BY FAIRFAX MEDIA’S BEVAN SHIELDS
Gerard. You are an idiot #insiders
– Bevan Shields, Federal Politics Editor for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age sent out this tweet at 9.46 am – hangover time – on Sunday while the ABC1 Insiders program was on. Earlier in the program, Gerard Henderson had suggested that The Age’s page one beat-up on Andrew Hastie (the Liberal Party candidate for Canning) read like a Green Left Weekly front page. Which, on reflection, was probably a bit hard on the Green Left Weekly – since, for the most part, it does not publish false stories on Page 1 and does not always call its critics “idiots”. For more of The Age’s Andrew Hastie beat-up see below.
- Stop Press: Howlers Aplenty with Nicholas Reece & George Negus
- Can You Bear It?: Darren Goodsir; Michael Koziol; Judith Ireland & Fergus Hunter and Wendy Squires
- Beat Up Of The Week: The Age & Andrew Hastie
- Media Fool of the Week: The Age’s Jason Steger with Much Help from Ray Cassin
- MWD Exclusive: Hendo Meets the Lair of Liverpool at the 2015 Melbourne Writers Festival
- Peter Westmore Helps Out Concerning Santamaria: A Most Unusual Man
● NICHOLAS REECE’S LATEST HOWLER
What a stunning performance by Melbourne University academic, and former Labor Party operative, Nicholas Reece on Paul Murray Live last night.
Mr Reece described former High Court Justice Dyson Heydon as someone who is a “ticket holder for the other team” – implying he is a Liberal Party type out to get the Labor Party and trade unions in the royal commission into the trade union movement.
Absolute tripe. No one, but no one, has ever demonstrated that Mr Heydon, in his long and distinguished career, has had any involvement with the Liberal Party. Not even the Labor Party or the Australian Council of Trade Union (ACTU) is claiming this. Just the media tart Nicholas Reece – who never seems to shut up as he moves from Melbourne University to and from the studios of Sky News and ABC TV
More of Mr Reece next week.
● GEORGE NEGUS’ 1955 OBSESSION
It was one of those ABC debates on Radio 702 “Drive with Richard Glover” where everyone agreed with everyone else most of the time. The panel comprised Emma Alberici, Ky Chow and one-time Lionel Murphy staffer George Negus.
However, the highlight of the discussion occurred towards the end when Mr Negus threw the switch to ignorance and made the following comment:
George Negus: I am a sceptic, though. I can only remember when we were talking about the Prime Minister’s motivation in all of this – which is what we’re talking about, his political motivation, he is a politician. He’s a very good oppositional politician – he still forgets that he’s the prime minister every now and then. Tony Windsor said, he claimed, and nobody’s ever denied it, that Abbott said to him at the time of the hung parliament [in 2010] that “I will do anything, bare my rear end in public” or something “for this job”.
Well he failed, at the time of the hung parliament. And I believe he failed again in the last election because he was trying to wipe Labor out and failed. That strange little bloke from Queensland [Kevin Rudd] came back, got fifteen seats and that was Labor still existing. Tony wanted to get rid of them. His religio-political ambition in life –
Richard Glover: Religio-political! Mr Negus
George Negus: Not necessarily. Well if you don’t know much about what happened in this country in 1955 you don’t know what I’m talking about. But Tony knows a lot about ‘55.
Richard Glover: With the Labor Split yeah –
George Negus: His purpose, his exercise, is not to run the country but to make sure his Opposition doesn’t. So there’s no doubt whatsoever that Canning will be a khaki election.
What a load of absolute tosh. Labor experienced very heavy losses at the elections of 1931, 1975, 1977 and 1996. But no one has ever believed that the Opposition in Australia will suffer such a heavy defeat that it would be completely wiped out. Tony Abbott is not so foolish to believe this. Just as no one on the Labor side of politics believed that the political conservatives would never recover from their dreadful defeat in 1943. Also Negus’ view that Tony Abbott “failed” in September 2013 when he won the election is just bizarre.
George Negus’ attack on the Prime Minister is just his latest bout of anti-Catholic sectarianism. Sure the Prime Minister, as Liberal Party leader, wants to defeat Labor – which has many Christians in its leadership team (including Bill Shorten, Stephen Conroy and Tony Burke). However, there is no evidence that Tony Abbott has a “religio-political” agenda. Moreover, the Labor Split took place in 1955, but Tony Abbott was not born until 1957.
George Negus does not know what he is talking about. [Perhaps that’s why he gets invited on to “Drive with Richard Glover” – Ed].
● DARREN GOODSIR’S HIDE
Did anyone read the Sydney Morning Herald’s (sanctimonious) editorial last Saturday titled “Heydon must go to help salvage good work”? In case you missed it, here’s what SMH editor-in-chief Darren Goodsir had to say about the retired High Court judge Dyson Heydon’s role as head of the royal commission into the trade union movement:
Those anti-Labor and anti-union forces relying on all manner of political and legal excuses to save royal commissioner Dyson Heydon are risking a perverse outcome that threatens to backfire spectacularly on their cause.
The Herald has argued Mr Heydon should step aside or be removed for creating the perception of bias. We do so not out of a desire to help Labor or unions escape the wrath of the law. Rather, we believe the former High Court justice should exit because it would be the only way to retain confidence in this royal commission, future inquiries and the legal system in general….
The Herald believes the royal commissioner should recognise that the law demands he recuse himself. He does not have to decide that he or even the unions believe he is biased. No one is suggesting that. The royal commissioner just has to assess whether a fair-minded lay observer might reasonably apprehend or fear that he might not bring an impartial mind to the resolution of the issues before him…. A fair-minded lay person might look at Mr Heydon’s approach and question why he waited so long to withdraw.
And what might that fair-minded lay person say about the continued involvement of the Sydney Morning Herald’s editor-in-chief, Darren Goodsir, in covering national politics?
With Mr Goodsir there is no question of perceived – or apprehended – bias. Not at all. Rather the SMH editor-in-chief has been found by the Federal Court of Australia to have acted with malice with respect to the Treasurer Joe Hockey. That’s real – not perceived or apprehended. See the judgement of Justice Richard White in Hockey v Fairfax Media.
And so it has come to this. Darren Goodsir declares that Mr Heydon should stand down as royal commissioner because there is reason for a fair-minded lay observer to believe that he might not bring an impartial mind to the resolution of issues before him. Yet Darren Goodsir continues to editorialise at large despite a finding by a superior court that he did not possess an impartial mind with respect to Joe Hockey, one of the Abbott government’s senior ministers. Can you bear it?
● MICHAEL KOZIOL’S NEAR-LIFE EXPERIENCE
Happy birthday to Young Mr Koziol. You see, Sydney Morning Herald columnist Michael Koziol turned 25 last Saturday. How does Nancy’s (male) co-owner know about this important event in world history? Well, Young Mr Koziol (YMK) wrote all about it in the Sydney Morning Herald last Saturday.
MWD reckons that YMK will go a long way as a columnist. Just turned 25, Koziol is already writing about the topic on which he is the world expert. Namely, HIMSELF. Here’s how YMK commenced his column last Saturday:
This weekend I turn 25 and, as a paid-up member of the homosexual community, that means I am perilously close to witnessing my own funeral.
“Gay death”, as it is termed, is the unfairly early age at which gay men are no longer deemed to be fun, attractive or valuable by their youthful peers. If, as I am reliably informed, 30 is the new 25 when it comes to gay death, then surely 25 is at the very least “gay retirement”.
What will these twilight years harbour? Fewer late nights out, perhaps, though they seem to have organically curbed themselves already. Less celebratory drinking; more of the sorrow-drowning kind. Take up cooking? Knitting? Buy a cat?
And here’s how YMK concluded his self-indulgent piece:
So this weekend I suppose I’ll attempt to go out with a bang. I’ll dance like I’m not tired or aching, indulge all the vices that can be indulged and search for love and meaning in all the wrong places. If you happen to spot my glittery, dishevelled carcass sprawled somewhere on Oxford Street come Sunday morning, don’t forget to pay your respects. RIP me.
Does anyone, apart from Michael Koziol, really believe that he died on Oxford Street last Sunday? MWD doubts it. YMK will live on and on – and write more and more self-indulgent columns in The Sydney Morning Herald or perhaps Green Left Weekly if the SMH closes down its print edition. About HIMSELF, of course. He has a brilliant media career in front of him. Can you bear it?
[I agree. It’s great to learn that Young Mr Koziol survived last weekend. After all, MWD needs copy from foolish men, of whatever age. To help celebrate the occasion, MWD will be forwarding a (belated) birthday present to YMK – just as soon as the chosen kitten has had its injections. – Ed]
● BIG GOVERNMENT LIVES AT FAIRFAX MEDIA
According to Fairfax Media’s Judith Ireland and Fergus Hunter, a good government can be judged by the amount of legislation it passes. Lotsa legislation – good. Not much legislation – bad. Here is the article which appeared in The Age last Monday under the heading “Government lawmaking at 50-year low”:
The Abbott government is stuck in a “policy paralysis” that has seen fewer bills finalised in its first 700 days in office than any other federal government since the late 1960s. The Fairfax Media analysis of post-World War II Australian governments was conducted after the federal cabinet was reported to have met without any formal submissions last week and MPs despaired at time-filling debates in Parliament.
According to the analysis, 262 bills have passed both houses of Parliament and been signed by the Governor-General during the Abbott government’s first 700 days. This is the lowest number since the Liberal Party’s John Gorton became prime minister in 1968 and passed 259 bills over the same time period. In the same period of Julia Gillard’s minority government, 329 bills were ticked off, compared to 397 for Kevin Rudd and 292 for John Howard.
While the Abbott government has had to navigate a “feral” Senate crossbench, the only post-war prime ministers who enjoyed a majority in the Senate when they took office were Ben Chifley and Malcolm Fraser.
What a load of absolute tosh. For starters, since the Abbott government is committed to rolling back regulation, less legislation should be regarded as better than more legislation. Obviously, the likes of Judith Ireland and Fergus Hunter like big government.
According to the analysis professed by Ms Ireland and Mr Hunter, two of Australia’s most successful governments were led by Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard. The former passed 397 pieces of legislation in his first 700 days as prime minister, the latter 329. Yet both Mr Rudd and Ms Gillard were overthrown by their colleagues in less than three years.
Over the past four decades, Labor’s Bob Hawke and the Coalition’s John Howard have been Australia’s most successful prime ministers. The former passed 322 pieces of legislation in his first 700 days as prime minister, the latter 292. Tony Abbott’s figure is 262. So Abbott is closer to Hawke than Hawke is to Rudd.
Meanwhile Robert Menzies – Australia longest serving prime minister who won seven elections in a row – passed a mere 105 pieces of legislation in his first 700 days as prime minister.
On another matter, it is true that only Ben Chifley and Malcolm Fraser came to office with a Senate majority. However, Tony Abbott has had a much more difficult Senate to deal with than his predecessors Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard – both of whom enjoyed the support of the Greens in the Senate for much of their legislation. The Fairfax Media journalists seem unware of this fact.
The idea that a government is in a state of “policy paralysis” because it does not constantly pass legislation is just bunk. Absolute bunk. And yet the Ireland/Hunter interpretation was promoted by Fairfax Media as if it was some kind of brilliant insight. Can you bear it?
● WENDY SQUIRES’ “DEAR TONY” LETTER
Journalist, editor, author and Hinch Live panellist Wendy Squires writes a column for The Age on Saturday. Her most recent effort (22 August 2015) involves an open letter to the Prime Minister. Yawn. What a dreadful literary cliché and so on. Needless to say Ms Squires’ letter commences “Dear Tony Abbott” and continues:
My name is Wendy. You don’t know me but we aren’t friends. You see, I am someone who believes in freedom of speech, and you, by your actions since becoming our Prime Minister, I believe are not.
If I were a member of your political party, I would be your worst nightmare. I am not someone who appreciates being told to toe the company line, to shelve my own beliefs for yours, or to turn a blind eye to the pain and injustice of others. I cherish my right to free speech and respect its vital role in a functioning democracy. Which is why I believe it is my duty to tap you on the shoulder and let you know – so do most people.
Promising start, don’t you think? Ms Squires reckons that the Prime Minister opposes freedom of speech – but then insists that Mr Abbott listen to her due to the fact that she has the freedom to write what she wishes.
Wendy Squires has taken exception to the fact that the Abbott government issues briefing notes to Coalition MPs. She seems blissfully unaware that this is a tradition of most governments. Indeed in the final days of Julia Gillard’s government, Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon appeared on Sky News and read out from the former prime minister’s talking points.
In her rant, Ms Squires referred to the Prime Minister as – variously – “Tony”, “old mate”, and “Tone”. She classified Mr Abbott as “lily livered” and predicted that he will be bitten “on the bum”.
It seems that The Age’s Opinion Page editor can no longer distinguish between abuse and analysis and has no respect for the person who occupies the position of the head of government. It’s doubtful that, in 2012, The Age would run a “Dear Julia Gillard” letter which referred to the (then) Prime Minister as “Julia”, “old mate”, and “Jules” and made reference to her being “lily livered” while predicting that Ms Gillard would be bitten “on the bum”.
It’s just that The Age, in its Green Left Weekly mode, has few, if any, standards. Can you bear it?
THE AGE’S ATTACK ON CAPTAIN ANDREW HASTIE
Under Andrew Holden’s editorship, The Age is busy channelling Green Left Weekly. The problem is that Green Left Weekly appeals to its inner-city leftist constituency. Whereas The Age attacks members of its constituency who buy and/or advertise in the newspaper and who happen to be believers and/or send their children to non-government schools and/or run big, medium or small businesses and/or believe in national security and so on. They are all a target for the Green/Left ideologues who seem to control The Age at the moment.
Last Saturday The Age ran a leftist rant as its Page One lead story. Titled “Question of Conduct”, journalist David Wroe’s “exclusive” commenced as follows:
The former SAS soldier standing as the Liberal Party’s prize recruit in a key federal by-election was the officer in command of a troop being investigated for chopping the hands off dead Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.
Fairfax Media has learnt that the 2013 incident was carried out by one or more soldiers who were under the command of Captain Andrew Hastie, 32, who has been pre-selected as the Liberal candidate for the by-election in the West Australian seat of Canning.
It was not until the sixth paragraph that The Age revealed that Andrew Hastie was not present when the event occurred. Moreover, it is far from clear that such action, for identification purposes at the time of battle, involves a war crime.
This is an old story. It was only re-run so that The Age could run the following quote:
We are going to the… by election with a tremendous candidate… someone who is going to be more than capable of fighting for the people of Canning.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott, August 19.
So The Age attempted to smear the Prime Minister by associating him with a non-story about the Liberal Party’s candidate in the Canning by-election. Beat-up of the week, for sure.
THE AGE’S JASON STEGER WITH LOTSA HELP FROM COMRADE RAY CASSIN
Gerard Henderson was not surprised when The Age’s literary editor Jason Steger commissioned Ray Cassin to review Santamaria: A Most Unusual Man last Saturday. You see, Mr Cassin is one of Hendo’s (many) critics. Moreover, he happens to support Fr Bruce Duncan’s pro-Cardinal Gilroy (and anti-Archbishop Daniel Mannix) position in his book Crusade or Conspiracy? Ray Cassin regards Dr Duncan’s book (for a doctor he is) as “magisterial” whereas Hendo reckons that it’s useful but too much a case of barracking for the Sydney Hierarchy.
You see, Duncan believes that the Sydney bishops were correct in instructing Catholics to stay in the ALP at the time of the Labor Split in the mid-1950s. Duncan is also a vehement opponent of Archbishop Mannix, who gave broad support to the Democratic Labor Party which broke away from the ALP at the time. In other words, Fr Duncan (for a father he also is) is a supporter of the NSW ALP right in the 1950s and 1960s.
Mr Cassin is a former Age journalist. [I’m not surprised – Ed] who used to write for the leftist Eureka Street which lost lotsa money for the Jesuit order before it became an online hand-me-out. It’s not clear that Mr Cassin has ever written a book. Which may (or may not) explain why, on two occasions, your man Cassin remarked that Hendo’s journalism is different in style from his writing as a historian. Fancy that. The scholarly Cassin does not seem to know that there is a distinction between writing for newspapers and blogs and writing history books.
Jason Steger did not see fit to advise Age readers that Ray Cassin (according to his LinkedIn entry) is currently a speech writer for Victorian Labor’s Senator Kim Carr – one of the leading identities in the Labor left.
But your man Steger – who works for a newspaper which publishes many a typo –allowed Comrade Cassin to place the following note at the end at the end of his review:
I have a final quibble, which relates to the production of this book rather than its authorial quirks. For a volume published under MUP’s flagship Miegunyah imprint, it contains far too many errors that indicate poor copy editing and proof reading: e.g. Rome’s “Georgian” University (it should be “Gregorian”), Cardinal “Normal” Gilroy (his name was Norman) and “Archbishop D’Arcy of Sale” (he was Bishop of Sale and later Archbishop of Hobart). Henderson and his readers deserve better than this.
This comment is intellectually dishonest and quite unfair to MUP. Santamaria: A Most Unusual Man contains 20 references to “Norman” Gilroy and only one reference to “Normal” Gilroy (at Page 352, no less). This is clearly a typo – but Steger allowed Cassin to give gratuitous advice as to Cardinal Gilroy’s first name, implying that MUP was ignorant of this matter. What a load of tosh.
Sure, the author spelt “Gregorian” incorrectly – once. And, sure, there was one reference of Eric D’Arcy as “Bishop of Sale” – along with one reference to D’Arcy as “Archbishop of Hobart”. This is a minor error.
Despite the implication in his “final quibble”, Ray Cassin was not able to find any other errors/typos in the 505 page book Santamaria: A Most Unusual Man.
Yet, on the basis of three minor typos/errors in a 180,000 word text, Jason Steger allowed Comrade Cassin to lecture all and sundry about MUP’s production standards.
Believe it or not, Comrade Cassin’s trivial “quibble” took up over 6 per cent of his piss-poor review (79 words out of 1245 words).
The 79 word space could have been used to give a brief review of the important book Let My People Go: The untold story of Australia and the Soviet Jews 1959-89 by the Melbourne identify Sam Lipski and Sydney academic Suzanne Rutland.
This is an account of how such Melbourne-based figures as Bob Hawke, Malcolm Fraser, Isi Leibler and Sam Lipski played a key role in getting Jews, who wanted to migrate to Israel, out of the Soviet Union in the 1980s.
Let My People Go is a book of international and national importance. But it has been ignored by the British born leftist Jason Steger in the literary pages of “The-Guardian-on-the-Yarra”.
HENDO MEETS THE LAIR OF LIVERPOOL AT THE 2015 MELBOURNE WRITERS FESTIVAL
Now here’s a scoop. Gerard Henderson left Sydney last Friday evening en route for Melbourne and the Melbourne Writers Festival. He put two bags on the plane – one containing papers/books/bottled Holy Water, that sort of thing. And one containing his MWF Che Guevara gear. Much of the latter was supplied by avid readers – in order to make Hendo feel at home in his old home town appearing before a room full of inner-city Sandalistas.
The MWF gear consisted on a Che Guevara cap, tee-shirt, trousers and sandals. See MWD passim. But, alas, the bag went missing at Melbourne Airport. [Perhaps someone forwarded it to Havana – Ed]. And so Nancy’s (male) co-owner had to front up at Federation Square in his Insiders gear instead – black shoes, black trousers and dark jacket plus light blue open neck shirt.
It’s great to know that Crikey’s intrepid reporter Myriam Robin was on to this. This is how she reported the matter via a tweet last Saturday.
When Hendo arrived at the Sofitel on Collins Street on Friday night, there was a Melbourne Writers Festival show-bag ready for opening. It reminded Nancy’s (male) co-owner of the kind of show-bags he used to get at the Melbourne Show in the 1950s.
With one exception. The MWF show-bag contained a copy of property developer Morry Schwartz’s publications The Monthly and The [Boring] Saturday Paper. This was the first occasion on which Hendo has read Mr Schwartz’s boring weekly on a Saturday. In view of its lack of news, Monday is always soon enough.
Hendo’s show-bag also contained a Yumola Clusters Banana Yoghurt, two sachets of Mandarin Facial Hydrating Cream by Aesop, a Caramel Truffle Bar, a copy of the (unreadable) The Lifted Brow: A Quarterly Attack Journal from Australia and the World, a copy of The Canary Press Story Magazine, one copy of a reproduction of the first issue of Meanjin Papers (with an introduction by Jonathan (“Proudly the ABC’s Sneerer-in-Chief”) Green – and more besides.
This did not augur well for the following day’s event. But it did help Hendo to handle the fire-alarm which went off three quarters of the way through his appearance. He had food for supplies and paper aplenty.
Arriving at Federation Square about 2 pm for a 2.30 pm start, Hendo heard a (loud) voice calling out “Hello Gerard”. It was Mark Latham – the Lair of Liverpool himself – who was on at a rival function at 2.30 pm. It seems that Alpha Male Latham was all at sea in a predominantly female turn-out and found Hendo good (temporary) company.
Hendo got the impression that he had become The Lair’s new “bestie”. So much so that, in the green room when discussion turned on what The Lair might do following his decision to leave the Australian Financial Review, Hendo suggested a biography of Rosie Batty, of the unauthorised genre.
And so it came to pass that Mark Latham had a melt-down in his session with Jonathan Green. Whereas Hendo and Geraldine Doogue had a civilised conversation – until the session was ended prematurely by a loud fire alarm.
After the session, Hendo and the Lair of Liverpool met up at the book-signing tables. The Lair said he would buy a copy of Santamaria: A Most Unusual Man. Asked how he would like the book inscribed (by Hendo), Latham replied: “To The Lair of Liverpool”. And so it was done. Mark Latham then added that Hendo should add – “who survives on a tax funded superannuation handout of a mere $78,000 a year (fully indexed) out of which he has to help support a wife, three children and half a dozen bookmakers”. Hendo declined – and reminded the Lair of Liverpool that the last time Hendo wrote this joke in MWD he received a legal letter from the Lair’s lawyers.
So Hendo wrote instead: “Keep Morale High”. Being a courteous kind of guy, Gerard Henderson AC (Always Courteous) bought a copy of Mark Latham’s Latham at Large. This is what your man Latham wrote, without invitation:
Loved watching your Watch Dog
Enough said. Speaking to the audience as it filed out of the Green v Latham fight, it was apparent that the Lair of Liverpool’s bite is worse than his bark. This became apparent when it was evident that the “seconds” in the boxing ring were administering medical attention to the crowd in the ring-side seats.
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.
PETER WESTMORE & GERARD HENDERSON: CONCERNING THE FORMER’S CONFUSION INDUCED BAD MEMORY WHEN REVIEWING SANTAMARIA: A MOST UNUSUAL MAN (MUP, 2015) IN NEWS WEEKLY
Peter Westmore took over as president of the National Civic Council following B.A. Santamaria’s death in February 1998. In the current issue of News Weekly, Peter Westmore has reviewed Santamaria: A Most Unusual Man. Gerard Henderson wrote to Peter Westmore about some errors in his account concerning who the author attempted to interview for the biography and the author’s sources. Now read on:
Gerard Henderson to Peter Westmore – 27 August 2015
I refer to your review of my book Santamaria: A Most Unusual Man – titled “An important biography of B.A.” – which is published in News Weekly dated 29 August 2015.
I would like to draw your attention to an incorrect comment in the early paragraphs of your review, where you write:
Gerard Henderson’s biography of B.A. Santamaria has had a long gestation. In his acknowledgements, the author writes that a publisher commissioned him to write a biography of Bob Santamaria shortly after his death in 1998, and he began work on it immediately.
At the outset, I have a declaration of interest to make. I worked alongside Bob Santamaria from 1976 until his death, and before that was a member of the National Civic Council from my university days in the mid 1960s, like Gerard Henderson himself. I am also referred to a number of times in the book.
Gerard contacted me a short time after Bob Santamaria died, asking if I would make available the NCC’s records for the biography. I responded that I thought it was too early for that. I did not hear from him again.
Gerard has written a highly personal memoir of Bob Santamaria, based on the papers of the NCC which he accessed when employed by the organisation in the early 1970s, and on interviews with many of Santamaria’s former associates. This gives the biography an interesting and revealing character.
The fact is that I did not ask you to “make available the NCC’s records” for the biography. At that time, I had all the documents I needed. Rather, I requested an interview with you about B.A. Santamaria. This is what I wrote in my letter of 9 June 1998 (which was sent by fax):
I have been commissioned…to write a biography of the late B.A. Santamaria. The task is a private one and will be undertaken at night and over weekends. There is no particular time limit. However, I am anxious to do the basic research (interviews, etc) as soon as possible. Hence this letter.
I do not intend turning the biography into a work of hagiography. Nor do I intend writing a put-down. Neither style would serve any useful purpose. What I have in mind is a study which assesses Bob Santamaria’s strengths and weaknesses – and analyses where he succeeded and where he failed. Above all, the intention is to be accurate and fair.
The aim is to talk with those who knew Mr Santamaria well – friends, associates and critics alike. Large slabs of such conversations will be included in the book so that readers will be presented with a number of interpretations of Bob Santamaria. Not just mine.
It would be good to talk with you – both as someone who knew BAS well from a young age and as his successor as president of the National Civic Council. I am especially interested in your interpretation of the NCC split of 1980/83. It is my intention to document both sides of this division.
I travel to Melbourne fairly regularly. I understand that you are very busy right now. However if you have 45 minutes for an interview, this would be much appreciated. I will give your office a call to check on your availability. By the way, I would be happy to provide any extracts from interviews to be forwarded to you for fact checking prior to publication in the biography.
On 10 June 1998, you sent the following letter to me:
Thank you for your fax.
I am not inclined to be interviewed on this matter at present. No doubt, biographies of Bob Santamaria will be published; I can only hope that they will be well written, researched and fair.
Good luck in your enterprise.
As the 1998 correspondence makes clear, I wanted to interview BAS’s “friends, associates and critics alike” in order to give as fair an assessment as possible of my subject. It is a matter of record that Santamaria’s associates and critics agreed to be interviewed for the biography. However, all his friends – whom I asked – declined.
In addition to yourself, the following friends of Bob Santamaria declined to be interviewed – Bob O’Connell (Sydney), Brian Mullins (Brisbane) along with Bob Billings, Hugh Slattery and Brendan Rodway.
No one, yourself included, advised that they would agree to an interview some time in the future. In view of the refusal of B. A. Santamaria’s friends to talk to me, I placed detailed quotes from BAS in the book explaining his opinions and activities – in order to balance the views of his associates and, especially, his critics.
Moreover, your comment that Santamaria: A Most Unusual Man is “based on the papers of the NCC which he [Henderson] assessed when employed by the organisation in the early 1970s and on interviews of many of Santamaria’s former associates” is also inaccurate. I collected a vast amount of material after I ceased to have any involvement with the NCC four decades ago. Also, I made extensive use of the Santamaria Papers which the Santamaria Family placed in the State Library of Victoria in 2006 – as well as my own extensive personal papers and library.
* * * *
As Santamaria: A Most Unusual Man attests, I did in 2015 what I said I would do in 1998 – that is, I wrote a book which was neither hagiography nor a hatchet job and which was accurate and fair.
It’s a pity that you and other friends of B.A. Santamaria declined to have your views recorded in the biography. But all I could do was ask – which I did.
Peter Westmore to Gerard Henderson – 28 August 2015
Thank you for your email. I assume it is for publication in News Weekly. If not, please let me know.
Gerard Henderson to Peter Westmore – 28 August 2015
Feel free to publish my letter in News Weekly.