21 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: Latika Bourke’s Helen Dale/Darville/Demidenko Howler
  • MWD Scoop: Inside the Sydney Writers’ Festival Leftist Stack
  • Can You Bear It? Yelling on The Drum; Mike Carlton’s Telephone Book Experience; Julian Burnside’s Public Virtue Queried in Private
  • Your Taxes At Work: The US Studies Centre Throws the Switch to American Airlines Fashions in Howard Hughes’ Time
  • ABC Watch: Aunty’s Supers-Bloopers Continue; Tony Walker’s Sensible Proposal for Paul Barry Reform
  • Marxist Comedian Guy Rundle Identifies Last Issue’s “Deliberate Mistake”
  • Correspondence: Julian Burnside Helps out Concerning Whether He Should Hand Back His Hawthorn Pile to the Traditional Owners of the (Hawthorn) Land & La Trobe Vice-Chancellor John (“I Know Nothing About La Trobe’s History But Morry Schwartz Knows Something”) Dewar Helps Out By Trying to Avoid Talking About Robert Manne’s Fake History of the La Trobe University Politics Department



In her “exclusive” in today’s Fairfax Media newspapers, Latika Bourke reports that author Helen Dale (nee Darville), who was for a time Helen Demidenko, is about to have her 1995 Miles Franklin Award book The Hand That Signed the Paper republished.

Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age on 27 June 1995, Gerard Henderson described The Hand That Signed The Paper as a “loathsome book”. Demidenko, as she then was, maintained that her novel was “not unhistorical”. But it was replete with errors – as Gerard Henderson documented when he debated the author on the 7.30 Report (27 June 1995).

The essential problem is that the book had an anti-semitic tone – since the author ran the inaccurate line that the Bolsheviks, who came to power in what became the Soviet Union in 1917, were primarily Jewish. Some were – but virtually all the Jewish Bolsheviks were purged by Joe Stalin soon after he came to power in Moscow.

Demidenko’s line was that there was a causal connection between Stalin’s forced famine in Ukraine in the early 1930s and that part of the Nazi Holocaust which was carried out in Ukraine in the early 1940s. In other words, the Holocaust was revenge for the role of Bolshevik Jews in the famine.

This was absolute tosh. The two events are not related. Unfortunately Latika Bourke commits a not dissimilar howler in today’s Fairfax Media newspapers in which she wrote:

Dale’s The Hand That Signed The Paper, published in 1994, tells the story of a Ukrainian family who sided with the Nazis against Bolshevik Jews in World War II. It was published under her then pen name Helen Demidenko and won the Vogel and Miles Franklin literary awards before she was exposed as a literary hoaxer.

Not so. Sure, Helen D was exposed as a hoaxer in pretending that she was of Ukrainian background. But the essential point is that what occurred in the Ukraine in the early 1940s was not a conflict between “the Nazis” and the “Bolshevik Jews”. This repeats the loathsome error in Helen D’s original work.

For further reading see Gerard Henderson’s articles titled “The Winner, The Judges, Their Supporters and The Publisher – The 1995 Miles Franklin Award” and “Helen’s Hand” published in Issues 34 and 35 of The Sydney Institute’s Media Watch 1995 – see here and here.



What’s the definition of the Writers’ Festival? Well, it’s an occasion where a group of leftists obtain bucketloads of taxpayers’ funds and use the taxpayer and ratepayer derived moolah to invite their leftist mates to perform before theatres full of sandal-clad members of the substantially taxpayer subsidised Sandalista Set. That’s what.

Have a look at the participants at the 2017 SWF which has the following “Core Partners” – i.e. Arts NSW (the New South Wales government), Creative City Sydney (the City of Sydney) and Australia Council for the Arts (the Australian Government). The second range “Major Partners” include the University of New South Wales, the Sydney’s University of Technology, Macquarie University, the University of Sydney and the ABC. All taxpayer funded or taxpayer subsidised. The only non-subsidised entities among the key “Core Partners” and “Major Partners” are the Sydney Morning Herald and Gleebooks.

Now have a look at the participants at this year’s SWF. There is barely a conservative among the lot. The list includes Yassmin Abdel-Magied, Susan Carland, Jane Caro, Michael Cathcart, Neil Chenoweth, Lee Lin Chin, Tim Costello, Robert Dessaix, Mark Di Stefano, Charles Firth, Tim Flannery, Clementine Ford, Mia Freedman, Ross Gittins, Justin Gleeson, Jonathan Green, Marieke Hardy, Wendy Harmer, Bridie Jabour, Linda Jaivin, Ben Jenkins, Fiona Katauskas, Ged Kearney, Tom Keneally, Karl Kruszelnicki, Meredith Lake, Benjamin Law, Kate McClymont, Maxine McKew, George Megalogenis, Caro Meldrum-Hanna, Frank Moorhouse, Helen Pringle, Elspeth Probyn, Jamila Rizvi, Nicholas Rowley, John Safran, Leigh Sales, Margot Saville, Julianne Schultz, Jeff Sparrow, Tracey Spicer, Jason Steger, Anne Summers, Chris Taylor, Lenore Taylor, David Throsby, Holly Throsby, Tiger Webb, Michael West, Marian Wilkinson and Sandra Yates. Enough said.

The overwhelming majority of participants are leftists or social democrats. But there is hardly a conservative in sight. If a conservative turns up at the 2017 SWF, it’s either a case of mistaken identity or he or she got lost on their way to the Quadrant office and ended up at The Wharf.

Michaela McGuire, the SWF’s artistic director, wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald on April Fools’ Day that the theme of the festival is “refuge”. She banged on about the mantra of fashionable left-wing causes: This is the (literary) world – according to Ms McGuire.

Reading can be a mixed blessing. For anyone who has had the misfortune to glance at the headlines recently, the last few months have felt like a long fever dream, for reasons that extend far beyond the outcome of the US Presidential election or Brexit. More than 20 million refugees are on the move and another 40 million people are displaced in their own countries, in the largest worldwide humanitarian crisis since 1945. Scientists announced that the Earth reached its highest temperatures in 2016 – for the third year in a row. Millions more people have been left in reduced and uncertain circumstances, and feel that nobody is listening.

In times like these, we have a choice. We can give in to the rising zeitgeist of insular thought and intellectual suspicion or we can look for ways to fight it.

Specifically, in this Festival, we look to books, to literature, to new forms of writing, where some of the world’s finest minds have started circling the wagons. Now, more than ever, I think that readers will be turning to literature as a place of refuge.

So there you have it. The SWF artistic director is concerned about Donald J Trump and Brexit and refugees and climate change and insular thought and so on. According to Ms McGuire, “some of the world’s finest minds have started circling the wagons”. Brilliant thought, to be sure. But what does she mean?

The SWF’s “A Message from the Artistic Director” concluded as follows:

In May, hundreds of inventive, audacious and inquisitive writers from all around the world will lead Sydney in a week-long conversation. We hope you’ll be a part of it. We hope you find refuge with us.

It seems that Ms McGuire has in mind “a conversation” where everyone agrees with everyone else. Take for example the sermons on President Trump and Brexit.

This is the Brexit conversation, to be held on Thursday 25 May:


May 25, 11.30am-12.30pm

The Guardian US data editor Mona Chalabi, Man Booker Prize-winner Anne Enright, Washington Post columnist and leading economist Sebastian Mallaby and bestselling author Ian Rankin talk to Anton Enus about Brexit and its implications.

Correct MWD if it is wrong, but Nancy’s (male) co-owner reckons that Mona Chalabi and Anne Enright and Sebastian Mallaby and Ian Rankin and Anton Enus were all “Remain” types who did not support Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Then there is the Trump “conversation” to be held on Friday 27 May:


May 27, 1.30pm – 2.30pm

Writer Thomas Friedman, economist Richard Holden, Sebastian Mallaby and ACTU President Ged Kearney discuss globalisation and inequality in a new world of walls, trade barriers and immigration control. Moderated by ABC’s Emma Alberici.

Once again, correct MWD if it is wrong. But Nancy’s (male) co-owner reckons that Tom Friedman and Richard Holden and Sebastian Mallaby and Ged Kearney and Emma Alberici are critics of Donald J Trump to a greater or lesser extent. Tom Friedman is a fine journalist well worth listening to at any time. However, he is not – and has never been – a Republican of any flavour and he is certainly not a member of the Donald Trump Fan Club. In fact, virtually no one at the 2017 SWF fits this description. In spite of the fact that President Trump won the 2016 election.

MWD’s other faves at the 2017 SWF includes a discussion on Pauline Hanson and the One Nation Party which includes only critics of Senator Hanson. Namely Sophie Black and David Marr and John Safran. Not much of a discussion here.

Likewise the discussion on Immigration, to be held on 26 May:


May 26, 1.30pm -2.30pm

Join The Guardian US data editor Mona Chalabi and Roanna Gonsalves, Palestinian-born Australian playwright Samah Sabawi and Canadian playwright Stephen Orlov for a fearless conversation about our anxieties around border control.

Another one-way conversation, to be sure. And it’s hardly “fearless” to raise points in the knowledge that no one will disagree on the SWF stage.



On Thursday 13 April, Nancy’s (male) co-owner decided to wind down for Easter by watching The Drum on ABC1, accompanied by a Gin & Tonic. It was an occasion where the taxpayer funded public broadcaster produced “balance” by having three left-of-centre panellists to one right-of-centre panellist – along with a presenter who does not defend the latter.

As Hendo was topping up his gin with a splash of tonic, the topic turned to the proposed Adani Mine in northern Queensland. Ellen Fanning was in the presenter’s chair and her guests were ABC reporter Stephen Long (a campaigner against the Adani Mine), The [Boring] Saturday Paper’s left-wing columnist Paul Bongiorno, URBIS economist Nicki Hutley and Warren Mundine (former ALP national President and currently chair of the Yaabubiin Institute for Disruptive Thinking).

Needless to say, Mr Long, Bonge and Ms Hutley were bitterly opposed to the Adani Mine proposal. Which left Mr Mundine as the sole voice supporting the proposal which, if it comes to fruition, will provide relatively cheap energy to India’s poor along with many jobs for Indigenous Australians.

Let’s go to the transcript as Warren Mundine began to make some progress in stating his case before being shouted down by the Long/Bonge/Hutley chorus:

Warren Mundine: I’m really annoyed about some of this stuff that’s been talked about the Adani Mine. If you look at the facts, and I wrote an article last week in this regard in the Fin Review about it. You’re looking at, you know, a lot of these people are attacking the mine. These are the people who are saying that the Australian government should be out there and doing things in foreign aid. Now, we’re looking at, you know, two thirds of one billion people in India who are carbon emitting through biomass and also through dung burning. And a million Indians die annually from that very issue. So, I think people need to get back and focus –

Stephen Long: [interjecting] But they also die and there’s been an increase, there’s been an increase –

Warren Mundine: I think it’s a disgrace. Quite frankly, it’s a disgrace the way people are carrying on about this whole thing. They’re using Aboriginals for this whole debate, they’re using Indians for this whole debate. We ought to get back to the reality…

Whereupon, unrestrained by presenter Ellen Fanning, the anti-Adani Mine trio of Stephen Long, Paul Bongiorno and Nicki Hutley commenced shouting Mundine down – for an extended period of time. It was hopeless, unprofessional television.

Eventually, Mundine finished his point, viz:

Warren Mundine: I’m exactly saying that this, you just can’t pick on the mine site as a problem for this whole pollution and climate change. In India and in China we’ve got these biomass issues and all this kind of stuff…

Quite so. But the Long/Bonge/Hutley shouters did not want to hear a case for the Adani Mine. They just wanted to shout-down Mundine. And The Drum – especially when chaired by Julia Baird – presents itself for reasoned debate not undergraduate-style verbal punch-ups. It isn’t, as this audio from 13 April demonstrates – listen here. Can You Bear It?


An avid reader has drawn Hendo’s attention to this tweet which the Sage of Avalon Beach sent out at 6.41 pm on Easter Thursday. Yes, you’ve picked it. Gin & Tonic time up Avalon Beach way. Here it is:

Oh yes. Yes, indeed. According to Mr Carlton’s memory, when he worked at the taxpayer funded This Day Tonight, some four decades ago, the likes of Caroline Jones, Stuart Littlemore and Mike Carlton Himself would drop heavy telephone books “on each other’s heads”. How funny is that? Can You Bear It?


On Easter Thursday [Don’t you mean Holy Thursday? – MWD Editor], Nancy’s (male) co-owner received the following alert from a certain Paul Lanagan. It was headed “Julian Burnside Sighting”:

Dear Mr Henderson,

I was at a public lecture by AC Grayling on Thursday night in Melbourne. At the end of the lecture the audience members were given the opportunity to ask questions of the great man. I was surprised to see in the queue for the microphone a well-dressed gentleman in an expensive suit who turned out to be none other than Julian Burnside. He identified himself and, modestly omitting his post nominals, proceeded to ask his question, which was words to this effect: “We acknowledged tonight the traditional owners of this land (the St Kilda Town Hall), but when will we acknowledge that we stole it from them and that we have not any intention of giving it back?” Great applause ensued. (The only question to be applauded).

In reply AC Grayling refused to be drawn on local politics and gave a non-committal response. If Tony Jones was moderating he would have “taken that as a comment”. It occurred to me that this non-question was just an opportunity for virtue signalling and denied the people who lined up behind him, and who were cut off as time had expired, the chance to ask a genuine question.

Yours faithfully,

Paul Lanagan

Well done Mr Lanagan. Gerard Henderson, in full fact-checking mode, decided to ask Julian Burnside AO QC as to whether he had made this oh-so-virtuous comment at the St Kilda Town Hall. The answer was in the affirmative – see today’s Correspondence segment.

It seems that the good people at the taxpayer subsidised Wheeler Centre at the taxpayer subsidised St Kilda Town Hall on Thursday 6 April were impressed by JB AO QC’s virtue. The problem is that your man Burnside went to fashionable Melbourne Grammar and then to Monash University. He now resides in a large abode in the fashionable suburb of Hawthorn in Melbourne’s east.

Mr Burnside enjoyed the applause of the Wheeler Centre audience when he suggested that St Kilda Town Hall should be given back to its traditional owners. However, JB AO QC has gone into no-comment mode when asked whether he plans to return his expensive Hawthorn pile to its traditional owners. Can You Bear It?



As avid readers will be aware, the taxpayer subsidised United States Studies Centre at the taxpayer subsidised University of Sydney has its hand out for lotsa taxpayer funds. Indeed, Professor Simon (“There are no Trump supporters at the USSC”) Jackman and his taxpayer subsidised colleagues are hoping for a whopping addition of $15 million in the May 2017 Commonwealth Budget.

This would take the amount of Commonwealth government handouts the USSC has received to about $50 million in just on a decade. What, MWD hears you ask, does the Australian taxpayer get in return? Well, hopeless political analysis for starters – since not one of 30 USSC staff predicted that Donald J Trump could defeat Hillary Clinton in the US presidential election last November. Not one.

And then there are the academics who teach sludge to their students. Thanks to the Australian Financial Review’s Aaron Patrick for drawing attention to the following projects underway under the guidance of USSC staff. Here’s the Thought of Thomas Adams:


The wealthy nations of the world…refused to see the interest of class solidarity with certain people (African Americans, Immigrants, Vietnamese Peasants, Cuban Revolutionaries, Communists of all strips in various times and places etc) and accepted instead an ideological commitment to white supremacy, nationalism and economic imperialism in its stead.

Quite so. The leaders of US and Britain were just too hard on Joe Stalin, Mao Zedong, Ho Chi Minh, Pol Pot, Castro, Kim Il-sung and so on. Which is just nuts.

And here’s the Thought of David Smith:


The state will persecute religious minorities if state actors consider them a threat to political order, but they will protect religious minorities if they believe persecution is a greater threat to political order.

Quite so. The leaders of the US and Britain persecute religious minorities. Turn it up.

This is the very same Dr Smith (for a doctor he is) who declared, in the aftermath of the Trump victory: “Trump’s victory legitimises racism in America”. Such an analysis has even been dismissed by such American Democrats as Douglas E. Schoen (who worked in Bill Clinton’s administration as an adviser).

When prime minister, John Howard provided a $25 million grant to the US Studies Centre as a means of sustaining the Australian-American Alliance. However, it has been taken over by a group of left-wing academics who oppose both the Republicans and moderate Democrats, from the left and who attack American society for being too tough on Stalin and for (allegedly) wanting to “persecute religious minorities”.

In any event, the GOOD NEWS is that after its US presidential election disaster, Professor Jackman and his USSC helpers are back in action with a hugely important academic seminar scheduled for Friday 5 May 2017 [I’m just so excited. MWD Editor]. Here’s the flyer:


Styling Up: Refashioning American Aviation

American aviation has often been conceptualised as highly masculine. Yet from the early twentieth century, aviatrixes performed death defying feats in goggles, helmets and leather flying suits, whilst by mid-century, young and single Pan Am air stewardesses routinely donned snappy uniforms to travel transnational routes as the corporate “face of the airline”.

Please join keynote speaker Madelyn Shaw, Curator of Textiles at the Smithsonian Institution, Prudence Black from the University of Sydney, and the Centre’s Research Associate and Lecturer Anna Lebovic for an exploration of the paradoxical ways in which dress and appearance have promoted, naturalised and also undermined women’s place in the friendly skies.

Question: What is more important right now? The Korean Peninsula, Syria, Russia, the so-called Islamic State, the US relationship with European Union nations? Or how about the dress requirements of Pan Am air stewardesses a century or so ago in “the friendly skies”. [Funny that. I thought that “The Friendly Skies” was the motto of United Airlines – MWD Editor]. Answer: American aviation dress fashions –at the US Studies Centre, at least.

Speakers include Dr Prudence Black, author of The Flight Attendant’s Shoe, Dr Anna Lebovic who is writing on American Vogue and Madelyn Shaw whose book on Quilts in the American Civil War was a success.

Nancy has forwarded her regrets due to a prior commitment. She is currently completing her Ph.D at the USSC on “The Construction of Female Latrines in the Wagga Shire: 1896-1898 – The American Influence”. Thanks to what’s left of Prime Minister John Howard’s largesse. MWD will keep you posted on Nancy’s progress which could depend on whether Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull kicks in another (mere) $15 million to Professor Jackman and his Trump-Hating team in the May budget.



ABC executive director and editor-in-chief Michelle Guthrie is about to re-establish an ABC Fact-Check Unit. Meanwhile Tiger Webb, the ABC’s language research specialist, is active in language policing for the taxpayer funded public broadcaster.

But who is looking out for super howlers? On 6 April, 7.30 ran a piece on Rugby League players who suffer concussion on the field. It interviewed Dr Adrian Cohen, CEO Immediate Assistants, along with Anthony Merrilees, CEO Sports Medicine Australia. The only problem is that both men got the same super. Over to you, Tiger.


Writing in Fairfax Media newspapers last Monday, experienced journalist Tony Walker had this to say about ABC 1’s Media Watch – presenter Paul (“There are too many old white males like me on telly”) Barry and executive producer Tim (“Mark says he’s my cousin”) Latham:

What should be considered is an hour-long national news bulletin that would combine news and the 7.30 Report into a livelier format. The formulaic Media Watch could do with an overhaul from its present “gotcha” approach to one in which provision was made for controversial media subjects to be addressed a la the BBC.

I would extend the program to acknowledge intense community interest in media matters. This would have the additional advantage of providing a safety valve for ABC critics to vent their views on the “taxpayer-funded” broadcaster, including criticism of the ABC itself.

Interesting suggestion – but most unlikely to come to fruition. Since its formation in 1989, Media Watch has only had left-of-centre presenters. No conservative has had a go – which is not surprising for the taxpayer funded Conservative Free Zone.

The fact is that Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News has more diversity than Australia’s very own ABC. Take the Media Buzz program presented by Howard Kurtz, for example. Kurtz does not sermonise like Paul Barry and his predecessors Stuart Littlemore, Richard Ackland, David Marr, Liz Jackson, Monica Attard and Jonathan Holmes.

Moreover, Howard Kurtz is really interested in what his panellists and subjects say. Some are Republican inclined. Some are Democrat inclined. Some are independent. It’s all very diverse politically – unlike Media Watch.

Sky News should have done a show like Media Buzz or its predecessor News Watch years ago. There is still an opportunity – since the ABC is not likely to create a program on which the ABC might be criticised.


What would MWD’s favourite Marxist comedian do without The Australian? These days the only short pieces Comrade Guy Rundle writes in the leftist Crikey newsletter are criticisms of columns in the previous day’s issue of The Australian written by people he does not like.

For the rest, your man Rundle’s Crikey articles are oh-so-long turgid pieces replete with jargon. Come to think of it, a bit like the turgid essays in the Marxist journal of opinion, Arena magazine, which he used to edit.

The good news is that Guy Rundle remains an avid MWD reader. And so it came to pass that he was the very first to pick the John-Laws-Style-Deliberate-Mistake in last week’s issue concerning Robert Manne’s reference to an academic’s dozen.

As your man Rundle wrote in Crikey on 18 April, a butcher’s dozen is 11. Not 13. A baker’s dozen is 13. Not 12.

There was a time when Comrade Rundle had an occasional real column in a real newspaper – The Sunday Age, no less. Now he writes for Crikey about butchers and bakers and candlestick makers. And identifies Hendo’s John-Laws-Style-Deliberate-Mistakes. No wonder MWD’s favourite Marxist comedian is the pride of his alma mater Brighton Grammar.


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 Gerard Henderson 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 avid 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 readers of today’s Can You Bear It? segment will be aware, Julian (“I just love flashing my post-nominals”) Burnside AO QC attained much applause from the Sandalista Set at a recent Wheeler Centre gig at St Kilda Town Hall when he suggested that the said property should be returned to its traditional owners. However, JB AO AC threw the switch to mute when Hendo asked him, oh-so-courteously, about his intentions with respect to his own residential property in the fashionable Melbourne suburb of Hawthorn. Now read on:

Gerard Henderson to Julian Burnside – 13 April 2017

Dear Julian

A Melbourne reader of my Media Watch Dog blog has told me that you attended a public lecture addressed by A C Grayling in Melbourne on Thursday 6 April.

I understand that you asked Mr Grayling a question to this effect – “We acknowledged tonight the traditional owners of this land but when will we acknowledge that we stole the land from Indigenous first peoples and that we do not have any intention of giving it back?”

I cannot find a podcast of this event on the Wheeler Centre’s website. So my question is – is this an accurate report of your comment to A C Grayling?

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson AC (aka Always Courteous)

Julian Burnside to Gerard Henderson – 13 April 2017

Dear Gerard

My question for Professor Grayling was to this effect: “At most public events in Australia it is normal to begin with someone who acknowledges the traditional owners of the land, and their elders past, present and future. In your view is it ethical to do this without also acknowledging that our forebears took the land from them and have no plans to give it back?”

Very best wishes


Julian Burnside AO, QC

Level 30, 200 Queen St Melbourne

Mathematics may be defined as the subject in which we never know what we are talking about, nor whether what we are saying is true. — Bertrand Russell

Laws should be like clothes. They should be made to fit the people they serve. — Clarence Darrow

Gerard Henderson to Julian Burnside – 18 April 2017

Dear Julian

Thanks for your prompt response of last Thursday.

I understand your position that, following recognition of the “traditional owners of the land” at public functions, the speaker should acknowledge that “our forebears took the land”.

But what about your suggestion that the speaker should say that our forebears “took the land” from the traditional owners “and have no plans to give it back”. This implies that the land should be given back to traditional owners. My questions are as follows:

  1. If it is appropriate that the St Kilda Town Hall should be given back to the traditional owners – what about your alma maters Melbourne Grammar and the University of Melbourne? And what about your own expensive pile in fashionable Hawthorn?
  1. If a decision is made to give one or more of such building/land packages back to “the traditional owners of the land and their elders past, present and future” – to whom, precisely, should the land be given? For example, should it be given to indigenous Australians who have Anglo-Celtic ancestors? – since any such person would be in part a descendant of the traditional owners and in part a descendant of those who took the land.

Since you put this proposition to professor A.J. Grayling, I assume that you have thought about such matters. So, I would like to hear your views on these issues.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

[Note the reference to the University of Melbourne as JB AO QC’s alma mater should have referred to Monash University. – MWD Editor]


As avid readers of Issue 356 will be aware, Gerard Henderson has challenged Robert Manne’s memory of events at La Trobe University in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Your man Manne used the opportunity in his chapter in From the Paddock to The Agora: Fifty Years of La Trobe University to score points about two La Trobe deceased academics whom he did not like.

Hendo asked La Trobe Vice-Chancellor John Dewar to answer a simple question – was Robert Manne’s chapter fact-checked before publication by La Trobe University? Professor Dewar – through an underling – adopted a “Don’t blame me blame Morry Schwartz’s Black Inc” response. He refused to accept any responsibility for an article which he commissioned in a book which he edited. It’s called a cop-out. Clearly Robert Manne’s chapter was not fact-checked and the bloated La Trobe University administration has no evidence to back up Mr Manne’s fake history.

As readers will note, Professor Dewar did not have the courtesy to reply – however briefly – to his own correspondence. Instead your man Dewar flicked the correspondence to a certain Tim Mitchell – who has the ostentatious title of “Director, Media and Communications Marketing and Engagement Division, La Trobe University”. Pretty impressive, eh? Especially, as today’s Correspondence segment demonstrates, your man Mitchell did not ENGAGE with Hendo’s questions. You be the judge.

Gerard Henderson to John Dewar – 18 April 2017

Dear Professor Dewar

I am writing to you concerning the publication From The Paddock To The Agora: Fifty Years of La Trobe University which has recently been published by La Trobe University. As you know, the book has no designated editor. However, you have written the chapter titled “From the Vice-Chancellor” where you present yourself as accepting responsibility for the book’s contents. For example, you wrote:

When I first met with the contributors to discuss this book, I took what some might regard as a reckless step. I made it clear that I wanted each writer to have the freedom to explore their personal connection with La Trobe, and to offer their own reflections, without any fear that their views would be mediated or censored by the university. To have done otherwise would have been at odds with everything this volume, and the university, stands for.

My question is this. Did you, or anyone on your staff, do any fact-checking with respect to any chapters in From The Paddock To The Agora? It’s a straight-forward question and I would appreciate a straight-forward reply.

It seems that the answer to the above is likely to be in the negative. The reason I have come to this (tentative) conclusion is that you acknowledge that you took a “reckless step” in allowing the contributors “to have the freedom to explore their personal connection with La Trobe, and to offer their own reflections, without any fear that their views would be mediated or censored by the university”.

Mediating or censoring views is one thing. Fact-checking is quite another. In my view, as Vice-Chancellor of La Trobe University, you had a duty of care to ensure that the views presented in each chapter are accurate – and that the reflections proffered by the various contributors are based on facts. As you should be aware, memory is highly fallible. Many people have an inaccurate recall of events. Others have clear “recollections” of events which never happened.

As you may or may not know, I was a senior tutor in the La Trobe University Politics Department in 1973, 1974 and 1975. Robert Manne was appointed by Professor Hugo Wolfsohn to a tenured lectureship position in the Politics Department in late 1974 and he commenced teaching in 1975.

In your chapter titled “From the Vice-Chancellor”, you refer to “the extraordinary talent of the staff and students who have passed through La Trobe…” This, however, is not the view of Robert Manne with respect to the late Hugo Wolfsohn and the late Joan Rydon – both of whom were professors in the Politics Department.

Robert Manne on the Politics Department’s (alleged) group lunch

In his chapter “An Academic’s Dozen: 1975-1988”, Robert Manne writes:

At La Trobe, Hugo regarded the Department of Politics as a small community – or a 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.

This statement is simply false. During my three years at La Trobe, I would have had lunch with Hugo Wolfsohn and Joan Rydon on about ten occasions. Usually there were only three of us present. Professor Manne’s recollection that his “first vision” of the Politics Department is that “all members would take their lunch together” is not only incorrect. It is also an attempt to ridicule Professor Wolfsohn – who, having died in 1982, cannot defend himself.

I have checked my recollection with Dr Colin Rubenstein, who was a lecturer in the Politics Department in 1975. He has confirmed that no such group lunches occurred during his time at La Trobe.

Even if Hugo Wolfsohn had wanted all members of the Politics Department to have lunch together – which, knowing Hugo well, is impossible to imagine – such an event could not have occurred. Older and single members of the Politics Department had the money to lunch everyday at the Staff Club. Younger members, like Colin and myself, with young families, could not afford such unnecessary expenditures. We brought our own lunch to campus. Robert Manne’s “vision” in 1995 of a “human caravan” of Politics Department academics “on the walkway that led to the Staff Club” is a load of absolute tosh.

My question is this. Was Professor Manne’s “reflection” fact-checked in this instance? If not, why not?

Robert Manne on Hugo Wolfsohn as an (alleged) homophobe

Professor Manne’s reflection continued:

Unhappily for Hugo, he had recently appointed two quite conservative young English political theorists, Michael James and John Chiddick. Their presence seemed to have upset the departmental equilibrium; shortly after my arrival they led a rebellion. The issue was whether or not minutes would be taken at departmental meetings. For some months, over this grave matter, the department was in turmoil. Hugo was supported by a reader in the department, Joan Rydon, a pedestrian accumulator of information about Commonwealth parliamentarians, and by Gerard Henderson, a tutor who was still working on his doctorate on B.A. Santamaria and the Australian Roman Catholic bishops. I sided with the rebels, drinking regularly with the departmental Englishmen – the two theorists and a Yorkshire-born Sovietologist, John Miller – at a pub in Fairfield christened The Whingeing Pom. John Chiddick was openly gay, and because of this Hugo conducted a merciless campaign of persecution.

The fact is that in 1975 the likes of John Chiddick, Michael James, John Miller and Robert Manne attacked the administration of the Politics Department led by its chairman Professor Wolfsohn. This was much more than a dispute over “whether or not minutes would be taken at departmental meetings”. In fact, much of the dispute turned on the process whereby Joan Rydon (then a reader or associate professor) was appointed professor.

It is true that Joan Rydon and myself supported Hugo Wolfsohn. But so, did Colin Rubenstein. Professor Manne presents me as an opponent of him in 1975 – so much so that he expressed surprise that I supported him concerning a column he wrote about La Trobe University in New Society in 1984. This is another myth. Robert and I played squash at La Trobe throughout 1975. He visited my house in Hawthorn along with his wife and baby in the early 1980s. And, at Robert’s request, I introduced him to John Howard in 1984 with whom he wished to discuss the issue of Indo-Chinese refugees. Robert also visited me at The Sydney Institute in the early 1990s where he asked for advice as to how he might help raise funds for Quadrant which he was then editing.

By the way, Robert Manne’s attempted put-down that I was “still” doing my PHD in 1975 overlooks the fact that I only commenced the thesis in 1973 and that I completed it while in full-time employment without any scholarship free time or any sabbatical leave.

Robert Manne’s assertion – made without any evidence of any kind – that Professor Wolfsohn “conducted a merciless campaign of persecution” against John Chiddick because he was “openly gay” is false. I was not even aware that John Chiddick was gay. Nor was Colin Rubenstein, who remained in the Politics Department for some years after I left La Trobe.

It is a serious charge to make of Professor Wolfsohn (some three decades after his death) that he was homophobic. I never saw the slightest indication of this. Nor did Dr Rubenstein. This seems another instance of Professor Manne having a clear “recollection” of an event that never happened – this one sourced to discussions at a pub in Fairfield, no less.

In passing, I should also state that Robert Manne’s assertion that Hugo Wolfsohn was a “tormented man” who “never regained his balance” following his teenage years is a gratuitous, self-serving assessment presented as an excuse for Robert Manne in 1975 turning on the man who gave him his tenured position at La Trobe the previous year.

My question is this. Was Robert Manne’s reflection of Hugo Wolfsohn (alleged) homophobia fact-checked? If not, why not?

Robert Manne on Joan Rydon as an alleged pedestrian academic

In his chapter, Robert Manne describes Joan Rydon as “a pedestrian accumulator of information about Commonwealth parliamentarians”.

I understand your aversion to censorship. However, it is quite unprofessional for a university vice-chancellor to give a colleague free rein to besmirch the academic reputation of a fellow (now deceased) colleague in a mere eight words.

Before publishing such damage to a former academic’s reputation, it would have been reasonable for you to ask colleagues knowledgeable in the field of Australian politics and history whether it is fair to dismiss the late Professor Rydon as a mere “pedestrian accumulator of information about Commonwealth parliamentarians”. Especially since her field of publications included books on elections and parliament in addition to her valuable biographical work on parliamentarians.

My question is this. Was Robert Manne’s reflection on the late Joan Rydon’s academic competence fact-checked with reference to the view held of Professor Rydon’s academic work by her peers? If not, why not?

Then there is the issue of the accuracy of memory. I know from personal experience that Robert Manne has a poor memory. Yet he makes clear that his source for much of his reflections on La Trobe University is based on his memory. Only memory.

For example, at Page 42 of From The Paddock To The Agora, Professor Manne writes: “For once I do not have to rely upon memory.” References an instance in 1979 to the La Trobe University student newspaper Rabelais. On the following page, Professor Manne again states “…once more I do not rely on memory”. Here, again, he quotes from Rabelais. But Robert Manne does not acknowledge that, at the time, Rabelais was under control of the student radical left. Yet this is the only source that is quoted in support of his recollections.

Robert Manne on La Trobe’s (alleged) teach-in in 1968 or 1969

For the rest, Robert Manne relies on his (unreliable) memory. Early in his chapter Professor Manne writes:

While still an undergraduate, I attended there [i.e. La Trobe], in 1968 and 1969, a Vietnam War “teach-in”. I have no memory of what the speakers on either side argued. I do, however, remember looking very closely at the ground as we approached the venue. It was evening. One false step and you were down a ditch.

I wrote my B.A. (Hons) thesis at Melbourne University on the Vietnam debate in the Victorian universities. As far as I recall, the only Victorian university which held one or more teach-ins on the Vietnam War was Monash University. Once again, it appears that Robert Manne has a recollection of an event which never happened. By the way, Monash University opened in 1961 – in the late 1960s it was poorly paved.

My final question is this – Was Robert Manne’s assertion that there was a teach-in on the Vietnam War held at La Trobe University in 1968 or 1969 fact-checked? If not, why not?


In your chapter in From The Paddock To The Agora, you write that to mediate or censor in any way the “reflections” of the likes of Robert Manne who contributed to the book “would have been at odds with everything…the university stands for”.

This suggests that La Trobe University, under your vice-chancellorship, stands for allowing Robert Manne (in his capacity as La Trobe University Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow) to besmirch the character and academic reputation of deceased La Trobe academics whom he did not like. It also suggests that La Trobe University stands for the publication of factual errors with respect to its own history.

I know how busy you are. However, I would be grateful if you – or your staff – could advise me by the close of business on Thursday 20 April as to whether Robert Manne’s chapter in From The Paddock To The Agora was fact-checked. And, if so, by whom?

Yours sincerely

Gerard Henderson


Dear Gerard

Thank you for your email to the Vice-Chancellor (below) of Tuesday 18 April requesting a response by COB today.

Our response is as follows:

“The essays for From the Paddock to the Agora received a thorough edit by our publishing partner Black Inc., including fact-checking where appropriate.”

Kinds regards

Tim Mitchell

Tim Mitchell
Director, Media and Communications

Marketing & Engagement Division

La Trobe University |


Dear Professor Dewar

I refer to my email to you of 18 April 2017 – to which Tim Mitchell (Director, Media Communications Marketing and Engagement Division, La Trobe University) replied yesterday on your behalf. I respond myself to my personal correspondence.

How times change. When you wrote the “From the Vice-Chancellor” essay in From The Paddock To The Agora: Fifty Years of La Trobe University, you boasted that you had taken the “reckless step” of allowing “each writer” in the book the “freedom to explore their personal connection with La Trobe – without any fear that their views would be mediated or censored by the University”. How brave – and how reckless.

Now that I have pointed to a number of incorrect statements in Robert Manne’s essay in your book – you have run a “nothing to see here” defence. Now you say that the decision as to what might be mediated, or fact-checked, in your book was the responsibility of Morry Schwartz (Black Inc’s publisher) and Nick Feik (Black Inc’s editor). As you may or may not be aware, both men are admirers of Professor Manne’s work and unlikely to rigorously fact-check his material.

So here is the Vice-Chancellor of La Trobe University saying that Robert Manne’s (false) assertion that Professor Hugo Wolfsohn insisted on daily group lunches in the Politics Department in 1975 and that he was homophobic falls within the fact-checking responsibility of Black Inc. and not La Trobe University.

And here is the Vice-Chancellor of La Trobe saying that he and his staff have not the faintest idea whether or not Robert Manne is correct in stating that there was a teach-in on the Vietnam War at La Trobe in 1968 or 1969. This, according to La Trobe, is a matter for fact-checking by Black Inc as well. How convenient.

According to La Trobe University’s official statement: “The essays for From the Paddock to the Agora received a thorough edit by our publishing partner Black Inc, including fact-checking where appropriate”.

However, La Trobe University has gone into “no comment” mode as to whether any fact-checking of any kind was done with respect to Robert Manne’s chapter which, inter alia, contained inaccurate attacks on former La Trobe academics – namely, the late Professor Hugo Wolfsohn and the late Professor Joan Rydon.

My final question is this. Do you know – or do you intend to find out – whether Black Inc did fact-check Robert Manne’s essay in From The Paddock To The Agora?

Over to you.

Yours sincerely

Gerard Henderson

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Until next time.

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