27 FEBRUARY 2015

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 Insiders panellist Lenore Taylor had to say – by tweet – about fellow Insiders’ panellist Gerard Henderson at 9.47 am last Sunday. Ms Taylor was home in Canberra while Nancy’s (male) co-owner was on the Insiders couch with David Marr and Karen Middleton.

Hendo is not sure to what or to whom he was so condescending last Sunday. Alas, the political editor for the leftist freebie The Guardian Online did not say.

This is the very same Lenore Taylor who, on Insiders on 15 February 2015, referred to “poor old Senator Edwards”. Sean Edwards is neither “poor” nor “old” – he is aged 53 and owns a substantial winery in South Australia. How condescending can you get?



What a stunning performance by David Marr and Richard Glover during the Drive With Richard Glover program on ABC Radio 702 late yesterday afternoon. Discussion turned on evidence given that day at the Royal Commission Into Responses to Child Sexual Abuse concerning Knox Grammar School in 1980s. It turned out that Timothy Hawkes, who appears regularly on Drive With Richard Glover Drive on a Monday, was mentioned at the Royal Commission.

Dr Hawkes (for a doctor he is) is the high profile headmaster at The King’s School in Parramatta. In 1989 he was the MacNeill Housemaster at Knox Grammar School on Sydney’s North Shore when a 13 year old boy boarder was indecently assaulted in his bed. Tim Hawkes did not contact NSW Police at the time or later – believing that this was not his responsibility but, rather, that of the principal. Outside the Royal Commission yesterday Dr Hawkes declared that he had “nothing to regret” concerning his behaviour at the time.

Tim Hawkes’ extraordinary performance at the Royal Commission was not even mentioned on Drive With Richard Glover yesterday. Initially Richard Glover asked David Marr about whether there were any comparisons with Cardinal Pell and the Catholic Church. This overlooked the fact that there is no evidence that George Pell was ever aware of a contemporaneous attack on a 13 year old boy or girl which he failed to report to police. David Marr responded by referring to his recent article of sexual abuse within the Yeshivah movement in the Jewish community, which was published in The Guardian Online.

Neither Glover nor Marr mentioned that Knox Grammar School was under the control of the Uniting Church in 1989. Only the Catholic and Jewish religions were mentioned. Moreover, as previously stated, the only person who was named in the segment on the Drive With Richard Glover program was the Catholic Church’s Cardinal George Pell who had nothing to do with what went on in the Royal Commission yesterday. It was “Blame George” time again. How about that?


While on the topic of Knox Grammar, consider the article by Knox old boy Peter FitzSimons in the Sydney Morning Herald on Thursday entitled “What I saw at Knox Grammar”. The article has subsequently been changed on-line but not so much as to correct the varied spelling The Fitz uses for MacNeil House? Or is it McNeil House?

As avid Media Watch Dog readers will know, the red-bandannaed one has been one of the most severe critics of the Catholic Church in general and Cardinal George Pell in particular concerning child sexual abuse – most of which occurred within Catholic institutions in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

Yet FitzSimons admitted in his SMH piece that he knew of one case of child abuse at Knox Grammar where a male Year 8 boarder alleged sexual impropriety on the part of a teacher – a certain Don Hancock. The student told the MacNeil Housemaster who told the principal who got rid of the teacher. This is how Fitz described the incident:

When we woke up Sunday morning, Don Hancock – who once told a gag that if you put his first name into the middle of his second name, you came up with an inappropriate act – was gone, his room emptied, and he was never referred to again.

Tragically, that was in large measure the way it was done back then. The wider world has, for the most part, learned the tragic results of that method.

In this case, a call to the police might have seemed problematic – the lad had felt uncomfortable, before any interaction had taken place – but that housemaster went on to do enormous damage. In 2006, Don Hancock took his life in Indonesia after, the Herald reported, being “suspected to have been part of a paedophile ring linked to a language school established and supervised by the Australian Government”.

The Fitz went on to state that he did not have a clue about what went on at the all- male Knox Grammar School in the 1980s and 1990s after he had left school. But he had a kind word to say about the principal at the time – a certain Dr Ian Paterson – who on the available evidence failed to report male paedophile teachers to police over many years. This is what Peter FitzSimons had to say:

 … the Dr Paterson I knew, was a very strong disciplinarian, a fine educator, and he ran a very tight ship. If true, there is tragic irony in it. Dr Paterson was always insistent that the reputation of the school was paramount, and we were ambassadors at large for the school.

And yet, if these allegations are proven, it seems likely that it was that same devotion to preserving reputation that saw paedophile teachers protected from the immediate prosecution they deserved.

So there you have it, according to The Fitz. There is a “tragic irony” to what happened at Knox Grammar School on Dr Paterson’s watch. However, Peter FitzSimons never referred to the “tragic irony” of what took place within the Catholic education system. Nor did The Fitz ever proffer a similar rationale for George Pell.  Despite the fact that, unlike Dr Paterson, Cardinal Pell was never in charge of an educational institution where sexual abuse occurred of which he allegedly knew but which he failed to report to police.

There is an unpleasant double-standard here – since Peter FitzSimons never ran a then-but-now explanation for what took place in Catholic institutions in the 1960s and 1970s but appears to be willing to do so for what took place at Uniting Church institutions in the 1980s and 1990s.


Today’s editions of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age carry an opinion piece by David Hicks (Taliban Ret’d and al Qaeda Ret’d).

It’s the normal self-justification which we have come to xpect from Mr Hicks. Here’s how he commenced his story:

 Last week, the Guantanamo Military Commissions vacated the bogus conviction that I have lived with for the past 7 1/2 years since my release from prison. It has been a long and very painful struggle for me and my family to finally clear my name.

 Not only was I convicted of an invented crime in a system that no American citizen would be subjected to (because it doesn’t afford fair trial protections, and they actually have rights), but for years I have been the subject of trial by media, unable to defend myself because I was stuck in incommunicado detention at Guantanamo Bay. For years people have put words in my mouth, skewed my story and have never bothered to read the full account detailed in my book.

 What a load to tosh.  David Hicks’ accounts of his time in the Taliban and al Qaeda while in Pakistan and Afghanistan were not put in his mouth.  Rather they came from his pen – to wit, the letters which David Hicks wrote to his family in South Australia and which were released to the media by the Hicks family.

David Hicks’ letters written in Pakistan and Afghanistan, present the writer as anything but an idealist.  Hicks declared that he was “officially a Taliban member” at a time when Taliban forces were enslaving women.  He praised beheadings in a poem which included the stanza “Mohammed’s food you shall be fed/To disagree so off with your head”.

In this same correspondence Hicks boasted that he “got to fire hundreds of rounds” at the Indian Army and added “there are not many countries [like Pakistan] where a tourist…can go to stay with the army and shoot across the border at its enemy, legally”. Hicks also raised the (alleged) “Western-Jewish domination” of the world. He advocated “true Islam” and blamed “the Jews” for preventing Muslims from attaining their full “capability”.

The SMH and The Age have given David Hicks’ space to declare that the “full account” of his story is contained in his book Guantanamo Bay: My Journey. Yet this account conflicts with the letters he wrote about his time in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

David Hicks reckons that he “can sleep at night knowing that” he has “never hurt anyone”.  Maybe.  But this would only be the case if the hundreds of rounds that he fired at the Indian Army from Pakistan missed their targets.

But you would never know this from reading Hicks’ piece in Fairfax Media today.

Can you bear it graphic


Many thanks to one of MWD’s hundreds of thousands of avid readers – who has an attraction to Nancy, of the canine kind – for drawing attention to this stunning report into the current political situation Down Under by intrepid ABC reporter James Glenday on ABC Radio’s The World Today last Wednesday. Let’s go to the transcript:

 James Glenday: It was barely two weeks ago that 39 of the Prime Minister’s colleagues voted for an empty chair over him in the leadership spill motion. Ever since, Tony Abbott has been at pains to try to prove he’s listening.

What are the facts? Well, as ABC journalists should know, on Monday 9 February a motion was moved in the Liberal Party Room to spill the leadership positions – which was defeated by 61 votes to 39 votes. That was it. In short, there was no leadership ballot and Tony Abbott entered and exited the Liberal Party Room as prime minister.

However, in his ignorance, Mr Glenday appears to believe that a leadership ballot took place with the following result:

Tony Abbott: 61 votes

Empty Chair: 39 votes

Phew. Just as well Mr Abbott prevailed. Otherwise, according to your man Glenday, right now government in Australia would be presided over by an Empty Chair. Can you bear it?


While on the topic of leadership tension in Canberra, what a stunning piece by Nancy’s (male) co-owner’s old sparring partner John Lyons – just back in Australia after giving Israel a tough time while reporting on the Middle East and North Africa from Jerusalem.

Your man Lyons went to Canberra and scored a 2 hour 15 minutes interview with Peta Credlin, the Prime Minister’s chief-of-staff. [How come? – Ed]. However, MWD was most impressed by John Lyons’ scoop that, at a meeting in Canberra on 25 November 2014, Tony Abbott proposed a “unilateral invasion of Iraq”. Apparently this invasion was to take place by the Australian Defence Force rocking up to Baghdad Airport to support its ally Iraq’s fight against the so-called Islamic State. An unusual “invasion”, to be sure.

It was revealed in Senate Estimates on Wednesday that the 25 November meeting was in fact a dinner party at Parliament House to honour the Chief of the US Air Force, General Mark A. Welsh. MWD just loved Mr Lyons sources for his story. Namely “one military official”, “insiders”, “one cabinet minister’s staff member”, “one minister”, “one Liberal power broker”, “another influential Liberal”, “one guest”, “one of those in the [Expenditure Review Committee] meetings”, “one cabinet minister’s staffer”, “one of Abbott’s oldest friends”, “many who know Abbott well”, “one Liberal senator”, “another insider”, “another source from the [Prime Minister’s] office”, “another insider”, “some”, “one leading journalist”, “another political observer”, “one of Abbott’s close friends”, “parliamentary colleagues”, “one guest” and, wait for it, “seasoned political observers”.

With sources like that, our allies in Iraq have little reason to fear a “unilateral invasion” led by one of Tony Abbott’s oldest friend’s oldest friend. Can you bear it?


It was great to see/hear former Julia Gillard staffer Stephen (“Call me The Kouk”) Koukoulas on the taxpayer funded public broadcaster recently. Once on 7.30 and this week on PM. Discussing economics, of course.

Last November, The Kouk picked the John-Laws-style-deliberate-mistake in MWD Issue 253. That issue ran a guest editorial by an avid reader who suggested that – like the BBC – the ABC could reduce the pay of the top 140 staff by 25 per cent with a saving of $4 million annually. Due to the guest’s deliberate mistake, the potential saving was underestimated. It should have been $8 million – not $4 million. Stephen Koukoulas, once a big-surplus kind of guy, got upset that MWD underestimated the savings involved. Really.

The Kouk picked up the deliberate mistake – despite declaring that he “rarely” reads MWD. And he deigned to “offer the services” of his firm Market Economics as a “data checker” for MWD at “a heavily discounted rate”. [It’s a generous offer – but perhaps The Kouk needs the business, however heavily discounted – Ed].

In the course of the correspondence, Gerard Hendersonreminded The Kouk that his own past calculations were none to flash. For example, your man Koukoulas’ hopelessly wrong prediction that the Gillard Government would “return” the budget “to surplus in 2012-2013”. In fact, the surplus ballooned out to a huge deficit.

In an email to Gerard Henderson on 1 December 2014, The Kouk made the following comment:

I noted to you (and many others) that I was wrong with my forecast for the budget surplus in 2012-13. I also thought Collingwood would win the Premiership in 2014 and I got that wrong too. Yes, I can’t get everything correct, but am happy to be right on the important aspects and of course, the maths behind my conclusions is always accurate.

So there you have it. The Kouk reckons that – to him – getting a budget forecast hopelessly wrong is much the same as flunking the footy-tipping competition. This from the managing director of Market Economics. Can you bear it?

nancy's pick graphic

What an amazing performance by Triple J’s Hack reporter Alice Workman on ABC Radio 702’s Mornings with Linda Mottram last Tuesday. Highlights – or, if you like, lowlights – occurred when:

  • Alice supported the view of outgoing Liberal Party treasurer Phil Higginson that the married couple Brian Loughnane (the Liberal Party’s federal director) and Peta Credlin (the Prime Minister’s chief-of-staff) should not have been allowed to hold these positions concurrently. Linda said “that makes sense” and Alice agreed with herself “absolutely”.

After a lengthy rave, Alice said that Peta Credlin was chief-of-staff when Malcolm Turnbull was leader of the Liberal Party (before Tony Abbott) and Brian Loughnane was in his current position. Wrong. Ms Credlin was Malcolm Turnbull’s deputy chief-of-staff. Then Linda declared: “Well, just because nobody did anything about it for ten years it doesn’t mean it’s not a conflict of interest.” Alice agreed with Linda – “absolutely”, of course.

  • Alice claimed that Julia Gillard’s chief-of-staff “wasn’t an Australian”. Wrong. She confused Gillard’s communications director (John McTiernan) and Gillard’s chief-of-staff (Ben Hubbard). Linda made no correction.
  • Alice then asserted that “it would be ignorant to say that he [Tony Abbott] doesn’t have a problem with women – given if you look at the way the front bench is made up – there are only two there”. Wrong again. There are two women in Cabinet but many more among the junior ministers and parliamentary secretaries. The front bench comprises all three categories.
  • Here Linda did say that the Prime Minister’s “got this incredibly powerful woman [Peta Credlin] as his chief-of-staff”. To which Alice responded that female chiefs-of-staff in the Abbott government are “behind the scenes”. But not Ms Credlin. So what about Alice’s theory that the Prime Minister has a “problem with women?”. Who knows?
  • Alice criticises Tony Abbott’s statement that more Muslim leaders should say that Islam is a religion of peace – and mean it. Alice reckons this comment has “upset a lot of people”. Linda agrees. Alice accuses the Prime Minister of “fanning the fires on that issue”. She does not say how.

Then it’s time to discuss Newspoll. Say no more [Good idea. Don’t. Ed.]

five paws graphic

What a stunning review of David Day’s latest tome Paul Keating: The Biography by former Sydney Morning Herald Canberra-based political commentator Alan Ramsey in last Saturday’s Fairfax Media newspapers.

Anyone who had read the extract from Day’s tome, titled “Lost Horizons”, in the Good Weekend recently would have got the (false) impression that Dr Day (for a doctor he is) interviewed the former prime minister for his biography. After all, the piece was written in the first person – giving the impression that author and his subject co-operated on the project.

In his review last Saturday, Alan Ramsey belled the cat on this one. Here’s how:

David Day, a Melbourne historian, has written biographies over the years on three dead politicians and a dying continent. The politicians each became Labor prime minister last century; the continent is and remains Antarctica, though for how long we can’t be sure, given its massive ice sheet is melting.

 Day has now turned to the life and times of a fourth prime minister, again Labor. But this time he has misjudged. His subject is not dead, and in 2007, when Day first approached him (by letter), Paul John Keating politely told him to bugger off, and went on saying so ever since. Day was disappointed but undeterred.

 Like Mawson in Antarctica, he pushed on. Now Day’s stoic efforts have been published, under the title Paul Keating: The Biography, all 480 pages of it, plus 46 pages of 885 endnotes, 12 pages of bibliography, three pages of acknowledgements and a 13-page index – 554 pages in all. It is a brave happening, given Keating’s only direct contribution across the better part of the past eight years has been the single word “no”. Day acknowledges Keating’s intransigence, but you learn this only when (and if) you reach the book’s end.

However, readers who overlook Day’s acknowledgements in those final pages could be misled, by the sense of immediacy of the present tense in which Day writes much of his narrative, into thinking Keating has indeed co-operated in the detail of his life.

 For example, the book begins: “Not long before his 70th birthday [in January last year], Paul Keating walks among the toppling gravestones of Sydney’s Rookwood cemetery, where many of his ancestors lie buried. He is paying quiet homage to the people who’d invested him with the drive and ambition to become one of Australia’s greatest prime ministers. He is also indulging the maudlin side of his nature …”

 Not until further on do we learn this is not a scene Day has witnessed. It is a word-picture he has created from a Keating interview with ABC television’s Kerry O’Brien, in which Keating talks about his dead maternal grandmother, Beatrice, a former barmaid who lived in the Keating family home in Bankstown when Paul was a boy and who, he tells O’Brien, he felt “was the first person who believed in me”.

 Correct. You have to wade through 542 pages of a 554 page book to learn of Paul Keating’s “steadfast refusal to co-operate” with the author. Indeed, Alan Ramsey documents that all that is original in David Day’s biography turns on “Day’s research on Keating’s extraordinary background on his mother’s side”. Another graveyard crawl, it seems. That’s all, folks.

Alan Ramsey: Five Paws.



While on the topic of David Day, Anne Henderson and all that Nancy’s (male) co-owner is delighted to advise that Nancy’s (female) co-owner has an article refuting David Day’s Churchill/Menzies in the March 2015 issue of Quadrant. It’s titled “Day Dreaming About Menzies In Wartime London”.

In her Quadrant article, Anne Henderson examines all the (alleged) evidence in David Day’s Menzies & Churchill At War and concludes that none of the material in Dr Day’s book supports his essential thesis.

Quadrant  is available at all good – and some bad – bookshops and newsagencies.

MWD Quadrant

History Corner

While on the topic of David Day, here is an update on WMD’s hugely popular

“Waiting for David” segment.

The challenge for David Day is to provide the name of one biographer of Winston Churchill or Robert Menzies or one historian of Britain in the 20th Century who agrees with Dr Day’s assertion that about 1941 and all that. Namely that there was a serious move in Britain in 1941 to replace Winston Churchill as prime minister with that Robert Menzies chap in the Antipodes and that Robert Menzies went along with this proposal and believed that he was in with a chance to become prime minister of Britain.

Just one primary or secondary source from David Day will do who claims that he is flat out like a lizard drinking to come up with the killer quote or quotes. In the meantime here’s the scoreboard updated.

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There was enormous interest in last week’s Media Watch Dog concerning Professor Simon Fenton Chapman AO, BA (Hons), Ph.D. FASSA, Hon FFPH (UK) – the post-nominals are taken from Professor Chapman’s 59 pages Curriculum Vitae [His what? – Ed].

MWD’s avid readers just loved how Paul Barry and his team in the taxpayer funded Media Watch program – led by executive producer Tim Latham – attempted to argue that Simon Chapman is “scientifically” qualified to be regarded as an “expert” on the health effects of wind farms. This despite the fact that Dr Chapman has no undergraduate training in medicine, science or engineering and his Ph.D. was written on cigarette advertising.

Following coverage of this matter in MWD (last Friday) and in The Australian (last Saturday and Monday) your man Chapman wrote a piece for the Crikey newsletter which was titled: “Sorry, Gerard, I actually am an authority on health.”

Hendo was in Melbourne on Monday and missed the learned professor’s rant. After being advised of Dr Chapman’s missive (for a doctorate in cigarette advertising he certainly has), Hendo wrote to Crikey on Wednesday. It was too late for Wednesday and not published on Thursday due to a “production error”. However, Crikey’s editor Marni Cordell published Gerard Henderson’s reply to Professor Chapman today. Here it is:

My attention has been drawn to Simon Chapman’s piece in response to my claim that he is not “scientifically” qualified to be regarded as an “expert” on the health effects of wind farms. Professor Chapman states that the Faculty of Medicine at Sydney University contains, among others, biostatisticians, historians and social scientists most of whom do not have undergraduate degrees in medicine. Fancy that.

All I know is that if I am seeking advice about a health issue I shall not be rocking up to Sydney University’s Faculty of Medicine to receive “scientifically” based “expert” advice from a guy who has a B. A. (Hons) in sociology, philosophy, psychology and English plus a Ph.D. on the topic of cigarette advertising. Simon Chapman’s formal qualifications refer.

 I am saddened to learn Dr Chapman was disappointed when he participated in a discussion with Ainslie Van Onselen on tobacco labelling at The Sydney Institute in June 2011. He was expecting an audience of “social policy scholars” in a “well appointed auditorium”. But, alas, the professor was confronted with everyday Australians (at whom he sneers) in a “tatty living room”. Shucks.

 The Institute’s office at 41 Phillip Street, Sydney is a heritage-listed building which is expertly maintained by the Dexus Property Group. Some years ago, the writer Yung Chang addressed audience of over 100 at 41 Phillip Street on Australia Day. She commented favourably on the historic building set in the Sydney CBD on the site of the first Government House.

 The audience was around 50, double Chapman’s estimate – a reasonable turnout for a not very stimulating topic. Contrary to Chapman’s claims, the audience was not all “superannuated types” (some were quite young), no one came from Mosman in a Daimler and no port was served. By the way, when Professor Chapman addressed The Sydney Institute he was in his 60th year – which suggests that age, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

correspondence header caps


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. There are, alas, some occasions where Hendo sends a polite missive but does not receive the courtesy of a reply. Nevertheless, publication of this one-sided correspondence still takes place. For the record and in the public interest, of course.

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.


 As avid MWD readers will recall, in last week’s issue it was revealed that Nicholas Reece claimed on Paul Murray live that “David Hicks never did any harm to another human being”. Since this was contrary to Mr Hicks’ letters home to his old-man, Nancy’s (male) co-owner asked Dr Reece (for a doctor he is) for his evidence. Alas, he has none. Now read on.

Gerard Henderson to Nicholas Reece – 20 February 2015

Dr Reece

I refer to your statement on Paul Murray Live last night where you claimed that David Hicks “never did any harm to another human being”.

My question is: what is your evidence for your assertion? As you will be aware, David Hicks said that he had fired hundreds of machine gun rounds at members of the Indian Army. Were you asserting on PML last night that Mr Hicks is a bad shot and missed all his (Indian) targets? Just wondering.

Looking forward to your expert response.

I’m optimistic about receiving a reply since I located your email under Melbourne University’s “Find an Expert” website.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

Nicholas Reece to Gerard Henderson – 25 February 2015

Hi Gerard,

Apologies for the delay in responding, it has been a very busy start to the year.

I understand you have very developed views on this issue. As do I. So I think it is best if we agree to disagree.

Kind regards,


Gerard Henderson to Nicholas Reece – 25 February 2015


Thanks for your response to my email of last Friday. I understand how busy you must be – with your role at Melbourne University’s “Find an Expert” website and your trips to the Sky News studios in downtown Melbourne and so on.

It’s true that we both have very developed views on the issue of David Hicks. It’s just that I support my views with facts – as you would be aware if you read my column in The Weekend Australian last Saturday.

The problem is that you have provided no evidence to support the assertion – which you made on two occasions on Paul Murray Live on 19 February 2015 – that David Hicks “never did any harm to another human being”.

To believe this, you have to believe that when David Hicks – on his own admission – fired “hundreds of rounds” from the Pakistan side of the Kashmir line-of-control at the Indian Army, he missed his target on each occasion.

Obviously you do not know this – if you had any evidence you would provide it. So I can only assume that when you said on Sky News that David Hicks “never did any harm to another human being” you just made this up.

I would have expected better from a Ph. D. who, on occasion, mans the taxpayer subsidised “desk” at the Melbourne University “Find an Expert” website. Or, perhaps not.

In your case, it appears to be a matter of: “Yes, we have no facts today.”

Keep morale high.

Gerard Henderson


As avid MWD readers will be aware, Paul Ormonde used an obituary in The Age on Colin Thornton-Smith who died in October 2014 to allege that B.A. Santamaria was into “traces of anti-Semitism” in, wait for it, 1936. The problem is that no specific evidence exists for this damaging assertion – as   the following correspondence demonstrates. Here we go.


Paul Ormonde to Gerard Henderson – 24 February 2015

Dear Gerard

Methinks you protesteth too much.

Your email to me (30 January 2015) evades the fact that the items in the early issues of the Catholic Worker about whose meaning we are in dispute were coded anti-Semitism. You know that as well as I do. The fact that the words Jew or Jewish were not used does not in any way dilute the anti-Semitic code in each of the items. A Jewish surname can be more than enough.

You and I have spent a lifetime dealing with words and their meaning, and we share similar cultural and religious backgrounds, so we should be able to be honest with one another without scoring cheap shots.

You write: ‘So clearly you are saying that Santamaria was an anti-Semite in the mid-1930s. The problem is that there is no evidence to link BAS or the Catholic Worker with anti-Semitism’.

I do not accuse Santamaria of having been an anti-Semite. I do accuse him, as editor and significantly writer of the early issues of the Catholic Worker, of allowing coded anti-Semitism to appear in its pages. That is not the same as an accusation of anti-Semitism. You know that.

You write that the thrust of the item in the January 29 1936 issue of the Catholic Worker featuring a brutal attack on French Prime Minister Leon Blum by Royalists was that Blum was leader of a Socialist-Communist Popular Front and the fact that Santamaria and the Catholic Worker were opposed to communism and communist fronts in 1936 was hardly surprising.

Quite so, however the coded anti-Semitism in the item was the description of Blum as ‘Baron Leon Blum, Frenchman, nobleman, millionaire, factory owner, wage slasher, sweater’. How could that description have been published, centre-of-page highlighted in bold type and bold border, in the Catholic Worker when the description was entirely untrue.

As Colin Thornton-Smith pointed out in his essay published in the journal of the Australian Jewish Historical Society, the item ‘obliquely informed Australian readers of Blum’s Jewishness in case they had not realised it from his name. In fact Blum was not a nobleman, not a millionaire, not a factory owner and therefore not in a position to be a wage slasher or a sweater.’

Thornton-Smith suggested a link to the immediate previous issue, in which the Catholic Worker had highlighted a case in Melbourne in which the owner of a clothing factory, La Rose Manufacturing Company, Adler (no first name given) was charged with underpayment of his workers – ‘sweating’ as the Catholic Worker called it. He had to repay them 12 pounds. The item called for the gaoling of sweat-shop owners.

The description of Blum as Baron Blum, writes Thornton-Smith, appeared to have come from the violently anti-Semitic publication Action Francaise. “Baron was simply one of Action Francaise’s less offensive standard ways of referring to Blum, as one might call metaphorically a ‘mogul’ or a ‘czar’…perhaps intended to recall the Barons Rothchilds, the only Jewish aristocrats who readily spring to mind’. The item ‘exposed the CW’s naive acceptance of Action Francaise material.’

Sheer pressure of his one-man editorship could help explain why such low-grade anti-Semitism could get into the Catholic Worker. The problem is that there was a pattern of such coded anti-Semitism in early issues. There are other samples than the ones I drew attention to.

I do not, and I am sure Thornton-Smith did not, believe that Santamaria was ‘an anti-Semite’. The phenomenon of anti-Semitism can have many shades from populist flippant to visceral. Being an anti-Semite is largely visceral. You and I know what a real anti-Semite is like. Santamaria was not one of them.

The equivalence you bestow on the Catholic Worker referring to the Herald as ‘the Fink Press’ in the 1930s and the largely non-pejorative use of ‘the Murdoch Press’ of today is a weak shot in our contretemps. I’ll leave it to your readers.

You point out that many writers about the Catholic Worker – Colin Jory, Danny Cusack, Andrew Campbell, Bruce Duncan – did not note the coded anti-Semitism in some early issues. It is hardly surprising. In the broad overall sweep of issues covered in the Catholic Worker, it could easily have been missed. It did not surprise me that a meticulous researcher such as Thornton-Smith would note it and analyse it.

The journal of the Australian Jewish Historical Society clearly judged that what Thornton-Smith wrote would be significant to its readers. In my own research of subsequent issues of the journal, I could find no reply from Santamaria who at that time (1991) was still engaged in public debate.

My best wishes for your coming biog of BAS. You are uniquely qualified to write it, although I do wonder how you fit so much quality output into your life.

I was surprised to see our earlier correspondence pop up in Media Dog Watch. My assumption was that our correspondence was personal. Oddly, it was a Jewish friend who alerted me to its publication. No offence taken anyway.

Till we have that catch-up


Paul Ormonde

Gerard Henderson to Paul Ormonde – 27 February 2015


Dear Paul

Thanks for your email of 24 February 2015. Yes, I publish all my interesting (but not personal) correspondence in my Media Watch Dog blog which comes out each Friday – after lunch, of course. It’s one of the most popular segments in MWD – believe it or not.

In response I make the following points:

٠ I do not understand the difference between you saying that B.A. Santamaria (1915-1998) was an anti-Semite in the mid-1930s and saying that BAS, when editor of the Catholic Worker in the mid -1930s, allowed “coded ant-Semitism to appear in its pages”. Later in your letter you link BAS with what you term “low-grade anti-Semitism”.

Moreover in your obituary on Colin Thornton-Smith, which appeared in The Age on 3 December 2014, you wrote:

 In his post-academic years Thornton-Smith wrote widely. His essential integrity led him to write an essay for the journal of the Australian Jewish Historical Society on traces of anti-Semitism in early issues of the Catholic Worker, of which Santamaria was the founding editor.

 Your obituary – which sparked this correspondence – contained no reference to the word “coded”.

٠ Neither Colin Thornton-Smith nor yourself have been able to specifically link BAS with what you claim were either “traces of anti-Semitism” or “coded anti-Semitism” or “low-grade anti-Semitism” in the Catholic Worker.

٠ If, as you and the late Colin Thornton-Smith have asserted, the early issues of the Catholic Worker were replete with traces of anti-Semitism, or coded anti-Semitism or low-grade anti-Semitism – how come the likes of Val Adami, Kevin T. Kelly, Gerard Heffey, Frank Maher and Murray McInerney did not object at the time? As you know, most of this group were critics of Santamaria who enjoyed a long association with the Catholic Worker.

٠ You say that it’s “hardly surprising” that, in recent times, the likes of Colin Jory, Danny Cusack, Andrew Campbell and Bruce Duncan did not identify traces of anti-Semitism in the early issues of the Catholic Worker. You imply that none of this group was a “meticulous researcher” like Colin. I don’t believe this to be true. I believe that traces of anti-Semitism were not found in the early issues of the Catholic Worker because they were not there. In my view, Colin Thornton-Smith essentially found what he wanted to find.

٠ Some members associated with the Campion Society and the Catholic Worker were influenced by Action Francaise and Charles Maurras. Denys Jackson, for example. There is no evidence to suggest that Santamaria ever had any interest in the Action Francaise movement in France.

٠ There is no evidence that Santamaria ever read Colin Thornton-Smith’s article in the journal of the Australian Jewish Historical Society.

In conclusion, I should thank you for your best wishes for my forthcoming biography Santamaria: A Most Unusual Man. I expect that Bob’s friends will regard it as too critical while Bob’s opponents will regard it as too soft. But we will see.

I will be in Melbourne in August for the Melbourne Writers Festival. I’m already on the look-out for a Che Guevara tee-shirt and matching leather sandals so as to be suitably attired for the occasion. It would be good to catch up then. As I recall, I have yet to return the compliments following the lunch you shouted me in 1982.

Best wishes


Until next time – keep morale high.

“Gerard Henderson and David Marr are on #Insiders this week. Like a political Felix and Oscar.”

– Mark Scott via Twitter 19 February 2015 at 1.10 pm

“I once called Gerard Henderson `a complete f%^wit’. I deeply regret that. I was being much too harsh on f%^wits.”

– Malcolm Farr via Twitter 14 February 2015 at 10:14 am

Oh Gerard. You total clown.”

– Jonathan (“Proudly the ABC’s Sneerer-in-Chief”) Green on Twitter, Friday 3 October 2014, 4.31 pm [Mr Green must be an obsessive avid reader to respond so soon. – Ed]

“Good morning. All the gooder for being attacked (for thousandth time) by silly Gerard in the Oz”

– Phillip Adams via Twitter, 27 September 2014

“What troubles me most is that he [Gerard Henderson] shows such low journalistic standards, yet he is politically quite influential. He is often on Insiders. It’s hard to see why: he comes across as a crank.”

– Kate Durham as told to Crikey, 16 September 2014

“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