7 April 2017

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: SMH Finds Catholic Mafia & North Korean Influence on Sydney’s North Shore
  • Editorial: Fairfax Media’s Mission Statement on the Need for a Broad Church Examined
  • Media Fool of the Week – Mike Carlton on Ayaan Hirsi Ali 
  • Can You Bear It? Mike Carlton’s Death Wish for the Likes of Tony Jones & Sarah Ferguson; US Studies Centre in Denial about Political Balance and Basic Academic Competence
  • MWD Scoop: John Howard and the Ramsay Centre’s Western Civilisation Course – as Depicted by Nancy via a Leak
  • New Series: Flat Out Like a Lizard Drinking – David Day Still Can’t Stump Up Promised Evidence on Mr Churchill and Mr Menzies Circa 1941
  • The Fallibility of Memory: Robert Manne’s False Memory About Life at La Trobe University Circa 1975
  • Robert Manne’s Memory Jogger Reward Now Raised to $25,000



What a beat-up in this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald concerning tomorrow’s by-elections for the Sydney based NSW Parliament seats of North Shore and Manly.  The Page 3 “News” piece, by Heath Aston and titled “Libs pan Abbott’s campaign absence”, commences as follows: [Note the quotes are taken from the online version of the story which is longer than the print edition – MWD Editor.]

Liberal Party campaign operatives are dismayed that Tony Abbott has taken little part in the defence of two state seats located inside his federal electorate of Warringah, both of which are up for byelections on Saturday. His absence from the hustings has highlighted growing friction in Warringah between loyalists of Mr Abbott and those who believe the former prime minister’s time in politics should be at an end.

Mr Abbott has not campaigned for Left-backed Felicity Wilson, the Liberal candidate replacing former health minister Jillian Skinner in the seat of North Shore, two-thirds of which lies within Warringah, including the Liberal heartland of Mosman.

He did a street walk with Manly candidate James Griffin on March 25 but has since been tied up with Parliament and his annual Pollie Pedal charity ride, which began on Monday. A noted campaigner and lauded for his “cut-through” with voters, Mr Abbott will not be in Warringah on byelection day, with Pollie Pedal scheduled to roll into Sydney on Monday, his office confirmed.

Needless to say, “Liberal Party campaign operatives” who are “dismayed” by Tony  Abbott are not named.  Indeed Mr Heath Aston’s sources for this story consist of (i) “Liberal Party campaign operatives”, (ii) “Liberals”, (iii) “a senior Liberal” and (iv) “a senior figure” and (v) a “local party source”.  Er, that’s it.

According to your man Heath Aston:

Mr Abbott had been scheduled to campaign with Mr Griffin in Manly last Friday but was prevented by the extra sitting day in Canberra as the Turnbull Government steered its company tax cut through the Senate. But there appears to have been no plans to support Ms Wilson, who had the backing of left faction warlord Michael Photios, a powerbroker who has been in the sights of Mr Abbott since he was deposed as Liberal leader by Malcolm Turnbull.

Gosh. Mr Abbott could not campaign in Manly last Friday due to the fact that the House of Representatives sat.  And he is not campaigning in North Sydney where Michael Photios has backed Felicity Wilson.  Does Mr Photios want Mr Abbott to campaign in the North Shore?  Heath Aston did not say.  Also, SMH readers might be surprised to hear Tony Abbott described by Heath Aston as “a noted campaigner” who is “lauded for his ‘cut-through’ with voters”. MWD cannot recall such an endorsement from the SMH when Tony Abbott was Liberal Party leader.

In fact, as Heath Aston acknowledges, Tony Abbott’s apparent absence from the by-election campaign can be partly explained by reference to the fact that he is on the charity fund-raiser annual Pollie Pedal.  Also, if Michael Photios is so gifted at picking political winners – why does your man Photios not publicly support James Griffin in Manly and Felicity Wilson in North Shore?  Go on Mr Photios – go out and shake a few hands in a few supermarkets.

Needless to say, your man Heath was incapable of concluding his piece without a bit of traditional Fairfax Media anti-Catholic sectarianism:

Focus on Warringah has intensified since both candidates backed by Mr Abbott failed to win preselection for Manly and North Shore. A local party source compared that failure to harness support in the branches with the way in which Bronwyn Bishop’s support vanished despite her grip on Mackellar having previously been considered “North Korean” in its dominance. “They are sick of the undermining of Malcolm Turnbull and question what Abbott’s first objective is: to beat Turnbull or Labor? Their biggest wish is to not see Bill Shorten become the prime minister.”

But a senior figure from the moderate or left faction said there was no prospect that Mr Abbott would be under siege in Warringah. “This is a respected former prime minister we are talking about, not someone caught rorting expenses,” he said.

Ms Berejiklian’s name has been connected with Warringah in the longer term while there is also local speculation that high-profile crown prosecutor Margaret Cunneen could have her eyes on entering politics through the seat.

She is said to be part of the conservative “Catholic mafia” around Mr Abbott in Warringah and campaigned for Walter Villatora, the Abbott-backed preselection candidate who lost comprehensively to Mr Griffin.

What a load of tosh.  Gladys Berejiklian has just become NSW premier with the next election to be held in March 2019. The next election for Tony Abbott’s seat of Warringah is due no later than mid-2019.  The numbers don’t add up.

Moreover, there is no evidence that Margaret Cunneen wants to be a Liberal Party parliamentarian.  None whatsoever.

Then there is the alleged “conservative Catholic mafia” to which Margaret Cunneen is “said” to belong. However, Heath Aston does not report who – if anyone – “said” this.  BTW, would the Sydney Morning Herald run a story about a “radical Islamic mafia?”. Not on your nelly.

And then the suggestion that Bronwyn Bishop was “North Korean” in her dominance of the Mackellar Liberal Party branch.  Come off it.  Is the SMH’s political correspondent really suggesting that she lined up her opponents on Avalon Beach and had them shot with anti-aircraft guns. That’s North Korean dominance, after all.



As avid readers will be aware, MWD has always queried Fairfax Media’s editorial direction.  Namely, the situation which developed over recent decades whereby Fairfax management and senior editors allowed journalists to attack and at times sneer at Fairfax Media’s print readers and advertisers.

For eons papers like The Age and, to a lesser extent, the Sydney Morning Herald have attacked believers, individuals who send their children to non-government schools, large and small businesses (which advertise in Fairfax Media’s papers) and more besides.

So it came to pass that Fairfax Media came to reflect the ABC – and, indeed, there has been constant interchange of personnel between the two organisations.  That is, Fairfax Media journalists tend to attack political conservatives (Coalition) and social democrats (Labor) from the green/left perspective.  This enhanced the leftist ideological fervour among journalists at the cost of alienating Coalition and Labor voters.

It’s not clear how, at this late stage in the history of print media, Fairfax Media proposes to re-tilt the prevailing green/left pervading ethos. But Fairfax Media’s Mission Statement – released yesterday – could be the first step in the correct direction.

The final paragraph of the statement, which was agreed to by the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, is as follows:

The changing media landscape means our journalism must be responsive, relevant and accessible across all platforms and devices. But it does not change the essential character of our mastheads which believe the best outcomes for communities and individuals are achieved by a mix of socially liberal and fiscally responsible policies.

We believe in the merits of market-based solutions to economic challenges and an Australia that rewards aspiration and hard work. We want to be at the political centre of the rigorous debate over how best to achieve these important objectives.

However, we will continue to strongly argue that safety nets are necessary to protect the vulnerable and that the state has an important role to play in areas such as health, education and the environment.

Considered, agenda-setting journalism is the best way our newsrooms can achieve these important goals. The mastheads must be a “broad church” in which sensible – and often differing – voices can contest the issues that will determine our cities’, our states’ and Australia’s future prosperity.

The mere fact that Fairfax Media now states its newspapers need to be “at the political centre” and must constitute a “broad church” suggests that management has finally realised that this is not the current status quo.  MWD says – better late than never. Sure, there was no change in Fairfax Media’s editorial position today as the report on the NSW by-elections makes clear. But there’s always tomorrow.



Ayaan Hirsi Ali was prevented from visiting Australia this week by, at least in part, the threat of violent protests aimed at venues which were prepared to hear her views on Islam.

The Somali-born Dutch-American Muslim apostate experienced female genital mutilation as a young woman and was forced into marriage before fleeing to the West.  In the Netherlands, her friend Theo Van Gogh was murdered on an Amsterdam street by a jihadist in 2004.  Ali’s life was also threatened and she has continual police protection.

At 7.21 am on Wednesday 5 April The Sage of Avalon Beach put out the following tweet.

How foolish is that?  According to Mike Carlton, Australians who want to hear Ayaan Hirsi Ali in person are denying freedom of speech to those who want to close down any event she chooses to address. Fair dinkum.  The Sage of Avalon Beach is unaware that violent attempted censorship is not an expression of free speech.

Freedom of speech would ensure that Ayaan Hirsi Ali was allowed to put her views at one place – and her critics were allowed to put their views at another place.  But according to your man Carlton, those who want to censor Ms Ali are merely engaging in an act of criticism – just criticism.

Which makes Mike (“I’ll pour the gin”) Carlton our very own Media Fool of the Week.



As avid readers are aware, one of the best things to happen to MWD this year was Mike (“I’ll pour the gin”) Carlton’s true confession that he is back on the turps.  This has led to a host of tweets from The Sage of Avalon, including this one:

This gem went out – last Friday at 7:08pm – Gin & Tonic time.  The reference was to The Sydney Institute’s 2017 Annual Dinner/Lecture which was held at The Star last night and addressed by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.  It was described by Joe Aston in today’s AFR “Rear Window” column as a “marvellous show”.  And by Will Glasgow’s “Margin Call” column in today’s Australian as the “who’s who Institute dinner”.

Among the “truly odious people” who your man Carlton wanted to die by “a spot of C. Botulinum” last night were, in no necessary order in the crossing-the-Jordan-River conga line, Malcolm Turnbull, Stan Grant, Trent Zimmerman, Mark Di Stefano, Janine Perrett, Patricia Karvelas, Tony Jones, Sarah Ferguson, Elizabeth Ann McGregor, Michelle Guthrie, Graham Richardson, Sue Cato, Tracey Spicer, Stephen Loosely, Tracey Holmes, Kristina Keneally and Natasha Stott Despoja.

Did Mr Carlton really want a death by “inconvenience” – via a dose of botulinum – to the above at The Sydney Institute dinner last night? Or was it just the Gin & Tonic talking?  Can You Bear It?


Lotsa thanks to the avid reader who attended Kim Beazley’s launch of Ian Satchwell’s Trumping Trade: Understanding the Australian-United States Economic Relationship (Perth USA Asia Centre) at the United States Studies Centre in Sydney on Tuesday.  Mr Satchwell’s opus magnum occupies an entire 30 pages.

The Perth US Asia Centre is the Perth arm of the US Studies Centre – it was established with $7 million taxpayer hand out from the Commonwealth government.  Initially the USSC received a $25 million handout from the Howard government.  It later received an extra $6 million from the Commonwealth and $4 million from the NSW government.

The USSC has now put its hand-out for yet more – and is seeking an additional $15 million from taxpayers in the current Commonwealth budget.  If successful, this would mean that the USSC has received around $50 million of taxpayers’ money in a decade, which explains its bloated state.

This is how Ian Satchwell’s Trumping Trade commences:

Discussion[sic] about Australia’s strategic and economic relationships have [sic] focused on the notion of a binary choice between Australia’s vital trade relationship with China – its biggest customer and largest supplier – and Australia’s security relationship with the United States, its key strategic ally.

What a load of absolute tosh.  John Howard, for example, has being saying for eons that Australia does not have to choose between its trade relationship with China and its security relationship with the United States. So have many others.  It seems that Ian Satchwell just made this up.

At the launch in Sydney, Simon Jackman – the chief executive of the US[eless] Studies Centre – said that there had been some criticism of his centre in recent times.

Dr Jackman (for a doctor he is) was clearly referring to Gerard Henderson’s column in The Weekend Australian last Saturday titled “Conservative Values Not Safe In Liberal Academic Hands” – see here – and also Hendo’s reference to the USSC in recent issues of MWD.  He also clearly had in mind the article by Aaron Patrick in the Australian Financial Review of 30 March 2017 titled “US Studies Centre academics specialise in movies, witches, fashion and sex” – see here

According to MWD’s source, your man Jackman said that criticism of the USSC should be dismissed.  He declared that the US Studies Centre was criticised for being both too right-wing and too left-wing.  Needless to say, he did not name any names of those who have accused the USSC of being too right-wing.  Who might such people be?

MWD’s source reports that Simon Jackman also defended the USSC against criticism by asserting “the facts will speak for themselves”. Well yes – they will.  And yes – they do.

And the facts are that, out of a staff of 30, not one member of the taxpayer subsidised US Studies Centre at the taxpayer subsidised University of Sydney predicted that Donald J Trump would defeat Hillary Clinton in the US presidential election last November.  Not one. Including the ABC’s very own John Barrow. That’s a fact – despite all claim expertise on American politics.

Moreover, as Simon Jackman has conceded, no one at the USSC supports President Trump. No one.  That’s another fact.

Here are some additional facts. In November 2008, the USSC celebrated Barack Obama’s defeat of Republican John McCain in the presidential election.  In November 2016, the USSC went into mourning when Republican Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton.

Yet, according to Dr Jackman – who was hopelessly wrong about the 2016 US presidential election – “the facts speak for themselves” about the US Studies Centre.  How deluded can you get?  Can You Bear It?



Following the critique of the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation (chairman John Howard) in last week’s MWD, Nancy’s (male) co-owner received lotsa scoops about what the  Ramsay Centre’s Simon Haines has in mind for the outfit which is likely to have $25 million – yes, million – a year to spend on the preservation of Western Civilisation. Or piss against the wall, as the case may be.

As avid readers will be aware, Professor Haines’ current cunning plan is to hand over money to universities in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory which will manage a Western Civilisation (BA) degree and appoint the lecturers who will teach the course. It is possible that they will consist of guest lecturers specially chosen for the WC (BA) degree.

Gerard Henderson’s concern is that the leftist ethos which prevails in the social science departments of Australian universities will subsume the Ramsay Centre – and the late Paul Ramsay’s legacy will be at best wasted and at worst counter-productive.

Simon Haines has not replied to Hendo’s email of 22 March which was published in MWD Issue 354. Readers will be advised if there is a reply. Meanwhile, Hendo’s worst fears were realised last Saturday when he received (from an anonymous source) a note titled “Draft Course Proposal – Western Civilisation, Bachelor of Arts Degree” – which appears to have come from one of the NSW/ACT universities.  Here it is:

Draft Course Proposal – Western Civilisation Bachelor of Arts Degree

This proposal envisages a WC (BA) degree which consists of three subjects a year for three years – consisting of the following courses.

First Year 

  1. Western Civilisation: The Cannon [sic] of Colonisation – Guest Lecturer Mike (“I’ll pour the gin”) Carlton

Students are introduced to the subject by naval historian Mike Carlton – The Sage of Avalon Beach – over a gin and tonic or two or three. Then it’s onto the course.

This subject gives a background to the contemporary frontground.  Without Western Civilisation there would have been no colonisation.  And the non-Western world would have lived in peace and harmony holding hands and clad only in sandals. Western colonialism brought only death and pestilence. Islamic colonisation, on the other hand, was a force for good since Sharia law would have brought peace to the troubled Western world.

This course also analyses the dreadful defeat of the Ottoman Empire at sea in the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 at the hands of the Holy League which was put together by the clerical fascist Pope Pius V and financed by pre-Franco Habsburg Spain.

  1. The Impact of Ancient Greece on Western Civilisation: Guest lecturer the (late) Bob Ellis – The False Prophet of Palm Beach

This subject looks at the influence of such Dead White Males as Plato, Socrates and Aristotle and their influence on Modern Greeks like Prince Philip (nee Mountbatten). Philip’s uncle Louis Mountbatten’s involvement in the disastrous raid on Dieppe in August 1942 will form a case study on why the Greeks did nothing useful in the 20th Century beyond establishing a chain of Fish & Chip shops in Melbourne and Sydney in the 1950s.  Unlike some members of the Fabian Society – who did good things like supporting Uncle Joe Stalin (who had the good sense not to be Greek).

  1. Cultural Appropriation and the Western Canon – Guest lecturer Tariq Ali

This unique subject will focus on such white male pre-fascists as Mr Shakespeare, Mr Chaucer and Mr Dickens. It will conclude that all succeeded due to domestic imperialism.  Namely, the cultural appropriation of the stories of Muslims and Norwegians and Blacks and Women and so on.

Third Term will conclude with a team workshop whereby students will be expected to light a pyre big enough to burn the collective works of Messers Shakespeare, Chaucer and Dickens.  Please bring some petrol.

  1. Western Civilisation as Sexism: Guest lecturer Anne Summers

This subject asks a (very good) question: In Renaissance art, why are there so many nude nubile females with large breasts and (early) Brazilians – and so few male oppressors sans kit?

The course examines the counter-productive contribution to Western Civilisation of such sexist male pigs as Michelangelo, Rubens and all that shit. Plus Winston Churchill and Robert Menzies and Ronald Reagan.

  1. WC’s Christianity as the Opiate of the (Christian) People: Guest lecturer the (late) Red Dean of Canterbury

This subject discusses Karl Marx’s concept of religion as the opiate of the people.  This is only true of Judeo-Christianity.  And certainly not of Islam (which prohibits opium products), Hinduism and Buddhism.  Not at all.

While acknowledging that Judeo-Christian types have set up many hospitals and schools, the course cuts thought the spin to reveal Judeo-Christianity as the cause of all our woes. Including piles.

  1. Language as Cultural Fascism: Guest Lecturer Noam Chomsky

This subject focuses on the imperialist march of the English Language through the language zones – demolishing such treasures as Scottish Gaelic, the Ice Age Swedish dialects and everyday Latin in its wake.

This cultural barbarism will be examined with special reference to the Oxford English Dictionary, the American Dictionary and the Macquarie Dictionary.  Third term will conclude with a public burning of as many of the effigies of Samuel Johnson that can be found.  Bring your own matches.

  1. How Enlightened is The Enlightenment?: Guest lecturer Waleed Aly

This subject presents The Enlightenment as a cunning attack on freedom and thought.  Individuals who followed Voltaire thought they had freedom of thought.  Until along came Herbert Marcuse in the 20th Century who told them that, in fact, they were captives of a conservative paradigm.  Quite so. Sure the Enlightenment’s science encouraged science, but this is of little use to Byron Bay tree-huggers.

  1. Revolutions: Winners and Losers: Guest lecturers Lee Rhiannon (B Sc., UNSW, Dip. Applied Revolutionary Studies, Lenin School, Moscow) and (the late) Wilfred Burchett

This subject covers revolutions in Western societies – the ones that worked and the ones that failed.

Winners:  The Bolshevik Revolution (1917). A huge success which gave Lenin and Stalin a chance and Trotsky half a chance (before he was murdered by Stalin). Also the Bolshevik influence on the operation of such you-beaut totalitarian states as Mao Zedong’s China, Ho Chi Minh’s Vietnam, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, Kim Il- sung’s North Korea and Fidel Castro’s Cuba is documented and applauded.

Losers:  The Industrial Revolution whose impact was only universal suffrage, prosperity, dangerous climate change, traffic congestion and Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport.

  1. Democracy: The Bastard Child of WC: Guest Lecturer John Pilger.

The subject discovers that freedom is not just another term for nothing-left-to-lose.  In fact, bourgeois freedom as handed down through Western Civilisation is but an illusion under which the teeming masses – whose plight is only relieved by free education, free health care and universal welfare – have their revolutionary instincts beaten out of them. All in the interest of Big Capitalism, the US Military Industrial Complex and Rupert Murdoch.

The term and the course ends with a mass burn-off of the US Constitution and the Australian Constitution.  Unfortunately, the UK Constitution cannot be burnt because there is no such written entity – but WC (BA) undergraduates are welcome to burn photos of such British enemies of the people as Queen Elizabeth II, Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair and Kate Moss.

* * * *

On completing their degrees, Western Civilisation (BA) graduates will graduate on the site of Marx House.  The oration will be delivered by (Honorary) Doctor Phillip (“I was a teenage communist”) Adams AO, AM, Hon. DUniv (Griffith), Hon. DLitt (ECU), Hon. DUniv (SA), DLitt [sic] (Syd), Hon. DUniv (Macquarie), FRSA, Hon. FAHA. After which a lentil lunch will be served, sponsored by The Green Left Weekly.



In recent years there has been enormous interest among avid MWD readers about left-wing historian David Day.

Dr Day (for a doctor he is) built his academic reputation on his 1986 book Menzies & Churchill At War.  The thesis of this tome was that, in 1941, there was a move to replace Winston Churchill as prime minister of Britain with Australia’s very own prime minister Robert Menzies. According to Dr Day, there was significant support in Britain to replace Mr Churchill (as he then was) with Mr Menzies (as he then was) – and that Robert Menzies was eager to take up the reins at 10 Downing Street during the early years of the Second World War.

Exciting theory, don’t you think?  The only problem is that there are no facts to support it.  In Menzies at War (UNSW Press, 2014), Anne Henderson demolished the Day theory. Subsequently, writing in the March 2015 issue of Quadrant, Anne Henderson analysed every source in Dr Day’s book and demonstrated that not one source justified his assertions re Churchill and Menzies.

After all, it’s impossible to imagine that the Brits were so desperate in 1941 that they would have looked to the colonies for salvation in a young chap named Menzies.  Moreover, Robert Menzies was not so naïve as to believe that such an offer would be forthcoming.

Before the detailed analysis in Anne Henderson’s Menzies At War, David Day’s thesis had been dismissed in passing by Professor Allan Martin in Robert Menzies: A Life and by Gerard Henderson in his Menzies Child: The Liberal Party of Australia.

Following a rant against Anne Henderson by David Day in The Spectator Australia in August 2014, Gerard Henderson wrote to your man Day.  He asked the learned doctor to provide the name of one historian of 20th Century Britain – or one biographer of Winston Churchill – who wrote or said that Robert Menzies was considered suitable by the powers-that-be at Whitehall to replace Winston Churchill as prime minister of Britain in 1941. Just one.

On 4 August 2014, David Day emailed Gerard Henderson and claimed that he was “flat out like a lizard drinking at the moment” but would be “happy to respond” with the requested documentary evidence when he had the “time to do so”.  That was close to three years ago.

Hendo wrote to David Day again on 28 March 2017 to check whether he was still “flat out like a lizard drinking”. Your man Day must have a mighty thirst – since there has been no reply.  Which gives MWD another opportunity to update the David Day/Anne Henderson scoreboard.  Wacko.  Here we go:



The introduction of this segment in MWD last Friday was a huge success.  Readers were highly interested in Peter FitzSimons’ clear recollection of an event that never happened. You see, The Red Bandannaed One remembered being at the Lord’s England v Australian Test Match on 7 July 2005 when the terrorist attacks on the London transport system occurred.  In fact, the Lord’s Test commenced on 21 July 2005.  On 7 July 2005 there was a One Day International between England and Australia – but it took place in Leeds not at Lord’s in London.

This time MWD focuses on the (highly) fallible memory of Robert Manne. Your man Manne has been at the taxpayer subsidised La Trobe University since late 1974 – close to half a century ago. He is currently a La Trobe University Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow, Emeritus Professor of Politics and convenor of the University’s Ideas and Society program (where the learned professor invariably invites people he agrees with to discuss the BIG ISSUES OF THE DAY from a green-left point of view). Nice taxpayer subsidised superannuation top-up, if you can get it.

Robert Manne joined the La Trobe University Politics Department in late 1974 as a lecturer with life tenure.  Gerard Henderson was a senior tutor in the Politics Department between 1973 and 1975 with a three year contract.

This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the birth of La Trobe University.  Hendo has been sitting by his computer and hovering around his mail box awaiting for an invitation from La Trobe University Vice-Chancellor John Dewar – or one of his minions – for an opportunity to return to the Bundoora campus to celebrate the occasion.  But, alas, no invitation has been forthcoming. Such invitations seem to have been reserved for (now superannuated) one-time student radicals who caused havoc on the campus in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  This is a topic MWD will address after Easter.

Why, Hendo even had to buy his own copy of the recently published From The Paddock To The Agora: Fifty Years of La Trobe University (La Trobe University Press in conjunction with Black Inc, 2017).  It contains articles by one-time La Trobe University students/academics Don Watson, Robert Manne, Dennis Altman, Marilyn Anderson, Clare Wright and Penny Davies – along with an introduction by the Vice-Chancellor John Dewar.

Robert Manne’s chapter titled “An Academic’s Dozen: 1975-1988” covers Professor Manne’s first 13 years at La Trobe. [I get it. It seems that “the butcher’s dozen” has now become “the academic’s dozen”. What fun – MWD Editor]

Professor Manne acknowledges that, on the recommendation of Melbourne University academic Dr Frank Knopfelmacher, he was appointed by Professor Hugo Wolfsohn to a lectureship in the Department of Politics in late 1974. As is his wont, the self-regarding Manne has littered his chapter with the first person pronoun. This is what he has to say about his appointment:

I doubt that Wolfsohn had read a word I had written.  I was not asked to submit a formal application.  I was not interviewed.  I did not have a doctorate. I had published just one academic article.  I was twenty seven years old. And yet I had been appointed to a position from which, because of the idea of academic tenure, I would not be able to be removed – short of criminality or madness – for the remainder of my working life.  The reign of the God Professor was already almost over but, at least, in the person of Hugo, not yet entirely dead.

The fact is that Robert Manne’s appointment – which was supported by associate professor Joan Rydon – was a good one.  Manne’s views have changed dramatically over the years.  But he was always a good teacher and a fine writer.  So much so that, on one occasion, Gerard Henderson at La Trobe University’s request wrote a reference in support of Manne’s application for a promotion in the Politics Department.

In any event, Hugo Wolfsohn was kind to Robert Manne.  So how as he rewarded?  Shortly after commencing in the Politics Department, Manne joined with a group of primarily disgruntled and/or left-wing academics in opposing Wolfsohn.  Manne boasts that he “sided with the rebels”. He recalls that Wolfsohn had only two supporters in the department – namely Dr Joan Rydon and Gerard Henderson.  In fact Dr Colin Rubenstein, a lecturer, was also a Wolfsohn supporter.

Hendo’s position was that he did not mind God professors provided they were not false gods.  Certainly Wolfsohn published little but – as even Manne concedes – he was a brilliant lecturer and teacher.  And he ran an efficient department.

Hugo Wolfsohn, who was born to Jewish parents in Berlin in 1918, fled Germany in the late 1930s for Italy. He subsequently found his way to Britain where – after the commencement of the Second World War – he was interned as a German alien and transported on the HMS Dunera. After serving time in Australian internment camps at Hay and Tatura, he was freed and joined the Australian Army where he worked loading armaments.   In time, Wolfsohn obtained a position at the Political Science Department at the University of Melbourne.

In his early years in Australia, Wolfsohn could be best described as a social democrat who was sympathetic to the Labor Party until at least the Labor Split of 1955.  John Rydon, who was born in New South Wales and taught at Sydney University, was sympathetic to right-wing Labor in the 1960s and 1970s. Towards the end of their lives, however, both Wolfsohn and Rydon were regarded by their opponents as conservatives.

As is the habit of the modern left, Manne looks back on Wolfsohn and Rydon not with detachment but with abuse.  This is what he has to say about the man who gave him his life-time job in late 1974:

Although he hardly published anything, Hugo was appointed the foundation Professor of Politics at La Trobe on the basis of glowing references from his colleagues at the University of Melbourne about his brilliant teaching.  Once I got to know him, I wondered whether his colleagues had an additional, secret reason for their recommendation.  The prospect of departmental life without Hugo would undoubtedly have been alluring.

Manne also refers to Joan Rydon as “a pedestrian accumulator of information about Commonwealth parliamentarians”.  This is an inaccurate, and grossly unfair, put down.   Dr Rydon did biographical work on Australian politicians which was very valuable to historians. She also wrote widely on elections. Wolfsohn died in 1982, Rydon in 2008.  Neither can defend this damage to their reputation which has been sanctioned by La Trobe University Vice Chancellor John Dewar.

In his introduction, Professor Dewar writes that he wanted contributors to From The Paddock to the Agora “to offer their own reflections without any fears that their views would be medicated or censored by the university”. This is all very well – but Professor Dewar had a responsibility to ensure that the essays in a book published by La Trobe University were fact-checked and hyperbole free.

In his chapter, Manne falsely attributes to Henry Kissinger the saying that academic disputes are so bitter because so little is at stake. In fact, this statement appears to have been first made in the 1950s by Wallace Stanley Sayre. Manne recalls that the campaign which he and fellow academics John Chiddick, Michael James and John Miller (all three recently arrived Brits) led against Wolfsohn and Rydon in 1975 turned on the issue of “whether or not minutes would be taken at departmental meetings”. Pretty important, eh?

Manne conveniently forgets to mention that the key issue was opposition within the Politics Department to Wolfsohn’s wish that Joan Rydon be appointed to the new position of Professor of Australian Politics. In fact, Rydon was well qualified for this position – as La Trobe University authorities agreed at the time.  A lot of the opposition to Joan Rydon turned on the fact that she was a friend of Wolfsohn and a woman who was not regarded as sufficiently feminist for left-wing political guardians.

Meetings of the La Trobe University Politics Department in 1975 were a trivial but tiresome affair – as the likes of Manne, Chiddick, James and Miller banged on about nothing much at all. Gerard Henderson left La Trobe at the end of 1975 but Manne’s essay implies that the dispute continued until Wolfsohn’s death in early 1982.  John Rydon was appointed to a professorial chair in 1975.

And now to the issue of memory.  According to Robert Manne:

At La Trobe, Hugo regarded the Department of Politics as a small community – or gemeinschaft, as he might have put it – over which he enjoyed the right to exercise unchallengeable authority. One of the peculiarities of Hugo’s department was the expectation that all members would take their lunch together.  My first vision of the department was of a human caravan, made up of its members, on the walkway that led to the Staff Club.

Once again, Robert Manne has a clear “recollection” of an event of four decades ago that never happened.  In the three years he was in the Politics Department, Gerard Henderson had lunch with Wolfsohn and Rydon on about ten occasions. At most, one other member of staff joined our table.  Manne’s claim is a total myth. Colin Rubenstein, who was a member of the La Trobe Politics Department, confirms that no such group-lunch events ever took place. Dr Rubenstein had lunch with Wolfsohn and Rydon on occasions but the rest of the Department was not present. In short, Manne’s claim is false.

Likewise, Robert Manne’s assertion that Wolfsohn conducted a “merciless campaign of persecution” against Chiddick because he was “openly gay”.  In fact, neither Henderson nor Rubenstein had any idea that John Chiddick was (or is) gay.  Such matters were not discussed in the La Trobe Department circa 1975.

Gerard Henderson spent a lot of time with Wolfsohn at La Trobe – and elsewhere after 1975.  Wolfsohn never spoke in his presence about Chiddick’s sexuality.  Wolfsohn was opposed to Chiddick because Chiddick was campaigning against him. That’s all. Wolfsohn was a cosmopolitan European Jew – he had no hang-ups about the (alleged) sexuality of his colleagues.

Needless to say, Manne does not provide a shred of evidence for his recollection of an event which allegedly took place some four decades ago.  It’s just defamation of the dead.  In his essay Manne concedes that he heard stories about Wolfsohn while drinking at what he termed “The Whingeing Pom” hotel. Not much of a source for a historian.

The only evidence which Manne cites against Wolfsohn and Rydon related to their opposition to the formation of a student Politics Society in 1979, two members of which would attend Politics Department meetings.  The position of Wolfsohn and Rydon on this was quite reasonable.  Manne’s source here is the totally unreliable Rabelais, a student newspaper which was controlled by the radical left at La Trobe University.  Not the most reliable source, to be sure.

In fact, in his essay, Robert Manne downplays the level of left-wing violence and intimidation that took place at La Trobe University in the late 1960s and 1970s at the hands of several militant left-wing revolutionary groups.

Wolfsohn was a particular target of attacks from self-proclaimed student Maoists.  So, to a lesser extent during his three years at La Trobe, was Gerard Henderson. When Wolfsohn, Henderson and Manne worked together at La Trobe in 1975, Manne declined to stand up to the violent left-wing campus groups.  He simply went under the bed.


In view of Professor Manne’s latest “memory” of events that never happened, MWD has decided to increase its reward to jog Robert Manne’s “memory” about another event that never happened – from $20,000 to $25,000.

All Mr Manne has to do is to provide evidence of his (undocumented) assertion that Gerard Henderson attempted to get him sacked as an Age columnist in 1993, or 1994, or perhaps 1996 – or something like that. Here’s the story so far.

As avid readers will be aware, Gerard Henderson initially offered Robert Manne $8000 for an asylum seeker charity of his choice if he could produce a document he claims to have. Graham Jeffs, an avid reader from Perth Neurosurgery, offered to match Hendo’s offer dollar for dollar – “in the interests of motivating Mr Manne” (See MWD Issue 272). Dr Jeffs is happy if Professor Manne uses his $8000 for a “restful holiday” or another good cause.

In June 2016, Hendo rounded up the reward by $4000 to $20,000. Now Hendo is offering an additional $5000 to spark the Manne Memory.  This is a going-going-gone proposal.

This should be easy money for Robert Manne whose website attests that he was twice voted Australia’s leading public intellectual – or some such. Yawn. An intellectual, public or private, should be able to locate a document that the said intellectual claims to possess – particularly when multiple copies are allegedly involved.

And now for some background. In June 2011, Robert Manne alleged that in 1993 Gerard Henderson had sent a “dossier” to Paul Austin – in his capacity as The Age’s opinion page editor – demanding that Manne be sacked as an Age columnist. In fact, Austin was not working at The Age in 1993. So Manne moved the year forward to 1995. No luck here either, since Paul Austin did not become The Age’s opinion page editor until 1998. Therefore, it seems that the learned professor settled for 1998 or possibly 1999 – who knows? He certainly has not withdrawn the claim.

Robert Manne also alleged that Hendo sent a copy of his “dossier” to Morag Fraser (who is a friend of Robert Manne). But your man Manne did not say why Hendo would send a “dossier” critical of Manne to Manne’s “bestie”, Ms Fraser. Robert Manne also said that Paul Austin gave him a copy of the “dossier”. As previously indicated, all of this (allegedly) occurred in 1993 or perhaps 1995 or perhaps 1996 or perhaps 1998 or perhaps 1999 – or whatever.

So, according to Robert Manne, there at least are three copies of the “dossier” in existence. Paul Austin has the alleged original. Morag Fraser has an alleged copy and Robert Manne himself has another alleged copy. It’s just that no one has produced a copy of this document and Hendo’s (detailed) filing system demonstrates that no such “dossier” was ever written.

If Robert Manne persistently fails to produce the alleged “dossier” – it can only be assumed that he has a clear “recollection” of an event which never happened. Or, alternatively, Professor Manne just made up his “dossier” claim. It’s called self-delusion, or worse. Or perhaps just bad memory.

Just like Professor Manne’s “memory” that, in 1975, Professor Hugo Wolfsohn expected that all members of the La Trobe University Politics Department “would take their lunch together” and persecuted an “openly gay” academic.  This never happened.

To summarise, the break-up for the reward for Robert Manne to produce the (alleged) dossier (allegedly) written by Gerard Henderson at some time or other is as follows:

▪ $8,000 from Hendo to Robert Manne’s favourite asylum seeker advocacy group.

▪ $8,000 from Perth Neurosurgery for Professor Manne to use on a “restful holiday”

▪ $4,000 from Hendo to Robert Manne to spend as he pleases. Perhaps to attend a course in memory retention studies and

▪ $5,000 in one last attempt to motivate the learned professor to produce just one copy of the (alleged) fax which Gerard Henderson (allegedly) sent to the The Age in 1993 or perhaps 1995 or perhaps 1996 or perhaps 1998 or perhaps 1999 or something like that.

Just one of the three (alleged) copies will do. Over to Robert Manne – Professor Dewar’s Vice Chancellor’s Fellow.

* * * *

Until next time – after Easter.