1 November 2013


The inaugural issue of “Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch” was published in April 1988 – over a year before the first edition of the ABC TV Media Watch program went to air. Since November 1997 “Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch” has been published as part of The Sydney Institute Quarterly. In 2009 Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch Dog blog commenced publication.


  • Stop Press: Laura Tingle Nails Maoists on Sydney Harbour; MWD Exclusive – Nancy Interviews Murdoch Haters Who Did Not Make Last Night’s One Man Demo

  • Nancy’s Pick-of-the-Week: Reading The Age on the Yarra’s Left Bank

  • Nancy’s Five Paws Award: Maxine McKew Steps-Up re Tony Abbott

  • Can You Bear It? Scott Burchill & Virginia Trioli; Mark Scott & the PM; Brian Toohey & Amanda Vanstone; Jonathan Green and Himself

  • Maurice Newman Segment: Geraldine Doogue Agrees With Herself and Everyone Else on Obamacare

  • Correspondence: Yet More Fudge From David Marr re B.A. Santamaria & Tony Abbott; Nancy’s (Male) Co-Owner Verballed on News Breakfast


    Wonderful piece by Laura Tingle in today’s Australian Financial Review. La Tingle gives an insight into Quadrant’s 500th Issue Dinner (which she didn’t attend) along with a description of the Prime Minister’s water-taxi ride to Fort Denison for the occasion (despite the fact that she wasn’t on board).

    Then La Tingle suggested that, after the 2013 election “conservative circles” are just “a touch oleaginous”. A what? She also reflected that “the Coalition’s media backers feel that they have had a win”. How ever could they have come to such a conclusion? And La Tingle suggests that conservatives reignited the “culture wars” – forgetting that this is a left-wing term of abuse – and accused conservatives of “sounding a bit Maoist”. Really.

    Oh yeah. And the AFR’s political editor conceded that the Howard government’s decision to stand up to the MUA during the waterfront dispute of the 1990s “produced a national good in the form of a more efficient waterfront”. Talk about drowning the lead.

    As for the facts, Laura Tingle identified a number of “appalling cultural warriors from News Ltd” on the boat. There was only one News Corp (not News Ltd) employee on the water taxi. There was also an AFR columnist on board – a fact overlooked by La Tingle. And the taxi was not “badly overcrowded”. In other words, La Tingle’s piece was totally true – except for the facts.


    Nancy’s co-owners scored tickets to the 2013 Annual Lowy Lecture last night with Robert Murdoch as guest speaker. The black-tie event at Sydney Town Hall was packed out and Rupert Murdoch was in fine form. Leaving the event, Nancy’s (male) co-owner noticed Crikey’s Matthew Knott in the audience. Sure he was in the belchers, so to speak – as close to the centre of George Street as someone can get while still located in the Sydney Town Hall. But Mr Knott was there – no doubt to compete with MWD for the biggest scoop of the night.

    Heading out to George Street, Nancy’s (female) co-owner noticed a lone protestor. Yes, just one. Yet he cut a fine figure on the busy pavement, in the dark with the light behind him, carrying a sign which read: “Go Home Murdoch.”

    Clearly the millions of members of the Sandalista class, who suffer from Murdochphobia, did not rock up to the Sydney Town Hall last night otherwise the anonymous “Go Home Murdoch” demonstrator would not have been all alone on George Street. Nancy immediately turned into intrepid reporter mode and contacted some of Mr Murdoch’s most vocal critics to find out why they did not stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Lone Protestor last night. Here are their responses – as told to Nancy. Beat that, Crikey.

    Robert (“Call me Professor, but not before morning tea”) Manne: I would have loved to be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the Lone Protestor last night to continue the fight against the Dirty Digger, The Australian, Fox News, all of The Sun in London except Page 3, Fox International, The Sunday Times, the Daily Telegraph, Andrew Bolt, the Abbott-Pell-Murdoch Clerical Fascist dictatorship and the Koch Brothers. But I couldn’t make it to Sydney.

    I am still embedded in my Cottles Bridge abode counting out the money the taxpayers of Australia kindly sent me as payout in appreciation of my four decades on the payroll at the taxpayer subsidised La Trobe University – in the Politics Department lecturing about a profession which I never practised. I hope the function was a dud. I am with the Lone Protestor. In spirit – or spirits.

    Phillip (“I was a teenage Stalinist”) Adams AO: I would have loved to have supported Mr Lone Protestor last night. But me and the missus were up at the farm at Scone doing repair work. Over the last year, we have suffered from drought, flood and fire along with hot and cold – all caused by the Murdoch/Koch/Fox News induced global warming. I just couldn’t get to George Street.

    Dr Wendy (“I used to mock nuns in the name of feminism”) Bacon: I had intended to march with a flying-column of taxpayer subsidised and radicalised comrades from the taxpayer subsidised University of Technology, Sydney to express my solidarity with the Lone Protestor and perhaps form a soviet or two. But, alas, I was caught up filling out (yet another) grant application to research a topic and write an academic paper which no one will read.

    I’m worried that the Murdoch-Pell-Abbott Clerical Fascist Dictatorship will cut funding for social science research on 1 July 2014. So it’s a busy time for us lumpen proletariat grant-seekers right now. Anyrate, I sent Lone Protestor a text indicating my support and that of my comrade-in-grant-applications, Dr Judith (“Trust me I’m into psycho-babble”) Brett.

    Dr David (“I was a student of Pol Pot”) McKnight: I’m sorry I could not make it to the Sydney Town Hall last night but I was caught up at the taxpayer subsidised University of NSW where I’m on the payroll and in receipt of grants. It would have been great for old time’s sake. For it was on George Street that I made some of my finest orations in support of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in 1976 or thereabouts. I also dipped my lid to Mao Zedong there and praised the revolutionary celibate Ho Chi Minh (the only celibate David Marr ever trusted, I’m told). But I will send Mr Lone Protestor an autographed copy of my tome Rupert Murdoch: An Investigation of Political Power (Allen & Unwin) I’ve run out of copies but there are remaindered books in good, bad and indifferent bookshops everywhere and I would be delighted to give Lone Protestor one or two or, indeed, 327 if he can handle so big a load.

    Paul (“Have you heard about my book on Murdoch?”) Barry: I would have loved to support the Lone Protestor on George Street last night. But, unfortunately, I was busy at my new gig at the taxpayer funded public broadcaster preparing for next Monday’s Media Watch on ABC 1. I plan to present yet another account of how News Corp’s The Australian, Courier-Mail, Herald Sun and Daily Telegraph have destroyed my adopted country and made possible the coup by the Murdoch-Pell-Abbott Clerical Dictatorship that we call contemporary Australia. Now, mind you, I am a fair and balanced presenter on the ABC because [Continues for 69 pages].


    Nancy’s (male) co-owner was woken in Melbourne on Saturday morning by the unexpected arrival and somewhat loud delivery of The Saturday Age outside his hotel door. You see, Hendo was in Melbourne for a family function over the weekend. So, with a view of the Yarra, he opened the Sandalista’s delight – the Saturday edition of “The Guardian on the Yarra”. It didn’t disappoint.

    ▪ Page 3. Big news, indeed. Here was Peter Munro’s report that Gerard Henderson and some others were expected to dinner with the Prime Minister at Kirribilli House that very evening. Which is a long way from Melbourne on a Saturday evening. [ Surely, this was the case of guess who didn’t go to dinner? – Ed].

    ▪ Editorial: Titled “Abbott and Hunt reckless on climate”. Yet another bash by The Age at the Tony Abbott led Coalition. And yet more warnings of the eco-catastrophic genre. The editor quoted with approval the warning of the Climate Council (formerly the Climate Commission) that climate change is increasing the probability of extreme bushfire conditions. But made no mention of Climate Commission chief executive Tim Flannery’s recent (false) prophecy that Perth would run out of water and that significant rains would never fall again over the reservoirs that service Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. The Age does not make fun of the likes of Tim Flannery, you see. Only the likes of Tony Abbott and Greg Hunt.

    ▪ Letters: The Age runs 11 letters on the climate debate. Everyone is critical of the Coalition – with readers’ scorn concentrated on Tony Abbott and Greg Hunt. There are 8 brief letters on climate change in the “What’s more” section. Every one of them is critical of the Coalition. A mere 100 per cent. That’s all.

    ▪ Forum Opinion: The Age’s Martin Flanagan’s “Saturday reflection” column in titled “Abbott must do more than put his finger in the dyke.” Say no more. The Age’s Warwick McFadyen’s article on Immigration Minister Scott Morrison titled: “Calling it as it is: the minister for debasing the language.” Enough said. No other view is presented. [Perhaps, the powers-that-be at The Age reckon they have no conservative readers or advertisers left.

    ▪ Life & Leisure: Mary O’Brien interviews Greens’ deputy leader Adam Bandt for the series titled “My Secret Melbourne”. It turns out that, for this inner-city Sandalista, Melbourne involves the CBD and is bounded by North Fitzroy (of course), Parkville and the Victoria Markets. Mr Bandt seems unaware of suburban life. Asked about a “recent discovery”, in Melbourne the one-time admirer of the late Leon Trotsky responded:

    Bar Lui at the top of the Rialto, adjoining Vue de Monde. It’s far more within the budget to sit there for one drink and look out over the bay. Not so long ago, on a rare weekend off, after a couple of hours sitting enjoying the sun there, I proposed to my fiancee – so it will forever hold a special place for me.

    So there you have it. The Age’s Mary O’Brien did not query why the well- remunerated Adam Bandt believes it is appropriate to sit for some hours in Bar Lui over one drink. Just one. But this is The Age – which has scant regard for business – large or small.

    * * * *

    And then, after being in the physical presence of The-Guardian-on-the-Yarra your man Hendo pulled the blankets over his head and went back to sleep. That’s what The Saturday Age does to its occasional non-Sandalista reader.


    The sassy Maxine McKew did lunch with The Age’s editor-at-large Mark Baker at The Point , Albert Park recently. The story was written up in “The Good Life: Lunch with….” in The Saturday Age at the weekend.

    Mark Baker commenced the piece by writing about the subject he knows best. Namely HIMSELF. Oh yes, he also wrote about Ms McKew’s thighs. And the reader (if there was a reader) had to put up with lotsa food snobbery from the The-Guardian-on-the-Yarra’s editor-at-large including:

    It’s a perfectly awful spring day. The sky is grey and rain squalls pepper Albert Park Lake. But the staff are abuzz. The white truffles have just landed from Piedmont. A scruffy little tuber is reverently ushered to our table beneath a giant bell jar and we all have a good whiff of the splendid aroma. [What a load of pretentious sludge – Ed].

    McKew is hooked. She will have the risotto with truffle shavings. I opt for the tasting plate of three styles of beef.

    ….an amuse bouche of buffalo mozzarella in an asparagus veloute appears, its livid green hue perhaps a metaphor for where much of Labor’s urban heartland has gone. [I thought Mr Baker met Ms McKew for lunch – not a metaphor competition. – Ed]

    However, despite Mr Baker’s evident wine and food snobbery, which saw tubers ushered and asparagus appearing – Maxine McKew came through to win Nancy’s coveted Five Paws Award, due to the following comment:

    [Maxine McKew] has a surprisingly benign view of Tony Abbott. ”I’m not in the business of demonising Abbott at all. He has been elected overwhelmingly and he deserves his chance to shine.” Despite his failure to condemn some of the ”uglier attitudes” towards Gillard, she does not endorse the portrayal of the new PM as a dangerous misogynist. ”I’m sick to death of that word. I’m a bit less concerned with what people might believe deep in their heart than with what they do. I’ll be looking at what Abbott does,” she says.

    ”I don’t believe for a moment that he will be taking his riding instructions from the Vatican or from [Cardinal] George Pell on spiritual, moral, social issues. ”Nor do I think he will be taking his guidance on matters concerning gender and female participation from extreme right-wingers.”

    Maxine McKew – Five Paws. [Perhaps you should advise David Marr to read this – Ed].



    While on the topic of Peter Munro, does anyone remember his article on Senator-elect Ricky Muir published in The Age on 11 October 2013? This is what your man Munro had to say about the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party in The Age on 11 October 2013:

    In his new (and only) suit, Mr Muir said his alliance with the Palmer United Party (PUP) would provide “the people of Australia with certainty”. But Palmer’s new pup looked overawed by the show, at Sydney’s Sofitel hotel on Thursday. The four-wheel-drive devotee had been laying [sic] lower than a hotted-up hydraulic suspension since his unlikely electoral victory.

    “I haven’t been hiding,” he insisted. “Over the last few weeks I have been busy trying to tee up the best deal I can for motoring enthusiasts. Exactly what the Victorian father of five and out-of-work wood sawyer has in common with the jet-setting Mr Palmer remains unclear.

    So there you have it. Mr Muir not only has one suit. Just one. He is also a “father of five” and an “out-of-work sawyer”. This compares with Mr Munro – who has more than one suit, less than five children and who is an in-work journalist – but, alas, does not know the difference between “lying” and “laying”.


    It seems that tips in Melbourne must have been closed last Tuesday. How else to explain why Deakin University senior lecturer Scott Burchill turned up on the set of ABC1’s News Breakfast in a clean dark jacket, neat dark shirt and having only forgone one day’s shaving? With no tip to go to to dump a load after the “Newspapers” segment, Dr Burchill (for a doctor he is), turned up at the ABC Southbank studio dressed for a wedding. Or funeral. [What is the difference? – Ed].

    Unfortunately, Scott Burchill’s personal presentation did nothing for his mind. This is how your man Burchill handled Newspoll’s first post-election result – which has the Coalition ahead of Labor (after preferences) by 56 per cent to 44 per cent.

    Virginia Trioli: And now let’s have a look at the Newspoll, last of all. Your final item this morning.

    Scott Burchill: Yeah. Very early days.

    Virginia Trioli: The first Newspoll since the election of the Abbott government.

    Scott Burchill: Yes and it suggests, unsurprisingly, that Mr Abbott has consolidated his position. The main reason for that, of course, is that he’s getting most of the publicity and the Opposition is not really landing any blows or attempting to sort of, pull any, fight any punches [sic] at this first stage.

    Virginia Trioli: Well that’s right and it’s not so much about them [Labor] being denied media attention. They’re just not there.

    Scott Burchill: No, it’s a honeymoon period and you’d expect the government to have a pretty free reign. There’s been some rather awkward steps, you’d have to say, in some respects – particularly on issues like travel rorts and other areas. But I’m not surprised, I don’t think anyone is really surprised by this, I don’t think it would worry the Opposition at this point. They haven’t got a profile as an Opposition yet and it won’t be for some time before these polls become politically significant.

    It seems that Scott Burchill spends much too much time in the groves of the academy. Apart, of course, from his regular visits to the tip after most of his News Breakfast appearances. Who else but a senior lecturer at Deakin University would maintain that Tony Abbott has dominated the media publicity over recent weeks?

    Your man Burchill seems unaware that Labor recently completed a high-profile leadership contest between Anthony Albanese and Bill Shorten and that the Prime Minister and his colleagues had been criticised for their low profile.

    Scott Burchill is a politics academic. Can you bear it? [Er, no. But I did like his black mullah-chic shirt. – Ed].

    See the “Correspondence” section for Gerard Henderson’s email exchange with Virginia Trioli concerning Scott Burchill and Michael (“The Verballer”) Rowland.


    How pluralistic of The Australian to publish ABC spin-doctor Michael Millett’s defence of the taxpayer funded public broadcaster on its “Letters Page” last Wednesday. He was responding to an editorial criticising managing director Mark Scott. Mr Millett and Nice Mr Scott invariably run the line that the ABC is in wonderful shape and neither ever discuss the circumstance in which the ABC came to be a Conservative Free Zone.

    Meet Tony Abbott, Australia’s new prime minister. He led the Coalition to victory in September 2013 with a two-party preferred vote of a very high 53.5 per cent. This is greater than that achieved by Labor’s Gough Whitlam in 1972, Bob Hawke in 1983 and Kevin Rudd in 2007. Clearly, Mr Abbott has a mandate. Interviewed by Andrew Bolt in the Herald Sun on 25 October 2013, the Prime Minister had this to say:

    Andrew Bolt: But would you agree that the bias of the ABC, as observed even by former ABC chairman Maurice Newman, is in breach of its charter?

    Tony Abbott : I would say that there tends to be an ABC view of the world, and it’s not a view of the world that I find myself in total sympathy with. But, others would say that there’s a News Limited view of the world.

    So there you have it. The Prime Minister who enjoys the support of over half of the Australian population, believes that “there tends to be an ABC view of the world” which is not a “view of the world” that he finds himself “in total sympathy with”.

    But Mark Scott reckons that everything is fine at the ABC and those who draw attention to the fact that the ABC is a Conservative Free Zone are absolutely simplistic and should go away and shut up. Can you bear it?


    While on the topic of the ABC, here’s what Australian Financial Review columnist Brian Toohey had to say on Insiders last Sunday.

    Brian Toohey: Amanda Vanstone…she’s one of the commissioners [of the Abbott government’s Commission of Audit]. She has an hourly program she has to prepare for on the ABC Radio National every day.

    Er, no. Not so. Ms Vanstone is the ABC’s token right-of-centre presenter. That’s all. And her program Counterpoint airs at 4 pm on ABC Radio National on Mondays only with a repeat at 4 pm on Fridays. That’s all. The fact remains that the ABC does not employ one conservative presenter or producer or editor for any of its TV or radio or online outlets. Not one. Can you bear it?


    Jonathan Green, the ABC’s Man For All Programs, is back in Melbourne. So on Thursday Mr Green resumed his babble-on session with James Valentine which takes place on ABC Radio 702 each Thursday. In the most self-indulgent segment on the public broadcaster, Mr Valentine talks to Mr Green about nothing much at all for at least 20 minutes.

    This is how the Valentine/Green babble-on commenced last Thursday – with a plug from Jonathan Green’s tome on the (so-called) advertisement –free ABC. Let’s go to the transcript:

    James Valentine: What were you doing out there in the nation Mr Green?

    Jonathan Green: Book floggin’.

    James Valentine: Book floggin’?

    Jonathan Green: Book floggin’!

    James Valentine: What’s your book?

    Jonathan Green: [singing to the tune of Rawhide] “Floggin’, Floggin’, Floggin’”. Um, The Year My Politics Broke by Jonathan Green – through Melbourne University Publishing, $24.99.

    James Valentine: Ahh! The Year My Politics Broke. Now, is this a collection of your fine –

    Jonathan Green: [interrupting] Available where all good books are sold.

    The babble went on and on. And on. With Mr Green flogging his book and Mr Valentine egging him on. All on the advertisement-free ABC. Can you bear it?


    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 Media Watch former presenter Jonathan Holmes’ certainty that no such phenomenon is extant within the public broadcaster. See MWD passim.

    What a stunning conversation – of the ABC genre – on ABC Radio National Saturday Extra on 26 October 2013.

    Geraldine Doogue was in the presenter’s chair and her guests were two commentators – both of whom are friendly towards the Democratic Party in the United States. To wit, Dr Lesley Russell (Senior Research Fellow at the ANU) and Dr David Smith (Lecturer at the United States Study Center at the University of Sydney). Discussion turned on the US’s Affordable Care Act – otherwise known as Obamacare.

    Geraldine Doogue commenced the discussion by bagging the Republicans for daring to oppose President Barack Obama on this issue. David Smith essentially agreed. Then Lesley Russell essentially agreed with David Smith who essentially agreed with Geraldine Doogue. Then everyone agreed with each other – sometimes expressing their acquired consensus by means of an affirmative interjection in their haste to acknowledge consensus.

    Dr Smith told Ms Doogue that she was “exactly right”. Encouraged, Ms Doogue suggested that the Republican opposition to Obamacare might be due to “prejudice”. Dr Smith wholeheartedly agreed – he said the problem turned on the fact that President Obama “is a man of colour who has a foreign sounding name”. Then came a telling exchange. Let’s go to the transcript:

    Geraldine Doogue: Do you agree with this, Lesley?

    Lesley Russell: Yes, yes I do.

    Well, blow me down. Fancy that. And so on. Then David agreed with Lesley who agreed with Geraldine who agreed with herself. And so it continued and the case against Obamacare was never stated.


    Maurice Newman: 3

    Jonathan Holmes: Zip

    correspondence header caps

    As MWD readers are aware, this hugely popular segment usually works like this. Someone or other gets the idea that he/she should write to Nancy’s (male) co-owner about something or other. And he responds. And then, lo and behold, MWD publishes the correspondence in its entirety – much to the delight of those among us who enjoy reading other people’s mail. Then, on occasions, Hendo writes to someone who obliges by responding – with much the same outcome.

    East last week David Marr wrote to Gerard Henderson querying his comments on David Marr’s essay The Prince: Faith, Abuse and George Pell. This correspondence focused on child sex abuse within the Catholic Church (See MWD Issue 205). Then, later in the week, David Marr wrote to Gerard Henderson concerning the relationship between the Prime Minister and the late B.A. Santamaria (1915-1998). This correspondence was held over and continued this week. Read all about it below.

    On ABC 1’s News Breakfast last Tuesday, Virginia Trioli fed Scott Burchill a question which invited him to mention the name of Nancy’s (male) co-owner. Dr Burchill obliged by referring to a certain “Henderson”. [How would the good listeners of News Breakfast know precisely to whom or what your man Burchill was referring? – Ed]. Later in the program, co-presenter Michael Rowland (falsely) claimed to be reading a text from “Gerard in Sydney” [Ditto. – Ed]. Then Young Mr Rowland and La Trioli referred to the likelihood of the above comments “popping up in the usual place” (Trioli) and reference was made to something making “for an entertaining Friday afternoon” (Rowland) – without either referring to Media Watch Dog. [Ditto. Ed]. Read all about it below.


    Gerard Henderson to David Marr – 28 October 2013

    I was busy at the weekend and I expect to be busy this week. However, being the kind of conscientious guy I am, I have responded to your email concerning B.A. Santamaria – which arrived towards the end of your stream of emails concerning child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church to which I responded last week.

    On 24 October 2013, you emailed me as follows:


    I normally wouldn’t bother but while I’m at it I thought I’d address your attack on me under the headline: DAVID MARR’S HOWLER RE TONY ABBOTT, CARDINAL GEORGE PELL, BOB SANTAMARIA AND THE LIBERAL PARTY.

    You were provoked by a line I wrote on Santamaria’s career as the old man lay on his deathbed: “When the party [DLP] collapsed Santamaria had directed his followers to cross the bridge to the Liberals.” You really went to town here accusing me of a serious “howler” that was “simply false” and “unsourced” and with “no evidence” to back it.

    But, Gerard, don’t you remember that Santamaria directed Abbott himself to go into the Liberal Party? Have a look at the splendid work of Ross Fitzgerald and Stephen Holt in the Weekend Australian of 13-14 October 2012 reporting the correspondence between Santamaria and Abbott on this issue in late 1987 and early 1988. I drew on their work in my Abbott essay. It’s all there at pp. 61-4 in the most recent (March 2013) edition.

    I know you will not retract and not admit your attack on me was unfounded. I write so that those who read these bizarre exchanges can judge for themselves. At this point, I think enough is enough.


    David Marr

    The reference was to my comment in my Media Watch Dog blog Issue 201 where I pointed to an error in your essay The Prince: Faith, Abuse and George Pell. More errors were documented in MWD Issue 202.

    I make the following comments:

    ● In The Prince, you wrote at Page 60:

    Pell’s oldest political loyalties were to the DLP [Democratic Labor Party], but when the party collapsed Santamaria had directed his followers to cross the bridge to the Liberals.

    The DLP collapsed in 1974 and was formally wound up in 1978. You provided no evidence of any kind that B.A. Santamaria gave any such direction to his followers in 1974 or 1978 or at any other time.

    ● You now provide what you allege is evidence to support your position. By the way, it was Geoffrey Browne (not Ross Fitzgerald and Stephen Holt) who located, at the State Library of Victoria, correspondence which passed between Tony Abbott and B.A. Santamaria in the mid- 1980s. Fitzgerald and Holt wrote about Geoffrey Browne’s research.

    The Fitzgerald/Holt article, “How Tony Abbott laboured over choice of party” (The Weekend Australian, 13 October 2012) was a fine piece of scholarship. However, contrary to your assertion, the authors did not claim in their article that Bob Santamaria directed Tony Abbott to go into the Liberal Party. You just made this up.

    As Fitzgerald and Holt made clear in their article, Tony Abbott wrote to Bob Santamaria on 21 April 1987 advising of his intention to pursue his political aims in the NSW Labor Party. Santamaria indicated to Tony Abbott that he did not like NSW Labor. But Santamaria also referred to “the reptilian Liberals”. Which demolishes your view that Santamaria “directed” his followers – including Tony Abbott – “to cross the bridge to the Liberals”.

    In your email, you seem to have forgotten that you quoted Santamaria’s reference to “the reptilian Liberals” in the second edition of Political Animal: The Making of Tony Abbott (see page 63). Clearly, Mr Santamaria was not proposing to direct his followers to go into a party of reptiles. As I have said before, you have a bad memory.

    ● In the first edition of Political Animal, you record that B.A. Santamaria declined Tony Abbott’s request to provide him with a reference for the Liberal Party’s Warringah pre-selection in 1993. Santamaria would not have denied Abbott a reference if he had directed him to go into the Liberal Party. Once again, this is evidence of your poor memory.

    I interviewed Tony Abbott on this matter some years ago. Mr Abbott made it clear to me that Santamaria’s refusal to provide a reference for him in the Warringah pre-selection reflected Santamaria’s disillusionment with the Liberal Party in the 1990s.

    ● As Patrick Morgan documents in his edited collection titled B.A. Santamaria: Running the Show – Selected Documents 1939-1996 (MUP, 2008), in the final years of his life Santamaria sought to establish a new politically conservative party to run against the Liberal Party. Once again, he was not directing his followers to go to the Liberal Party.


    Your (undocumented) assertion that B.A. Santamaria directed his followers – including Tony Abbott – to go into the Liberal Party is not only false, it contradicts your own published comments.

    Best wishes – and here’s hoping your memory improves. Here’s a hint. Next time someone refers to a political party as consisting of reptiles, assume that they don’t like it very much. Hope this helps.


    David Marr to Gerard Henderson – 28 October 2013

    Dear Gerard,

    In late 1987 Abbott was keen to enter parliament and wrote asking Santamaria which party he should join. He had already rejected an invitation to work for Santamaria’s latest venture, the Council for the National Interest. He wanted to win preselection for one of the big parties: Labor or the Liberals. It was a time, Abbott wrote, to “make the compromises that life requires, be wrong, get blood on one’s hands – but at least be in it.” Santamaria replied with, I understand, many pages of criticism of the Labor Party. He was absolutely hostile to Abbott taking that path. He also had a number of criticisms of the Liberals. Yes, he called them “reptilian”. But Santamaria’s advice left Abbott with only one choice: the Liberals. As Fitzgerald and Holt wrote: “From 1987 onwards, Abbott, with Santamaria’s reluctant blessing, embraced pragmatism.” Why Santamaria refused to give Abbott a reference in his preselection bid, I don’t know. But I do know – after speaking with a number of the preselectors – that a commendation from Santamaria would have finished young Abbott’s chances.

    Did Santamaria’s advice amount to a direction? I think so. And he would live to see many of his men cross the same bridge to the Liberals. We might have an interesting debate on the point, but your strange hatred of me leads you instead to make homophobic jibes and accuse me of baseless howlers. I’ll leave you to it.

    David Marr.

    David Marr to Gerard Henderson – 29 October 2013

    Dear David

    I refer to your (somewhat strange) email received last night.

    You have not produced one skerrick of evidence to support your assertion that in 1987 B.A. Santamaria “directed” Tony Abbott to “go into the Liberal Party”. Instead you state that in “late 1987” Santamaria condemned the Labor Party. So what? That’s what BAS did. What you overlook is that is that Santamaria was also highly critical of the Liberal Party – before and after 1987. If you knew anything about Santamaria you would know that, in the final decades of his life, he was disillusioned with both sides of mainstream politics.

    Moreover, if Santamaria directed Abbott to go into the Liberal Party in 1987, how come Abbott voted for the Labor Party in the March 1988 New South Wales election? Abbott’s support for NSW Labor in 1988 is a matter of public record.

    And then there is your on-going underestimation of Abbott. Abbott turned 28 in 1987. He did not need to take direction from Santamaria or anyone else. Tony Abbott made his own decisions – as do most 28 year olds.

    The fact is that you do not know much at all about B.A. Santamaria, the Catholic Social Studies Movement (“The Movement”), the National Civic Council, the Democratic Labor Party or – indeed – the Catholic Church. You engaged researchers for your essays on Tony Abbott and George Pell. In my view, researchers are often long on material but often short on knowledge. For the record, I do my own research.

    In your oh-so-soft interview with Phillip Adams on Late Night Live last Thursday, you described me as a “Santamariaite”. If you had done your own research you would be aware of my book Mr Santamaria and the Bishops (the first edition of which was published by Ed Campion in 1982), my essay B.A. Santamaria, Santamariaism and the Cult of Personality (which was published by Michael Kelly in 1992) and my obituary on B.A. Santamaria (which was published in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age on 26 February 1998).

    All three works were considered and reflective critiques of B. A. Santamaria. They were not the work of a “Santamarite”. The fact is that you lack the intellectual grounding in this area to even be aware of what you do not know.

    As to why Santamaria refused to provide Abbott with a reference for his Liberal Party pre-selection in Warringah in 1993 – you are just theorising. Again. I interviewed Abbott about Santamaria in 2002. I will write about this in due course. To summarise, Tony Abbott told me that B.A. Santamaria did not believe that he should write references for Liberal Party pre-selection aspirants. Also, Abbott was of the view that Santamaria believed that a public Catholic like Abbott could not get anywhere in the Liberal Party.

    If you had asked me about this issue, I would have provided facts. And you would not need to theorise – and fantasise – about the Prime Minister and his one-time relationship with the late B.A. Santamaria.

    You are a fine writer. But you tend to get emotive. Moreover, your memory is bad – even to the extent that you sometimes forget what you have previously written.

    Now you have thrown the switch to persecution. Being unable to provide evidence for your assertions, you have taken the easy way out by accusing me of homophobia and alleging that I hate you.

    You should be able to do better than this. Especially since on two occasions I have invited you to address The Sydney Institute – at which you have always been treated with fairness and respect.

    Best wishes

    Gerard Henderson

    * * * * *



    Gerard Henderson to Virginia Trioli – 29 October 2013

    Good morning La Trioli

    I don’t do twitter – but, on occasions, I read your tweets.

    When Young Mr Rowland read out my (alleged) tweet on News Breakfast this morning, he just made it up. You seemed to misinterpret his gag and went on to accuse me of attention-seeking.

    Shucks. If I were an attention-seeker, I might have accepted the offer I received some years ago to appear regularly as a political commentator on NB. I declined – preferring the company of Nancy on her daily pre-breakfast walk.

    Meanwhile, I’m off to buy a new black shirt – since I am a dedicated follower of (Scott Burchill) fashion.

    Keep morale high.

    Gerard Henderson

    Virginia Trioli to Gerard Henderson – 30 October 2013

    Good morning Gerard,

    Thank you for your email, but I’m afraid I must point out to you an error in your chronology.

    My suggestion of your attention seeking came BEFORE Michael’s rather laboured (yes Michael, laboured) Twitter gag. I never misinterpret Michael’s jokes: how could I when there are so many great ones each morning?

    We are all happy in the service here and trust you are the same.


    Gerard Henderson to Virginia Trioli – 30 October 2013

    Good afternoon Virginia

    I refer to your (early morning) email. If you were a man, you might be labelled – wait-for-it – Jesuitical.

    Sure, Michael Rowland read out my (alleged) tweet after you had accused me of attention-seeking. But it was you who raised attention to me by making an implied reference to my long-standing coverage of Dr Burchill’s personal appearance on News Breakfast. I did nothing. Scott Burchill immediately understood that your reference was to me and he took up your bait. Let’s go to the transcript:

    Virginia Trioli: Okay. Let’s take a look at the Tuesday papers. And this morning we’re joined by Dr Scott Burchill, senior lecturer in international relations at Deakin University. Scott, good morning.

    Scott Burchill: Good morning.

    Virginia Trioli : An almost clean-shaven Scott Burchill.

    Scott Burchill : Almost. Almost, I’m getting there.

    Virginia Trioli : What happened?

    Scott Burchill : Oh, it’s Henderson-approved this morning. I’m just getting to the standard – the very lofty standard.

    Virginia Trioli: Don’t give him the attention he craves.

    Scott Burchill : I’m sorry.

    Virginia Trioli : Now, let’s start off with Page One of The Australian this morning.

    Tuesday was a good day for news. Don’t come-the-raw-prawn (in Barry McKenzie speak) with me by claiming that your first question to academics like Scott Burchill usually involves whether they are clean-shaven. Clearly you were drawing attention to me.

    Then, at the end of the segment, Michael Rowland drew attention to me by falsely claiming that I had forwarded a tweet to him. Let’s go to the transcript:

    Michael Rowland : Just got a tweet. It’s Gerard from Sydney: “It’s about time you cleaned up your act. Thank you.” That’s to you.[Scott Burchill]

    Virginia Trioli : [Laughs]

    Scott Burchill : This is. Well. Thanks. This is. I’m gonna. This is. I can’t match his mortician-chic that, of course, he specialises in. But I’m doing my best – what with limited university budgets. You know what it’s like having a small salary.

    Michael Rowland : Yeah, we know.

    Virginia Trioli : I just don’t know why these guys would want to draw the fire. But anyway, well done.

    Scott Burchill: Thank you.

    Virginia Trioli : Good on you. I’ll look forward to popping up in the usual place. Thanks Scott.

    Scott Burchill: I’m sure you will.

    Michael Rowland : Ah, it’s all good fun.

    Virginia Trioli : Really.

    Michael Rowland: It makes for an entertaining Friday afternoon, doesn’t it?

    Virginia Trioli : Er, hum.

    So there you have it. You claim that I am an attention-seeker with respect to Dr Burchill. However:

    ▪ it was you who introduced the matter of Scott Burchill’s personal presentation.

    ▪ It was Scott Burchill who then mentioned me.

    ▪ it was Michael Rowland who falsely claimed that I sent him a text about Scott Burchill.

    ▪ and it was you who accused me of wanting to “draw the fire” when I was sitting at home in Sydney minding my own business scratching Nancy.

    And yet, on the taxpayer funded broadcaster, you accused me of attention-seeking.

    This would be a case for, er, the taxpayer funded ABC Fact Checking Unit. Except for the fact that the Fact Checking Unit does not purport to check what passes for “fact” on the ABC.

    As to attention seeking. Are you the same La Trioli who went on and on about your new glasses? And is the verballer the very same Young Mr Rowland who dressed up for Pirates Day? All on ABC News Breakfast. Can this be so?

    Best wishes


    * * * * *

    Until next time. Keep morale high.

    “The last time Gerard Henderson smiled was in 1978, when he saw a university student being mauled by a pitbull.”

    – Ben Pobjie, via Twitter, 13 October 2013 [Editor’s Note: Mr “Why Can’t I Score an Invite on Q&A?” Pobjie is wrong. In fact, the year was 1977 and the dog was a blue-heeler – like Nancy]

    “I think Henderson is seriously ill. There’s enough there for an entire convention of psychiatrists.”

    – Mike (“I’ll pour the gin”) Carlton (after Pre-Dinner Drinks tweet to Jeff Sparrow), 8 October 2013

    “Wrong, you got caught out, off to Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch Dog for you!”

    – Tim Wilson tweet to Jonathan Green and Virginia Trioli, 8 October 2013.

    “Nancy as ever will be the judge”

    – Jonathan Green to Tim Wilson and Virginia Trioli (conceding to the arbitral authority of Nancy), 8 October 2013

    [Gerard Henderson’s analysis of the ABC] is absolutely simplistic.”

    – ABC managing director Mark Scott talking to ABC presenter Jonathan Green on ABC Radio National Drive, 2 May 2013.

    “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.