11 August 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: Richard Glover Defies ABC Policy on Same-Sex Marriage:  Aunty’s Sam Dastyari Free Kick Under Examination 

  • Editorial: ABC Management Finally Concedes that it a “Conservative-Free-Zone” – Hence the Need-to-be-Impartial Memo 

  • Can You Bear It? Rear Window’s Wine Snobbery; Professor Edward Blakely Trump Conspiracy Theory & Joshua Green’s Trumphobia drowns in Conflicting Dates 

  • An ABC Update: Still a Matter of “Jon Stephens Who?” – As ABC’s Continues its Denial of its Very Own Historic Child Sex Abuse Case 

  • A Wendy Harmer Moment: Ms Harmer Bags Tony Abbott While Forgetting the Militarist Past of Mike (“I’ll Pour the Gin”) Carlton & Ms Harmer Manages to Get Interviewed by Her Own ABC Guest on the ABC 

  • Media Fool of the Week: Step Forward Gray Connolly on The Drum 

  • Nancy’s Modest Proposal: A Solution to the Sydney CBD Tent-City Occupation 

  • History Corner: Mark Aarons Reveals his Own Fading Memory by Dint of an Historical Howler on Phillip Adams’ Late Night Live 

  • Documentation: ABC Management Directives on the Same-Sex-Marriage Plebiscite 

  • Correspondence: The ABC’s Sally Jackson Continues Aunty’s Great Silence & Timothy Latham rationalises why Paul Barry won’t Cover the Jon Stephens’ Case




Less than 24 hours after Mark Maley (the ABC’s editorial policy manager) issued an internal email urging ABC staff not take sides on the same-sex marriage debate, Richard Glover wrote a column for Fairfax Media titled “It’s time Australia gave equal marriage a fair go”.

Mr Glover presents the Drive program on ABC Radio Sydney (702). His piece helps to confirm MWD’s view that no one really runs the taxpayer funded public broadcaster. It’s a staff collective. 


The Australian today carries a report by Rachel Baxendale and Greg Brown that Communications Minister Senator Mitch Fifield has written to ABC managing director and editor-in-chief Michelle Guthrie seeking an explanation about the public broadcaster’s soft coverage of Labor Senator Sam Dastyari in recent times.

As pointed out in MWD last week, Senator Dastyari received sympathetic coverage in his ABC TV Australian Story profile on 31 July 2017. He also received five quotations in the ABC TV Media Watch program on 10 July 2017 concerning the plight of the media. The Labor senator was the only politician interviewed by Media Watch – despite the fact that Labor is opposing the Turnbull government reform of the media laws which has the support of virtually all the commercial media companies in Australia.

As reported in The Australian, Senator Fifield’s letter to Ms Guthrie reads, in part, as follows:

With respect to Australian Story, questions have been raised about the timing of the episode given the recent release of Senator Dastyari’s book. I ask that you provide an explanation of the editorial decisions associated with the airing of the episode and whether, and how, the ABC factored in the recent release of a book by Senator Dastyari. I would appreciate an explanation of the rationale for dedicating an episode of Media Watch to explore Senator Dastyari’s opinions on a specific issue.

The combination of these two programs within weeks of each other prompts me to seek further details about the background to them. In making this request I am not being critical of Senator Dastyari as all members of parliament understandably will seek platforms. However it is important for the ABC not to be seen to be favouring any individual in terms of its programming.


It will be interesting if Ms Guthrie and her team at the taxpayer funded public broadcaster push the switch to denial again – the usual ABC approach in the face of even the most reasonable criticism.

It is a matter of fact that if Media Watch had not run five extracts of its soft interview with Senator Dastyari, Paul Barry could have found time to make a brief comment on the ABC’s failure to cover its own case of historic child sexual abuse.  Re which see MWD passim along with the Correspondence segment below.



It is a thesis of Media Watch Dog that no one really runs the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.  Not the chairman and not the Board. And not the managing director and (so-called) editor-in-chief. Rather, the taxpayer funded public broadcaster is run by a number of cliques – perhaps soviets is a better word – which operate according to their own dictates.

Nothing better illustrates the ABC’s managerial dysfunctionality than this week’s confusion about its proper role in the public debate.

On Sunday, ABC managing director and editor-in-chief Michelle Guthrie addressed the Garma Festival in East Arnhem Land.   In a prepared speech, she said that the public broadcaster’s charter required it “to inform and educate Australia”. The word “educate” implies that the ABC possess a truth which it attempts to impart to Australians.  That’s not its proper role at all.  And such a role is not consistent with the ABC’s charter.

Ms Guthrie went so far as to pledge the ABC’s support for the Uluru  Statement From The Heart and any resultant constitutional referendum which would include its proposal that “the establishment of a First Nations Voice [be] enshrined in the Constitution”.  This is how Michelle Guthrie concluded her speech:

The ABC’s role is clear. As the Statement From The Heart says: in 1967 indigenous Australians were counted, in 2017 indigenous Australians seek to be heard. The ABC will stand with you and ensure your voices are heard. We will give you the means to articulate that vision, the means to broadcast and share the truth-telling about your history.

The ABC will support you in what the Uluru Statement From The Heart so movingly described as the need for you to take a rightful place in your own country, to have power over your destiny so your children can flourish and walk in two worlds, their culture a gift to their country.

So according to Ms Guthrie, the ABC will not only campaign for the government to hold a referendum for a certain kind of indigenous recognition to be placed in the Constitution. But when such a referendum is held, the ABC will support the “Yes” case – and oppose the “No” case.  In other words, according to the ABC’s managing director, the public broadcaster should be a player – an activist – in the Australian public debate.

Yesterday, however, ABC management ran a different line with respect to the Turnbull government’s decision to conduct a plebiscite, via a postal vote, on same-sex marriage.

Both Mark Maley (the ABC’s editorial policy manager) and Michael Mason (the ABC’s head of radio) issued internal staff emails instructing ABC presenters and journalists not to take sides in the debate over whether Australians should vote “Yes’ or “No” in the plebiscite.  The full directives by Mr Maley and Mr Mason – which have been supplied to MWD by the ABC – are published in the “Documentation” segment below.

In what is an extraordinary admission that the ABC is a Conservative Free Zone without a conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its television, radio or on-line outlets – Mark Maley told ABC staff not to advocate a “Yes” vote.

Please remember that approximately 40% of the population opposes the change and more importantly that the ABC does not have a position on the issue. It is very important that we are impartial and that all perspectives are given a fair hearing and treated with respect by the ABC.

In this charged environment I would also urge everyone to be circumspect on social media – advocating for one side or the other will make it more difficult for the ABC to be seen as impartial. The more high-profile you are the more important discretion is.

Note that the ABC has only instructed its staff not to support the “Yes” case and or oppose the “No” case.  Clearly it recognises that in its Conservative Free Zone there is no ABC presenter who would publicly support the “No” case and/or oppose the “Yes” case.

Michael Mason issued a similar directive to ABC Radio staff – in support of Mr Maley’s statement – which concluded as follows:

I’m looking forward to hearing the in-depth, quality coverage that the community relies on from ABC Radio – I know we will facilitate an informative and civil debate.

The ABC has declined to release a similar internal staff email of September 2016, claiming that this is “now out of date”.

The ABC’s internal staff emails were sent out not long after Liberal Party assistant minister Senator Zed Seselja accused the ABC of campaigning for the “Yes” case and censoring opponents of the “No” case – during an interview with Kieran Gilbert on Sky News’ AM Agenda . And not long after ABC Radio National Breakfast presenter Fran Kelly had told listeners that she would be voting “Yes”.

It would seem that the ABC felt the need to declare its own impartiality following some unprofessional instances earlier this week.

This is how Lateline presenter – and same sex marriage advocate – commenced an interview with Finance Minister Senator Mathias Cormann on Monday night:

Emma Alberici: A friend of my daughter’s, a 15-year-old boy, came out as gay last week to his parents and was kicked out of home. Whilst you and your colleagues are bickering in your party room, aren’t you concerned about the message you send to young vulnerable gay and lesbian Australians that they won’t deserve the same treatment as other Australians?

In fact there is no causal relationship between the plight of the 15-year-old boy in question and the same sex marriage plebiscite.

And this is how ABC TV News Breakfast presenters Virginia Trioli (a same-sex marriage advocate) and Michael Rowland responded to former prime minister Tony Abbott’s intervention in the debate, viz: “If you don’t like same-sex marriage, vote no.  If you’re worried about freedom of speech and freedom of expression, vote no. And if you don’t like political correctness, vote no – because this is the best way to stop it in its tracks.”  Let’s go to the transcript as Ms Trioli and Mr Rowland criticise Mr Abbott’s statement – without an alternative view being heard:

Michael Rowland: As Matt Doran, our correspondent, earlier told us this hour that it’s very rare for Tony Abbot to make appearances at what’s known as “The Doors” of Federal Parliament. Only when he’s got something to say and, gee, did he what. Didn’t take questions there so there was no opportunity to ask him, for instance, what the connection is between political correctness and same-sex marriage.

Virginia Trioli: Or religious freedom and same-sex marriage. As far as we understand that postal plebiscite – no one is putting a question in there on what happens to religious institutions, what happens to people who are members of that faith and want to keep practising that faith. No mention whatsoever. But he’s going wide, Tony Abbott.

Michael Rowland: He is.

Virginia Trioli: He’s going really wide on this one and he’s pulling on a big fight.

Michael Rowland: That’s right, and that’s the point being made by several correspondents of the last half an hour. Katharine Murphy, the political editor for The Guardian says this is what she believes Tony Abbott is doing – Drawing Malcolm Turnbull in before that brawl on same-sex marriage.

Virginia Trioli: Yeah, that’s right. And dividing the line ideologically, if you like, and morally – who stands on that side and who doesn’t. Which was, as you know, exactly what was in the fearful hearts of so many LGBTI people, if there was going to be a public debate, and fight, and battle about this.

Following Mark Maley’s intervention later that day, such side-taking in the same sex marriage debate will be out-of-order, at least until the postal plebiscite is concluded. It is not clear how many ABC presenters will follow Mr Maley’s directive.

However, if the ABC now concedes that it has not been impartial in the same- sex marriage debate – what about its coverage of climate change and border protection?  And what is to be made of Michelle Guthrie’s declaration, of less than a week ago, that the ABC should be a player and an activist in the debate about indigenous recognition in the Constitution?  What indeed.



 Australian Financial Review “Rear Window” columnist and avid MWD reader Joe Aston appears to be on what journalists like to call a Well-Earned-Break (or W.E.B.). Which would apparently explain why current “Rear Window” scribblers Bryce Corbett and Myriam Robin (formerly of the leftist newsletter Crikey) had this to say about  Victorian Liberal Party leader Matthew Guy’s recent meeting with a colourful Melbourne business identity at the Lobster Cave restaurant:

…along with much of the social media-sphere – we’re far less concerned about who Guy dined with than why in god’s name he paired lobster with Grange. And for the record, we’re more outraged on behalf of the Grange than the lobster. What a desecration!

And the AFR‘s resident wine expert, Max Allen agrees: “Washing down sweet crayfish meat with a big, dry, tannic red wine? Talk about a flavour-clash disaster. He should have opted instead for one of the many superb chardonnays on the Lobster Cave’s list: the Penfolds Yattarna at $259; the 2010 Giaconda at $229; even the 2011 Bonneau du Martray Corton Charlemagne at $410 – all much better matches with seafood and a fraction of the price of the Grange. He certainly won’t be getting my vote. Philistine.”

Now Jackie’s (male) co-owner takes offence at this piece.  First, “God” should be spelt with a capital “G”.  Just like “Bruce” and “Miriam” deserve caps.  Second, what’s wrong with the Philistines?  Sure they had a row with King David – but who didn’t?  Also, the Philistines were good at pottery and there is reason to expect that they drank their Grange out of the finest pots.  Also, thank God, they were not wine snobs and did not engage a resident “wine expert”. Can You Bear It?


What a stunning performance by Professor Edward Blakely on the ABC TV Weekend Breakfast program on Saturday.  Your man Blakeley is an honorary professor at the University of Sydney – which is a kind of Wellness Centre for victims of Trumphobia.  After all, the University of Sydney is the home of the Trump-Haters in the US[eless] Studies Centre – whose self-proclaimed “experts” all got the result of the 2016 presidential election hopelessly wrong but still take the taxpayer’s money to teach students about contemporary America.

But MWD digresses. Last Saturday, Professor Blakely rocked up to the ABC studio in Ultimo and had this to say about President Donald J Trump and his administration – without challenge from the co-presenters.

Edward Blakely: You’ll notice they’re [i.e. the Senate Judiciary Committee] interviewing Junior [i.e. Donald Trump Jr] and other people, but they are not pressing. And there are a couple of reasons for that. One, they want the House [of Representatives] to direct that trail. But the other reason is their business is almost really wrapped up. They found the Russians guilty and they’re penalising them. The interesting thing people aren’t talking about is [that] the United States removed their covert people from the Syrian area – they were helping the rebels in the fight in the suburbs. When the United States removed their covert people, then the rebels thought the United States was not on their side. The Russians quickly moved in and are stabilising that regime.

So maybe, we’re giving away Syria in exchange for the sanctions [against Russia] here. Trump had to do something quickly to show he was still on their [i.e. the Russians] side. He has real problems with the Russians. They can throw him under the bus. And they may well.

Hold on a second.  What Professor Blakely is saying here is that the Trump administration entered into a secret conspiratorial deal with Vladimir Putin’s Russia.  Namely, that the US removed its “covert people from the Syria area” in order to appease Russia – in view of its hostile response to the imposition of sanctions. His evidence?  Zip.  The learned professor continued:

A grand jury is going to be using the RICO Act [the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations Act]. This is an act about international and national conspiracies to connect organised crime. They went after the Hell’s Angels with this, the Gambino with this. You don’t have to commit the crime yourself. But you have to be knowledgeable that the crime is being committed – in your name or from your offices. Did the President dictate a cover up? So, you only have to be tangentially connected to be involved with a crime. So, we may be going now after the President’s pre-election criminality. Informed of an organised crime being connected with his financing of his empire. That’s why that line is being draw. Because if you cross that line the Russians could throw him under the bus.

Now – without the production of a scintilla of evidence – Professor Blakely referred to Donald J Trump’s “pre-election criminality”. The suggestion seems to be that President Trump did a deal with respect to Syria because Russia is aware of his (alleged) pre-November 2016 criminality and – if he doesn’t deal – will “throw him under a bus”.  Meaning that Russia will blackmail President Trump. And what is Professor Blakely’s evidence for this assertion?  Er, he hasn’t got any. That’s scholarship – University of Sydney style.  The learned professor just made it all up.  Can You Bear It?


While on the topic of Trumphobia – consider the case of Atlantic Monthly senior editor Joshua Green who received an oh-so-soft interview from Phillip (“I was a teenage communist”) Adams on the ABC Radio National Late Night Live program on Monday.  Joshua Green is the author of the recently published Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump and the Storming of the Presidency (Penguin Random House, 2007).

In his tome, your man Green essentially presents Bannon as a fascist, a racist and a reactionary Catholic. That’s all folks.  In short, Green engaged in a rant – unchecked by Phillip Adams AO 1992, AM 1987, Hon DUniv (Griffith), Hon. DLitt (ECU), Hon DUniv (SA), DLitt [sic] (Syd), Hon. DUniv (Macquarie), Doc. Arts (AFTRS) FRSA, Hon FAHA.

The ABC’s Man-in-Black was so mesmerised by the author of Devil’s Bargain that he did not challenge Joshua Green’s three inconsistent claims about Steve Bannon.  Here they are:

According to Green, Bannon “wants to take the country all the way back to the 1500s – and that is a really scary thought”. Sure is. You see Mr Bannon (allegedly) wants to take the US back to circa 1500.  Except for the fact that what became known as the United States was not in existence in 1500.

According to Green, Bannon also “would like to bring the country back to something more along the lines of a religious state – maybe the way the country was in the 1800s or 1900s”. Scary, again.  Except for the fact that the US was not a religious state at any time in the 19th Century or 20th Century.  Indeed, the US Constitution prescribes that the US cannot be a religious state.

So, Joshua Green asserts that Steve Bannon wants to take the US back to 1500. Or 1800.  Or 1900. And Phillip Adams accepts this absolute tosh without query.  Can You Bear It?



Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News reports its sex scandals – alleged and established alike.  On last Sunday’s Mediabuzz program presenter Howard Kurtz reported that Fox News’ Eric Bolling had been stood down pending an investigation of a Huffington Post article which cited anonymous claims against him.

In Australia, however, the ABC refuses to report that a former ABC TV producer Jon Stephens has been convicted of historic child sexual assault while on an ABC assignment.  His victim was a 14-year-old male child actor (a casual ABC employee).  See MWD passim.

ABC managing director and editor-in-chief Michelle Guthrie has advised MWD that she is not responsible for the ABC’s silence on this matter.  Nick Leys (the ABC’s Head of Communications) and Sally Jackson (the ABC’s Media Manager, News & Current Affairs) refused to answer questions on the issue – and ABC TV Media Watch executive producer Tim Latham reckons that the ABC’s silence on Jon Stephens is not serious enough to warrant a comment by Media Watch presenter Paul Barry.  So, the ABC’s great silence continues apace.

For the very latest on the ABC’s Jon Stephens denial, see this week’s “Correspondence” segment.




On Monday, Wendy Harmer – the presenter of the ABC 702 Mornings program – interviewed NSW Shooters, Fishers and Farmers MP Phil Donato concerning his proposal that children on farms should be trained to use firearms.  Let’s go to the part of the transcript where discussion turned on the school cadets of old:

Phil Donato: There were a number of schools that have had shooting as part of their curriculum, in cadets for example, for many, many years – decades in fact. If you look at the GPS [Greater Public Schools] schools, for example – and I never went to a GPS school, but they –

Wendy Harmer: Well I’m sure the former prime minister Mr Tony Abbott – he was marching around in cadets at about that age, I’d imagine

Phil Donato: Yeah, yeah.

Wendy Harmer: At Riverview.

Phil Donato: Well possibly. And shooting was a big part of that cadet program and many of those cadet graduates went on to even go into law enforcement or go into the defence forces.

How about that?  Given the chance to nominate anyone of hundreds of thousands of school boys who would have been in the school cadets in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s – Wendy Harmer chose to ridicule Tony Abbott. Hence the sneering reference to the former prime minister “marching around” in cadets and at St Ignatius College, Riverview.

MWD understands that Master Abbott was in the school cadets in Year 8 and Year 9 – because this was compulsory at Riverview.  In other words, he was not a cadet enthusiast and left the school boys militia before Year 10.

Compare and contrast Ms Harmer’s “bestie” a certain Mike Carlton, who attended the GPS school Barker College in the fashionable Sydney suburb of Wahroonga.

Unlike Master Abbott, Master Carlton was an enthusiastic school boy militarist.  So much so that he rose through the ranks to become, wait for it, a Regimental Sergeant Major in the Barker College School Cadets.  This entitled young Carlton to wear an officer’s cap – rather than a mere beret – and to bark-out orders of the “Attention: By the left-quick march!” genre.

Indeed, as MWD researchers have revealed, Mike (“I’m still pouring the Gin”) Carlton was not only a Regimental Sergeant Major at Barker but also a School Prefect. Impressed?  Well, Jackie’s (male) co-owner sure is – since Hendo never rose beyond the rank of lance corporal and was never a school prefect. [What a failure – MWD Editor]

So, there you have it.  Given the chance to refer to leftist Mike Carlton’s schoolboy military experience, Ms Harmer chose instead to focus on her conservative nemesis Tony Abbott.

Verily, a Wendy Harmer Moment.

[I have seen some old footage of Regimental Sergeant Major Carlton in the Barker School Cadets.  Out in front of his platoon, Master Carlton looks like he is leading the British Union of Fascists – Barker College Branch – into battle. Or perhaps, the school tuck shop.  Or perhaps it is a case of myself having a clear “recollection” of an event which never happened – a recovered memory after many a Gin & Tonic. – MWD Editor]


On Wednesday, Wendy (“I’m just an old-fashioned socialist”) Harmer interviewed Four Corners reporter Caro Meldrum-Hanna concerning her report the previous Monday on the handling of recycling in NSW. As avid readers are aware, MWD just loves it when journalists interview other journalists about journalism.  Let’s go to the transcript after Ms Meldrum-Hanna has spoken about a tape in her possession which seems to reveal that Steve Bearman, the NSW chief waste regulator, is not doing his job adequately:

Caro Meldrum-Hanna: It’s really quite concerning that our regulator, our government funded regulator, and the regulator that the premier, the NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, supported yesterday publicly, said she has great confidence in the NSW EPA. That this is how he [Bearman] is speaking privately to industry – the industry he is meant to regulate.

Wendy Harmer: And we did ask the minister, the relevant minister, and the premier onto the program this morning and they say that they’re unavailable. The premier says that she will come on at some time but not quite now.  She’s unavailable. So, this is very disappointing. What –

Caro Meldrum-Hanna: No, what do you think Wendy? What do you think of that sort of chat behind closed doors?

Wendy Harmer:  Well, I mean. it tells you that there is something not right. I mean, if you’ve been told one thing and you hear another thing behind closed doors, I mean, obviously that the system is not working. A lot of people say, of course that the EPA would be under-funded, under-manned and is not able to monitor things in the way that they would like. But that’s entirely different from giving a bit of a nod and a wink to the industry to carry on with their illegal business.

Caro Meldrum-Hanna: Yeah, that’s right…

So, there you have it.  Unable to interview the NSW premier or the NSW minister responsible for waste, Wendy told Caro that this was very disappointing. Whereupon, Caro asked Wendy what she thought about the issue.  Whereupon. Wendy agreed with Caro.  Whereupon, Caro agreed with Wendy. That’s journalism, ABC style.

Verily, a Wendy Harmer Moment.



 The ABC’s The Drum program is selective about the token conservatives who get a gig on its panel.  Indeed, some conservatives are banned. The culling of the already small conservative supply, tends on occasions for two hyperbolic types getting a seat on the panel.

Like Sydney barrister Gray Connolly, for example. On The Drum last night, your man Connolly told viewers:

▪ the NSW State Parliament is “full of unqualified hacks and unqualified people of dubious morals and background”

▪ “NSW MPs seem to be one investigation away from a date at ICAC [Independent Commission Against Corruption] on going to prison”

▪ “Our politicians are, by and large, morons.”

This is the type of exaggeration that gives hyperbole a bad name.

Gray Connolly: Media Fool of the Week.



While on the topic of Gray Connolly – due to overwhelming demand, and with a little help from American psychic John Edward, this hugely popular segment will continue – even though Nancy (2004-2017) has “passed”. You see, according to the teachings of your man Edward, Nancy is not really dead – but has merely passed to the Other Side, from where she is able to send messages.   Including her very own modest proposals for the Media Watch Dog blog, which she co-founded with her male and female co-owners in 2009.

As avid readers are aware, this increasingly popular segment of MWD is inspired by the Anglo Irish satirist Jonathan Swift’s proposal to relieve the plight of the Irish under British control by certain suggestions which he proffered in his writings. As a consequence of such irreverence, your clergyman Swift (1667-1745) never attained his due rank within the Church of Ireland (i.e. the Anglican Church in Ireland). But that’s another story.

As avid readers may or may not be aware, a block of Martin Place in the Sydney CBD has been currently occupied by a Tent City protest movement. Some of the tent occupiers were genuinely homeless but many were professional agitators who have moved to occupy the very same site that was occupied by the Occupy Sydney movement a few years ago. Is that clear?

As might be expected, ABC journalists, presenters and viewers are sympathetic to the Tent City cause. After all, the protestors are bedded down each night outside the Reserve Bank of Australia – and not outside their own comfortable abodes in the inner-city.

Here’s how the ABC TV News Breakfast presenters Michael Rowland and Virginia Trioli handled the matter during their program on Tuesday:

Michael Rowland: Lots of your comments coming in on a tent city that has sprung up outside the Reserve Bank Headquarters at Martin Place in Sydney. May or may not be moved on today. Sarah says: “It seems when you join together as a group people take notice. I hope these guys stand strong and fight for a solution to homelessness. They didn’t choose this and they need assistance, not blame.”

Virginia Trioli: So far, looking at the comments we’ve got it’s a unity ticket in support of the tent city. Miss Whisperer says: “Perhaps a dose of reality is a good thing. Leave the tents there.”

Michael Rowland: Wendy says: “It should only be moved if there is a genuine move by the government to end or address homelessness in Sydney.”

So, the occupation of a block in the Sydney CBD is of no moment –  say such watchers of the taxpayer funded public broadcaster’s morning TV news program as Sarah and Miss Whisperer and Wendy.

A similar view has been expressed on Twitter by Sydney barrister and occasional ABV TV The Drum panellist Gray Connolly.  This is what Mr Connolly, of Blackstone Chambers in the MLC Tower on Martin Place, has had to say about Sydney’s Tent City:











So, there you have it.  ABC TV viewers, along with Lt Cdr Graham Connolly B.A. (Hons) Sydney University and New South Wales Bachelor-of-Laws – Dean’s Merit List, reckon that a few tents at the top of Martin Place in Sydney’s CBD never did anyone any harm.

What’s more Graham (“A little bit of hyperbole helps a chap get attention”) Connolly reckons that Reserve Bank staff “do very little of daily value” and that “no other collective apart from jihadists and OMGs have done more to stock NSW prisons with new inmates that the NSW Parliament”. So according to The Thought of Gray Connolly, the Sydney CBD Tent City is “Bob’s-your-uncle” territory – and Reserve Bank staff and NSW politicians should shut up.

Well, okay. But if ABC TV viewers and Lieutenant Commander Connolly reckon that pitching a tent on the streets is a YOU BEAUT IDEA – why not extend the experiment?  Here are a few modest proposals as suitable sites for a brand-new Tent City.

▪ ABC Ultimo Studio on Harris Street, Sydney. There’s plenty of cover in the ABC’s spacious drive way and tent dwellers would be useful on Monday nights in filling any vacant seats in the Q&A audience.

▪ Blackstone Chambers, the office abode of your man Connolly.  There’s lotsa space in the entry to the MLC Centre (19 Martin Place) building and tent dwellers could give m’learned friend some help each day carrying his wig and files en route to an appearance in the High Court, Federal Court or NSW Supreme Court or a panel slot on The Drum.

▪ Outside the personal residences of Lt Cmdr Connolly, Mr Rowland and La Trioli in Sydney and Melbourne respectively. The latter two could invite Sarah and Miss Whisperer and Wendy along for a sleep-in.

A Modest Proposal – here’s hoping it works.


Gerard Henderson was walking Jackie last night when he chanced upon Late Night Live on ABC Radio National.

What a find. Current ABC presenter and one-time Communist Party of Australia member Phillip Adams interviewed former ABC presenter and one-time Communist Party of Australia member Mark Aarons.  This is how Late Night Live presented the program – as involving a discussion of Mark Aarons book The Show: Another Side of Santamaria’s Movement (Scribe, 2017).

The Show is a new history of one of Australia’s most powerful political organisations in the 1950s. B.A. Santamaria was a Catholic political activist who founded the Movement, known to its members as “The Show”. Mark Aarons and John Grenville use archival records and oral history interviews to illustrate how “The Show” destroyed communist influence in Australian trade unions.

Apparently, the intention of LNL producer Stan Correy was to discuss B.A. Santamaria’s Movement (which later became the National Civic Council in 1957) and its relationship with the Communist Party of Australia.  The principal author comes from a long-established Communist Party family – and John Grenville was an NCC member for some years in the 1960s and early 1970s.

But it was not to be.  As is his wont, the ABC’s Man-in-Black soon diverted the discussion to Hendo.  The highlights of the (boring) discussion which followed included the following passages:

▪ Mark Aarons and Phillip Adams whinged that Gerard Henderson had only “reviewed” The Show with reference to the book’s publicity material – and, in particular, a comment in the blurb that the late B.A. Santamaria was a “Stalinist” – aka a mass murderer.  The reference was to recent references in MWD to the forthcoming publication of The Show.

Here your man Aarons seemed to forget that The Show had a 31 July 2017 embargo and could not be reviewed before that time.

▪ After praising Gerard Henderson’s Santamaria: A Most Unusual Man (MUP, 2015), Mark Aarons said on a number of occasions that Hendo’s “memory is not as sharp as it might of once been”.

This is based on Gerard Henderson’s decision not to accept Aarons’ view of how one of Santamaria’s documents found its way to the Communist Party in 1945.  Hendo believes that it was inadvertently left on a train by Archbishop James Duhig.

Aarons, on the other hand, has two stories.  He told LNL last night that the document was given by “an anonymous Catholic source” to the Communist Party of Australia (CPA). But he told The Sydney Institute in May 2011 that “the possibility exists that a printer sympathetic to the CPA was the source”.  So the person involved was a Catholic – or perhaps he wasn’t.  Or perhaps he was a pro-communist printer. Or something like that.

Yet, on the basis of such indecision, Aarons reckons that Hendo has a declining memory for not faithfully reporting Aarons’ theory in Santamaria: A Most Unusual Man. In fact, Hendo didn’t forget Aarons’ thesis on this matter – rather, he dismissed it. In The Show, Aarons even acknowledges that Hendo “rejected” the author’s version in 2011. Perhaps your man Aarons has forgotten this.

For the record, Aarons’ only evidence for his claim that Archbishop Duhig was not at fault in this instance turns on interviews with two superannuated Stalinists in 1991 – namely Jack Hughes (then aged 81) and Jack Blake (then aged 82) – i.e. around half a century after the event.

No other member of the Communist Party of Australia ever made this claim – including Mark’s father Laurie Aarons and his uncle Eric Aarons.

In other words, Mark Aarons’ claim about Hendo last night was absolute tosh.

As to Hendo’s review of The Show – it will be coming soonest in The Sydney Institute Review Online.

Since Phillip Adams only invites Hendo on to his little wireless program every quarter of a century, Hendo will not be able to correct Mark Aarons’ assertion on LNL until 2040.



Set out below are the two internal staff emails sent by ABC management to ABC staff yesterday:

Note to News Staff

Hi All,

Now that the government has announced the postal plebiscite, the focus has returned well and truly to the rights and wrongs of same sex marriage and the changing of the Marriage Act.

Please remember that approximately 40% of the population opposes the change and more importantly that the ABC does not have a position on the issue. It is very important that we are impartial and that all perspectives are given a fair hearing and treated with respect by the ABC.

In this charged environment I would also urge everyone to be circumspect on social media – advocating for one side or the other will make it more difficult for the ABC to be seen as impartial. The more high-profile you are the more important discretion is. Language is also important. The preferred terminology is same-sex marriage, rather than ‘marriage equality’ or ‘gay marriage’.

Some people will inevitably be offended by arguments and statements made by both sides. That cannot be avoided and we should not censor any debate conducted in good faith. However, the editorial policies also state that we should not offend our audiences without editorial justification and we should not be seen to condone or encourage prejudice and discrimination. To the greatest extent possible we should be facilitating a vigorous but also civil debate. If you think any content may cross the line don’t hesitate to seek advice from your manager or from me.

Mark Maley

From: Michael Mason
Subject: Covering the same-sex marriage debate


Hi All,

With a time-frame now decided for the same-sex marriage postal plebiscite, ABC staff will again be covering the issue of same-sex marriage.

A note was circulated to News staff this morning, which I have included…for your information.   As was acknowledged in the News note, this can be a challenging issue to cover, as there are a wide range of views in the community and for many, it touches on deeply held beliefs. Please remember to always be respectful, balanced and impartial.

I will be sending out further information soon with more detailed advice on some particular issues Radio staff may face, but as always, a quick review of our editorial policies will have you on safe ground.  There is also a link in the News note to guidance on appropriate language – ABC preferred terminology is ‘same-sex marriage’.

I’m looking forward to hearing the in-depth, quality coverage that the community relies on from ABC Radio – I know we will facilitate an informative and civil debate.

Many thanks,

Michael Mason

This overwhelmingly popular segment of Media Watch Dog usually works like this. Someone or other thinks it would be a you-beaut idea to write to Gerard Henderson about something or other. And Hendo, being a courteous and well-brought up kind of guy, replies. Then, hey presto, the correspondence is published in MWD – much to the delight of its avid readers.

There are occasions, however, when Nancy’s (male) co-owner decides to write a polite note to someone or other – who, in turn, believes that a reply is in order. Publication in MWD invariably follows. There are, alas, some occasions where Hendo sends a polite missive but does not receive the courtesy of a reply. Nevertheless, publication of this one-sided correspondence still takes place. For the record – and in the public interest, of course.

As MWD readers are aware, The Guardian Australia’s deputy editor Katharine Murphy put out the following tweet on 6 June 2014 at 4.33 pm – when that issue of MWD was “hot off the press”. Here is Ms Murphy’s tweet: “Without in any way wanting to breach anyone’s human rights or free speech – why do people write emails to Gerard Henderson?” It’s a very good question. Thankfully, not everyone follows Katharine Murphy’s wise counsel – not even Ms Murphy herself (See MWD Issue 297).


 As MWD readers are aware, the taxpayer funded public broadcaster has gone into denial about the fact that in late June the former ABC TV producer Jon Stephens pleaded guilty to an historic case of child sexual abuse. The ABC has not reported the Stephens’ conviction, ABC managing director and editor-in-chief Michelle Guthrie says that she is not responsible for the non-reporting of the case and ABC Head of Communications Nick Leys will not communicate on the matter.  In one last attempt to get a comment from the “No Comment” ABC, Gerard Henderson wrote to Sally Jackson, the Media Manager for ABC News and Current Affairs. Alas, without success. Now read on:

Gerard Henderson to Sally Jackson – 8 August 2017

Dear Sally

As Media Manager ABC News and Current Affairs, you will be aware that some years ago the public broadcaster signed up with the Right-to-Know Coalition. This campaign was motivated by the belief that Australians have a right-to -know about decisions made by government or government funded organisations – provided, of course, no questions of national security arise.

As you will recall, I wrote to you last Thursday requesting – inter alia – information about the ABC’s handling of the Jon Stephens case.  You did not reply to, or even acknowledge, my email.

As you will be aware, the ABC has been diligent in reporting cases of historic child sexual abuse involving religious, secular and government institutions.  However, the ABC has not reported that former ABC TV producer Jon Stephens pleaded guilty in Gosford Local Court in late June to such a crime.  His victim was a 14-year-old male ABC casual employee and the offence took place while on ABC assignment near Gosford in 1981.  The ABC seems to have one rule for historic cases of child sexual assault for the public broadcaster and another for all other institutions.

I understand why, in your position as ABC Media Manager ABC News & Current Affairs, you may not be authorised to advise whether the ABC has adopted a duty of care with respect to Stephens’ victim or offered to pay him compensation.  News Corp has reported that the man in question is living in a car.

However, you are in a position to advise why the ABC News & Current Affairs has not covered Jon Stephens’ guilty plea to historic child sexual abuse – which was reported in some News Corp publications.  Also, you are in a position to advise whether ABC News & Current affairs intends to report the Jon Stephens conviction sometime in the future.

In the interests of the public’s right-to-know, I do hope that you will answer these straight forward questions by the close of business on Thursday.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

cc:     Michelle Guthrie

Managing Director & Editor-in-Chief, ABC


Nick Leys

Head of Communications, ABC


Michael Millett

Director, Government Relations, ABC

MWD will let you know if Ms Jackson, or anyone at the ABC, answers questions on the public broadcaster’s handling of the Jon Stephens’ case.  Don’t hold your breath.



 To be fair, the ABC TV Media Watch program occasionally criticises the ABC.  But it has declined to cover the public broadcaster’s refusal to report the ABC’s home-grown case of historic child sexual abuse. As the following correspondence demonstrates:

Gerard Henderson to Timothy Latham – 12 July 2017


As you may or may not recall, on Media Watch (16 February 2016) Paul Barry said that I should give him and you a “call” if I have any queries about the program. Here are two queries.

▪ Did Media Watch have a break last week of the type enjoyed by Q&A? Or was last Monday’s “State of Play” wrap – which contained no fresh news-watching analysis – planned? If so, why?

▪ Now that normal programming has resumed, does Media Watch intend to cover the fact that, so far at least, the ABC has not covered an in-house case of historic child sexual abuse. As reported in the Central Coast Gosford Express Advocate and in the Daily Telegraph in late June, a former ABC TV producer (Jon Stephens) pleaded guilty to – and was convicted of – historic child sexual abuse. The sentence was 12 months in jail at the top with six months at the bottom. Stephens’ 1981 victim was a 14 year old male ABC child-actor and the abuse took place while on an ABC assignment near Gosford.

Since Paul Barry and the team reads Media Watch Dog (your program of 16 February 2016 refers), you will be aware that Alan Sunderland has advised me that ABC editor-in-chief Michelle Guthrie does not accept responsibility for ABC editorial decisions.  The implication is that Ms Guthrie believes that it is proper that the ABC has not reported an historic case of child sexual abuse by an ABC producer against an under-aged ABC employee – despite the fact that it has reported similar crimes involving the employees of clerical and secular institutions in which sentences were handed down in non-metropolitan courts.

Over to you.


cc: Paul Barry

Timothy Latham to Gerard Henderson – 12 July 2017

Hi Gerard,

No. Media Watch is not on a break. We are on air until mid-December.

I wanted to update our special on digital news and ad revenue because 12 months on, the world has one new idea to fix it – that is, try and whack Google and Facebook to help fund journalism. Which is what we outlined on Monday night.

Funding journalism, especially local journalism, is one of the biggest issues in the media. I’m delighted you felt it had “no fresh news-watching analysis.”

Re the Stephens’ case. I haven’t decided on the mix of stories for Monday yet but note your interest and correspondence with the MD’s office.



Gerard Henderson to Timothy Latham – 10 August 2017


I refer to your email of 12 July 2017 and your subsequent phone call to me.

As you will recall, in your email you wrote that you had not decided on the mix of stories for the ABC TV Media Watch program scheduled for Monday 17 July 2017 but you were aware of my “interest and correspondence with the MD’s office” concerning the Jon Stephens matter. As you are aware, ABC managing director and editor-in-chief Michelle Guthrie has denied any editorial responsibility concerning the reportage of this case.

Since Media Watch did not cover the Jon Stephens case on 17 July or subsequently, I can only assume that Paul Barry and the Media Watch team regard this matter of no moment. [Note, the word “not” has been added to this sentence to correct a typographical error.]

So, it appears that Media Watch has joined the public broadcaster’s great silence on this issue. Paul Barry and you clearly do not see a double standard in the ABC refusing to report an internal case of historic child sex abuse – in which former ABC TV producer Jon Stephens pleaded guilty to assaulting a 14-year-old male ABC casual employee while on an ABC assignment near Gosford in 1981 – while having given widespread coverage of child sexual assault convictions with respect to clerical, secular and government institutions.

I note that Fairfax Media has also declined to report this case of historic child sexual abuse – despite the fact that Jon Stephens is domiciled in Melbourne, not far from The Age’s office.  It would seem that this case of child sexual abuse in the ABC does not fit The Age’s narrative.

While accepting that you and Paul Barry made the decision not to mention the Jon Stephens scandal of your own volition, there is little doubt that ABC managing director and editor-in-chief Michelle Guthrie will be pleased.

After all, it’s not in the interests of ABC management if an ABC program reveals a Jimmy Savile like case of historic child sex abuse within the public broadcaster – in which the ABC appears not to have adopted a duty of care towards, or offered compensation to, the victim.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

cc: Paul Barry

Tim Latham to Gerard Henderson – 10 August 2017

Hi Gerard,

I think you mean to say, in your third par, that MW did not cover this story.

This was a local court matter the ABC missed, it’s not ideal but I don’t see anything sinister in it.

I asked the ABC why it didn’t cover the hearing and was told “The Sydney newsroom did not know about the case and was not in the court.”

I don’t consider this miss to be on the same level of the ABC not reporting on the following stories, which we were critical about.

Keysar Trad

And Punchbowl High



Gerard Henderson to Tim Latham – 10 August 2017


Thanks for your prompt response.

Yes, that was a John Laws style “deliberate mistake”.



Until next time.