GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG – ISSUE NO. 293
30 OCTOBER 2015
The inaugural issue of “Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch” was published in April 1988 – over a year before the first edition of the ABC TV Media Watch program went to air. Since November 1997 “Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch” has been published as part of The Sydney Institute Quarterly. In 2009 Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch Dog blog commenced publication.
- Stop Press: Julian Morrow, “Negro”, Racism & David Marr; Sandy Rae Bags Mark Latham as “White Trash”; Catastrophist Paul Ehrlich on Q&A
- Can You Bear It? – Jenny Hocking & Sir Anthony Mason; Crikey’s Vulgarity Outmatches that of Joe Aston; Dee Madigan on Fascism & Latika Bourke on Catholicism
- History Corner: Why the “Memories” of the Dead (like Malcolm Fraser & Reg Withers) Are All But Useless
- SCOOP – JULIAN MORROW REGARDS DAVID MARR AS “RACIST”
- THE VERDICT: ACCORDING TO SANDY RAE, THE LAIR OF LIVERPOOL IS “WHITE TRASH”
- CATASTROPHIST PAUL EHRLICH DOWN UNDER ON Q&A
- A PERSONAL REFLECTION ON SOME XAVIER COLLEGE BOYS BEHAVING BADLY
- JENNY HOCKING’S FUDGE RE ALLEGED ANTHONY MASON “SCOOP”
- CRIKEY OUT-VULGARS THE FIN
- DEE MADIGAN’S FASCISTIC STUMBLE
- LATIKA BOURKE’S TONY ABBOTT CONFUSION
- STEP FORWARD RICHO – ON THE (BRAND NEW) FAIRFAX MEDIA & ABC PRO-COALITION GROVEL
- ED SHANN BRINGS SOME REALITY TO INDUSTRY SUPERANNUATION DEBATE
- AND THE WINNER IS THE DRUNKEN MICHAEL DAVIS
- BONGE’S FACT-FREE TONY ABBOTT ANALYSIS
- WHY THE POST-BELLUM VIEWS OF THE LATE REG WITHERS AND THE LATE MALCOLM FRASER ARE JUNK
FROM MIKE (“I’LL POUR THE GIN”) CARLTON
— Mike Carlton (@MikeCarlton01) October 25, 2015
How about that? It’s just after midnight, in between post-dinner drinks and hangover time, and Mike Carlton decides to tweet about the madness of Nancy’s (male) co-owner. What could be the explanation for such odd behaviour by the Sage of Avalon Beach? The coming of a full moon, perhaps.
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No surprise that Nancy’s (male) co-owner received an unfavourable mention on The Chaser’s Media Circus, on ABC 1, last night as everyone piled on Eric Abetz’s decision to quote African American United States’ Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in support of his opposition to same sex marriage. As avid MWD readers will be aware, Senator Abetz used the term “negro” to describe Justice Thomas – a term which was used frequently by the late Martin Luther King.
Initially it was difficult for the Canberra-focused members of the Canberra Parliamentary Press Gallery to find anyone who had been offended by this remark. But, then, Fairfax Media’s Latika Bourke came up with a you-beaut idea of asking that arbiter of all matters ethical – Tasmanian Senator Jackie Lambie. And, sure enough, Senator Lambie – who loathes Abetz – said that the Liberal Party senator had become erratic and should resign.
This was enough for The Chaser Boys (average age 401/2) to open up on this matter on The Chaser’s Media Circus last night – led by Craig (Boy) Reucassel, Chas (Boy) Licciardello and Julian (Boy) Morrow with the apparent support of Andrew (Boy) Hansen. Let’s go to the transcript:
Craig Reucassel: Alright, Team Life, what is your pick of the board?
Tom Gleeson: We’ve gotta have Eric Abetz because he’s been doing some stunning work just lately.
Craig Reucassel: Alright, what do Eric Abetz and Martin Luther King have in common?…
I think Tom is actually the closest there. It is that they’ve both used the word “negro”. Martin Luther King in his 1963 “I Have A Dream” speech, and Eric Abetz in an interview about gay marriage, referring to the conservative judge, Clarence Thomas, as the negro American on the supreme court, only last week. Abetz said it was okay for him to use the word, because Martin Luther King had said it in the 1960s. An argument so convincing, that even Jacqui Lambie said Abetz was “becoming erratic”. Which, I think is a case of the pot calling the kettle – a negro, or I don’t know, I’m not sure. But look, do we really know if this word is racist or not? Let’s ask two old white men. [There followed an extract from last Sunday’s The Bolt Report]:
Andrew Bolt: Was that a racial slur?
Gerard Henderson: No. This was the very common term in the 1950s and 60s. It’s less common now, but it’s still used with reference to matters like negro music.
It was then time for three middle-aged men – Mr Reucassel, Mr Matthews and Mr Morrow – who like to think of themselves as boys – to make a contribution. Let’s go to the transcript:
Craig Reucassel: No, I don’t think it is Gerard!
Andy Matthews: I tuned into the negro music hour on Triple J, just the other day and it was ghetto-tastic….
Craig Reucassel: Yeah.
Julian Morrow: So he’s [Abetz] being very clever. He’s distracting people from his views on gay marriage, by being racist. Very good.
Tom Gleeson was the only genuinely funny member of last night’s The Chaser’s Media Circus panel. The rest struggled for laughs – even though helped by a wound-up ABC audience and what sounded like feigned laughter. However, everyone on the panel and in the audience had lotsa fun laughing at the soft-target Eric Abetz who – as a conservative Christian – stands for what the left fashionistas at the ABC oppose.
According to Craig Reucassel, the term “negro” is not used with respect to negro music. Obviously your man Reucassel is totally unaware of this comment – by fashionable left-wing journalist David Marr in the fashionable leftist Sydney Morning Herald made as recently as 16 January 2010:
[Donald] Friend and [Edgar] Kaulfmann met on leave. They toured the Negro jazz clubs of wartime south Brisbane together.
So, according to Craig Reucassel, the term “negro” is no longer used in civilized society with respect to negro music. Wrong – if anyone pays attention to David Marr. And, according to Julian Morrow, anyone who uses the term “negro” in contemporary discussion of African-Americans is a racist. Wrong. Unless the Chaser Boys regard your man Marr as a racist.
As is to be expected in the Conservative Free Zone that is the ABC, on The Chaser Media Circus Craig Reucassel agreed with Tom Gleeson who agreed with Madonna King who agreed with Andy Matthews who agreed with Lenore Taylor who agreed with Chas Licciardello who agreed with Jacqui Lambie who agreed with Craig Reucassel who agreed with himself.
Over on The Verdict at Channel 9, however, there was a real debate on this issue. Jacqui Lambie, Campbell Brown Rachel Corbett, Sandy Rae and presenter Karl Stefanovic thought that the use of the word “negro” is offensive. While Mark Latham and Miranda Devine disagreed.
The highlight of the evening occurred when the usually demure Sandy Rae accused Mark Latham of “talking like white trash”. So there you have it. According to Ms Rae, who appears to be Channel 9’s house-psychologist, it’s all right to use the word “white trash” as a term of abuse. But it’s racist to refer to “negro jazz clubs” (as David Marr did only five years ago).
[Perhaps all this could have gone in your hugely popular “Can You Bear It?” segment. Just a thought – Ed]
How interesting that the American biologist and ecologist Paul Ehrlich will be a guest on Q&A next Monday – shortly after China officially abolished its disastrous and brutally enforced one-child policy.
Like our very own Tim Flannery, Paul Ehrlich’s brilliant career has been littered with failed prophecies. When Hendo finds his copy of Paul Ehrlich’s 1971 book The Population Bomb he will return to this subject. However, as he recalls, your man Ehrlich predicted that the world would face disaster due to over-population and that India’s plight was so desperate that there was not much point in sending food-aid to this nation.
Shortly before the publication of The Population Bomb, Dr Ehrlich wrote that “the battle to feed humanity is over” and predicted that “somewhere between 1970 and 1985 the world will undergo vast famines”.
Here’s hoping that Paul Ehrlich might receive some tough questioning about his false prediction over many decades on Q&A. But don’t hold your breath.
Like Bill Shorten, Nancy’s (male) co-owner was devastated – just devastated – to learn about the appalling behaviour of a few Year 12 students on Muck Up Day this week at his alma mater Xavier College, Kew.
Hendo went to Xavier in a previous century (he’s not saying which one) when courteousness was both preached and practised – more or less. In those days, there wasn’t much point in the sons of Xavier boys looking down on others since the Protestant Ascendancy looked down on the Xavier College “micks”. Guys like Mike Carlton at Anglican Central’s Barker College.
And there is the question of education. Here is what the said Year 12 student wrote about the female half of the population:
Could all woman[sic] please
refrain from expressing there[sic]
opinions thank you
This morning Hendo put up the following post:
Such Xavier College bad behaviour makes
me feel somewhat sic [sic]. Horrick Hurrah no more.
Gerard Henderson AC (aka Always Courteous)
Did anyone hear Jenny Hocking – who bears the title “Professor and Australia Research Council Discovering Outstanding Research Award Fellow in the National Centre for Australian Studies at Monash University” no less on ABC Radio National Late Night Live on Tuesday? Dr Hocking (for a doctor she is) was discussing her most recent book The Dismissal Dossier: Everything you were never meant to know about November 1975. See today’s hugely popular “History Corner” segment.
A listener to Phillip Adams’ little wireless program could well have come away with the impression that (former) High Court Justice Anthony Mason’s role in the dismissal of Gough Whitlam’s Labor government on 11 November 1975 was revealed for the first time in the second volume of Jenny Hocking’s Gough Whitlam biography – titled Gough Whitlam: His Time (MUP, 2012).
Professor Hocking spoke to the ABC’s Man-in-Black of Gough Whitlam’s evident disappointment when, in the twilight of his life, she told him about details of the advice which Sir Anthony Mason gave Sir John Kerr in the lead-up to the Dismissal. Let’s go to the transcript:
Jenny Hocking: Well I finished the second volume of the book in 2012, I took him a copy, of course immediately. But he was extremely unwell by then – although he was still going into his office as you probably know, several times a week with that remarkable stamina. I explained to him the key points about Mason. I talked through with him what I had found and it was a very poignant moment for me and a very powerful one as a biographer to have that opportunity to share with him a really important part of his history. And initially I thought that he perhaps hadn’t understood what I had talked about because he was at times well and at times not as well um, in terms of his mental capacity in those final years. And he sat there for some time just looking into the distance. Then suddenly he said “What can you do? What can you bloody well do?”
And I realised he had tears in his eyes and he was deeply, deeply moved. And I’ll never forget that day because it was an extraordinary moment between us. So I believe he fully understood what Mason had done with Kerr and I believe he was deeply disappointed by that. It’s one of the really remarkable.
Phillip Adams: I’ve got to say, so was I. I held Mason in much higher regard until you facked all this stuff out.
In fact, Gerard Henderson first documented Anthony Mason’s role in the Dismissal in an article titled “Kerr’s matter of sound judgement” which was published in the Sydney Morning Herald as long ago as 8 January 1994. At the time of publication, Gough Whitlam was aged 70 years old and possessed all his mental faculties. Hendo’s article is cited in Dr Hocking’s endnotes and bibliography – but is not cited in the text.
In his active retirement, Mr Whitlam corresponded with many people – including Gerard Henderson. Here is an extract which Hendo forwarded to the sainted Gough Whitlam on 6 December 2001:
There is one additional point which interested me in your Melbourne University address. You referred to Garfield Barwick and John Kerr as being “responsible for the coup d’etat of 11 November 1975”. And you wrote: “It is enough to say that their judgments as Chief Justice of Australia and Chief Justice of NSW are no longer quoted in the courts”.
However, as you are aware, there was another judge involved in the events of 11 November 1975. Namely, Sir Anthony Mason. As I pointed out in my Sydney Morning Herald article of 8 January 1994 (copy enclosed), John Kerr placed more weight on Anthony Mason’s (private) opinion than he did on Garfield Barwick’s. As you yourself have publicly acknowledged, Sir Anthony Mason was a judge of international standing. For example, in your July 1993 address to the Chinese Studies Association of Australia, you commented: “For the first time in my lifetime the High Court has in Anthony Mason a Chief Justice who is adequate in both national and international terms”. Moreover, as I understand it, Sir Anthony’s judgments from his time on the High Court are still quoted in the courts.
It may be that your reference to a Kerr-Barwick inspired “coup d’etat” is an example of political (rather than poetical) licence. If, however, you believe that Sir John and Sir Garfield performed unprofessionally in the lead-up to 11 November 1975 – then, surely, Sir Anthony should be included in any Gough Whitlam critique. Since all three Knights of the Realm (i.e. Sir John, Sir Garfield and Sir Anthony) agreed on the Dismissal – they were either all correct or all incorrect, all involved in a “coup d’etat” or none involved in a coup. And so on.
It is true that in Gough Whitlam: His Time Jenny Hocking provided additional information about Anthony Mason’s involvement in the Dismissal. But the story was broken nearly two decades before the second volume of her Whitlam biography was published. And yet Phillip Adams acted as if Dr Hocking’s research on Anthony Mason is a scoop. Can you bear it?
Crikey’s media editor Myriam Robin occasionally writes sense. Which makes you wonder what a nice journo like Ms Robin is doing at a place like Eric Beecher’s leftist newsletter Crikey – which publishes anonymous rumours and gossip along with, on occasions, private addresses.
In any event, on Monday Myriam Robin chose to complain about, yes, “standards” in The Weekend Financial Review. To wit, that (in)famous column “The Adventures of Joe Aston”. Ms Robin was particularly upset by what “Five Paws Award” winner Joe Aston had to say last Saturday about his visit to Hong Kong:
…I was en route to the Fragrant Harbour. A brief pow-wow on the republic with Peter FitzSimons in the Chairman’s Lounge; two Perrier-Jouëts in the First lounge at Sydney International; a third champagne (Charles Heidsieck) as I took my window seat, and (despite waking there not four hours previously) I was fully cleansed of the world’s most boring town [Canberra].
It is 10:30am on Wednesday morning and we’re out of range for another nine hours. For this reason, I call the QF127 the “chairman’s flight”. The woman next to me is reading WHO magazine; thus I decide she is reprehensible. So I recline fully flat, to sleep on my back, hoping to deafen her with my snoring.
Instead, I wake several hours later with a pitiful, forlorn erection – if you could even call it that – protruding, barely, through my blanket. Must be the cabin pressure. Mrs Reprehensible is entirely unperturbed. Probably needs her glasses checked…
Well, just as well the Who reader was married. Later on, Young Joe also revealed what happened on the ground:
In the morning, as always, we charge up Victoria Peak. I set a cracking pace. But at the base of Brewin path, my stomach escalates from Brewin to Eruptin. Rossco looks on in amazement at the most spectacular chunder since
Team America’s Gary Johnston collapsed behind a Manhattan dive bar in a foaming lake of his own stomach lining.
And so on. But, contrary to Ms Robin’s view, Nancy’s (male) co-owner reckons that reading about Joe Aston’s accidental flash and real chunder sure beats the intellectual flashing and quite vomit-inducing verbal sludge of Crikey’s writer-at- large, Guy Rundle. For example, MWD’s favourite Marxist comedian’s 2000 word long tedious piece in last Monday’s Crikey titled “Rundle: Little Malcolm and his struggle against the unions”. Boring. Real boring.
By the way, only a couple of days after Myriam Robin’s moral outrage about standards in the AFR, Crikey ran a critical (of course) piece on Liberal MP Kevin Andrews by freelance journalist Andy Hazel. Crikey’s editors, in their wisdom, titled the article:
Natural Family Man of the Year Kevin Andrews pulls out just before group climax.
And Crikey’s media editor criticises the AFR for its standards? Can you bear it?
It was great to see the gorgeous Dee Madigan back on Paul Murray Live last night. Ms Madigan (who worked on Kevin Rudd’s campaign in 2013) no doubt shocked some viewers when she declared she knew the meaning of “c_ _ _struck” – as presented in uncensored form by Michael Lawler on Four Corners (19 October 2015).
But Nancy’s (male) co-owner was not surprised. After all, Ms Madigan went to Mandeville Hall College in Toorak – run by the Loretto Sisters. A tough-minded bunch of sheilas, if Hendo’s memory is correct. The students, that is.
However, Dee Madigan did stumble when she attempted to join in the Fairfax Media chorus by referring to Tony Abbott’s Margaret Thatcher Lecture as “fascistic”. The problem was that she had trouble pronouncing the word.
It’s easy really. In modern day parlance, “fascist” means someone whose views a leftist commentator disagrees with. Pronunciation can best be learnt by the old-fashioned art of rote-learning. As in:
All my friends are moralistic
All my enemies are fascistic.
It would appear that Ms Madigan’s class at Mandeville Hall did not learn much about Europe in the 1930s and 1940s. Mr Abbott is only fascistic if the concept of fascism no longer has meaning – but in her historical ignorance the head of Creative Edge does not appear to understand this. Fascism was Mussolini’s Italy and Petain’s Vichy France. The term has no valid application to an elected politician in a democracy. Ms Madigan has yet to learn this. Can you bear it?
It seems that, according to Fairfax Media’s Latika Bourke, Tony Abbott cannot take a trick. When Tony Abbott was prime minister he was often depicted in Fairfax Media and on the ABC as “Captain Catholic”. The suggestion was that Mr Abbott is too Catholic. Now, following the former prime minister’s London address, the criticism is that Tony Abbott is not Catholic enough.
Latika Bourke led this criticism on her twitterfeed and in Fairfax Media. Her original online piece (28 October) was entitled “‘Appalled, Offended’: Abbott’s Bible ‘shame’”. She followed this up with an article, co-written with Nick Miller, in the print edition of the Sydney Morning Herald.
Ms Bourke’s epistle to Mr Abbott essentially dressed him down for not fully following Jesus’ greatest commandments with respect to asylum seekers. She lined up two well-known clerical critics of the former prime minister – Bishop Pat Power and Fr Frank Brennan. No other view was canvassed.
So there you have it. Tony Abbott is far too Catholic – except when he is not Catholic enough. Can you bear it?
This is what former Labor parliamentarian Graham Richardson had to say on Sky News’ Richo & Jones on Tuesday. He focused on the remarkable turn-around in the attitude to the Coalition by the Fairfax Media and the ABC, following Tony Abbott’s replacement by Malcolm Turnbull. Let’s go to the transcript:
Graham Richardson: If you read some of the press on the weekend… he’s given an exclusive interview to each paper… the Fairfax press have completely tumbled over – they now love him. When he goes on the ABC, it’s almost embarrassing how much they love him. I mean, things have changed dramatically.
Quite so. Fairfax Media and ABC journalists – who used to rail at the Coalition during the time of the Abbott Clerical Fascist Dictatorship – are now fawning at the feet of the Great Helmsman Malcolm. This despite the fact that the Prime Minister has not changed the stance he inherited from his predecessor on such issues as an emissions trading scheme, same sex marriage and the republic.
Richo: Five Paws
While on the topic of Fairfax Media, consider the letter by Ed Shann in the Australian Financial Review’s “Reply” section on Tuesday. It followed publication of ACTU president Ged Kearney’s article on trade union industry superannuation funds titled “Tragedy of member-owned super follows the fate of mutuals” last Friday.
Here’s Ed Shann’s, slightly edited, response – in full:
I assume the opinion piece attributed to Ged Kearney… must have been written by someone pretending to be her. She states “All profits-to-members means no money is siphoned off to advisers”. She contrasts this with the retail super sector, where finance industry executives benefit from investments.
Industry super funds use fund managers to invest their funds both in Australia and overseas and pay them a fee for doing so. Cbus has over 50 fund managers. Industry super funds use outside lawyers, accountants, auditors and asset advisers who are all paid. They employ their own finance executives to advise their boards and their directors get paid. These are all costs, so money is siphoned off to advisers. This is of course appropriate, as is getting more independent expertise on boards. The performance of industry super funds might get even better….
Dr Ed Shann
East Brighton, Vic
Ed Shann: Five Paws
As avid MWD readers will be aware, this segment is inspired by the Irish humourist Brian O’Nolan (nom de plume Flann O’Brien (1911-1966) — and, in particular, his critique of the poet Ezra Pound. The Brian O’Nolan Gong for Literary Sludge is devoted to outing bad writing and incomprehensible prose.
This is how Michael Davis [Who’s he? – Ed] commenced his inaugural “Drunken Notes” column in The Spectator Australia on 24 October 2015:
I’m a bit drunk, so let’s just get this over with: I love Malcolm Turnbull. Now, hold your tomatoes, proles. I don’t love him because, like sixty-something-massive per cent of the country, he supports same-sex marriage. Back in Boston, we don’t ask more probing questions than, ‘He isn’t a Catholic, is he? Oh my’. So I’m not terribly interested in the ceremonials surrounding one man sticking his what’s-it in another’s ho-hum. Nor do I think much of Turnbull’s republicanism; and yet, middle-aged men espousing republicanism in 2015 isn’t much worse than their still telling the story of how stoned they got at that Iron Maiden concert thirty years ago. Yes, it’s embarrassing how un-cool stuff like that is today. But dads are fundamentally embarrassing creatures.
So let me say definitively that I’m not sitting pretty in the sensible centre. I’m sort of squatting in an old caravan somewhere in the ridiculous right. But that’s exactly why I’m joining the Pink Tie Brigades.
So The Spectator Australia’s editor Rowan Dean thinks it’s a you-beaut idea to commission columns from (allegedly) drunk columnists. [Fancy that. I wonder if Mike (“I’ll pour the gin”) Carlton is on Mr Dean’s list for future “Aussie Speccie” scribblers? – Ed].
Nancy’s (male) co-owner, on opening the latest Spectator Australia, chose to respond in kind. He decided to read your man Davis’ “Drunken Notes” after getting well and truly pissed. Sadly, “Drunken Notes” made more sense when read under-the-weather than when re-read in the (sober) light of the next morning.
By Flann O’Brien
of Ezra Pound
My grasp of what he wrote and meant
Was only five or six %
The rest was only words and sound –
My reference is to Ezra £
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By Nancy (in an inebriated state)
of Michael Davis
My grasp of what Mick wrote or meant
Was only 5 or 6 per cent
My Love for Malcolm knows no bounds
What’s more, the Speccie pays in pounds
After the leftist Paul Bongiorno became a part-time contributing editor to Network 10, he picked up extra media gigs with the usual leftist suspects. Namely the ABC – where Bonge is interviewed by Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly on Radio National a couple of times a week and where he appears on ABC Radio 702’s “Mornings with Linda Mottram” every Thursday. Your man Bongiorno also writes for Morry Schwartz’s left-wing house journal – The [Boring] Saturday Paper. [Perhaps you should point out that Mr Schwartz’s The Saturday Paper goes to print on Thursday –Ed].
Paul Bongiorno’s comment piece in The Saturday Paper this week is titled “Revolving Doors”. It appears after an up-market advertisement for Mercedes-Benz cars and before an up-market advertisement for Rolex watches. Come to think of it, there are not many paid advertisements in the current issue of The Saturday Paper but quite a few for such Morry Schwatz’s products as The Monthly, The Saturday Paper and The Monthly (again). [Why not Quarterly Essay, the secular bible of inner-city sandal wearers? – Ed]
In any event, Bonge’s piece was about one week in Australian national politics in the aftermath of the Abbott Clerical Fascist Dictatorship. Yawn. Nancy’s (male) co-owner nearly fell asleep reading Bonge’s dross when he came across the following two paragraphs which jolted him to life:
…the government chaos and disunity line could play Labor’s way. Tony Abbott is in no mood to quit the parliament. And difficulty in finding another job has little to do with it. News.com.au reported that the former prime minister remains angry and still believes he can get his old job back from Malcolm Turnbull. He’s even told colleagues an Abbott government mark II will be much better than mark I. One Turnbull ally laughed at “the delusion of it all”, but it could lead to undermining, especially if some of the current shine comes off the prime minister. A bitter Abbott, unlike the departing Hockey, can’t bring himself to wishing that “the Turnbull government will be the best Australia’s ever had”.
Some Liberals worry that the new button-down Turnbull may not last, especially if he comes under sustained pressure. In fact, two weeks ago there were flashes of the old Turnbull in a heated phone confrontation with New South Wales premier Mike Baird. The trigger was a leaked story on extended control orders for terror suspects. A witness says the premier was shocked by the vehemence of the call. “A leopard can’t change its spots,” was the reaction of one MP who heard of the contretemps.
These are Bonge’s sources for his claims about Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull – (i) “news.com.au reported”, (ii) Tony Abbott’s unnamed “colleagues”, (iii) “one Turnbull ally”, (iv) “some Liberals”, (v) “a witness” and (vi) “one MP”. Moreover, Malcolm Farr’s news.com report was based on the views of anonymous Abbott (wait for it) “colleagues”.
Brilliant, eh? A Walkley for Bonge almost certainly beckons according to Nancy’s sources – which are both anonymous and made up.
It’s Dismissal Anniversary time again – on 11 November 2015 – which is sure to raise interest among baby-boomer journalists and their editors. Like Age editor-in-chief Andrew Holden and Fairfax Media journalist Damien Murphy, for example.
That’s why, last Monday, The Age ran its coverage of Jenny Hocking’s most recent tome The Dismissal: Everything You Were Never Meant To Know About November 1975 (MUP, 2015) on Page One. Yes, Page One. At least the Sydney Morning Herald had the sense to run this story on Page 6. The Canberra Times ran an abbreviated account on Page 3.
The article, written by Damien Murphy and titled “The secret talks in Whitlam dismissal revealed”, commenced as follows:
John Kerr decided to remove Gough Whitlam in the week before the Dismissal and was in secret discussion about this with Malcolm Fraser. This is the most explosive revelation of a new book that throws in doubt the 40-year-old claim that the Governor-General acted alone.
Monash University political scientist Jenny Hocking said new research showed Kerr acted with the foreknowledge and implied consent of the Queen, and with the knowledge of the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia Sir Garfield Barwick, High Court justice Sir Anthony Mason and the Leader of the Opposition to oust a democratically elected government.
She said the West Australian Liberal senator Reg Withers had left a posthumous record of communications between Kerr and Fraser in a previously unpublished interview conducted two decades after the Dismissal and embargoed until after his death. “Withers reveals that not only had Kerr decided to act against Whitlam in the week before 11 November 1975, but that both he and Fraser knew this,” Professor Hocking said. “Withers confirms that the Governor-General and the Leader of the Opposition were in secret telephone contact using their secure private numbers.
Liberal Party Senator Reg Withers was Opposition leader in the Senate before the Dismissal – he died on 15 November 2014.
So, this is the situation. Withers gave an interview to the National Library of Australia on the condition that it not be published until after his death. In other words, Withers did not have the courage to be challenged about his so-called “evidence” – with respect to an alleged 1975 conversation between Malcolm Fraser and Sir John Kerr – while he was alive.
Jenny Hocking, a leftist academic and life-time member of the Gough Whitlam Fan Club, wants us to accept as accurate Withers’ recall in 1995 about a conversation which he alleged to have overheard in 1975 and which he demanded not to be opened up for debate during his life-time. Withers’ posthumously published recall is not supported by any other evidence. Moreover, Fraser made no reference to any such phone call having taken place in his book Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs (MUP, 2010) which was co-authored by Margaret Simons.
According to Damien Murphy’s report, Jenny Hocking also wants us to accept as true a comment which Malcolm Fraser (who died in March 2015) made to Clyde Cameron (1913 – 2008) in 1997. The interview was done for the National Library of Australia. According to Mr Murphy:
….Fraser challenges our fundamental understanding of the dismissal of the Whitlam government in relation to the question of supply. “It now appears that the very basis of Whitlam’s dismissal, and Fraser’s appointment, as Prime Minister – the need to secure supply – was a constitutional and political charade,” Professor Hocking said. “In this previously unpublished interview, Fraser makes the extraordinary claim that the provision of supply was not in fact a condition of his appointment as Prime Minister at all.”
Fraser makes this devastating admission in his interview conducted in 1987 with former Labor minister Clyde Cameron, which has only recently been made available. “Asked specifically whether the provision of supply was a condition of his appointment as Prime Minister, Fraser replied without any hesitation, ‘No, it wasn’t’.
“In a further dramatic historical unravelling Fraser then revealed that, even had he not secured supply through the Senate on the afternoon of 11 November 1975, Kerr would not have dismissed him as Prime Minister and that he would have gone to the 1975 election as Prime Minister, without Supply. A shocked Clyde Cameron drew out the implications of this exchange in his response to Fraser: ‘You would have gone to an election without supply, and you would have been in breach of one of the conditions that Kerr had laid down.’ Fraser did not disagree with this, suggesting that the Coalition might even have won a few more seats had he done so.
“Despite Kerr’s insistence that securing supply was at the heart of the dismissal, Fraser maintained that his own failure to secure supply would not have led to his dismissal: ‘I don’t think the Governor-General would have had much other course … I think it would have been a little difficult sacking a second (laughing) Prime Minister and re-appointing the first one sacked’.”
The problem with Malcolm Fraser’s so-called “evidence” is that to believe what Fraser told Cameron in 1987 you have to disbelieve everything he said between November 1975 and his National Library of Australia interview over a decade later. Moreover, Fraser’s comment on what Kerr might have done is mere speculation. Labor voted with the Coalition in the Senate to pass supply. So Kerr did not have to make the decision about which Fraser speculated. There is an additional problem. Malcolm Fraser was, at times, a dreadful liar. As was Clyde Cameron.
The National Library of Australia’s interviews have their uses. But they are not “evidence” of anything much. The NLA makes it possible for prominent Australians to deliver self-serving and wilfully untrue statements which were not open to challenge when they are alive.
Jenny Hocking seems willing to believe that the likes of Reg Withers and Malcolm Fraser spoke truthfully and that their memories are accurate. Pretty naïve, don’t you think? Dr Hocking is a left-wing academic at the taxpayer subsidised Monash University who has obtained lotsa grants from the taxpayer funded Australia Council.
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Until next time.
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