21 February 2014

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.



    Gerard Henderson – aka Nancy’s (male) co-owner – is heading to Melbourne for an appearance on ABC 1 Insiders program on Sunday. [Great. I hope you are on-the-couch with David Marr. – Ed]. He has now decided to travel to Melbourne via Adelaide – after listening to Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly interview Fiona Patten on ABC Radio National Breakfast.

    RN Breakfast is always on to the big stories. So it was no surprise this morning when Ms Kelly decided to interview Ms Patten, the president of the Australian Sex Party. You see, Fiona Patten is performing tonight at the taxpayer subsidised Adelaide Fringe Festival. The gig is called “Naked Girls Reading in the Garden”. All a (female) performer has to do is take off her kit and read something. Fiona Patten has chosen the letters of Henry Miller and Anais Nin.

    Fran Kelly, not the irreverent type, managed to see something deep and meaningful in this occasion. Let’s go to the transcript:

    Fran Kelly: This is part of a global network of these women reading in the nude events. So, what you’re saying is – from your point of view anyway – it’s a lot more than just exhibitionism pure and simple. There’s a serious message here.

    Fiona Patten: Look, I think there is –

    Yeah, go on. It’s difficult to be anything but serious when you’re reading Henry Miller in Adelaide. At night. And starkers.

    Never one to ignore the big political question of the day, Fran Kelly then raised the really and truly important issue:

    Fran Kelly: Any female politicians might join you in this quest, did you have any ideas? Anyone you had in mind?

    Fiona Patten: Look, I think the very prim Julie Bishop reading D. H. Lawrence would be great or Penny Wong reading some of Sappho’s poetry. I even thought of Bronwyn Bishop with Wilfred Owen who was a war poet –

    Fran Kelly: [interjecting] Okay, we can stop now [laughter] Fiona Patten, thanks very much for joining us today and good luck tonight.

    Let’s hope that all of MWD’s tens of thousands of avid readers in Adelaide get along to hear Fiona Patten tonight. Nancy’s (male) co-owner looks forward to meeting them.

    Ever hopeful of getting his second invitation on to RN Breakfast in the last six years, Nancy’s (male) co-owner intends to restore some gender balance into this new global art form. Next Friday, MWD will sponsor in Sydney’s Hyde Park “Naked Men Reading in the Garden”. It’s hoped that Bob Ellis – the False Prophet of Palm Beach – turns up starkers and reads Ulysses. Bring a cut breakfast.

    Can you bear it graphic


    MWD just loves the angst of Jane Caro – the leading female public intellectual of the left-wing Crikey newsletter. Ms Caro describes herself as a “novelist, author and social commentator”. She used to work in advertising.

    Jane Caro’s Crikey column, titled “Caro’s Flotsam & Jetsam”, is a must read in Nancy’s kennel every week – since it gives a wonderful insight into the leftist mindset. Last Wednesday, for example, Jane Caro told her readers that they should not worry too much about the apparent resurgence of right-of-centre parties the world over – since lefties like her were more intelligent than their political opponents. How frightfully re-assuring, in a morally superior kind of way.

    This is what Crikey’s leading female public intellectual had to say, under the title “The left and the stupid”:

    It’s a bit of a dark time for those on the Left of politics these days, and given how far the rest of the world has moved to the Right, being even slightly Left of centre has never been easier. Anyway, those of us on the distaff side of things have to take our comfort where we can find it, particularly in the face of an apparent recovery by the federal government in the polls.

    To my astonishment, I found my bit of comfort this week in the Daily Mail of all unlikely places, with this rather delightful bit of research concluding that left-wingers are smarter than those on the Right. Whether it’s better than most of the junk research we see in the media nowadays, I have no idea, but hey, it made me feel a little better for a nanosecond or two. As did this tweet from editor-in-chief Joan Walsh:

    joanwalshIt’s a phenomenon I have noticed myself, and if the Daily Mail story is anything to go by, perhaps it is genetic.

    So there you have it. Jane Caro reckons that she and her leftist mates are “smarter than those on the right”. And she has joined forces with Joan Walsh, editor-in-chief of the leftist Salon online magazine, in maintaining that right-of-centre types confuse “you’re” and “your”. [Your kidding. What a brilliant insight from you’re Crikey female public intellectual – Ed].

    So, according to Jane Caro, there is a genetic link between bad spelling and right-wing political beliefs – a phenomenon identified by their left-wing opponents. Can you bear it? [Perhaps you should have written – “Can you bare it?” – Ed].


    While on the topic of left-wing delusion, consider the position of Erik Jensen – the inaugural editor of Morry Schwartz’s The Saturday Paper (coming to a newsagent near you on Saturday 1 March 2014 – or perhaps not).

    As pointed out last week (MWD Issue 213), “The Sandalista Paper” will be marketed to well-educated young professionals in the inner-city of Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne who are “lighthouse consumers” (sic).

    Apparently, Mr Schwartz and Mr Jensen have targeted sandal-wearing younger types who have the time and the money to consume both The Saturday Paper and a lighthouse or two at the weekend. Clever, eh?

    On 31 January 2014 Erik Jensen was interviewed by Bill Birnbauer (Senior Lecturer at Monash and a former Age journalist) for the taxpayer subsidised The Conversation.

    Towards the end of the Jensen/Birnbauer conversation in The Conversation, discussion turned on likely columnists in The Saturday Paper. Let’s go to the transcript where Mr Jensen is discussing who might – or might not – get a guernsey on the opinion pages of The Saturday Paper:

    Erik Jensen: People tend to think narrative journalism is left-wing. I don’t understand why that is but they just think if something strays too long all of a sudden a communist must be involved.

    The other part of that is that it is hard to find very good conservative writers. I’ve, for two years looking for them, been troubling over why this should be. And I think a part of it is that good writing requires empathy and a certain amount of empathy often turns people progressive. That’s why the arts, so requiring of empathy as they are, are often peopled by progressives.

    Bill Birnbauer: So you think right-wing conservatives have no empathy?

    Erik Jensen: I don’t think that….

    Brilliant, don’t you think? But what is Erik Jensen on about? First up, he suggested that some people believe that narrative journalism is a preserve of left-wing communism. But he did not say who such people might be.

    Then, Mr Jensen suggested that empathy is the preserve of left-wing or progressive, thought. Yet he went on to say that he did not believe that right-wing conservatives lack empathy.

    For all the contradiction, it seems that Erik Jensen is really in the self-identified camp of the morally superior. Jane Caro believes that the left are more intelligent than the right. Erik Jensen believes that the left have more empathy than the right. Can you bear it?


    Thanks to a Melbourne-based avid MWD reader who has drawn the attention of Nancy’s (male) co-owner to the following profile by Anne Summers of Professor Tim Flannery in the February 2014 issue of Anne Summers Reports.

    Dr Summers (for a doctor she is) gets Tim Flannery off the hook for all his false prophecies – including the prediction that substantial rain would never fall over the dams of Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. Flannery seemed to convince a gullible Summers that all his false prophecies are okay since “the inflow into the dams in 2012 was only 2 per cent of what it was in 1996”. Really.

    MWD was most touched by the apparent trauma experienced by the self-described “ecological historian”. Here’s some of Dr Flannery’s sad tale as reported by Dr Summers.

    “I’ve seen him a little bit fearful,” says [Will] Steffen, referring to 15 May 2012 when, in order to get into the Parramatta RSL in Sydney’s west for a public education forum, they had to push through a wall of people yelling “death to Flannery”. “They were saying, ‘Come over here, c-nt, we’re going to f-cking kill you’,” recalled Flannery. “I had to get escorted out with a security contingent.”

    That first year of the [Climate] Commission was, Flannery tells me, “a terrible time for me”. He was under vicious attack from the sceptics, he needed constant police protection, his marriage fell apart.

    The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Parramatta RSL meeting at the time – but made no reference to death threats against Flannery. In any event, all has worked out well enough – since your man Flannery has moved to Melbourne. Here, according to Summers, he “shares a house with the memoirist Kate Holden and their six month old baby”. This suggests that the Melbourne abode is not all Flannery shares with respect to Ms Holden.

    Tim Flannery has told Anne Summers:

    “I don’t like talking about my private life,” says Flannery. “I believe that you should be known for your ideas and not what you are personally.”

    Yet Flannery told Summers that his marriage fell apart on account of the criticism he received for his views on global warming. Can you bear it?

    nancy's pick graphic


    The Australian Financial Review cannot afford to pay some contributors. However it keeps some journalists on the Fairfax Media payroll.

    Just as well – otherwise Nancy would be searching for a pick-of-a-week for this issue. The stand alone contender is AFR journalist Neil Chenoweth.

    Last Monday, the AFR splashed with a story by Neil Chenoweth who alleged that the “single largest factor in the underlying deterioration of the federal budget” spelt out by Treasurer Joe Hockey in late 2013 “was a cash payment of almost $900 million to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation”.

    In fact the payment, at around $900 million, was only a fraction of the accumulated budget deficit for the current financial year. Moreover, the payment followed a decision of the Federal Court of Australia and was made during the final weeks of the Rudd Labor government. The payment amounted to a refund for overpaid taxation. News Corp won a decision against the Australian Tax Office in the Federal Court and the ATO decided not to appeal the decision. There is no evidence that the matter was brought to the attention of either the then Labor Government or the then Coalition Opposition.

    Needless to say, Neil Chenoweth’s conspiracy-laced story – which had been covered in a matter of fact manner in The Australian as early as July 2013 – was picked up by The Age’s Ben Butler and run on Tuesday in Fairfax Media’s newspapers.

    In order to believe Neil Chenoweth’s conspiracy, you would have to maintain that both the Federal Court and the Australian Taxation Office – with the support of the Rudd Labor government – conspired to give News Corp a hand-out of around $900 million.

    This would amount to corruption of the most serious kind. But to Mr Chenoweth, it was just a case of another AFR day – another (perceived) Rupert Murdoch conspiracy.

    herald columnist


    Some call it courageous. Others just foolish. The varying descriptions apply to the tendency of The Sydney Morning Herald to engage in vitriol directed at its readers and advertisers who are believers and send their children to private schools and/or vote for the Liberal Party or the Nationals.

    The most recent such salvo was launched by Elizabeth Farrelly in her weekly Herald column on Thursday. The Herald even gave Dr Farrelly’s (for a doctor she is) column a puff on its front page.


    Turn to page 20 – and what a stunner of a column it was – as Dr Farrelly:

    ▪ declared that she woke in the “wee hours” to dwell on the burning question of the day – namely “what is the difference between education and damage?”. [A bad dream, perhaps? – Ed].

    ▪ announced that her two offspring were “orchid children” – i.e. absolutely brilliant.

    ▪ called for the continuation of Sydney Girls High where orchid children get educated for free in a non-orchid children free environment.

    ▪ advocated the abolition of private schools since “this would free our streets from the three o’clock Porsche-swill under armed guard” and

    ▪ sneered at suburbs which she associates with “a lawn-mounted hills hoist”.

    Brilliant, yes? Just like Dr Farrelly’s brilliant self and her brilliant children. Needless to say that Elizabeth Farrelly, who attended a private school before training in architecture and philosophy, provided no suggestion about how government would pay for huge increases in public education following the abolition of non-government schools.

    unfinished business


    ABC Radio National Sunday Extra presenter Jonathan (“I own a $1.5 million inner-city terrace” – See MWD Issue 213) Green is in the profession of asking questions. However, he seems to go under-the-bed when requested to support his own claims with evidence.

    Nancy’s (male) co-owner has asked the ABC’s man-for-all programs to provide the source for the following comment which is made at Page 141 of Jonathan Green The Year My Politics Broke (MUP, 2013) viz:

    “There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead …” is probably one of the most infamous pieces of political quotation in Australian history. The other quotable snippet from [Julia Gillard in] those last days of the 2010 campaign— “but I am determined to put a price on carbon” – trips less readily off the tongue, largely due to its quite conspicuous lack of endless repetition.

    That one phrase would become the unwelcome motif of the Gillard government while the other, explicatory portion went largely unheard and unremarked says a lot about the balance of authority in political messaging since 2010: the political reality has been determined by the forces ranged against Gillard, overwhelming the extended version of actual events. History might be written by the victorious, but in politics reality is constructed by the determined and competent. Relying on the subtle complexities of truth just doesn’t cut it.

    Jonathan Green refuses to enter into any correspondence as the source of his claim that Julia Gillard qualified her 2010 promise that, while there would be no carbon tax under a government which she led, she was “determined to put a price on carbon”.

    It seems that Jonathan Green just made this up to fit his thesis that Ms Gillard was brought down by determined opponents ready to discredit her prime ministership in any way possible.

    Right now Jonathan Green declines to provide a source for his alleged quote or to even acknowledge that his source has been challenged. It’s called denial. We’ll keep you posted.


    MWD readers will be familiar with Professor Robert Manne of the debt- challenged La Trobe University (“Proudly One of Australia’s Top 500 Big Polluters”) that in 1993 Gerard Henderson prepared a dossier proposing that he be dropped as a weekly columnist byThe Age. Or perhaps it was 1995 – the learned professor is not sure.

    According to Professor Manne, Gerard Henderson sent the original of this alleged dossier to Paul Austin in his capacity as The Age’s Opinion Page editor in 1993 or, maybe, 1995. Professor Manne also claims that Hendo sent a copy of this very same dossier to Morag Fraser (Manne’s bestie – then and now). Australia’s leading public intellectual has declined to speculate why Henderson would send a copy of such a document to one of Manne’s friends. Professor Manne also claims that Paul Austin gave him a copy of Hendo’s dossier.

    How about that? So, according to Australia’s leading public intellectual, there are at least three copies of this dossier in existence. Allegedly – Mr Austin has the original, Ms Fraser has the first copy and Professor Manne has another copy. Yet Robert Manne has not been able to provide even one of the three (alleged) documents or to provide any supporting evidence that such an incident ever took place.

    Gerard Henderson has offered Professor Robert Manne $6,000 for a refugee charity of his choice if he can produce any copy of the (alleged) document. See MWD passim ad nauseam. But Australia’s leading public intellectual has declined to stump up the evidence.

    Clearly Robert Manne has a vivid “memory” of an event that never happened. It’s called delusion. We’ll keep you posted.

    mike seccombe new gig

    MWD is a great supporter of comment whether on paper or online. So it’s sad to see the final demise this week of The Global Mail, which was to be financed by Wotif founder Graeme Wood.

    Journalist Mike Seccombe was on board Graeme Wood’s The Global Mail. He’s now jumped on board property developer Morry Schwartz’s The Saturday Paper. It seems that Mr Seccombe is pinning his journalistic hopes on wealthy businessmen who want to take a risk in publishing. Mr Wood always knew he would lose on The Global Mail. Mr Schwartz hopes to make money on The Saturday Paper.

    MWD just loved Mike Seccombe’s appearance on the ABC 1 News Breakfast program on Friday 31 January 2014 – just after it was announced that Graeme Wood intended to break his promise to commit $15 million to $20 million to The Global Mail over five years, irrespective of its popularity.

    Interviewed by Virginia Trioli, Mike Seccombe declined to criticise Wood for breaking an unequivocal promise over The Global Mail funding. This is a journalist who has a record of criticising politicians and who is on record as declaring that Tony Abbott has ”serious character defects”.

    During his appearance on News Breakfast, Mike Seccombe demonstrated that he is the kind of person who likes to sit in an office waiting for someone to pay money to his bank account – and then proceed to write about how the nation should be run. Highlights of the interview are set out below.

    ▪ Seccombe told La Trioli that he was “a journo” and “not a money person”. He said that others would “be talking to money people about keeping The Global Mail going”.

    ▪ Seccombe said that, after the demise of The Global Mail was announced, he went on ABC Radio in Canberra and “we had a sudden zoom in the number of subscriptions straight after that”. All very well – except that subscriptions to The Global Mail were free. Enough said.

    ▪ Seccombe went on to declare that “there must be some way to get it [The Global Mail] monetised”. As in “something must be done”. He didn’t do anything. Nor has anyone else – so far at least.

    In fact, there was no way to monetise The Global Mail. It ended up as it was intended to be – a free loss maker. So now Mr Seccombe has jumped on board The Saturday Paper – and, once again, is dependent on a wealthy entrepreneur to fund his journalism – which often involves sneering at politicians and business figures alike

    nancy posthumous 5 paws


    One of the tens of thousands upon tens of thousands of avid Media Watch Dog readers has drawn attention to the assessment made by P.P. McGuinness (1938-2008) shortly after the announcement in 2006 that Mark Scott had been appointed managing director of the ABC by the ABC board headed by (then) ABC chairman Donald McDonald.

    P.P. McGuinness’ column, titled “New ABC Tory chief won’t rock the boat” was published in The Australian on 23 May 2006. Here it is. As the cliché goes -ENJOY!

    If Mark Scott failed to bring balance to Fairfax newspapers, do not expect him to reform the public broadcaster, argues P. P. McGuinness.

    The more intelligent denizens of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation will be celebrating the appointment of their new managing director, Mark Scott, hitherto editor-in-chief of The Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne’s The Age. For once again the colourless managerialists, in the mould of ABC chairman Donald McDonald, have successfully repelled the forces of the would-be radical reformers who believe the ABC is a nest of left-wing journalistic vipers.

    Scott is one of those who, in the old phrase, have risen without trace. And he is a guarantee of one thing. While he is at the helm, the ABC will not change its editorial culture. In fact, he is very much like a younger and taller clone of McDonald, who throughout his tenure — coextensive with that of the Howard Government — has played a purely emollient role in that organisation, carefully avoiding change and deflecting the continual assaults from those who find the ABC culture narrow and heavily biased.

    Although many of these assaults have come from members of his Government and from a strong element in his supporters, Prime Minister John Howard has resolutely supported McDonald. And although he has allowed the occasional so-called conservative appointment to the ABC board, he has blandly resisted any policy initiatives that may interfere with the status quo.

    Scott will not be idle. He is an able exponent of management change and of organisational change. The already quite extensive activity of the ABC in the rapid technical development of broadcasting and of related areas will continue. No doubt he will, as a believer in organisational growth, support the imperialistic drive that has taken the ABC into areas far beyond its original brief and often beyond the limits of its legislative charter.

    It will not be long before, as happened previously with the radio frequency that carries Radio National, the broadcasting of parliament will be driven off the so-called News Radio frequency. (The only answer to this would be a separate and genuinely public broadcasting service, both radio and television, free of sports and dedicated solely to the broadcasting of proceedings of both houses of parliament and its committee hearings and related activities.) ABC TV will continue to invent a need for yet more channels. The ABC octopus will grow and grow.

    While ostensibly a journalist, Scott has little journalistic experience. He was appointed education editor of the SMH in 1994 with no prior journalistic experience. Probably this had something to do with his background as a schoolteacher and his father’s influence: Brian Scott had conducted or was in the process of conducting several official inquiries into the workings of the education system (with no visible result).

    Mark Scott had acquired one of Harvard’s meaningless degrees in management, not a master of business administration (like the unfortunate young Warwick Fairfax) but a master of public administration; his only experience in public administration was a stint in the office of the (also unfortunate) Terry Metherell when he was the Liberal minister for education in NSW. But management degrees of any kind were popular during Fred Hilmer’s period as chief executive of Fairfax. Hilmer, an MBA (Wharton School of Finance) and a product of the McKinsey school of management flim-flam, moved on to become vice-chancellor of the University of NSW after a not very impressive stint as head of the now-struggling Australian Graduate School of Management at that university in the 1990s.

    So, although Scott had no real journalistic runs on the board as a reporter, analyst or commentator, he rose rapidly to the top of the journalistic tree. He could, after all, be said to be almost a hereditary management expert. His grandfather, Walter Dill Scott (later Sir Walter), was the founder of one of the first and most respected indigenous management firms. His father, Brian, AO, MBA and DBA, took over the family firm and later became a director of many companies and other organisations (including at one time the AGSM).

    By then the family had joined the grandees of the Sydney north shore Liberal establishment, like the Longstaffs and the Bairds, most of them Anglicans (though definitely not of the [Archbishop Peter] Jensen persuasion) whose religious base in the CBD is St James’s Church in King Street: all deeply conservative but of the accommodating progressivist kind.

    So the ABC remains in safe hands. There is no revolutionary, no ideologue, no hot-eyed burning reformer to disturb its ageing and placid dissemination of the small-l liberal platitudes of the past 30 years.

    The feminists, the gay-rights advocates, the ecumenical searches for the meaning of life, the anti-Catholics, the advocates of Papuan independence, the supporters of Fidel Castro and similar Third World dictators and murderers, the America haters can rest secure. So can the Howard haters, long protected by McDonald at the ABC.

    After all, Scott has protected for years that rabid, elderly hater of Howard, Alan Ramsey at the SMH, as he declines in perpetual hymns of Keatingesque hate (only the other day he called Howard a toad). He has allowed The Age to dispose of any semblance of balance, not even pretending to occasional balance on the opinion page (but, like the SMH, never in the news or letters pages).

    Why the tolerance of the Howard haters? Why does McDonald, one of the PM’s closest friends, not get upset by this? Simply because he knows, as Joh Bjelke-Petersen knew in his day, that every hyperbolic outpouring of hate and prejudice by the ABC is votes in the ballot box for the Coalition side.

    Nor is there anybody likely to wield the axe or the chainsaw in the ABC. Unless, of course, the board decides otherwise. In which case anybody over 50 at the ABC will have reason to be grateful for Peter Costello’s changes to the superannuation system. For that is what mindless management experts do.

    Paddy McGuinness’ 2006 piece was remarkably perceptive. He looked back at Mark Scott’s career at Fairfax Media where he had protected John Howard haters in the Sydney Morning Herald and presided over a situation where The Age became “The-Guardian-on-the-Yarra”. And P.P. McGuinness predicted that Nice Mr Scott would allow the various leftist cliques embedded in the ABC to continue to run the organisation. This has led to a situation where the taxpayer funded public broadcaster has not one conservative presenter or producer or editor for any of its prominent television or radio or online outlets some eight years after Nice Mr Scott’s appointment. Not one.

    P.P. McGuinness also predicted that Mark Scott would push the ABC into growth for the sake of growth into numerous new television and radio and online outlets while failing to run the organisation as an editor-in-chief should.

    The late P.P. McGuinness – Five Paws – plus a belated Perpetual Indulgence.

    [Let’s hope it’s redeemable for atheists/agnostics. – Ed]

    correspondence header caps


    This increasingly popular segment of Media Watch Dog usually works like this. Somebody or other comes to the conclusion that it would be a you-beaut idea to write to Gerard Henderson about something or other. And Hendo – being the courteous kind of guy that he is – invariably responds in spades. Then, hey presto, the correspondence is published in MWD – much to the delight of its avid readers.

    MWD Issue 194 contains correspondence between the late James (Jim) Griffin and Gerard Henderson concerning the Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne Daniel Mannix (1864-1963), the late B.A. Santamaria (1915-1998), the Labor Split of the 1950s and more besides. In this correspondence Henderson noted that Griffin had conceded that Bishop Arthur Fox (one of Mannix’s allies) had not said in 1960 that it would be a mortal sin for a Catholic to vote for the Labor Party. This was a myth which was put around half a century ago by the political opponents of Mannix, Fox and Santamaria – and other anti-communists within the Australian Catholic Church at the time.

    On 13 February 2014, out of the blue, a certain John Kelly wrote to Gerard Henderson concerning his correspondence with Jim Griffin. Here we go:

    John Kelly to Gerard Henderson – 12 February 2014

    For Gerard Henderson

    I was doing a Google search and found your Media Watch Dog page and the following:

    Gerard Henderson to Jim Griffin – 2 September 2008.

    PS : I note that there is a handwritten amendment to your typewritten paper concerning Bishop Arthur Fox’s alleged comment of circa 1960 that it would be a mortal sin for Catholics to vote Labor on account of what he regarded as the ALP’s closeness to the Communist Party in Victoria at the time. The reference is to your sentence on Page 8 of your paper where you wrote: “He [Mannix] used his auxiliary bishop [Fox] to say it was virtually a mortal sin for a Catholic to vote for the Labor Party.”

    As you are aware, you added the word “virtually” to your typed manuscript. I have never found any evidence that Bishop Fox ever said it would be a mortal sin for Catholics to vote Labor. Your use of the word “virtually” confirms this since the word “virtually” is invariably used to cover a situation which might have occurred but did not, in fact, take place.

    I just wanted to let you know that I remember a Meet the Press interview given by Mannix around 1960/61 when he (Mannix) quite categorically stated that “in his opinion” Catholics who voted for Labor would be committing a mortal sin. It became the subject of a divisive argument in our household at the time.

    I knew Bishop Fox when he was parish priest of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Deepdene. Bob Santamaria was also one of the parishioners as I was. I socialised with his son and daughters. Bishop Fox also stated from the pulpit one Sunday that voting Labor would be a mortal sin.

    Just thought I’d let you know.

    John Kelly

    Gerard Henderson to John Kelly – 14 February 2014

    To John Kelly

    I refer to your email of 12 February 2014.

    As a historian, I am interested in facts and do not trust anyone’s memory of what happened half a century ago. The PS to my letter to Jim Griffin, dated 2 September 2008, has been fact checked and is correct. In relation to your email, I make the following points:

    1. Archbishop Daniel Mannix was never interviewed by Meet the Press. However, towards the end of his life, Dr Mannix was interviewed by Gerald Lyons for ABC TV.

    2. Dr Mannix never said that Catholics who voted Labor would be committing a mortal sin. You have provided no evidence for this assertion.

    3. I was not aware that Bishop Fox was ever parish priest of our Lady of Good Counsel in Deepdene (this was my church as a young boy).

    4. Bishop Fox did not state “from the pulpit one Sunday” that voting Labor would be a mortal sin. His statement was made at De La Salle College on 15 May 1960. Bishop Fox simply said that he would regard himself as “having a bad conscience” if he voted Labor. There was no reference to mortal sin or even venial sin.

    In conclusion, the evidence suggests that Bishop Fox was verballed by his political opponents on this issue.

    Best wishes

    Gerard Henderson

    John Kelly to Gerard Henderson – 14 February 2014

    For Gerard Henderson

    I accept the likelihood that it was Gerald Lyons on the ABC who interviewed Mannix. He still said Catholics who voted Labor would be committing a mortal sin. That is non-negotiable.

    Bishop Fox was parish priest of Our Lady of Good Counsel from 1966 to 1967. For confirmation go to: Bishop Fox DID say from the pulpit one Sunday that voting for Labor would be a mortal sin and I remember that Bob Santamaria was present on the day he said it.

    John Kelly

    Gerard Henderson to John Kelly – 20 February 2014


    I refer to your email of 14 February 2014. You state that it is a “non-negotiable” fact that Archbishop Daniel Mannix once said that “Catholics who voted Labor would be committing a mortal sin”. However, you have not provided any evidence of any kind to support your assertion. You apparently rely on your memory of a comment which allegedly was made over half a century ago. That’s not compelling evidence.

    Initially you maintained that Archbishop Mannix made the comment on Channel 9’s Meet the Press. When I pointed out that Dr Mannix was never interviewed by Meet the Press – and that the only television interview he ever did was with Gerald Lyons for ABC TV – you accepted that your original claim was incorrect. But you now declare that the comment was made to Gerald Lyons on ABC TV.

    It wasn’t. I have the transcript of the Daniel Mannix/Gerald Lyons interview dated 20 December 1961, when Mannix was 97 years of age. The relevant excerpt of the transcript is as follows:

    Gerald Lyons: Now how do you personally look upon Catholics who vote for the ALP? In other words, in a word, do you regard it as a sin for a Catholic to vote for the ALP?

    Daniel Mannix: My notion is – well, of course, don’t agree with them but every man has a right to follow his own conscience. And there’s some people who will lead you to believe that I am a very dominant personality. As a matter of fact, I don’t know what my own household is going to vote at this election. I never knew – and I have a strong idea that many times they’ve voted against me.

    In other words, Daniel Mannix said exactly the opposite of what you claim he said. More importantly, the word “sin” – of either the mortal or venial kind – was not mentioned by Dr Mannix during the interview. Not once.

    As to Bishop Arthur Fox – as stated, I was not aware that he was parish priest of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Deepdene from 1966 to 1967. I accept that he held this position. This is the only claim you have made which is supported by evidence. However, it is of no importance in the current discussion.

    In your latest email you wrote:

    Bishop Fox DID say from the pulpit one Sunday that voting for Labor would be a mortal sin and I remember that Bob Santamaria was present on the day he said it.

    This implies that Bishop Fox made the statement from the pulpit of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Deepdene – since this was B.A. Santamaria’s parish. Yet, Bishop Fox is alleged to have made the “mortal sin” statement in 1960 – some six years before he became the parish priest of Our Lady of Good Counsel.

    In recent times, the claim that Arthur Fox had said that it would be a mortal sin for a Catholic to vote for the Labor Party has re-stated by (then) ABC journalist Stephen Crittenden and the late James (Jim) Griffin.

    When presenting The Religion Report on ABC Radio National on 13 June 2007, Stephen Crittenden said:

    …Archbishop Mannix’s auxiliary bishop in Melbourne, Arthur Fox, declared that it was a mortal sin to vote for the Labor Party.

    I wrote to Mark Scott, the ABC’s managing director and editor-in-chief, on this matter on 8 October 2008 challenging this – and one other statement – made by Stephen Crittenden. On 31 October 2008, presumably acting on the advice of Mr Crittenden, Mr Scott wrote to me purporting to quote evidence to support the “mortal sin” claim. It turned out that Mark Scott was badly advised – and that not one of the sources supported the assertion in The Religion Report. I pointed this out to Mr Scott in a detailed letter dated 13 November 2008. The ABC accepted my critique and, shortly after, the following comment was placed on the ABC’s website below the transcript of the program – viz:

    There is no evidence that Arthur Fox ever said that it would be a “mortal sin” for a Catholic to vote Labor. However, Bishop Fox did say in 1960 that no Catholic in good conscience could vote Labor while it did deals with the Communist Party in trade union elections.

    It should be pointed out, for the record, that Stephen Crittenden refused to personally respond to any correspondence on this issue. He simply went “under the bed” and left the issue to ABC management.

    And then there is James Griffin. As I pointed out in my correspondence with Jim Griffin – which was published in “History Corner” in MWD Issue 194, 9 August 2013 – Jim Griffin could find no evidence that Fox ever made the “mortal sin” comment. In a letter to me dated 8 February 2008, Jim Griffin attached a paper in which the following comment appeared:

    He [Mannix] used his auxiliary bishop [Fox] to say it was virtually a mortal sin for a Catholic to vote for the Labor Party.

    The fact that Jim Griffin qualified his assertion with the word “virtually” was an acknowledgement that the specific statement attributed to Bishop Fox was never made.

    I documented what really happened in my book Mr Santamaria and the Bishops which was first published in 1982 (with a second edition in 1983). The known facts – which have never been disputed – are set out below.

    On Sunday 15 May 1960, at De La Salle College in Melbourne, Bishop Fox, after speaking initially about education, went on to discuss the ALP. He said that the ALP could not expect Catholic votes if it continued to deny educational justice to independent schools and then mentioned unity tickets between the ALP and the Communist Party in trade union elections – arguing that the ALP was “not doing anything” to oppose the communists. Bishop Fox added:

    In the present position of some members of the ALP being dominated by the Communist Party I and other Catholics would be ashamed to vote for such a weak and timorous party. I would regard myself as having a bad conscience if I did so.

    Bishop Fox pointed to the defeat in April 1960 of the right-wing leadership of the Gippsland Trades and Labor Council by a unity ticket and concluded that: “No Catholic with a good conscience could vote for the ALP while it continues to have such negotiations with the Communist Party.”

    Arthur Fox’s comments were reported at the time in The Advocate on 19 May 1960. Following criticism of him in the “Labor Speaks” column in the Melbourne Herald , Bishop Fox returned to the topic in an article published in the Herald on 4 June 1960. There he re-stated his position that “so long as the ALP continues to permit its members to assist the Communist Party…no Catholic with a good conscience can vote for it”.

    On 8 June 1960 the Herald published a letter critical of Bishop Fox from a Catholic – using the nom-de-plume “X Target” – who pointed out that Arthur Fox had failed “to state unequivocally whether or not it is a sin to vote for the ALP”. It was later revealed that “X Target” was the Victorian Labor parliamentarian Jack Galbally QC (1910-1990). So, in June 1960, Jack Galbally was attempting to goad Bishop Fox into saying that it was a mortal sin for a Catholic to vote Labor. Arthur Fox did not oblige.

    As you will be aware, there is no causal link between a Catholic acting with a bad conscience and committing what the Catholic Church regards as a grievous, or mortal, sin. None at all.

    What happened is that the opponents of Daniel Mannix, Arthur Fox and B.A. Santamaria verballed Fox by (falsely) asserting in 1960 that he had said that it would be a mortal sin for a Catholic to vote for the ALP – as a way of ridiculing the Mannix/Fox/Santamaria position on the Labor Party at the time. Bishop Fox said no such thing. Nor did Daniel Mannix.

    In order to prove your claim, you would have to supply evidence from a contemporaneous source. You have failed to do so. As did Stephen Crittenden – as the ABC itself reluctantly conceded.

    Best wishes

    Gerard Henderson

    John Kelly to Gerard Henderson – 20 February 2014

    For Gerard Henderson,

    I have no interest in what Bishop Fox said or might have said at De La Salle. I only know what I heard him say at Our Lady of Good Counsel. You may refute that but that doesn’t mean you are right. Since you have shown that Daniel Mannix probably did not make the said reference to Gerald Lyons I revert to my original position and re-state that he made it in a television interview to a journalist who interviewed him on Meet the Press or some like program. You can be as adamant as you like about what you think. I know what I heard and who said it. As you are three months younger than me and appear to have left OLGC at a young age and didn’t know Bishop Fox was a PP there, and seem to rely heavily on ‘other sources’ perhaps a little more respect for your elders is not out of the question.

    John Kelly

    Gerard Henderson to John Kelly – 21 February 2014

    John Kelly

    I refer to your latest email.

    I note that you have no evidence for your significant allegation that Bishop Arthur Fox said at Our Lady Good Counsel in 1966/1967 that it would be a mortal sin for a Catholic to vote for the Labor Party – beyond your recollection some 50 years after the event.

    I note that you allege that Archbishop Daniel Mannix made a similar significant statement before November 1963 on Meet the Press – despite the fact that there is no evidence that he was ever interviewed on Meet the Press.

    I am not “adamant” about anything. Produce the evidence – and I will believe it. It’s just that, as a historian, I do not take much notice of memories of half a century ago. I well understand that many people believe what they want to believe while others have vivid “memories” of events which never happened.

    As far as I am concerned, this correspondence is concluded.

    Best wishes

    Gerard Henderson

    Complete stranger comes up to me: that Gerard Henderson’s a xxxxxx.

    – Jonathan Green via Twitter, 8 February 2014

    “[Gerard Henderson is] a sclerotic warhorse, unhelpful to debate, unwilling to think…a wonderful study in delusion…ideologically-constipated.”

    – Erik Jensen, editor of Morry Schwartz’s The Saturday Paper [forthcoming], 23 November 2013

    “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.

    Until next time, keep morale high.