ISSUE – NO. 390




  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: A Leftie Love-In on Last Night’s Late Night Live on President Trump and Others

  • Editorial: No Change to The ABC’s Conservative-Free-Zone

  • Can You Bear It? Bernard Keane; Rowan Dean; The Drum and Balloons; Scott Burchill’s Mother-in-Law & Bruce Hawker

  • MWD Exclusive: Paul Bongiorno, “BPL” & The Royal Commission

  • New Feature: False Prophecy Gong – and the Winner is Malcolm Farr

  • Fitz’s Fake News: The Red Bandannaed One Stumbles at the Citizenship Hurdle

  • A Wendy Harmer Moment: A Sufferer of the Abbott Despotism

  • History Corner: “Learning” David Marr & Mark Kenny on Hugh Mahon and Billy Hughes

  • ABC TV’s Documentary on the Royal Commission – Some Questions

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Gerard Henderson was walking Jackie last night and happened to listen to Phillip Adams’ self-declared “little wireless program”, on ABC Radio National, called Late Night Live. It just happened to be your man Adams’ final gig for the year before he heads off for what journalists like to call a Well-Earned-Break.  Or W.E.B.  Mere mortals have holidays.

LNL’s large production team had decided to welcome in their W.E.B. with a round-up of the international and national political news for 2017.  For the occasion, the ABC’s Man in Black assembled what he termed his “Gang of Four”.

And what a gang it was – in a leftist, or “progressive”, kind of way.  The Gang of Four consisted of progressive David Marr (ex-Fairfax Media and ABC, now with The Guardian Australia), progressive Laura Tingle (of Fairfax Media’s Australian Financial Review),  progressive Jenna Price (Fairfax Media and the University of Technology, Sydney) and progressive Tony Walker (Fairfax Media, Crikey and La Trobe University).  The progressive Phillip Adams presented the program which was produced by progressive Amruta Slee.

What a leftist/progressive stack it was.  There was no conservative on the panel – confirming the taxpayer funded public broadcaster’s role as a Conservative Free Zone.  Nor was there anyone from The Australian, or News Corps’ papers or or Sky News. It was the all-too-familiar ABC/Guardian/Fairfax Media/Crikey pile on with lotsa ranting about, you’ve guessed it, Donald Trump and Tony Abbott.

Discussion commenced, as might be expected, on President Donald J. Trump. And so it came to pass that Phillip asked David a leading question along the lines that “President Trump is a buffoon – explain”. David agreed with Phillip.  Then Laura agreed with David who agreed with Jenna who agreed with Tony who agreed with David who agreed with himself – that Trump is a buffoon.  That’s discussion, ABC style.

At one stage La Tingle confessed:

Laura Tingle: It’s always terrible when you’re agreeing with other people on the panel, isn’t it?  I’m trying to think of something I can violently disagree with David about…

It didn’t really happen. And essentially everyone agreed with everyone else about everything.  There was a solution.   Put a conservative – one would have done – on the panel.  But, alas, it was not to be.

Among the Gang of Four’s bon mots were the following:

  • David Marr: Trump is a “buffoon”.
  • Laura Tingle: Trump’s bringing the world to the edge of nuclear disaster one week and being a buffoon the next week.
  • Tony Walker: Agrees with David and Laura.
  • Jenna Price:  Trump has assaulted 900 women one way or another. He’s going the way of Harvey Weinstein.  To quote Jenna Price: “Right now, I’m waking up every night and I’m thinking: ‘What’s he done overnight?’”  I actually look at my phone to see what Trump has done overnight. I have a feeling of panic.”
  • Laura Tingle:  Tony Abbott will linger in politics because he can’t get a job anywhere else.
  • David Marr: [in sneering mode]: Tony Abbott can go back to the Catholic Church – there is a need for leadership in the church.

Then Phillip Adams asked David Marr to talk about George Pell. David Marr took over a minute to say – again and again – that he “cannot say a word” about Cardinal Pell.  Clever, eh?

And then, the Gang of Four joined Phillip Adams’ Four Horsepersons of the Apocalypse on their W.E.B.



Change is under way at the ABC under (relatively) new managing director and (so-called) editor-in-chief Michelle Guthrie. On Wednesday, ABC management announced changes for such radio stations as ABC Sydney, ABC Melbourne and ABC Canberra.  In Sydney, Wendy (“I’m just an old fashioned socialist”) Harmer will now co-present with Robbie Buck as the Mornings and Breakfast programs link up. Yawn.  In Melbourne, Red Symons breakfast program will now be presented by Jacinta Parsons and Sami Shah. Gosh.  Meanwhile the Mornings presenter in Canberra, Genevieve Jacobs, has been made redundant.

No doubt, all these changes were the result of lotsa conferences and many a sheet of butcher paper.  Yet the result is much the same as it was before – in that not one conservative has been appointed in the shake-up of ABC radio. Consequently, the taxpayer funded public broadcaster remains a Conservative Free Zone without a conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets.

At the ABC, change is a bit like an old fashioned progressive dinner party.  Persons move from one location to another – but very much the same like-minded people can be found at each event agreeing with each other on almost everything.

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Here’s how Crikey last Monday described politics editor Bernard Keane’s decision to take a holiday – yes, a holiday – in Europe:

Tony Walker subs in

Crikey’s indefatigable politics editor Bernard Keane is taking a rare and well-deserved break.  In his absence, the Crikey team will be joined by dual Walkley Award-winner and former political editor for The Australian Financial Review Tony Walker. Tony is a regular columnist with Fairfax Media and a vice-chancellor’s fellow at La Trobe University.  He’ll be covering all things federal politics for us while Bernard is away, and the rest of us here in the bunker look forward to razzing the men in grey suits with him.

So, the hoi polloi take holidays.  But Bernard Keane takes “a rare and well-deserved-break”. Go on. And the well-dressed Mr Walker, a product of Geelong Grammar who invariably dresses well, will join the Crikey bunker in “razzing the men in grey suits”. Jackie’s (male) co-owner recalls that he once had a non-razzling drink at the Windsor Hotel in Melbourne when your man Walker was dressed in a stylish grey suit.  But, there you go.

By the way, yesterday Crikey ran a piece titled “We’ve achieved a ‘flexible economy’, but at what cost?” by a certain Bernard Keane. This suggests that your man Keane filed copy for Crikey to run during his W.E.B.  For the record, Bernard Keane ran the line that John Howard’s labour market reforms harmed productivity “by bringing more low-skilled and marginal workers back into the workforce”.  So, according to Mr Keane, the Howard government stuffed up by making it possible for low skilled and marginal workers to get jobs. Can You Bear It?


Did anyone see the stunning performance by Sky News’ Outsiders co-presenter Rowan Dean on The Bolt Report on Wednesday?

In case you missed it, the ex-advertising man was waxing lyrical about the 1960s in Britain – following the death of Christine (“I wasn’t a good time girl, but I had a good time”) Keeler earlier this week.  Ms Keeler was one of the star performers in the Profumo Affair saga which rocked Britain in the early 1960s.  But that’s another story. This is what MWD picked up off Mr Dean’s rant, shortly after he commenced:

Rowan Dean: The Beatles are topping the charts. The Rolling Stones are just about to kick off. This is the beginning of the sexual revolution, Andrew. And what made it so poignant was you had these stuffy old kind of, Macmillan and the old guard of the conservative politicians. And this young good looking cabinet minister Profumo, who was kind of, I don’t know, the Andrew Hastie of his day or whatever. No offence, Andrew, I know you’re not having an affair with a showgirl by a swimming pool in Lord Cliveden’s garden. But you get the point. This was a handsome, good looking, modern cool cabinet minister. He’s having the affair with the girl. She’s also having an affair with a Russian spy, a genuine James Bond style Russian spy –

Andrew Bolt: You’re enjoying this story too much.

Rowan Dean: Ah, Fantastic stuff, I loved it….

Yeah, fantastic stuff.  By the way, there was no such persona as Lord Cliveden.  Cliveden was the ancestral home of Viscount Astor. Moreover when John Profumo, the Secretary for War in Harold Macmillan’s conservative government, resigned over his affair with Christine Keeler in 1963, he was 48 years of age and she was 19.  Moreover, your man Profumo was bald.  Andrew Hastie, the Liberal MP for Canning, is 35 years of age and has lotsa hair.

To believe that the middle-aged John Profumo was a cool, swinging guy in 1963, who was a bit of a chick-magnet for the gorgeous Christine Keeler, you would have to be an advertising type pitching for something or other.  As to “cool” John Profumo – Can You Bear It?


This is how The Drum – featuring presenter Ellen Fanning, panellists Miranda Devine, Van Badham and Shane Wright along with special guest from Melbourne University James Cahill – finished last Monday. Not with a bang but with a complaint about a lack of balloons.  Yes balloons.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Ellen Fanning:  One quick final question to you, James.  To what extent do you think that this has happened [during the Trump administration], all this kind of chaos behind the scenes and the dealings with Russia. And the sort of murkiness of that, if not the illegality of that, was driven by the fact that, maybe, nobody in that [Donald Trump] campaign expected to win?

James Cahill: [laughing] Ah yes, that certainly is true – people actually believed that. In fact, I think that you can even look at election night itself and how ill prepared they were to have a winning speech.  They had no music, they had no props, they had no balloons.  It was just 20 people up on a stage going “Oh my God, we won.”  I don’t know.

That’s right.  Your man Cahill does not know. On election night last November, Hillary Clinton and the Democrats had lotsa balloons and music and props and all that stuff.  But Donald J. Trump had none of the junk – and only a victory to celebrate. James Cahill is an academic Trump-hater who judges political smarts according to whether a presidential candidate carries around balloons in case electoral victory is achieved. Can You Bear It?


It seems that the let’s-go-to-the-tip-before-Christmas season is upon us again. How else to explain the appearance of Dr Scott Burchill – who holds the exalted position of Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Deakin University – on the ABC TV News Breakfast program on Tuesday?

Dr Burchill (for a doctor he is) rocked up to the “Newspapers” segment unshaven with cream trousers and a brown jacket well in need of a dry-clean. Even News Breakfast co-presenter Virginia Trioli said that Dr Burchill had a “posh title” for “not such a posh man”.  You can say that again.

In any event, the first chosen topic was the objection by the Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist Party to the proposal that the decision by Britain to vacate the European Union might bring about a situation where Northern Ireland does not have the same status as the rest of the United Kingdom.  This would come about if an open border between Northern Ireland and Ireland continued after Brexit.  Let’s go to the transcript when a confused Burchill tried out a, wait for it, mother-in-law joke, during his discussion with co-presenters Virginia Trioli and Del Irani:

Scott Burchill: The Northern Irish Parliament or group want to have the same rights as the rest of the United Kingdom and now, of course, that would be followed by Scotland, Wales and others. So, there appears to be a backdown, a sort of a backdown. The Irish government thought they had an agreement with the British on this. In the talks with the EU that seems to have floundered at the moment – so we’re back to trying to get that sorted before the trade talks can then proceed which are going to be just as complex if not more.

Virginia Trioli: And this is stage one and we’re at the very, very beginning so we’ve started early in terms of—

Scott Burchill: —Yes.

Virginia Trioli: —inability to agree.

Scott Burchill: And now we have Tony Blair, former prime minister, campaigning for a second referendum.

Virginia Trioli: On what basis?

Scott Burchill: The latest opinion polls are suggesting that there’s about a fifty-eight to fifty-nine per cent of the population want a second referendum – now realising the impact, the negative impact and the cost of Brexit.

Virginia Trioli: Regret.

Scott Burchill: Yes regret.

Virginia Trioli: Regret.

Del Irani: But also is that really an option? Isn’t it too late, would the EU even be willing to take them back now?

Scott Burchill: Well I think everyone would like to call off the agreement. It’s a bit like going to your mother-in-law’s birthday party. You know, you just hope you don’t get that sort of invitation.

Virginia Trioli: Are you making mother-in-law jokes?

Scott Burchill: I, yeah, I can’t—

Virginia Trioli: Oh knock it off.

Scott Burchill: Okay.

Del Irani: It’s pretty dangerous territory.

Virginia Trioli: Honestly.

Honestly. A truly dreadful mother-in-law joke by your man Burchill.  What’s more, the “joke” did not even work. The truth is that the European Union would like Britain to return – since Britain’s exit has damaged the EU.  Yet the tip-going Deakin University academic does not know this. Can You Bear It?


Here’s what one-time Labor operative Bruce Hawker had to say last Monday on the topic of Sam Dastyari and his links with China.  Your man Hawker’s platform was the Sky News PM Agenda program. He argued against the claim that Senator Dastyari is too close to the rulers of communist China – by attempting to change the topic to the defection of Vladimir Petrov, the third secretary of the Soviet Union’s Embassy, in Canberra in early 1954. Really. Let’s go to the transcript to see Bruce Hawker’s historical comparisons:

Bruce Hawker: This is, you know, happy hunting ground for conservatives who in the past have done very well with it. You know, the Petrov Affair was something that absolutely dogged Labor in opposition during the 1950s – and Menzies won successive elections on the back of a Red Scare. And, you know, Turnbull is obviously trying to make the most of that and he’ll continue to do it. I don’t think it’s going to have more than a very localised impact – and basically on Dastyari. But I think it does go to the question about foreign donations and the sooner we sort out this mess the better….

What a load of tosh. There was no such thing as a “Red Scare” in the early 1950s.  The Soviet Union was a brutal communist totalitarian regime led by the dictator Josef Stalin (1878-1953). It was also a nuclear power which, in the period after the end of the Second World War, had effectively subjected virtually all of Eastern Europe.  The so called “Red Scare” was the West’s proper response to the threat by the leaders of the Soviet Union to establish communist rule throughout Europe.

In May 1954, shortly after Stalin’s death, Vladimir Petrov and his wife Evdokia Petrov (who was a code breaker) defected from the Soviet Embassy in Canberra.  Mr Petrov brought with him documents which proved that the Soviet Union had agents in Australia – working not only in the Department of External Affairs (as it was then called) but also in the office of Bert Evatt, the leader of the Labor opposition.  The Petrovs were the most important defectors from the Soviet Union during the period of the Cold War.

The extent of Moscow’s espionage in Australia is documented in David Horner’s The Spy CatchersThe Official History of ASIO 1949-1963 (Allen & Unwin, 2014).

In fact, the Petrov defection had nothing to do with the Coalition victory, under the leadership of prime minister Robert Menzies, in late May 1954.  The election was essentially won because the Australian economy was going well and Evatt was a poor leader.

Certainly foreign policy was a factor in the Coalition’s victories in 1954, 1955, 1958 and later.  However, the biggest factor in Labor successive defeats was the Labor Split of 1955 – for which Evatt was primarily responsible.  Yet Bruce Hawker did not mention this inconvenient truth on PM Agenda and blamed Evatt Labor’s failures on the Petrov defection. Can You Bear It?



You will not hear this on ABC Radio National Breakfast – where Paul Bongiorno has a weekly commentary spot.  And you will not read this in The Saturday Paper – where Paul Bongiorno writes a weekly column. That’s why this is a MWD Exclusive.

On Wednesday, the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse released its Report of Case Study No 28: Catholic Church authorities in Ballarat. Pages 240-242 cover the topic “Allegations emerge at Warrnambool parish”.

As MWD readers are aware, the former Catholic priest and now journalist Paul Bongiorno shared presbytery accommodation with the pedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale in Warrnambool in 1971. Mr Bongiorno told Fran Kelly on the ABC Radio National Breakfast program on 21 May 2015 that he had no knowledge that Ridsdale was a pedophile. MWD accepts this as a statement of fact.

A man identified by the Royal Commission as “BPL” gave a statement that he was sexually abused by Ridsdale from 1970 to 1971 and that, on one occasion, he briefly told Bongiorno at a camp that Ridsdale had made an inappropriate sexual reference to him when he was alone with Ridsdale. The Royal Commission’s report continues:

BPL gave the following evidence:

Father Bongiorno said, “Look, it’s a real problem. Me and Father Brophy have talked to Monsignor Fiscalini about it and he is sorting it out with the Bishop” [Ronald Mulkearns].  Father Bongiorno said he couldn’t do anything further and told me to talk to Monsignor Fiscalini about it.

BPL stated that Father Bongiorno was the first person BPL had told about the sexual abuse and that Father Bongiorno left the priesthood shortly after the camp. In 2006, Ridsdale was convicted of the sexual abuse of BPL.

Mr Paul Bongiorno also provided a statement to the Royal Commission responding to BPL’s statement and was not required for questioning….

Mr Bongiorno denied having the conversation with BPL. He said, “That conversation did not happen with me. I would remember it. I would have been deeply shocked by the alleged substance of that conversation”. He also denied having any discussion with Father Brophy about Ridsdale or any other priest or clergy engaging in any kind of child sexual abuse, and at no time while he was in Warrnambool did he and Monsignor Fiscalini discuss any allegations of Ridsdale’s sexual abuse.

In its wisdom, the Royal Commission did not call BPL to give oral evidence. It also did not question Paul Bongiorno about his statement in a public hearing.

The Royal Commission’s section titled “Allegations emerge at Warrnambool parish” concludes as follows:

Neither BPL nor Father Bongiorno gave oral evidence, so we have not had the benefit of hearing them give evidence. Their accounts differ significantly. BPL’s evidence is that he spoke to Father Bongiorno in 1970 or 1971, when Ridsdale was still in Warrnambool. BPL says that Father Bongiorno responded that he and Father Brophy were “sorting it out”. We do not know when Mr BPL was sexually abused by Ridsdale or whether it preceded the camp by days, weeks or months. However, we know that Father Brophy replaced Ridsdale in 1972 as assistant priest.

It is unlikely, therefore, that the conversation BPL refers to took place in 1970 or 1971, before Father Brophy was appointed to Warrnambool. It is also unlikely that it took place in 1972, when Father Brophy was assistant priest, as Father Bongiorno had left his position as chaplain in 1972.

Our experience during this inquiry confirms ordinary human experience that memory can be unreliable after the passage of time. However, on the material available to us, we are unable to resolve the differing accounts of BPL and Mr Bongiorno.

MWD makes two comments with respect to this section of the Royal Commission’s Report of Case Study No 28.

▪ It is interesting to note that, with respect to BPL’s claims concerning Paul Bongiorno, the Royal Commission states that “memory can be unreliable after the passage of time”.  A different standard appears to have been adopted with respect to some who were called to give evidence at a public enquiry.

▪ In the event, the Royal Commission was “unable to resolve” the differing accounts of BPL and Mr Bongiorno.  In other words, the Royal Commission did not reject either account.

▪ It is a matter of record that, despite his criticism of the way the Catholic Church handled instances of the clerical child sexual abuse in the 1960s and 1970s, Paul Bongiorno has not commented publicly on his time as a Catholic priest in the Diocese of Ballarat in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  Nor has he spoken about his relationship with Gerald Ridsdale – apart from a brief pre-arranged comment with his friend Fran Kelly.  This is unfortunate since an intelligent man like Bongiorno would have been able to give insights into one of Australia’s most notorious pedophiles – and how he was able to hide his crimes from his colleagues.



The late Bob Ellis (1942-2016) was one of MWD’s faves.  Hendo just loved Bob’s crystal ball work – especially since he was rarely, if ever, correct.  That’s the critical assessment. A more optimistic view is that Prophet Ellis was so far ahead of his time that – nearly two years after his death – some of his prophecies have yet to be fulfilled.

MWD’s inaugural False Prophecy Gong goes to News Corps’ political editor Malcolm (“Hendo is a complete f-ckwit”) Farr – for his prediction about the outcome of last Saturday’s by-election in New England.  Let’s go to the transcript of Mr Farr’s appearance on the Insiders couch on 12 November 2017:

Malcolm Farr: Look I think, there’s a very strong case…Barnaby Joyce will get back. And there’s a sort of a political maxim that, in situations like this, the voters say: “Well, how dare you do that to the person I elected; I’m going to reinforce my vote.” And there’s sometimes a 5 per cent to them – as happened with Jackie Kelly [in 1996]. But look, in New England where Barnaby Joyce is standing – and he will be returned – there’s something like 17 candidates there. Barnaby’s not going to get a primary vote majority. He’s going to have to go to preferences. And it’s going to be quite extraordinary to see that count – he’s not going to be a happy candidate at the end of it.

As late as the morning of Saturday 2 December – the day of the New England by-election – Malcolm Farr was still holding the view that Barnaby Joyce would be forced to preferences. He sent out the following tweet at 8.37 am.

Malcolm Farr‏ “″@farrm51
Among the interest Ng[sic] by-election Qs: Will Barnaby go to preferences?

As avid readers are well aware, Barnaby Joyce’s primary vote in New England was 65.1 per cent. And Mr Joyce was extremely happy last Saturday night.

Arise Malcolm Farr – False Prophet.

Fitz's Fake News


This hugely popular segment continues this week following the report that two parliamentarians are referring themselves – or have been referred – to the High Court of Australia to determine their eligibility under Section 44 of the Constitution to sit in the Commonwealth Parliament. Namely, Labor’s Senator Katy Gallagher and David Feeney.

Now, this is not surprising. The fact that several Coalition and Greens MPs have had a problem with the citizenship requirements of Section 44 means that it is likely that at least some Labor MPs would have a similar problem.

Except that the Labor Party denied this.  And so did the journalist activist Peter FitzSimons. Here’s what the Red Bandannaed One tweeted on 8 November 2017 –  in reply to Rod Emmerson’s tweet that Barnaby Joyce did not do his “homework” concerning his dual Australian/New Zealand citizenship:












“Yup. ; But what I find weird is that it is the Conservatives – born to run the show – who haven’t done proper vetting, while the ALP seem to have taken care of business?”

So, there you have it.  According to Fitz (as at 8 November) all the Labor MPs had done proper vetting about citizenship.  But not the conservatives.  And why not the conservatives?  Well, according to The Red Bandannaed One – it’s all because the conservatives believe they are BORN-TO-RULE.

The idea that conservatives are born-to-rule is just a hoary old leftist cliché which makes little sense.  For example, the leftist Peter FitzSimons was educated at the elite Knox Grammar in Sydney.  Whereas John Howard, Australia’s best-known conservative, was educated at Canterbury Boys’ High School.  And yet The Red Bandannaed One reckons he is not a born-to-rule type but John Howard is.

And now Fitz’s theory means that the likes of Labor’s Katy Gallagher and David Feeney are of the born-to-rule class.

Turn it up. More Fitz Fake News.


Hendo just loves it when his Guardian Australia mate Murph appears occasionally on the ABC Sydney Mornings program with Wendy (“I’m just an old-fashioned socialist”) Harmer.

On Thursday, Katharine Murphy led off her discussion on national politics by stating that Dr Martin Parkinson, Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, has criticised former prime minister Tony Abbott for removing several senior departmental heads after he took office in 2013. It’s true that Mr Abbott did this – as did John Howard after he became prime minister in 1996.

There are arguments for and against the actions taken by Messrs Abbott and Howard with respect to the senior ranks of the Australian Public Service.  But it was hardly the political issue of the day yesterday – despite the fact that Murph believed otherwise.

In any event, Murph’s revelation fired up Ms Harmer to complain about her treatment at the hands of the Abbott Clerical Fascist Dictatorship.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Wendy Harmer: Well I was part of an advisory committee when Tony Abbott arrived – on the People with a Disability and Carers Council Advisory Committee. And that was one of 70 such committees that were chopped at the time. There was a bit of very creative topiary going on, I must say.

Katharine Murphy: A little bit of hedge shaping.

Wendy Harmer: That’s it. I thought perhaps losing all those advisory committees, and they were made up of heads – they came from the grass roots – heads of all sorts of organisations. So I guess it was a real network. It might have been a bit labyrinthine – but certainly a network of grass roots people and experts in their field. And I did think that led to the government having a bit of a tin-ear on a lot of policy when it could have actually run it. And that was always the reason they were there, to run government policy past these groups before they went any further with it. So I think it’s throwing out baby and bath water sometimes.

Katharine Murphy: Oh, definitely. And I mean obviously it’s up to elected governments, they can do what they want to do.

Wendy Harmer: They can have whoever they want there of course.

Katharine Murphy: But there’s consequences to your actions. I think that’s the point Parkinson’s making and I think that’s the point you’re making Wendy. Obviously you can do these things but there are consequences associated with it. By axing these committees, you were part of, well the government got less good advice. If that was even in English – but you know what I mean.

Yeah, Murph.  MWD knows what you meant.  You went along with Wendy Harmer’s view that the quality of the Abbott government was diminished by the fact that that she was not reappointed to some grass roots policy advisory organisation some four years ago.  Yawn.

Verily a Wendy Harmer Moment – with a little help from Murph.



On ABC TV Insiders last Sunday, discussion turned on Labor Senator Sam Dastyari, who was demoted by Opposition leader Bill Shorten due to closeness to China and representatives of Chinese interests in Australia.  The question was – what to do with Senator Dastyari?  Let’s go to the transcript for the contribution – from the couch – of David Marr:

David Marr: The crazy thing here is — and you can’t expel, you can’t expel Dastyari from parliament. I mean, the rules under which you expel people from parliament are very clearly set down in the Constitution and we’ve been talking about them. Parties can’t expel people from parliament and parliamentarians can’t expel people from parliament.

Yes, parliamentarians can.  And, yes, they have. On one occasion, at least.  In late 1920 Hugh Mahon, the Irish-born Labor MP for Kalgoorlie, launched a strong attack on British rule in Ireland.  Mahon referred to Britain as a “bloody and accursed despotism” and called for the creation of an Australian republic.

On 11 November 1920, Prime Minister William Morris Hughes moved a motion in the House of Representatives for Hugh Mahon to be expelled from the House of Representatives due to his “seditious and disloyal utterances”.  The prime minister said that Mahon’s statements had been “inconsistent with the oath of allegiance which he has taken as a member of this House”.  The motion was passed by a vote of 34 to 17.  Mahon was unsuccessful in the subsequent by-election for Kalgoorlie.

Contrary to David Marr’s on-the-Insiders-couch assertion, MPs can be expelled from parliament by other parliamentarians.



While on the topic of W.M. (Billy) Hughes, this is what Mark Kenny wrote in Fairfax Media newspapers on Monday 14 November 2017:

Having bombed in the survey they so loudly demanded, Coalition reactionaries have hit upon a play that shows contempt for their leader and looms as the most brazen betrayal of voter sentiment in a century. Not since the hawkish prime minister Billy Hughes unsuccessfully foisted two consecutive conscription plebiscites on the Australian people – the second of which was 100 years ago next month – has a mainstream political party schemed to affect such an immediate repudiation of the will of the people, once sought.

What a load of absolute tosh. Billy Hughes, when Labor prime minister in 1916, could have introduced conscription for overseas military service by a simple act of Parliament.  But he was conscious that this would be a contentious issue at a time when the First Australian Imperial Force was engaged in fighting Germany on the Western Front.  So Billy Hughes quit the Labor Party, joined a National Labor government and called a plebiscite.

On 28 October 1916, 51.61 per cent of Australians voted “No” to the following question:

Are you in favour of the Government having, in this grave emergency, the same compulsory powers over citizens in regard to their military service, for the term of this war, outside the Commonwealth, as it now has in regard to military service within the Commonwealth?

In view of the heavy losses sustained by the First AIF and the inability of Australia to re-inforce the First AIF by voluntary enlistment, the Hughes government put a second plebiscite to the Australian people.

On 20 December 1917, 53.79 per cent of Australians voted “No” to the following question:

Are you in favour of the proposal of the Commonwealth Government for reinforcing the Australian Imperial Force overseas?

Contrary to Mark Kenny’s assertion, Hughes did not repudiate the will of the Australian people.  Rather he introduced a plebiscite to gauge majority opinion on this issue which was defeated.  Then, in the light of the military situation in 1917 – when many Allied leaders thought that Germany might win the war – Hughes put the issue again to the Australian people.  He accepted the “No” vote.

On neither occasion did Billy Hughes show contempt for – or betray – the Australian voters.  Rather he sought their opinion – and went along with their wishes.

Mark Kenny seems ignorant of the fact that W.M. Hughes was a popular leader. He led the Nationalist Party to election victories in May 1917, December 1919 and December 1922.  Hughes never lost an election as leader.


There was enormous interest in Issue 388’s MWD “Exclusive” which revealed that ABC TV sports reporter Paul Kennedy has been commissioned by the ABC to present an ABC TV documentary on the findings of the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.  Ben Knight is the executive producer. The Royal Commission, headed by Justice Peter McClellan, is due to report to the Governor-General on 15 December 2017. The Kennedy/Knight documentary will be shown next Tuesday 12 December at 9.30 pm – it’s titled Undeniable: How The Truth was Revealed. The excerpts shown on ABC TV this morning are very much focused on the Catholic Church.

Like many ABC reporters, Paul Kennedy is a journalist-activist. This is quite common at the taxpayer funded public broadcaster, which happens to be a Conservative Free Zone.  For example, on 13 March 2012 ABC Radio National Breakfast left-wing/progressive presenter Fran Kelly proudly told Tim Elliott of the Sydney Morning Herald: “What I am, really am, is an activist”.

Likewise, 7.30 reporter Louise Milligan. MWD readers will be aware that Ms Milligan has admitted to writing her book Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell  (MUP, 2017) “from the point of view of the complainants”. She made this comment during a soft-interview on ABC TV News Breakfast on 17 May 2017. In other words, Ms Milligan does not even pretend that her reports and writing about historical child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church have been objective.   In short, she is a journalist-activist.

It’s much the same with Paul Kennedy.  He co-authored the book Hell on the Way to Heaven (Bantam, 2010) with Chrissie Foster.  Ms Foster is the mother of two daughters who were sexually abused by a Catholic priest in the 1990s when they were young girls.  With her husband, the late Anthony Foster, Chrissie Foster campaigned against the Catholic Church in general and Cardinal George Pell in particular.  Justice McClellan requested that he deliver the final eulogy at Anthony Foster’s memorial service in Melbourne on 7 June 2017.  This was an unusual action by the chairman of a Royal Commission with respect to someone who had been a party to proceedings before the Royal Commission – in advance of when the Royal Commission was due to report to the Governor-General.

As a published author on clerical child abuse in the Catholic Church, Paul Kennedy, who is a friend of the Foster family, should be interviewed for a documentary on the Royal Commission.  However, ABC managing director and editor-in-chief Michelle Guthrie has commissioned Paul Kennedy to present what is supposed to be an objective documentary on the Royal Commission and its findings – despite the fact that he is a player in the events.

Now, here’s a test.  If Messers Kennedy and Knight are to put together a comprehensive and objective documentary about the entirety of the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse – it would be expected that the following matters be addressed.  This is especially the case since there is evidence of a close friendly collaboration between the ABC and the Royal Commission over the years and it appears that the Royal Commission staff co-operated with the ABC for the documentary to be shown next Tuesday.

▪ The Royal Commission chose not to hold hearings concerning the institutional response to child sexual abuse in the Australian media. Why?

This despite the fact that child sexual abuse was once rampant in the BBC in Britain. Also, in Australia, there have been convictions for child sexual abuse by former ABC producer Jon Stephens and former Channel 7 presenter Robert Hughes. But the Royal Commission decided not to hold public hearings in this area. Stephens offended against a young ABC male employee and Hughes offended against a number of young Channel 7 female employees.

Also, the Royal Commission failed to hold public hearings about the ABC’s infamous “Pederasty” program on the ABC radio’s Lateline in 1975 – in which three pederasts were interviewed by self-confessed pedophile Richard Neville at the ABC Sydney studio.  At this time, ABC chairman Professor Richard Downing declared that “in general, men will sleep with young boys”. ABC management in 1975 did not report the self-confessed pederasts to NSW Police or adopt a duty of care to the pederasts’ victims (some of whom were interviewed for the ABC’s “Pederasty” program). Also, there is evidence that the ABC was aware of Jon Stephens’ child sexual assault around 1981 – but did nothing about it.

▪ The Royal Commission also chose not to hold enquiries into the institutional response to child sexual abuse in Muslim institutions – including Muslim schools. Why? Does the Royal Commission believe that – unlike Christian and Jewish schools – Muslim schools have never presided over cases of child sexual abuse? If so, how was such a conclusion reached?

▪ The Royal Commission did not hold public enquiries into the institutional responses to child sexual abuse within government schools. Why?  Especially in view of the fact that there have been many established cases of teachers, in the public education system, having sex with under-age students.  The Royal Commission, however, did hold public enquiries into historic child sexual abuse in private schools run by (non-Muslim) religious institutions.

▪ The Royal Commission spent considerable time questioning Cardinal George Pell about the time – when a junior priest in Ballarat East – he briefly shared presbytery accommodation with the convicted pedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale.  However, the Royal Commission did not question (former priest and now prominent journalist) Paul Bongiorno about the time – when a junior priest in Warrnambool – he briefly shared presbytery accommodation with Ridsdale.

Counsel assisting the Royal Commission gave the impression that George Pell should have known of Ridsdale’s offending against children. But Paul Bongiorno was not called by the Royal Commission to elaborate on his statement to Fran Kelly on ABC Radio National Breakfast on 21 May 2015 that he had no idea that Ridsdale was a pedophile when they shared accommodation in Warrnambool.

Did the Royal Commission have one standard for Cardinal Pell and another for Mr Bongiorno with respect to their state of mind when they shared accommodation with a convicted pedophile?

▪ Justice Peter McClellan once said that memory was highly fallible – and that individuals do not even have a clear recall of what happened on the previous day.  However, during his time as chairman of the Royal Commission, Justice McClellan has embraced the work of the Blue Knot Foundation – which promotes “repressed memory” therapy techniques.

In the Weekend Australian on 28 October 2017, Melbourne based clinical neuropsychologist Andrew Gibbs wrote on “court rulings about the dangers of hypnosis and other memory-recovery techniques as a threat to the integrity of evidence.” Professor Richard Bryant (director of Westmead Hospital’s Traumatic Stress Clinic) has said that the Blue Knot Foundation’s guidelines are “clinically and ethically dubious” and could harm abuse victims. (The Australian, 11 October 2017).

What is the Royal Commission’s current position on the work of the Blue Knot Foundation and the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Disassociation?

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If Paul Kennedy and Ben Knight are to produce an objective assessment of the work of the Royal Commission they will need to look objectively at its work and examine any failings in addition to its successes. MWD will keep you posted.

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Until next time.


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