GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG – ISSUE NO. 202
4 October 2013
The inaugural issue of “Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch” was published in April 1988 – over a year before the first edition of the ABC TV Media Watch program went to air. Since November 1997 “Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch” has been published as part of The Sydney Institute Quarterly. In 2009 Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch Dog blog commenced publication.
- Can You Bear It? Peter FitzSimons and Christian Schools; More Confusion in PVO’s Men’s Shed; Paul Bongiorno’s Anti-Abbott Rant
Just imagine the cynicism if, say, Rupert Murdoch consented to a long and uncritical interview in News Corp’s the Daily Telegraph or the Herald Sun. Among the Sandalista class, it would be LOL time.
But when ABC managing director Mark Scott gets interviewed by an ABC employee (full-time or casual) on the ABC, he is taken very seriously indeed and there is no suggestion of special pleading.
Interviewed by Sally Warhaft on ABC Radio 774 in Melbourne this morning, Mark Scott used his full 25 minutes to praise the ABC and/or defend its decisions. He supported the Audience & Consumer Affairs outfit to do what it usually does – that is, dismissing criticism of the ABC. This time A&CA cleared the Chaser Boys (Average Age 371/2) over their use of porno-politics to ridicule ABC critic Chris Kenny. See MWD passim. As MWD has constantly opined, it is a waste of time for ABC consumers to complain to ABC Audience & Consumer Affairs since overwhelmingly its bureaucrats support ABC management’s decisions.
Mr Scott told Ms Warhaft that he thought that the Chaser sketch was “tasteless and undergraduate”. In other words, don’t blame the ABC’s managing director for what the taxpayer funded broadcaster puts to air or what it defends as suitable for airing. Mr Scott heads a leftist collective where nobody seems willing to make tough decisions or enforce editorial standards. Mark Scott is the ABC’s managing director but management does not run the ABC.
As was to be expected, Dr Warhaft’s first question to Mr Scott turned on whether the ABC had sufficient funds and whether Tony Abbott’s government might take money away from the public broadcaster. Mr Scott assured viewers that everything would be okay. In other words, business as usual at the taxpayer funded Conservative-Free-Zone, which does not employ one conservative presenter or producer or editor on any of its main television or radio or on-line outlets.
Mark Scott also declared that the ABC had had a terrific 2013 election coverage. No one mentioned that the ABC was excluded from hosting all of the three Leaders’ Debates – where Sky News’ David Speers was the presenter. The ABC has never previously been excluded in this way from a key political event in Australia. But Dr Warhaft did not see the point in raising this issue and Mr Scott did not see any reason to refer to the matter since it would have diminished his established “everything is okay” view of the ABC.
THE GUARDIAN – WAITING FOR SOMETHING TO TURN UP: BUT IT’S OFFICIAL – NOTHING HAS
The word from London is that Andrew Miller, chief executive of The Guardian, has confessed that the left-wing newspaper cannot survive in its present form. The Guardian currently loses tens of millions of British pounds each year. Put simply, The Guardian editor Alan Rushbridger produces an expensive product and then gives away its content on the web. Here The Guardian competes with the BBC – which also dumps news and opinion for free, as does the ABC in Australia.
It was only a couple of years ago that Mr Rushbridger was idolised in Australia when he delivered the 2010 Andrew Olle Lecture. Then he maintained that life would be fine for The Guardian – just as soon as it worked out how to “monetise” its product. Meaning, make money. It hasn’t been able to do so. Alan Rushbridger’s business plan – which amounts to waiting for something to turn up – is clearly a dud.
LOTSA LOLs WITH DR ANNE SUMMERS
There was many a doctor in the (Opera) House in Sydney last Monday when the inaugural In Conversation With Anne Summers gig took place with – former prime minister Julia Gillard as special guest.
The show (“Running time 90 minutes; no interval”) had Fifth Quadrant as the official event partner. The occasion was introduced by Fifth Quadrant’s CEO Catriona Wallace. She told the Sydney Opera House audience that her name was “Catriona Wallace”. Fair enough.
But when the show moved to Melbourne the following night for an encore at the Melbourne Town Hall, the self-declared “emcee” [sic] introduced herself as “Dr Catriona Wallace”. Fair enough – for a doctor she is, as the saying goes. But why the change of nomenclature? Could it be that the electorate of Melbourne – sitting member Greens MP Dr Adam Bandt AM (as in “Antiquated Marxist”) – you need a doctorate to be noticed.
ABC News 24 claimed exclusive rights for the Sydney Opera House event. It turned out to be an occasion for Fifth Quadrant to advertise its wares on the advertisement-free ABC. [Interesting. I wonder if Nice Mr Scott will address this matter in between his intellectually stimulating tweets on the number of cranes on the Ultimo skyline? – Ed].
Later on Dr Summers (for a doctor she is – in both Sydney and Melbourne) used the occasion to flog her digital magazine Anne Summers Reports on the advertisement-free ABC. Seats were selling at between $50 and $60 with a $40 concession rate. Total attendance at both functions was around 4500. Seldom in the history of Australia have so many sandal-wearers paid so much to hear so little that was new.
Julia Gillard performed well in both Sydney and Melbourne – as she invariably does in front of supportive audiences. The former PM received an SO at the SOH – along with another Standing Ovation at the Melbourne Town Hall. It was a case of spiritual gathering (in a secular kind of way) meets Sydney Writers Festival/Melbourne Writers Festival in front of the Sandalista set.
In MWD’s judgement, these were the highlights of the inaugural In Conversation with Anne Summers series.
● At the Sydney Opera House there was no mention of Julia Gillard’s broken promise – when, in February 2011, she announced that there really would be a carbon tax under the government she led. It was after February 2011 that Labor’s primary support in the opinion polls began to decline – a move which Ms Gillard was unable to stop during her remaining time as prime minister. You see, a focus on broken promises would have taken the focus off misogyny and sexism and all that stuff. So the matter was not on the agenda in Sydney.
● At the Melbourne Town Hall Dr Wallace’s introduction took around two minutes. It was followed by an eight minute long “Welcome to Country” by Margaret Gardiner who spoke more about herself than her country. Since Ms Gardiner’s welcome deprived the paying audience of Gillard/Summers time, it seemed that her address took around as long as the First Fleet’s journey from Portsmouth to Botany Bay in the late 18th Century.
● And then there was the SUMMERS LAUGH. Some of Julia Gillard’s responses were amusing – but that was about it. Yet Dr Summers laughed loud and long at many questions. And then she laughed at the many answers. And then she appeared on occasions to laugh at the gaps between the questions and the answers. Dr Summers even laughed when Gillard was presented with flowers by young girls towards the end of the conversation in Sydney. What a hoot.
Nancy is deaf and she slept through the Summers LOL experience at the Sydney Opera House as covered by ABC News 24. But the Summers LOL experience was even louder at the Melbourne Town Hall which was covered by Sky News. So Nancy awoke – as she does whenever a trumpet is loudly blown down her left ear. If you doubt this story, have a listen to the recording of a compilation of the best of Dr Summers’ loudest LOL moments in Melbourne last Tuesday. Brought to you exclusively by MWD. Hear Summers LOL here.[Perhaps you should warn MWD readers about possible hearing damage and recommend the use of ear-plugs. Just a thought for OHS purposes, of course. – Ed]
MIKE (“I’LL POUR THE GIN”) CARLTON STEPS UP ON TONY ABBOTT
– Mike Carlton On Why Tony Abbott Should Be Given Time to Prove Himself as PM – 21 September 2013
Here is an olive branch: it would be a good idea to give Tony Abbott some time to prove himself as prime minister. No, this is not satire. Nor have I gone soft in the head. As I have written, he won the job in an unprincipled campaign of deceit and low cunning. I still believe he is unfit for the office. But history shows that the prime ministership can sometimes have transformative powers, elevating those who attain it…. It seems only reasonable to wait and see what Abbott makes of it. Or it of him.
– Mike Carlton on Why Tony Abbott Has Run Out of Time to Prove Himself As PM – 28 September 2013
Now you see him, now you don’t. A month ago you couldn’t switch on your TV without Tony Abbott leaping out at you in a hi-vis vest or crotch-grabbing bike shorts, making that strangled braying noise that passes for laughter. HA HA HA HA.
That was campaign mode. There were fish to be filleted, snags to be barbecued, forklift trucks to be driven, babies to be kissed, daughters to be displayed as living proof that he ”gets” women. But now that he’s Prime Minister, Abbott is nowhere to be seen. He’s gone. Disappeared. Vanished from the face of the earth, for all we know. It’s very odd.
Mike Carlton went on to criticise Tony Abbott’s position on indigenous matters, the economy and asylum seekers – after just over week in office. He also blamed Treasurer Joe Hockey for borrowing $2.6 billion to pay for expenditure commitments which the Treasurer inherited on 18 September 2013. How about that?
Well, Mike (“I’ll Pour the Gin”) Carlton may be somewhat inconsistent on some matters. However, at least he keeps to a certain standard on other issues. In his 21 September 2013 piece, Carlton referred to Kevin Andrews as a “Brylcreemed Dolt” and to Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells as a “batty right-winger”. In Carlton’s 28 September 2013 piece, Scott Morrison was described as “oozing triumph and hypocrisy in equal measure from every pore”. Which means that the Carlton Abuse Meter remains at a High Level.
MWD just loved the poem which Bob Ellis (aka The False Prophet of Palm Beach, aka The Sage of Palm Beach) posted on his blog on Tuesday titled “The October Primates Poem” (see here). Apparently the poem took many drafts to perfect. When sniffing around Palm Beach over the weekend, Nancy came across an earlier version of “The October Primates Poem” – in a rubbish-bin outside the False Prophet’s abode. Along with many an empty whiskey bottle and a number of discarded lolly-bags.
The first version of this Bob Ellis epic contained references to the Catholic activist B.A. Santamaria (1915-1998), the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney George Pell and to Tony Abbott’s time as a Catholic seminarian at St Patrick’s College, Manly.
MWD’s view is that the version discovered by Nancy is more artistic than Bob Ellis’s final version. So it is published below for posterity – and, perhaps, prosperity.
Discarded First Draft of “Primates Poem” in Palm Beach Garbage-Bin
Found Sage’s First Draft Among Empty Bottles
Attend the rise of my “friend” Tony
I always said he was a phoney
He showed voters a hairy chest
And the fools all said “he’s the best”.
At Palm Beach I do many a prediction
And declare them on a blog with diction
So I foretold Labor by landslide
While sitting here upon my backside
Sure I stuffed it up this time
Perhaps by drinking too much wine
In my haze, I backed young Kevin
To lead us lefties into heaven
But the Mad Monk’s now at Kirribilli
Making my prophecy look so silly
God, I’m stuck with Bill and Albo
While supporting myself with bended elbow
Abbott is a sitting duck
Destined to run out of luck
Part Pell, part Santa and all that junk
Soon voters will learn it’s complete bunk
So down with Pell and down with Santa
And down with that awful Manly ranter
Vote Labor, Greens – maintain the rage
And send money to your Palm Beach Sage
FITZ AND HIS MISSUS SEND THEIR BOYS TO PRIVATE (WANKERY/CHRISTIAN) SCHOOLS
Every now and then Nancy receives a mock delivery in her kennel or a delivery to her in-box. Last Tuesday, a note arrived from a certain Joe Bleau (of no known address). It read as follows:
Online reports state that Peter FitzSimons, the strident atheist & mocker of Christianity, sends his three children to Christian schools.
Knowing how much inaccuracy is on the web, MWD decided to check-out the matter with the man himself. MWD could not believe that Fitz, who spends much of his allocated space in his Sun Herald column each week, mocking believers and warning that Christianity is a health hazard, could send his offspring to Christian schools. So it was decided to ask your man Peter about the matter.
Once upon a time, belonging to a Monthly Book Club meant that you got together with fellow book readers once a month to discuss the latest releases. Fitz has changed all this. He belongs to an exclusive Monthly Book Club which entails that its elite membership writes a book each month.
So with Fitz’s latest tome about to go to the printers, MWD was not expecting a quick response. This is the question that MWD asked:
Good morning Peter
One of the many, many fans of my Media Watch Dog blog has sent me the following email concerning you: “Online reports state that Peter FitzSimons, the strident atheist & mocker of Christianity, sends his three children to Christian schools.”
Could this really be the case? In view of your dismissal of Christianity as a serious delusion, involving devotion to the “Magic Sky Daddy” and acts of “public wankery”, could you really send your children to a Christian school – and leave them all day in the hands of deluded Christians? Pete, tell me it ain’t so.
Lo and behold, Fitz put aside commencing his 247th book and sent back an email that very afternoon. Here it is – with certain deletions for the sake of privacy:
As ever, a pleasure to hear from you!…. As to whether I send my kids to Christian schools, no, I don’t. Lisa and I do! (FitzSimons, he goes for goal! He shoots! He SCORES!). More seriously, yes, both boys attended a school with a Christian base….
Hope you and Anne are well.
So there you have it. Peter FitzSimons and his wife/partner/best friend send their two boys to a Christian School. Where – according to “The (Weekly) Epistle of Secular Pete as told to Sun Herald readers every Sunday” – they have to perform acts of “public wankery” in the process of expressing devotion to the “Magic Sky Daddy”. You know, Christian stuff.
So, every Saturday your man Fitz sends off his copy to the Sun Herald sneering at Christians. And, every Sunday evening, he packs the lunches for his two boys to take to a Christian school where they learn about Christ and partake of Christian ceremonies and, apparently, sing such paeans of praise as “Holy Magic Sky Daddy We Praise Thy Name” and “Onward Christian Wankers”.
Can you bear it?
PVO AND DEE MADIGAN – ALL A BLUNDER IN THE MEN’S SHED
The good news is that Dee Madigan got enough notice to get properly dressed before appearing on the 4 pm edition of The Contrarians last Friday. Last week she was skirtless – but this time well suitably trousered for a high chair. The show, which Peter Van Onselen boasts is a “piss take Friday afternoon program”, invariably features blokes taking the piss out of other blokes each Friday.
Last Friday, the sassy Ms Madigan was again invited into PVO’s Men’s Shed where fellow guests were Adam Creighton and Greg O’Mahoney. She and O’Mahoney were home sometime after 5 pm and were replaced by Tanveer Ahmed and Ross Cameron. And so it was done so that MWD’s prophecy about the ongoing blokiness of PVO’s Men’s Shed could be fulfilled.
The highlight’s of last Friday’s episode of The Contrarians (“Proudly a Friday afternoon piss-take program”) occurred when:
▪ Peter Van Onselen declared that Tony Abbott should “be worried” about an Essential Poll where he scored 37 per cent in response to the question “who-is-your-preferred-prime minister” as against 31 per cent for Anthony Albanese and 32 per cent for Bill Shorten. The next election is due in three years time and the preferred-prime-minister measure seems of little moment. Still, according to PVO, Prime Minister Abbott should be worried about the Essential Poll. Can you bear it? [As I recall, PVO acknowledged that there was “push-polling” in this research. Moreover, I think at one stage PVO added the two Labor figures together to have Abbott trailing the Labor leader as preferred prime minister by 37 per cent to 63 per cent. When I heard this, I couldn’t bear it – Ed].
▪ Dee Madigan then declared that the Abbott government “had borrowed $7.1 billion since 9 September”. Quite an achievement when you think about it – since the Abbott government was not sworn in until 18 September. Also, the Labor barracker La Madigan seems to believe that Australia’s debt obligations – built up by Labor over the past six years – can be wiped off immediately. Can you bear it?[Er, no. Surely there must be a sheila willing to enter PVO’s Men’s Shed on a Friday afternoon who is not a Labor hack. Why not give Elle Macpherson a gig? Just a thought? – Ed]
BONGE’S ANTI-ABBOTT RANT (YET AGAIN)
Channel 10’s political editor is the journalist employed in the commercial media who is most critical of the Coalition. Which explains why he fits so readily into the ABC’s Conservative-Free-Zone and currently has regular commentary spots on RN Breakfast and ABC Metropolitan Radio 702.
On Tuesday James Carleton stood in for regular RN Breakfast presenter Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly who was on a WEB – as in Well Earned Break.
Bonge – as is his wont – used the occasion to bag Tony Abbott and the Coalition. Let’s go to the transcript:
James Carleton: There was a lot of sabre rattling before the talks but it was a mutual love and respect once they began.
Paul Bongiorno: Well from this distance and watching and listening to radio and television of the trip, if anyone had any doubts before Tony Abbott went to Indonesia that his policies – and the rhetoric of himself and Scott Morrison in the lead up to the election – on what they would do to stop the boats and how they would behave in Indonesian waters and indeed in Indonesia itself. If anyone had any doubts that this had damaged the relationship, you just had to see the extent to which Mr Abbott grovelled in Jakarta, this was kowtow on steroids. This was Tony Abbott saying, “Please forgive us, we’re going to try again and we get that we’ve upset you.”
Most journalists reporting the Prime Minister’s Indonesian visit reported that he had done well. But not our Bonge. He declared that the Prime Minister had “grovelled” in Jakarta and had done a “kowtow on steroids”. Can you bear it?
CHIP ROLLEY’S IRRITABLE BOWEL “JOKE”
Last Friday’s The Drum on ABC News 24 almost qualified as an entry for the MWD’s Maurice Newman Segment. After all – discussing asylum seekers on the eve of Prime Minister Abbott’s visit to Indonesia – presenter Scott Bevan essentially agreed with Peter Black who essentially agreed with Chip Rolley who essentially agreed with Sarah Le Marquand who essentially agreed with Scott Bevan that Abbott’s policy was in big trouble.
However, in the end, it was decided to give Mr Rolley – editor of the taxpayer funded The Drum on-line newspaper – an award in MWD’s prestigious “Media Fool of the Week” category. He deserved it. This is what Chip Rolley had to say about Tony Abbott’s claim that the asylum seeker issue was a “passing irritant” in the Australia-Indonesia relationship:
Chip Rolley: I do think he [Tony Abbott] needs to work on his language, though. I mean, “passing irritant” makes me think of irritable bowel syndrome.
[Chip Rolley laughs loudly at his own joke]]
Chip Rolley: Just a thought.
Scott Bevan: That paints quite a picture for us. Thanks very much.
Chip Rolley: That’s what I’m here for.
Yes, we know. Chip Rolley went on to predict that the Prime Minister’s visit to Indonesia this week would be a “flash-point in the relationship between Indonesia and Australia”. How about that?
Following the overwhelming reader response to last week’s issue on David Marr, here are some more howlers/sneers in David Marr’s Quarterly Essay Issue 51 titled “The Prince: Faith, Abuse and George Pell” – and its coverage on the ABC.
▪ David Marr refers to John Paul II as the “new pope, Jozef Wojtyla” (Page 51). John Paul II was born Karol Wojtyla and he always used Karol as his first name until he became Pope in 1978. Jozef was Wojtyla’s second name. Since John Paul is one of the best known figures in the Catholic Church, it would be expected that David Marr – and/or his researcher – would know his first name. A similar error in Australia would occur if an author referred to John Howard as “Winston Howard”. Winston is Mr Howard’s second name.
▪ David Marr’s insistence that “those close to Cardinal Pell eat and drink well”. (Page 57).
▪ David Marr described the turn-out of the Catholic Hierarchy at Randwick Racecourse, when Benedict XVI visited Sydney in 2008, as “a gorgeous throng of cardinals and bishops” (Page 78). More ridicule.
▪ This is how David Marr described Cardinal Pell’s arrival at the Victorian Parliament on 27 May 2013.
No one rose when the cardinal entered. He was in civvies: black suit, white shirt, no jewellery. He took his place on one side of a long table with the politicians ranged along the other.
In fact, as the visual footage of the occasion demonstrates, Cardinal Pell was dressed in a black clerical suit, a white clerical shirt and collar and was wearing a bishop’s cross and a bishop’s ring. In other words, every statement in a single Marr sentence is wrong.
▪ David Marr’s “The Prince” contains numerous criticisms of the Catholic Church’s teachings on homosexuality along with an on-going critique of clerical celibacy (with particular reference to Pell). Mocking references are made in this context – for example, to Pell’s “hymns of praise” for “not having sex” (Page 87). More sneering of a kind which Marr would not make with reference to a Buddhist like the Dalai Lama.
▪ David Marr concludes his Quarterly Essay by describing George Pell as “a company man of uncertain empathy” who “has the consolations of friendship, music and a good cellar” (Page 88).
▪ As usual David Marr has received numerous soft interviews on the ABC. On RN Breakfast on Monday 23 September 2013 stand-in presenter Philip Clark put it to David Marr that Cardinal Pell “didn’t convince Mr Abbott to call off the Royal Commission” into child sex abuse. In fact, there is no evidence that Cardinal Pell even sought to convince the Prime Minister to do this. David Marr did not attempt to correct the ABC presenter’s false comment. Enough said. [Not really. Perhaps you should say more next week. – Ed.]
WELL DONE PETER COLEMAN
While on the topic of George Pell, it’s time for a gong of a prestigious kind.
Writing in The Spectator Australia on 28 September 2013, Peter Coleman critiqued David Marr’s Quarterly Essay titled “The Prince: Faith, Abuse and George Pell”.
Coleman is not a Catholic. However, he picked anti-Catholic sectarianism in Marr’s analysis – along his style of over-writing and his tendency to use hyperbole. Peter Coleman concluded his piece as follows:
But even after his months of reflection, Marr does not come close to understanding Pell’s faith (or, it seems to me, anyone’s). At the end, as in his other biographical essays, Marr takes us to what he sees as the heart of the matter. Kevin Rudd is driven by impatient rage, Tony Abbott by animal calculation. But Pell is entirely different: “As I read the man, listen to him and watch him in action, I wonder how much of the strange ordinariness of George Pell began fifty years ago when a robust schoolboy decided, as an act of heroic piety, to kill sex in himself.” What does he have in return for this sacrifice? “He has the consolations of friendship, music and a good cellar…”. So there we have it. The Good News from Christ on the Cross: “Get a good cellar!”
Peter Coleman: Five Paws
THE ABC’S CONSERVATIVE-FREE ZONE UPDATED – STARRING PHILLIP ADAMS & GUY PEARSE
Due to unprecedented demand, the Maurice Newman Segment gets another run this week. As MWD readers will know, this (hugely popular) segment is devoted to former ABC chairman Maurice Newman’s suggestion that a certain “group think” might be prevalent at the ABC – and to ABC 1 former Media Watch presenter Jonathan Holmes’ certainty that no such phenomenon is extant within the public broadcaster. See MWD passim.
What a stunning interview on Radio National Late Night Live last Wednesday. Phillip (“I was a teenage Stalinist”) Adams interviewed Guy (“People think I was a Coalition Government staffer”) Pearse. The subject was the book Big Coal: Australia’s Dirtiest Habit which your man Pearse has recently co-authored with David (“I was once a Khmer Rouge supporter”) McKnight and a certain Bob Burton.
Phillip Adams, one of Australia’s richest socialists, is now a gentleman farmer in the Hunter Valley who presents LNL four nights a week. He doesn’t like those he called “coal barons” and he doesn’t like the Coalition or Labor. Phillip Adams is a familiar ABC type who criticises both major parties – from the left. It used to be thought that Guy Pearse worked for the Minister for the Environment in John Howard’s government. Not so – as MWD revealed in Issue 4. In fact, Pearse was once a staffer to a Liberal Party backbencher. He was consultant to the Department of Environment during a period and provided draft speeches to his minister Senator Robert Hill. Pearse was not on Hill’s ministerial staff. Moreover in 2009 he admitted to being a member of the Greens.
Needless to say, Adams agreed with Pearse who agreed with Adams who agreed with himself who agreed with Adams. Or something like that. Here are the highlights of this group-think event.
● PA declares that “Guy has impeccable Liberal credentials”. He doesn’t. See above.
● PA refers to Australia as “this slightly deranged country”. Still he is happy to accept a monthly payment from Aussie taxpayers.
● PA declares that the contemporary political situation is “overwhelmingly bloody depressing”. Guy Pearse agrees.
● PA declares that he and Guy Pearse “emphatically agree” on climate politics. Sure do. How very ABC.
● PA praises Guy Pearse for “a very perceptive comment”. It’s Elephant Stamp Time, it seems.
● Guy Pearse condemns the coal industry declaring that “it doesn’t generate many jobs” and it does not trickle down money into his pockets – or Phillip’s pockets. GP seems unaware that the coal industry pays taxes and that taxes fund the ABC which pays Phillip Adams.
● PA declares: “People on my side of politics have been listening to you for some considerable time, Guy. What about people in the Liberal Party?” Guy Pearse confesses that he does not get “too many calls”. No wonder. [Perhaps PA should have asked how Guy Pearse is getting on with his political mates in the anti-coal Greens. – Ed.] Score:
Maurice Newman: 3
Jonathan Holmes: Zip
Christopher Koch, who died in Hobart on 22 September 2013, held strong personal views but fought constantly against the intrusion of politics into the arts. During the Cold War, Koch was an anti-communist who resented the attempt by the left intelligentsia to infiltrate university campuses, arts bodies, publishing houses and the like. In recent decades, he opposed the attempts by the post-communist left to establish a political orthodoxy by which art should be assessed. Koch practised what he preached – and his strongly held private views, on politics and religion, were rarely stated in public.
Christopher Koch was educated at St Virgil’s College in Hobart (run by Christian Brothers), Hobart High School and at the University of Tasmania where he graduated with a BA (Hons). His Catholic upbringing and his affection for Tasmania were life-long influences. A serious public figure, in private Koch had a keen sense of humour and an applied irreverence.
There was also a bit of the dreamer in the Koch persona. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, he was invariably heard in private proclaiming the Catholicism as taught by Pope Pius IX of the Syllabus of Errors fame. Koch seemed blissfully unaware that he did not lead a life-style in line with the faith and morals as proclaimed by Pius IX.
I first met Christopher Koch when I was working for Kevin Newman MP in Launceston in the mid 1970s. These days Kevin Newman is perhaps best remembered as the father of Queensland premier Campbell Newman. In December 1975 Newman was sworn-in as the Minister for Repatriation in Malcolm Fraser’s Coalition government. He was subsequently promoted to Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development and ended his ministerial career as Minister for Productivity when the Fraser government was defeated in March 1983.
In the early 1970s Koch, who was working for the ABC in Sydney as a producer, sold his property and re-located with his then wife Irene Vilnois and son Gareth to Hill Street, Launceston. He was the author of the very successful The Boys in the Island (1958) and the not so successful Across the Sea Wall (1965). Koch settled in Launceston to complete his third novel. It was published in 1978 as The Year of Living Dangerously – to widespread acclaim – and was subsequently made into a film by director Peter Weir in 1983.
Kevin Newman met Christopher Koch at a dinner party in Launceston and offered Koch a job on his electorate staff – as distinct from his ministerial staff. This meant that Koch was not required to travel to Canberra when the Parliament was sitting. The arrangement suited Koch because it fitted in with his writing commitments and provided some regular income. But, ever a restless soul, Koch did not remain on Newman’s staff for long and he soon moved back to Sydney where he lived, variously, in Neutral Bay, Turramurra, Bilgola Plateau and Leura in the Blue Mountains. He returned to Launceston, then moved back to Sydney where he lived in Wahroonga before moving permanently to Richmond near Hobart. He married Robin Whyte-Butler in the 1990s.
In Sydney, Koch completed The Doubleman – which was published in 1985. Initially he felt that the novel had not received the publicity it deserved. So, as a morale-raising gesture, Anne Henderson and I hosted the “Hornsby Launch” of The Doubleman. A lunch was held at our former home – 237 Pacific Highway, Hornsby – and attended by Ray Evans, Janette Howard, John Howard, Robin Marsden, Lois McVity, Walter McVity, Carolyn Pascoe and Cynthia Blanche (Chris’s then partner). In Chris Koch’s presence, we drank a toast to the (then unheralded) success of The Doubleman. It must have worked since, some months later, the novel was awarded the Miles Franklin Award. Koch won a second Miles Franklin in 1996 for Highways to a War – and wore a new suit to the ceremony at the State Library of New South Wales. As Donald Horne pointed out, Koch delivered a somewhat angry speech of the kind expected from a loser, not a winner. It was on his familiar theme of opposition to the intrusion of politics into literature.
Christopher Koch was a brilliant novelist and an accomplished poet who – like many novelists and poets – did not take well to what he regarded as unfair criticism. Sometimes the criticism was unfair and motivated by a dislike of the author’s perceived political views. Sometimes he just seemed over-sensitive.
Koch was not a practical person and was not that successful when he worked outside of his profession of writing. He was a stylistic perfectionist – which made him a relatively slow writer. Koch’s essential output – a novel for each decade of his adult life – was not substantial. However, his work was of a consistently high standard and is likely to live on.
Christopher Koch was a social conservative who believed in God. Yet he lived for his work and spoke publicly mostly about writing. He was never a “go-to” novelist with opinions to spare on matters of which he knew little or nothing. That was for literary activists – whom he privately held in contempt. Christopher Koch was an old fashioned novelist who succeeded in the modern world. Quite an achievement. May he rest in peace.
“Oh my God; you’re as bad as Gerard Henderson.”
– Dr Peter Van Onselen (for a doctor he is), The Contrarians, Sky News, 20 September 2013.
“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, keep morale high.