GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG
ISSUE – NO. 387
17 NOVEMBER 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.
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Stop Press: Catherine McGregor’s SMH Rant Against One-Time Besties
Great Media U-Turns of our Time: The Sydney Morning Herald Plus Fairfax Media’s Mark Kenny on the Postal Survey
New Feature: A Media-Interruptus Moment in which Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly Gives it to Senator Cormann + A Postscript on Interruptions on The Drum
Can You Bear It? Judith Brett, Mike Smith (Ex-ANZ) as Told to the AFR & Elizabeth Farrelly
An ABC Update: Aunty Out to Lunch on SSM Live Survey Results; Matt Wordsworth and James Valentine Ignore the “M” word; Aunty’s Super Supa Howler on Greg “Highwood”
The Flann O’Brien Gong for Literary Sludge: Philosopher Rai Gaita Scores (Again) with a Contribution to Jonathan Green’s Meanjin
History Corner: The biographer of Freda Brown (Lee Rhiannon’s Mum) in Denial About the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939
Correspondence: Tim Fischer Helps Out (Sort of) – Making it Possible for Hendo to Rail About the Red-Badannaed One
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CATHERINE McGREGOR CHANNELS ELIZABETH FARRELLY IN THE FACT-FREE COLUMNS OF THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD There was a time, not so long ago, when Catherine McGregor was one of Tony Abbott’s besties. She used to write for News Corp and hang out with some commentators who wrote for Quadrant magazine and The Spectator Australia. Not any more. These days, Ms McGregor is a Sydney Morning Herald columnist and is heard occasionally on the ABC. As a SMH scribbler, CM seems to be channelling the in-your-face writing style of Elizabeth Farrelly (re which see today’s “Can You Bear It?” segment). In her piece in today’s SMH, Catherine McGregor (i) refers to Mr Abbott as having spoken to a “forlorn group of Christian activists” and (ii) describes Abbott’s “rhetoric” as “esoteric, pompous and marginal, with no resonance outside the pseudo-intellectual ghetto populated by the alt right”. Go on. Alas she did. According to the SMH’s newest columnist, opponents of same sex marriage are “reactionaries” who belong to a “shrinking sanctimonious clique”. All of them apparently. What’s more, the Quadrant set consists of “faux intellectuals”. And, as to that Liberal MP Andrew Hastie – well, he exhibits a “lack of maturity, political judgment or any relevant policy experience”. Not one of CM’s criticisms of the Messrs Abbott and Hastie was supported by evidence. It was a “look-mum-no-hands” rant. Catherine McGregor, after a bash at “muscular Christianity”, concluded her piece by stating that “the battle is not over”. This despite the fact that earlier she told her former mates: “Welcome to my world. You have had your say. Now step out of the way.” With a writing style like this, it can’t be long before Catherine McGregor is promoted to the SMH’s Saturday edition – sharing an entire page with Dr Farrelly?
- SYDNEY MORNING HERALD’s NO/YES APPROACH TO THE SSM POSTAL SURVEY
On Wednesday – the day the results of the same sex marriage survey were to be announced, the Sydney Morning Herald ran a page one story by Nick O’Malley. It was titled “Marriage survey a successful mistake”. Your man O’Malley predicted that the “Yes” case “would win between 60 to 65 per cent of the vote”. Since both the SMH and Nick O’Malley advocated a “Yes” vote, a reader might have thought that this was an indication of looming success. But no. Mr O’Malley quoted Tiernan Brady, director of Australian Marriage Equality, as saying that “Australia has a mechanism for deciding all these issues, it’s called Parliament”. In other words, the electorate should not be directly involved in policy decisions – and to do so is a mistake. Peter Lewis, executive director of Essential Research, said much the same thing. So, did Roberto Fox, lecturer in Political Science at the University of Melbourne. So, did Ryan Cross of the Australian National University College – who declared that if similar votes become part of the norm in Australian society, it would constitute a weakness of our system of representative democracy. No other view was heard in the O’Malley story. In short, according to Wednesday’s SMH, the SSM postal survey was a big MISTAKE. On Thursday, readers awoke to an edition of the Sydney Morning Herald that contained a huge “YES” on page one over a LBGTIQ flag. Below the following statement was printed in large type: The numbers are in. The people have spoken. Their message is loud and clear. Same-sex marriage is to become legal. In short, the SSM postal vote survey was a big SUCCESS. So, there you have it. On Wednesday morning, the SSM postal survey was a mistake – since it had involved the people in doing what politicians should do. But on Thursday morning, the SSM postal survey was a success – since it brought about a situation where the people have spoken.
- MARK KENNY’S PLEBISCITE/SURVEY 180 DEGREE TURN
Fairfax Media’s Mark Kenny was a consistent opponent of the Coalition’s proposal for a plebiscite or postal survey on same sex marriage. Until he wasn’t. On 13 March 2016 your man Kenny declared that a plebiscite “will cause major social harm”. On 7 August 2017 Mr Kenny wrote that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull should resign on account of his failure to put same sex marriage to a parliamentary vote. He described Prime Minister’s retention of Tony Abbott’s “plebiscite fudge” as “craven”. On 9 August 2017 Mark Kenny wrote of the expectation that returns from a postal survey “will strongly lean towards the older demographic and therefore the No case”. He also wrote that “those aged 56 and above were 75 per cent more likely to lick the stamp than those aged 18 to 25 years”. Both predictions turned out to be hopelessly wrong. Then on the ABC TV Insiders program on 3 September 2017 Kenny bagged the Prime Minister for governing for his party – not for the country – on same sex marriage. Not long after the postal survey results were announced on Wednesday, Mark Kenny appeared on ABC Sydney Radio (702). He told Richard Glover:
Mark Kenny: …I think some people are saying quite clearly that they’ll never forgive the government and never forgive Turnbull for having inflicted this process. But my view is that Turnbull had very little chance of getting this through his party unless he went down this route. It seems maybe it’s a commentary on his lack of authority, however you want to describe it. But I think looking at the real politic of Coalition policy here, I think he’s found a way to get his Coalition to the line on this. And it’s been untidy, it’s been costly for some people, it’s been costly for the Treasury but in the end it probably is the only path that he could have taken that has got it to here.
After, briefly, conceding that he had opposed both the proposed plebiscite and the postal survey, Mark Kenny continued:
Mark Kenny: And I think there is an important point to be made here. Yes, there has been a painful process. Yes it has caused a lot of harm and I think it would be wrong of us – particularly those of us who are not members of the LGBTI community – wrong of us to minimise that or to talk about it as if it, you know, it isn’t anything to worry about. But at the same time the ongoing discrimination of having marriage laws that were unfair had to end at some point and it had to end by some process and we’ve actually seen it now – we’re actually seeing it happen under a conservative government…. I think it would have been very, very difficult given the history of this issue and given a whole lot of other attributes of the Coalition to see this happen in any other way really.
How about that? A clear majority of Australians embraced same sex marriage on Wednesday because the Coalition rejected Mark Kenny’s advice in 2015, 2016 and 2017 not to put the issue to the electorate. Your man Kenny is Fairfax Media’s key commentator in Canberra. THIS WEEK FEATURING FRAN KELLY & MATHIAS CORMANN It was a busy week for ABC Radio National Breakfast presenter Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly. What with the same sex marriage postal survey and all that. On Monday, Ms Kelly interviewed Mathias Cormann about the citizenship issue, the Coalition and Newspoll and the SSM postal survey. Senator Cormann is the Minister for Finance and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate. He was minister responsible for the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ survey. Maybe Ms Kelly had experienced a difficult weekend. In any event, she was in an activist mood when interviewing Senator Cormann on Monday. Hence her nine interruptions in a relatively short interview. On one occasion, Senator Cormann had spoken just seven words before he was interrupted. Let’s go to the transcript:
Fran Kelly: The PM is accusing Bill Shorten of running a protection racket for his own dual citizens. Four Labor MPs are under the Constitutional cloud. Can we get this clear, because the Government has been implying this? Is the Government going to refer these Labor MPs to the High Court?
Mathias Cormann: Let us just think about this logically ─ interrupted
Fran Kelly: Well it is a yes or no question, really.
Mathias Cormann: Fran, I know that you would like to both ask questions and answer questions ─ interrupted
Fran Kelly: No, I would just like an answer.
Mathias Cormann: If I may…
Enough said. It seems that Fran Kelly had calmed down by mid-week. She did soft interviews with two same-sex marriage advocates – Labor’s Senator Penny Wong and the Liberal Party’s Senator Dean Smith, with barely an interruption. [Perhaps Mathias Cormann’s comment that the RN Breakfast presenter likes to both ask and answer questions should have been considered for your prestigious Five Paws Award. Just a thought. – MWD Editor.] POSTSCRIPT: INTERRUPTIONS ON THE DRUM For those who follow interruptions on the ABC, here is how The Drum ended last Tuesday. John Barron was in the chair as all the panellists appeared to be interjecting at once. What were they all saying? Who cares? FORGETTING JUDITH BRETT’S LEFT-WING PAST Can it be said that some ABC producers and directors reckon that Emeritus Professor Judith Brett is a conservative? If so, this could help to explain the lack of balance in recent ABC news and current affairs programs. On 30 October 2017, Judith Brett appeared on the Q&A panel – along with former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd, Macquarie Radio presenter Alan Jones and Australian Financial Review political editor Laura Tingle. It turned out that all four panellists were critical of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Coalition government to a greater or lesser extent. Kevin Rudd, Judith Brett and Laura Tingle from a left-of-centre perspective. And Alan Jones from a populist right-of-centre perspective. There was not one conservative on the panel. Then, last Monday, Professor Brett was the only academic/historian to comment on the Liberal Party for the Four Corners’ “Malcolm in the Middle” program. The other so-called independent commentator was former (failed) Liberal Party leader Dr John Hewson – who used his spots on “Malcolm in the Middle” to criticise the Liberal Party in general along with Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott in particular. Yawn. Quelle surprise! During that part of her Four Corners interview which went to air, Dr Brett (for a doctor she is) declared (i) that the social conservatism of the Liberal Party has become stronger and the economic liberalism weaker, (ii) the Liberal Party is in a terrible mess – as bad as the Labor Party in the late 1950 and 1960s, (iii) Liberal Party conservatives are more interested in ideological beliefs than good government and (iv) Liberal Party founder Robert Menzies would not have contemplated taking over a “failing power station”. If such a commentary had come from someone broadly sympathetic to the Liberal Party, it might have carried some weight. But Judith Brett is a life-long critic of the Liberal Party and Coalition governments. Here are some highlights from Professor Brett’s brilliant career. ٠ In the 1990s Judith Brett was a co-editor of Arena Magazine – once a Marxist magazine which by the mid-1990s had become a “magazine of left political, social and cultural commentary”. Judith Brett’s fellow editor was – wait for it – MWD’s favourite Marxist comedian, a certain Guy Rundle. ٠ In her 1992 book Robert Menzies’ Forgotten People, Judith Brett supported the left-wing view that Robert Menzies’ attempt to ban the Communist Party during the Korean War was “fundamentally authoritarian, if not downright fascist”. The old left-wing line was that Menzies was a fascist. Moreover, she presented Menzies’ anti-communist rhetoric as reflecting “the anal erotic imagery of the attack from behind (rooting rats out of holes)”. Yes, Dr Brett really wrote this absolute tosh. ▪ On 17 July 1993, Judith Brett wrote in The Age “the Liberal Party in the 1990s seems doomed”. Fortunately for Judith Brett, this turned out to be a Bob-Ellis-style false prophesy. And so she is able to appear a quarter of a century later on Q&A and Four Corners as a historian who is an expert on the Liberal Party. Can You Bear It?
- MIKE SMITH PULLS HITLER OUT OF A BAG TO WIN ARGUMENT AS TOLD TO THE FIN
What a truly fetching pic of former ANZ chief executive Mike Smith on the front page of the Australian Financial Review on Wednesday. He with the casual white shirt sans tie plus fashionable, neatly trimmed white beard and moustache – having just addressed the UBS Australasia conference in Sydney. Turn to Page 5 and AFR readers got to learn that your man Smith has some (gratuitous) advice for Australia’s big four banks – the ANZ itself, Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank and Westpac. You see, Mr Smith reckons that, if only he had still been around running one of the big four banks, he could have discredited the recent attacks by some politicians on the Australian banking system. Here’s how – as told to intrepid AFR reporters Jemima Whyte and Toby Boyd:
It’s [the banking industry] being used as political capital … when you want to get mob interest, you turn on the banks. Hitler did it…. These things have always been around. The banks have fallen into the trap and they haven’t played as well as they might.
So here’s the problem. The Commonwealth government and the South Australian government want to put special levies on the four major banks – so they set out to interest “the mob”. How to stop this? According to Mike Smith it’s easy – oh so easy. All the big banks have to do is say: “Hitler did this” and governments will desist immediately. Here’s how it goes. A government minister says: “We want to increase your levies”. And the banker – à la Mike Smith – demolishes the argument by saying: “That’s just what Hitler did”. Then, according to Mike Smith, it’s argument won. Can You Bear It? [Er, no. Not really. I note that Mike Smith currently chairs the tech incubator York Butter Factory. It seems that his advice is just more butter for jam. – MWD Editor.]
- ELIZABETH FARRELLY WARNS ABOUT LOSING LOVERS TO ROBOTS
As Crikey reported some time ago, the Sydney Morning Herald decided to address the fact that Thursday was its lowest circulation day. Solution? Move regular Thursday columnist Elizabeth Farrelly to the Saturday edition. Clever, eh? And so it came to pass that The Thought of Dr Farrelly (for a doctor she is) now runs every weekend in the Fairfax Media newspaper or online. Jackie’s (male) co-owner reads it at Gin & Tonic time on Saturday afternoon. For good reason. The latest version of The Thought of Dr Farrelly last weekend advised readers – if readers there be – that killer robots are “far scarier” than chemical, biological and even nuclear weapons. Here’s what the learned doctor had to say: News that Saudi Arabia has conferred citizenship on Sophia the female robot is shudders-up-the-spine territory for me. Why is artificial intelligence so spooky? It’s not just the competition, the possibility that we’ll manufacture creatures smarter, sexier, stronger than ourselves; creatures who will take our jobs and our lovers. Who may even out-human us. More chilling, and more likely, is the possibility behind Elon Musk’s plea to ban “killer robots;” that in outsourcing our humanity we will dehumanise ourselves…. Killer robots are far scarier even than other weapons of mass destruction – chemical, biological, nuclear – which we’re already working to ban. AI means they make their own decisions. This takes them from being tools to being moral agents in their own right. So there you have it. According to Elizabeth Farrelly, Artificial Intelligence driven robots will take over not merely “our jobs” but also “our lovers” and pose a greater threat to humanity than even nuclear weapons. Just imagine, for starters, if the United States had dropped robots – not nuclear weapons – on Japan in 1945. According to the SMH’s Saturday columnist it would have been an even faster war-ender. Dr Farrelly is an architect who gets paid by Fairfax Media to write a Saturday column. Can You Bear It? [Perhaps Fairfax Media could save money by replacing Elizabeth Farrelly with a robot. At least it probably would not use such words as “holographically” – which EF did last Saturday. Just a thought. – MWD Editor.]
- ABC TV OUT TO MORNING TEA AS SSM SURVEY ANNOUNCED
Not able to receive Sky News in his Sydney CBD office, Gerard Henderson tuned into the main ABC TV channel to await the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ announcement of the same sex marriage postal survey – scheduled for 10 am on Wednesday morning. It seemed reasonable to assume that the main ABC channel would cover this event of considerable national – and some international – significance. Hence Hendo’s surprise when – as the clock chimed 10 – Aunty switched to yet another repeat of the BBC’s Antique Roadshow program. Really. How antique can a TV network be? So there you have it. ABC managing director and so-called editor-in-chief Michelle Guthrie seems to have turned the taxpayer funded broadcaster into a real life equivalent of the BBC comedy W1 A about the British licence-funded public broadcaster. With all those meetings and workshops and power point presentations and butcher paper and sustainability concerns, and so on. However, when it comes to putting breaking news on the main ABC TV channel on Wednesday – the ABC News team was out to morning tea, or perhaps getting ready for lunch, or maybe buying antiques.
- AUNTY’S “DON’T TALK ABOUT MUSLIMS AND SSM” PROBLEM
The ABC is having problems covering the fact that the biggest “No” vote in the same sex marriage postal survey occurred in the heavily multicultural areas of Western Sydney. They contain a large number of Buddhists, non-white Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims. Yes, Muslims. The tax-payer funded broadcaster is oh-so-sensitive about how it handles Muslims and the Islamic faith. A mere glance at the Koran would indicate that your local imam is not a same-sex-marriage kind of guy. So, it’s no surprise that many, many Muslims in Western Sydney voted “No”. It’s just that many an ABC presenter do not want to mention this. For example, no one mentioned the “M” or “I” words on The Drum last Wednesday – which devoted the entire program to an analysis of the SSM postal survey. It was much the same on Lateline last night when Matt Wordsworth interviewed shadow attorney-general George Dreyfus and discussed the postal survey. However, MWD’s fave ABC moment on this issue occurred when ABC Sydney 702 Afternoons presenter James Valentine asked listeners from Western Sydney to give him a call to explain the phenomenon. The first caller, who seemed an inner-city type, spoke about “these migrant communities” and “these people”. How condescending can you get? The second caller referred to the “lower education” of Western Sydney residents. Jane referred to “we” and “they” – and declared that this “they” lot “hold a more traditional mindset” than her. Ross, a Penrith-based Uber-driver, declared he provided transport for 750 Western Sydney residents during this period and all were “Yes” voters. Clearly he has a select clientele. The only two call-ins who voted “No” were Australian-born men. Both calls were terminated. No one called Mr Valentine who was of non-Anglo-Celtic background who had voted “No”. Which says a lot about the ABC’s footprint among multicultural communities in Australia – despite its protestations to the contrary. ▪ AUNTY’S “HIGH” TO GREG “HIGHWOOD” As avid readers are aware, MWD has long advocated that, instead of getting involved in fact-checking the “facts” of others, the ABC should check its own (alleged) facts first. The Australian this morning documented four howlers in ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie’s speech to the Screen Forever conference in Melbourne yesterday. That’s quite a lot. Now here’s MWD’s very own ABC fact-check. This is the supa which ABC TV’s The Business used last night at the bottom of an interview with Fairfax Media chief executive officer Greg Hywood. Until the taxpayer funded public broadcaster gets its supa correct, it should desist from attempting to correct the howlers of others. AND THE WINNER IS RAIMOND GAITA (AGAIN) – FOR HIS CONTRIBUTION TO JONATHAN GREEN’S MEANJIN As avid MWD readers will be aware, this segment is inspired by the Irish humourist Brian O’Nolan (1911-1966) – nom de plume Flann O’Brien – and, in particular, his critique of the sometimes incoherent poet Ezra Pound. Your man O’Brien also had the good sense not to take seriously Eamon De Valera (1882-1975), the Fianna Fail prime minister of Ireland. The Flann O’Brien Gong for Literary or Verbal Sludge is devoted to outing bad writing or incomprehensible prose or incoherent verbal expression or the use of pretentious words. * * * * * Gerard Henderson is proud to be a “Meanjin friend”. After all, it was Hendo who helped save the leftist quarterly quite recently when he suggested that editor Jonathan Green should not close the operation down after the magazine’s $80,000 hand-out from the Australia Council was junked. Rather Jackie’s (male) co-owner argued that lotsa rich lefties read Meanjin and Jonathan (“Proudly a fox-hunting man”) Green should take the hat around and replace the $80,000 taxpayer handout with collections from the private sector. Good idea, eh? It seems that, in the end, the University of Melbourne kicked in the necessary money. Still Hendo started the CONVERSATION (to use the cliché). In any event, on All Saints’ Day, Gerard Henderson received a “Dear Meanjin friend” letter advising that the fox-hunting leftist “thought the time was right to unlock some September [Meanjin] content from behind the paywall”. He added: “Something for everyone in this little collection, I think. Enjoy.” It so happened that the Raimond Gaita article in the September 2017 issue was released from behind the paywall. It’s titled “The Intelligentsia in the Age of Trump” and contains lotsa sentences like these. Enjoy!!! (if possible). In much of what I have written and in a public lecture series I have curated for 17 years, I have attempted to identify the conceptual and ethical features of a conversational space in which it is possible to speak of the dignity of politics without that sounding like an oxymoron, which entailed retrieving from oxymoron status a conception of the serious place of moral considerations in politics, domestic and international. True, when we suggest those expressions might be oxymorons we do it with a smile, but it is an awkward one, I think. We are not sure whether we believe that politics can have dignity, but it doesn’t now and won’t in the foreseeable future, or whether the very concept of dignity has, at best, only an attenuated application to politics. It is hard for us to speak seriously of politics as a vocation rather than as a profession or career; of political honour (when was the last time a politician resigned for the sake of honour rather than brazening things out?), or even of government rather than of running a country as though it were an enterprise. This part of our language doesn’t have much life in it…. Sure doesn’t. There is not much life in Rai Gaita’s prose. The first sentence runs for 74 words, contains three mentions of the first person pronoun and uses the word “oxymoron” on three occasions. The third sentence runs for 75 words. None of the four sentences refers to a person or a place. It’s just literary sludge and all but impossible to understand. Rai Gaita is a philosopher. Enough said. Not so long ago, Rai Gaita won MWD’s most prestigious award for his book titled After Romulus (Text, 2011). In his introduction, your man Gaita conceded that chapters in his book are “difficult” to read and asked his readers to “read them slowly”. According to the learned professor, the reader who has “skipped” the difficult passages should return to the task and may well find “that they are not as foreign and therefore not as difficult as they had seemed in first reading”. In other words, if you cannot understand Dr Gaita’s sludge, it’s your fault – so try harder. At the time, MWD was particularly impressed by Professor Gaita’s earth-shattering revelation that it is a “fact” that “many people wonder whether there is such a thing as someone who really is”. Wow. What a mind. And so on.
By Flann O’Brien
My grasp of what he wrote and meant
Was only 5 or 6 %
The rest was only words and sound –
My reference is to Ezra £
Inspired by your man O’Brien, this is Jackie’s literary effort for today:
My grasp of what Rai wrote and meant
Was only five or six per cent
Your man Gaita tends to bore on
Ranting re the oxymoron
LEE RHIANNON’S MUM’S BIOGRAPHER IN DENIAL ABOUT FREDA BROWN AND THE NAZI-SOVIET PACT Freda Brown (nee Lewis) was born in 1919 and died in 2009. She was a lifetime Stalinist as was her husband Wilton John Brown (1917-1992) who was known as Bill Brown. There was one child of the union – current Greens’ senator Lee Rhiannon (nee Brown who became O’Gorman and sometimes Gorman before changing her name to Rhiannon). Lee was born in 1951 and became what Mark Aarons has termed one of the “Red Diaper” babies – that is, a child of two members of the Communist Party of Australia (CPA). Freda married Bill in 1943. Bill joined the CPA in 1940, in the middle of the Nazi-Soviet Pact. Freda Lewis (as she then was) joined the Communist Party in 1936 – around the time of Josef Stalin’s forced famine in the Ukraine and shortly before his show trials in the Soviet Union in 1937. In her early years in the party, Freda worked at the New Theatre which was effectively a Communist Party front organisation. Freda stayed in the communist movement despite the forced famines and the purges in the late 1930s and the notorious Nazi Soviet Pact, or Hitler-Stalin Pact, of August 1939, which effectively commenced the Second World War. Thereafter Freda and Bill Brown supported the Soviet Union’s occupation of Eastern Europe in the late 1940s along with Moscow’s invasion of Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968. Both Freda and Bill went to their death-beds supporting the mass murders of the Bolshevik regime which came to power in November 1917 and lasted until around the fall of the Berlin Wall – some seven decades later. Meet Lisa Milner, senior lecturer the School of Arts and Social Sciences at Southern Cross University in Coffs Harbour, NSW. Dr Milner has just written Swimming Against the Tide: A Biography of Freda Brown (Ginninderra Press, 2017). You can always judge a book by a left-wing academic on a left-wing activist who was born in the early 20th Century by its coverage of the 1939 Hitler-Stalin Pact. The first chapter of Swimming Against the Tide covers the period between 1919 and 1944. And what does it say about the Nazi-Soviet Pact of August 1939 – when Freda Brown was close to 20 years of age? Well, zip. Absolutely zip. As avid readers are well aware, the Nazi-Soviet Pact effectively divided Eastern Europe between Germany (led by Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler) and the Soviet Union (led by communist dictator Josef Stalin). This made it possible for Germany to invade Poland and for the Soviet Union to conquer the Baltic States (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia). The co-operation between the dictatorships in Berlin and Moscow continued until Hitler’s forces attacked the Soviet Union in late June 1941. Yet you would not know any of this by reading Lisa Milner’s biography, read hagiography. This is what the author has to say – or, rather, not to say – about Freda Brown’s war: The war was a particularly vital time for Sydney communists and others on the left. Australian communists opposed the war as an “imperialist war”, until Germany attacked the Soviet Union in June 1941. Beverley Symons writes that “for communists world-wide, Hitler’s attack on the Soviet Union and its entry into the war decisively transformed the “imperialist war” into a just “people’s war” to defeat fascism. Amongst many organisations on the left, the New Theatre and the CPA spent a lot of energy in this early opposition…. Oriel [Gray] wrote about the federal government’s wartime banning of the CPA in June of 1940 until December 1942, under the National Security Act: “I imagine that Marx House [the CPA headquarters] felt rather flattered in a way. We were so far out of the mainstream of events that we were hardly noticed in Europe or the Soviet Union. A ban by a federal government must have earned us a paragraph or two in most of the communist newspapers in the world. It seems unlikely that Marx House or any of the “communist front” organisations really disrupted the war effort, or troubled the dreams of Ming the Merciless [the reference is to Robert Menzies, prime minister of Australia from April 1939 to August 1941]. The banning of the CPA promoted one incident that was very important to Freda: the time that the federal police raided the theatre on 16 June 1940. This was part of a series of nationwide raids which were synchronised to begin together, so that organisations in one state could not be warned by those in another, were a sequel to the issue of a proclamation declaring Communist and fascist organisations to be unlawful, it was reported. At the time, the New Theatre was still performing Till the Day I Die, at this stage of the war when Menzies was supportive of fascism, and Freda was assistant secretary and publicity officer. She also had a performing role in the play, that night that police raided the theatre, when they arrested the cast and crew, and confiscated some 600 play scripts. Freda remembered that “they took any books that had a red cover…they behaved like Fascists”. After the raid, Freda made a disingenuous announcement that “We have no communists in our organisation, and we are not connected with the Communist Party in any way”. What a load of absolute tosh.
▪ Australian communists like Freda Brown did not oppose World War II in 1939 because it was an imperialist war. They opposed the war because they were told to do so by the Communist Party of Australia which received orders from the Communist Party in the Soviet Union. Comrade Freda adopted her position because the dictators in Moscow told her to do so – in other words, she supported the pact between Hitler and Stalin.
▪ In the period late August 1939 to June 1941, the Communist Party of Australia attempted to disrupt the war effort. At the time, Britain and the Dominions (Australia, Canada, New Zealand) almost stood alone against Nazi Germany. The United States did not enter the Second World War until Germany declared war on the US in December 1941. In other words, all that stood against a Nazi conquest from mid-1939 until mid-1941 was what was once called the British Empire.
▪ The Communist Party of Australia was banned by Robert Menzies’ government in June 1940 because it supported Germany’s ally – the Soviet Union. It was as simple as that. Moreover, because of its strength in the trade union movement, the CPA was successful in disrupting the war effort.
▪ Robert Menzies was not “supportive of fascism” during the early years of the Second World War. On 3 September 1939 Prime Minister Menzies declared war on Germany. The Menzies government soon despatched the Second Australian Imperial Force to engage the German Nazis and the Italian fascists and the fascist Vichy French in North Africa. At the time, the Labor Party opposed the deployment of Australian forces overseas – and the CPA was supporting the Nazi Germany-Soviet Union Pact and attempting to disrupt the war effort. In 1940, Menzies was not a supporter of fascism. Rather he was at war with fascism.
▪ Freda Brown’s statement to the police in 1940 that the New Theatre contained no communists and was not connected with the Communist Party in any way was not just “disingenuous” as Lisa Milner asserts. Rather, it was a total lie.
Taxpayer Funded Denial Clearly the taxpayer funded Lisa Milner at the taxpayer funded Southern Cross University is into denial about the Nazi-Soviet Pact. The denial is obviously intended to protect Freda Brown (nee Lewis) who joined the CPA in 1936 and remained active during the Nazi-Soviet Pact period. A number of members quit the party during the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939-1941. Others did so following the Soviet Union’s invasion of Hungary in 1956. And others still following the Soviet Union’s invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. But not Mr and Mrs Brown who remained Stalinist hacks all their lives and never once criticised Stalin’s 1939 deal with Hitler or the millions who died during the dictatorship established by Lenin and Stalin and continued by their heirs Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev. It’s called denial. 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 Jackie’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). TIM FISCHER AND GERARD HENDERSON re THE AUSTRALIAN REPUBLICAN MOVEMENT & THE RED BANDANNAED ONE As avid readers are only too well aware, Hendo – a lapsed ARM member – has been receiving lotsa correspondence by high profile Aussies begging him to re-join the ARM. Nancy’s (male) co-owner holds the view that the republican movement will only prevail in Australia if at least a third of political conservatives support the cause. Hendo believes that this will not happen if the republican movement is led by Peter FitzSimons. Now read on: Tim Fischer to Gerard Henderson – 16 November 2017 Dear Gerard, There are many reasons to support a smooth constitutional change to a Republic when the majority of people want this, sooner or later. Let me state one good, specific reason: King Charles III (and his heirs and successors) will be a better head of the Commonwealth and better King Of England if he is not – repeat, not – King of Australia. Why? Because it will mean and allow more focus and effort on a more finite set of tasks and priorities than as things stand. The cricket and Ashes tour is one thing involving a division of loyalties that is not so important. Tracking through India or other parts of Asia as Trade Minister immediately after a British ROYAL-led business delegation has swept through is another. Wonderful Queen Elizabeth II is in an irreplaceable category on her own and largely reigned in a very different era from that which Australia now faces. Go the ARM! Tim Fischer AC PS: To join up this month, click here. Gerard Henderson to Tim Fischer – 17 November 2017 Dear Tim How good to hear from my old school mate advising me to join – actually, re-join – the Australian Republic Movement. Your email of yesterday refers. I have always been a republican and I support Australia having an Australian head of state. However, let me state one good specific reason for not joining (or re-joining) the ARM while it is led by Peter FitzSimons – the Red Bandannaed One. Whatever the threat of King Charles (who, by the way, will be King of Britain – not King of England) – it is unlikely that Australians will rally to the ARM while it is led by an aggressive, left-of-centre, middle-aged, anti-Catholic sectarian man who wears a red rag on his head. Especially since Fitz is one of the most divisive commentators in Australia – with his advocacy of some Green/Left causes and his open contempt for those – of all faiths – who believe in God. Here’s a modest proposal. The road to an Australian head of state commences when The Red Bandannaed One hands over to someone – anyone – who does not get into “Look At Me” mode by donning a red rag on his/her head every morning. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that your man Fitz does not wear his red bandanna to bed each night. Down with the Red Bandannaed One! Gerard Henderson AC (aka Always Courteous) * * * * Until next time. * * * *