GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG – ISSUE NO. 338
21 October 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. Between November 1997 and October 2015 “Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch” was published as part of The Sydney Institute Quarterly. In March 2009 Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch Dog blog commenced publication.
- Stop Press: Rafael Epstein’s Howler; Alan Sunderland’s Confusion; 7.30 & Lateline’s Unbalanced Coverage & The Drum’s Liberal Party Leadership Ignorance
- Can You Bear It? Gillian Triggs; Richard Ackland & Malcolm Farr
- Documentation: New Evidence Emerges that Robert Menzies Did Not “Order” Mrs Petrov to Defect in 1954
- Nancy’s Five Paws Award: Step Forward Chris Mitchell & Graham Richardson
- Nancy on the Twitter Prowl Encounters Jonathan (‘I’m A Fox-Hunting Kind of Guy’) Green & Julian (‘I just love flashing my Post-Nominals’) Burnside AO QC
- Correspondence: Melbourne City Councillor Stephen Mayne Helps Out; Likewise film maker Simon Nasht Who Puts Up the White Flag re his Allegations on the Labor Split and the Catholic Church
- RAFAEL EPSTEIN’S FOUR CORNERS HOWLER
As is its wont, the ABC has been oh-so-busy of late defending ABC staff involved in Four Corners’ “The Forgotten Children” program on detention on Nauru which aired on Monday.
For example, on ABC Radio 774 in Melbourne this morning, presenter Rafael Epstein supported the program – which was reported by Debbie Whitmont and produced by Wayne Harley. Your man Epstein defended Four Corners’ decision not to do a live interview after the program with Immigration Minister Peter Dutton. According to Mr Epstein, Four Corners does not do live interviews.
Everything about this statement is true – except for the facts. About a decade ago, Four Corners’ Liz Jackson did a live interview with (then) Prime Minister John Howard at the end of a program on asylum seekers. Ms Jackson was aggressive and, consequently, fluffed the interview. John Howard, on the other hand, did very well.
Perhaps it’s understandable why Four Corners does not do live interviews. However, Rafael Epstein’s claim that it has never done so is absolute tosh. [Could it be that Four Corners types prefer to do pre-recorded interviews which can be edited to suit the programs’ narrative? I wonder –MWD Editor]
- THE ABC’S THE FORGOTTEN CHILDREN SCOREBOARD –
SENATOR JANE HUME: 3
ABC’s ALAN SUNDERLAND: ZIP
While on the topic of The Forgotten Children, what a stunning performance by Victorian Liberal Senator Jane Hume at Senate Estimates last Tuesday. Senator Hume queried the professionalism of the Four Corners report and had ABC executive Alan Sunderland on the defensive.
Your man Sunderland, somewhat rattled, said that he did not see why the ABC should investigate the program since there is no point inquiring “into excellent pieces of journalism”. How about that? Mr Sunderland went on to concede that The Forgotten Children was not intended to be an “objective” analysis of all children detained on Nauru and conceded that the program was “selective”. Just the familiar story of the ABC defending the ABC.
- LATELINE’S & 7.30’s LIGHTWEIGHT COVERAGE OF THE US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
Did anyone see the 7.30 coverage of the third – and final – US Presidential debate last night? In case not, it’s worth recording that 7.30 producers decided to get one opinion on the debate – from former US ambassador to Australia Jeffrey Bleich. Now, Mr Bleich is an informed and intelligent American. It’s just that he is a committed Democrat supporter who was appointed to Australia by President Barack Obama and is close to the Clinton camp. However, 7.30 reporter Hayden Cooper did not mention this important fact.
Meanwhile on Wednesday night, Lateline sought “expert” opinion on the US presidential election from leftist comedian Dan Ilic, currently based in Los Angeles. Needless to say, he supported Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton and bagged Republican candidate Donald Trump.
This followed a “conversation” over lunch conducted by Lateline journalist David Lipson with four Americans in Australia. Needless to say, the three guests were all profoundly anti-Trump. The fourth indicated that he might – just might – vote Trump. That’s “balance” – ABC style.
- BEATING A CONFUSING DRUM
There was some mistake, surely, last night on The Drum concerning the apparent disagreement between Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott in the parliament yesterday. In her comments, journalist Gabrielle Chan commented that “a lot of National Party MPs were supporting Abbott in the leadership spills”. Sydney University’s Dr Christopher Neff (for a doctor he is) said he concurred with Ms Chan while presenter Julia Baird said nothing.
The fact is that the Liberal Party leadership is decided in the Liberal Party Room alone and members of the Nationals in Canberra have no say whatsoever in this decision.
- PROFESSOR TRIGGS & THE SATURDAY PAPER – OR THE WAR OF THE INNER-CITY LEFTIST SANDAL WEARERS
Can you believe it? The [Boring] Saturday Paper – which goes to print on Thursday, is available in inner-city Melbourne coffee shops on Saturday morning and which Gerard Henderson reads on Monday – is in the news. Really. Not in The Saturday Paper, which carries no news. But in The Australian per courtesy of Jared Owen’s coverage of Gillian Triggs’ “Richard Nixon Moment” in Senate Estimates on Tuesday.
In his Media Watch Dog blog Issue 315, of 13 May 2016 see here, Gerard Henderson wrote about Professor Triggs’ extraordinary interview with The Saturday Paper’s ’Ramona Koval (23 April 2016). In this interview, the Australian Human Rights Commission president referred to “seriously ill-informed and uneducated politicians” who questioned her work. She also declared that, if she had revealed certain information, she could have “destroyed” the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee.
Appearing before the Senate on Tuesday, Professor Triggs declared that the first comment had been taken out of context while the second had been invented by a sub-editor. Both of her comments were untrue – as the AHRC president conceded after The Saturday Paper’s editor Erik Jensen revealed that he had a tape recording of the Triggs/Koval interview.
The fact is that Gillian Triggs is in trouble today because of Ramona Koval’s soft interview in April. If Ms Koval had queried the learned professor’s elitist put-down of those she considered to be less educated than she – then the comment might have been qualified. But the educated leftist Ramona Koval was foolish enough to do a suck-up interview. And the educated leftist Gillian Triggs was foolish enough to look down on the (alleged) less educated. Can you bear it?
- RICHARD ACKLAND’S WAR ON SYDNEY WAITERS
While on the topic of The [Boring] Saturday Paper, wasn’t it wonderful to read last Saturday [Don’t you mean Monday? MWD Editor] that “Gadfly” columnist Richard Ackland recently travelled from inner-city Sydney to inner-city Melbourne? As might be expected of the leading columnist of The Saturday Paper – which last week carried two advertisements for Rolex watches – your man Ackland’s journey to Melbourne left him replete with stories about just how bad Sydney’s waiters are. Fair dinkum. Here is what “Gadfly” had to say under the heading “Immature cheddar”.
Gadfly spent most of the week on the banks of the Yarra in a slow crawl through bars, galleries and eating houses. One noticeable feature of Yarraside is the professionalism of waitpersons in restaurants etc. Efficient, polite, attentive – qualities that are generally foreign to sloppy old Sydney. In fact, two Melburnians told me of their experience in Sydney recently when they went to the Monopole wine bar in bobo Potts Point for an after-dinner drink about 10.30 on a Saturday night.
With a couple of glasses of wine they also ordered a cheese plate and a bit of charcuterie. “The cheese plate is off,” hissed the cheesed-off waiter. “It’s been a long day and I’m sending the chef home.” It’s an interesting workplace demarcation issue about whether a chef is required to cut off a chunk of cheese and put it on a plate, while the skill required to plate up some sliced meat doesn’t bear thinking about.
How shocking is this? Two of Gadfly’s mates, visiting from Melbourne, were denied “a cheese plate and a bit of charcuterie” [A bit of what? – MWD Editor] by the manager of the Monopole wine bar in Potts Point at 10.30 pm. Surely, a case for Professor Gillian Triggs’ Australian Human Rights Commission. Can you bear it?
- GADFLY’S SEXISM & THE CASE OF RITA PANAHI
At the commencement of his column last Saturday, Richard Ackland did his oh-so-funny rant about political conservatives, the Liberal Party, Rupert Murdoch and all that. There was a reference to Chris Kenny and Rita Panahi who were described as “two dancing bears from Lord Moloch’s tissues” [sic] along with comment about “the god-fearing rump of the NSW Nasty Party”. On reading this, Hendo engaged in such thigh-slapping laughter that he needed to head to Monopole’s wine bar for a bit of alcohol induced physio. Your man Ackland also referred to NSW Finance Minister Dominic Perrottet as “a creepy, latter-day Captain de Groot” – seemingly unaware that few today are aware of the late Francis de Groot (1888-1969). Even in inner-city Carlton, the home of the Melbourne based Saturday Paper.
Richard Ackland also referred to Ms Panahi as “someone named Rita Panahi”. No, the woman in question is not “someone named Rita Panahi”. She is Rita Panahi. Just imagine what your man Ackland would do if, say, Chris Kenny referred “to someone named Anne Summers”. Can you bear it?
- MALCOLM FARR LAMBASTS THE INCESTUOUSNESS (OF OTHERS)
While on the topic of a lack of self-awareness, consider the exchange between the Sydney based Gerard Henderson and the Canberra Press Gallery members Malcolm (“Gerard Henderson is a f-ck wit”) Farr and Fleur Anderson on Insiders last Sunday. Let’s go to the transcript where discussion turns on how it came to pass that the Victorian Labor Party chose Kimberley Kitching to replace Stephen Conroy as senator for Victoria:
Barrie Cassidy: She’s got the support of the AWU, the TWU, the Centre Unity and Bill Shorten. Why are we surprised that she got up?
Malcolm Farr: But it’s part of the incestuous sort of ALP, Victoria thing. Bill Shorten’s former chief-of-staff, Cameron Milliner, was best man at the wedding of the senator-to-be [Kimberley Kitching] and Mr Landeryou. And, there’s all sorts of interconnections that suddenly come to the fore when a decision like this has to be made.
Fleur Anderson: But even the ones that you think are close interconnections then all of a sudden they become “oh no that’s a Conroy sub-faction.”
Gerard Henderson: You know what it sounds like to me? Just to someone who sits on the couch? It sounds a bit like the Canberra Press Gallery, you know.
Fleur Anderson: Oh we don’t have factions. We’re all in complete agreement.
Malcolm Farr: It sounds nothing like the Canberra Press Gallery.
Gerard Henderson: Everyone interrelated to everyone else.
When Nancy’s (male) co-owner last researched this oh-so-sensitive topic, he found that 85.3 per cent of the Canberra Parliamentary Press Gallery either live with one another, or have lived with one another, or will live with one another. And yet your man Farr criticises the Victorian Labor Party for being incestuous. Can you bear it?
NEW EVIDENCE ON THE DEFECTION OF SOVIET DIPLOMAT EVDOKIA PETROV IN DARWIN, APRIL 1954
As avid readers will be aware, Gerard Henderson has been critical of the early part of Episode 2 of Howard On Menzies: The Building of Modern Australia. Particularly with reference to the Petrov Affair of 1954 and the Labor Split of 1955 along with the 1954 Federal election.
Howard On Menzies was written and directed by Simon Nasht – whose correspondence on this matter has been published in MWD Issue 336, MWD 337 and also today.
Gerard Henderson has argued that the script for Howard On Menzies concerning the Petrov Affair of 1954, the 1954 election and the Labor Split of 1955 contains the standard left-wing interpretation of these important events in Australian history. The issue is covered in detail in this week’s Correspondence section.
One of the howlers in Simon Nasht’s script for Howard On Menzies is the following statement:
On Menzies’ orders, when the plane lands to refuel in Darwin, Mrs Petrov is freed from her escorts and goes into exile with her husband [Vladimir Petrov].
This is also absolute tosh. Mrs Petrov made her own decision to join her husband in defecting to Australia. Robert Menzies issued no “orders” that she do so. Evdokia Petrov had a genuine concern about the fate of her family in Joe Stalin’s Soviet Union if she defected. She made the decision to seek political asylum, after much consideration, at the very last moment in Darwin before her plane departed Australia. Robert Menzies had nothing whatsoever to do with the defection of either Vladimir Petrov or Evdokia Petrov. They made their own decisions free of political interference.
Recently MWD received the following note from Tim Egan in Scone, which provides fresh valuable information about what occurred at Darwin Airport on 20 April 1954 when Evdokia Petrov made her decision to defect to Australia. It is an account of one of the Northern Territory police who disarmed the Soviet agents who were accompanying Mrs Petrov.
FORMER NORTHERN TERRITORY POLICEMAN TIM EGAN ON MRS PETROV’S UNILATERAL DECISION TO DEFECT IN DARWIN, 20 APRIL 1954
Tim Egan to Gerard Henderson – 17 October 2016
I have read with keen interest your comments on Howard On Menzies and especially the part dealing with the removal of Mrs. Evdokia Petrov from the BOAC Constellation at Darwin Airport.
I was a junior (vintage 1962) constable in the Northern Territory Police in 1964 where I was inspector’s clerk in Alice Springs to Inspector Greg Ryall – the man who, as a sergeant, had featured in the famous photo of him with a headlock on the Soviet courier Valery Karpinsky from whose possession he removed a .45 automatic pistol.
In 1964 Channel 7 (I think) wrote to Greg Ryall – with whom I became close friends and remained so for the rest of his life until his death in about 1990 – asking if he would feature in some series called (again, I think) “Where Are They Now” that covered people such as he that had figured in significant instances.
Being dutiful, he sent the request off to Darwin to the NT Police Commissioner from whom he received the anticipated refusal. I have no doubt that was based solely on jealousy and these days any Police service would fall over itself to get excellent, positive, free publicity such as this.
But while handling the correspondence, I asked him about the incident itself. What emerged was that there was NO advance planning of any consequence, let alone any direction as to what specific action the Police should take. However reviled the Soviet government may have been, the diplomatic niceties had to be followed – I think the Crown Law Officer of the day was there to advise, but certainly not to direct. In the end as Greg put it “I went to bed that night and I didn’t know if I was going to get the sack or get a medal. In the end I got neither, so that was okay”. Had Robert Menzies “ordered” that Mrs Petrov be released, Greg Ryall would have been in no doubt as to his future prospects.
Douglas Lockwood was the Darwin correspondent for the Herald-Weekly Times and became aware that something was afoot – probably from one of the Police who was a great pal of his, even in my time. Douglas went to the airport and sagaciously used the public ‘phone to make a reverse charges, operator-connected, call to the Herald office in Melbourne. He immediately told the person at the other end “don’t hang up under any circumstances”, no doubt anticipating that there wouldn’t be an unused ‘phone for miles very shortly. Every three minutes the operator would have come on with “Three minutes, are you extending?” to which the person in Melbourne would answer “yes”. Douglas Lockwood was thus able, in due course, to get off a graphic, first-hand report when there was something to pass on.
I’m sorry for taking this long to send this message but, unlike Douglas, I haven’t had access to a computer for a couple of Fridays. If you want to, please feel free to forward this message to your Mr. Nasht.
AND THE WINNERS ARE CHRIS MITCHELL & GRAHAM RICHARDSON
- Chris Mitchell on the ABC’s Faux Balance
Chris Mitchell, had this to say talking about his book Making Headlines (MUP, 2016) when addressing The Sydney Institute on Monday 10 October 2016. The context turned on a question of balance in The Australian during Chris Mitchell’s editorship. The former editor-in-chief said that the newspaper had given substantial coverage to the likes of Labor’s Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan during the final years of John Howard’s Coalition government and that this was a way to provide balance in a right-of-centre newspaper. He added:
Chris Mitchell: We all saw Clive Palmer being almost loved by Tony Jones on Lateline. It was ridiculous… Now, it seems to me, that’s not really balance. That’s actually, you know, fostering a person on the same side of politics as the [Coalition] government of the day who you know will criticise the government of the day. So, the ABC’s other favourite in this area is [former Liberal Party leader] John Hewson. You know, Hewson will constantly be wheeled out to bag first Tony Abbott and now Malcolm Turnbull. Now, I don’t think that counts as balance. That’s a trick, you know. What I think is balance is you give people who have something serious to say a serious run in the paper.
Chris Mitchell: Five Paws
* * * *
- Graham Richardson on Renewable Energy as Theology
In The Australian last Friday, former Labor senator Graham Richardson had this to say about the ALP’s commitment for Australia to have 50 per cent renewable energy by 2020:
I believe in climate change but I am not an extremist. I love the idea that sun, wind and water can keep the lights, the stove, the fridge and the air conditioner going. The problem is how long it will take to improve the technologies for clean energy sources to power our country. Labor needs to consider its position on this issue, and in particular Bill Shorten, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill need to watch videos of Baird over and over again. They need to back down on their renewable energy targets. It has nothing to do with electoral popularity. This is all about energy security. The prolonged statewide blackout across South Australia was the perfect reason to change tack. Closing coal-powered electricity plants that are reliable is dangerous when the energy to replace their output simply can’t hack it.
Weatherill has been a very, very successful political leader. He has won elections he was not supposed to win. He has defied the odds and consequently he became very popular. The halo is slipping now and threatens to disappear entirely. Watching him pretend that the closure of a coal-fired plant and too much reliance on wind farms were not among the causes of the blackout was as embarrassing as it was excruciating. When the lights go out, minds are concentrated on finding a reason.
The message here for Weatherill is that the mob, as they always do, have worked him out. When the wind disappears, the wind farms don’t work. When the wind blows too hard, the wind farms don’t work.
Given his history I am hopeful the Premier will redeem himself and make his energy targets realistic. His task will be made more difficult because of the role of federal Labor frontbencher Mark Butler, who continues to stick to Labor’s 50 per cent renewable energy target, which he seems to want in place within the week.
The farce of this policy has become obvious to all. The government has done little to expose the extraordinary hole in this stupid Labor policy. Labor has no plan on how this target would be reached. Australia must keep some of its reliance on coal until the renewable energy technologies are proven….
Sadly, Labor is playing games with people’s lives. It is no good playing roulette and hoping your number comes up. The poor and pensioners particularly require certainty about lights and heat. Labor owes it to its base to modify its stance….
Graham Richardson: Five Paws.
WITH CONTRIBUTIONS FROM JONATHAN GREEN & JULIAN BURNSIDE AO QC
- ABC’S FOX-HUNTING MAN’S DOUBLE STANDARDS
Thanks to the avid reader who drew MWD’s attention to this tweet sent out by ABC Radio National Sunday Extra presenter Jonathan Green – the ABC’s very own Fox-Hunting Man:
Yep. Your man Green – proudly a fox-hunting man whose sport is directed at scaring witless the hunted fox – is concerned that a diving cage upset a great white shark in Mexico. But what about a horse and rider chasing a small brown fox in Victoria?
Here is a reminder of Mr Green dressed for the (fox) kill.
- JULIAN BURNSIDE’S JULIA GILLARD FUDGE
Thanks also for the receipt of this tweet by Julian (‘I just love flashing my post-nominals’) Burnside AO QC. Here’s what he tweeted last Friday, in post-dinner mode:
It seems that JB AO QC was banging on about Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers. He wants Kevin Rudd, Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull, Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton brought up before the beaks of the International Criminal Court. Guess who is missing from this list? Yes, you’ve guessed. Julia Gillard, no less, who also adopted a hard line on border security with an aim of discouraging people smugglers and preventing deaths at sea.
It seems that JB AO QC is such a gentleman that he will not criticise a lady. Fancy that.
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).
- STEPHEN MAYNE AND GERARD HENDERSON RE LABOR’S KIMBERLEY KITCHING AND ALL THAT
One of the topics on the Insiders run-sheet last Sunday was the nomination of Kimberley Kitching to fill the Senate position made vacant by the resignation of Victorian Labor’s Stephen Conroy. When asked for his opinion, Gerard Henderson had this to say:
Gerard Henderson: I don’t know both of the candidates. But Kimberley Kitching seems to me, look, I hope she’s not offended, a pretty sassy kind of person. I reckon she’d make a fine senator. She’s good on television.
Barrie Cassidy: Suitably sassy?
Gerard Henderson: Yeah, I do say that. She’s good on television. She used to appear on Andrew Bolt’s program on Channel Ten…. She could argue with Bolt quite well. Look, she’s quite good on her feet. I think she’d make a very good senator.
This comment angered Insiders watcher, and avid (albeit not uncritical) MWD reader Stephen Mayne, a City of Melbourne councillor. Here we go:
Stephen Mayne to Gerard Henderson – 16 October 2016
Hi Gerard, noted your appearance on Insiders this morning.
Are you serious in your support for a former bankrupt who was recommended for criminal charges by Tony Abbott’s TURC [Trade Union Royal Commission] to be given a 6 year term in the Senate by the Victorian ALP? Are you aware of the history, such as this. [The link was to Leonie Wood’s article “Ex-city Councillor loses her mansion” in The Age, 20 April 2005.]
Malcolm Turnbull and Eric Abetz have certainly expressed strong governance concerns about such an appointment and I’m struggling to understand why you disagree with this position. [The link was to the story “Kitching Seems a Union Stitchup: Turnbull”, News.com.au, 14 October 2016.]
Look forward to your response.
Regards, Stephen Mayne
Gerard Henderson to Stephen Mayne – 17 October 2016
How nice to hear from you again. Even by email at 11.59 am on a Sunday morning. And how interesting to note that you take yourself oh-so-seriously.
I note that you are upset about my comments concerning Kimberley Kitching on Insiders yesterday. So much so that you forwarded a link from The Age of 20 April 2005 reporting that Ms Kitching had once filed for bankruptcy. You also drew my attention to critical comments made about Kimberley Kitching’s forthcoming appointment as a senator by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Senator Eric Abetz.
You believe that I should support Mr Turnbull and Senator Abetz on this matter. And you seem to believe that anyone who was once a bankrupt should be exiled from being a parliamentarian. Oh yes, you also state that Ms Kitching “was recommended for criminal charges” by what you call “Tony Abbott’s Trade Union Royal Commission”.
I happen to believe that Kimberley Kitching will be a good Labor senator – for the reasons I set out on Insiders. You disagree. So what? I did not email The Age’s Ben Schneiders when he bagged Ms Kitching on Saturday – and linked her to an “amoral political culture”. I am aware of the criticisms of Ms Kitching – it’s just that I think she can be a good senator.
If Ms Kitching happens to be charged with a criminal offence this will be sorted out in an appropriate manner. But it has not happened so far. I’m not surprised that Messers Turnbull and Abetz have criticised the appointment – after all, they are Liberals who are critical of the trade union movement and its influence on the Labor Party.
I am entitled to express a view about Ms Kimberley. And you – and others – are entitled to express another. I don’t go around chastising you for your opinions on this or that. You have become increasingly pompous of late.
By the way, I note that The Age – your favoured source on this matter – has trouble distinguishing between Ms Kitching and her husband Andrew Landeryou. A bit old-fashioned, don’t you think?
Keep morale high.
- GERARD HENDERSON AND SIMON NASHT RE FACTUAL ERRORS INHOWARD ON MENZIES AND ALL THAT JAZZ
In his email of 7 October 2016 Simon Nasht – the writer and director of Howard On Menzies: The Building of Modern Australia – said that he would tear apart the criticism of Episode 2 of his documentary by Gerard Henderson. The essential criticism of Howard On Menzies, which featured in MWD Issue 335 and in Gerard Henderson’s email to Simon Nasht dated 7 October 2016 (see MWD Issue 336), turned on the documentary’s treatment of the 1954 election, the Petrov Affair of 1954 and the Labor Split of 1955.
In his second – and apparently final – substantial email on this issue, Simon Nasht put up the white flag and failed to honour his promise to “tear apart” Gerard Henderson’s criticism of the documentary’s coverage of the Labor Split and the Catholic Church. However, he continued to object to Gerard Henderson’s critique of the left-wing interpretation of Robert Menzies’ victory in 1954 and the Petrov Affair. Now read on.
Simon Nasht to Gerard Henderson – 14 October 2016
You claim episode 2 of Howard On Menzies was riddled with errors and represented a Leftist view of post-war Australian history, particularly in the period around the Labor Party split in the mid 1950s.
I rejected your critique, pointed out your own numerous mistakes and questioned your analysis. Your reply doubled down on these errors and you failed to substantiate that this was some Leftie manifesto – hardly surprising since it was representing the views of John Howard. However, I alone must take responsibility for the script and any alleged mistakes. It’s just that you haven’t identified any.
In responding to your attack, I am accused of being overly sensitive. Actually I welcome a critical response to the series as it furthers the discussion. I note there has been detailed analysis of the series by the likes of Tim Colebatch and Troy Bramston, both of whom took issue with some aspects of the series. Their critiques were intelligent, thoughtful and most importantly, based on a respect for the facts. I have no problem with them, and am pleased to see that Jonathan Pincus has taken up a counter argument to Bramston in the latest edition of Quadrant. This commentary usefully adds to the discussion while yours does not.
Mostly your critique is a series of assertions and opinions, to which you are of course entitled. I merely point out that there a number of professional historians and commentators who disagree with you, and they are by no means your comic-book “Lefities”. Some of them appear in the film and directly contradict your position. They too are entitled to their opinions – but no one is entitled to their own “facts”.
It would ask far too much of your reader’s time (and mine) to rebut all your errors, irrelevancies and dubious interpretations, and the poor excuses you have made when caught out. A few examples should suffice to establish the case.
The Petrov Affair
Howard On Menzies:
“On Menzies’ orders, when the plane lands to refuel in Darwin, Mrs Petrov is freed from her escorts and goes into exile with her husband.”
“There is no evidence that Prime Minister Menzies ordered that Evdokia Petrov should be freed from her Soviet escorts in Darwin.”
You assert that the script is incorrect, though you supply no facts to support your claim. In reply, I supplied you with direct evidence from the golden triangle of historic research: credible eye witness accounts, contemporaneous government records and the testimony of a key participant, in this case none other than Robert Menzies himself.
This puts beyond any doubt that whatever took place in Darwin when Mrs. Petrov defected; it was a result of the direct instructions of the Prime Minister.
What is also beyond question from these records is that the Prime Minister had ordered that Mrs. Petrov be offered asylum before she asked for it. And to help her make her mind up, waiting for at the bottom of the stairs when she emerged from her aeroplane was the acting Administrator of the Northern Territory the Territory’s most senior police officer and a dozen armed constables. Mrs. Petrov’s Soviet guards were soon forcibly removed of their weapons, and Mrs. Petrov taken to a private room where a pre-arranged phone call with her husband was provided.
In the light of this evidence, it is quite bizarre of you to claim that Robert Menzies had nothing to do with Mrs. Petrov’s decision to defect when Menzies himself confirms that he had decided to offer her asylum – even before she had sought it.
These facts are beyond question. There was always a plan (approved by Menzies) that Mrs. Petrov should be freed from her captors and given the opportunity of asylum. I fail to see how this in anyway calls the script into question or represents some Leftist view of the defection.
You claim further that I have intentionally avoided explaining why the script says “Mrs. Petrov goes into exile with her husband.” No mystery here Gerard, because it is so self-evidently true that it requires no further explanation. Exile is what defectors do! Mrs. Petrov would never again see her homeland or her mother, and she would not be re-united with her sister for a further 36 long and lonely years. Sounds like exile to me.
The others matter you refer to as omissions really are well beyond the scope of this series which dealt with Menzies – not the intricacies of the Petrov Royal Commission. I can hardly be accused of factual mistakes in matters that are not even mentioned, though you attempt to.
The 1954 Election
Howard on Menzies:
“For Menzies, behind in the polls and facing a possible defeat, Petrov is a godsend.”
“The Coalition was not behind in the polls before Petrov defected.”
As I showed you, the Morgan Gallup Poll in May 1954 – after the poll was called – had Labor leading the Coalition 51% to 48%.
You quote from a list of poll results taken from the period. In the 8 quoted polls taken in the year preceding the 1954 election, Labor is leading in 6, and level pegging in another and goes into the election with a 3 point lead.
Somehow you construe this to mean that the Coalition was not consistently behind in the polls and that my script has made an egregious error of fact when it said quite simply that Menzies was behind in the polls. I think it is beyond question even for you to argue that this did not amount to a ‘possible defeat’ in the election.
You analysis of the difference between being ahead and behind in the polls is Trumpian. But the script is factually correct no matter how you try to wriggle around it.
You claimed that “the Anti-Communist Labor Party contested the 1954 and 1955 elections”. When I pointed out that there is no evidence of any such candidates at the 1954 election, your excuse was that you made a typographic error, though I am at loss to see how in the context of your sentence there was a transposed letter or misspelling. In fact it was a mistake Gerard, and you should own up to it, especially when the basis of your argument is about my alleged errors.
I am reminded of your recent claim that the IRA did not conduct terror activities outside the British Isles. When it was pointed out to you that this was incorrect (among other events, two Australians were inadvertently killed by an IRA bomb in the Netherlands), your excuse was that you had intentionally made the error for the amusement of your readers.
I leave it to you readers to consider your judgment in making jokes about terrorists who murdered Australians.
Your opinions about the Labor split, Menzies embarrassment over Suez and other matters all dealt with by experts in the series itself, none of them “Lefties” I would guess. Thank-you for your kind offer to fact check Howard on Menzies, and I am sorry you found it discourteous that we did not ask you to do so. But we had other better qualified, less partisan and certainly less error-prone contributors and professional historians to call upon on these subjects.
You have spent a good part of your career Gerard pursuing those who you claim have made errors of fact and fail to own up to them. Sadly you have become that which you seek.
Given you seem unlikely to accept your mistakes there in no point in continuing this correspondence.
Gerard Henderson to Simon Nasht – 21 October 2016
I refer to your email of 14 October 2016. It arrived too late for inclusion in my Media Watch Dog blog last Friday. In response, I make the following comments with reference to the three issues which you mentioned in your most recent email. Namely the 1954 election, the Petrov Affair of 1954 and the Labor Split of 1955. I note, however, that you appear to have junked your (past) defence of Howard On Menzies concerning the Labor Split and the Catholic Church:
▪ What I wrote about Howard On Menzies is that the documentary ran the left-wing interpretation of Australian history with respect to the Petrov Affair of 1954, the 1954 election and the Labor Split of 1955. I stand by this view.
▪ You maintain that I have not “identified any” mistakes in Episode 2 of Howard On Menzies. You also state that “there are a number of professional historians and commentators who disagree” with me. However, you do not name one name. This contrasts with my critique of your documentary where I have not relied on anonymous sources to criticise your work.
As previously indicated, the published historians Ian Hancock and Patrick Morgan contacted me, after the showing of Episode 2 of Howard On Menzies, expressing concern about the errors in the documentary on the 1954 election, the Petrov Affair and the Labor Split. Moreover, your script is contrary to the conclusions on those issues of Robert Murray in The Split: Australian Labor in the Fifties and Robert Manne in The Petrov Affair– the definitive works on the Labor Split and the Petrov Affair respectively.
▪ As I understand it, neither Tim Colebatch – to whom you refer – nor Troy Bramston covered the 1954 election, the Petrov Affair or the Labor Split at any length in their reviews of Howard On Menzies.
The Defection of Mr and Mrs Petrov
▪ Contrary to your assertion, there is no evidence that in April 1954 Robert Menzies issued “orders” that Mrs Petrov be “freed from her escorts” and go “into exile with her husband”. Robert Menzies never claimed that he did so. And you cite no evidence that he did.
Evdokia Petrov made her own decision to seek political asylum in Australia. She did not act on Robert Menzies’ “orders”. This is made clear in Robert Manne’s The Petrov Affair and elsewhere.
As Robert Manne – who interviewed Mrs Petrov – points out, Evdokia Petrov was torn between accepting freedom in democratic Australia and concern for her family in the totalitarian Soviet Union. The allegation that she acted on Robert Menzies’ “orders” is unfair to Mrs Petrov and Mr Menzies. Certainly, Robert Menzies welcomed Evdokia Petrov’s decision to defect to Australia – so did many Labor Party parliamentarians and rank-and-file members (my father included) at the time, but that’s another point.
In your email of 4 October 2016, you cited Robert Menzies’ The Measure of the Years and Douglas Lockwood’s contemporary report as evidence for the assertion in your Howard On Menzies script that Robert Menzies ordered the defection of Mrs Petrov in Darwin on 20 April 1954. In fact, neither Robert Menzies nor Douglas Lockwood make such a claim in the sources which you cite. Clearly, you just made this up. Yet you claim that there are no errors in Howard On Menzies.
The Petrov Affair and the 1954 Election
▪ As Robert Murray points out in The Split, it was known that Labor would have to poll over 51 per cent to win the 1954 election. This reflected the fact that the ALP’s vote was concentrated in safe Labor seats. The Coalition had a very comfortable win in 1951 with 50 per cent of the vote to Labor’s 49 per cent.
As the table in The Petrov Affair demonstrates, in the period between December 1953 and May 1954, Labor only achieved 52 per cent once – i.e. in February 1954. In early May 1954, the Coalition was actually ahead of Labor – 50 per cent to 49 per cent. If the late May 1954 poll (which you cite) is calculated with the early May 1954 poll, the outcome is Labor 50 per cent, Coalition 49 per cent – i.e. well within the statistical margin of error and a virtual deadlock.
If you understood how to read opinion polls, you would understand that in the lead-up to the 1954 election it was too close to call which party was in front. The claim that the defection of Vladimir Petrov and Evdokia Petrov made it possible for the Menzies Government to be returned in May 1954 is just mythology. Left-wing mythology, in fact – of the kind found in the 1974 book Nest of Traitors: The Petrov Affair which was written by Nick Whitlam and John Stubbs. As labour historian Rowan Cahill once wrote, this was “the ‘left’ version of the Petrov Story”.
The Labor Split of 1955
▪ I note that – since you have not honoured your promise to “tear up” my criticism of the Howard On Menzies critique of the Labor Split – you no longer wish to defend the narrator’s comment in Howard On Menzies which reads as follows:
Opposition leader Doc Evatt sees enemies everywhere, especially the anti-communists within his own party. When he challenges these mostly Catholic members to choose between their politics or the Pope, they choose the Church. Walking out to form a breakaway party – the DLP….
This is ridiculous – as any scholar of Labor Party and/or the Catholic Church in Australia in the 1950s would attest. I note that you have not cited the name of anyone who agrees with your position on this.
The Australian reported on Wednesday that Elizabeth Calwell – the daughter of the late Labor leader Arthur Calwell – has criticised the commentary on the Labor Split and the Catholic Church in Howard On Menzies. From a different perspective to mine, she takes essentially the same position as I do. Namely, that the Democratic Labor Party – which emerged out of the Split – was not a “church” party since Catholics at the time were divided over policy. And that, in any event, in 1957 the Pope ruled against the Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne Daniel Mannix (a supporter of the anti-communist Catholic activist B.A. Santamaria and the DLP) and in favour of the Catholic Cardinal Archbishop of Sydney Norman Gilroy (who supported Catholics remaining in the Labor Party at the time of the Labor Split and opposed Santamaria and the DLP).
In Howard On Menzies, your script declared that mainly Catholic anti-communists chose the Church over the Labor Party in 1955. This is absolute tosh. As Elizabeth Calwell has pointed out, Arthur Calwell was a Catholic and he remained in the Australian Labor Party after the Split. As deputy ALP leader, in fact.
Here is a list of Catholics and Catholic organisations who opposed B.A. Santamaria’s Catholic Social Studies Movement and his supporter Archbishop Daniel Mannix in early 1954 – i.e. before the Labor Split.
– The Melbourne based Catholic Worker group with whom Santamaria had split in 1941.
– The Newman Society in Melbourne and Sydney – and the Catholic university chaplains in Melbourne (Fr J. Golden SJ) and Sydney (Fr J. Bird).
– The Melbourne based Young Christian Workers (YCW), its national chaplain Fr Frank Lombard and its episcopal chairman Archbishop Justin Simonds (Dr Mannix’s coadjutor archbishop in Melbourne).
– Elements within the National Catholic Girls Movement (NCGM) and, in particular, its one-time national chaplain Fr B. Kennedy.
– The Melbourne Secretariat of Catholic Action which was headed by Ken Mitchell.
– Individuals such as Brian Doyle (then on the staff of the Sydney Catholic Weekly), Kevin Kelly (then an officer in the External Affairs Department) and the Sydney journalist J P Ormonde and
– Labor politicians such as A A Calwell, P J Kennelly and N E McKenna. Later Ted Peters, the Melbourne Catholic Labor MP for Burke, would join with fellow Melbourne-based Catholic Labor MP Arthur Calwell in remaining in the ALP. Moreover, all the Labor Catholic MPs and senators in New South Wales remained in the ALP after the Labor Split.
▪ When the Labor Split occurred – commencing with the split in Victoria in 1955 and ending with the split in Queensland in 1957 – about half the Catholic Hierarchy went with Dr Mannix (who supported the breakaways from the ALP) and about half went with Cardinal Gilroy (who opposed Catholic Labor MPs breaking away from the ALP). The Archbishops of both Sydney and Adelaide prevented Santamaria’s Movement from operating within their archdioceses.
Clearly, this part of Howard On Menzies is hopelessly wrong. Yet you still maintain that your documentary does not contain “any” errors. It’s called denial – and delusion. Perhaps you should have a talk to Elizabeth Calwell or read Bruce Duncan’s Crusade or Conspiracy: Catholics and the Anti-Communist Struggle in Australia. By the way, Dr Duncan is a critic of the Mannix/Santamaria position and a supporter of Cardinal Gilroy and his off-sider Bishop James Carroll.
Contrary to your claim, my reference to the Anti-Communist Labor Party contesting the 1954 election was a typo. If you had read my 2015 book Santamaria: A Most Unusual Man, you would know that I wrote about the formation of the Anti-Communist Labor Party in 1955. In any event, as the rest of the analysis in MWD Issue 335 made clear, the Anti-Communist Labor Party was formed after the Labor Split. I did not mention the obvious typo in Howard On Menzies when I first criticised the program. You chose to run film of a man handing how-to-vote DLP cards at the 1955 election – the DLP, as such, did not contest a Federal election until 1958. My concern was about the serious howlers in Howard On Menzies. Not pedantic errors – or typos of the film documentary kind.
The point I made about the IRA in MWD was that – unlike ISIS – it was not waging war on the West. I wrote that the Provisional IRA’s attacks were confined to political targets in the British Isles. When it was pointed out that I had overlooked IRA attacks on British property and military personnel in Western Europe, I made a correction in the next issue of MWD. You, on the other hand, deny the existence of “any” errors in Howard On Menzies, however substantial. By the way, I did not write that I “intentionally made the error for the amusement of my readers”. You just made this up.
If you see no point in continuing this correspondence – that’s fine by me.
Finally, I would be interested in receiving a copy of any reply you make to Elizabeth Calwell’s criticism of Howard On Menzies concerning the Catholic Church and the Labor Split. It should make an interesting read. I would love to publish it in my Media Watch Dog blog – perhaps in the “Documentation” section where I have new material concerning Mrs Petrov’s defection today.
* * * * *
Until next time.
One of my bête noires is Gerard Henderson. And I try not to let him provoke me. I turn the other cheek – both facial and posterial. But this week he said something which just made me furious.
– Phillip Adams on Late Night Live, 20 September 2016
If Gerard Henderson is on #insiders tomorrow I’m going to start drinking at 9.01 am
– @annalise108 via Twitter, 30 Jul 2016, 6:30 PM
“[Gerard Henderson is a] whining rodent”
– Bruce Haigh, former diplomat and regular ABC panelist
“[Gerard Henderson is a] cretinous turd”
– Rohan Connolly via Twitter – 12 July 2016
“It’s always nice to be mentioned in your pedantic, predictable and self-absorbed Friday web rant”
– Stephen Mayne, via email, Bastille Day, 2016
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