ISSUE – NO. 285


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: Lawrie Zion & Nicholas Reece Give Cultural Cringe a Nudge; Jonathan Green’s Tony Abbott Rant
  • Conspiracy Update featuring Tariq Ali on Gough Whitlam and Joh Bjelke-Petersen
  • New Feature: Phone an Abbott-Hater with AM Radio & Tony Windsor
  • Can You Bear It? James Massola; SMH’s Dyson Heydon Coverage; Lenore Taylor & Simon Longstaff
  • MWD Exclusive: Still No Rejection of ABC’s Past Support for Pederasty
  • The Weekly with Charlie Pickering: A Marxist Interpretation
  • “You Must Remember This”: Stephen FitzGerald’s “Two China” Policies



The Cultural Cringe is alive and well Down Under. Judging from the response to yesterday’s statement by the New York Times editorial board titled “Australia’s Brutal Treatment of Migrants”.

On ABC1 News Breakfast’s “Newspapers” segment this morning, La Trobe University academic Lawrie Zion cited the NYT’s editorial opinion with undue deference. Late last night, following an appearance on Paul Murray Live, Melbourne University academic Nicholas Reece issued a tweet urging the likes of Chris Kenny and Rowan Dean to read the NYT piece.

The likes of Dr Zion (for a doctor he is) and Mr Reece seem to believe that the opinion of the New York Times editors should be accepted without question. It so happened that the NYT berated Australia in general – and Prime Minister Tony Abbott in particular – at around the same time as the tragic death by drowning of 3 year old Aylan Kurdi whose body was washed up on one of Turkey’s beaches.

The unfashionable fact is that there have been no deaths by drowning of asylum seekers under the Abbott government’s watch. This is due to the fact that the Coalition put the people smuggler industry out of business. Its approach to unlawful boat arrivals has been harsh – but it has worked in discouraging people smugglers and preventing drownings at sea.

Needless to say, neither Dr Zion nor Mr Reece came up with any proposals as to how they would stop the bodies of 3 year olds washing up on Australian beaches without implementing the Abbott’s government’s border protection policies.


What a stunning performance by ABC Radio National Sunday Extra presenter Jonathan Green who had this to say on ABC 1’s The Drum last night – following the Prime Minister’s attacks on the so-called Islamic State, or Daesh, as Abbott government ministers correctly prefer to call this murderous terrorist group.

Jonathan Green: The other thing here on the point of shame and advertising your evil – is that IS depend on the likes of Tony Abbott to do that job for them. To exaggerate their evil, to continually talk about their death cultness, to parade this in front of us. This is doing their promotional work for them.

Well, there were 300,000 people have been killed so far in the Syrian conflict, 3,000 by Islamic State. What they do is designed to provoke us. What they [IS] do is consciously outrageous, that’s the way they work. And yet, we have this strange in-equivalence between the people who are just being killed being by plain old simple bombs, mortars, guns from the other side of that conflict. And that’s not a thing we attach the same sense of evil to. Islamic State want us to think this about them, they want us to have the same rhetoric as Tony Abbott has about this issue.

The BBC has its faults. But it does insist that BBC presenters desist from being advocates. Under Mark Scott’s management, however, ABC presenters have been encouraged to parade their personal views – on the electronic media, in print or on social media.

Nice Mr Scott expects that Mr Green will interview the likes of the Prime Minister on Sunday – having said a couple of days earlier that the IS throat-cutters depend on Tony Abbott to do their promotional work for them.

Jonathan Green does not know what Daesh leaders want Tony Abbott to do. Your man Green just made this up. Also, in his ignorance, the ABC media tart does not understand that IS’s prime motive is not to “provoke” the West. Rather it is to establish a state – a caliphate – in North Africa and, eventually, elsewhere.

In any event, such Western leaders as President Barack Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron have also spoken about IS’s evil. It’s just that the Radio National Sunday Extra presenter has not accused the leaders of the United States and Britain of doing IS’s “promotional work”.

[Jonathan (“Proudly the ABC’s Sneerer-in-Chief”) Green obviously fulfils a role at the taxpayer funded public broadcaster as a “Phone an Abbott-hater” talent. No doubt he will get a run some time in the future in your new feature devoted to this very phenomenon – Ed]



At the weekend the Pakistan-born British leftist Tariq Ali will be delivering a talk at the taxpayer subsidised (so-called) Festival of Dangerous Ideas at the Sydney Opera House. So-called, because there is nothing “dangerous” in a leftist sandal-wearer delivering a left-wing rant to an audience replete with Sandalistas.

In the lead-up to the event, your man Ali received a fawning interview on ABC News Radio on Tuesday. Let’s go to the transcript of the inaugural exchange:

Tracey Holmes: Mr Ali, if democracy is in its twilight, what’s going to replace it?

Tariq Ali: Good question, I don’t think anyone has worked that out so far. Basically what we are witnessing is the birth of an extreme centre. In some cases the birth in Australia has been going on since 1975, when Gough Whitlam was removed by a CIA coup backed by local politicians. But in other parts of the world it’s relatively new. Whatever party is in office they do basically the same thing and this is now so noticeable that young people are completely alienated from politics and I think they would ideally like to carry on like they are today. It’s only if they face real threats from below or from the formation of new political movements that they will react in an extreme way by removing further rights. Otherwise it suits them, the present system, to carry on like this the elites love this form of rule. If in Europe for instance, when a government steps out of line the European Union forces move in and say you either do as we say or we’re going to throw you out of the European Union. I mean that’s what’s going on. So if the electorate and the citizens of the country accept this it will go on.

Tracey Holmes: Last night on the Q&A program you…

What a load of absolute tosh. Almost 40 years after Governor-General Sir John Kerr dismissed Gough Whitlam’s government, there is no evidence that the CIA had any involvement in the event. As readers of James Curran’s Unholy Fury: Whitlam and Nixon at War (MUP, 2015) will be aware, this is a conspiracy theory with no substance.

Tariq Ali went on to tell the gullible Ms Holmes that, when he was in Australia in the early 1970s, National Party Queensland Premier Joh Bjelke Petersen “demanded” that Ali “should be either deported or bumped off”.

And what was Tariq Ali’s evidence that Bjelke Petersen ordered his murder? None at all – as is the case with all conspiracy theories. Needless to say, Tracey Holmes did not challenge this conspiracy theory.


Nancy’s (male) co-owner woke last Saturday to hear former Independent MP Tony (‘The National Party is worse than cancer’) Windsor being interviewed on the ABC program.

The previous day an exercise involving Victoria Police and the Commonwealth government’s Border Force agency had been involved in a thwarted error-fuelled action in the Melbourne CBD – aimed at inspecting the visas of taxi-drivers. It emerged that neither Tony Abbott nor the Prime Minister’s Office had been involved in this matter.

Tony Windsor retired from politics in 2013 amid speculation that he would lose his seat of New England to the National Party’s Barnaby Joyce. Mr Windsor is a well-known critic of Tony Abbott. So who did AM’s Elizabeth Jackson call when in need of an “independent” voice about the Border Force controversy? Tony Windsor, of course. Despite the fact that Mr Windsor had no specific knowledge of what took place in Melbourne the previous day.

Following a series of soft/leading questions, Tony Windsor – without the slightest evidence – declared that a conspiracy was afloat and the Prime Minister was attempting to provoke Muslims to wage terrorist attacks in Australia. Let’s go to the transcript:

Elizabeth Jackson: Do you think that that’s what’s at the heart of it: a government decision to try to make the public more fearful?

Tony Windsor: I’ve got no doubt that the strategy here – and the giveaway context in relation to this was only a few weeks ago, when the Government was calling upon the security people to have something ready every week for them. And now we see this week’s episode, on top of possible attempts to go to war in Syria: this farcical situation developing in Melbourne, where citizens that have done nothing wrong are going to be seen, interrupted in the streets, by these people in these Magical Mystery Tour uniforms that they’re parading around in. It is to create fear in the eyes of the community. It is to create a circumstance, similar to John Howard’s Tampa circumstance, where people suddenly rush to one side of the political debate.
It is an absolute disgrace, what is going on, on a number of levels: with this whole border protection, entering a civil war in Syria, the Border Force in Melbourne. It’s all part of a very sad agenda, in my view, to actually frighten people. And I’ve got no doubt that some of these people in Abbott’s Government hope that something goes wrong domestically: that they can taunt a Muslim into doing something, so that they can say that “We’re the only ones that can protect you. The Labor Party are too weak to protect you. Vote for us.” Well, I think that’s an extraordinary agenda to go to an election on.

Elizabeth Jackson: Now, the Minister, Peter Dutton, has been very quiet. What do you make of that?…

And so on. Ms Jackson made no attempt to challenge – or even query – Tony Windsor’s malicious conspiracy theory. AM had decided to phone an Abbott-hater. So why would AM’s presenter query the basis of Mr Windsor’s views.

That’s why Elizabeth Jackson did not ask the former Independent MP for New England why the Abbott Government was putting so many resources into ASIO and the Australian Federal Police if it really wanted a radicalised Islamist to launch a terrorist attack in Australia. But logic is of no importance when it’s “Phone an Abbott-hater” time.

Can you bear it graphic


What a stunning Page One lead in the Sydney Morning Herald on Monday – by Fairfax Media’s political correspondent (and avid MWD reader) James Massola. The story was titled “PM urged to sack Hockey”.

A BIG STORY, to be sure. According to Fairfax Media’s intrepid reporter, Prime Minister Tony Abbott has been urged by his colleagues to dismiss Joe Hockey from his position as treasurer. And what would be Mr Massola’s sources which would warrant such coverage? Well, here they are:

  • “two cabinet ministers”
  • “one minister”
  • “a second cabinet minister”
  • “nervous Liberal MPs”
  • “a third cabinet minister” and
  • “a fourth minister”

Er, that’s it. James Massola’s most recent SCOOP reminded MWD of his earlier scoop which was reported by Fairfax Media on 24 February 2015. On this occasion, your man Massola’s sources were as follows:

  • “one minister”
  • “a cabinet minister”
  • “a third minister”
  • “a fourth [minister] and
  • “a fifth minister”

Er, that was it.

And this was James Massola’s prediction of 24 February 2015:

Seven ministers who voted for Tony Abbott in the failed spill motion are now prepared to help remove the Prime Minister if he cannot revive the government’s fortunes and recover his position in the polls. The ministers have discussed the timing of any potential move on the Prime Minister, and favour waiting until June – after next month’s NSW state election and the May budget.

So there you have it. James Massola’s big story in February 2015 was that there would be a move on the Prime Minister by June 2015.

June came – and went. And Mr Massola said nothing. No apology. No correction. Nothing. [Don’t be surprised. After all James Massola is a journalist. – Ed] Now Mr Massola is quoting more anonymous sources to prophesy that Joe Hockey may be demoted and that an election may be held in March 2016. Here’s how James Massola’s piece commenced on Monday:

Cabinet ministers say Prime Minister Tony Abbott is being urged to dump Joe Hockey as Treasurer if the Canning by-election goes badly for the Liberal Party.

And an early federal election, to be held in March 2016, is also being considered at the highest levels of the Abbott government.

Fairfax Media has been told by two cabinet ministers that talks over axing Mr Hockey have been held, with a move to sacrifice the Treasurer designed to shore up Mr Abbott’s own leadership and quell a potential backlash after the September 19 by-election.

So there you have it. Or not. Three paragraphs of unsourced sources and spectacular speculation. It looks like a Walkley Award is in line for James (‘Don’t ask me about my failed predictions’) Massola. Can you bear it?


While on the topic of Fairfax Media, how about the coverage in The Sydney Morning Herald – which depicts itself as “Independent. Always” – of Dyson Heydon’s decision to continue as the royal commissioner heading the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption.

Last Tuesday, the SMH ran pieces critical of Dyson Heydon AC QC by (i) Damien Murphy (who referred to “papyrus-faced Dyson Heydon”), (ii) Mark Kenny, (iii) Michaela Whitbourn and (iv) Robert Woods. Plus an editorial headed “Dyson Heydon stays – and everyone loses”. No other view was canvassed as The Sydney Morning Herald channelled the ABC by running comments where everyone agrees with everyone else. Can you bear it?


Lenore Taylor, The Guardian Online’s political editor, has been known to send out the occasional critical tweets when Nancy’s (male) co-owner is on the Insiders’ couch – See MWD Issue 259. So Hendo believes it appropriate to record the exchange last Sunday when Ms Taylor was on the Insiders’ couch – possessed of a felt need to tell viewers about what those whom she calls “foreign people” think about Australia during Tony Abbott’s prime ministership. [I think she meant to say the “Abbott Clerical Fascist dictatorship”. – Ed] Let’s go to the transcript:

Barrie Cassidy: I just wondered where climate change will be, Lenore, 20 years from now.

Lenore Taylor: I’m thinking 20 years from now we’ll look back on the policy-making at the moment and shake our heads and wonder: “What the hell they were thinking?”

Barrie Cassidy: And it’s not just climate change either. You’re just starting to get a sense of, just anecdotally, of Australia’s image overseas –

Lenore Taylor: Well – Phil [Coorey] and I were at a dinner this week where there were some foreign people there who were saying, you know: “The way this looks, the booing of Adam Goodes, the same-sex marriage debate – it’s such a messy image that’s being presented”. And I think that’s pretty true.

Barrie Cassidy: Maybe the attack on wind farms (laughs). We can put that in there.

Lenore Taylor: Yeah, wind farms, in there as well. Yeah.

Phil Coorey: [indistinct] Outside looking in, one of these foreign dignitaries said, outside looking in: “It’s just been a pretty uncomfortable week for Australia”. That’s all – his observation.

Once upon a time, intrepid reporters like Lenore Taylor in search of an anonymous quote would reveal the inner-most thoughts of taxi-drivers on the political situation. Now The Guardian Online’s political editor has taken such a tactic up-market, by reporting on discussions at Canberra dinners. Soon it will be the word from The Palace or some such place.

According to Ms Taylor, some “foreign people” she met at dinner in Canberra last week don’t like Australia much – since they point to the booing of (but not the evident support for) indigenous Australian Rules Football star Adam Goodes, opposition to same sex marriage and the Abbott government’s lack of enthusiasm for wind farms. Shucks. MWD is shattered, just shattered, that “foreign people” in, say, Times Square and/or Trafalgar Square can be heard expressing their indignation at the Abbott government’s policies on wind farms.

In personal correspondence, Ms Taylor declined to tell MWD who these “foreign people” are or whence they came. However, in response to Hendo’s question about the people he named as “foreign dignitaries”, Phil Coorey told MWD that he was referring to one male ambassador from a “Western country”. Just one, apparently.

Well, fancy that. Western Europe does not look too good at the moment – with Greece and all that, plus the asylum seeker crisis, plus the rise of the Lunar Right. As for the United States – there is the Obama administration’s self-declared lack of strategy in North Africa, plus gun inflicted homicides, plus racial tension plus Donald Trump and all that. Meanwhile, if Australia opened its borders, literally millions would want to settle here immediately – unconcerned about the view of Australia held by “foreign dignitaries” in Canberra or anywhere else.

And yet Lenore Taylor believes that we should all share her shame on a Sunday morning that some “foreign people” believe that contemporary Australia has a “message image”. Talk about a bad case of cultural cringe. Can you bear it?


What a stunning performance by the ABC 1 7.30 team in covering the decision of Dyson Heydon not to recuse himself concerning the allegations of perceived bias in his role as royal commissioner of the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance & Corruption.

Here’s how the 7.30 presenter Sabra Lane introduced the topic last Monday:

Sabra Lane: Dyson Heydon will stay on as head of the trade union royal commission after dismissing union attempts to remove him. The veteran High Court judge says a fair-minded observer couldn’t conclude that he is biased, despite initially accepting an invitation to speak at a Liberal Party function.
The ruling doesn’t end this political furore. Unions are considering appealing and the Federal Opposition wants to take the matter up in the Senate. Hayden Cooper reports.

For the record, Dyson Heydon AC QC is not a “veteran High Court judge”. He is a retired High Court judge. Moreover, the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance & Corruption is not a court of law. It seems that Ms Lane had everything right – except the facts.

In his report, Hayden Cooper ran grabs from (i) Dyson Heydon’s findings, (ii) ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver, (iii) Attorney-General George Brandis QC and (iv) Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus QC. Fair enough.

Then 7.30 went out and sought the views of two outsiders – namely Simon Longstaff (of the St James Ethics Centre in Sydney) and Anna Olijnyk (University of Adelaide Law School). This is what Dr Olijnyk (for a doctor she is) had to say:

Anna Olijnyk: I don’t think his [Dyson Heydon’s] reasons can be appeal-proof and that’s because, when the court looks at this case, they’ll start looking at it afresh. They’ll just look at what the “fair-minded lay observer” would make of this whole situation. So they won’t start with his reasons; they’ll start with the situation as a whole.

Yet another useless academic prophecy. Obviously, Mr Heydon’s decision is not appeal-proof. It’s just that, so far at least, the ACTU has not decided to appeal. So Dr Olijnyk’s statement that the Federal Court will consider this case is hypothetical tosh.

And this is how 7.30 reported what Dr Longstaff (for a doctor he is) had to say – following soft introductions from the 7.30 reporter:

Hayden Cooper: Already, the judgment is being questioned from an ethical point of view by those who wonder if Dyson Heydon’s “fair-minded lay observer” is a little too reasonable

Simon Longstaff: Well, I think it would’ve been a very thoughtfully-argued decision that Dyson Heydon made. But, with great respect, I think he probably made a mistake by failing to distinguish the particular character of a royal commission as opposed to a court and imposing a standard of reasonableness in terms of the interpretation of people’s intentions that really goes beyond what the ordinary man in the street might draw upon….

Hayden Cooper: Future witnesses might also be studying the commissioner’s precedent.

Simon Longstaff: He [Dyson Heydon] made it very clear that what had happened was that he had overlooked certain material facts in terms of the invitation and he’s now, in a sense, created an excuse for everybody who comes before him…

Hayden Cooper: And so the distraction would continue and a royal commission that’s already referred 26 union officials to the authorities for alleged corruption would limp on surrounded by questions.

Simon Longstaff: Unfortunately, that will further politicise the royal commission, further complicate the position of the royal commissioner and potentially delay its work as well.

Sabra Lane: Hayden Cooper reporting.

This is how the ABC highlighted its report on Dyson Heydon’s findings last Monday:

abc730 dyson heydon tweet

No other view was presented. Now this is the very same Simon Longstaff who joined the board of Knox Grammar School in 2002. As evidence before the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse makes clear, for almost four decades – from the early 1970s until the early 2000s – there was a nest of paedophiles among the staff at Knox Grammar School who sexually assaulted boys.

MWD is not accusing Dr Longstaff of turning a blind eye to past instances of child sexual abuse at Knox Grammar. However, as avid MWD readers will be aware, Simon Longstaff has refused to answer the question as to whether or when – as a Knox Grammar board member – he called for an audit into instances of past or existing cases of child sexual abuse by teachers or other employees against under-age boys before this became a public scandal. This has prevented MWD readers from judging whether Dr Longstaff would have met a test of reasonable behaviour made by a fair-minded lay observer in this instance – that is, a similar test to the one he alleges Mr Heydon did not meet.

For the record, the ABC has not reported the fact that Simon Longstaff and ABC managing director Mark Scott are on the Knox Grammar School board. This despite the fact that Mr Scott is the ABC’s managing director and Dr Longstaff appears regularly on the ABC handing out advice on ethics.

ABC editor-in-chief Mark Scott is prepared to allow Dr Longstaff to moralise on 7.30 about the fact that Mr Heydon overlooked the attachment to a Liberal Party invitation to give an unimportant address on Sir Garfield Barwick (1903-1987) – while saying nothing about Dr Longstaff’s silence as to whether he overlooked instigating an audit as to whether there was child sexual abuse at Knox before or when he became a board member of the school.

Can you bear it?


While on the topic of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, it’s timely to recall that evidence was heard this week about sexual abuse by male teachers against boys at Geelong Grammar School – which took place from the late 1950s until as recently as the mid-2000s.

This reminded MWD that, in mid-1975, when paedophile activity was rampant at Geelong Grammar (and elsewhere), Professor Richard Downing wrote to the Sydney Morning Herald, in his capacity as ABC chairman, calling on Australians to “understand” the urges of pederasts. See MWD passim.

It’s quite possible that some Geelong Grammar School staff were encouraged to continue their criminal activity by the fact that such a significant Australian as the ABC chairman was prepared to support pederasts receiving sympathetic interviews on the taxpayer funded public broadcaster. Also, such child abusers could have taken comfort from the reported statement of Professor Richard Downing at the time that “in general, men will sleep with young boys and that’s the sort of thing the community ought to know about”. At the time, pederasty was a criminal offence.

Following the establishment of the Royal Commission, MWD reported the fact that a call for an understanding of the sex drive of pederasts was the official position of the ABC in 1975 – as expressed in public by Professor Downing in his official position as ABC’s chairman. The ABC – which has given wide coverage of child sexual abuse in churches, government agencies and secular charities alike – has refrained from reporting the fact that four decades ago the ABC did not regard pederasty as an offence but rather a reality which the community should “understand”.

Moreover, ABC chairman Jim Spigelman AC QC has declined to distance the contemporary ABC from the position advanced on pederasty by one of his predecessors. This leaves open the possibility that the official policy of the ABC remains one that calls for an understanding of pederasty along with an acknowledgement that men will sexually abuse young boys.

It is not clear what other members of the ABC Board think about this issue – so far all have been silent on the issue.

Meanwhile, here’s an update on the matter – as recorded by MWD.

[table id=14 /]



As avid readers are well aware, Crikey’s long-winded editor-at-large Guy Rundle is MWD’s favourite Marxist comedian. After all, Karl Marx (1818-1883) was a real hoot compared with the comrades with whom Rundle mixed when he was editor of the turgid – and Marxist – Arena Magazine. Consequently, Comrade Rundle had to work hard on his jokes. But, for the record, Groucho Marx is Hendo’s favourite non-Marxist comedian [Where is this going? – Ed].

The Weekly with Charlie Pickering – also starring Kitty Flanagan and Tom Gleeson – ended its first season on ABC 1 last Wednesday. Lotsa thanks to the avid reader who found this pic of The Weekly’s team assembled in the ABC’s studios in Melbourne. See below.

According to Nancy’s (male) co-owner’s count, the total team which works on this taxpayer funded 30 minute program is a mere 62. Just 62. [Gee. This seems like slavery to me. Only 62 staff to get out a 30 minute program – and just nine producers for each program? Perhaps one of the members of the ABC Melbourne soviet should take a case to Fair Work Australia to get better staff:joke ratio justice for the wage-slaves at the taxpayer funded public broadcaster. – Ed].

The problem with The Weekly with Charlie Pickering is that most of its 62 staff do not seem to know whether the program is news or comedy. Or both. Charlie Pickering and Kitty Flanagan seem to be part comedians and part commentators – not totally either.

Take Charlie Pickering’s interview with the leftist sandal-wearing Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong, for example. This was more like a sermon where the interviewer threw up soft questions and allowed Bishop Spong to condemn all Christians who did not agree with his let’s-not-take-the-Resurrection-too-seriously interpretation of The Bible.

The Weekly’s 62 staff even produced a video of Cardinal George Pell so that your man Pickering could ask Bishop Spong to take a swipe at the third ranking member of the Vatican. The Bishop did so in a non-funny way. But to Charlie Pickering, it was all-so-funny. The point of this interview, in fact, was for Bishop Spong to deliver a (secular) sermon; it was not about comedy.

The only member of The Weekly’s performance team who understood that the program was supposed to be about satire – not sermons – was Tom Gleeson. His “Hard Talk” show-within-a-show item worked because your man Gleeson was into getting viewers to laugh – not into telling them how to live their (secular) lives.

The Weekly is returning to ABC 1 in December. Nancy’s (male) co-owner will be watching. From a distance.


remember this graphic


By popular demand, this once hugely popular segment of Media Watch Dog makes a welcome return after what journalists like to call a Well-Earned-Break (or WEB).

“You Must Remember This” is based on the chorus line in the song As Time Goes By which was popularised by the film Casablanca. It is devoted to reminding the usual suspects of what they – and/or those they supported – once wrote or said.

Nancy’s (male) co-owner just loved reading the extract from Stephen FitzGerald’s Comrade Ambassador: Whitlam’s Beijing Envoy (MUP, 2015) which was published in The Weekend Australian on 22 August 2015.

In this extract, Dr FitzGerald recounted Prime Minister Gough Whitlam’s October 1973 official visit to China. Stephen FitzGerald was appointed by the Whitlam government to be Australia’s first ambassador in China. In this capacity, Stephen FitzGerald was involved in the Whitlam visit and – along with Mr Whitlam – met with China’s leader Mao Zedong.

This is what Dr FitzGerald wrote in Comrade Ambassador about the outcome of the Mao/Whitlam meeting – the account includes the former Ambassador’s advice at the time to the Department of Foreign Affairs in Canberra:

Whitlam’s crammed a lot of momentum into bilateral relations in this visit. He’s got undertakings on ministerial and officials’ consultations and on science and culture and consular access and a family reunion agreement. Under the umbrella trade agreement signed in July, he’s pushed bilateral trade negotiations on several fronts. We’ll have a long-term sugar contract, and there’s a negotiation on iron ore.

In a formal dispatch on where we stand after the visit, I include some messages for Canberra that have the authority of what Whitlam has said to the Chinese. We should not be as tentative about what we can achieve in China. We should also stop protesting that China is not the centre of our foreign policy and relations with China are not at the expense of relations with other countries. Excessive emphasis on this negative devalues our relations with China and distorts our foreign policy, and should be abandoned. Our friends and neighbours accept our policy and we must approach relations with China as a normal and acceptable part of the pattern of our international relationships.

I also raise the challenges we still face, including euphoric public expectations of what can be achieved when progress is slow and the response from the Chinese side discouraging. The Whitlam visit doesn’t mean from now on all doors will be open and everything will be easy.

That’s pretty clear, then. In late 1973, Stephen FitzGerald – on the authority of Prime Minister Whitlam – instructed the Department of Foreign Affairs that Australia “should stop protesting that China is not the centre of our foreign policy and relations with China are not at the expense of relations with other countries”. This is consistent with the position that, in 1973, China was at the centre of Australian foreign policy and that Australia-China relations might be at the expense of Australia’s relations with other countries.

That was Stephen FitzGerald’s position in late 1973. And it is Stephen FitzGerald’s position today. But he did not always defend Whitlam’s position.

In November 1989 Stephen Fitzgerald delivered the 50th George Ernest Morrison Lecture in Ethnology at the Australian National University in Canberra. In this lecture, titled “Australia’s China”, your man FitzGerald tipped a proverbial bucket on Australia-China relations under the governments led by Gough Whitlam, Malcolm Fraser and Bob Hawke.

FitzGerald accused successive Australian governments of exhibiting a craven attitude towards China and alleged that, following the decision of the Whitlam Labor Government to recognise China in 1972, Australia “fell into such a national embrace with China that at times we have seemed to lose all perspective”.

FitzGerald spoke of Australia’s “breathtaking insouciance” about China and criticised our habit of kow-towing to the rulers in Beijing during the governments led by Gough Whitlam, Malcolm Fraser and Bob Hawke. FitzGerald also referred dismissively to the “syndrome of Marco Polo” which he said motivated so many Australians and asked rhetorically: “Do we want to be the lap dogs of China?” It was strong stuff indeed.

The 1989 speech was sprinkled with references to the fact that what Stephen FitzGerald termed Australia’s “China preoccupation” had led to an inadequate relationship with Taiwan – despite the fact that “in many of the last 17 years [Australia’s] volume of trade with Taiwan has rivalled or exceeded our trade with the People’s Republic of China”. There was also a severe rebuke for the fact that Australia had not taken issue with China over such issues as nuclear weapons, Hong Kong, Tibet and human rights.

There is nothing unusual, and much that makes a lot of sense, about FitzGerald’s 1989 criticism of Australia’s China policy under Whitlam, Fraser and Hawke governments. What was surprising is the source – since in 1989 FitzGerald was criticising positions he had held just over a decade previously without declaring his earlier views.

So, who is an avid MWD reader to believe?

Did Ambassador FitzGerald really believe in October 1973 that China was the centre of Australian foreign policy and that Australia’s relations with China may be at the expense of other countries (e.g. Taiwan)?

Did Stephen FitzGerald really believe in November 1989 that successive governments had erred in regarding China as the centre of Australian foreign policy and that Australia’s relations with China should not have been at the expense of other countries (e.g. Taiwan)? Or did Stephen FitzGerald change his position without indicating that he had altered his view?

Hendo will be reading Comrade Ambassador to see if Stephen FitzGerald makes any reference to the fact that, when Gough Whitlam visited China in 1971 and again in 1973, Mao presided over a brutal totalitarian dictatorship. It is estimated that some 45 million Chinese died as the result of the forced famine which was Mao’s Great Leap Forward (which ran from 1958 to 1962). Also, some 100 million Chinese were purged, and over 1 million were murdered, during the so-called Cultural Revolution over which Mao presided (which ran from 1966 until Mao’s death in 1976).

In the late 1970s, Stephen FitzGerald declared that he was not aware of any human rights abuses in China. Here’s hoping he has reviewed this assessment in Comrade Ambassador. MWD will be trawling through Stephen FitzGerald’s most recent tome to find answers. We’ll keep you posted.

Until next time – keep morale high.

Gerard. You are an idiot #insiders

Bevan Shields via Twitter, 9:46 AM, 23 August 2015

“[Gerard Henderson is a] professional filing cabinet”

– Leftist scribbler Jeff Sparrow, Crikey, 13 August 2015

Leaving the house to avoid listening to GHenderson on @774melbourne

– Jonathan Green via Twitter, 31 July 2015

“gerard henderson trending on twitter, omg [looks out window, where the sun is eclipsed and the sky blood-red] oh yeah that makes sense”

– Adam Brereton via Twitter, 31 July 2015

Gerard Henderson on @891adelaide right now & I find myself shouting at my radio. What a morning”

– Louise Pascale via Twitter, 31 July 2015

“oh hell why is Gerard Henderson trending? Has boredom become the new black.”

– MNihilon via Twitter, 31 July 2015

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 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