GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG – ISSUE NO. 263
27 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.
- Can You Bear It? Paul Bongiorno on Cat Fights; 7.30’s “Discovery” of Arthur Calwell’s Prime Ministership; Guy Rundle Compares the Ayatollah Khomeini & Malcolm Fraser’s Funerals; Dale Budd Bores for Malcolm Fraser on The Drum
- Correspondence: Knox Grammar School & Dr Simon Longstaff & Mark Scott with an Exclusive Letter from the Knox Grammar School Council chairman
SABRA (“YES I HAVE NO APOLOGY”) LANE
Great performance by Sabra Lane on 7.30 last night. It’s just over 3 weeks since Ms Lane joined the Chris Uhlmann/Mark Riley Press Gallery chorus singing in unison that Tony Abbott’s prime ministership was doomed.
Last night, Sabra Lane did not apologise for feeding tosh to 7.30 viewers in the recent past. Instead she adopted the Never-Explain policy and presented a report which suggested that Mr Abbott’s leadership may be safe. How about that?
- BONGE ON CAT FIGHTS
Did anyone hear Network 10’s contributing editor Paul Bongiorno in his regular “Mornings with Linda Mottram” slot on ABC Radio 702 yesterday? In case the answer is in the negative, hear this.
Bonge referred to the dispute in the House of Representatives on Wednesday – between Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek as, wait for it, a “cat fight”.
Just imagine what Bonge – or indeed, Ms Mottram – would have said if, say, Tony Abbott had described a dispute between two female politicians as a cat fight. But Bonge escaped criticism from Linda Mottram. Can you bear it?
- 7.30 DISCOVERS “LOST” AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER
Over the last week the media has recorded the death of Malcolm Fraser (1930-2015) who was described as Australia’s 22nd prime minister. Or was he?
Apparently not – according to the ABC, that is. Since this is how the ABC’s leading current affairs program 7.30 described former Labor leader Arthur Calwell last Wednesday. This description remains on the ABC’s transcript and on the online version of the program.
So, according to the ABC, Arthur Calwell was prime minister of Australia between 1960 and 1967. No doubt, this surprised some viewers who thought that your man Calwell never rose beyond the rank of Leader of the Opposition. Can you bear it?
- MARXIST COMEDIAN COMPARES THE BURIAL OF MALCOLM FRASER WITH THAT OF AYATOLLAH KHOMEINI
Nancy’s (male) co-owner’s favourite Marxist comedian Guy Rundle was at it again in Crikey last Tuesday. As a rule, Hendo does not read your man Rundle’s tedious and over-long Crikey pieces – they remind him of Rundle’s tedious and over-long pieces when he was editor of the tedious and over-long Arena Magazine – which boasted that it was a Marxist journal of opinion. Yawn.
However, Hendo did read the Crikey piece of last Wednesday titled “Rundle: Fraser’s great act of courage” – as part of his research into Malcolm Fraser’s post-mortem phase.
This is how Guy Rundle commenced his article – which appears to be an application for entry in the “Hyperbole of the Year” award:
The Fraser Wars: My god, we really can have a culture war over anything, can’t we? The Fraser Wars kicked in following the announcement of Big Mal’s death, and they haven’t let up. There is a vague suggestion of the hysteria that attended the Ayotallah Khomeini’s funeral when a hysterically grieving crowd tore his body from the coffin and tried to touch it, tearing the shroud to get a fragment of cloth.
Yeah. Just like the Ayatollah’s funeral. A good joke – for a Marxist comedian, to be sure.
Then Rundle went on to bag Keith Windschuttle for his one-time support for the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot. It’s just that Rundle failed to mention that, in his Arena days, he was surrounded by soviets of former and extant members of the Pol Pot Fan Club.
Then Rundle, clearly an avid MWD reader, commented that “Gerard Henderson…has been reminding people of a couple of inconsequential foolish endorsements the late Tom Uren made of the Khmer Rouge”.
So there you have it. According to Rundle, it was wrong for Windschuttle to be “a great admirer of Pol-Pot until the late 70s”. This despite the fact that in the late 1970s Windschuttle acknowledged that he had supported the Khmer Rouge and ‘fessed up to his error.
However, according to Rundle, Tom Uren’s barracking for Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in the late 1970s was just “foolish” and “inconsequential”. This despite the fact that, unlike the (then) academic Windschuttle, Uren held important positions in the 1970s – initially as a senior minister in the Whitlam Labor government and later as Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Moreover, unlike Windschuttle, Uren never outed himself as a one-time Pol Pot barracker. Indeed, Tom Uren went into denial about his Khmer Rouge period – until outed by Hendo’s files.
And yet Guy Rundle used Crikey to bag one-time Khmer Rouge supporter Keith Windschuttle – while letting one time Khmer Rouge supporter Tom Uren off the hook. Can you bear it?
- DALE BUDD ON THE DRUM – WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MARGARET SIMONS
While on the topic of Malcolm Fraser, what a stunning performance by Dale Budd (the Very Tall Person’s one-time principal private secretary) on The Drum last Friday.
You see, your man Budd was presenter Julia Baird’s special guest – the panel was made up of Anne Henderson, Julian Leeser, Margaret Simons and Anne Summers. Here’s how the interview commenced:
Julia Baird: Mr Budd joins us from Canberra. Mr Budd, welcome to The Drum.
Dale Budd: Thank you very much
Julia Baird: Now Mr Budd, I understand you met Malcolm Fraser first of all in 1970. I think you joined his staff shortly after that. What are your first memories of him? How did he first strike you?
Dale Budd: I don’t have a very clear memory. I went for a job interview, he was Defence Minister, and the interview was at the Russell Offices, and I got the job and started a few weeks later. I was sort of pre-warned you might ask me for some initial story and I will mention one thing – that, fairly early on or very early on, he said to me “I never want to see the word ‘assure’ in a letter or in a speech.” He said when a politician says “I assure you’’, he said you know he’s lying. So I wouldn’t say that he never used that word. But we never ever put it into a letter that he signed and I don’t remember him ever saying it. So that stuck with me, when I hear a politician saying “I assure you” I think, I wonder, you know, can I believe it?
How frightfully interesting. Mr Budd can’t remember much from his early years with Fraser – except to avoid use of the word “assure”. [I can assure you that your man Budd is both long-winded and boring – Ed].
Then Dale Budd went on and on and on about how Malcolm Fraser really liked people disagreeing with him. Let’s go to the transcript – before cutting Mr Budd off in full (boring) flight:
Dale Budd: I mean he [Fraser] was a very strong character and you could be, you could be intimidated by him. But after one of these sort of argumentative sessions – and, once again, Margaret [Simons] knows this – after one of these argumentative sessions, he might win the argument and you might come out feeling pretty bruised. And five minutes later you’d be called back in and asked for your opinion about something else. He never held grudges against people that he disagreed with – not in these sort of discussions.
What Dale Budd was saying was that, after Malcolm Fraser had intimidated his staff into agreeing with him, he was prepared to invite staff back into his office for another round of intimidation leading to yet another victory by Fraser in an argument. Fancy that.
By this time, Ms Baird was obviously frustrated by the sheer tedium of The Drum’s “talent” for the evening. So she attempted to change the topic. Let’s go to the transcript again:
Julia Baird: Sorry to interrupt you. Sorry Mr Budd, I just want to see if Margaret [Simons] agreed with that assessment. She seems to be nodding there.
Margaret Simons: Yes, no, absolutely. I think that’s got it spot on. And I would – you know it was never personal it was always about the issue, the policy, the argument and it was how he, you know, honed his own ideas and worked out what position he should take. So it was certainly, you know, sometimes incredibly tough. And I certainly remember, you know, when I was faced with piles and piles of archival research – Malcolm always wanted to know, you know “have you done it yet?” But, you came to respect it, though it was never easy, because it was never personal it was always in pursuit of a big idea or a big principle he was after.
To paraphrase Dr Simons (for a doctor she is). Yes. No. Absolutely. You know. Malcolm Fraser’s bullying was never personal, you know. It was certainly all in pursuit of a big idea, you know. Was I intimidated? Yes, No. Absolutely. But, you know, that Mr Fraser – he was always interested in the big principle. He certainly always asked the big questions of our time. Such as: “Have you read the files yet?” Would I do it all again? Yes. No. Absolutely. Especially since when helping Mr Fraser write Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs I was on the taxpayers’ teat per courtesy of my gig at the taxpayer funded Australian Prime Ministers’ Centre.
Can you bear it? [Er, no. Not really. Yes. No. Absolutely. Certainly. But perhaps, you know, you might continue to examine Dale Budd’s stunning performance on The Drum after your WELL EARNED BREAK over Easter – Ed].
On the day of Malcolm Fraser’s State Funeral, this most prestigious gong is shared by two journalists who were not concerned by the “I Now Love Malcolm” ethos.
- GREG SHERIDAN
Yesterday, Greg Sheridan’s column in The Australian was titled “Fraser Was No Saint For Vietnamese Refugees”. While acknowledging that, overall, the Fraser Government’s decision to admit tens of thousands of Indo-Chinese refugees was good policy – Greg Sheridan drew attention to the fact that Mr Fraser was slow to embrace the cause and that by the 1980s his government had lost enthusiasm for the cause.
Sheridan mentioned the fact that Gough Whitlam was unsympathetic to Vietnamese refugees in the mid-1970s and that a bipartisan approach on this matter only became possible when Bill Hayden replaced Gough Whitlam as Labor leader after the December 1977 election. Sheridan quoted the most authoritative study of the topic. Namely Rachel Stevens “Political Debates on Asylum Seekers during the Fraser Government, 1977-1982”, Australian Journal of Politics and History, 2012, pp. 526-541.
Greg Sheridan: Five Paws.
- JACK WATERFORD
Writing in the Canberra Times on Wednesday, Jack Waterford reflected on Malcolm Fraser’s relationship with the Commonwealth Public Service:
One of the worst days in Australian public service history might have been the day that Malcolm Fraser, as prime minister, discovered the Commonwealth Government Directory, of blessed memory. It contained the name of every public servant of what was then called the Second Division of the APS, nowadays the Senior Executive, as well as a description of his or her functions and powers, and, most important, telephone number. I have an idea that once Fraser got the hang of the thing, he required departments to supply him, if not the directory, with home telephone numbers as well.
There then began a reign of terror, in which no senior public servant, of whatever department, no matter how remote or distant from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, was safe from the occasional telephone call, as often as not in the middle of the night, on Christmas Day, or while on annual leave.
Jack Waterford reported that Sir Arthur Tange was one of the number of public servants who urged Mr Fraser not to classify so many of his requests as “urgent”. Apparently, Alan Carmody expressed a similar view at the time.
Jack Waterford : Five Paws.
Writing in The Weekend Australian last Saturday, Jacqueline Magnay reported that “a mystery Australian, a guest of Soviet double agent Anthony Blunt, appears on a 1980s document of a London pedophile lair central to a corruption investigation into Scotland Yard”.
In Britain, the Independent Complaints Commission is investigating some 14 cases spanning four decades. The investigation turns on whether there was a cover-up of child sexual abuse in Britain in the 1970s and 1980s. It appears that some young boys were murdered by pederasts and many were sexually abused. This was at a time where the Paedophile Information Centre in London enjoyed the support of some prominent politicians and political advisers.
As MWD readers are aware, it was around the time that pederasts were murdering and assaulting boys in Britain and elsewhere that the (then) ABC chairman Sir Richard Downing wrote to the Sydney Morning Herald on 19 July 1975 calling on Australians to “understand” the sexual urges of pederasts.
Despite the fact that Professor Downing made this statement in his official capacity as ABC chairman, the current ABC chairman Jim Spigelman has declined to disassociate the contemporary ABC from the views expressed by one of his predecessors. As illustrated in MWD’s updated Legacy Scoreboard.
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Nancy’s (female) co-owner’s recipe for “Vine tomato and onion salad” – featuring raw onion – caused enormous interest (of the culinary kind) when published last week. However, avid reader Noel Henry came up with this critique:
Please get with the inner urban flow. Who amidst their granite tops, and antiseptic kitchens would ever spray balsamic vinegar? The correct procedure is to drizzle.
It’s autumn here, and the mice are moving into the Winter Palace. The old combustion stove just manages to balance the chilly draughts, adding considerably to their comfort. And here we splurge vinegars and fine oils…liberally.
Regards Noel Henry
So there you have it – from Noel Henry’s abode. Meanwhile Nancy’s (female) co-owner stands by her long-held view that Balsamic vinegar should be sprayed – that way the vinegar is evenly distributed. Not drizzled. Especially where raw onion is concerned. So there.
SKY NEWS MORE BALANCED THAN ABC
As avid MWD readers will be aware, the ABC remains a Conservative Free Zone with not one conservative presenter or producer or editor for any of the taxpayer funded public broadcaster’s prominent television or radio or online outlets. Not one. Sure Tom Switzer was recently appointed presenter of a Radio National program Between the Lines. But this airs on Radio National at 7.30 pm on Thursdays – hardly a prominent gig. Moreover, Mr Switzer is a critic of the foreign policy of both Tony Abbott and Bill Shorten. There is also Amanda Vanstone whose program Counterpoint airs at 4 pm on Mondays, hardly a prominent gig. Moreover, the former Liberal Party minister does not regard herself as a conservative.
Well what about Sky News – which is generally regarded as right-of-centre and which has some links with The Australian? The following left-of-centre types have hosting arrangements or formal contributor status on Sky News:
So Sky News has eight left-of-centre regular paid contributors or presenters on its prominent programs. However, the ABC has no right-of-centre regular paid contributors on its prominent programs.
Time to get out the Mark Scott Clock again.
THE AUNTY BALANCE CLOCK – AN UPDATE
This (highly popular) segment is dedicated to holding ABC managing director Mark Scott to account for his promise – made on 16 October 2006 – that, under his watch, there would be a “further diversity of voices” on the ABC.
- Number of weeks since Nice Mr Scott promised greater diversity on the ABC – Total: 440 weeks
- Number of conservative presenters/producers/paid regular commentators/editors on prominent ABC Radio/ABC TV/ABC Online outlets – Total: Absolutely Zip
When it comes to the issue of attempting to ensure some political balance at the ABC on Mr Scott’s watch, it’s already 5 minutes past midnight.
HOWLERS APLENTY AS MALCOLM FRASER REMEMBERED
- GEORGE MEGALOGENIS STUMBLES ON FRASER & MARSHALL GREEN
Golly. Wasn’t Malcolm Fraser: Life Wasn’t Meant To Be Easy on ABC 1 last Sunday a stunner? Amazing. And wasn’t it just great that the producer had the sense to turn up to the Fraser interview with two cameras. Once focused on Malcolm Fraser; the other on George Megalogenis who had lotsa things to say. Too much, in fact.
This is how the conversation went when your man Megalogenis threw the switch to the lead-up to the dismissal of Gough Whitlam’s Labor government by the Governor-General Sir John Kerr on 11 November 1975:
George Megalogenis: The US Embassy wrote a cable four days before the Dismissal and they said your tactics had badly backfired “The longer he [Fraser] refuses to budge the more likely it is that his personal popularity as well as the popularity of the Opposition parties will continue to fall; Fraser is also having increasing difficulties holding Opposition senators together”. That’s four days before the Dismissal.
Malcolm Fraser: Is that Marshall Green?
George Megalogenis: Yes, that was Marshall Green.
Malcolm Fraser: I wouldn’t have expected much better of him.
George Megalogenis: He’s [Green] predicted, four days out, that the best – that all you’d achieved was to rescue the Whitlam government from an almost impossible position. Obviously, that was the thinking at the time of the Americans. Why would they get a thought like that? That you are about to fall over?
Malcolm Fraser: Well, I think Americans have exhibited a total incapacity to judge international events accurately or sensibly or reasonably…
George Megalogenis: And this is Exhibit A?
Malcolm Fraser: Well you can make this Exhibit A.
George Megalogenis: Or Z
Malcolm Fraser: …It just shows how badly people can be at reading another history and another culture, another country. And when people say America and Australia are two sides of the same coin in terms of cultural narrative – it’s just not true. It never has been true.
Now here are some facts. Yes, the United States Embassy in Canberra came to the view in around October/November 1975 that Malcolm Fraser’s determination to block supply in the Senate could backfire on the Coalition. But this merely reflected what many members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery in Canberra were writing and saying at the time. Contrary to Mr Fraser’s interpretation, this was not only an American view of Australia.
However, it seems unlikely that Marshall Green wrote the particular cable concerning Malcolm Fraser on 7 November 1975. After all, Mr Green’s mission as US Ambassador in Australia ended on 31 July 1975 – before Mr Fraser and his colleagues moved to block supply in the Senate. This fact can be found, er, by a simple Google search.
- MARGARET SIMONS STUMBLES ON FRASER AND IMMIGRATION
On 20 March 2015 – as previously mentioned, on the evening of Malcolm Fraser’s death – Julia Baird chaired a panel on The Drum consisting of Anne Henderson, Julia Leeser, Margaret Simons (co-author with Malcolm Fraser of Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs) and Dr Anne Summers (for a doctor she is).
In fact the program was dumbed down by an excruciatingly boring interview with Dale (“zzzzzzzz”) Budd – Mr Fraser’s one-time principal private secretary who ate-up a staggering one-third of the program time without saying anything much at all.
However, there was time for a little bit of controversy. At one stage in the discussion, Anne Henderson mentioned Mr Fraser’s support for the Indo-Chinese refugee intake in the late-1970s and early -1980s. She pointed out that the refugees came mostly on Qantas jets from refugee camps and possessed visas – and then make the following comment:
Anne Henderson: And the interesting thing is that, in the 60s, he [Fraser] was against immigration. So he’s that kind of man, he’s capable of a complete 180 degree turn. But he was very much consistent in that [refugees issue] right through – when he was a very inconsistent man on many other things.
Shortly after, Margaret Simons disagreed with Nancy’s (female) co-owner’s point:
Margaret Simons: Others have mentioned migration. And I think if you ask about the long lasting legacy that we see on the street every day – it’s the practical end of the White Australia Policy. And I just disagree with Anne Henderson there. There’s a single speech in 1960 in which he [Fraser] expresses reservations about immigration. But overwhelmingly, right back to when he was 24 years old, he was a Big Australia man and remained that until his death.
This statement is incorrect. Malcolm Fraser was an outspoken critic of immigration in the first decade of his parliamentary career. Mr Fraser told Gerard Henderson so himself when he interviewed Mr Fraser for his book Menzies Child: The Liberal Party of Australia. Here are the relevant parts of the interview:
Gerard Henderson: Just coming back to Menzies…I know you were young. But you had enormous ability, an enormous grasp of detail and high intelligence and a forceful personality. Why do you think Menzies didn’t put you in the ministry? Not the Cabinet, but the ministry?
Malcolm Fraser: Well, I can give you two answers to that. One, he had a firm view that if people were promoted too early it could do them damage no matter how much ability they had. And I think that’s correct. I am not saying that the judgment was necessarily correct in relation to me but I think you can promote people too young. And people in more recent times have been promoted with too little political experience. But secondly, I’d argued with Harold Holt on immigration and on a couple of other issues, and quite vigorously, and taken a contrary view to that which the government held. Other people in the party decided that they should really get alongside Harold Holt and Harold was their advocate. So Harold would have advocated other people rather than myself….
Gerard Henderson: What was your disagreement with Holt on immigration?
Malcolm Fraser: I thought immigration ought to be cut at that stage…for economic reasons.
In Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs, which Margaret Simons co-authored with Malcolm Fraser, Fraser’s opposition to immigration in the early part of his career is acknowledged at Page 108:
He [Fraser] proposed reducing immigration for a while, “not as a permanent measure, but as a policy to be followed for two, three or perhaps four years, during which time we must try, by every means in our power, to persuade and encourage secondary industries to export”.
The sources in the book related to two speeches which Malcolm Fraser delivered in the mid-1950s. In one of these speeches, on 13 September 1956, Fraser called for immigration to be reduced “substantially”. The quotes which Malcolm Fraser gave to Gerard Henderson related to his position in the late-1950s and early-1960s. In short, Fraser’s opposition to immigration during the Menzies government extended from 1955 to 1965.
Clearly, Anne Henderson’s point on The Drum was correct – in the 1960s Fraser was against immigration. He changed his mind some time after he entered the Holt ministry in January 1966. And, clearly, Margaret Simons’ claim on The Drum that Fraser’s opposition to immigration consisted of “a single speech in 1960” was inaccurate.
Gerard Henderson wrote to Margaret Simons asking what evidence she had to support her assertion on The Drum that from the time he entered the House of Representatives in December 1955, Malcolm Fraser was always a “Big Australia man” whose opposition to immigration consisted of “a single speech in 1960”.
As is her wont, Margaret Simons declined to offer any evidence in support of her (false) statement on The Drum. Dr Simons is an academic at the taxpayer subsidised University of Melbourne. She teaches journalism. Enough said.
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.
- DR SIMON LONGSTAFF & KNOX GRAMMAR SCHOOL
On Monday 23 February 2015, Geoffrey Watson QC made a statement to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Assault on behalf of Knox Grammar School. This was the first day of the Royal Commission’s inquiry into the response by Knox Grammar and the Uniting Church in Australia between 1970 and 2010 to concerns raised about inappropriate conduct by a number of teachers towards students at Knox Grammar School.
As avid MWD readers will be aware, ABC managing director and editor-in-chief Mark Scott became a member of the Knox Grammar School Council in late-2007 and took up the position of deputy chairman in mid-2013. This fact, so far, has not been mentioned on the ABC. The Knox Grammar School Council and the Uniting Church in Australia are ultimately responsible for what takes place at the school.
Dr Simon Longstaff AO, the executive director of St James Ethics Centre, is a high profile commentator in the media on ethics, transparency, disclosure and so on. He has declined to say when he first joined the Knox Grammar School Council – but has been on the Knox Grammar board for some years.
Gerard Henderson wrote to Simon Longstaff about what he did – as a member of the Knox Grammar School Council – with respect to instances of child sexual abuse by teachers against students before or during his tenure as a member of the Knox Grammar board. He responded – without saying much. In the end Dr Longstaff handed the matter over to Peter A. Roach, chairman of the Knox Grammar School Council, who replied to Gerard Henderson. His response and Gerard Henderson’s reply can be found as links at the end of this segment. Here we go:
Gerard Henderson to Simon Longstaff – 11 March 2015
I understand that you are currently a member of the Knox Grammar School Council but it is not clear to me as to how long you have held this position.
In view of your prominent role as the executive director of the St James Ethics Centre – and your propensity to make declarations on what is and what is not ethical behaviour – I would be interested in your responses to the following questions:
▪ In view of the evidence which suggests that the authorities at Knox Grammar School were aware of occasions of sexual assault by teachers on under-age youths and boys at least as early as 2004, was it ethical for Knox Grammar School Council not to make a full disclosure at or around this time?
▪ In view of the fact that Knox Grammar School Council member Mark Scott has said that he cannot recall that child sexual abuse was discussed on the Council before 2009, was it ethical for Council members not to initiate an audit concerning this matter between 2004 and 2009? This question is raised in view of the fact that George Pell, who has been much criticised by the ABC during Mr Scott’s tenure as managing director and editor-in-chief, set up a formal process to handle child sexual abuse cases in 1996 – i.e. some 13 years before it appears the matter was discussed at the Knox Grammar School Council.
▪ In view of that fact that the Knox Grammar School Council did not issue a public apology for past cases of child sexual abuse committed by Knox teachers until the matter came before the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, do you believe that the evident delay in delivering this apology was ethical?
Your responses to the above enquires about what is ethical behaviour in contemporary Australian society – with respect to the documented behaviour of the Knox Grammar School Council – would be much appreciated.
Simon Longstaff to Gerard Henderson – 11 March 2015
Thanks for your note and questions. May I ask if you are seeking my responses for publication of merely in a personal capacity? Also, do you mind if I share your note with others involved in the Knox response so that any reply to you is accurate?
Gerard Henderson to Simon Longstaff – 11 March 2015
Thanks for your prompt reply. My responses to your questions are as follows.
- I do tend to publish my correspondence on my Media Watch Dog blog each Friday. Excluding any personal matters which are not relevant to the public debate. I believe that the events at Knox Grammar School – which have been raised at the Royal Commission – are a matter of considerable public interest. By the way, MWD readers seem to like the debate and discussion found in MWDon Fridays (after lunch) in the Correspondence section.
- I have no objection to you sharing my note with anyone you wish. I would very much like to hear detailed responses from members of the Knox Grammar School Council concerning the manner in which the sexual abuse scandal at the school was handled between 1970 and 2010. As you, above all, will understand a question of the Council’s duty of care over four decades is relevant in this instance.
All the best
Gerard Henderson to Simon Longstaff – 12 March 2015
I am not in any hurry concerning a possible response from you to my queries of yesterday.
However, I would be grateful if you could let me know when you joined the Knox Grammar School Council. The Knox Grammar website is not very informative and it’s hard to find such information.
Simon Longstaff to Gerard Henderson – 12 March 2015
Just a brief note to let you know that I am still awaiting advice from the school concerning the issues that you have asked about. In doing so, I wish to ensure that any reply is accurate and supported by evidence rather than mere recollection.
In the meantime, I wonder if you could let me know in which capacity you have written to me asking your questions? And in what capacity are you hoping that I might respond – as Exec Director of the Ethics Centre or as a member of the KGS school council?
Gerard Henderson to Simon Longstaff – 13 March 2015
Thanks for your note. As you are aware, you do not have to reply to correspondence from me. However, as indicated, I would like to know when you joined the Knox Grammar School Council.
I do believe that you are a bit precious about this. You are constantly banging on about ethics, transparency, accountability and so on. So I just have an interest in how your applied such principles in your capacity as a board member of the Knox Grammar School Council – concerning, as is now apparent, some of the worst cases of child sexual abuse within a school in Australia.
As you know, like you I am a commentator. I write columns for The Weekend Australian, I write my Media Watch Dog blog each Friday and I write for The Sydney Institute Quarterly among other places. I may, or may not, write about Knox Grammar again. If I do, I would probably mention your role on the board along with that of Mark Scott. Mr Scott has declined to answer most of my questions about Knox Grammar – despite the fact that as ABC managing director he signed up to the Right to Know Coalition.
So far you have not answered my questions – but you may do so in the future. I will make a decision as to how I handle this matter if, and when, you reply.
I don’t understand your point about your various roles as executive director of the Ethics Centre and the member of the Knox Grammar School Council. After all, there is only one Dr Simon Longstaff and I don’t see how you can distinguish between what you say at the St James Ethics Centre and what you do on the Knox Grammar School Council.
Simon Longstaff to Gerard Henderson – 13 March 2015
Thanks for your note. As I mentioned in my earlier email, I would like any response to your questions to be complete and based on solid evidence of the kind provided to the Royal Commission. Accordingly, I have asked the school to make available that information. I was contacted this morning by the school asking if there was any urgency to my request, as those responsible for preparing the factual component to the answers you seek are currently focusing on the concerns of those who suffered the appalling abuse. They have said that they can get back to me by the middle of next week. Knowing that you would share my concern that the welfare of the victims be given precedence, i have said that the proposed timeframe is fine.
As to my point about roles and responsibilities, I would respectfully suggest that different roles bring different responsibilities and that my freedom to act in one capacity may differ to that in another. That was the point of my question to you. Of course, none of this disturbs my unity of being. Still, your comment that I remain the same Simon Longstaff in all circumstances does suggest that we could enjoy some fascinating discussions about the unity and diversity of Holy Trinity – although I would have to brush up on what I was taught by the Jesuits at St Aloysius College (where Tony Abbott and I shared the same class during our formative years together in primary school).
Gerard Henderson to Simon Longstaff – 17 March 2015
I refer to your email of last Friday.
That’s fine. I am in no hurry to receive a reply in response to my queries. However, I was somewhat bemused by your claim that the powers-that-be at Knox Grammar cannot respond promptly to questions with respect as to how they exercised their duty of care as board members since they “are currently focusing on the concerns of those who suffered the appalling abuse”.
As you know, the instances of sexual abuse at Knox Grammar took place between 1970 and 2010. I would have thought that the Knox Grammar School Council would have focused on such concerns well before now and, consequently, have time to answer questions about what the Council did before the commencement of the Royal Commission’s hearings into the school.
I don’t really understand your point re the Holy Trinity. I would have thought that the ethics which you preach at the St James Ethics Centre you would attempt to implement on the Knox Grammar School Council. It’s got nothing to do with the Father, the Son or the Holy Spirit.
I was not aware that you had been at primary school at Aloysius College with Tony Abbott. The references I read and hear of him relate much more to his time at Riverview.
Simon Longstaff to Gerard Henderson – 17 March 2015
Thanks for your understanding.
ps: Yes, Tony’s years at Riverview are often highlighted. However, I am sure that the influence of the Jesuits of St Aloysius on our young minds was no less significant. No doubt, you recall their maxim “Give me a child for his first seven years …”
* * * *
The letter of Peter A. Roach, chairman Knox Grammar School Council, to Gerard Henderson, along with attachments, dated 19 March 2015 can be read here.
Gerard Henderson’s reply to Peter A. Roach, dated 26 March 2015, can be read here.
If there are any further developments MWD will let you know. So, stay tuned.
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