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.

    Phil Kafcaloudes & Beverley O’Connor: All At Sea On the Marriage Act

    What a stunning performance by ABC Radio Australia’s Phil Kafcaloudes on the ABC 1 News Breakfast program this morning. Your man was doing the “Newspapers” gig with presenters Beverley O’Connor and Paul Kennedy.

    From Nancy’s perspective, it was a case of the “Maurice Newman Segment” meets “Media Fool of the Week” – both enormously popular segments in Media Watch Dog. How appropriate, then, to combine both segments for MWD’s Bicentennial Issue.

    Previously it has been mentioned that Nancy had not been able to focus on PK’s mind – since she could not take her mind off PK’s hirsute chest – which was evident since he usually forgets to button up his shirt. Since Nancy’s fashionista critique your man Kafcaloudes has taken to buttoning-up his shirt. So now Nancy can focus on his mind.

    Like – this morning. The “Newspapers” segment focused on some issues which are items of faith within the public broadcaster – action on climate change and same sex marriage. No surprise, then, that Beverley O’Connor agreed with Phil K who agreed with Paul Kennedy who agreed with Beverley O’Connor who agreed with Phil K. In other words, Very ABC.

    The highlight occurred when Phil K supported the ACT Labor government’s commitment to introduce same-sex marriage legislation and criticised Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s statement that the Commonwealth Government would examine the proposal. Let’s go to the transcript:

    Phil Kafcaloudes: He [Tony Abbott] talks about gay marriage and this was in his media conference yesterday where he was asked about gay marriage and the bill that was put through in the ACT to allow for gay marriage. And Tony Abbott made a statement saying that: “We will look at that bill and that marriage is a federal responsibility so we will see how far the ACT government go”. That was news to me. Marriage is a federal responsibility? I thought it was a church thing. But, you know.

    Beverly O’Connor: And I thought every law – every state was entitled to have its own rules and regulations but this is obviously something that he [Tony Abbott] feels very strongly about. But you wouldn’t have thought he would intervene to stop it.

    Both Phil Kafcaloudes and Beverley O’Connor were hopelessly wrong. But Paul Kennedy did not correct them – presumably it was one of those ABC discussions where everyone agrees with everyone else.

    These are the facts. Marriage is a Commonwealth responsibility covered by the Marriage Act 1961. It is not a “church thing” – whatever that might mean and the States do not have their own rules and regulations. Valid marriages under the Marriage Act can be entered in or outside of a church. The Commonwealth Government’s authority to enact matrimonial legislation comes from Section 51 (xxi) of the Constitution. Even if the Catholic Church came to support same-sex marriage – such unions would not be recognised while the Marriage Act 1961 remains as it is.

    Perhaps it would be best for all concerned if Phil Kafcaloudes went back to his old habit of giving a free hirsute show in the morning. Then the likes of Nancy would be so fixated on his chest so as not to notice his mind. Just a modest proposal – in this MWD’s Bicentennial Issue.

    Tony Jones Under Water with Tim Flannery

    Did you see the interview with Tim Flannery on Lateline last night? Before Tony Jones spoke to Dr Flannery (for a doctor he is), he foretold that the forthcoming IPCC report “shows sea levels could rise by a metre by the end of the century”.

    Phew. Just a metre, max. Phew, because on Lateline on 6 April 2009 Tony Jones revealed that a Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research report had revealed that “rises in global sea levels could be as much as six metres – six metres – by the end of the century”.

    Which means that, according to the teaching of Tony Jones, anticipated rises in sea levels by the end of the century have come down from an anticipated six metres to an anticipated one metre in just four years. Good news, eh?

    When it came to the interview, Tony Jones did not ask Tim Flannery any tough questions. For example, Tim Flannery made the following Bob Ellis-style prophecy just six years ago in an article published in New Scientist on 16 June 2007.

    Over the past 50 years southern Australia has lost about 20 per cent of its rainfall, and one cause is almost certainly global warming. Similar losses have been experienced in eastern Australia, and although the science is less certain it is probable that global warming is behind these losses too. But by far the most dangerous trend is the decline in the flow of Australian rivers: it has fallen by around 70 per cent in recent decades, so dams no longer fill even when it does rain. Growing evidence suggests that hotter soils, caused directly by global warming, have increased evaporation and transpiration and that the change is permanent.

    Shortly after the particular prophecy the drought broke over large sections of Australia and dams in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne nearly filled or over-filled. Yet, on Lateline last night, Tony Jones declined to ask Dr Flannery to explain any of his false predictions – which might have thrown some light on why the Abbott government junked the Climate Commission and its loquacious but crystal-ball-challenged chairman.

    PVO’s Men’s Shed on Sky News – An Update (With A Twist)

    Once again, Nancy emerged from her kennel at 4 pm last Friday to watch a full two hours of Peter Van Onselen’s The Contrarians – sometimes referred to as “The Testosterones” – on Sky News. It didn’t disappoint. At 4 pm PVO spoke to Rowan Dean, John McTernan and John Wells. Then at 5 pm Adam Creighton replaced John Wells on the all-bloke panel.

    This is the very same PVO who has been bagging Prime Minister Tony Abbott for having only one woman on his Cabinet. PVO’s criticism of Tony Abbott is that the Cabinet should be chosen on talent. PVO’s defence of The Contrarians is that he chooses the (blokey) panel – without reference to talent.

    Can you bear it?

    SMH Obit Re Ex-Stalinist Does Not Mention Uncle Joe

    Yet another one-time member of the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) has departed this earth – without anyone mentioning Uncle Joe Stalin and all that.

    Yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald contains an obituary on Don Syme (1921-2013) by Nolene Walker. There was reference to the fact that the late Don Syme joined the CPA in 1938 and opposed the Soviet Union’s invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 (along with other CPA members). How frightfully interesting.

    However, Nolene Walker made no mention of the fact that Don Syme supported Stalin’s purge trials of the 1930s, the 1939 Nazi-Soviet Pact (which initiated the Second World War), the Red Army’s suppression of Eastern Europe in the 1940s, Stalin’s anti-semitic Doctors’ Plot of 1953 and the Soviet Union’s invasion of Hungary in 1956. Nor did Nolene Walker mention Don Syme’s long-time admiration for such totalitarian dictators as Vladimir Lenin, Josef Stalin and Nikita Khrushchev. Otherwise Don Syme was a really good bloke. Provided no one mentions that he was a member of the Communist Party of Australia which had a plan to kill its political opponents if it came to power.

    Can you bear it?

    The World Today’s Confusion About Tony Abbott’s Political Past

    While Labor’s Paul Keating became prime minister in 1991, the media did not focus much on the fact that he was a Catholic. Not so with Tony Abbott, whose religious belief has become a matter of media obsession – most particularly the ABC.

    This is how the (normally sensible) Eleanor Hall introduced a discussion on Tony Abbott with the (normally sensible) historian Roy Williams on 12 September 2013:

    Eleanor Hall : Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott has been derided as the Mad Monk, and he is one of the most overtly devout political leaders to campaign in recent years – along with, interestingly, his opponent at this election, Kevin Rudd.

    Tony Abbott was never a monk. He trained to be a diocesan (or parish) priest. Tony Abbott is not all that overtly devout – although he is a church attender. Abbott’s religion is very much a private matter – as was Paul Keating’s. Kevin Rudd is the only prime minister in recent memory who has paraded his faith by, for example, holding media conferences outside a church.

    Then it was Roy Williams’ turn to enter the confusion zone:

    Roy Williams : Take the issue of economic policy. My reading of his [Tony Abbott’s] career – he began in the DLP, of course, not in the Liberal Party. His sympathies until then were very much with the Labor Party. In fact, in correspondence with B.A. Santamaria in the mid- to late 1980s, he described the Liberal Party's ethos as “economic Ramboism” and “reptilian”. His sympathies economically are clearly not with the hard heads of the Liberal Party. He's more a social activist than a penny-pinching number cruncher.

    The Democratic Labor Party (DLP), which was formed out of the Labor Party Split of the mid 1950s, effectively went out of operation after the May 1974 double dissolution election and was formally wound up in 1978. Moreover, the DLP never had a significant presence in NSW. Tony Abbott was born in November 1957. In other words, he was 16 years old when the DLP ceased to be a force in Australian politics. Clearly, Abbott did not begin his career in the DLP. B.A. Santamaria in the 1980s did not like either the Coalition or Labor.

    Yet, according to The World Today, Tony Abbott was an overtly devout Catholic who began his political career in the DLP. Can you bear it?

    Meet the Press’s Confusion About Tony Abbott’s Jesuitical Past

    There was discussion on Meet the Press last Sunday about Tony Abbott’s accommodation in Canberra while The Lodge is being renovated. Paul Bongiorno commented that it looked “like a seminary” to him. He seemed to be unaware that Julia Gillard had stayed in the same accommodation for a time when she was prime minister. Let’s go to the transcript:

    Kathryn Robinson: Paul Bongiorno just mentioned it looked like a seminary to him.

    Samantha Maiden: Well it does have possibly some parallels with, I think, St Patrick’s in Manly where Tony Abbott trained as a priest in the 1980s. Is there a touch of Jesuit here, Mr Bongiorno? I don’t know.

    Paul Bongiorno: No, I don’t know, we’ll have to see. It’s certainly abstemious.

    Tony Abbott went to a Jesuit run school. But he did not study to be a Jesuit priest. At St Patrick’s College, Manly, Abbott trained to be a diocesan priest – not a Jesuit priest. In any event, the accommodation in question is part of the secular ACT Police Academy. It has no relationship with Jesuits.

    Can you bear it?

    Due to overwhelming popular demand, this segment returns for MWD’s Bicentennial Issue. And the winners are:

    Michael Kroger Nails Tony Jones: Clive Palmer Lover

    Michael Kroger made his inaugural appearance on Q&A on Monday 9 September 2013 – just after the election. Discussion turned on the possibility that Clive Palmer, leader of the Palmer United Party, might win a seat in the House of Representatives. Let’s go to the transcript:

    Tony Jones : Let me go to Michael Kroger on this and we are talking about someone who, during the course of the campaign, accused Wendi Deng of being a Chinese spy, among other things. I mean, can you imagine what he will do with parliamentary privilege?

    Michael Kroger : …But, Tony, you know, you’ve missed the biggest point, which is you launched his career. You launched his career.

    Tony Jones : That's a bit harsh.

    Michael Kroger : Those people who have seen Clive interviewed by Tony Jones on Lateline, he describes you as the best interviewer in Australia.

    Tony Jones : I take no credit for his opinions, good or bad.

    Maybe not. However, Michael Kroger was correct. Tony Jones launched Clive Palmer’s political career on the ABC. Mr Palmer was the star talent on Lateline on 25 April 2013 (when he launched his new party) and again on 20 June 2013 and again on 27 August 2013.

    The first two interviews were conducted by Tony Jones and the third by Emma Alberici. At the end of the first interview, Jones said to Palmer: “You may have changed the nature of politics in Queensland for sure and perhaps around the country.” At the end of the second interview, Palmer said to Jones: “You're the greatest journalist in Australia. God Bless you.”

    No other fledgling political party has received such promotion on the taxpayer funded public broadcaster.

    Michael Kroger: Five Paws

    Cathy Alexander Nails Kerry O’Brien: Tony Abbott Hater

    Crikey’s Cathy Alexander seems to have been the only journalist to report the appearance of ABC TV Four Corners presenter Kerry O’Brien at the taxpayer subsidised Wheeler Centre in Melbourne last Tuesday.

    Red Kerry appeared as part of The Fifth Estate series which is presented by Sally Warhaft. The Wheeler Centre, in full fawning mode, described Kerry O’Brien as “beloved”, “revered”, “most distinguished” discount diflucan and “most respected”. That’s all, folks. It claimed that Kerry O’Brien “has been a journalist for 46 years” but made no reference to his time as a Labor political staffer working for Gough Whitlam and Lionel Bowen. How convenient.

    According to Cathy Alexander, the ABC presenter told his Wheeler Centre audience that he was giving(voicing) his own views – not those of the ABC. Red Kerry then proceeded to bag Tony Abbott as negative and defensive and condemned the nature of modern politics – which he depicted as having a “mindless obsession with control”.

    Red Kerry also expressed his disappointment with Labor Party leadership contenders Anthony Albanese and Bill Shorten but not with Bob Brown or Christine Milne. Red Kerry also bagged The Australian’s Chris Kenny for criticising the ABC “boringly”. It seems that Red Kerry believes he and his mates at the ABC should be spared criticism while they proceed to criticise others.

    Oh for the days when Red Kerry worked for Leader Gough – around the time that Mr Whitlam secretly sought funds from Iraq – via, believe it or not, your man Saddam Hussein – to fund Labor’s 1975 election campaign.

    Ms Alexander reported the responses of the Luvvies at the taxpayer subsidised Wheeler Centre to the Wisdom of Red Kerry following his criticisms of Tony Abbott and the Coalition:

    The man known to some as Red Kerry was cheered by the adoring Melbourne audience, largely comprised of women of a certain age. His criticism of the Coalition was well-received, leading him to joke: “was there a filter at the door?”

    No. Not at all. It’s just that the leftist Luvvies will always flock to a taxpayer subsidised centre to worship at the feet of a Four Corners presenter.

    Cathy Alexander: Five Paws

    Soon after his appointment as ABC managing director and editor-in-chief, Mark Scott addressed The Sydney Institute in October 2006. His promises included a commitment to face up to criticism of the public broadcaster and to provide for a “further diversity of voices” on the ABC. Almost seven years later, Mark Scott has become very sensitive to criticism of the ABC. Moreover, the taxpayer funded broadcaster still does not have one conservative presenter or producer or editor for any of its main TV or radio or online outlets. In short, the ABC remains a Conservative-Free-Zone without a diversity of voices but with an ongoing sensitivity to criticism.

    Fortunately, Nice Mr Scott still has an oh-so-nice relationship with The Sydney Institute. This week – in order to celebrate the Bicentenary Issue of MWD – he agreed to do an interview with Nancy. [Don’t you mean that nice Mr Scott gave generously of his time? – Ed]. Here it is.

    * * * * *

    Nancy Enters the ABC’s Conservative-Free-Zone

    Nancy: Thanks for giving so generously of your time. As ABC managing director and editor-in-chief, how is the public broadcaster going since you avoided a severance package at Fairfax Media just seven years ago and found life-time rewards at the taxpayer funded public broadcaster?

    Nice Mr Scott: Brilliantly. Absolutely brilliantly. Excuse me a moment I just have to send out this tweet:

    Mark Scott@abcmarkscott 20 Sep Chaser Boys brilliant last week. Nailed Chris Kenny as dogf-cker. About time.

    Pardon me, Nancy. What was your question again?

    Nancy: I was asking you about the ABC’s performance. I note that you are the organisation’s first managing director to act as its spruiker-in-chief. In fact, I’m a big fan of your tweets about how wonderful you and your team are. I am constantly re-tweeting them to my mates Inky, Luke and Leia.

    Nice Mr Scott : Well someone’s got to do it. As I told the ABC’s Comrade Jonathan Green on ABC Radio National the day after May Day this year, all the critics of the ABC are “absolutely simplistic”. Every one of them. Especially your (male) co-owner – whom I have outed as a simpleton.

    Nancy: Is this the very same Comrade Green who used the word “we” on Radio National Sunday Extra when he referred to the Labor Party on the Sunday after the election.

    Nice Mr Scott: No. Yes. I’m sure that Comrade Green was using the royal plural as in – “We are not amused” – on the morning after Labor’s defeat of the night before. What’s wrong with the royal plural among friends?

    Nancy: Perhaps Comrade Green meant to say “We are not amused – at Labor’s loss.” That’s possible, isn’t it?

    Nice Mr Scott: Don’t be absolutely simplistic. Comrade Green was just channelling Comrade Kerry O’Brien – who, on election nights, was wont to refer to Labor as “we”. It’s just the ABC’s election night script.

    Nancy: But wasn’t that because Red Kerry once worked for Gough Whitlam?

    Nice Mr Scott: Absolutely simplistic. Red Kerry has to vote for someone. Why not vote Labor? But Red Kerry’s views on politics have nothing to do with the views he expresses on ABC TV on politics. Nothing at all – only simpletons would think otherwise.

    Nancy: How could this be? Aren’t we influenced by our beliefs?

    Nice Mr Scott: As far as psychoanalysis goes, that’s absolutely simplistic. As absolutely simplistic as an absolutely simplistic editorial in that absolutely simplistic newspaper The Australian. I used to work for Terry Metherell in Nick Greiner’s Coalition government in NSW. Does that make me Liberal?

    Nancy: Er, no. As I recall, Tony Metherell was a counterproductive education minister who did much to destroy the Greiner government due to his sheer hopelessness. Dr Metherell (for a doctor he is) even managed to make the Bolsheviks at the NSW Teachers’ Federation popular while upsetting the Catholics. Quite an achievement when you think about it. I remember that a Catholic school principal called Dr M. “astonishingly rude, arrogant and ill-mannered”.

    Nice Mr Scott: Of all the criticisms I’ve heard of Dr Metherell, that’s the most absolutely simplistic – by far. Also, it is very unkind to a servant of the people who discarded his kaftan and sandals to become a leading member of the Liberal Party’s left-wing. Terry Metherell was a truly terrific minister who made an enormous contribution to the good people of New South Wales. It was due to him that I was inspired to write my one (and only) seminal tome. It’s titled The Sydney Morning Herald Guide to Schools and is still available at book discount/remainder stores everywhere. I proudly cite it in my Who’s Who in Australia entry. It’s as important to me as my Masters of Public Administration from Harvard, which was kindly supported by Fairfax Media shareholders.

    Nancy: I still want to follow up on Dr Metherell. But, first, tell me what you learnt at Harvard.

    Nice Mr Scott : Well, let me put it this way. I learnt management speak at Harvard. Like the term “market failure broadcaster”. The first time I used this, I said that the ABC was a market failure broadcaster – meaning that the ABC moves into areas where the commercial media has failed. The second time I used this term, I said that the ABC was not a market failure broadcaster – meaning that the ABC does not intrude into areas where the commercial media has failed. You learn such skills during the MPubAdmin at Harvard.

    Nancy: Anything else?

    Nice Mr Scott : Well, yes. I learnt the need to have a business model.

    Nancy: After avoiding severance at Fairfax Media, what use did you make of your business modelling skills at the ABC?

    Nice Mr Scott : It’s all about suitcases. Big suitcases. Harvard taught me that, when heading off to Canberra in search of taxpayers’ money, take as big a suitcase as possible in case the government wants to hand out more cash than you expect. It worked with Stephen Conroy. He kept giving the ABC money. So much so that, with my successful business model in place, I can look down on the commercial media and sneer at their business models.

    Nancy : How frightfully interesting. Returning to Dr Metherell. Name one thing useful he did.

    Nice Mr Scott: Terry Metherell was a real trail-blazer in the Liberal Party. A real trail-blazer. For example, he was the first – and so far only – Liberal Party politician to resign from the Liberal Party, without notice, during an interview on the ABC’s 7.30 Report. As to being useful – well, Dr Metherell used to swim naked in the Parliament House pool at night.

    Nancy: Why would the NSW Minister for Education need to do this?

    Nice Mr Scott: Pardon me if I say this. But that’s an absolutely simplistic question. By swimming naked, Dr Metherell got closer to his electorate. And to God. It’s a pity that more politicians don’t see the need for such communal experience. If the ABC had a pool, I would be the first to dive in starkers. The only stipulation I would place on such an occasion would be to ensure that The Australian’s Chris Kenny didn’t jump in after me. An ABC managing director has to preserve a certain dignity, don’t you think? Hang on a minute while I send this to my brand-new bestie (I hope) – Senator Eric Abetz.

    Mark Scott@abcmarkscott @SenatorAbetz 20 Sep Great result. Hope no hard feelings. Any chance of Mad Monk funding pool at Sandalista Central Ultimo?

    Nancy: I suppose you are right about Dr Metherell. I never thought of it that way before. And, of course, I also swim naked. I see that the ABC seems a bit obsessed with nudity of late. I note that the Chaser “Boys” (Average Age 371/2) depicted Chris Kenny with his dacks down rooting a dog last week on The Hampster Wheel. Is this the best way for the ABC to handle its critics?

    Nice Mr Scott: I think so. When I became ABC managing director I also inherited the title of Trespasser-in-Chief. Then I used to authorise the trespass by the Chaser “Boys” on to private property. Now their work is mostly in-studio. So I defend them in other ways – including any decision Julian Morrow et al take to brand Chris Kenny as a dog f-cker. Sure, it’s not an absolutely accurate description. But Kenny is absolutely simplistic – and he had it coming. In any event, Jennifer Collins – my Head of Entertainment, ABC Television – cleared The Chaser “Boys”. She said that The Hampster Wheel is satire and boundary-pushing. If you are going to push boundaries, why not start with the absolutely simplistic Chris Kenny?

    Also, as your (male) co-owner has recognised, I don’t really run the ABC. Nobody does. It works a bit like a commune except that everyone is dressed – unlike Dr Metherell at swim. And, as it happens, Ms Collins is the ABC’s Comedy Czar. If she says something is satire – then it is satire and we all LOL together. No laughing matter, such a decision. Also, it gets me off the hook. What’s more, some of my best friends are dog f-ckers – even if I would not want my own hound to marry one.

    Nancy: I’m very grateful that you have given so generously of your time. Finally, what about my (male) co-owner’s claim that the ABC is Conservative-Free-Zone?

    Nice Mr Scott: Absolutely simplistic, if you don’t mind my saying so. Nothing can be further from the truth. We had a communal love-in at our Ultimo headquarters recently for some of our presenters. Sure Phillip Adams agreed with Fran Kelly who agreed with Waleed Aly who agreed with Jonathan Green who agreed with Emma Alberici who agreed with Tony Jones who agreed with Geraldine Doogue who agreed with Kerry O’Brien who agreed with Julian Morrow who agreed with Virginia Trioli who agreed with Chip Rolley who agreed with Stephen Long who agreed with Paul Bongiorno who agreed with Jon Faine who agreed with Linda Mottram who agreed with Adam Spencer who agreed with Phillip Adams. Or was it the other way around?

    But I wouldn’t describe this gathering at the ABC Luvvies’ commune as a Conservative-Free-Zone. Not at all. The tea-lady was certainly a conservative – after all she provided the conservative scones and raspberry jam for our conservative tea-party (I mean, our soy-latte party). And so was the AV man, whose favourite power-point colour is the uber-conservative royal blue. Enough said. And, come to think of it, the transgender operative, who handed out the ABC’s stress-leave application forms, looked pretty conservative to me. Why else wear a jacket and tie?

    Nancy: You’ve been most generous with your time. One final question. Any chance of putting one conservative in one prominent ABC outlet – television or radio or online? Just one?

    Nice Mr Scott : I would like to answer your absolutely simplistic question but I must go now. Immediately. I have to send an urgent tweet. Good day to you.

    Mark Scott@abcmarkscott 20 Sep Brilliant ABC. Noone spends taxpayer money better. Critics absolutely simplistic, not worth a dog’s biscuit. Chris Kenny eat your heart out.

    Mark Latham: Back In the ABC’s Dentist Chair – Did He Do It For The Mullah?

    This segment takes its title from the chorus line in As Time Goes By – which was popularised in the film Casablanca. The aim of “You Must Remember This” is to remind readers that what someone says today is not always what they said yesterday.

    How wonderful to see Mark Latham back on Q&A last Monday. The Lair of Liverpool was a late addition on a panel which was a Conservative-Free-Zone. Like the ABC itself.

    Writing in his (then) column in The Spectator Australia on 13 August 2011, Mark Latham declared that he would never appear on Q&A – a fate he described as equivalent to voluntarily sitting in a dentist’s chair. Then, the Lair of Liverpool maintained that those who appeared on MWD were masochistic media tarts seeking an hour of self-flagellation. And he described Q&A viewers, who were willing to watch such a spectacle, as political tragics.

    That was then. Mark Latham did appear on Q&A on 10 June 2013. Asked why he had broken his promise, the Lair of Liverpool said he had only turned up to make Gerard Henderson happy since Nancy’s male co-owner had confessed to suffering Latham Deprivation Syndrome. He concluded: “I am in the dentist’s chair for Gerard's sake – not that that ungrateful bastard appreciates it, of course.

    But what explains Mark Latham’s second venture into the Q&A dentist’s chair in just 3 months? Sadly he wasn’t asked by Tony Jones or any of the audience. MWD will follow up and let readers know how we go.

    [Perhaps the Lair of Liverpool is one of those privileged few who receive a fee for appearing on Q&A. I understand that Mr Latham is struggling to get by on his lousy taxpayer funded superannuation hand-out of a mere $78,000 per year (fully indexed). Especially since he has a wife, three kids, a horse and half a dozen bookmakers to support. He may need a financial boost per courtesy of the taxpayer funded public broadcaster. Just a thought – Ed].

    correspondence header caps

    This hugely popular segment of MWD tends to work like this. Someone thinks it is a you-beaut idea to send a missive to Gerard Henderson. And Nancy’s (male) co-owner comes to believe that it is in the public interest that he respond. Then, lo and behold, the correspondence is published in MWD – sometimes to the surprise of the correspondent.

    In MWD’s Bicentennial Issue, Michael Brull writes to Gerard Henderson in defence of ABC Radio National Drive presenter Waleed Aly and in criticism of Israel’s (alleged) actions in Gaza in 2008. And Gerard Henderson replied. Also Christopher Joyce writes again to Gerard Henderson about Tony Abbott/B.A. Santamaria/David Marr/NCC Democratic Clubs circa 1968-1978 and all that. And Gerard Henderson replies. Here we go:


    Michael Brull to Gerard Henderson 13 September 2013

    Dear Mr Henderson,

    In your latest Media Watch Dog (Issue 199), you wrote:

    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.

    Do you consider white phosphorous a chemical weapon? If not, can you explain why not? Perhaps you are simply aware of no evidence. I will simply provide two sources you might consider. [The references were to Amnesty International News 19 January 2009 and The Guardian 26 March 2009].

    I look forward to you explaining in your next MWD (Issue 200) why white phosphorous is not a chemical weapon, why Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reports both constitute no evidence, or apologising for your careless writings.

    Best wishes
    Michael Brull

    Gerard Henderson to Michael Brull – 17 September 2013

    Dear Mr Brull

    I refer to your email which I received at 10.21 pm on Friday 13 September 2013 – not long after the publication of Media Watch Dog Issue 199. You objected to that part of MWD Issue 199 where I wrote:

    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.

    I stand by everything I wrote in last week’s MWD concerning Waleed Aly and the (false) comment which he made on Radio National Drive on 11 September 2013. I note that Mr Aly has not complained about what I wrote. Moreover, I understand that Mr Aly has declined to enter into correspondence on this issue.

    The fact is that there is no evidence that the United States used chemical weapons in Falujah in 2004 or that Israel used chemical weapons in Gaza in 2008. I note that the two sources cited in your email do not, in fact, refer to chemical weapons.

    It appears that Waleed Aly got his information from Nabila Ramdani’s article in The Guardian on 1 September 2013. Ms Ramdani claimed that white phosphorus, used by the Israeli Defence Force in Gaza in 2008, was a chemical weapon. Subsequently, on 10 September 2013, Nabila Ramdani issued a grudging correction which read as follows:

    The original [article] said that white phosphorus, used by Israeli forces in Gaza in 2008, was a chemical weapon. It is not classed as such by the Chemical Weapons Convention, and its use is in itself not – as the piece claimed – “in breach of all international conventions”.

    As you should be aware, white phosphorus is primarily used in war as a smoke screen to cover troop movements and as a flare to illuminate targets. White phosphorus is not listed as a chemical weapon in the Chemical Weapons Convention. Moreover, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) does not list white phosphorus as a chemical weapon. According to the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), white phosphorus is neither a toxic chemical nor a precursor to a toxic chemical. In other words, Waleed Aly’s claims on RN Drive were totally false.

    I note the increasing tendency of leftists – like you – to call for others to apologise about something or other.

    In response to your question, I will not be apologising to Waleed Aly. For the obvious reason that my comment was correct. Contrary to Mr Aly’s claim, there is no evidence that Israel used chemical weapons in Gaza in 2008 or that the US used chemical weapons in Iraq in 2004.

    In view of your fondness for apologies, I make a few modest proposals. First, you should apologise for accusing me of ignorance and/or deceit with respect to Waleed Aly. Second, Waleed Aly should apologise to his RN Drive listeners for falsely claiming that Israel and the US have used chemical weapons in 2008 and 2004 respectively.

    Over to you.

    Gerard Henderson


    On 17 September 2013, Michael Brull sent a long email to Gerard Henderson justifying his position. However, towards the end of his email, Michael Brull wrote: “It is true that…white phosphorus is not a chemical weapon” – and acknowledged that it is not considered a chemical weapon under existing international law. However, he went on to prophesise that it might be classified as one in the future – but provided no evidence in support of his hypothesis. Waleed Aly has not corrected his error. MWD understands that he has declined to enter into correspondence about this issue. How very ABC.


    Christopher Joyce to Gerard Henderson – 13 September 2013

    Dear Mr Henderson,

    I am leaving tomorrow for an overseas trip. I will check some old files upon my return I would not risk quoting names and dates to a professional historian such as yourself. I am merely a small businessman with a memory, occasionally faded.

    My student activity peaked in 1970/71. The mad, and violent, left were around in these years but their activities became more vociferous, aggressive and domineering later in the 1970s. Student leaders of my era were certainly left of centre, but not mad left. They included several who rose to office within government for Labour but also included Peter Collins, a subsequent Leader of the NSW Liberal Party and Chris Sidoti, then President of the Sydney University Liberal Club and a subsequent advocate for human rights. I myself was described in Newsweekly as a moderating influence on the AUS Executive of the day.

    I would dispute your implication, for my era at least, that the violent actions of the loony, and sometime violent, left can be used to discredit all of the left. Violence in my era came as much from the Liberal and National Party state run police departments as from the loony left. The vicious attack by police and their horses at Olympic Park before the Springbok match in 1971 is seared in my memory. I do not need to check files for that date and place. That “the right” practiced such violence does not justify violence by “the left” and vice versa.

    The evidence for The Punch is a “she said/he said” argument. The focus on it suggests someone is trying to use the lack of hard evidence for The Punch to avoid discussing the other aspects of the article. There has been little space for discussion on the homophobia attitudes and attitudes to women alleged of Tony Abbott. To me these are very significant comments on the formative years of the Prime Minister of Australia.

    The similarity of the tactics that struck me were the negativity and obstructionism of the Democratic Clubs. They never had the support of the student bodies to actually win an argument on its merits so the tactic was to create doubt and fear. This is a method well used by Mr Abbott, most successfully, over the last three years. The similarity of the implementation methods of the negativity and obstructionism was almost identical to my memory of the Democratic Clubs implementation methods in my era. The similarity suggested to me that that the tactics, almost a decade apart, were coming from a common source, not the new thought bubbles of 18 to 20 year olds.

    I do not recollect any of the Democratic Club operatives, of my era, advocating or using violence either overtly or covertly. I have not, and do not, claim or suggest this.

    It is unprofessional of you to allege that I accused the NCC supporters (a perfectly fair description of Democratic Club members of the time) of “improper” behaviour. I did no such thing. The “improper” tag is a cheap straw man diversion – Gerard Henderson can usually mount a better argument than setting up straw men. My experience of them was that they had a barrow to push and they pushed it hard, as did, and does, Mr Abbott. It could be also said that I was not a shrinking violet in expressing my views, then or now. I did not “condemn” their tactics, I noted the similarities. Barrow pushing is not improper, it is what makes our democracy go round.

    I look forward to continuing this discussion on my return.

    Yours sincerely

    Christopher Joyce

    Christopher Joyce to Gerard Henderson – 13 September 2013

    Dear Mr Henderson,

    I have read MWD this evening after writing this reply. Whilst being unaware that “letters to MWD” were subject to publication, I have no objection to being published, either the correspondence you have published already or the two emails today.

    I look forward to my reply earlier today being published. I particularly look forward to your comments on:

    1. Gerard Henderson stooping to setting up straw men – I did not accuse the Democratic Club members of my era of “improper” behaviour.
    2. A full discussion on the homophobia attitudes and attitudes to women alleged of Tony Abbott in the original article rather than more trivia on The Punch.

    Yours sincerely

    Christopher Joyce

    Gerard Henderson to Christopher Joyce – 20 September 2013

    Dear Mr Joyce

    I refer to your two emails of last Friday. In response, I make a few comments.

    ▪ You state that you did not accuse National Civic Council affiliated Democratic Club members of your era of engaging in improper behaviour. However, in your email of 30 August 2013, you accused Democratic Club member Tony Abbott of engaging in “aggressive behaviour in his formative days”. That sounds improper to me.

    ▪ You now state that “you do not recollect any of the Democratic Club operatives” of your era “advocating or using violence either overtly or covertly”. However, in your general defence of David Marr’s Political Animal: The Making of Tony Abbott, you overlook the fact that Marr asserted that the Democratic Clubs in the 1970s were “extreme: as far to the right as the Maoist and Trotskyists on campus were to the left”. This comment is totally false. Many of the self-declared Maoists and Trotskyists at the time advocated revolution and engaged in violence. The Democratic Clubs did not advocate revolution or engage in violence against people or property. Marr also accused Democratic Clubs of “rough-house tactics” and “wrecking” and accepted without question the left-wing Honi Soit’s assertion that the Democratic Clubs were into “politically motivated violence”.

    ▪ You state that “violence” in your era “came as much from the Liberal and National Party state run police departments as from the loony left”. This is an interesting theory. But it has nothing to do with the activities of the Democratic Clubs on the various university campuses or the (alleged) role of the late B.A. Santamaria as the (alleged) “source” of their activities.

    ▪ You refer to “the lack of hard evidence for ‘The Punch’” and describe the event as “trivia”. You also assert that “someone” is trying to use the (alleged) incident “to avoid discussing the other aspects” of David Marr’s essay. This overlooks the fact that it was David Marr who raised the issue of the alleged “Punch”. Moreover, it was Marr-friendly commentators who used the alleged incident to accuse Tony Abbott of “savagery” (pace Geraldine Doogue) and an act of “intimidation” (pace Robert Manne).

    ▪ The Democratic Clubs may, or may not, have been negative. But, even if they were, this has nothing to do with the modern Liberal Party. It is true that, in time, Tony Abbott – against B.A. Santamaria’s advice – became a Liberal Party MP. It is also true that Chris Curtis became an active member of the Labor Party. By the way, Quarterly Essay refused to publish Chris Curtis’s critique of Political Animal – in order to protect David Marr.

    In conclusion, I make the point that it is not my role to comment on David Marr’s various implied allegations of Tony Abbott’s (alleged) homophobia and (alleged) misogyny of close to four decades ago. The fact is that David Marr has given credence to an allegation concerning which there are neither independent witnesses nor contemporaneous evidence and concerning which he has altered dates without notification or explanation.

    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.