ISSUE – NO. 391

15 DECEMBER 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: China Watch Arrives Over the Fence per courtesy of Sydney Morning Herald; Tom Ballard’s Tonightly: Yet More Go-Leftie Preaching; Senator “Human Mumble” Hinch gives Prophecy a Chance

  • Boring for Christmas: John Daley’s Christmas Reading List for the PM which Nobody Reads

  • Can You Bear It? Osman Faruqi on Neo-Colonialism; Paul Barry Offers to Referee Faruqi v Latham Bout; David Marr talks down to Jackie Kelly; Nate Byrne praises False Weather Forecast

  • An ABC Update: ABC’s World War II Factual Howler Remains Uncorrected; The final Lateline fudges Kate McClymont’s False claim about Barry O’Farrell

  • Great Media U-Turns of Our Time: Catherine McGregor on Jackie’s Co-owners

  • Media Fool of the Week: Step Forward Elizabeth Farrelly at War with Private Schools

  • End of Year Special Interview: Jackie’s Dialogue with the Red Bandannaed One

  • Correspondence: Paul Keating, John Edwards & Jeff Kildea all Help out on Australia and the German Wars

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What exquisite timing. Gerard Henderson went to bed last night after hearing news that Sam Dastyari’s story was big news in the United States.  Leading Republican Marco Rubio, among others, used the Dastyari case as an example of the Communist Party of China attempting to use soft-power to influence politics in a political democracy like Australia.

That was last night.  When the print copy of the Sydney Morning Herald arrived with a thud this morning outside Jackie’s kennel, it contained – wait for it – a free copy of China Watch.  Per courtesy of the China Daily and the People’s Republic of China.  What a coincidence – as the saying goes. Or went.

By the way, Page One of China Watch’s 15 December 2017 edition contains lotsa praise for British academic and journalist Martin Jacques.  Your man Jacques is the author of When China Rules. The 72-year-old Mr Jacques was born to members of the British Communist Party circa 1945.  He grew up to become editor of Marxism Today and came to regard the one-time Stalinist academic Eric Hobsbawm as a mentor.  Mr Jacques reckons that China’s communist dictatorship is an effective alternative to Western democracy.  Read all about it in today’s China Watch – brought to you by Fairfax Media (via the Sydney Morning Herald).


Following the demise of Lateline, ABC TV no longer has a nightly current affairs program. But it does have the new Tonightly, which airs at 9 pm Monday to Friday on the ABC Comedy channel – starring Tom Ballard.  Mr Ballard describes himself as an “homosexual atheist”.  Yawn. And he tries awfully hard to be funny. After all, as Tom is wont to remind his (small) audience, this is a comedy show. Right?

MWD decided to give Tonightly – which commenced on Monday 4 December – a week to warm-up and to assess its second week.  Guess what?  Last night Tonightly commenced with a sneering attack on former prime minister Tony Abbott, directed at his political conservatism.  Fancy that.  And it concluded with a sneering attack on President Donald J. Trump. Quelle surprise!

This is political preaching posing as not-very-good comedy.  It is as if ABC management believes that the taxpayer funded public broadcaster does not have enough sneering leftists on its books already – and it’s time to give Tom Ballard and his sneering secularist leftist mates a go.

Tonightly, which could be renamed “Go-Leftie”, carries the traditional warning about coarse language, sexual references and adult themes.  The first two are there in abundance.  But adult themes?  Tonightly is more like a piss-poor Year 12 revue.  Except that the small audience is motivated by a clapper to, well, Clap and Laugh.

Your man Ballard just loves dropping the “F” word.  Last night he used, “FU_K” or its derivative on no fewer than 13 occasions. [Perhaps Mr Ballard has a limited vocabulary. Just a thought. – MWD Editor]

Visiting comedian Wil Anderson added another “F” as did the Tonightly’s house comedian Greg Larsen.  Well, Mr Larsen is presented as a comedian.  So last night, 15 “F’s” in total seems to have been Tonightly’s record.

On Wednesday, the “F” word was dropped ten times.  On Tuesday, six times. On Monday eight times.  How SHOCKING can a stand-up comedian get?  Oh yes, Tonightly has disrupted a meeting of the Australian Christian Lobby. Really. And Mr Ballard has declared that he “will f**k” all the members of the One Direction band.  Oh dear.

MWD will continue to monitor Tom Ballard’s “Go-Leftie” gig next year to see if he can beat his “F” word record. It’s difficult to know what Hendo would do without such leftist sludge to fill Media Watch Dog each week.  So lotsa thanks to ABC managing director and (so-called) editor-in-chief Michelle Guthrie.


Did anyone hear Senator Derryn Hinch – aka the Human Mumble – on Paul Murray Live last night? Well, Derryn (“All my jokes are no more than 50 years old”) Hinch decided to throw the switch to prophecy mode with the following (mumbled) prediction:

Derryn Hinch:  [Mumbling]  Paul, can I give you a [mumble] guess, Hinch’s Hunch for next year. And Hinch’s Hunch is usually wrong.  But I would bet you, I bet you next year Tony Abbott will resign from parliament.  If they [the Coalition] call an early election in March as Labor Party thinks they will – if a lower house election is called he [Abbott] will not stand for re-election in Warringah.  There you go.  He’ll call me up tomorrow morning and say “Hinch, shut the beep up”…[Mumbling].

So, according to the Human Mumble, Malcolm Turnbull will call an early election in March 2018.  And Tony Abbott will resign from the House of Representatives in 2018. And Mr Abbott will call Senator Hinch this morning and tell him: “Hinch, shut the fu-k up.”

MWD is not aware that Mr Abbott called Senator Hinch this morning. So the first of his trio of predictions did not survive 24 hours.  As to the remainder, we shall see in 2018.


Talking of 2018, in view of the Festive Season and all that – MWD will be going on what journalists like to call a Well Earned Break – resuming on Friday 2 February 2018.  Many thanks to avid readers who supplied Jackie’s (male) co-owner with information and tips.  MWD used as much of such intel as possible – depending on the availability of transcripts/podcasts. Also lotsa thanks to avid readers who picked up mistakes – including John-Laws-Style-Deliberate-Mistakes. MWD works with a skeleton staff and this blog does rely on readers.

MWD wishes its avid readers a Happy Christmas/Hanukkah.

Keep Morale High during the Festive Season.

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Boring for Christmas

John Daley has just released the Grattan Institute’s Summer Reading List for the Prime Minister 2017.

What’s noticeable about this (gratuitous) proposed reading list is that successive prime ministers ignore it.  Asked about this by Sarah Kanowski on the ABC Radio National Books and Arts program on 8 December, your man Daley could only come up with this piss-poor response:

John Daley: A couple of years ago we had a book that we recommended for Tony Abbott which was about the economic history of Australia and he certainly said he read it.

This comment was followed by much laughter. Which is a bit unfair on Australia’s 28th prime minister – who at least pretended that he was interested in the Grattan Institute’s little list.  Unlike Ms Kanowski, who made the point that perhaps Vogue UK would make more enjoyable reading than Daley’s worthy suggestions. Sure would.

Has the Grattan Institute – which was established with taxpayers’ funds – nothing better to do than to bore away about books which probably won’t be read this Christmas? Or next.




Here’s how Osman Faruqi, an ABC fave, commenced the month of December with this tweet:

Osman Faruqi (@oz_f)
1/12/17, 10:13 am

Being forced to listen to Christmas carols in the office is basically neo-colonialism.


So there you have it.  Osman Faruqi, whose parents were born in Pakistan, reckons that “being forced to listen to Christmas carols in the office is basically neo-colonialism”. It’s not clear how many offices play Christmas carols – but there you go.

But what would happen if, say, Pauline Hanson said that “being forced to listen to a muezzin’s call to prayers from a mosque is basically caliphate-ism?”  No doubt your man Faruqi would go on The Drum and rail about Islamophobia and all that stuff. Can You Bear It?


While on the topic of Osman Faruqi (Junkee’s news and politics editor) who happens to be suing Mark Latham (who presents his own Mark Latham’s Outsiders show on YouTube) – does anyone remember Paul Barry’s kind offer on the ABC TV Media Watch program on 30 November 2017?

It seems that ABC TV’s Media Watch shares Media Watch Dog’s view that those who make their careers criticising others, should not rush for the protection of the law when they are criticised. Fair enough.

It’s just that Paul Barry has had more to say on this matter.  Let’s go to the transcript for Media Watch on 30 November 2017:

It is a fascinating case. But why is it in court at all? Commentators like Faruqi who dish it out should surely be able to cop a little bit of flak in return. So here’s an invitation to the two parties to debate the issues instead on Media Watch.  Drop the lawfare – contact us. We’ll be waiting for your call.

How about that?  For years, Gerard Henderson has argued that ABC TV’s Media Watch should junk its model – whereby a leftist presenter sits at a desk and lectures all and sundry about media matters concerning which nobody has a right of reply.  Hendo has argued for eons that Media Watch should have a look at Fox News’ Mediabuzz program where there is genuine debate and discussion on journalism and the presenter does not give sermons.

The ABC has always kept Media Watch as a kind of leftist pulpit where a preacher lays down the law.  But now your man Barry has proposed that the program sponsor a verbal punch-up between Mr Latham and Mr Faruqi.

At long last, there is a prospect of a real debate on ABC TV’s Media Watch.  And Mr Barry did not even thank Hendo for the concept.  Can You Bear It? [Er, no. Clearly Paul Barry did not attend Nancy’s hugely popular courtesy classes. A pity, really. – MWD Editor.]


While on the topic of Media Watch presenters and courtesy, did anyone see former Media Watch presenter David Marr on The Drum last Friday?  It provided yet another example of how your man Marr, if scratched, is likely to explode.

First up, an emotive David Marr welcomed the passing of the same-sex marriage legislation in the House of Representatives at around 6 pm last Friday.  But then, when fellow panelist Jackie Kelly – who voted “No” in the postal survey – did not automatically embrace your man Marr’s position, he threw the switch to anger – as the transcript attests:

David Marr: Oh for heaven’s sake Jackie, for heaven’s sake. Don’t you read any history?  Don’t you listen to what’s going on?  Don’t you pay attention to the people who are speaking and what they’re saying?  Don’t you listen to any of this?

So there you have it.  An angry David Marr – intent on “learning” Jackie Kelly – believes that if only Ms Kelly reads history and listens and pays attention to him and his mates – then she will agree with him.  Sounds somewhat authoritarian don’t you think?  – especially for a self-proclaimed libertarian. Can You Bear It?


On Friday 1 December (Issue 389) Gerard Henderson sent a morale-boosting note to avid Victorian readers – in the following terms:

MWD sends its best wishes to the Victorian avid readers – who, according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, are soon to be subjected to a 10 out of 10 flood.  Proving, once again, the false prophecy of Professor Tim Flannery that there would be no more substantial rain over the dams in cities like Melbourne. The Melbourne-born Hendo would like to remind Melburnians that even if the ABM is correct today – there were substantial floods in Melbourne over the past century.  Most notably in 1934 (when over 30 people died) and 1972. Don’t let journalists tell you otherwise.

And so it came to pass that Jackie’s (male) co-owner’s scepticism was warranted.  Parts of Victoria, including Melbourne, received lotsa rain. But the “10 out of 10” flood warning was false prophecy that would have done the late Bob Ellis – the False Prophet of Palm Beach – proud.

Thanks for the avid reader who reminded MWD that, on the morning of Friday 1 December, Nate Byrne – the weather man on the ABC TV News Breakfast program – embraced the ABM’s dire forecast. This is how he covered the matter on Monday 4 December – the Monday morning after the Friday night before. Let’s go to the transcript:

Virginia Trioli: There was a bit of drizzle this morning, as Paul reported, but it’s looking okay.

Nate Byrne: There was and, yeah, it’s all light. Nothing too much to fret about but we had some pretty crazy weather this weekend right across the South-East. The totals-

Virginia Trioli: Victoria? Yes.

Nate Byrne: In Victoria – well also in parts of South Australia, in New South Wales, even just into the south of Queensland there and of course for Tasmania as well. Some very large totals and the Bureau essentially nailing it. One hundred to 200 millimeters they said across the north and central parts of Victoria. And it’s when you look at the percentages that you can see just how much rain there was. That area in blue there [pointing to a map]: two, three times the December average.

Virginia Trioli: Hang on, you said the Bureau nailed it?

Nate Byrne: I reckon.

Virginia Trioli: There’s all this criticism that maybe they exaggerated the threat.

Nate Byrne: It was a warning of a risk. You know, if there’s a sign at the top of the cliff that says you’re gonna break your neck if you jump off here and you do – but you don’t – the sign’s not wrong, alright? You’re lucky.

Michael Rowland: That is good.

Nate Byrne: Yeah well, I was in the Bureau on Thursday. I saw what the models were saying.

Michael Rowland: Yes?

Nate Byrne: And it was really hard to pick. They were, in my opinion, they were right for such a broad warning. But that’s my opinion….

Michael Rowland: Thank you Nate. Thank you Virginia.


Yep – thanks all round. But neither La Trioli nor Mr Rowland asked the hard question. If, as Nate Byrne conceded, the ABM could not accurately model on Thursday 30 November the weather for Friday 1 December – why should we trust ABM’s modelling for weather – and climate change – in, say, 2030?

Your man Byrne did not have to handle such an unfashionable issue. But he did say the Australian Bureau of Meteorology “nailed it” and was “right” to warn of a 10 out of 10 storm – even though it did not happen.  Can You Bear It?


As MWD readers are aware, the taxpayer funded public broadcaster provides funds for the ABC-RMIT Fact-Check Unit in Melbourne headed by Russell (“Beware of conservatives”) Skelton.  This has been set up to check the facts of others but does not fact-check the ABC. Fancy that.

Thanks to the avid reader who drew MWD’s attention to the report titled “Tiny Victorian town hosts military ceremony to honour ‘forgotten’ war hero.”  This story, which was posted on 29 September 2015, remains unchanged on the ABC’s website today. Here it is:

A tiny town in Victoria’s west has hosted a full military ceremony to honour one of Australia’s lesser known war heroes. General Sir Cyril Bingham Brudenell White led Australian forces in World War I and is credited with planning the successful withdrawal of 35,000 soldiers from Gallipoli, in which not one was injured. His legacy has been renewed in Buangor, near Ararat, with a rededication of his grave not far from where he ran a farm after returning from the battlefield. About 200 people attended, doubling the town’s population for the day….

Sir Brudenell White retired to his pastoral property after returning to Australia after World War I but was coaxed out of retirement by then prime minister Robert Menzies, who asked him to lead the country’s World War II effort. But he was killed just a year before it began in 1939, when a plane he was travelling in with three Menzies government ministers crashed en route to Canberra….

In fact, the air crash occurred on 13 August 1940 when Sir Brudenell White was Chief of the General Staff – around a year after the declaration of war with Germany.

Yet another non-checked “fact” – brought to you by the ABC.


MWD just loves it when journalists speak to journalists about journalism.  What’s invariably in the (interview) room is an acute lack of self-awareness.

Take the final Lateline, for example, last Friday.  In a decision that ran the risk of giving self-indulgence a bad name, Emma Alberici (presenter Lateline) interviewed former Lateline presenters Kerry O’Brien, Maxine McKew and Leigh Sales about Lateline.  Kerry O’Brien once worked for Labor Party leader Gough Whitlam and Maxine McKew became the Labor MP for Bennelong.  Of the various Lateline presenters between 1990 and 2017, not one was a conservative.  Not one.  Thus demonstrating again that the taxpayer funded public broadcaster is a Conservative Free Zone.

The final Lateline was one of those discussions heard on the ABC where like-minded types talk to each other.  So it came as no surprise when Emma essentially agreed with Kerry who essentially agreed with Maxine who essentially agreed with Leigh who essentially agreed with Kerry who essentially agreed with himself.

No one discussed how it came about that what was an important program over many years suffered a severe loss of viewers and became of little moment in recent times.

Partly this was due to ABC management’s decision to move Lateline forward an hour to the 9.30 pm time slot on the second ABC TV Channel – with a repeat on the main ABC TV Channel at 10.30 pm.  This meant that Lateline’s staff had an hour less to put together a program.  Also Lateline dropped many of its current affair debates in favour of more interviews or debates with politicians – virtually all of whom were capable of running a (boring) party line.

The fact is that Lateline declined rapidly on Emma Alberici’s watch. But it was not the kind of point which she was likely to raise last Friday – nor did she. Nor did any of her ABC besties.

While on the issue of Lateline’s post mortem, last Friday – as one of its “highlights” the program ran an excerpt from a debate between Gerard Henderson and Kate McClymont on 16 April 2014.  It was the evening of the day when Barry O’Farrell stepped down as premier of New South Wales after giving inaccurate evidence in the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) about the receipt of a gift of a bottle of Grange wine.  Let’s go to the transcript of what Lateline ran last Friday concerning the Henderson/McClymont debate of 16 April 2014:

Gerard Henderson: Well that’s a very serious allegation to make with no     evidence.  You have no evidence that he didn’t tell the truth.  That’s an   outrageous allegation to make.

Kate McClymont: Gerard – Gerard, that’s what the note is all about.

Gerard Henderson:   No, it’s not; he may have forgotten.

Kate McClymont: No. Gerard –

Gerard Henderson:  You’re confused.

Kate McClymont: OK. No, no, no, no, Gerard, I think I was listening to the evidence; you may not have been.

On Friday, Lateline cut from the exchange Kate McClymont’s assertion that, in his evidence at ICAC, Barry O’Farrell “didn’t tell the truth”. That’s why Gerard Henderson said that this was “a very serious allegation to make with no evidence”.

This was an intellectually dishonest edit aimed to cover up Ms McClymont’s defamatory howler.

Also, Emma Alberici failed to tell Lateline viewers on Friday that Gerard Henderson’s position on Lateline on 16 April 2014 was confirmed by the findings of the Independent Commission Against Corruption.  In its report titled Investigation Into dealings between Australian Water Holdings Pty Ltd and Sydney Water Corporation and related matters contained the following comment – which was released on 3 August 2017 – ICAC held:

When he [Mr O’Farrell] gave evidence on 16 April 2014, Mr O’Farrell had no recollection of receiving the wine. There is no evidence to the contrary. The Commission is satisfied that there was no intention on Mr O’Farrell’s part to mislead the Commission on either occasion that he gave evidence.

In short, ICAC rejected Kate McClymont’s assertion on Lateline that Barry O’Farrrell lied about the receipt of the bottle of wine.  But she has never apologised for her error and on its final program Lateline covered for her falsehood.  This is just another example of the ABC-Fairfax Media bestie/leftie network in operation.



“The Sydney Institute which thrives under the leadership of my friends Gerard and Anne Henderson, is a splendid forum for the serious discussion of ideas.”


Gerard Henderson and Anne Henderson are “boring pedantic misanthropic grubs”.

* * * *

For the record, Anne Henderson has never had a harsh word to say about McGregor.  And Hendo has only criticised her once – for recently confusing abuse with argument when attacking her one-time friend Tony Abbott in the Sydney Morning Herald.


According to a Crikey newsletter of recent memory, a couple of years ago the Sydney Morning Herald discovered that Thursday was the day of its lowest circulation. The solution was to move regular Thursday columnist Elizabeth Farrelly to the Saturday edition.  Brilliant idea?  Sure was – as demonstrated again last Saturday when Dr Farrelly (for a doctor she is) took aim at anyone who sends children to non-government schools, some of whom actually buy the Sydney Morning Herald.

Here’s how the column commenced – under the title “Why private schools should be banned”:

If I had one wish for Australia it’d be this. Ban private schools.

The Turnbull government has been caught hiding funding figures for Catholic schools but it beats me why such funding even exists. Indeed, it beats me why private schools exist. Why they’re even legal. Private schools don’t necessarily produce bad people, although it’s true that (as a 2013 Crikey survey found) most cabinet ministers attended them. Private schools are just very, very bad for the country. Public money is our money. It’s there to fund stuff in which we all believe and from which we all benefit – stuff that makes Australia fairer, more creative, more harmonious, more successful.

What a load of absolute tosh.  In her abysmal ignorance, Elizabeth Farrelly ignores the fact that parents who send their children to both high-cost and low-cost private schools make a financial contribution to their children’s education – thus making life easier for taxpayers as a whole.  However, parents of whatever personal wealth, who send their children to public schools get school education for free per courtesy of the taxpayer.

That’s the income side.  There’s also a question of property.  Imagine the cost to State and Territory governments if they had to buy property from existing non-government schools or build new schools.  And then there is the spectre of Dr Farrelly – in authoritarian mode – declaring that all parents act like she does.  For the record, Dr Farrelly’s children attended the selective taxpayer funded Sydney Girls High – which is the closest entity to an expensive private school in the government system.

Elizabeth Farrelly – Media Fool of the Week.


Jackie: thanks for giving so generously of your time.

Fitz: That’s okay. Get on with it.

Jackie:  We have a lot in common. For starters, we both wear a red bandanna.  I wear one to alert drivers when I’m crossing a street with my (male) co-owner Hendo. What’s your reason?

Fitz: Well the missus, Lisa, puts it around that it’s to prevent skin cancer.  But that doesn’t explain the colour, does it?  To be fair dinkum, I like being noticed.  Always have since my days at Knox Grammar School in Sydney where I also took classes into acting all proletariat. I’m a tall guy. So when I look down on the masses I try to pretend that I’m only doing this from a height perspective. Oh the euphoria!

Jackie: I wash my red bandanna on the First Friday of every month.  What about you?

Fitz: Not that often.  I leave fate to the Gods.  If I’m walking in the rain, it’s a bit like a drive-through car wash.  Otherwise I get it dry-cleaned if I’m likely to meet with my republican besties Malcolm Turnbull or Bill Shorten at an Australian Republic Movement dinner. As you know, I’m the ARM’s chairman – or, rather, chair. I’ve got a couple of spare red bandannas at home – the ones I wear to bed.  I use one of these when the original is in for a dry clean.

Jackie: Tell me about how all this started.

Fitz: You see, Lisa, me and the kids were in Cuba during private school holidays not so long ago.  As Lisa has said, all the kids could afford as a thank you present for the trip was a red rag.  It must have cost them about 30 cents each when they bought it in downtown Havana. Pretty generous for millennials, don’t you think?  I was overwhelmed by their generosity and felt so humbled. In fact, more humble than usual. I sensed a better world – starting then!

Jackie:  I’m also a republican as are my co-owners. How’s the cause going?

Fitz: Terrific.  You beauty. We’re on the way to having an Australian head-of-state by 2020 – if not earlier. It’s time to replace that white old lady with corgis with an Aussie bloke or sheila with dingoes.  If the blokes and sheilas of Australia won’t get behind a campaign for an Aussie republic led by a wealthy middle-aged man like me who lives in Neutral Bay and wears a red rag on his head and insults Christians and other bigots – what good cause would they back?

Jackie: Perhaps the elimination of piles.  Just a thought. Just changing the topic.  What’s your problem with Christians?

Fitz: Strike me pink.  What’s the problem with people who believe that a man with a silver beard in the sky happens to be God?  Turn it up. They’re superstitious morons, that’s what!

Jackie:  How do you know this?  Or how many Christians do you know?

Fitz: Plenty.  I went to a Christian school. And I sent two of my kids to a Christian school. I know, believe me.

Jackie:  Why would you send your kids to Christian schools in view of your detestation of Christianity?

Fitz: Piss off. Don’t you know that consistency is for losers? Think about it!

Jackie:  And what about your writing?  How would you assess your contribution as a columnist for Fairfax Media and as an author?

Fitz: Bonzer, just bonzer.  Here’s the thing.  You know, Nellie Melba – that sheila singer – she’s my next biography.  So I collect all that’s been written on Melba and employ some blokes to write a first draft based on the existing secondary sources. Then I put an umph at the beginning of each chapter and a bang at the end.  This puts life into people like Melba who – my researchers tell me – is dead. Melba – what a sheila!

Jackie:  And your columns?

Fitz: Much the same.  Bullshit up the front and a joke down at the bottom. It works all the time – that’s why I’m one of Fairfax Media’s best paid journos.  And I deserve it.  After all, it takes some effort to make up where Cardinal George Pell lived in Rome or to become an expert about sport stadiums in just five minutes. I must go now.  By the way, can I end with a joke?  It’s the kind of humour which we republicans must use if we are to de-throne Mr and Mrs King anytime soon.

Fitz’s Joke of the Week:

What’s the difference between a tennis ball and the Prince of Wales?

One is heir to the throne and the other is thrown into the air.

Got it! Boom! Fantastic!  No wonder Fairfax Media pays good money for such jam.  Right on – Up the Republic!  Down with the monarchy!  Let a hundred red bandannas bloom!!!



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).


On 2 December 2017, in his Weekend Australian column, Gerard Henderson criticised the comment made by Paul Keating – when launching John Edwards’ book John Curtin’s War – that Robert Menzies was a “woeful coward” in the early years of the Second World War.  On 7 December2017, Paul Keating wrote a response in The Weekend Australian. This led to the following written letter – and verbal rejoinder.  Now read on:

Gerard Henderson to Paul Keating – 13 December 2017

Dear Paul

I refer to your article in The Weekend Australian last Saturday.

The Australian advised me late last Friday that your piece would be published.  I said that I agreed with the decision since I support debate and discussion.  I expected some personal abuse – and was not surprised when you described me as “a practitioner of high pedantry” and someone who plays “fast and loose with the truth”.

Still, it’s softer than the abuse that you hurled at the late Robert Menzies when launching John Edwards’ John Curtin’s War at the Lowy Institute.  As you will recall, you described Menzies as a “dreadful fop”, a “vacuous dandy”, a “vagabond” and “a woeful coward”.  It is unfortunate that you do not understand that there is a difference between abuse and argument.

In your Weekend Australian piece, you made much of what you term a “meeting” between Sir Brudenell White and Sir Keith Murdoch which took place on 12 June 1940.  If you had read the original report of the occasion – titled Notes of Discussion In War Cabinet, Melbourne Evening 12th June 1940 – you would know that this was not a conversation between the two men to whom you referred.

Rather it was a War Cabinet meeting attended by Prime Minister Robert Menzies, Sir Brudenell White, Sir Keith Murdoch, Sir Carl Jess, Mr Essington Lewis, Mr James Brigden and Mr Frederick Shedden. In other words, White and Murdoch were two of the seven present at the meeting.

The notes from the meeting can be found in the Menzies Papers at the National Library of Australia – NLA MS 4936/57/4/21. Note that the reference is incorrectly cited in John Edwards’ endnotes.  The report of this lengthy War Cabinet ran for 38 pages and involved contributions from all those attending – those present reached broad agreement.

Menzies, as prime minister, opened and closed the meeting.  He demonstrated considerable technical expertise concerning such matters as weaponry, supply, clothing and mineral resources along with a clear understanding of the Australian people at war-time.  He also referred to the Trades and Labor Council of NSW as “almost entirely communist” and said that the Australian Council of Trade Unions “do not know there is a war on”.  As you will be aware, in mid-1940 the Communist Party of Australia supported the Hitler-Stalin Pact while some trade unions sought to sabotage the war effort.  In your Weekend Australian piece you did not mention the attempts by the Communist Party and others to undermine the war effort against Nazi Germany when Menzies was prime minister. That was a serious omission – especially for someone who accuses others of being fast and loose with the facts.

It is completely incorrect to refer to an alleged agreement between White and Murdoch, about manpower agreements, which was subsequently endorsed by the War Cabinet, as amounting to a policy of “shameless defeatism” with respect to Japan.  In June 1940 Australia was at war with Nazi Germany – it was not at war with Japan.  Pearl Harbour was bombed in December 1941 – bringing Japan into the Second World War.

If you had read the minutes of the War Cabinet meeting of 12 June 1940, you would know that discussion primarily focused on whether there was a manpower limit for the Second Australian Imperial Force and, if so, what the limit should be.  The attendees recognised the possibility that Japan might become an enemy.  Sir Brudenell dealt with this matter as follows:

Sir Brudenell White: I have always had in mind a system whereby only one-third of these militia would ever be called up at any one time. Australia is in the favoured position that you must get some sort of warning. Japan is some four or five thousand miles away, no bolt from the blue could descend upon you, and until the British Navy is defeated you cannot have anything of strength descend upon you very suddenly. My contemplation has always been, in order not to disturb the civilian population more than can be helped, that the right method is to call up one-third of militia forces at a time and put them at their stations and change over periodically, having the other two-thirds able to be called up immediately on any emergency. That would give you an advantage with your equipment, accommodation and clothing, as well as meeting civil needs as far as possible. And if this emergency ever arose and I were here, that is what I would ask you to let me do. I think that would meet requirements satisfactorily.

In John Curtin’s War, John Edwards cut this comment from the report and commenced his quotes from the meeting with Murdoch’s response to this comment by White. Consequently, Edwards avoided mentioning the fact that White said that Australia had time to defend against an attack from Japan and that it was not easy for Japan to invade a vast continent that was some 3000 to 4000 miles from home. In the event, Japan decided not to attempt an invasion of Australia.

John Edwards’ interpretation of this meeting is that the Menzies Government contemplated “surrender”.  This is inconsistent with the War Cabinet discussions of 12 June 1940.  Indeed most of the 38 pages reporting the meeting turn on how Australia can build its military capacity and the size of the military force which could be deployed.  What’s more, it is unprofessional for a former prime minister to accuse the likes of White and Murdoch of “shameless defeatism” in June 1940 – on the basis of a document which you appear not to have read.

As you know, Robert Menzies had a good personal relationship with (then) Opposition leader John Curtin.  As Opposition leader in war time, Curtin was fully briefed on the war effort. John Edwards asserts that Menzies “surely did not tell him [Curtin] of this bleak assessment” reached at the 12 June 1940 meeting.

“Surely” is not a word that historians are meant to use.  There is no evidence in John Curtin’s War to indicate that Curtin was not advised of the War Cabinet’s discussion of mid-1940.  I can only assume that John just made this up.

Yours sincerely

Gerard Henderson

cc:     Jennifer Campbell

Inquirer Editor

The Weekend Australian

Paul Keating to Gerard Henderson by phone – 13 December 2017

At around 4 pm on Thursday 2017, Paul Keating phoned Gerard Henderson. In a lively discussion, which lasted around 45 minutes, Mr Keating acknowledged that he had not read the full War Cabinet document of 12 June 1940.  He said that he would be back in touch when he had read the document.  For his part, Gerard Henderson agreed that Robert Menzies and Stanley Melbourne Bruce had been appeasers – but added that John Curtin was also once an appeaser.  MWD will publish any correspondence on this issue from Mr Keating.


After listening to Paul Keating’s launch of John Edwards’ John Curtin’s War at the Lowy Institute, Gerard Henderson wrote to the author with a query about the section of the book which Mr Keating quoted.  He initially asked for evidence and subsequently said that John Edwards had quoted an exchange out of context.  If there is a response, this will be published in the first MWD for 2018.

Gerard Henderson to John Edwards – 11 December 2017


I have just read John Curtin’s War and want to check one matter with you before I write about it.

As you will recall, at the commencement of Chapter 14 titled “Australia Defenceless”, you brand the likes of Sir Brudenell White, Sir Richard Colvin, Sir Keith Murdoch along with Robert Menzies and his fellow cabinet members as defeatists with respect to Japan.  The time reference is circa June 1940, i.e. some six months before Pearl Harbour.

At Page 178 you write:

….it is evident that as late as the middle of 1940 the Menzies Government and Australian armed forces had not actively planned to defend Australia against invasion at all.  Brudenell White’s strategy, openly declared to Menzies and his War Cabinet and meeting no objection from them, was that a Japanese invasion would be unnecessary because Australia would “come to terms”. Or, more plainly, surrender.

Australia’s peril was far greater than Curtin warned of in his most strident speeches.  Decades after defining it as the most likely military threat Australia would face, Australia was completely unprepared for war with Japan – a fact accepted with evident placidity by the Government, the army and the navy.  Menzies claimed to have kept Curtin informed of major developments in the war.  He surely did not tell him of his bleak assessment.

What does “surely” mean in the context you used it?  Menzies and Curtin had a good professional relationship. So much so that, after the 1940 election, Menzies invited Curtin to form a national government – an invitation which was declined.

In view of this, it is likely that Prime Minister Menzies would have briefed Opposition leader Curtin on the position adopted by the leadership of the Australian Army and the Australian Navy in the mid-1940s.

Yet you say that this “surely” did not happen and that Menzies did not tell Curtin of Brudenell White’s assessment.  How do you know this?

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson


John Edwards to Gerard Henderson – 11 December 2017

Dear Gerard – thanks your note. I’m in Melbourne today and tomorrow. I’ll respond to your inquiry when I am back at my desk Wednesday

Best wishes



Gerard Henderson to John Edwards – 11 December 2017

Dear John

Many thanks

No hurry

Best wishes



John Edwards to Gerard Henderson – 13 December 2017

Dear Gerard – In his discussion with Sir Keith Murdoch, Robert Menzies and a few others on June 12 1940 General Brudenell White, then Army chief of staff, White was directly asked by Murdoch whether he would ‘fight an invasion’. White replied that ‘if the enemy landed’ White’s forces would have ammunition and guns for only one month’s fighting. He also said that the goal of 130,000 for the home defence army ‘does not envisage invasion’. If the British Navy had been ‘wiped off’, Japan could probably ‘subdue us by action at sea’ within six months. He repeated these views to War Cabinet six days later, telling it that if Japan had defeated British naval forces, Japan ‘could bring the Commonwealth to terms by the exercise of sea power alone, without the need for invasion’.

You suggest that ‘it is likely’ Menzies briefed Curtin on these matters. It is certainly true that Menzies and Curtin had a cordial relationship but they were also the principal protagonists in the Australian political contest. There would likely be a general election later that year and it was already quite apparent that Curtin’s campaign would be based on what he claimed was Australia’s vulnerability to an attack by Japan.

It is possible but I think highly unlikely in these circumstances that Menzies would have told Curtin that the Australian Army’s size, equipment and planning did not ’envisage invasion’ which it would be incapable of resisting. Nor do I think it at all likely Menzies would have told Curtin that White believed Australia would be brought to terms by Japan’s ‘exercise of sea-power alone’, meaning invasion would be unnecessary. Or that these views were explained clearly to War Cabinet, without remonstrance by Menzies.

They were quite astonishing disclosures. Had Curtin been aware of these views he may well have considered it a public duty to disclose them to parliament and bring the Menzies government down. Equally, Menzies would have been very wary of revealing such information to Curtin. During the election campaign in September Curtin did indeed run on Australia’s vulnerability but on my reading of the record showed no awareness of these defeatist attitudes at the heart of Australian planning, or of the complete incapacity of the Australian army to resist invasion. Curtin subsequently revealed quite a lot to reporters in background briefings but I do not recall him ever displaying familiarity with these War Cabinet discussions.

Best wishes



Gerard Henderson to John Edwards – 15 December 2017


Thanks for your note. You should have gone into politics due to your cleverness in not answering questions.

As you will recall, I asked you to provide evidence for the claim at Page 178 of John Curtin’s War that Robert Menzies “surely did not tell” John Curtin of the “bleak assessment” made at the War Cabinet meeting on 12 June 1940.

As you know, “surely” is not a word favoured by professional historians in published works – since it indicates a lack of professional knowledge.

I note that in your email you acknowledge that “it is possible” that Menzies did brief Curtin on the outcome of the 12 June 1940 meeting. But you believe that this is “highly unlikely”.

Clearly, you do not know whether Menzies briefed Curtin on this issue.  The word “surely” in this instance covers something that you just made up.

In conclusion I make a couple of points.

▪ The reference to the Sir Brudenell White/Sir Keith Murdoch discussion in John Curtin’s War is taken out of context – since you did not print White’s comment which led to Murdoch’s question.  As you know, White said in June 1940 – around a year and a half before Pearl Harbour – that Japan was located 3000 to 4000 miles from Australia and that it could not strike at Australia like “a bolt from the blue”. Murdoch’s question followed White’s statement which you censored.

▪ The claim in John Curtin’s War that the War Cabinet of 12 June 1940, over which Robert Menzies presided, envisaged the “surrender” of Australia to Japan is simply false. I have read the 38-page document titled Notes of Discussion In War Cabinet, Melbourne Evening 12th June 1940.  By the way, the reference to this document in your endnote is incorrect.  The correct reference is NLA MS 4936/57/4/21.

As you know, virtually the entire 38 pages of the report turn on manpower requirements for Australia and include a discussion about ammunition, tanks and minerals required for hostilities at a time when Australia was at war with Nazi Germany.

▪ Paul Keating told me on Wednesday that he did not read the 38 page document before endorsing your interpretation of it when he launched your book at the Lowy Institute.

▪ In my view it is unprofessional for you to accuse the likes of Prime Minister Robert Menzies, Sir Brudenell White, Sir Keith Murdoch, Sir Carl Jess, Mr Essington Lewis, Mr James Brigden and Mr Frederick Shedden of being cowards in wanting to “surrender” to Japan.  Your one source for this allegation – the Minutes of the War Cabinet – does not support your damaging assertion.  Moreover, the likes of Jess and Brigden were wounded on the Western Front during the First World War – hardly people addicted to cowardice and surrender.  You should be able to do better than this.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson


Historian Jeff Kildea responded to last week’s “History Corner”. Here we go:

Jeff Kildea to Gerard Henderson – 8 December 2017

Dear Gerard,

Friday evenings at G&T time are always enlivened by your Media Watch Dog blog. But tonight I almost swallowed the lemon ring when I read your “History Corner”. David Marr is correct in saying, in the context of the federal parliament, that “parliamentarians can’t expel people from parliament’. That power was removed by s 8 of the Parliamentary Privileges Act 1987. This followed an inquiry by a joint select committee of the Commonwealth parliament which took a dim view of the [Hugh] Mahon case. In its report the committee said:

The Mahon case focuses on the danger inherent in the present system – the abuse of power by a partisan vote. This danger can never be eradicated and the fact that the only case in federal history when the power to expel was exercised is a case when, we think, the power was demonstrably misused is a compelling argument for its abolition ( Joint Select Committee on Parliamentary Privilege, Final Report October 1984, Parliamentary Paper No 219/1984, para 7.94).

Although Marr is wrong is in attributing the prohibition on expulsion to the Constitution (because it is a common law power originating with the Westminster parliament not infringed by the Constitution and still available in some of the states), the joint select committee observed that the Constitution contains provisions relating to disqualification of members convicted of wrongdoing and that the parliament had other powers at its disposal to discipline members.

All the best,


Jeff Kildea to Gerard Henderson – 8 December 2017

Dear Gerard,

Having removed the lemon ring from my throat (see preceding email) I went on to read your next par “Mark Kenny Underestimates Billy Hughes”. While I agree with your main thesis that Billy Hughes did not scheme to affect “an immediate repudiation of the will of the people”, quite the contrary, I would make the following points:

Firstly, the reason Billy Hughes put the question to the Australian people in 1916 was not because he was conscious it would be contentious but because anti-conscription Labor senators would have blocked “the simple act of Parliament” (an amendment to the Defence Act 1903 to remove the provision limiting compulsion to home service only). He decided to appeal over the senators’ heads to the people. Many pro-conscriptionists disagreed with his decision to do so, arguing that he could have gotten away with a regulation under the War Precautions Act. Whether the High Court would have agreed, we will never know. But Hughes took the democratic course of putting the question to the people.

Secondly, the sequence of events is not as you describe them: “So Billy Hughes quit the Labor Party, joined the National Labor government and called a plebiscite.” Hughes, as Labor prime minister, put to the parliament the Military Service Referendum Bill, which was passed by both houses, including with the votes of anti-conscription Labor senators. It was not until after the referendum on 28 October 1916 that Hughes left the Labor Party. On 14 November caucus met to censure Hughes. After allowing his opponents to have their say, he did not wait for a vote but left the meeting, avoiding the need to resign or to refuse to resign. He took with him 24 members. The Governor-General, Sir Ronald Munro-Ferguson, accepted Hughes’ assurance that the opposition would support his rump government and commissioned him the same day to form what was called the National Labor government. As you know, the Liberals and National Labor amalgamated in early 1917 to form the Nationalist Party and successfully fought the May 1917 elections, winning both houses in a landslide.

Thirdly, Hughes could have had the necessary amendment to the Defence Act passed in 1917 without a vote of the people. But during the election campaign he had promised not to introduce conscription without a second popular vote. He did so (perhaps rashly, given the benefit of hindsight) in order to neutralise conscription as an election issue. Given his large majority and the advice he was receiving as to the grave situation regarding the reinforcement of the AIF, it must have been tempting for him to break the promise by pleading changed circumstances: the Italians were being routed, the Bolsheviks had taken over Russia and, following the May election, the AIF lost more than 40,000 casualties at Messines (June) and Third Ypres (July-November) on top of the losses in the two actions at Bullecourt in April and May. But, to his credit as a democrat and over opposition from some of his “win-the-war” colleagues, Hughes fulfilled his election promise by calling a second referendum for 20 December.

As you rightly point out, on neither occasion did Hughes show contempt for or betray the Australian voters. He sought their opinion and went along with their wishes. Nevertheless, it should also be acknowledged that during the campaigns Hughes adopted measures that were anti-democratic, particularly, in 1917, in order to stifle the free expression of anti-conscription views, as exemplified by his conflict with T.J. Ryan. In the end the anti-conscription message prevailed and in 1917 some in his own party, including W.A. Holman and D.R. Hall in NSW, attributed the referendum’s loss to Hughes’ authoritarian behaviour during the campaign. What goes around, comes around.

All the best,



Gerard Henderson to Jeff Kildea – 13 December 2017


Thanks for your notes of last Friday which were fired off during Gin & Tonic time.  I read both emails with considerable interest and make the following responses:

David Marr & Hugh Mahon

It’s true that under Section 8 of the Parliamentary Privileges Act 1987, parliamentarians cannot expel people from the House of Representatives or the Senate.  However, it is also true that a parliament can repeal this act.  So there is no bar to another Hugh Mahon case occurring – although this is unlikely.

As you note – contrary to David Marr’s claim on Insiders – the Constitution does not prevent a parliamentarian being expelled from parliament.  So I do not see any reason to correct what I wrote in MWD’s “History Corner” last Friday.

Mark Kenny & Billy Hughes

I agree with you that William Morris Hughes could have introduced conscription for overseas service in 1916 under the War Precautions Act. Instead – for whatever reason – he sought to gauge the will of the people on this issue.

I accept that Hughes left/was expelled by the Labor Party after – not before – the October 1916 plebiscite.

I agree with you that Hughes could have had the necessary amendment to the Defence Act passed in 1917 without a vote of the people.  But, once again, Hughes sought to gauge the will of the people on conscription.

I accept that Hughes went in hard during the 1917 plebiscite.  However, I do not agree with W.H. Holman (a pro-conscriptionist) that the “Yes” vote went down on account of the prime minister’s authoritarian behaviour during the campaign.  We now know that the second time a referendum or plebiscite is put to the Australian people, the “No” vote tends to increase.  That’s what happened in 1917 vis a vis 1916.

I was more critical of Billy Hughes half a century ago than I am today.  He was the prime minister of a nation at war who could not provide adequate reinforcements to the First Australian Imperial Force in the front line on the Western Front.  As you know, in 1917 there was a view that the war could not be won by the Allies – and might be lost.

My uncle Alan Dargavel died towards the end of the Third Battle of Ypres.  As I have grown older, I have become more conscious of the interests of those who joined the AIF than of those who – for whatever reason – remained at home.

Have a great Christmas and Keep Morale High.

Gerard Henderson

Jeff Kildea to Gerard Henderson – 13 December 2017


I think you’re on shaky ground regarding the parliament’s power to expel its members. Marr’s comment was in the context of Dastyari’s position. Lots of things are possible with legislation, but as things stand he was correct in stating that Dastyari cannot be expelled by his fellow senators.

We’re ad idem in the case of Hughes. For all his faults he was prepared to put the question to the people twice. In doing so he stared down his critics on the right in both 1916 and 1917. In 1917 those critics had a point because, as you say, things were grim in terms of the Allied position in the war. The saving grace, of course, was the entry of the United States in April, but that was a medium-term solution as General John Pershing was not going to be rushed into committing his troops. As you know, it was not until the middle of 1918 that the Americans arrived in numbers, serving under John Monash at Le Hamel in one of their first offensive operations on 4 July. So it’s a bit rich for Mark Kenny to accuse Hughes of being undemocratic in putting the question again to the people.

Morale is always high. All the best to you and Anne for Christmas and the new year.




Gerard Henderson to Jeff Kildea – 15 December 2017


Thanks for your note.  Morale is high – so I will not be continuing with this correspondence.

It’s good that we are at one concerning Mark Kenny’s unfair criticism of Billy Hughes.

As to David Marr – I guess we just disagree.  David said that Sam Dastyari could not be dismissed from parliament and cited the Constitution in support of his view. As we agree, the Constitution does not deal with this issue.  So it remains possible for a politician to be expelled (Hugh Mahon style) by his or her peers.

All the best for Christmas and the New Year. I look forward to you addressing The Sydney Institute when the second volume of your Hugh Mahon biography is complete.

Best wishes



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Until next time.


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