GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG
ISSUE NO. 370
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: Introducing Jackie’s Kennel Opening
MWD Exclusive: An ABC Update re ABC’s Continuing Denial of its Very own Historic Child Sex Abuse Case
Can You Bear It? US[ELESS] Studies Centre’s David Smith & Simon Jackman; Paul Murray on Derryn Hinch; The Red Bandannaed One and His Missus’s “Free” Hospital Encounter in Italy & Jacqueline Maley’s End-of-the-World-is-Nigh Rant
A Louise Milligan Anonymous Sources Moment: Good Weekend’s Profile of Bruce McWilliam by Tim Elliott Scores
Five Paws Award – Minister Matt Canavan Nails Mehdi Hassan’s Cliché on Q&A
Jackie’s Great Media U-Turns of Our Time: Featuring Katharine Murphy (Re Donald Trump) & Robert Manne (Re Bob Santamaria)
Documentation: Peter FitzSimons’ Royal Commission Confusion – including letting the Uniting Church and His Knox Grammar Alma Mater Off the Hook
History Corner: Still no Facts to Support Tony Jones’ Allegation about Croatian Extremists in the 1970s
Correspondence: Wendy Harmer Helps Out Again on Socialism & Jenny Handke Helps Out Again on the ABC
UNLIKE AUNTY, MWD’s KENNEL OPENING FOR JACKIE WILL BE A MODEST AFFAIR
MWD is unfazed by the revelation yesterday that the ABC paid $15,477.35 for the official opening of the new ABC facilities at its Southbank office in Melbourne. After all, the new facilities could not remain closed forever – if you see what MWD means.
All MWD wants to say is that the opening of the new kennel of Jackie (nee Ruby) will not be as expensive. And the list of those attending will be released. By the way, a heads-up to Crikey on Wednesday which gave Jackie (Dip. Wellness) its very own 5 Paws Award as a gesture of friendship.
MWD wishes that ABC management would spend less time declaring that non-vintage Beachwood Chardonnay Pinot Noir was served at the Southbank knees up – and more time answering the correspondence from Jackie’s (male) co-owner. Re which see today’s “An ABC Update” segment below.
ABC STILL IN DENIAL ON FORMER ABC PRODUCER JON STEPHENS’ HISTORIC PAEDOPHILE GUILTY-PLEA
It was not long ago that the ABC proudly joined the Right to Know Coalition. This was a get-together of commercial and public media outlets proclaiming the right of Australians to know what is going on.
The trouble is that the taxpayer funded public broadcaster is invariably defensive – and sometimes secretive – when questions are asked about its own affairs. In short, the ABC does not always practice a Right To Know with respect to its own operations.
As revealed in MWD Issue 367, the ABC has not reported that, in late June 2017, former ABC TV producer Jon Stephens pleaded guilty in Gosford Local Court to a case of historic child sexual abuse. The crime took place near Gosford in 1981. The victim was a 14 year old male ABC casual employee and the assault took place on an official ABC assignment.
ABC managing director and editor-in-chief Michelle Guthrie has advised Gerard Henderson (through her operative Alan Sunderland) that she does not accept editorial responsibility for editorial decisions taken by local ABC journalists. In view of this, you wonder why, some years ago, the ABC board resisted (then) Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s suggestion that the roles of ABC managing director and ABC editor-in-chief should be separated.
On Wednesday, Gerard Henderson wrote to Nick Leys – the ABC’s Head of Communications – asking precisely what ABC management intends to do about the Jon Stephens case. Once again, the ABC has gone into defensive mode and declined to respond to reasonable questions about a matter of public importance. Here is Gerard Henderson’s letter:
As you may or may not know, in late June former ABC TV producer Jon Stephens pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 14 year old ABC casual employee while on an ABC assignment near Gosford in 1981. Stephens was sentenced in Gosford Local Court to 12 months imprisonment.
The case was reported by Richard Noone in the Central Coast Gosford Express Advocate on 28 July 2017 and on Page 11 of the Daily Telegraph on 29 July 2017. Stephens’ conviction has not been reported by the ABC.
According to Mr Noone, Stephens’ victim [name withheld] reported the indecent assault to the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Assault and the matter was taken up by the NSW Sex Crimes Squad. As you will be aware, the Royal Commission did not hold hearings into media institutions – including the ABC. Richard Noone also reported that [name withheld] has told him that he is destitute, living out of a van and experiencing mental health problems.
My questions are as follows:
▪ When did ABC management first hear of the complaint against Jon Stephens about a sexual assault on an ABC assignment in 1981?
▪ Following Stephens’ conviction in Gosford Local Court, has ABC management approached his victim [name withheld] with a view to offering counselling and/or paying compensation? If not, why not?
▪ Does ABC management propose to make a statement about this case of historic child sexual abuse within the ABC? If not, why not?
I would be grateful for a response to my queries before the close of business tomorrow evening (Thursday 20 July 2017).
MWD will let you know if a reply is received. If the ABC neither reports nor responds to the Stephens’ case, MWD will continue to push the matter.
- US[ELESS] STUDIES CENTRE’S DAVID SMITH’S USELESS WASHINGTON POST POLLING ANALYSIS
As avid readers are aware, every self-declared expert at the taxpayer funded United States Studies Centre (USSC) at the University of Sydney predicted that Hillary Clinton would defeat Donald J Trump last November. Moreover, as the USSC’s chief executive officer Simon Jackman said on Sky News on 8 November 2016, every member of his staff is an opponent of Trump. Everyone.
One of the US Studies Centre’s high-profile academics is David Smith. Indeed, Doctor Smith, if you don’t mind (for a doctor he is). Despite being hopelessly wrong about the 2016 presidential election, your man Smith has been given a gig on the ABC 702 Drive program – where he talks every Tuesday afternoon to Richard Glover about President Trump. The segment is called “Trump Tuesday”.
Let’s go to the transcript of last Tuesday’s “Trump Tuesday” – where Glover and Smith discussed President Trump’s opinion polls.
Richard Glover: Meanwhile Trump himself, the figures are not good. I mentioned earlier, these poll results. ABC, Washington Post polls so pretty good polls. They say he’s the worst off in terms of popularity of any president in this point in the tenure since World War.
David Smith: Yeah, now Trump’s immediate response to this was to say: “Well the Washington Post poll was one of the most wrong in terms of the election” – didn’t give him a chance of winning. Now, there’s some half-truth to this statement. The Washington Post poll wasn’t completely inaccurate, because it predicted Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote by about the margin that she did. But, of course, Trump won the election.
What a load of absolute tosh. There is not “half-truth” in President Trump’s statement that the Washington Post poll got the 2016 presidential election wrong. President Trump’s statement is totally accurate.
As Dr Smith should know, the candidate who wins the presidential election is the one who attains the most votes in the Electoral College by winning a majority of places from the various states. In other words, the popular vote – what Hillary Clinton “won” – is all but irrelevant.
The Washington Post falsely predicted that Hillary Clinton would win the election. Yet David Smith reckons that the Washington Post’s polling “wasn’t completely inaccurate”. Yes – it was. The US Studies Centre’s David Smith – wrong again. Can You Bear It?
- USSC’S SIMON JACKMAN TRIES HIS HAND AT AUSTRALIAN ANALYSIS
While on the topic of the US[eless] Studies Centre, did anyone read the report about The Thought of Professor Simon Jackman in the Sunday Age last weekend headed “Please rethink compulsory voting”? The reporter was Eryk Bagshaw – this is how he commenced his piece about a recent thought bubble by the CEO of the USSC:
A leading Australian think tank has called for a national debate about compulsory voting, saying it is part of the reason for our current political gridlock. “There is a sting in the tail to compulsory voting and any serious discussion about populism in Australian politics has to confront it,” said the chief executive of the US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, Simon Jackman: “I’ve spent most of my life advocating compulsory voting, reminding my American friends how Australia is different but I’m starting to question that.”
So here is Dr Jackman – who does not employ one academic who predicted Donald J. Trump’s victory last November or one academic who supports President Trump – telling us how Australian elections should be conducted on account of his claimed understanding of Australian politics.
Does anyone really care that Dr Jackman (for a doctor he is) has spent most of his life advocating compulsory voting but has now changed his mind? Except the Sunday Age, of course. Can You Bear It?
- PAUL MURRAY ON ABBOTT BIRTHER “IDIOTS” – BUT DOES NOT SPEAK DERRYN HINCH’S NAME
While on the topic of trivia, let’s focus briefly on the fact that Greens senators Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters have announced that they will step down from the Senate since they hold dual nationality – which is banned by the Constitution.
Talking about this matter on Monday on Paul Murray Live, Paul Murray reminded viewers that it was once (falsely) said of Tony Abbott that he is a dual Australian/British citizen. It was always impossible to imagine that a clever politician like Tony Abbott would risk his career by continuing his British citizenship when he is nominated for the House of Representatives. This week Mr Abbott produced evidence that he had, in fact, renounced his British citizenship two decades ago.
This is how the matter was handled on Paul Murray Live on Monday:
Paul Murray: There were some idiots on the internet who were saying “Well Tony Abbott has a secret connection back to the UK and if we can prove it then somehow he’ll be bounced out of parliament”. Well, as Tony Abbott proved over the weekend the documentation’s clear. He got rid of that citizenship many years ago.
Quite so. It’s just that Paul Murray forgot to mention that one of these “idiots” was none other than Derryn Hinch – one of Mr Murray’s besties whom he used to call “Dad”. Indeed, Hinch was a leader of the idiotic “birthers” who challenged Tony Abbott’s citizenship status over the last couple of years. It’s as if young Paul doesn’t want to offend Dad. Can You Bear It?
- THE RED BANDANNAED ONE ON ITALIAN “NO BILL!” HOSPITALS
What a lovely piece by Peter FitzSimons in his Sun-Herald “The Fitz Files” column last Sunday. Here it is:
It was, if I might say, tabloid heaven. So often, you see reports of the partners of actors, sporting heroes and TV people and the like “racing to their hospital bed” when things go awry. In this case I was “racing with her to her hospital bed”, after my missus, Lisa Wilkinson had a very bad fall on the marble floor of our Italian hotel in Amalfi just as she was just about to have her morning shower. She has written something already of her experience but allow me to affirm, how extraordinary the Italian medical system was in the face of a couple of blow-ins from nowhere, one of whom had snapped her wrist in two places. Though the infrastructure of both the little hospital and big hospital was so worn and torn it was damn-near war-torn, the professionals were first-class, fast and overwhelmingly caring towards people they’d never seen before, nor would ever see again. Love you, Italy. At the end of it all, most stunningly, no bill!
[Gee, I just love Fitz’s use of exclamation marks. Without them, you would not know what his point is!!!! – MWD Editor.]
Yep. How wonderful is that? Two wealthy Australian tourists in Amalfi, Italy. One breaks her arm. It’s efficiently mended by highly competent professionals working in two run-down hospitals. But – most stunningly – there was no bill!!!!!!!
Pray tell MWD why Italian taxpayers should pay to mend the wrist of a wealthy Australian journalist? In any event, in her blog, Lisa Wilkinson had to correct the story. You see, Mr and Mrs Red Bandannaed one received free medical care on account of a reciprocal health care agreement between Australia and Italy!!!!! So, the Australian taxpayer is effectively paying for Ms Wilkinson’s free treatment in Italy and Mr and Mrs Fitz think that this is as it should be. Can You Bear It?
[Er, no. Haven’t Fitz and the woman he calls “the missus” ever considered taking out overseas travel insurance? MWD Editor.]
- JACQUELINE MALEY’S ECO-CATASTROPHE RANT
What a stunning piece by Jacqueline Maley in the Sydney Morning Herald last Saturday. She got mightily upset with Liberal MP Craig Kelly who had said that some Australians will die this winter as a consequence of not being able to adequately heat their homes. Mr Kelly said that subsidies to renewable energy were a reason for the rapid increase in the cost of power.
Ms Maley was quick to ridicule Mr Kelly’s statement as “baseless” and “wrong” and engaging in a “vignette of doom”. Yet Jacqueline Maley engaged in her own vignette of doom when she warned about global warming in the following terms:
Climate scientists, not by nature a rowdy crew, have, for decades now, been politely ahemming at the back of the room to get our attention, so they can warn us about all the various ways our children are going to get cooked if we don’t act collectively soon.
A New York Magazine cover story published this week entitled The Uninhabitable Earth, laid out some of the terrifying scenarios that could eventuate “absent aggressive action”, broken down into cheerful subheadings like “Poisoned Oceans”, “Climate Plagues” and “Permanent Economic Collapse”.
It was criticised as being overblown by some climate scientists and focusing on the worst, worst-case scenarios, but not before it lodged firmly in the amygdalas of hundreds of thousands of readers. It lays out what the author says are the possibilities of unmitigated climate change – including the annihilation of Bangladesh and Miami, tens of millions of climate refugees, deadly heat waves, cities like Kolkata and Karachi becoming uninhabitable for humans, and greater social conflict leading to war, not just because of the food shortages and shrinking land resources, but because everyone is so irritable from the heat….
Just to show that a Sydney Morning Herald journalist can give American eco-catastrophists a run for their money, Jacqueline Maley drew up her very own catastrophic scenarios. They included an infant with her skin peeling off and a submerged Palm Beach. According to Jacqueline Maley, the above references are not from a “scare campaign” but from “facts”. In which case it’s time to give Noah a call and assemble a gang of carpenters. Don’t forget the sunscreen. Can You Bear It?
THIS WEEK’S WINNER – GOOD WEEKEND’S TIM ELLIOTT FOR HIS PROFILE ON BRUCE McWILLIAM
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 more authoritative a source can there be?
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:
Sure, ego is a powerful motivating force. However, Gerard Henderson has a policy of refusing all requests to be interviewed for print media profiles. Including from Fairfax Media’s Good Weekend. Jackie’s (male) co-owner gave a thanks-but-no-thanks response to a request to be interviewed for Good Weekend not so long ago – and does not regret the decision.
Prominent Sydney solicitor Bruce McWilliam – who does a lot of work for Seven West Media – was profiled by Tim Elliott in Good Weekend on 8 July. Mr McWilliam posed for pics seated alone in a coffee shop. He also invited your man Elliott into his Eastern suburbs home – near to the abode of his long-time friend Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. How trusting can you get?
The first paragraph of your man Elliott’s profile gave an impression of his intention – namely to paint Bruce McWilliam as an egotistical bragger with more money than class:
Bruce McWilliam is fond of antiques and fine art. He likes Italian wine and long lunches. But he is particularly fond of big houses. McWilliam, who has served for the past 14 years as commercial director and right-hand man to Seven West Media chairman Kerry Stokes, lives in a $30 million Edwardian mansion on the waterfront at Point Piper in Sydney’s eastern suburbs. The house, which is home to McWilliam, his wife Nicky, and their two Maltese crosses, Georgina and Samy, has six bedrooms and five bathrooms, a 1000-bottle temperature-controlled wine cellar and a 30-metre-long private beach; from the harbourside lap pool, one can gaze out across the water to Darling Point and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Later on, Tim Elliott referred to Mr McWilliam’s tailored suits, Hermes ties, Gucci shoes, black Mercedes S series car with (wow) cream leather interiors. [Did Mr Elliott mention Mr McWilliam’s taste in underwear? – MWD Editor.]
The profile concluded as it commenced:
After showing me his commercial real-estate holdings, McWilliam and I arrive at his Point Piper home, where he lights the fire and makes us a cup of tea. Nicky [McWilliam] apologises for the mess but, in fact, the house is almost spookily tidy. The walls are covered in paintings by blue chip Australian artists including Blackmans, Nolans and Boyds; a large Flemish tapestry decorates the central staircase. McWilliam walks me through the house, past the 1850s French dining table and a mini Steinway; Nicky pulls out a portable record player from the 1960s, but can’t seem to get it to work.
At one point, I note a lovely-looking Chippendale chair, with intricately carved armrests and an embroidered seat. “Oh that,” McWilliam says. “That’s not actually antique. It was off the set of [the 1993 film] Remains of the Day.” For a moment, we stand around the chair, admiring it. “Wonderful, isn’t it,” McWilliam says. “Looks just like the real thing.”
Now, Hendo’s concern about doing profile interviews with the likes of Mr Elliott is not that a Fairfax Media hack might assess his collection of (fake) Chippendale chairs. Not at all. No, it’s the concern that many an opponent will emerge under the protection of anonymity and give a personal “reference” – while lacking the courage to identify themselves. The fact is that it is impossible to adequately respond to the claims and/or assessments of anonymous sources – so it’s smart not to do the interview in the first place.
Tim Elliott’s profile of Bruce McWilliam – which McWilliam critic Stephen Mayne described as “tough but fair”. [This suggests that it was tough and unfair – MWD Editor] – contained the following anonymous sources.
Here we go. Let’s hear from (i) “another former Seven executive”, (ii) “a former media executive who considers McWilliam a friend”, (iii) “one former Seven news director”, (iv) “one former network chief”, (v) “a business reporter at the Australian Financial Review”, (vi) “a Sydney Morning Herald journalist”, (vii) “another Fairfax reporter”, (viii) “a senior Seven journalist”, (ix) “another former Seven presenter” and – wait for it – (x) “other people”. Yes, OTHER PEOPLE.
The only additional anonymous “source” Tim Elliott needed to really nail the case for the prosecution against Bruce McWilliam was the father-in-law of an ABC journalist. Then it would have been Game, Set and Match.
STEP FORWARD MATT CANAVA
On Q&A last Monday, British-born journalist Mehdi Hasan was not introduced to viewers by presenter Tony Jones with reference to his work for Al Jazeera English. Instead he was referred to as a “writer and radio host”.
It was not long before Mr Hasan was running the line that Islamist terrorism is really just a perpetual irritant (a la Waleed Aly).
Not long after Hasan declared (yawn) that “the statistics show that you are more likely to be killed falling out bed in Australia than to be killed by a terrorist later in the day in Australia”, the Minister for Resourcs and Northern Australia said:
Matt Canavan: Sorry, Mehdi, I don’t really understand the relevance of that comparison. I mean, I haven’t met a bunk bed that wants to establish a caliphate and destroy Western liberal values. I mean, there is a fundamental difference between a random act, a random tragic act – falling out of a bunk bed or having a fridge fall on you or something – and the considered, ideological, strategic attempt to spread terror through our society.
Matt Canavan: Five Paws
Jackie [nee Ruby] was introduced to MWD’s avid readers last week. She is the new dog on Anne and Gerard Henderson’s block – having succeeded Nancy who has “passed” to the Other Side. In view of the fact that Jackie has a Diploma of Wellness from Gunnedah University, she has been given the task of selecting – and commenting on – the Great Media U-Turns of our Time.
- THIS WEEK STARRING HOLIER-THAN-THOU KATHARINE MURPHY ON DONALD TRUMP
Jackie’s (male) co-owner’s breast swelled with pride just before 10 am last Sunday – when Guardian Australia deputy editor Katharine Murphy led off the Observations segment at the end of Insiders. Let’s go to the transcript:
Barrie Cassidy: Okay – final observations.
Katharine Murphy: Well, I wrote a big piece for Meanjin Quarterly about political culture—
Barrie Cassidy: You did. Excellent piece.
Katharine Murphy: —and the toxic nature of political culture. And I’d just like to give a shout out to the number of parliamentarians and staff, present and former, who have gotten in touch about that piece and wanted to have a chat about that piece. I really appreciate it. I hope people will read it, not because I’m a genius but because I think this is conversation we really have to have.
Quite so. Right on. Let’s support Murph’s campaign to condemn the toxic nature of our political culture. Well said. Excellent.
Hang on a minute. Could this be the very same Katharine Murphy who had this to say on Insiders on 9 October 2016 concerning Donald J. Trump?
Katharine Murphy: Barrie, I cannot say this better than Robert De Niro. So, let’s hear from him.
Robert De Niro: I mean he [Trump] is so blatantly stupid. He’s a punk, a dog, he’s a pig. Colin Powell said it best – he’s a national disaster. He’s an embarrassment to this country. It makes me so angry this country has gotten to this point that this fool, this bozo, has wound up where he is. He talks about how he’d like to punch people in the face? Well, I’d like to punch him in the face.
So, there you have it. Luvvie Murph, who sends out daily gospels to the Sandalista Set who read (but won’t pay for) the Guardian Australia, is calling on her disciples to reject the toxic nature of our political culture. And yet, only nine months ago, Ms Murphy lent her support to Robert De Niro’s statement that Donald J. Trump deserved a punch in the face.
I can’t imagine how Ms Murphy happened to endorse Robert de Niro’s comment that Donald J. Trump was “a dog”, and “a pig”. What’s wrong with dogs? And as to Murph agreeing with an actor that Mr Trump should be punched in the face. Let’s put this one down as Murph not being well at the end of Insiders on 9 October last year.
– Jackie, Dip. Wellness, Gunnedah University.
- ALSO STARRING MORE-FORGETFUL-THAN-THOU ROBERT MANNE ON BOB SANTAMARIA
There was enormous interest in the revelation in last week’s MWD that former journalist Mark Aarons has written a soon-to-be published book titled The Show: Another Side Of Santamaria’s Movement. Your man Aarons was assisted by John Grenville, a one-time supporter of the late B.A. Santamaria (1915-1998) who became a Santamaria-hater close to half a century ago.
The Show has a 31 July 2017 embargo. But an avid reader has sent Hendo Scribe’s blurb – which includes the following endorsement from Emeritus Professor Robert Manne. Here it is:
This scrupulously honest and scholarly history tells the inside story of one of the most significant struggles of Australian’s post-war history, on the basis of the intimate knowledge and understanding of two former political insiders on either side of the barricade who became closest friends after the dust of battle has settled.
As revealed in last week’s MWD, the blurb quotes Messers Aarons and Grenville as arguing that Santamaria was into “Stalinism” and that he had “the characteristics of a Stalinist leader”. Except, er, apparently for the fact that Santamaria did not murder or imprison his political opponents. But this fact is not mentioned in Professor Manne’s blurb.
So, Robert Manne has endorsed a book which argues that Santamaria was a Stalinist as “being scrupulously honest”. Fancy that. For this is what your man Manne said about Bob Santamaria when he was alive and immediately after his death.
On 7 October 1991, Professor Manne spoke at The Movement’s fiftieth anniversary celebration at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne. Fellow speakers included (then) Bishop George Pell, Archbishop Eric D’Arcy and Santamaria himself. Manne described Santamaria “as one of the great post-war Australians” who “has been an exemplary family man”. The learned professor added that Santamaria was “a man of courtesy, charm and even, quite unexpectedly, diffidence”.
In 1992 Robert Manne was happy to join a group formed by Santamaria which included former Liberal Party prime minister Malcolm Fraser and fellow La Trobe University academic John Carroll. The aim of this group was to set up a new political party to challenge both Labor and the Coalition. This is confirmed in Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs (which was co-authored by Malcolm Fraser and Margaret Simons). It didn’t work – but not for want of trying.
Moreover, on Santamaria’s death in early 1998 The Age published an article by Robert Manne in which he wrote “with Santamaria’s death, we have lost one of our genuinely great public figures”.
So, Robert Manne was one of Santamaria’s besties in the 1990s. However, a quarter of a century later, Manne has endorsed the Aarons/Grenville thesis that Santamaria was a Stalinist.
As avid MWD readers are aware, Mr Manne has a very bad memory. In short, his sense of recall is unwell. It seems that when endorsing the view that Bob Santamaria was a Stalinist, Robert Manne simply forgot that BAS once contemplated setting up a new political party with the learned professor.
– Jackie, Dip. Wellness, Gunnedah University.
PETER FITZSIMONS CONDEMNS CATHOLIC CHURCH BUT GOES EASY ON THE UNITING CHURCH
It seems that the sneering atheist Peter FitzSimons believes that the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is only about Catholics and the Catholic Church. This is what he wrote in “The Fitz Files” in the Sun-Herald on Sunday 2 July 2017:
…it is worth noting the accolades coming Australia’s way for the fact that the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse begun by the Gillard government has accomplished so much in turning a much-needed spotlight onto the horrors of rampant sexual abuse by the Catholic clergy over the decades.
There are a number of howlers in this sentence. First, the Royal Commission was set up by Julia Gillard’s government to inquire into the institutional responses to child sexual abuse – not contemporary crimes. Second, the Royal Commission was not set up merely to inquire into “rampant sexual abuse by the Catholic clergy over the decades” – but also into other religious, secular and state institutions. Third, evidence before the Royal Commission indicates that such crimes in the Catholic Church peaked in the 1970s – i.e. around four decades ago – and had dropped dramatically by 1990. In other words, they are essentially historical crimes. Fourth, evidence before the Royal Commission indicates that, on a per-capita basis, child sexual abuse in the period between 1950 and 2015 and was significantly worse in the Uniting Church than the Catholic Church.
On 16 February 2017, Gail Furness SC – Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission – made the following statement to the Royal Commission with respect to the Catholic Church in Australia:
Between January 1950 and February 2015, 4,765 people alleged incidents of child sexual abuse in 4,765 claims. The vast majority of claims alleged abuse that started in the period 1950 to 1989 inclusive. The largest proportion of first alleged incidents of child sexual abuse, 29 per cent, occurred in the 1970s.
Ms Furness’ comments were made during the Royal Commission’s “Catholic Wrap” – which took a total of 15 days.
On 10 March 2017, Counsel Assisting Angus Stewart SC provided the following comment to the Royal Commission concerning the Uniting Church:
In the 40 years since the [Uniting] Church’s inauguration, there have been 2,504 incidents or allegations of child sexual abuse that have been reported as having occurred at an institution or place of worship of the Uniting Church.
That’s 2,504 incidents or allegations in the period between 1977, when the Uniting Church was formed, and 2017. This compares with 4,756 claims with respect to the Catholic Church between 1950 and 2015. And the Catholic Church is five times larger than the Uniting Church.
Moreover, the Royal Commission did not include allegations in the period 1950 to 1977 with respect to the Presbyterian, Congregational and Methodist communities which folded into the Uniting Church in 1977. This would take the number of allegations beyond 2,504 – especially since it seems that child sexual abuse was at its worst in Australia in the 1960s and 1970s.
Mr Stewart’s comments were made during the Royal Commission’s Uniting Church wrap – which took a mere half day. These statistics have not been analysed in Fairfax Media or on the ABC. Needless to say, Peter FitzSimons has not reported these facts in his “The Fitz Files” column.
The Uniting Church runs Knox Grammar School in the Sydney suburb of Wahroonga – where FitzSimons went to school. The Catholic Church commenced taking decisive action with respect to clerical child sexual abuse in the mid-1990s, two decades ago. As revealed in the Royal Commission hearings, no decisive action was taken into child sexual abuse at Knox Grammar until 2009 – after a group of former students reported the matter to NSW Police.
Former ABC managing director and editor-in-chief Mark Scott joined the Knox Grammar School Council in 1997. Mr Scott refuses to comment on whether, when joining the Knox Grammar School Council (or board), he called for an audit into past or current child sexual abuse cases at the school.
In June 2016, the Royal Commission delivered its report – Case Study No 23 – into the response of Knox Grammar School and the Uniting Church in Australia to allegations of child sexual abuse at Knox Grammar School. The Royal Commission was particularly critical of former Knox Grammar headmaster Dr Ian Paterson who was dismissive of allegations of child sexual abuse. It also found that Dr Paterson deliberately withheld information from Knox Grammar School Council, gave misleading references for staff and kept poor records.
Soon after Dr Paterson gave evidence to the Royal Commission, Peter FitzSimons wrote an article for the Sydney Morning Herald titled “What I saw at Knox Grammar”. Published on 26 February 2015, it has subsequently been re-written and modified for the on-line version.
In his original article, FitzSimons wrote he knew of one case of child sexual abuse when he was a student at Knox Grammar. The student reported the offence to the school and the teacher was dismissed. The matter was not reported to NSW Police. FitzSimons wrote in the SMH: “Tragically, that was in large measure the way it was done back then”. Clearly, FitzSimons has adopted a harsher attitude to the institutional response of the Catholic Church in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s than he did to the Uniting Church in the 1980s and 1990s.
And what about Dr Paterson who did not act on child sexual abuse? Well, even after the evidence presented to the Royal Commission, FitzSimons referred to the case as a “tragic irony”. This is what he wrote in the SMH on 26 February 2015:
… the Dr Paterson I knew, was a very strong disciplinarian, a fine educator, and he ran a very tight ship. If true, there is tragic irony in it. Dr Paterson was always insistent that the reputation of the school was paramount, and we were ambassadors at large for the school. And yet, if these allegations are proven, it seems likely that it was that same devotion to preserving reputation that saw paedophile teachers protected from the immediate prosecution they deserved.
That’s all. So, there you have it. According to Peter FitzSimons, it was a mere “tragic irony” that Dr Petersen did not act against child sexual abuse while he was headmaster at the Uniting Church’s Knox Grammar school – when there was a nest of pedophile teachers on the staff. Just a tragic irony. And now Peter FitzSimons wants readers of “The Fitz Files” to believe that the Royal Commission was set up merely to enquire into “the horrors of rampant sexual abuse by the Catholic clergy” alone.
TONY JONES’ 12 MONTH FACT-FREE ZONE ON CROATIAN EXTREMISTS
Thanks to the avid reader, of Croatian heritage, who reminded MWD that it has just gone a year since Tony Jones declared on Q&A that in Australia “in the 1970s there were multiple bombings by Croatian Catholic extremists”.
In the 12 months following this statement, neither Tony Jones nor anyone else at the ABC has been able to provide any of the names of the alleged “Croatian Catholic extremists” who allegedly conducted “multiple bombings” in Australia.
Mr Jones’ emphatic assertion is not supported by the official history of the Australian Security & Intelligence Organisation (ASIO). Moreover, the Q&A presenter has not produced any evidence to support his assertion. See MWD Issues 326, 329, 330, 332, 342, 346 and 362. MWD will re-visit this matter in the not too distant future.
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).
- WENDY HARMER AND GERARD HENDERSON re THE ABC, MS HARMER & OLD-FASHIONED SOCIALISM
As avid readers will recall, last week Wendy (“I’m an old fashioned socialist”) Harmer responded to the “A Wendy Harmer Moment” in Issue 368. Following Hendo’s response, Ms Harmer came back again. And so, the missives continue. Here we go:
Wendy Harmer to Gerard Henderson – 15 July 2017
Dear Gerard… thanks for your detailed responses. However, there’s one thing I must disabuse you of.
When I appeared on Q&A the notion of it being an “audition” for a radio job on ABC Sydney was the last thing on my mind. In fact, the offer for radio came right out of the blue, entirely unexpected, and I had thought that my radio days were long over.
I had made a raft of very detailed plans for 2016 which were tricky to unravel and it took me quite some time to consider and finally accept the offer.
It would be a bit bonkers of me to be auditioning for radio – since I presided over one of the more successful, sustained shifts on commercial radio over 11 years at 2DAY FM and my credentials here are plain to see.
I’m often accused of being an “ABC lifer” but apart from brief stints in the 80’s on a couple of comedy programmes, much of my professional career has been in the commercial world with the Herald and Weekly Times, the Murdoch press, Southern Cross Austereo, Fairfax and various magazine outlets ( i.e.: ACP – now Bauer Media). I also spent a decade writing books with three of Australia’s biggest commercial companies and have found great success there.
Overwhelmingly, my career has been freelance and self-financed. I have always been a “self-starter”. A taxpayer-funded job has never been a “lure” for me. The chance to again ply my trade on my favourite medium of radio (and don’t think I hadn’t tried to find a gig on commercial talk-back radio, but being a woman proved an insurmountable barrier), proved to be the clincher.
So, there you go.
PS: I am assuming you do not wish for this part of our correspondence to be public, since you didn’t include it in MWD and so will keep it private.
PPS: It seems, by your own admission, that the quote “I’m an old-fashioned socialist” is not a quote, as I suspected. Instead it’s paraphrasing and taken out of context. This is something, with my old fashioned-training on the Geelong Advertiser, I wouldn’t do.
Wendy Harmer to Gerard Henderson – 15 July 2017
My apologies… I see you did publish all of our correspondence.
Gerard Henderson to Wendy Harmer – 21 July 2017
Thanks for your note of last Saturday.
The reference in Media Watch Dog on Friday, to you auditioning for the ABC Sydney 702 “Mornings” slot on Q&A, was a bit of a joke. Nevertheless, it’s certainly possible that the powers-that-be at 702 were mightily impressed by your affirmation about socialism on Q&A and decided to give you the 702 “Mornings” gig. After all, the ABC is a Conservative Free Zone which is accepting of socialists, even old-fashioned ones.
On a serious point, I do agree that it is difficult for a woman to attain a presenter role on commercial radio. And I do accept that you have spent the main part of your career in the private sector.
As to the socialism matter. Well, if someone says on Q&A: “I sound like an old-fashioned socialist”, after criticising aspects of private enterprise, it’s reasonable to attribute the phrase “I’m just an old fashioned socialist” to the very same person – when it’s used in brackets between a first name and a surname. Even if the Geelong Advertiser would not approve.
Keep morale high. And keep those Wendy Harmer Moments happening.
- JENNY HANDKE AND GERARD HENDERSON re THE ABC AS A CONSERVATIVE-FREE-ZONE
Obviously, Nancy’s Courtesy Classes work. When the oh-so-courteous Hendo replied courteously to Jenny Handke, she was impressed by the evident courtesy of the recipient. So much so that Ms Handke decided to go around again. Now read on:
Jenny Handke to Gerard Henderson – 16 July 2017
Hi Gerard: thanks for your reply: much appreciated as not every high profile political commentator / activist would be so kind as to respond in such a reasoned way.
You mention that your concern is that ABC TV has never had a conservative presenter: by that I take it to mean that ABC TV has never had a presenter who has been an openly and subjectively aggressive conservative barracker. Thankfully that is true and that ABC TV also does not also have an openly and subjectively aggressive left-wing barracker. The strength of ABC TV current affairs programs is that the presenters are “politically bland” and the ABC seeks to have a balance of invited commentators on its various panels.
The good thing about presenters such as SBS’s David Speers and Jim Middleton and the ABC TV presenters is that they are not openly biased one way or the other, and they allow their panellists / commentators to present their arguments without pushing their, ie the presenters, own agendas. This is so much more informative for viewers than having the ignorant opinionated presenters Paul Murray, Rowan Dean, Ross Cameron etc. who without any sound policy analysis, just sprout their subjective opinions.
Perhaps you can discern something that is not obvious to us ”less-in-the-know” viewers, but I believe it would be difficult to argue that the presenters Julia Baird, John Barron, and Elenore Hall on The Drum, or Emma Alberici and David Lipson on Lateline or Barrie Cassidy on Insiders present left-leaning views or programs. (Tony Jones and Leigh Sales seem to believe their own personality cult propaganda and come across as just “big-heads”). Putting Tony Jones’ personality to one side, the Q&A program is scrupulous in having a balance of panellists and the audience consistently identifies itself as conservative voters. In a similar vein, it is difficult to discern the political views of national ABC TV journalists – there could be a wide range of private political positions without us knowing it – Sarah Henderson and Prue Goward have shown that.
Perhaps your perspective of the ABC is influenced by your own slot in the political spectrum: it would be a shame if you, as an intellectual and informed conservative political commentator, degenerated into the caricature of a grumpy old man.
Gerard Henderson to Jenny Handke – 21 July 2017
Thanks for your note of last Sunday. In response, I make the following responses.
▪ My point that the ABC does not have a conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or online programs. You have not named one – because no such person exists. However, the ABC has numerous left-wing (Phillip Adams) and social democrat (Fran Kelly) presenters. I have no problem with Mr Adams or Ms Kelly and the like presenting ABC programs. I just note that there are no equivalent presenters on the taxpayer funded broadcaster.
▪ I note that you did not retract your false claim that Anne Henderson is “a regular panellist on The Drum”. In fact, she has not been invited on The Drum for over a year.
▪ David Speers and Jim Middleton are employed by Sky News – not SBS.
▪ Sure, Sky News’ presenters include Paul Murray and Rowan Dean/Clyde Cameron. But Sky News also employs Kristina Keneally, Graham Richardson, Peter Beattie and Nicholas Reece as presenters of prominent programs. No such balance exists at the ABC. Despite the fact that, as a public broadcaster, the ABC is required by its charter to be balanced.
▪ Q&A invariably has a 3 to 2 left-of-centre/right-of-centre imbalance on its programs and the audience is usually hostile to conservative panellists. Like Matt Canavan last Monday. Don’t be fooled about the audience “balance” which Q&A promotes at the beginning of each program. It is based on what audience guests say is their political allegiance. Since Q&A audiences appear to have a strong Green/Left component, the easiest way for Green/Left activists to get in the audience is to take off their Che Guevara tee-shirts and roman sandals and replace them with a shirt and sensible shoes – for the duration of Q&A, that is.
▪ As previously indicated, during their time at the ABC neither Pru Goward nor Sarah Henderson was regarded as right-of-centre or conservative.
▪ I’m not at all grumpy. Leon Trotsky is said to have once declared that “Worse is Better.” As far as I am concerned, the fact that the ABC is a Conservative Free Zone gives me much material for my Media Watch Dog blog which goes out every Friday – after lunch, of course. In short, writing Media Watch Dog is lotsa fun – so much so that it would not be in MWD’s interest for the ABC to desist from being a Conservative Free Zone anytime soon.
Gerard Henderson AC (aka Always Courteous)
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Until next time.
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