ISSUE – NO. 395

23 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: Hamish Macdonald; Malcolm Farr; Michael Fullilove & Tom Ballard

  • A Correction Corrected – There was No Vietnam Teach-in at La Trobe University in the late 1960s

  • MWD Exclusive: In which Amanda Buckley Reflects on the Second Coming

  • Can You Bear It? Margot Saville: ABC TV and The Saturday Paper Miss the Barnaby Joyce Story; Richard Ackland’s Unsourced Nude Streak Rumour; SMH’s Letters Howler

  • New Feature: The Media, Crystal Balls and the Late Bob Ellis: Starring Mike Carlton’s Hopeless Peter Dutton Prophecy

  • Five Paws Award: Step Forward Michael Hewitt-Gleeson Who Bagged Fairfax Media’s Errors About the Catholic Church’s Wealth

  • Outside Outsiders: Ross Cameron’s Advice to Malcolm Turnbull and Donald J. Trump

  • Anonymous Sources Update: The Good Weekend Finds Only Anonymous Critics of Robert Richter QC

  • Correspondence: Francis Sullivan Helps Out Re The Saturday Paper



What a stunning Friday Political Panel on Radio National Breakfast this morning.  Hamish Macdonald was in the presenter’s chair in the absence of Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly who is in Melbourne for Insiders on Sunday.  His guests were Alice Workman and Malcolm Farr.

The discussion was going along satisfactorily when the panel took exception to former prime minister Tony Abbott’s article in today’s Australian.  In particular, Mr Abbott’s suggestion that he was responsible for the Coalition winning government in August 2013.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Malcolm Farr: …[Tony Abbott’s] stunning line is “I’m the one who knows how to win elections”.

Alice Workman: And also “I got you all your jobs so you should be quiet”

Malcolm Farr: (laughing)… Look, Labor was on a course of self-destruction for six years. Tony Abbott happened to be there to shovel the rubble into the waste bin and take the prime ministership. It wasn’t exactly a glorious and well-planned ascendancy. But he claims only he knows how to win elections….

Malcolm Farr seems to have forgotten that when Tony Abbott took over the Liberal Party leadership in December 2009, Labor under the leadership of Kevin Rudd was travelling very well indeed. It was Mr Abbott who put pressure on Mr Rudd who, in mid-2010, was replaced by Julia Gillard – who managed to head a minority Labor government after the August 2010 election.  Tony Abbott led the Coalition to victory against Kevin Rudd in September 2013, after Julia Gillard was dragged down in June 2013.  Tony Abbott was Opposition leader when two prime ministers were displaced – first Kevin Rudd, then Julia Gillard.

So Mr Farr’s view that Labor was on the course to self-destruction when Tony Abbott took over as Liberal Party leader in December 2009 is just nonsense.

Likewise, Hamish Macdonald’s suggestion that just because Tony Abbott arrived in Australia as a child he has no right to call for a reduction of immigration.  Malcolm Farr had the good sense to refute this view.

Hamish Macdonald also claimed that Tony Abbott’s address to The Sydney Institute last Tuesday was timed since “he does seem to like doing these things when Malcolm Turnbull is out of the country”.

This is absolute tosh, which Hamish Macdonald would know if he had done a fact-check. Tony Abbott’s speech was planned last October, confirmed last December and the date was finalised in January for Tuesday 20 February 2018.  The date chosen had nothing – absolutely nothing – to do with the Prime Minister’s travel arrangements to the United States.  Hamish Macdonald just made this up.



Lowy Institute executive director Michael (“I’m an Obama fan boy”) Fullilove threw the switch to snobbery on Radio National Breakfast this morning.  First up, Dr Fullilove (for a doctor he is) told presenter Hamish Macdonald that in President Donald J Trump “we’re dealing with a leader of the Free World who doesn’t believe in the Free World”. What a load of absolute tosh.

Then your man Macdonald asked the Obama fan boy what advice he would give the Prime Minister before he meets the United States president.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Hamish Macdonald: What would you be advising Malcolm Turnbull if you were one of his advisers today, before going into this meeting?  Given the unpredictability of Trump and also the differences in their character. I mean, Malcolm Turnbull –  it’s hard to imagine a leader more different to Trump in the way that they think about matters, the way that they add nuance to conversations. What would you be saying to Prime Minister Turnbull?

Michael Fullilove: I think Turnbull probably has a pretty good fix on Trump. And the reason I say this is a couple of things. First of all you’re right, they’re very different. Because Turnbull is a cosmopolitan, a sophisticate, an inner-city liver, an art collector. And Mr Trump is a brash property developer from the outer boroughs.

How snobbish can you get?  Not only is Donald J Trump a brash property developer – he comes from Queens, not Manhattan. A sufficient cause of an immediate impeachment, surely.


Could this be a record?  On Tonightly last night, presenter Tom Ballard only used the “F” word on three occasions – down from 15 times the previous Thursday.  And your man Ballard did not pretend to spit out water or throw up in a bucket.  Perhaps this is why Tonightly’s producer thought it wise to have Tom Ballard pitch for viewers (if viewers there be) to roll up and join the live audience (well, it’s not really live since the program is live-to-tape) in future weeks.  If future weeks there are to be.


In last week’s MWD, Gerard Henderson wrote that there was a small teach-in held at La Trobe University on 8 August 1969.  In fact, the event was held on 25 July 1969.  While the radical left group Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) claimed that this was a teach-in, it was in fact a mere get-together of a campus left-wing group.  It was not a teach-in of the kind which were held in the United States in the late 1960s and on such Australian campuses at Monash University around the same time.  The details of the so called teach-in, which focused on conscription and conscientious objection but made no objection of the Vietnam War, can be found in the Rabelais newspaper of 8 August 1969.

Consequently, Gerard Henderson has reverted to his original position that, contrary to Robert Manne’s assertion in the La Trobe University book From the Paddock to the Agora, there was no “Vietnam War teach-in” at La Trobe “in 1968 or 1969”.  If Robert Manne has evidence to support his assertion on this matter, MWD will print it.



One-time journalist Amanda Buckley is one of MWD’s faves.  So, in the parlance of our day, Hendo was EXCITED when Ms Buckley appeared at the front of the first episode of the documentary Hawke, The Larrikin and the Leader which aired on ABC TV on Sunday 11 February.

Amanda Buckley was a young journalist working in Old Parliament House in Canberra on the evening of Saturday 5 March 1983 when Labor leader Bob Hawke defeated the Coalition (led by Malcolm Fraser) and became prime minister. At the time, Bob Hawke was a hero of the Canberra Press Gallery.

Over three decades later, Amanda Buckley was still a bit teary when she reflected on the momentous moment on the Hawke documentary – as the transcript reveals:

Amanda Buckley: The buzz of excitement was everywhere, given that this looked like it was going to be an historic change of government. There was this huge groundswell of excitement. Bob Hawke and his wife Hazel were actually going to come into the Tally Room. I think Bob was looking for a crowd that night. And suddenly the door opened, this guy with silver hair poked his head through and brought in his lovely wife, all dressed in silver.  And something around them was quite magical.  It was a bit like the Second Coming. It was amazing.

Yep. How amazing. It appears that Ms Buckley, perhaps in her early journalist days, had witnessed the Second Coming – and reckoned the victory of what some called the “Silver Bodgie” resembled this, in a magical kind of way.

Meanwhile, Jackie’s (male) co-owner has to confess that, somehow or other, he totally missed the Second Coming. Perhaps it occurred when he was under the weather.  But Hendo is anxious to be around for the Third Coming and hopes to cover media reporting of this event.

Can You Bear It


Margot Saville, Crikey’s Sydney-based reporter, stayed at home on Thursday and reported Tony Abbott’s speech at The Sydney Institute – on immigration and some other issues – from her Hunters Hill abode for the Crikey newsletter’s Wednesday edition.  It seems she turned to the Foxtel A-PAC channel or watched the function on the Sky News’ website.

In any event, Margot Saville decided to ridicule Mr Abbott, not to praise him.  She compared Australia’s 28th prime minister’s speech to a heritage music concert where the star “a stiff-legged hologram of his youthful self, will sing all his biggest hits”. This overlooks the fact that Tony Abbott is three years younger than Malcolm Turnbull – and so hardly of political “heritage” status.

Ms Saville concluded her Crikey piece, which was titled “Sing along if you know the words: Abbott’s greatest hits at the Sydney Institute” as follows:

A few weeks ago I went to see “The Modfather”, Paul Weller, at the Sydney Opera House. It was a fantastic concert. I loved the Jam and The Style Council and he played all my favourite songs. But something else happened: the 59-year-old played new music, great songs which he had composed and arranged in the years since the Style Council broke up in 1989.  He’s not a heritage act but a brilliant musician and that’s why he sold out the Opera House. There’s a lesson here.  Tony, unless you want to keep playing smaller and smaller venues, and end up at the Manly RSL on a Friday night competing with the pokies, it’s time to either change your act or move on.  Because the rest of us have stopped listening.

So there you have it.  Margot Saville watched Tony Abbott’s speech live to a full house on television and wrote about it in Crikey.  And she then declared that everyone has “stopped listening” to Mr Abbott.  Except, it seems, Ms Saville herself.  Can You Bear It?


Jackie’s (male) co-owner arrived home at Gin & Tonic time last Friday.  Last week was a newsy one in Australian politics.  On Thursday morning, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce would be taking a week’s leave.  Later in the day, Mr Turnbull comprehensively carpeted Mr Joyce for having an affair with a female staffer – and the latter (wearing an Akubra hat) returned the favour the following morning by calling the Prime Minister’s comments about him “inept”.

So here was an instance where the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister were bagging each other in public – while the future of Barnaby Joyce as leader of the Nationals was uncertain.

So, on returning to base on Friday and mixing a Gin & Tonic, Hendo decided to catch up with the news and current affairs on the taxpayer funded public broadcaster’s main channel.  Alas, there wasn’t any.  You see, ABC TV had gone out to afternoon tea – and remained there.

The Drum – which goes to air between 5.15 pm and 6 pm – had been replaced by the Women’s Australian Open live from the Kooyonga Golf Club in Adelaide.

At 6 pm Paul McDermott, dressed in a white beard on top of his Doctor Who reject coat, asked questions of contestants – who mainly didn’t know the answers. The quiz show is called “Think Tank” – it’s not clear why.

Sure, there was the ABC TV main news between 7 pm and 7.30 pm.

But 7.30, the ABC’s premier news and current affairs program, has been junked on Friday nights.  It’s been replaced by Gardening Australia presented by the bearded back-to-earther Costa Georgiadis, who happens to live in suburban Sydney. His predecessor was back-to-earther Peter Cundall, who lived in Hobart.  Mr Cundall’s qualifications included a period as a member of the Communist Party of Australia during the time of Leonid Brezhnev’s dictatorship in the Soviet – a red finger to match his green finger, apparently.

Last Friday at 7.30 pm, while many Australians were focused on the Turnbull/Joyce controversy, viewers of Gardening Australia were learning about your man Georgiadis’ views on the best kind of container for growing vegetables.

And, er, that was about it – since the once important evening Lateline program was junked late last year.

As avid readers are aware, The Saturday Paper goes to print on Thursday – and Hendo reads it on Monday. He’s not missing anything since, despite its title, The Saturday Paper is not really a newspaper – it contains no news.  More like a leftist in-house journal for inner-city members of the Sandalista Class to read over a latte in a café in Fitzroy North early in the weekend. [Perhaps it should be renamed “The Sandalista Paper”. Just a thought – MWD Editor.]

In any event, last weekend’s The Saturday Paper contained a Page One story by Karen Middleton under the heading: “Turnbull caught by Hobson’s Joyce: As Barnaby Joyce clings to the Nationals’ leadership, his Coalition colleagues watch and wait for further fallout from his indiscretions”.

Ms Middleton’s Saturday “scoop” did not refer to Barnaby Joyce’s retaliatory criticisms of Malcolm Turnbull – since they occurred on  Friday morning when The Saturday Paper was already printed.

So anyone who hoped to get their news from The Drum and 7.30 last Friday night – and from The Saturday Paper the following morning – would not have had a clue about what was going on in Australian politics. Can You Bear It?


MWD just loves the undergraduate tone of Richard Ackland’s “Gadfly” column in The [Boring] Saturday Paper. Last week there were references to “Big George Pell”, “Grouper Greg Sheridan”, “the Catholic Boys Daily”, “Little Chris Kenny”, “Maddy Devine”, the “Barnyarded Beetroot from Walcha”, “little Adani Joyce” (who is yet to be born), “Fishnets Downer”, “Bookshelves Brandis” and so on – including “Pig Iron Bob”. Yawn.  Only leftists got their real names – as in John Menadue, Phillip Adams, Amruta Slee and Stephen Long – and of course Richard Ackland HIMSELF.  How respectful.

Last Saturday, your man Ackland headed off down Gossip Lane and ran this comment on former Country Party leader Arthur (“Call me Arty”) Fadden – following reference to Nationals’ leader Barnaby Joyce’s affair with a female Nationals staffer (as avid readers know well, the Nationals were formerly called the Country Party):

Of course, this sort of thing follows a fine tradition in Cockies Corner. Old-timers swear they saw Arthur Fadden, Country Party leader, federal treasurer and deputy prime minister under Pig Iron Bob [Robert Menzies], running naked after a couple of sylphs in the dead of night through Kings Hall in Old Parliament House.

Now Arthur Fadden was born in 1895 and died in 1973. He retired from politics in October 1958 at age 62.  According to Gadfly, “old timers swear they saw” Mr Fadden running starkers in a drunken state at the dead of night in Old Parliament House.

Since Arthur Fadden ceased attending Parliament House in 1958 – that is, 60 years ago – it’s pertinent to ask who are the “old timers” that saw the Fadden streak all those decades ago? – and just how old are they? Or could it be that “The Gadfly” just made this up?  Can You Bear It?


While on the topic of making things up. MWD notes that Fairfax Media chief executive officer Greg Hywood – one of MWD’s fave Maserati drivers – was reported in The Australian last Thursday as having said that the company will be looking to make additional expenditure cuts, following falling print and advertising revenue.

Let’s hope that your man Hywood does not make any more editorial staff cuts in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age – once world class newspapers which are in rapid decline with respect to the editorial standards and pages printed.

For example, on 10 February 2018 the Sydney Morning Herald led its Letters Page with the contribution from a reader at Skennars Head whose correspondence is regularly selected to be printed in the Letters Page. The heading was “Child Abuse: Churches should fund redress”:

I applaud the decision of redress scheme which will enable personal apologies from the offending institutions (“Child abuse victims to be given apology from nation”, February 9). But there is no way I could to support the taxpayer paying up to $150,000 to survivors when the organisations, mostly tax exempt, that facilitated the perpetration of the crimes get off scot free. I agree with the redress scheme but it is the churches who should pay not the taxpayer. The Ellis defence should not be used.

Rob Siebert, Skennars Head

It seems that the Sydney Morning Herald’s Letters Editor is totally unaware that the Christian churches, including the Catholic Church, have already agreed to participate in a national redress scheme for child sexual assault victims and will help fund it.  It is some State governments, not the Christian churches, which are delaying entering into the proposed national redress scheme.  It appears that the SMH Letters Editor does not know this. And your man Hywood wonders about falling sales. Can You Bear It?



Media Watch Dog has never got over the death of Bob Ellis – the False Prophet of Palm Beach.

Your man Ellis (1942-2016) was heavily into prophecy, invariably of the false genre.  To Jackie’s (male) co-owner, the Prophet Ellis gave soothsaying a bad name.  But followers of the Ellis Cult still reckon that Bob was so far ahead of his time that, even two years after his death, many of his prophecies have yet to be fulfilled.  We shall see.

Thanks to the avid reader who drew MWD’s attention to the Tweet which went out at 6.08 pm last Friday – just after Gin & Tonic time and just at Pre-Dinner Drinks.  The author is one of MWD’s faves.  Step forward Mike (“I’ll pour the Gin”) Carlton.

Mike Carlton: So here’s a scenario. While Trumble’s in the US, the Beetrooter declares the Nats will no longer serve under his prime ministership. Potatohead seizes his chance, foments a RW coup.  Trumble is axed.  Nats return to coalition.  Dutton is PM. No?

6.08 pm, 16 Feb 2018

Translated from Carltonesque, Mr Carlton’s prophecy was as follows. When Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is in the United States this week, Barnaby Joyce will declare that the Nationals will no longer serve in the Turnbull government. Then Tony Abbott will seize the moment and foment a Right-Wing coup.  Mr Turnbull will be axed. And the Nationals will return to the Coalition, with Peter Dutton as prime minister.

The answer to Mr Carlton’s “No?” question is Noooooooooooooo or “Yes – No” (as the saying goes) with emphasis on the latter word. Peter Dutton will not be prime minister by next week. Not according to Hendo.

Stand by for more predictions from your man Carlton as the sun goes down – and the Gin rises in a tumbler – on Avalon Beach.  MWD will keep you posted.



In his Weekend Australian column last Saturday – Gerard Henderson commented on Fairfax Media’s beat-up of recent memory on the Catholic Church’s alleged wealth.  In part this reflected Fairfax Media’s on-going anti-Catholic sectarianism. And in part it was a product of mere ignorance.

Yesterday, Michael Hewitt-Gleeson, who presents as a Vaticanologist and is a critic of the contemporary Catholic Church, had a piece published in Crikey which corrected some of Fairfax Media’s howlers with respect to this issue. Here’s how it began:

Last week, I noticed a strange news item from Fairfax in what was offered up as a “special investigation”.  The article from the title onwards –  “Catholic Inc: what the Church is really worth” – seems to give the deliberate impression that the Catholic Church in Australia is like a monolithic corporation. In reality, it’s far from it.

The Catholic Church is not a single, centralised institution like the Kremlin, or the Church of Scientology. What is commonly referred to as “the church” is highly scattered, decentralised, diverse and occupying of a wide spectrum of beliefs, authorities, histories, practices, loyalties and customs. I have written that it’s this extraordinary diversity that best explains, in a Darwinian sense, why it has actually survived for the past two millennia when no other contemporary human organisations have.

It consists of hundreds of separate dots that are loosely and culturally, but often not corporately or legally, connected. Some of these entities are orders, parish property trusts, hospitals, aged-care organisations, schools (and their independent corporate boards), charities, universities, early-learning centres, NGOs and so on. Not just dozens but literally hundreds of separate entities exist.

The visible assets of the church seem to be its vast property holdings and its priceless treasures of art. But the drain on daily cash flow caused by these kinds of non-liquid assets is tremendous. Property requires management and maintenance. So, Fairfax is being somewhat disingenuous when it claims, for example, that St Patrick’s Cathedral is a Catholic asset worth over $44 million that could readily be cashed in to pay redress claims.

In Rome alone, the amount of cash needed to maintain the hundreds of ancient churches, shrines, excavations and monuments like the Fontana di Trevi put a constant, mind-boggling strain on Vatican cash flow. The Pope selling the Papal Art Collection would be like the Queen selling the Crown Jewels: in theory, they both “own” these treasures but in practice they are merely caretakers for posterity….

Michael Hewitt-Gleeson concluded his Crikey piece as follows:

Should victims of child abuse by Catholic institutions receive cash compensation? Of course. There is no room for any other response but a big “yes”. But if we’re to demand redress from the Catholic Church, we first need to understand exactly what the church is.

Michael Hewitt-Gleeson: Five Paws.



Due to a clash of commitments, Gerard Henderson did not see Outsiders on Sky News at 9 am last Sunday – and had to record the program.

It was well worth the effort.  Co-presenter Ross Cameron took up MWD’s suggestion that his introduction this week should move from the Moon and the Sun and on to the Stars.  Sort of. After a reference to Marcus Aurelius (of course) and the Vikings (why not?), your man Cameron spoke about the Solar Flare – and Prime Minister and Cabinet secretary Martin Parkinson (again, why not?).  A good move – since solar flares move close to the Stars.

Ross Cameron then proceeded to offer some advice to the Prime Minister for use in his meeting with President Donald J Trump. Here it is:

Ross Cameron: My advice, and I’m open to argument, is that Malcolm Turnbull should say, that just as the Romans did, not seek to destroy their adversaries but to convert them to the Roman Empire. Just as Alexander the Great did not seek to destroy his adversaries but invited them to embrace Hellenism which they did in very large numbers. And just as Alfred the Great when confronted by the marauding Danes, according to David Hume’s history of England, did not simply seek to destroy them in battle, although he fought 8 battles in one year after becoming King and was buried having fought in 56. But he said, Hume records that Alfred devised genius strategies to convert the Danes to the English project which he did. And Malcolm Turnbull should be saying to Donald Trump: “Look we live with China, they’re our biggest trading partner, we have not detected any tension in their hearts to do us harm. When you look at 20,000 black head Chinese standing outside Disneyland Shanghai desperate to get in, I don’t have the sense that these people are our enemies.”

At this stage Mr Cameron suddenly switched the message to the Prime Minister and continued:

Ross Cameron: And so in relation to both Russia and China, can you please urge President Trump to convert them to the Western project rather than seek to destroy them. Jaynie Seal, have you got any weather or news for us?

Jaynie Seal: I’ve got it all. You’ve a lot of wisdom in that brain of yours Ross. We need three hours of Outsiders not two. Good morning to you all.

Jaynie Seal is so perceptive. When not directing co-presenter Rowan Dean in his dance-moves as the Weather-Boy advising of the forthcoming Ice Age, Ms Seal understands the intellectual might of a man who can quote not only Marcus Aurelius but also Alexander the Great and Alfred the Great and David Hume. What wisdom.

Next Sunday, here’s hoping that Ross Cameron advises Outsiders viewers about the Sea.


Due to popular demand, this segment is devoted to the use of anonymous sources by journalists. It is named in honour of ABC star investigative reporter Louise Milligan whose “authoritative” anonymous sources in her hatchet job Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell (MUP, 2017) include not only “a friend who is a mother in the neighbourhood” but also, wait for it, “the father-in-law of an ABC journalist.”  How authoritative can you get?

It is unlikely that many journalists will reach Ms Milligan’s standard when it comes to quoting an anonymous source.  But many will give it a go.  Here’s a recent example:

In Fairfax Media’s Good Weekend magazine last weekend, Tim Elliott wrote an important and reasonably balanced profile on Melbourne barrister Robert Richter QC.  Mr Richter is defending Cardinal George Pell, who has been charged with historic sexual offences.

For his article, Tim Elliott sought comments on Robert Richter’s performance as a defence counsel.  The evidence suggests that Richter QC’s critics do not have the courage to put their names to their criticisms.

Tim Elliott quoted a number of “sources” who believe that Robert Richter is not the best person to act as Cardinal Pell’s defence counsel. They were “one lawyer”, “a former Supreme Court judge” and “one journalist”. Just add “the father-in-law of an ABC journalist”, and the case of the critics against Robert Richter QC would have been proven.

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).


Along with the ABC and Fairfax Media, The Saturday Paper is tops for anti-Catholic sectarianism. On his way to Melbourne last Saturday, Gerard Henderson noted a hoarding at Sydney Airport which read “The Saturday Paper – The Whole Story: Church Blames Abuse Inaction On Public Fatigue”.

The implication was that the Catholic Church is responsible for the inaction on settling child sexual abuse compensation cases due to its fatigue.  However, when picking up his free copy of The [Boring] Saturday Paper, Hendo noted that Martin McKenzie-Murray’s story relied almost entirely on an interview with Francis Sullivan of the Catholic Church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council – which said precisely the opposite.

A beat-up to be sure.  But one which allowed The Saturday Paper’s editor Erik Jensen to run the story on Page One under an unflattering photo of Cardinal George Pell – who has nothing to do with the Catholic Church’s involvement in the national redress scheme for victims of child sexual assault. Gerard Henderson wrote to Mr Sullivan to find out if he objected to his interview with Mr McKenzie-Murray leading to a Page One beat-up in The Saturday Paper. Now read on:

Gerard Henderson to Francis Sullivan – 20 February 2018


It was good to meet you at the Gilbert & Tobin function recently.

This is a quick query.  Are you happy with the coverage of your comment – in your capacity as head of the Catholic Church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council – in The Saturday Paper of 17 February 2018?

As you will be aware, you were the main source for Martin McKenzie-Murray’s article “Church blames fatigue for redress failure”.  This page one story was printed under an unflattering photograph of Cardinal George Pell – who, as you know, has nothing whatsoever to do with the response by the Catholic Church in Australia with respect to the proposed redress scheme for victims of child sexual abuse.

The hoarding which advertised The Saturday Paper last weekend contained the following words:






On Public



The implication of both The Saturday Paper’s hoarding and the heading was that the Catholic Church is responsible for its own (alleged) inaction to settle abuse claims – and that such (alleged) inaction is due to fatigue.

As you know – as was acknowledged in Martin McKenzie-Murray’s article – the Catholic Church is out in front in agreeing to abide by a national redress scheme.  Moreover, the implementation of the proposal looks like being delayed not by the Christian churches but by some State governments – in particular the Labor administrations in Adelaide and Perth.

However, anyone who read The Saturday Paper’s hoarding or heading would not know this.  In short, this was a beat-up which happens to be the unintended consequence of your decision to talk to Martin McKenzie-Murray. For the record, I refuse to talk to The Saturday Paper since it constantly verbals me by just making up “quotes”.

I am interested in your view on The Saturday Paper article.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

Francis Sullivan to Gerard Henderson – 21 February 2018

Hello Gerard

I am in Wellington NZ. Literally blew in here today!

I was happy with my comments in the article. They were accurate. I did not see the hoarding to which you refer.

I hope that if people did read the piece they would have gained a more informed understanding of where the Church stood on redress.

I hope that the States get involved and that there can be a truly national redress scheme. I worry that there has not been enough scrutiny and pressure on them so that they are obliged to join up. I do think that the long Royal Commission process induced a fatigue in news rooms and elsewhere so that the political momentum to advance the cause for victims, like consent by States to establish a national redress scheme, is precariously placed.

So, I consider that position was presented accurately in the piece.




Gerard Henderson to Francis Sullivan – 23 February 2018


Thanks for your response. I am surprised that you are happy with the Page One heading in the current issue of The Saturday Paper, viz “Church blames fatigue for redress failure” which appeared under an unflattering photo of Cardinal George Pell.

It’s not clear who read the quotes from you which appeared in Martin McKenzie-Murray’s long-winded article in The Saturday Paper last weekend.  Many more would have read the heading.  And more still would have read the “Church/Blames/Abuse/Inaction/On Public/Fatigue” hoarding which was widely distributed in retail areas, airports and so on.

The implication of both the heading and the hoarding was that the Catholic Church blames “fatigue” for the failure to implement its part of the national redress scheme with respect to child sexual assault.

As you should be aware, Erik Jensen and his team at The Saturday Paper have been heavily into anti-Catholic sectarianism for years. This has included distorting headlines – as in the reference to Cardinal Pell as Tony Abbott’s (alleged) confessor in the issue of 14 October 2017.

It was pretty naïve of you to expect that comments which you made to The Saturday Paper would be presented in such a way that would be fair to the Catholic Church.  Moreover, the interview which you gave to Martin McKenzie-Murray made it possible for The Saturday Paper to run yet another Page One story which reflected poorly on Cardinal George Pell.

I am surprised that, in your important capacity as head of the Catholic Church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council, you appear to have scant interest in where – or how – your views are presented.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson


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Until next time.


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