16 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: The Press Gallery’s Mid-Winter Ball; Mark Scott’s Trump Tweet 
  • Can You Bear It? Graham Freudenberg, Peter FitzSimons, Nick O’Malley & Gael Jennings 
  • Five Paws Award: John Ferguson on Justice Peter McClellan 
  • Media Fools of the Week: Kristina Keneally, Tony Wright and Jane Gilmore 
  • New Segment: Flat Out Like a Lizard Drinking starring David Day 
  • ABC Update: Peter Craven and Gerard Windsor concur that ABC Star Louise Milligan’s book Cardinal is an attack motivated by animus 
  • Documentation: The Saga of Louise (“No Comment”) Milligan’s Refusal to Answer Straightforward Questions about her Book Continues



As the hours approached midnight last evening, Gerard Henderson turned on to Fox News to get a morale boost before retiring for the night. Guess what? The second item on Fox News’ news report was of Malcolm Turnbull’s off-the-record address to the Canberra Press Gallery’s Mid-Winter Ball (held on Wednesday 14 June).  As much of the world now knows, the Prime Minister used part of his speech to imitate President Trump and to raise the matter of Russia. For the record, Fox News did not regard the Turnbull oration as particularly funny.

Hendo has only attended a couple of the Mid-Winter Ball gigs – which resemble a Year 11 formal with lotsa grog followed by dancing.  Yes, dancing. On one occasion, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd gave an unfortunate address and on the other Julia Gillard delivered a witty speech.

In this era of social media, it’s increasingly difficult for a politician to have his or her long-form speeches reported. It seems that the best way for an Australian prime minister to get a run for an oration, is to deliver an off-the-record address to the Canberra Press Gallery’s Mid-Winter Ball.  It’s certain to get leaked and widely reported.  Leaks from this function, and its predecessors, go all the way back to (then) Prime Minister Paul Keating’s “Placido Domingo” speech in 1990 – nearly three decades ago.

As the saying goes – there’s no fool like an old fool. And there’s no leak quite like a Mid-Winter Ball leak.


MWD is missing Mark Scott – since his contract ended as ABC executive director and (so-called) editor-in-chief and, soon after, was appointed as head of the NSW Education Department.  Life is not quite the same without Nice Mr Scott as head of the taxpayer funded public broadcaster.

It was widely said that Mark Scott’s greatest achievement at the ABC was the creation of ABC TV’s News 24.  This was presented as a 24 hour news service. But, in fact, News 24 contained only about 14 hours of news on any day.  Consequently, MWD referred to your man Scott’s taxpayer funded baby by its proper title – News 14.

It seems that new ABC executive director and (so-called) editor-in-chief Michelle Guthrie has thrown the switch to accuracy.  On her watch News 24 has been re-branded ABC News.  Don’t ever believe that Aunty’s many bureaucrats are without brilliant ideas – like this one.

It seems that Mark Scott has some time to spare in his latest taxpayer funded position.  This explains the fact that he has continued his habit of sending out inconsequential tweets.  This is Nice Mr Scott’s effort sent out around 8 pm last night:


It seems that Mark Scott simply assumed that Donald J. Trump would explode on Twitter in response to reports in the United States about Malcolm Turnbull’s speech at the Mid-Winter Ball in Canberra on Wednesday.

Not surprisingly, President Trump sent out no such tweet at 6 am Washington time.  Presumably, he had better things to do.  So there was no need to heed Mark Scott’s advice to “Stand by” last night.

Which raises the point – has Nice Mr Scott got nothing to do but send out inconsequential tweets about nothing much at all?

[Good point.  Perhaps this should have been included in your hugely popular “Can You Bear It?” segment. – MWD Editor.]


Stuck in the airport lounge last Saturday with nothing to read, Gerard Henderson picked up a copy of Morry Schwartz’s The [Boring] Saturday Paper which was sitting, lonely, on a pile of like products.

The lead article was a piece by “Sneering” Mike Seccombe. Yawn. Oh – yes, you’ve guessed it – on Donald J. Trump.  Yawn. And – yes – your man Seccombe bagged President Trump.  And presented French president Emmanuel Macron as a “leader of the resistance” – to Trump.

Your man Seccombe did not state whether he, too, has joined the re-born French Resistance.  The original French Resistance grew in strength as Nazi Germany declined in military power at the hands of the Allies (in the West) and the Soviet Union (in the East). Which suggests that Macron’s new French Resistance will fade away if President Trump prevails in the climate change debate.

Finding The [Boring] Saturday Paper’s lead article too boring to read beyond the second paragraph, Hendo sought refuge in Richard Ackland’s “Gadfly” column.

Mr Ackland has not lost his undergraduate-style habit of playing around with people’s names.  So last Saturday’s column included references to the (very) late “Arthur ‘Cocky’ Calwell”, “Little Winston Howard”, “the Parrot” (aka Alan Jones), “Nick ‘Goosebumps’ Cater”, “Chris ‘The Tamil’ Merritt”, “The Catholic Boys Daily” (aka The Australian) and the Pussy Grabber (get it?).  How funny can you get?

However, Gadfly did have some – not much – news last week. You see, your man Ackland accepted an invitation to a dinner at Sydney’s fashionable Cockle Bay Wharf, Friday a week ago, to pay tribute to former Labor staffer Norman Graham Freudenberg AM – speechwriter to, among other Labor saints, Gough Whitlam and Neville Wran.  Journalists present included Ken Begg, Mike (“I’ll pour the Gin”) Carlton, Barrie Cassidy, Heather Ewart, Laurie Oakes and Laura Tingle.

What a night – MWD hears you say. Alas, there was a downside. In the tradition of the great Labor leader Gough Whitlam (1916 – 2014), your man Freudenberg went on.  And on. And on.  Let’s hear from Gadfly on this:

Freudenberg, 83, spoke for a blistering 75 minutes, delivering a tour d’horizon of civilisation since Cicero. Clad in black he looked like a magnificent old magpie, the crowd in awe of this testament to the beneficial health effects of smoking 40 Rothmans a day. Oddly enough, the official invitation asked people buying a ticket to declare whether they had connections to the tobacco industry.

The very long book launch speech is a great Labor tradition.  MWD is aware of one book launch some years ago presided over by Gough Whitlam Himself.  The tome was about the modern Labor Party.  But when, after 55 minutes, Mr Whitlam had not got past the Peloponnesian Wars, publisher Robert Sessions called out: “Gough – just launch the bloody book.”  Much to the relief of the audience which had been standing for over an hour and whose glasses had emptied.

Still the Freudenberg occasion could have been more boring. Instead of banging on about the impact of Cicero on your man Whitlam’s 1972 election victory, Mr Freudenberg could have read out from Mike Seccombe’s article in the following day’s The [Boring] Saturday Paper which goes to print on Thursday.  Can You Bear It?



Gerard Henderson, (male) co-owner of the late Nancy, is a Republican who voted “Yes” to the 1999 referendum proposal that the Commonwealth of Australia be established as a republic.

Hendo remains a republican – in spite of the attempts of Australian Republican Movement chairman Peter FitzSimons to alienate every right-of-centre person in the land and to ridicule all believers (except those of the Muslim faith). By the way, MWD would like to hear from any avid reader who believes that a middle-aged man with a red-bandanna on his head can encourage citizens of Australia to change the Constitution.

In any event, what is the Red Bandannaed One up to? – MWD hears you cry.   Well, it’s this.  Fitz reckons that, following the British general election, the United Kingdom is sort of ready to junk the monarchy and become a republic.  Hence the “news flash” as it appeared in “The Fitz Files” in last Sunday’s Sun-Herald.

The British election results presages a fascinating possibility: Britain might soon have its first republican Prime Minister in Jeremy Corbyn. Even if May holds on this time, there is already talk of another election before Christmas.

No, I don’t say Britain becoming a republic is imminent, but I might note that if Corbyn moves into No.10 Downing Street it is closer than ever, and it raises a point most eloquently raised by our own Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in 1992. That is that under our Constitution, if Britain becomes a republic, their first president automatically becomes Australia’s first president! Yup. I know. Completely ludicrous.

Here in Oz at least, the ARM – which I chair – is surging and, following the PM addressing our gala dinner in December last, on July 29 we will have Bill Shorten delivering his pathway to the republic address to dinner with a thousand of us in Melbourne at the Royal Exhibition Building. Interesting times!

As to Prince Harry weakening our cause, please. He is an international celeb, doing a good thing with the Invictus Games and good luck to him. Enthusiasm for him, and his cause, should not be confused with a lack of desire for us to be a free-standing people, ‘neath the Southern Cross. Ask Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

Your man Fitz seems to write half a dozen (boring) books every year – with a little help from a team of writers.  As a man of letters, The Red Bandannaed One should know that Britain does not have a written constitution.

Consequently, it’s all but impossible to replace the Queen – Britain’s head of state – since there is no currently available process by which such an event could take place.  Even if a majority of Brits wanted to junk the Royal Family – which, on the available evidence, they don’t.

Believe it or not, Fairfax Media pays good money for The Red Bandannaed One’s verbal sludge.  Take last week’s lead item for example.  Here Mr FitzSimons (i) wrote that Jeremy Corbyn might become prime minister “soon”, (ii) suggested that there might be another British election by Christmas 2017 and (iii) seemed to believe that Prince Harry is central to the Royal Family.  He isn’t.  The order is Elizabeth II, Charles, William, George, Charlotte and then Harry.

What a load of regal tosh from the Red Bandannaed One.  Can You Bear It?



 While on the topic of the British general election, this is what Fairfax Media “ace” reporter Nick O’Malley had to say last Saturday were the reasons for the poor showing of the Theresa May led Conservative Party :

It was the Roman senator and historian Tacitus who observed how unfair it was that “victory is claimed by all, failure to one alone”.

This is not the case with the Conservative Party’s electoral disaster. There is an awful lot of blame to go around, but most of it is being sheeted home to two people: the party’s leader, Theresa May, and the Australian hired gun who ran the campaign, Lynton Crosby. Crosby, a former Liberal Party staffer, masterminded four victories for John Howard before moving to Britain.

How many howlers can a Fairfax Media journalist pack into four paragraphs?  It’s true that Theresa May is being blamed for the Tories’ poor performance.   But the blame has been shared by her (now former) joint chiefs-of-staff – Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill.  Also, Lynton Crosby’s importance in the (failed) campaign is not clear.

As to John Howard.  Well, it’s a ludicrous proposition for your man O’Malley to maintain that Lynton Crosby “masterminded” John Howard’s victories in 1996, 1998, 2001 and 2004.  The fact is that John Howard was primarily responsible for the Coalition’s victories.  When the electorate got bored with Mr Howard in 2007, Mr Crosby could not save him.  By the way, Nick O’Malley reported the 2017 British election from Australia.  Can You Bear It? 


Wasn’t it great to see Gael Jennings rock up on ABC 1 News Breakfast Newspapers segment on Tuesday?  Dr Jennings (for a doctor she is) has a gig at Melbourne University’s pretentiously titled Centre for Advancing Journalism.  In view of the continuing job losses in print and free-to-air media, Dr Jennings’ taxpayer subsidised outfit is a bit like a Centre for Advancing the Charge of the Light Brigade.

In any event, Gael Jennings got all steamed up, early in the morning, about Simon Benson’s report in Tuesday’s Australian titled “Victorian judiciary light on terrorism”.  MWD is not certain what kind of journalism is taught at Melbourne University.  However, once upon a time journalists were taught to report accurately the deeds and statements of others.  Not any more apparently – or rather, not any more at the taxpayer subsidised Centre for Advancing Journalism.

You see Dr Jennings went on News Breakfast to criticise the fact that Simon Benson had reported that several Commonwealth ministers – Greg Hunt, Michael Sukkar and Alan Tudge – had criticised sentencing decisions of the Victorian judiciary.  The Melbourne University academic even described The Australian’s reporting as “disingenuous”. Really.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Gael Jennings: We have The Australian, which is reporting all over its front page, the continuing –  I think disingenuous reporting, actually – of how the Turnbull government is actually trying to interfere in the judiciary system in the state of Victoria. Now we all know about the separation of powers. I think it’s surprising that a national newspaper doesn’t actually phrase it in [sic] it’s unusual to have a government hammering so hard at the judicial system when it’s supposed to be separate. And it’s quoted as saying, Greg Hunt the health minister is quoted as saying, ideological fantasies – things like that. I’m sorry that’s not exactly what he said.

 Michael Rowland: It’s accusing, Greg Hunt and others accusing the Victorian court system of carrying out –

 Gael Jennings: ideological —

 Michael Rowland: Ideological experiments.

 Gael Jennings: Yes, ideological experiments.

 Michael Rowland:  In their sentencing techniques in terms of these people.

 Gael Jennings:  Yes, where as in fact it is, you know, their judges have been appointed by the Victorian government – just as any judges are appointed by whichever government’s in power. And they will interpret law according to their learned and separate powers. So they’re [i.e. the Turnbull government] really hammering hard saying that Victoria needs to be a whole lot harder.

 Virginia Trioli: And when you say “disingenuous”, are you suggesting in that that The Australian is joining in with that argument?

 Gael Jennings:  Well I think the way it’s reported it doesn’t, it uses the word “intervention”, Turnbull intervening in the judicial system only in one place. I would have thought that when you’ve got any government, I don’t care who it is, whether it’s the Labor government or the Liberal Coalition government. If they’re hammering and hammering a judiciary system, someone needs to be writing the story of this actually shouldn’t be happening in a democracy. They’re allowed to say they don’t agree with what a judiciary is saying. And they themselves might prefer to have something else. But they’re actually calling them an experiment and ideological and hard leftists and all the rest of it. It’s actually the judicial system, it’s separate. It’s just making decisions that are different from its political agenda. You know, this is a very important part of democracy. Which we were seeing starting to fail. You know, that’s one of the problems with Trump.

What a load of absolute tosh.  And, by the way, how inarticulate can an academic be?  Simon Benson’s report was a big story.  That’s why the three ministers have been called before the Victorian Court of Appeal to state why they should not be charged with contempt of court concerning the statements reported in The Australian.  It’s called news.

Yet Dr Jennings seems to believe that journalists like Mr Benson should censor their reportage. This has nothing to do with the separation of powers.  The judiciary is – and remains – separate from the executive and the legislature and the Turnbull government has not intervened in the judicial system.

And what explains the Trump reference? It seems that like many members of the Sandalista Set, Gael Jennings cannot speak about anything much without having a go at Donald J. Trump.  How obsessive can you get?  Can You Bear It?



 In his Today in Victoria web page on Tuesday, The Australian’s Melbourne-based reporter John Ferguson had this to say about Justice Peter McClellan AM’s speaking role in Anthony Foster’s State Funeral service in Melbourne on Wednesday 7 June 2017 – under the heading: “Should Peter McClellan have spoken at Anthony Foster’s funeral?”:

No-one should doubt the pain inflicted on the family of Anthony Foster, the late campaigner against Catholic [child sexual] abuse. Mr Foster’s state funeral was held in Melbourne last week and he was farewelled in a manner that befits a man of his standing. What was interesting, however, was the role that Royal Commissioner Peter McClellan took, speaking at the funeral about Mr Foster’s extraordinary legacy.

Today in Victoria can understand why Mr McClellan would attend such an occasion, perhaps sitting semi-anonymously, deep in the congregation. But his decision to speak took it to a questionable level.The royal commissioner said he was invited to speak by the family and any issue about the Foster family had been dealt with by the royal commission. Sure, but given that Mr Foster was (understandably) such a strident critic of the church, it begs the question of whether Mr McClellan should even have attended the funeral.

The commission is still considering church matters and, indeed, many (mistakenly) believe that the inquiry is all about the church. It is ostensibly up to Mr McClellan to protect his independence. He certainly doesn’t seem to have enhanced it.

The final reports into Ballarat and the Melbourne Archdiocese have yet to be published and Mr Foster was active in both jurisdictions as a relentless advocate for victims. Again, the issue is not about Mr Foster, or his wife and his children, who have suffered terribly. It’s about the decision making of the man at the head of one of the nation’s most expensive, and important, royal commissions.

The following is a hypothetical. If, for example, an archbishop were to die, what response would there be if Mr McClellan were to speak at their funeral? It’s fair to assume the many church victims would be utterly furious; and rightly so. Yet reverse the argument and there is silence. Independence is not like a light switch. It can’t be turned off and on to suit an argument.

John Ferguson is the first member of the media to query Justice McClellan’s surprising decision to speak at Mr Foster’s State Funeral.  Despite the fact that the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is yet to produce its findings with respect to the Diocese of Ballarat and Archdiocese of Melbourne – concerning which Mr Foster gave active support to victims and complainants at the Royal Commission’s hearings in Sydney, Ballarat and Rome.

Cardinal George Pell served as a priest in Ballarat in the 1970s and early 1980s.  He served as an auxiliary bishop in Melbourne in the late 1980s and early 1990s and as archbishop from 1996 to 2001.  The Royal Commission has yet to make findings with respect to Ballarat (Case Study 28) and Melbourne (Case Study 35).

In 2012, Anthony Foster told the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry Into The Handling of Child Abuse By Religious and Other Non-Government Organisations that Cardinal Pell, when an auxiliary bishop and subsequently archbishop in Melbourne, exhibited a sociopathic lack of empathy.  Mr Foster never resiled from this comment – despite the fact that Cardinal Pell met him in Rome in early 2016.  Also Chrissie Foster’s book Hell on the Way to Heaven – which Justice McClellan cited favourably in his tribute –  is very critical of George Pell’s role in the Melbourne archdiocese.

There is a legal maxim that judges should not only be impartial – they should also appear to be impartial.

ABC Melbourne Mornings presenter Jon Faine was the MC for Mr Foster’s State Funeral.  When introducing Justice Peter McClellan, Mr Faine said that the Royal Commission chairman himself had requested that he speak at the State Funeral.  Here’s what was said:

Jon Faine:  Now Ladies and Gentlemen, the Honourable Justice Peter McClellan – who is chair of the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and has asked if he can make a tribute. And it’s today’s final tribute – Peter.

As John Ferguson pointed out, no one should have objected to Justice McClellan attending the State Funeral.  The problem is that both Justice McClellan and Victorian Premier Dan Andrews spoke at the State Funeral – despite the fact that the Royal Commission has yet to conclude its work and the Victorian government (of which Mr Andrews is premier) was party to establishing the Royal Commission in co-operation with the Commonwealth Government and other State and Territory governments.

John Ferguson: Five Paws



Writing in The (“It’s for free, but please send a gold coin”) Guardian on Tuesday, former NSW Labor premier and current Sky News host Kristina Keneally managed to write a column which got Tony Abbott and clerical child sexual abuse into one piece. Quite an achievement, even for one of Australia’s leading Abbott-Haters, when you think about it.

Ms Keneally’s point was this.  She wrote that “former prime minister Tony Abbott led a chorus of voices last week demanding that political leaders define recent deadly terrorist attacks as Islamic” and continued:

I’ve never had a problem using phrases like “radical Islam” or “extremist Islamic terrorists.” Being theologically trained, I understand that scripture is always interpreted in context and culture, and some interpretations are radical, extreme and seriously flawed.

I’m taken with this Abbottian notion that society needs to correctly name a challenge in order to meet it. I don’t often agree with the former prime minister, but he’s correct that we could better define those things that are currently killing Australians.

The theologically trained Keneally went on to write that “the Catholic Church (my Church and Abbott’s too)” stands out in so far as clerical child sexual abuse is concerned.

While the rates of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church have been appalling, evidence presented to the Royal Commission indicates that, on a per capital basis, offending within the theologically liberal Uniting Church was higher than in the theologically conservative Catholic Church in the past four decades. Moreover, clerical child abuse in the Catholic Church is essentially a historical crime, having peaked in the 1960s and 1980s and having all but disappeared in the last two decades.

According to Keneally, clerical child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church should be labeled as “Catholic terrorism” and “Catholic extremism”.  In spite of the fact that no Catholic clerical pedophiles ever cited the New Testament or papal encyclicals in justification for their crimes.  Unlike Islamist terrorists who do cite the Koran and do claim to be acting in accordance with the teachings of their God.

According to the theologically trained Kristina Keneally: “It is a warped, extreme and deeply flawed interpretation of the Catholic faith that led to such crimes”.  If this thesis is correct – then clerical sexual abuse in the Anglican, Uniting, Jehovah’s Witness and Jewish faiths along with the Salvation Army must also be explained in theological terms.  And what about such atheist pedophiles as the late Jimmy Savile? Needless to say, Ms Keneally’s latest rant won warm applause from Louise (“No comment”) Milligan and Peter FitzSimons.

[That’s interesting.  I note that Peter FitzSimons was somewhat ambivalent about historical child sexual abuse at his alma mater – the Uniting Church’s Knox Grammar in Sydney. So much so that he has not referred to “Uniting Church terrorism” or “Uniting Church extremism”.  Perhaps you might look at Fitz’s position next week. Just a thought. – MWD Editor.]

Kristina Keneally: Media Fool of the Week – No 1


 Does anyone know what Tony Wright, The Age’s Saturday sketch writer is on about?  Or, maybe, what he is on?

This is how your man Wright’s sketch commenced in The Age’s last Saturday under the heading “I’m JC and you’re both fakes!”

Donald J. Trump sits in the Oval Office staring at a television sagging from the wall, its screen peppered with bullet holes. Clumps of freshly torn Cheezels-coloured hair are strewn across the great desk and a mobile phone lies smoking on the carpet.

Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, late of Big Oil, gingerly pokes his head around the door. “Mr President,” he ventures. “We appear to have a potential new client across the water. I suggest you congratulate him for doing so well, just in case.”

The bloated, sun-lamped face swings towards Tillerson. The eyes are even more vacant than usual and the mouth lolls wide. “Wha’?” says the President of the United States of America. “His name is Jeremy Corbyn. Just move your right hand across the desk a little and grab ahold of the telephone receiver, Mr President. We’ve taken the liberty of placing the call and you’ll be patched right through.”

Trump jolts to life. The eyes narrow, spittle appears at the corners of his lips and he sweeps his hand through the dishevelled arrangement upon his head, tearing new clumps from it.

Biting sarcasm don’t you think?  A kind of Jonathan Swift meets Flann O’Brien, to be sure.

So Mr Wright’s sketch dragged on. It was about as funny as piles.  There were references to Guantanamo Bay, Vladimir Putin, Fake News, Theresa May’s long legs and so on.  And financially strapped Fairfax Media publishes this sludge.  Not even a royal commission could find a joke in this Sandalista style attempt at ridiculing Donald Trump – who is so easy a target for lightweight leftists like Tony Wright.

Tony Wright: Media Fool of the Week – No 2.


What a stunning performance on The Drum on Tuesday by freelance journalist Jane Gilmore.

In bagging Prime Minister Turnbull’s sensible suggestion that Australians should proclaim the virtues of patriots, Ms Gilmore had this to say:

Jane Gilmore: I think just to go back to what John [Barron] was saying that the country is looking for the government to lead on patriotism. More people died falling off ladders in the last year than have died from terrorist incidents in Australia in the last twenty years. So, it’s absolutely dog-whistling because [between] the risk and the rhetoric, there is a complete mismatch. So, as far as using the word patriot to incite fear, to incite nationalism, to incite jingoism; Australia is a nation of immigrants.

And, if we’re talking about Australian values, as far as I understand them, it’s mostly about “be fairly laid back, have a good time, make sure everybody else is, have a fair go.” Now, none of that is implied in Turnbull’s use of the word patriot. What he’s looking for is “let’s not let the people in here who are a threat.” And none of the people who want to come to Australia because they want to live the sort of live that we live, are a threat.

What a tired cliché.  Sure more people die from falling off ladders than from terrorist incidents.  But when’s the last time a ladder induced fatality stopped a city like London, New York, Paris, Manchester or Nice from operating.  Answer – it never has happened because the accidents of individuals within a society do not equate with the attacks by terrorists on a society.

Jane Gilmore: Media Fool of the Week No. 3

Here’s a news flash.  From the Other Side, Nancy has sent a message that MWD would commence a new segment devoted to Professor David Day’s comment that he was flat-out like a lizard drinking and too busy to provide evidence to support his assertions in his book Menzies & Churchill at War.

Dr Day (for a doctor he is) said that he was flat out like a lizard drinking on 8 July 2014. Apparently, he’s still flat out like a lizard drinking today. A mere 1035 days later.  Or could it be that your man Day has no evidence to support his assertion? Surely not.

This new segment will focus on journalists/authors/commentators who have declined to provide evidence to support their assertions.  However, today – due to the overwhelming demand of avid readers – MWD re-visits and updates the David Day/Anne Henderson stand-off.



According to MUP chief executive Louise Adler, Louise Milligan’s Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of Cardinal Pell (MUP, 2017) is a work of “forensic and meticulous research” and an “important contribution to the community’s understanding of the Catholic Church’s response to child abuse”.

According to ABC editorial director Alan Sunderland, the public broadcaster stands by the reporting of Cardinal George Pell by Louise Milligan – one of the ABC’s star investigative reporters – on the 7.30 program on 27 July 2016. Much of the material in the 7.30 program appears in Cardinal.

As MWD readers are aware, ABC journalist Louise Milligan has gone into “No Comment” mode and refuses to answer any questions concerning her book Cardinal (see the Documentation segment today).  Instead, Ms Milligan and the ABC have sought protection from Louise Adler at MUP. This despite the fact that large parts of Cardinal were researched by Louise Milligan during ABC time and the author used her ABC email account when writing the book.

Originally Cardinal was scheduled for release on 1 July 2017.  However, the publication date was brought forward to May. This was convenient for an author unwilling to defend her work.  It meant that none of the interviewers who discussed Cardinal with Ms Milligan around publication day had time to read the book in full. Some showed no evidence of having read any part of Cardinal.

On account of the premature release of Cardinal, reviews were published sometime after the book was published.  Unlike many of the ABC presenters who gave soft interviews to their work colleague, the reviewers had time to read and analyse the Cardinal.  Here’s what they had to say last Saturday.


Peter Craven’s review in The Age, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Canberra Times (10 June 2017) was titled “Leading the case for the prosecution”. Peter Craven is not a Catholic in the Pell tradition but he was brought up a Catholic and understands church history and theology.

From the beginning of his review, Peter Craven makes clear that – contrary to Louise Adler’s assertion – Cardinal is not a product of forensic and meticulous research, but rather of animus.  He writes:

 A lot of people are gunning for George Pell, and Louise Milligan is chief among those who would have him shot. Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell – its publication brought forward by eight weeks – is a 384-page attempt at a self-fulfilling prophecy. Cardinal does not depict the fall of George Pell though Milligan seems to think it is devoutly to be wished.

She begins with a portrait of “The Kid”, who is the source of a new complaint, one which, if upheld, would destroy the cardinal. “The Kid… [has] PTSD eyes… the look of a dog which has been left alone for weeks in a yard which has been concreted over. The PTSD are quick to tears.”

The fictionalising technique and the heightened colour are characteristic of this book that follows in the wake of the accusation that Milligan sensationally put to air on the ABC’s 7:30 in 2016 but climaxes with the new details of The Kid’s story which we have to wait until the end to have revealed.

Peter Craven comments that Louise Milligan “does not give the impression of being well versed in either questions of theology or law”.  He could have added that Cardinal is also weak on history.  Craven maintains that “Milligan, with the fervour of a lapsed Jansenist leaves no stone unturned in her attempt to implicate Pell”. (For those not well versed in church history, Jansenism was a movement of primarily French Catholics which was highly conscious of Original Sin and sin resulting from a weakness of the flesh).

As to Louise Milligan’s assertion about George Pell’s alleged crimes, Peter Craven makes the unfashionable – but accurate – assessment:

On questions of personal abuse she is relentless. She rehearses in vast detail the accusations of people who allege that as a young priest at a swimming pool in Ballarat, as he hurled boys over his shoulder to their delight, he was in fact touching them intimately. She is utterly undeterred by the fact that some quantity of these people, damaged by other ghastly abuse, went on to lives of addiction and domestic violence.

Yes, she’s right that this doesn’t necessarily discredit their testimony but nor does it do much to authenticate it. Frank Costigan QC said to Geoffrey Robertson once on one of his Hypotheticals that he would not challenge someone because he was “one of life’s unfortunates” but he would if he thought his testimony was coloured by drugs.

And Pell does seem to have been an abiding phantom of predation for a lot of people simply because he’s taken to be the embodiment of the arrogance of the Church, a role his self-confessed “wooden” manner suits him for all too well.

The reiterated story of him not rushing to get dressed in a hurry after he’d been surfing with some boys at Torquay, to the puritanical appal of some chap running the club, is absurd. If so, so what?

Then there is the final charge concerning The Kid. Two boys with scholarships to St Kevin’s required to sing in the St Patrick’s cathedral choir in return. Pell, the Archbishop of Melbourne who has already initiated the Melbourne Response [to handle clerical child sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Melbourne] and is destined for the red cap, for Sydney and the Vatican, is supposed to have caught them in a forbidden room in the cathedral and insisted on oral sex.

If the charge were true, this supreme politician for the Lord, the man who awed the media with the words, “I’m here to object to ‘Piss Christ’,” and who has raged like a wildfire at Vatican financial corruption, would be a madman as well as a criminal. The other boy is now dead (tragically, of an overdose); none of the other choirboys back up the claim.

Peter Craven’s criticism of Cardinal goes to Louise Milligan’s role as a hyperbolic and flowery writer. Here is his conclusion:

Louise Milligan’s Cardinal also has plenty of inaccuracies ranging from St Kevin’s uniforms to clerical titles. She is the diametrical opposite of Helen Garner in her famous trial books: instead of presenting herself as an unreliable narrator – full of doubts and flaws – she is a writer of flaming convictions and sensationalist prose who backs her intuitions in the face of any notion of evidence or scruple. The upshot is a racketing case for the prosecution. One can only hope to God that in the present climate people will be capable of realising this is a case being mounted for a witch trial.


 In the introduction to his review of Cardinal in The Weekend Australian (10-11 June 2017), Gerard Windsor writes that he is “a practising, albeit sinful, Catholic” – and adds that he has “crossed swords in print with George Pell”.

In short, Gerard Windsor is a long-term critic of Cardinal Pell. This is clear in his review.

For example, Windsor states that “a large number of boys have claimed that Pell groped them regularly in the Eureka Pool” in the late 1970s and “that he had a habit of standing naked in the dressing shed for a long time while he talked to them”.

This statement is inaccurate.  Louise Milligan cites three boys who as men claimed that (Fr) George Pell touched them improperly in the middle of the Eureka Pool some four decades ago. This is a long way short of “a large number”.

Also, a “large number of boys” have not claimed that Pell had “a habit of standing naked in the dressing room shed for a long time”.  This is essentially a charge of one adult man who claimed that he saw Pell on one occasion standing naked in a dressing room in Torquay some three decades ago.  In Fairfax Media, he identified George Pell as being the “local priest” at the time.  George Pell was never a local priest in Torquay.  This contradiction is rationalised away in Cardinal – despite the fact that it raises the issue of mistaken identity.

Gerard Windsor also accepts Louise Milligan’s claim that George Pell, when Archbishop of Melbourne, was not the first member of the Hierarchy to address the issue of clerical child sexual abuse when he set up the Melbourne Response in 1996 – three months after he took over the job from Archbishop Frank Little.

In Cardinal, Milligan argues separately that (i) George Pell was not the first member of the Catholic Hierarchy to act against clerical child sexual abuse and (ii) that he broke ranks by introducing the Melbourne Response in 1996 before the other archdioceses and all the dioceses in Australia set up Towards Healing in late 1997.  Milligan and Windsor can’t have it both ways.  The fact is that Pell moved first because his fellow bishops were too slow to act.

In spite of the fact that Gerard Windsor is sympathetic towards Louise Milligan, even he has to concede that her work is biased.  As Windsor puts it:

▪ “virtually all” Louise Milligan’s “witnesses are for the prosecution”.

▪ the book Cardinal is an “attack” and

▪ in “the second half” of Cardinal, the author’s “animus against Pell starts to show”.

While conceding that he has no idea of the accuracy of the case against Cardinal Pell, Gerard Windsor does query the claims of Milligan’s witnesses for the prosecution:

The jury, as they say, is still out on all these accusations. Individual stories have their puzzling, even questionable elements. Two boys at the same time in a room in his own cathedral? How easily does one ‘‘walk past the open door of the presbytery’’ and see ‘‘the aftermath of a rape’’? If you’re throwing boys into the air in a pool, is it easy to make sure your hands touch only non-private parts of their bodies?

Gerard Windsor’s position is that Cardinal Pell “has no future at all” as a “Catholic leader, arbiter and model” – in view of the “damning character vivisection” of him as a public figure.  Here Windsor seems to be saying that Pell has been found guilty on the basis of public opinion.  However, the strength of this review is that one of Pell’s vehement opponents concedes that Louise Milligan is part of the anti-Pell attacks.


The critique of Cardinal by both Peter Craven and Gerard Windsor demolishes the position of Louise Adler at MUP and Alan Sunderland at the ABC that Louise Milligan’s work is objective.  The problem is that Ms Milligan’s animus towards the Cardinal is so great that she is incapable of writing an objective account of either George Pell or the crisis of historical child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church.

Yet much of Louise Milligan’s time in researching her biased book Cardinal   was paid for by the Australian taxpayer.


While on the topic of Louise (“No Comment”) Milligan, let’s go again with the eleven questions about Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell which the ABC star reporter cannot answer about her work as a journalist and an author. The questions were forwarded on 30 May 2017.  Here we go – one more time.

  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 277 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 remember Pell 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?

If Louise Milligan replies to Gerard Henderson MWD’s avid readers will learn soonest. Don’t hold your breath.

Until next time.