ISSUE – NO. 288


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: AFR’s Power Failure; Rear Window’s Joe Aston Oversight & More Guy Rundle Sludge in Crikey
  • New Feature: Mike “I’ll Pour the Gin” Carlton to Address Barker College Knees Up – plus some Poetry 
  • Can You Bear It? Leigh Sales; Peta Donald; Jenna Price; Norman Abjorensen & The Age’s Favourite Cliché 
  • Five Paws Award: Paul Kelly Scores for Media “Glass Jaw” Reference
  • Comedy Report: On Clarke & Dawe on Not Much At All
  • Correspondence: Jason Steger helps out again on Santamaria: A Most Unusual Man & Sean Garman helps out on Waleed Aly’s Neo-Conservatism Confusion



Nancy’s (male) co-owner was busy at his desk at 4.30 am when the morning’s newspapers were thrown over the fence – dropping next to Nancy’s kennel. But for the fact that your dog Nancy is stone motherless deaf, the noise would have woken her. Usually The Australian and the Daily Telegraph make the most noise – having more bulk than the Australian Financial Review or the Sydney Morning Herald. This morning, however, the AFR made the biggest sound.

You see, today is the day when The Australian Financial Review publishes its “Power” edition. Now, as avid readers will be aware, MWD is not into pedantry and generally does not bother with written or verbal typos or accidents of timing. So MWD will not throw the first stone at AFR’s listing of those Aussies who have “Overt Power” – Tony Abbott comes in as Number 1 with his chief-of-staff Peta Credlin as Number 3. Malcolm Turnbull is at Number 6. [I note, also, that Ms Credlin made it to Number 1 in the Australian Women’s Weekly list of Australia’s most powerful women – Ed].

Today’s AFR also contains an insert in the “Overt Power: The Update” category – listing Malcolm Turnbull as Number 1. Julie Bishop moved up to Number 3 – with Tony Abbott and Peta Credlin shunted down an Orwellian memory hole.

It’s easy to make a mistake with timing. The problem (as Hendo has argued many times previously) with the AFR’s Power edition is that leaders in democratic societies are not imbued with power. Rather – as the German sociologist Max Weber wrote a century ago – they exert legitimate authority at the consent of the electorate.

If the likes of Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard ever possessed real power they would not have been voted out of office in a ballot conducted by their peers. Their fall came about when they ceased to enjoy a continuation of authority once invested in them by their colleagues. John Howard’s political demise came about when he lost authority among the majority of electors – and, consequently, had to step down as prime minister.

The AFR’s 2015 issue is sub-titled “The Big List: Who’s In, Who’s Out”. On Page 22, Tony Abbott is very much IN. But when the reader gets to the “Power: The Update” supplement – it’s very much the case of “Abbott Who?” The fact is that Tony Abbott did not lose power on 14 September 2015 – but, rather, authority. But don’t expect any change – the word “Power” is more media friendly than “Authority”.


While on the topic of this morning’s AFR, there is a glaring omission in the “Rear Window” column (authored today by Will Glasgow) in the section headed “Costello beamed in to mark Gersh’s birthday”.

Your man Glasgow reports on Joe Gersh’s 60th birthday party in Melbourne last Monday. He mentions the attendance at this fun event of Joseph Gersh (but no mention of Zita Gersh despite Mr Glasgow’s railings against sexism this very morning), Raphael Geminder, Mark Leibler, Henry Lanzer, Paul Bassat, “Carol Schwartz and husband Alan Schwartz”, Stewart Baron, “Jonny Baker (speech: hilarious)”, “Sydney Institute executive director (and the evening’s papal representative) Gerard Henderson”, Peter Lew and Randal Marsh. Peter Costello’s happy birthday message was beamed in from Singapore.

But Will Glasgow did not mention the presence of fellow “Rear Window” scribe Joe Aston at Joe Gersh’s birthday bash who also gave a witty speech. As for the papal rep bit – well, Hendo happens to think that the last true pope was named Pius XII and that the present pontiff, Pope Francis, is a sandal-wearing eco-catastrophist Jesuit of the kind which drove Hendo out of the Church years ago. Your man Glasgow is obviously an ignoramus when it comes to Nancy’s (male) co-owner.

aston henderson dinner


Crikey has just arrived in Nancy’s (male) co-owner’s inbox. What a load of sludge. First up there is a 2300 word turgidly written piece by MWD’s favourite Marxist comedian – a certain Guy Rundle. Except that it’s not funny – not even in a (Karl) Marx sense. The piece starts with a quote from Hendo who is not mentioned in the remainder of the article on Australia in the post-Abbott period.

Later on Crikey give lotsa space to an article by John Menadue and Peter Hughes who allege that Tony Abbott and his government did not stop the boats. It seems that Mr Menadue now seems to believe that stopping the boats was an achievement which should be credited to Kevin Rudd. Stand by for a Crikey “Exclusive” that Tony Abbott did not get rid of the Carbon Tax or the Mining Tax or the Rudd Government.



Lotsa thanks to the avid MWD reader who has drawn MWD’s attention to the fact that Mike (“I’ll pour the gin”) Carlton will be the guest speaker at the Old Barker Association’s Annual Dinner on 6 November 2015. The knees-up will be held at Mike Carlton’s alma mater – Barker College in Hornsby, Sydney.

You wonder what a born-again atheist like your man Carlton is doing speaking at a fund raiser to support a school run by the Anglican Church. But all questions may be answered by reference to the fact that Mr Carlton’s son – a certain Master Lachlan Carlton – is due to commence at Barker College in 2021.

In his time as a Sydney Morning Herald columnist, Mr Carlton was wont to mock “former private school prefects”. Until, that is, MWD revealed that Carlton was not only a prefect at Barker but, wait for it, also a Regimental Sergeant Major in the Barker College School Cadets. Attention! Plus – can you believe it – a poet. Yes, a poet.

Here, due to popular demand, is Mike Carlton’s poem “On Leaving School” which was published in The College Barker on 31 December 1962. But, first, a health warning. Read on – and you will either need a box of tissues or many a Gin & Tonic to calm the emotions:


By M.J. Carlton (Class of 1962, Barker College)

Above our heads floats vast uncertainty;

At our heels lies a worn but ended path.

We pause, suspended above the valley of wonder.

A warmth of memories in our hearts.

For we are at the cliffs of Youth.

That lead us outwards to the sea of life.

Opportunity’s Excalibur rests within our range

We tell ourselves.

Yet is there not a chill of fear,

A fluttering in the breast that calls us back:

Our early years were joy and light and love;

Now we must leave and face our fear alone.

For we are in the hands of destiny,

With surety surrendered to her will.

Although horizons stretch before our eyes,

And doubts and fears may plague us till the end,

We face the world with comfort in our hearts,

For therein lies the golden glow of moments to remember.

This touching poem – by the young Prefect/Regimental Sergeant Major – brings so many tears to Nancy’s eyes that a kennel flood is a real possibility.

Nancy offers the following brief poem to be read in Mr Carlton’s honour – by anyone who is sober enough for the task – at the OBA’s 2015 Annual Dinner:


By Nancy (Class of 2005, Yagoona RSPCA Pound).

Although horizons stretch before red eyes

And doubts and fears may shake us till the end

There’s plenty time to give the gin a nudge

And so create the golden glow of chunder to remember.

[I note that in last week’s issue it was suggested that Mike (“I’ll pour the gin”) Carlton’s claim that the Viet Cong shot at him in Saigon all those years ago could only be explained with reference to a “friendly fire” incident. But have you considered the possibility that the communists in South Vietnam nearly half a century ago may have had an aversion to bad poetry? Just a thought – Ed]

Can you bear it graphic


 When it comes to the media, the story is invariably about the media.

Leigh Sales is the popular and well-remunerated presenter of ABC1’s 7.30. Moreover, she is much praised by ABC managing director and (so-called) editor-in-chief – Nice Mr Scott. Even so, Ms Sales is super sensitive to criticism. So much so that she sent out the following tweet on 22 September.

leigh temp tweet

This kind of comment runs the risk of giving self-obsession a bad name. Ditto with hyperbole. For example, who has called Ms Sales a “right-wing fascist? Just the names will do. And who has ever said that she wears outfits reminiscent “of a bag lady”? And if someone did, who gives a stuff?

What’s more, who has ever said “Bring back Kerry O’Brien” to 7.30? Why, Red Kerry is more into self-regard and hair-tint than his successor. [I understand that Leigh Sales is so sensitive to criticism that she has blocked Nancy’s (male) co-owner’s executive assistant on Twitter, a certain mild-mannered Ms Lalita Mathias. I’m thinking that such rude behaviour might only be overcome if Ms Sales attends the “courtesy classes” conducted by Gerard Henderson AC (aka Always Courteous) – Ed].

Now Hendo does not want to get blocked off by the oh-so-sensitive Leigh Sales. However, it is appropriate to draw attention to the contrast between the 7.30 presenter’s interview with Tony Abbott (9 September) and Malcolm Turnbull (21 September).

Here is an extract from the Sales/Abbott exchange:

Leigh Sales: Let’s quickly run through some other issues, Prime Minister, starting with the economy. When Labor left office, unemployment was 5.8 per cent; it’s now 6.3 per cent. Growth was 2.5 per cent; it’s now two per cent. The Australian dollar was 92 cents; it’s now around 70 cents. The budget deficit was $30 billion when you took office and now it’s $48 billion. How do you explain to the Australian people that you were elected promising, in your words, to fix the budget emergency, yet in fact, Australia’s economic position has worsened under your leadership?

Tony Abbott: Well I don’t accept that. The boats have stopped. The carbon tax has –

Leigh Sales: [interrupting] We’re talking about the economy.

Tony Abbott: The boats have stopped, the carbon tax has gone, the mining tax has gone. We are now on a path to sustainable surplus and we’ve got three free trade agreements finalised. If only the Labor Party and the CFMEU weren’t trying to sabotage the Free Trade Agreement with China. And we’ve got –

Leigh Sales: [interrupting] Prime Minister, I just ran you through …

Tony Abbott: And we’ve got 335,000 more jobs. Now –

Leigh Sales: [interrupting] I just ran you through a series –

Tony Abbott: – that is the one achievement of which I am most proud, if I may, the 335,000 extra jobs that are there –

Leigh Sales: [interrupting] Yet unemployment is still going up.

And so it went on. The former prime minister’s answers were interrupted even though they were broadly on topic and quite short.

Compare and contrast the 7.30 presenter’s interview with the new prime minister on 21 September 2015 – which was replete with much laughter and general bonhomie.

Despite the fact, that on occasions, Mr Turnbull was, well, somewhat loquacious – there were scant attempts to get the interview back on course and a general reluctance to interrupt. Let’s go to the transcript, as the oh-so-friendly discussion winds up:

Leigh Sales: Let me ask you a bit of a personal question and I don’t mean it to be offensive in any way.

Malcolm Turnbull: That means it probably will be!

Leigh Sales: Probably will be a bit.

Malcolm Turnbull: Just a little bit offensive, yeah.

Leigh Sales: Life has dealt you some great cards that few people get, right? You’ve got a great brain, everyone would agree, good parents, good health, lovely family, good education, enormous wealth. What do you say to Australians who might think: “Well how can Malcolm understand what it is to struggle for anything ’cause Malcolm’s had everything that he’s ever wanted?”

Malcolm Turnbull: Well, the truth is I have been extraordinarily lucky. I have had to struggle in my life.

[Continues 3 mins and 50 seconds before the next question from Leigh Sales].

Leigh Sales: I’m sorry I’m laughing, but you’re not at the dispatch box and you’re not at the bar. So I’ve got to squeeze in one more question before we run out of time.

Malcolm Turnbull: One more question. Sorry, sorry, sorry.

Leigh Sales: I’m sorry. I’m sorry to be rude like that too.

Malcolm Turnbull: You’re not being rude at all. It’s quite understandable.

Leigh Sales: The – no, no, I did cut you directly off.

Malcolm Turnbull: That’s fine.

So there you have it. Leigh Sales apologised profusely for cutting Mr Turnbull off after he spoke 302 words. But she offered no apology to Tony Abbott for interrupting him often – including on one occasion after he spoke a mere 13 words. Can you bear it?


While on the topic of the ABC’s double standards with respect to reporting the prime ministerships of Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull, consider the case of PM reporter Peta Donald. This is what she had to say about Malcolm Turnbull’s decision to appoint Marise Payne as Minister for Defence:

Peta Donald: Marise Payne has been in Parliament for almost 20 years. But the moderate Liberal from New South Wales was overlooked for promotion by John Howard and then Tony Abbott. She’s served on defence related parliamentary Committees and been Human Services Minister for around two years.

If Ms Donald had done any research, she would know that Marise Payne was overlooked for promotion to the ministry or shadow ministry by the following Liberal Party leaders – John Howard, Brendan Nelson and Malcolm Turnbull (first time round).

In fact it was Tony Abbott who first appointed Ms Payne to the shadow ministry. Moreover, following the Coalition’s election victory in September 2013, it was Tony Abbott who appointed Marise Payne as the Minister for Human Services – her first ministerial appointment. Yet Peta Donald told PM listeners that Mr Abbott had overlooked Ms Payne for promotion and PM presenter Mark Colvin did not see fit to correct the howler. Can you bear it?


For Abbott-hating you can’t go past University of Technology Sydney (UTS) leftist academic Jenna Price – who is subsidised by the taxpayer to teach budding journalists, believe it or not. [I believe it – Ed].

Yesterday Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the Coalition’s response to the domestic violence crisis – in the presence of Michaelia Cash (Minister for Women) and Rosie Batty (Australian of the Year). This was an initiative of the Abbott government which was drawn up by Tony Abbott and Senator Cash and financed out of the 2014 budget’s contingency fund. Generally, the Coalition government’s domestic violence policy has been well-received by Australians, women and men alike.

It so happened that on 15 September 2015, the Canberra Times carried a column by Jenna Price titled “Desperate Abbott used Batty as a distraction”. And it so happened that the article was published after Mr Abbott lost the Liberal Party leadership but before he resigned as prime minister.

In her Abbott-hating rant, Ms Price started as follows:

It’s January 2015. Tony Abbott is in deep hot water. Again. Since the election in September 2013, it’s been one embarrassment after another, revealing his complete misunderstanding of what it means to be a prime minister. Actually Malcolm Turnbull summarised it pretty well on Monday.

But this time, it’s even worse. This time it’s about announcing Prince Philip – that renowned old bigot – as a knight. The pushback from ordinary Australians is huge. It even surprised me. I assumed it was only me furious with a scion of privilege for reintroducing these honours. Turns out it was everyone, even in Abbott’s own party. This was just one of Abbott’s many captain’s calls, captain used loosely. He turned to the one person he thought could redeem him. He turned to Rosie Batty.

A few days earlier, Batty had been named Australian of the Year. No one had heard of this Victorian mother until her son Luke was murdered in front of her in February 2013. Her extreme poise and resilience blew Australians away. For eight months, she campaigned hard on family violence and, for once, Australia seemed to be sitting up and taking notice.

The Prime Minister had a meeting with Batty on Christmas Eve 2014. Peta Credlin, his chief of staff, was also there. He asked Batty what she thought might be a solution to the poisonous problem of violence against women and children. From that moment, there was little contact. Until Abbott was in deep trouble with the electorate. His decision to turn the focus away from his grovelling desire to suck up to royalty was done at the last possible minute.

This is bonkers. Even for an Abbott-hating leftist UTS academic. When Mr Abbott met Ms Batty on 24 December 2014, he had no idea to the extent of the reaction to his decision to bestow a knighthood on Prince Philip. None whatsoever. Yet, the clear implication in Jenna Price’s piece was that the then prime minister had used Ms Batty for political purposes in order to dilute public criticism.

Jenna Price went on to further allege that Tony Abbott’s concern about domestic violence was motivated by political considerations. Ms Price concluded her rant with an attack on Senator Cash:

I was utterly appalled at Senator Michaelia Cash’s speech… in which she said that Australia had turned a corner on the issue of domestic violence. She said that at the end of 24 hours during which three women had lost their lives to violence. She said the media had a responsibility when it came to reporting on violence against women.

Yes, Senator Cash, we do. But governments have the money and the power.

If you want to fund the campaign to stop violence against women, don’t use a by-election as your platform. You should have done it months ago, years ago. Don’t use dead women and children as a pawn in your bid to hold power.

Jenna Price is a journalist-cum academic who has never worked in politics or government. She does not appear to understand that it takes time to develop and finance programs on such issues as domestic violence. So Ms Price was condemning Tony Abbott on 15 September for a policy which – when announced by the new Turnbull Government on 24 September – was widely applauded. Even by the Canberra Times which editorialised in favour of the Abbott/Turnbull scheme yesterday under the title “Anti-violence package a great start.”

Can you bear it?


It seems that the Abbott-haters are all the rage in Canberra institutions. This is what Australian National University academic Norman Abjorensen said on ABC Radio National Late Night Live on 14 September 2015:

Norman Abjorensen: Tony Abbott as a politician has always been something of a combination between the pugilist and the bare-knuckle street fighter. His political instinct is to pick up the nearest object and lash out with it. It served him very well in opposition, it certainly served him well in student politics, it disconcerted Kevin Rudd, it disconcerted Julia Gillard. It’s not something that translates into government. And I think in so many ways you could make a case that he is the least distinguished prime minister the country’s ever had. He looked like a winner to some people but there’s never been the substance there to carry it through, there’s never been a coherent sense of purpose. And in some ways when you scratch the surface of Tony Abbott, you find a constant war against modernity. It might be a funny thing to come out with, but I think in some ways that’s a characteristic he shares with Islamic State.

Andrew West: Hang on…

So there you have it. According to Dr Abjorensen, Tony Abbott is just like the throat-cutters, rapists and culture destroyers of the so-called Islamic State.

An ANU official has told an avid MWD reader that Abjorensen did engage in “a rhetorical overreach” on LNL and that “Dr Abjorensen…has also acknowledged this”. But the ANU has not said what form such an acknowledgement took or where it can be located. Can you bear it?


For how long will the media continue to run the “Malcolm in the Middle” cliché with reference to Malcolm Turnbull?

Here it is at Page 25 of The Age last Saturday. As boring and predictable as The Age’s Opinion Page. Can you bear it?

Malcolm in the middle

five paws graphic


The British-born Paul Barry is the seventh left-of-centre ABC1 Media Watch presenter – out of seven. Or is it eight out of eight? Your man Barry’s predecessors are Stuart Littlemore, Richard Ackland, Paul Barry (yes), David Marr, Liz Jackson, Monica Attard and Jonathan Holmes. Counting Mr Barry’s two appearances, some 38 per cent of Media Watch presenters have been British-born leftists – i.e. Barry the First, Jonathan Holmes and Barry the Second.

Last Monday’s Media Watch program, titled “The Turnbull takeover”, was devoted to an attack by Paul Barry on some of his familiar right-of-centre targets – namely Tony Abbott, Alan Jones, Andrew Bolt, Ray Hadley and Paul Sheehan. Yawn.

Generally, Paul Barry dismissed any suggestion that the media – including the Canberra Press Gallery – was hostile to the Abbott government. Even so, Mr Barry did make this comment about the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and the Canberra Times:

There’s little doubt that Fairfax was hostile to Tony Abbott, especially in the last few months.

So, there you go. Even Paul Barry believes that Fairfax Media was hostile to Tony Abbott. Yet Fairfax Media’s Mark Kenny declared on Insiders recently (6 September 2015) that such a belief was “nonsense”.

Mr Barry, on Monday night, quoted The Australian’s editor-at-large Paul Kelly as saying that Mr Abbott had only himself to blame for the fact that he lost a leadership ballot to Malcolm Turnbull, viz:

Abbott’s tragedy is that he made too many mistakes and misjudgments …
He never established an emotional rapport with the people. (The Australian, 15 September, 2015)

Paul Kelly did write this on Tuesday 15 September 2015. However, he also had this to say on Sky News’ Australian Agenda on Sunday 20 September – the day before the Media Watch presenter’s comments. Let’s go to the transcript:

Peter Van Onselen: The former prime minister now, in his final statement, made a lot out of the white-anting against him – the role of the media. He was even more, as I understand it, direct about this in the [Liberal] Party room, when he spoke immediately after the ballot. How significant was that to Tony Abbott’s demise versus all the other factors?

Paul Kelly: Well, look – there’s no doubt that the mistakes that Tony Abbott made are the prime cause of his removal as prime minister. I mean, you don’t remove the prime minister unless the prime minister’s made some pretty significant mistakes and that’s what happened. Having said that, my view about what Tony Abbott said is that it would be nice if journalists had the maturity and rationality to assess it at face value. He’s raised some important issues, particularly in relation to the media. I mean, we’ve never seen so many journalists with glass jaws. I mean surely, surely, we can talk rationally about the problem in our political system and the interaction between the politicians and the media. It’s highly unhealthy, it’s highly destructive and it’s fundamental to the policy problems facing the country. So, my view about what Tony Abbott says is, of course, of course, he’s to blame for his own demise. But what we should do now is actually have a sensible debate about some of these issues.

Needless to say, Paul Barry – intentionally or otherwise – distorted Paul Kelly’s position. Concerning which MWD says, “Shame, Barry, Shame” and:

Paul Kelly: Five Paws



The Clarke & Dawe act seems to have been around since Moses was a boy. Last night in their tired routine, Bryan Dawe (aka Bryan Dawe) interviewed John Clarke (aka Gerald Mander – although he was once referred to as “Gerard”).

With nothing much to say, your man Dawe and your man Clarke reverted to their familiarly boring quiz show format. Except that, unintentionally, some incorrect answers were marked as accurate.

For the record, Enid Lyons was not the first woman in the Federal Parliament – she was equal first. Both Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten did not oust their predecessors – only Turnbull did.

As to the reference to a split occurring in the Liberal Party leading to the creation of a “right-wing DLP faction”. Well that was a joke, of sorts. About the only one in the entire gig.

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.


In MWD’s hugely popular “Can You Bear It?” segment on 11 September 2015 (Issue 286), Gerard Henderson referred to Jason Steger’s error in promoting the late Archbishop Daniel Mannix (1864-1963) to the position of Cardinal. As avid readers are aware, Mannix and the Vatican had many disagreements from the First World War to the Cold War and he was not the kind of (clerical) guy to receive a red hat from the pontiff.

Fortunately your man Steger keeps writing to Hendo – even if they are one-liners. Which makes it possible for Nancy’s (male) co-owner to keep reminding avid readers about Ray Cassin’s piss-poor review of Santamaria: A Most Unusual Man in The Age of recent memory, which was commissioned by The Age’s literary editor. See MWD passim.

Mr Steger’s tendency to write to MWD – despite his claim that he rarely reads this blog – provides material once again for the much-loved “Correspondence” segment. Wacko – and here we go – again.

Jason Steger to Gerard Henderson – 21 September 2015

Someone told me you had made mention of my howler, Gerard. For purposes of accuracy, I should point out that I am not an avid reader of your blog, merely a very occasional one.

Best wishes,


Gerard Henderson to Jason Steger – 22 September 2015


I was delighted to receive your email yesterday advising that you are not “an avid reader” of my Media Watch Dog blog but “merely an occasional one”.

I’m devastated. So devastated, in fact, that I headed off to the pub and consumed lotsa gin – hence this delayed acknowledgement.

When I woke up this morning, I suddenly realised that for someone who is not an avid MWD reader you write to me on quite a few occasions. So I went off to the pub to celebrate.

By the way, is The-Guardian-on-the-Yarra now an irony-free zone?

Keep morale high.


Jason Steger to Gerard Henderson – 22 September 2015

Irony? What irony?

Gerard Henderson to Jason Steger – 25 September 2015

Oh, Jason. So The Age’s literary editor appears to be a pedant. I expected that you would quibble about the use of the word “irony”. And so it was done – that the prophecy might be fulfilled, I assume.

When I referred to you as an “avid” Media Watch Dog reader I was being ironical – i.e., I was not being serious. It’s a bit like referring to MWD’s “tens of millions of readers”. For the record, MWD has lotsa avid readers. It’s just that some readers (not you) are more avid than others (you). It’s a bit like MWD’s references to the Abbott Clerical Fascist Dictatorship of recent memory. This is a joke – but perhaps not, possibly, to The Age’s literary editor.

On a more serious point, I note that you have still not responded to any of my points in our correspondence. Ray Cassin implied in his Age review that Cardinal Norman Gilroy was referred to as “Normal” Gilroy in Santamaria: A Most Unusual Man. This was either intellectually dishonest, or Mr Cassin did not read the book in its entirety.

You, as The Age’s literary editor, published Ray Cassin’s pathetic criticism of MUP’s proof-reading ability without checking with either the publisher or the author – both would have advised that there are over 20 references to “Norman Gilroy” in the book, including a photo caption. Which suggests that you are lazy.

I look forward to hearing from you again when, in all likelihood, someone or other will “tell” you that you are mentioned in MWD and you will feel the need for an “occasional” look at the blog. Here’s some gratuitous advice. Became a regular MWD avid reader – it saves time.

All the best to you and your comrades at The-Guardian-on-the-Yarra.



As avid readers will be aware, in last Friday’s MWD attention was devoted to Waleed Aly’s jargon-ridden column in the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and the Canberra Times. It was a familiar academic leftist critique of conservatism. But one avid reader – a certain Sean Garman – thinks that Hendo was too tough on Mr Aly’s use of the term “neo-conservative”. Now read on:

Sean Garman to Gerard Henderson – 18 September 2015

Hi Gerard

I am a long-term fan but I think Waleed Aly might be technically correct in the usage of “neo-conservative” (although I also believe accidentally rather than intentionally). You are right that neo-conservatives originated as a reaction to the New Left wave in the US in the 1960s and at the disgust at the Soviet crack-down of Czechoslovakia in ’68 but the defining characteristics of neo-conservatism are: (i) comfortable with the government taking a more active role in the economy/public spending, and (ii) a more vigorous principles-based foreign policy as opposed to the realpolitik of traditional conservatives.

I think in this instance it can be said that Tony Abbott was a neo-conservative but in the appropriate sense and not in the derogatory sense. Given Waleed Aly’s history and the tone of the article I think he stumbled on the correct terminology.

With kind regards,


Sean Garman

Gerard Henderson to Sean Garman – 25 September 2015


Thanks for your note.

It’s a matter of literary preference, I guess. I try to avoid transporting terms that have genuine meaning in North America or Europe into Australia. They invariably don’t fit.

As I understand it, the term “neo-conservative” was embraced by the likes of Norman Podharetz and Midge Decter (whom I once met). They were left-of-centre Democratic Party voting social democrats who backed Ronald Reagan and the Republican Party in 1980 – primarily because they supported Reagan’s anti-communism in general and his willingness to confront the Soviet Union in particular. They also reacted to the weakness of Jimmy Carter’s Democratic Party administration in the area of foreign policy.

In his Fairfax Media column last week, Waleed Aly asked “who will represent Australian neo-conservatives now?” – in the wake of Tony Abbott’s defeat by Malcolm Turnbull in the Liberal Party leadership ballot. This implied that Mr Abbott is a neo-conservative who represented other neo-conservatives and that Malcolm Turnbull is not a neo-conservative, whatever that might mean.

The point is that there was no significant movement of leading Australian intellectuals and political activists from the left-of-centre to the right-of-centre along the lines that occurred in the United States in the late 1970s and early 1980s. If anything, developments in Australia went the other way. That is, quite a few right-of-centre types supported the left-of-centre governments headed by Bob Hawke and Paul Keating in the 1980s and early 1990s.

In my view, the term “neo-conservative” has no resonance in Australia or Western Europe. It is an American term designed to describe a United States phenomenon. Mr Aly’s column was intellectually shallow – with its claims of a Liberal Party “civil war”, its assertion that the Labor Party does not love winning and the use of “neo-conservatism” as a term of abuse. What a load of tosh.

Thanks for reading MWD.

Best wishes


Until next time – keep morale high.


I’ve been shot at by the Viet Cong. I once met Gerard Henderson. I can take any shit thrown at me…

Mike Carlton via Twitter, 9:22 PM – 9 Sep 2015

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