22 AUGUST 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.




This is what Silma Ihram (nee Anne Beaumont) tweeted at 7.02 pm on Wednesday – about 24 hours before her appearance on Paul Murray Live last night:

Silma Ihram @Silma_Ihram: JamesFoley – Another terrible tragedy in countries destroyed by US/West intervention. My sad condolences to his family.

Now here are some facts. James Foley was murdered by Islamic State Islamists in Syria. The West, including the United States, has not intervened in – or destroyed – Syria. Currently about 170,000 individuals have been killed in the appalling Syrian Civil War – which is essentially a war between Shi’a Muslims supporting the Bashar al-Assad regime in Damascus and Sunni Muslims attempting to overthrow the al-Assad regime. The so-called Islamic State is a Sunni Islamist organisation.

The Sunni Islamists attempting to establish an Islamic State have been busy murdering Shi’a Muslims, Christians and other religious minorities. They have also murdered some Sunni Muslims who declined to accept their version of the Koran.

As a convert to Islam who has studied the religion, Silma Ihram should know that disputes between Sunni Islam and the minority Shi’a Muslims have gone on for centuries. So have disputes between Islam and Christianity.

Ms Ihram’s tweet is just tosh. James Foley was captured while reporting the civil war between Shi’a and the Sunni. Yet Silma Ihram made no reference to the fact in her tweet or her soft interview on Paul Murray Live last night.

Paul Murray has a detailed grasp of national and international politics and handled the national security issue well on Wednesday night. But he is out of his depth when it comes to religion. In interviewing Silma Ihram, Paul Murray did not raise the issue of the Sunni/Shi’a conflict – which is even evident on Sydney streets.

Also Paul Murray failed to make the point that the national security legislation – which Silma Ihram opposes – is designed, in part, to prevent Sunni Australians from travelling overseas to kill Shi’a foreigners.

No Five Paws Award for you this week Mr Murray – you need to learn some religious history and theology.


The appalling beheading of James Foley in Syria – apparently by a British-born Islamist – has shocked most Australians. But not, it seems, Bob Ellis of Sydney’s Northern Beaches.

In his Table Talk blog yesterday, the False Prophet of Palm Beach asked the question: “Is there anything about beheading?” Implying the negative, he pointed out that “Queen Elizabeth I…beheaded her female cousin”. This suggests that Ellis believed she held the knife. And William Shakespeare was also into beheadings as was Charles Dickens and the writers of The Simpsons and Game of Thrones. Which led the False Prophet to ask this question: “Why then all the fuss?”

Er, try this Bob. Perhaps Shakespeare’s plays and Dickens’ novels along with The Simpsons and Game of Thrones are – wait for it – fiction. Whereas the murders of Daniel Pearl and James Foley were the real thing. Just a thought.

In his Table Talk extract, your man Ellis referred favourably to the Australian left’s hero David Hicks, who pleaded guilty to assisting terrorism. This reminded Nancy’s (male) co-owner of some of the verse released by David Hicks’ family when he was in detention in Guantanamo Bay. Here are two lines from one of David Hicks’ poems written around the time he claimed to have met Osama bin Laden:

Mohammed’s food you shall be fed

To disagree, so off with your head.

Needless to say, David Hicks’ “off with your head” poetry did not prevent him from obtaining a Standing Ovation – as in SO – from the Sandalista Set at the 2011 Sydney Writers’ Festival – organiser Chip Rolley, now employed at the ABC’s Conservative-Free-Zone editing The Drum.


Can you bear it graphic


As Sydney Morning Herald investigative reporter Kate McClymont is wont to tweet, “Scissors, paper, rock!”.

Ms McClymont is a hero among journalists and lecturers-at –large about journalistic ethics, morality and all that. Yet in her recently released (and now withdrawn) book He Who Must Be Obeid – which is co-authored with Linton Besser – Kate McClymont failed to do the basic journalistic work of checking sources.

Kate McClymont seems to start from the assumption that all politicians, political staffers and political operatives are corrupt – to a greater or lesser extent. Especially in New South Wales. In her book on former Labor parliamentarian Eddie Obeid, Ms McClymont seems to have assumed that all – or most – who had any kind of contact with Obeid were corrupt.

Maybe. Or maybe not. In the process, the authors of He Who Must Be Obeid confused a certain Christopher Geoffrey Charles Brown (born 1947) with the well known Sydney political operative Christopher Brown (born circa 1966). The latter is the son of former Hawke government minister John Brown. Christopher Brown is active in the tourism industry and as an advocate of Western Sydney.

All McClymont had to do was to ask the high profile Christopher Brown whether he was, or ever had been, a business associate of Eddie Obeid. But it seems that she was too busy doing media interviews on political morality and lecturing journalist students on ethics to check the facts in her book.

So the matter has gone to the area of m’learned friends. Mr Brown’s lawyer has demanded a public apology plus damages. Meanwhile publisher Random House has withdrawn Ms McClymont’s magnum opus [or is it opus magnum? – Ed] from sale.

As John Lehmann reported in the Daily Telegraph yesterday, He Who Must Be Obeid contains the following assertion:

The Obeid and Brown offspring had set up Strand International Travel, which swiftly went belly up, owing $91,345. At that point, Chris Brown was a spokesman for the lobby group the Tourism Task Force, of which his dad was chairman. Bankruptcy would have been a bad look.

You bet. But perhaps no worse a look than an acclaimed journalist not bothering to phone or email John Brown or his son Christopher Brown to check whether the story was true. It wasn’t. “Scissors, paper, rock!” indeed. Can you bear it?


While on the topic of Kate McClymont, does anyone recall her stunning performance on ABC Radio National Drive on 19 May 2014?

Jonathan Green – the ABC’s man for all programs – was in the presenter’s chair. As would be expected, he gave Ms McClymont a soft interview. That day, former NSW Coalition minister Chris Hartcher was before the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) and faced a hostile interrogation from Geoffrey Watson SC – Counsel Assisting the ICAC inquiry. Mr Watson is one of Kate McClymont’s favourites – she just loves his hyperbole and stage technique.

To some, Mr Watson’s performances seem, well, somewhat over the top. Even for a budding legal media tart who recently posed for the Australian Financial Review in a boxing ring and wearing a mouth-guard containing the word “Hollywood”.

In any event, Geoffrey “Hollywood” Watson SC was in fine form on 19 May – as an excited Kate McClymont related to Jonathan Green on RN Drive that very afternoon. She mentioned that the ICAC Commissioner Megan Latham had said to Watson and Hartcher on one occasion: “Please, please, it’s like dealing with squabbling children.”

But Ms McClymont made no criticism of the behaviour of Geoffrey Watson which had sparked Ms Latham’s intervention.

At the commencement of ICAC’s proceedings on 20 May, Mr Watson felt the need to apologise to Commissioner Latham for engaging in a shouting match with Chris Hartcher the previous day.

However, due to her apparent infatuation with the legal prowess of Geoffrey Watson SC, Kate McClymont missed the big story about the Counsel Assisting’s bad behaviour and failed to anticipate his apology the following day. Can you bear it?


The 4 August 2014 issue of The New Republic contains an article by Paul Berman on the British-born journalist Alexander Cockburn (1941-2012). Cockburn (the son of the apologist for Stalin, Claud Cockburn) moved to New York in the early 1970s and wrote initially for The Village Voice.

Berman writes of Cockburn that “journalistic credibility was not his thing; his thing was vilification”. Berman depicted the leftist Cockburn as a man who practised “the journalism of personal abuse”.

In Australia, no one practises the journalism of personal abuse and vilification more fully than the failed former Labor leader Mark Latham. The Lair of Liverpool was at it again in his “Relativities” column in the AFR Weekend edition last Saturday – where he threatened more of the same [Yawn – Ed].

Yet, for some unknown reason, Rowan Dean – the new editor of The Spectator Australia – has decided to give Latham a monthly column. As avid MWD readers will be aware, the Lair of Liverpool spat the dummy and quit the “Aussie Speccie” in 2012 after he discovered that the then editor Tom Switzer had criticised his past misogyny in an interview on ABC Radio National’s Sunday Extra.

The Lair of Liverpool did not listen to the program. However, he found out about it after reading in MWD that Tom Switzer had won Nancy’s prestigious Five Paws Award for his critique of Latham. This became the first occasion in which a man had resigned as a columnist due to a gong awarded by a female dog. Fancy that.

As “The Media” section in last Monday’s Australian revealed, Rowan Dean has defended his decision to re-engage Mark Latham. According to your man Dean: “He’s come back because he was such a popular writer in the past; he has terrific political insights having worked in politics at the point that he did.” [Yeah. Mr Latham’s political insights worked so well when he lost the 2004 election to John Howard, don’t you think? – Ed]

The Lair of Liverpool’s first column in The Spectator Australia, under the editorship of Rowan Dean, appeared on 9 August 2014. Were there any “terrific political insights”? Alas, nope. Just abuse, directed particularly at The Australian’s Sharri Markson. Sure, he did praise Radio National’s James Carleton – but misspelt his name.

On 3 September 2011, Rowan Dean had this to say about Mark Latham in The Spectator Australia – following an “enlightening” evening with him at the up-market Kirribilli Hotel:

Over dinner we get the famous ‘taxi-driver-with-the-broken-elbow’ yarn, complete with a visual re-enactment of the bone-snapping tackle and plateloads of humour and self-deprecation. He must’ve told it a thousand times before, but he makes the story sound as fresh as the tuna sashimi we tuck into.

Taxi driver. Broken elbow, What a hoot. Can you bear it?


If Rowan Dean needs the Lair of Liverpool to sell copies of The Spectator Australia it may be best to close it now. Meanwhile, according to The Australian, former ABC chairman Donald McDonald has been commissioned by Rowan Dean to write a weekly column titled “Culture Buff”.

Could this be the very same Donald McDonald who, when ABC Chairman for over a decade, vowed and declared that the public broadcaster was in great shape and did not require any reform? You know, the Donald McDonald chap who only found that the ABC is a Conservative Free Zone after he stepped down as ABC chairman? Sure is. Can you bear it?



As avid MWD readers will be aware, leftist historian David Day has advised that he is as flat out as a lizard drinking – and just too busy to provide evidence to support his claims about Robert Menzies and Winston Churchill. But has promised to do so – sometime in the future.

It’s a simple question, really. Dr Day (for a doctor he is) is the author of the 1986 book Menzies & Churchill at War. Day became famous for his claim that the situation in Britain in 1941 was just so dire that the British Establishment decided that Winston Churchill just had to go and it was time to get that Menzies chap to come-on-down from the colonies and become prime minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. According to Day’s thesis, Menzies went along with the proposal.

David Day’s thesis was challenged by the late Allan Martin in Robert Menzies A Life: Volume 1 (1993) and by Gerard Henderson in Menzies Child: The Liberal Party of Australia (1994). It has been most extensively debunked by Anne Henderson in Menzies at War (2014) – who examined all of David Day’s sources. Dr Day was just-so-upset by Anne Henderson’s refutation of his (bizarre) thesis – but he has defended his assertion without supplying evidence.

Recently, David Day was given free kicks in Australian Book Review and The Spectator Australia to denigrate his critics. But he has failed to provide the name of one person or written source which supports his assertion that influential figures in Britain circa 1941 wanted to replace Churchill with Menzies – and that Menzies went along with the proposal. Just one credible source will do – there is no such source in his Menzies and Churchill at War.

Here’s the “Waiting for David” scoreboard update.

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This overwhelmingly popular segment of Media Watch Dog usually works like this. Someone or other thinks it would be a you-beaut idea to write to Nancy’s (male) co-owner about something or other. And Hendo, being a courteous and well-brought up kind of guy, replies. Then, hey presto, the correspondence is published in MWD – much to the delight of its hundreds of thousands of readers.

There are occasions, however, when Nancy’s (male) co-owner decides to write a polite note to someone or other – who, in turn, believes that a reply is in order. Publication in MWD invariably follows.

As hundreds of thousands of avid readers are aware, The Guardian Australia’s deputy editor Katharine Murphy put out the following tweet on 6 June 2014 at 4.33 pm – when that issue of MWD was “hot off the press”. Here is Ms Murphy’s tweet: “Without in any way wanting to breach anyone’s human rights or free speech – why do people write emails to Gerard Henderson?” It’s a very good question. Thankfully, not everyone follows Katharine Murphy’s wise counsel. So here we go again.


Believe it or not [I believe it – Ed], Julian Burnside AO QC wrote to Nancy’s male-owner last Friday afternoon. Not once – but twice. Once before reading Media Watch Dog – and once after reading MWD.

The saga continued with Julian Burnside AO QC suggesting that he is not a republican and Hendo suggesting that he is – or at least was. Julian Burnside AO QC also suggested that Nancy’s (male) co-owner was not courteous. A shocking defamation to be sure. Now read on – if you wish.

Julian Burnside to Gerard Henderson – 15 August 2014

Dear Gerard

I did not see the item in MWD: it was drawn to my attention by someone else.

Apparently you did not have any basis for calling me “an avowed republican” (or at least you decline my request to identify the basis on which you said it). Instead, you ask me to tell you how I voted in 1999.

It seems that you thought it would be a good way of sneering at me, as apparently it was in a tenuous way related to the fact that I am a QC. If sneering without evidence is your idea of courtesy, it is disappointing.

Very best wishes


Julian Burnside AO QC

Julian Burnside to Gerard Henderson – 16 August 2014

Dear Gerard

A colleague referred me to the MWD column in which you have reprinted our recent email exchanges. I had no idea that you have a habit of publishing private correspondence, but having looked at MWD now I see that you make a practice of it.

For a person who declares himself to be Always Courteous, it is astonishing behaviour: distinctly discourteous. No other journalist I have had dealings with would do such a thing.

Mind you: I am not embarrassed by what I wrote, but I am genuinely surprised that your conduct falls so far below the standards of courtesy and professionalism which I would have expected of any journalist. But reading the exchange between you and Richard Aedy in the same column, perhaps I accepted too readily your assertions about the standards you adopt.

Incidentally, if it matters, I do not object to you publishing this email.

Very best wishes


Julian Burnside AO QC

Gerard Henderson to Julian Burnside – 21 August 2014

Dear Julian AO QC

I refer to your emails of 15 August 2014 and 16 August 2014. Apologies for the delay in responding but I briefly went into shock following your statement that I am “distinctly discourteous”. Shucks. I like to think of myself as always courteous. Even if such self-assessment is inconsistent with The Thought of Julian Burnside AO AC. In other words, if you like to parade what you term your “post nominals”, I should be entitled to parade my self-awarded post-nominal.

In response to your most recent emails, I make the following comments:

▪ I note that you claim that there is “no basis” for calling you an avowed republican and that you refuse to state whether or not you voted “Yes” in the 1999 referendum on the republic.

You don’t seem to know where you stand on this issue. In your recent emails, you imply that you are not an “avowed republican” and challenge me to provide evidence to the contrary.

Well, here it is. An avid Media Watch Dog reader has sent me the article by Katharine Murphy in The Age on 9 April 2008 titled “Summit to restart republican call”. Ms Murphy’s report contains the following sentence, viz:

Prominent Melbourne QC Julian Burnside said he was a republican, but would not raise the issue at 2020, preferring to raise his own agenda items at the governance session.

As you may or may not recall, you and I and some 98 others were members of the Australian Governance working group at Kevin Rudd’s 2020 Summit – along with the likes of Phillip Adams, Harry Evans, Robert Manne, David Marr and Maxine McKew. What a love-in.

The working group supported a republic unanimously – with one exception. The dissident was not Julian Burnside QC. But, rather, George Brandis QC. Fancy that. You went along with the avowed republicans in 2008 – but now wish to imply that you are not a republican.

I’m surprised that you seem to have no memory of the 2020 Summit moment in your life. I will never forget it.

For the record, I am not sneering at your QC “post-nominal”. Indeed, some of my best friends are QCs – as the saying goes. It’s just that I would not trust some of them to walk Nancy around the block. I do not happen to believe that a person’s post-nominals add authority to his or her argument. That’s all.

▪ As to publishing your emails in MWD, well you are a public figure active in the public debate. As such, I assume that you would expect that your writings might well appear in print or online.

There was nothing of a personal nature in the email correspondence. Except for your evident Pomposity – which is scarcely a national secret.

Keep morale high.

Gerard Henderson AC (aka Always Courteous)

Julian Burnside to Gerard Henderson – 21 August 2014

Dear Gerard

Thank you for your response. Nice try, but you fudged the facts a bit.

You say that I “…claim that there is ‘no basis’ for calling you an avowed republican and that you refuse to state whether or not you voted ‘Yes’ in the 1999 referendum on the republic”

In fact my email said “…you were willing to describe me as an ‘avowed republican’ without being able to identify anything I have said or done to justify it. Instead, you ask me to prove the point one way or other by disclosing my position in a secret ballot 15 years ago.”

You see the distinction. At best, your original piece was a guess for which you could not produce a shred of evidence. The fact that you come up with indirect evidence much later does not really change anything. Apart from anything else, my position on a republic is not something I have spoken about publicly. I can say privately that I think it would be a good idea for Australia to become a republic one day, but only when it is sufficiently grown up to embrace the idea. Apparently that time has not yet come. That does not make me a monarchist, but neither does it make me an “avowed republican”. And it does not involve any contradiction in my being a QC. The apparent contradiction was the point of your original article, as I recall. You made the point that Mark Dreyfus and I both have QC after our names despite being “avowed republicans”. That was your point, was it not?

What I find surprising about all of this was that you made a guess about my views on a republic, used that guess as a basis to have a shot at me, and now you try to justify your guess by saying that you think you were right all along. And I think it makes things worse that you asked me to prove your guess wrong by disclosing how I voted in the republic referendum. On the assumption that I can now treat private correspondence as private, I can tell you that I do not remember how I voted on the republic question. The debate was so thoroughly compromised and confused that it is hard to know what a vote either way would have meant.

As for publishing our email correspondence, I note your explanation: “well you are a public figure active in the public debate”. It seems to follow that a person who participates in the public debate should not expect their private correspondence to be treated as private if it is addressed to you. Not a compelling argument, but I will take it as a useful warning. And although it does not matter, it still strikes me as remarkably discourteous. Common courtesy would at least call for you to check whether I objected to private correspondence being published, or is that just me being pompous?

You write: “I like to think of myself as always courteous. Even if such self-assessment is inconsistent with The Thought of Julian Burnside AO AC. In other words, if you like to parade what you term your ‘post nominals’, I should be entitled to parade my self-awarded post-nominal.” Such a lot to comment on. I won’t comment on the sneering tone, because it was obviously intended. But you say “…if you like to parade what you term your ‘post nominals’…”. As I tried to explain, I have an automatic signature line which attaches to every email unless I delete it. It is not one I reserve specially for you. Most people in professional life have something similar. It has nothing to do with “liking” or “parading”. And, as you know, “post nominals” is the correct expression, whether we like it or not.

Very best wishes


Julian Burnside AO QC

Gerard Henderson to Julian Burnside – 22 August 2014

Dear Julian AO QC

I am out of this.

As I recall, you objected to my description of you as an avowed republican.

But in 2008 you told Katharine Murphy that you were a republican and you voted with the republicans at the 2020 Summit in 2008. Yet you cannot remember whether you voted “Yes” or “No” at the constitutional referendum in 1999.

2008 is not that long ago. You supported a republic then. I rest my case and head off for a brandy and soda. Or maybe more.

Over and out.

Gerard Henderson AC – aka Always (or perhaps mostly) Courteous


Shortly after reading Gerard Henderson’s column in The Weekend Australian last Saturday, Stephen Mayne sent out a tweet suggesting that Hendo wrote what Rupert Murdoch wants to read and maintaining that his column last Saturday should have been pulled. Really. This from the freedom loving founder of and the editor of The Mayne Report. The Mayne tweet led to correspondence. Let’s hear it from the chair of the City of Melbourne’s Finance and Governance Committee.

Gerard Henderson to Stephen Mayne – 19 August 2014


My attention has been drawn to this tweet which you put out at 8.19 am last Saturday – after reading my column in The Weekend Australian of 16-17 August 2014 titled “ABC Preys on Conservative Catholics” :

Who are Murdochs protecting now? Amazed to read a Gerard Henderson attack in The OZ on 4 Corners piece about paedophile Catholic priests?

You seem so paranoid about Rupert Murdoch and News Corp that, surely, you must be on the short-list to replace Paul Barry as presenter of the ABC1 Media Watch program.

It appears that you share the conspiracy theory that Rupert Murdoch instructs News Corp columnists what to write. This is bizarre – I have not been in contact with Rupert Murdoch for a quarter of a century.

I have criticised two Four Corners programs on Cardinal George Pell for errors and/or omissions.

There was last Saturday’s critique of the program titled “In the Name of the Law” which aired on 11 August 2014. As you know, this column was published in The Weekend Australian.

And there was my critique of the program “Unholy Silence” which aired on 2 July 2012. This was published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 17 July 2012 and 4 June 2013 and also in the Fairfax Media’s online National Times – neither of which, as you know, is a Murdoch publication.

Rupert Murdoch did not contact me before I wrote the column in The Weekend Australian. And Greg Hywood did not contact me before I wrote my columns in the Sydney Morning Herald. Newspapers don’t work like that.

On another matter. As you would know if you carefully read my column last Saturday, I did not write about “Catholic paedophile priests” – except to name two men who had sexually assaulted children. My essential criticism of Four Corners is that reporter Quentin McDermott did not even mention Archbishop Frank Little, who was the Archbishop of Melbourne between 1974 and 1996. Little took personal control of allegations of clerical paedophilia and is known to have destroyed documents and failed to keep files.

Quentin McDermott refused to answer my question as to why the program “blotted out” Little while implying that Pell was in charge of the Melbourne archdiocese when the rapes of the Foster girls and other crimes occurred.

As I pointed out in my column, Cardinal Pell has acknowledged that the Catholic Church could have handled compensation claims better – he referred specifically to the John Ellis case during his appearance before the Royal Commission in Sydney.

I did not object to what the Four Corners program said about compensation for child sex abuse cases. My criticism turned on the program’s misleading coverage of the events which occurred in the Melbourne archdiocese before Pell replaced Little as Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996.

For the record, I am not aware that Rupert Murdoch has any particular interest in this matter. So your conspiracy theory is just bunk.

Lotsa love

Gerard Henderson

Stephen Mayne to Gerard Henderson – 19 August 2014

Nice email Gerard and good to hear from you.

In a cab now, will respond later.


Stephen M

Stephen Mayne to Gerard Henderson – 20 August 2014

Hi Gerard,

Thanks for your email. I’m not for a moment suggesting any direct contact with Rupert Murdoch.

Unlike you, I have spent many years as a Murdoch editor and I know how the system and culture of the place work.

My thesis is that Rupert is positively disposed towards George Pell and the Catholic Church, a disposition which has led to his Australian newspapers under-cooking accountability for the leadership of the church in Australia after years of obfuscation, cover-up, litigation and denial. Rupert doesn’t need to utter a word to anyone for this to happen.

Running yet another Gerard Henderson attack on the ABC – this time over what I felt was a powerful and worthwhile piece of journalism by 4 Corners – simply reinforced that view. Why hasn’t The Australian run an opinion piece endorsing the work of 4 Corners and calling on the Catholic Church to do more to remedy the situation?

I agree with you about Frank Little, but his conduct and leadership wasn’t an island within the church. There were others involved at senior levels, including George Pell.

In my view, George Pell should retire. As a long time advocates for transparency and good governance, I was disappointed with the campaign he has run about the Gillard Government’s new ACNC [Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission].

This is a governance institution which would provide some more oversight of the Catholic Church, but George Pell resists this sort of accountability. Given the record of the Catholic Church during his lengthy periods of leadership at this important institution, I think this is instructive of his overall approach to transparency and accountability.

George Pell’s failure to swiftly deal with complaints about paedophile priests goes to a culture at the church that need to change. For this to occur, Mr Pell needs to exit the scene and allow new leaders to emerge who are not so tainted by inaction, obfuscation and litigation.

This is no different to me arguing that David Crawford should retire as Lend Lease chairman, that Stephen Conroy should retire from the Senate and that Rupert Murdoch should bow out as News Corp chairman.

Leaders often stay too long and become prisoners of their own history, but human nature means they are reluctant to let go. Perhaps the same could be said for the Sydney Institute.


Cr Stephen Mayne

Chair of the Finance and Governance committee

City of Melbourne

Gerard Henderson to Stephen Mayne – 22 August 2014


I refer to your email of 20 August 2014.

The problem with your “thesis” is that it is just that – a theory. To arrive at your conclusion – you chose to ignore evidence.

As I have documented, my article in The Weekend Australian last Saturday was consistent with what I wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald in 2012 and 2013. I don’t believe that even you would be so paranoid as to suggest that Rupert Murdoch’s influence is such that it affects the “system and culture” of Fairfax Media columnists. Surely your Murdochphobia does not extend to this level.

If you had done any research, you would be aware that I have a long-time interest in Catholic Hierarchy’s role in Australian society. My Ph.D. of 30 years ago studied the Hierarchy’s role in Australian politics in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. Contrary to your conspiracy theory, my interest in this subject is not sparked by the “system and culture” of News Corp – whatever that might mean.

Contrary to your claim, the Four Corners program of 11 August 2014, was not “a powerful and worthwhile piece of journalism”. As David Marr said to me after the Insiders program last Sunday, “In the Name of the Law” essentially re-stated what he had written in his 2013 monograph The Prince: Faith, Abuse and George Pell. As some reviewers noted, Marr’s monograph was essentially a hatchet job on Pell.

The only new material in Quentin McDermott’s program turned on the revelation that Peter O’Callaghan QC, in an internal Catholic Church hearing, found that Fr Searson was guilty of sexual abuse. This was in 1997 – not long after George Pell was appointed Archbishop of Melbourne. As Four Corners revealed, Searson appealed successfully to the Congregation of the Faith in Rome – and the Vatican supported him. Searson was clearly a paedophile – but was not charged by police with this crime. In the event, Searson was forced to resign from the priesthood in August 1998 – when Pell was Archbishop of Melbourne.

As David Marr (a fierce critic of Pell) conceded to me last Sunday, the O’Callaghan initiative revealed on Four Corners re Season spoke in Pell’s favour – even though it failed initially. There was no other breaking story in the Four Corners program.

In view of this, Four Corners’ “In the Name of the Law” was just another attack on George Pell which was also misleading. Quentin McDermott – who is paid by the taxpayer to ask questions – has refused to respond to my query as to why “In the Name of the Law” did not mention the fact that Frank Little was Archbishop of Melbourne from 1974 to 1996 when much of the paedophilia in the Catholic Church in Melbourne took place. Evidence given to the Victorian Parliament inquiry indicates that Little destroyed files and refused to keep records on child sexual abuse by clergy. Four Corners consciously chose not to mention this central fact.

You write that you “agree” with me “about Frank Little”. Yet you offer no criticism of Four Corners for failing to even mention Archbishop Little in “In the Name of the Law”. You also ignore the previous false allegation made by Four Corners concerning Pell – which the ABC refuses to correct or clarify, despite a finding of error on its behalf by Antony Whitlam QC (who is not a Catholic).

You assert that George Pell failed “to deal swiftly with complaints about paedophile priests”. But you provide no evidence for this assertion. The fact is that child abuse in the Archdiocese of Melbourne virtually ceased from the time that Pell took over from Little in 1996. This is the story that Four Corners has deliberately failed to cover.

I note your view that Cardinal Pell – whom you refer to as “Mr Pell” (a term previously used by Fran Kelly and Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox) should retire. You also believe that David Crawford and Stephen Conroy and Rupert Murdoch should retire and that The Sydney Institute should be closed down.

How frightfully interesting. But this has nothing to do with my column in The Weekend Australian on 16-17 August 2014 which dealt with matters in the Catholic Church of some two decades ago and which acknowledged that Church authorities in both Sydney and Melbourne had handled the issue of compensation poorly.

The fact remains that your tweet of last Saturday, suggesting that the “Murdochs” are protecting “paedophile priests” through me, is both offensive and hopelessly wrong.

Also, the implied suggestion that The Weekend Australian should have censored my column is quite bizarre – especially coming from someone who advocates freedom of expression.

By the way, many individuals and organisations, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, objected to the bureaucratic overload in the Gillard government’s Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) legislation. Pell was by no means alone in this regard.

In conclusion, I note with interest that you signed off your email as “Cr Stephen Mayne, Chair of the Finance and Governance committee, City of Melbourne World’s Most Liveable City 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014”. How wonderful.

Gerard Henderson

Until next time – keep morale high.

“The unhinged but well spoken Gerard Henderson….”

– Bob Ellis, Table Talk blog, 10 August 2014

“Gerard Henderson and Nancy are awful human beings.”

– Alexander White, Twitter, 25 July 2014

“This is my regularly scheduled “Oh Gerard” tweet for every time he appears on #insiders”

– Josh Taylor, senior journalist for ZDNet, Twitter, 20 July 2014

“…that fu-kwitted Gerard “Gollum” Henderson….”

– Mike (“I’ll pour the gin”) Carlton, via Twitter, 12 July 2014

“[Gerard Henderson is a] silly prick”

– Mike (“I’ll pour the gin”) Carlton – tweeted Saturday 27 June 2014 at 4.15 pm, i.e. after lunch

“If Gerard Henderson had run Beria’s public relations Stalin’s death would have been hidden for a year and Nikita [Khrushchev] and co would have been shot”

– Laurie Ferguson via Twitter – 22 June 2014 [By-line: Mr Ferguson is a member of the House of Representatives who speaks in riddles.]

“[Gerard Henderson] is the Eeyore of Australian public life”

– Mike Seccombe in The [Boring] Saturday Paper – 21 June 2014

“Without in any way wanting to breach anyone’s human rights or free speech – why do people write emails to Gerard Henderson?”

– Katharine Murphy, Twitter, Friday 6 June 2014

“[Gerard Henderson is] an unhinged prick”

– Mike Carlton, Twitter, Thursday 12 June 2014

“There’s no sense that Gerard Henderson has any literary credentials at all.”

– Anonymous comment quoted, highlighted and presumably endorsed by Jason (“I’m a left-leaning luvvie”) Steger, The Age, 31 May 2014

On boyfriend’s insistence, watching the notorious Gerard Henderson/@Kate_McClymont Lateline segment. GH: What an odd, angry gnome of a man.

– Benjamin Law, via Twitter, Thursday 17 Apr 2014, 11:21 pm

Can’t believe I just spent my Thursday evening with a video recap of Gerard Henderson. I’m a f-cking moron.

– Benjamin Law, via Twitter, Thursday 17 Apr 2014, 11:23 pm

“[Gerard Henderson is an] unhinged crank”

– Mike Carlton, via Twitter, Saturday 29 March 2014, 4.34 pm

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.