ISSUE – NO. 411

22 June 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.

* * * *

  • Stop Press: Tom Ballard in Hessian-Bag Territory; Sammy J’s Unfunny Auction

  • Editorial: Jon Faine’s Unprofessionalism with respect to Michelle Guthrie

  • Can You Bear It? Paul Krugman; Hamish Macdonald; Joanne McCarthy; the Left & the Late Bob Ellis

  • Media Fool of the Week: Step Forward Chris Berg

  • An ABC Update: Featuring Julia Baird on Alleged ABC Conservatives & Emma Alberici on the Strange Case of Audience Bias

  • Five Paws Award: Chas Licciardello Scores for True Confession

  • Manners Maketh the Canine: Why Fairfax Media’s Tony Walker Needs to Attend a Courtesy Course

  • Great Media U-Turns of Our Time: Read all about PVO on Privatisation

  • History Corner: Professor Dirk Moses’ Horribly Inaccurate History

  • Correspondence: Ellen Fanning & Barbara Heineback Help Out (Sort of) on The Drum

* * * *


So, Tonightly with Tom Ballard  is back amongst us – at 9 pm Monday to Thursday (with a repeat on Friday) on the second ABC TV channel.  This after the program was bagged, according to a leaked document obtained by The Australian’s Darren Davidson – which criticised the program for being “too male orientated” and “too white”.  So it was great to see Nina Oyama out in front of the camera in this second series – and not tied to a producer’s desk.  By the way, the leaked report was written for ABC management by Dan Ilic who describes himself as an “investigative humourist”. How funny is that?

Jackie’s (male) co-owner missed the first three days of the return of the program – which can’t quite work out whether it is (attempted) comedy or (attempted) opinion. Last night, the political issue was border protection – with Mr Ballard and his team attacking both the Coalition and Labor from a leftist position.  The Greens are never criticised by Tonightly on border protection which tends to run a Green Left Weekly line on such topics.

It seems that Tonightly with Tom Ballard has yet to get back to full form following its WEB (i.e. Well Earned Break).  Last night, for example, there were only four utterances of the “F” word and none of the “C” word. Even so, there was more bad language than good jokes.

However, MWD just loved the skit on Woolworths’ decision to ban the use of plastic bags in its stores.  Your man Ballard told viewers – if viewers there were – that he had sent Nina Oyama “out on the streets” to cover the BIG STORY.  And what streets did she cover?  Well, only Ultimo Road in the inner-city Sydney suburb of Haymarket – just down the road from the ABC’s Sydney headquarters in Harris Street, Ultimo where Tonightly is filmed.

Ultimo Road is hardly the place to find the teeming masses buying groceries for families and carting them away in multiple grey plastic bags to cars parked outside supermarkets.  It’s inner-city hipster country where recyclable hessian bags, used to carry dope, are all the rage.


While on the ABC’s coverage of the ABC – how about the latest Sammy J comedy sketch which has just been released? Tired of imitating football coaches in post-match media conferences – your man Sammy J is trying his hand as a faux auctioneer, selling off the ABC.

Here’s an example of Sammy J’s latest gig – which went on and on and on.  One joke repeated for close to four minutes.

Here are some of your man J’s “best” lines in his spoof auction of the ABC – needless to say he made no reference to the fact that the taxpayer funded organisation receives over $1 billion a year.

▪ “Formerly publicly owned but at long last broken down, torn apart and ready to be sold off to the highest bidder”.

▪ “Nice to see so many of you here today – Channel Nine, Network Ten, the IPA, Mark Latham, News Corp and the Communications Minister – please save your complaints until the bidding has ended, sir.”

▪ “And our first item up for auction is the entire ABC News department. And may I say, if you’re threatened by questions or critical debate, you’ll be delighted to have this item locked away in your cellar forevermore.”

The sketch continued in this fashion – with yet more references about how great the ABC is and yet more references to the evil Murdoch Empire.  Yawn.  It’s the kind of performance that gives self-indulgence a bad name.



The ABC once boasted that it had a 24 hour television news service in what was called ABC News 24. In  fact, it  did not provide news for 24 hours – more like half of that.  But still it pretended to be a continuous news service – and carried some events live.

Now the second ABC television channel, titled ABC news, fills the gap. Sort of.  When ABC managing director and (so-called) editor-in-chief Michelle Guthrie addressed the Melbourne Press Club at lunch-time last Tuesday, there was no direct coverage on the ABC.  If ABC TV cannot carry live an important address by its managing director – you wonder precisely what is the point of ABC News in its current format. So MWD has had to rely on media coverage – and on the special report from avid Melbourne MWD reader Tony Thomas (see his “Ms Guthrie and her Effing ABC” in Quadrant Online, 20 June 2018) – to comment on the ABC.

What was notable in watching Michelle Guthrie’s performance was how poorly she was treated by some ABC employees in the Melbourne Press Club audience.  In a major speech of this kind, it is appropriate for the presenter and questioners to refer to Michelle Guthrie as “Ms Guthrie” or “managing director” or perhaps “Michelle Guthrie”. But not “Michelle” – which is how she was addressed by the likes of ABC presenters Michael Rowland and Jon Faine.

Mr Faine’s performance was particularly egregious.  On the previous Thursday (14 June), the presenter of Mornings with Jon Faine on ABC Melbourne Radio 774 criticised his employer.  He alleged that the public broadcaster had been “done over” by the Coalition government – and described Ms Guthrie and her management team as a failure:

Jon Faine: I’ve been here since 1989 busting my guts for a vision and a set of values and, quite frankly, I’m sick of getting it ripped apart because of the failure of our managers…. [Michelle Guthrie’s] been remarkably quiet and reluctant to engage in what she herself has previously ­described as “megaphone campaigning”. She says, “No, the best way to protect the ABC is to work quietly behind the scenes”. And that’s ­obviously delivered a terrible outcome in the last budget.

 At the Melbourne Press Club, The Australian’s Richard Ferguson asked the ABC managing director the following pertinent question:

Richard Ferguson: Have you spoken to Jon Faine about his criticism of upper management? If not, do you have a message for him today?

The reply, accompanied by affectionate laughter, was as follows:

Michelle Guthrie: Jon is a great broadcaster.  What is fantastic about Jon and our other amazing broadcasters is that they are leading the conversations that matter to people. The great thing about the ABC is that we matter. When you see all the attention placed on us – it is fantastic to be relevant…

Then, last Tuesday, Jon Faine publicly berated his managing director in public at the Melbourne Press Club:

Jon Faine: No-one could be more pleased than me to see you do it [make speeches]. We don’t understand why you are so reluctant to do it more. We need a champion, a public champion – not a managing director who hides from the media or public engagement. We have to engage with [the public]. Are you prepared to do more?”

Tony Thomas reports the response as follows:

Guthrie began by saying she didn’t agree that she hid from the media. Faine then talked over her and did so loudly, a habit many of his on-air guests have endured. “I can’t get you on my show, nor can my colleagues or rivals.” Faine then allowed Guthrie to resume and she ran a line that “the more you speak, the less you are heard” and that speaking with impact mattered most.

Nothing better demonstrates the critique of the taxpayer funded public broadcaster as an organisation that nobody runs – but, rather, as one that is controlled by a series of self-perpetuating cliques among the staff.  The ABC managing director allowed herself and her management team to be lectured in public by a Melbourne-based ABC presenter. That’s a failure of management. Moreover, Jon Faine does not understand just how unprofessional it is to criticise your employer at a public forum – after addressing her by her first name. That exhibits a lack of self-awareness.

Little wonder that Michelle Guthrie is not inclined to appear on Mornings with Jon Faine. However, she lets others experience his arrogance and bombastic unprofessionalism without public or (presumably) private censure.

Can You Bear It?



Thanks to the avid reader who drew MWD’s attention to the American economist Paul Krugman’s recent piece in The New York Times, which was re-published in The Australian Financial Review on 12 June 2018 under the heading “This G7 debacle could herald the collapse of the Western alliance”.  Professor Krugman had this to say about President Donald J. Trump’s performance at the recent G7 Summit in Ottawa:

Maybe Trump was acting out and inventing vast evils because he couldn’t stand having to spend hours with powerful people who will neither flatter nor bribe him. For all their pomp, most multilateral summits are boring and of little consequence. I once spoke to a state department official who had a role in putting these meetings together; he described his job as “policing the nuances”, which gives you an idea about how much is normally at stake.

Occasionally, however, such meetings do have real consequences, good or bad. The 2009 G20 summit, at which nations agreed to provide economic stimulus and loans to troubled countries in the face of the financial crisis, played at least some role in helping the world avoid a full replay of the 1930s. The 2010 summit, by contrast, effectively endorsed a turn to austerity that significantly delayed recovery and, arguably, partially set the stage for the rise of political extremism. Still, there has never been a disaster like the G7 meeting that just took place. It could herald the beginning of a trade war, maybe even the collapse of the Western alliance….

So here is Professor Krugman saying in June 2018 that President Trump’s performance at the June 2018 G7 Summit could herald the collapse of the Western alliance.

And this is what the very same Professor Krugman said on 9 November 2016 (in the New York Times) about the future of the United States under the Trump administration:

It really does now look like President Donald J. Trump, and markets are plunging. When might we expect them to recover? Frankly, I find it hard to care much, even though this is my specialty. The disaster for America and the world has so many aspects that the economic ramifications are way down my list of things to fear. Still, I guess people want an answer: If the question is when markets will recover, a first-pass answer is never….

So we are very probably looking at a global recession, with no end in sight. I suppose we could get lucky somehow. But on economics, as on everything else, a terrible thing has just happened.

As it turned out, Dr Krugman was hopelessly wrong in 2016 in predicting “a global recession, with no end in sight”.

But the NYT and the AFR reckon that we should take the very same Dr Krugman oh-so-seriously in 2018 when he foretells the end of the Western alliance.  Can You Bear It?


What a stunning performance by ABC Radio national presenter Hamish Macdonald on Radio National Breakfast last Wednesday.  Your man Macdonald is currently standing in for Fran Kelly as presenter. Let’s go to the transcript when discussion turns on the finding by ACMA (the Australian Communications and Media Authority) concerning the complaint made about ABC political editor Andrew Probyn. As MWD readers will be aware, ACMA found that Mr Probyn had acted inconsistently with the ABC charter when (on 10 October 2017) he described former prime minister Tony Abbott as the “most destructive politician of his generation”. He did so on the 7 pm ABC TV News in his capacity as ABC political editor.

The Liberal Party’s Eric Abetz was invited on the program – and the ABC presenter spent nearly all of the (aggressive) interview asking Senator Abetz about the ABC and the Coalition. Quelle surprise!

This is how the ABC presented the interview online:

The ABC has launched its fight back against those in the Liberal Party who want to see it privatised. Managing Director Michelle Guthrie says the broadcaster is a “priceless national asset” which should not be used as a “punching bag” by political and vested interests. Senator Eric Abetz is a veteran critic of the ABC he was at the Liberal Party Federal Council last weekend when it voted to sell off the public broadcaster.

The ABC’s blurb did not state that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Communications Minister Mitch Fifield ruled out privatising the ABC. Nor did it state that the resolution of the Liberal Party only referred to the privatisation of the ABC outside of rural and regional areas.

The interview got off to a combative start when – shortly into the interview –  Hamish Macdonald vehemently defended the ABC saying that only the public broadcaster ensured that its presenters did not state their personal opinions.  Let’s go to the transcript as the discussion heats up over this contentious assertion:

Hamish MacDonald: What I’m getting at is that , at the ABC, we’re not allowed to express opinions as hosts of programs, as journalists –

Eric Abetz: [interjecting] Oh, my goodness. I wish that were true, I wish that were true Hamish. And I think that there are many people around Australia laughing at the suggestion that ABC journalists do not express opinion, in fact –

Hamish MacDonald: [interjecting] Which hosts on the ABC – which journalists hosting programs on the ABC –

Eric Abetz: [interjecting] Hamish –

Hamish MacDonald: [interjecting] Which journalists hosting programs on the ABC express opinions?

Eric Abetz: Hamish, one of your senior broadcasters – a reporter from the Canberra Press Gallery – was just caught by ACMA, criticised for it and the ABC could not bring themselves to broadcast the fact that their senior journalist here in the Canberra Press Gallery had been criticised by ACMA for his behaviour in expressing certain pejorative views about a certain parliamentarian. And that’s one of the problems with the ABC. You pretend to be holier than thou, when you’re caught out you then deny –

Hamish MacDonald: [interjecting] It’s not pretending. I mean I’m under very strict guidance constantly that we’re not allowed to express our opinions and you’re sort of making this assertion that everyone on the ABC is. We are not allowed to express our personal views as hosts of programs on the ABC. We must uphold the strictest journalistic standards. There are no other broadcasters in Australia that require that of their hosts.

Eric Abetz: Because you are the public broadcaster that an ABC journalist was caught out, was reported to ACMA and the ACMA made a finding. And the ABC simply does not tell its viewers and listeners about such a finding against one of its senior journalists. And that’s one of the problems –

Hamish MacDonald: [interjecting] You see. The thing is, I asked a critical question and you’re answering a different question – can you tell me the host of any ABC News program that expresses their opinions?

Eric Abetz: Well it is obvious with the language that he used and I’ve given you a specific example –

Hamish MacDonald: What, what, what’s obvious?

Eric Abetz : – of a senior reporter, of a senior reporter having been caught out, using pejorative language, expressing an opinion which is seen was being pejorative, on which a ruling or finding was made and for whatever reason the ABC does not want to broadcast it. And I would have thought from the national broadcaster, which is supposed to be completely independent, that that should be something where they say: “Yep, we’ve copped it sweet that was a matter of regret” and broadcast accordingly.  But no –

Hamish MacDonald: [interjecting] Just, just – I think I need to pick you up again because this is not actually true. It was covered by Media Watch.

Eric Abetz: [Laughter] Why couldn’t it be on the ABC national news broadcast? – as was the actual offending story.

Hamish MacDonald: But this is the thing. You’re making these assertions and I just need to correct you. Because it was broadcast on the ABC. It’s a the prime-time program on a Monday night, the highest rating night of the weekday schedule for the ABC.

Eric Abetz: Please Hamish. Are you telling me that Media Watch has a higher rating than the 7 o’clock ABC News where the offending material was broadcast? Of course not.

Hamish MacDonald: Okay. [Laughs]

What a total fudge on Mr Macdonald’s behalf.  These are the facts:

▪ On 1 May 2018 ACMA found against the ABC political editor Andrew Probyn.  ACMA’s decision was reported in News Corp and Fairfax Media immediately – but not by the ABC.  In fact, the ABC has never reported the ACMA finding about Andrew Probyn on ABC News or on television, radio or online outlets.

▪ On 7 May 2018, Paul Barry covered the matter on the ABC TV Media Watch program.

Paul Barry initially quoted references made about Andrew Probyn by Gerard Henderson (on The Bolt Report) and Tony Abbott (on 2GB’s Sydney Live). Paul Barry agreed with ACMA that Andrew Probyn had breached the ABC charter in describing the former prime minister as “the most destructive politician of his generation”.  The ABC charter stipulates that “news must be gathered and presented impartially” The Media Watch presenter continued:

Paul Barry: Had Probyn made his comment on a chat show like Insiders, or in a discussion on The Drum, he might have got away with it. But he delivered it on the 7pm news as the ABC’s political editor. And we agree that was a step too far.

Earlier, Paul Barry made this point:

Paul Barry: And what about Mr Abbott, what did he reckon?

TONY ABBOTT: … given the chronic bias in the ABC, given the incorrigible left-liberal cultural position that the ABC adopts …

The very least they would do when such a finding is being made against them in respect of a conservative politician, is apologise.

Sydney Live, 2GB, 2 May, 2018

Paul Barry: But not much chance of that. Because the ABC hasn’t even bothered to report the ACMA finding. Which it really should have done.

So Hamish Macdonald was hopelessly wrong – and Eric Abetz was correct.  Media Watch did not “report” the ACMA’s finding on Andrew Probyn.  Rather, Media Watch criticised ABC News for its failure to report the ACMA finding.  In other words, Hamish Macdonald fudged the facts while moralising about the higher standards of ABC presenters like himself.  Can You Bear It?


Newcastle Herald reporter Joanne McCarthy attained national attention for her reporting of clerical child sexual abuse in the Catholic and Anglican churches in the Hunter region of NSW.  She was praised by, and photographed with, Justice Peter McClellan – the chair of the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

So it would be expected that Ms McCarthy would get her facts right when reporting the Royal Commission’s findings.  But not all the time.  Yesterday the Sydney Morning Herald and the Newcastle Herald carried an article by Joanne McCarthy titled “Bishop goes out on a limb, citing the Pope”.  In her account of the fact that the Catholic Church has yet to release the report it commissioned from the Truth, Justice and Healing Commission (TJHC), Ms McCarthy had this to say:

On Tuesday, shadow social services minister Jenny Macklin said the TJHC report should be made public because “we need full transparency from the Catholic Church on this issue”, more than six months after the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse released its landmark final report. More than 60 per cent of abuse allegations to the commission related to Catholic institutions.

This claim – which has also been made by ABC Radio AM presenter Sabra Lane – is wrong.

Robert Fitzgerald, who was a member of the Royal Commission and who is a critic of the Catholic Church with respect to its response to child sexual abuse, provided the relevant statistics at the Catholic Social Services Victoria Conference on 23 February 2018 in Melbourne.  Mr Fitzgerald said that “nearly 62 per cent of all people who notified the Royal Commission of abuse in a religious setting were abused in a Catholic institution.  [Emphasis added].

Now this is a shocking figure, if it is meaningful. But the claim has meaning only if it is comparable with non-Catholic institutions. The fact is, in the 20th century, Catholics were about 25 per cent of the Australian population. However, since the Catholic Church ran its own systemic education system, Catholics must have accounted for about 80 per cent of children educated in a religious setting in Australia. Also, Catholics had a much higher percentage of orphanages and hospitals than other institutions that operated in a religious setting.

In other words, the comment by Joanne McCarthy, Sabra Lane and others is incorrect.  It is not true to state that more than 60 per cent of abuse allegations to the Royal Commission related to Catholic institutions – since this figure takes no account of those who reported abuse in government and secular institutions.

It remains to be seen if Fairfax Media will correct this error.  The ABC has declined to correct Ms Lane’s howler – despite parading itself as Australia’s most trusted source for news.  Can You Bear It?


While on the topic of pedophilia, it’s interesting to examine how little coverage there has been – outside of News Corp publications – of the revelation by Kate Lilley and Rozanna Lilley that their mother, the left-wing writer, Dorothy Hewett, facilitated her daughters having underage sex with adult men in the 1970s.  The men, who were around twice the age of the Lilley girls, included the left-wing hero Bob Ellis and Martin Sharp who was a follower of the libertarian Sydney Push.

The story was broken by Rosemary Neill in The Weekend Australian on 9-10 June 2018.  Gerard Henderson wrote about this in his Weekend Australian column last Saturday – see here.  News Corps’ Miranda Devine and Andrew Bolt, among others, have also written about the matter.  But there has been virtually no coverage of the issue on the ABC and little in Fairfax Media.

It was not until last weekend that Fairfax Media told its readers about the behaviour of Dorothy Hewett and her husband Merv Lilley in facilitating their daughters having sex with the likes of Ellis and Sharp.  Jacqueline Maley wrote about Ellis in a powerful piece in Fairfax Media newspapers last Saturday.  But she did not mention that Rosemary Neill had broken the story a week earlier.  On The Drum on Friday 22 June, Jonathan Green (who had read Maley’s column online) regretted that, as a publisher, he had published Ellis.  Like Maley, Green made no reference to Neill’s scoop.

There is something of a tradition here.  When the leftist Richard Neville died in 2016, Fairfax Media and the ABC did not mention that in his 1970 book Play Power Neville had boasted of having had sex with a 14 year old school girl in London. There seems to be one rule for left-wing pedophiles like Ellis and Neville – and another one for clerical pedophiles – in so far as the ABC and Fairfax Media are concerned.

Now neither Ellis, nor Sharp nor Neville were Catholics.  Even so, writing in Overland on 21 June 2018, the leftist scribbler Jeff Sparrow managed to blame the plight of child victims like the Lilley girls on “the Catholic Church”. What a cop-out for the secular libertarian left. Can You Bear It?



Could it be that the co-authors of the book that advocates privatising the ABC know next to nothing about the history of the taxpayer funded public broadcaster? Sure could.

Chris Berg, co-author with Sinclair Davidson of the recently released Against Public Broadcasting, appeared on The Bolt Report on Monday to flog his tome. Messers Berg and Davidson are all for privatising the taxpayer funded ABC – but not the taxpayer funded RMIT University in Melbourne, where both are academics. Fancy that.

Early in the interview, your man Berg said that the ABC was set up in 1932 to solve serious problems with broadcasting markets at that time.  And then, soon after, confusion – as the transcript demonstrates:

Chris Berg: I’m not sure that we should be required to pay for it [viewpoint journalism].

Andrew Bolt: And particularly subsidise only one side of the debate. Look, if individual ABC broadcasters inevitably show their bias on there – that’s natural, that’s fine, it’s actually entertaining. But why does it always have to be of the left?

Chris Berg: Well that’s the purpose. That was why they set the ABC up. So one of the reasons they set up –

Andrew Bolt: The left?

Chris Berg: Yeah, to be a counter-party to commercial media bias. So the Labor Party believed that the new services provided by, particularly the Murdoch press if you will, the Murdoch press was providing this right-wing, or commercial bias or whatever it was. And the Labor Party felt that they needed a counter-measure to that. So they insisted that the ABC set up a news service. And that news service is specifically non-commercial. It’s specifically non-right and it’s specifically left.

Andrew Bolt: Except, of course, the media landscape has changed, most media outlets are of the left – Fairfax, Guardian, BuzzFeed, Junkee. I could go on and on, half the News Corp journalists at the very least are of the left.

Chris Berg: We live in a totally different world.

What a load of absolute tosh.  Chris Berg does not know that when the ABC was set up in 1932 Joseph Lyons was prime minister of the United Australia Party government.  The UAP is the predecessor of today’s Liberal Party of Australia. A full discussion can be found in K.S. Inglis’ This is the ABC: The Australian Broadcasting Commission 1932-1983 (MUP, 1983) and Anne Henderson’s Joseph Lyons: The People’s Prime Minister (New South, 2011).

Between the two world wars, the Labor Party was in office from 29 October 1929 to 6 January 1932.  The Great Depression occurred on Labor’s watch – when Joseph Scullin was prime minister – and the party split three ways. Prime Minister Scullin had other things on his mind than establishing a national broadcaster.

In fact, in its early decades the ABC was a relatively conservative institution. It commenced moving to the left when the self-proclaimed Marxist Allan Ashbolt was appointed to key producer positions in the ABC in the mid-1950s.  Your man Ashbolt set about stacking the ABC with young leftists in the 1960s – who were said to comprise “Ashbolt’s kindergarten”.

As to Chris Berg’s idea that the ABC was set up by the Labor Party in 1932 to provide balance to the Murdoch press (i.e. the newspapers controlled by Keith Murdoch) – well it’s one of the great media howlers of our time.

Chris Berg: Media Fool of the Week.




MWD just loves it when journalists talk about journalism.  And especially when ABC journalists talk about ABC journalism.  Here’s a recent example:

The Drum  co-presenter – and MWD fave – Julia Baird sent out the following tweets last Monday:


Dr Julia Baird (@bairdjulia)
18/6/18, 2:40 pm

One bizarre claim in circulation is that there are no “mainstream or conservative” managers, producers or voices at the ABC. Three points:
1. This is factually incorrect. There are many.
2. Presenters are scrupulous in keeping political views private; no one knows how we vote.


Dr Julia Baird (@bairdjulia)
18/6/18, 2:43 pm

3. It is wrong to conflate some of the basic tenets of good journalism; holding the powerful to account, seeking accountability from those who govern, telling the stories of those otherwise unheard, of the marginalised and vulnerable, exposing lack of justice as somehow partisan.


Dr Julia Baird (@bairdjulia)
18/6/18, 2:50 pm

To do so, in my view, is offensive to conservatives. The public definition of conservatism is becoming narrower & narrower in some quarters and I regularly hear objection to this from members of the coalition parties and the business community.


Dr Julia Baird (@bairdjulia)
18/6/18, 3:30 pm

And Twitter, love you as I do, I am not going to waste hours debating this. This is my view. I am proud of working at the ABC and proud of my show #thedrum. I am also strongly intent on ensuring respect remains in public debate. It’s crucial.


And then the very next day, Annabel Crabb – another MWD fave – sent out this tweet:

Annabel Crabb (@annabelcrabb)

Read this and then read the rest of Julia’s thread. I agree with every word.

Dr Julia Baird (@bairdjulia)

One bizarre claim in circulation is that there are no “mainstream or conservative” managers, producers or voices at the ABC. Three points: 1. This is factually incorrect. There are many. 2. Presenters are scrupulous in keeping political views private; no one knows how we vote.


And now for some background. MWD maintains that the ABC is a Conservative Free Zone without a conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets.

On the other hand, Dr Baird (for a doctor she is) maintains that there are “many” conservative presenters, producers and editors on prominent ABC outlets – but neither she nor Ms Crabb have named one. Nor has Leigh Sales who has made a similar claim (see MWD Issue 407).  This compares with the numerous prominent ABC identities who are proud to flash their left-wing credentials.  Such as Phillip (“I was a teenage communist”) Adams, Wendy (“I’m just an old-fashioned socialist”) Harmer, and Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly – and more besides.

The question here does not turn on how people vote – that is, whether they favour the Coalition or Labor at the polls.  Many members of the Liberal Party – Amanda Vanstone, for example – declare that they are not conservatives. Ms Vanstone presents Counterpoint – not a prominent ABC program – on ABC Radio National.  In any event, in a secret ballot, none of us know how people vote – only what they say or imply about what they did in the polling booth.

The key question – which Julia Baird avoids – is whether any prominent ABC identities support what are commonly regarded as conservative values.

For example, can Julia Baird or Annabel Crab or Leigh Sales name any prominent ABC identities who, for example, hold any or some of the following views:

  • It was good for the United States and the world that Donald J. Trump defeated Hillary Clinton at the November 2016 US presidential election.
  • Israel is entitled to use live ammunition to defend its border against Hamas on the Israel/Gaza boundary.
  • Australia should follow the Trump administration and move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
  • Marriage is a union between a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others (According to the recent voluntary postal ballot, close to 40 per cent of Australians held this view – it’s not clear if even 5 per cent of ABC employees would agree with this proposition.)
  • Abortion is wrong.
  • Australians should support the border protection policies enacted by John Howard and Tony Abbott in government. Including turning back the boats and off-shore detention for asylum seekers.
  • Australia should remain a constitutional monarchy.

Over to you Dr Baird.


While on the topic of ABC types in defensive mode, consider this poorly written tweet sent out by Emma Alberici in support of ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie, following her address to the Melbourne Press Club:


Emma Alberici‏@albericie

ABC MD: To claims our audience is bias: This wk 12mill Australians will watch ABCTV nearly 5mill will listen to ABCRadio & every month 13 mill ABCpodcast downloads “If all those listeners & viewers were on the one side of politics, there wouldn’t be much politicking left to do”

4:22 PM – 19 Jun 2018


This is absolute tosh. For starters, who ever claimed that the ABC “audience is bias”? – whatever that might mean. Also, Ms Alberici assumes that all who listen to and view ABC programs regard the ABC as fair and balanced with respect to its news and current affairs programs. This is self-serving nonsense.  Moreover, if the ABC is so well regarded, it would be expected to do better than Channel 9 and Channel 7 in the ratings – it doesn’t.

Also Ms Alberici, as a presenter, happened to preside over the demise of Lateline – which was once compulsory nightly viewing for those with an interest in national and international news and current affairs.  Now ABC TV no longer has an evening current affairs program on its main channel each weeknight.

Viewers deserted Lateline in droves on Emma Alberici’s watch.  The BBC still runs important news and current affairs at night.  But not the ABC.  And yet Emma Alberici brags about just how successful the ABC is.



There’s nothing ABC journalists love more than discussing the ABC.  Last weekend’s decision by the Liberal Party of Australia’s 60th  Federal Conference to pass a resolution urging the Coalition to privatise the ABC – gave ABC presenters, journalists, producers and editors unrivalled opportunity to talk about their favourite topic – themselves – across television, radio and online platforms.

It seems that Sky News felt under some pressure to match the output.  So, in his wisdom, Outsiders  co-presenter Rowan Dean invited one of the ABC’s very own on to Outsiders last Monday night to discuss the taxpayer funded public broadcaster with himself and co-presenter Ross (“I’m a Marcus Aurelius fan boy”) Cameron.

Chas Licciardello, who co-presents the Planet America program on the second ABC TV channel, had this to say about the ABC’s political culture – or what MWD terms the ABC’s Conservative Free Zone.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Chas Licciardello: What a lot of people talk about – is the bias. That’s what I think this debate is really about. The left-wing bias. And they say “should we deal with the left-wing bias by selling the ABC?” or so forth. And I would say, I understand people saying we shouldn’t pay for a point of view. As taxpayers, I understand that argument. But if you think you’re going to improve the situation by selling the ABC I would say you’re wrong. Because I would say that first of all, I think – by the by – I do think the ABC is a left-wing network. I do think – especially a sort of left-wing, upper middle-class kind of sensibility. I do think that’s the case.

Rowan Dean: But they constantly deny that Chas….

How about that?  Mr Liccairdello acknowledged that (with respect to news and current affairs) “the ABC is a left-wing network”. What’s more, he identified the sort of leftism involved.  Namely, an “upper middle-class” leftism commonly identified with the tertiary educated green/left rather than what remains of the industrial working-class left.

Chas Liccairdello: Five Paws.


As avid readers are aware, the late Nancy (2004-2017) did not die. She merely “passed” on to the Other Side. Hence MWD has been able to keep in touch with her – with the help of the American psychic John Edward. And so Nancy’s “Courtesy Classes” continue – albeit from the “Other Side”.


Gerard Henderson AC (aka Always Courteous) regards Fairfax Media’s Tony Walker – who is also one of the many vice-chancellor’s fellows at La Trobe University – as a well brought up and courteous kind of guy. Like Hendo himself.  After all, your man Walker was educated at Geelong Grammar School – just a few years before Prince Charles, Australia’s future king, spent time at that very Anglican institution.  Come to think of it, at the time it belonged to what was called the Church of England – and the English tended to be polite types in those days.  Your man Walker later studied at the Australian National University.

In the view of Jackie’s (male) co-owner, it is courteous for a columnist to acknowledge or reply to correspondence if a reader asks a reasonable question in search of a considered response.

Alas, your man Walker has not replied to Hendo’s (courteous) email, asking a reasonable question, on 30 May 2018.  Is there “history” between these two scribblers? – MWD hears you ask.  Certainly not on Jackie’s (male) co-owner’s side.

However, Hendo did knock back a proposal from Tony Walker a few years ago (when he worked for the Australian Financial Review) to participate in the “Lunch with the AFR” segment.  It was nothing personal – it’s just that Hendo sees little point in talking about himself to the Australian Financial Review or anyone else.  And there are so many people who never stop talking about themselves.  For example, Peter (“Feel free to talk to me about my red bandanna”) FitzSimons and the like with whom Mr Walker could have lunch.

For whatever reason, Tony Walker went under-the-bed rather than respond to this courteous missive:


That was a lively piece on the ABC in The Age on Monday [28 May 2018].

 I agree with your critique of ABC TV and support the view – which, as I recall, Malcolm Turnbull proposed when he was communications minister in the Abbott government a few years ago – that the roles of ABC managing director and editor-in-chief should be separated.

I was interested in your question concerning the new ABC board member Joe Gersh, viz: “What are Gersh’s views on criticisms the ABC is a conservative-free zone?”

My question is:  Do you subscribe to the criticism of the ABC that it is a Conservative Free Zone?  If not, can you provide the name of any conservative presenter, producer or editor of any of the ABC’s prominent television, radio or online outlets?

Over to you – and Keep Morale High.

Best wishes


Now that’s a reasonable question – don’t you think?  If it’s fair for Mr Walker to ask Mr Gersh whether he subscribes to the criticism that the ABC is a Conservative Free Zone  (without a conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets) – then it should be okay for Mr Henderson to ask Mr Walker the very same question.

But, alas, Hendo received neither a reply nor even an acknowledgement to his (courteous) question. And the Fairfax Media columnist did not even respond to Hendo’s follow-up “Did you get this?” request.  This despite the fact that in his Fairfax Media column of 28 May 2018 Tony Walker complained that John Howard did “not return a phone call” from him.

Tony Walker – off to Nancy’s Courtesy Classes for you.



This hugely popular segment of MWD is devoted to journalists who will change their mind without explanation – or forget a cause which they have previously advocated.  This week’s focus is on Professor Doctor Peter Van Onselen’s (changing) views on privatising the ABC.

  • PVO on Why The ABC Should be Privatised – 2013

THE ABC should be privatised to save the taxpayer the more than $1 billion it costs each year to run, to reap a one-off injection of revenue from the sale price to help retire government debt, and to remove a government-funded goliath that is interfering with the market in the media landscape. This final point is a key problem with the ABC as it now operates. It was formed as a state-owned broadcasting corporation, but in the newly converged media environment it operates as a virtual newspaper online, competes in the 24-hour news space (with pay-TV) and runs a host of other enterprises that are not based on broadcasting but that support its brand. In short, it has overstepped its raison d’etre.

The Australian, 25 May 2013.

  • PVO on Why the ABC Should Not be Privatised – 2018

David Crowe‏  @CroweDM

Liberal Party’s peak federal council has voted in favour of a formal call on the government to privatise the ABC. It doesn’t make it government policy or the party platform. But not a single delegate from the floor spoke against it.


Peter van Onselen @vanOnselenP

Do they even realise the impact doing so would have on an already overcrowded commercial media environment? And that’s the least stupid aspect of the idea…

– Twitter, 15 June 2018


So there you have it – or not.

[Thanks to Rowan Dean who on Outsiders drew MWD’s attention to Peter Van Onselen’s 2013 article – MWD Editor.]



Dirk Moses, Professor of Modern History at the University of Sydney, achieved half a minute of fame recently when he compared the mild-mannered Australian columnist, Greg Sheridan, with the Norwegian right-wing extremist and mass murderer Anders Breivik (See Issue 409). As might be expected, the only organisation which would run such defamatory hyperbole is one where the editor-in-chief does not act as an editor-in-chief.  Step forward the taxpayer funded public broadcaster – which published Professor Moses’ sludge on the ABC’s Religion and Ethics website (editor Scott Stephens) on 7 June 2018.  The very same website now carries the following comment: “Note this article has been edited to remove a reference to Anders Breivik.” That’s all.  There was no apology to Greg Sheridan – or even an expression of regret.

Professor Moses’ rant – titled “Western Civilisation and Conservative Hysteria” – was written to support the Australian National University’s decision not to accept funding from the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation to establish a course on Western Civilisation at the Canberra-based university.

Since Dirk Moses holds the position of professor of modern history, you would expect that he has at least a working knowledge of Australian history in the modern era.  Alas, not so – as a reading of his “Western Civilisation and Conservative Hysteria” article makes clear. This is what Professor Moses had to say about those whom he describes as Australian conservatives:

The sense of crisis and doom [among conservatives] is unmistakable. But it is not new. A closer examination of the critics reveals a generation of Australian men who were politically socialized in the 1960s and 1970s when the clash between communism and the Roman Catholic Church split the labour movement. The new Democratic Labor Party formed a home for socially conservative Roman Catholics who became active against “the left” at Australian universities.

I well remember the apocalyptic sensibility of National Civic Council operatives during the 1980s, locked in an imaginary cosmic battle against the forces of communist evil, although you could count the far-left adherents at the University of Queensland on one hand. For most of us, the threat to democratic institutions was the Bjelke-Petersen government, not a communism that had long been a spent force. In the end, most Queenslanders agreed.

What a load of absolute tosh.  Here’s why:

▪ The Australian Labor Party did not split “in the 1960s and 1970s”. The Labor Split occurred between 1954 and 1957 – with 1955 as the key year.

▪ The Democratic Labor Party was formed by those who were expelled from or resigned from the ALP in the second half of the 1950s – not in the 1960s and 1970s.  Indeed, the DLP was formally wound-up in March 1978.

▪ The clash between communism and the Catholic Church did not “split the labour movement”.  Rather, the Labor Party split primarily due to a conflict within the ALP about what should be the response to the communist influence in the labour movement in general and the trade union movement in particular.

▪ It is pure mythology to present the Labor Split as an event in which Catholics were on one side of the dispute and non-Catholics on the other side.

At the time of the Labor Split, the ALP was led by Bert Evatt with Arthur Calwell as his deputy.  Labor’s leaders in the Senate were Nick McKenna and Pat Kenneally.  All but Dr Evatt were Catholics and all remained in the Evatt-led Labor Party after the Labor Split. What’s more, Robert Joshua – the inaugural leader of the Anti-Communist Labor Party (which became the DLP) was a Protestant.

Professor Moses is ignorant of the fact that the Catholic Church was divided with respect to the Labor Split.  In Melbourne, Archbishop Daniel Mannix supported the DLP.  While in Sydney and Adelaide, Cardinal Norman Gilroy and Archbishop Matthew Beovich respectively urged Catholics to remain in the Evatt-led Labor Party.

It is true that B.A. Santamaria and his supporters in the National Civic Council opposed communism until the Cold War ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.  But it is mere hyperbole to present anti-communists as possessing “apocalyptic sensibility” or to depict them as engaged in “an imaginary cosmic battle”.  University professors should be able to do better than this.

Towards the end of his taxpayer funded rant, Dirk Moses had this to say:

The Enlightenment and its promise of human equality were also central to the Western self-understanding. This ideal ended the West’s centuries-long profiting from the slave trade, and undermined the legitimacy of its colonial rule, which persisted into the 1970s when Portugal and Spain finally relinquished their empires. These Roman Catholic, anti-communist, Iberian dictatorships were not unpopular with the mentor of the DLP crowd, the long-time columnist at The Australian, B.A Santamaria.

Professor Moses just made this up.  Santamaria showed scant interest in Spain or Portugal. He did not write much about, and did not visit, either country.  It is true that Santamaria supported the nationalist side in the Spanish Civil War of the late 1930s – but (unlike Archbishop Gilroy in Sydney) neither Santamaria nor Mannix ever praised General Francisco Franco.

In any event, when hostilities commenced in 1939, Spain and Portugal were – and remained – neutral.  Whereas the communists in Australia and elsewhere supported Nazi Germany for the first two years of the conflict – since Hitler’s Germany and Joe Stalin’s Soviet Union were allies due to the Nazi Soviet Pact (which prevailed between August 1939 and July 1941).

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Professor Dirk Moses presents as an old-fashioned left-wing anti-Catholic sectarian in his attempt to equate the “Roman Catholic Church in Australia” with the “Roman Catholic Iberian dictatorships” of four decades ago.

Also the learned professor exhibits considerable ignorance about the Labor Split – an event which Dirk Moses even puts in the wrong decade.  That’s “modern history” at the University of Sydney today. Fair dinkum.

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).


MWD just loves how the sensible word “discussion” has been replaced by the word “conversation” which has now become a kind of one-word cliché.  And so it came to pass that, on 12 June 2018, there was a conversation on The Drum about the ongoing issue of whether the Catholic sacrament of confession should continue to be a secret between priest and penitent – what is called the seal of confession.

Panelist Barbara Heineback claimed that several priests had committed suicide on account of the fact that they felt a sense of shame in not having reported such crimes as murder and pedophilia to the police – due to the  Catholic Church’s insistence on maintaining the seal of confession.  She did not identify a place or time at which the alleged suicides took place.

A startling fact, for sure.  If a “fact” it was.  Alas, neither The Drum nor presenter Ellen Fanning nor Ms Heineback herself could stump up any evidence of any kind to support the assertion – which was made on national television. Now read on.

Gerard Henderson to Ellen Fanning & Emily Ackew – 18 June 2018


I cannot locate an email address for Barbara Heineback, who appeared on The Drum on Tuesday 12 June 2018 – when you were the presenter.

Ms Heineback made the following claim – during a discussion about the sacrament of Confession in the Catholic Church:

Barbara Heineback: I recall now, and it’s been some time ago that I read a survey of several priests, or any number, that have committed suicide because they have not been able to live with the fact that someone has come to the confessional and said “I’d murdered a person” or something with pedophilia. And these issues which are so life threatening, or taking the life of someone, destroying them forever, and putting the priest in that position of now he knows, has all of this information and has to hold it himself. And is not allowed to share. So it’s a very major –

Ellen Fanning: The other doctrinal question is…[unrelated].

As you will be aware, the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse spent considerable time on the sacrament of Confession – and examined studies on the subject in Australia and overseas. No such survey – as referred to by Barbara Heineback – was cited before the Royal Commission.

If Ms Heineback’s claim is true, then this is a serious matter.  If it is not true, then it should be withdrawn – since if priests have committed suicide because they could not break the seal of Confession, having heard confessions from murderers and pedophiles, this is a matter of considerable concern.

I would be grateful if you or one of your producers could get Barbara Heineback to provide details of the (alleged) “survey” to which she referred on national television last Tuesday.  Otherwise, I can only conclude that she has a bad memory or just made this up.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

Emily Ackew to Gerard Henderson – 18 June 2018

Hello Gerard,

In reply to your email I’m not able to provide any panellist contact information, but I’ve passed your message onto Barbara Heineback and also informed her how to get in touch with you.



Barbara Heineback to Gerard Henderson – 18 June 2018

My Email is: * * * *

Emily, at ABC said you have been trying to contact me- Gerard

Barb Heineback

Barbara Heineback to Gerard Henderson – 18 June 2018

Hello Gerard,

As I mentioned, it was some time ago that I read the piece when I read something about when priests were mentioned, and conclusions drawn stated that part of purists’ concerns/ burdens were related to horrible admittances which they had,  had to withhold. Further, I CLEARLY stated that this (subject) is one for the Pope, as I am indeed a believer in separation of church and state.
hopefully, this will hold your water


Gerard Henderson to Barbara Heineback – 19 June 2018


Thanks for providing your email address and getting back to me re your comments on The Drum on 12 June 2018.

On The Drum you said that you had “read a survey” which indicated that several or more Catholic priests had committed suicide – since they could not live with the fact that they had heard the confession of murderers and pedophiles but had not been able to report these criminals to the police (due to the seal of confession).

In the current debate on the sacrament of Confession – this is an important allegation to make on national television.  Since I have not heard this claim previously, my questions are as follows:

▪ What was the survey?

▪ When and where was the survey conducted?

▪ When and where was the survey reported?

I am posing these questions because The Drum’s presenter did not ask you to document your claim. I do not believe that panellists on programs like The Drum should be allowed to make serious allegations without supporting them with any evidence.

If you have evidence to support your assertion, I would like to examine it.

If you have no evidence to support your assertion, then in my view the claim should be withdrawn.

The question as to whether or not the sacrament of Confession is a matter only for the Pope is a separate issue and has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not priests who heard confessions of murderers and pedophiles committed suicide.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

[At the time MWD went out today, Barbara Heineback had not provided any evidence to support her assertions on The Drum about the alleged “survey”. And neither presenter Ellen Fanning nor producer Emily Ackew had provided any evidence to support the The Drum panelist’s claim.  We will keep you posted if Ms Heineback responds to Gerard Henderson’s email of 18 June 2018. Don’t hold your breath. – MWD Editor.]


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Until next week.


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