2 June 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: Rory O’Connor Bangs The Drum on the Third Reich 
  • Media Fool of the Week: Jonathan Green Hints at the Nazi Regime
  • MWD Exclusive: Louise Milligan(with the support of Louise Adler) Goes Under-the-Bed and Declines to Answer Questions on her Book Cardinal
  • Nancy’s Modest Proposal: How to Shorten Vivid-Live by Honouring Earth-Hour
  • Can You Bear It? Samantha Hutchinson & Del Irani; Niki Savva; Louise Milligan & Mick Gatto; A Scribbler’s Lot – Weight Lost and Gained\
  • ABC Update: Fran Kelly & Del Irani Forget about the ABC’s Dominant Role in the Australian Media Industry 
  • History Corner: The ABC Channels Morry Schwartz’ The Monthly in Bagging Joe Lyons’ Successful Conservative Government in the 1930s 
  • Correspondence: Louise Milligan Fails to Answer Questions about her Hatchet Job on George Pell – while MUP chief executive Louise Adler runs a “Nothing-to-See-Here” Defence of Her Author




What a truly stunning performance by Rory O’Connor – chief executive officer of the Yugambeh Museum Language and Heritage Research Centre on the Gold Coast – on ABC TV’s The Drum last night.

It was one of those oh-so-familiar ABC panels where everyone agreed with everyone else. So it came as no surprise that panelist Rory O’Connor agreed with panelist Adam Spencer who agreed with panelist Cate McGregor that the Trump administration’s likely decision to take the United States out of the Paris Agreement was a BIG DEAL.

Such was the concern with what some regard as the Trump Fascist Dictatorship that it was not long before your man O’Connor threw the switch to Nazism.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Rory O’Connor: I don’t think we’re actually calling Donald Trump for what he is. My uncle’s 90 years old and he said: “I flew over Europe because a man destroyed the world saying ‘I’ll make Germany great’.” And he said “there’s a bloke in America doing the same thing”. And there was real fear in his voice. So when I heard that he [Trump] was pulling out of the Paris Agreement I just think – this isn’t new. And why are we so surprised.

And I live on the Gold Coast, we have more canals than Venice. And if we get one degree in temperature rise, that’s a metre. That’s billions of dollars wiped off our real estate. And we’re the home of Burabi the Koala, that’ll be gone because the rising salt water will destroy the gums, by the – they’re extinct in our space. So for us it’s real, and I don’t think we’re making it real enough to people talking about it. I’m in a heightened state of anxiety about what’s happening in the climate – and no one else is. And certainly, if the President of the United States doesn’t get it, we’re in really big trouble.

Such was Mr O’Connor’s state of anxiety that neither presenter Julia Baird nor the other panellists gave the DON’T MAKE COMPARISONS WITH HITLER advice.

But the message was remembered when reference was made to anti-same sex marriage campaigner Margaret Court’s recent reference to Nazism.

Cate McGregor told The Drum audience: “The first person to liken anyone to a Nazi generally loses an argument.”  Except when the person is named O’Connor and you happen to agree with him on climate change and all that.





While on the topic that it’s foolish to link contemporary events with Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich, consider the tweet by ABC presenter Jonathan (“Proudly the ABC’s Sneerer-in-Chief”) Green.

Following the publication of the online version of Jennifer Oriel’s column in The Australian titled “Time to Confront Local Islamists: This Is War” (which was published in the print edition on Monday), your man Green sent out the following tweet:


In her column, Jennifer Oriel made the important – and disturbing – point that there are 23,000 suspected Islamist extremists in Britain.  And that this number is close to that of the British Army reserve.  Whereupon the ABC presenter hinted that Ms Oriel compared the 3.2 million British Muslims with the Jews of Germany in the late 1930s and early 1940s. British Muslims today enjoy all the benefits of a modern Western society. Jewish Germans in the 1930s and early 1940s were forced to wear a yellow star on their clothing, and later persecuted and/or murdered, by the Nazis.

Jonathan Green: Media Fool of the Week



On 31 May, The Age published Amanda Vanstone’s regular column.  This one was titled “Due process be damned”.  Ms Vanstone, who is not a Catholic and is not a friend of George Pell, objected to the “media frenzy surrounding Cardinal George Pell” and added that “some in the media think they are above the law both overseas and at home”. The reference was to the on-going process as Victoria Police decides whether or not to charge Cardinal Pell with historic child sexual abuse.  Amanda Vanstone added:

What we are seeing now is far worse than a simple assessment of guilt. The public arena is being used to trash a reputation and probably prevent a fair trial. Perhaps the rule of law sounds as if it’s too esoteric to worry about. Rephrase: how would you like to throw out your own right to a fair assessment of whether you should be charged in the first place together with the right to a fair trial if you are charged?

If there were a real prospect of Pell being charged one might have thought authorities would have sought an injunction to prevent the publication of a recently published book on him and certain allegations. Isn’t it normal to try to ensure a person can get a fair trial by keeping prejudicial, untested material out of the public arena?

Despite the fact that Amanda Vanstone is a syndicated Fairfax Media columnist, the Sydney Morning Herald did not run her piece in its print edition. Yet the SMH has run a campaign against Cardinal Pell by its “star” columnist Peter FitzSimons. A whiff of censorship, perhaps?

Ms Vanstone’s “recent book” reference was to Louise Milligan’s hatchet-job titled Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell (MUP, 2017). Like many journalists, Ms Milligan does not take well to criticism.  So she wrote a rambling response which was published in The Age yesterday.

The Sydney Morning Herald, which censored Amanda Vanstone’s column with respect to its print edition, published Louise Milligan’s piece under the (prejudicial) heading “Cries of ‘witch-hunt’ ring hollow for survivors of Catholic clergy abuse” in its print edition yesterday. That’s balance – Fairfax Media style.

As a journalist, Louise Milligan is wont to send off detailed questions to individuals she is investigating with a demand that they respond promptly.  Ms Milligan had time to write a defence of herself for Fairfax Media for publication yesterday – but she refused to answer questions by Gerard Henderson.  Instead, MUP chief executive Louise Adler sought to protect her author by responding – in the vaguest sense possible – on Ms Milligan’s behalf.

The Henderson/Milligan/Adler exchange is published in full in today’s “Correspondence” section.

As readers will note, Louise Milligan went under-the-bed and refused to answer questions concerning (i) her allegation that Cardinal Pell has an “ugly secret”, (ii) her use of anonymous sources to level the most serious charges about her subject, (iii) her attitude to accepting as totally accurate the memory of others, (iv) her policy with respect to reporting decades old recollections in direct speech, (v) her assessment of time, (vi) her allegation about Allan Myers QC, (vii) her selective reporting of George Pell’s actions when Archbishop of Melbourne, (viii) her imputation that Alan Southwell QC acted unprofessionally, (ix) her double standards with respect to the cleric George Pell and the journalist Paul Bongiorno, (x) her acceptance of what a critic of Pell “seems to remember” as evidence and (xi) her use of the words “if” and “perhaps” in what is supposed to be a book of contemporary history.

So here is the Gold Quill Winner Louise Milligan who demands answers to her own questions. And here is the Gold Quill Winner Louise Milligan who not only declines to answer the legitimate questions of others but seeks the protection of her publisher, the formidable Ms Adler.

MWD will let you know if Ms Milligan ever summons the intellectual courage to reply reasonably to Gerard Henderson’s queries. Don’t hold your breath.

This increasingly popular segment of MWD is inspired by the Irish satirist Jonathan Swift’s proposal to relieve the plight of the Irish under British control by certain suggestions which he proffered in his writings. As a consequence of such irreverence, your clergyman Swift never attained his due rank within the Church of Ireland (i.e. the Anglican Church in Ireland). But that’s another story. This is the current one.



Sydney just loves a show.  Any show will do – preferably a you-beaut cause designed to save the planet.

On Saturday 25 March 2017, Sydney celebrated Earth Hour 2017.  Earth Hour is a LIGHTS OFF occasion when the lighting of businesses and homes is switched off for an hour and darkness descends on Sin City.  According to its promoters, “Earth Hour is…an Aussie campaign designed to draw attention to tackling global warming and get people talking about what we can do to help”.

Simple, eh?  Turn the lights off for an hour, reduce carbon emissions and help save the planet.

That was March.  Then there is 26 May to 17 June. During this period, Sydney is into Vivid Live which presents itself as a “conversation festival of light, music and ideas”.  This is a LIGHTS ON occasion in which buildings in the Sydney CBD and some suburbs are lit up in various colours.  Hundreds and thousands of Sydneysiders are encouraged to stay in – or travel to – the CBD etc at night and watch the Sydney Opera House change colour. And more besides.

According to the promoter of Vivid Live 2017, this year’s event will be carbon neutral.  Really. So, all those people will descend on Sydney to watch all those lights without any impact on carbon emissions whatsoever.  Really. Well, this is what we are told.  Apparently, any carbon spillage from Vivid Live will be “offset via the purchase of certified carbon credit”.

It doesn’t make sense. Look at it this way.  The lights of Nancy’s kennel are switched off on a night in March each year- and this helps save the planet.  And in late May/early June each year, the lights are projected on to Nancy’s kennel – and this also helps save the planet, in a carbon neutral kind of way. Turn it up.

Now here’s Nancy’s Modest Proposal. In order to really help save the planet, reduce Vivid Live by one day each year so as not to cancel the effect of the impact of Earth Hour.  Just a thought.  Here’s hoping the powers that be are listening.



Wasn’t it great to see Samantha Hutchinson make an appearance on the ABC TV News Breakfast program on the “Newspapers’” segment on Wednesday?  [Er, not really. I much prefer it when Dr Scott Burchill (for a doctor he is) drops into the ABC Melbourne Southbank on his way to the tip and provides viewers with all the wisdom that a senior lecturer in social sciences at Deakin University can impart. – MWD Editor].

First up, of course, was a reference to Donald J. Trump. Some time earlier President Trump, following criticism of United States policies by German chancellor Angela Merkel, had put out the following tweet:


Let’s go to the transcript as Ms Hutchinson discussed President Trump with the co-presenters Del Irani and Michael Rowland:

Del Irani: Lovely to have you on the show. So tell me about what’s caught your eye this morning. 

Samantha Hutchinson: Well, first of all we’ve got this brilliant spat which has erupted between Donald Trump and Angela Merkel. I mean we knew it was going to happen after Trump’s European trip last week.  And we had so many fantastic blunders on the way. Obviously, you know, the shoving incident with Milo Đukanović, the prime minister of Montenegro. And then this morning, so after what has been some quite measured Twitter comments, we have Trump accusing Germany of being very, very bad for the US. You know, unfair trade relations and yeah.

 Del Irani: This is obviously in retaliation to what the German chancellor has been saying. She’s been on the election trail over there and herself making some comments about how you know, Europe has to really rely on itself, it can’t necessarily rely on its old allies the US and the UK. So, he seems, he doesn’t seem too happy about those comments which she made earlier.

 Samantha Hutchinson: Exactly. And I think obviously at the heart of it you have this issue, that you know, one of the things to come out last week at the NATO talks was the fact that Germany is still only dedicating 1.2 per cent of its expenditure to defence. And it’s not likely to reach that 2 per cent in formal NATO agreement by 2024. And the US is like, well they feel everyone’s relying on them.

 Michael Rowland: Exactly. Gee I wouldn’t take on Angela Merkel Samantha. She’s a pretty tough cookie. So Donald Trump needs to think carefully about this….

Del Irani: ….what is also really interesting is that this is taking place at the same time as the communications head at the White House has just resigned. So you talk about, how do you control a President who just gets on Twitter and says what he wants to anyway.

 Samantha Hutchinson: Exactly. And then you feel that every time he has been relatively measured on Twitter he comes out with a complete brain explosion like this, which is you know, catastrophic for international diplomacy.

 Del Irani: And the trade relations too.

 So, there you have it.  According to Ms Hutchinson and Ms Irani, Donald Trump’s tweet suggesting that Germany is not pulling its weight in NATO (correct) and that Germany has a substantial trade surplus with the US (also correct) represented a presidential “brain explosion” which is “catastrophe” for not only international diplomacy and trade relations but also for the whole wide world. Can You Bear It?


While on the topic of Donald Trump, what a stunning piece by Niki Savva in The Australian yesterday.  It commenced as follows:

There are people so addicted to fighting they can’t tell when they have won. Or they love fighting so much they ignore reputational damage to go beyond reasonable or even civilised bounds to score a point. In the past week, we have witnessed disturbing examples of the punch-drunk antics of left and right, forsaking common sense and crossing every line.

Certainly Ms Savva is not so addicted to fighting that she cannot tell us what she has won. In her final paragraph, Niki Savva revealed that her book on the “government” of Tony Abbott and Peta Credlin (sic) has been “judged the best non-fiction book for 2017 at the Australian Book Industry Awards”.  Well done, Niki – and thanks for letting us know, including the pic on Insiders last Sunday.

In any event, in her column Ms Savva lashed out at Bill Shorten, Quadrant Online, sections of the Catholic Church, both sides of the same-sex marriage debate along with the left-right divide over comments made by ASIO director-general Duncan Lewis. That’s all, folks.

In passing, the following comment was made:

Quoting or comparing statistics on the number of deaths caused by terrorists versus other means, as Lawrence Krauss did on ABC’s Q&A, is pointless and insensitive. It does almost nothing to lessen anxiety about such attacks and absolutely nothing to console the grief-stricken.

Good point, to be sure.  Pity, then, that – when on the Q&A panel on 22 May where Laurence Krauss made the above quoted remark – Niki Savva said nothing about so pointless and insensitive a comment.  Nor did her fellow panellists Paul Beatty, Mona Chalabi and Mikhail Zygar or presenter Tony Jones.  One of Niki Savva’s principal interactions with your man Krauss came in the following exchange:

Tony Jones: Lawrence, Einstein also said that the God problem is the most difficult in the world, it’s one that our limited minds can’t comprehend. So, I suppose going back to the questioner, you can’t disprove the existence of God with science, can you?

Lawrence Krauss: No, absolutely cannot disprove the existence of God, nor can I disprove that there’s a china teapot orbiting Jupiter. Which is not from me, that’s Bertrand Russell.

Niki Savva: But if there was a God, would Trump be President? Do you think?

Lawrence Krauss: Well, actually, the only times I’ve ever believed in God is when something bad happens to me because I think I deserve it….

Brilliant question, eh? Pity about the answer. In view of Niki Savva’s expertise on matters Tony Abbott, MWD looks forward to the outcome of her 4 May 2017 Australian column titled “Grassroots Anger At The Disruption That Is Abbott”.

It was here that Ms Savva suggested that the former prime minister’s pre-selection for the seat of Warringah in New South Wales could be in doubt due to a possible campaign challenge initiated by Peter Herbert in the Victorian town of Warrnambool – or someone else.  Peter who?  Well, your man Herbert has been a member of the Liberal Party’s Warrnambool branch (in Victoria) for three whole years.  So he must be significant.

It seems that Mr Herbert was to move this motion at a meeting of the Warrnambool branch sometime in May:

That the Victorian Branch of the Liberal Party express its grave concern about the destabilisation by the former federal parliamentary leader of the Liberal Party, Tony Abbott, and calls on the federal party to explore whatever means are possible for him not to be endorsed as a Liberal Party candidate in the next federal election.

Ms Savva’s article referred to such anti-Abbott sources as “Warringah branch members moving to dump Abbott”, “those determined to tip Abbott out of Warringah” and the ubiquitous “they”. Mr Abbott’s supporters, on the other hand, were described as “the foxes and vixens [who] will launch firestorms from their various skulks on television, radio and print” against the (so far anonymous) challenger to Mr Abbott’s pre-selection.  Can You Bear It?


In her book Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell (Melbourne University Press, 2017), ABC journalist Louise Milligan rails repeatedly at high profile barristers and solicitors who, she implies, get paid way too much.  Including Robert Richter QC.

Here’s what Ms Milligan has to say about the Melbourne barrister:

Robert Richter QC…pulled off the legal defence of the century by getting an acquittal for one Mick Gatto for the murder of Andrew Veniamin, during the underworld wars of the early 2000s. He is precisely what you want when you are accused of a very serious crime.

It is true that Robert Richter represented Mick Gatto – who, in 2004, was acquitted by a jury of murdering Veniamin following a plea of self-defence. It seems that Louise Milligan – with the support of MUP – believes that Gatto should have been convicted of murder or at least manslaughter.

MWD readers can form their own judgment of the character of Mick Gatto Esquire.  There is, after all, a Gatto autobiography titled I, Mick Gatto which speaks very well indeed of its author.  I, Mick Gatto was published in 2009 by, er, by Louise Adler’s Melbourne University Press.  Can You Bear It?


While on the topic of Cardinal, Nancy’s (male) co-owner just loved the author’s flowery prose along with the insight into the effect that scribbling this tome had on Louise Milligan herself. Here we go:

  • Page 29:  There is reference to George Pell’s “well fed” face. An insult, perhaps?
  • Page 30: The author maintains that George Pell was so agitated during a television appearance some two decades ago that “the smoke practically billowed out of Pell’s ears”. How about that?
  • Page 59:  Here George Pell did not speak – rather he “blustered”. Enough said.
  • Page 84:  Here the author asserts that George Pell lives the life of a “social butterfly”. Presumably Ms Milligan would also maintain that he commenced life as a “social caterpillar”.
  • Page 88:  Here the “hairs on the back of” Ms Milligan’s “neck stood up on end”. Really.
  • Page 287:  Once again, “the hairs on the back of” Ms Milligan’s “neck stood on end”. Ditto.
  • Page 291: Now Ms Milligan’s “ears started ringing”. Did anyone answer the call?
  • Page 308: The author reflects: “I felt in my bones that this story would go nowhere; my bones lied to me.”  You’ve heard of “Lyin’ Eyes” – and now there are “Lyin’ Bones”.

Finally, bear with Hendo as he quotes from Cardinal to reveal the personal trauma the author went through in writing her first tome – a hatchet job on Cardinal Pell:

Louise Milligan:…for a couple of weeks, every time my email pinged, I wondered what it would bring. Every time I had a text message, I felt sick.  I’m not sure what I thought would happen, but I was so nauseous I lost four kilograms. In a devastating development, I put them all back on. (Page 331).

So, ABC star reporter Louise Milligan – she of the flowery language – really believes that her readers are interested that she lost four kilograms only to put the lot back on in what is described as a “devastating development”.  How devastating can developments be?  Can You Bear It?


What a co-incidence that when ABC presenters interview Turnbull government ministers about media policy they tend to forget the taxpayer funded public broadcaster, their employer.

Right now, the Coalition is attempting to introduce some sensible reforms to the antiquated media ownership rules.  The Turnbull government’s proposals have the support of all major media companies and are in the interest of proprietors and journalists, who work in the commercial media, alike.  Yet some ABC types are not happy – as the following examples attest.

Here’s the exchange between ABC Radio National Breakfast presenter Fran Kelly and Communications Minister Mitch Fifield last Wednesday:

Fran Kelly: But why is it in the interest of any particular market, any particular regional centre or state or capital city that all the news outlets, the major news outlets of radio, television, newspapers are controlled by one media group? [Emphasis added]

 Mitch Fifield: No one is suggesting that all media outlets in a particular market be controlled by one media group, it’s important –

 Fran Kelly: [Interrupting] But they could be, couldn’t they?

 Mitch Fifield: No, not at all. It’s important to recognise that while we’re talking about the abolition of the 75 per cent audience reach rule and the two out of three rule – we will still have the retention of the two to a market radio rule, the one to a market TV rule, what’s known as the five/four or voices rule which says that you’ve got to have in a metropolitan area, five independent voices and in a regional area four independent voices. Also on top of that, you’ll have the ACCC’s competition ruler being run over things. And let’s not forget that we still have the ABC and the SBS….

Good point. Unlike Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly, let’s not forget the ABC – the biggest media outlet in Australia.

Then, the following morning, this exchange took place on ABC TV News Breakfast with presenter Del Irani interviewing Minister Fifield.

Del Irani: But there is one point in that package which is a point of contention. And that is, of course, the two out of the three rule which a lot of parties wanted scrapped because essentially what that would do it would prevent, it would allow, it would prevent one company from controlling all three newspaper, radio, TV media outlets. How in your opinion is it a good thing to give so much control to just one company? [Emphasis added]

 Mitch Fifield: It’s important to recognise that we will have some protections that will remain in place. Things such as the two to a market radio rule which says that you can’t have an individual or a group that control more than two radio stations in a market. We’ll still have the one to a market rule for TV that you can’t have an individual or a group that controls more than one TV station in a market. We’ll still have something called the five/four 4 voices rule that says that in a metropolitan area there need to be five independent media voices and that in regional areas there need to be four independent media voices. We will still have the ACCC running their competition ruler over any propositions. And we’ll still have the ABC. And we’ll still have the SBS. So we have those guarantees for diversity…

Quite so.  When interviewing Minister Fifield, Ms Kelly claimed that under the Turnbull government’s proposals, all the major news outlets would be controlled by “one media group”.  And Ms Irani said that “one company” would get “so much control”. It’s as if ABC presenters do not know who employs them.




Nancy’s (male) co-owner turned on ABC1 at 6 pm last night only to note that the taxpayer funded public broadcaster – a Conservative Free Zone – was running the segment “Lyons and Mussolini” from the Australian Encounters series.  Australian Encounters was financed by the taxpayer funded ABC in co-operation with the taxpayer funded Film Victoria.

It speaks volumes for the ABC that it presents as history a text written for the leftist The Monthly in August 2010 by crime novelist Shane Maloney.  There are few discrepancies between The Monthly’s text and the Australian Encounters’ script.  For convenience, The Monthly’s text is cited in full below:


By Shane Maloney and Chris Grosz

Herr Hitler was busy in the Rhineland so Joseph Aloysius Lyons decided to pay a visit to Signor Mussolini instead. It was 1935 and collecting dictators was de rigueur for Australian politicians on visits to Europe.

‘Honest Joe’, then in his second term as prime minister, was returning home from imperial talks in London. A defector from Labor, he headed a conservative coalition. Popular, uncomplicated and widely admired, he was anti-conscription and anti-war. The slaughter of the Great War was a fresh memory and appeasement not yet a dirty word. From the war cemeteries of the Western Front, the “tame Tasmanian” embarked for Italy.

Il Duce, poised to attack Abyssinia, believed that Britain’s far-flung dominions bred “uncivilised barbari”, beneath the intellectual level of Europeans. They offered, however, a useful side door into British imperial diplomacy. He greeted Lyons’s arrival with an aeroplane escort and orchids for wife, Enid. Impressed with fascism, while regarding it unsuitable for Anglo-Saxons, the Catholic couple headed first to the Vatican for an audience with the Pope, then to the Foreign Ministry, where Joe spent 20 minutes with Mussolini. To his amazement, the “genial” supremo spoke faultless English. He offered the Lyonses free passage to New York on an Italian liner. Relishers of official travel, they accepted. In New York, they sang his praises.

Two years later, Joe was back. This time, the meeting took place in Mussolini’s grandiose office in the Palazzo Venezia. And this time, it was more than a mere courtesy call. The League of Nations was falling apart and general war was looming. Mussolini needed someone to champion the idea of an Anglo–Italian détente at upcoming talks in London, and Lyons was convinced that he was just the man to broker a breakthrough. Who better than a dominion statesman, a practitioner of consensus politics, to play go-between in European affairs?

Il Duce dominated the conversation. Lyons, often depicted in the Australian press as a plump and genial koala, was no match for his “massive intelligence” and the “completeness of his knowledge”. His final words to Lyons were a message for Chamberlain. “Tell the British government I want peace.”

Even as the armies of fascism were mobilising, Lyons continued to believe that his personal relationship with Mussolini might help avert the inevitable. Events proved otherwise. On 7 April 1939, Italy invaded Albania. The very same day, Lyons expired of a coronary occlusion, the first Australian PM to die in office.


What a load of absolute tosh. Here’s what really and truly happened:

  1. In 1935 “collecting dictators” was not de rigeuer for Australian politicians. Many Western leaders visited Germany and/or Italy before the outbreak of the Second World War. Also United States president F. D. Roosevelt was quite impressed with the Italian dictator but not with Adolf Hitler. Canada’s social democratic prime minister McKenzie King visited Germany in 1937 and met with Hitler.
  1. Joe Lyons visited Italy on his way to the United States in June 1935. He did not make a special call on Mussolini. He first went to Britain, primarily for discussions about trade.
  1. Lyons’ Catholicism is irrelevant, except to extant anti-Catholic sectarians. Lyons’ attitude to Italy and its dictator Mussolini was not much different to the Brit Lord Halifax or the Australian Melbourne Stanley Melbourne Bruce – neither of whom were Catholic.
  1. There is no record of the Mussolini/Lyons conversation which took place in 1937. Shane Maloney just made up this claim that the Italian dictator dominated the conversation.
  1. In the lead-up to the Second World War, many leaders in Washington, London and Ottawa believed that Mussolini might be able to stop a war between the Allies and Germany. Lyons was not unique in this regard.


The credits for Australian Encounters’ Lyons and Mussolini  program are as follows – a conga-line of members of the leftist Sandalista Class.

  • Narrated by: Geoffrey Rush
  • Written, Directed & Produced by: Duncan Imberger & Josh Moore
  • Executive Producer: Sue Maslin & Daryl Dellora
  • Created by: Shane Maloney & Chris Grosz
  • Concept Artist & Illustrator: Chris Grosz
  • Script Consultant: Shane Maloney
  • Production Company: Suitcase Murphy
  • Animation: Stephen Watkins & XYZ Studios
  • Featuring Voices by: Gerry Connolly, Tyler Coppin, Kamahl, Lucy Holmes Bailey & David Cotter

That’s history, Conservative-Free-Zone style. For a dispassionate view of Australian in the 1930s read Anne Henderson’s Joseph Lyons: The People’s Prime Minister (UNSW Press 2011)

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).


 ABC star reporters Louise Milligan has a habit of sending emails which put questions to which she wants prompt responses.  However, when Hendo, taking the lead from Ms Milligan, sent the author of Cardinal some questions about her magnum opus – or is it opus magnum? – the author and her publisher put out a “No Comment” comment and went UNDER-THE-BED. Now read on:

 Gerard Henderson to Louise Milligan – 30 May 2017


I have recently completed reading your Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell (Melbourne University Press, 2017).

By the way, there are several references in your book to the (then) Bishop Pell walking Gerald Ridsdale to court at Warrnambool in 1993. As a simple Google test will reveal, this Ridsdale case was heard at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court in 1993.


I note that it has always been journalistic practice to send “a list of questions” to people on whom you intend to write about.

I intend to write about Cardinal in my Media Watch Dog blog shortly.  Consequently, I have set out below a list of questions concerning your book. They are as follows:

  1. At Page 4, you refer to the allegations concerning (then) Archbishop Pell’s alleged sexual assault of a choir boy at St Patrick’s Cathedral sometime between 1996 and 2001 as “George Pell’s ugly secret”. How is this statement consistent with your comments, following the publication of your book, that Cardinal Pell is entitled to the presumption of innocence? Also, what is the justification for writing at Page 227 that some of Pell’s accusers “will” be cross-examined by the Cardinal’s Queen’s counsel? – since he has not been charged.
  1. In view of the serious allegations in Cardinal– and to the fact that you acknowledged on the ABC TV News Breakfastprogram on 17 May 2017 that your book is written “from of the complainants’ point of view”– what is your policy about anonymous sources?

For example, Cardinal contains references to “one senior member of a religious order” (Pg. 20), “another Royal Commission source” (Pg. 41), “one of the most senior priests on the Curia of the Melbourne Archdiocese at the time” (Pg. 51), “one Church official” (Pg. 88), “officials in the church” (Pg. 281), “a friend…who is a mother in the neighbourhood” (Pg. 290), “someone who works around the Royal Commission” (Pg. 297), “the father-in-law of an ABC journalist” (Pg. 313), “people who knew [George Pell] in his Ballarat days” (Pg. 329) – and more besides – plus the occasional “many”.  The allegations at Pages 88 and 281 – which go to George Pell’s character – are most damaging. But they are unsourced.

In view of the serious allegations in your book, do you believe that it is professional to allow anonymous individuals – none of whom claim to be victims – a chance to condemn George Pell in such a way that a reader has no chance of judging their credibility or motives?

  1. What is your position on memory?  At Page 101 – when rationalising an inaccurate description of George Pell by one of his accusers – you write:  “Memory does strange things when it comes to visual descriptions of people”. Yet, elsewhere in Cardinal, you accept as accurate the recollections of individuals who have seen George Pell on television in recent times and claim that this is the person they came across 30 to 40 years previously.
  1. What is your position on the use of direct quotation marks?  At Page 47, you place in direct quotes the recollection of a critic of Cardinal Pell who relates – word for word – a conversation which Pell had with her cousin. This despite the fact that (i) the alleged conversation took place over two decades ago, (ii) the woman concedes to being in the room next door to where the conversation took place and (iii) Pell was (allegedly) determined that the person could not hear what he said to her cousin.  This would be uncharacteristic behaviour – in view of the fact that you maintain Pell has a “steel-trap mind” and would be unlikely to speak so loudly that he could be heard between rooms while (allegedly) attempting to have a secret conversation.

Likewise, in Chapter 6 – on the basis of hearsay upon hearsay – how do you construct the precise words that (then) Fr Pell used some three decades ago? Is this professional journalism?

  1. What is your attitude to time?  At Pages 129-130 you write that Cardinal Pell was fit enough to turn up at an event in Ballarat “just before he gave video link evidence” from Rome to the Royal Commission on account of not being medically fit to travel to Australia.  Cardinal Pell was in Ballarat in March 2015 and he was due to give evidence to the Royal Commission in December 2015 – nine months later.

This is an important point – since you imply that George Pell suddenly developed a heart condition which prevented him from flying from Rome to Australia for hearings of the Royal Commission.  So, do you believe it accurate to state that March 2015 is “just before” December 2015 – and insufficient time for a 73 year old man, who already had experienced two heart attacks, to suffer a further deterioration in health?

  1. What is your evidence that the Catholic Church could afford to splash around $20,000 a day on Allan Myers QC as legal counsel before the Royal Commission for Cardinal Pell? (Pg. 131). Were you told this by the Catholic Church and/or Mr Myers? Or did you just make this up?
  1. In view of your sustained criticism of the (then) Bishop Pell’s handling of Fr Peter Searson in Melbourne when he (Pell) was an auxiliary bishop – why did you fail to mention that, when he became Archbishop of Melbourne, George Pell sacked Searson and refused to abide by a Vatican decision that he be re-instated? (Pg. 260). Was this a deliberate omission or did you forget this fact – which was not challenged before the Royal Commission?
  1. In dealing with the decision of former Judge Alan Southwell QC’s finding that Phillip Scott’s complaint – with respect to an alleged assault in 1961 – against (then) Archbishop Pell was not upheld, you write:

So, in the end, the character assassination of Scott was successful – it achieved its aim – to keep Pell as Archbishop of Sydney. (Page 103)

The clear imputation is that Judge Southwell’s decision was affected by the (alleged) character assassination of Mr Scott which occurred outside the hearing. What evidence do you have that there was any causal relationship between the alleged character assassination of Mr Scott in the media – and Judge Southwell’s decision?  Do you believe that Judge Southwell would have been so unprofessional to allow media reports to influence his finding?  If so, what is your evidence for this assertion?

  1. On Page 19 you write that George Pell “infamously shared the [Ballarat East] presbytery with [Gerald] Ridsdale for a year.” At Page 142 you (incorrectly) state that Gerald Ridsdale shared a presbytery for a year with Paul Bongiorno in Ballarat East.  It was, in fact, Warrnambool where Ridsdale and Bongiorno shared accommodation – as the evidence before the Royal Commission makes clear. Why is (then) Fr Pell’s accommodation with Ridsdale “infamous” – but not (then) Fr. Bongiorno’s accommodation with Ridsdale?
  1. On Page 15 you write that “one seminarian in Pell’s year seems to rememberPell and [Anthony Salvatore] Bongiorno going on holiday together one summer”. (Emphasis added).  Do you maintain that what an anonymous source “seems to remember” warrants quoting in what is presented as a serious book of contemporary history?
  1. Do you believe that such words as “if” and “perhaps” are warranted in what is presented as a professional work by one of the ABC’s leading investigative reporters?



It would be appreciated if you could reply to the above questions before the close of business on Thursday 1 June 2017.

Gerard Henderson

cc: Michael Millett

Louise Adler (MUP) to Gerard Henderson – 30 May 2017

Dear Gerard
Your correspondence has been forwarded to me as the book is not an ABC book, it is an MUP publication written in Louise Milligan’s private time.

MUP stands by the forensic and meticulous research that the author conducted to produce this important contribution to the community’s understanding of the Catholic Church’s response to child abuse.

Best wishes,

Louise Adler

Chief Executive

Melbourne University Publishing


cc:     Louise Milligan

Michael Millett


Gerard Henderson to Louise Adler (MUP) – 31 May 2017

Dear Louise

How wonderful to receive your email last night – even though I wrote, in the first instance, to your author Louise Milligan.

In response, I make the following comments:

  1. I am well aware that Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell was published by MUP – not by the ABC. Indeed, I referred to this very fact in the first paragraph of my email to Louise Milligan of 30 May 2017.

I used Ms Milligan’s ABC email address because it is the only email I have for her.  Also, I understand that Louise Milligan used her ABC email when researching Cardinal – while maintaining that the ABC has no involvement with her book.

Ms Milligan may, as you say, have written Cardinal during her “private time”.  However much of the research was carried out on the taxpayer funded public broadcaster’s time – since a significant part of Cardinal  relates to Louise Milligan’s ABC 7.30 story which occupied the entire program on 27 July 2016.

I sent a copy of my email to Michael Millett at the ABC as a courtesy – in order to advise the ABC of the queries which I have raised with one of its star reporters.

  1. When MUP published my book Santamaria: A Most Unusual Man in 2015, I did not expect you – in your capacity as MUP’s chief executive – to answer questions or criticisms about my work. Likewise, I expect that Louise Milligan will respond to my queries about her book Cardinal – and not attempt to avoid legitimate questions about her work by flicking the matter to her publisher.  It’s called a cop-out.  A high profile ABC reporter should be able to do better.
  1. I note that, in your email to me, you make the following point about Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell:

MUP stands by the forensic and meticulous research that the author conducted to produce this important contribution to the community’s understanding of the Catholic Church’s response to child abuse.

If your statement is accurate – and Cardinal is based entirely on “forensic and meticulous research” – then Louise Milligan will be able to answer all the questions I raised with her in my email on her own behalf.

Sure, answering rigorous questions about Cardinal is more difficult than Ms Milligan doing soft interviews with her ABC “besties”.  But a Gold Quill winner should be up to the task.

  1. Since Ms Milligan is wont to ask questions in writing and setting tight deadlines, I expect that she will answer my questions by the close of business on Thursday. After all, my queries are straight forward and do not require any additional research. If Ms Milligan does not respond to my questions, I can only assume that your author, and MUP itself, have gone under-the-bed.


In conclusion, I should state how truly wonderful it is that MUP has now published Louise Milligan, Mike Gatto and myself – even if Ms Milligan seems to believe that your man Gatto should be serving a life term in prison and, consequently, disqualified from being an MUP author. Fancy that. In any event, it’s good to see that Mr Gatto and myself get a mention in Cardinal.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

cc:     Louise Milligan

Michael Millett



Until next time.