ISSUE – NO. 403

27 April 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: A Walkley Dinner Update

  • MWD Exclusive: Another R v Jon Stephens Case

  • CAN YOU BEAR IT?: Jon Faine on “The Royal Brat” as a threat to democracy; Tony Wright on Billy Hughes; Jonathan Green on Leigh Sales & James Comey; Leunig’s Anzac Day rant

  • Media Fool of the Week: Step forward Mike Carlton

  • Great Media U-turns of our time: Peter FitzSimons & Jonathan King on the First World War

  • Outside Outsiders: Ross Cameron (again) & Jaynie Seal’s book club

  • The ABC & Paedophilia – an updated timeline

  • CORRESPONDENCE: Gaven Morris helps out (sort of) on the Jon Stephens matter & John from Warrigal on the ABC as a Conservative Free Zone


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There was enormous interest in last week’s coverage of The Inaugural Walkley Fund For Journalism Dinner to be held in Sydney on Friday 11 May – and starring the likes of Louise (“I don’t answer questions about my book”) Milligan, Ross Coulthart and “Red” Kerry O’Brien.

MWD cannot recall a fundraising dinner, with tickets moderately priced for such a function at $165 per head, which has had so much advertising as this particular knees-up. Especially since MWD believes that 500 souls would fill the room.

There was an advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age last Monday – and another one in each newspaper this morning.

Could it be that non-journalists don’t want to pay good money to hear the likes of Ms Milligan, Mr Coulthart and Red Kerry talk – yet again – about themselves?  Or are organisers secretly building up numbers with a view to moving the function at late notice to the Sydney Cricket Ground – estimated capacity 42,000?  We’ll keep you posted.



The ABC has given extensive coverage to instances of historical child sexual abuse involving religious institutions (especially the Anglican and Catholic churches) along with secular and government organisations.   However, the taxpayer funded public broadcaster will not report its own case of historical child sexual abuse or promptly investigate the circumstances in which it occurred.

As MWD readers are aware, in June 2017 former ABC TV producer Jon Stephens pleaded guilty to the sexual assault of a 12 year old boy in 1981 while on ABC duties near Gosford.  As documented in “The ABC and Pedophilia – The Timeline” in today’s issue, it took ABC management over a year and a half to attempt to contact Stephens or his victim (who is reported to be living in a van). The investigation is scheduled to be completed by the end of June and the ABC has put aside $12,000 for independent legal advice.

Last Tuesday there was another R v Jon Stephens case – this time in the Sydney Downing Centre court. MWD understands that this involves another complainant who knew Stephens when he was employed by the ABC as a television producer – and that there will be a committal hearing concerning this matter in May.

The ABC was advised of the Jon Stephens case in the Downing Centre court set down for 24 April but, once again, chose not to report it.  See today’s “Correspondence” section.

MWD will keep you posted. This is an important matter – especially in view of the decision of the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse not to enquire into historic child sexual abuse in the Australian media, including the ABC.

 Can You Bear It


Isn’t it great to know that Jon Faine has returned from what journalists like to call a WELL-EARNED BREAK [or WEB] to present his very own Mornings with Jon Faine program on ABC Radio Melbourne 774?  The last time your man Faine made the news was just a few weeks ago – after he asked disability advocate Carly Findlay whether she could have sex due to her chronic skin condition. Sensitive eh?

Back behind the ABC microphone this week, on Tuesday Mr Faine invited callers to ring him following the announcement of the birth of a son to Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge:

Jon Faine:  Looking forward to your calls. Whether it’s about the Royal brat – a baby, sorry, baby, baby.

How’s that for a deliberate mistake? – of a kind that might, just might, have worked in Year 10.  And so  it came to pass that a caller named Steven (or perhaps Stephen) managed to get through to the program where the following exchange took place:

Caller (Steven): Your allusion to the royal child as a “brat”, I think is so insulting. I mean how would you like it if somebody called your new granddaughter a brat? It was unnecessary.

Jon Faine: I think I’ve probably done that myself actually, Steven.

Caller (Steven): Yeah, don’t try and jest. This is an insult. You can keep your opinions of the Royal Family to yourself. In fact, you’re not supposed to be opinionated, are you?

Jon Faine: Oh, look I think we’re allowed every now and again to express an opinion about a few things – aren’t we Steven?

Caller (Steven): Yeah but you bang on about this like it’s a threat to humanity.

Jon Faine: Well it’s a threat to a few things, actually, a threat to democracy is one of them….

Now Jackie’s co-owners are republicans who believe that Australia should have an Australian Head of State.  However, Jon Faine’s view that the constitutional monarchy which prevails in Britain (and in those Commonwealth nations that have Elizabeth II as their monarch like Australia) is a threat to democracy is absolute tosh. Britain’s democracy is not threatened by the Queen.  Nor are the democratic systems of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and more besides.

In his sneering response to listeners, Jon Faine likes to use the word “actually”.  MWD’s response to the ABC presenter’s claim that Australian democracy is under threat from the Royal baby and his Old Man is: Actually, Can You Bear It?



MWD is an admirer of Sir John Monash, a Jewish Australian of Prussian background, who became corps commander of the First Australian Imperial Force in 1918 and led Australian forces in some of the most important victories on the Western Front that contributed to the defeat of Germany in November 1918. However, claims that Sir John was not sufficiently recognised in his life do not stack up.  And the suggestion that he won the First World War, the thesis of journalist Roland Perry, is just bunk.  Monash was very able, but he was also assisted by very able officers and men. And then, in the Northern Spring of 1918, there were the highly efficient British, Canadian and New Zealand forces as well.

The Age’s Tony Wright took up the fashionable John-Monash-was-robbed line in an article which he wrote on 18 April 2018.  Here’s how your man Wright got going:

Sir John Monash, widely credited with devising strategies that turned the surge of World War I against the Germans after years of death-dealing stalemate, was the first military commander in 200 years to be knighted on the field of battle. He was so revered by Australians that 300,000 people turned out for his funeral in 1931 and 10,000 returned soldiers led his casket mounted on a gun carriage through the streets to Melbourne’s Brighton cemetery. He was, however, never elevated to the giddy rank of field marshal. It was a curious omission

Er, not really.  John Monash was “never elevated to the giddy rank of field marshal” because he never was a field marshal. He was promoted to the highest possible rank consistent with his military command.

Tony Wright continued:

One of Monash’s most prominent latter-day champions, former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer, has asserted that the incompetent prime minister of World War I, Billy Hughes, made sure Monash never became field marshal because Hughes was jealous and afraid of Monash’s popularity. Giving a parliamentary speech about key battles led by Monash, Hughes couldn’t bring himself to use the General’s name.

Billy Hughes – Australia’s prime minister from 27 October 1915 to 9 February 1923 – may not have liked John Monash.  But he did not thwart his career.  As to Tony Wright’s view that Hughes was “incompetent” – what is the evidence for this put-down?

Billy Hughes quit the Labor Party in November 1916 due to his support for conscription for overseas service.  He remained prime minister as the leader of a National Labor government and then a Nationalist government.   Sure, Hughes did not win the conscription plebiscites of 1916 and 1917. But he did win three elections – in May 1917, December 1919 and December 1922 and was never defeated in an election campaign.  Also, Hughes oversaw Australia’s contribution to the Allied victory in 1918 and was a powerful advocate of Australia’s interests in the aftermath of war.  And yet Age journalist Tony Wright reckons that Billy Hughes was incompetent. Can You Bear It?


Thanks to the avid reader who drew MWD’s attention to the tweet put out by ABC presenter Jonathan (“Proudly the ABC’s leading sneerer”) Green at 4.58 pm last Friday – just after MWD went out.

The Australian @australian

Here’s Gerard Henderson on @leighsales’ ‘soft’ interview with Trump hater James Comey

Jonathan Green

why ever does he bother?


It’s great to know that your man Green is such an avid MWD reader. Alas, he did not like Hendo’s coverage in last week’s issue concerning Leigh Sales’ interview with former FBI director James Comey – which aired on the 19 April 2018 edition of 7.30.

To say the least, this was an unusual assignment.   As Emily Watkins pointed out in Crikey, the ABC has three journalists based in the United States. Namely, Zoe Daniel, Connor Duffy and Stephanie March. Yet ABC management, in its wisdom chose to fly 7.30 presenter Leigh Sales and a producer to New York for what it described as an exclusive interview.  In fact, Mr Comey is in the middle of a tour flogging his book A Higher Loyalty and has done more “exclusive” interviews than an Australian cattle dog has fleas.

The point of last week’s MWD piece – titled “Leigh Sales’ Soft Interview With Trump Hater James Comey” – was that the 7.30 presenter avoided tough issues  about Comey’s role during and after his time as FBI director while asking him for advice about the Australian-American Alliance.

MWD drew attention to the fact that in her 30-minute interview that went to air, Ms Sales did not once mention the word “leak”. Not once.  Instead there were references – by interview and interviewee alike – to James Comey having “shared” information with journalists.  In fact, as Comey has himself admitted, he leaked information to the media which was hostile to President Donald J. Trump. This act discredited the FBI and may be a criminal offence.

Ms Sales’ interview was shown on the evening of Thursday 19 April (Australian time). By the following Friday morning (American time) the story broke that Comey is being investigated by the Department of Justice for leaking classified information.   Yet Ms Sales avoided the matter about Comey the leaker – which explains why her “exclusive” interview had scant impact in America.  In short, she didn’t ask the tough, newsworthy, questions.

And Jonathan Green, Ms Sales’ ABC colleague, reckons that Hendo should not even have mentioned this point.  Yet another example of the ABC supporting the ABC. Can You Bear It?


Once upon a time, The Age was a well-regarded Melbourne institution which appealed to a cross section of Victorian society.  Now it’s a leftist house-journal whose tone is set by cartoonist Michael Leunig, the leader of the Melbourne Sandalista Set.

Here’s how The Age covered Anzac Day last Wednesday, with this Leunig visual rant featured on the main Comment Page.


So what Comrade Leunig is suggesting is that those members of the Australian armed services who took on Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in the Second World War were into hate, anger, guilt and even homicide. Is Leunig suggesting that it would have been best to give Hitler and the Japanese military what they wanted in the late 1930s and early 1940s? Apparently so. Can You Bear It?



It was 6.42 pm – just after Gin & Tonic time up Avalon Beach way – when Mike (“I’ll pour the Gin”) Carlton put out the following tweet.  The reference was to Finance Services Minister Kelly O’Dwyer’s appearance on the ABC TV Insiders program over nine hours earlier.


Now this is the very same Mike Carlton – aka the Sage of Avalon Beach – who wrote a sanctimonious article in The Saturday Paper as recently as 31 March 2018 deploring Australia’s (alleged) “culture of cruelty”.

So, in late March your man Carlton condemned cruelty. And in late April your man Carlton called Kelly O’Dwyer a “f-ckwit” and described her Insiders interview as “idiotic”.  How cruel can you get – and where are the leftist feminists willing to defend a woman against the ranting of an angry old man?

Mike Carlton – Media Fool of the Week.

[I note that Mr Carlton seems to have pinched his “Right Wing F-ckwit of the Week” gag from your hugely popular “Media Fool of the Week” segment which has been running for eons.  Well, as Oscar Wilde once declared, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.]


Peter (“I write no more than one book every six months”) FitzSimons has just mass-produced yet another tome.  This one titled Monash’s Masterpiece: The Battle of Hamel and the 93 Minutes that changed the World.  As avid readers will recall, the Red Bandannaed One’s previous tome – titled Victory at Villers-Bretonneux – was subjected to devastating criticism by professional historian Peter Stanley in the Sydney Morning Herald on 7 November 2016.  Peter Stanley’s review was re-printed in Issue 342 and can be read here.

On 17 April 2018, the Sydney Morning Herald published an article by your man Fitz titled “Abbott merits praise on pushing of the truth over Western Front”.  Here’s how it started:

How often, do you think, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull can take delight in bringing to fruition a policy started by his predecessor, Tony Abbott? By my reckoning you could count such occasions on the fingers of one finger[sic], and it will be this Anzac Day when Mr Turnbull will open the Sir John Monash Centre in Villers-Bretonneux, a modern interpretive centre to commemorate both the extraordinary achievements of the 300,000 Diggers who served on the Western Front, and those of their superb commander, Sir John Monash.

To give Abbott his due, he was the first Australian prime minister to push the truth, as he did in 2015: “Gallipoli has dominated our imagination, but the Western Front was where Australia’s main war was fought. This is where our thoughts must dwell if we are truly to remember our forebears, pay homage to their sacrifice and honour their achievements.”

Despite the move, there remains a long way to go for Australians to recognise just how extraordinary were the achievements of both the Diggers and Monash. Four years ago, I was as ignorant as most, but as one who has since done books covering the battles of Fromelles, Pozieres, Villers-Bretonneux – and this week release a book on Monash – allow me to make a few remarks.

Well, fancy that.  On his own admission, in 2014 Peter FitzSimons was “ignorant” about the role of the First Australian Imperial Force in the decisive battles on the Western Front in 1918 that contributed to the defeat of the German Army.  But since then he has written four books on the topic.  Gee, The Red Bandannaed One must be a fast reader.  By the way, John Howard also argued when prime minister that Australia should put a greater focus on the Western Front than the Gallipoli campaign.  Fitz seems ignorant of this as well, no doubt because Mr Howard was prime minister before 2014.

In any event, these days Fitz acknowledges – albeit in an exaggerated tone – the key role played by the First AIF in World War I.  He regards it as an extraordinary success worthy of honour.

Yet this is the very same Peter FitzSimons who commenced his 2004 book Kokoda by quoting with approval a statement in 1992 by then Paul Keating, viz:

The Australians who served here in Papua New Guinea fought and died, not for defence of the old world, but the new world.  Their world.  They died in the defence of Australia and the civilisation and values which had grown up there.  That is why it might be said that, for Australians, the battles in Papua New Guinea were the most important ever fought.

Former Prime Minister Paul Keating, Bomana War

Cemetery, Port Moresby, Anzac Day, 1992

So in 2004 Peter FitzSimons supported the view that in the Second World War Australians fought in defence of “their world” – whereas in 1914-18 Australians fought in support of “the old world” – not their world.

In other words, in 2004 Fitz asserted that the First AIF in 1914-18 fought for Britain (he used the term England). Whereas the Second AIF in 1939-45 fought for Australia.

On 13 August 2009, Peter FitzSimons wrote this in the Sydney Morning Herald:

Historically, there is nowhere more powerful for Australians [than Kokoda].  At Gallipoli, they fought for England and lost.  At Kokoda, they fought for Australia and won.  When you visit Gallipoli, you can see where they fought and imagine how they suffered; when you walk the Track you suffer a bit as they suffered. Most who walk the [Kokoda] Track are spiritually changed.  Clinging by your fingernails to a mountain while your failing, flailing legs try to propel you up gives you perspective on your life in Australia – on what is important.

In other words, as recently as 2009, Peter FitzSimons maintained that the First AIF – which engaged Germany and its ally the Ottoman Empire on the field of battle in the  First World War – fought for Britain not Australia.  And now Fitz is extolling the role of the First AIF in 1918 – the very men he once claimed did not fight for Australia.


And then there is the author and producer Jonathan King whose article “The battle that turned the tide” was published in Fairfax Media newspapers last Saturday.  Your man King paid tribute to the Diggers – and in particular Lieutenant Clifford Sadlier – who fought at Villers-Bretonneux in 1918.

These days Jonathan King makes a living extolling the deeds of the First AIF on the Western Front.  Could this be the very same Jonathan King who had this to say in his 1978 book Waltzing Materialism (Harper & Row) in a chapter sneeringly titled “Our Glorious Anzacs”? Sure could – here we go:

Australians have shown themselves to be an extremely pugnacious nation. In our short history we have joined in eleven major skirmishes and lost nearly a hundred thousand lives before stopping to ask why. The fact that involvement was rarely needed or justified and that the campaigns were often catastrophic was apparently inconsequential. This predisposition to military adventure has been so important that a collection of myths has developed around the catastrophes turning them into victories in such a way that it rarely occurs to admiring audiences to enquire into the reasons why so many Australians should die in the first place.

In Waltzing Materialism, King argued that the First AIF had “fought not for ourselves but for a greater power” i.e. Britain. He added, in mocking tone, “that Australia’s glorious and decisive victories [in 1918 and elsewhere] have not lived forever in the homeland”.  And now the very same person is lecturing us on how we should honour the Anzacs.


It was a much quieter opening to the 9 am Sky News Outsiders episode last Sunday.  Co-presenter Ross Cameron forewent his usual long-winded [Don’t you mean garrulous? MWD Editor] rant. It was replaced by a brief spiel on the waste of waste management – or something like that.

Perhaps your man Cameron took notice of co-presenter Rowan Dean’s very own spiel on 13 April 2018 when he warned the Marcus Aurelius fan boy that his rant on Russia was becoming JUST SO BORING.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Rowan Dean: You’ve heard of the group Status Quo? Status Quo, for the viewers out there, in the 70s, their first song, huge hit, massive hit, Roll Over Lay Down. Second song – they had three chords and they did them really well – second song came along and it was called Down Down or something like that. Same three chords. They did it in – same songs – they did it again. And they kept doing this. For year in, year out.  They kept coming up with the song, Ross.

Ross Cameron: Yes yes.

Rowan Dean: Until in the end, even they got fed up with their own repetitiveness. And their final song was called Again and Again and Again and Again. I’m worried that you’re singing the same song, like Status Quo, again and again and again and again. It’s a good song – don’t get me wrong. But you are saying the same thing again and again and again. Now it simply cannot be the fact that every time there is an accusation of a chemical weapon, the baddies didn’t do it and the goodies are responsible. Now, if you’re gonna ask me who to believe – on the one hand Donald Trump, Teresa May and Macron and so on, on the other hand a bunch of Ayatollahs, Assad and the KGB, guess what? I’m gonna opt for Trump, who I’ve always supported, Teresa May and Macron. And the fact of the matter is that unless we do, unless we do take action against chemical weapons they will become the norm. In this instance –

Ross Cameron: Yep

Rowan Dean: – I ask the same questions I asked with the Russian poisoning in London. I ask the same question (we said) last year about the Khan Shaykhun chemical attack. If not them, who? And you’re absolutely right to want evidence. But you can’t want evidence on the one hand, and then ignore the fact that there is no evidence to support your argument on the other hand. So-

Ross Cameron: Sorry brother. I am sorry!

Rowan Dean: And on that note we’re going to the news with Jaynie Seal….

Thank God for that.  Never was the hugely popular newsreader Jaynie Seal more popular than at this very moment.  It looks as if Mr Dean registered a point on 15 April.  That’s why the only Cameron Rant worthy of the name last Sunday was this (somewhat meek) piece on Syria.

Ross Cameron: And also this week, we find that foreign – Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov says he has unequivocal proof that the chemical agent used in the Sergei Skripal poisoning event in Salisbury was a chemical patented in the United States and used by the US, the United Kingdom and NATO forces but never developed or deployed by Russia. Mr Lavrov relied on a report from the renowned Spiez laboratory in Switzerland, being one of the four labs relied upon by the OPCW [the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons] for the analysis of chemical samples allegedly used in chemical weapons attacks. The Spiez analysis points to a Western-designed nerve agent, quinuclidinyl benzilate or BZ, as a likely cause. When questioned about the origin of the chemical, the Spiez laboratory said they could not verify its source or origin and that further questions should be directed to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Rowan Dean: Hahaha, well, Ross….

Yes indeed – well, Ross.  So Ross (“I’m a Marcus Aurelius fan boy”) Cameron reckons that we should all believe the Russian Foreign Minister. Well, Ross – as the saying goes.


Meanwhile the good news from Outsiders last Sunday is that the witty Jaynie Seal – who is also choreographer of the hand movements for Rowan Dean’s “Weather Report & Ice Age Watch” segment – took up MWD’s suggestion last week that she should place the original 1644 Latin edition of Rene Descartes’ Principles of Philosophy on her bedside table. All was revealed on Outsiders last Sunday – as the transcript documents:

Rowan Dean: But listen, Jaynie. I did notice a copy of what looked like René Descartes’ Principles of Philosophy poking out of your handbag backstage. That’s pretty heavy going, isn’t it?

Jaynie Seal: Well, to be honest, it is Rowan. Particularly seeing as it’s the original 1644 Latin edition. But, do you know what? I figure that if Isaac Newton can be bothered to get through it, then so can I.

Rowan Dean: That’s great work – great stuff. Thanks, Jaynie. And, of course, we can recommend that to the Outsiders Book Club.

And so can MWD.  There’s nothing on commercial television to match the Outsiders Book Club in that its members discuss with authority books they have not read.

Here’s hoping it will not be long before Ms Seal has read Anne Finch Conway’s The Principles of the Most Ancient and Modern Philosophy which was published in 1690 around a decade after her death in 1679.  Ms Conway’s work was much admired by the German nationalist philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716). What’s good enough for Mr Leibniz is good enough for Jackie’s (male) co-owner.  And MWD is sure that it will be good enough for Ms Seal. So avid readers look forward to Jaynie Seal’s commentary on The Principles of the Most Ancient and Modern Philosophy on Outsiders next Sunday.  [The Sky News newsreader’s bed side table must be groaning under the weight of books reviewed on the “Outsiders Book Club”. – MWD Editor]



1970: Richard Neville’s memoir Play Power is released.  In his chapter titled “Group Grope”, Neville boasts about having a “hurricane f-ck” with a “moderately attractive, intelligent, cherubic fourteen-year-old girl from a nearby London comprehensive school”.  At the time Neville (born in Sydney in 1941) was in his late twenties – i.e. he was about twice the age of his schoolgirl victim. Sex with an under-age girl or boy was a criminal offence in England at the time – and still is.

1975: Despite being a self-confessed pedophile, Richard Neville obtains a presenter’s job on the ABC radio program titled Lateline which runs on the public broadcaster’s second radio network (the equivalent of Radio National today). Lateline comes within the domain of the ABC left-wing producer Allan Ashbolt.

14 July 1975: Richard Neville presents a program titled “Pederasty” on Lateline.  Three pederasts are interviewed in the ABC studio in Sydney by Neville, who adopts a non-judgmental attitude to their child sexual abuse. A couple of young male victims are also interviewed for the program. The program is reported in detail in The National Times in its issue dated 21 July 1975 (but which is distributed at an earlier date).

1975: When the “Pederasty” program becomes a matter of controversy, the tapes of the program are destroyed along with any transcripts.  Neither Allan Ashbolt nor Richard Neville nor any member of the ABC management report the pederasts to NSW Police or adopt a duty-of-care to the pederasts’ victims who, if alive today, would be in their fifties – i.e. around the same age as some complainants/victims who gave evidence to the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in recent years.

19 July 1975: In the wake of the “Pederasty” controversy, the ABC chairman Professor Richard Downing writes a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald defending the “Pederasty” program and calling on Australians to “understand” the urges of pederasts.  Professor Downing’s letter is signed in his capacity as ABC chairman.

19 July 1975:   The Sydney Morning Herald quotes Professor Downing as saying that “in general, men will sleep with young boys”.

1981: ABC TV producer Jon Stephens sexually abuses a 12-year-old male ABC casual employee while on official ABC duties near Gosford. Mr Stephens is 36 years of age at the time of the offence.

1983: This is the ABC: The Australian Broadcasting Commission: 1932-1983 is published by Melbourne University Press. Its author, Ken Inglis, is given access to ABC records.  In a segment titled “Permissiveness and Politics”, Ken Inglis documents the controversy concerning Richard Neville’s “Pederasty” program of eight years earlier but does not mention Neville’s name.

3 September 2015:  Following the ABC’s widescale coverage of historical child sexual abuse in religious, secular and government organisations, Gerard Henderson writes to ABC chairman Jim Spigelman AO QC on 3 September 2015. His letter includes the following questions:

Professor Downing – one of your predecessors as ABC chairman – once called for an understanding of pederasty in his official capacity as ABC chairman.  Are you prepared – on behalf of the ABC – to renounce the view expressed by Professor Downing in 1975?  If not, why not?

On 4 September 2015, the ABC chairman replied as follows:

Dear Mr Henderson

I can think of nothing polite to say about your suggestion. I will content myself with the observation that mine is not an Apostolic Succession.

Yours sincerely

Jim Spigelman

10 May 2017: Following the appointment of Justin Milne as ABC chairman, Gerard Henderson writes to him as follows:

In July 1975, Richard Downing – acting in his position as ABC chairman – took a public stand on the issue of pederasty.  In a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald – published on 19 July 1975 – he called on Australians to “understand” the urges of pederasts.  The letter was signed “Prof. R. Downing, Chairman, Australian Broadcasting Commission”. As you know, what was the Australian Broadcasting Commission was renamed the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in 1983. On the same day, the Sydney Morning Herald quoted the (then) ABC chairman as saying: “In general, men will sleep with young boys…”.

As the ABC’s contemporary chairman, will you disassociate the public broadcaster from comments made by Professor Downing – one of your predecessors – in 1975?  If not, why not?

Does the ABC have any intention of ascertaining whether the victims of the three pederasts who appeared on the 1975 “Pederasty” program are alive today?  If so, does the public broadcaster regard itself as having a duty of care with respect to these victims?  If not, why not?

17 May 2017: Michael Millett, the ABC Director Government Relations, writes to Gerard Henderson on behalf of the ABC as follows:

The ABC feels there is nothing to be gained in revisiting this matter. The program and subsequent debate took place a long time ago and did not indicate nor set any kind of policy.

15 June 2017: Jon Stephens pleads guilty in Gosford District Local Court to a case of historic child sexual abuse against a 12 year old male ABC casual employee while on an ABC assignment near Gosford in 1981.  He is sentenced to a minimum of 6 months in jail.

The ABC does not report Stephens’ conviction on any of its television, radio or online outlets.  Nor does the Fairfax Media.  The Stephens’ case is reported by News Corp papers which reveal that the victim (who gives his name to News Corp) is currently living in a van.

13 September 2017:  The Gosford Local District Court reduces Stephens’ term of imprisonment due to his medical condition.  ABC News reports the court’s decision on its 1 pm ABC Radio News only – and then drops the story.  According to Gaven Morris, Head ABC News, the Stephens case was not reported in later bulletins due to “significant bushfires in both the Hunter region and across NSW”. This ignores the fact that the Stephens case is a national story involving Australia’s public broadcaster and that the ABC has given extensive coverage over many years to historic abuse cases – particularly in the Catholic and Anglican churches – throughout Australia.

15 September 2017:  In an email to Gerard Henderson defending the ABC’s (meagre) coverage of Stephens case (see above), Gaven Morris declines to address the issue as to whether the ABC has adopted a duty of care to Stephens’ victim.

21 February 2018:  Communications Minister Mitch Fifield advises Senator Eric Abetz that the ABC first became aware of Stephens’ victim in September 2016 when he contacted the ABC via a pro-forma online portal.  Minister Fifield also advises that the ABC’s investigation into this issue (which commenced in August 2017) will conclude in June 2018.

27 February 2018:  In her appearance before Senate Estimates, ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie says that she was not aware of the Stephens case until he was sentenced in June 2017 – around nine months after Stephens’ victim raised the matter with the ABC.  Ms Guthrie confirms that the ABC has not attempted to make contact with Stephens’ victim (who first approached the ABC in September 2016) but has expended taxpayer funds by engaging an “independent barrister” to advise on the case.

11 April 2018:  In her appearance before Senate Estimates, Michelle Guthrie advises that the ABC’s general counsel has written to Stephens’ victim informing him of the ABC’s ongoing investigation and undertaking to keep him informed of progress.  She indicates that the letter was written in the week beginning 9 April 2018.

In response to a question from Senator Abetz, Ms Guthrie advises that the ABC is “still yet to interview Jon Stephens himself”.  She adds “we have made contact, have requested his assistance and are awaiting his response”.  Ms Guthrie says that the ABC is not aware of other complaints of a similar nature about Jon Stephens.  She confirms that the ABC will spend up to $12,000 obtaining legal advice on this matter.

* * * * *

“The ABC and Pedophilia Time Line” leads to the following conclusions:

Both Jim Spigelman (the ABC’s past chairman) and Justin Milne (the ABC’s present chairman) do not accept any responsibility for the statements and inaction on pedophilia by Professor Richard Downing (a former ABC chairman when acting as ABC chairman).  This despite the fact that some ABC presenters and journalists have demanded that the Anglican and Catholic church leaders take responsibility for any inaction on pedophilia by their predecessors going back to the 1950s.  There is no evidence that any Church leader made sympathetic statements on pedophilia of the kind made by Professor Downing, on behalf of the ABC, in 1975.  If this had been the case, it surely would have been reported on the ABC.

The ABC has all but ignored the Jon Stephens case. This despite the fact that ABC presenters and journalists have reported the conviction for historic pedophile offences by employees in the commercial media and elsewhere.

The ABC still will not say whether it has a duty of care to Jon Stephens’ victim while it sets out to discover the relationship between the talent agency which apparently engaged Stephens’ victim for work on Stephens’ ABC TV program (the victim, who is reported to be living in a van, would be around 50 today).  This despite the fact that many ABC presenters and journalists have advocated that victims of historic child sexual abuse in Christian institutions receive counselling and generous financial compensation immediately.


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).


As readers are aware, apart from just one bulletin on just one day on ABC Sydney Radio, the ABC has not reported the fact that one-time ABC TV producer Jon Stephens pleaded guilty in June 2017 to having sexually assaulted a 12-year- old boy while on official ABC duties near Gosford in 1981. Mr Stephens was 36- years-old at the time.  Gerard Henderson was advised by a complainant against Jon Stephens that Stephens was to appear in the Downing Centre court in Sydney on 24 April 2018 in response to further charges laid against the former ABC TV producer by NSW Police. He wrote to Gaven Morris (Director News, Analysis and Investigations) to advise the ABC of the mention of the Jon Stephens case in the Downing Centre court.  Mr Morris replied that he would make the ABC news team aware of the Jon Stephens hearing – if they were not already aware of the matter. Maybe they were – or maybe they were not.  But, once again, the ABC failed to report the Jon Stephens case.  Here we go:

Gerard Henderson to Gaven Morris – 23 April 2018


As you will recall, we have been in email correspondence concerning one-time ABC producer Jon Stephens who pleaded guilty in June 2017 to the sexual abuse of a 12 year old boy while on an ABC assignment near Gosford in 1981.

As you will be aware, the ABC only reported the Stephens case on one radio bulletin in New South Wales when, due to ill-health, his minimum sentence was reduced from six months to three months.

I am advised that another Jon Stephens matter is scheduled to be heard in the Downing Centre court in Sydney tomorrow – involving another complainant – concerning child sexual abuse while Stephens worked at the ABC in the 1980s.

In view of the extensive coverage by the ABC of court cases involving religious institutions, I thought that the ABC might be interested in reporting this second Jon Stephens case.

I understand that William Thompson emailed you and others on 21 January 2018 about this matter in the Downing Centre court. At the time, Mr Thompson was not aware that there would be a hearing on 24 April 2018.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

Gaven Morris to Gerard Henderson – 23 April 2018

Thanks Gerard, I’ve made the news team aware, if they weren’t before.


Gaven Morris


News, Analysis and Investigations

Gerard Henderson to Gaven Morris – 23 April 2018

Lotsa thanks



An avid reader wrote to MWD re Gerard Henderson’s description of the ABC as a Conservative Free Zone. He suggested that there is one conservative within the taxpayer funded public broadcaster – a certain Ian McNamara.  Now read on:

 John [name withdrawn] to Gerard Henderson – 22 April 2018

To Gerard Henderson
I enjoy Media Watch Dog every week. However, I believe your claim that there are no conservative presenters on the ABC should be amended to “except perhaps for Ian McNamara with his Australia All Over.”

Ian puts to air every Sunday morning a totally different audience to the usual ABC cohort. Most seem to be doing constructive things for their community, raising money for charity by their own hard work, running community organisations, and not a bleeding heart or person looking for “ funds” i.e. other people’s taxes in sight.

Keep up the good work with your weekly report. When I went to high school in the 1950’s we did a subject called clear thinking. We looked forward to the promised time when a more educated people would make us more enlightened. The opposite seems to have happened! Many so called educated people cannot think clearly.

Keep up the good work.

John [name withdrawn]

Warragul, Victoria

Gerard Henderson to John [name withdrawn] of Warragul – 27 April 2018


Thanks for your note of last Sunday – and thanks for being an avid Media Watch Dog reader.  Your concluding comment was very perceptive.

Your quote about my critique about the ABC as a Conservative Free Zone was slightly incomplete. What I have written about the ABC as a Conservative Free Zone is this. The ABC does not have a conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets.

This comment is accurate.  I accept that Ian McNamara is not part of the left-of- centre to green-left ethos that prevails at the taxpayer funded public broadcaster and I acknowledge that he is a popular broadcaster.  It’s just that I do not regard Australia All Over as a prominent program.  Likewise with Tom Switzer’s Between the Lines (which airs on Thursdays at 1.30 pm) and Amanda Vanstone’s Counterpoint (which airs on Mondays at 4 pm).  Indeed, Counterpoint when it commenced in 2004, with Paul Duffy as presenter, was so named to advertise that it would be “counter” to the prevailing points made on the ABC.

In my view, the prominent ABC news and current affairs programs are 7.30, Media Watch, Four Corners, Q&A, News Breakfast, Matter of Fact, AM, The World Today, PM, Radio National Breakfast and Late Night Live.  They are conservative free zones with respect to presenters, producers and the like.

On occasions, ABC types challenge my view that the ABC is a Conservative Free Zone. In response, I ask them to name the conservatives in prominent positions at the ABC. I have never received a response.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson


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Until next time


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