13 MARCH 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.




What stunning performances by Sydney Morning Herald editor-in-chief Darren Goodsir and Age editor-in-chief Andrew Holden in the Federal Court yesterday at the defamation case brought by Treasurer Joe Hockey against Fairfax Media – following a screaming SMH/Age headline on 5 May 2014 which declared “Treasurer For Sale”.

Yesterday The Age ran a story headed “Tony Abbott’s biggest gaffes, clangers and cringe worthy moments”. It was the familiar leftist-luvvie inner-city green-left rant that the Prime Minister is error-prone, addicted to thought-bubbles and so on. And so on. But what about The Age’s very own gaffes and clangers?

Shortly after The Age’s story was published yesterday, Mr Holden told the Federal Court in Sydney that the email which he sent to Darren Goodsir advising the SMH editor to “f-ck him” (i.e. Joe Hockey) was a “thought bubble” which he thought up on a tram ride to work. [It must have been a short journey – Ed].

And Darren Goodsir told the Federal Court that it was “ridiculous” to suggest that he wanted to “crucify” Joe Hockey – he had merely told journalist Sean Nicholls that he wanted this issue involving the Treasure “nailed to the cross in more ways than one”. However, Mr Goodsir did concede that Holden’s “f-ck him” message was not an appropriate way to refer to the Treasurer. Oh well. It seems Mr Goodsir is not aware of what passes for polite society on a Melbourne tram.

In any event, Mr Goodsir never used the “f-ck him” declaration with respect to Mr Hockey. But then, living in Sydney, Darren Goodsir does not catch a tram to work and, consequently, is not afflicted by tram-induced thought bubbles.

But there was good news this morning – on ABC1’s News Breakfast, with Virginia Trioli and Michael Rowland, no less. Former Age editor Mike Smith did the “Newspapers” gig – and offered helpful advice to his Honour in the case of Hockey v Fairfax Media.

Speaking in the royal plural [That’s okay – he is, after all a former Age editor – Ed], Mr Smith declared: “We can help, perhaps help, the court with some interpretation.” It was this: If you turn to Colossians “Chapter 12 13:14” (he meant Chapter 2 13:14), there is a reference to “nailing to the cross” which does not involve crucifixion.

Mike Smith concluded: “I hope this helps the court decide….”. Well thanks for that. But it may be that the court might decide that your man Goodsir is not really a Bible type and that he is a sort of ex crime reporting journo who regards the Old Testament as a reference to yesterday’s editorial. Nancy’s (male) co-owner recalls a couple of conversations with Darren Goodsir – neither was littered with references to Colossians or, indeed, the Book of Revelations. For the record, Nancy’s (male) co-owner has never travelled on a Melbourne tram with The Age’s editor-in-chief. A man has to have some standards.


It’s great to see that The Guardian On-line (not to be confused with the Melbourne based Guardian-on-the-Yarra), has celebrated Friday 13 by inviting Senator David Leyonhjelm to write an article for today’s edition. On cats, no less. It’s titled “Cats are natural libertarians: Nothing less than equality is acceptable to them.”

Senator Leyonhjelm went on and on and on about Oliver and Tiffy and Ratty and Mia. He reckons that cats are libertarian but he keeps his cats inside except for short periods under direct supervision. [This sounds very authoritarian for a self-declared libertarian – Ed].

Oliver and friends are not allowed to hunt and gather but spend all their time at home waiting for a socialist hand-out in the form of food or milk or heating/cooling or human affection. This does not sound too much of a libertarian experience to Nancy’s (male) co-owner. But it does sound like something written by Helen Darville who became the late Helen Demidenko and who is now the very much alive Helen Dale – Senator Leyonhjelm’s speech writer. After all, The Guardian Online article contains references to Winston Churchill and George Orwell.

Here’s hoping that next time Friday 13th comes around, Helen Whatever might write something for The Guardian Online about what it was like to be an (alleged) Ukrainian when writing The Hand that Signed the Paper which fooled all the sandal-wearing literati in Australia and won the prestigious Miles Franklin Award in 1994.


abc update


It seems that the Q&A set have developed an obsession with tits (of the female kind), irrespective of whether a bloke – to wit Tony Jones – or a sheila – to wit Annabel Crabb – is in the presenter’s chair.

This is what occurred on Monday 2 March 2015 when Mr Jones called for a question – which had been approved by the Q&A’s executive producer – from the floor. Let’s go to the transcript:

Tony Jones: …We’ve got one question to go to. We’ve got a couple of minutes left and we’re going to go to our final question, which is from Elaine Wziontek.

Elaine Wziontek: Miriam, last time you were on Q&A, it was 2012. Julia Gillard was our Prime Minister – who you said you liked and you found that she was fascinating. Your comment on Bob Hawke was that he was just ravishing. I’m just wondering if you have any similar or what sort of thoughts you have about our current Prime Minister?

Tony Jones: And remember you can’t use “ravishing” or “fascinating”.

Miriam Margolyes: I think he is a tit!

Tony Jones – along with much of the leftist sandal-wearing audience – laughed at Miriam Margolyes’ comment. But it was just abuse. Such abuse would not have been accepted by Jones or his team had the two-word abusive slogan been directed at, say, Julia Gillard or Bob Brown.

Then on Q&A last Monday, following a (learned) discussion as to whether young women should go topless on Instagram, the following – unscripted – exchange took place:

Annabel Crabb: …Julie Bishop, I’m so bold as to suggest that you don’t consider freeing your nipples on a daily basis. What’s your view of all of this nonsense?

Julie Bishop: I think you’re pretty safe on that one, Annabel. It’s not something that I’ve ever actually had to the desire to do online. I mean, I’m quite adept at my emoji language and that’s about as radical as I get.

Annabel Crabb: Don’t attempt the nipple freeing emoji.

Germaine Greer: What if it got you the commutation of life sentences for two Australians?

Julie Bishop: Please don’t go there, Germaine. Please don’t go there. The first thing that I thought of when the questioner asked that was I’m just worried about that whole online environment, all of the weirdos and stalkers and…

Annabel Crabb: And trolls and…

Julie Bishop: And trolls and horrible people that live in that online environment. I’m just worried that the liberation of young women showing their nipples to the world leads to some perverted behaviour coming even more to the fore. I worry for them. I’m concerned for them. If they want to free themselves in some other way maybe but I just wouldn’t like it to lead to some other perverted criminal sick behaviour that we hear about and read about online.

So there you have it. Ms Crabb introduced the topic about nipples with reference to the Foreign Minister. And Germaine Greer threw the switch to crass – and ignorance – with reference to the two Australian men who are scheduled to be executed in Indonesia. Moreover, Dr Greer (for a doctor she is) did not seem to realise that it is death sentences which are capable of being commuted. So there you have it – not life sentences.

Perhaps the explanation for Germaine Greer’s erratic performances on Q&A lies in what the playwright Jack Hibbert wrote about her in Memoirs of Melbourne University (Hutchinson, 1983) concerning GG’s days at Melbourne University in the late 1950s and early 1960s:

Germaine Greer was around Melbourne University in those early years. She ate men for breakfast. After her first tutorial with Chris Wallace-Crabbe, she accosted the poet and asserted that she would like to wrap her sexual organ around his. She went to Star of the Sea [in Gardenvale, Melbourne].

Enough said.


The ABC remains a Conservative-Free-Zone with not one conservative presenter or producer or editor of any of its prominent television or radio or on-line products. However, its numerous leftist commentators are busy bagging Tony Abbott and the Coalition almost on a daily basis. Of late, the likes of Jonathan Green (presenter Radio National Sunday Extra) and Paul Bongiorno (Channel 10’s contributing editor and regular commentator on RN Breakfast and ABC Radio 702’s Mornings with Linda Mottram). The line this week was that Tony Abbott’s comments on indigenous Australians in remote areas indicate that he has decided to play the race card.

Wednesday 11 March 2015 – Jonathan (“Proudly the ABC’s Sneerer-in-Chief”) Green implies that Tony Abbott is chasing the racist vote on ABC 1’s The Drum:

Jonathan Green: Well I think the intent of the remarks is internal. I mean the PM has a good record on this as an issue. In 2012 when he was talking about constitutional recognition he referred to the stain on the national soul of Aboriginal dispossession. He says that we’re a torn people until we resolve that dispossession of indigenous peoples by the colonising peoples in this country.

This today is in such stark, you know, contrast with that sentiment. And I think this plays, is an internal play too – to the right in his party, to the right in the commentariat who feel very deeply on this issue. And it’s a pity when the Prime Minister leaves these little signals to show the people on the right of his party whose sympathy is very important to him right now. To show those people that he has a particular mindset. It’s even important to Malcolm Turnbull.

The amusing thing today is to see so many people in the Australian left entirely wrong footed by Malcolm Turnbull’s support for the Prime Minister. I mean it shows how intrinsic this set of views, the idea that assimilation is the best alternative for policy, how deeply held that view is within the right of the Liberal Party.

Thursday 12 March 2015 – Paul Bongiorno implies that Tony Abbott is chasing the racist vote on Radio National Breakfast with Fran Kelly:

Paul Bongiorno: I do know that some in the Liberal Party again are seeing this through the prism of leadership. They point out that Tony Abbott was absolutely gobsmacked when some of his colleagues on the right of the party, especially from Western Australian Dennis Jensen and Don Randall, led the charge last time. It was pointed out to me that neither of them would have had any quibble with what the Prime Minister said on Aboriginal affairs yesterday and Aborigines living in remote locations.

Thursday 12 March 2015 – Paul Bongiorno implies that Tony Abbott is chasing the racist vote on ABC Radio 702’s Mornings With Linda Mottram:

Paul Bongiorno: …when I spoke to a couple of backbench Liberals yesterday about it, one of them put it completely in the prism of the leadership. And I said to him “what do you mean.” And he said “Well look, those remarks from Tony Abbott on Aborigines would have resonated with Don Randall and Dennis Jensen”. Now these two guys are WA backbenchers, they led the charge on the first spill and Abbott was gobsmacked when these two and others from the right were moving against him and the guy I was talking to, the Liberal backbencher yesterday, said well he can now put Randall and Jensen back in his column. Now if that’s the case it’s very sad but it just shows you, in a sense how the whole leadership instability is poisoning everything.

That’s what happens to political commentary when the tax pay funded public broadcaster is a Conservative Free Zone. There is more diversity among presenters/ paid commentators on Sky News in Australia and even Fox News in the United States than there is on “Our ABC”.


Can you bear it graphic


What a wonderful piece by Fairfax Media’s intrepid Parliamentary Press Gallery reporters James Massola and Latika Bourke. So wonderful that it was The Age’s Page One lead on Wednesday – under the heading “Liberals slam minister over car plan backflip”.

The story turned on the announcement by Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane concerning temporary assistance for the car industry. Mr Massola and Ms Bourke reckoned that Ian Macfarlane had stuffed up. Fair enough – that was their opinion.

However, the intrepid reporters did not stop there. They had “sources”, you see. “The Guardian on the Yarra”’s editor-in-chief (the hopeless Andrew ‘I still call New Zealand home’) Holden was just so impressed by the sources that he believed the “scoop” deserved a Page One splash. [At least it wasn’t “Treasurer for Sale”. – Ed]

Here are the sources in question: (i) “senior colleagues”, (ii) “senior government sources” (iii) “furious Liberal economic dries in the ministry”, (iv) “two ministers” comprising “that minister” and, wait for it, “the second minister”. Er, that’s it. But the Massola/Bourke “scoop” was authoritative enough for a hold-the-front-page moment at The Age. Can you bear it?


Crikey chairman Eric Beecher is forever banging on about what he believes is a decline in journalistic and editorial standards. Yet your man Beecher presides over the Crikey newsletter which proudly publishes anonymous tips and rumours and apparently cannot afford a fact-checker.

Crikey also runs hyperbole as fact – especially when it involves Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Yesterday, in her “Comments, Clarifications, Cockups” section, Crikey editor Marni Cordell ran a piece by Joe Boswell titled “Abbott’s Stalinist antecedent”.

Boswell’s point? Eh, that Tony Abbott is just like mass murderer Josef Stalin (who killed millions of the Soviet Union’s own citizens and deported nationalities) to other parts of the USSR. The likes of Eric Beecher and Marni Cordell believed that it was a you-beaut idea to run a piece by Boswell comparing Tony Abbott’s view – that small remote Aboriginal communities are unsustainable if the gap is to be closed between indigenous Australians and others – with Stalin’s deportation of some non-Russian nationalities in the Soviet Union. This is what Joe Boswell had to say:

Jon Altman has argued that the defunded communities would just be neglected, saying, “governments do not close communities”. Perhaps he overlooked examples like the government of our war-time ally Uncle Joe Stalin. It forcibly closed many communities that lacked his approval and moved their people elsewhere. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Abbott’s and Stalin’s early years are curiously similar in several important ways: both born outside their chosen countries; both trained in a seminary before taking up politics; both noted for seeing issues in stark black and white; both confident, aggressive and gifted at intimidating opponents. Their political beliefs are oddly parallel too. Strong government in everything; their own party is the only one entitled to govern; all opposition to the party is illegitimate and immoral; not voting for the party is disloyal and may be punished; the rule of law, the constitution and state institutions should all be subordinate to the party; science is not permitted to contradict the views of the party; economics is bent into a shape that suits party prejudices; arts and culture is attacked viciously and careers ruined for straying beyond limits acceptable to the party; a huge unregulated secret state security apparatus and blanket surveillance of the population is necessary.

That’s not all. The recent vindictive Senate estimates grilling by Liberal Party senators of HRC President Gillian Triggs (her crime: acting independently) was apparently inspired by Stalin’s famous Moscow show trials of the 1930s, complete with abuse, bullying and shouting down inconvenient testimony. And one can wonder how much jealousy is involved in Abbott’s obvious resentment towards Putin, who is as near to being Stalin as anyone today….

Go on. Alas, Boswell did – with Crikey’s full consent. So Crikey believes that it is a legitimate point of view to compare the democratically elected Tony Abbott with the mass murderer Josef Stalin and to bracket the Senate Estimates Committee hearings in Canberra in 2015 with the Moscow Show Trials of the 1930s. Can you bear it?


While on Crikey and “Can You Bear It?”, did anyone see Crikey’s “Tips and Rumours” segment on last Friday – the very day that MWD appears (after lunch, of course)? It was as follows:

Can You Bear It Crikey

So Crikey’s Ms Tips has pinched MWD’s Ms Nancy’s “Can you bear it?” line. Can you bear it?




There has been enormous interest – among MWD’s hundreds of thousands of avid readers – concerning ABC chairman Jim Spigelman’s refusal to renounce one of his predecessors’ support for pederasty. See MWD Issue 260 and this week’s “Correspondence” section.

So it has come to this. Professor Richard Downing was appointed ABC chairman by the Whitlam Labor government in June 1973 when Jim Spigelman was Gough Whitlam’s senior adviser. In 1975, Spigelman was appointed Secretary of the Department of Media. Yet Mr Spigelman has refused to distance the ABC from Professor Downing’s call in mid-1975 for Australians to “understand” why adult men have sex with young boys. This despite the fact that pederasty was a criminal offence in 1975 – and remains so four decades later.

Professor Downing’s letter rationalising the crime of pederasty was published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 19 July 1975. It was written in Professor Downing’s capacity as “Chairman Aust. Broadcasting Commission” – the key section read:

…the phenomenon of pederasty seems appropriate for public discussions in a society which, if it is to be open, democratic and responsible, needs also to understand the diverse natures of the people who compose that society.

Due to popular demand, set out below is a copy of Professor Downing’s letter – which current ABC chairman Jim Spigelman seems to regard as a matter of no moment to the contemporary taxpayer funded public broadcaster. This despite the fact that Professor Downing’s call for an understanding of pederasts may well have encouraged men to have sex with boys at the time.

An eight year old boy assaulted by a pederast in July 1975 would be aged 53 today – and could well have appeared as a witness before the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Yet Mr Spigelman believes that the ABC chairman in 2015 has no responsibility for what the ABC chairman said in support of pederasty a mere four decades ago.

Downing letter

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History Corner


Nancy’s (male) co-owner was opposed to the hanging of Ronald Ryan at Pentridge Prison, Melbourne, on 3 February 1967. Not because he believed that Ryan was innocent of shooting warden George Hodson while escaping Pentridge in December 1965. But because there were worse murders at the time when the perpetrators had their death sentences commuted to a life term (which in the 1960s in Victoria usually meant around 11 to 20 years in the clink).

Writing in The Age last Saturday, journalist Tony Wright re-visited the events between Ryan’s jail break (Wright got the year wrong – it was late 1965 and not early 1964) and his execution, which came about due to the determination of the Liberal Party premier Henry Bolte. Wrote Wright:

Ryan, a gambler, leader of a gang of thieves and a safe cracker with no history of violence (he once left a note on a safe warning that it contained unexploded gelignite), was convicted of having shot Hodson and was given the death sentence. Whether or not it was a bullet from the carbine Ryan was carrying that killed Hodson remains a question of debate, but the conviction stood. Five of the jurors who found Ryan guilty later petitioned the court, declaring they hadn’t imagined he could be given the death sentence. Bolte closed his heart. He wanted Ryan hanged. Despite huge public protests, media campaigns and petitions from churches, Bolte dug in, believing he was on a vote winner.

What a load of tosh. The authoritative account of the event is Mike Richards’ The Hanged Man: The Life & Death of Ronald Ryan. In the mid-1960s, while a student at Melbourne University, Mike Richards led protests against Ryan’s hanging. [I’m sure that this is the very same Mike Richards who has appeared in MWD – including last week – in his capacity as failed Labor leader Mark Latham’s chief-of-staff in 2004 whom the Lair of Liverpool comprehensively bagged in The Latham Diaries. – Ed]

Unlike Tony Wright, Mike Richards does not believe that it “remains a question of debate” as to whether Ryan killed Hodson. Nor does Richards believe that Ryan had “no history of violence”. In November 1963, as Richards recounts, Ryan coshed a 75 year old finance company manager during an armed robbery in Melbourne. He also committed an armed robbery in Sydney in June 1964. Moreover, Richards maintains that Ryan was an aggressive man and occasional wife-basher.

Yet, according to Tony Wright, Ronald Ryan was a mere gentlemanly-inclined safe cracker. Turn it up.


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:

It’s a very good question. Thankfully, not everyone follows Katharine Murphy’s wise counsel.


In his column in The Weekend Australian last Saturday, Gerard Henderson drew attention to the fact that ABC managing director and editor-in-chief Mark Scott has been a member of the Knox Grammar School Council since late-2007 and deputy chairman since mid-2013. As far as MWD is aware, this fact has never been reported by the ABC.

This despite the fact that Knox Grammar, which is controlled by the Uniting Church in Australia, has been the occasion of sexual abuse by male teachers against young boys for close to half a century – and certainly between 1970 and 2010. And despite the fact that, in his role as ABC managing director and editor-in-chief, Mr Scott has supported the campaign waged by ABC journalists and programs against the Catholic Church in general and Cardinal George Pell in particular concerning the issue of child sexual abuse.

Gerard Henderson’s correspondence with Mark Scott is published below. As the email trail demonstrates, Mr Scott declined to answer many questions despite his campaign as ABC managing director for the public’s right to know. Here we go:

Gerard Henderson to Mark Scott – 4 March 2015

Dear Mr Scott

As you will be aware in your capacity as ABC editor-in-chief, over recent years ABC presenters, producers and editors have taken a detailed interest in instances of child sexual abuse. This is particularly so with respect to the Catholic Church – but also some government institutions, the Anglican Church, the Salvation Army, sections of the Jewish community and more besides. In all instances ABC personnel have demanded the highest of standards concerning anyone who has or had a duty of care with respect to children who were abused.

As you will be aware, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is currently examining what appears to have been a nest of paedophiles at Knox Grammar School in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and into the 21st Century. Evidence has been given to the Royal Commission that in 2009 or thereabouts, following the arrest of a number of current and former Knox Grammar teachers, contemporaneous records concerning the activities of these teachers, which were in the possession of Knox Grammar, either went missing or were consciously destroyed.

According to your entry in Who’s Who in Australia, you have been deputy chairman of the Knox Grammar School Council since 2007. I assume that the Knox Grammar School Council – along with the Uniting Church – has been involved in discussions concerning sexual abuse at the college.

During your time as ABC managing director, you have signed the ABC up to the Right-to-Know coalition and have advocated transparency across the range of issues.

My questions are these:

٠ Were you present at any meeting of the Knox Grammar School Council when the criminal activities of former Knox teachers were discussed? If so, did you see any reason to take up any such matters with the NSW Police? Moreover, was there any discussion about how to handle files on teachers or the location/destruction of missing files?

As you will be aware, if George Pell had been deputy chairman of a Catholic school where files about paedophile teachers went missing or were destroyed – programs like Four Corners would be calling for full accountability concerning any role he might have played.

I would appreciate a response by the close of business on Wednesday 4 March 2015.

Yours sincerely

Gerard Henderson

Mark Scott to Gerard Henderson – 4 March 2015

Dear Gerard

Under normal circumstances any discussion about the activities of the Knox School Council would be made by the Chairman of the council. With his endorsement, I can make the following comment.

I do not recall any discussion of matters of child sexual abuse at Knox Council meetings I attended, before the arrest of the teacher, Craig Treloar in 2009.

Knox fully cooperated with the police task force established at that time, including the provision of reports by investigators that were completed several years before my appointment to the Council.

I was never aware of any discussion of the treatment of any relevant files. The council was briefed that some key files appeared to be missing – and this was covered in the evidence given by the former headmaster, Peter Crawley, who was at the school from 1999-2003.

On 2 March 2015 Mr Robert Wannan, a former Chairman of the Knox Council and on 3 March 2015 Mr James Mein, a former Moderator of the Uniting Church, gave evidence that there was no discussion of or direction by any person to destroy records. That has certainly been my experience as a member of the Knox Council. Messrs Wannan and Mein’s evidence was accepted, uncontested.

On 2 March 2015, Mr David Lloyd, Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission, said:

I am more than prepared, in light of the evidence, to say this: in light of the fact that Mr Wannan and Mr Mein have denied on their oaths being involved in the destruction of documents as alleged by Mr Feehely, and in light of there being no evidence of which I am aware in support of the allegation made by Mr Feehely in his email, it would not be my intention to be saying in submissions that there is an available finding that they were involved in giving advice to the school to destroy documents.

On 3 March 2015 the former Headmaster, Dr Ian Paterson gave evidence that he did not in fact keep records of matters relevant to the subject matter of the hearing before the Royal Commission.

I am informed that Knox has extensively and comprehensively searched for relevant records. All relevant documentation found by the school has been made available to the police and to the Royal Commission. The school is continuing to assist the Royal Commission.

I can only echo the remarks of the school headmaster, Mr Weeks, who apologised to former students for the abject failure of Knox to protect all children in its care in the past. I can assure you that the School Council has no greater priority than the safety and well-being of every student at the school.

I note your final paragraph. I am sure you have noted the comprehensive and detailed coverage of the Knox case study at the Royal Commission on ABC platforms.



Gerard Henderson to Mark Scott – 5 March 2015

Dear Mark

Thanks for your reply to my email of 4 March 2015.

Needless to say, I am not accusing you of any impropriety concerning your role as deputy chairman of the Knox Grammar School Council. However, as you will be aware, as ABC editor-in-chief you supported criticisms of George Pell when you were aware that there was no evidence that Cardinal Pell knew of instances of clerical sexual abuse in the Catholic Church which occurred at a time – or place – for which he had direct responsibility.

In response to your email, I made a few points and ask a few questions:

٠ Since the matter of child sexual abuse in schools and institutions was well documented by the time you became deputy chairman of Knox Grammar School Council in 2007, why was there no discussion in the Council about this issue before the arrest of Craig Treloar in 2009?

When George Pell became the Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996, he set up the Melbourne Response within three months. What did you, or Knox Grammar School Council, do with respect to the handling of possible instances of child sexual abuse before the arrest of Craig Treloar?

٠ Why did Council members not make enquiries about the existence of any files concerning the sexual abuse of students by teachers either (i) before 2009 and/or (ii) during or after 2009? In short, what effort did the Council itself undertake to enquire about what you term “some key files [that] appeared to be missing”?

٠ I accept, on the available evidence, that there was no discussion of, or direction by, any person on the Council to destroy records. However, on the available evidence, there is no evidence that any member of the Knox Grammar School Council ever acknowledged that files concerning sexual assaults on students by some teachers had gone missing before the hearings of the Royal Commission. Why was there no such disclosure to Knox parents and the general community?

٠I accept that, on 3 March 2015, Dr Ian Paterson gave evidence to the Royal Commission that he did not keep records on matters concerning the sexual abuse of children by Knox teachers. My question is this: What did the Council do, during your time as deputy chairman, to ask the former headmaster to account for his behavior when headmaster at Knox – especially once the prevalence of sexual abuse at the school over several decades became a matter of public record?

٠ I accept that all relevant documentation found at Knox since the issue of child sexual abuse at the college became a matter of public scandal has been made available to NSW Police and to the Royal Commission. Again, the question is what action did the Council take on this issue before the Royal Commission was established in 2013? I believe that you are in a good position to answer this question since you were deputy chairman of the Knox Grammar School Council during the time of the former and current chairman.

٠ I recognise Mr Weeks’ apology. I simply note that ABC journalists did not readily accept apologies by George Pell for crimes which were committed – even though he had no direct responsibility for the crimes.

* * * * *

In conclusion, I accept that there has been coverage of the Knox case on ABC platforms. However, I do not recall any report on the ABC that its managing director has been the deputy chairman of the Knox Grammar School Council since 2007. I doubt that such an oversight would have occurred if the likes of Cardinal George Pell or Archbishop Peter Jensen had been the deputy chairman of a school council when sexual abuse by the school’s employees occurred. All I am pointing out here is a matter of double standards.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

Mark Scott to Gerard Henderson – 5 March 2015

Dear Gerard,

Whilst I had the support of the Chairman in clarifying some matters for you in previous correspondence, I do not think it is appropriate I provide further commentary. These matters are being canvassed by the Royal Commission.

I do need to correct you on one matter, however.

I joined the Knox Grammar School council late in 2007, but I did not become deputy Chairman until mid-2013. I took up this position following the resignation of Rob Wannan as Chairman, and the appointment of the former deputy, Peter Roach as Chairman.

Confused by your references to me being deputy chairman from 2007, I have checked the Who’s Who reference and it is wrong on this matter. I will have it corrected for the next edition.



Gerard Henderson to Mark Scott – 5 March 2015

Dear Mark

Thanks for your reply.

I am pleased to be of assistance in correcting your entry in Who’s Who.

Best wishes



As readers of Gerard Henderson’s column in The Weekend Australian last Saturday, the current ABC chairman Jim Spigelman has declined to distance the ABC from the call by his predecessor of four decades for an understanding of why men should be allowed to have sex with young boys. Former ABC chairman Richard Downing’s letter of July 1975 is re-printed in the “Documentation” section of his issue. As to the Henderson/Spigelman correspondence – here we go:

Gerard Henderson to Jim Spigelman – 3 March 2015

Dear Mr Spigelman

As you will be aware, over recent years ABC presenters, producers and editors have taken a detailed interest in instances of child sexual abuse. This is particularly so with respect to the Catholic Church – but also some government institutions, the Anglican Church, the Salvation Army, sections of the Jewish community and more besides.

In all instances ABC personnel have demanded the highest of standards concerning anyone who has or had a duty of care with respect to children who were sexually abused along with public figures who commented on this issue.

As you are no doubt aware, on 19 July 1975 – in his capacity as “Chairman, Aust. Broadcasting Commission” – Richard Downing wrote to the Sydney Morning Herald calling on Australians to “understand the culture” of men who wanted to have sex with young boys. Professor Downing wrote in part:

…the phenomenon of pederasty seems appropriate for public discussion in a society which, if it is to be open, democratic and responsible, needs also to understand the diverse natures of the people who compose that society….

I wrote about Professor Downing’s 1975 public call for Australians to “understand the culture” of pederasty in my Weekend Australian column on 15 March 2014. I have also documented the matter in my Media Watch Dog blog (Issues 216 & 233) and the issue is covered in Ken Inglis’ This is the ABC: The Australian Broadcasting Commission 1932-1983.

My question is this:

٠ Professor Downing – one of your predecessors as ABC chairman – once called for an understanding of pederasty in his official capacity as ABC chairman. Are you prepared – on behalf of the ABC – to renounce the view expressed by Professor Downing in 1975? If not, why not?

I am sure that the ABC presenters/journalists/editors would call for the Archbishop of Sydney to condemn such a comment if it had been made by one of his predecessors only four decades ago. Bear in mind that a young boy who was sexually abused by a pederast in 1975 would be less than 50 years of age today.

I would appreciate a response by close of business on Wednesday 4 March 2015.

Yours sincerely

Gerard Henderson

Jim Spigelman to Gerard Henderson – 4 March 2015

Dear Mr Henderson

I can think of nothing polite to say about your suggestion. I will content myself with the observation that mine is not an Apostolic Succession.

Yours sincerely

James Spigelman

Gerard Henderson to Jim Spigelman – 4 March 2015

Dear Mr Spigelman

I refer to your letter of 4 March 2015. Thanks for your prompt reply to my email of yesterday.

I was surprised at the supercilious nature of your response – especially in view of your past role as the Chief Justice of New South Wales. I assume that your reference to the “Apostolic Succession” is an attempt at a joke with respect to the fact that I was baptised a Catholic. It’s just that I do not find child sexual abuse as a suitable topic for attempted humour.

These are the facts – as confirmed by Ken Inglis’ This is the ABC: The Australian Broadcasting Commission 1932-1983 (Melbourne University Press, 1983) along with my own research.

In July 1975, the ABC Radio program Lateline aired a program titled “Pederasty”. Three self-confessed pederasts were interviewed on the program. Moreover, as Dr Inglis had written, the ABC presenter did not offer any criticism of his pederast guests’ criminal activity in having sex with underage boys.

Subsequently, in his formal capacity as Chairman of the ABC, Professor Richard Downing wrote to the Sydney Morning Herald (19 July 1975). He essentially defended the program and called on Australians to “understand the culture” of men who have sex with boys.

Contrary to the implication in your letter of 4 March 2015, I did not state that your role as ABC chairman is in the nature of “an Apostolic Succession”. As you will be aware, the concept only applies to the popes who succeeded the first pope (Peter). It does not apply, for example, to archbishops of the Catholic Church who succeed other archbishops. And I have never heard the term used with reference to various chairmen of the public broadcaster in Australia.

You state that you “can think of nothing polite to say about” my suggestion that you should publicly renounce the view expressed in 1975 by Professor Downing in calling for an “understanding” of men who sexually assaulted boys – in the name of the ABC.

This is an extraordinary statement from the chairman of the public broadcaster – whose journalists have accused churches, government institutions and other organisations of having at least some responsibility for the deeds of and/or statements by their predecessors.

Are you saying that the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney should say nothing if it were revealed that his predecessor, some four decades ago, had called for an “understanding” of clerical pederasts?

Are you saying that the chairman of a public company – say, James Hardie Limited, has no responsibility whatsoever for the actions of and/or statements by his or her predecessors with respect to asbestos over the past four decades?

Around the time the (then) ABC chairman Professor Richard Downing called for an understanding of “the culture” of pederasty, Catholic priests in the Ballarat diocese and lay teachers at Knox Grammar School were raping young boys.

As the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has revealed, child sexual assault of both boys and girls was widespread in clerical, governmental and secular institutions in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Professor Downing’s 1975 statement as ABC chairman supported such criminality with respect to boys.

However, rather than state that the view publicly expressed by the ABC chairman in 1975 was wrong, you have elected to go into denial and throw the switch to attempted humour (your reference to the “Apostolic Succession” refers).

You should be able to do better than this – I very much doubt that your predecessor Maurice Newman would have treated this matter with such evident disdain.

Yours sincerely

Gerard Henderson

* * * * *

Until next time – keep morale high.

“Gerard’s condescension levels high on #insiders this morning”

– Lenore Taylor, via Twitter, 22 February 2015

“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