01 JULY 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.

  • Stop Press: Speers Tonight’s Insightful Focus Group; MWD’s Modest Proposal: Trust Hinch’s Earlier Advice and Don’t Vote Hinch
  • Waleed Aly’s “Perpetual Irritant”: An Update
  • New Feature: Selective Media Outrage – In which Paul Keating’s Stomping Advice is Ignored
  • Fawn Again Journalism: Ben Pobjie on Sarah Hanson-Young (Per Courtesy of the ABC)
  • Can You Bear It? Virginia Trioli & Fact Check; Scott Burchill & Tony Windsor + Paul Bongiorno (Ditto)
  • Journalists Interviewing Journalists: Saturday Extra & Brexit; RN Breakfast & Fran Kelly, Malcolm Farr, Katharine Murphy & James Massola; 7.30 & Malcolm Farr (Say No More
  • A Wendy Harmer Moment: On Tony Abbott & Women
  • Nancy’s Twitter Prowl locates Van Badham
  • Correspondence: Tim Galbally Helps Out re The Late Fr. Patrick Stephenson & Xavier College; Peter FitzSimons Writes to MWD but does not Respond & John Barron Fails to Identify Cardinal George Pell’s “Vatican Palace”



Did anyone watch Speers Tonight’s live focus group on Sky News last night? – filmed at the Rooty Hill RSL in Western Sydney.

It demonstrated how different are the interests of the swinging voter folk of Sydney’s outer suburbs to those of the journalists in the Canberra Press Gallery.  Highlights of the program were as follows:

▪ Not one of the group could identify Greens leader Senator Richard Di Natale. Not one.  Clearly this lot do not spend much time watching or listening to the ABC – where Greens’ views are over represented.

▪ Contrary to the overwhelming view of the Canberra Press Gallery, it appears that Labor’s scare campaign on Medicare has worked, to some degree at least.

▪ The most popular/respected of Australia’s recent political leaders is neither Malcolm Turnbull nor Bill Shorten.  But, wait for it, Tony Abbott.  A view consistent with the theory that Tony Abbott is more popular in marginal than safe seats.  Here is an extract from the transcript where Speers Tonight discussed Australia’s 28th prime minister:

Lorenzo: I just don’t think he [Tony Abbott] was given a fair go by his party. He was pushed out the door because they didn’t agree with his agenda, I guess.

David Speers: Mimi what about you, what did you think of Tony Abbott?

Mimi: I think it was the infighting that put me off within the party.

 David Speers: More than Tony Abbott himself?

 Mimi: Yeah

 David Speers: Yeah okay.

 Mimi: I don’t think he was really given much of a chance.

 David Speers: Yeah, Ian?

 Ian: I found him fun. He was very gritty.

 David Speers: Gritty is an interesting word.

 Ian:  Yes. But I found him a lot more genuine, and in some ways he wasn’t sort of so hamstrung by the machine that sort of insulates the two leaders in this election.

David Speers: Yeah. What about you Katherine?

Katherine: Yeah I agree, I really liked him and I was very sad to see him be pushed out. That’s not good for either party for that to happen.

This is the kind of discussion that members of the Canberra Press Gallery would rarely, if ever, hear.  Let’s hear it for more live focus groups on Sky News.



Derryn Hinch, an avid but critical MWD reader, is contesting the Senate in Victoria for some party or other. In recent years during his appearances on Sky News, the self-proclaimed Human Headline has turned into the Human Mumble.  Which will make life difficult for Hansard reporters if your man Hinch makes it to the Senate. If you care about Hansard staff, don’t vote for Mr Hinch.

As an overseas avid reader has pointed out, tomorrow is the first time that your man Hinch will have voted – no previous candidate has been worth his support over the past half century.  This is the kind of self-regard which gives hubris a bad name.  MWD’s suggestion is that avid readers should follow the Human Mumble’s earlier advice and not trust a potential politician like him with their vote.




Writing in The Age on 19 April 2013 – in the immediate aftermath of the Boston Marathon terrorist bombings – Waleed Aly declared that “terrorism is a perpetual irritant”. He told Age readers that “terrorism is a grotesque form of theatre”.

Yep, just a perpetual irritant which we have to get used to – along with other irritants.  By the way, at the time, your man Aly speculated that there was “a very real suspicion” that the Boston Marathon bombers were “self-styled American patriots” (i.e. right-wing extremists) and not the “demonic other” (i.e. not Islamist terrorists).

This suspicion soon dissipated when United States authorities identified the Muslim brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as the terrorists.  They identified as Islamists.

MWD sadly reports that the latest episode in what the Monash University lecturer regards as a “perpetual irritant” indicates that 41 people have died and 239 injured in the terrorist attack on Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul.  Turkish authorities believe that the murderers are attached to the so-called Islamic State, or Daesh.  How irritating, in Aly-speak.

new feauture selected media outrage


First a declaration. MWD likes former Labor prime minister Paul Keating. Also, MWD hopes that Labor’s Anthony Albanese will prevail over his Greens opponent Jim Casey and retain the seat of Grayndler in Saturday’s election. And now for some facts.

Appearing at a rally at Petersham Town Hall last Friday in support of Albo, Paul Keating launched a withering attack on the Greens. He described the Greens as “Trots hiding behind a gum tree”. The reference was to Bolshevik Leon Trotsky – (who opposed Josef Stalin from the left and has inspired generations of left-wing communists.)

Mr Keating’s depiction of the NSW Greens is fair enough.  After all, the leader of the Greens’ Senate ticket is Lee Rhiannon (nee Brown) – the daughter of life-long Stalinists Bill Brown and Freda Brown. Lee Brown (as she was before she became Lee Gorman, then Lee O’Gorman and finally Lee Rhiannon) once belonged to the Socialist Party of Australia, the pro-Moscow faction of the Australian communist movement.   As MWD readers will be aware, Ms Rhiannon has a Diploma in Applied Revolutionary Studies (or some such) which she acquired when studying at the Lenin School in Moscow during the Cold War. This is an excellent qualification for the person at the top of the Greens ticket in the 2016 Senate election in New South Wales, don’t you think?

But MWD digresses.  In his speech in support of Albo, Paul Keating urged Labor supporters not “to play footsies with the Greens but to squash them” He then proceeded to demonstrate his point by stomping with both feet on the floor. A violent gesture, to be sure. [See here]

The function was reported by the ABC and Fairfax Media.  The ABC covered Mr Keating’s evocation for Labor Party supporters to squash the Greens but made nothing of it.  Fairfax Media chose not to report Paul Keating’s remarks with respect to squashing the Greens.

Now, imagine the reaction of the ABC and Fairfax Media if, say, Tony Abbott had called on Liberal Party members to stomp on the likes of Saint Bob Brown, Sarah Hanson-Young (a proud member of what Paul Keating once called the Hyphenated-Name-Set and Comrade Lee Rhiannon.  The likes of Anne Summers and Gillian Triggs would surely have been heard decrying violence in general and violence against women in particular.

But when a mate like Paul Keating calls on Labor to squash the Greens it’s all good comradely fun.  That’s what selective outrage is all about. Hence the silence in the ABC, Fairfax Media and on social media in response to Paul Keating stomping on the bodies of imaginary Greens.

fawn again journalism


While on the topic of the Greens, thanks to the avid reader who drew MWD’s attention to Ben Pobjie’s puff-piece on Sarah Hanson-Young which was posted on the ABC’s website on Wednesday.

It’s impossible to imagine that the ABC would run a puff-piece on Liberal Party Senator Cory Bernardi by an admirer. Yet the powers-that-be at the ABC were willing to run your man Pobjie’s article titled “When Ben met Sarah” on Wednesday. Here’s a taste:

Senator Hanson-Young is laughing her head off. The source of her mirth is News Corp and Australia’s right-wing commentariat which, she explains, continues to try to paint her as a moral reprobate. “Every year they print pictures of me at Mardi Gras,” she chuckles, “and I say, keep printing them guys, every time you do my vote goes up!”

Full disclosure: I yield to no one in my admiration for the outspoken Greens senator from South Australia, both for her views, which tend to happily coincide with mine, and the quirky change of pace she makes from the grey-faced machine men dominating Federal Parliament. I can’t pretend I’m not a fan of hers, or that meeting her isn’t a blast — but this raucous laughter thing is new. It’s also positively strange.

We shall see.  If there is a causal relationship between being photographed at the Mardi Gras and electoral success – then Senator Hanson-Young’s vote should go up at the 2016 Senate election in South Australia.

Having described his subject’s tendency to laugh raucously, your man Pobjie wrote this:

Senator Hanson-Young has just two modes: incandescent anger and irretrievable sadness. As the loudest and fiercest prosecutor of the Greens’ case against the major parties’ bipartisan asylum seeker policy, her public appearances tend to take the form of either berating her opponents or bemoaning the plight of refugees, and between the berating and bemoaning, listening to her can get downright depressing.

But in person, the senator laughs loudly and often, whether it be at the absurdities of the conservative press, at the pronouncements of her daughter — “She said to me, ‘Taylor Swift is my favourite artist’ [and] I said, ‘Oh darling…she’s not an artist’,” — or at her own Seinfeld impression. Of course, even politicians are human beings, roughly speaking. All pollies, Senator Hanson-Young included, want us to know how nice and fun-loving they are — that’s why prime ministers pose for women’s magazines.

What a load of tosh. Here is a senator whose young daughter makes more sense than her mother. According to Ben (“Why am I never invited on Q&A?”) Pobjie, Hanson-Young has just two modes – incandescent anger and irretrievable sadness.  But he had previously referred to her laughter. It’s a case of 2 plus 1 equals 2.  Mr Pobjie is a comedian who writes about television for Fairfax Media.

Ben Pobjie’s “When Ben met Sam” concluded – as it commenced – in slush:

Even if just for variety’s sake, there’s got to be room for the woman who stands still in the wind: a lefty single mother tilting at bipartisan border security windmills, charging fearlessly into the teeth of an often hostile media fusillade and still managing to laugh at it all. That’s got to be worth something. Right?

Yeah, right.  Right on.  And so forth. Unfortunately, Besotted Ben did not ask Sarah Hanson-Young precisely how many asylum seekers she would accept each year.  20,000 or 30,000 or 50,000 or 100,000 or 500,000?  It’s a simple question. Nor did he ask the leftie politician about the number of drownings at sea she would regard as acceptable each year.  But, then, Mr Pobjie did write this fawning profile for the ABC.

Can you bear it graphic


MWD does not like to see anyone employed in the media – or anywhere else – lose their jobs.  However, the announcement of the demise of the ABC Fact Check Unit has a certain what-goes-around-comes-around air to it.  The creation of Fact Check by the taxpayer funded public broadcaster three years ago was a manifestation of former ABC managing director Mark Scott’s colonialism. Moreover, it contributed to the demise of another fact-checking company which operated primarily in the private sector.  It simply could not compete with the ABC dumping its product for free.

In any event, it’s good to know that ABC Fact Check’s demise was covered by much self-congratulation. On ABC News Breakfast yesterday, ABC Fact Check presenter John Barron did a long piece on just how good Fact Check had been over the years. At the conclusion of Mr Barron’s self-praise-to-camera, News Breakfast presenter Virginia Trioli declared:

Vale, Fact Check.  They’ve done such a fabulous job.  So, so sorry to see them go.

Now, as MWD readers are well aware, Fact Check editor Russell (“Conservatives are lightweight”) Skelton – who is senior to John Barron – happens to be married to La Trioli.  So, all Ms Trioli had to say was:

Vale, Fact Check.  Well done, darling. We’ll have a little wake at home tonight.  Don’t be late.

In any event, it seems that Russell Skelton and John Barron will remain on the taxpayer funded teat at the ABC in some role or other. Apparently, any job cuts will affect lesser minions.  Can you bear it?

[Let’s hope, now that he seems to have a bit more time on his hands, John Barron will be able to support his own alleged “facts” with hard evidence.  Today’s hugely popular “Correspondence” section refers. – MWD Ed.]


While on the topic of News Breakfast, wasn’t it great to see Scott Burchill back in his “I’m-on-my-way-to-the-local-tip” gear on the “Newspapers” segment on Tuesday.  Towards the end of his gig, Dr Burchill (for a doctor he is) turned his attention to Sharri Markson’s exclusive in The Australian that morning titled “Windsor accused of being student bully”.  The former Independent MP is contesting the seat of New England against Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce.

Ms Markson quoted six of Tony Windsor’s fellow students at Farrer Memorial Agricultural High School in Tamworth as depicting the young Tony Windsor as a corporal punishment inflicting bully –  when he was a senior student and they were junior students.  Four men, aged in their early 60s, alleged that Mr Windsor bullied them at school and two others said that they were aware of Tony Windsor’s bullying behaviour.  Two of the four signed statutory declarations in support of their statements.  All up, Ms Markson quoted from six men who were willing to be both quoted and identified.  Two other men requested anonymity but supported the views of the other six.

However, on News Breakfast, the leftist Deakin University senior lecturer thought The Australian article was all a bit of a beat-up.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Scott Burchill: Tony Windsor’s copping it again – this time accused of being a bully as a student. Which tells you something about Mr Joyce’s difficulties in his electorate facing Mr Windsor. But The Australian’s going into full campaign mode in favour of Mr Joyce against Mr Windsor – bringing up extraordinary allegations, unsubstantiated allegations on their front page. And I think, that perhaps tells you something internal polling in his electorate.

 Michael Rowland: Or it could just be a good story?

 Scott Burchill: It might be a good story, yeah. But if it doesn’t have any actual truth to it. Of course it’s a, perhaps that’s just the way journalism goes these days. If it’s completely without foundation, I don’t know whether it should be on the front page.

 Virginia Trioli: Yeah

 Michael Rowland: The story is quite timely

 Virginia Trioli: You still need to be able to stand it, don’t we?

 Michael Rowland: Was Tony Windsor asked for his reaction?

 Scott Burchill: Oh I think he was but I think he’s responding to one from yesterday which was about allegations that he was, that he had a mistress, which was also I think –

 Michael Rowland: Well it was so much an allegation, an inference.  I think in an ad.

 Scott Burchill: An inference.

 Michael Rowland: In an ad that inferred, or he took it as inferring that he had a mistress.

 Scott Burchill: Yeah, very nasty politics.

 Virginia Trioli: It’s looking nasty and as you said it looks like campaigning as well…

Scott Burchill neglected to tell ABC News Breakfast viewers that the allegations against Tony Windsor were not “unsubstantiated”. In fact, as previously indicated,  six men were quoted in Sharri Markson’s story and two provided statutory declarations.  Consequently, Dr Burchill’s assertions that the allegations were “completely without foundation” was not accurate.

Also, no one has alleged during the New England campaign that Mr Windsor “had a mistress”.  All that happened is that Tony Windsor took offence at a clever Nationals advertisement which suggested that he abandoned his New England electorate in 2010 and had gone off with “Julia”.  This was a reference to the fact that, as an Independent MP, Tony Windsor supported Julia Gillard’s Labor-Greens minority government in September 2010.

It seems that everything was true about Scott Burchill’s newspaper reports on News Breakfast except for the facts.  Can you bear it?


While on the topic of Tony Windsor’s attempt to defeat Barnaby Joyce in New England, consider the reaction to the Farrer High School story by leftist journalist Paul Bongiorno.  The Channel 10 contributing editor appears a couple of times a week on Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly’s ABC Radio National Breakfast program. Last Tuesday, he launched into a defence of fellow leftist Tony Windsor. Let’s go to the transcript:

Fran Kelly: Paul, The Australian newspaper today has published front page an account of, a very unflattering account of, Tony Windsor’s schooldays at Farrer College, I think it was. The young Tony Windsor portrayed as a vicious bully. He’s called it gutter journalism, he’s said it should seen in the context of a very close election campaign for the seat of New England. That’s a statement he put out and says he’s referred the article to his lawyers. What, how will this play into what looks to be a tight contest?

Paul Bongiorno: Well, I’m just hoping people will be utterly disgusted really. This is gutter politics. And it’s The Australian newspaper campaigning to try and save Barnaby Joyce who’s clearly in trouble.

Fran Kelly: And do you think it will save Barnaby Joyce?

Paul Bongiorno: I don’t know, it’s pretty tight up there. That’s clear.

How about that?  Bonge said nothing when fellow leftist journalist David Marr claimed in 2013 that Tony Abbott had punched a wall at Sydney University some four decades earlier – an alleged event, concerning which there were no independent witnesses.

However, Paul Bongiorno declares that he is “disgusted” that The Australian would quote the evidence of witnesses who claim that Tony Windsor was a bully at Farrer High School – two of whom have provided statutory declarations in support of their claims. Talk about double standards.  Moreover, Bonge regards such reporting as “gutter journalism” – indicating that he would have censored the accounts of former Farrer High School Students. Can you bear it?

journalists interviewing


 MWD just loves it when journalists interview journalists.

Last Saturday morning, when walking Nancy and Canberra-born Luke, (who is currently in Sydney on a Well Earned Break), Gerard Henderson tuned into ABC Radio National Saturday Extra. Andrew West was in the presenter’s chair in lieu of Geraldine Doogue who must be on a W.E.B. somewhere or other.

Your man West and his producer Kate MacDonald lined up a you-beaut panel of three Brits to discuss the success of the Brexit cause in last week’s referendum on whether Britain should remain part of the European Union.  This was the line-up:

▪ Martin Fletcher: Former foreign correspondent editor of The Times, now a freelance writer.

▪ Gaby Hinsliff: Guardian columnist, political editor at The Pool.

▪ Matthew Parris: Columnist for The Times and former Conservative politician.

 And this is how the ABC described the program on its website:

After 43 years in the EU a majority of Brits have decided to leave. The ramifications are already being felt around the global markets. But what has [sic] the four month rather bitter campaign and the close result say about the British? How has it divided the country and the political parties and what is next for the British Isle?

Good questions.  Pity about the answers.  Journalist Andrew West asked journalist Martin Fletcher and then journalist Gaby Hinsliff and then journalist Matthew Parris about Brexit and all that.

Somewhat inbred, don’t you think?  What’s more, all the journalists on the panel agreed with each other that Brexit was a very bad idea and that the 51.9 per cent of the British electors who supported Brexit were a pretty stupid lot who had been hoodwinked by the “Out” campaign and voted against their own interest.  All 17 million of them, apparently.

And so it came to pass that journalist Martin Fletcher agreed with journalist Gaby Hinsliff who agreed with journalist Matthew Parris who agreed with his journalistic self that Brexit was a frightfully bad idea.  It was as intellectually inbred as that.

It appears that neither Andrew West nor his producer Kate MacDonald could find anyone in the whole of Britain who might have voted for “Out”.  Not even a journalist – with whom fellow journalists Mr West and Ms MacDonald would have felt comfortable talking to.


And then there was Friday 24 June.  On Radio National Breakfast journalist Fran Kelly interviewed journalist James Massola and journalist Malcolm Farr and journalist Katharine Murphy about the political situation in Australia.  All agreed, in a journalistic kind of way, that they really had no idea of the outcome of the 2 July election.  Fancy that.  As Ms Kelly stated, profoundly: “No one can be sure.”  Sure, but why ask the question in the first place?

In the end everyone agreed with everyone else after Fran Kelly introduced the name Tony Abbott:

Fran Kelly: But just very briefly, and we don’t know who’s going to win. But if Malcolm Turnbull gets across the line, if his majority is – it will be reduced – but if it’s significantly reduced, already we’re seeing a bit of positioning from the conservatives. Which is a bit of a danger sign for him.

Katharine Murphy: For sure.

Fran Kelly: But then again, if he is elected and he is Prime Minister, he is Prime Minister. He gets to lead, right?

Malcolm Farr: Yeah, and we had that absolute graciousness of Tony Abbott this week who said you shouldn’t hurt the nation by punishing someone. He wasn’t saying that Malcolm Turnbull shouldn’t be punished, he’s just saying don’t do it now.

Katharine Murphy: Yeah exactly, do it politely. No, I think it is interesting that the conservatives are pre-positioning, and you wouldn’t want to be Malcolm Turnbull in that scenario quite frankly.

James Massola: Agree with both of those comments and also I wonder, reduced Turnbull majority, what happens in the [same sex marriage] plebiscite. You know, is there, does the Liberal Party erupt over this issue? I think it’s really possible by the end of this year.

So there you have it. With over a week before the election, Ms Kelly was agreeing with Mr Farr who was agreeing with Ms Murphy who was agreeing with Mr Massola who was agreeing with Ms Kelly that – whatever the outcome on 2 July – Malcolm Turnbull will be in political trouble.

Thank God that journalists were created to agree with each other’s predictions. How could we survive without them.

Then on 7.30  in the evening of 24 June journalist Leigh Sales interviewed journalist Malcolm Farr (yes your man Farr again) and Alice Workman about the political situation.

Needless to say, after a reference to the Brexit victory, Ms Sales got around to THE BIG TOPIC OF THE YEAR – as ABC journalists invariably do.  Same sex marriage, of course. Then Malcolm Farr made the very same point about Tony Abbott that he had made earlier in the day when talking to Fran Kelly. Yawn.  [That’s enough of journalistic self-regard. – MWD Editor].

Wendy Harmer Moment


On Tuesday’s Mornings with Wendy Harmer program on ABC Radio 702, Ms Harmer invited journalist Tracey Spicer and journalist Annabel Crabb to discuss whether female support for the Coalition has increased since Malcolm Turnbull became prime minister.

Discussion soon turned on former prime minister Tony Abbott.  During the interview, Wendy (“I’m an old fashioned socialist”) Harmer made the following point:

Wendy Harmer: Well Tracey, I wonder whether, how much, and what Annabel says there –  I think I have to agree with this. Is that women do perhaps subliminally pick up those ideas of family? And I guess one of the things about Tony Abbott that I think that women couldn’t reconcile, was that often Margie wasn’t there in the picture. That he was, when he went skiing he went, you know, with Peta Credlin. Or when he was first elected he went to stay at sort of the Army barracks. Was that something that you think that women picked up?

What a load of absolute tosh.  It’s true that, on one occasion, Mr Abbott went skiing with Peta Credlin and others.  However, it is totally misleading to state that when Tony Abbott was first elected prime minister he elected to stay at some sort of Army barracks.

In fact, the prime ministerial residence The Lodge was undergoing substantial repairs, which took years.  So Mr Abbott stayed at the Australian Federal Police Headquarters when in Canberra. This is exactly the same place at which Julia Gillard resided for a time when she was prime minister. It’s not a blokey Army barracks.  Ms Harmer just made this up.

Verily, a Wendy Harmer Moment.

[Fancy that.  I note that in a column in the Sydney Morning Herald on 4 September 2015, Harmer revealed that she had attended a People of Warringah (POW!) function at The Oaks Hotel. POW!’s aim was to defeat Mr Abbott as the member for Warringah.  Ms Harmer thought that there was a chance that Tony Abbott would be defeated at the next election.  We’ll find out what happened on Saturday 2 July – MWD Ed.]

nancy on twitter prowl


 Thanks to the avid reader  who drew MWD’s attention to the Twitter exchange last Friday between The Guardian Australia’s Van (“I’m a journalist not an ideologue”) Badham and someone or other who just loves Gough Whitlam:

alan davis tweet 1


And now for some facts. Gerard Henderson never, ever speculated that Van Badham’s sex life was like that of his dog.  Ms Badham just made this up.  For starters, Nancy’s sex life is not discussed by the oh-so-courteous Gerard Henderson AC (aka Always Courteous). So, no such comparison could have been made.

This is what really occurred in MWD Issue 229.  All that happened was that Nancy responded to a Van Badham call-out for help researching an article about the leftist Facebook dating site Ok Comrade by deciding to research the Facebook (fictional) dating site OKTory.

Here is what Ms Badham had to say in May 2014 about her intention:


May 22

Van Badham:

“Hi there, I’m Van and I’m a Melbourne-based crusading left-wing labour journalist who identifies as an Anarcho-syndicalist/libertarian communist in a Machajski/Hoffman/Deutschle tradition and I’m looking to write an article about this site by going on some dates with straight male comrades aged between 30 and 45. Could you help me out?”

And here is Nancy’s pitch for respondents to her very own research project:


June 13


“Hi there, I’m Nancy and I am a Sydney-based crusading right-wing conservative kennel dweller who identifies as a defender of the status quo in a Burkean/Millian/Thatcherite tradition and I’m looking to write an article about this site by going on some dates with straight male conservative canines aged between 4 and 6. I’m also hoping to pick up a shag or two (or, indeed, three) along the way. Could you help me out?”

Van Vadham v Nancy

Believe it or not, this is what upset The Guardian’s  Van Badham and led to her verballing Nancy’s (male) co-owner. Some journalists are oh-so-sensitive.

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 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’s column in The Weekend Australian on 9-10 April 2016, titled “Unsubstantiated sex claims ruin the life’s work of good men” – see here*, focused on the Anglican Bishop of Chichester George Bell (1883-1958) and the Irish-born Australian Jesuit priest Fr Patrick Stephenson S.J. (1896-1990).

Gerard Henderson wrote that the reputation of both men had been diminished by allegations of sexual impropriety with reference to children made decades after their deaths by anonymous complainants.   There is one allegation from a woman with respect to Bishop Bell and four allegations from men with respect to Fr. Stephenson.

Gerard Henderson received numerous emails/letters both supporting and criticising his column.  Printed below is correspondence with one critic who indicated that he was prepared to discuss the matter in a public forum:


Tim Galbally to Gerard Henderson – 14 April 2016

Dear Gerard

Re: your defence of Fr Stephenson in The Australian earlier this week. I was going to respond publicly to your article (and still might) but thought it best to write directly to you first.

I was a student at Xavier College. Last year I wrote a letter to the Principal and the Jesuit leadership pressing them to change the name of the Sports Centre. I am very pleased that they have chosen to do so.

Gerard, do you seriously believe that the Jesuits decided to remove Fr Stephenson’s name from the Sports Centre as a response to four anonymous complaints? Your article seems to hinge on it.

Did it not strike you as strange that such a major change to the school and the reputation of one of its most revered priests would occur in response to just four anonymous complaints?

Before writing your article did you investigate the matter? Did you ask questions of the school as to the history and nature of the complaints and their responses to them? Or did you simply base your article on the news reports and the Rector’s letter?

I’m endeavouring to understand where you are coming from and whether you have any real understanding of this issue.

Yours faithfully

Tim Galbally


Gerard Henderson to Tim Galbally – 28 June 2016

Dear Tim

I refer to your email of 15 April 2016 concerning my column in The Weekend Australian on 9-10 April 2016 about Fr. Stephenson S.J. (1896-1990). Apologies for the delay in replying but I have been very busy of late.

With reference to your email, I make the following responses:

▪ I have no objection to you criticising my comments concerning the late Fr Stephenson. I am used to criticism.

▪ All I know about why the Society of Jesus decided to remove Fr Stephenson’s name from the Sports Centre at Xavier College is derived from what the Jesuits themselves have said.

In a statement dated 22 March 2016, Fr Chris Middleton S.J., the rector of Xavier College, had this to say – following a reference to the decision of the school to erect a plaque to “acknowledge the shadow of sexual and other abuse that occurred at Xavier a number of years ago”:

In line with this reflection on lights and shadows in our story, the Jesuit Province has indicated its belief that it would be appropriate for Xavier to change the name of the Stephenson Centre. Consequently, the College will rename the Stephenson Centre as The Xavier Sports Centre. Fr Paddy Stephenson SJ served Xavier for more than sixty years, and is remembered with great affection by many thousands of old-Xaverians. There are, however, a small number of complaints on record in terms of inappropriate touching while he was interviewing students. As many of you know these have been recorded on the Broken Rites site for a number of years, and one allegation was raised in the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry in 2013.

We respect the experience of so many old boys, for whom Fr Paddy Stephenson was a mentor and support, and we wish to have respect for Fr Stephenson’s reputation, given he is not able to defend himself. The Province does not believe that the complaints made against Fr Stephenson have been substantiated, but nor has it dismissed the allegations as being wrong. It believes that, on the available evidence, there is room for genuine misunderstanding as to his intentions, as is explicitly acknowledged by one complainant. This being said, given that abuse has occurred at Xavier, and that many victims of abuse suffered further at the hands of institutions such as the Church and the Jesuits by not being believed and/or responded to, we accept that it is appropriate to change the name of the Stephenson Centre. It is a difficult and even painful decision for many who love Xavier, especially for many who were helped by Fr Stephenson, but in light of the pain and suffering experienced by victims, the symbolic importance of the change of name is in accord with the best in the values and traditions of Xavier.

So the Jesuits in general, and Xavier College in particular, decided to remove Fr Stephenson’s name from the Sports Centre – even though they believe that the complaints against him have not been substantiated and even though they acknowledge that there is room for genuine misunderstanding as to his intentions.

In my view, this is an unfair way to treat a priest who died a quarter of a century ago and who – as Fr Middleton acknowledges – is not able to defend himself. Moreover, Fr Middleton’s claim that “a small number of complaints of inappropriate touching while…interviewing students” were made against Fr Stephenson on the Broken Rites website is simply incorrect.  As I understand it, Fr Middleton’s false statement remains uncorrected. The record indicates that there was one such claim.

▪ In the current climate of the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the decision to remove Patrick Stephenson’s name from the Xavier College Sports Centre can only lead to the inference that he was a child sexual offender. However, there is no evidence to support such a claim and Fr Middleton has not said what form the “inappropriate touching” took.  From my memory, it amounted to Fr Stephenson placing his hand on a student’s knee or shoulder.

▪ Fr Middleton has said that the decision to remove Fr Stephenson’s name from the Sports Centre was due to “a small number of complaints”.  ABC News reported on 23 March 2016 that “four complaints” were made of Fr Stephenson “inappropriately touching during interviews with students”.

You imply that there were more than four complaints concerning Fr Stephenson.  However, you have not provided any evidence to support your allegation.  If, as you imply, there are more than four complaints – then you should state precisely how many complaints there are and how you came across this information.

▪ In an email dated 11 April 2016 and sent to Robert Pridham, Fr Chris Middleton made the following comment:

As I said in my letter it is my own personal belief that Paddy did not intend anything sexual by his tactility in interviews, but having read the complaints I cannot say either that I disbelieve them and what the victims experienced. There are four separate complaints made against Fr Stephenson, which are included in settlements made by the Society with the victims (the Society not Xavier handles cases). They are not anonymous allegations as Henderson falsely maintains, and they have been processed through independent forums (civil and Towards Healing). It is important to note that the Jesuits have accepted that these victims were abused sexually by others, either here at Xavier or elsewhere, and settlements were reached with them. One case was raised in the Victorian Parliamentary Enquiry, and all the allegations had to be lodged with the Royal Commission. Thus we are in a grey area that does not sit well in today’s climate, but I think it is honestly where we are at…

Fr Middleton’s comment is quite disingenuous.  In my Weekend Australian column, I wrote that “apparently there have been four anonymous complaints” of improper touching against Fr Stephenson.  The fact is that the four complaints are anonymous. In legal parlance, this means that the complainants have not agreed that their names be released – it does not mean that the complainants do not exist.

Fr Middleton suggests that I wrote that the complaints are anonymous to everyone – including to those whom the complaints were made. I never wrote this.  Fr Middleton should be able to do better than this.

▪ Since the complaints are anonymous, there is no way that I could have investigated the matter along the lines you suggest.

Before writing my column in the Weekend Australian, I read all the relevant material before the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry and the Royal Commission along with the statement of Fr Middleton.  What else could I have done?  I also made use of my own knowledge of Fr Stephenson and that of some of my contemporaries at Xavier College in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

I know from my own experience and the personal testimony of others that Fr Stephenson interviewed students in his room during school hours. Sometimes three or four students went to his room as a group before being interviewed separately.  This is not the normal behaviour of a pedophile.

As a historian with legal training, I have a clear idea of evidence and how to assess it.  Before writing my column, I accessed all the available evidence.

* * * * *

In conclusion, I repeat that the decision to effectively brand Fr Stephenson as a pedophile around four decades after he ceased to play an active role at Xavier College on the basis of four anonymous complaints of unspecified “improper touching” is unprofessional and unfair.

Moreover, as you will be aware, quite a few Jesuits studied at Xavier College and would be among some 10,000 students who had contact with Fr Stephenson over the decades.  If Fr Stephenson was into “improper touching” – why did none of these Jesuits say or do anything during the time Fr Stephenson was at Xavier College?

Yours sincerely

Gerard Henderson



Since Gerard Henderson is a member of the Australian Republican Movement, he receives lotsa correspondence from ARM chairman Peter FitzSimons and his minions.  Hendo remains committed to the republican cause – despite his belief that the Red Bandannaed One is the person least likely to bring about an Australian head of state.

Can anyone imagine a majority of Aussies in a majority of states heading off to a referendum to support the cause advocated by an anti-Catholic sectarian who detests political conservatives in the Liberal Party and the Nationals, who reckons that the cop-killer Ned Kelly was Australia’s very own St Francis of Assisi, and who wears a large red handkerchief on his head? Enough said.

Your man Fitz wrote to Hendo on Monday about something or other.  This provided the recipient with a you-beaut opportunity to ask the Red Bandannaed One when he was going to claim $20,000 for the ARM by supplying the address of the “30 million mansion in Rome” where he maintains Cardinal George Pell resides. See MWD passim. Here we go:


Peter FitzSimons to Gerard Henderson – 27 June 2016

 Dear Gerard

This afternoon I want to share with you the below article that has been jointly published by Fairfax and News Corp. 

The impact of Brexit – love it or hate it – on the Australian Republican Movement?

Enormous. And about 10 times what I had anticipated.  Our membership is suddenly surging once more, and did so from the very moment the vote came in. Social media is crackling with calls for Australia to get on with it. Everywhere I go, the passion is enormous and getting stronger. I am filled with hope that our membership, which has more than quintupled in the past year, will more than double this year….

[continues for 663 words].

In Optimism

Peter Fitzsimons

Gerard Henderson to Peter FitzSimons – 28 June 2016

Dear Fitz

How wonderful to hear from you again.  And how interesting to learn of the Australian Republican Movement’s sudden surge in membership following the Brexit vote in Britain.

In view of this surge, why not take advantage of my offer to devote $20,000 to the ARM?  This should assist in seeing the surge surge even more by helping to finance an ARM membership drive.

All you have to do is to advise of the $30 million mansion in Rome in which you claim Cardinal George Pell lives – and the money is the ARM’s.

It could not be that you have declined to disclose the address of Cardinal Pell’s “$30 million mansion in Rome” because you make this up?  Or could it?

Lotsa love

Gerard Henderson



 While on the topic of Cardinal George Pell’s alleged Roman mansion, here is an email which Gerard Henderson sent to the ABC’s Fact-Check Supremo yesterday.  We’ll keep you posted if John Barron has the courage, and the courtesy, to reply.

Gerard Henderson to John Barron – 30 June 2016


What a wonderful tribute (in your capacity as ABC Fact  Check  presenter) you paid to Fact Check on ABC TV News Breakfast this morning.  I noticed that La Trioli was most moved by your self-praise. As, of course, was I.

I could not think of anyone more appropriate to praise Fact Check’s performance over the past three years than Fact Check’s very own presenter.

By the way, while on fact-checking matters, I notice that you have still not presented any evidence to support the claim you made on The Drum on 8 February 2016.  As you will recall, your clear implication was that Cardinal George Pell lives in “a palace in the Vatican”. You also stated that Cardinal Pell travels “first class”.

As you will recall, I emailed you about these matters on 15 February 2016 and asked for your evidence to support these claims.

As you will be aware, you specifically avoided answering my fact-check questions in your replies to me on 16 February 2016.

Now that Fact Check has closed down, I assume you will have more time to check your own alleged “facts”.

So I am wondering when you will be able to advise me as to your evidence concerning Cardinal Pell’s address in Rome (by the way he does not reside in the Vatican) and his class of air-travel.

Keep morale high.



* * * *

Until next time.

* * * * *

My oh my. Poor, blithering Gerard “Gollum” Henderson will be incandescent with rage after that Media Watch. The silly prick.

Mike Carlton via Twitter, 15 Feb 2016, 9:44 PM

Gerard: You are hopeless…

– David Marr, 12 February 2016

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 via Twitter, 10 Jan 2016,

Poor mad Gerard is obsessed. I expect he had an unhappy childhood, always the last to be chosen…

Mike Carlton via Twitter, 25 Oct 2015, 3:27 AM

Sometimes I think of Gerard Henderson like a Japanese holdout, lost in the jungles of Borneo, still fighting the war 20 years after it ended

– Erik Jensen,via Twitter, 16 Oct 2015, 4:50 PM

Gérard Henderson brain missing. Small reward

– Phillip Adams, via Twitter, 10 Oct 2015, 11:16 AM

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