29 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: H.G. Nelson Bores for Football; ABC Concedes One Plus One Howler 
  • Media Fool of the Week: The Twice Married “Curly” Leunig Condemns Marriage 
  • Can You Bear It? Bruce Hawker; George Williams; Peta Credlin & Rowan Dean; Darren Barnett; Clementine Ford; Van Badham 
  • An ABC Update: ABC Still All Quiet on the Jon Stephens Front; The Gruen Transfer’s Mutual Back-Scratching Love-In 
  • New Feature: Abbott-phobia Clinic: Nurse Jackie Treats Patient Jonathan Green 
  • The ABC and Pedophilia: A Timeline 
  • Correspondence:  RMIT’s Professor Des Cahill helps out





It must have been a slow news morning in the judgment of Radio National Breakfast this morning.  How else to explain that the program led into the 8am News with an oh-so-boring interview between Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly and H.G. Nelson (nee Greg Pickhaver)? The latter is a comedian – or so we are told.

Your man Nelson (or was it Pickhaver?) went on and on and on with his faux analysis of Saturday’s Australian Football League and National Rugby League grand finals.  Hendo reckons that he first heard Pickhaver imitating Nelson (or was it the other way round?) about the time that Richmond last won a grand final. Namely in 1980 – or was it 1880?  Yawn.  Just as well there is no news today from the Korean Peninsula, or the Philippines or Myanmar, or the United States or Britain or Germany.  Otherwise your man Nelson would have remained in the shed and not taken the field with his oh-so-familiar send-up of himself.


At 9.43 am this morning Sally Jackson (the ABC’s Media Manager, News and Current Affairs) emailed Gerard Henderson advising that the ABC has decided to post an editor’s note on the One Plus One website.  It reads as follows:

Julian Punch is a former Catholic priest whose tireless battle for social justice and gay rights saw him branded as a renegade. He quit the church after realising he couldn’t lead a double life as a priest and an outspoken gay man.

Editor’s Note: In this interview Julian Punch relates an incident in which two young trainee priests kill themselves, after leaving a seminary in Victoria. This story cannot be verified, as Mr Punch explains in his book.

The ABC never refers to Paul Bongiorno (who left the priesthood in 1973) as a “former Catholic priest”. But it uses this term to describe Julian Punch (who left the priesthood in 1981).

As avid readers will be aware, on 8 September 2017 Julian Punch told One Plus One interviewer Jane Hutcheon that, in the late 1950s/early 1960s, two same-sex attracted young male seminarians left Corpus Christi College in Werribee, took the train to the Melbourne CBD and jumped off a tall building.

Compelling story to be sure – except that it never happened. Even Julian Punch – in his book Gay with God – acknowledged that this a rumour which he has not been able to verify (see Page 60).

It would seem that One Plus One presenter Jane Hutcheon and the program’s executive producer (it could be Tanya Nolan or Annie White, the ABC will not say) did not read Gay with God before interviewing Julian Punch for One Plus One.  Otherwise Mr Punch’s hyperbolic howler would have been deleted before the pre-recorded program went to air.

As today’s “Correspondence” segment reveals, it seems that the ABC has only corrected Julian Punch’s inaccurate statement on the One Plus One website – it has not put a correction before or after the One Plus One program on Iview.

In fact, the entire Jane Hutcheon/Julian Punch interview is littered with errors. MWD will document the Punch howlers in their entirety next week. [I can barely wait, MWD Ed]



Shortly before going out today. MWD was advised that the ABC will edit One Plus One to overcome the above mentioned error. We will keep you informed how this work out.



The Age last Saturday carried a “Curly World” column by its in-house leftist Michael Leunig.  Your man Leunig vented his spleen on marriage – traditional marriage, same sex marriage and so on.

The Age’s veteran cartoonist described marriage as a “dubious archaic institution” and the “pain-riddled flagship of Western respectability”.  He added that “marriage is such a serious health risk that there might be a judicial inquiry into it one day”. Indeed, according to The Age cartoonist, “the modern family is collaboration and fundamental building block in the perpetuation of a disastrous dog-eat-dog world”.

Now Comrade Leunig does not list any personal details in his entry in Who’s Who in Australia with respect to date of birth, marital status and so on.  However, according to Wikipedia, your man Leunig has been married not once but twice.  In which case by his own reckoning, Mr Curly (aka Mr Leunig) is responsible, in part at least, for this Vale of Tears – this disastrous dog-eat-dog world in which we reside.

Michael Leunig: Media Fool of the Week.





 It is widely known that the Turnbull government went to the 2016 election promising that, if re-elected, it would conduct a plebiscite to determine whether a majority of Australian voters support same sex marriage.  This proposal was defeated in the Senate by the Labor Party, the Greens and some crossbenchers.  So, the Coalition conducted a voluntary postal survey instead – which is currently underway.

A plebiscite would have taken just under six weeks from the opening of the campaign to the compulsory ballot which was planned for Saturday 11 February 2017.  But it was not to be.  So, later in the year, the Coalition came out with an alternative – the postal survey.  These survey forms commenced being distributed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on 12 September 2017 and all forms have to be returned by 7 November 2017.

Bruce Hawker is a long-time Labor Party operative. This is what he had to say when interviewed by David Speers on Sky News’ PM Agenda last Tuesday:

Bruce Hawker:  Look, I think the [postal] survey form is far from perfect. It would have been better left to the politicians to make a decision.  But given that this is the way in which the government’s gone about trying to avoid a referendum or a major plebiscite on the issue – then you’ve got to take the survey results and say: “Well that’s an indication of the voter’s intentions. Fifty plus one, that’s it. Game over.”

What a load of tosh. A referendum on the issue was never a possibility since same sex marriage can be introduced without amending the Constitution.  The Turnbull government did not try to avoid holding a referendum. It wasn’t necessary.

Moreover, the Turnbull government did not try to avoid having a “major plebiscite on the issue”.  It wanted one but was prevented by your man Hawker’s Labor Party comrades in the Senate.  And yet Bruce Hawker – Labor Party operative – reckons that the Coalition is responsible for not conducting a plebiscite on same sex marriage. Can You Bear It?


While on the topic of the same sex marriage postal survey, did anyone read the opinion piece by George Williams in Fairfax Media newspapers on Monday?  Professor Williams, a one-time unsuccessful Labor Party pre-selection candidate, is Dean of Law at the University of NSW – and regarded by Fairfax Media as perhaps the leading constitutional law expert in the land.

As avid readers are aware, your man Williams’ recent appearance at the National Press Club was a bit of a disaster. His speech was titled “Dual citizens and the postal survey: what might the High Court say?” On 30 August 2017, he predicted that the High Court of Australia would find the same sex marriage postal survey unconstitutional.  The High Court found that it was constitutional – by seven judges to zip.

On Monday, Professor Williams wrote his first column for Fairfax Media since his disastrous prophecy of recent memory.  Did he attempt to explain why his High Court prediction was hopelessly wrong?  Not on your nelly. Professor Williams totally avoided the issue and banged on instead about the need to junk the prayer before the sitting of the House of Representatives.  On this issue Professor Williams is on a unity ticket with the Greens’ Senator Lee Rhiannon – not a recommended position to be in.

The learned professor even told Fairfax Media readers that it is “the Protestant version of the Lord’s Prayer” which is recited by the speaker of the House of Representatives.  Except that it isn’t.  Professor Williams seems unaware that, around the time of the Second Vatican Council over half a century ago, the Catholic Church added the words: “For thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever Amen” to its version of The Lord’s Prayer – thus eliminating the difference between the Protestant and Catholic versions. [Perhaps academics in UNSW don’t say many prayers – MWD Editor.]

And, it came to pass that, instead of seeking forgiveness for his false High Court prophecy, UNSW’s Dean of Law decided to bang on in Fairfax Media about the Lord’s Prayer and all that stuff. Can You Bear It?


While on the subject of prayer, Jackie’s (male) co-owner is praying for an invitation to co-present Sky News’ Jones & Co when Alan Jones is on, yes, a well-earned break and Peta Credlin is in the presenter’s chair.  Like what happened last Tuesday when Ms Credlin stood in for Mr Jones and Rowan Dean, editor of The Spectator Australia, took the co-presenter’s chair.

Peta Credlin told viewers that she had just read Mr Dean’s column in the Courier Mail and it was great. Truly great.  And, quelle surprise, Mr Dean agreed.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Peta Credlin: …and this is something that Rowan Dean wrote about in his column on Monday. It was a great piece, Rowan, in the Courier Mail. And to be honest, if the Liberal Party was prepared to take on board the strategy you outlined, they might just be able to craft a plan to claw back their polling losses and save a government that looks more and more like a lame duck administration.

Rowan Dean:  Yeah well, Peta I agree with every word you say there….

So, Peta said that Rowan was great.  And Rowan agreed with every word she said in quoting his words. Can You Bear It?


While on the topic of Sky News, here’s how Paul Murray Live concluded last Thursday – not with the wisdom of Solomon but with a Bob-Ellis style false prophecy.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Paul Murray: We’ve got one-minute left here. So, give me an idea of your winner and loser of the week here, Darrin.

Darrin Barnett: The winner is Jacinda Ardern who will win the New Zealand election. Loser of the week is Julie Bishop – when she has to talk to her [Ms Ardern] next week having said “I will never deal and never trust a New Zealand Labour government”.

Paul Murray: Well – and the [New Zealand] Labour leader said that there’s been zero chat since. So, the chief diplomat [Julie Bishop] is off having photos with Ivanka Trump

Darrin Barnett: With Ivanka Trump. But ignoring our nearest neighbour.

Paul Murray: Ridiculous. NZ in ANZAC is New Zealand, Julie. You might want to remember it when you’re prime minister – when the moderates put you in instead of Malcolm.

That was Thursday night. The new week has arrived and Jacinda Ardern is not prime minister of New Zealand.  It’s possible that she might stitch up support from minor parties and form a government who knows?

Bill English’s Nationals won 46 per cent of the vote to Labour’s 36 per cent – and 58 seats to Labour’s 45 seats.  The one ACT New Zealand (Association of Consumers and Taxpayers) member of parliament will support the Nationals. The Nationals are ahead of Labour and the Greens combined both with respect to votes and seats won.  The most likely outcome is that the Nationals will win a fourth term but the result of the election may not be known for around two weeks.

So, Ms Ardern will not be prime minister this week – contrary to Darrin Barnett’s (false) prophesy.  By the way, Mr Barnett is a fellow at the Australian Labor Party aligned McKell Institute and an expert in labour politics. He appears on Paul Murray Live in this capacity. Can You Bear It?


Last Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald ran a column by feminist Clementine Ford titled “Jill Meagher’s legacy five years on”. The reference was to the murder in 2012 of ABC employee Jill Meagher by Adrian Bayley, who was on parole.  Ms Meagher was dragged off Sydney Road, Brunswick in Melbourne and murdered.

There were two lines in the Clementine Ford piece. First, Ms Ford argued that “some media outlets and personalities indulged traditional narratives of victim blaming” – i.e. she claimed that Jill Meagher was blamed for her own murder.  A serious charge, indeed. But Ms Ford did not name one media outlet or personality who (allegedly) had done the “victim blaming”. How convenient.

Clementine Ford also claimed that media outlets/journalists had made the following comments at the time of Jill Meagher’s death. Namely, “Why was she walking home alone?” and “She looks like a party girl”. The question is – who made these (alleged) comments and when?  Or did Ms Ford make them up herself to fit her story? – even though they were presented as direct quotations.  A Google search reveals that the only reference to the two quotes is in Clementine Ford’s very own column of 22 September 2017. Fancy that.

The second thesis in the Ford column was this:

At the outset, it can’t be overlooked Jill was a young, attractive, middle-class white woman who worked in the media. The phenomenon of the Missing White Woman Syndrome is real, and speaks to the covert (and not so covert) ways racism and classism especially dovetail to elevate the value of certain women over others.

What a load of tosh.  The response to Jill Meagher’s disappearance and murder did not turn on race or class. It’s just that this was a shocking crime. The shocking disappearance and murder of Karmein Chan in Melbourne in 1991, Quanne Diec in Sydney in 1998 and Corryn Rayney in Perth in 2007 also received widespread media attention.  Ms Chan and Ms Diec were girls of Asian background and Ms Rayney was a woman of Indian background. These cases attained wide-scale media coverage despite that not one of the three fitted in with Ms Ford’s “Missing White Woman Syndrome”.  All were missing but not one was white.

All this suggests that Clementine Ford starts off with a theory about racism and class and then makes up “quotes” and “facts” to support her theory. Can You Bear It?


While on the topic “look-mum-no-facts” rants, how about The Guardian Australia’s Van Badham on ABC TV’s The Drum on Monday?  It only took a question from presenter Ellen Fanning about the German election – and the relative success of the far right AfD (Alternative for Germany) party and its co-leader Alexander Gauland to set Ms Badham off.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Ellen Fanning: He [Alexander Gauland] also called on Germans last week to be proud of the service their soldiers gave in two world wars. Now how close does that get to – sort of cracking that consensus around the taboo about having that conversation in Germany?

 Van Badham: Well look, you know, time has passed and clearly the globalised nature of media – the globalised nature of those far-right discussions and discourses. You know, Germans are not immune from that. But I think it’s important for people to remember that while there’s been a social taboo against that in Germany obviously, for pretty good reasons. Spoiler Alert: they lost the Second World War comprehensively.

The issue is, of course, that sentiment has never gone away from a minority within the population. It hasn’t gone away in America, it hasn’t gone away here. You know, it’s all about whether the broader social discussion facilitates the emergence of that kind of extremism or not. And I don’t agree – it’s not – we can say yes for this element of the population who are voting for this part, this is about the open borders policy. But why is the open borders policy a problem for people? Because people feel economically insecure. Because there are structural economic problems in East Germany that have not gone away. That there are problems with unskilled workers finding employment. And if we want to understand why those borders were open, I mean yes, Angela Merkel’s positions do go in all kinds of different directions. But at the end of the day she’s a pro-capitalist leader of a country who is looking at a million new consumers in a domestic market that has to grow to survive. Germany has very stagnant population, without immigration their internal markets are not going to expand, there are economic reasons for the situations that they’re in.

A stunning – albeit somewhat inarticulate – performance, don’t you think?  First up, Van Badham delivered a “Spoiler Alert” – telling viewers of The Drum that Germany was defeated in the Second World War.  Thanks for that.

Then The Guardian Australia’s columnist told The Drum that the pro-Nazi sentiment that prevailed in Germany before the defeat of Adolf Hitler in 1945 has “not gone away” in Germany or – wait for it – in the United States or Australia.  This despite the fact that the US and Australia both played a part in the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945.

Also, Van Badham is not able to comprehend why some Germans oppose the immigration of poorly skilled migrants from North Africa and the Middle East. And this is the best analysis that the Guardian Australia can provide on contemporary Germany. Can You Bear It?



One of ABC TV News’ leading stories on Wednesday was a report that former Channel 9 A Current Affairs journalist Ben McCormack had pleaded guilty to child pornography charges in Sydney.

This served as a reminder – if such a reminder was necessary – that ABC TV News failed to report that, in late June 2017, former ABC TV producer Jon Stephens pleaded guilty in Gosford Local District Court to having sexually assaulted a 14-year-old male ABC casual employee while on an ABC assignment near Gosford in 1981.

The ABC reports cases involving media personalities like Ben McCormack (child pornography), Rolf Harris (sexual assault in London) and former Channel 7 actor Robert Hughes (child sexual assault). But when it comes to reporting its own past employment of pedophiles (eg Richard Neville) the ABC throws the switch to silence driven by denial.  What’s more the ABC’s very own case of historic child sexual abuse has been sent down the taxpayer funded public broadcaster’s memory hole – like the Jon Stephens’ case. On this occasion, one of the reasons given for ABC TV’s decision not to report the Jon Stephens’ historic child sexual abuse was – wait for it – bushfires in the Hunter Valley.  What better reason could there be for such silence?

See below MWD’s “The ABC and Pedophilia: A Timeline” – published today for the very first time.  But not for the last time.



ABC TV’s Q&A had a WEB (as in a Well-Earned-Break) last Monday.  It seems that the leftist baying mob that usually occupies the majority of audience seats at Q&A and sneers and laughs on demand – in a Sandalista kind of way – headed off to The Gruen Transfer instead.

Last Wednesday’s program was one of those occasions on the ABC where everyone agrees with everyone else and a wonderful ideological time is had by all.  It’s a bit like a church of old – replete with believers of the One True Faith who all endorse each other’s beliefs.

On the The Gruen Transfer this week there were two main topics up for discussion by presenter Wil Anderson and the panel – Russel Howcroft, Todd Sampson, Karen Ferry and Lauren Fried. Namely, Same Sex Marriage (of course) and Racism (well, naturally) – after all, this is the taxpayer funded public broadcaster.

Karen agreed with Todd who agreed with Russel who agreed with Lauren who agreed with Wil who agreed with himself that SSM is the way to go – for advertisers and their clients alike.  No other view was heard.  In passing, everyone agreed that AFL commentator Sam Newman (who opposes the AFL’s pro-SSM campaign) is “totally dinosaur”. Moreover, Ms Ferry reminded the audience that “we’re not North Korea”. Thanks for that – now we know.

In the process, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce was praised as a “perfect spokesperson” for the cause (everyone agreed) and a tweet by an opponent of SSM was read in a voice-over which sounded as it had been written by an idiot (everyone laughed).

Then discussion soon turned on whether Australia is a racist country.  You betcha – was the consensus as Wil agreed with Karen who agreed with Todd who agreed with Russel who agreed with Wil who agreed with the Sandalista Set in the taxpayer funded public broadcaster’s studio. What a hoot.

The only unfashionable comment during the program occurred when Wil Anderson responded to Karen Ferry’s claim that most of those who opposed SSM were retired and would soon die – and, consequently, were of no use to anyone seeking an audience. Let’s go to the transcript as Karen Ferry makes a somewhat rambling comment:

Wil Anderson: Karen, is there an opportunity for a brand to court the “No” vote?

Karen Ferry: Sure, like, you could do it on the short term. But for a long term strategy it’s probably a really bad idea. Like, if you look at stats of who supports the “No” vote, it’s predominantly older people, it’s majority is like 65 Plus. If you think about the next twenty years – they’re going to be older, they’re moving into retirement. They’re going to die. And then you’re left with, if you’re a company and if you have got this millennial target audience that are like going to be 54 per cent of the population by 2030. They’re going to look at you and they’re going to hate your brand and your target audience are going to dead. So—

Wil Anderson: I gotta be honest with you. There’s a period between retirement and death we call “watching the ABC”. That’s a very important demographic.

Quite so. It seems that when appearing on The Drum, Karen Ferry is unaware that ABC audiences are not as young as they once were – or as young as Ms Ferry.

Oh yes, the middle of last Wednesday’s program was devoted to railing at politicians who own more than one house.  No one on the panel mentioned that Phillip Adams, the ABC’s Man in Black and Leading Luvvie, was reported in last Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald as having sold his Paddington pile (referred to as the “White House”) for circa $6 million.  Rest assured, Australia’s wealthiest socialist is not homeless.  He has a farm near Scone and an apartment in the prestigious Macleay Regis in Potts Point. But unlike such multiple homeowners like the Liberal Party’s Peter Dutton and the Labour Party’s Joel Fitzgibbon, the ABC’s Man-in-Black evaded criticism on The Gruen Transfer.

 It seems that the advertising types on The Gruen Transfer look after their own. After all, your man Adams made his personal pile flogging goods and services for the high-profile advertising company Monahan Dayman Adams.



Due to overwhelming popular demand, this segment has been introduced to cover the utterances and actions of public figures who have contracted a serious dose of Abbott-phobia.  Sufferers of this condition present as normal individuals who become unhinged temporarily and attempt to blame their own particular Valley of Tears on Australia’s 28th prime minister.

This week’s patient is ABC Radio National presenter and Meanjin editor Jonathan Green.  Your man Green had this to say on ABC’s The Drum last Tuesday. Ellen Fanning was in the presenter’s chair as discussion turned on an advertisement for the “Yes” campaign fronted by Frances Abbott, one of Tony Abbott’s daughters. Let’s go to the transcript:

Jonathan Green: It’s [Frances Abbott’s support for the “Yes” case] such a simple proposition and an unarguable one. But it makes that beautiful point of contrast against her father’s position. And this entire process is a thing engineered by her father to licence – I’m going to say – to licence bigotry.

Ellen Fanning: Alright –

Jonathan Green: To licence the expressions of views that are unpalatable in normal terms. That’s the entire intent of this process….

 Ming Long: I actually think, as a role model, the Abbott family is absolutely stand out for me at the moment. Because they’ve got both sides of the debate that’s sitting there – they’re quite open in terms of having the ability and the confidence to be able to express it.

 Ellen Fanning: So you think she [Frances Abbott] is leading?

 Ming Long: She is absolutely leading –

 Jonathan Green [interjecting]: And yet that family has created a situation which is causing great misery for a lot of Australians as well.

So, there you have it. According to Jonathan Green, Tony Abbott “engineered” the same sex postal vote in order “to licence bigotry”. Mr Green seems to be saying that anyone who votes “No” is a bigot.  Really. What’s more, your man Green reckons that Mr Abbott is not the only one to create a situation whereby bigotry now pervades the land.  Rather, “that family” – namely, the Abbott Family – has created the situation. Including, apparently, those members of the Abbott Family who will be voting “No”. Confusing, eh?

Nurse Jackie’s Analysis: The ABC’s Jonathan Green presented on the ABC’s The Drum in a somewhat delusional state – believing, apparently, that even “Yes” voters are bigots – if the “Yes” voters belong to the Abbott Family.  I would recommend a bottle of gin a day for seven days plus lotsa tonic supplemented by a reading of The Holy Name Monthly back to 1917.  The ensuing sleep should help the patient return to normal mental health by Burnie Show Day next Friday and ready for another appearance on The Drum.



1970: Richard Neville’s memoir Play Power is released.  In his chapter titled “Group Grope”, Neville boasts about having a “hurricane f_ck” with a “moderately attractive, intelligent, cherubic fourteen-year-old girl from a nearby London comprehensive school”.  At the time Neville (born in 1941) was in his late twenties – i.e. he was about twice the age of his schoolgirl victim.

1975: Despite being a self-confessed pedophile, Richard Neville obtains a presenter’s job on the ABC radio program titled Lateline which ran on the public broadcaster’s second radio network (the equivalent of Radio National today). Lateline came within the domain of the ABC left-wing producer Alan Ashbolt.

14 July 1975: Richard Neville presents a program titled “Pederasty” on Lateline.  Three pederasts are interviewed in the ABC studio in Sydney by Neville, who adopts a non-judgmental attitude to their child sexual abuse. A couple of young male victims are also interviewed for the program. The program is reported in detail in The National Times on 21 July 1975.

1975: When the “Pederasty” program becomes a matter of controversy, the tapes of the program are destroyed along with any transcripts.  Neither Alan Ashbolt nor Richard Neville nor any member of the ABC management reports the pederasts to NSW Police or adopts a duty-of-care to the pederasts’ victims who, if alive today, would be in their fifties – i.e. around the same age as some complainants/victims who gave evidence to the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in recent years.

19 July 1975: In the wake of the “Pederasty” controversy, the ABC chairman Professor Richard Downing writes a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald calling on Australians to “understand” the urges of pederasts.

19 July 1975:   The Sydney Morning Herald quotes Professor Downing as saying that “in general, men will sleep with young boys”.

1981: ABC TV producer Jon Stephens sexually abuses a 14-year-old male ABC casual employee while on official ABC duties near Gosford.

1983: This is the ABC: The Australian Broadcasting Commission: 1932-1983 is published by Melbourne University Press. Its author, Ken Inglis, was given access to ABC records.  In a segment titled “Permissiveness and Politics”, Ken Inglis documents the controversy concerning Richard Neville’s “Pederasty” program of eight years earlier but does not mention Neville’s name.

3 September 2015:  Following the ABC’s widescale coverage of historical child sexual abuse in religious, secular and government organisations, Gerard Henderson writes to ABC chairman Jim Spigelman AO QC on 3 September 2015 as follows:

Professor Downing – one of your predecessors as ABC chairman – once called for an understanding of pederasty in his official capacity as ABC chairman.  Are you prepared – on behalf of the ABC – to renounce the view expressed by Professor Downing in 1975?  If not, why not?

On 4 September 2015, the ABC chairman replied as follows:

Dear Mr Henderson

I can think of nothing polite to say about your suggestion. I will content myself with the observation that mine is not an Apostolic Succession.

Yours sincerely

Jim Spigelman

10 May 2017: Following the appointment of Justin Milne as ABC chairman, Gerard Henderson wrote to him as follows:

In July 1975, Richard Downing – acting in his position as ABC chairman – took a public stand on the issue of pederasty.  In a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald – published on 19 July 1975 – he called on Australians to “understand” the urges of pederasts.  The letter was signed “Prof. R. Downing, Chairman, Australian Broadcasting Commission”. As you know, what was the Australian Broadcasting Commission was renamed the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in 1983. On the same day, the Sydney Morning Herald quoted the (then) ABC chairman as saying: “In general, men will sleep with young boys…”.

As the ABC’s contemporary chairman, will you disassociate the public broadcaster from comments made by Professor Downing – one of your predecessors – in 1975?  If not, why not?

Does the ABC have any intention of ascertaining whether the victims of the three pederasts who appeared on the 1975 “Pederasty” program are alive today?  If so, does the public broadcaster regard itself as having a duty of care with respect to these victims?  If not, why not?

17 May 2017: Michael Millett, the ABC Director Government Relations, writes to Gerard Henderson on behalf of the ABC as follows:

The ABC feels there is nothing to be gained in revisiting this matter. The program and subsequent debate took place a long time ago and did not indicate nor set any kind of policy.

Late June 2017: Jon Stephens pleads guilty in Gosford District Local Court to a case of historic child sexual abuse against a male ABC casual employee while on an ABC assignment near Gosford in 1981.  He is sentenced to a minimum of 6 months in jail.

The ABC does not report Stephens’ conviction.  Nor does the Fairfax Media.  The Stephens’ case is reported by News Corp papers which reveal that the victim is currently living in a van.

Wednesday 12 September 2017:  The Gosford Local District Court reduces Stephens’ term of imprisonment due to his medical condition.  ABC News reports the court’s decision on its 1 pm ABC Radio News only and then drops the story.  According to Gaven Morris, Head ABC News, the Stephens case was not reported in later bulletins due to “significant bushfires in both the Hunter Valley and across NSW”.

14 September 2017:  Gaven Morris declines to say whether the ABC has provided counselling to Stephens’ victim or offered him financial compensation.

The ABC and Pedophilia Time Line leads to the following conclusions:

▪ Both Jim Spigelman (the ABC’s past chairman) and Justin Milne (the ABC’s present chairman) do not accept any responsibility for the statements and inaction on pedophilia by Professor Richard Downing (a former chairman).  This despite the fact that some ABC presenters and journalists have demanded that the Anglican and Catholic church leaders take responsibility for any inaction on pedophilia by their predecessors.  There is no evidence that any Church leader made statements on pedophilia of the kind made by Professor Downing on behalf of the ABC, in 1975.  If this had been the case, it surely would have been reported on the ABC.

▪ The ABC has all but ignored the Jon Stephens case. This despite the fact that ABC presenters and journalists have reported the conviction on pedophile offences by media employees in the commercial media and elsewhere.

▪ The ABC will not say whether it has adopted a duty of care to Jon Stephens’ victim or whether it has offered counselling and/or paid compensation.  The victim, who is reported to be living in a van, would be around 50 today.  This despite the fact that many ABC presenters and journalists have advocated that victims of child sexual abuse in Christian institutions receive counselling and generous financial compensation.

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

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

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


As avid readers will be aware, on numerous occasions this year Gerard Henderson has written that, on a per capita basis, there was more child sexual abuse in institutions run by the Uniting Church than in institutions run by the Catholic Church in the period between 1950 and 2015.  He made this point in his Weekend Australian column (29 April 2017 and 9 September 2017), in Media Watch Dog (see Issues 353,360, 365, 369, 375 and 376) and in his Christopher Dawson Centre Lecture (large parts of which were published in the Catholic Weekly on 14 June 2017 and in the July/August 2017 issue of Quadrant magazine.)

The source for Gerard Henderson’s analysis was statements in early 2017 to the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse by counsel-assisting Gail Furness SC and Angus Stewart SC. No one – including no one from the Royal Commission or the Uniting Church of Australia (UCA) – has disputed Gerard Henderson’s analysis. Until Wednesday 13 September 2017, when Des Cahill appeared on the ABC Radio 774 program in Melbourne and received a soft interview from Glen Bartholomew. Professor Cahill discussed a report which he co-authored titled Child Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church: An Interpretative Review of the Literature and Public Inquiry Reports (RMIT Centre for Global Research).

In response to a call from listener “Troy” on ABC 774, Professor Cahill said that the comment that sexual child abuse was higher on a per-capital basis within the Uniting Church than within the Catholic Church is “simply untrue”.  Gerard Henderson took up the issue with Des Cahill – as the following correspondence documents. The correspondence is quoted in full – except for the deletion of personal comments of no relevance to the central issue and the correction of a couple of typographical errors. Now read on:

Gerard Henderson to Des Cahill – 18 September 2017

Professor Cahill

A friend in Melbourne has drawn my attention to a comment you made on the ABC 774 Drive program on Wednesday 13 September 2017 – following a call from a person named “Troy”.  This took place during your discussion with presenter Glen Bartholomew concerning the report Child Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church which you co-authored with Peter Wilkinson.

I understand that the interview contained the following exchange:

Troy from Diggers Rest: Yeah, good afternoon. Look, I tend to agree with most of what the gentleman has said – particularly of the Christian Brothers because a lot of them entered when they were only 13 or 14 years of age. However, in regards to celibacy, I think he’s wrong. The fact is that the Royal Commission has found that per head of population – now only per head of population – the Uniting Church committed more offences, sexual abuse offences, than the Catholic Church per head of population –

Glen Bartholomew: Professor, you’re shaking your head there –

Troy from Diggers Rest:  ­– and they [the Uniting Church] are not celibate…..So, I would just like to disregard celibacy as the issue.

Glen Bartholomew: Troy, thank you. But your shaking you’re head there, professor.

Professor Des Cahill: Well, um, the figures I noted have been quoted in some articles about the Uniting Church are simply untrue. Simply untrue. I can’t emphasise that enough….

As you may or may not know, I have made a point similar to that made by “Troy” in my column (i) in The Weekend Australian, (ii) in my weekly Media Watch Dog blog which is carried by The Australian Online on Fridays and (iii) in an article in the July 2017 issue of Quadrant which carried an extract from my address to the Christopher Dawson Centre in Hobart.

No one (including from the Royal Commission and the Uniting Church) has queried my analysis – until your comment on ABC Radio 774 last Wednesday. My analysis is as follows.

Addressing the Royal Commission (during its 15 day-long Catholic “wrap”) on 16 February 2017, Counsel Assisting Gail Furness SC had this to say about the Catholic Church:

Between January 1950 and February 2015, 4,445 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.

Addressing the Royal Commission (during its half-day Uniting Church “wrap”) on 10 March 2017, Counsel Assisting Angus Stewart SC had this to say concerning the Uniting Church:

Analysis of the data by the Royal Commission reveals that in the 40 years since the 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 Church.

As you know, the Uniting Church was formed in 1977 – following the amalgamation of the Methodist Church and much of both the Presbyterian and Congregational churches.  Consequently, Mr Stewart’s figures did not include data between 1950 and 1976 with respect to the Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational churches.  Such a statistic would have increased the incidents or allegations beyond the figure of 2504 cited at the Royal Commission.

Since the Catholic Church is about five times the size of the Uniting Church, the Royal Commission’s statistics indicate that, on a per capita basis, child abuse within the Uniting Church was higher than within the Catholic Church.  This is the case, even if the period 1950 to 1978 is not counted.

In view of the above, it would be appreciated if you could advise how you came to the conclusion that the above analysis is “simply untrue”.  If my analysis is “simply untrue”, I will correct it.  However, you did not support your assertion with any evidence during your ABC Radio 774 interview.

Over to you

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

 Des Cahill to Gerard Henderson – 18 September 2017

 Dear Gerard,

Greetings from Darwin where my capacity to access the Internet and my home computer is limited. Thank you for making contact….As you are probably aware, I am a former priest who studied at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome…. I remain a committed and practising Catholic. In responding to your query, I would respectfully ask you to read through our report which is available as follows. Google RMIT Centre for Global Research and then click on the research button and hopefully the research study is there. I have been studying this issue intensively for five years during which time in 2015 I was a consultant to the Royal Commission.

I want to stress the complexity of the issue of clerical sexual abuse in Catholic Church settings. As we make clear in the report it is a global issue for the Catholic Church except for the Eastern Catholic Churches where there is virtually no child abuse with one significant exception which is outlined in the report and which has attracted some attention following the release of our report on Wednesday in the US and Australia.

Regarding the UCA issue I also looked at Gail Furness’ statement and it did not make sense to me. And I do not understand the lack of UCA reaction. I draw you to pages 181 – 186 of our report, especially Table 7.3 on page 182. In particular I want to draw your attention to the evidence given by the Deputy Commissioner (now Chief Commissioner) Ashton to the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry in October 2012, and then to the figures in Table 7.3 based on Judge McClellan’s interim figures upon which I have commented in our report. Some of the commentary may surprise you.

It is important that a distinction is made about child abuse committed by ordained/certified ministers of religion and employees employed by the religious denomination especially in residential care facilities. This was the problem for the Salvation Army. The Commission’s own figures give the weighted figure for Australian priests since 1950 as 7.9 per cent. The figures for religious brothers is far, far worse with the worst being The St John of God brothers with a 40 per cent offending rate because they were in charge of disabled children. The figures for the Christian and Marist brothers is less but still astounding. Access to children, especially to vulnerable children, is a key determinant.

Again, I stress the complexity of the issues surrounding the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests and religious brothers as we have outlined in our report. And as we say in the first paragraph, “……And what would God think?”

Over to you! This is an important conversation.


Des Cahill

Gerard Henderson to Des Cahill – 20 September 2017

Dear Des

Thanks for your prompt response from Darwin.

In reply to your email, I make the following responses:

  1. You went on ABC Radio 774 last Wednesday and said that the claim – that, on a per capita basis, the level of clerical child sexual abuse was higher in the Uniting Church than in the Catholic Church – was “simply untrue”. You did not mention my name – but I am one of only a couple of commentators who had made the point with which you disagreed. The only other person to make this claim, as far as I am aware, is Monica Doumit.

The claim that “simply untrue” statements have been made in this area is a serious allegation. However, in your email, you do not even mention Angus Stewart SC’s comment re the Uniting Church at the Royal Commission. And all you say of Gail Furness SC’s statement at the Royal Commission re the Catholic Church is that “it did not make sense” to you.

Since more than $500 million has been spent on the Royal Commission, it is reasonable to expect that the evidence presented by its counsel assisting is accurate.  In fact – contrary to what you said on ABC 774 – your disagreement is with statistics presented to the Royal Commission by counsel assisting as recently as early this year.

I intend to stick with my analysis unless it is corrected by Justice McClellan or Ms Furness or Mr Stewart.  On the material presented to the Royal Commission, the evidence does suggest that, on a per capital basis, a child was safer in an institution run by the Catholic Church than in an institution run by the Uniting Church (including its predecessors) in the period between 1950 and 2015.

  1. I have obtained a copy of your report titled Child Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church: an Interpretive Review of the Literature and Public Inquiry Reports. I have examined, in particular, Table 7.3 on Page 182.

I do not quite understand Table 7.3. For example, it has the Uniting Church with 20.2 per cent of the faith population in 1961.  But, as you know, the Uniting Church did not come into existence until 1977. Table 7.3 makes reference to the Uniting Church and the Presbyterian Church – but not to the Congregational Church or the Methodist Church.

The “notifications” in Table 7.3 are different with respect to the Catholic, Anglican, and Uniting Church from that provided to Justice McClellan by counsel assisting.  This is especially the case with respect to the Anglican and Uniting churches.

You have worked on occasions for the Royal Commission. So you are in a much better position than me to check the Royal Commission’s apparently contradictory figures.  I and others should not be accused of making simply untrue statements when we merely reported evidence presented to – and not contradicted by – the Royal Commission.

  1. I do not understand the distinction between “child abuse committed by ordained/certified ministers of religion and employees employed by the religious denomination” – in so far as the victims of such crimes are concerned.   The crime of child sexual abuse would be a crime irrespective of whether a school run by a religion consisted of 100 per cent clerics or 100 per cent laity.

True, the figures for St John of God brothers are absolutely shocking.  But no more shocking than those for the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

  1. I note from the Child Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church report that in English speaking and Northern European countries “there has been a substantial decline in clerical child abuse by Catholic priests and religious since the 1980s”.  In other words, close to four decades ago. Yet the way Glen Bartholomew presented the issue on ABC Radio 774 last Wednesday, a listener might get the impression that clerical child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church is a contemporary – rather than historical – problem.


  1. In your report you provided “ten reasons for the decline” of clerical child sexual abuse since the 1980s. But in this part of your report you neglected to mention the establishment by (then) Archbishop George Pell in 1996 of the Melbourne Response and the establishment the following year of Towards Healing by the other Catholic archbishops and bishops in Australia.  This is a serious omission – which is unfair to the Australian Catholic Hierarchy who were among the first clerics in the English speaking world to set up a process to deal with clerical child sexual abuse.  As you will be aware, the Melbourne Response was established in cooperation with Victoria Police.
  1. I note that the summary to your section titled “Comparison with other professional groups” contains the following comment:

In summary, among the various religious groups in Australia, the available evidence shows that the incidence [sic] child sexual abuse is numerically higher within the Catholic Church than other Christian Churches and other faith groups in raw numbers, but not necessarily in terms of prevalence. Several groups have higher ratios, but special factors were operating in these instances.

This comment seems consistent with the view which I have previously expressed – and which you dismissed on ABC Radio 774 was “simply untrue”. If clerical child sexual abuse is no more prevalent in the Catholic Church than in other Christian churches – then the Royal Commission’s finding that such specific Catholic practices as confession as a factor in clerical child sexual abuse falls apart.

In conclusion, I repeat that I am standing by my interpretation of the Royal Commission’s statistics until they are corrected or clarified by Justice Peter McClellan or a member of the Royal Commission’s staff.  Nothing I have said on this matter is “simply untrue”. It is you who are in disagreement with the most recent evidence provided by the Royal Commission’s counsels-assisting.

Best wishes – enjoy your time in Darwin.

Gerard Henderson

Des Cahill to Gerard Henderson – 20 September 2017

Hi, Gerard,

Thanks for your detailed response!

Regarding the points made in your response, I am in Darwin and will not be back in Melbourne until the weekend when I will have access to my office and the relevant papers. My apologies.

I trust you have learned much by reading our report and in understanding the historical and psychological complexity of the issue. It is a catastrophe for the Church.


Des Cahill

Gerard Henderson to Des Cahill – 20 September 2017


Thanks for your note.

There is no problem in responding to my note.  I understand how difficult it would be to cover such topics while away from your office. I remain of the view that there is a conflict between the evidence presented in your research paper and the evidence presented to the Royal Commission earlier this year.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

Gerard Henderson to Des Cahill – 29 September 2017


I had another look at your correspondence last night – particularly your email of 18 September 2017, in which you wrote:

Regarding the UCA issue I also looked at Gail Furness’ statement and it did not make sense to me. And I do not understand the lack of UCA reaction.

The figures on child sexual abuse within the Uniting Church of Australia were provided to the Royal Commission by Angus Stewart SC. Not Gail Furness SC. Ms Furness provided the figures with respect to the Catholic Church.

A likely reason why the Uniting Church of Australia did not react to my articles in The Australian – pointing that out, on a per capita basis, child sexual abuse was higher in the Uniting Church than in the Catholic Church – can be best explained as follows.  The statistics which I quoted – and which you categorised as “simply false” – were provided to the Royal Commission by the Uniting Church itself.  In short, there is no reason why the UCA should “react” to me quoting its own statistics.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson