GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG – ISSUE NO. 301
29 January 2016
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.
- Can You Bear It? Richard Ackland AM; Fairfax Stumbles on Honours List & Hugh Mackay Stumbles on his Own Rhetoric
Media Watch Dog returns after what journalists like to term a Well Earned Break. Most Australians take holidays. But journalists experience a Well Earned Break. For the record, Media Watch Dog’s WEB was distinctly shorter than that enjoyed by the leading current affairs programs on the taxpayer funded public broadcaster. The likes of Four Corners, Media Watch and Q&A and Lateline set off on a WEB on 24 November 2015 – and will not return until next Monday. Lateline had, er, extended hours until Friday 4 December 2015 – so it was only out-to-Christmas-New Year-lunch for a mere two months. Just one sixth of the year.
Senior ABC current affairs staff were on the beach in their shorts and sandals when many recent big stories broke – including the exit of Jamie Briggs and Mal Brough from Malcolm Turnbull’s ministry along with the Islamist terrorist attacks in Paris and Jakarta. This despite the fact that ABC managing director Mark Scott declared a while ago that some of the extra one-off money obtained from the Commonwealth Government in early 2013 would be used to lessen the length of time key current affairs programs went off air. Another broken promise on Nice Mr Scott’s watch.
For the record, Gerard Henderson, Nancy’s (male) co-owner, continued his column in The Weekend Australian over the Christmas/New Year break. And now it’s back to MWD with a backlog of material to cover – and a brand new endorsement. This time from former ABC supremo and now Fairfax Media heavy Quentin Dempster – who apparently holds the view that the ABC’s existence as a Conservative Free Zone is somehow justified by the fact that he doesn’t like Rupert Murdoch. Yet there is more diversity on Murdoch’s Fox News than there is on the ABC. But there you go. Here is Mr Dempster’s endorsement which went out at 10.22 pm on 9 January. For other endorsements see the end of today’s section.
ABC is a weakened and flawed institution for sure but it is a vital balance to ranting prejudices of Gerard Henderson's boss @rupertmurdoch
— Quentin Dempster (@QuentinDempster) January 10, 2016
First off the rank to support Quentin Dempster’s tweet was The Guardian Australia’s Van Badham who sent this out on 10 January 2016:
@QuentinDempster Dear Quentin, You are awesome. Thank you. X
— Van Badham (@vanbadham) January 10, 2016
FAIRFAX MEDIA & ABC: A DOUBLE STANDARD RE GEORGE PELL
Just imagine if the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse had heard evidence that the conservative Catholic Cardinal George Pell or a conservative Anglican Archbishop of Sydney had, when young, lured under age boys to have sex with men.
Well, judged on the George Pell experience, Fairfax Media – particularly The Age in Melbourne – would be screaming. And the issue would be leading news bulletins on ABC Radio and ABC TV.
In its Hobart sittings yesterday, the Royal Commission heard evidence that Phillip Aspinall – currently the Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane and the former Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia – encouraged a boy to have sex with a man at a gathering of the Church of England Boys Society in Tasmania in the early 1980s.
Now, this is an allegation only and has been strenuously denied by Archbishop Aspinall. It’s just that less serious allegations against George Pell – of failing to act in response to clerical sex abuse in the 1970s and 1980s – have attracted enormous media attention, particularly in Fairfax Media (most notably The Age) and on the ABC plus Channel 9’s 60 Minutes, Sky News’ Paul Murray Live and Hinch Live and more besides.
MWD accepts that Archbishop Aspinall – who will give evidence to the Royal Commission next week – may be totally innocent of the allegations made against him.
It’s just that sections of the media – particularly Fairfax Media and the ABC – have exhibited a blatant double standard so far. The Age has not covered the allegations with respect to Archbishop Aspinall. And the only national coverage by the ABC has been on The World Today and PM. The issue has not been covered on the ABC’s online news.
It seems that there is one approach by the Fairfax Media and The Age towards the theologically conservative George Pell – and quite a different one towards the theologically progressive Phillip Aspinall.
NANCY TELLS ALL ABOUT HER AUSTRALIAN (CANINE) OF THE YEAR DISAPPOINTMENT
Nancy is a Queensland heeler who managed to become New South Wales Canine of the Year – which entitled her to compete in the final of this year’s prestigious Australian (Canine) of the Year award. But, alas, Nancy missed out to a Canberra based pure-bred male Alsatian. Nancy spoke exclusively to Media Watch Dog on the morning after the award night before. This is her story:
I regard the decision to award the 2016 Australian (Canine) of the Year award to a pure-bred male Alsatian from Canberra as weak and conventional. I had hoped that the judges would recognise the importance of giving this gong to a mute, female, mongrel heeler from Queensland – as part of our nation’s journey to self-awareness and recognition of past discrimination. I now fear that no female mongrel will ever get the top gong and never have her speech covered by ABC 1 and tweeted about by Nice Mr Scott.
Yet the cowardly judges – led, as I understand it, by a bloke with a Victoria Cross – wimped it. This will set back Australia by a century or more. What’s more, it will deprive me of a platform tomorrow or at least the day after.
You see, I was planning to engage in a conversation with all Australians on a 24/7 basis. I had drawn up a draft speech which had the working title “Myself”. The aim was to learn Australians of what we mute, female, mongrels have contributed to Australia since the invasion of 1788. Sure my colour has a bit of the Dalmatian in it. But my breed was cross bred with Dingoes who were here before 1788 and I also self-identify as a Dingo – since I happen to know on what side my bred [sic] is buttered. So to speak.
I’ll let you know the KEY POINTS of my planned speech which was prepared for my powerpoint presentation:
- Nancy – from birth to puberty.
- Nancy – from puberty on.
- Why mute female mongrels can contribute to the ongoing conversation, moving forward.
- Me. Myself. I. Do I make myself clear?
I’m sure that the speech would have led to many invitations. A TED talk, no doubt. Plus an address to the Ethics Centre in Sydney and perhaps a gig at the taxpayer subsidised Wheeler Centre in Melbourne. Plus appearances on Q&A, Lateline, Australian Story and more besides. And now Australia has been denied hearing me talk about myself 24/7. All because of that VC bloke and his fellow judges who went for a weak/conventional Alsatian. And to think that we Aussie dogs put down the Alsatians in 1918 and again in 1945.
My message to the 2016 Australian (Canine) of the Year judges is: “You’re the real mongrels – not me!! Thank you.”
Postscript: Five minutes after speaking to MWD, Nancy withdrew everything she said and apologised profusely to everyone she offended. Embarrassing, to be sure. But the grovelling apology did provide Nancy with even more media attention. So not all was lost.
ARISE RICHARD ACKLAND AM (NO JOKE)
Isn’t it wonderful to see The [boring] Saturday Paper back in action after a Well Earned Break of around a month. Perhaps Morry Schwartz’s weekly should be renamed “The Saturday Paper – Except during the Silly Season”. Or something like that.
Hendo always looks forward to reading The Saturday Paper – which he does every Monday since it prints on Thursdays and, consequently, contains no news – next week. It will be interesting to see how editor Erik Jensen and the team report the news that Richard Ackland received a gong in the Australia Day Honours List. He has become a Member (AM) in the General Division of the Order of Australia.
As you know, Richard Ackland is The Saturday Paper’s diarist-at-large and legal affairs editor who has lotsa fun sneering at his perceived enemies each Saturday (except, of course, during the Silly Season when he has a WEB) in a leftist kind of way. The Point Piper resident’s “Gadfly” column is read by leftist sandal-wearers from inner-city Newtown in Sydney to inner-city Fitzroy in Melbourne. They all just love Ackland AM’s sneers at favourite targets – the Catholic Church, Cardinal George Pell, Tony Abbott, the Liberal Party et al ad nauseam.
Nancy’s male co-owner supports an honours system. But he has always held the view that the likes of Ackland AM, who write irreverent and/or sneering pieces about others, should refrain from accepting such honours.
Now your man Ackland AM joins Phillip Adams AO, AM and the late Padraic Pearse McGuinness AO as journalistic recipients of honours. What could be next? Bob (“The False Prophet of Palm Beach”) Ellis AC? Can you bear it?
FAIRFAX MEDIA’S AUSSIE GONGS CONFUSION WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM HUGH MACKAY
While on the topic of the 2016 Australia Day Honours, consider the extensive coverage by Fairfax Media’s Sydney Morning Herald and The Age last Tuesday. A 12 page supplement, no less, which was concluded with an article by social researcher Hugh Mackay about, yawn, national identity.
The main problem with Fairfax Media’s Australia Day Honours List is that it got the order wrong. It should run Companion (AC), Officer (AO) and Member (AM) of the Order of Australia. But Fairfax Media had the following order – AC followed by AM followed by AO.
This had the consequence of placing Ackland AM as the 11th name on the Fairfax Media’s Australia Day Honours 2016 list – since he was at the (alphabetic) top of the AM awards. The howler has been corrected on the online editions of Fairfax Media’s newspapers.
However, there has been no correction to Colin Krugger’s “CBD column” in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age on Tuesday – which made the following comment about Mitch Hooke:
Mitch Hooke, the man who spearheaded the campaign to derail Keven [sic] Rudd’s mining tax – and helped kill the Labor leader’s prime ministership – has received top honours on Australia Day for services to the mining industry. In 2013, Hooke stepped down as head of the Minerals Council of Australia, the lobby group which launched the ferocious 2010 ad campaign against Rudd’s mining tax. He leads a strong list from the business community receiving a Companion of the Order of Australia, the top honour under the current system, now that Tony Abbott’s knights and dames have been abolished.
In fact, Mr Hooke received an AM – not an AC.
Your man Mackay rolled out his usual alienation paean at the end of the Australia Day Honours 2016 supplement. [What a pain – Ed]. He spoke of Australia’s “moral blindness”, “intentional brutality”, “while-male supremist culture” along with “general boorishness” in matters of sport. But MWD’s favourite quote from Saint Hugh’s Letter to the Alienated was this:
Still Australia Day has become useful at least as a marker, signalling the end of the Long Australian Lunch that begins each year on Melbourne Cup day.
So according to Hugh Mackay, Australia is out-to-lunch between the first week of November and the last week of January each year. Mr Mackay lives in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, where – apparently – lunch is served all day. Can you bear it?
STEP FORWARD TOM HARLEY (OF THE MENZIES RESEARCH CENTRE)
On Wednesday 30 December 2015 The Australian published an article by Tom Harley titled “Knowledge Is Crucial In Victory Over Extremists”. Mr Harley signed off his piece in his capacity as “chairman of the Menzies Research Centre” – which gave your man Harley good conservative cred. Better than would have been the case had the reference been to Tom Harley’s role as chairman of the Australian Saudi Business Council or as a board member of the Centre for Arab & Islamic Studies (director, Professor Amin Saikal) at the Australian National University. Don’t you think?
Tom Harley used his position as chairman of the Menzies Research Centre to criticise, by implication, former Liberal Party leader and prime minister Tony Abbott. This despite the fact that Mr Abbott is one of only four Liberal leaders who has led the party to government from opposition by defeating Labor at an election. The others are Robert Menzies (1949), Malcolm Fraser (1975) and John Howard (1996).
Harley’s criticism of Abbott’s position on Islamism both before and after the (so-called) Islamic State attack on Paris was evident at the end of his article when he wrote:
It is not only ignorant but dangerous to oversimplify the issues into some glib catchcry of Islam versus the West. Care, intelligence and common sense are required, not indiscriminate belligerence. In all wars you identify the enemy and attack it without compromise. In this instance, the would-be knights and crusaders do not resemble Richard the Lionheart but Don Quixote.
To get to his conclusion – if a conclusion it is – Harley set up straw men along the way which he proceeded to knock over. First he suggested that persons unidentified (meaning Abbott) linked “Islamic State with mainstream Islam”. But who has ever done this? Mr Harley provided no evidence to support his assertion. He made the point, on several occasions, that “the worst possible thing to do is to give publicity to fringe dwellers and extremists the dignity of linking them to some mainstream organisation”. But he did not provide any examples of who might have done this or where. Yet the clear hint was Tony Abbott.
Tom Harley then declared that “it is also dangerous to lump all Muslims into one basket”. But he failed to mention that IS (or ISIL or Daesh) is a body of Sunni extremists whose order of enemies is (i) Shia Muslims, (ii) Jews, (iii) Christians and (iv) Hindus – along with other religious minorities and atheists and homosexuals and non-compliant women and so on. In fact, Harley totally ignored the Sunni-Shia religious civil war currently taking place in Islam. Yet he lectured Abbott (by proxy) about Islam and all that.
By means of a look-over-there distraction, Tom Harley referred to (i) the Anabaptist leader Jan of Leyden (1509-1536), the Waco shoot-out in April 1993 and Jonestown murder/suicide of November 1978. This has nothing to do with the decision of Daesh to murder civilians on the streets of Paris. Come to think about it, Harley’s article contained no specific reference to the Paris terrorist attacks.
Tom Harley then threw the switch to moral equivalence – and ignorance – with a little bit of anti-Catholic sectarianism on the side of a kind heard eons ago in the Melbourne Club:
There is another flaw in making Islam the target: there is no such thing as an institution called Islam. Trying to call for its reform has the absurd, simplifying notion that Islam is a functioning organisation that is capable of being ruled. Unlike the unreformed Catholic Church, there is no pope, no single body of authority. Luther and Calvin could call for reformation because there was a pope and a college of cardinals plus a Holy Roman Emperor to do the job. Those authorities had the choice to accommodate the demands of the Protestants or to resist.
Tom Harley seems unaware that the Catholic Church reformed at the time of the Reformation and during the Counter Reformation. It was not a matter of accepting the demands of Martin Luther or resisting – reform was the chosen option. Further reforms followed at the Council of Trent and the Vatican Council of half a century ago.
Then Harley gave moral equivalence a real nudge with this reference to The Troubles in Ireland:
To hold Islam responsible for Islamic State is even more ridiculous than holding the Pope and Archbishop of Canterbury responsible for the IRA and the extreme Ulster Orange groups — worse in the instance of Islamic State as it has the risk of making enemies out of allies.
In his ignorance, Harley seems unaware that the Provisional Irish Republican Army (or IRA) was a secular organisation with nationalist – not religious – goals. IRA terrorism was condemned on many occasions by Catholic Church leaders in Rome, Dublin and Armagh.
It’s much the same with the various Ulster Orange groups. Their aim was also secular – namely, to keep Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom. In his ignorance, Harley also seems unaware that many Orange men were Protestants – and, as such, had no interest in the views of the Church of England in general or the Archbishop of Canterbury in particular.
Many Muslims of the Sunni and Shia disposition are deeply concerned about radical Islamism. Yet the implicit message in Tom Harley’s piss-poor piece is that the real problem is not Daesh’s murders – but Tony Abbott’s response. And this from the chairman of the Menzies Research Centre.
MWD EXCLUSIVE – PAUL MURRAY ADMITS HE STUFFED UP ON CARDINAL GEORGE PELL (SORT OF)
Did anyone watch Paul Murray “in conversation” with Peter Benner – and perhaps someone else – on Sky News last Friday’s afternoon? They were conversing about Mark Latham (aka the Lair of Liverpool) and the attempt to stop Triple M from giving him a platform to bag Rosie Batty every morning, every night and frequently during the day. Your man Murray made a laudable case for the right of individuals to express unfashionable views in the media – and then he delivered a mea culpa of sorts. Let’s go to the transcript:
Paul Murray: I think that anyone who’s going to be particularly strident, TV, radio or anything else – you should have people on your forums who disagree with you…Look, you know, the worst episodes of Paul Murray Live is when it’s an echo-chamber. Okay? When it’s an echo-chamber of everyone agreeing, including me. The best ones are the ones where there’s a bit of a fire up and people challenge you because otherwise what’s the point? Why would you bother sitting in an echo-chamber?
Well fancy that. As avid MWD readers will recall, throughout 2015 – when discussing Cardinal George Pell on Paul Murray Live – your man Murray established his own echo-chamber of Pell haters. There was Paul Murray who agreed with Derryn Hinch who agreed with Jeannine Perrett who agreed with Dee Madigan who agreed with Paul Murray who agreed with himself that Cardinal Pell knew about – but did nothing about – clerical child abuse in the Catholic Church. No evidence was presented and no other view was heard. And both Murray and Hinch criticised the contrary view put by Gerard Henderson in MWD and without giving Hendo a right of reply.
Indeed all other views were deliberately censored by Paul Murry and his bestie Derryn Hinch – so as not to upset the intellectual echo-chamber that is Paul Murray Live and Hinch Live on this issue. Paul Murray even rejected the instruction of Sky News management that his erroneous statements about George Pell should be corrected on-air.
And now the very same Paul Murray is wondering why on earth would any presenter bother to sit in an echo-chamber.
[Very interesting, to be sure. But perhaps this revealing piece should have gone in your hugely popular “Can You Bear It?” segment – Ed]
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 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 – not even Ms Murphy herself (See MWD Issue 297).
GERARD HENDERSON, DR JOHN BLAXLAND & DR DAVID HORNER RE ASIO’S OFFICIAL HISTORY, B.A. SANTAMARIA AND MORE BESIDES
David Horner’s The Spy Catchers (Allen & Unwin 2014) is the first volume of a three volume official history of the Australian Intelligence and Security Organisation. The Spy Catchers was awarded equal first prize in the 2015 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards for Australian History.
John Blaxland’s The Protest Years (Allen & Unwin, 2015) is the second volume of the official history of the ASIO. Gerard Henderson wrote to Dr Blaxland pointing out a few errors on a couple of pages of his book. The following correspondence – also involving Dr Horner in his capacity as the general editor of the series – ensued. Now read on, if you so desire.
Gerard Henderson to John Blaxland – 13 January 2016
Dear Dr Blaxland
I have just finished reading The Protest Years: The Official History of ASIO 1963-1975. Congratulations – your book contains much valuable information. However, I have come across some errors of fact.
I have a particular interest in the references in The Protest Years to B.A. Santamaria, the National Civic Council and the Democratic Labor Party. Hence this request for information and clarification.
On Page 71 of The Protest Years you write:
The DLP’s association with the National Civic Council (NCC) is described in Volume I. Known also as ‘The Movement’, ‘the Groupers’, or ‘Catholic Action’, the NCC was a fiercely anti-communist organisation headed by a strong-minded lawyer, B.A. (Bob) Santamaria. Given the alternative non-Catholic establishment-oriented political parties, the ALP had long been the natural choice for Australians with Irish Catholic heritage. But the ALP’s increasing orientation towards “godless socialism” had alienated the Catholic faithful, among whom Santamaria was the most strident. The NCC’s political roots were in the right wing of the Victorian branch of the ALP. Increasing ideological tensions culminated in 1955 in a clash with ALP leader Doc Evatt, and the Victorian rump of the NCC broke away from the ALP. The NCC-aligned breakaway group called itself the Democratic Labor Party or DLP, leaving the Victorian ALP to be dominated by the ALP left. A large portion of the Movement stayed within the ALP, however; in New South Wales, for instance, the NCC element in the ALP decided not to break away, and this led to a distinctly more right-wing orientation in the NSW branch of the ALP.
▪ What is your source for the allegation that the ALP’s increasing orientation towards “godless socialism” alienated the Catholic faithful in general and B.A. Santamaria in particular? The Protest Years contains some 2500 endnotes – but there is no source for the (alleged) quote re “godless socialism”. I am not aware that Santamaria ever used this term.
[For Blaxland’s response see “A” below]
According to my research, Santamaria was not too concerned with either atheists or socialists in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Indeed, he co-operated with both in the battle against the Communist Party and what he termed the pro-communist left.
[For Blaxland’s response see “B” below]
The fact is that B.A. Santamaria voted Labor up to and including the 1954 Federal election – after which the Labor leader Bert Evatt turned on the ALP’s Victorian Branch with which Santamaria’s supporters were associated. What you term the “Catholic faithful” were not alienated with respect to the ALP before Evatt publicly attacked first Archbishop Daniel Mannix and then B.A. Santamaria in late 1954/early 1955. Bert Evatt only turned on Mannix and Santamaria – both of whom he knew – after Labor lost the 1954 election.
[For Blaxland’s response see “C” below]
▪ What do you mean by the claim that “the Victorian rump of the NCC broke away from the ALP” in 1955? As you should be aware, the NCC was not formed until late 1957.
[For Blaxland’s response see “D” below]
What happened in 1955 is that supporters of the “old” ALP State executive in Victoria were expelled. This included politicians like Bob Joshua and Jack Little (who were not Catholics) along with rank and file members (like my late father who was a Catholic). Sure, most of those who were expelled from the ALP in 1955 were Catholics – but by no means all.
[For Blaxland’s response see “E” below]
The implication in The Protest Years is that Victorian supporters of Santamaria broke away from the ALP. In fact, they were expelled by the “new” Victorian State executive. As I document in Santamaria: A Most Unusual Man (MUP, 2015) – a majority of the ALP Federal and State MPs who were expelled from the ALP in 1955 had either not met or had little contact with Santamaria. Moreover, the Industrial Groups – or Groupers – were not part of Santamaria’s Movement. However, The Movement worked with the Industrial Groups and some members of The Movement also belonged to the Industrial Groups.
[For Blaxland’s response see “F” below]
I note that your two sources for this period of history are Paul Ormonde’s The Movement and David McKnight’s Australia’s Spies and Their Secrets. Paul Ormonde has been a life-long critic of Santamaria and his book was published in 1970 – nearly half a century ago. David McKnight was a one-time member of the Communist Party of Australia and another lifelong opponent of Santamaria. I note that The Protest Years’ bibliography contains no reference to Robert Murray’s authoritative The Split: Australian Labor in the Fifties – or to Patrick Morgan’s two volume collection of Santamaria’s correspondence and papers, which were published in 2007 and 2008 respectively by MUP.
[For Blaxland’s response see “G” below]
▪ On Page 116 of The Protest Years you write, with reference to the National Civic Council, that “membership was secret and open to strict practising Catholics only.”
[For Blaxland’s response see “H” below]
▪ What is your source for this claim that membership of the NCC was only open to strict practising Catholics?
I do not believe that there was an NCC membership list, as such. Moreover, the NCC leaders would have had no way of knowing who was a “strict practising Catholic” – nor, I expect, would they have cared. In fact, Santamaria and his colleagues in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s associated with Catholics, non-Catholics, Jews, agnostics and atheists – and more besides.
[For Blaxland’s response see “I” below]
As a political operative, in the period under discussion in your book, Santamaria judged people according to their anti-communism and not with reference to their willingness to abide by the teachings of the Pope in Rome. Some non-Catholics were deeply involved in the work of the NCC in the 1960s and 1970s. It was not a Catholics-only organisation.
[For Blaxland’s response see “J” below]
I look forward to your reply. My current position is that it is unfortunate that a book which attempts to set the record straight with respect to ASIO makes a number of unsourced and inaccurate comments concerning the NCC. Especially since the substantial taxpayers’ funding which went into ASIO’s official history should have made it possible for Allen & Unwin to engage a fact-checker for material in the book which did not come from ASIO’s archives.
[For Blaxland’s response see “K” below]
I intend to review The Protest Years in the next issue of The Sydney Institute Review which will be published before the end of January. So a prompt response would be appreciated.
[For Blaxland’s response see “L” below]
cc: Dr David Horner
John Blaxland to Gerard Henderson – 13 January 2016
Thanks for the email. I’m delighted you’re reviewing the book. Thanks for the opportunity to comment on some of your thoughts in advance….
I am a little surprised at some of the comments and observations you have made and offer some clarifying comments (interspersed below in bold with a ‘JCB’ prefix) in response. I hope you find them useful.
John Blaxland BA (Hons), MA, PhD, psc (RT) | Senior Fellow | Strategic and Defence Studies Centre
John Blaxland’s responses are printed below:
A: I do not at any stage claim that this is a quote from Santamaria.
B: I do not claim that Santamaria did not cooperate as you suggest.
C: I do not contest this point, nor do I specifically address it in the book.
D: This is a slight verballing of what I wrote. I said the split occurred in 1955. I did not say the NCC broke away in 1955. The clause is inserted after the mention of the ALP split. I take your point that NCC was formed later, but I likewise do not actually say that it was formed in 1955.
E: I think it is fair to say that the vast majority were Catholics. I’m not sure why that should be an issue of concern.
F: The “implication” is one that you perceive. It was not ever explicitly stated. I grant that there was scope for more detail there, but it is not the focus of the book. In fact Vol II says more than Vol I. If anything, I think there was scope for less to be mentioned on the subject, not more.
G: David Horner cites Morgan in Vol I. His work is not the focus of Vol II. I regret that your book was not published by the time my manuscript was completed and sent to the publisher. It would have been helpful to have had a copy to refer to.
H: This is from ASIO records (footnote 179 of the chapter)
I: I do not claim that there was such a list. I also do not claim that NCC members never associated with others.
J: I do not claim that only Catholics were involved. I simply cited ASIO’s records which state that membership was for Catholics (as opposed to any other association with or involvement in support). The ASIO records may well be wrong in fact, but I am confident that I have accurately captured what the records claim.
K: I hope that in reviewing the book you will not let the relatively peripheral engagement ASIO had with Santamaria detract from your perception of the broader focus that ASIO maintained on a wide range of issues and targets
L: I look forward to reading your review and following your work in general in future, as always.
Gerard Henderson to John Blaxland – 19 January 2016
Thanks for your prompt response – and for your kind comments.
Initially I should state – in response to your evident concern – that I do not intend to devote my planned review of The Protest Years to what you describe as “the relatively peripheral engagement ASIO had with Santamaria”. It is a fact, however, that many of the significant errors in The Protest Years turn on B.A. Santamaria, The Movement, the National Civic Council and the Democratic Labor Party.
As previously stated, I believe that a book which is heavily subsidised by taxpayers should be fact-checked. Especially when it is presented as “the official history” of an important body like the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation. Such a task should have been undertaken by the publisher Allen & Unwin.
If anyone points to errors in my work, I invariably thank them and make the necessary corrections. I note that you, on the other hand, resort to denial and pedantry. My responses to your “clarifying comments” are as follows – in the order which you made them:
- Sure, you did not explicitly claim that the reference to “godless socialism” was a quote from B.A. Santamaria. But he is the only person – other than Bert Evatt – who is referred to in the paragraph. And the reference to “godless socialism” related to the (alleged) view of “strident” Catholics in Australia. Santamaria was a Catholic; Evatt was not a Catholic. So, clearly, the reference was to Santamaria.
You did state that Catholics like Santamaria had been alienated by the (alleged) fact that, in the period before 1955, the Labor Party had orientated itself towards “godless socialism”. However, you provide no evidence whatsoever for this assertion. This is not surprising, since the claim is false.
Since you now seem to acknowledge that Santamaria never referred specifically to the ALP’s increasing orientation towards “godless socialism” – can you provide the name of any one of Santamaria’s colleagues at the time who expressed, or even held, such a view? By the way, what is the source for the “godless socialism” quote? Did anyone in The Movement use the term – or did you just make this up?
- I refer to your double negative where you wrote: “I do not claim that Santamaria did not cooperate as you suggest”.
However, you did state that Santamaria was alienated by the Labor Party’s “godless socialism”. The implication is clear – namely that Santamaria did not cooperate with either atheists or socialists or both. Once again, this is incorrect.
- You claim that you do “not contest” that Santamaria voted Labor up to and including the 1954 election.
But this is the clear implication in your book. Why would Santamaria support, or vote for, Labor when (allegedly) he was alienated by Labor’s “godless socialism”?
- I quoted you as writing that “the Victorian rump of the NCC broke away from the ALP” in 1955. This is not – as you assert – a slight verballing of what you wrote. Rather, it is a direct quote. Check the text.
- It is fair to say that the vast majority of those who left/were expelled from the ALP in 1955 were Catholic. However, in The Protest Years, you imply that they all were – since you associate the alienation of those who were on the other side to “Doc Evatt” as having been motivated by their opposition to Labor’s orientation to “godless socialism”.
- You wrote in The Protest Yearsthat “the rump of the NCC broke away from the ALP” in 1955. Yet you now claim that this was not ever “explicitly stated in the book”.
Once again, I suggest that you check your own text. On another matter, I am not concerned about whether you wrote less or more about the Labor Split in The Protest Years. All I am concerned about are the errors in what you chose to write.
- The fact that Patrick Morgan’s books were cited in David Horner’s The Spy Catchersis no excuse for your failing to mention Morgan’s work in The Protest Years. As to my own work, you seem completely unaware of my 1982 book Mr Santamaria and the Bishops– the second edition was published by your publisher, Allen & Unwin, in 1983. Unlike Paul Ormonde’s 1970 book The Movement, in writing Mr Santamaria and the Bishops I had access to Santamaria’s files. Moreover there is no excuse for the The Protest Years ignoring Robert Murray’s authoritative work on the Labor Party in the 1950s – since you chose to write about the Labor Party in this period.
- I accept there was a view in ASIO that membership of the NCC was secret and open to strict practising Catholics only. But you cite this view without qualification. Elsewhere in the book you have disagreed with some of ASIO’s findings. Why accept ASIO’s opinion in this instance without any query?
For the record, ASIO did not monitor the NCC and had no particular insight into its activities. You should know this.
- At Page 116 you refer to the NCC’s “membership”. This implies that there was an NCC membership list. Now you are saying that you never claimed that there was an NCC membership list. Moreover, by presenting the NCC as a base for “strict practising Catholics” only, you overlooked the fact that the NCC in the 1960s and 1970s worked with many who were lapsed Catholics, other Christians, Jews, agnostics, atheists and more besides.
- You did write at Page 116 that NCC membership was open to strict practising Catholics only. Now you claim that you did not write that “only Catholics were involved” with the NCC. Some confusion, surely. Your defence is that you accepted ASIO’s judgment on this matter. Yet the whole point of The Protest Yearsis to critically assess ASIO’s views and involvements.
In conclusion, I believe that you were out of your depth when writing about the B.A. Santamaria, The Movement, the National Civic Council, the Democratic Labor Party and so on.
I am not the only one to have come to such a conclusion. As you will be aware, Greg Sheridan made some important criticisms of The Protest Years’ coverage of this topic, in his essentially positive assessment of your book, in The Australian on 22 October 2015.
If I were you, I would accept the criticism and make the corrections in the online edition of The Protest Years and in any revision of the book. But I’m just a simple taxpayer who is not adverse to criticism.
cc: David Horner
David Horner to Gerard Henderson – 19 January 2016
I am glad that you will be reviewing The Protest Years. I will leave it John Blaxland to deal with the details of what appears in it
But I would like to comment on your reference to the book being “heavily funded by taxpayers”. There seems to be an implication (although perhaps you did not mean it that way) that the publisher received taxpayer’s funds to publish the book. This was not the case. Taxpayer funds were not used to publish the book. In his article in the Australian Financial Review on 23 December Brian Toohey referred to cases when clients had paid publishers between $30,000 and $60,000 to publish books. There was an implication that this might have also applied to the ASIO history. As I have said, no taxpayers funds were used to cover publication costs.
There was a contract between ASIO and the ANU to research and write the history. In that sense taxpayer funds were used to pay the authors. Of course, most university research funds come from the taxpayer in one way or another, much of it through the Australian Research Council, but some out of normal university operating costs. Some ARC grants are very large. So it would be correct to say that most books written by authors employed by Australian universities are funded by the taxpayer.
Incidentally, the history was called “official” because it was written with full access to official records, not because its content was endorsed by ASIO or because its publication was funded by ASIO.
I hope this clears up some of these matters.
Strategic and Defence Studies Centre
Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs
The Australian National University
cc: John Blaxland
Gerard Henderson to David Horner – 20 January 2016
Thanks for your note. By the way, congratulations for being a co-winner of the 2015 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards for Australian History. The Spy Catchers is a fine book.
I appreciate your clarification concerning the funding of The Protest Years – and I will make it clear in my review that the publisher Allen & Unwin did not receive any government funding with respect to this book.
However, I stand by my comment that The Protest Years was heavily funded by taxpayers since the Australian National University – which entered a contract with ASIO – paid the authors.
I agree with you that “most books written by authors employed by Australian universities are funded by the taxpayer”. I just happen to believe that this should place a special obligation on authors and their publishers to correct errors.
cc: John Blaxland
John Blaxland to Gerard Henderson – 20 January 2016
Thanks again for responding. I like to think I am a fairly collegial person but I have to take issue with the manner in which you make a couple of your accusations.
You say that I have made “many significant errors” of fact and that I “resort to denial and pedantry”. I’m not sure why you think this approach is conducive to constructive engagement. It was not my intention for you to draw that conclusion. Perhaps I have not explained myself clearly enough. I hold that my reading of the files is accurate. You may not like what the files say, and what portions I quoted, but the references are valid. The errors of fact you claim may be from the files themselves, but I am quite confident that I have quoted them correctly.
I note that so far we have corresponded about the fine detail of only three-or-so paragraphs in a book 200,000 words in length. Having studied the topic now in some depth, I remain convinced that the story of Santamaria, the NCC and the DLP does not merit more space in the ASIO story than I gave it. Furthermore, where the focus is on Santamaria, the NCC and the DLP, it is the view from the ASIO records that I have primarily concerned myself.
As I mentioned earlier, I am sure the text would have benefitted by referring to your work. I think there are probably many others such books I could have cited as well on the wide range of topics this book addresses. In essence, however, secondary works including your important books were not the focus of this project. Indeed, for those looking to examine the NCC, the DLP and Santamaria, this book is not the place to which they likely will turn. That ground has clearly already been well covered by yourself and others.
Despite your evident concern about this small segment of my book, and to demonstrate that I am not solely focused on “resort to denial”, I am prepared to acknowledge that some additional nuance could have been included in the manuscript to cater for your views as outlined here.
I was thinking of p 71 which reads: “the NCC was a fiercely anti-communist organisation headed by a strong-minded lawyer,…”.
Instead it could say: “ASIO considered the NCC to be a fiercely anti-communist organisation headed by a strong-minded lawyer…”.
Later in the same paragraph the sentence reads: “Increasing ideological tension culminated in 1955 in a clash with ALP leader Doc Evatt, and the Victorian rump of the NCC broke away from the ALP”. This could be altered to say: “Increasing ideological tension culminated in 1955 in a clash with ALP leader Doc Evatt , and subsequently led the Victorian rump of the NCC to break away from the ALP in 1957”.
For p.116 the sentence reads “Bob Santamaria, the public face of both the NCC and the DLP, was a prolific…”. This could be altered to read “Bob Santamaria, the man ASIO considered to be the public face of both the NCC and the DLP, was a prolific…”
I do not recall where I found the remark about “godless socialism”. I note you refer to it three times in your correspondence so it clearly has disturbed you. I can only assure you that I did not make it up. That I read it in the files and that it is a valid part of how ASIO perceived the matter.
For anything more than this the manuscript would require additional typesetting work and that, to me, seems unnecessary given that the NCC, DLP and Santamaria himself are not the focus of the work.
You are, of course, entitled to your opinion and to write what you please. But I respectfully ask that you not see this in the apparently adversarial manner your previous email would suggest. As someone who has devoted the last five years to doing the right thing by a very important organisation, I consider it would be a pity if your readers were not encouraged to look beyond our very minor disagreements on how to interpret a matter which I remain convinced is peripheral to the key matters addressed in this history.
cc: David Horner
Elizabeth Weiss (Allen & Unwin)
Gerard Henderson to John Blaxland – 29 January 2016
I refer to your email of 20 January 2016.
You are correct in stating that “we have corresponded about the fine detail of only three-or-so paragraphs in a book of 200,000 words in length”. That’s because you refuse to concede that The Protest Years makes a number of inaccurate claims about B.A. Santamaria, the Catholic Social Studies Movement (The Movement for short – and from 1957 the National Civic Council) and the Democratic Labor Party.
I am not the only person to point this out. Similar criticisms have been made by Greg Sheridan (The Australian), Professor Ross Fitzgerald (Fairfax Media) and Dr Peter Edwards (The Weekend Australian). But you are in denial about this.
In response to your email, I make the following comments:
▪ I have never argued that “the story of Santamaria, the NCC and the DLP” merits more space in The Protest Years story than you gave it. All I have maintained is that you should have got the story right.
▪ There is no evidence in your book to indicate that the errors of fact in this area came from the ASIO files. No sources are quoted in this regard – despite the fact that The Protest Years contains some 2500 footnotes. It’s unprofessional to blame ASIO for errors when you have not produced any evidence that ASIO held such views. It’s a kind of verballing. In any event, elsewhere in The Protest Years you have criticised some of ASIO’s views – and not accepted them uncritically.
▪ I do not believe that I should advise you on your proposed “additional nuance” to the text – whatever that might mean.
For the record, I never objected to your characterisation of Santamaria as a “strong-minded lawyer” who headed a “fiercely anti-communist organisation”. So no change is needed here. The “nuance” that the NCC broke from the ALP “in 1957” is just another howler. Also, I have no idea what ASIO “considered” Santamaria to be – there is no evidence cited concerning this matter in The Protest Years.
▪ In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, I believe that the “godless socialism” quote was made up. If you can find this reference in ASIO’s files with respect to The Movement, I am willing to change my mind.
The problem with the (undocumented) “godless socialism” quote – which is linked to Santamaria’s (alleged) “strident” Catholicism – is that it is just a sneer. Not one of the many Communist Party activists cited in The Protest Years is sneered at in this way. Why pick on Santamaria? – especially since The Movement did not regard atheists or socialists as enemies. Rather they were often allies in the battle against communism.
In conclusion, I repeat that my review of The Protest Years to be published next week in The Sydney Institute Review Online will not focus on Santamaria. I believe that your book is strong in parts – especially the section concerning the Whitlam years. However, I believe that the section which you term “the Anti-Vietnam War Protests” is misleading in that it downplays evidence in ASIO’s own files which supports the Organisation’s (then) position that at least some important members of the protest movement were into subversion and were in receipt of finance from foreign (communist) regimes.
Unlike you, I take criticism well. If you wish to respond to my review of The Protest Years, I will publish your critique in a forthcoming issue of The Sydney Institute Review Online.
cc: David Horner
Elizabeth Weiss (Allen & Unwin)
* * * *
Until next time.
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