26 JUNE 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.

  • Stop Press: La Alberici Verbals Tony Abbott; Nicholas Reece Runs Aunty’s Line
  • Editorial: Ex-BBC Editor Admits BBC Group-Think – Just like the Mind-Set Prevalent in the ABC’s Q&A Affair
  • Can You Bear It? The Killing Season & Mike Carlton’s Tweet
  • Nancy’s Old Bones: Joe Camilleri’s Sludge in The Age on the Encyclical Laudato Si’ reminds MWD of Dr Joe’s One-time Admiration for Mao Zedong
  • Correspondence: Julian (‘I love flashing my post-nominals’) Burnside AO QC Helps Out Re Pope Francis & An Avid Reader Reminds MWD About the ABC’s One Time Explanation of Why In General “Men Will Sleep with Young Boys”




Lateline co-presenter Emma Alberici was all paper and smirk on the program last night during a debate on the ABC about the Q&A affair. Despite the fact that both Richard Finlayson (Director ABC Television) and Mark Scott (ABC managing director and editor-in-chief) have acknowledged that it was “an error of judgment” to invite Zaky Mallah on the program last Monday, Ms Alberici indicated her support for Q&A’s decision.

Towards the middle of the debate between Jonathan Holmes and Gerard Henderson – in which Emma Alberici was participating while also presiding – the Lateline presenter decided to criticise the Prime Minister. Let’s go to the transcript – which comes in the middle to the discussion as Hendo engaged in a one against two tag-team intellectual wrestle with both Ms Alberici and Mr Holmes:

Emma Alberici : No, Gerard Henderson, it is worth making the point that while the Prime Minister today did say he was [Zaky Mallah] was a convicted terrorist, he’s not a convicted terrorist.

Gerard Henderson: Well I’m not responsible for what the Prime Minister said. But –

Emma Alberici: [interjecting] But it’s important to clear those sorts of factual misconceptions.

Contrary to Ms Alberici’s confident assertion, the Prime Minister did not say yesterday that Mallah was a “convicted terrorist”. This is what Tony Abbott did say:

Tony Abbott: Utterly incomprehensible. Utterly incomprehensible. Here we had the ABC admitting a gross error of judgement and then compounding that terrible mistake, that betrayal if you like of our country, by giving a platform to this convicted criminal and terrorist sympathiser. They compounded the mistake by re-broadcasting the program. Now, frankly, heads should roll over this. Heads should roll over this. [Emphasis added].

Emma Alberici omitted the words “criminal and” along with “sympathiser” which totally distorted the meaning. The doctored quote enabled her to assert that the Prime Minister had engaged in a deliberate “factual misconception” by stating that Mallah was a “convicted terrorist”. He said no such thing.

This is mere verballing. But don’t expect a correction any time soon. The lady is usually not for apologising. The fact is that the taxpayer subsidised public broadcaster sometimes demands apologies but rarely gives them.

Take Nice Mr Scott, for example. In a tweet which he put out on Wednesday, Mark Scott demanded an immediate correction to what he claimed was an incorrect comment about him in The Guardian Australia by Amanda Meade. Here it is:

m scott

However, the ABC editor-in-chief is unlikely to make a similar demand concerning Ms Alberici’s verballing of the Prime Minister. It’s called a double standard.

  • Naive Nicholas Reece Swallows Q&A Spin

What a stunning performance by Melbourne University academic and former Labor staffer Nicholas Reece on Paul Murray Live last night. Defending “balance” at the ABC, your man Reece supported the format of Q&A – which usually goes to air with a 3:2 pro left-of-centre composition of its five person panel and usually has an audience which is audibly hostile to right-of-centre types. Not according to your man Reece, however let’s go to the transcript:

Nicholas Reece: I mean, you say Q&A is a leftie show. I mean, they survey the audience before the show. And you normally find it maps very closely to the electorate. Normally you find there’s more Liberals there than there are Labor.

How naïve can you get? Even for a Melbourne University academic. Nicholas Reece seems totally unaware that the so-called voting intentions of the Q&A audience reflect what audience members tell Q&A producers. It is not an objective reckoning and warrants investigation by the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission for misleading advertising. [I assume this is an attempted joke – Ed].

If your man Reece did any research he would know that these are political questions which members of the Q&A audience are required to answer:

Qanda registration form

As Nancy’s (male) co-owner has revealed, the easiest way to get into the Q&A audience is to take off your Che Guevara tee-shirt and matching sandals, put on a shirt and change into sensible shoes. Then declare your love for Tony Abbott. And, hey presto, you’re on the ABC shuttle bus on the way to the ABC to promote “balance” among the honest Che Guevara wearing Sandalista inner-city types.

The learned Melbourne University academic was challenged by both presenter Paul Murray and fellow panellist Miranda Devine. However, Reece did not concede his error. Moreover, he commenced banging on about how the ABC should be considered some kind of Liberal Party front because Mark Scott once worked for a Liberal Party minister. Yawn.

Yes, Nice Mr Scott worked briefly for Terry Metherell – a poorly performing minister in Nick Greiner’s NSW Coalition government around a quarter of a century ago. The poor performance of Dr Metherell (for a doctor he is) was a contributing factor to the bleak result achieved by the Coalition in the NSW election in May 1991 which left it as a minority government.

You wonder why Sky News employs Nicholas Reece since he is primarily concerned with spin and does not worry much about evidence or logic. But there you go.



The essential problem with the ABC was well defined by Roger Mosey – a former editorial director at the BBC – earlier this week. On Monday 22 June 2015, The Times carried an article by David Sanderson headed “BBC dogged by liberal bias, former chief admits”. The term “liberal” was used in the American and British sense – meaning left-wing or leftist. The Times article commenced as follows:

The BBC suffers from liberal “group think” and dysfunctional governance, one of its most senior figures of the past two decades has said. Roger Mosey, a former editorial director, said that the corporation had failed to reflect the concerns of its audience over asylum and immigration and had adopted a “liberal-defensive” position on the issues.

In his memoirs, serialised in The Times today, he explains how the Ten O’Clock News “sanitised” a report on an area with high immigration by leaving out interviews with members of the white community who made “hard” comments. He also mocks a leaflet sent to local BBC radio stations identifying target listeners as a middle-aged couple named Dave and Sue who socialise with people from different ethnic backgrounds and are open-minded about adopting aspects of other cultures. “It must have been something of a shock to the writers of this leaflet when many real-life Daves and Sues went off and joined Ukip [the United Kingdom Independence Party],” he writes.

It’s much the same at the ABC. The ABC’s mind-set is reflected in the fact that the public broadcaster does not employ one conservative presenter, producer or editor in any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets. Not one.

It is this left-liberal mind-set, or group-think, which creates the political environment where errors of judgement are made. As occurred on last Monday’s Q&A program.

ABC managing director and editor-in-chief Mark Scott was scheduled to speak at the Centre for Corporate Public Affairs in Melbourne last night on the topic “Australian Stories: Who Will Tell Them?” As it happened, Mr Scott changed his topic and told his own story – in defence of the taxpayer funded public broadcaster, following the fall-out from last Monday’s Q&A program during which presenter Tony Jones called a pre-arranged question from the floor from convicted criminal and caliphate advocate Zaky Mallah.

None of the panellists or audience members were advised that Zaky Mallah had pleaded guilty to threatening to kill officers of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO). His initial question to the panel, which was edited by Q&A staff, read as follows:

Zaky Mallah: As the first man in Australia to be charged with terrorism under the harsh Liberal Howard Government in 2003, I was subject to solitary confinement, a 22 hour lockdown, dressed in most times in an orange overall and treated like a convicted terrorist while under the presumption of innocence. I had done and said some stupid things, including threatening to kidnap and kill but, in 2005, I was acquitted of those terrorism charges. Question to the panel: What would have happened if my case had been decided by the Minister himself and not the courts?

The implication of this Q&A approved question was that Mallah had been acquitted of all charges – including the threat to kill and kidnap ASIO officers. This is not the case. In fact, Q&A invited a convicted criminal on to the Q&A set to ask questions of a panel which included Steve Ciobo (the Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Trade) and Joel Fitzgibbon (the Shadow Minister for Agriculture and a minister in the former Rudd Labor government).

When Mr Ciobo said that he was not familiar with the circumstances of the case, Tony Jones attempted to clarify this matter by declaring that Mallah had pleaded guilty of making death threats to Commonwealth officials but added that on “the other side of the coin” he “was not convicted, in the end, of any terrorism charges”. Later on, Joel Fitzgibbon said that he, too, was “not familiar with the details of the case”.

This clearly was a “gotcha” question. Otherwise the panel would have been briefed in advance of circumstances surrounding both Mallah’s conviction and acquittal. But the two key political figures on the panel – Ciobo and Fitzgibbon – were in the dark. This contributed to what the ABC later conceded was an error of judgement.

Tony Jones attempted to use Mallah’s case of 2005 (he was arrested in 2003) as a case study of what might happen under the Abbott government’s draft national security legislation. Earlier, without having been briefed by Q&A on the facts of the case, Steve Ciobo had said he “would sleep very soundly at night” if Mallah “were out of the country”. As the program descended into a slanging match, the following exchange took place:

Zaky Mallah: The Liberals now have just justified to many Australian Muslims in the community tonight to leave and go to Syria and join ISIL because of Ministers like him.

Tony Jones: Okay. I think that’s a comment we are just going to rule totally out of order. I’m sorry about that. We’re just about to end the show.

Grahame Morris: It was bloody outrageous.

Tony Jones: I don’t think there is really much more to say at this point. Steve, do you want to respond to that quickly?

Steve Ciobo: Well, I mean, look, I stand by what I said. As best as I know, you know, your circumstances, the comments you have made, the threats you have made that you have pleaded guilty to, to me more than justify the concerns that the Government has. And, you know, I think that it is very wrong, frankly, for you to portray the Muslim population as all being incentivised to do those things because, let me tell you, I know a lot of Muslims. They’ve very good people and I think that they would be recoiling at what you just said.

Tony Jones: Okay. Now, I’m sorry, we’ve just gone over time so sorry to do this but that’s all we have time for tonight.

Contrary to reports on some ABC programs, the ABC has not apologised for Q&A inviting Zaky Mallah to its Ultimo studio in Sydney last Monday. However, on Tuesday morning, Mark Scott tweeted that Richard Finlayson had put out the following statement night – in which the ABC conceded an “error of judgment”.

ABC statement – Q&A

23RD JUNE 2015

In attempting to explore important issues about the rights of citizens and the role of the Government in fighting terrorism, the Q&A program made an error in judgement in allowing Zaky Mallah to join the audience and ask a question.

Mr Mallah has been interviewed by the Australian media on a number of occasions. The environment of a live television broadcast, however, meant it would not be possible for editorial review of the comments he might make prior to broadcast, particularly if he engaged in debate beyond his prepared question.

Tony Jones correctly and immediately ruled a statement made by Mr Mallah as out of order. Q&A will continue to raise issues that are provocative and controversial. There is always risk in undertaking live television. That is the nature of the Q&A program since it first aired in 2008.

As has been the case in the past on Q&A, circumstances will happen that are not anticipated. The critical question is whether risks could have been managed and the right editorial judgments made in advance. The circumstances of Mr Mallah’s appearance will be reviewed by the ABC.

Richard Finlayson
Director ABC Television

Clearly, Mr Finlayson’s statement was not a formal apology. But he did state that Q&A had made an “error of judgment”. This is an unusual admission by the ABC.

Since then, the ABC has been criticised by Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull – among others. Perhaps the most succinct contribution to the debate came from Sarah Henderson (the Liberal Party member for Corangamite and one-time ABC presenter and journalist). Ms Henderson – who understands the workings of the ABC – correctly said that the decision to have Mallah in the Q&A audience, and to allow Mallah to ask a question, was that of Q&A executive producer Peter McEvoy.

Peter McEvoy is one of the many of the ABC’s in-house leftists who have been embedded in the taxpayer funded public broadcaster for years. They influence the group-think or mind-set of the taxpayer funded public broadcaster and they play a key role in promoting existing staff and employing new staff.

Q&A has a large staff. But not one of its producers, including McEvoy, felt the need to check Mallah’s twitter-feed before inviting him on to the program. If they had, they would have been aware of the following tweet which Mallah sent out on 12 January 2015:

zaky mallah

So it turned out that Peter McEvoy invited on to the Q&A set a man who not only has a criminal record but also has engaged in vile misogynist language.

All these matters presumably will be examined by the Department of Communications which will report to Malcolm Turnbull next week and by a declared “external” inquiry which has been established by the ABC.

It is unlikely that, in the long-term, there will be any significant change at the ABC following the resolution of these matters. That will only come about if the ABC board appoints a managing director and editor-in-chief who wants to do what Mark Scott promised – but failed to deliver – a decade ago. Namely, preside over a public broadcaster which exhibits a genuine diversity of views among its presenters, producers, editors and journalists alike and avoids the group-think and mind-set which has afflicted both the ABC and the BBC for almost five decades.

Can you bear it graphic

  • The Killing Season Underestimates Tony Abbott’s Ability from Late 2009 until September 2013 & Downplays Kevin Rudd’s Dysfunction in early 2010

So the ABC1’s The Killing Season, presented and written by Sarah Ferguson, is over. The much hyped ABC documentary was compelling television due particularly to its dramatis personae – in particular those Labor parliamentarians who chose to re-enact their roles in the fall of Kevin Rudd and/or Julia Gillard for the cameras. Also the fact that both former prime ministers gave long interviews contributed to the documentary’s authority. But The Killing Season broke little new ground – as readers of Paul Kelly’s Triumph and Demise: The Broken Promise of a Labor Generation would be aware.

Originally, the documentary was to be presented by Chris Uhlmann. But first Mr Rudd – and then Ms Gillard – refused to co-operate with The Killing Season if Uhlmann was doing the interviews. So Uhlmann was dumped by ABC management and replaced by Ferguson.

It turned out that Kevin Rudd seemed more empathetic and more plausible than his successor/predecessor. Which suggests that Julia Gillard might just have been better off with Chris Uhlmann. But maybe not the taxpayer funded broadcaster – since the feminists will not be able to beat the misogyny drum with respect to Sarah Ferguson’s depiction of Australia’s first female prime minister.

The essential problem with The Killing Season is that it all but ignored Tony Abbott and was too soft on Kevin Rudd.

From the time he became Opposition leader in December 2009, Tony Abbott pursued Labor with unceasing intensity. Abbott became Australia’s most successful opposition leader since Gough Whitlam led Labor to victory in the years from January 1967 until December 1972. It was Mr Abbott who put on the political pressure which led the Labor Caucus to dump Kevin Rudd in June 2010 and Julia Gillard in June 2013. And it was Mr Abbott who led the Coalition to a resounding victory over Rudd and Labor in September 2013.

The Killing Season significantly underestimated the dysfunction of Kevin Rudd’s government between February 2010 and his replacement as prime minister in June 2010. The Labor Caucus, including Julia Gillard, had good reason to believe that Mr Rudd would have led Labor to defeat in the election which had to be held by the end of the year.

Sarah Ferguson’s softness to Kevin Rudd was also evident in the third part of the program where the former Labor leader made the following comment about Mark Arbib (who, after resigning his seat in the Senate, went to work for James Packer’s casino interests) and his colleagues in the right-wing of the NSW Labor Party:

Kevin Rudd: There [Mark Arbib] goes, the heart and soul of the New South Wales right. Off to Casino Land, the moral epicentre of that particular factional grouping. Was that too harsh?

Sarah Ferguson did not answer Kevin Rudd’s question. Nor did she remind Mr Rudd – or viewers of The Killing Season – that he only became prime minister of Australia due to the backing of the New South Wales Labor right-wing in 2006 and 2007. Can you bear it?


This is the tweet that Mike (‘I’ll pour the gin’) Carlton put out last night – just after Gin & Tonic time and just before Pre-Dinner Drinks Time:

carlton panicky

How funny can you get? The reference was to Herald Sun columnist Rita Panahi. It seems that the Seer of Avalon Beach was happy to throw the switch to racial-profiling not long after the sun came down last night. You wonder whether such commentary is acceptable to the Sandalista Set with whom your man Carlton mingles. Can you bear it?

[Er, no. As to the Seer of Avalon Beach, he did not come down in the last shower. But he could have come down in the one before – Ed]



The Age – along with the rest of Fairfax Media’s newspapers – has been banging on and on about climate change and all that – and also about Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’, which has the sub-title “On Care For Our Common Home”.

Part of The Age’s campaign includes last Monday’s article from La Trobe University’s Emeritus Professor Joseph Camilleri titled “Why Pope Francis is a prophet of our times”. This boring sludge, believe it or not, appeared in the print edition of “The-Guardian-on-the-Yarra”. This despite the fact that, in Laudato Si’, Pope Francis calls for all of us to avoid “the use of plastic and paper”. Ignoring the papal teaching in this regard, The Age published the article by Dr Camilleri (for a doctor he is) in its print edition. [How shocking – Ed]

In his article, your man Camilleri declared that Laudato Si’ (i) “categorically rejects the theology of human domination”, (ii) condemns “the exclusion of the marginalised, the poor and the vulnerable” and (iii) advocates “simpler lifestyles”.

How frightfully interesting. After reading Camilleri’s turgid prose in last Monday’s Age, Nancy’s (male) co-owner recalled that your man Camilleri had written an equally turgid book some four decades ago. It was titled Civilization in Crisis: Human Prospects in a Changing World (Cambridge University Press, 1976). At the time the author called himself Joseph A. Camilleri.

Joseph A. Camilleri (as he then was) wrote a book essentially about saving the world. The cover price was $7.95 – but Hendo bought his copy (see below) many moons ago for a mere $2. Which, when you think about it, is a very competitive price when saving civilisation is involved. Four decades later, CUP is still flogging original copies of this woeful tome – at the upmarket price of $49.95. Hendo reckons it will be sold out shortly before the end of the world (due to climate change, of course).

And what did Joseph A Camilleri write about, say, Mao Zedong and the so-called Great Cultural Revolution which ran from around 1966 until soon after Mao’s death in September 1976? Around one million Chinese died during the Cultural Revolution and a staggering 100 million were purged in one way or another. So it would be expected that Professor Camilleri (as he was to become) would have (i) rejected Mao’s domination, (ii) advocated the rights of the excluded, the marginalised, the poor and the vulnerable and (iii) condemned the luxurious lifestyle of the Chinese Communist Party’s dictator. But no.

This is what Joseph A. Camilleri had to say in 1978 in Civilization in Crisis, about Chinese agriculture under Mao’s totalitarian dictatorship:

It is here the success of the Chinese experiment assumes particular relevance. While China, the United States and Brazil have approximately the same land mass, their population is 800 million, 200 million and 90 million respectively. If deficiencies in the food supply were simply the consequence of population pressure, we should expect China’s position to be appreciably worse than that of the other two countries.

In actual fact, China is the most successful of the three in ensuring an adequately nutritious diet for its citizens. The key to this success undoubtedly lies in the structural reconstruction initiated by the communist revolution which has led to a rise in living standards, the almost complete elimination of unemployment, a universal educational system and an extensive programme of social security. It is largely these institutional and cultural changes which had enabled the concept and the practice of family planning to gain widespread acceptance. The creation of a more egalitarian society and an integrated strategy of industrial and agricultural development have fostered the unified political, social and economic infrastructure so essential to any effective and equitable policy of population control.

What a load of absolute tosh. In 1958 Mao Zedong commenced the so-called, Great Leap Forward designed to move China suddenly from an agricultural economy to an industrialised economy. Mao’s attack on Chinese peasantry led to a staggering death toll of some 45 million, primarily due to starvation following a forced famine. Yes, 45 million died. All this is documented, among other places, in Frank Dikotter’s Mao’s Great Famine: The History of China’s Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-62.

The disaster that was the Great Leap Forward was known in the West at the time by anyone who wanted to know – due to the testimony of those Chinese who escaped Mao’s terror. The full scale of the deaths was not fully understood but it was known that millions had died. Yet in Civilization in Crisis, Camilleri praised Mao’s agricultural policies in the 1950s and 1960s.

Now turn to Page 211 where the learned professor had this to say about Mao’s Cultural Revolution – which ran from around the beginning of 1966 until around the end of 1976:

To complete this rather simplified outline of the groping step towards emancipation, it may be appropriate to say a final word from the Chinese experiment and the Maoist nation of permanent revolution, which have attracted so much attention in both developed and underdeveloped societies. According to this concept, constant vigilance is required to prevent and, if necessary, oppose the development of bureaucratic structures which, by their very nature, contradict the principles of equality and individuality. The underlying rationale of the Cultural Revolution was, in fact, to unleash the moral and ideological impulse which would overpower the bureaucratic instinct.

In order to offset the preoccupation with status and self-interest, Chinese youth were to be introduced to life in the factory or in the commune as a practical demonstration of the egalitarian principle. Many have questioned the feasibility of constructing a society in which frugality and the renunciation of privilege are universally accepted as ultimate virtues, but no one can dispute the significance of an experiment in which the utopian attempt to create the selfless and self-disciplined man has been assigned the highest priority on the political agenda.

Once again, absolute tosh. Mao’s China never stood for “equality and individuality” – it was a communist totalitarian dictatorship. Mao lived a life of luxury – at no time after the Chinese Communist Party came to power in 1949 did he experience frugality. Nor did Mao renounce privilege. The Cultural Revolution was about preserving Mao’s power base. It had nothing to do with any attempt “to create the selfless and self-disciplined man”. Then, as now, Camilleri was into delusion.

It’s surprising that CUP is still flogging new copies of Joe Camilleri’s four decades old hopeless tome. But it’s not surprising that the left-wing Age publishes the left-wing emeritus professor’s sludge – most recently on Pope Francis’ encyclical.

Civilisation in Crisis book cover

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 tens of millions 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 MWD 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


On Thursday 18 June, Gerard Henderson received a late invitation to go on Lateline to discuss Pope Francis’ hot-off-the-press encyclical Laudato Si’ – along with Dr Paul Collins (for a doctor he is). Tony Jones was in the presenter’s chair.

Following the debate, Julian (‘I just love flashing my post-nominals’) Burnside expressed disappointment that the program did not bag Prime Minister Tony Abbott sufficiently. It seems that Julian Burnside AO QC suffers from a condition diagnosed as Abbottphobia. In any event, at 11.39 pm that very night, JB AO QC sent out the following tweet:


JB AO QC’s late night tweet led to the following exchange. Here we go:

Gerard Henderson to Julian Burnside – 19 June 2015

Julian Burnside AO QC

Some mistake surely.Your tweet seems to suggest that I am defending Tony Abbott because he should be following Pope Francis’ encyclical. Can this be correct? Over to you.

Gerard Henderson AC [i.e. Always Courteous]

Julian Burnside to Gerard Henderson – 20 June 2015 – 3.51 pm

Gerard Henderson SC (Sometimes Courteous)

You certainly sounded as though you were defending Tony Abbott, in the context where the discussion concerned the Pope’s encyclical regarding climate change, and Abbott is a climate change denier.But I could be wrong: perhaps you expressed your meaning badly. That would be some mistake, surely.

Very best wishes


Laws should be like clothes. They should be made to fit the people they serve. — Clarence Darrow

A man may be a fool and not know it, but not if he is married. — H.L. Mencken

Julian Burnside to Gerard Henderson – 20 June 2015 – 4.19 pm

Gerard Henderson SC (Sometimes Courteous)

Re-reading your email, I am not sure if my response hit the mark, because your email seems to intend the opposite of what it actually says. You wrote “Your tweet seems to suggest that I am defending Tony Abbott because he should be following Pope Francis’ encyclical.”

My impression was that you were defending Tony Abbott even though his position is irreconcilable with Pope Francis’ encyclical. Which part of that proposition is incorrect?

Over to you.

(I have modified my normal sign-off because my post nominal seem to distress you, or at least to distract you)

Very best wishes


Laws should be like clothes. They should be made to fit the people they serve. — Clarence Darrow

A man may be a fool and not know it, but not if he is married. — H.L. Mencken

Gerard Henderson to Julian Burnside – 23 June 2015

Julian Burnside AO QC

How wonderful to receive two emails from you on Saturday – after lunch, I note.

The first (at 3.51 pm) came after you read my 29 word email of Friday 19 June 2015. The second (at 4.19 pm) came after you re-read my email. Fancy that – you re-read a 29 word email.

Your responses suggest that, at Melbourne Grammar School, you spent too much time in Bible class or some such – to the exclusion of theology. You seem to have no understanding of the role of encyclicals in the Christian tradition in general and the Catholic Church in particular.

On Friday 19 June 2015 you sent out this tweet – following my discussion with Paul Collins on Lateline the previous evening.


This tweet demonstrates your obsession with the Prime Minister. Tony Abbott’s name was not referred to during my discussion with Paul Collins on Lateline. Presenter Tony Jones referred to “senior Catholics within the Cabinet”. That’s all.

Since your tweet clearly implied that you believe that Mr Abbott should support Pope Francis’ position on climate change as expressed in the encyclical Laudato Si’, I sent you the following email on Friday 19 June 2015:

Julian Burnside AO QC

Some mistake surely. Your tweet seems to suggest that I am defending Tony Abbott because he should be following Pope Francis’ encyclical. Can this be correct? Over to you.

Gerard Henderson AC [i.e. Always Courteous]

In your first response on Saturday, you misunderstood my positon. I simply asked you whether you thought that Tony Abbott should follow the most recent encyclical Laudato Si’.

In your second response half an hour later, you finally got around to answering the question. You believe that Tony Abbott’s “position is irreconcilable with Pope Francis’ encyclical” and that this is an improper position for a Catholic to take. Fancy that.

So you believe that, because he is Catholic, Mr Abbott should follow the Pope’s teaching on climate change. But I doubt that you believe that, because he is a Catholic, Mr Abbott should follow the Pope’s teaching on – say – divorce, same-sex marriage or abortion.

If you knew any theology, you would be aware that Catholics are not bound to follow the Church’s teaching on politics, economics, international relations and science. Only faith and morals. This is made clear at Section 188 on Laudato Si’ where the following comment appears:

188.There are certain environmental issues where it is not easy to achieve a broad consensus. Here I would state once more that the Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics. But I am concerned to encourage an honest and open debate so that particular interests or ideologies will not prejudice the common good. [Emphasis added].

Clearly, Pope Francis does not intend that Laudato Si’ should “settle scientific questions”. Consequently, your assertion that Tony Abbott’s position on climate change is irreconcilable with Pope Francis’ position is simply incorrect.

On Friday, you criticised me for not endorsing Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’. In 1991, the late B.A. Santamaria criticised me for not endorsing Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Centesimus Annus on industrial relations. It seems that you and Bob Santamaria are on a unity ticket here. How strange.

Popes have been writing encyclicals on social issues for over a century. Some have been of a high quality – the encyclicals in March 1937 which condemned Nazism (Mit Brennender Sorge) and communism (Divini Redemptoris) immediately come to mind. But some have been vacuous and ill-informed.

The fact is that the Pope puts out very few encyclicals on faith and morals. Moreover, no Pope has issued an infallible encyclical, i.e. binding all the faithful on matters of faith and morals, since 1950.

Still, it’s interesting that a Melbourne Grammar School graduate – who was unjustly denied full colours in swimming and tennis – welcomes Pope Francis’ most recent encyclical.

I wonder whether you and yours will now “stop and give thanks to God before and after meals” (Section 227) and “on Sunday” participate “in the Eucharist” (Section 237). Also, if you have read Laudato Si’, you would know that Pope Francis opposes a carbon tax and emission trading schemes (see Section 171).

Over to you.

Keep morale high.

Gerard Henderson A.C. [aka Always Courteous].


On 22 June a certain John Vernau expressed interest in the (then) ABC chairman Richard Downing’s call in 1975 for all Australians to “understand” the urges of pederasts. Mr Vernau expressed concern that, in his writings about this matter in MWD, Gerard Henderson had not documented another claim by Professor Downing in 1976 – namely, that “in general, men will sleep with young boys”. Initially Hendo forgot the quote – but, in a courteous response to a request for information, soon provided it. As the correspondence demonstrates.

John Vernau to Gerard Henderson – 22 June 2015

Dear Mr Henderson
I read with interest your comments on the late Richard Downing in MWD Issues 274 and 216 (not 126!) and also in your Weekly Column of 15 March 2014, in which you attribute the following quote to Professor Downing: “in general, men will sleep with young boys and that’s the sort of thing the community ought to know about”
I have been unable to trace the source of this quotation. Could you please advise me where or from whom you heard it?

John Vernau
Plenty, VIC.

Gerard Henderson to John Vernau – 22 June 2015

Dear Mr Vernau

I refer to your email.

As far as I recall, I have never used the quote to which you refer. The only comments which I have attributed to the late Richard Downing are taken from his letter which was published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 19 July 1975.

Gerard Henderson

John Vernau to Gerard Henderson – 24 June 2015

Dear Mr Henderson
Thanks for your reply. What I took to be a quote was taken from your ‘Weekly Column’ of 15 March 2014 as published on the ‘Sydney Institute’ website. Here is para. 7 of the column: ‘However, the most extraordinary intervention in the debate came from the then ABC chairman, Richard Downing. He said that “in general, men will sleep with young boys and that’s the sort of thing the community ought to know about”.’

Had these words actually been spoken by Professor Downing they would have lent weight to your interpretation of his letter to ‘The SMH’. As it stands, the letter can, in my opinion, reasonably be also read to be saying that we should be aware of, rather than sympathetic to, pederasty. This would be at least partly consistent with his quote at the end of the letter, “Society may remain civilised only it the individual learns to abhor the results of uncivilised behaviour — even though the learning process [the offensive program] can be upsetting to him.” The connotation of ‘understand’ that implies sympathy was not common in the 1970s. This can be verified in contemporary dictionaries.

The ambiguity might have been deliberate and disingenuous. I’m not in a position to say. I have no knowledge of the program’s content other than what you have written, and no wish for further enlightenment. It seems to me that the program itself was in all likelihood a greater disgrace than Professor Downing’s attempted defence of it.

It is interesting that the licentious attitude that now pervades ‘our’ ABC is not wholly a recent phenomenon. Thanks for giving this unfortunate episode some publicity.

John Vernau

Gerard Henderson to John Vernau – 25 June 2015

Dear Mr Vernau

I refer to your email of 22 June 2015. When I wrote to you stating that I did not recall quoting Richard Downing’s 1975 comment that “men will sleep with young boys”, I did not have time to check my files. I have now done so. What I wrote in my column in The Weekend Australian on 15 March 2014 is correct.

On Saturday 19 July 1975, the Sydney Morning Herald published an editorial titled “ABC licence” – the same day on which Professor Downing wrote to the paper calling on Australians to “understand” pederasty.

The second paragraph of the Sydney Morning Herald’s editorial of 19 July 1975 reads as follows:

When he made his first comments, Professor Downing had not heard the Lateline program. But it was the ABC’s general intention, he said, “to try and inform society about what is happening in it in order that society may be forewarned and forearmed”. If the program had presented a balanced discussion of pederasty, then the defence might be a legitimate one. But Professor Downing, who has since listened to a tape of the program, must admit that it did no such thing. Further, what could possibly justify a second comment from the chairman of the ABC – namely: “In general, men will sleep with young boys and that’s the sort of thing the community ought to know about”

Professor Downing did not contest the accuracy of this quote. When the ABC chairman said in July 1975 that the “community ought to know” that “men will sleep with young boys” – pederasty was a crime. It still is.

In July 1975, Professor Downing was rationalising an ABC radio program in which Richard Neville had presided over an event where three (anonymous) pederasts received a soft interview to advocate and defend their criminal behaviour.

I doubt that any ABC journalist today would maintain that it would be acceptable for, say, a Catholic archbishop to refuse to distance himself from a 1975 statement by one of his predecessors that we should “understand” pederasts because “men will sleep with young boys”. However, ABC Chairman Jim Spigelman AC QC refuses to distance himself from a 1975 statement to this effect made by one of his predecessors. This despite the fact that Professor Downing was appointed ABC chairman by Gough Whitlam’s Labor government and Mr Spigelman was a senior Whitlam adviser at the time.

This seems like an unpleasant double standard to me – especially since in recent years ABC journalists and presenters have given critical prominence to the crimes of contemporary and past pederasts.

Gerard Henderson

John Vernau to Gerard Henderson – 26 June 2015

Dear Mr Henderson
Thanks once again for your reply. I’m sorry for having taken up your time in this matter. The now-verified Professor Downing quote is, I think, particularly damning and removes any doubt, the benefit of which I was inclined to extend to the deceased.
In consequence I now agree with your summation of the incident and its implications today.

Thanks again,
John Vernau

Gerard Henderson to John Vernau – 26 June 2015

Mr Vernau

Thanks for your gracious response.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

Until next time – keep morale high.

Told I made the late Gerard Henderson’s little blog today. Read it. What a rancorous, nauseating, humourless little turd he is.

– Mike Carlton via Twitter during Gin & Tonic Time on 12 June 2015.

“On Sunday before Insiders…I was giving you a rich and full account of what a weird shit I think you are…”

– David Marr to Gerard Henderson, 1 June 2015

To #swf2015 this morning. Sunlit harbour, fabulous crowds radiating civility. And no Gerard Henderson ! It doesn’t get any better.

– Mike Carlton, via Twitter, 1:48 PM – 21 May 2015

Gerard Henderson’s friday self-harm update is here

– Adam Brereton, via Twitter, May 15, 2015

[Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch Dog is] batshit mad.

– Guy Rundle in Crikey, 14 May 2015:

I’m in the sort of mood that if I saw Gerard Henderson in the street I’d hit him with his own umbrella

– Ben Pobjie, via Twitter, 8 May 2015

It’s a glorious day when Gerard Henderson has a go at you

– Adam Gartrell, via Twitter, 8 May 2015

Meeting of Gerard Henderson Appreciation Society tonight Sydney Opera House phone booth

– Phillip Adams, via Twitter, 28 April 2015, 1.36 pm (after lunch).

“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 TwitterSaturday 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