4 November 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: Sami Shah’s Donald Trump joke on News Breakfast
  • Editorial – The Turnbull Government and the ABC
  • Can You Bear It? Mohammed El-leissy, La Trioli & Michael Rowland; The Age’s Aubrey Perry; Karl Quinn on the late Harold Holt
  • Nancy’s Five Paws Awards: Step Forward Mark Colvin (on the Petrov Affair) plus Dominic Kelly & Ben Eltham (on hypocrisy and the late Peter Roebuck)
  • You Must Remember This – Judith Brett’s about-turn on Robert Menzies’ attitude to communism
  • History Corner – Jenny Hocking fudges what is already known about the Dismissal
  • Documentation – Counsel Assisting’s submission to the Royal Commission concerning Paul Bongiorno and BPL
  • John Laws Style Deliberate-Mistake re Mary Elizabeth Calwell
  • Correspondence: Simon Nasht helps out (re Howard On Menzies), Stephen Mayne helps out (re Kimberley Kitching) and Ryan Humphreys helps out (re Darren Goodsir & Chris Kenny)



You’ve heard about stand-up comedians. Well, ABC’s News Breakfast threw the switch to sit-down comedy this morning when comedian Sami Shah did the Newspapers segment on the couch. What fun it was. Or was it?

This is what your man Shah told co-presenters Virginia Trioli and Paul Kennedy, and News Breakfast viewers about the Republican candidate Donald Trump.

Sami Shah: I’m still not convinced he [Donald Trump] wants to be president … He’s frightened out of his mind – he doesn’t want this… It’s going to be a thing where he – whoever the vice-president becomes will be the president. And he’ll [i.e. Trump will] be there just doing what he does.

Is this a joke? According to the ABC’s in-house comedian, the alpha male Donald Trump would be happy to be defeated by Hillary Clinton next Tuesday. And, according to Sami Shah, Mr Trump is so lacking in self-confidence that “he’s frightened out of his mind” that he might be sworn in as president next January. So much so that, if successful, Mr Trump would hand over all his powers to his deputy Mike Pence.

In recent times, Q&A executive producer Peter McEvoy has chosen comedians for the program’s panel. And every now and then 7.30 invites a comedian to do a gig. And now, News Breakfast. With political talent like Sami Shah, the joke’s on the taxpayer funded broadcaster.



For over a year the ABC chairman, board and senior management have misunderstood Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his government.

There was a view within the ABC that former prime minister Tony Abbott was hostile to the taxpayer funded public broadcaster and that the Coalition’s position on the ABC would change if Mr Turnbull replaced Mr Abbott. This was a serious misjudgement.

It is true that Tony Abbott, like Mr Howard before him, was critical of the lack of political balance within the ABC. When prime minister, for example, Mr Howard called for the ABC to appoint a “right-wing Phillip Adams”. By this the former prime minister meant that there should be at least one prominent ABC right-of-centre presenter of a prominent program. Two decades after this call, the ABC remains a Conservative Free Zone, without one conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets.

Both John Howard and Tony Abbott were publicly and privately critical of the ABC’s lack of political balance. Other than this, both supported the role of the public broadcaster and neither focused too much on the ABC’s efficiency.

Malcolm Turnbull has a different approach. He believes that most journalists are left-of-centre and that, consequently, the ABC is bound to be a left-wing broadcaster. The Prime Minister maintains that this fact about the ABC cannot be changed and there is no point pursuing lost causes.

However, Malcolm Turnbull believes that the ABC is a bloated organisation and that much can be done to rein in costs. The Prime Minister compares the ABC to such institutions as SBS, Sky News, Channel 10 and Channel 7 (with which he had some past involvement), which operate with significantly fewer staff for similar programs. Most politicians who do the rounds of TV and radio interviews know that the Turnbull position is correct.

That’s why it was naïve for The Guardian’s media editor Amanda Meade to express surprise recently that the Turnbull government had continued the cuts to the ABC, put in place in the first Abbott budget in 2014. Ms Meade seemed to forget that Malcolm Turnbull was Prime Minister Abbott’s communications minister at the time.

The current dispute between the Turnbull government and the ABC over the public broadcaster’s generous pay settlement with its staff should be viewed in this light. Communications Minister Mitch Fifield and Employment Minister Michaelia Cash are critical of the fact that the ABC has breached government guidelines by providing the ABC staff a monetary payment along with back pay and domestic violence leave in addition to annual wage increases.

Addressing The Sydney Institute on 13 October, Minister Fifield said that ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie had promised the government that the public broadcaster would not be asking for any more taxpayers’ money during the current funding agreement. This understanding appears to have been breached. Moreover, ABC chairman James Spigelman has defiantly told the Turnbull government that in negotiating pay deals, the ABC does not have to abide by government guidelines. This is not a smart way for a tax payer funded public broadcaster to handle the Prime Minister.



What a wonderful scene on ABC News Breakfast on Monday when MWD favourite, Virginia Trioli put on a $2 Halloween fascinator and pretended to be a witch [a which? – MWD editor]. It reminded MWD of the time when La Trioli reacted to a recently completed interview with Barnaby Joyce by engaging in a gesture which was all the rage at primary school when Nancy’s (male) co-owner was a boy.


The fascinating La Trioli


The not so fascinating La Trioli

But MWD digresses. The good news is that News Breakfast was back to form yesterday. Mohammed El-leissy decided to discuss Section 18(c) of the Racial Discrimination Act – following action taken against The Australian’s cartoonist Bill Leak for, er, drawing a cartoon in which a good (black) policeman returned a misbehaving (black) child to his bad (black) father. How racist can you get? Well, plenty – according to Mr El-leissy. Let’s go to the transcript:

Virginia Trioli: Lets come back to page one of The Australian, because the conversation around changes to the Racial Discrimination Act, and one section in particular 18(c), they seem to be gathering a bit of pace and a bit of force now.

Mohammed El-leissy: Yeah they do, and there’s been a big campaign in The Australian as well. This issue, it’s now going to go to the Human Rights Committee which will have an enquiry into it. It’s going to be a massive platform for these people who are critical of 18 (c). I think it’s really important again to stress the issue of 18(d). People keep forgetting about that.

Virginia Trioli: I’m so glad you said that – which is the corrective to 18(c), and which actually puts the brakes on any sort of, or gives defence in fact to those people who might want to push the limits on what’s allowed.

Mohammed El-leissy: But we’ve got to think about – what’s the purpose of criticism? It’s fine to criticise Muslims or Indigenous people or whatever. But you’ve got to do it with a purpose of changing. Not simply just criticising. They don’t offer any alternative.

Virginia Trioli: And also on the basis of fact. It’s got to be factual –

Mohammed El-leissy: That’s right.

Michael Rowland: Yeah, 18(d).

Virginia Trioli: Yeah, so 18(d) is based in fact, and in good faith, which is the corrective there. Make sure people can actually make their criticisms if they’re reasonable.

Mohammed El-leissy: Yeah I’m just worried that it’s a response to Hanson-ism. That it’s just that we need to catch up with this stuff. And it’s not right I don’t think, yet.

Wasn’t it wonderful – just so wonderful – to see La Trioli agreeing with Mohammed and Michael agreeing with Mohammed as Mohammed agreed with himself – leading to the chorus: “There’s no problem with Section 18(c) because there’s Section 18(d)”. Yet 18(d) has not prevented three Queensland University of Technology (QUT) students spending three years defending themselves against the allegation that it is an offence under Section 18(c) to complain that non-indigenous students are prevented from using a vacant room set aside for indigenous students at a university. Can you bear it?


Reports today contain more disappointing news for Fairfax Media shareholders as profits slump and the company’s newspapers – including the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and the Canberra Times – continue to suffer declining sales.

The real estate market is a difficult one and that’s reflected in the amount of advertising carried in Domain. However, the evidence suggests that – over recent decades – Fairfax Media journalists have gone out of their way to attack the newspaper’s purchasing and advertising base. Many Fairfax Media journalists just love to sneer at (i) believers, (ii) non-government schools, (iii) individuals with conservative social views and (iv) businesses – big, medium and small.

Today’s Sydney Morning Herald is a mere 40 pages of compact (i.e. tabloid) size. In addition, there is a 20 page lift-out by Racing NSW. Which suggests that quite a few Fairfax Media journalists retain their employment on account of advertising paid for by those associated with the thoroughbred industry.

So how does Fairfax Media handle this? Well on Melbourne Cup Day, The Age ran a piece by Fairfax Media columnist Aubrey Perry titled “The race to get blotto”. Ms Perry told a truly harrowing tale about how, once upon a time, she went to the Melbourne Cup with her husband and had a truly horrid time. It started badly:

Everyone remembers their first time. The anticipation of the unknown. The pain of reality. It was wet, and my heels kept getting stuck in the mud. I tried not to grunt as I pulled myself loose. He urged me on. We were in this together. Our first Melbourne Cup…

I was uncomfortable. I’d worn the wrong thing. I’d made the wrong bet on the weather. It was a dull, wet and humid day, and my mustard coloured wool skirt-suit with the mink collar was far too warm. Grandmother’s pearls too conservative. I longed to be bare-shouldered and stocking-less like the more experienced women around me.

And then, believe it or not, Ms Perry’s column deteriorated. There were references to (i) nipples peeping out from atop strapless dresses while skirts crept up to reveal undergarments or lack thereof, (ii) loud and red-faced men with collars unbuttoned, ties hanging loose, shirts untucked and (iii) older women with mouth agape and so on. Then it rained. Shucks.

Not only was Ms Perry wet now – but so were her grandmother’s pearls which she happened to be wearing. Shucks squared. Cup Day got so bad that the following occurred:

The romance of the event was dimming by the minute. My gaze drifted down to the drainage gutter that ran past my feet. I watched the water tinted orange with self-tanner, carry refuse away: betting slips, bottle caps, plastic wrappers, and a fake eyelash floated by, then something less recognisable. I pointed at it and said to my husband, “What is that?” He frowned and said, “Looks like a rat tail!” I knelt down a bit and looked more closely. “It’s a hair extension!” I gasped.

This dreadful experience of seeing a throw away hair extension on Melbourne Cup Day led Aubrey Perry to conclude:

I’d seen enough. It’s clear why the Melbourne Cup is referred to as the race that stops a nation. Everyone is so hung over they can’t move. It’s the one week a year that formally celebrates the Australian pastime of binge drinking.

As with most first times, reality didn’t meet expectations. I left the races disheartened by what I saw. A side of the Australian culture I wished I hadn’t: far too much drinking and normalised alcoholism and not enough integrity and self-respect. I was dirty, damp and smelly and hobbling in pain by the time I got home. My stockings were torn, my clothes dishevelled, and I’d ruined a perfectly nice pair of shoes.

I felt lied to. The whole thing seemed phony now, disingenuous somehow. The Melbourne Cup might be the richest race in the world, but it’s also evidence that money can’t buy class. I tried to scrub the day away in the shower that night. As I lay there in bed, I wondered why we do this to ourselves.

Are Australians forever destined to be the world’s biggest lushes and larrikins? Is life so bad, so dull, so boring that we have to drink it all away and laugh off our misbehaviour? Is nothing as revered and respected as our right to get hammered? The answers didn’t come. Instead, when I closed my eyes, the beer garden faces appeared, their mouths, like carnival clowns, distorted in drunken glee, laughing at me and pointing at my naïve idealism.

What a load of over-written alienated tripe – replete with hyperbole and generalisations. Yet this is the best The Age could provide readers – and advertisers – with on Melbourne Cup Day. Can you bear it?


While on the topic of Fairfax Media, what a stunning piece by Karl Quinn in last week’s Sunday Age on the late Harold Holt. The story covered film maker Scott Mannion’s attempt to make a feature film titled “The Defector”. This is how Mannion introduced the topic about the former Australian prime minister who drowned off Cheviot Beach on 19 December 1967.

What really happened to Harold Holt? It’s a question that has occupied Australian minds intermittently for 49 years now, and if filmmaker Scott Mannion has his way, it will occupy us for a few more yet… Holt was a strong swimmer but was suffering from a shoulder injury at the time. He was on medication for pain relief. Some have speculated he simply overestimated his powers and drowned. Others have posited that he committed suicide. The wildest theory of all, though, was that he was a communist spy, and was picked up by a Chinese submarine off the coast…

Go on. Alas, he did:

Holt’s grandson, Robert Holt, has given the project his blessing, agreeing to be interviewed for a promotional video for the film’s Kickstarter campaign, which raised $65,000. That campaign also included a story about Mannion having been sent a roll of film from Russia, dated 1968, in which a man who looked a lot like Holt could be seen amidst a phalanx of Soviet officers; that’s a claim that has since been given the Trotsky treatment, being quietly airbrushed from history.

So Karl Quinn is prepared to take seriously the possibility that Holt was picked up by a Chinese submarine and/or defected to the Soviet Union. At the time, China did not have submarines and China and the Soviet Union were hostile to each other. Yet your man Quinn was prepared to take Scott Mannion’s conspiracy theory seriously and overlooked the simple fact that – like many Australians each year – Mr Holt went into dangerous surf on a non-patrolled beach and drowned. Can you bear it?



An extract from Mark Colvin’s memoirs Light and Shadow was published in Fairfax Media newspapers last Saturday. In it, the once fashionably leftist ABC journalist reveals how he was converted to an understanding of Soviet espionage in the United States and Australia.

Colvin wrote how he came to accept that the American Alger Hiss was a Soviet spy when he [Hiss] worked in the US State Department. He recalls a night when Allen Weinstein, author of the book Perjury which documented Hiss’ espionage, attended dinner at his father’s home along with two of his father’s MI6 colleagues. As Colvin reflected:

In retrospect, I see myself that night as callow and arrogant. I was foolish enough to regurgitate some half-remembered and thinly understood material I’d read or heard about the Petrov Affair of the early 1950s, and suggested that the evidence that ASIO produced about infiltration of the Labor Party was still regarded by some in Australia as a put-up job by the Prime Minister, Robert Menzies.

It wasn’t just the wrong thing to say, it prompted the “Friends” from London to furious indiscretion. They told me, without equivocation, that the Petrov defection had been one of the most significant intelligence coups of the century, and that Mr and Mrs Petrov had given them and the CIA essential confirmation of a vast amount of material about KGB infiltration of Western governments. With Weinstein backing them up, I was not just outnumbered but outgunned, and what made it more humiliating was that they so clearly had the facts and I didn’t.

Nobody mentioned the “Venona decrypts” of highly secret KGB cables – it would be nearly two decades before their existence even became public – but those documents, and much other evidence that’s been released in the last couple of decades, make it clear that I’d made a complete fool of myself that night.

Mark Colvin: Five Paws.


Last Saturday The Australian published an excerpt from ABC sports journalist Jim Maxwell’s The Sounds of Summer (Allen & Unwin, 2016). The extract covered Jim Maxwell’s account of the English born cricketer and cricket writer Peter Roebuck – who threw himself out of a window on the sixth floor of a hotel in Johannesburg in November 2011. In Australia, Roebuck did cricket commentary for the ABC and Fairfax Media (particularly The Age).

As avid readers will recall, MWD has been critical of the fact that the ABC and Fairfax Media covered Roebuck’s tragic death – invariably without mentioning that the evidence suggests that the deceased was a sexual predator of young African men. Roebuck committed suicide after being charged by South African police with the sexual assault of a young black man.

Gerard Henderson’s comments on the double-standard by the ABC and Fairfax Media in all but ignoring Roebuck’s sexual offending – while condemning the sexual offending of clerics and others – are contained in MWD Issue 121 and 123. Issue 123 contains correspondence between The Age’s Greg Baum and Gerard Henderson.

On any fair analysis, Jim Maxwell’s coverage of the life and times of his friend Peter Roebuck in the Sounds of Summer was soft. It was good to see that some in the Twitter-verse picked up the Maxwell double standard. Here they are:


Dominic Kelly & Ben Eltham – Five Paws apiece


By popular demand, this once hugely popular segment of Media Watch Dog makes a welcome return after what journalists like to call a Well-Earned-Break (or WEB).

“You Must Remember This” is based on the chorus line in the song As Time Goes By which was popularised by the film Casablanca. It is devoted to reminding the usual suspects of what they – and/or those they supported – once wrote or said.


Wasn’t it great to see Judith Brett on Howard on Menzies: Building Modern Australia on ABC 1 in September 2016. Simon Nasht (a much loved contributor to the Correspondence pages of MWD) told Gerard Henderson some time ago that he was very keen to convince John Howard to have Dr Brett (for a doctor she is) in the documentary. And so it came to pass that the one-time editor of the Marxist Arena Magazine got to tell Australia’s second longest serving prime minister about Australia’s longest serving prime minister, the Liberal Party of Australia and more besides.

The Thought of Judith Brett, circa 2016, on matters Menzies, has been preserved for eternity in The Australian’s production of Howard on Menzies: The Interviews. The series contains some fascinating discussions with the likes of Clive James, Rupert Murdoch, Thomas Keneally, Barry Humphries, Geoffrey Blainey and Michael Kirby. Along with Judith Brett.

The discussion with Judith Brett – author of Robert Menzies’ Forgotten People (first published 1992, new edition 2007) – covered, among other matters, Robert Menzies’ attitude to communism. Let’s go to the transcript:

John Howard: Do you think that Menzies over-reacted to the threat of communism?

Judith Brett: That’s a hard question. Do I think he over-reacted? I think it’s very hard to. I think in history you have to put yourself back into the position where you don’t know what’s going to happen. And you know, he got – he got – he gets pilloried for having underreacted to the threat of fascism in the 1930s because people didn’t know the war was coming and then he gets it for having over-reacted in the early ‘50s.

It seems to me you know, he’d lived through the First World War, that in the late 1930s you can understand why the idea of another world war is sort of unthinkable and why people try hard for appeasement. So I don’t judge him too harshly at all in the early ‘50s. I don’t think, I think he, when he comes back and thinks there may be a third world war, I think that’s probably a genuine fear… I think Menzies was a good prime minister for the ‘50s but I don’t think he was such a good prime minister in the ‘60s – because I don’t think he prepared Australia well for a lot of the changes.

So there you have it. In her interview with John Howard for Howard on Menzies, Judith Brett dismissed the claim that Menzies overreacted to the threat of communism in the early ‘50s. She added that, at the time, Menzies probably had a “genuine fear” of communism.

Well, fancy that. This is the very same Judith Brett who, in Robert Menzies’ Forgotten People, argued that Menzies’ anti-communism was an expression of his homophobia. This is how the learned doctor explained Robert Menzies’ anti-communism in the 1930s in her assessment of the Liberal Party founder which is replete with psycho-babble:

The social anthropologist Mary Douglas has looked at the way different societies represent the social whole and the boundary between what is inside and what is outside society. The human body is a particularly rich source of imagery for the understanding and organisation of social life. The body’s margins and internal divisions, along with images of bodily pollution and integrity, provide ways of thinking about threats to the social order – the body politic – and means of combating them. Much anti-communist rhetoric has drawn on bodily imagery: the imagery of sickness and disease (a social cancer) and the anal erotic imagery of the attack from behind (rooting rats out of holes). There are occasional uses of such imagery by mainstream Australian non-labour politicians like Menzies, but they are surprisingly few.

How about that? What a load of absolute tosh. Dr Brett produced no evidence whatsoever to support her assertion that any of Robert Menzies’ anti-communist rhetoric at any time had been drawn from the “anal erotic imagery of the attack from behind”. She just made this up.

In Robert Menzies’ Forgotten People, Judith Brett also addressed the decision of the Menzies government to ban the Communist Party in Australia in the late 1940s/early 1950s:

Menzies took longer to be convinced of the need to ban the Communist Party than many of his colleagues. Once convinced, however, he was quickly able to reorient his arguments towards the urgent need to rid society of “this alien and foreign pest”. He drew, as did his colleagues, on the anti-communist ideology already established in Australia. This ideology shared in the general preoccupation of pre-war Australia with keeping foreign, impure and corrupting influences out of country, whether they were the darker skinned people of Asia, dangerous foreign pests and diseases, seditious literature or communist agitators. The anti-communist discourse which Menzies took up after his decision to ban the Communist Party, was a public discourse shaped to maintain social harmony and order by isolating and expelling threats to the social order. In taking it up, however, Menzies gave it a distinctive shape. Exploring this, we are drawn deep into Menzies’ own view of social order and the sorts of threats he most needed to keep it at bay.

What’s missing from Brett’s analysis is any acceptance of the fact that the communist regimes in Eastern Europe were brutal totalitarian dictatorships as was Mao Zedong’s regime in China. Menzies’ opposition to communism had nothing to do with “darker skinned people of Asia” or “dangerous foreign pests and diseases” or whatever. The fact is that among the strongest opponents of communist regimes at the time were the men and women incarcerated in the gulags of Stalin and Mao, fair-skinned and dark-skinned alike.

You do not have to go into psychoanalysis to explain Robert Menzies’ anti-communism. It was a manifestation of common sense. By the 1930s, news of the communist totalitarian regime in the Soviet Union had reached the West – by reports from the likes of British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge, by the testimony of defectors and the harrowing accounts of refugees.

Moreover, in 1939 the Soviet Union signed what has been called the Nazi-Soviet Pact or the Hitler-Stalin Pact, which divided Eastern Europe between the two totalitarian powers and led to the commencement of the Second World War.

In fact a quarter of a century ago, it was some of Brett’s comrades on the editorial board of the Marxist Arena Magazine who warranted psychoanalysis – not Robert Menzies and other anti-communists. Arena Magazine was a left-wing hang out for intellectuals who – in their time – had supported Joe Stalin’s purges, Stalin’s forced famine in Ukraine, the Nazi Soviet Pact (between mid-1939 and mid-1941) and the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe from 1945. Some also supported the Soviet Union’s crushing of the Hungarian Uprising in 1956. How sane was that?

In Robert Menzies’ Forgotten People, Judith Brett let the Stalinists off the hook. For example, she described the German journalist Egon Kisch as an “anti-fascist activist”. When attorney-general in the 1930s, Menzies refused to allow Kisch to enter Australia and – when Kisch did illegally – oversaw his deportation. Nowhere in her criticism of Menzies’ (alleged) over-reaction to Kisch does Brett mention that Kisch was a Stalinist and a member of the Communist Party of Germany who took his orders from Moscow.

So there you have it. In Howard on Menzies: The Interviews (2016), Judith Brett said that Menzies probably had a “genuine fear” about communism and did not overreact to the threat of communism. However, in Robert Menzies’ Forgotten People (1992), Judith Brett felt the need to preach from the psychiatrist’s couch to explain Menzies’ anti-communism as reflecting his (alleged) homophobia, and his (alleged) fear of darker skinned people. What a metamorphosis. You must remember this.



Jenny Hocking is a left-wing taxpayer subsidised academic who has spent much of her career writing taxpayer subsidised biographies of such left-wing heroes as Frank Hardy (1917-1984), Lionel Murphy (1922-1986) and Gough Whitlam (1916-2014).

In recent years Dr Hocking (for a doctor she is) has focused on writing a two volume hagiography of Gough Whitlam along with her recent tome The Dismissal Dossier: Everything you were never meant to know about November 1975 (MUP, 2015). In fact, everything of significance about the Dismissal has been widely known for eons. The “scoop” of The Dismissal Dossier is that the decision of the Governor-General Sir John Kerr to dismiss the Whitlam government on 11 November 1975 was part of some high conspiracy going all the way to the Queen in Buckingham Palace. See MWD Issue 339.

Last Saturday afternoon Jenny Hocking was interviewed by Jim Middleton on Sky News about her decision to obtain a ruling from the Federal Court with a view to securing the release of the correspondence between the former Governor-General and the Queen which, at Kerr’s request, was to be released no earlier than 2027. MWD has no problem with the release of such documents but does not believe that they will reveal anything new.

Towards the end of the Sky News interview, Jenny Hocking made the following comment:

Jenny Hocking: This [involvement with the Palace] fits a pattern that Kerr engaged with other key institutional figures. He engaged with Sir Garfield Barwick in secret. He engaged we now know with Sir Anthony Mason of the High Court over several months in secret and unknown for nearly 40 years. Now what he [Kerr] seems to me to have been doing is locking people in to a trajectory that was secret from the Prime Minister [Gough Whitlam] but which gave Kerr some comfort that there would be no blow back from a decision he was to make.

What a load of absolute tosh. Dr Hocking claims that in the second volume of her Whitlam biography Gough Whitlam: His Time (MUP, 2012) she broke the “secret” that (then) High Court judge Sir Anthony Mason had privately advised Kerr in the lead-up to the Dismissal.

In fact, Gerard Henderson revealed Anthony Mason’s involvement over two decades ago in his article in the Sydney Morning Herald titled “Kerr’s Matter of Sound Judgment” which was published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 8 January 1994. It is true that, in Whitlam: His Time, Hocking revealed additional details about Mason’s actions in the lead-up to 11 November 1975. But that Mason was involved was by no means “unknown” until 2012.

In The Age on 22 October 2016, Tony Wright wrote that it was Jenny Hocking who “unearthed the previously unknown role of High Court judge Sir Anthony Mason in advising Kerr on the dismissal”. This suggests that senior Fairfax Media journalists do not know what was published in Fairfax Media newspapers.



As avid readers will recall, MWD Issue 317 carried an Exclusive titled “The Royal Commission, the ABC, Channel Ten – and Paul Bongiorno” – see here

Paul Bongiorno (born 1944) and George Pell (born 1941) were for a time in the early 1970s both priests of the Catholic diocese of Ballarat.

MWD was the only media outlet to report that a certain BPL had made a written submission to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse concerning Paul Bongiorno. Bongiorno was once a Catholic priest in the diocese of Ballarat where (then) priest Gerald Ridsdale sexually assaulted some hundreds of boys.

BPL gave a statement to the Royal Commission that, in 1970 or 1971, he told (the then Father) Bongiorno that Ridsdale had sexually abused him. Bongiorno provided a statement to the Royal Commission that he has no memory of any such conversation having taken place. Neither man was called to give evidence before the Royal Commission by Counsel Assisting or any other parties.

MWD wrote on 27 May 2016:

A Matter of Double Standards

MWD accepts that Paul Bongiorno’s statement to the Royal Commission is completely truthful. What interests MWD is the double standard involved in the treatment in the media and elsewhere concerning George Pell.

BPL swore a statement that he told (the then Fr) Bongiorno in 1970 or 1971 that Ridsdale was sexually abusing him. This is nearly half a century ago. It’s possible that BPL’s memory is faulty. It’s possible that BPL has mistaken Bongiorno for another priest based in Warrnambool at the time. As Royal Commission head Justice Peter McClellan acknowledged in a paper, which he wrote a decade ago, memory is a very fallible thing.

It’s just that allegations from half a century ago that (the then Fr) Pell was told of Ridsdale’s offending gets traction at the Royal Commission in the media – while the allegation that (the then Fr) Bongiorno was told of Ridsdale’s offending is not reported. Neither BPL nor Mr Bongiorno appeared as a witness before the Royal Commission.

It’s much the same with the late Monsignor John Day. Gail Furness SC, the Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission, put it to Cardinal Pell in March 2016 that he should have been aware of Day’s offending because he (Pell) was also a priest of the Ballarat diocese. But no one has put it to Bongiorno that he should have been aware of Day’s offending because he (Bongiorno) was also a priest at the Ballarat diocese.

Nothing has changed. Last Monday, apparently without advising Cardinal Pell’s legal team, Counsel Assisting’s submissions to Royal Commission chairman Justice Peter McClellan were released to the public.

Despite the fact that neither BPL nor Paul Bongiorno were invited to give evidence to the Royal Commission, Gail Furness SC covered the matter of BPL’s claims in her submission. See pages 185-189 of Submissions of Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission: Case Study 28 – Catholic Church Authorities in Ballarat here. Ms Furness submitted that, while BPL’s account was “believable”, there was not sufficient evidence to support BPL’s claim with respect to Paul Bongiorno. She also submitted that there was not sufficient evidence to support the claims of BWF and BWE with respect to George Pell.

So far Counsel Assisting’s coverage of “Evidence of BPL” concerning Paul Bongiorno has not been reported by the likes of the ABC, Fairfax Media, The Guardian or The Project. Fancy that.


  • Mary Elizabeth Calwell

Thanks to the avid reader who pointed out that the name of the daughter of one-time Labor leader Arthur Calwell (1896-1973) is Mary Elizabeth Calwell – not Elizabeth Calwell.

Ms Calwell’s criticism of that part of Episode 2 of Howard on Menzies – written and directed by Simon Nasht – which covered the Catholic Church and the Labor Split was cited in the Correspondence section in Issues 338 and 339. MWD agrees with Ms Calwell – albeit from a somewhat different perspective. A correction will be made in the Correspondence section to cite Ms Calwell’s full name.


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).


As avid readers will recall, Simon Nasht – the writer and director of Howard on Menzies: Building Modern Australia – promised to “tear apart” Gerard Henderson’s critique of the early part of Episode 2 of the documentary. This covers Mr Nasht’s left-wing interpretation of (i) the defection of Mr and Mrs Petrov from the Soviet Union in April 1954, (ii) the May 1954 Federal election and (iii) the Catholic Church and the Labor Split of 1955.

Last week’s Correspondence section carried Gerard Henderson’s most recent critique of Simon Nasht’s position. Rather than tear apart Hendo’s analysis, your man Nasht put up the white flag and went into denial. Now read on:

Simon Nasht to Gerard Henderson, 28 October 2016

I have nothing to add Gerrard. You are tilting at windmills.


Gerard Henderson to Simon Nasht, 4 November 2016

I have nothing more to add, Simon, to your non-response. Except to say:

I love tilting at windmills

I’ve done it all my life

It helps to pay lotsa bills

And sets the record right

Lotsa love



As avid readers will be aware, the oh-so-pompous, Stephen Mayne objected to a comment made by Gerard Henderson about Kimberley Kitching on Insiders some time last month. Yawn. Readers may – or may not – be interested in the fact that your man Mayne is still banging on about this issue. As the latest correspondence (which has been edited to delete a clarification in the exchange) demonstrates. There is one correction needed. Hendo referred to Stephen Mayne as “Councillor Mayne”. In fact, the serial candidate was defeated when seeking re-election to the City of Melbourne [How frightfully interesting. I can only assume that Melbourne contains many an avid MWD reader. – MWD editor]

Here we go:

Stephen Mayne to Gerard Henderson, 29 October 2016

G’day Gerard,

Another short cheery email for your consideration which I hope you don’t find too pompous.

There was a most interesting feature by Brad Norrington on all that is troubling about Labor’s new Victorian senator, Kimberley Kitching [in today’s Weekend Australian].

Norrington literally wrote the book on the HSU [Health Services Union], so it was noteworthy that he challenged the “ridiculous myths” being spread about Kitching by “a coterie of her supporters”.

I’m still puzzled why you are in that cheer squad, talking her up when the Victorian ALP clearly has dozens more suitable candidates for a 6 year spot as the lead Senator from Victoria.

For someone normally so earnest about good governance and appropriate behaviour, how can you endorse someone as “sassy” and “good on television” when they have clearly lied to the Trade Union Royal Commission about sitting 6 right of entry tests, and brings lots of other baggage to the table, which will no doubt damage Bill Shorten in the Parliament in the period ahead.

Reading that Norrington piece, I thought you looked bad – a lightweight even, and certainly soft on the important question of elected officials needing to be able to tell the truth.

I would be interested in seeing your rebuttal of the Norrington piece and have no problems if you choose to publish this correspondence, along with your response.

Cheerio, Stephen M

Gerard Henderson to Stephen Mayne – 2 November 2016

Good Morning Councillor

I refer to your email of Saturday.

My God, you’re intolerant. And pompous. I don’t write to you every time something appears in the The Mayne Report with which I disagree. But you seem to hold the view that the there are certain opinions which I should not state. Sounds pretty pompous to me.

On Insiders on Sunday 16 October – along with Fleur Anderson and Malcolm Farr – I was asked to comment on the nomination of Kimberley Kitching by the Victorian Labor Party to replace Stephen Conroy in the Senate. My response was as follows:

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.

I have met Kimberley Kitching once (I have not met the other candidate for the Conroy vacancy whom Kitching apparently prevailed over to win the position). My comment was based on meeting Ms Kitching and observing her a number of times on The Bolt Report.

As you may or may not know, I have no influence on whom the Victorian Labor Party endorses for Senate vacancies after pre-selections. I merely expressed the view that, having been pre-selected, Kimberley Kitching would make a fine senator. Time will tell whether or not my prediction was correct.

You seem to be one of those ABC viewers who like the kind of discussion where everyone agrees with everyone else. Fleur Anderson and Malcolm Farr criticised the Kimberley Kitching appointment – and I offered a different view. What’s wrong with that? Only the intolerant would argue that all on The Insiders couch should agree with each other.

I read with interest Brad Norington’s detailed piece in The Weekend Australian about Kimberley Kitching on Saturday. Obviously Brad takes a different position from me. Fine. One of the strengths of The Australian is that it publishes different views. I can only assume that if you ran a major newspaper all contributors would have to abide by The Thought of Stephen Mayne. How boring would that be?

By the way, lotsa thanks for being an avid (albeit not uncritical) Media Watch Dog reader and for helping out now and then with the hugely popular Correspondence segment.



Ryan Humphreys wrote to Gerard Henderson on Sunday in an attempt to make a (clever) point about double standards. The point was not conceded – as this exchange demonstrates:

Ryan Humphreys to Gerard Henderson, 30 October 2016

Good day Gerard

It is gratifying to know you also believe Darren Goodsir, Sydney Morning Herald and Chris Kenny have a conflict of interest when they criticize those they previously have been involved in defamation proceedings.

Have you had a conversation with Chris Kenny regarding his conflict of interest when he criticizes the ABC? What did he say in return? Or is MWD 339 the first time Chris Kenny would have known what you think about him?

Kind regards


Gerard to Ryan Humphreys, 2 November 2016


I refer to your (somewhat confused) email of Sunday – sent after dinner.

It is true that, in Media Watch Dog last Friday, I made the point that – when reporting Ambassador Joe Hockey’s alleged hypocrisy over the expenditure of a mere $2,500 on child minding expenses – The Sydney Morning Herald failed to mention that it lost a defamation case with respect to Mr Hockey last year.

This is a reasonable point. Since it might explain why two senior Fairfax Media journalists (Adam Gartrell and Heath Aston) are so obsessed about so trivial an expenditure. Especially since the expenses in question were within Joe Hockey’s contract of employment as a diplomat serving Australia overseas. You seem to hold a different view.

In fact, there is no comparison between The Sydney Morning Herald editor-in-chief and The Australian’s Chris Kenny concerning an apparent conflict of interest.

The Sydney Morning Herald lost a defamation case to Joe Hockey last year and a Federal Court Judge found that Mr Goodsir had acted with “malice” towards Mr Hockey. So Darren Goodsir might be perceived as exhibiting bias when his paper criticises Joe Hockey.

On the other hand, Chris Kenny won his case against the ABC when the taxpayer funded public broadcaster settled a defamation claim out of court.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

* * *

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