07 July 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: Virginia Trioli’s Naïvety

  •  MWD Exclusive: David Marr Squibs Promise to Provide Evidence in Support of Victoria Police

  •  Media Fools of the Week: Mike Carlton & Damien Williams

  •  An ABC Update: Michelle Guthrie Goes Under the Bed as ABC Refuses to Report Historic Pedophile Conviction of Former ABC Producer while on official ABC Business

  • Can You Bear It? ; John Barron; Holly Ransom & Shaun Micallef & Scott Burchill

  •  Nancy’s Courtesy Classes – Why Jeannine Perrett & Rowan Dean Need Help

  •  Louise Milligan Anonymous Sources Moment – Featuring Jane Norman & Stephen Dziedzic & Andrew Probyn

  •  Five Paws Award: Step Forward Stephen Dziedzic on North Korea and Jeff Kennett on George Pell

  •  A Wendy Harmer Moment & the Cuban Missile Crisis

  •  Great Media U-Turns of Our Time: The Age’s Barney Zwartz’s 180 Degree Turn

  •  Correspondence: Michelle Guthrie & David Marr Help-Out (sort of)



What a stunning performance by ABC TV News Breakfast’s Virginia Trioli this very morning.  La Trioli was co-presenting with Mary Gearin and author Peter Wilmoth was doing MWD’s fave ”Newspapers” segment.

Your man Wilmoth queried whether the Australia Football League should be paying for its former diversity manager Ali Fahour to attend an anger management course.  Mr Fahour stepped down from the AFL after being disqualified for king-hitting an opponent in the Northern Football League.

Let’s go to the transcript as La Trioli seems to argue that all employers should make payments with respect to indiscretions of all employees.

Peter Wilmoth: …paying for the anger management. We seem to always be paying for other people’s, you know, picking up other people’s mess, really.

Virginia Trioli: Well that seems to me to be a reasonable thing to do. I mean –

Peter Wilmoth: You think?

Virginia Trioli: Well for one thing the AFL has a duty of care there. If they’ve had someone on their books and on their pay, whose behaviour has been beyond the pale, not reigned in and not dealt with, there’s —

Mary Gearin: But what other employers would do that?

Virginia Trioli: I should think every other employer, either would be obliged to do that, there’d be a legal consequence to do that or some sort of HR – the HR department would go, you know “We actually have to manage this, you know. We’ve got an obligation to do what we didn’t do at the time…it is the responsibility of the employer. And if it wasn’t done then it should be done now. Rather than just, “You’re out of here, of you go with your bad behaviour go and do it somewhere else”.

Turn it up.  It’s pretty obvious that La Trioli works at the taxpayer funded public broadcaster having graduated from the Spencer Street Soviet – aka The Age – in its heady days.

It seems that News Breakfast co-presenter believes that employers should accept responsibility for out-of-work misbehaviour of its employees.  If it’s required for employers to accept responsibility for assault on the football field – then why not provide bank robbery management courses along with car hijacking management courses and the like?

Also La Trioli seems to believe that all businesses have a Human Resources section. Here’s a news flash – many don’t, especially small and medium businesses.

[I’m so shocked by La Trioli’s business naivety that I need to check into a Wellness Centre immediately. Is there room at the ABC’s Ultimo sticks? MWD Editor.]



As documented in today’s Correspondence segment, on the ABC TV Insiders program last Sunday, Guardian Australia journalist David Marr promised to provide fellow panellist Gerard Henderson with “a list”. This followed Hendo’s claim that it was incorrect for Victoria Police to state that the process by which charges were laid against Cardinal George Pell had been carried out in the normal way.

Henderson said that it was not normal for the Victorian Police Commissioner to describe two complainants in this case as “victims” – rather than complainants.  Interrupting, Mr Marr said that the Police Commissioner had withdrawn and apologised for the comment.

Henderson also said that it was not normal for a Victorian Police Commissioner to discuss whether or not charges would be laid against a prominent individual during radio appearances with ABC presenter Jon Faine and 3AW presenter Neil Mitchell.

In relation to the second point, Mr Marr said that such behaviour was normal and that he would provide “a list” of previous such appearances.

On Wednesday, Hendo sent a courteous note to David Marr requesting the promised list along with evidence to support Marr’s assertion that the Police Commissioner had withdrawn and apologised for his reference to “victims”.  Guess what?  Replying yesterday, your man Marr threw the switch to abuse and said that Hendo was not only a “bit crazed” but also intent on making it to Heaven. Really.

By the way, David Marr did not provide the promised “list” or produce any evidence to support his defence of the Victorian Police Commissioner.  Presumably Marr just made up both claims. Fancy that.

David Marr’s (somewhat rude) reply to Gerard Henderson’s (most courteous) email can be found in the “Correspondence” segment.  For a transcript of the relevant exchange on Insiders last Sunday – see here.



Sure, Mike (“I’ll pour the Gin”) Carlton is back on the turps.  And, sure 10.06 pm comes around well after Gin & Tonic time. But, even so, this tweet (kindly provided by an avid reader) which was sent out on Monday night by the Sage of Avalon Beach concerning Senator Michaelia Cash was somewhat over-the-top. Or, perhaps, under-the-table.  You be the judge.


How elitist can you get?  It seems that the former Barker College cadet under officer looks down on “bogans”. Moreover, Michael (“Call me Mike”) Carlton believes that Michaelia – the female version of Michael – is a “stupid” name. Who cares?

Mike (“I’m back pouring the Gin”) Carlton – a Media Fool of the Week.


The Age must be having trouble filling its (boring) “Comment” section on a daily basis.  How else to explain its publication on Wednesday of an article titled “The church’s suspicion of the modern” by a certain Damien Williams. Dr Williams (for a doctor he is) holds the (very) impressive position of “adjunct research fellow at the Centre for Religious Studies at Monash University”. [Do you mean a “junk research fellow”? MWD Editor.]

Your man Williams’, who is the author of an unpublished Ph.D. thesis on the National Council of Priests [No wonder it was unpublished. MWD Editor], commenced his Age piece with the following inconsequential personal information:

Somewhere in an album at Mum’s place there’s a photo of me kneeling in front of George Pell as I’m confirmed an adult in the Catholic Church. It was taken in 1994, when I was 11 years old. Pell was the local regional bishop, based in Mentone. I remember him speaking to the class beforehand about footy and the Richmond Tigers, about which I knew and cared little.

Yawn squared.  Does anyone really care when – or even if – your man Williams was confirmed in the Catholic Church a quarter of a century ago?

The learned Dr Williams went on to tell readers – if readers there were – that as a lad he “was fascinated by stories of the ALP split [in 1955], of Bob Santamaria and the Movement…. [i.e. the Catholic Social Studies Movement]”  Go on.  Alas, he did. As follows:

Such was the acrimony created by this movement that the Vatican intervened to sort out the situation in 1957, declaring that the church had no place in officially involving itself in electoral politics.

But significantly for this story, that movement never went away. It just went underground, transmuting itself through various guises such as the National Civic Council, the Australian Family Association and the opinion pages of The Daily Telegraph.

What a load of absolute tosh. The Movement, which B.A. Santamaria set up circa 1942, was a relatively secret organisation. Until 1957 – when it came out in public as the National Civic Council. In other words, contrary to the adjunct research fellow’s claim, the Movement did not “go underground” in 1957.  Rather, it went public. And the idea that the Movement channels itself today on “the opinion pages of the Daily Telegraph” in Sydney suggests that the Melbourne-based adjunct fool does not read the Sydney tabloid.

Damien Williams – a (confirmed) Media Fool of the Week.



There was an enormous interest in MWD’s story last week that the ABC had not reported the conviction of former ABC TV producer Jon Stephens for the sexual assault of a 14-year-old male ABC TV casual employee in 1981 while on official ABC business.  Stephens pleaded guilty and was sentenced at Gosford Local Court to 12 months imprisonment.

The case was reported in the Central Coast Gosford Express Advocate on Wednesday 28 June and also in the Daily Telegraph on Thursday 29 June.  It’s understandable that the ABC may have missed Stephen’s hearing. However, the ABC has not explained why it failed to follow up on the Daily Telegraph report which appeared prominently on Page 11 of the paper.

On Tuesday, Gerard Henderson wrote to ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie in her capacity as ABC editor-in-chief asking why the taxpayer funded public broadcaster has not covered Stephens’ conviction.  Especially since the ABC has been relentless in reporting cases of historic child sexual abuse with respect to Christian churches. Yesterday, for example, ABC Sydney reported that a former Anglican cleric had been charged with child sexual assault for crimes allegedly committed in the NSW town of Gunnedah between 1983 and 1986.  This is close to the time of Stephens’ crime.

At 1.58 pm today, Alan Sunderland (the ABC’s editorial director) wrote to Gerard Henderson on Ms Guthrie’s behalf – see today’s Correspondence segment. Believe it or not, the ABC editor-in-chief’s message is that she has no responsibility for editorial decisions made by ABC employees. Clearly, the public broadcaster has gone into denial on this matter.

As MWD readers are aware, following Gerard Henderson’s email of 10 May 2017 to ABC chairman Justin Milne concerning ABC Radio’s 1975 program titled “Pederasty” – in which three pederasts were interviewed on ABC premises in Sydney without their presence being reported to NSW Police – the ABC sent a reply dated 17 May 2017 stating that “there is nothing to be gained by revisiting the matter”. Convenient, eh?

In 1975, the (then) ABC chairman, Richard Downing – in his official role as ABC chairman – said that Australians should “understand” the urges of pederasts and that “in general, men will sleep with young boys”.

It’s possible that Jon Stephens’ decision to attack his victim in 1981 was emboldened by Professor Downing’s 1975 comments. However, the ABC’s 1975 Pederasty program is a matter which ABC chairman Justin Milne and ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie will not revisit. Nor will the ABC state whether it adopted a duty of care with respect to the victims who appeared on its “Pederasty” program in 1975 – or whether it proposes to adopt a duty of care with respect to Stephens’ 1981 victim.

We’ll keep you posted if the ABC responds to Gerard Henderson’s straight forward questions.  And MWD will return to the issue even if ABC management remains under-the-bed.


On The Drum on Wednesday, Donald J. Trump was a topic for discussion – once again.  Presenter John Barron – who also has a gig at the taxpayer funded United States Studies Centre at the taxpayer funded University of Sydney – was presiding over a discussion of the reaction to the doctored footage which appeared to show President Trump wrestling and punching a CNN reporter. This is how your man Barron addressed the ridiculous claim that the president is inciting violence:

John Barron: He’s [Donald Trump’s] got people talking about. He’s got journalists talking about journalists – and “are we being threatened by President Trump?”  But, of course, at the same time, his opinion polls are going down to the mid-thirties. CNN’s are going up. So who’s winning?

President Trump’s approval rating is not going down to the mid-thirties.  In fact, it averages out in the early forties.  Is this the sort of howler that students “learn” at the US[Less] Studies Centre?  Can You Bear It?


While on the issue of the Drum, it’s timely to report that Yassmin Abdel-Magied was discussed on the program on Wednesday. Panelist Holly Ransom had this to say:

Holly Ransom: It was quite interesting, it was almost like we sort of said, and then there were a number of senators who came out and said, you know: “Leave Australia”. She [Yassmin Abdel-Magied] came back and said: “Ok, well I’m going to leave”. And now we’ve said: “No you’re not”. So it’s a very interesting state of play.

What a load of absolute tosh.  MWD has evidence that senator who suggested that Ms Magied might settle in a Muslim country if she leaves Australia.  Just one.  But no one said that Ms Abdel-Magied could not leave Australia – and only a government could enforce such a travel ban. Clearly, Ms Ransom just made this up. Can You Bear It?


The (male) co-owner of the late Nancy reckons that Tom Gleeson and Shaun Micallef are the best comedians on Australian television right now.  The former appears in The Week with Charlie Pickering, the latter presents Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell.

The essential problem with both programs is that they tend to be preaching about the ABC’s fave causes.  You know – anti-Trumpism, global warming, same-sex marriage and so on.  And, when “reaching out” to sermonise on serious issues – some errors are made.  Take last Wednesday’s Mad As Hell, for example.

First up, the following exchange took place between the Hall character (who opposes same sex marriage) and the Micallef character (who supports it).

Stephen Hall: Shaun, marriage is a very sacred institution.

Shaun Micallef: Well most people are, and I’m sorry to interrupt again, but most people are not religious though, according to the most recent Census, are they?

In fact, the recent Census demonstrates that some two-thirds of Australians declared a religious faith – compared with a quarter of Australians who ticked the “no religion” box.

Later on Roz Hammond attempted to sneer at those who believe that there is a role for coal in the production of energy in Australia, along with other non-renewables (i.e. gas). Here is how she did it – in a mocking send up of Matthew 8:12:

Roz Hammond: Coal and other non-renewables are here to stay. For fossil fuels are a God given bounty and it would be almost sacrilegious not to exploit them the way the good Lord intended. For does not the fossil fuel come from the very dinosaur skeleton that the Almighty put on this earth to test the non- believer. Aye. And verily it came to pass. As will gas and wind of all men. Unto the valley of darkness we will all be plunged when the lights don’t work and there will be a great wailing of teeth when we can’t recharge our phones to check our Facebook feeds.

 It seems that Ms Hammond’s comedy writer missed out on attending Sunday School – or on having a good Catholic education.  For Matthew 8:12 refers twice to the “gnashing of teeth”. And not once to the “wailing of teeth”. In any event, how could teeth wail?  Can You Bear It?


 Wasn’t it great to see MWD’s favourite Scott Burchill back on the ABC TV News Breakfast program last Tuesday? At least Dr Burchill (for a doctor he is) provides good copy for MWD.  Unlike the appearances on this segment of Mumbrella’s Tim Burrowes (on Monday) and Kate Roffey (on Wednesday) who were – as usual – just boring.

It was no surprise that the senior lecturer in something or other at Deakin University in Melbourne chose, among other topics, university funding for discussion.  He took the lead from a report in The Age by Matthew Knott titled “Universities reject claims they are rolling in cash”.

Your man Burchill’s essential point was that universities do not get enough money from the taxpayer and should get more. Lots more. Surprised? Let’s go to the transcript:

Del Irani : Now, in The Age,  the universities have hit back at some comments by education minister Simon Birmingham.

Scott Burchill: Yes. Look, the universities – which is [sic] close to my heart –  have been told they have to issue an efficiency dividend of 2.5 per cent.

Mary Gearin : Don’t you love that term? Efficiency dividend.  Not.

Scott Burchill: I mean this is, obviously, universities in some cases have got small surpluses which they’ve built up over time. But in many ways there –  you know, there’s a sense of being penalised for being successful in the policy challenge that they were set. Because the universities were told that: “You’ve got to be much more self-reliant in producing fees and producing funding for your courses”. And having done that quite successfully in a number of cases, they’re now being said: “Well, you don’t need that money” –

Del Irani : [Interjection]So we’re taking it away.”

Scott Burchill: “From the budget now, so we’ll discount it from the amount that you’ve made by doing the right thing and what we asked you to do in the first place.” So in a sense you can’t win either way with the universities. They’re not huge money making enterprises and compared with some of their overseas competitors – I mean I think Harvard has an enormous –  I think it’s listed on the stock exchange in New York. It’s got enormous resources. Probably more resources than Harvard has from alumni than the entire, almost the entire Australian university system. It’s just enormous.

Mary Gearin: Therein highlights the difference in the systems doesn’t it? – when Australian alumni do that. But it’s not what happens here.

Scott Burchill: Absolutely. And the universities have to sort of budget, you know, every year. They run, pretty much, on the smell of an oily rag – as we used to say. And they don’t get much of a chance to build up surplus capital over time. And now that they, over the last few years that they have –  the government spied it and thought: “Oh well, we can take a 2.5 per cent cut out of your budget because you’ve done the right thing”. Which is another disincentive for the universities to keep doing what they’ve been doing.

How about that?  Deakin University’s senior lecturer wants ABC viewers to believe that universities run on “the smell of an oily rag”. In which case you wonder why they are replete with highly paid pro vice-chancellors plus diversity advocates plus wellness operators and so on. And Dr Burchill reckons that taxpayers should pay more money because Aussie graduates don’t kick in funds like at Harvard University. Can You Bear It?



Despite the fact that Nancy has “passed” to the other side – her Courtesy Classes are still being conducted. With a little help from fans of the American psychic John Edward.

The need for Nancy’s work for courtesy on this earth was never more evident than when Sky News’ stars Jeannine Perrett and Rowan Dean had this screaming match on Paul Murray Overtime last Wednesday. Have a listen here – or read the transcript below.  At issue is whether Donald J. Trump met Vladimir Putin before this week in Hamburg – and, if not, did he falsely claim that such a meeting had been held. Really:

Janine Perrett: He [President Trump] gets to meet Vladmir Putin for the first, or is it the first time? Because Trump—

Rowan Dean: It is the first time—

Janine Perrett: No, I’ve read things where, I’ve read a number of times. He’s quoted—

Rowan Dean: It is the first time—

Janine Perrett: Oh so he lied?

Rowan Dean: You can read all your Sydney Morning Heralds

Janine Perrett: He lied when he said when he has? He lied all those other times? He lied? Did—

Rowan Dean: – and believe that Trump met Russians—

Janine Perrett: Trump lie? Did Trump lie?—

Rowan Dean: – and the Russians rigged the elections and yadayadayada, it’s all rubbish—a

 Janine Perrett: – Trump said he did it.

Rowan Dean : We know it’s rubbish. It never happened.

Janine Perrett: Trump said he met him a number of times. Trump has said a number of times he met him—

Rowan Dean: And he didn’t rig the election.

Janine Perrett: I didn’t ask that. Anyway, so this time it might be the first meeting.

Ms Perrett. Mr Dean. Off to Nancy’s Courtesy Classes for you lot.  At Gin & Tonic time on Wednesday evenings.


Due to popular demand, this segment is devoted to the use of anonymous sources by journalists. It is named in honour of ABC TV’s star investigative reporter Louise Milligan whose “authoritative” anonymous sources in her hatchet job Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell (MUP, 2017) included 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 are some recent examples:


At a meeting of some Liberal Party members in Sydney last Saturday, Tony Abbott criticised the lack of involvement of members in the running of the party, including pre-selections.

The former prime minister maintained that, in NSW, Liberal Party members are expected to “turn up, pay up and shut up”. Interviewed by Ray Hadley on 2GB last Monday, Mr Abbott made the following comment:

We’re haemorrhaging members in every state but it’s a particular problem in NSW because we’ve got this dreadful situation where we have got factionalists and lobbyists who seem to be controlling the party.  The best way to liberate our party from factional control, the best way to liberate our party from the lobbyists, is to give every single member a vote [in pre-selections].

It was not long before operatives of the dominant moderate/progressive/left faction that controls the NSW Liberal Party were busy briefing journalists that Mr Abbott was wrong.  On a background/off-the-record basis, of course.

On Tuesday 4 July, ABC Sydney led its radio morning news bulletin with a story by Canberra based ABC reporter Jane Newman. She ran the NSW Liberal Party progressive/moderate/left faction line that Tony Abbott was wrong about the NSW Liberal Party. Fancy that.  She later did a written report for ABC News online.

Now, let’s hear from Ms Norman’s (anonymous) sources which were cited criticising Tony Abbott. They comprised: (i) “the Liberal Party”, (ii) “sources”, (iii) “a senior source”, (iv) “the moderates”, (v) “they”, (vi) “one source” and (vii) “those on the moderate side”.  Er, that’s it.

It is fascinating to note that all of Jane Norman’s sources desired anonymity – despite the fact that they were merely talking about Liberal Party membership figures.  Still, Ms Norman fell for it and so did the ABC’s Director of News.

Worth a Gold Walkley, surely.


Soon after Jane Norman’s report on ABC radio, Stephen Dziedzic rocked up on ABC TV’s News Breakfast program from Parliament House Canberra. He ran an identical line to that of Jane Norman – suggesting that he was briefed from the very same (anonymous) Liberal Party sources.

Your man Dziedzic’s sources for his claim that Tony Abbott is wrong and that the NSW Liberal Party membership numbers are quite okay were attributed to “several senior Liberals” and “they”.  Brilliant taxpayer funded public broadcaster reportage, don’t you think?

Also deserving of a Gold Walkley, to be sure.


Earlier, on Friday 30 June 2017, 7.30 political correspondent Andrew Probyn posted an article on the ABC News website titled “Tony Abbott prepares for post-Malcolm Turnbull era, but what exactly would his part in that be?”

Your man Probyn’s piece was essentially critical of the former prime minister.  For example, Probyn described Abbott as a “Jesuit scholar” – in spite of the fact that Abbott never trained to be a member of the Society of Jesus (i.e. the Jesuits). Probyn also referred to Abbott’s “acolytes” – they are, in fact, supporters.

Andrew Probyn then described Campbell Newman, the former Liberal National Party premier of Queensland, as “a paid provocateur on Sky News” – presumably because Mr Newman recently called on Malcolm Turnbull to resign as prime minister.  This is just abuse. Mr Proban never referred to the Sky News presenter Peter Van Onselen as a “paid provocateur” when he criticised Tony Abbott in the lead-up to the Liberal Party leadership change in September 2015.  It seems that Andrew Probyn has one rule for Sky News presenters who oppose Malcolm Turnbull – and another rule for Sky News presenters who oppose Tony Abbott.

However, MWD  was most interested in the sources referred to by Andrew Probyn in his ABC News article. They were (i) “someone close to Malcolm Turnbull”, (ii) “one young(ish) Liberal conservative MP”, (iii) Government insiders” and, wait for it, (iv) “Government insiders” who “suspect” that  Campbell Newman wants a Senate seat – yeah, anonymous suspicious types.

[Could the 7.30 political correspondent not find the father-in-law of an ABC journalist to quote as a source and boost his case? – MWD Editor]



In Richard Walsh’s discussion with Wendy Harmer on ABC Sydney’s Mornings with Wendy Harmer on Wednesday, reference was made to former Australian athlete Ron Clarke (1937-2015) who was once the mayor of the Gold Coast Council.

The non-sporting Richard Walsh had a stab at describing Ron Clarke.  He referred to  him variously, as a “sprinter”, a “marathon runner” and a “miler”. Ron Clarke held the world record for the 10,000 metres and the 5000 metres.

Not long after, your man Walsh stumbled into another topic of which he knows little. Namely North Korea.  Here’s what he had to say:

Richard Walsh: I was listening to my old friend Dick Broinowski being interviewed last night on TV and, you know, what he says is correct.  America has to sit down and talk with these people. All this nonsense about “we don’t talk to terrorists” –  that’s what got us into trouble with the Lindt Café, we didn’t talk to a terrorist. I mean, we’ve got to talk to these people. No one is diminishing— there is a great threat – but we’ve got to sit down and accept the fact that we actually have a lot of allies that are almost as bad as North Korea. So let’s not be too hypocritical about that either

Not long after the gospel according to Richard Walsh had concluded, ABC Canberra Stephen Dziedzic – who had just completed a political report, asked if he could make a comment concerning Richard Walsh and North Korea.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Stephen Dziedzic: Can I jump back very quickly to something?

Wendy Harmer: Yeah, sure.

Stephen Dziedzic: Just jumping back to North Korea –  not to have a go at Richard Walsh and I’m venturing into opinion here.

Wendy Harmer: Yes, go right ahead.

Stephen Dziedzic: So, what the hell, I’ll just take a punt. The North Korean regime is one of the most vile in the world and to compare it to any other country in the world, including the US, is an absurdity. Just my thirty cents.

Quite so. Right on.

Stephen Dziedzic: Five Paws 


Former Victorian premier had this to say in his Herald-Sun column on Wednesday:

When evidence of paedophilia within the Catholic Church was getting increasing publicity in the mid-1990s, I invited the then archbishop [of Melbourne George] Pell to my office for a coffee. It might be said that two robust individuals had a robust discussion. I suggested to the archbishop that it would be advisable if, as head of the Catholic Church in Victoria, he addressed the charges of paedophilia in a public and vigorous way.

If not, I told him, the state of Victoria would. I did not want to take that action because I thought the church should address its behaviour and assist those it had abused, and it was not an area I felt comfortable that politicians could address. Fortunately, Pell accepted my invitation, went away and delivered what was called the Melbourne Response.

Whether those initiatives were as complete as required, I do not know. But Pell was the first leader of any church or organisation confronted by paedophilia charges to act and he did so quickly and firmly. George Pell is innocent until found guilty of any offence. Until then he has my support and friendship.

Jeff Kennett: Five Paws



Did anyone hear the discussion between ABC Sydney Mornings presenter Wendy Harmer and Richard Walsh on Wednesday? – which was referred to above. Your man Walsh was banging on about his most recent utopian tome Reboot: A Democracy Makeover to Empower Australia’s Voters (MUP, 2017). Reboot reckons Australia can do away with the Senate, become a republic and change the nature of how a prime minister is chosen. Sounds easy, eh?

Towards the end of the interview, discussion got around to North Korea, nuclear weapons and all that. It was here that the Wendy (“I’m just an old-fashioned socialist”) Harmer decided to reveal her deep historical knowledge to ABC listeners.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Wendy Harmer: I was thinking about the first time I really registered anything about politics – when I was a kid – was the Cuban Missile Crisis. And I remember Dad saying something like: “Oh Barry Goldwater is going to get us all blown up.”

Which sounds pretty correct, except for the facts.  The Cuban Missile Crisis occurred in October 1962 when the United States confronted the Soviet Union and forced it to withdraw nuclear missiles which it had located in communist Cuba, then ruled by Fidel Castro.  John F. Kennedy was the US president who stood up to Soviet dictator Nikita Khrushchev.

Barry Goldwater became prominent in public life after he attained the Republican nomination to run against incumbent Democratic US president Lyndon B. Johnson in the November 1964 presidential election. Senator Goldwater had nothing to do with the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Verily, a Wendy Harmer Moment.


This is what Barney Zwartz, who was The Age’s religious editor from 2002 to 2013, wrote in the Fairfax Media newspapers last Saturday under the title “Cardinal George Pell: Charges of historical sex offences will define Vatican official’s legacy:

Cardinal Pell has strongly denied abusing children, anywhere, anytime. He and his supporters have blamed a “media witch-hunt”, and sometimes that has been true. But he has always had uncritical media supporters too, especially at The Australian, whose columnists have staunchly defended him even in defiance of the facts. They endorse Pell’s oft-expressed claim that Justice [sic] Alec Southwell’s 2002 investigation into alleged abused in 1961 “completely exonerated” him when in fact the verdict was closer to the Scottish “not proven”….

So, in July 2017 Barney Zwartz maintains that George Pell was not cleared by the finding of former Victorian Supreme Court judge Alex Southwell QC. However, this is what the very same Mr Zwartz wrote in The Age on 14 June 2010 when discussing the very same matter:

Cardinal Pell stood down as Archbishop of Sydney in 2002 after he was accused of abusing a teenager at a church camp in the 1960s, but an independent investigation by a retired non-Catholic judge cleared him.

In June 2010, when he was The Age’s religion editor, Barney Zwartz wrote that George Pell was “cleared” by Alex Southwell QC. But seven years later, without explanation, Mr Zwartz has changed his position and now states that the decision was closer to “not proven”.

The editors of The Age, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Canberra Times ran Zwartz’s article last Saturday, without seeming to know that he has done a U-turn which suggests that The Age has no historical memory of what it has previously published.  Your man Zwartz is now an academic of sorts at something called the Centre for Public Policy. Enough said.

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).



There has been significant interest in MWD’s “An ABC Update” segment last week which revealed that the Daily Telegraph had reported the conviction of a former ABC TV producer for an act of pederasty against an ABC casual employee while on official ABC duties in 1981.  The ABC failed to report the matter on Thursday 29 June or Friday 30 June or over the weekend.  This in spite of the fact that the ABC has been assiduous in reporting instances of alleged and proven child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and the Anglican Church over the last decade.

Last Tuesday, Gerard Henderson wrote about this matter to ABC managing director and editor-in-chief Michelle Guthrie, in her official capacity as editor-in-chief. Alan Sunderland replied (on Ms Guthrie’s behalf) just before MWD went out today. He confirmed that the ABC has no intention of reporting its own known case of historic child sexual abuse. Now read on:

Gerard Henderson to Michelle Guthrie – 4 July 2017

Dear Ms Guthrie

I am writing to you in your official capacity as the ABC’s editor-in-chief.  This is not a formal complaint and I do not want the matter referred to the ABC’s Audience & Consumer Affairs department in Canberra.

On Thursday 29 June 2017, the Daily Telegraph ran a report by Richard Noone titled “Ex-ABC TV producer assaulted child star”. I referred to this matter in my Media Watch Dog blog last Friday – without comment or attempted correction from the ABC.

A more complete report by Richard Noone, titled “Former ABC producer Jon Stephens jailed for abusing child presenter”, appeared in the Central Coast Gosford Express Advocate on Wednesday 28 June 2017.  It read as follows:

Former ABC producer Jon Stephens jailed for abusing child presenter

A former ABC producer who created the show that would go on to become Totally Wild has been sentenced to at least six months jail for indecently assaulting a child presenter. Jon Stephens was a producer working out of the ABC’s Artarmon studios when he took a 14-year-old boy to Old Sydney Town in 1981 to scout for locations.

They stayed the night at a nearby motel where Stephens, who was 34 at the time, reached under the boy’s pyjama shorts as he lay on a bed watching TV and abused him. The now 70-year-old pleaded guilty to one count of indecent assault and was sentenced in Gosford Local Court to 12 months jail with a non-parole period of six months.

In September 2015 the victim, Simon Major, who turns 50 this year, contacted the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and made a complaint. His complaint triggered an investigation by the Sex Crimes Squad. “Prior to any police investigation Major had email and text correspondence with Stephens where the offence is acknowledged and apologies made to Simon Major,” a police statement of facts read. In May last year police obtained a warrant to tap the victim speaking to Stephens over the phone in which he again admitted the offence.

Mr Major successfully auditioned for the show Stephens created called Earth Watch in 1979 as a 12-year-old. He remained on the show for two years but after he told his stepmum about what happened in the motel room and she contacted his agent, Joan Gibson, “other work Major had been obtaining almost instantly dried up” police facts said. He continued on the show for a short while but was terminated at the end of the year with the studio “claiming they were streamlining the show”

The program ran for another eight months or so with a reduced cast before it was sold to a commercial network and renamed Totally Wild. “Simon Major has struggled with the emotions relating to this abuse his whole life,” police facts read. Mr Major tracked Stephens down on Facebook and threatened to report him to the Royal Commission.

In an email to his victim Stephens, of Docklands, Victoria, said the thought of appearing before the commission was “frightening”.   “The implications of the possibility are horrendous,” he said. “We do many things when we are younger which we deeply regret and make every effort as we got older to change and make amends. “Since those younger times, I have made it my life principle never to knowingly do anything that might hurt anyone in any way.”

On November 3 Stephens offered to help Mr Major to “have the whole thing go away” and two days later deposited $4,200 into his bank account. Mr Major, who consented to being identified, told the Express Advocate he was now destitute and living out of a van. “This whole Royal Commission process through to Jon being charged and sentenced has done absolutely nothing for me regarding my closure and/or been respectful of my mental health along the way,” he said

Mr Major said he was hoping to find a no-win-no-fee lawyer to lodge a civil claim for damages against the disgraced television producer.

It appears that an ABC reporter did not attend Gosford Local Court last week when Jon Stephens was sentenced for historical sexual abuse which occurred in 1981. This is understandable.  However, according to my research, Mr Stephens’ conviction was not reported on ABC TV or ABC Radio news nationally or even in Sydney on Thursday or Friday – or since then. This in spite of the prominent coverage in the print edition of the Daily Telegraph last Thursday morning.

As the newspaper report indicates, the crime took place when Jon Stephens was a producer on an ABC TV program and his victim was a 14 year old child star who was taken by Stephens to scout for suitable locations for filming by the ABC.

My questions are as follows:

▪ Why has the ABC not reported that a former ABC TV presenter has been convicted of historic sexual abuse (to which he pleaded guilty) committed in 1981 while on official ABC duties?

▪ Does the ABC intend to report the matter any time in the future?  This is important since, as you are aware, the ABC has given extensive coverage to instances of proven and alleged historical sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and other Christian churches along with some secular institutions

▪ Does the decision not to report the Stephens 1981 crime relate to the recent statement by the ABC “that there is nothing to be gained” by the contemporary ABC “revisiting the matter” in 1975 when (then) ABC chairman Richard Downing called on all Australians to “understand” the urges of pederasts and commented that “in general, men will sleep with young boys”?

As you will be aware, Professor Downing’s statements were made in his official capacity as ABC chairman.  It’s possible that the (now) convicted criminal Stephens was influenced to undertake his crime in 1981 because of Professor Downing’s statement of a mere six years earlier that “in general, men will sleep with young boys”.

▪ In the light of the Stephens’ conviction for a 1981 crime, does the ABC still intend to maintain that it has no duty of care with respect to the victims of pederasts who were interviewed on the ABC Pederasty program in 1975?  The victims (some of whom were also interviewed by the ABC in 1975) would be aged around 50 years today.  Note that Stephens’ victim is currently 49 years of age.

▪ In view of the evidence presented to Gosford Local Court that Stephens’ victim was assaulted while on official ABC duties – does the ABC regard itself as having a duty of care to Mr Major, including the payment of compensation?  If not, why not?

▪ Moreover, does the ABC intend to investigate whether Mr Major’s casual employment at the ABC was terminated due to the complaint which his step-mother made concerning the sexual assault? If not, why not?

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These are very straight forward questions.  I would be grateful if I could receive a reply by close of business on Thursday 6 July 2017.

Yours sincerely

Gerard Henderson

PS: The comment that the ABC is not interested in “revisiting” the matter of 1975 was communicated to me on 17 May 2017 – following my email to ABC chairman Justin Milne on 10 May 2017.

PPS: Note when I raised this matter on Insiders last Sunday, fellow panelist David Marr agreed that Stephens’ crime should have been reported on the ABC.

cc:     Senator The Hon. Mitch Fifield

Minister for Arts, Minister for Communications

Alan Sunderland

Editorial Director, ABC

Gaven Morris

Director of News, ABC

Michael Millett

Director of Communications

Alan Sunderland (on behalf of Michelle Guthrie) to Gerard Henderson – 1.58 pm 7 July 2017

Gaven Morris

Director of News, ABC

Michael Millet

Director of Communications, ABC

Dear Mr Henderson,

The Managing Director has asked me to respond to your letter of July 4.

In relation to the coverage of local court cases, all editorial decisions are made by local news teams based on the competing editorial demands at the time.

There is no connection between such routine daily processes and a statement made by a former ABC Chairman more than forty years ago.

Yours sincerely,

Alan Sunderland

Editorial Director

Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Gerard Henderson to Alan Sunderland – 3.54 pm Friday 7 July 2017

Dear Mr Sunderland

Thank you for your email of 1.58pm today in reply to my letter to Michelle Guthrie dated 4 July 2017.

I note that, as ABC editor-in-chief, Ms Guthrie does not accept responsibility for decisions made by ABC editorial staff.

I also note that it appears that the ABC has no intention of reporting a case of historic child sexual abuse by a former ABC producer against a 14 year-old male employee which occurred on an ABC assignment in 1981. This suggests that the ABC engages in an unpleasant double standard when reporting such crimes.

In conclusion, I have no idea how the ABC has come to the conclusion that Jon Stephens’ crime in 1981 has no connection with the apparent understanding of such crimes expressed by ABC chairman Richard Downing in 1975 – just six years before Stephens’ assault.

It is also of concern that the ABC has not indicated that it has a duty of care to Mr Stephens’ victim in this instance or that it intends paying financial compensation to the victim – an ABC child employee at the time of the offence.

As you will be aware, many an ABC journalist has supported the payment of substantial financial compensation by institutions to victims in historic child sexual abuse cases.

Yours sincerely

Gerard Henderson

cc:  Senator the Honourable Mitch Fifield
Minister for the Arts, Minister for Communications.

Michelle Guthrie
ABC Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief

Gaven Morris
Director of News, ABC

Michael Millet
Director of Communications, ABC


 The Insiders program last Sunday decided to devote a small amount of time to discussing the charges laid last Thursday by Victoria Police against Cardinal George Pell for historic sexual abuse. David Marr led off the discussion as fellow panellist Gerard Henderson listened courteously. However, when it came to Hendo’s turn, your man Marr got somewhat excited and engaged in sneering behaviour and interruptions.  Even so, in spite of the interruptions, Hendo established his case. When your man Marr challenged Hendo’s position, the latter asked for Mr Marr’s evidence – which he promised to forward. Hence the following correspondence where Hendo also asked David Marr to provide evidence for a second claim he had made on Insiders without evidence. It elicited a sneering and excited response. Now read on:

 Gerard Henderson to David Marr – 5 July 2017


It was good to catch up on Sunday.  As you will recall, the following exchange took place on the Insiders’ couch:

Gerard Henderson: You’ve got a situation which has never been normal – that the Police Commissioner goes variously on Jon Faine on the ABC and Neil Mitchell on 3AW and discusses cases, including this case. Now, name me one other case in Australian recent history when the Police Commissioner takes questions on talkback radio.

David Marr: Um, I can. Look, I can’t off the top of my head. But I’ll provide you with a list.

I would be grateful if you could provide the promised “list” of occasions where a Victorian Police Commissioner has gone on Jon Faine’s ABC program and Neil Mitchell’s 3AW program in Melbourne and discussed the timing as to whether or not a high profile identity would be charged with historical sexual abuse. Just a list will do.

While you are on the case, it would also be appreciated if you can provide evidence to support your assertion on Insiders that Victorian Police Commissioner Graham Ashton “withdrew” and “apologised” for referring to two men who made a complaint against Cardinal Pell as “victims”.  The statement was made on Neil Mitchell’s 3AW program on 28 July 2016.

As you conceded on Insiders on Sunday, the Police Commissioner should have referred to the two men as “complainants”. But he didn’t.

If you have evidence that Graham Ashton “withdrew” and/or “apologised for” his reference to “victims”, I would like to be advised about your sources. If you have no evidence, you should withdraw your claims.

Over to you.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

David Marr to Gerard Henderson – 6 July 2017

I had thought we’d moved to a place of more good humoured exchange. Clearly not so. Your email, Gerard, is a bit crazed. I know you’re defending a Cardinal – and may you be rewarded in heaven for that – but you’re starting to sound like one, rolling out your angry demands. It’s no way to invite dialogue. Nor is the misrepresentation of the offer I made on Insiders. So, I’m not playing. Do your own research. The contact number for media inquires to Victoria Police is 03 9247 5206.

Gerard Henderson to David Marr – 6 July 2017 


I don’t know why you get so angry and aggressive.

Last Sunday, you told close to 600,000 viewers of Insiders that you would provide me with “a list” of occasions when the Victorian Police Commissioner discussed the progress of investigations concerning high profile cases with Jon Faine on ABC and Neil Mitchell on 3AW.

Now you are saying that you did not offer to provide this “list” and that I am a bit crazed.  The fact is, there is no such list.  You just made this up.

Also, you told close to 600,000 Insiders viewers that Victorian Police Commissioner Graham Ashton had apologised for describing as “victims” two men who have made complaints against George Pell.  They are, in fact, complainants.  No such apology was ever issued by Graham Ashton concerning his prejudicial statement. Once again, you just made this up.

By the way, I have not asked you to do my research. I have merely asked you to provide evidence to support your own claims made on television. Something you are not able to do.

Best wishes



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Until next time.

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