GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG
ISSUE – NO. 394
16 February 2018
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: Tom Ballard; Josh Bornstein; Virginia Trioli
Great Media U-Turns of Our Time: Fairfax Media Junks Peter FitzSimons’ Claim about a “30 Million Dollar Mansion” in Rome
Correction & Apology re La Trobe University in the Late 1960s
Can You Bear It? – The Drum and The Hamster; Tim Minchin and The Silence + Van Badham
ABC Update: In which Aunty Goes Under the Bed and Refuses to Answer Hendo’s Straight-Forward Questions; The ABC’s Company Tax Howlers starring Emma Alberici and Matt Bevan
New Feature: Outside Outsiders – with Contributions from Ross Cameron, Rowan Dean and Jaynie Seal
Documentation: How the Child Sex Allegations Against The Late Ted Heath Collapsed
Correspondence: The ABC’S Gaven Morris and Sally Jackson Help Out (Sort of)
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COMEDIAN TOM BALLARD’S GREEN LEFT RANT TO CAMERA
What a stunning performance by stand-up comedian Tom Ballard on ABC Comedy’s Tonightly last night. First up, your man Ballard created a record by managing to preside over the use of the “F” word on a mere nine occasions in 30 minutes. Usually the program throws the switch to the “F” word around 15 times a program. Well done and so on.
As usual, there was a lot of YELLING-TO-CAMERA on Tonightly since Tom Ballard seems to be of the view that the louder-the-yell-the-funnier-the-joke.
It turned out that the final third of the program consisted of yet another ABC Green Left Sermon – this time on climate change. Pretty funny, eh?
The Tonightly presenter yelled on about climate change in a rant under the heading “Explainslys Renewables”. The targets were the Coalition’s Tony Abbott and Craig Kelly and Josh Frydenberg and Labor’s Bill Shorten and, of course, President Donald J. Trump. Yawn. Needless to say, there were no “jokes” about such Green Left luvvies and climate change eco-catastrophists as Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.
Tonightly viewers were told that coal “kills the planet” – but they were not told that even Angela Merkel’s government in Germany is constructing efficient coal fired power stations. Yawn. Mr Ballard praised renewable energy before advocating yet more taxpayer subsidies for wind and solar. Yawn. Then came The-End-Is-Nigh warning: “Come on people, the clock is ticking”. Fortunately, it was, and the Tonightly Green Left rant concluded at 9.30 pm. But it seemed like 1.30 am.
JOSH BORNSTEIN’S ABC BONKING “JOKE”
Meanwhile over at the ABC TV’s main channel last night, Virginia Trioli was presiding over a special Q&A program on the “#MeToo” Movement. High profile Sydney barrister Charles Waterstreet was a late scratching – consequently, Melbourne barrister and labour lawyer Josh Bornstein was the only bloke on the program’s panel. He was joined by Janet Albrechtsen, Catharine Lumby and Isabella Manfredi.
Your man Bornstein – who claimed on The Drum last year that there is no freedom of speech in Australia – seemed to have no problem getting his free speech quota last night. The leftie lawyer’s most memorable comment occurred when discussing Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s ban on ministers having sex with their own staff members. Here’s what he had to say:
Josh Bornstein: Can you imagine what would happen to the halls of the ABC if the bonking ban – [laughter] Would there be anybody left?
And here’s what happened when Janet Albrechtsen took umbrage with your man Bornstein’s implication that he always took the side of women in matters of alleged sexual harassment cases and that vulnerable women in the work place should join a trade union:
Janet Albrechtsen: Josh, you have also, it’s not that you just act for women who come to you with complaints of sexual harassment.
Josh Bornstein: Yep.
Janet Albrechtsen: You know that the union movement, like any other workplace, also has claims against it.
Josh Bornstein: Yes.
Janet Albrechtsen: And you have acted for those for the unions in those circumstances.
Josh Bornstein: I’ve acted for people accused of sexual harassment –
Janet Albrechtsen: [Interjecting] No, no. But you’ve also acted for unions –
Josh Bornstein: Yep.
Janet Albrechtsen: – Where women have come – yeah? I think you have, I think you will remember that you have.
Josh Bornstein: Alright.
And so it came to pass that the sainted Bornstein had to acknowledge that some union officials have been accused of sexual harassment and that he had acted for unions in such matters on some occasions.
LA TRIOLI REMEMBERS THE AGE OF OLD
And then on the ABC TV News Breakfast program this morning La Trioli channelled Bornstein in recalling inter-office hanky-panky when she worked at The Age. Let’s go to the transcript during the “Newspapers” segment featuring former Age editor Mike Smith.
Virginia Trioli: And how do you reckon a bonk-ban would go at a newspaper?
Mike Smith: Oh gee, there would have to be a lot of family trees rewritten.
Virginia Trioli: That’s a lot of kids who would not be born – hey?
Michael Rowland: Yeah, it’s okay if it’s journo and journo. The question is if it was editor and journo in this case.
Virginia Trioli: It was all editor and journo. [laughing]
Mike Smith: No, no, no, no.
Michael Rowland: What are you accusing Mike of doing here?
Virginia Trioli: Section editors, various editors, c’mon, it went on.
Mike Smith: Yeah, the problem was always in the middle levels.
Virginia Trioli: [laughing] Mike, thanks so much.
Michael Rowland: Fantastic, and I think your insights today have been particularly penetrating.
As for Mr Rowland’s pun. Groan.
Great Media U-Turns of Our Time
FAIRFAX MEDIA DOES 180 DEGREE TURN ON PETER FITZSIMONS’ CLAIM ABOUT GEORGE PELL’S RESIDENCE IN ROME
Thanks to the avid reader who has drawn MWD’s attention to Tim Elliott’s profile on Robert Richter QC in the current issue of Good Weekend.
According to Fairfax Media’s Tim Elliott, Cardinal Pell’s “official residence” in Rome is “a modest apartment just minutes from the Vatican”.
However, Sun-Herald columnist and Fairfax Media fave Peter FitzSimons continues to claim that Cardinal Pell’s residence in Rome is a “$30 million mansion”.
Once again, the Red Bandannaed One has talked through his hat – er, or rather his red rag.
CORRECTION & APOLOGY
MWD has a policy of correcting errors and issuing apologies when warranted.
Emeritus Professor Robert Manne has written that Gerard Henderson was wrong when he wrote in MWD on several occasions that there was no teach-in on the Vietnam War at La Trobe University in 1968 or 1969. Henderson had claimed that Robert Manne was mistaken – and that the event was held at Monash University.
Gerard Henderson accepts that there was a small teach-in held at La Trobe University on the evening of 8 August 1969. It was not on Vietnam but rather on conscription and conscientious objection. In any event, Gerard Henderson acknowledges that Robert Manne’s memory was not completely faulty in this instance – in that he did attend a teach-in at La Trobe University in the late 1960s. Apologies to Robert Manne.
Gerard Henderson continues to maintain that Professor Manne’s recollections with respect to the late Professor Hugo Wolfsohn are inaccurate – as are Robert Manne’s claims about (alleged) attempts to have him sacked as an Age columnist some two decades ago. Professor Manne is welcome to provide evidence in support of his allegations on these issues – he has not done so.
HOLD THE FRONT PAGE – THE DRUM HEARS OF A DROWNED HAMSTER IN FLORIDA
It was 5.15 pm last Friday – Gin & Tonic time – when Hendo turned on The Drum on ABC TV. Julia Baird was in the presenter’s chair and her guests included Maha Abdo (chief executive officer of the Muslim Women Association) and Sadia Hameed (Council of Ex-Muslims in Britain).
Dr Baird (for a doctor she is, as her Twitter account attests) ended up presiding over a debate between two women about domestic violence, the Koran and all that. Let’s go to the transcript early in the program to get a taste of the debate:
Sadia Hameed: To not discuss that a woman can be beaten by her husband, the Koran actively says that a woman can be beaten by her husband.
Julia Baird: It think it says “lightly disciplined”, my understanding is that’s –
Sadia Hameed: [interjecting] Well, I can’t lightly beat my husband –
Maha Abdo: [interjecting] I’m not going to get into that conversation.
And so it came to pass that Ms Abdo declined to discuss whether the Koran authorises a man to beat his wife – while Ms Hameed wanted to discuss the matter. There was a brief lively debate on the issue – but no more than that. Neither woman shouted the other down and both got their views across on the issues that they chose to address. There was just a genuine disagreement between a practising Muslim and a former Muslim. Ms Hameed wanted to address the issue of domestic violence within Muslim families but Ms Abdo did not want to discuss this matter. That’s all.
However, Maha Abdo took offence – and claimed that she could not be heard or get her view across. And so Julia Baird took some time towards the end of the program to make a kinda apology. It was then that Ms Hameed raised the Hamster Matter. Let’s go to the transcript:
Julia Baird: Given our conversation earlier in the show, I just want to go back to Maha now. I just want to reiterate that you have a very important voice Maha, and we really value you on this show. I know how hard you’ve worked in your community and outside of your community to educate people about assumptions and about myths and about stereotypes. You’re a person of great faith and you always conduct yourself with great grace. So I don’t want you to ever feel drowned out. Do you have anything that you want to say as a consequence of that? And I regret that that caused any distress.
Maha Abdo: That’s okay, just about – what I was – when I was coming through, while I was driving, something came up on my Twitter and it just really fits in very well with what we were talking about. It’s about perception. This woman was going on an airline, she had a therapy pet with her. It was a hamster. And then the person at the desk said to her: “You can’t get your hamster on the plane so you just go and flush it down the toilet.”
So to me, right now, I thought, the perception of what we hear and what we actually do, for me it summed up my conversation earlier. Because I understand there are lots of messages. And there are so many people who are suffering right now. Not just from domestic violence but from violence against so many things that have no voice. And when some of us have the voice to be able to bring out those issues that we are responsible for, I just wish and hope and pray that we listen with our hearts so that we can make a difference for just a little bit of time without just continuously keeping – coming down on certain things. If you know something exists, why do you ask me whether it exists or not. Thank you for that.
As to the hamster. It’s not quite clear what Ms Abdo was on about here. Lisa Marie Segarra reported the matter in Time on 8 February 2018 as follows:
A college student from Florida claims she was forced to flush her emotional support hamster down the toilet after a Spirit Airlines employee allegedly suggested it was one of the only ways she would be allowed to board a flight home.
Spirit Airlines hit back hard against Belen Aldecosea’s claim that she had no choice but to kill her “emotional support animal” Pebbles in order to get home to her family in Florida. In a statement the airline said, “we can say confidently that at no point did any of our agents suggest this Guest (or any other for that matter) should flush or otherwise injure an animal. It is incredibly disheartening to hear this Guest reportedly decided to end her own pet’s life.”
All frightfully interesting, to be sure. Except for the (apparently) late Pebbles and for those tasked to maintain Florida’s sewerage system. But Maha Abdo believes that there is a message in this for all viewers of The Drum who take an interest in domestic violence. Can You Bear It?
TIM MINCHIN ALSO CLAIMS THAT HE IS SILENCED
While on the topic of high profile Australians who claim not to be able to be heard, consider the case of comedian/musician Tim Minchin. On 1 February 2018, The Age’s “Green Guide” reported that your man Minchin has returned to Australia from Los Angeles following the decision of DreamWorks to cancel the planned animated feature Larrikins which he was to direct. This is what Louise Schwartzkoff had to say about the return of the Minchin:
Chances are, when he gets annoyed about local politics, there will be more satirical songs in the vein of “I Still Call Australia Homophobic”, his song for marriage equality, and “Come Home (Cardinal Pell)”, his furious (and funny) condemnation of Australia’s highest-ranking Catholic’s failure to appear in person at the royal commission into child abuse.
But as his audience continues to grow (more than 2.5 million people have watched the Cardinal Pell video on YouTube) he thinks carefully about when to add his voice to public debate. He has stayed deliberately quiet during the spate of revelations about sexual harassment and abuse in the entertainment industry. “I find it hard that I’m not allowed to say anything, but that’s good, right? I’m an entitled white guy with a huge audience and I feel like I don’t have the right to speak. People like me are just shutting the f— up and that’s right.”
And, as a man in the industry – “a flirty, sexually driven, powerful guy” – he confesses he finds it a bit scary. “I doubt that any woman has ever been scared in my presence but I get drunk and talk about sex all the time … But at the moment, the people who are falling seem to be the proper baddies, so at the moment it seems to be alright.” He thinks speaking out too often about public issues could dilute his impact. “If you don’t have anything different to say, don’t say it at all,” he says. “That’s my rule.”
For the record, Cardinal Pell voluntarily appeared once in person before the Royal Commission and on two occasions via video link. In any event, on the “#MeToo” matter, the garrulous Minchin is saying that he has been silenced. But he doesn’t say by whom.
However, it’s great to know that Tim Minchin is not a “proper baddie” even though the 42-year-old confesses to getting drunk and talking about sex all the time. Can You Bear It?
VAN BADHAM V CHRIS KENNY: A Q&A ENCOUNTER
What a stunning performance by Van Badham on Q&A last Monday. The leftist activist effectively called The Australian’s Chris Kenny a fascist and a racist and then complained: “There are only white people on this panel.”
Van Badham could have solved this matter by rejecting the invitation and suggesting that the Q&A team find a person of colour to take her spot. But, instead, Mr Badham rocked up and whinged that all the panellists were white. Can You Bear It?
[Er, no, I note that Chris Kenny put in a great performance – he was both forceful and considered. Which perhaps explains why this was his first appearance on Q&A in seven years. – MWD Editor.]
THE ABC ASKS – BUT DECLINES TO ANSWER – QUESTIONS
Some years ago, when Nice Mr Scott was ABC managing director and (so-called) editor-in-chief, the taxpayer funded public broadcaster signed up to the Right-To-Know Coalition. It soon became evident that ABC managers and journalists believe that they have a right-to-know about others – but no one has a right to know about the ABC.
As avid readers are aware, star ABC reporter Louise Milligan refused to answer straight-forward questions from Gerard Henderson about her book Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell (MUP, 2017). Despite telling ABC TV News Breakfast that Cardinal was written “from the point of view of the complainants”, Louise (“No Comment”) Milligan went under-the-bed and refused to answer straight forward questions about such matters as her attitude to evidence and the use of direct quotations. Ms Milligan sought comfort in soft questioning on ABC programs by her ABC mates – and even approached her editor, the formidable Louise Adler, to get Hendo to drop his queries. Needless to say, Louise Milligan won a Walkley Award from her peers for all this.
As the hugely popular MWD Correspondence segment demonstrates today, ABC management along with ABC journalists have refused to answer straight-forward questions, which only require “Yes” or “No” responses, concerning 7.30’s allegations about the late Kevin Lyons which aired at 7.30 on 24 January 2018. Put simply, 7.30 alleges that the late Mr Lyons was corrupt – but has gone under-the-bed and refused to answer questions as to how it came to such a conclusion and why no other view was canvassed on the program. MWD will keep you posted if, in the unlikely event, the ABC has the courage to answer Hendo’s questions.
THE ABC’S COMPANY TAX HOWLERS
Businessman Justin Milne (the ABC’s chairman) and former businesswoman Michelle Guthrie (the ABC’s managing director) did a professional pitch at the taxpayer funded public broadcaster’s inaugural ABC annual public meeting.
It’s a pity they do not spend more time overseeing some of the ABC’s business reporting. On Wednesday, ABC chief economics correspondent Emma Alberici put out an article titled “There’s no case for a corporate tax cut when one in five of Australia’s top companies don’t pay it.”
It seems that Ms Alberici fails to understand that company tax is only payable by businesses which make profits – and that past losses can be carried over into future years. This article has been taken down from the ABC website following a withering criticism by Joe Aston in his “Rear Window” column in today’s Australian Financial Review.
ABC Radio National presenter Fran Kelly had to apologise after – following Emma Alberici’s report – Matt Bevan committed a howler of confusing Qantas’ profit with its revenue.
The ABC consumes over $1 billion of taxpayer’s money each year – but it still puts to air and prints economic ignorance.
NEW FEATURE – OUTSIDE OUTSIDERS
ROSS CAMERON ON THE SUN, THE ROMAN EMPIRE & MOSES ON THE 10TH COMMANDMENT
There was enormous reader interest in last week’s Jackie’s Lunar Appreciation Society segment which featured Outsiders’ co-presenter Ross Cameron’s teachings on the Moon, the atmosphere and that kind of thing.
In view of this, MWD will be monitoring The Thought of Ross Cameron – as told to Outsiders’ viewers – on a regular basis – starting with reflections on the Sun at the commencement of last Sunday’s program at 9 am.
But first (as journalists would say), MWD would like to praise the highly talented and witty Jaynie Seal who also featured in last week’s MWD. You see, Ms Seal claimed last Sunday that she has been training Outsiders’ co-presenter Rowan Dean for his alternative weather report each Sunday titled Outsiders Weather which focuses on evidence – from colder climates – of a forthcoming Ice Age.
Here’s Ms Seal, in choreographer mode, as she teaches your man Dean his weather reading steps and hand gestures. And here’s Hendo’s favoured former advertising executive in full-flight. All this occurred towards the start of the second hour of Outsiders last Sunday.
And now let’s go to what avid MWD readers have been waiting for. Here’s how Ross Cameron opened the first hour of Outsiders last Sunday:
My name is Ross Cameron, this is my co-host Rowan Dean.
And as I watch the Sun, the beautiful, golden orb rise over the horizon at 6:26 this morning, spreading both light and heat across our beautiful continent – I thought to myself, how often it is, that if we just allow natural organic systems to work they deliver the greatest benefit to the greatest number? And on the subject of equality, I just want to say that throughout history, so often we find that efforts to intervene, to re-weight the dice to produce a perfect equality of outcomes actually hurt humans – and, in particular, hurt the poor.
And it was in 1980 when Chinese leader Deng Zhou Ping uttered the sentence that changed China forever, that took it from a nation of indigent peasants to the world’s largest economy was: “We must allow some to get rich first”. This insight echoes that of the great historian Edward Gibbon, “The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire”, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, who said that the unequal distribution of property is indeed one of the most common causes of conflict in history. But he said that it was an unequal but necessary division of property.
And indeed, if we go back further, Moses, the law-giver (whether he was 1300 or 1500 BC, we’re not exactly sure). But when he came down from Mount Sinai with the big 10. The 10 ideas on which the Israelites would forge their culture. Number 10, curiously to many, was “Thou shalt not covet”. And Moses recognised this natural human impulse to see it if somebody else has something I must have that same thing. That if we could restrain the impulse to covet and to envy it would create the greatest benefit to the greatest number, most especially the poor. And so when Donald Trump announced…
Fascinating. Just fascinating. You see, your man Cameron was educated in the Presbyterian Church’s Knox Grammar School in Sydney. So he knows the Protestant version of the Tenth Commandment which deals with the sin of coveting in its many manifestations.
Fortunately for Outsiders’ viewers who were brought up in the Catholic tradition, the Tenth Commandment is the same number across both faiths. Not so the Sixth Commandment which is the Protestant numbering in “Thou shalt not kill” – but “Thou shalt not commit adultery” in the Catholic numbering.
So last week, Ross Cameron’s opening (secular) sermon was on the Sun – with a side reference to Moses. And the week before on the Moon – with a side reference to the First Fleet. So, what’s on for next Sunday? Perhaps the Stars?
ALLEGATIONS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT AGAINST HIGH PROFILE INDIVIDUALS: THE BRITISH STORY (SO FAR)
The Sunday Times carried an article by James Gillespie titled “Lurid Tales and Legal Fees; The One Thing Not Piling Up Is Evidence” on 4 February 2018. Gillespie has been covering Britain’s Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) – which is headed by Professor Alexis Jay.
Previously James Gillespie has written about Operation Conifer and Sir Richard Henriques report into the Metropolitan Police Service. IICSA was set up three years ago by Teresa May when she was home secretary in David Cameron’s Conservative government.
Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse
Currently, IICSA is conducting 13 separate inquiries. But the one that is receiving the most interest is the one that focuses on the allegation that high profile members of the Establishment – politicians, business figures, church leaders and the like – were engaged in a pedophile ring centred on Westminster and Whitehall in the 1970s and 1980s. It is said to have involved some of the most powerful figures in Britain – including former prime minister Ted Heath (1916-2005). One of those who gave vent to these untested claims was prominent Labour frontbencher Tom Watson.
The leading accuser of the late Ted Heath – a man named “Nick” – has been proved to be a fantasist. Nick’s allegations were so demonstrably false that he now faces possible prosecution for attempting to pervert the course of justice. The IICSA has distanced itself from Nick’s testimony in its inquiry into other high profile individuals. As Matthew Paris wrote in The Times last Monday, “Nick” was recently charged with pedophile related offences.
IICSA is hearing from a woman who has made unsubstantiated child sexual abuse claims against former Liberal Democrats politician John Hemming. And a man who has inaccurately claimed that the Paedophile Information Exchange was given money by the British government between 1974 and 1984. Plus an anonymous claimant – whose family says is an unmitigated liar – who asserts that Heath raped him.
Wilshire Police & Operation Conifer
In October 2017, Wilshire Police released results of its investigation, titled Operation Conifer, into allegations of non-recent child abuse made against Sir Edward Heath. It found that of the 40 complaints made against Heath, only seven would had led him to being questioned. Just questioned. But one of the seven matters had already led to a claim against Heath being rejected by police. Even if it is accepted that Heath should have been questioned about seven matters, this means that Wilshire Police effectively dismissed out-of-hand 32 out of the 40 allegations – that is, around 83 per cent. This demonstrates the foolishness of those journalists who believe that allegations made against high profile individuals are always accurate and plausible. The fact is that fantasists do exist – while others have clear recollections of events that never happened due to mistaken identity and the like.
Writing in The Sunday Times on 8 October 2017, James Gillespie made the following point concerning the seven claims that Wilshire Police said would have warranted Heath being questioned:
The Sunday Times has spoken to some of those who worked most closely with Heath who cast doubt on a further four of the claims.
A former police protection officer, who worked on a team guarding Heath during the period when two claimants made allegations, contacted Operation Conifer to offer to give evidence in August 2015. He never received a reply. He said that an alleged offence of indecent assault of an “adult male after consent was withdrawn” during a “paid sexual encounter” in a Wiltshire hotel in 1992 could not have happened. “This idea of him going into a Wiltshire hotel just would not be possible,” he said. “If Ted wanted to wander off and do something, we wouldn’t have let him. He didn’t have any space in his day. He did nothing but co-operate with us. The worst that Ted would do is say ‘I fancy going out for a pint’. The driver would come to the front door, police would open the gates, the close protection officer and Ted would go for a pint, sit in a corner, chat about the world. He was never on his own.”
The second related to an alleged incident in a private garden, when Heath is accused of assaulting a boy aged between 12 and 14 during “a chance encounter”. “Heath would not have been on his own. If the private garden was the one at Arundells [Heath’s home in Salisbury] then any visitor would have to be booked in and out. The gardens were covered by CCTV and trip wires — even when Ted was working in his office, we could still see him.”
Lord MacGregor, who ran Heath’s private office from 1965-68 after Heath became Tory leader, was not questioned despite the fact one of the seven claims relates to an alleged incident in 1967. The claim accuses Heath of indecently assaulting a 15-year-old in a “chance encounter in a public building” in Guernsey. “I went nearly everywhere with him, but I didn’t go to Guernsey,” MacGregor told The Sunday Times. Conifer officers spoke neither to him nor his wife, Jean, who was Heath’s private secretary from 1959-62. “We never had the slightest whiff of anything,” MacGregor added.
Another of the seven allegations was said to have happened in Jersey in 1976 when Heath is alleged to have assaulted “over clothing” an adult male during a public event. Penelope Gummer, who was Heath’s secretary from 1971-77, echoed MacGregor’s account. “We in the office arranged his diary for all his waking hours. At no time did we ever find that we could not contact him when we hoped that we could and he never failed to meet people at home or fail to arrive at a rendezvous in unknown circumstances.”
All of the seven complaints, with the exception of the rape allegation, were made to police after a controversial appeal for “victims” made by Superintendent Sean Memory outside Heath’s former home in August 2015.
And that’s the problem. If police, in Britain or Australia, give media conferences or put out press releases effectively calling for complainants to make complaints against a high profile individual – it’s not surprising that some fantasists will present themselves to police with the aim of becoming temporarily famous and/or receiving financial compensation, while others will exhibit instances of mistaken identity.
Writing in The Sunday Times on 8 October 2017, Dominic Lawson made the following point:
As [former Director of Public Prosecutions Ken] Macdonald points out, Wiltshire police’s conclusion that seven claims could not be summarily dismissed, and that therefore they would have questioned Heath about them, “gives entirely bogus credibility to their investigation without meaning anything in forensic terms. The bar for interview is low — in most investigations as low as the police want it to be, and in the case of a dead man virtually non-existent.”
This is, I’m afraid, a ghostly echo of that other costly farce, Operation Midland: its investigating officer had at the outset declared “credible and true” the claims of a man called “Nick” to have witnessed various members of the Establishment (including, obviously, Ted Heath) sexually abusing and even murdering children. It was all lies — or delusion.
Sir Richard Henriques’ Review of the Metropolitan Police Service
In October 2016, Sir Richard Henriques – a retired judge of the High Court of England and Wales – issued a report titled An Independent Review of the Metropolitan Police Service’s handling of non-recent sexual offence investigations alleged against persons of public prominence. Sir Richard was asked by the Metropolitan Commissioner of Police to conduct a review into Metropolitan Police Service’s investigation into allegations of non-recent sexual offences alleged to have been committed by prominent individuals in Whitehall and Westminster.
In his report, Sir Richard made a number of important findings. He held that the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) should have advised Lord Leon Brittan, during his lifetime, that no further action would be taken against him in relation to an allegation of rape claimed to have taken place many years earlier. Sir Richard also criticised a senior MPS officer for saying that the allegations made by “Nick” concerning Edward Heath and others were credible and true before they were tested in court. Sir Richard also castigated the Metropolitan Police Service for describing people who made allegations of sexual assault as “victims” – rather than as complainants.
The Henriques report on the Metropolitan Police Service and the Wilshire Police’s Operation Conifer report demonstrate that fantasists do make allegations of sexual abuse against high profile individuals concerning pedophile and other instances of sexual assault.
It remains to be seen whether the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse’s inquiry about allegations of paedophilia with respect to high profile members of the British Establishment will come to a different conclusion. So far, this seems unlikely. As James Gillespie has stated, lurid tales and legal fees are currently piling up – but not supporting evidence.
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).
GERARD HENDERSON AND JUSTIN STEVENS AND SALLY JACKSON AND GAVEN MORRIS RE HOW THE ABC ASKS – BUT AVOIDS ANSWERING – SIMPLE QUESTIONS ABOUT ITS REPORTING
As indicated earlier, following 7.30’s report on 24 January 2018 alleging that former politician Kevin Lyons had taken a bribe from gaming interests to bring down Angus Bethune’s Liberal Party government in Tasmania in early 1972, Gerard Henderson asked two straight-forward questions about the program. Namely, did 7.30 speak to any members of the late Kevin Lyons family? – and why 7.30 failed to put to air anyone who disputed its line that Lyons was corrupt. These are important questions – since gaming is a bit issue in Tasmania’s election which will be held on 3 March 2018.
Now read on as the correspondence below demonstrates how Hendo got the run around as senior ABC types refused to answer his simple questions – despite the fact that the taxpayer funded broadcaster proudly proclaims its (alleged) support for the public’s Right-to-Know.
Gerard Henderson to Justin Stevens – 7 February 2018
I have just viewed the 7.30 report on Kevin Lyons which first aired on 25 January 2018.
I would be grateful if you can answer the following questions:
- Was any member of Kevin Lyons’ family contacted before this story went to air? As you will be aware, Mr Lyons died in 2000.
- Why did 7.30 not put to air anyone who contested Natalie Whiting’s story about Kevin Lyons’ alleged corrupt behaviour?
I would appreciate a response by mid-day tomorrow.
For the record, I taught politics at the University of Tasmania in 1972 and I am familiar with the allegations in this instance.
Sally Jackson to Gerard Henderson – 8 February 2018
Hi Gerard, your inquiry was passed on to me. ABC response, from a spokesperson:
It was made clear in the story that these were allegations and that the original police investigation found no evidence of a criminal conspiracy. The allegations are a matter of public record and have been the focus of renewed reporting in Tasmania in the past 10 months.
The details of the corruption allegations were based on a copy of the police report from 1973, obtained from Tasmania’s archives. The impetus for this story was the Tasmania Police decision to review the original case file. As such, there was a focus on new allegations and details which may be considered by the police. Again, it was stated that no criminal conspiracy was uncovered by the original police investigation. The only person or entity still in existence named in the allegations discussed in the story was the Federal Group. The Federal Group was offered an opportunity to respond, but unfortunately pulled out of a scheduled interview half an hour before it was to be recorded.
ABC Media Manager
Gerard Henderson to Sally Jackson – 12 February 2018
Thanks for your email in response to my note of yesterday concerning the 7.30 report on the 1972 Tasmanian election.
I note, however, that you have declined to answer my two specific questions. I repeat them below:
- Was any member of Kevin Lyons’ family contacted before this story went to air? As you will be aware, Mr Lyons died in 2000.
- Why did 7.30not put to air anyone who contested Natalie Whiting’s story about Kevin Lyons’ alleged corrupt behaviour?
In view of your refusal to answer these specific questions, I can only assume that the ABC has gone into “no comment” mode on this matter. After all, it would only take a word to answer each query – i.e. “Yes” or “No”.
Gerard Henderson to Gaven Morris – 13 Feb 2018
To: Gaven Morris, ABC Director, News
As you will be aware, last Wednesday I sent an email to 7.30 executive director Justin Stevens concerning his program’s segment on 24 January 2018 titled “New allegation about collapse of 1972 Tasmanian government”. The allegation, reported by Natalie Whiting, was that the late Kevin Lyons had received a bribe from Federal Hotels (now the Federal Group) to bring down Angus Bethune’s Liberal Party minority government in Tasmania in early 1972.
I asked Mr Stevens two specific questions:
- Was any member of Kevin Lyons’ family contacted before this story went to air?
- Why did 7.30 not put to air anyone who contested Natalie Whiting’s story about Kevin Lyons’ alleged corrupt behaviour in 1972?
It seems that Justin Stephen flicked the matter to ABC Media Manager Sally Jackson. She spent two paragraphs defending Natalie Whiting’s report on Kevin Lyons’ (alleged) corruption but did not answer either of my straightforward questions.
This is not the kind of response which 7.30 presenter Leigh Sales tolerates when she asks straight forward questions to politicians, business figures, church leaders and the like. Why should 7.30 adopt a different standard when questions are asked of it.
As I understand it, the ABC is still a member of the Right to Know Coalition. However, ABC executives will not answer “Yes” or “No” to straight forward questions about its front-line news and current affairs program. This is an unpleasant double standard.
I would be grateful if you could arrange for someone at 7.30 to answer my questions. In the interest of the public’s right to know – of course.
Gaven Morris to Gerard Henderson – 14 February 2018
I’m not clear whether you’re seeking a response to report through your column or other media – in which case Sally is the right person to be in contact with and I know she’s sought to be helpful to you. We’re always happy to assist you in this regard.
Otherwise, if you’re alleging we’ve made an editorial error, which you’re perfectly entitled to do, you’re familiar with the editorial complaints process conducted independently of News. I know you’re not a fan of it – but it is the established method for alleged errors to be investigated.
From my perspective, I’d rather program Editors and EPs focus on the job putting programs and stories out than responding to each inquiry – even if they’re from esteemed members of the community like yourself. That’s why the processes we have are in place to assist.
All the best for a successful year Gerard,
Gerard Henderson to Gaven Morris – 14 February 2018
Thanks for your note. By the way, the flattery is not necessary. I don’t consider myself as “esteemed” and would be surprised if I am so regarded within the ABC.
My problem is this. I asked 7.30 executive producer Justin Stevens two straight-forward questions about a 7.30 report on the late Kevin Lyons. He declined to answer and flicked my questions to ABC Media Manager, Sally Jackson. Ms Jackson wrote to me – but avoided answering my questions.
So I asked you the very same questions in your capacity as Director News. You also declined to answer and suggested that I contact Sally Jackson. This despite the fact that she has already declined to answer the straight-forward questions – which only require a “Yes” or “No” response.
You also suggest that I might take this matter up with the ABC’s editorial complaints process. This would be a waste of time since Editorial and Consumer Affairs dismisses over 95 per cent of the complaints it examines. Also, I do not have a complaint – since I do not have an answer to my straight-forward questions on which to base any such complaint. In any event, Editorial and Consumer Affairs invariably take at least 6 weeks to respond to viewers/listeners – by which time issues are invariably “old news”.
I reckon that the ABC should stop pretending that it is in the Right-to-Know business. Just a thought.
All the best and Keep Morale High.
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Until next time.
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