GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG
ISSUE – NO. 396
2 March 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: Emma Alberici’s Army v Chris Mitchell; Paul Murray’s Cancelled “Joke”
Brand New Endorsement – From Catherine McGregor
Vale Neil McDonald, Ainsley Gotto & Alan Gill
Five Paws Award: Step Forward Paul Barry and the Media Watch Team for Demythologising the Fantasist “Nic” et al
Can You Bear It? Virginia Trioli & Gael Jennings
Outside Outsiders : On Rowan Dean, Ross Cameron, Jaynie Seal and, of course, Marcus Aurelius
An ABC Update: The very latest on the Jon Stephens Case
Documentation: Emeritus Professor Robert Manne writes to MWD & Gerard Henderson Replies
Correspondence: The Saturday Paper’s Erik Jensen Helps Out with some assistance from Karen Middleton
AUNTY’S COMRADES GO TO WAR WITH CHRIS MITCHELL IN DEFENCE OF EMMA ALBERICI
It was a case of “Rally round the (Aunty) Flag, comrades” as ABC TV News Breakfast co-presenter Virginia Trioli interviewed former Age editor Mike Smith on the program’s “Newspapers” segment this morning.
Ms Trioli suggested, and Mr Smith agreed, that ABC TV’s Emma Alberici had been subjected to “bullying” by The Australian following her controversial articles on company taxation in Australia. Virginia Trioli declared that this was “a perfect example of when they [The Australian] find their target and they just keep hunting it down”. [Unlike the ABC’s coverage of Cardinal George Pell, Ms Trioli would like us to believe, it appears. MWD Editor]. Mike Smith declared that “no less than six of their [The Australian’s] columnists have weighed in with anti-Emma stories”.
Hang on a minute. This is the very same Emma Alberici who has built her media career as a strident critic of others. Also, the Emma Alberici story is a very significant one which has considerable news value in so far as the media in Australia is concerned. Following the controversy, the ABC announced that it would appoint Craig McMurtrie – one of the public broadcaster’s most senior executives – to the position of executive editor of ABC News in a new editorial oversight position. It’s difficult to see the case as to why The Australian should not have covered this matter extensively. In any event, the likes of Trioli and Smith seem unaware that columnists at The Australian are not told what to write.
Many journalists spend their professional careers criticising others but get oh-so-sensitive when someone criticises them. On occasions, their peers come out in their defence.
So it was with Chris Mitchell’s column in The Australian’s “Media” section last Monday titled “ABC’s Economics Analysis Should Be Placed In Expert Hands”. All Mr Mitchell suggested was that the ABC “needs to hire an expert economic editor” and that Emma Alberici should focus on “business and economics news and interviews”.
This is a reasonable point. Mitchell, like Alberici, has an Arts degree with one or two economic subjects. His point is that the ABC’s economics editor should have the high economic qualifications and work experience like The Australian’s Dr Judith Sloan and Adam Creighton.
However, there was a social media pile against Chris Mitchell as the likes of Julia Baird, Michael Pascoe, Juanita Phillips and the like – including the anonymous “John Wren” – piled on in support of their comrade. Virginia Trioli and Mike Smith kept banging the drum this morning.
PAUL MURRAY’S “JOKE” LATE AT NIGHT
What a stunning performance by the presenter of Paul Murray Live on Sky News last night. Mr Murray opened the show at 9 pm with a bollocking of Senator Michaelia Cash, the Minister for Employment, concerning the fact that she was shielded by a white board when entering Senate Estimates yesterday. Your man Murray acknowledged that Parliament House attendants had put the barrier in place but said that they had done so following a complaint from the Minister’s office about journalists hounding her with questions. He then hammed up a pretend discussion between the Minister and Malcolm Turnbull – in which the Prime Minister called Senator Cash “darl”. And Paul Murray depicted Senator Cash putting on hair spray while declining to accept advice to apologise for comments she had made concerning unnamed women in Bill Shorten’s office. As the transcript attests:
Real Paul Murray: But the reason this becomes a problem for [Malcolm] Turnbull is, again, he didn’t offer an apology on her [Senator Cash’s] behalf, because we all know how the conversation went.
Fake Prime Minister: Uh, Michaelia, can you just say sorry?”
Fake Senator: “No, I’m not going to say sorry”
Fake Prime Minister: “Michaelia, I’m telling you, you’re going to have to say sorry”
Fake Senator: “No, I’m not going to say sorry”
Real Paul Murray: Hairspray hairspray hairspray. Seriously. The authority of the prime minister should have been: “As soon as this got out of control, darl, apologise. If you’re not going to give an apology then I’ll give you the boot tomorrow.” But neither happened. So probably there will be an apology in statement form that will be released at five minutes to midnight. And then we’ll talk about it all again tomorrow. In the meantime, the country’s half a trillion dollars in debt. But it’s okay, they’ve got money for white boards. Seriously.
See MWD’s exclusive pic of Paul Murray doing his stand-up gig pretending to apply hairspray to his dome – below.
That was then. Then, at around 9.28 pm, after guest panellist Senator Zed Seselja (the Assistant Minister for Science, Jobs and Innovation) had defended Senator Cash – Paul Murray claimed that his comments when introducing the show had all been a bit of a “joke” and not at all serious. Let’s go to the transcript:
Paul Murray: And that’s, you know, hence the joke at the start about parliamentary security – not about her.
So the “Hairspray, hairspray, hairspray” joke was not about Senator Cash at all. As the PML presenter is wont to say in ironic tone: “Seriously”. Can You Bear It?
BRAND NEW ENDORSEMENT
CATHERINE McGREGOR READS MWD AND SEES “ARSENIC AND OLD LACE”
Here is the first part of the first response to the inaugural question on Q&A last Monday:
Catherine McGregor : …I wouldn’t like to be reminded of everything I said or did 25, 30 years ago. Some of my views have changed – not on that [LGBTI] issue, I might add – but on others. And I generally do get reminded of what I wrote 25 years ago. There’s a man called Gerard Henderson who combs through everyone’s essays every Friday from primary school and retails them –
Tony Jones: He’s fun like that, Gerard. Isn’t he?
Catherine McGregor: Arsenic and Old Lace.
It great to know that Catherine McGregor is one of MWD’s avid, albeit critical, readers. As to the reference to Joseph Kesselring’s 1939 play Arsenic and Old Lace – well this is a black comedy in which virtually all of the characters are homicidal maniacs. And to think that Ms McGregor reads the thoughts of an Arsenic and Old Lace scribbler like Hendo.
VALE NEIL McDONALD, AINSLEY GOTTO AND ALAN GILL
Three friends of The Sydney Institute – Neil McDonald, Ainsley Gotto and Alan Gill – died in recent times. Brief obituaries will be published in due course.
In the meantime, the funeral of Neil McDonald – who addressed the Institute on filmmaker Damien Parer and journalist Chester Wilmot – will be held at the Northern Suburbs Crematorium’s East Chapel at 12.30 pm on Tuesday 6 March 2018. A funeral notice will be published in tomorrow’s Sydney Morning Herald.
Neil McDonald, Ainsley Gotto and Alan Gill – Rest in Peace.
FIVE PAWS AWARD
STEP FORWARD ABC TV’S MEDIA WATCH FOR COVERING OF THE FANTASIST “NIC” AND FRIENDS
As avid readers will be aware, MWD has spent time covering the outcome of the fantasist “Nic” who made allegations of historical child sexual abuse (including murder) allegedly engaged by some of the best known individuals in Britain – including the late Ted Heath.
In last Monday’s Media Watch, presenter Paul Barry and producer Tim Latham demolished the assertions made by Ross Coulthart and Channel 9’s 60 Minutes team on 19 July 2015 about the existence of a VIP pedophile ring in Britain in the 1970s and 1980s.
The case of “Nic” and his associates sends a timely message to journalists in Australia and elsewhere that you should not believe what you want to believe.
Paul Barry & Tim Latham: Five Paws
LA TRIOLI – ON A TRAM BOUND FOR NOWHERE
Jackie’s male co-owner likes a bit of history here and there. So Hendo appreciated the moment yesterday when ABC TV News Breakfast co-presenter Virginia Trioli threw the switch to history when discussing the very latest scandal over parliamentary entitlements. Let’s go to the transcript as La Trioli looks back in happiness and the Labor Party’s John Cain, who was premier of Victoria between 1982 and 1990:
Virginia Trioli: It’s at this point that I always like to remind myself of the former Victorian Premier John Cain who only ever took the tram.
Paul Kennedy: (co-presenter) Is that right?
Peter Wilmoth: And he bought his own stamps. I think that is true.
Virginia Trioli: Yep. It’s true. It is true. He bought his own stamps. And he never put a piece of mail in the outgoing mail that he didn’t stamp himself.
Turn it up. Melbourne and parts of Ballarat have an extensive tram system. But it’s not that extensive. Getting around Melbourne by transport involves trams and trains and buses and cars. If John Cain “only ever took the tram” – then he would not have got very far, even in Melbourne. And would not have travelled outside Victoria’s capital. Also, Mr Cain would never have travelled interstate or overseas – since there is no tram to Melbourne Airport and it’s a long walk from the nearest tram line.
As far as Hendo recalls, the true story about John Cain was that he refused to travel by car on Victorian freeways – and he insisted on paying for personal phone-calls and stamps for personal use.
As Hendo recalls, it was just wonderful to behold the Premier of Victoria counting out his money each day and depositing coins in a honesty jar to cover stamps and phone calls and so on. Just wonderful.
Not so wonderful, however, that Premier Cain presided over the virtual collapse of the Victorian economy which even saw the effective collapse of the State Bank of Victoria. It was during the Days of Cain that the Henderson family, including dog Ranger, left Melbourne and sought refuge in Sydney as economic migrants.
And, yet, La Trioli likes to remind herself of the reign of John Cain of the Tram tracks. Can You Bear It?
CENTRE FOR ADVANCING JOURNALISM’S GAEL JENNINGS FAILS TO ADVANCE BEYOND THE AFR’s FRONT PAGE
While on the topic of News Breakfast, lotsa thanks to the avid reader who brought MWD’s attention to the appearance of Gael Jennings – she of the pretentiously titled Centre for Advancing Journalism at Melbourne University in the program’s “Newspapers” segment last Friday. [I am still wondering precisely how this centre advances journalism. – MWD Editor.]
Let’s go to the transcript as Dr Jennings (for a doctor she is) discussed the Australian Financial Review’s story that very morning about the latest shock/horror event at the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Hobart:
Michael Rowland: …The MONA in Hobart is continuing to shock people.
Gael Jennings: Yes. This is such an interesting topic, I think. So last year MONA – as we all know, the Museum of Old and New Art, new modern and whatever. It’s the big one that’s brought Tasmania back on the map in terms of tourism. And last year it had in – it has a thing called Dark Mofo.
Virginia Trioli: Which is its winter festival.
Gael Jennings: It’s winter festival. And last year, it had a bull slaughtered and 500 litres of animal blood everywhere and it caused huge controversy. Death threats from around the world. Over 50 media outlets around the world. This year they’ve announced in June they’re going to have one called DDT, which is “Dark and Dangerous Thoughts”. And it’s the thing – it’s all about killing and bonking. Starting with “F”. And they’re having a sniper, and ex-jihadi, they’re being –
Michael Rowland: [Interjecting] Why?
Gael Jennings: Exactly – why? And that’s where the front page of the Australian Financial Review runs out – so I’m doing front pages today. But this is a conversation – for what is the point of these, what is art? Obviously it’s getting huge coverage, obviously people will talk about it, probably it will bring throngs of people in criticising it. But this one seems particularly controversial. They’ve got Inuit activist who’s known for posting selfies – or “sealfies” – of her baby with seal cub blood all over it because it’s a natural thing. You know, it’s an exploration I suppose.
Virginia Trioli: It’s a conversation about outsiders, if you like. You know, those who are outside of the mainstream and the rejected thinkers and the rejected ideas.
Gael Jennings: And also going places that we don’t, dark and dangerous.
Virginia Trioli: It’s going to be hugely controversial.
Michael Rowland: Do you think it’s overstepping the mark? Based on what you’ve read?
Virginia Trioli: She hasn’t read the story so she doesn’t know.
Gael Jennings: My own personal thoughts on this —
[everyone talking over each other]
Gael Jennings: I would have to go.
So, there you have it. La Trioli believes that a bit of killing and bonking – as art – never does anyone any harm. Especially in Hobart. Whereas Mr Rowland and Dr Jennings expressed some doubts. But Gael Jennings was hampered by her admission that she was only able to read the front page of the Australian Financial Review – which is available to Melbourne each morning (where News Breakfast is filmed). So, the Centre for Advancing Journalism’s high-profile operative could not advance her journalism from Page 1 to Page 8 of the AFR last Friday. Can You Bear It?
MWD’s CAMPAIGN TO INCREASE JAYNIE SEAL’S ROLE IN SKY NEWS’ OUTSIDERS CONTINUES APACE
MWD was somewhat disappointed with Outsiders on Sky News last Sunday morning. First up, the witty Jaynie Seal has yet to get a full-time slot on the panel – seated between Ross (“I’m a Marcus Aurelius fan boy”) Cameron and Rowan (“I’m a Donald Trump fan boy”) Dean. Ms Seal is well qualified for such a gig – since MWD hears she is quite skilled at quoting with authority from obscure books that she hasn’t read. Surely a prerequisite for a gig on Outsiders in between Cameron and the Dean, don’t you think?
Also, Hendo was hoping that the Philosopher Cameron – having reflected in recent weeks on the Moon and the Sun – would give the Stars a go last Sunday. Alas, it did not come to pass. Instead, your man Cameron appears to have stumbled on to matters Snake. Here’s how it happened:
Rowan Dean: We’ve got a huge show lined up, we’ve got a massive show lined up. We have got the great Richard Kemp coming on shortly. You are not going to want to miss a word of what Richard has to say.
Ross Cameron: He’s a great soldier.
Rowan Dean: Soldier, Colonel.
Ross Cameron: And gutsy advocate.
Rowan Dean: Joint intelligence Cobra. Like James Bond, he headed up Cobra. [i.e. Cabinet Office Briefing Room A]
Ross Cameron: Cobra, it’s a fascinating reptile.
Rowan Dean: It certainly is – it strikes, knows how to strike.
Ross Cameron: You know there are – So Cobra is not the, it’s actually the family of snakes. We only have five senses. But the pit snakes have up to nine senses. And those who live underground – many of them are blind – but there’s no recorded instance in nature of them missing when they strike.
Rowan Dean: [interjecting] Well Richard doesn’t miss when he strikes.
Ross Cameron: They accurately collate their nine senses, their vibration, heat, ultraviolet whatever.
Rowan Dean: Now have you got anything on your chest you’d like to get off before we go to Jaynie with the news?
Ross Cameron: I’m going to give you a little spiel from one of our patron saints, John Stuart Mill on liberty. And the question Mill poses, the greatest English philosopher of the 19th century, he poses this question – where do our ideas and values and behaviours actually come from?
A good question, to be sure. And one that MWD believes that Ms Seal is well equipped to handle – since she probably has not read John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty. But, alas, it was not to be – and Jaynie Seal was tasked with reading the (boring) news. Shame.
As to next Sunday, perhaps Ross Cameron could lead off Outsiders with a critical dissertation on Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s theory of the dialectic. Ms Seal could then weigh into the debate – since she surely has not read much Hegel, certainly not the German original – and is well qualified to get in to a bit of Hegelism around Hang Over Time on Sunday mornings.
THE JON STEPHENS CASE REVISITED
As MWD readers are aware, in June 2017 former ABC TV producer Jon Stephens pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 12 year old boy while on official duties for the ABC in 1981. The taxpayer funded broadcaster has consistently failed to cover the case.
During the Senate Estimates last Tuesday night, under questioning from Senator Eric Abetz, ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie conceded that the ABC has made no attempt to approach Stephens’ victim – nine months after it became aware of his case. However, the ABC has lawyered up in respect to this matter – at taxpayer’ expense.
MWD will carry a full update of the ABC and the Jon Stephens case next week.
ROBERT MANNE WRITES TO MWD
As is its tradition, MWD is always willing to publish the views of its critics – provided they do not defame the living. Today MWD is pleased to publish, unchanged, a 1600 word article by Emeritus Professor Robert Manne.
By way of background, Gerard Henderson’s claim that Robert Manne has a bad memory resulted from his assertion – made originally in 2011 – that Gerard Henderson attempted to have him sacked as an Age columnist. Professor Manne claims that there is a “dossier” which contains Gerard Henderson’s demand – but has failed to produce it after almost seven years, despite an offer of $25,000 to do so. Gerard Henderson did not write such a letter or prepare such a “dossier”.
Robert Manne does not mention this issue in his piece printed below but concentrates on three other matters where his memory has been queried. Gerard Henderson’s response is also printed below.
Robert Manne’s Article for MWD
In several issues of Media Watch Dog (356, 357, 359, 360 and 394) Dr Gerard Henderson has criticised on grounds of conspicuous inaccuracy a chapter I contributed to From the Paddock to the Agora: Fifty Years of La Trobe University (La Trobe University Press). The central charge is that my memory is entirely unreliable, here as elsewhere. On such grounds Henderson goes so far as to reprimand the Vice-Chancellor of La Trobe, Professor John Dewar, simply for having commissioned me to write a chapter for this book. “In spite of all this [my supposed notoriously unreliable memory] La Trobe University Vice-Chancellor John Dewar invited Robert Manne to write about the campus in the history of La Trobe’s first half century…” Via one of his invented characters, he has also claimed that I am “unwell”, that is to say suffering from a serious psychological or mental disorder.
In Issue 394 – under the headline, “Fake History Posing As Scholarship”, Henderson distilled the case he had made at tedious length in four previous issues of Media Watch Dog into three principal charges: the La Trobe Vietnam War-related “teach-in” in 1968 or 1969; Hugo Wolfsohn’s luncheon expectations of his staff; Hugo Wolfsohn’s homophobia.
In my chapter, I wrote a whimsical account of a “teach-in” at La Trobe University connected with the Vietnam War I attended in 1968 or 1969. The always omniscient Dr Henderson pronounced: “There was no such event at La Trobe in 1968 or 1969. In this instance Manne confused La Trobe University with Monash University. That’s all. Why bother if a history on La Trobe refers to an event which took place at Monash?” I sent Henderson both a page from ASIO’s archive that showed that a Vietnam War-related “teach-in” took place at La Trobe University on the evening of July 25 1969 and a report of the “teach-in” that appeared in the La Trobe student newspaper, Rabelais on August 8 1969. Every detail of my account of an event that took place almost fifty years ago was accurate, even my fear of falling down a ditch in the darkness. The “teach-in” took place in winter and in the evening. I wrote a letter outlining Henderson’s error. Henderson failed to publish it. Instead, he emailed me saying he would publish as a “job lot” a full account responding to his other claims about the alleged inaccuracy of my chapter and, in Issue 394, offered a mean-spirited Clayton’s apology through gritted teeth, claiming that my entirely accurate memory “was not completely faulty in this instance”. Having read this, I burst out laughing.
In my chapter I claimed that my first memory of the Politics Department was “a human caravan” making their way to take their lunch together. Henderson has claimed in several issues of Media Watch Dog on a number of occasions that the human caravan is a figment of my imagination. I know this is not true. I have an excellent visual memory. Just as I remembered the ditches of 1969, so do I remember seeing the members of the Politics Department making their way to the Staff Club, even exactly where it was that I saw them. Professor Hugo Wolfsohn had most likely rustled up a large number of staff members that day to welcome me, the new lecturer he had just unilaterally appointed.
I said in my chapter that Hugo Wolfsohn had an “expectation” that staff members would take their lunch together. Although I do not know what Hugo said to Gerard Henderson or Colin Rubenstein (Issue 356, Henderson’s only sources on this matter), that is precisely what Hugo made clear to me. Before problems inside the Department developed, I frequently attended these lunches. Regular attendees, apart from me, were Hugo Wolfsohn, Reader in Politics Joan Rydon, Dr Rudolf Plehwe, and several of the tutors, Brigid McCoppin, Reverend Paul Garland and George Buttman. My memory of Hugo’s expectation that I take lunch with other members of the Department has been confirmed by John Chiddick, who was appointed to a lectureship shortly before me. John informed me recently that although he thought the Politics Department’s luncheon party consisted predominantly of junior members of staff, “My recollection is that such a ‘caravan’ existed…I attended a number of these occasions in my first few months at La Trobe, and it was in fact my reluctance to continue doing so that initially brought about the deterioration in my relations with Wolfsohn. He appeared to regard such attendance on my part as almost a duty, as though my role were that of an acolyte rather than a departmental colleague.” Unlike Chiddick, I did not resent what Hugo expected. Some members of the Department who regularly took their lunch together seemed rather lonely.
In the first months of my appointment, however, I became aware that Hugo Wolfsohn was conducting a really vicious campaign against John Chiddick, a member of the Department who made no secret of his homosexuality. I did resent this. If Henderson and Dr Colin Rubenstein did not know John Chiddick was gay, as Henderson claims (Issue 356), all that reveals is how distant both were from the other members of the Department. Henderson denies that Wolfsohn was homophobic and claims his hostility to Chiddick was based solely on the campaign waged by him and by myself, Michael James and several other members of the Department against Hugo Wolfsohn’s notoriously authoritarian departmental behaviour. This is straightforwardly and provably untrue. As Chiddick has informed me, Hugo Wolfsohn’s attack on him preceded the rebellion in the Department against Wolfsohn’s authoritarianism. “What Henderson calls the ‘campaign’…developed out of a number of sources of discontent. One of these was Wolfsohn’s own campaign against me, which took the form of attempting to intimidate me into resignation. This effort on his part ceased after I informed the academic’s union of what was going on, and he became aware of this. Henderson’s claim that ’Wolfsohn was opposed to Chiddick because Chiddick was campaigning against him’ simply inverts the causal relationship.” Henderson’s case in fact makes no sense. If Wolfsohn targeted Chiddick and tried to force him to resign, simply because of the opposition to his authoritarian managerial style and our joint attempt to democratise the Department, why did he not also target Michael James or me or several others?
I was puzzled at the time about the viciousness of Hugo Wolfsohn’s anti-Chiddick behaviour. As it happened, one of the members of the Sociology Department at the time was Dr Werner Pelz, like Wolfsohn a German Jew who, as an “enemy alien”, had been transported during the Second World War from Britain to Australia on HMS Dunera and then interned at Hay and Tatura. I discussed Wolfsohn’s assault on Chiddick with Pelz. At Tatura, as Werner Pelz’s biographer Roger Averill records, Werner was a friend of Hugo’s and slept in the bed next to him. (Exile: The Lives and Hopes of Werner Pelz p.103.) Werner Pelz told me he believed Hugo’s homophobia was related to uncomfortable experiences during internment. He was convinced that this explained his vicious anti-Chiddick behaviour. As Chiddick recalls, so was Michael James, a conservative political philosopher who moved from La Trobe to the Hayekian Centre for Independent Studies. James told Chiddick that he believed Hugo Wolfsohn to be a “pooftah basher.”
After Hugo Wolfsohn’s death an astonishing incident occurred that convinced me finally that Werner Pelz’s and Michael James’s view was right. Emails from two senior members of the Department, from which I shall quote, have confirmed my memory of this incident. Dennis Altman, the international pioneer of Gay Liberation, was by now a member of the Politics Department. He was asked to chair the inaugural Hugo Wolfsohn Memorial Lecture. Wolfsohn’s close friend and colleague, Joan Rydon, went to the Dean of Social Sciences, Graeme Duncan. She protested hotly about the fact “that a homosexual was chairing an event in Hugo’s honour”. Duncan—the author of Marx and Mill—was appalled and furious. “Not surprisingly”, she was “rebuffed.” At the memorial lecture, which I attended, Professor Rydon, delivered a panegyric on Hugo and then, to the general amazement and embarrassment of the audience, “apologised to Hugo’s family for having his inaugural memorial lecture chaired by someone whose way of life he would strongly have disapproved of. Dennis reacted strongly by saying something like he felt like tipping a jug of water over Joan.” There is no reason to believe that Joan Rydon was wickedly misrepresenting the thoughts and feelings of her closest friend and colleague. This email from a senior colleague continued: “You are on firm ground to claim that Hugo was homophobic.”
In Issue 359 of Media Watch Dog, Henderson argued: “If Professor Manne has a false memory about what occurred at La Trobe in 1968 or 1969—why would anyone trust his memory about what (allegedly) happened in the La Trobe Politics Department a few years later in 1975?’’ The obverse in fact applies. As even Henderson has been obliged to concede, my memory of the La Trobe “teach-in” in 1968 or 1969 was accurate. So too are the other memories in my chapter which Henderson has contested. Regarding the issues Henderson has chosen most recently for his by now quarter-century-old obsessive campaign to harm my reputation—the La Trobe “teach-in” of 1969, Hugo Wolfsohn’s luncheon expectations, and Wolfsohn’s homophobic attack on a junior colleague—I am owed an unreserved apology.
– Robert Manne, Emeritus Professor of Politics and Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow, La Trobe University
Gerard Henderson Replies to Robert Manne’s Article
MWD has published the views of Emeritus Professor Robert Manne in the past and is happy to do so again today. This contrasts with the refusal of Black Inc (Professor Manne’s preferred publisher) to publish many of Gerard Henderson’s attempts to correct its verballing and errors concerning him in its various publications. Gerard Henderson’s responses to Robert Manne’s article are as follows:
- I have never claimed that Professor Manne is “suffering from a serious psychological or mental disorder”. In private correspondence on 14 February 2018, I made the following comment to Robert Manne in a postscript:
A former colleague advised me that you have had some ill-health recently. Here’s hoping that you are recovering well. Regards to Anne [Manne].
That was all. The reference was to Robert Manne’s throat cancer. And the informant was not “invented” as Professor Manne claims. It was Professor Judith Brett (a long-time friend of Manne) who addressed The Sydney Institute late last year.
- As mentioned in the Introduction, my initial claim that Robert Manne has a bad memory stemmed from his (undocumented) assertion that, in 1993 or 1995 or some other date, I sent a “dossier” to Paul Austin (The Age’s Opinion editor) demanding that he be sacked as a columnist. Robert Manne claims that Paul Austin has the original of this “dossier” and that I sent a copy to Morag Fraser (who is a friend of Manne). He also claims that Paul Austin gave a copy of the “dossier” to him. In other words, Manne claims that there are three copies of the (alleged) dossier extant in Melbourne. But he has not been able to produce one of the (alleged) three in nearly seven years. Which is not surprising since no such “dossier” was ever sent. Professor Manne has a bad memory in this instance in that he apparently has a clear “recollection” of an event which never happened.
- In his essay in From the Paddock to the Agora, in which he personally attacks some of his one-time La Trobe University colleagues, Robert Manne wrote that in 1968 or 1969 he “attended… a Vietnam War ‘teach-in’” at La Trobe University. He did not refer to this as a “Vietnam War related teach-in” as claimed in his article above. Manne wrote that the event was a “teach-in” on the “Vietnam War” – no more, no less.
I wrote and did research on the Vietnam War debate in the Victorian universities in the late 1960s and early 1970s. I stand by my view that there was no Vietnam War teach-in at La Trobe University in 1969 or any other time in the late 1960s.
Robert Manne’s central evidence for his claim consists of an ASIO document titled “Students For a Democratic Society”. The SDS was a radical left-wing student political group at La Trobe University – and ASIO was monitoring its activities. ASIO reported that the SDS had said that it would be conducting a teach-in (no specific subject was named) at La Trobe University “tomorrow” – i.e. 25 July 1969. There was no reference to the words “Vietnam” or “Vietnam War” in the document – see here.
Robert Manne’s second piece of evidence is a report in the La Trobe University student newspaper Rabelais on 8 August 1969. This appears to be the only account of the event which took place at night at La Trobe University on 25 July 1969. The report is headed “Conscription Teach-In July 25”.
Rabelais reported that the SDS had organised what the SDS described as a “teach-in on “conscription and conscientious objection” – see the full report here. The report, which ran for around 440 words, did not mention Vietnam or the Vietnam War once. There were two main speakers at the event – both of whom were of radical left-wing activists. Namely, Professor Charles Birch and Michael Jones. Both delivered speeches opposing conscription. No other view was heard.
The Vietnam War teach-in tradition in Australia was that at least some supporters of Australia’s Vietnam commitment be heard. For example, the Monash University teach-ins featured the likes of Paul Hasluck and B.A. Santamaria. The ASIO document which Robert Manne cites refers to a teach-in at Monash University on 25 July 1969 featuring such speakers as Dr Alan Roberts (who opposed Australia’s military commitment in Vietnam) and Dr Frank Knopfelmacher (who supported it). Moreover, Vietnam teach-ins in Australia were invariably organised by student unions – not by radical left-wing campus political clubs like the SDS.
I accept that Robert Manne attended a SDS political rally at La Trobe University on 25 July 1969. That’s why I apologised in MWD on 16 February 2018 for implying that he might have been at Monash University instead. I repeat the apology now. However, the event was not on the Vietnam War – and it was not a “teach-in” in the traditional sense of the term.
- Professor Hugo Wolfsohn died in 1982. Professor Joan Rydon died in 2006. According to my records, Professor Robert Manne did not publicly attack either until his 2017 chapter in From the Paddock to the Agora. In this article, Robert Manne claimed that “one of the peculiarities of Hugo’s department was the expectation that all members would take their lunch together” and this his “first vision of the department was of a human caravan, made up of its members, on the walkway that led to the Staff Club”.
The fact is that academics, like myself, with young children simply did not have the money to have lunch each day, or even once a week, at the Staff Club. I had lunch with Hugo Wolfsohn rarely. This is also the recall of Dr Colin Rubenstein. Robert Manne cites John Chiddick as having a different memory – but even Dr Chiddick recalls that “the Politics Department’s luncheon party consisted predominantly of junior members of staff”. The fact is that there were not many “junior” staff members in the Politics Department.
There is no record that Robert Manne ever said that Hugo Wolfsohn was a “homophobe” during Hugo’s years at La Trobe University. I spent considerable time with Robert in 1975 – we even played squash together on occasions – and he never mentioned Hugo’s (alleged) homophobia to me. I knew Hugo better than any other staff member – except for Joan Rydon. In our numerous conversations between the mid-1960s and his death in 1982, I never heard Hugo make a homophobic comment.
The fundamental split in the Politics Department in 1975 concerning what Robert Manne calls “Wolfsohn authoritarianism” commenced with Hugo Wolfsohn’s decision to appoint Joan Rydon to the position of professor in the area of Australian politics. Hugo’s critics believed that the position was structured to fit her qualifications. I, and some others, did not agree. In my view, much of the opposition to Joan turned on the fact that she was a successful woman who did not claim to be a feminist and was not left-wing.
In any event, as Robert Manne acknowledges in From the Paddock to the Agora, Hugo appointed Robert to a tenured position in his department despite the fact that this position was not advertised and despite the fact that Robert did not have a Ph.D. For the record – I supported Joan’s promotion in 1975 and just as I had supported Robert’s appointment in 1974.
The group that Robert Manne has called “the rebels” consisted of himself, John Chiddick, Michael James, John Miller and some others. Professor Wolfsohn opposed them – but not on the basis of their sexual preferences. And the rebels opposed Hugo – but not on the basis of his sexual preferences. It was an unpleasant dispute – but not uncommon for university academics of that generation to be in conflict with each other often over trivial matters. I believe that there was at least one gay person in the Politics Department in the early 1970s with whom Hugo had very good relations.
In his article above, Robert Manne claims that the dispute in the Politics Department at La Trobe University in 1975 commenced with Hugo Wolfsohn’s (alleged) homophobic “campaign” against John Chiddick. But this is not what Manne wrote in From The Paddock to the Agora. In this essay Professor Manne wrote that the matter which fired the staff “rebellion” was “the issue” as to “whether or not minutes could be taken at departmental meetings”. Certainly, this was a contested issue but not, in my view, as important as Joan Rydon’s promotion.
I contributed financially to the Wolfsohn Memorial Fund which was set up in late 1982. Joan Rydon told me around this time that Robert Manne had also promised to contribute to the fund in honour of Hugo.
If Hugo was as homophobic as Robert Manne now claims, it makes no sense that Dr Dennis Altman – one of the leading members of the gay movement at the time – agreed to chair the inaugural Hugo Wolfsohn Memorial Lecture and that Manne voluntarily attended such an event.
Robert Manne now cites, in direct quotes, what Joan Rydon (allegedly) said in objecting to Dr Altman chairing the lecture. This is mere hearsay. There was good reason for Joan to object to Dennis’ role – since she was aware that Hugo Wolfsohn was a conservative, anti-communist Liberal Party voter. And Denis Altman was a man of the left. In other words, Hugo and Dennis disagreed on political issues and Joan felt it was improper for one to chair the inaugural memorial lecture honouring the latter.
- Finally, I have not engaged in an obsessive campaign over recent decades to harm Robert Manne’s reputation. In the late 1980s/early 1990s Robert Manne dropped into my office in the Sydney CBD and sought advice concerning his position as Quadrant editor. And, on another occasion, he stayed a weekend at our (then) home in Hornsby. Also, in the 1990s, I wrote a positive reference for Robert Manne in support of his application for promotion at La Trobe University (which was successful).
It is true that I have criticised Robert Manne. And it is true that Robert Manne has criticised me. That’s what intellectual debate is all about.
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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).
ERIK JENSEN AND GERARD HENDERSON re ANTI-CATHOLIC SECTARIANISM AND THE SATURDAY PAPER PLUS A REFERENCE TO KAREN MIDDLETON
As avid readers will be aware, last week’s (hugely popular) Correspondence segment carried emails between Gerard Henderson and Francis Sullivan, who is head of the Catholic Church’s Truth, Justice & Healing Council.
Gerard Henderson believes that Mr Sullivan was naïve in giving an interview to The Saturday Paper which made it possible for the newspaper to run on 17 February 2018 a hoarding plus a Page One headline which implied that the Catholic Church was delaying the settlement of child sexual abuse claims under the proposed national redress scheme. In fact, this was the opposite of the message Francis Sullivan tried to get across. Mr Sullivan did not agree – he was untroubled by the headline and did not see the hoarding. In the correspondence with Francis Sullivan, Gerard Henderson wrote that Erik Jensen, The Saturday Paper’s editor “is heavily into anti-Catholic sectarianism”. Now read on.
Erik Jensen to Gerard Henderson – 26 February 2018
I see you are describing me as anti-Catholic. I’m anti-paedophile – which is different, but with a disproportionate crossover.
The Saturday Paper
Gerard Henderson to Erik Jensen – 2 March 2018
Thanks for your email, which arrived out-of-the-blue at lunch-time last Monday. I assume that you were responding to my correspondence with Francis Sullivan concerning The Saturday Paper’s beat up on the Catholic Church in your issue of 17 February 2018 – as published in last Friday’s MWD.
I note your declaration that you are not “anti-Catholic” but only “anti-paedophile”. You state that the two concepts are different “but with a disproportionate cross-over”.
This superficial distinction ignores the fact that the Catholic Church was the first religious, secular or government institution in Australia to deal with child sexual abuse. Commencing in Melbourne in 1996 with the establishment of the Melbourne Response and in the remainder of Australia the following year with the creation of the Towards Healing process. All this occurred when you were still at primary school.
As ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie conceded at Senate Estimates last Tuesday, the ABC still has not set in place a process to deal with instances of historical child abuse at the taxpayer funded public broadcaster. So the Catholic Church was out in front on this issue. I note that The Saturday Paper has not mentioned the fact that former ABC TV producer Jon Stephens in June 2017, pleaded guilty to child sexual abuse while he was on official ABC duties in 1981.
Sadly, there were many instances in the Catholic Church of priests and brothers offending against children – overwhelmingly boys being sexually assaulted by men – in the period leading up to the mid-1990s, around two decades ago. As statistics provided by the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse demonstrate, these crimes peaked in the 1960s and 1970s – close to half a century ago.
The Saturday Paper’s contemporary obsession with the Catholic Church, which amounts to anti-Catholic sectarianism, is demonstrated by your own behaviour as an editor. I give but one example. On 14 October 2017 The Saturday Paper ran a Page One story titled:
Abbott looks to Pell on energy policy: In condemning action on climate change as killing “goats to appease the volcano gods”, Tony Abbott was paraphrasing an earlier speech by his confessor, Cardinal George Pell. Karen Middleton reports.
Early in her article, Ms Middleton – The Saturday Paper’s chief political correspondent – made the following point:
This week, Tony Abbott made a curiously similar speech [to George Pell in 2006]. Addressing the climate-sceptic Global Warming Policy Foundation in London, Abbott returned to his own scepticism about whether climate change is occurring to worrying degrees. He adopted his private confessor’s argument and his style.
I was surprised by the two references in The Saturday Paper on 14 October 2017 to Cardinal Pell’s (alleged) role as Tony Abbott’s “confessor”. I do not know whether Mr Abbott goes to confession or, if he does, whether he has – or ever had – a chosen confessor. Nor does The Saturday Paper. Nor does Karen Middleton. Nor do you. But I do know that the sacrament of confession is often used as a tactic to ridicule Catholics. There was a recent example of this on Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell program on ABC TV on Wednesday 21 February 2018.
I understand that the reference to Cardinal Pell as Tony Abbott’s confessor was not in Ms Middleton’s story when she filed it. I also understand that you altered her copy to include the reference to Cardinal Pell as Tony Abbott’s “confessor”.
This was an unprofessional act by an editor. If you believe that Cardinal Pell is Tony Abbott’s confessor – then you should have had the intellectual courage to say so yourself. Rather, you had your view presented under Ms Middleton’s by-line. What a cop out.
I was on the ABC TV Insiders program with Karen Middleton on the morning of Sunday 15 October 2017. When I challenged The Saturday Paper’s claim that Cardinal Pell was Tony Abbott’s confessor, Karen Middleton was not able to defend the assertion or provide any evidence to support it. It was rather embarrassing – so I did not dwell on the point.
It’s reasonable for The Saturday Paper – its editors and journalists – to criticise the climate change views of George Pell and/or Tony Abbott. But it’s not reasonable to attempt to link the two by alleging – without a shred of evidence – that the former is the “confessor” of the latter.
What kind of editor would make such an intervention in an article by his or her chief political correspondent? In my view, only an anti-Catholic sectarian. Like you.
Over and out.
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Until next time.
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