23 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: Waleed Aly Zaps his own “Perpetual Irritant” Theory & Peter Martin’s Bizarre Rant on Funding for Non-Government Schools 
  • Five Paws Award: Step Forward Chris Kenny on Gillian Triggs 
  • New Segment: A Louise Milligan Anonymous Sources Moment – This Week Starring Phil Coorey 
  • Can You Bear It? Jane Goodall’s Snobbery; Leigh Sales’ Obsession; Paul Bongiorno’s Putin Admiration; Mike Seccombe’s Non-Story & Fran Kelly’s Answers Posed as Questions 
  • Great Media U-Turns of Our Time: Kristina Keneally’s Theological Confusion 
  • Media Fool of the Week: Norman Abjorensen on The Trump Fascist Dictatorship 
  • Maurice Newman Segment: The Drum’s Left-wing Rant on Citizenship in which even Adolf Hitler got a Mention 
  • Documentation: Louise (“No Comment”) Milligan Continues in No Comment Mode 
  • Correspondence: Peter FitzSimons Helps Out but Still Fails to Claim $20,000 Prize


 What a stunning piece in today’s Sydney Morning Herald by Monash University academic and The Project presenter Waleed Aly.  Oh yes, Dr Aly (for a doctor he has become – as MWD prophesied years ago) also presents some low-rating program on ABC Radio National.

Today’s Fairfax Media piece is headed “Don’t mince words on Finsbury Park”. The reference is to what appears to have been a terrorist attack on the Finsbury Park Mosque – this will be determined when authorities reach a conclusion on the mental health of the attacker.  In his column, Waleed Aly rejects the idea that this was a “revenge” attack following recent Islamist attacks in London and Manchester. The central point of the column is this:

It’s true the far right doesn’t resemble anything quite like IS: a globally dispersed terrorist movement with a relatively slick propaganda machine. And it’s also true that Islamist terrorism is significantly more deadly as a global phenomenon, and more likely to claim mass casualties. But Finsbury Park is not an isolated event, nor even just the long-awaited sequel to Anders Behring Breivik’s massacre of 77 people in Norway in 2011. Right-wing terrorism has always been more active than news coverage makes it feel, and it’s experiencing something of a surge right now.

This week we learnt that nearly one-third of the people being monitored under Britain’s counter-terrorism Prevent scheme are far-right extremists – the number of these people having increased by 25 per cent in the past year. A record number of white people were arrested on suspicion of terrorism last year, some 35 per cent of the total (although we don’t have a breakdown of their political affiliations). And it’s showing up in attacks….

That’s clear then.  Waleed Aly regards terrorist attacks – whether initiated by Islamists or members of the extreme right – are attacks on society. And, as such, an existential threat to society.

Could this by the very same Waleed Aly who – writing in Fairfax Media on 19 April 2013 in the wake of the Boston Marathon terrorist attack – declared that terrorism is best regarded as a “perpetual irritant” which “while emotionally lacerating…kills relatively few people and is not any kind of existential threat”?  Sure is.


Did anyone see the exchange on The Drum last night when Fairfax Media’s Peter Martin talked down The Australian’s Caroline Overington concerning the effect of the Turnbull government Gonski 2.0 reforms on the Catholic education system? Let’s go to the transcript just before your man Martin pushed the switch to agitation – which perhaps explains his convoluted expression:

Caroline Overington: It [Gonski 2.0]is a terrific deal for schools, it is as good as they are going to get. But on the Catholic schools, the Catholic schools have a point.  Every child that is in a Catholic school is saving you and I money.  Every single child that goes –

Peter Martin: [Interjecting] That’s not true, Caroline.

 Caroline Overington: It’s completely true, I can tell you –

Peter Martin: [Interjecting] No well, it is true if you use a limited version of maths. Which many people do. And which you are. The equation has three elements in it. You’re thinking of two, okay?

You’re thinking that the government funds almost as much actually as it spends on, as governments spend on students in government schools. It gives that to Catholic schools, not quite as much. And that if all those Catholic schools close, and Catholic schools close all the time – I mean government schools close all the time, there’s nothing surprising about schools closing. It happens on the basis of demographics. But then people have to go into the State system and be paid more.

Yes, that would be true, but for the third element, which is that if Australia is like any other OECD country – and most of the other OECD countries have no government funding for Catholic or any other kind of non-government schools, religious schools. If Australia is like anywhere else, parents will still send their children to private schools. Catholic schools won’t close. When you know that – you know that overfunding Catholic schools costs you more money. It doesn’t save you money.

What a load of absolute tosh. In the first place, Peter Martin is not talking about mathematics. Rather, he is making projections about human behaviour which is not at all mathematical. The Age’s economics editor, maintains that parents will keep their children in Catholic schools and other low fee Independent schools irrespective of the level of funding such schools receive from the Commonwealth government – note they receive no funding from State governments.

His evidence? Well, your man Martin reckons that Australians will act like parents act in other OECD countries.  The only problem is that there is no government funding for Independent or non-government schools in the OECD nations – apart from Australia.  So the Martin comparison is meaningless.  Moreover, the Catholic school system – along with that of Independent schools – has operated since the end of the 19th Century.  Some 20 per cent of Australian students attend non-government schools. Mr Martin reckons that all or nearly all of the 20 per cent will remain in non-government schools irrespective of the fees that are charged. How would he know?

You would have to be The Age’s economic editor to believe that there is no price point at which parents will decide that they cannot keep their children in low fee Catholic and Independent schools.  Also, Peter Martin appears ignorant of the fact that, for many parents, their choices of school is not motivated by religion.  For example, around 30-40 per cent of children in the Catholic education system are not Catholics.

And then there is the issue of equality.  A family with an income of $250,000 living in a $2 million house can send their children to government schools for free – per courtesy of the taxpayer.

However, a family on $80,000 living in a $600,000 home has to make a financial contribution if parents wish to send their children to a low fee Catholic or Independent schools.

It’s a pity that presenter Eleanor Hall allowed Mr Martin to shout down Ms Overington on this issue.  Clearly The Drum’s producers, presenters and panellists would benefit from enrolling in Nancy’s Courtesy Classes.



There was plenty bemoaning and gnashing of teeth following the resignation of long-time Age journalist Michael Gordon.  Last Friday, Tony Wright wrote a piece in The Age concerning Mr Gordon titled “Farewell to a giant of journalism”.  On Saturday, your man Gordon devoted his “The Nation” column to his decision to leave The Age after almost four decades at the Spencer Street Soviet – otherwise known as “The Guardian on the Yarra”.

Michael Gordon’s last hurrah as a Fairfax Media journalist was his soft interview with outgoing Australian Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs.  Dr Triggs (for a doctor she is) used the occasion to bag a critic – namely, The Australian’s  associate editor Chris Kenny.

Gillian Triggs told a naïve Michael Gordon that Chris Kenny had “never phoned me or made any attempt to understand anything” about her role at the HRC. It turned out that this statement was completely inaccurate.  Moreover, Michael Gordon failed to do what any competent journalist should do and check with Chris Kenny before reporting Dr Triggs’ allegation.

It is rare indeed these days that Fairfax Media corrects its errors. However, last Tuesday, Fairfax Media published a letter from Chris Kenny which read as follows:

Facts discounted

Michael Gordon reported comments from AHRC president Gillian Triggs that criticised my reporting during her tenure (“Not only could I speak out; my statute says I must speak out”, June 17). The comments conveyed the impression I had not tried to speak with Professor Triggs nor had availed myself of all relevant facts.

This was a slight against my journalistic practices and integrity. If Gordon had simply checked this allegation with me I would have been able to furnish him with emails and other communications refuting it.

 Chris Kenny Associate Editor, The Australian

Chris Kenny: Five Paws


Due to popular demand, this segment is devoted to the use of anonymous sources by journalists.

It is named in honour of ABC star investigative reporter Louise Milligan whose “authoritative” anonymous sources in her hatchet job Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell (MUP, 2017) include not only “a friend who is a mother in the neighbourhood” but also, wait for it, “the father-in-law of an ABC journalist.”  How authoritative can you get?

It is unlikely that many journalists will reach Ms Milligan’s standard when it comes to quoting an anonymous source.  But many will give it a go.  Here’s a recent example:

Phillip Coorey, the Australian Financial Review’s chief political correspondent, wrote an article titled “Threat grows over Abbott’s pre-selection” on 16 June 2017. Here’s how the piece commenced:

Tony Abbott’s prospects of recontesting his seat [of Warringah] in the next election are under increasing threat, with momentum building within the NSW Liberal Party to bump him off at preselection.

Your man Coorey’s sources included “sources on both sides of the [Liberal Party] factional fence in NSW”, “one member of the NSW Right”, “Liberal Party conservatives opposed to the central recommendation of the Finkel Report [who] have long stropped listening to Mr Abbott” and “one hardened conservative”. Add just the father-in-law of an ABC journalist and Mr Coorey’s case would be proven.


 How predictable that Q&A executive producer Peter McEvoy lined up a final question from an audience member suffering from Trumphobia last Monday – and how predictable the response. Let’s go to the transcript:

Jeremy Fernandez: There’s time for one last question now, it comes from David McGonigal.

David McGonigal: My question’s for Dr Goodall. Recently, we’ve seen human populations acting with what seems to me like increasingly apparent irrationality – for example, the election of President Trump and Brexit. Have you ever observed similar decisions against the common good by a troop of chimpanzees?

Jane Goodall: Really, honestly, chimpanzees are out for themselves. But they also, as I’ve said, show altruism. But when we come into the kind of things that you’re talking about, electing Trumps and Brexit, you know, it’s so far removed from the chimpanzees living their very simple life where males seek to achieve dominance, where they have a territory marked out, where if they spy individuals from a neighbouring social group, they will chase. If they catch the unfortunate victim, attack so badly that that individual will die of wounds inflicted. So there isn’t a mechanism in their societies that I could even begin to relate to the election of Donald Trump.


Jane Goodall: And Brexit. And you know, Brexit – in a way, those two things stem from the same source – people are – sections of the population that were kept down, that didn’t have enough education, who couldn’t get the right jobs because of that, they were angry and they wanted change. And so when they saw that they were being offered change, they hadn’t really been through all the education, they didn’t analyse exactly what was being promised and ask themselves, “Is this really true?” And a great example of that is the day after the Brexit answer came through, the most frequently asked question on Google was, “What is the EU?” That’s true. So it just shows that they listened to everything they were told, they didn’t analyse it, they didn’t question it and it’s the opposite of what we began the conversation with, about trust. They implicitly trusted what they were told, both by Trump and by the Conservative Party in the UK.

What a load of absolute tosh. For starters, the Conservative Party did not tell their supporters to vote “Leave”. Rather most of the leading Tories – including prime minister David Cameron and his chancellor-of-the-exchequer George Osborne – urged British voters to vote “Remain”.  Dr Goodall should know this.

According to Jane Goodall, the reasons why a majority of Brits voted to leave the European Union – and why Americans elected Donald Trump as president – was due to the fact that voters are not educated. In other words, voters who hold different views to the learned Jane Goodall are just uneducated and dumb.  This overlooks the fact that some of the brightest and best educated individuals in Britain and the United States voted for Brexit and Donald Trump respectively.

Yet Dr Goodall’s elitist put-down of every day Brits and Americans met with loud supportive laughter by the Sandalista Set that turns out in large numbers when Q&A is held in inner-city Sydney or inner-city Melbourne and sneers at those they believe are less educated and have a lower level of morality. Can You Bear It? 


Thanks to the Canberra based avid reader who advised MWD of the speech by Andrew Leigh (the Labor MP for Fenner in the Australian Capital Territory) in Parliament House’s Federation Chamber on Tuesday.

The occasion was the Condolence Motion for the ABC broadcaster Mark Colvin.  Dr Leigh (for a doctor he is) said that he only met the late Mr Colvin once – at a conference.  Even so, he delivered a 2500 word long eulogy which contained the following gem:

He [Mark Colvin] had such a terrific sense of humour. As Leigh Sales writes: “I once told him that I wanted to brighten up his hospital room with some beautiful images and so I texted him three photographs of flowers and one of Gerard Henderson.  He told me be thought he’d cracked a rib laughing so hard.”

Pretty funny, eh? In any event, it’s nice to know that Leigh Sales (like Phillip Adams) seems to have Hendo on her mind. Which, when you think about it, is an unusual location.  [Yeah, strange. Especially since Ms Sales has never invited Gerard Henderson on to her program and Mr Adams only extends an invitation for Hendo to appear on Late Night Live every 25 years or so. – MWD Editor].

Alas, this tale tells us more about parsimony than humour.  Your man Colvin is seriously ill in hospital.  To bright up his room, Ms Sales texts three photographs of flowers along with one pic of the late Nancy’s (male) co-owner.  Loss to the Sales budget: Zero.  But worth a mention in Andrew Leigh’s (verbal) obituary.  Can You Bear It?


It seems that The [Boring] Saturday Paper’s star columnist Paul Bongiorno likes strong men – who look good sans shirt while riding a horse and who have learnt German while working for the KGB in old (Stalinist) East Germany. How else to explain Bonge’s Trump-like Twitter stream which took place after SBS aired conspiracy theorist Oliver Stone’s interview with Russian leader Vladimir Putin?  It went like this:

Paul Bongiorno @PaulBongiorno
Watching the Putin Interview on SBS…fascinating.Whatever else the Russian is a leader.9:00 PM · Jun 18, 2017 from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory

Cat @LittleBertie01·Jun 18
Replying to @PaulBongiorno
So was Hitler, darling.

Paul Bongiorno @PaulBongiorno·Jun 18
It’s more complicated than that, but Intake your point

Michael Carey @MichaeCarey·Jun 18
Replying to @PaulBongiorno
his critics get murdered. Is that leadership or fascism?

Paul Bongiorno @PaulBongiorno·Jun 18
Agree it looks bad.

sydcrow @sydcrow27·Jun 18
Replying to @PaulBongiorno
It’s not that complicated Paul. He is a corrupt murderous enemy of democracy. And popular in Russia.

Paul Bongiorno @PaulBongiorno·Jun 18
That’s what complicates the picture somewhat, the warning to us is popularity can be a slide into dictatorship

So there you have it. Bonge praises Putin as a “leader”.  Then – after tweets from Cat, Michael Carey and sydcrow – your man Bongiorno drops his “Praise-Putin” moment and gives us all a sermon that “popularity can be a slide into dictatorship”.  Well – thanks for that.  How profound can you get?  Can You Bear It?


While (previously) on the topic of anonymous sources, did anyone see the stunning piece by Mike “the Sneerer” Seccombe in The [Boring] Saturday Paper last weekend?

Despite the fact that The Saturday Paper goes to print on Thursday evening, your man Seccombe was given a Page 1 story about breaking news. He used the occasion to cover both the replacement of Gillian Triggs as president of the Human Rights Commission and the decision of the Victorian Supreme Court to ask three Liberal Party Ministers why they should not be charged with contempt of court with respect to comments they made about a sentencing decision of the Victorian Supreme Court.

On the Human Rights Commission, Mr Seccombe commenced by suggesting that the job would go to a certain Augusto Zimmermann who, believe it or not, is a committed Christian.  It seems that your man Seccombe believes that being a committed Christian should disqualify any person from being appointed to a government position.

Mike Seccombe’s account of who might replace Dr Triggs cited “multiple sources in the legal profession and within the Human Rights Commission” along with “one senior source” plus “one source to the Commission” and “our source”. [Did he mention a father-in-law of an ABC journalist? – MWD Editor.]

In what apparently was a late correction to his piece, Mike Seccombe flagged that Australian Law Reform Commission president Professor Rosalind Croucher might get the job instead of Dr Zimmermann. Even so, the powers that be at The Saturday Paper still ran three columns of Mr Seccombe’s attack on Professor Zimmermann – which was of little relevance if Dr Croucher was to get the gig (which she did).

By the way, The Saturday Paper hit the streets of Ultimo in inner-city Sydney and Brunswick in inner-city Melbourne some 24 hours after the Victorian Supreme Court had heard the case of the three Liberal Party ministers. Even so the matter was not reported in The Saturday Paper when members of the Sandalista Set opened the left-wing’s house journal on Saturday morning.

It seems to Morry Schwartz that, at The Saturday Paper, No News is Good News.  Can You Bear It?


Did anyone hear Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly interviewing Christian Zahra, executive director of the National Catholic Education Commission, on Radio National Breakfast last Monday?  Well, come to think of it, the activist Ms Kelly did not waste much time interviewing Mr Zahra.  Rather, she focused on interviewing herself about school funding and used Christian Zahra as a prop to proclaim her own ideas.  Guess what?  Fran Kelly broadly supports the Turnbull government’s Gonski 2.0 school funding package and reckons so should Labor and the Greens and the National Catholic Education Commission. So there. As she told RN Breakfast listeners.

Let’s go to the transcript where Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly tells Radio National Breakfast listeners what education funding policy should be by a means of leading questions and direct statements:

Fran Kelly: These figures from the Department of Education that you’re waving around seem to show that Catholic schools would lose out to the tune of $ 4.6 billion over a decade because funding would not grow as fast as it would under the existing arrangements. Does that show, once and for all, that Catholic schools are over-resourced as per the funding deals struck by the previous Labor government?….

[Here Christian Zahra responded]

Fran Kelly: I don’t think – but, Christian Zahra, I don’t think anyone’s doubting that these low fee Catholic schools are important and they are serving very needy elements of the population. But so are the public schools. And what the government’s trying to do, it says, is deliver the needs based funding model that David Gonski originally came up with…. Some schools are being overfunded and some are being underfunded and we need to pull this back. That means there is going to be some pain in the redistribution. If the Catholic sector has to share in that pain to make sure all the public schools, who serve the poorest of the poor as well get what they deserve – isn’t that just what has to happen?….

[Here Christian Zahra responded]

Fran Kelly: Well except, how does the Catholic system justify arguing to keep arrangements that give a financial advantage to them ahead of some State schools that are below what the Catholic education is getting? How do you justify that? I mean, we’re trying to lift everyone up and even things out. We’re pulling money off some of the wealthiest schools because they’ve been overpaid. I mean, it might hurt but is this what has to happen?…

[Here Christian Zahra responded]

Fran Kelly: This is not about choice, this is – you’re just trying to bring choice in here to rev up the sort of fear campaign, aren’t you? Where’s the choice in all of this?…

[Here Christian Zahra responded]

There you have it.  Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly used Christian Zahra’s willingness to be interviewed to bang on about her own views.  They are that (i) Catholic schools are over-resourced, (ii) Catholic schools have to pull their weight to make sure all the public schools get what they want – this has to happen, (iii) the Gonski 2.0 proposals have to be implemented and (iv) the Catholic education system is running a fear campaign by revving up the issue of choice in education.

If Fran Kelly wants to be an activist, she can resign her position at the taxpayer funded public broadcaster and stand for politics or join a political movement.  Instead she seems intent on making political statements in the guise of interviewing operatives.  Can You Bear It?



How wonderful that Kristina Keneally, an avid MWD reader, declared last Friday that it is a “glorious honour” to receive MWD’s “Media Fool of the Week”. This followed the former NSW Labor premier’s discovery of “Catholic extremism” and her linking of sexual abuse within the Catholic church to the teachings of the “Catholic church”. The Thought of Kristina Keneally on this matter was revealed in The Guardian on 13 June 2017.

In short, Ms Keneally damned the Catholic Church – to the support and enjoyment of the likes of Peter FitzSimons and Louise Milligan.

But now, the very same Ms Keneally is complaining that the Catholic Church in Australia is too rarely praised.   This is what she told Toni Hassan as reported in the Canberra Times last Saturday:

The linkage between religion and political activity is often assumed to favour the right wing of politics. That frustrates me as a centre-left politician, largely because I view the Christian gospel from a social-justice perspective. Some of the strongest social justice statements that come out of the Catholic Bishops Conference have related to economic justice in Australia and welcoming asylum seekers. But that perspective is so rarely picked up and articulated by religiously affiliated political actors.

So there you have it.  According to Ms Keneally not enough attention is given to the teachings of the Catholic Church in Australia on “economic justice” and in “welcoming asylum seekers”. Yet a week earlier she maintained that cases of Catholic clerical child sexual abuse can be traced back to the teachings of the very same Catholic Church.



What to do if a columnist has a piece to write but just cannot think of a suitable topic?  Well, believe it or not, every now and then a scribbler has located an article or essay or book and summarised it as for his/her column.

Could this explain the piece by Australian National University visiting fellow Norman Abjorensen in the Canberra Times last Saturday titled “Grim Reading in the era of Trump America”?

You see, your man Abjorensen located a book by Yale University Professor Timothy Snyder titled On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century (Tim Duggan Books, 2017). And he accepted the Snyder thesis that the United States in the time of Donald J Trump is heading towards a fascist dictatorship.  Even though, the learned Yale professor does not mention Trump’s same.  Dr Abjorensen (for a doctor he is) told Canberra Times readers:

  • Snyder has a written “short tract that amounts to a survival guide for contemporary America in anticipation of an impending political dark age and the rise of a new tyranny.”
  • According to Snyder, “Americans today are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism or communism in the 20th Century”.
  • Snyder advises that Americans should “make sure you and your family have passports”.
  • And Snyder doubts that the mid-term elections scheduled for November 2018 will take place.

Get the picture?  Here comes the Trump fascist dictatorship. Abjorensen also agrees with Snyder that there is a “rise of violence in political discourse” – and attributes this to President Trump.  This overlooks the real violence of the left in the United States in attacking police and shutting down the meetings conducted by those with whom they disagree.

This is how the learned doctor Abjorensen concluded his piss-poor filler by, once again, bowing at the feet of the Philosopher Snyder:

Snyder takes a more philosophical, though no more optimistic, tone in an epilogue, tracing the slippery intellectual path from freedom to tyranny. In the brief euphoria after the Cold War, he writes, we were enthralled by the politics of seeming inevitability; an idea that history moved inexorably towards liberal democracy, exemplified in Francis Fukuyama’s thesis on “the end of history”.

But, having lowered our defences, we now find ourselves careening towards “the politics of eternity”, in which a leader rewrites our past as “a vast misty courtyard of illegible monuments to national victimhood”. Inevitability was like a coma; eternity is like hypnosis.

It makes for grim reading. “The danger we now face is of a passage from the politics of inevitability to the politics of eternity, from a naive and flawed sort of democratic republic to a confused and cynical sort of fascist oligarchy,” Snyder concludes. “The path of least resistance leads directly from inevitability to eternity.” It couldn’t happen in Australia, could it?

What a load of absolute tosh.  Dr Abjorensen accepts Professor Snyder’s end-of-the-democratic-world-is-nigh analysis of the United States and then, without even arguing the case, suggests that this could happen in Australia.

Norman Abjorensen:  Media Fool of the Week



 Due to unprecedented demand, the re-booted Maurice Newman Segment gets another run this week. As MWD readers will know, this (hugely popular) segment is devoted to former ABC chairman Maurice Newman’s one-time suggestion that a certain “group think” might be prevalent at the ABC. And to former ABC managing director Mark Scott’s belief that there is no causal relationship between the political beliefs of ABC presenters, producers and editors and what they say (or the talent they commission) on ABC television, radio and online outlets.

In other words, Mr Newman believes that the taxpayer funded public broadcaster should be pluralist – while Nice Mr Scott reckons that it is just fine that the ABC is a Conservative Free Zone without a conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets.

Formerly this segment involved a play-off between one-time ABC TV Media Watch presenter Jonathan Holmes and Maurice Newman. However, shortly after handing over the Media Watch presenter’s chair to Paul Barry, your man Holmes conceded that – at least with respect to ABC Radio – the likes of Andrew Bolt and Gerard Henderson were correct in maintaining that the taxpayer funded public broadcaster’s output was overwhelmingly leftist. See MWD Issue 329. So Jonathan Holmes was retired from the Maurice Newman Segment and was replaced by Nice Mr Scott who never spoke a critical word about his ABC when he was ABC managing director/editor-in-chief. Now read on.

As MWD readers may or may not know, each Friday on ABC1’s The Drum, the presenter asks panellists to bang on about the issues which they feel strongly about.  And so it came to pass last Friday evening when presenter Julia Baird made the following (exciting) pronouncement:

Julia Baird: And yes, of course, it’s Friday – when we turn our topics over to the panel and let them vent on issues of the week they feel strongly about.

The panel comprised Shen Narayanasamy (Getup!’s human rights campaign director), Peter FitzSimons (Fairfax Media columnist and chairman of the Australian Republican Movement) and Toby Ralph (a marketing strategist).

First up, Shen Narayanasamy sounded off about Immigration Minister Peter Dutton’s announcement that he would introduce legislation into Parliament on citizenship which would include a tighter English language test.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Shen Narayanasamy: My issue is Peter Dutton’s announcement yesterday that he was introducing new legislation into Parliament that would radically reshape the multicultural society that we have. So basically, he’s instituting an almost impossible standard for migrants to attain which is an English language level you require to enter university. Now the last time we had anything like that was the White Australia Policy. And I think it’s profoundly distressing when you think about it. What this man is doing is, with one sweep of his hand, just eradicating the history of this country and multiculturalism and migration you know….

Neither Julia Baird nor Peter FitzSimons nor Toby Ralph bothered to correct this howler.  Under the White Australia Policy, an applicant for immigration could be required to pass a language test in any European language.  There was no compulsory English test.

Next up was Peter FitzSimons – who agreed with his fellow panellist and did not bother to introduce his own topic.  Let’s go to the transcript where The Red Bandannaed One also does an anti-Dutton rant in the form of posing leading questions:

Peter FitzSimons: Do you think it’s effective dog-whistle politics? I’m not putting words in your mouth but is that your basic theme? It’s simply dog-whistle politics?

Surprise.  Ms Narayanasamy agreed with Fitz that Peter Dutton was into dog-whistle politics. Soon she managed to compare Mr Dutton with Adolf Hitler by re-phrasing the words attributed to the German Protestant pastor Martin Niemoller concerning the failure of the leaders of the German Protestant churches to speak up against the Nazi regime in the 1930s.

Shen Narayanasamy:  …at this point in time I think, you know, that old adage is really useful. First they came for the asylum seekers and the boat people, then the Muslims, and now they’ve come for everybody else.

It’s generally conceded that if anyone evokes Hitler or Nazism in the contemporary debate their argument is diminished.  But neither Julia Baird nor Peter FitzSimons nor Toby Roche raised a dissenting voice when Ms Narayanasamy linked Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Dutton to Nazism. Nor did anyone challenge the GetUp! operative’s suggestion that the Turnbull government would come after Muslims the way the Hitler regime came after Jews.  After all, it was The Drum on the ABC – which does not have a conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or on-line outlets.

Soon after, Julia Baird thought it useful to ask Toby Ralph, the third panellist, whether there’s any merit to Mr Dutton’s proposal. Needless to say your man Ralph agreed with The Red Bandannaed One and Ms Narayanasamy – as the following multi-rants demonstrate:

Toby Ralph:  I think there’s political merit [in Peter Dutton’s proposal]. I think it’s a vote winner. I don’t think it’s got a spine of principle. And so, no. I think this is a carefully researched piece of dog-whistling to the bush and to the Hanson-esque right.

Julia Baird: And what of the insertion of the word “patriot” into the political debate?

Peter FitzSimons: Oh really?

Shen Narayanasamy: Yes.

Peter FitzSimons: Really?

Shen Narayanasamy: Well I mean the last time the word “patriot” was used was by far-right movements in Bendigo. That beheaded someone in the main street in Bendigo. Beheading – that is fake beheading – in the main street of Bendigo. I mean to say – it’s not just dog-whistle politics. I mean, think about it. It’s saying to Australia that the whole section of us are not welcome. Now that is reflected in the street. That’s felt by me in the street, that’s the reality of it.

Then, as would be expected, Fitz introduced the “T” word:

Peter FitzSimons: [Interjecting] I remember an American politico saying to me the thing about this is – this is a year ago before Trump was elected – he said the problem was with the 11 Republican candidates you had 10 of them with dog-whistles and you had one of them there with a trumpet. Which was Donald Trump playing “Tell the Mexicans we’re going to wall them, they’re rapists they’re murderers!” And the guys with the dog-whistles just didn’t know what to do – this guy’s got a trumpet…

So, with Shen agreeing with Fitz who agreed with Toby who agreed with Shen who agreed with herself, Julia Baird went back to the word “patriot”.

Julia Baird: So is it a good thing for the Prime Minister to use this word?

Peter FitzSimons: If it’s in the context of Australia having our own sovereignty it’s a very good thing. But in this context, totally different.

Toby Ralph: It’s not patriotism at all. Patriotism is a weasel word, and you know –

Peter FitzSimons: [Interjecting] I resemble [sic] that remark.

Toby Ralph: As a last refuge of the proverbial scoundrel – as we all know. And I think it’s being abused here terribly.

Shen remained silent as Fitz said that Malcolm Turnbull should not use the word “patriotism” in a debate on citizenship. Meanwhile your man Ralph ran the old line that “patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel”. This comes from James Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson (1791) and is of no relevance to the current debate on patriotism.  Johnson’s reference was to the 18th Century Whig political movement led by William Pitt and which opposed Robert Walpole’s government.  Contrary to Ralph’s ignorant claim, Johnson was not referring to the term patriotism as it is used today – he was making a criticism of a political movement which was called the Patriots, that’s all.

Last Friday The Drum’s panel only felt strongly on one issue – namely criticising Peter Dutton – as everyone agreed with everyone else in a leftist kind of way and a fine ideological time was had by all.  It’s the kind of debate which you have when you are in a Conservative Free Zone – like the ABC.

And now for the results of this week’s Maurice Newman Segment:

Maurice Newman:            3

Nice Mr Scott:                 Zip



Due to a huge number of requests, MWD repeats (again) the 11 Questions re Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell (MUP, 2017) which its author refuses to address. Instead the ABC’s “fearless” investigative reporter Louise Milligan has sought the protection of her publisher – the really and truly Fearless Louise Adler – and gone into “no comment” mode.

According to MUP, this week saw Ms Milligan in Sydney flogging her hatchet job Cardinal at The Constant Reader in Crows Nest and Gleebooks in Glebe.  So Louise Milligan has time to answer questions from friendly audiences. However, she does not have the intellectual courage to reply to Gerard Henderson’s courteous questions re Cardinal.

In view of the lack of response from Louise “No Comment” Milligan, let’s go round again by listing the questions which cannot be answered.


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?
  2. 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?
  3. 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?
  2. 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.

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 avid readers will be aware, in his “The Fitz Files” column in Fairfax Media’s Sun-Herald on 6 March 2016, Peter FitzSimons wrote that Cardinal George Pell lives in a “$30 million mansion in Rome”. Since then, The Red Bandannaed One has refused to provide an address for the (alleged) mansion – but has declined to retract or correct his claim.  This despite a generous offer from the (male) co-owner of the late Nancy in a cash-for-location proposal.

Every time the Australian Republican Movement’s chairman writes to Hendo seeking financial support for his (good) cause, Gerard Henderson reminds him that $20,000 is available for the ARM – if an address in Rome is provided.  Here we go.  Again.

Peter FitzSimons to Gerard Henderson – 16 June 2017

It’s Coming Up!

Dear Gerard,

I wanted to make sure you were aware of our upcoming Gala Dinner in Melbourne on 29 July with special guest Bill Shorten. It’ll be the biggest gathering of Australian republicans – ever – and we want you to be a part of it. And we’ve got some exciting news – the ever-entertaining Julia Morris will be our MC!

This is a great opportunity to show your support for an Australian republic. Have you got your ticket? Hundreds are already sold so if you want a good table, now’s the time to lock in a spot!

Did I mention that it’s at the Royal Exhibition Building? Why? Because that’s ground zero for the Australian Federation – the first meeting place of the Federal Parliament.

Tickets are selling fast – get yours today. Your $180 ticket includes a three-course meal and drinks package. Can’t afford that? No worries! We also have concession tickets for $50!

In Optimism!

Peter FitzSimons

Gerard Henderson to Peter FitzSimons – 22 June 2017

A $20,000 Offer Which You Will Probably Refuse

Dear Red Bandannaed One! (By the way, I do admire your use of the exclamation mark as a morale booster!!)

Lotsa thanks for your letter of 16 June 2017 advising me of the Australian Republican Movement’s Gala Dinner in Melbourne on 29 July – at what you term the “Royal Exhibition Building”.

The “Royal” what?  When I lived in Melbourne, we called this pile of bricks the “Exhibition Building”.  I remember it well from the Catholic Life Exhibition of 1953 – or was it 1952?  Also, I did Year 10 exams there. I’m surprised that a Red Bandannaed wearing republican would run this “Royal” nonsense.  For the record, I refer to the Australian Navy – not the “Royal” Australian Navy.  The only royal I acknowledge in Australia is the Royal Hotel in Clifton Hill where, in the previous century at least, a fine Gin & Tonic was served.

In any event, alas, I cannot rock-up on Saturday 29 July in Melbourne since I have a clashing function.  I am attending the official opening of a bottle at a secret location somewhere north of Melbourne.

However, I might be able to help financially. I will provide a cool $20,000 cash to the ARM. All you have to do is to provide the address of the $30 million mansion in Rome where you claim that Cardinal George Pell resides.

So $20,000 from me to the ARM – in exchange for one address from you.  Got to it!!!!!!

Keep morale high.

Gerard Henderson

Until next time.