8 September 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: Fairfax Media’s Fave Professor George Williams Flunks High Court Prediction
  • Can You Bear It? Sabra Lane & Nikki Savva re Malcolm Turnbull & Tony Abbott; Anne Summers on Australia as a “Political Joke” & Tony Abbott (of course); Sally Patten, Louise Adler & Louise (“No Comment Milligan”); Keith Windschuttle’s political journey from Honi Soit to Quadrant; Mike Jeffreys on Love & Marriage; The Red Bandannaed One’s Double Standard on Citizenship
  • An ABC Update: The Drum’s Grovelling Apology to Archbishop Denis Hart; Guy Rundle Sees Stalinism at Work in Ultimo
  • The Cliché In the Room – Starring David Speers
  • Media Fool of the Week: Paul Bongiorno Stars Again – This Time On North Korea + Ms Keneally & Dr Van Onselen
  • Correspondence: Michael Fullilove Rationalises FDR Howler on Q&A (Sort of); The ARM’s Michael Cooney Helps out by Unintentionally Discrediting his ARM boss Peter FitzSimons



Listeners to The World Today on the ABC at lunchtime may have found it strange that Professor George Williams, whose prediction that the High Court would disallow the Turnbull government’s same sex marriage postal ballot survey fell in a screaming heap at 2.15 pm yesterday, was back on ABC Radio.  Believe it or not, your man Williams told the ABC journalist Jane Lee that the High Court’s decision “isn’t to be desired”.  How about that? If only George had been on the High Court it would not have fallen into such “error”.

In any event, readers of the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and the Canberra Times must have been stunned by the Turnbull government’s comprehensive victory.

Why single out Fairfax Media’s metropolitan newspapers for special criticism?  Well, they got the outcome of the case wrong.  Hopelessly wrong. Here’s how.

On Thursday 31 August 2017, The Age favourably reported the speech to the National Press Club the previous day by Fairfax Media’s fave legal mind – a certain Professor George Williams.  Your man Williams is Dean of Law at the University of NSW and one-time unsuccessful aspirant for Labor Party pre-selection.

Under the Age heading ‘Grim Reaper’ tips High Court busts for government’, Fairfax Media’s legal affairs reporter Michael Koziol wrote:

The Turnbull government is heading for a doomsday scenario in which its constitutionally controversial MPs are struck from Parliament and its postal survey on same-sex marriage is declared invalid, one of Australia’s leading constitutional experts has predicted. In a pessimistic address at the National Press Club on Wednesday, UNSW Dean of Law George Williams predicted the High Court would take a stern view of the seven MPs currently facing an eligibility probe because they were citizens of other countries….

Professor Williams also said he expected the same-sex marriage postal survey to be struck down. The government has bypassed Parliament using a special fund reserved for “urgent and unforeseen” matters, but given MPs have spoken publicly about the issue for so long, that would be a “tough ask” to justify in court, Professor Williams said. “It has the appearance of a round peg in a square hole,” he said. “What about this survey is urgent, except for the fact that it is necessary because of the government’s own political imperatives?”

And so, it went on and on.  Mr Koziol did not seek the view of any other legal academic. It was as if Professor Williams had come down from the mountain carrying tablets on which the law was written and the High Court would surely follow his advice.

On Friday 1 September 2017, Fairfax Media columnist Waleed Aly also fully embraced The Thought of George.  Dr Aly (for a doctor he is) commenced his column as follows:

One of the great oversights in the voluminous coverage of the same-sex marriage postal survey is that it might not even happen. If you’ve been playing close attention you might recall there’s an impending High Court challenge against its constitutional validity. And if you’ve been paying still closer attention you might have noted Professor George Williams’ expert view this week that he expects that challenge to succeed in derailing the plebiscite. But by and large, media, politicians and campaigners are behaving like this isn’t happening.

Waleed Aly’s pompous warning about how – if we mere mortals had been paying attention to a UNSW legal academic – we would know that the same sex marriage postal survey was expected to go down in the High Court. So he claimed that those who did not hold this view were carrying on as if nothing was about to happen.  The problem with the Aly analysis is that nothing did really happen.  It’s called false prophecy.

On Tuesday 5 September 2017, George Williams wrote an opinion piece in Fairfax Media predicting the outcome of the High Court decision. It started as follows:

Australians are primed to vote on whether to recognise same-sex marriage. Survey forms will be sent to 16 million people from next week, and campaigning has begun in earnest. Despite this, the High Court may bring the postal survey to an immediate halt. This would be a first, with no other national poll stopped in its tracks in this way. But then again, no past government has sought to hold a national vote in such legally dubious circumstances. Nothing in the submissions put by the Commonwealth to the High Court alters my view that the survey will more likely than not be struck down.

And so, it came to pass that the High Court, in a seven to zero decision, chose not to follow The Thought of George which had the support of Michael Koziol and Waleed Aly.  The judges found that, contrary to the opinion of G. Williams, there was nothing dubious about the circumstances involved in setting up the postal survey.




The High Court’s decision not to disallow the same sex marriage postal survey meant that the week ended with a significant success for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

But it did not start well.  On Monday, the Daily Telegraph carried a Sharri Markson “Exclusive”.  Namely that, after The Australian’s 50th birthday party bash in 2014, a somewhat tired and emotional Malcolm Turnbull (then communications minister) told Tony Abbott (the then prime minister) that he was not only “hopeless” but also a “disloyal c—”.

Jackie’s male and female co-owners attended this bash and found it a lively event with well-behaved guests. Perhaps something happened on the RAAF flight back to Canberra.

In any event, Ms Markson had a big story. So it was surprising that when ABC Radio AM presenter Sabra Lane interviewed Mr Turnbull that very morning she made no reference whatsoever to the Markson scoop.  Fancy that.

A not dissimilar coincidence occurred yesterday. In yet another critique of Tony Abbott in her Australian column yesterday, Niki Savva had this to say:

Abbott, citing his right to free speech, has told people agitating against him that removing a former prime minister from his own seat would be “political suicide”. During these conversations about his fate, filled with ominous warnings of consequences if any further moves were made against him, Abbott has referred to the Prime Minister as “effing” Turnbull, reminiscent of his advice to Craig Laundy to “go f. k yourself” during the first party room debate on ­energy. Golly gee. Imagine. Politicians swearing like drunken sailors — even when they are sober.

How shocking that Tony Abbott used bad language with respect to the Prime Minister in 2017 when sober. Golly gee.  But Niki Savva, like Ms Lane, did not refer to the report that Malcolm Turnbull had used bad language with respect to the Prime Minister in 2014 when perhaps not so sober.  How (also) shocking is that?  Golly gee. Can You Bear It?



While on the topic of Abbott-Haters, did anyone read Anne Summers’ piece in Fairfax Media newspaper last weekend?  Dr Summers devoted an entire 1500 words to flashing her Abbott-phobia.

According to Dr Summers’ view, Tony Abbott has the “Biggest Ego” ever. She should know, having once worked for Bob Hawke.  Abbott is also loathed by many, drinks too much but not much at all – or something like that – and gave “the country the [same sex marriage] mess that has made us a political joke”.  So there you have it. Australia is a “political joke” and it’s all Tony Abbott’s fault. What a load of absolute tosh.

But that’s not all. According to Anne Summers, Mr Abbott humiliated his sister and in March 2013 stood in front of a now notorious sign that declared “Ju-Liar Bob Brown’s Bitch”.  Dr Summers (for a doctor she is) neglected to advise Fairfax Media readers that Abbott was not aware that someone held up this sign behind his back.

Anne Summers even wrote with disapproval of the fact that B.A. Santamaria was once (allegedly) part of “Abbott’s intellectual support team”.  In fact, Santamaria died nearly two decades ago and had advised Abbott not to go into politics.  By the way, Dr Summers did not declare that – unlike Abbott – she was once briefly employed by B.A. Santamaria’s National Civic Council. Oh, yes.  For completion, Anne Summers also criticised John Howard and Cardinal George Pell. How predictable. Yawn. Can You Bear It?



While on the topic of Cardinal Pell, he got a mention in “Lunch with the AFR” when MUP chief executive Louise Adler had a (short) lunch with Sally Patten at The European on Spring Street (See Australian Financial Review, 26-27 August 2017).  It seems that this outfit does not make much from its high profile regular customer. The total bill for two was $52.20 and it appears that no tip was left.

According to reporter Sally Patten, Louise Adler had this to say about ABC journalist Louise Milligan, author of The Rise and Fall of George Pell (MUP, 2017):

Adler, who grew up in the Melbourne beach suburb of Elwood, rejects criticism that the allegations made about Pell by Milligan were not put to him. “He was absolutely given the opportunity to respond and the timeline was extended. There was no response. He chose not to respond. It’s not appropriate to go out and criticise people without giving them an opportunity to answer, so we certainly did that,” Adler says.

It’s not clear why Cardinal Pell would not have spoken to the author of what was intended to be – and was – a hatchet job.  Even Pell critic Gerard Windsor, who reviewed Cardinal in The Weekend Australian, described Milligan’s book as an “attack” motivated by “animus”. (see also Gerard Henderson’s review in The Sydney Institute Review Online  Number 5).

Sally Patten did not raise with Ms Adler the fact that Louise Milligan herself refused to answer Gerard Henderson’s eleven questions about Cardinal.   Instead, the author went into “No Comment” mode and sought the protection of her publisher. The feisty Ms Adler told Hendo that Cardinal was so terrific that the author could not be expected to answer questions about her work.  Can You Bear It?



Wasn’t it great to see Quadrant editor Keith Windschuttle in the guest’s spot on Sky News’ Outsiders program on Sunday?

As far as Jackie’s (male) co-owner can work out, your man Windschuttle went from being a radical Leninist in the 1960s and early 1970s to becoming a philosophical Marxist in the late 1970s and early 1980s, to becoming a social democrat in the late 1980s and early 1990s and on to becoming a political conservative in the late 20th Century and early 21st Century.  Or something like that.

On Outsiders last Sunday, co-presenters Ross Cameron and Rowan Dean queried their guest about his exciting ideological journey from the time he was Honi Soit editor at Sydney University [Don’t you mean Hanoi Soit? – MWD Editor] to sitting in the Quadrant editor’s chair.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Ross Cameron: So, tell us about how you went from editing a left-wing radical rag – who [sic] I recall used to advocate giving more money from Sydney University to the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, which the student union did. But tell us how you went from Honi Soit to Quadrant.

Keith Windschuttle: Well in the ’60s, I was at the university and the whole popular culture and the sort of zeitgeist – the feel of where you should be in life – was all on the left. The left had the best parties, we attracted the prettiest girls, we had the best popular music. You know Bob Dylan was our guru –

Ross Cameron: Fair bit of reggae? Tim Grey would have been happy, would he?

Keith Windschuttle: Well you know it was a – it was a great time to be young and alive. And there was no question if you were doing an arts degree at Sydney University that you’d be anything but left.

Turn it up.  Gerard Henderson cannot talk about what happened at Sydney University during the Windschuttle era in the late 1960s.  But there were lotsa good parties among right-of-centre anti-communist types at Melbourne University half a century ago.  And the idea that the left had the “prettiest girls” is just bunk.  Just check out former Howard government minister Rod Kemp’s wife.  Or, indeed, Hendo’s wife.

The reason that Dr Keith Windschuttle was on the left during his student days turned on the fact that this was the ideological fashionable place to be.  As to the idea that the born-to-be political Keith Windschuttle was just a young man in pursuit of skirt and devoted to hearing Bob Dylan after dark – well, Can You Bear It?



While on the topic of blokes in pursuit of sheilas, what a stunning performance by Sydney radio presenter Mike Jeffreys on Father’s Day.

On Sky News’ The Perrett Report’s panel on Sunday, the topic came up about traditional marriage, same sex-marriage and all that stuff.  Then, lo and behold, the topic moved to – wait for it – Love.  Remember how, when asked if they were “in love”, Lady Diana Spencer replied: “Of course.” Immediately after, her fiancé Prince Charles interjected: “Whatever ‘in love’ means.”  Clearly Prince Charles had Camilla on his mind – a somewhat unfortunate placement at the time.

This is what your man Jeffreys had to say about love and marriage on The Perrett Report.  Here’s a hint.  In Mike’s world view – and contrary to the words of the song – love and marriage do not go together like a horse and carriage.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Mike Jeffreys: I remember some of the callers I had who called me and said, “Mike why did you marry the women you did? It was because you loved them?” Well yeah, kind of – really it was because it made them happy and their families wanted me to and –

Janine Perrett: [interjecting] This is not an argument for heterosexual marriage, mostly same sex marriage…

Mike Jeffreys: But you know, I can get by quite happily without the –

Janine Perrett: How many marriages have you had?

Mike Jeffreys: Only three but I have had a couple of girlfriends. I don’t want you to think I’ve been lonely but –

Kristy McSweeney: [interjecting] We don’t think that Mike,


So there you have it.  Your man Jeffreys did not marry for love.  Not on any one of three possible occasions.  He married to make his wives and their families happy. And he declared this to the whole nation – or, that part of the nation which has access to Foxtel. Can You Bear It?



MWD always believed that Opposition leader Bill Shorten was not a dual Australian/British citizen.  Just as MWD always believed that Tony Abbott was not a dual Australian/British citizen – despite the “Birther” campaign supported by Derryn (“Even my best friends don’t like me”) Hinch – who once maintained that Mr Abbott was a British subject and ineligible to sit in the Australian Parliament.   Here the Human Mumble was wrong – again.

And so it came to pass that, last Monday, Bill Shorten produced a document to say that he renounced British citizenship in 2006. By the way, Tony Abbott had renounced British citizenship in 1993.

Before Tony Abbott provided evidence concerning his (former) British citizenship, Peter FitzSimons had this to say in “The Fitz Files” in June 2015 (Sun-Herald, June 2015):

Here in Australia, there has been, true, a little muted rumbling over whether or not our own Prime Minister [Tony Abbott] retains dual citizenship with Britain, which would be against our own Constitution, but it has never developed into a mass movement.

Most Australians it seems, even those who disagree with the Prime Minister on just about everything, accept that he was democratically elected, and have no desire to see him ruled out on what would be really no more than a technicality. A compelling piece written this week, however, by the editor of Independent Australia, has gone viral, with 8.8 K likes on Facebook, and 1.4 K tweets.

It notes that, whatever else, the PM was not an Australian at all until the age of 21 when he was obliged to be one to get his Rhodes Scholarship. And it notes his refusal to show the form which really proves he “has renounced his British citizenship.” We’ll see. All up, the easiest thing to kill it stone-dead would be to produce the form.

So there you have it.  In June 2015, The Red Bandannaed One called on Tony to “produce the form” demonstrating that he was not a British citizen.  But did Fitz ever call on Bill Shorten to produce a form demonstrating that he was not a British citizen?  Not on our nelly. Can You Bear It?



As avid readers are aware, writer and broadcaster Sunil Badami was awarded MWD’s “Media Fool of the Week” gong in Issue 375. He scored for a piss-poor performance on The Drum on Monday 21 August 2017 which was long on ignorance and short on evidence with respect to his comments on the Catholic Church.

Mr Badami’s anti-Catholic sectarian rant was littered with howlers – which were documented in MWD on 25 August 2017.  They included the following comment concerning Denis Hart, the Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne:

Sunil Badami: But it is really hard for the Catholic Church to take any kind of morally superior stance on this [same sex marriage] issue given the revelations that many senior clergy, including Archbishop Denis Hart, often ignored or covered up allegations of very serious child abuse.

As MWD Issue 375 commented on Friday 25 August 2017:

Badami did not present any evidence that Archbishop Denis Hart “often ignored or covered up allegations of very serious child abuse”.   It seems that panellists are allowed to rock-up at The Drum and proffer howlers or make unfounded allegations – without fear of correction.

That was 25 August 2017.  Last Monday (3 September 2017) the ABC offered a grovelling apology on The Drum.  It was read on-air by presenter Ellen Fanning (who was in the presenter’s chair when Sunil Badami just made up his claim against Archbishop Hart). Let’s go to the transcript:

Ellen Fanning: And finally. On the program on the 21st of August there was a discussion of same sex marriage which is opposed by the Catholic Church. During that discussion, a guest made a comment to the effect that the Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, had ignored or covered up allegations of serious child abuse. We wish to clarify that that is not correct. There is no evidence and has been no finding that Archbishop Hart has ignored or covered up child abuse. We apologise to Archbishop Hart for any harm the comments may have caused.

Indeed, the only “cover-up” involved in this matter turns on the unwillingness of the ABC to identify Sunil Badami as the “guest” on The Drum who made the defamatory allegation about Archbishop Hart without a shred of evidence.

On Friday 1 September 2017 the program notes for The Drum of 21 August 2017 had been updated as follows:

The Drum Monday August 21

Updated Fri 1 Sep 2017, at 3:36pm

Host: Ellen Fanning

Panel: Sunil Badami, David Gazard and Katie Acheson

Interview with: Terry Laidler

The panel discusses Catholic Church leaders saying employees who marry same-sex partners could be fired, youth unemployment and Jerry Lewis. The original version of this episode has been edited for legal reasons.

Editor’s Note: On The Drum on 21 August there was a discussion of same-sex marriage, which is opposed by the Catholic Church. During that discussion, a guest made a comment to the effect that Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, had ignored or covered up allegations of serious child abuse. The ABC wishes to clarify that that is not correct. There is no evidence and has been no finding that Archbishop Hart has ignored or covered up child abuse. The ABC apologises to Archbishop Hart for any harm the comments may have caused.

Once again, there is no reference to Sunil Badami and readers seem to be given the option of deciding who made the defamatory claim about Archbishop Hart.  For the record, Mr Badami has not offered an apology for his comments.

Neither panellists Katie Acheson (who was in the Sydney studio) nor David Gazard (who was in Canberra) could have been expected to query Sunil Badami’s defamatory statement. However, Ellen Fanning should have asked her guest for his evidence to support so serious an allegation.  Moreover, the former Catholic priest and current academic Terry Laidlaw should have been aware that Badami’s claim against the Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne was not supported by any evidence of any kind.

The Drum is one of those ABC programs – like Q&A – where panellists can rock up and make things up without the presenter asking for supporting evidence.  Which makes the ABC’s self-proclaimed support for fact-checking as a joke in bad taste.

Yet it’s likely that the defamer Sunil Badami will be invited back on The Drum – while some conservative commentators remain banned from the program because The Drum’s producers do not want to hear what they say.  That’s the taxpayer funded public broadcaster in contemporary mode.

For the record, no Catholic church leader said that employees who marry same-sex partners could be fired.  Fairfax Media just made this up and the howler was repeated on the ABC (including The Drum).



Thanks to the avid reader who drew MWD’s attention to the Crikey piece by Guy Rundle – Hendo’s favourite Marxist comedian – on 29 August 2017 titled “How the right destroyed an ABC gem to push their Stalinist agenda”.

“It’s a shame [Jonathan] Green’s Sunday Extra was demolished, before he was ready to move on. But that shows you the mirror world we’re in: it’s the left who are the conservatives, wanting traditions — like public broadcasting, and its particular styles — to be built on, preserved, curated. It’s the right who have the politics-first souls of Stalinists, willing to smash anything to make a cheap political gain. They have gained nothing but reversal, and we lost a program loved by many. The loss is somewhat assuaged if it demonstrates to a wider population how the right think: that in their obsessive hatred for the ABC, they would happily destroy everything anybody loves — and the entire population loves something on the ABC — to ram home their point. They make a wilderness, and they call it “freedom”. Meanwhile Switzer will continue to present RN’s Between The Lines…

Turn it up.  There is no evidence for what Comrade Rundle calls the right-wing called for Jonathan Green to be dumped from presenting Sunday Extra or that he be replaced by Tom Switzer.  This was a decision made by ABC management.

In fact, MWD always thought that Jonathan Green ran a good program.  MWD has constantly drawn attention to the fact that the ABC has not one conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets. This criticism was not directed at Jonathan Green – since Sunday Extra is not a prominent program.

As to Guy Rundle’s suggestion that the removal of a presenter of a Sunday morning program on Radio National is a manifestation of, wait for it, “Stalinism” is just tosh.  Absolute tosh.  As the former editor of the Marxist journal of opinion Arena should know that real Stalinists did more than move the likes of Mr Green from presenting Sunday Extra to Blueprint for Living.

The so-called right-wing in Australia cannot properly be blamed for managerial decisions made at the Conservative Free Zone which is the taxpayer funded broadcaster.


Due to overwhelming popular demand, this segment makes a return – after what journalists (who never take what others call holidays) like to term a W.E.B. – or Well-Earned-Break.


Last week David Speers won MWD’s prestigious Five Paws Award for his inaugural weekly column in the Daily Telegraph.  This week, alas, your man Speers has been cited for the use of a veritable cliché. Here it is – fresh from last Saturday’s Daily Telegraph:

There would also be political risk in [the Coalition government] bankrolling  coal, but political opportunity too. Labor is vulnerable here. It’s held more positions on coal than the Kama Sutra.

So, according to Mr Speers, Labor has “held more positions on coal than the Kama Sutra”. GROAN.  [You learn something every day. I was not aware that the Kama Sutra ever recommended a position on coal.  But there you go. –  MWD Editor].



Here is ABC Radio National Breakfast commentator’s Paul Bongiorno’s solution to resolving tension on the Korean Peninsula.

Step One – find out what North Korean communist dictator Kim Jong-un really, really wants. Step Two:  Give it to him.  It’s called appeasement 2.0.

Here’s what Bonge had to say on The Drum last Monday about his cunning plan to avoid an (alleged) nuclear holocaust. Ellen Fanning was in the presenter’s chair:

Paul Bongiorno: You know what…I think that there are 28,700 US military personnel on the southern side of the DMZ and this gives real flesh, if you like, to the paranoia of Kim Jong-un and the North Koreans.

Ellen Fanning: Well, what’s the alternative to that?

Paul Bongiorno: Well I’ll tell you what the alternative is – paying the extortion that he wants. I heard a former Pentagon official and advisor to three US presidents saying “we haven’t been talking to the North Koreans enough, we haven’t been engaging them enough.”  Now Trump’s view is that they’re demanding extortion. Well, maybe it’s a small price to pay if we can avoid a nuclear holocaust.

So there you have it.  According to Bonge, Kim Jong-un’s paranoia is understandably caused by the presence of some 30,000 United States’ troops south of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in South Korea.  But if troops on the southern side of the border cause paranoia – then why are South Korea’s democratically elected leaders not paranoid about the presence of a million active North Korean troops on the northern side of DMZ?  Over to you, Bonge.

Moreover, your man Bongiorno seems ignorant of the fact that the long-term aim of the North Korean leadership is to conquer South Korea and unite the Korean Peninsula under a communist totalitarian dictatorship.

Presumably, Bonge would be willing to see millions of South Koreans incarcerated in an extended “hermit kingdom” gulag as part of the US “paying the extortion” demanded by Kim Jung-un.  Meanwhile, Mr Bongiorno would continue to live in comfortable Canberra with occasional visits to the taxpayer funded public broadcaster’s studios.

While on the topic of Bonge, lotsa thanks to the avid reader who sent MWD the following Twitter comment concerning Mr Bongiorno’s (somewhat juvenile) response to the news that Sky News co-presenters Kristina Keneally and Peter Van Onselen were unwell and unable to do their To the Point program. Let’s go to Twitter.

Sure, Bonge’s tweet was sent out at 10.39 pm – that is, around after-dinner drinks time.  Even so, it’s a somewhat foolish comment by a 72-year old man about a male and female who are young enough to be his children.

Paul Bongiorno – Media Fool of the Week.


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).



Dr Fullilove (for a doctor he is) was the only Australian panellist on Q&A last Monday. It was (yet) another Q&A line-up of, to a greater or lesser extent, Trump-haters who had assembled in Melbourne for the taxpayer funded Melbourne Writers’ Festival and spent Monday evening at the taxpayer funded ABC.

During the discussion on President Donald J Trump, Michael Fullilove presented FDR as an opponent of fascism and Nazism in 1940 – overlooking the fact that in late 1940 FDR promised not to commit US forces to the war against Nazi Germany and fascist Italy. Hendo raised this howler with the learned Fullilove.  Now read on:


Gerard Henderson to Michael Fullilove – 6 September 2017


That was a lively performance on Q&A last Monday.  I was particularly interested in what you said during the segment titled “Silencing the Right”, viz:

Michael Fullilove: Just one point – it’s a real tragic irony that Charlottesville has come to be known as a code for moral blindness, because for so long Charlottesville was a code word for moral clarity. In –

Shashi Tharoor: FDR’s speech.

Michael Fullilove: In 1940, FDR gave a great speech at Charlottesville, where he called out the fascists, the Nazis who were invading Western Europe, and he introduced a policy of rearmament and of aid to the opponents of force. And it is a real tragedy for an Americaphile like me that we now have a President of the United States who is doggedly neutral as between Nazis and people who oppose Nazis. There’s one thing we need the President of the United States to be against, and that’s Nazis.


Laurie Penny: Yeah, you’d think it wouldn’t be hard, wouldn’t you?

Tony Jones: OK –

Laurie Penny: Is it hard to be against Nazis? I don’t know. Somebody asks you, “Are you against Nazis?” and you have to think about it for a while –

Amani Al-Khatahtbeh: Yeah, I mean, when that’s your voter base, of course.

Laurie Penny: Yeah. Also, I guess, just to clarify on one point, I don’t think it’s possible to take a neutral position between Nazis and anti-fascists – I think in that context a neutral position is support for fascism. There is no middle of the road here.

Tony Jones: Mm. I think Michael might have been making that point.

Laurie Penny:  Yeah, exactly.

 Tony Jones: Next question is from Karima Farouque.

Needless to say, your assertion that Donald J. Trump is “neutral” as between “Nazis and people who oppose Nazis” was enthusiastically endorsed by left-wing panel members and the predominantly leftist Melbourne Writers Festival audience alike.  In my view, it’s hyperbole to suggest that President Trump is some kind of Nazi fellow-traveller. But that’s another matter.

The point of this letter is to query your comments concerning President F.D. Roosevelt as a man who was always “against” Nazis.

Contrary to your claim on Q&A, President Roosevelt’s speech at Charlottesville on 10 June 1940 did not really “call out the fascists, the Nazis who were invading Western Europe”.  In fact, FDR did not specifically refer to the Nazis in general or Adolf Hitler in particular in his 1940 Charlottesville speech.

In your comment on Q&A, you did not mention the fact that the Roosevelt administration remained isolationist throughout 1940 when Britain and the Commonwealth nations virtually stood alone against the might of Nazi Germany (which was allied with the Soviet Union at the time due to the Nazi-Soviet Pact).

As you should be aware, speaking in Boston on 30 October 1940, President Roosevelt made the following comment extolling United States neutrality during that part of the Second World War:

And while I am talking to you mothers and fathers, I give you one more assurance. I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again and again:

Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars. They are going into training to form a force so strong that, by its very existence, it will keep the threat of war far away from our shores. The purpose of our defense is defense.

In other words, in October 1940 FDR indicated that the United States would not commit military forces in the battle against the Nazis.  The US entered the European theatre only after Hitler declared war on the US in December 1941, following Japan’s attack on the US at Pearl Harbour. By then Germany was at war with the Soviet Union (following the collapse of the Nazi Soviet Pact). Nazi Germany was stronger in 1940 than in early 1942 when the US joined the war against Germany.

Your comment on Q&A presenting President Roosevelt as an avid opponent of Nazi Germany circa 1940 was bunk.  In 1940, the United States was a neutral player in the war between the British Empire and Nazi Germany.

It speaks volumes for the intellectual standards of Q&A that no one challenged your view of FDR in 1940.  Perhaps Tony Jones and company were overwhelmed by your opposition to Donald J. Trump and of your self-declared role as an “Obama fan boy”.

The truth is that, without Winston Churchill’s leadership, Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany would have won the Second World War in 1940 or 1941 without any resistance from the (then) neutralist President Roosevelt.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson


Michael Fullilove to Gerard Henderson – 7 September 2017

Dear Gerard

It is true that Franklin Roosevelt did not use the term ‘Nazis’ in his Charlottesville speech. He used a much more evocative and memorable formulation: “the gods of force and hate” who “endanger the institutions of democracy in the western world.”

The Charlottesville speech is widely regarded as a decisive moment in the United States’ deepening involvement in the European war. Roosevelt gave the speech as the Nazis were overrunning western Europe and on the very day that Mussolini took Italy into the war at Germany’s side. Contrary to your interpretation, the speech was a muscular rejection of isolationism at home and fascism abroad. In his speech Roosevelt rejected the “delusion” of “isolationists” that the United States could be “a lone island in a world dominated by the philosophy of force.” Even more importantly, FDR used his remarks to articulate a tough new US policy. Rather than withdrawing into the Western Hemisphere as urged by many, he announced that America would hasten its rearmament and expedite the flow of aid to “the opponents of force”, in particular Britain and France.

Your second claim, that Roosevelt was “isolationist” or “neutralist” throughout 1940 and 1941, is not supported by the leading historians of the period. You seem to be unaware that Roosevelt’s infamous 30 October speech at the Boston Garden, which is often quoted by his critics, represented a departure from the language he habitually used at that time and was delivered in the closing stages of a tough re-election battle. It is not difficult to understand FDR’s desire to calm voters’ anxieties during the election campaign given that there was still very significant congressional and public opposition to US involvement in the war. Indeed, when the Wehrmacht marched into Poland in September 1939, only 1 in 40 Americans believed the United States should declare war on Germany. That would be a sobering public opinion result for any democratic politician.

Over the course of 1940, FDR used a series of decisions and speeches to tilt the national mood towards supporting aid to European allies, even at the risk of war. In 1941, having been re-elected, he established the Lend-Lease program and sent a torrent of aid (including food, fuel, tanks and ships) to Britain and its empire and, later, to the Soviet Union. Churchill described Lend-Lease as “the most unsordid act in the whole of recorded history.” Roosevelt also steadily expanded US operations in the Atlantic Ocean to include naval patrols, the occupation of Iceland, convoying and a policy of shooting Axis warships on sight. “When you see a rattlesnake poised to strike,” he told Americans in September 1941, “you do not wait until he has struck before you crush him.” By the time of the surprise attack in December, America was waging an undeclared naval war against Germany in the Atlantic.

This is not the record of an isolationist. It is exactly the opposite. More than any other person, FDR pushed isolationism to the margins of the American debate. That is why the isolationists hated him so fiercely.

Together, Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt helped save the world from the Nazis and their allies. They were both great figures. Indeed, Churchill described Roosevelt’s life as “one of the commanding events in human destiny.”

It is not possible, on a five-person panel discussion broadcast on live television, to say everything one wants to say, so thank you for giving me the excuse to expand on the topic at greater length.


Michael Fullilove

Dr Michael Fullilove

Executive Director

Lowy Institute


Gerard Henderson to Michael Fullilove – 8 September 2017

Dear Michael

Thanks for your email of last evening. In response, I make the following comments:

  1. On Q&A last Monday, you condemned President Donald J. Trump for lacking the “moral clarity” to stand up against Nazis during and after the recent demonstrations at Charlottesville. You contrasted President Trump’s position in August 2017 with that taken by President F.D. Roosevelt who spoke at Charlottesville in June 1940 – claiming that he “called out the fascists, the Nazis who were invading Western Europe”. However, as you now concede, FDR made no reference to Nazis or Nazism or Adolf Hitler in his June 1940 speech at Charlottesville. You just made this up.
  2. If, as you claim, FDR’s speech was “a muscular rejection of isolationism at home and fascism abroad” – how come that at Boston in October 1940, during the US presidential election of that year, FDR promised his fellow Americans that their “boys” were “not going to be sent into any foreign wars”? Indeed, FDR in late 1940 declared a position of isolationism – stating that “the purpose of our defense is defense”. You did not tell the Q&A audience this last Monday.
  3. You rationalise FDR’s October 1940 Boston speech on the basis that it was delivered towards the end of “a tough election battle” and he did not really mean it. I doubt that you would let President Trump off-the-hook with such an excuse.
  4. It’s true that in 1940 and 1941 there were Americans far more isolationist than their president. But that’s not the point – and it’s not what you said on Q&A. Rather, you presented FDR as specifically calling out fascists and Nazis in June 1940.
  5. As you know, in December 1941 it was Nazi Germany which declared war on the United States – not the other way around.
  6. I understand the temptation to appeal to fellow Q&A panellists and a Q&A audience in a leftist kind of way by bagging Donald J. Trump. However, this does not warrant distorting history.

In conclusion, as you know, good history is disinterested and emotion free.  During Q&A you identified with President Barack Obama – even going to the extent of describing yourself as sounding “again like an Obama fanboy”. You are obviously also an “FDR fanboy” – but a Trump opponent.  Such barracking does not good history make.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson



As avid readers are aware, Jackie’s (male) co-owner has been asking Peter FitzSimons for the address of the “$30 million mansion in Rome” where he alleged Cardinal George Pell lived in 2015.  See MWD passim ad nauseam.

In fact, Cardinal Pell never lived in such a mansion.  The Red Bandannaed One just made this up.  Hendo even offered the Australian Republic Movement chairman $20,000 for the republican cause if Fitz could stump up the address. Fitz did not reply.  Even so, your man FitzSimons was supported by Fairfax Media’s Sean Aylmer who said that he was “comfortable” with The Red Bandannaed One’s undocumented assertion.  That’s Fairfax Media for you.

Following the correspondence on this issue published last week, Michael Cooney wrote to Hendo in which he – perhaps unintentionally – dumped on Peter FitzSimons. Mr Cooney identified the residence in question as Domus – a four-star hotel (which is not and never was a mansion) situated about a 15 minute drive from the Vatican. Now read on:


Michael Cooney to Gerard Henderson – 1 September 2017

Domus Australia? I’ve stayed there. His Eminence said Mass! Chin up, brother. The week’s almost done.


Gerard Henderson to Michael Cooney – 1 September 2017


Lotsa thanks for your reply.

If you have stayed at Domus Australia you will know that it is a four-star hotel.

Scrubbers like you and me don’t get to stay in mansions in Rome – or anywhere else. Clearly the ARM won’t be claiming the 20k.

Have a happy and holy weekend.

God bless


PS: When the Red Bandannaed One made his point, Cardinal Pell was not living anywhere near Domus Australia. Now I’m off for a Gin and Tonic.

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Until next time.

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