ISSUE – NO. 398

16 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: Osman Faruqi Beats the Anti-Peter Dutton Drum; Tonightly with Tom Ballard – An Update

  • The Cliché in the Room: An Elephant’s Perspective: The ANU’s Matthew Sussex on The Drum re President Trump

  • Leunig & Jackie: Perspectives on the Heterosexual Mardi Gras (per Leunig) and the Fairfax Media Mardi Gras (per Jackie)

  • Can You Bear It? Stephen Mayne, Andrew Barr and The Saturday Paper; Paul Murray; Scott Burchill plus Tony Wright & Lucie Morris-Marr

  • Outside Outsiders: Ross Cameron on the All Australian Girl

  • An ABC Update: ABC Radio Breakfast in Melbourne and Sydney; Comedian to cover Aussie Rules; Yet more leftists at the Conservative Free Zone

  • Correspondence: Robert Fitzgerald – ex the Royal Commission – helps out (sort of)

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At 10.37 pm on Wednesday, Junkee political editor Osman Faruqi put out the following tweet:


This statement is totally false.  Peter Dutton has not declared that “Australia is for whites only”. Mr Faruqi just made this up.  So it was no surprise when he was invited on to ABC TV’s The Drum last night.  ABC producers like exaggerations – provided their hyperbole comes from a leftist perspective.



Avid MWD readers will be interested to note that Tonightly with Tom Ballard on ABC Comedy was back to form last night – after (like every ABC show) the program was presented by two women last week to celebrate International Women’s Day.

Following a decline in ratings last week when the “F” word was only mentioned on four occasions – last night it was run on 11 occasions. Well done.  In a new development, the “C” word was introduced last night – with no fewer than six citations to cover six “jokes” which all fell flat. [What’s the problem here?  Is it just that Mr Ballard and his comrades have small vocabularies – or are they just trying to shock us? MWD Editor.]

There was the usual leftist sermon to a small live (or pre-recorded “live”) congregation. Your man Ballard sermonised that Immigration and Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton was a racist for exhibiting sympathy for “refugees provided they are white”. The reference was to white South African farmers who are being attacked and murdered in order to drive them from their farms – and the suggestion by Minister Dutton that Australia might issue visas to them.  The Tonightly team forgot that Mr Dutton has previously provided special consideration to some 12,000 Syrians displaced by the Syrian Civil War – none of whom are “white”.

The best “joke” of the night was the expletive filled complaint by Greg Larsen that Kevin Bailey, the Australian Conservatives candidate for tomorrow’s Batman by-election in Melbourne, had declined to take part in a Tonightly sketch.  Your man Larsen seems to believe that an appearance on a low-rating Tonightly would have increased Mr Bailey’s vote.  That’s called delusion.


While on the topic of The Drum, this is what Matthew Sussex, Academic Director at the ANU National Security College, had to say about President Donald J. Trump and Russia late yesterday afternoon.  He was responding to a question by Drum panelist Shireen Morris as to whether President Trump’s decision to sack his secretary of state Rex Tillerson turned on the fact that the latter had blamed Russia for the nerve agent attack in Britain. Let’s go to the transcript:

Matthew Sussex: Look it’s very hard to tell. There is speculation that Trump was considering this [sacking] last Friday and that Tillerson had some inkling of it. But it certainly didn’t look good in terms of the optics when you’ve got your Secretary of State coming out and saying that this is unambiguously something that comes from Russia and then, within a moment of hours, he is sacked by tweet.

I supposed the elephant in the room is that, in terms of the White House and Donald Trump himself, continues to be reluctant to get on camera and to say anything that will be critical of the Russian Federation.

So, what you’ve had from the US administration is a very robust statement from Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, and certainly robust statements by Tillerson both before he was officially – and then after officially – being sacked, but you haven’t heard anything from the president himself. And given the context of the special relationship that the UK certainly says that it has with the US, I would have thought it is slightly problematic that the US President can’t front the cameras and say, basically echo the words of his top diplomat in the UN and also the conclusions that his Intelligence Agencies are drawing.

What a load of absolute tosh.  There was no elephant, or even a giraffe, in the room. On late Tuesday night 13 March 2018 (Sydney time), the President said that it appeared that Russia was behind the attempted assassination of the Skripals in Britain.  Donald Trump made the statement during a “door stop” interview outside the White House. This was well over a day before your man Sussex said that President Trump’s (alleged) failure to speak about Russia’s involvement in the assassination attempt was the Elephant in the Room.


It seems that Fairfax Media’s house leftist Michael Leunig (Hon. DLitt, La Trobe, Hon. DUniv, ACU) seems to have become disillusioned with the domesticity of heterosexual life. [I note that Mr Leunig has fewer honorary degrees than Phillip Adams. Can anyone do anything about this? MWD Editor]

How else to explain your man Leunig’s untitled cartoon – see below – which was published in The Age last Saturday?  It presents a man and a woman, with a weary dog and an old galah, living a boring life – a depiction of what the Sandalista cartoonist regards as “The Heterosexual Mardi Gras”.











Last evening, at Gin & Tonic time, Jackie’s (male) co-owner commissioned Jackie to reflect on what a Fairfax Media Mardi Gras would look like.  Here is her response:

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Can You Bear It


What a stunning piece by avid (but not uncritical) MWD reader Stephen Mayne in Crikey on Wednesday.  Your man Mayne stepped forward to condemn the blokey and sexist culture at the Melbourne City Council which led to the resignation of Lord Mayor Robert Doyle. Mr Mayne was a Melbourne City councillor between 2012 and 2016 (before losing yet another election).

Mr Mayne spends much of his time these days lecturing others about how they should act, what standards they should uphold and so on. How embarrassing, then, that Saint Stephen of Templestowe in November 2001 published in the Crikey newsletter (before it was sold to Private Media) an article by an anonymous male Steve Bracks Victorian Labor government staffer – which was titled “Bracksy’s Babes”.  As revealed by Aneeka Simonis in the Herald-Sun yesterday, the “Bracksy’s Babes” article referred to one female staffer as a “dominatrix fantasy, powerful, frightening and blonde”. And another as “very, very tasty”. And so on.

It seems that, in 2001, the unreconstructed bloke Mayne regarded such analysis of women political staffers as clever and witty.  That’s why he published “Bracksy’s Babes” in Crikey – before taking it down following a controversy.  However, Mr Mayne’s initial response this week was to describe the “Bracksy’s Babes” piece as “positive and lighthearted”. How about that? He apologised later.

It seems that Stephen Mayne forgot the 2001 Crikey controversy – and failed to remember that nothing is spiked on the internet – when he threw the switch to moralising in Crikey this week. Can You Bear It?


While on the topic of Crikey, how about ACT Chief Secretary Andrew Barr’s spray – as reported in The Canberra Times last Monday – that he “hates journalists” and is “over” the mainstream media.  Believe it or not, your man Barr even regards Fairfax Media’s Canberra Times and ABC TV in Canberra as too conservative. Really.

What was predominantly interesting following Mr Barr’s rant – at what he (foolishly) thought was an off-the-record communications conference in the ACT parliament on 15 March 2018 – turned on where he gets his news from.  According to the Chief Secretary’s office, Mr Barr subscribes to Crikey – a newsletter which, as avid MWD readers know, does not employ fact-checkers.  And also, wait for it, Morry Schwartz’ The Saturday Paper (editor Erik Jensen) – which also does not employ fact-checkers and is wont to verbal its critics – like Hendo.

The Saturday Paper goes to print on Thursday evenings. So, when it appears in select Canberra coffee shops on Saturday mornings, it is already at least 36 hours out of date.  And Mr Barr reckons that this is the best newspaper in Australia to read for up-to-date analysis.  Can You Bear It?


First it was Fairfax Media columnist Peter FitzSimons railing against the NSW Coalition government’s proposal to demolish and rebuild the Allianz Stadium (in Moore Park) and the Olympic Park Stadium (in Homebush). This despite the fact that the former is old while the latter is not suitable for such games as Rugby League, Rugby Union or Football (i.e. soccer).

Now The Red Bandannaed One has been joined by Sky News’ Paul Murray – who had this to say on Paul Murray Live on Tuesday:

Paul Murray: I’m red hot about this NSW stadium debate…. We are talking about a two-billion-dollar decision. One is to rebuild a building that yes, has been around since the 1980s and may have plenty of issues with it. The second is to knock down a building that was for the Sydney Olympics less than twenty years ago. This is despite the fact that two billion dollars could go into to fixing all the demountable school buildings and all the rest of it. And this whole bullshit about we need new stadiums. Well there’s a place called “Parramatta Stadium” which is in the west of Sydney, which is right where people actually live in Sydney – where, guess what? They’ve just built a 30,000-seat brand new stadium. So, there’s plenty of other options. If you want to play a footy game you can go to Gosford and have one there, for you know in front of 20,000 people. But, the government is all in, in part because of the pressure that comes from the SCG [Sydney Cricket Ground] and SFS [Sydney Football Stadium] trusts (they’re the people who have the Allianz building). And the want to do something for the west because one must if one wants to survive in NSW politics. So, the government wants to do it, the opposition doesn’t, and here’s part of the to-and-fro [in the NSW Parliament.]

Luke  Foley: Why is it you’re so weak you can’t hold the line on a single one of your big policies?

Gladys Berejiklian: He goes out and tells the public one thing, expects them to believe him and the next day changes his position again.

Paul Murray: Okay, can we just recue that break, because obviously they’re playing to the cameras at the end of the room. But look how loud they’re yelling for how many people are actually, physically watching.

[Repeat clip]

Paul Murray: One group of schoolkids. That’s what all that yelling was for. One group of schoolkids sitting at the back going “Oh, kill me”.

What a load of absolute tosh. The idea that the Parramatta Stadium or the Gosford Stadium could accommodate a Rugby League grand final, or a Rugby Union Test between Australia and New Zealand or an international game involving the Australian soccer team and a high-profile opponent is bunk. Complete bunk.

Moreover, your man Murray does not appear to understand what contemporary parliaments are all about.  Neither the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian nor NSW Opposition leader Luke Foley were yelling in the debate on stadiums because they wanted the public gallery in the NSW Parliament to hear their message.  They were performing in the hope that their views would run on television news that evening. Which is precisely what happened on Paul Murray Live last Tuesday. Can You Bear It?


Clearly the problems being experienced with re-cycling in Hendo’s hometown of Melbourne can bring about a situation when more and more Melburnians are visiting the tip while established tip-goers are doing so more often. Which explains, no doubt, why Deakin University senior lecturer Scott Burchill has made two appearances on the ABC TV News Breakfast’s “Newspapers” segment in recent times.

As avid readers are aware, Dr Burchill (for a doctor he is) invariably drops into the ABC’s studios in Southbank to do the Newspapers gig on his way to the tip. And dresses accordingly. More tip visits equals more News Breakfast appearances.

There was much news around last Tuesday, but your man Burchill decided to devote his final topic on the “Newspapers” segment to that obsession of the ABC and Fairfax Media journalists and commentators. Namely, non-government or private schools.  And so, it came to pass that Scott Burchill decided to comment on the BIG ISSUE OF THE DAY, to wit the length of a male student’s hair at Trinity Grammar in the Melbourne suburb of Kew – where a teacher cut a student’s hair.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Virginia Trioli: In Melbourne, there’s a student strike at Trinity Grammar.

Scott Burchill: Yes, the students are revolting.

Virginia Trioli: So, they are.

Michael Rowland: An oldie but a goody.

Scott Burchill: Thank you. They’re going to wear brown armbands, I hope it’s not brown shirts. But certainly, brown armbands.

Virginia Trioli: That’s dangerous.

Scott Burchill: And casual clothes, which is a terribly disruptive approach.

Virginia Trioli: And let the locks flow free. Because this all evolves from a forced haircut.

Scott Burchill: Well this is the obsession of private schools. We might talk about drug taking, we might talk about the expense of them. But there’s far more important issues at stake. Private schools around this country have always been totally obsessed with their image and hair length, particularly for boys.

Virginia Trioli: Why do they care about hair length?

Scott Burchill: It seems to be the most important function. In fact, there are staff allocated in private schools whose only job is to measure hair length.

Virginia Trioli: I doubt that’s true – that’s their only job?

Scott Burchill:  Well it’s the one they do the most diligently, let’s put it –

Virginia Trioli: That was overreach.

You can say that again.  The idea that there are staff employed in private schools whose “only job” is to measure the length of a student’s hair is absolute tosh.  Dr Burchill just made this up.  And as for the Deakin University academic’s “the students are revolting” quip – well Hendo reckons that he first heard this half a century ago.  Talk about re-cycling.  Can You Bear It?


Due to normal practice in Victoria, the Victorian Magistrate’s Court was closed to the media when complaints were heard in the hearing of the Cardinal George Pell case. This did not stop some journalists reporting – literally – from outside the court.

Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald on 6 March, Tony Wright commented about George Pell’s weight “during his footy days” – which happens to be six decades ago.  Mr Wright referred to Robert Richter QC’s “faded ginger beard” and compared it to Mark Gibson SC’s “grey whiskers”. He also referred to Cardinal Pell “lumbering to his feet”. When your man Wright retires from Fairfax Media, he should be able to find a place in Women’s Weekly.

And then there was Lucie Morris-Marr in The New Daily on 9 March. She referred to Cardinal Pell’s appearance with reference to the word “perhaps” and alleged that “he shuffled all week”. The intrepid reporter also wrote that there are no “beautiful Da Vinci paintings” in the Melbourne Magistrate’s Court. What an insight.  Ms Morris-Marr even speculated on Cardinal Pell’s “mental health” without having spoken to – or even heard – him.

This is what passes for contemporary journalism. Can You Bear It?



Alas, Jackie’s (male) co-owner’s IQ recording system failed temporarily last Sunday.  Hence, he missed a small part of the second segment of Outsiders (which goes to air live at 10 am). It’s possible that Hendo missed the most important part of the program – i.e. the segment devoted to the deliberations of Sky News newsreader Jaynie Seal’s “Outsiders Book Club”.

MWD just loves this Outsiders segment – since it provides the only opportunity on commercial television where presenters are given a free rein to talk about books they have not read.  Such as when co-presenter Ross Cameron discusses the work of Marcus Aurelius which he has read in its Latin original.  And when the hugely popular (and witty) Ms Seal claims she is reading Karl Popper’s The Logic of Scientific Discovery. And co-presenter Rowan Dean is reading his very latest autobiographical novel – or some other work of fiction. [It’s possible your man has read his own book – don’t you think? MWD Editor.]

Meanwhile MWD is delighted to report that Outsiders has just decided to exhibit the following “Endorsement” by Hendo which reads as follows:

“It remains to be seen whether even the garrulous Mr Cameron is garrulous enough to carry Outsiders”

Unlike the quotes in the “Endorsement” segment which MWD has been running for eons, this is a doctored quote.  Here’s the full quote taken from MWD Issue 392 – it reads as follows:

Jackie’s (male) co-owner is quite a fan of Sky News’ Outsiders program starring Marcus Aurelius fan boy Ross Cameron and former advertising man Rowan Dean.  In 2017, Outsiders ran for an hour on Sundays at 10 am.  But in 2018 it will extend to 11 am on Sundays and run for an hour on Thursday evenings from 8 pm.  It remains to be seen whether even the garrulous Mr Cameron is garrulous enough to carry Outsiders for three hours a week.

What Hendo was saying here was that the garrulous Ross Cameron would become even more garrulous if the program on Sunday was extended from one to two hours and Outsiders also ran on Thursday nights.  And so it has come to pass.

As avid readers are aware, your man Cameron has commenced the 9 am Sunday Outsiders program in recent weeks with rants on (i) the Moon, (ii) the Sun, (iii) Snakes and (iv) Bees.  Hendo was hoping that Pastor Cameron’s Sunday Sermon last weekend would commence with a dissertation on the Birds and Bees.  But, alas, it was not to be.  Let’s go to the transcript as Ross (“I’m a Marcus Aurelius fan boy”) Cameron throws the switch to the Australian Female and her offspring:

Rowan Dean: Ross, anything you want to get off your chest?

Ross Cameron: Well.

Rowan Dean: You know how you like to, just kind of –

Ross Cameron: This show is dedicated to the natural Australian Female. The All Australian Girl. Which we happily extend to the sisters in New Zealand and elsewhere. But this morning she plays an important role in my little rant. Which is about childhood.

And people have often asked, how is it that the human being came to dominate the biosphere, to be at the apex of all life on earth and perhaps in the universe? And the consensus is that it is because of the investment we have made in the human brain. And some have said that, described the early homo erectus as the toolmaker, we might equally describe the human as the brain maker – because that is where we have invested our energy rather than in strength, speed or ferocity in the use of reason.

The question arises, how did we acquire our large brain which is the secret to what makes us human? And the answer to that is a word which you may not be familiar with, which is “neoteny”. It comes from two Greek words – “neo” which means new or juvenile and teínein which means to extend. And because of this extended period of childhood that we have the opportunity to develop our brains. Combined with the fact that we have spent forty weeks in the womb of our mothers.

And then the World Health Organisation recommends two years of nursing, of breastfeeding by the mother. And so the mother in the human species gains a kind of intelligence about a child which is unsurpassed in any other species. But that neoteny, that extended childhood, that extended helplessness of the human being which gives us six years between birth and what is described as pre-adolescence. Or childhood. During that period the human brain enjoys a kind of plasticity where the child’s brain is being wired and rewired every day.

Zzzzzzz zzzzzzzz.  Your man Cameron’s six-minute rant went on and on.  And on. And on – as, all the while, Rowan (“I’m a Trump fan boy”) Dean looked with a bemused smile at camera Number One – or was it camera Number Two?

Then, at long last, after intermittent references to the human child as compared with the baby crocodile, the segment concluded:

So, this morning we want to dedicate the show to childhood and to the mothers and the grandmothers and the great grandmothers watching who have given so much of their lives to care for, to parent, to bring up the human which is now at the apex of the entire species.

A Little Bird had told MWD that, during Ross Cameron’s rant last Sunday, 90 per cent of the viewers’ children fell asleep while 95 per cent of great grandmothers viewing died of suspected boredom.

Let’s hear no more about crocodiles. Here’s hoping that next Sunday’s Cameron Rant is: “The Platypus as Philosopher – as discussed by Karl Popper (in a book I have not read).”




The point about loads and loads of management in the public service is that it invariably leads to change for change’s sake.  Take the ABC, for example.  It recently re-branded ABC News 24 (on television) with the title ABC News. The only problem is that ABC News Radio was also re-branded ABC News.  This change was of scant import – except that it is now increasingly difficult to cite ABC News on television as distinct from ABC News on radio. Clever, eh?

Then there was the you-beaut decision that two presenters on the ABC Radio Breakfast program were better than one.  In Melbourne, the eccentric but successful Red Symons decided not to participate in the ABC management’s “initiative”. So he was replaced by Jacinta Parsons and comedian Sami (“Donald Trump never wanted to be president”) Shah.  The Age’s “Green Guide” is effectively part of the “Friends of the ABC” set.  But in recent weeks its “Your Say” letters page has been replete with ABC listeners who have variously described the new format as “rubbish”, “drivel” and “inane drivel”. In the ratings released this week, there was a dramatic fall in the audience for the Parsons/Shah breakfast gig.

In Melbourne, the leftist Jon Faine’s Mornings program remain in situ. Not so in Sydney where Robbie Buck’s Breakfast program was rolled into the Mornings program presented by Wendy (“I’m just an old-fashioned socialist”) Harmer.

The problem with two presenters for one program in the taxpayer funded public broadcaster, which is a Conservative Free Zone, is that interviews can sometimes result in a leftist pile-on against social or political conservatives.

This occurred on 774 one day last month when the Buck/Harmer duo piled into Professor Patrick Parkinson, who supports a submission by the Freedom of Faith think tank in favour of a Religious Freedom Act.  Freedom of Faith is endorsed by such theologically conservative institutions as Hillsong, the Presbyterian Church and the Anglican Diocese of Sydney.  Soon after, the Buck/Harmer duo piled-on NSW Liberal Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton. It was not a good cop/bad cop scenario – just two presenters going after an interviewee from a left-of-centre perspective.

Right now, ABC TV is advertising heavily about what is now called “Breakfast with Wendy Harmer and Robbie Buck”.  However, the advertisement presents the unintended message that the ABC is focused on inner-city types and/or those who live close to the sea.  Here’s how ABC management sees the ABC Breakfast audience in Sydney.  It’s correct – but usually a reality which the ABC attempts to hide.


Meanwhile, the ABC’s preference to mix reporting with comedy continues apace.  Hence the decision to replace Melbourne-based Australian Football League commentator Gerard Whateley with comedian Anthony “Lehmo” Lehmann to host ABC Radio’s Saturday and Sunday AFL programs in Melbourne. As your man Lehmo told the Herald-Sun, he will cover the football seriously but likes “to finish every conversation with a laugh”.  How funny is that?


Meanwhile, as if the taxpayer funded Conservative Free Zone did not have enough left-of-centre types, more have stepped up to the microphone.  Josh Szeps, who recently presented Sydney Radio’s Summer Breakfast and Radio National’s Late Night Live, has got his very own ABC podcast titled Out of the Loop. And Fairfax Media’s Peter Martin is now co-presenting The Economists on Radio National.

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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).


Last weekend The Sunday Age led Page One with an article by three journalists covering a speech by Robert Fitzgerald (formerly of the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse) given at an uncited time. The report was titled “Church ‘fails to face abuse tragedy’”. Gerard Henderson wrote to Robert Fitzgerald seeking evidence to support the thesis of his speech – but without much success. You be the judge.

Gerard Henderson to Robert Fitzgerald – 14 March 2018

Dear Robert

I read with interest the Page One report in The Sunday Age last weekend (by Ben Schneiders, Royce Millar and Chris Vedelago) of your recent address to the Catholic Social Services Conference in Melbourne.  I hope to get a full copy of your speech in due course.  In the meantime, I am interested in that part of The Sunday Age report which reads as follows:

Mr Fitzgerald, in his speech, described a church divided between those that accepted the evidence of abuse and the need for reform – including a greater role for women – and those conservative Catholics who were “yet to fully understand what has just occurred’’. He said the church was the only institution he’d ever known to have the answers to such major problems “but refuse in fact to look to those answers, look to those solutions’’.

The scale of abuse recorded by the royal commission across all institutions, secular and religious, was immense, affecting countless, tens of thousands of abused children, most of whom were now adults. But such abuse was particularly prevalent in Catholic institutions. Nearly 62 per cent of all people who notified the royal commission of abuse in a religious setting were abused in a Catholic institution.

As you are aware from the evidence you heard as a member of the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, most of the offences in Catholic institutions took place in the 1960s and 1970s and there have been very few such crimes committed over the past two decades.

I am particularly interested in the statistic you quoted – namely that nearly 62 per cent of all the people who notified the Royal Commission of abuse in religious setting were abused in a Catholic institution.

I assume that the Royal Commission, with its large staff component, drilled down into this statistic.  As you know, after the Second World War Catholics were about 25 per cent of the Australian population. However, due to the systemic Catholic education system, which was not reflected in other faiths, Catholics must have accounted for around 80 per cent of children educated in a religious setting in Australia.  Catholics also had a much higher percentage of orphanages and hospitals than like institutions which operated in a religious setting.

In view of this, I wonder whether the Royal Commission developed any statistics for assessing the percentage of children who were sexually abused in Catholic institutions compared with the percentage of children who were abused in a religious setting which was not Catholic.

I assume that such a statistic is available.  Otherwise, the 62 per cent figure which you quoted in your address to the Catholic Social Service Conference is all but meaningless.

Looking forward to hearing from you on this because, if the 62 per cent figure stacks up, I will approach this issue in the future from a different assumption.

Best wishes – I trust that you were enjoying life back at the Productivity Commission.

Yours sincerely

Gerard Henderson

Robert Fitzgerald to Gerard Henderson – 14 March 2018

Thanks Gerard for your email. The figure is contained in the document’ Final information update ‘ which was provided at the time of release of the final report and is on  the website. The precise figure is 61.4 per cent. The Final Report sets out in detail the figures relating  to private sessions. I don’t regard any of these figures as meaningless as I hope you don’t either. Too many lives have been damaged for such a view. Regretably there are no historic prevalence studies in Australia  but we recommended such be undertaken in the future.

It would be very dangerous to underestimate contemporary risks to children. As noted in the Report this is still a contemporary issue.

I am pleased to be back with the PC and look forward to promoting sound public policy in different areas.


 Gerard Henderson to Robert Fitzgerald – 15 March 2018


Thanks for your prompt response and for the reference to the “Final Information Update” document put out by the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Assault.

As you are aware, the Royal Commission source for your comment to the Catholic Social Services Conference in Melbourne was as follows:

Of those who told us they were abused in a religious institution, the majority (61.4 per cent) said they experienced abuse in a Catholic Church institution, followed by an Anglican Church institution (14.8 per cent).

This statistic – as it stands – does not necessarily support your statement to the Melbourne conference that child sexual abuse “was particularly prevalent in Catholic institutions”.  The statistic would only be meaningful if a statistic were also available concerning the percentage of children who were in religious institutions (schools, orphanages, hospitals) run by the Catholic Church at the time.

As you know, throughout the 20th Century the Catholic Church ran its own school system – independent of State, Territory and Commonwealth governments.  It also ran more orphanages and hospitals, on a per capital basis, than other religious organisations.

Over 80 per cent – and perhaps as high as 90 per cent – of children educated in a religious setting in Australia would have been in an institution run by a Catholic Church. The Royal Commission’s analysis that 61.4 per cent of those who said that they were abused in a religious institution were in a Catholic institution is meaningless – if over 80 per cent of such institutions were run by the Catholic Church.

In other words, the Royal Commission’s 61.4 per cent figure is not comparable with the percentage of children abused in non-Catholic religious institutions. Or, for that matter, with the percentage of children sexually abused in secular and government institutions.

The Royal Commission was well funded and had a large staff.  It could have done this work – but, for some reason, chose not to do so.  You regret that there are “no historic prevalence studies in Australia” but state that the Royal Commission “recommend” that such studies “be undertaken in the future”. It’s a bit late – in view of the fact that the Royal Commission had this information available to it had it decided to drill down into its statistics.

By the way, I am well aware of the contemporary risks to children and that the Royal Commission said that such crimes are “still a contemporary issue”. Recently, The Australian has given extensive coverage to the high rate of child sexual assault in Indigenous communities and elsewhere.  The problem with the Royal Commission is that it gave the unintended impression that it was focused on the Catholic Church.  Even Paul Collins, who is not an Archbishop Denis Hart type Catholic, was critical of the anti-Catholic sectarianism which he felt influenced the Royal Commission’s deliberations.

My point in writing to you was to query the validity of your claim that ran on the front page of The Sunday Age last weekend.   The fact is that without relevant prevalence studies, the Royal Commission’s finding that 61.4 per cent of children who were abused in a religious setting were abused in a Catholic institution is sad but meaningless.  As an economist, you should be aware of this.

Best wishes



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On 15 March 2018 at 6.42 pm, Robert Fitzgerald sent Gerard Henderson a “Confidential and Private” email of 53 words length.

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Gerard Henderson to Robert Fitzgerald – 16 March 2018


Thanks for your email.

I note that you are either not willing, or not able, to defend the claim you made at the recent Melbourne conference – and which was the Page One lead in The Sunday Age last weekend concerning the Catholic Church and the Royal Commission.

I also note that you are not an economist.  I assumed that someone with a Bachelor of Commerce who works for the Productivity Commission could be accurately referred to as an economist.  But I accept that this is not necessarily the case.

Best wishes



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Until next time.



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