just loved to perve on Mr Kafcaloudes’ hirsute chest – which used to be on show under a shirt invariably unbuttoned to the waist during his News Breakfast appearances. See MWD Issue 187.
Sadly, ever since MWD reported on the Radio Australia presenter’s dress sense, your man Kafcaloudes has resorted to buttoning up his shirt. Hence no hirsute glimpse anymore. Clearly, Nancy has had an impact on the dress sense of at least one News Breakfast performer. [I note that Dr Scott Burchill (for a doctor he is) still seems to dress for the tip when appearing on News Breakfast – Ed].
It was a sad performance by Phil K this morning. He has been hoping for a Labor victory for some time and not so long ago was convinced that Julia Gillard would prevail over Tony Abbott. However, this morning your man Kafcaloudes exhibited some surprise and much pleasure that The Age had endorsed Kevin Rudd and Labor. To most viewers, the fact that The Guardian-on-the-Yarra had formally opposed Tony Abbott was not really news at all. But Phil K thought it was so important that it justified a buttoned up shirt and a formal pronouncement.
Fortunately, there is still much to comment on concerning the content of News Breakfast. Including yesterday morning when intrepid reporter Nada Gilmore referred to the Liberal Party fund-raiser dinner the night before in Sydney, which Tony Abbott addressed, as “pretty decadent”. Yes, folks decadent. Whatever could she have meant?
In any event, it was great to hear Nada Gilmore referring this morning to Tony Abbott’s “odd gaffe here and there” during the campaign. She had in mind the Opposition leader’s reference to Liberal Party candidate Fiona Scott’s “sex appeal” and more besides. And, presumably, his decision to address a decadent meeting of Liberals – or, perhaps, a meeting of decadent Liberals.
This Could be the Last MWD – Per Courtesy of Mossad (As Interpreted by Bob Ellis)
Be warned. Nancy’s (male) co-owner has agreed to do a commentary spot on Al Jazeera International television on Saturday night to discuss the 2013 Australian election.
What’s the problem? Well, behold the fate of Bob Ellis’ “friend” David Frost as explained by the False Prophet of Palm Beach in his Table Talk blog on Tuesday. This is what Bob Ellis had to say:
It may be known in fifty years, or not, that my friend Sir David Frost was killed by Mossad on his Mediterranean cruise ship, where it was easy to get to him. He was al-Jazeera’s most famed and esteemed broadcaster, and resented mightily therefore by the Israeli government. It may not be so, but Bibi, who has ordered hits before, may have required it. I am keen to see the autopsist’s report. Unless he was, of course, like OBL [Osama bin Laden], summarily buried at sea.
According to the False Prophet of Palm Beach’s theory, Westerners who appear on Al Jazeera get killed by Mossad. In which case Nancy’s (male) co-owner is not long for this world. For further prophecies of the Palm Beach genre, read this issue of MWD. It could be your last chance in this format.
THE ABC, SKY NEWS & THE 2013 ELECTION
ABC managing director and editor-in-chief Mark Scott has become the taxpayer funded public broadcaster’s principal spruiker – and a highly paid one at that. During the 2013 election campaign, Mr Scott has been busy tweeting about his perception of the ABC’s success and sniping at Sky News – the ABC’s commercial competition which receives no taxpayer funded hand-outs.
It’s hardly a fair match. Mark Scott’s job is to divvy up the $1 billion bucket of taxpayer money which the ABC receives from the government each year. On the other hand, Sky News managing director Angelos Frangopoulos has to run a commercial business which requires that he control costs and staff levels and raise revenue by advertising and subscriptions.
Even so, in 2013 the cash-strapped Sky News has out-performed the well endowed ABC. Sure, the public broadcaster has had its moments. Annabel Crabb’s Kitchen Cabinet program with Opposition leader Tony Abbott was one of the media highlights of the campaign. Moreover, Leigh Sales and Chris Uhlmann have performed well on 7.30.
Yet the fact remains that Sky News’ David Speers was the big media winner of the 2013 campaign – since he was the moderator for all three Kevin Rudd/Tony Abbott debates. The ABC ran the first debate on its main channel but relegated the second and third debates to its News 24 channel. This decision seems like a dummy spit. Sky News would have run such debates on its main channel had they been filmed at the ABC with an ABC presenter like Leigh Sales or Chris Uhlmann or Tony Jones or Virginia Trioli.
The fact is that either the Liberal Party or Labor – or both – was unwilling to have the ABC host the Leaders’ Debates under the control of an ABC moderator. It is the first time since the Leaders’ Debates commenced that the ABC has not played a key role in their presentation. This suggests that the ABC has a substantial problem with either the government or the alternative government or both. Yet Mark Scott refuses to acknowledge – let along resolve – this issue. The ABC managing director just goes on spruiking about how wonderful the public broadcaster is.
The fact is that the ABC managing director does not run the ABC. Nobody does. Rather the ABC is controlled by a number of collectives which preside over the public broadcaster’s key television, radio and online products. The members of these collectives are invariably on the left and they appoint one another to key positions. This explains why the ABC remains a Conservative-Free-Zone without a conservative presenter or producer or editor for any of its main outlets. The contemporary Liberal Party understands the problem – as is evident from the comments of the likes of Senator Eric Abetz during Senate estimates committee meetings on the ABC. It remains to be seen what, if anything, the Coalition will do if it is elected to office on Saturday.
On Saturday night, the semi-retired Kerry O’Brien will come down from the NSW North Coast to present the ABC’s 2013 election coverage. This has resulted in Leigh Sales, the 7.30 presenter, being given the flick. According to Nick Leys’ report in last Wednesday’s Australian, Ms Sales refused to sit on the panel run by Kerry O’Brien. Once again, the one-time Gough Whitlam staffer will preside over the ABC’s election night gig. It remains to be seen whether he will repeat his usual election night spoonerisms.
If Mark Scott really ran the ABC, he would have given the job to the young and talented Ms Sales. But he doesn’t. Kerry O’Brien wanted the gig – and he got what he wanted.
LAURA TINGLE, PETER VAN ONSELEN, BOB ELLIS + ANNE BROOKSBANK SHARE PROPHECY GONG
Laura Tingle – Prophesises that Tony Abbott will be like Robert Redford (Sort Of)
Nancy is not into prophecy – not even for elections when the opinion polls give an unequivocal message. She just lacks confidence. So Nancy was much impressed by the fact that Laura Tingle in her Australian Financial Review “Comment” column on 26 August 2013 predicted not only a Tony Abbott victory tomorrow but also his total failure by Christmas Day 2013. Here is what La Tingle had to say:
Well may Abbott say the poll comes down to a matter of trust. In the 1972 movie The Candidate, a man with no hope of winning runs on the promise he can say whatever he likes. But as the campaign goes on, the spectre of defeat and the lure of victory loom. The candidate gradually tailors his message into a more and more generic bit of political twaddle.
When he defies all expectations and wins, he pulls his mentor aside and asks: “What do we [sic] now?” Abbott may well be asking his colleagues the same question 100 days after winning office.
How about that? According to Laura Tingle, after Tony Abbott becomes prime minister he will call his mentor into a private meeting and ask: “What do we do now?” Just like the Bill McKay character (as played by Robert Redford) in The Candidate (1972) written by Jeremy Larner.
Get it? Ms Tingle prophesises that Tony Abbott is a Bill McKay type – meaning, presumably, that he does not have any positions and that he only ran for office to do a favour for a family friend. La Tingle is the AFR’s political editor.
From Sky News’ Men’s (Electronic) Shed : PVO Predicts Tony Abbott’s Failure in The Lodge
It was what Nancy’s (female) co-owner calls a bloke’s-night-on at The Contrarians at Sky News last Friday afternoon. At 4 pm, presenter Peter Van Onselen spoke to John McTernan and Matt Moran and Tim Wilson. Then, for the 5 pm segment, Mr McTernan went home and PVO spoke to Julian Leeser and Matt Moran and Tim Wilson.
Nancy just loves taking a sneak look at PVO’s very own Men’s Shed – since she likes to observe blokes going on and on and on about nothing much at all.
The highlight of The Contrarians last Friday occurred at the top of the program when Peter Van Onselen declared that the Coalition will win on Saturday and prophesised that “Tony Abbott’s probably not going to be a good prime minister”.
Can it be true that, before The Contrarians goes to air each week, PVO is travelling to Sydney’s northern beaches where he shares a crystal ball or two with Bob Ellis, the False Prophet of Palm Beach? We’ll keep you posted.
Mr and Mrs Nostradamus of Palm Beach Win Top Election Prediction Award
While on the topic of Bob Ellis, you have to admire the almost daily prophecies in his Table Talk blog. According to the False Prophet of Palm Beach’s latest prediction this morning, Labor will win tomorrow – following which it will appoint Bob Ellis to the ABC board.
However, Nancy’s favourite utterance from the False Prophet of Palm Beach was published in the Independent Australia online journal last Monday. It read as follows:
It is a bit hard to read. But it may well be that Abbott’s no-show on Q&A tonight and his concealment of his numbers until Rudd is on his feet at the press Club on Thursday, plus Carr presiding at the UN, plus the “baddies versus baddies” clunker, plus the apprenticeship and small business policies, plus the late-breaking pro-gay young vote – uncounted thus far in the landline polling – will either push Labor over the line, or result in a dog’s breakfast Rudd-Palmer-Katter-Bandt-Wilkie-McGowan agreement, or a Palmer-Turnbull one, or –
My wife, who has predictive powers, and gets these jigsaw images in her mind she correctly deciphers long months before election night, thinks a cobbled-together Rudd-Katter-Palmer Choir of Hard Knocks will occur.
Nancy feels somewhat sorry for The (Female) False Prophet of Palm Beach. Not only does Anne Brooksbank bed down with your man Ellis every night. That would be difficult enough. But Ms Brooksbank also dreams of Kevin Rudd, Bob Katter and Clive Palmer and how they will get together after the election to form a Rudd-led minority government. This is real nightmare territory.
LATELINE: MOST UNBALANCED HEADLINE ON SUCCESSIVE EVENINGS
On 12 August 2013, Lateline’s lead story reported that the ALP had launched a social media campaign supporting same-sex marriage and promoting Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s promise to introduce a bill on the issue within 100 days of gaining office. Here is how Lateline headed the story:
On 13 August 2013, Lateline’s lead story reported that Opposition leader Tony Abbott’s comment that Liberal Party candidate Fiona Scott has sex appeal had been labelled as coming from a long-gone era. Here’s how Lateline headed the story:
As it turns out, it seems likely that Kevin Rudd’s conversion to the same-sex marriage cause will harm Labor candidates in marginal seats in western Sydney and south-east Queensland. Particularly among believers – including conservative Catholics, evangelical Protestants, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and members of the various Orthodox Christian churches. It’s just that such views barely register with the inner-city left which dominates the ABC.
Also, Tony Abbott’s reference to Fiona Scott’s sex appeal resonated well in suburban and regional Australia. Moreover, it substantially increased her profile. It’s just that the inner-city left which dominates the ABC seems unaware that much unfashionable terminology is not a negative in suburban and regional Australia where Tony Abbott’s traditional sense of humour is understood.
THE GUARDIAN-ON-THE-YARRA WINS GONG FOR THE MOST ANTI-CATHOLIC SECTARIAN RANT
STEP FORWARD ROYCE MILLAR
The Sunday Age last weekend ran a Page One “Exclusive” by Age journalist Royce Millar titled “Church lobby to win over charities watchdog”. Needless to say, Millar’s rant was so “exclusive” that no one bothered to take it up – recognising it was, no doubt, a deep (sectarian) squib. Not any other newspaper, not television, not radio and not social media. Not anyone. Just Royce Millar.
Little wonder. Here’s how Mr Millar commenced his conspiracy-driven analysis:
If Tony Abbott is elected prime minister on Saturday he will abolish the watchdog established by Labor to keep an eye on the billions of dollars received and spent by Australian charities each year. Why? The answer, in part at least, may be the lobbying power of church conservatives, the Catholic Church in particular, and the office of Sydney Cardinal George Pell, more particularly still….
The pressure applied by the Sydney church through the charities debate has raised the question of the access and sway it may enjoy under Australia’s first Catholic Liberal prime minister and his Catholic-strong frontbench that includes Kevin Andrews, Barnaby Joyce, Joe Hockey, Malcolm Turnbull (a convert), Andrew Robb and Christopher Pyne.
It is true that Tony Abbott, if he wins the election on Saturday, will become the first Liberal Party prime minister who is Catholic. But not Australia’s first Catholic prime minister on the conservative side of politics. Joseph Lyons led the United Australia Party (the Liberal Party’s predecessor) to victory in December 1931 and died in office in April 1939. There was no evidence of improper relations between the Catholic Church and the Catholic Mr Lyons during his prime ministership. There is no reason why Tony Abbott would act differently to Joseph Lyons.
Royce Millar’s Sunday Age story was replete with anti-Catholic sectarianism. He implied that “Coalition frontbencher” Kevin Andrews has “enjoyed some spiritual guidance in his policy-making from Cardinal Pell”. There was also a mocking cartoon by Matt Golding of Cardinal Pell saying to Tony Abbott: “He [God] watches over us & would prefer if [as prime minister] you didn’t.”
Royce Millar’s “exclusive” was long on anti-Catholic sectarianism but hopelessly short on knowledge of not-for-profit organisations. It is true that the heads of some large not-for-profit organisations (e.g. Tim Costello) supported Labor’s creation of the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission – otherwise termed as the Charities Commission. However, many other bodies – including the overwhelming majority of small not-for-profit organisations – oppose the over-regulatory mess that the Charities Commission has established.
Like many journalists who hang out at The-Guardian-on-the-Yarra, Royce Millar does not appear to have a clue about business, especially small business. You don’t need to be a Catholic – or even Cardinal Pell – to oppose the bureaucratic burden and regulatory over-lap imposed by the Charities Commission.
Only an anti-Catholic sectarian who works at The-Guardian-on-the-Yarra would come to such a conclusion. And only an Age editor would run such a story as a Page One “Exclusive”.
FRAN (“I’M AN ACTIVIST”) KELLY WINS MOST INSIGHTFUL QUESTION AWARD
Brilliant question by Fran Kelly on RN Breakfast this morning, don’t you think? Unable to get Foreign Minister Bob Carr to speculate on whether it was a good idea to replace Julia Gillard with Kevin Rudd last June, Ms Kelly appeared to run out of questions. So she came up with the you-beaut idea to ask Senator Carr, who is in St Petersberg and has lodged an early ballot, whom he supported. Let’s go to the transcript:
Fran Kelly: Have you voted?
Bob Carr: Yes, I have. Of course I have
Fran Kelly: Shall I ask you publicly how you voted?
Bob Carr: [Laughter] Yes. I – on that very long Senate table I found the column that had candidates beginning with that of “Carr, Bob”. And I voted for Matt Thistlethwaite, the Labor candidate in Kingsford-Smith.
Fran Kelly: Senator Carr, thank you very much for joining us on breakfast.
Bob Carr: Thank you, Fran. Thank you.
What a scoop. Fran Kelly got Labor Senator Bob Carr to say that he had voted for himself in the Senate and for Labor in the House of Representatives.
BEST MANGLED TRANSCRIPT BY A POLITICAL PARTY – STEP FORWARD CHRISTINE MILNE
Here’s a transcript – issued by the Greens – of the commencement of the Q&A which took place after Senator Christine Milne addressed the National Press Club on Wednesday. It contains one of the more notable transmission errors in recent times:
Moderator: The first one today from Laura Tingle.
Laura Tingle: You’ve talked in your speech about the Tweedledum Tweedledee nature of the two major political parties today. And you’ve said that people are looking for the kind of vision that the Greens are offering. But the reality is the polls are showing that the swing is on towards Tony Abbott, who is against a lot of the things you stand for. And that there’s been a big surge in votes for other parties like the Katter Party, the Palmer Party and also for the microparties. My question would be: to what extent are the Greens Kuala Lumpur paubl [sic] for this trend and secondly, what is your take on the rise of the microparties and what they mean for the rise of the Senate post 2014?
Christine Milne: I think the rise of the microparties and the increase in the number of “don’t knows” just confirms what I said in my speech….
Good question. To what extent are the Greens really “Kuala Lumpur paubl”? If you have any idea what the transcript was meant to say, let MWD know.
PAUL BONGIORNO: MOST ANTI-COALITION JOURNO IN CANBERRA PRESS GALLERY GONG
Finally it’s time to award MWD’s most prestigious gong – to Network 10’s political editor Paul Bongiorno who doubles up as a commentator on Radio National Breakfast and ABC 702 Mornings with Linda Mottram. If there is a chance to boost the cause of the Greens or Labor – and to bag the Coalition – then Bonge is your man.
Take Friday, 23 August 2013, for example, when Prime Minister Rudd was heckled at Flemington Markets in Sydney.
This story was covered by Channel 2, 7 and 9. But not 10. It was as if Bonge and his mates did not want to embarrass the Labor leader. Well done Bonge.
– AND THE WINNER IS NEWS BREAKFAST
Due to unprecedented demand, the Maurice Newman Segment gets another run this week. As MWD readers will know, this (hugely popular) segment is devoted to former ABC chairman Maurice Newman’s suggestion that a certain “group think” might be prevalent at the ABC – and to ABC 1 former Media Watch presenter Jonathan Holmes’ certainty that no such phenomenon is extant within the public broadcaster. See MWD passim.
Nancy was highly impressed by two election segments on the ABC 1 News Breakfast program during the election campaign.
▪ On 15 August 2013, News Breakfast’s very own Beverley O’Connor decided to investigate Gen Y – the so-called disengaged generation. She found three tertiary educated young Australians in inner city Melbourne – Lan Dudgale, Jade Deutron and Alon Taka. They focused on five issues. Namely asylum seekers, gender inequality, same sex marriage, climate change and mental health. Needless to say, Lan agreed with Jade who agreed with Alon who agreed with Lan. Needless to say, Beverley O’Connor agreed with all three of them. Not a plumber or a nurse was heard. Just inner-city young leftists in an inner-city coffee shop talking to a grown up member of the ABC Sandalista set.
▪ Then, on 20 August 2013, News Breakfast, led by Michael Rowland, visited the marginal seat of Eden-Monaro in south-east New South Wales. The only problem was that young Mr Rowland could not find a single Abbott supporter in sight.
First up, former teacher Peter Halpen agreed with his wife, former teacher Marilyn Halpen, who agreed with her husband about a range of issues from the need to spend more money on education, to gay marriage and the like. Both will vote Labor on Saturday – having voted Greens in the past. Not a Coalition voter could be located.
Maurice Newman: 3
Jonathan Holmes: Zip
THE FACT-CHECKER, LABOR’S “WRONG PRIORITIES” ADVERTISEMENT – A SACKLOAD OF FLEAS
It seems that Politifact (headed by Peter Fray) and the ABC Fact Checking Unit headed by Russell (“Tony Abbott is a shameless opportunist”) Skelton have devoted their attention during the 2013 election campaign to the statements of politicians. So Nancy’s (male) co-owner decided to focus instead on political advertising of the historical kind.
Here is what June Kanngeiser – a pensioner of a certain age (i.e. not an actor of undetermined age) – said in the Labor Party’s “Wrong Priorities” campaign advertisement criticising the Coalition’s paid parental leave scheme.
When I raised my family I never asked for a cent from the government. It wasn’t easy. But under Mr Abbott, women who already earn $150,000 a year will get $75,000 when they have a baby. How can we afford that? Mr Abbott, I’m on a $19,000 a year pension and you’re giving money to those who need it least. Your priorities are wrong.
Let’s assume that Mrs Kanngeiser was born around 1930. She may never have asked for a cent from the government in having and bringing up her children. But she received financial support all the same. Here’s why.
▪ Maternity Allowance. This was initiated in 1912 and was not means tested. It was a generous one-off payment to cover expenses incurred by childbirth.
▪ Child endowment was introduced in 1941 by Robert Menzies’ United Australia Party government for the second and subsequent children under the age of 16 years. It was extended by Robert Menzies’ Coalition government in 1950 to cover the first child. Child endowment was not means tested.
Both the maternity allowance and child endowment were of substantial benefit to low and middle income Australians at the time June Kanngeiser had children.
Labor’s suggestion that Mrs Kanngeiser did not receive help from government in bringing up her children is almost certainly incorrect.
Nancy rates it: A Sackload of Fleas.
ON DAVID MARR’S UNPROVEN “PUNCH”, THE ECONOMIST’S USELESS EDITORIAL ON THE AUSTRALIAN ELECTION
This increasingly popular segment usually works like this. Someone or other thinks it would be a you-beaut idea to write to Gerard Henderson about something or other. And he thinks that their missive deserves a response.
Following last week’s MWD segment “Documentation”, Christopher Joyce wrote to Nancy’s (male) co-owner about David Marr’s continuing allegation that Tony Abbott threw “The Punch” at Sydney University in 1977. And Nancy’s (male) co-owner replied.
Then a certain Robert Smith wrote to Gerard Henderson criticising his comments on The Economist in the Sydney Morning Herald on Tuesday – see here. And Gerard Henderson replied.
Now read on, if you please.
Christopher Joyce/Gerard Henderson on “The Punch”, David Marr, Bob Santamaria, David Patch, Robert Manne, Michelle Grattan, Geraldine Doogue, Emma Alberici, The Age and more besides
– Christopher Joyce to Gerard Henderson – 30 August 2013
Dear Mr Henderson,
If poor Nancy frothed at the mouth as much as her (male) owner, then sadly she would be put down. I do enjoy your weekly Media Watch Dog although I do worry about its effect on your blood pressure.
The silly debate between you and David Marr over some dates in the student political career of our likely next Prime Minister is trivial beyond belief. You may well be correct with the errors of dates that you have noted with such vigour. The significance of July 1977 versus September 1977 has missed me. Perhaps you may explain its importance next week.
I note that you have not commented on the substance of the Marr article. In his formative student years, Tony Abbott was working very closely with the National Civic Council and receiving direct instruction from B.A. Santamaria. He also had more than his fair share of “youthful moments”. Perhaps today we would call them “dad” moments? He certainly seemed to have more than his fair share of rugger bugger/college boy preoccupations. None of this substance seems to have been denied.
B.A. Santamaria was a significant Australian and being associated closely with him, as I am sure you would agree, is nothing to be embarrassed about. But, that connection does provide a level of insight into the attitudes of Tony Abbott. That Mr Abbott displayed such homophobia attitudes; attitudes to women; and aggressive behaviour in his formative days is of interest to what built the character of our likely next Prime Minister. Many of us had student moments from which we have now recovered. I am sure that this is also true of Tony Abbott, but, interesting they are. The exact dates on which they occurred are not really that important.
A lengthy, petty, dispute between you and David Marr dilutes the substance of your Media Watch, which, like its ABC namesake, should continue to focus on the hypocrisy and errors of much of our media.
PS : I am an inner city type; consume cappuccino rather than latte; a university graduate; sometime GetUp! supporter; now employ 20 people but 120 in more active days; and [personal detail deleted]. I am not employed by the government or receive government hand outs except for the usual upper middle class welfare such as massively subsidised superannuation and health insurance rebates etc. I do listen to the ABC but buy The Australian. I am not sure which of your stereotypes that puts me into. I suppose the absolute worst kind – a social liberal and free marketeer.
– Gerard Henderson to Christopher Joyce – 3 September 2013
Thanks for your note – and for your (apparent) concerns about my health. For the record, I don’t froth at the mouth – or anywhere else for that matter. But your interest is appreciated. As is the fact that you read Media Watch Dog.
As you suggest, if the opinion polls are accurate Tony Abbott will be sworn in as prime minister next week. In view of this, David Marr’s Political Animal: The Making of Tony Abbott will be the biography of the new prime minister which is available in bookshops etc.
The fact is that, following the publication of Political Animal, it was David Marr’s allegation about “The Punch” at Sydney University in September 1977 that attracted widescale media attention. Some examples illustrate the point:
▪ The Age in September 2012 ran three opinion pieces all criticising Tony Abbott’s involvement in the (alleged) punch – by David Patch, Robert Manne and Michelle Grattan. The Age also ran five articles by Michelle Grattan on this issue (all critical of Abbott) along with five letters (all but one critical of Abbott and the one letter supporting Abbott was cut) and two cartoons (both mocking Abbott over “The Punch”). The Age censored a letter querying the evidence concerning “The Punch”.
▪ Geraldine Doogue, during her soft interview with David Marr on ABC Radio National Breakfast (10 September 2012), referred to “The Punch” as an example of Tony Abbott’s past “savagery”. Emma Alberici, during a soft interview with David Marr on Lateline (10 September 2012), simply accepted the allegation that “The Punch” happened.
▪ Robert Manne (who, according to his own website, has been voted Australia’s top public intellectual of the year not once but twice) in The Age, described the alleged punch as evidence of Tony Abbott’s one-time “violent and misogynist behaviour”.
And so on.
In view of the serious nature of “The Punch” as a pointer to Tony Abbott’s personality and behaviour, it is important to note David Marr – secretly – changed the date of the alleged incident from September 1977 to 28 July 1977. It is also important to note that David Marr changed the date of another incident from August 1977 to October 1977 – since Marr had initially said that the August 1977 incident helped to explain Abbott’s state of mind in September 1977 (when “The Punch” is alleged to have taken place).
In view of the seriousness of David Marr’s allegation, neither change of date is a trivial matter.
As I documented in last week’s MWD, David Marr still refuses to state how he got the dates for both incidents wrong in the first edition of Political Animal – and why he did not admit to both errors in the second edition of Political Animal. As an award winning journalist, David Marr would not tolerate such sloppy research or attempted cover-up in others.
As to Tony Abbott’s involvement with B A Santamaria in the late 1970s, David Marr has exaggerated the situation. Sure Abbott belonged to one of the Democratic Clubs which received some support from the National Civic Council on Australian campuses at the time. But it is ridiculous to suggest that Abbott acted on the “direct instructions of B A Santamaria”. In 1977 Tony Abbott was an 18 year old Sydney University student and Bob Santamaria was a 62 year old living in Melbourne. Abbott was involved in day-to-day campus politics concerning which Santamaria had no direct knowledge. Tony Abbott was a smart operator then – as he is now. He did not need instructions from Santamaria.
For the record, there were not many rugger bugger/college boy types in the various Democratic Clubs. In other words, Abbott was not typical of the young political operatives who were influenced by B.A. Santamaria on university campuses in the 1970s and 1980s.
My own researches indicate that Tony Abbott did not listen all that much to Bob Santamaria. Three decades ago, Santamaria advised Abbott not to write articles in mainstream newspapers and magazines – a suggestion which was rejected. Two decades ago, Santamaria advised Abbott not to run for Liberal Party pre-selection – another suggestion which was rejected. B.A. Santamaria did not much like either the Liberal Party or Labor – Tony Abbott signed up to mainstream politics by joining the former.
In conclusion, as to David Marr, I am interested in evidence. The fact remains that David Marr’s Political Animal obtained substantial publicity due to “The Punch” allegation for which there are no independent witnesses, no contemporaneous evidence and movable dates as to when the (alleged) incident took place. The fact remains that David Marr won an award for a book which contains errors in the first edition and secret revisions in its second edition.
* * * *
The Economist’s Editorial on the 2013 Election, Tony Abbott as a “Social Conservative”, Kevin Rudd as a “Blairite Centralist” Plus Lotsa Howlers
– Robert Smith to Gerard Henderson – 3 September 2013
There may not be many people in the outer suburbs or regions who read The Economist, but I do. Their leader article had only one sentence which mentioned Tony Abbott’s “social conservatism”. Their main objection was to his policies – not enough belief in markets and too much belief in big government.
I think you got it backwards – I took the reference to “defective personality” to be about Rudd – and “defective manifesto” to be about Abbott
Looking forward to the correction.
Gerard Henderson to Robert Smith – 4 September 2013
I refer to your note re the article titled “Australia’s election: Lucky no more” in The Economist on 31 August 2013 and to my column in last Tuesday’s Sydney Morning Herald.
I do not agree with your claim that The Economist’s “main objection” to Tony Abbott turned on his policies. This is how the segment on the Coalition commenced:
Of the country’s two main parties, the Liberal Party, now in opposition in a Liberal-National coalition, is the natural home of The Economist’s vote: a centre-right party with a tradition of being pro-business and against big government. But the coalition’s leader, Tony Abbott, does not seem an instinctive fan of markets, and one of the few key policies he has let on to possessing is a hugely expensive federal scheme for parental leave. That may help him persuade women voters that charges of misogyny are unfair, but he has not properly explained how he intends to pay for it. His social conservatism does not appeal to us: he opposes gay marriage and supports populist measures against Afghans, Sri Lankans, Vietnamese and others who have attempted to get from Indonesia into Australia in rickety craft that have drowned thousands in recent years. Indeed his promise to “turn back the boats” seems to be his only foreign policy.
Clearly The Economist regards Tony Abbott’s social conservatism as a key reason why the magazine supports the return of the Rudd Labor government. Yet on the issues which The Economist raised – same sex marriage and asylum seeker policy – Mr Abbott’s position is much the same as Julia Gillard. Kevin Rudd is only a recent convert to the same sex marriage cause.
The Economist’s article – presumably drafted by its stringer in Australia who happens to be on the left – is poorly formulated and badly written. My response to it is set out below:
▪ Contrary to The Economist’s claim, the proposed Paid Parental Leave scheme is fully funded – and has been declared as such by the Parliamentary Budget Office. The Economist’s claim that Tony Abbott’s PPL Scheme will have a hugely expensive impact on the budget is simply false.
▪ The Economist seems unaware that Tony Abbott took opposition to same sex marriage in the 2010 election and intends to honour his promises. In any event, this is hardly a priority issue for most voters.
▪ The Economist seems unaware that unlawful boat arrivals are a huge expense to the budget.
▪ The Economist’s assertion that “the main mark against Labor’s policy card is that it has shifted a long way towards Mr Abbott’s position on asylum seekers” is hopelessly wrong. It overlooks such issues as the broken promise on carbon tax and the various policy shifts and changes.
▪ The Economist seems unaware that most of the costs for disability insurance and school education initiatives fall beyond the budget forward estimates period and, consequently, are essentially not funded. Also, it seems unaware that the National Broadband Network is both expensive and fails to meet its own targets.
▪ The Economist asserts that Labor’s numbers “look more likely to add up than Mr Abbott’s”. It seems unaware that Labor’s figures over the past five years have been constantly erroneous.
▪ The Economist’s praise for Kevin Rudd’s diplomatic “skills” seems at odds with the Prime Minister’s performance at the Copenhagen Conference.
I make one final point. The Economist article is so poorly written that I assumed that the reference to “defective personality” was directed at Tony Abbott. After all, it presented him as an out-of-touch social conservative who opposes markets, supports unfunded big spending schemes and lacks empathy. Seems suggestive of a “defective personality” to me. However, I note your belief that the “defective personality” reference was directed at Kevin Rudd.
Robert Smith to Gerard Henderson -5 September 2013
Thanks for your reply to my email.
I don’t want to get into a debate about anyone’s policies or whether the stringer for The Economist is a lefty. This was a leader so I assume the editors carefully consider and stand behind the opinions given – in the third paragraph they almost apologise for backing Rudd. There was also an article about the election in the news section.
My main point is I think you misrepresented The Economist in your SMH article.
They did not dwell unduly on Abbott’s “social conservatism” – much more space was given to policies. Also the phrase “defective personality” is definitely about Rudd not Abbott. They state “there are questions over the character of its mercurial leader, Kevin Rudd”. When they describe Rudd’s as contemptuous to his colleagues, meddling and indecisive and refer in the last sentence to his promise to be less vile to his colleagues, I cannot come to any other conclusion.
Gerard Henderson to Robert Smith – 6 September 2013
I refer to your note – and make a few comments in response.
▪ The Economist’s editorial spent more time discussing Tony Abbott’s social conservatism (with references to “misogyny”, “gay marriage” and asylum seekers) than it did to the Coalition’s economic agenda. If you doubt this, count the words.
▪ It may well be that The Economist’s reference to “defective personality” was intended to be directed at Kevin Rudd, not Tony Abbott. But the article was so badly written that this was not clear. After all, it would be reasonable to assume that someone like Tony Abbott – who was associated by The Economist with misogyny and intolerance – has a “defective personality”.
Two final points:
▪ The Economist’s assertion that Labor under Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard “has loosened its traditional ties to the trade unions” is hopelessly wrong. The Rudd/Gillard/Rudd government has substantially increased trade union privileges in legislation. Moreover, the trade union movement’s domination of the ALP has never been stronger in the modern era. Here The Economist seems to be into fantasy.
▪ The Economist’s claim that “Mr Rudd is a Blairite centrist” is also misleading. In the current election campaign, Kevin Rudd has been critical of foreign investment and flirted with protectionism. The Prime Minister has gone from being a “Christian socialist” to an “economic conservative” and on to an “economic nationalist” in just six years. He is no longer a “Blairite centrist” – and The Economist’s editors are delusional if they believe otherwise.
In my view, The Economist needs a new stringer 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.