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.

    Scott Bevan Raises The Inaugural Leadership Challenge Question of the Abbott Government

    There’s lotsa competition at the ABC these days to ask the most pertinent question. Who knows why? MWD’s theory is that, fearing a jobs purge following the coming to office of the Abbott Clerical-Fascist Dictatorship next week, the lads and lasses at the taxpayer funded public broadcasters are attempting to survive a purge which will cut-cut-cut-and-cut-to-the-bone jobs.

    Last MWD revealed that Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly asked Foreign Minister Senator Bob Carr whom he had voted for when he lodged his pre-poll vote. He replied that he had voted for himself in the Senate and for Labor in the House of Representatives. Wow. Hold the front page and so on.

    Now, on The World Today on Friday-the-13th, Scott Bevan asked this truly stunning question of the ABC’s intrepid reporter who is covering the Liberal Party meeting in Canberra today:

    Scott Bevan: Mr Abbott’s leadership? Not in any doubt at all?

    And the answer was, er, in the negative.

    Tony Abbott has just led the Liberal Party to one of the biggest victories in its history. So the idea that he might be subjected to a leadership challenge was, er, stunning. Even on Friday-The-13th.

    The Burning Question Of Today – Will “Sticky” Mr Faine Petition Nice Mr Scott To Demolish Aunty’s Conservative-Free-Zone?

    Following the overwhelming response to last Monday’s MWD Special titled “Nancy Wonders: Will Jon Faine Call For A ‘Cleansing’ of ABC Leftists Following Tony Abbott’s Victory on Saturday?” (see here), Gerard Henderson wrote to the presenter of ABC Radio 774’s Mornings with Jon Faine program.

    Nancy’s (male) co-owner wanted to know whether Jon Faine still held the view he expressed in 2007 (after John Howard’s defeat) that there should be a “cleansing” of conservative commentators at News Limited whose views were no longer in tune with those of the electorate at large. In which case – now that Tony Abbot has won with a vote higher than that achieved by Kevin Rudd in 2007 – would there need to be a cleansing of left-wing presenters at the ABC whose views are no longer in tune with those of the electorate at large?

    The taxpayer funded Jon Faine asks lotsa questions of others. So MWD expects that he will answer a couple of questions. Alas, so far, there has been no response to Gerard Henderson’s email, which is published below:

    Gerard Henderson to Jon Faine – 12 September 2013


    As you may – or may not – know, I put out a special issue of my Media Watch Dog blog on Monday – after lunch, of course. It was titled “Will Jon Faine Call For A ‘Cleansing’ of ABC Leftists Following Tony Abbott’s Victory On Saturday?”

    Readers expressed considerable interest in MWD’s analysis of the position you adopted in 2007, following John Howard’s defeat. Then you suggested that, at the very least, editors should think about enacting a “cleansing process” to cull conservative columnists like Janet Albrechtsen and the late Christopher Pearson. Your position was that, after Kevin Rudd’s victory, the likes of Albrechtsen and Pearson represented “the thinking that’s out of step with the result of the election” and the view of the “electorates”.

    Now here are a couple of questions – which many MWD readers would like answered:

    Following Labor’s loss last Saturday, have you suggested – or do you intend to suggest – that Mark Scott should consider a “cleansing process” of the ABC to keep the public broadcaster up to date with the view of “the electorates”? In short, are you proposing that Fran Kelly and Phillip Adams should suffer the same fate in 2013 which you implied should apply to Janet Albrechtsen and Christopher Pearson in 2007?

    I know that you are busy. So just a couple of “Yes” or “No” answers will do.

    In conclusion, I note that on your website you are described as being known for your “quick wit and willingness to ask the stickiest of questions”. In view of this, I am sure that you will be willing to answer my questions – which are not the least bit sticky.

    Best wishes

    Gerard Henderson

    Needless to say, MWD will keep you advised as soon as Jon Faine replies to Gerard Henderson. [Maybe Faine likes to ask the stickiest of questions but does not like to answer such enquiries. Just a thought. – Ed]


    Here’s what ABC Radio National Drive presenter Waleed Aly said last Wednesday when talking to a guest.

    Waleed Aly: I do want to ask you though, just finally, whether or not the United States faces a difficult argument here about getting rid of chemical weapons. Particularly given that it – and Russia, I suppose, is in the same boat – hasn’t got rid of its chemical stockpile entirely from the Cold War. Some of that still remains and some of its allies have used chemical weapons. Israel used them in Gaza for example. America itself used them in the Iraq War in its attack on Fallujah in 2004. These sorts of things are there, they’re in the ether and they’re not forgotten in parts of the Middle East.

    MWD is not aware of any evidence that Israel used chemical weapons in Gaza or that the US ever used chemical weapons in Iraq.

    It seems that Waleed Aly just made this up. Sure in the knowledge that the ABC Fact Checking Unit does not check what passes for “fact” on the ABC.


    This relatively new feature was introduced – following popular demand. The “You Must Remember This” segment takes its title from the chorus line in the song “As Time Goes By” – which was popularised by the film Casablanca. The aim of this segment is to remind readers that what someone says today is not always what they said yesterday – or even the day before.

    This is what The Age wrote in its editorial of Monday 9 September 2013, under the heading “Australia votes decisively for change”.

    As far as the outgoing government is concerned, Labor now must achieve in opposition what for so many years eluded it in government: solidarity and strong leadership unaffected by jealousy and internecine warfare.

    And this is what The Age said in its editorial of Tuesday 10 September 2013, under the heading “Labor’s first step? Abandon messiahs” :

    Labor’s parliamentary party spent three years tearing itself apart over leadership, first with Kevin Rudd, then with Julia Gillard, and finally, in a last desperate embrace, it turned back to the vainglorious Mr Rudd. The wrenching process ended in failure, and now Mr Rudd, whose bizarrely exuberant concession speech on Saturday dumbfounded many Labor supporters, has decided to stand aside. There is next to no chance Labor will turn to him again, and it should not be tempted to do so.

    Labor’s immediate priority is to locate a genuine, energising and articulate leader, not one who has a messiah complex. Someone who is consummately effective at negotiating across Labor’s factions, and who can unite a dispirited parliamentary party. The new leader must be prepared to compromise and adjust, while respecting the party’s core values, not adopt policies in isolation simply because they happen to suit the mood of the moment.

    One of Labor’s handicaps under Mr Rudd and Ms Gillard was their disagreement over aspects of core policies: a change of leader meant a change of direction. But if Labor in government did not know where it was going, why would it expect the electorate to follow, or so much as understand, its position?

    However, this is what The Age said in its editorial of Friday 6 September – just a couple of days earlier – under the heading “Labor’s policies best reflect our values”.

    The Age has long held that policy, not personality, is the core of our democracy. It is on this basis that we advocate a vote for Labor in the federal election on Saturday.

    So on Friday, the day before the election, The Age urged a vote for Kevin Rudd and Labor – despite (privately) believing that Labor (i) lacked solidarity and strong leadership, (ii) was replete with jealousy and internecine warfare, (iii) happened to be led by a “vainglorious” prime minister with a messiah complex presiding over a dispirited parliamentary party” and (iv) “did not know where it was going”. That’s all, folks.

    Moreover, last Monday The Age criticised Kevin Rudd and declared that he played a “lead role in the party’s downfall”. Yet, on 22 June 2013, in an extraordinary Page One editorial, The Age urged Labor MPs to dump the incumbent prime minister Julia Gillard for Kevin Rudd lest Tony Abbott and the Coalition win the election.

    When The Age editor (Andrew Holden) signed off on this Page One editorial, less than three months ago, he knew that The Age was urging its readers to support a prime ministerial contender who was unsuitable for the position since he possessed a vainglorious personality along with a messiah complex.

    This suggests that “The-Guardian-on-the-Yarra” was desperate for a Labor/Greens victory. Unlike the voters in Melbourne where there was a strong swing to Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party.

    [On second thoughts, perhaps you should have placed this item in the “Can You Bear It?” segment.]

    As a regular reader of Mike (“I’ll pour the gin”) Carlton’s Saturday column in the Sydney Morning Herald, Nancy’s (male) co-owner is still waiting for full disclosure from the Angry Man of Avalon Beach.

    On 26 August 2013, your man Carlton described how he woke up recently with “two cracked ribs and torn stomach muscles” and was transported by ambulance by “a bloke as strong as an ox” and a woman with “beautiful eyes”. Then, lo and behold, the staff at Mona Vale Hospital’s emergency department recognised Mike Carlton as a “media figure”. Wow. Fancy that. And so on. See MWD Issue 195.

    Just how is it that a chap can go to bed at night with his ribs in place and wake up the morning with cracked ribs and torn stomach muscles? [Perhaps you might ask your tens upon tens of thousands of readers if they have any theories. – Ed]

    In any event, your man Carlton was back in top form last Saturday. This is how he commenced his weekly rant:

    So, are we the people really going to elect a liar to The Lodge today? It seems we are. Every opinion poll predicts a thumping win for the Coalition. We will have a liar as our prime minister for at least the next three years….

    These are his three biggest porkies, in no particular order: “This is the worst government in our history.” No it’s not. That title goes to the Tories, probably to the Menzies coalition of 1939-41, a minority government which collapsed – in wartime – after an orgy of internal treachery and backstabbing…. And he has amplified the lie by claiming that Parliament has been in chaos for the past three years of minority government. Again not true….

    But here’s the killer: if there is a budget emergency to be dealt with, why is Abbott cutting taxes and launching a massive new paid parental leave scheme to cost billions? That makes no sense. And his would-be treasurer, Joe Hockey, is giving no date for a return to a budget surplus.

    It seems that the highly opinionated Mike Carlton does not understand the difference between opinion and fact. Tony Abbott believes that the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd government is “the worst government in our history”. This is Abbott’s opinion. Mike (“I’ll pour the gin”) Carlton believes that various United Australia Party/Liberal Party governments were the worst Australia. That is his opinion.

    Only a fool cannot distinguish between an informed opinion and a conscious lie. It’s the same with Tony Abbott’s opinion on the Gillard/Rudd minority government and on the state of the budget he has inherited. All matters of opinion – not lies.

    For over three years, your man Carlton has used his Sydney Morning Herald column to rant against the Coalition in general and Tony Abbott in particular. The Angry Man of Avalon Beach votes in the electorate of Mackellar. Last Saturday, Bronwyn Bishop (the Liberal Party MP for Mackellar) received a swing of over 3 per cent.

    Meanwhile on Saturday night as the election results came in, your man Carlton was busy tweeting. Here’s a sample as the SMH columnist attempted to blame Labor’s defeat on the New York based Rupert Murdoch and his News Corporation:

    Mike Carlton@MikeCarlton01

    There are many good and honourable journalists at News Corpse. I respect them. But they have partners, kids…at the whim of Murdoch.

    Mike Carlton@MikeCarlton01

    Quite seriously, we need to extinguish Murdoch’s malign presence in our national life. His suckhole journos are a tragic spectacle.

    Mike Carlton@MikeCarlton01

    RT if you think Rupert Murdoch is a malign, greedy, ignorant, grasping and selfish boil on our body politic.

    Needless to say, few bothered to re-tweet Mike Carlton’s late night rants against Rupert Murdoch. The good news is that your man Carlton slept tight and woke up on Sunday morning with ribs uncracked and stomach muscles intact. Quite an achievement when you think about it.

    Jonathan Green’s “We” Pro-Labor Mistake

    There’s usually one every election. An ABC presenter, that is, who refers to the Labor Party on election night or the morning after as “we”. Former Gough Whitlam staffer and long-time ABC presenter Kerry O’Brien has made this slip in the past.

    And so it came to pass that ABC leftist Jonathan Green did the deed this time around – so that the prophecy might be fulfilled. Speaking to former Labor staffer Nicholas Reece on the Radio National Sunday Extra program last Sunday, Mr Green referred to the ALP as “we”. Let’s go to the transcript:

    Jonathan Green: Nicholas, begin with you – initial steps for Labor from this [sic] point of last night’s defeat. How do we, how do we – how do you, how do they begin to pick themselves up and dust themselves off?

    Good question. Jonathan Green’s “we” equated with Labor. Until he realised that he has done a Kerry O’Brien and reverts to “you” and “they”.

    Can you bear it?

    Read All About It – Jonathan Holmes & Margaret Simons Know Nothing About Tasmanian Newspapers

    Elsewhere on RN Sunday Extra – in what in a non-election period would be a sure bet for MWD’s hugely popular “Maurice Newman Segment” – leftist Jonathan Green discussed the role of the media in the 2013 election campaign with leftist Age columnist Jonathan Holmes and leftist academic Margaret Simons. Needless to say, Mr Green agreed with Mr Holmes who agreed with Dr Simons (for a doctor she is) who agreed with Mr Green that Rupert Murdoch’s News Limited newspapers are a bad influence and all that.

    However, Jonathan Green agreed with Jonathan who agreed with Margaret who agreed with Jonathan that the News Limited tabloids in Sydney (Daily Telegraph) and Brisbane (Courier-Mail) did not have as much effect on the result as some had anticipated. Mr Holmes agreed with Dr Simons that in Tasmania – where the largest anti-government swing had occurred – The (Hobart) Mercury had not campaigned for the Coalition.

    However the key swings in Tasmania did not take place in the south of the state where The Mercury is widely sold. Rather the key anti-government swings occurred in the north of the state where the Examiner (based in Launceston) and The Advocate (based in Burnie) prevail. Neither is owned by News Limited.

    So here was the former host of the ABC’s Media Watch program (Mr Holmes) and the Director of the Centre for Advanced Journalism at Melbourne University (Dr Simons) completely ignorant of newspaper reach in Tasmania.

    Can you bear it?

    PVO’s “Men’s Shed” – The Continuing Saga

    Nancy raced home on Friday afternoon to catch up with her favourite Sky News program – which she likes to call “The Testosterones”

    Sure enough, last Friday’s “The Contrarians” was yet another version of Peter Van Onselen’s Men’s (Electronic) Shed. At 4 pm PVO introduced Peter Bentley, Julian Leeser, Greg O’Mahoney and John McTernan. Then at 5 pm Peter Bentley and John McTernan were replaced by Tanveer Ahmed and Adam Creighton – thus preserving PVO’s recommended testosterone level for The Contrarians. Can you bear it?

    David Marr Cuts Himself in Half

    David Marr does not like being reminded of the fact that, in the inaugural issue of Political Animal: The Making of Tony Abbott which was published in September 2012, he wrote: “Australia doesn’t want Tony Abbott: We never have.” At the time the Coalition was well ahead of Labor in the opinion polls.

    Last Tuesday, Gerard Henderson quoted the inaugural sentences of Political Animal in his Sydney Morning Herald column – see here. On the following day, the SMH published this letter from David Marr:

    Gerard Henderson’s suggestion that I wrote off Tony Abbott’s chances in my essay ”Political Animal” is wide of the mark September 10). Perhaps Henderson flagged before reaching my conclusion on page 4: ”As things stand now this unlikely man is heading for a magnificent victory.”

    – David Marr, Camperdown

    In fact there was no conclusion on Page 4 of Political Animal. Moreover, David Marr cut the quote in half. In full, it reads as follows:

    Between him [Abbott] and the election of 2013 lies a political eternity, but as things stand now this unlikely man is heading for a magnificent victory.

    In other words, David Marr’s conclusion was not really a conclusion at all. Can you bear it?

    A (Brief) Word From the False Prophets of Palm Beach

    Can you bear it? Say no more.

    History Corner


    Tony Abbott defeated Malcolm Turnbull on Tuesday 1 December 2009 to become the leader of the Liberal Party – and leader of the Opposition. This was shortly before the by-elections for Higgins and Bradfield on Saturday 5 August.

    This is what the commentariat had to say immediately before and after Tony Abbott’s election as Liberal Party leader in December 2009:

    David Uren, Weekend Australian, 28-29 November 2009 : The Coalition will be Wiped Out Under Tony Abbott

    The Coalition faces an electoral wipeout at next year’s federal election if the rebels led by Tony Abbott and Nick Minchin succeed in blocking the government’s climate change legislation.

    The Coalition could lose at least 20 of its metropolitan seats, including those of its leader, Malcolm Turnbull, Treasury spokesman Joe Hockey and climate change critics Kevin Andrews and Andrew Robb, according to an analysis of Newspoll results. Mr Turnbull faces a leadership spill at a partyroom meeting called for 9am on Tuesday.

    David Uren’s prophecy had a Tony Abbott-led Opposition losing such safe seats as Menzies (Kevin Andrews), Goldstein (Andrew Robb), North Sydney (Joe Hockey) and the then relatively safe Wentworth (Malcolm Turnbull).

    Guy Rundle, Crikey 30 November 2009: The Liberals should Split as Tony Abbott Drives the Party Into 20 Years in Opposition

    If there isn’t a bunch of metropolitan Libs with a blueprint for a split in a desk drawer somewhere, they aren’t doing their job. Given the last week’s performance, that probably means there isn’t. But there should be of course. There’s up to 20 sitting Liberal MHRs who would have nothing to lose from a sudden split should Krudd bring down a double dissolution.

    Should a Hockey-Dutton ticket be established on a deal with the Right to reject the ETS, the power of the irrationalist Right to dictate policy and leadership to the party will be laid bare for all to see. At that point, urban Lib MHRs are effectively being asked to commit to the political equivalent of the Somme, Day 1 – marching towards the enemy guns led by an amiable fool and a man about to lose his seat (having, unbelievably switched back to it after trying for a bolthole), for a cause they don’t believe in, to defend a faction that many of them quietly loathe.

    Rural Libs will survive to continue their diminished careers as the bench warmers of a long-term opposition. Meanwhile the Liberal Leninists – Minchin, Abbott et al – will have at least one scenario they wanted, come to realisation, that of a party they control, more moderates driven out, lurking in Opposition for 12, 15, 20 years if necessary until the Ellis-Soutphommasane Labor government is so tired and bedraggled that the voters are willing to make Alex Hawke prime minister.

    Guy Rundle graduated from Brighton Grammar School to become a Marxist comedian and regular Crikey commentator.

    Alister Drysdale, Business Spectator, 1 December 2009 : The Coalition Will be in Exile for a Generation Under Tony Abbott

    Tony Abbott wins, by one vote – so does Kevin Rudd, by a mile. After an extraordinary week in the history of Australian politics, the Liberal Party chose a leader who will lose dozens of marginal seats. He will run a rump party, confined to political exile for a generation.

    Alister Drysdale (a one-time Malcolm Fraser and Andrew Peacock staffer) foretold a loss of at least 24 seats under Tony Abbott’s leadership.

    Bernard Keane, Crikey, 1 December 2009: On the Liberal Party’s Disaster of Epic Proportions

    The election of Tony Abbott is a disaster of epic proportions for a party that was already up against it in the race to remain competitive at the next election. They have now taken a major step to the Right, towards their base, and away from mainstream voters.

    The sight of Abbott being clapped into and out [sic] his first press conference by grinning troglodytes such as Bronwyn Bishop, Sophie Mirabella and Dennis Jensen must fill the hearts of Liberal moderates with deep anguish about the fate of the party when it goes up against the Rudd machine next year.

    Bernard Keane concluded his analysis by declaring that “a reckoning awaits at polling day” and predicting a heavy defeat for the Coalition at the 2010 election.

    Bob Hawke – Herald Sun, 2 December 2009 : Tony Abbott Will be a Temporary Liberal Party Leader

    Tony Abbott will only be a temporary Liberal leader because his views are too far from the mainstream, former prime minister Bob Hawke says. But Mr Hawke hoped the Federal Opposition could now regroup. “Seriously, I don’t want to gloat in the misfortunes of the Opposition ‘cause I think it’s important in a democracy to have a reasonable and functioning Opposition,” he said.

    Asked what kind of leader Mr Abbott would make, Mr Hawke replied: “Temporary.” “I don’t think his values are really very mainstream and I don’t think you can have someone whose values are too far away from mainstream being an effective leader.”

    Bob Hawke’s prediction that Tony Abbott would be only a temporary Liberal Party leader was based on his conviction that Abbott was “mad as a cut snake”.

    David Marr, Sydney Morning Herald, 2 December 2009 : Take A Photo of Tony Abbott Now For the Party While He is Still Leader

    The Liberals’ party room was not crowded. A moderate turnout of press was joined by a knot of Abbott supporters. They had the shattered look of people given what they’d wished for. As their leader pledged to turn the Coalition into ”an alternative, not an echo” of the Rudd Government, their half a dozen voices echoed: ”Hear, hear.”

    A new face will now join the black-and-white portraits of Liberal leaders staring down the room. So many hopeful new starts: a dozen leaders from Bob Menzies to Malcolm Turnbull, most of them torn down by their party colleagues. The photographer shouldn’t tarry….

    Early in the day I found myself wandering down a corridor behind a National Party senator talking on his mobile phone. ”Tony may get up, which personally pleases me,” he said. ”But even my mother won’t vote for him.”

    The day Tony Abbott became Liberal Party leader David Marr wrote that Tony Abbott had very little support among his colleagues. The night Tony Abbott became Prime Minister Elect, David Marr wrote that he had very little support among the Liberal Party rank and file. See “Can You Bear It?”

    Milanda Rout, The Australian, 2 December 2009 : All the Higgins Electorate Believes that the Liberal Party is a Joke

    Like the political party they unfailingly elect, the people of Higgins echo a broad church of views on the importance of climate change and more local issues. Yet they all agree on one thing; the Liberal Party has become a joke.

    The idea that “all” voters agree on anything is somewhat, well, unrealistic. But such was the media reaction to Tony Abbott that hyperbole was the order of the day.

    Rod Cameron & Laura Tingle, Australian Financial Review, 2 December 2009: Rod Cameron Tells Laura Tingle that Tony Abbott is Unelectable & La Tingle Tells AFR Readers that Abbott is Out of Touch with the Electorate

    The momentous Liberal ballot has demonstrated the power of conviction politics over consensus. The party room gave itself a choice between the two conviction leadership options, unpersuaded [sic] that Joe Hockey was a viable unity candidate. The only trouble is that in choosing Tony Abbott it has backed a conviction position that is not the conviction of the electorate, and it has not even backed that position with any conviction: Abbott won by just one vote, with one informal vote cast and one presumed Turnbull supporter absent for health reasons.

    Veteran pollster Rod Cameron says simply of Abbott that he is “unelectable”. “This is a description I reserve for a very small group of politicians,” he adds.

    Laura Tingle returned to the scene of Rod Cameron’s hyperbole in her AFR column on 26 July 2013. She reported that Cameron had said that if he had his time over again he might only qualify his original remark by saying that Abbott was unelectable “in normal circumstances”. Tingle added: “But Rudd’s return has only once again raised the question as to whether Abbott is electable.” In August 2010, Tony Abbott nearly defeated Julia Gillard and in September 2013 he defeated Kevin Rudd.

    Bruce Hawker: The Punch, 2 December 2009: Malcolm Turnbull to Form a New Political Party

    The Liberal Party is now so badly divided that a distinct possibility exists that a group – possibly led by Malcolm Turnbull – will leave to establish their own party. A split party is the price that is sometimes paid when ideology prevails over moderate, pragmatic politics – just ask anyone who was in the Labor Party during the 20th century.

    The Liberal Party is divided over its ideological direction – not just the ETS or Turnbull’s leadership style. Any hope of Joe Hockey pulling them together was dashed by Tony Abbott’s attack on him and – by inference – all moderate Liberals….

    If he still craves an ongoing role in Australian public life – as I suspect he does – then what better way to demonstrate his relevance than by leaving the “old” Liberals to establish the “new” liberals. In doing so he will have an arguable case that he, not Abbott or Minchin represents the Menzies vision for Australia.

    The DLP kept Labor out of power for a generation. Turnbull’s actions in the coming days and weeks could determine whether the same fate will befall the Abbott/Minchin Liberal Party.

    In this article, written just over six months before Kevin Rudd was overturned by his colleagues, Bruce Hawker was blissfully unaware of what was going to happen to his side of politics. Hawker wrote that Labor “stands right in the philosophical centre of Australian politics” and that Kevin Rudd’s “ability to seize the future…infuriates the hard right and their spruikers in the media”. Since Bruce Hawker had such little self-awareness of Labor, his lack of awareness of the Liberals should have come as no surprise.

    Malcolm Mackerras – The Australian, 3 December 2009 : The Liberals Will Lose the Higgins By-Election

    A leading electoral analyst claims the elevation of Tony Abbott as Opposition Leader will cost the Liberal Party the safe seat of Higgins in one of Saturday’s two critical by-elections. Malcolm Mackerras yesterday predicted the Liberals would lose Peter Costello’s former seat to the Greens and that Bradfield on Sydney’s north shore would go to preferences. Both seats are traditional Liberal strongholds and have never gone to preferences since they were created in 1949.

    “I think there will be a big swing against the Liberal Party in both Bradfield and Higgins. The effect of that swing will be that the Greens will take Higgins from the Liberals,” Mr Mackerras told The Australian yesterday. Describing the elevation of Mr Abbott as “a complete disaster”, Mr Mackerras said Bradfield and Higgins in Melbourne were electorates where people wanted action on climate change.

    Malcolm Mackerras’ predictions are frequently wrong. What was surprising in this comment was his view that Tony Abbott would be a complete disaster.

    Fran Kelly, Radio National Breakfast, 4 December 2009 : Foreshadows Protest Vote Against Tony Abbott in Higgins

    The events of the past week in Canberra should make for two very interesting by-elections tomorrow. One of them will be held in the Victorian seat of Higgins, held for many years by former federal treasurer Peter Costello. The ALP is not fielding a candidate in the seat – which according to some political observers is a mistake, according to some political observers, who are tipping a protest vote against Tony Abbott’s election as the new Liberal leader, and the Coalition’s stance on the ETS. Mike Woods reports from Melbourne.

    There was no protest vote against Tony Abbott in Higgins. Labor’s judgment in not contesting Bradfield and Higgins proved correct.

    Michelle Grattan, The Age, 4 December 2009 :

    With less than a year to the election and horrible opinion polls, Abbott takes over the leadership in the most difficult circumstances. The internal Liberal debate over climate will continue, with the Government planning to bring back the emissions legislation in February and the Opposition facing the difficult task of having to develop a credible alternative. The Liberals are bracing for a reality check in this weekend’s Higgins and Bradfield (NSW) by-elections.

    Liberal sources claim Higgins, on 7.1 per cent, is lineball. After allowing for Peter Costello’s personal vote, a bad result there, where there is no Labor candidate but a high-profile Green, Clive Hamilton, would be seen as a comment not only about the leadership infighting but also about the step back on climate policy.

    In fact, it was the Labor government which stepped back on climate policy in February 2010 when it junked the carbon pollution reduction scheme and provided no credible alternative.

    Robert Manne, The Australian, 4 December 2009 : Liberal Party’s Implosion the Biggest Since the Labor Split of the Mid-1950s

    Sometimes, in the life of Australian politics, by-elections show us our future. The Bass by-election of 1975 made it clear that the Whitlam government was finished. The Canberra by-election of 1995 made it no less clear that the arrival of a Howard government was imminent.

    On Saturday there are by-elections in affluent inner-city Melbourne and Sydney, Higgins and Bradfield. If these by-elections reveal a major shift of political sentiment towards the Greens, they may turn out to be no less significant than Bass and Canberra….

    Very many Higgins electors will know what is now at stake. More obviously, in the week before the by-election, the Liberal Party has imploded in a way no mainstream party in Australian politics has managed since the Labor split of 1954. It has moreover imploded over the absolute unwillingness of its troglodyte-denialist wing to accept even the most timorous legislation on the question of climate change that could conceivably have been devised.

    In the end, it was the troglodyte-in-chief, Tony Abbott, who was elected as leader. The reason for Abbott’s election will influence many voters in Higgins, who will also be aware that the urgency of action on climate change is the sole reason for the Hamilton candidacy.

    Let us imagine, then, if only for the sake of argument, that Hamilton does indeed poll well in tomorrow’s by-election. What might transpire as a result? The media will immediately have a new theme: the rise of the Greens. This itself will greatly strengthen their appeal. Soon after the by-elections, a double dissolution election is likely to be held. If so, the Coalition will be routed. Not only are they hopelessly divided over climate change. Very many Australians will not vote for a Catholic party leader whose religious convictions fashion his politics. As a consequence of the Coalition’s collapse, the Greens will almost certainly hold the balance of power in the new Senate….

    If the most likely political scenario comes to pass, it will now be with the Greens and not the Coalition that Rudd will be able to negotiate. Perhaps he will accept that by 2020 Australia will unilaterally commit to major emissions reductions. Perhaps he will decide that there is no choice but to invest heavily in alternative energy industries. Perhaps he will eventually even come to see that, as part of Australia’s moral commitment to the human future, there is no choice but for the production of coal to be gradually phased out. Let us imagine that something like this happens.

    Through these actions, Australia may become a leader and not a delinquent in the struggle to combat climate change. Our actions may have a benign domino effect. The better angels of the Australian character, dormant for so long during the Howard years, may finally awake from their slumber.

    This fantasy, of course, will not come to pass in detail. But if the Greens can achieve a breakthrough in the by-elections being held on Saturday, and if something even approximating to my fantasy about the consequences of such a breakthrough does indeed take place, the few days that separated the destruction of the Liberal Party from the opening of the Copenhagen conference might come to be seen as a turning point in the moral history of this country and as the moment when the politics of climate change in Australia could no longer reasonably be described as dirty.

    Robert Manne was one of the first commentators to suggest that Tony Abbott’s Catholicism made him unsuitable to become prime minister. This was a surprise comment. In 1991 Robert Manne spoke at the 50th Anniversary of Bob Santamaria’s Movement – or National Civic Council. Fellow speakers were B.A. Santamaria, Archbishop Eric D’Arcy and (the then) Bishop George Pell. In the early 1990s, Robert Manne was in discussion with Bob Santamaria with a view to establishing a new political party. B.A. Santamaria (1915-1998) was a Catholic political activist who became a mentor of the young Tony Abbott. Within weeks of becoming Liberal Party leader, Tony Abbott united the Liberal Party and consolidated the Coalition – there was no implosion.

    Judith Brett, The Age, 5 December 2009 : The End of the Liberal Party Cometh

    Facing a Prime Minister [Kevin Rudd] with none of Labor’s traditional suspicions of big business, the Liberal Party risks becoming a downmarket protest party of angry old men and the outer suburbs.

    Achieving responsible and effective policy responses to climate change is a huge political challenge which will only be met if the interests of the planet are put ahead of those of the party. The temptations to run scare campaigns are enormous. Does anyone seriously think Tony Abbott will be able to resist?

    This is the second time that Judith Brett predicted the demise of the Liberal Party. She made an identical false prophecy in 1993.

    The Weekend Australian, 5-6 December 2009, Martin O’Shannessy, Antony Green and Brian Costar Predict Higgins will go to Preferences While Malcolm Mackerras Continues to Predict a Greens Win

    Veteran analyst Malcolm Mackerras has warned that Greens candidate Clive Hamilton will win Higgins, in Melbourne’s well-heeled inner east, in a backlash against Mr Abbott’s election.

    Newspoll chief executive Martin O’Shannessy said he believed the Liberals would hold both seats, neither of which Labor is contesting, but Ms O’Dwyer would be forced to preferences. ABC election analyst Antony Green agreed. “If it went to preferences, the Liberal Party could live with that,” Green told The Weekend Australian. “If they lost the seat it would be an uproar.” Swinburne University professor of political science and Higgins voter Brian Costar also expected the seat to go to preferences.

    In fact Kelly O’Dwyer (Higgins) and Paul Fletcher (Bradfield) obtained absolute majorities and there was a swing to the Liberal Party in Higgins.

    Mark Westfield, Business Spectator, 16 December 2009 : Coalition Will Lose 10-20 Seats Under Tony Abbott

    Under Tony Abbott’s leadership a minority, in effect, is holding the moderate majority hostage. It is an unsustainable situation which will be resolved with a likely heavy defeat of the coalition parties at the next election.

    Internal Liberal polling, and credible public polls like Newspoll, indicate that the Liberal Party could lose up to 20 seats – although 10 is probably more realistic – in the event the Opposition and minor parties again reject the emissions trading scheme legislation in the Senate in February and the Rudd Labor government calls a double dissolution election on the issue of climate change.

    In fact the Opposition did reject the Rudd Government’s emissions trading scheme again and Kevin Rudd decided not to call a double dissolution election for early 2010. Also Tony Abbott had support from a majority of his Liberal Party colleagues and an overwhelming majority of National Party MPs for his opposition to the Rudd Government’s carbon pollution reduction scheme

    In the August 2010 election, the Coalition won seats from Labor.

    correspondence header caps

    Christopher Joyce & Gerard Henderson Go Around Again on David Marr/Tony Abbott/B.A. Santamaria and the NCC Democratic Clubs on University Campuses in the 1960s & 1970s

    This highly popular segment usually works like this. Someone thinks it would be helpful to mankind if he/she writes to Gerard Henderson. And Nancy’s (male) co-owner dutifully replies. The, hey presto, the exchange is published in MWD Like today. Here we go:

    Christopher Joyce to Gerard Henderson – 9 September 2013

    Dear Mr Henderson,

    Thank you for your detailed reply.

    I did not mean to suggest that you were responsible in any way for the media blow up of The Punch. The media preoccupation with the few lines about The Punch has detracted from the expansive report of the general student activities of Tony Abbott contained in the [David] Marr article. You were perhaps, not unreasonably, continuing the preoccupation as well as your on-going passion for journalistic accuracy.

    I was struck when I read the article about how similar was the reported modus operandi of Tony Abbott to that used by the NCC Democratic Club operatives of the late sixties/early seventies. It was though I was reading about NCC supporters that I had actually met. I predate Abbott by almost a decade in student politics and had no knowledge of him until he emerged in national politics. But, the Abbott methods reported by Marr were very similar to those used by his Democratic Club predecessors on campus. Was I wrong to assume that the same tactics were sourced from the same brains trust?

    I am not convinced as you seem to be that these formative years of Tony Abbott can be ignored behind the media beat up of The Punch. The formative years of any political leader are of interest, especially those of a Prime Minister. I would, of course, defer to your detailed research and knowledge of the NCC, Democratic Clubs and B.A. Santamaria. Whether Tony Abbott directly communicated with Santamaria or was merely influenced by him does not seem to have prevented the repetition of the tactics of his Democratic Club predecessors.

    You are correct that there were not many rugger buggers involved in the Democratic Clubs, not in my days at least. As a university rugby player myself, I can assure you that along with engineering and the CMF, the rugby clubs did provide fertile ground for the right-wing of the late sixties on campus. As a smart operator, Tony Abbott would have found his rugby club a great source of the numbers when required. Tony Abbott is not “typical” and not easily put into a box, as the recent government must by now have noted. But, he, like the rest of us, carries the impressions left by our formative years.

    These impressions created during his university activities, and others since then, are worthy of more study than has been given so far.

    Thank you again for the thoughtful reply.

    I will keep reading MWD and take comfort that the frothing style is only that, style, and not a measure of your blood pressure as you type it.

    Yours sincerely,

    Christopher Joyce

    Gerard Henderson to Christopher Joyce – 13 September 2013

    Dear Mr Joyce

    Thanks for your note.

    As you know, I am interested in facts. In your most recent email, you refer to the similarity of the “modus operandi” of Tony Abbott when a student in the mid 1970s – as described by David Marr – and the behaviour of the NCC Democratic Club operatives in the late 1960s/early 1970s – as experienced by you. The problem is that you have not cited any evidence about the “tactics” you condemn. What were the tactics? When were such tactics used? By whom were they used? Names and dates will do – since both can be checked against contemporaneous evidence, if there is any.

    I am not aware that the Democratic Clubs were into violence against persons or property, intimidation, illegal occupations and so on. Yet such tactics were used by quite a few of the left-wing student groups.

    In his Political Animal essay, David Marr wrote that the Democratic Club students were influenced by B.A. Santamaria’s “way”. Marr defined Santamaria’s tactics as “when you haven’t got the numbers, be vicious”. The problem is that David Marr invented this quote. Santamaria never advocated that his supporters be vicious. Marr simply verballed Santamaria.

    I am sure that Tony Abbott was influenced by his formative years. We all were. The fact remains that there is no contemporaneous evidence or independent witnesses to support David Marr’s theory about “The Punch”. And Tony Abbott was found not guilty by a court of law concerning the allegations which were made about him at the Ku-Ring-Gai College of Advanced Education in 1977. As you will be aware from our correspondence, this is the incident concerning which David Marr revised the date in the second edition without advising readers that he had done so and without indicating why he had got the initial date wrong.

    In conclusion, I make a couple of points about the violent tactics of the student left in the 1960s and 1970s – which saw Peter Costello hospitalised following an attack on him at Monash University by a Maoist activist.

    On 27 September 1977 and again on 17 October 1977 Tony Abbott himself wrote to Honi Soit complaining about the abuse and violence of the campus left. This Honi Soit correspondence was not even mentioned in the first edition of Political Animal. Nor did David Marr acknowledge that Barbara Ramjan had written to Honi Soit on two occasions in late 1977 without mentioning “The Punch”. David Marr claims to have been aware of this material but has no explanation as to why he did not refer to it in the first issue of Political Animal.

    In the early 1970s, I was an academic at La Trobe University but had no connection with the La Trobe Democratic Club. In late August 1973 I helped protect South Vietnamese diplomat Luu-Tuong Quang (now Quang Lu A.O. – he was accepted as a refugee in Australia and became head of SBS Radio). Quang was subjected to a violent demonstration by the extreme left at La Trobe University when attempting to deliver a speech. This incident was reported in the mainstream media at the time.

    Following this incident, my home address was publicised by the campus left. Also my office was broken into and some material was stolen. Then, the bolts on my left front wheel were loosened – with the aim of causing a car accident. This was an example of the violence of the campus left against people who disagreed with them. Both matters were reported to La Trobe University authorities. Also the car tampering was reported to the Heidelberg West Police Station. Consequently, there is contemporaneous evidence to support my claims.

    In view of the above matters, I regard it as unprofessional of you to allege – without evidence – that the Democratic Clubs were engaged in improper behaviour on campuses in the 1960s and 1970s while failing to mention the very real violence at the time of the student left.

    That’s about it.

    I await to learn if you have any evidence of any kind to back up your allegation about the improper behaviour of those you call “NCC supporters” on campuses around half a century ago.

    Best wishes

    Gerard Henderson

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

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

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

    – Phillip Adams, via Twitter, 7 May 2013

    “I said publicly once that I thought that Gerard’s views on the ABC came not from his brain but from his spinal cord”

    – Tim Bowden as told to Phillip (“I was a teenage Stalinist”) Adams, Late Night Live, 11 June 2013 – Queen’s Birthday Public Holiday.

    “Gerard Henderson is a crank”

    – David Marr at the 2013 Sydney Writers’ Festival (as reported by Mike Carlton)

    “The great Australian media nutter Gerard [Henderson is an] ungrateful bastard”.

    – Mark Latham, Q&A, 10 June 2013.

    “[Gerard Henderson] is a moral dwarf …Gerard, pull your head in”

    – Professor Sinclair Davidson, 24 April 2013.

    “[Henderson] You are mad. In the 18th century you would have been caged, with the mob invited to poke you with sticks.”

    – Mike Carlton, 5.23 pm (Gin & Tonic Time) 25 March 2013

    “I like to think of Gerard [Henderson] as the Inspector Clouseau of forensic journalism”

    – David Marr, ABC News 24 The Drum, 21 March 2013.

    [Media Watch Dog is] not a moan, more of a miserable dribble”

    – Peter Munro, 21 March 2013

    “You are a fool, Henderson, a malicious and mendacious piece of shit…

    Now F_ck off”

    – Mike Carlton, 11 March 2013 (Hangover Time).

    “[Gerard Henderson is] an internet pest”

    – Dr (for a doctor he is) Jeff Sparrow, 26 February 2013.

    Jonathan Green: “Nancy, will be taking notes, I suspect”

    Michael Rowland: “Nancy…yes. We’ll get a nice write-up on Friday. Good morning as well, Gerard. Thanks for watching, by the way.”

    ABC 1 News Breakfast, 18 October 2012

    “Gerard [Henderson] is a complete f-ckwit”

    – Malcolm Farr, via Twitter, 29 June 2012 (circa pre-dinner drinks)

    “What a haughty flapping half-arsed buffoon he [Henderson] is”

    – Bob Ellis on his Table Talk blog, 8 May 2012 (before breakfast)

    “We’d better be careful what we say, just in case Gerard’s offsider pooch Nancy is keeping an eye on us for his delightfully earnest Media Watch Dog

    – Tom Cowie of The Power Index, Crikey 20 January 2012

    “Henderson…What a pompous, pretentious turd you are.”

    – Mike Carlton, Saturday 13 August 2011 (after lunch)

    “Go to the Sydney Institute Media Watch Dog website to marvel at [its] work”

    – Mark Latham The Spectator Australia 11 June 2011.

    Media Watch Dog – “disgraceful”, “sick”

    Professor Robert Manne, April Fool’s Day 2011.

    “Before going further can you write to confirm that these emails are private correspondence and not for publication”

    – ABC News Radio’s Marius Benson, 11 March 2011. He did go further – see MWD Issue 86.

    “I realise this makes me practically retarded, but until five minutes ago I thought Nancy was Gerard Henderson’s wife, not his dog.”

    Byronbache via Twitter, Monday 7 February 2011

    “Gerard Henderson is big enough to take care of himself, but that doesn’t stop us worrying about him from time to time. Lately it’s Hendo’s tendency to self-harm that has us losing sleep. For example, peruse the correspondence he’s published in his latest Media Watch Dog blog…..There’s a part of us that just wants to ask: “Hendo, are you OK?”

    – James Jeffrey’s “Strewth!” column, The Australian, 8 November 2010.

    Media Watch Dog on Fridays…is a sort of popular read in the Crikey office”

    Crikey’s Andrew Crook on ABC 2 News Breakfast, 24 September 2010.

    Until next time. In the meantime, keep morale high.