18 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: Fran Kelly Forgets Hillary Clinton’s Anti-TPP Position
  • MWD Scoop: When Hendo Met The ABC Chairman On a Super-moon Night
  • Can You Bear It? Paul Barry, Joe Siracusa, Brendon O’Connor
  • Tony Jones’ 1970s Catholic Croatian Terrorist Theory Further Discredited
  • Nancy’s Ignoramus of the Week: The Sunday Age’s Woeful Howler on Alaska
  • Nancy’s Take on the Trump/Clinton Debate Down Under, Starring the US Studies Centre including Simon Jackman, Sarah Graham & David Smith plus 7.30’s Hayden Cooper & Philip Williams
  • Nancy’s Five Paws Award: Peter Stanley Debunks Peter FitzSimons latest book on the First World War
  • Correspondence: The Saturday Paper’s Erik Jensen helps out with reference to Richard Ackland, Paul Bongiorno and Cardinal George Pell



Great interview this morning by Radio National Breakfast presenter Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly with Trade Minister Steve Ciobo. Ms Kelly put it to Mr Ciobo that, due to the fact that Donald J Trump had defeated Hillary Clinton in the US presidential election, the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement is doomed.

It’s true that the president-elect campaigned against the TPP in the lead-up to 8 November. But it’s also true that Hillary Clinton opposed the TPP during the presidential election campaign. Yet, listening to Fran Kelly this morning, you would get the impression that Trump – and Trump alone – sank the TPP.



Gerard Henderson happened to join a conversation at the Business Council of Australia’s annual dinner last night when ABC chairman Jim Spigelman AC QC was discussing the announced changes to ABC Radio for 2017.

As a brief glance at the ABC Radio Looks to 2017 document indicates, nothing has been done to deprive the taxpayer funded public broadcaster of its status as a Conservative Free Zone. In other words, according to current knowledge, the ABC in 2017 will still not have a conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets. Not one.

The 2017 changes for ABC Radio see Kim Williams given a program titled “What Keeps Me Awake?” [Remind me to stay awake for this gem – MWD Editor]. And various other ABC types have been given ABC gigs as ABC types appoint and shuffle ABC like-minded types.

The appointment of Tom Switzer, a conservative who happens to oppose a Bush/Blair/Howard foreign policy approach, to present Sunday Extra has attracted some interest. But Sunday Extra is not a prominent program. Moreover, the likes of Fran Kelly, Patricia Karvelas and Phillip Adams remain in their prominent Radio National slots. And such programs as early AM, The World Today and PM will remain under similar management. Yawn. Last night, Jim Spigelman was enthusiastic about the changes and seemed bemused that Gerard Henderson took a different view. Their (brief) conversation concluded along the following lines:

Gerard Henderson: I see that there is a new way to get a gig as an ABC presenter. Take the Kim Williams approach. Apply, like Kim Williams did, for the position of ABC managing director. Then, when you miss out on the top job, the ABC offers you a gig on Radio National.

Jim Spigelman: Perhaps that’s what you should have done. Maybe you should have applied for the managing director position and when not successful you might have got your own program.

Gerard Henderson: I never wanted a program on Radio National but it’s a frightfully interesting idea.

And then, accompanied by mutual laughter, the ABC chairman and Hendo moved off into the night – the latter in search of a much needed Gin & Tonic or two or more.



As avid readers will be aware, Emeritus Professor Simon Chapman BA (Hons) Ph.D has no scientific, medical or engineering qualifications. As his entry in Who’s Who in Australia 2016 reveals, your man Chapman graduated with the degree of Arts Honours at the University of New South Wales. His Doctorate of Philosophy was gained at the University of Sydney in Sociology – the topic was “Cigarette advertising as a myth: A re-evaluation of the relationship of advertising to smoking”.

So, it came as some surprise when ABC 1 Media Watch presenter Paul Barry, on 7 November 2016, referred to Professor Simon Chapman as a “distinguished scientist”. Media Watch should know better. As documented in MWD Issue 258 (20 February 2015), Gerard Henderson wrote to Paul Barry and his executive producer Tim Latham advising that Mr Barry had erred in referring to Dr Chapman as a scientific “expert” since he had no formal qualifications in science. As usual, Messrs Barry and Latham threw the ABC switch to denial and refused to acknowledge their error or make corrections.

And now Paul Barry has called Simon Chapman a “distinguished scientist”. Which suggests that to Paul Barry and his mates at Media Watch you don’t need scientific qualifications to be described as a “distinguished scientist”. Can you bear it?


While on the topic of qualifications, did anyone see the truly stunning performance by the Chicago-born Professor Joseph M Siracusa on Q&A last Monday? The host (Virginia Trioli) and four of the five person panel were either critics of Donald Trump or not prepared to defend him from attack. No one rebuked Dr Siracusa (for a doctor he is) when he threw the switch to personal abuse. Let’s go to the transcript:

Joe Siracusa: I gotta say something, you know, about why people didn’t vote for Trump. I mean, I voted for Hillary, even as a dual national. I think he’s an appalling human being. I mean, I don’t think he has any damn policies. I think he’s as dumb as Ronald Reagan and he’s meaner than Richard Nixon.


Joe Siracusa: But I accept, you know, he had a base out there. And they were conspiratorial alright – they thought professional wrestling was real and the moon landing was a fake.


Joe Siracusa: I understand – I mean, the Midwest – I grew up there. But I thought he was an appalling human being. You can’t say those things in public and then expect us to forget it the day after. He couldn’t work in an Australian university. I doubt if Kmart would hire him for Godsakes, the way he talks. I mean, he’s just an appalling human being…

So Joe Siracusa said that Ronald Reagan was “dumb”, Richard Nixon was “mean” and Donald Trump is an “appalling human being” (on three occasions). Your man Siracusa also declared that Trump’s support base are conspiratorial nutters – all of them apparently. This passed for discussion on Q&A last Monday.

The Q&A panel notes on Joe Siracusa are quite extensive and run for some 25 lines. They set out the learned professor’s brilliant career. With one notable omission.

For the “fun fact” is that, three decades ago, Joe Siracusa had the exalted role as national security adviser to – wait for it – (then) Queensland premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen. Really. In other words, circa 1986 Joe Siracusa was on the staff of a leading conspiratorial nutter of his time.

This was a time when Australia’s very own conspiratorial right was supporting the madness of the “Joh Bjelke-Petersen for Prime Minister” campaign. But Q&A producer Peter McEvoy did not see fit to reveal this fact to the Q&A audience – and the learned professor chose not to ‘fess up himself. Can you bear it?


While on the topic of academics preferring abuse to critique, consider the case of Brendon O’Connor – the Associate Professor in American Politics at the taxpayer subsidised United States Studies Centre in Sydney. Some of Brendon O’Connor’s USSC colleagues are discussed in MWD’s new hugely popular “Nancy’s Take on The Trump/Clinton Debate Down Under” segment in today’s issue.

Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald on 3 November 2016, Dr O’Connor (for a doctor he is) sounded off under the heading “There are six types of ugly Americans and Donald Trump is all of them.” According to O’Connor’s Trump-hating rant – numbered 1-6:

  1. Donald Trump is a “schoolyard bully” and a “narcissist”.
  1. Donald Trump is “top of the class of loud-mouthed bloviators”.
  1. Donald Trump’s “diet consists of lots of McDonald’s meals” and lacks “sophistication and imagination”.
  1. Donald Trump is “arguably the biggest self-promoter in living memory”.
  1. Donald Trump’s (alleged) boasting about his wealth is “gauche” – but only “outside of America”.
  1. Donald Trump is a “hypocrite”.

Brendon O’Connor concluded his rant as follows:

Trump therefore is not merely an “ugly American” but is an amplification of commonplace cultural trends. Those that Trump exemplifies, such as narcissism, self-centredness, gnat-like attention spans, obsessive self-regard, preoccupation with the number of followers one has and a lack of interest in listening to others, are trends that are easy to pass off as particularly “American”. But if we are honest, this behaviour is all around us. To prevent the next Trump – and there will be more – requires challenging the sources of selfishness in much of modern culture that are everywhere and seemingly on the rise.

Now that Donald Trump is president-elect, Dr O’Connor and his colleagues at the USSC will have to deal with the Trump administration. Why they might even have to sit down for a meal lacking “sophistication and imagination” at Maccas. Can you bear it?


Next Monday’s Q&A is the last before the ABC program goes for what journalists like to call a Well-Earned Break – or WEB. This means that Q&A will be on a WEB from the last week of November until around the first week of February – that is, ten weeks or around 20 per cent of the year. Nice WEB if you can get it.

As avid readers are aware, MWD has challenged this claim which Tony Jones made on Q&A on 18 July 2016:

Tony Jones: When you [Pauline Hanson] say we’ve never had terrorism in this country before, that’s simply not the case…. In the 1970s there were multiple bombings by Croatian Catholic extremists.

Tony Jones has not provided evidence that “Croatian Catholic extremists” engaged in “multiple bombings” in Australia “in the 1970s”. As is documented in John Blaxland’s The Protest Years: The Official History of ASIO, 1963-1975, the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation always believed that some bombings attributed to Croatians in Australia were carried out by agents of the Yugoslav secret police operating in Australia. For the most part, they were neither Catholic nor Croatian.

John Blaxland and Rhys Crawley’s The Secret Cold War: The Official History of ASIO, 1975-1989 has just been released. The authors demonstrate that the conviction of what was termed the Croatian Six for possessing explosives and detonators in 1979 was unsafe. The allegations against the Croatian Six were fabricated by an agent of the Yugoslav government. Moreover, towards the end of their book, John Blaxland and Rhys Crawley write:

The focus on Croatian extremists had triggered the infamous Murphy raid on Headquarters ASIO in March 1973 (discussed in Volume ii), and worries over their capabilities and intentions persisted through the 1970s and into the 1980s (discussed in Chapter 6). As of May 1983, ASIO counted eighteen explosive attacks involving Yugoslav targets, although the assessment avoided specifically blaming Croats for them.

How about that? As of May 1983 ASIO was uncertain whether any of 18 attacks on Yugoslav targets were carried out by Croatians. Yet, without evidence, Tony Jones reckons that the attacks in the 1970s were carried out by “Catholic Croatian extremists”.

There’s still time for Mr Jones to make a correction on Monday – before Q&A goes on its WEB.




Nancy’s (male) co-owner woke up in Melbourne last Sunday – ready for an appearance on Insiders. On his phone was a message from an avid reader – drawing attention to a cartoon in that morning’s The Sunday Age by Matt Golding. It was a familiar leftist theme that, following Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election, many a leftist American would flee the Trump Fascist Dictatorship and seek refuge in Canada. [Isn’t it interesting that American leftists always threaten to seek refuge in Canada – and not among their leftist comrades in, say, Venezuela or Cuba – MWD Editor.]

This is Matt Golding’s take on the flight of potential victims of the Trump Fascist Dictatorship. He suggested that Trump opponents saw value in fleeing for four years to Canada and, wait for it, Alaska. Apparently, neither your man Golding nor anyone at The Sunday Age knows that Alaska is part of the United States of America and that it voted for Donald Trump on 8 November 2016.




What will happen with the score and more academics at the taxpayer subsidised United States Studies Centre (USSC) – which is part of the taxpayer subsidised University of Sydney – so many of whom got the result of the United States presidential election so hopelessly wrong? MWD reckons that the lot of them will probably get a promotion – since it takes real team spirit for everyone to be as wrong as everyone else about a two horse race. There should be a reward for such collective foolishness at an institution like the University of Sydney.

Gerard Henderson always believed it was a really bad idea when Prime Minister John Howard provided $25 million of taxpayers’ money to set up the USSC. He predicted that it would eventually be staffed by academics who would run a fashionable left-wing, or left-of-centre, line on almost everything about the US and, consequently, distort Australia’s understanding of Americans.

And so it came to pass – best illustrated by the 2016 presidential election. Not one of the taxpayer subsidised academics at the taxpayer subsidised USCC predicted that Donald Trump would defeat Hillary Clinton. Not one. More importantly, most of the USCC staff who commented about the election on Australian media were clearly barracking for a Clinton victory and dismissive and/or contemptuous of Trump.

Just how hopeless the USSC is was revealed both before and after the 8 November election.

USSC – Leigh Sales, ABC 7.30

On 3 October 2016, 7.30 presenter Leigh Sales interviewed USSC chief executive officer Professor Simon Jackman. The interview took place in the wake of what was regarded as a poor performance by Donald J. Trump during the first presidential debate. Ms Sales set the tone for the (soft) interview by suggesting that the “devastating new parody on Saturday Night Live” which had recently gone to air would have “as much traction” as Tina Fey’s “impersonation of Sarah Palin, something that damaged Palin’s political aspirations”.

Then it was the learned professor’s turn. After referring to the Saturday Night Live skit, Simon Jackman commented: “It is just starting to pile on a little bit in the United States, the narrative is heading in the wrong way” for the Republican Party. Jackman agreed with Sales about the 2008 Sarah Palin comparison. The interview concluded as follows:

Leigh Sales: We probably haven’t had time yet to see that fully start to play out in the polls but, in recent times, we have seen. It is Clinton ahead of Trump if you look at the aggregate of polls by about 3 to 5 per cent.

Simon Jackman: Yep.

Leigh Sales: How reliable are those polls though? Because you look at what we saw in Europe, even with Colombia today with the way the vote went there about whether there should be a peace deal with the FARC rebels, it went the opposite way to how the polls were predicting? So how much can we trust these polls in the US?

Simon Jackman: Okay, so at three to five, yeah you can trust them. I totally believe that. If they’re one to two, now we’re into Brexit territory, then I’d start to get a little more dubious. But there is an awful lot of technology being thrown at the American electorate these days from 2000 onwards. Everybody understands it is the swing States that matter, it is not the national polls. I’ve contributed to this myself, my scholarship back in the States.

I think we’re in a much stronger place to make predictions about what’s likely to happen. Everybody knows what States are going to decide this election. That’s where all the polling effort is being produced. I doubt that we are going to have a big upset, particularly if the margins stay where they are. The polls might be off by one or two points, even the poll average is not going to be off by three to five to six points.

Leigh Sales: Well, we will no doubt talk to you again probably before election day. Thanks very much, Professor.

Simon Jackman: Look forward to it. Thank you.

So there you have it. On 3 October 2016, Simon Jackman regarded Donald Trump’s campaign as virtually destroyed by the skit on Saturday Night Live, predicted the race was effectively over and prophesied a Hillary Clinton victory.

USSC – Peter Van Onselen, Sunday Agenda

Move forward to last Sunday – 13 November 2016. Peter van Onselen interviewed a trio from the USSC on his Sky News’ Sunday Agenda program. Namely, Professor Simon Jackman, Sarah Graham and David Smith. Here are some of the “highlights”.

  • Dr Jackman (for a doctor he is) said that talk about a conservative revolution in the United States is wrong because Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. He neglected to say that – if the presidential election was determined on the popular vote – then Trump would have campaigned in such States as California, New York and Texas. He didn’t because it was about Electoral College votes. Moreover, this matter was well known – in the US and Australia – before your man Jackman undertook his “scholarship” in the US.
  • Dr Smith (for a doctor he is) said that Trump supporters have legitimate grievances but Trump isn’t the one who can address them.
  • Dr Jackson predicted that Trump was never serious about building a wall to prevent unlawful immigration to the United States from Mexico.
  • Dr Smith predicted that, due to the aggressive nature of Trump supporters, any Republicans who refused to bend to Trump’s will would be inundated with threats.
  • Dr Graham (for a doctor she is) said that gerrymandering and intimidation had pushed down the Hillary Clinton vote in swing Sates. She provided no evidence for this assertion.
  • Dr Smith said that Trump will not be able to unite the United States since Trump has triggered a call to arms to white supremacists who will continue to attack minorities. He provided no evidence for this assertion.

So here were the team from the United States Studies Centre – who were hopelessly wrong about the outcome of the 2016 US election – lecturing at large about what the Trump administration not only will, but should, do. Towards the end of the interview, even Professor Jackman saw the ridiculousness of the discussion. Let’s go to the transcript:

Simon Jackman: I just want to inject a little bit of modesty into the conversation. The idea that I know what Donald Trump needs to do over the last [sic] four years – given the kind of our spectacular inability to predict that he would win in the first place – suggests that we might want to perhaps temper. And for a bunch of Australian based political scientists to be offering Donald Trump advice, I just think we ought to just throw a blanket over –

For the record, Nancy’s (male) co-owner is not in receipt of any taxpayer funds and has never attended a United States Studies Centre “information” session. Some two weeks before Professor Jackman wrote off Trump’s chances on 7.30, Hendo had this to say on the 11 September 2016 Insiders program. Let’s go to the transcript:

Gerard Henderson: I am no fan of Donald Trump. But the dismissive attitude of many Australian journalists to Trump overlooks one central fact. If the Republicans hold all the States they won four years ago under Mitt Romney – and Trump wins, say, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania he will be President next year.

[Fancy that. Perhaps you might be offered the prestigious position of a junk professor – sorry, adjunct professor – at the USSC. Just a thought – MWD Ed]


It was not just the United States Studies Centre that had a bad US presidential election campaign. So did ABC TV’s leading current affairs program 7.30. A few examples illustrate the point.

On 10 November 2016, 7.30’s Hayden Cooper set out to analyse “what the Trump victory means for Australia”. So what did your man Cooper do? Well he interviewed only critics of Donald Trump. Namely Hobart-based economist Saul Eslake and Deakin University academic Benjamin Isakhan. No other view was heard.

Then, last Friday, on 7.30 Philip Williams interviewed two critics of the president-elect. Namely, Lee Miringoff (director of the Marist Institute) and the Trump-hater Robert Jervis (Professor of International Relations at Columbia University). Let’s go to the transcript where your man Williams asks leading questions of Professor Jervis – sure in the understanding that he would bag Trump. He sure did:

Philip Williams: Now the great guessing game has started. Which of his [Donald Trump’s] inner circle will be tapped? How inclusive and diverse will “Team Trump” look? The next secretary of state will set the tone for relations with the world.

Robert Jervis: If he goes for, say, Newt Gingrich as secretary of state – then you batten down the hatches. Gingrich is like Trump in temperament: totally unpredictable – a loose cannon. All those things. So you really worry.

Philip Williams: Where does this leave Australia, obviously with strong economic ties to China but with the military alliance with the US?

Robert Jervis: Yes. Well, of course, the first thing is – has Trump ever heard about Australia? I mean, obviously that’s unfair and all that. But I don’t think he could tell you the first thing about Australia. I think –

Philip Williams: Do you think he could find it on the map?

Robert Jervis: Ah – no.

What a leading question. And what a load of absolute tosh for an answer. Sure, Donald Trump probably does not know a lot about Australia. But he does know some Australians. And, like him or not, Trump is intelligent. The suggestion that Trump could not find Australia on a map – directed at one of Trump’s critics – is quite unprofessional. Even for a star 7.30 reporter.

five paws graphic


As avid readers will be aware, advertisements in Fairfax Media newspapers are flogging a Seine River Cruise with Sydney Morning Herald and Sun Herald columnist Peter FitzSimons. For a mere $7,334 (or more) you can fly return to France and cruise down the Seine with the Red Bandannaed One, while hearing him lecture on the First World War. Yawn.

So how much does Fitz know about the Great War? Not all that much according to Peter Stanley – one of Australia’s leading military historians. Here’s what Professor Stanley wrote about Peter FitzSimons’ most recent book Victory at Villers-Bretonneux in the Fairfax Media newspapers last Saturday:

Maaate! Beaudy! We bored it up those bastard Brits, eh! Villers-Bret – the Aussies’ triumph. Those mighty Anzacs attacked straight into Hun machine-gun fire – rat-tat-tat! – and through shell-fire – ba-boom! And they dished it to the Fritzes – kamerad my arse! – and saved that French village and the whole bloody Western Front and damn near won the war. ‘Onya, Diggers. Not that Field-bloody-Marshal Douglas Haig noticed. Again. I coulda cried: Maaate!

I did weep. There you have the digested read of Peter FitzSimons’ latest house-brick-sized book, Victory at Villers-Bretonneux, completing his trilogy on Australians in the Great War. Thank goodness. FitzSimons’ style is that of a graphic novel without the pictures; cartoon history by the kilogram. His popularity stems partly from the promotional advantages he enjoys with media outlets in all forms, but also because he is a sort of historical Trump – he understands and expresses (and probably shares) a simple patriotism that transcends the complexity of real life, and tells a good story regardless.

As his acknowledgments make clear, practically all the actual research for this and other books is done by a large team of elves – FitzSimons’ part is to render it in what he concedes is “a particular, unconventional way”. It is story-telling: but is it history? No one would dispute that the counter-attacks at Villers-Bretonneux were among the AIF’s most impressive feats – like most writers, FitzSimons takes his cue from Charles Bean, who said as much in his dispatches, diaries and in his official history. And few would doubt that the episode’s principal architect, Brigadier-General Harold “Pompey” Elliott, was Australia’s greatest fighting soldier of the war. That’s been confirmed many times since 1918.

What is in contention – what this book makes contentious by FitzSimons’ focus and style – is whether this action, tiny on the scale of the Western Front, deserves the nearly 700 pages of adulation, simplification and exaggeration it gets at his hand. This is all, as FitzSimons would say, pissing in the wind. His thousands of readers have their Oi, oi, oi prejudices confirmed; he enjoys his status as Australia’s highest-earning non-fiction writer (though many passages are actually imagined) and historians who see the past less simplistically are left looking like sour-pusses. But as Fitzy writes: “Bingo. Done. Move on.”….Reading [Paul] Ham and [Robert] Gerwarth’s sombre narratives beside FitzSimons’ nationalist boosting shows he really doesn’t understand the Great War at all.

Perhaps it might make sense to discount the trip down the Seine with The Red Bandannaed One to, say, $734 in order to accommodate Australians who want to hear all about the Great War by someone who doesn’t really understand the conflict.

Peter Stanley: Five Paws.


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 are aware, not so long ago Richard Ackland railed against any “childlike form of expression”. However in his “Gadfly” column in The [Boring] Saturday Paper last weekend, your man Ackland referred to “Father Gerard Henderson”, “Cardinal Gorgeous George Pell”, the “Catholic Boys Daily” (i.e. The Australian) and so on. How funny – and juvenile – can you get?

Richard Ackland declared that the pedophile priests Gerald Ridsdale and Peter Searson were on “Pell’s watch” when they sexually abused children in Ballarat and Melbourne respectively. Gerard Henderson has written to The Saturday Paper stating that, in fact, the responsible authority for Ridsdale was (the then) Bishop Ronald Mulkearns and the responsible authority for Searson was (the then) Archbishop Frank Little. Gerard Henderson also pointed out that Counsel-Assisting the Royal Commission, Gail Furness SC, has not produced any document or witness evidence that suggests Pell knew of Ridsdale’s pedophilia, although he was probably aware of his homosexuality. What’s more, four one-time staff of the Catholic Education Office gave evidence to the Royal Commission. None said that they had informed (then Bishop) George Pell of Searson’s sexual offending.

Gerard Henderson’s Letter to the Saturday Paper concluded as follows:

It’s interesting to note that the civil libertarian Richard Ackland seems to accept a very low standard of proof when it comes to Cardinal Pell. It’s also interesting that The Saturday Paper has not told its readers that (like Pell) Paul Bongiorno once briefly shared accommodation with Ridsdale and that one of Ridsdale’s victims claims that he told Bongiorno in 1970 or 1971 of Ridsdale’s crimes. Gail Furness SC has submitted to the Royal Commission that there is insufficient evidence to support this allegation as she had concerning two not dissimilar claims with respect to Pell.

Erik Jensen has advised Gerard Henderson that he will publish his letter – with the reference to Paul Bongiorno deleted. Now read on.

Gerard Henderson to Erik Jensen – 14 November 2016


I trust that you will run this in the next issue of The Saturday Paper. This letter is the same length as that carried by Catherine Moore last Saturday.


* * * * *

It’s not so long ago that Richard Ackland railed against any “childlike form of expression”. However, the Gadfly column (12/11) referred to “Father Gerard Henderson”, “Cardinal Gorgeous George Pell”, the “Catholic Boys Daily” and so on. Funny, eh?

I stand by what I wrote in The Weekend Australian 4-6 November 2016. Neither Gerald Ridsdale nor Peter Searson was on what Ackland calls “Pell’s watch” when they sexually abused children in Ballarat and Melbourne respectively. The responsible authority at the time was Bishop Ronald Mulkearns in Ballarat and Archbishop Frank Little in Melbourne.

Gail Furness SC has not produced any document or witness evidence that Pell knew of Ridsdale’s pedophilia, although he was aware of his homosexuality. Four one-time staff of the Catholic Education Office gave evidence to the Royal Commission. None said that they had informed (then Bishop) George Pell of Searson’s sexual offending.

It’s interesting to note that the civil libertarian Richard Ackland seems to accept a very low standard of proof when it comes to Cardinal Pell. It’s also interesting that The Saturday Paper has not told its readers that (like Pell) Paul Bongiorno once briefly shared accommodation with Ridsdale and that one of Ridsdale’s victims claims that he told Bongiorno in 1970 or 1971 of Ridsdale’s crimes. Gail Furness SC has submitted to the Royal Commission that there is insufficient evidence to support this allegation as she had concerning two not dissimilar claims with respect to Pell.

Gerard Henderson



Erik Jensen to Gerard Henderson – 15 November 2016

Dear Gerard,

Thank you for your letter. I am happy to run the first three paragraphs. The final paragraph, however, is a wilful distortion.

That Paul Bongiorno’s name appears in Gail Furness’s submission means very little. Your name appears in the Australian every week, and the same goes there.

You imply some kind of conspiracy to protect Paul in our reporting; there is none. Paul has spoken on radio about his time in the presbytery. He has made himself available to the commission for interview. It was the commission’s decision not to call Paul.

Furness finds no evidence that Paul knew of Gerald Ridsdale’s offending, and indeed gives three reasons to support this conclusion. Let me be clear: He knew nothing.

To liken Paul to George Pell is specious in the extreme. There are a couple of key differences here. One man held a junior position in the church, left it 43 years ago, and is held credible by the commission. The other faces multiple questions about his knowledge of paedophilia while holding the most senior offices in the church, and has given evidence so incredible that submissions to the commission mistrust its veracity. Richard Ackland describes Ridsdale’s offending as happening “on Pell’s watch”. It did. The question is not what Pell knew when sharing accommodation with Ridsdale – a period you mischievously link to Paul’s time as a junior curate – but what he knew as a consulter moving priests around the diocese, and later.

To conscript Paul’s brief history with the church to the purposes of your increasingly bizarre defence of George Pell is unseemly and dishonest. This is why I cannot run the last paragraph of your letter. No doubt you will call this censorship. That is because you confuse censorship with relevance. In this debate, I’d argue, you’ve had none of either.


Erik Jensen


The Saturday Paper

Gerard Henderson to Erik Jensen – 18 November 2016

Dear Erik

I refer to your email of 16 November 2016.

It was precisely what I expected. I tagged my comment on Paul Bongiorno at the end of my letter to The Saturday Paper to make it easier for you to censor it. Or what you would term “deleting an irrelevance”. In fact, my reference to Mr Bongiorno was fair and considered.

In response to your letter, I make the following comments.

The Saturday Paper, Channel 10’s The Project and the ABC have led the campaign against Cardinal George Pell – along with Fairfax Media, Channel 9’s 60 Minutes and The Guardian. Paul Bongiorno (i) writes for The Saturday Paper, (ii) is a contributing editor at Channel 10 and (iii) broadcasts on the ABC. Yet – apart from a brief friendly discussion on Radio National Breakfast – not one of these outlets has mentioned Paul Bongiorno’s one-time, albeit brief, relationship with the pedophile Gerard Ridsdale. This is in spite of the fact that many readers, viewers and listeners would be interested to learn from so prominent and influential an Australian as Mr Bongiorno about his personal experiences of one of Australia’s most notorious pedophiles.

As you will be aware, Paul Bongiorno has said he had “no idea” of Ridsdale’s offending when he shared a presbytery with him, and that pedophiles “hide” their crimes. True – but worth elaboration in The Saturday Paper and elsewhere.

▪ My letter to The Saturday Paper does not contain any distortions – “wilful” or otherwise. You just made this up.

▪ You claim that the fact that Counsel-Assisting Gail Furness SC’s submission to the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse mentions Paul Bongiorno “means little”. And, following some strange logic, you equate the fact that my name appears every week in The Weekend Australian – over my column – with the fact that Mr Bongiorno’s name appears in four pages of Ms Furness’ submission. You can do better than this. The two matters are totally unrelated. I am sure that if Ms Furness’ submission to the Royal Commission had devoted four pages to me that this would have received coverage in the Fairfax Media, the ABC, The Saturday Paper, The Guardian and more besides. But that’s another matter.

▪ I have never suggested that The Saturday Paper – or any other media outlet – is engaged in “conspiracy” with respect to Paul Bongiorno. You just made this up.

For the record, Paul Bongiorno has not spoken to the media at large about the time he shared a presbytery with Ridsdale in Warrnambool. He has told me that, on the morning that the Royal Commission’s hearing into the Catholic diocese of Ballarat opened, Fran Kelly sought his permission to discuss his time as a Catholic priest in the Ballarat diocese. He did so briefly on his Radio National Breakfast slot that morning – and has not otherwise mentioned the matter.

In his book The Prince, Faith, Abuse & George Pell, David Marr runs the sneering “George Pell…noticed nothing” line with reference to the fact that George Pell briefly shared a presbytery with Ridsdale at Ballarat East. It seems that, according to David Marr, there is one standard for George Pell and another one for anyone else – including Paul Bongiorno.

▪ It is true that Gail Furness has submitted that there is insufficient evidence to support the view that the witness BPL told (then) Father Bongiorno about Ridsdale’s offending in 1970 or 1971. Ms Furness has also submitted that there is insufficient evidence to support the view that the witnesses BWF and BWE told (the then) Father Pell about Ridsdale’s offending. Ms Furness has also submitted that there is insufficient evidence to support David Ridsdale’s claim that, some years later, (the then) Bishop Pell attempted to bribe him to prevent him from reporting Gerald Ridsdale’s sexual offending to Victoria Police.

I note that – despite its ongoing campaign against Cardinal Pell – The Saturday Paper has not reported Gail Furness’ submissions concerning Cardinal Pell with respect to BWF, BWE and David Ridsdale. Last Saturday Richard Ackland only referred to two adverse submissions concerning George Pell.

▪ Your claim that Cardinal Pell has given evidence to the Royal Commission that is “so incredible that submissions to the [Royal] Commission mistrust its veracity” is simply untrue. The fact is that, as documented above, Counsel-Assisting has submitted that there is insufficient evidence to support the claims of BWF, BWE and David Ridsdale against Cardinal Pell. Likewise Counsel-Assisting has found that there is insufficient evidence to support BPL’s claims against Paul Bongiorno. Yet you declare that Paul Bongiorno “knew nothing” while implying that George Pell knew a lot. My position is that I believe both Mr Bongiorno and Cardinal Pell. I agree with what Justice Peter McClellan wrote in August 2006 about what he termed the “fallibility of memory”. Some witnesses have fallible memories.

By the way, Gail Furness SC has produced no written evidence or witness statement to prove that the (then) Father Pell knew that Ridsdale was being moved within the Ballarat diocese on account of the fact that he was a pedophile. If you had read Ms Furness’ submissions, you would know this.

▪ The fact is that many current and former priests were called to give evidence to the Royal Commission. In its wisdom, the Royal Commission did not ask Paul Bongiorno to give evidence. However, the Royal Commission did take a statement from him and Counsel-Assisting did refer to this statement in her submission to the Royal Commission. This matter was not reported in The Saturday Paper – or by Fairfax Media, Channel 10, 60 Minutes, The Guardian or the ABC.

▪ You have not provided one quote to document your assertion that my comments on Cardinal Pell are “increasingly bizarre” and “dishonest”. No one has demonstrated that I have made any mistakes in my writings on this matter in The Weekend Australian or on my Media Watch Dog blog. No one. Moreover, my comments are essentially similar to those of the lawyer Fr Frank Brennan SJ (who has at times been a critic of Cardinal George Pell on other matters).

▪ I do not understand why you wish to protect Paul Bongiorno by censoring my letter to The Saturday Paper. I do not believe that Mr Bongiorno needs your protection. I believe he understands the issue well – as indicated in the text of the exchange between us which took place on 25 May 2016 in which he wrote that “everyone in the Church” including himself “has been on a learning curve” concerning child clerical sexual abuse.


I note that, The Saturday Paper still provides very little space for Letters and you prefer correspondence not to exceed 150 words. It seems that you are not really interested in what your readers have to say. It’s not that there is a lack of space in the paper. After all, the current issue of The Saturday Paper contains one full-page advertisement for The Saturday Paper and another for The Monthly. As editor, you devote more space to advertising your own product than you do to hearing the views of your readers.

I note in passing how aggressive and rude you are to someone who actually buys the paper you edit. You should attend Nancy’s Courtesy Classes.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

* * * *

Until next time.

Endorsements of MWD

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