ISSUE – NO. 412

29 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: Sky News’ Outsiders Gives Infantile Marxism a Chance

  • Can You Bear It? Ramsay Centre’s Simon Haines & Fairfax Media’s Jordan Baker; Erik Jensen Accuses Turnbull Government of Homophobia; Hamish Macdonald Out of His Depth on the Seal of Confession; Louise Milligan’s Non-Story

  • An ABC Update: ABC Apologises for By-Elections Howler; Paul Barry Concedes the ABC’s Lack of Diversity; Fairfax Media’s Tony Walker Calls for Reform to Paul Barry’s Media Watch

  • Documentation: Hendo Replies to Catallaxy Files’ Sinclair Davidson’s Rant – But Receives No Reply

  • Correspondence: The Red Bandannaed One Helps Out re The Republic

* * * *


Well, at least it’s a break from ongoing lectures – of the Year 12 kind – about the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius and all that. Last night Sky News Outsiders co-presenters invited Lily Campbell on to the program. She holds the position of Student Representative Council education officer at the University of Sydney. It was a repeat performance since Ms Campbell had made an appearance on Outsiders last Sunday. And so it came to pass that the focus of the program turned to Year 12 Marxism.

At the weekend Comrade Campbell – who is part of Disarm USYD [Does the University of Sydney really need to be disarmed? MWD Editor] and a member of the Socialist Alliance – told viewers that Australia should accept 25 million refugees straight away. Last night she declared that Australia should abandon coal fired power stations tonight and switch to total renewable power tomorrow.  Or something like that.  Comrade Campbell also prattled on about the class system, overthrowing capitalism and all that.  Could this sort of thing have been on Vladimir Lenin’s mind all those years ago when he described left-wing communism as an infantile disorder?

It seems that many Outsiders viewers had never seen a young Marxist socialist in action. There was a big response to Comrade Campbell’s appearance last Sunday. So much so that she was invited back last night where she gave the most simple answers to the most simple questions about the Marxist utopia.

As avid readers will be aware, Comrade Campbell achieved her (inaugural) fifteen minutes of fame when she got the call from presenter Tony Jones on the 18 June 2018 edition of Q&A to ask a pre-approved question about the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation.  During her question, Comrade Campbell went off the script and accused Ramsay Centre board member Tony Abbott of being an “infamous racist”.  This insight was rejected by Tony Jones.

However, your man Jones thought it a you-beaut idea to give the socialist Marxist the opportunity to add to her question – and this time she accused Tony Abbott and John Howard of being “right-wing racists”.  Tony Jones then said that such comments were “defamatory” and that Q&A was “not going to allow it”. By then, Comrade Campbell had managed to make the non-allowable defamatory allegation twice on the taxpayer funded Q&A.

On Outsiders last night, it was more of the same.  Ross (“I’m a Marcus Aurelius fan boy”) Cameron was forced to disallow a defamatory comment – after it had gone to air. On this occasion Comrade Campbell declared that “Donald Trump is pretty much a convicted rapist”.

President Trump has not been convicted – or charged with – any crime. Comrade Campbell just made this up. Here’s hoping for an encore next Sunday by Lily Campbell in her new found role occupying the Infantile Communism spot on the Outsiders couch. [Perhaps you should have placed this piece in your hugely popular Can You Bear It? segment. Just a thought. MWD Editor.]

Can You Bear It?


As avid readers will be aware, MWD has always had doubts about the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation – chairman John Howard, executive director Simon Haines.  The concept is a good one but the model is flawed.  MWD believes that funding a Bachelor of Western Civilisation degree through a university like the Australian National University, the University of Sydney or the University of New South Wales (UNSW) would not work – since, in time, the course would be taken over by the left.  Much like the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney which was set up by the Howard government with a $25 million grant in 2006 and, a decade later, is a bastion of Trump-phobia.

Professor Haines was remarkably silent during the controversy over the Ramsay Centre until The Australian published his article yesterday which challenged the statements made by ANU chancellor Gareth Evans and ANU vice-chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt in defence of the ANU’s decision to reject the Ramsay Centre’s proposal to generously fund a Bachelor of Western Civilisation degree.

Before then, Simon Haines’ only major entry into the debate was to have lunch with Fairfax Media’s Jordan Baker at the Azuma restaurant in Sydney’s Chifley Plaza.

The results of the lunch was the piece titled “Lunch with Simon Haines: It may be academic but it’s the talk of the town” in last Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald.  Despite the evidence that the ANU’s decision in rejecting the Ramsay Centre’s proposal has not been adequately explained by the ANU – and despite the fact that Professor Schmidt did not have the courtesy to even reply to a letter he received from John Howard on 1 June 2018 which challenged one of his statements – your man Haines was oh-so-kind about the ANU during his lunch with your man Baker.

Instead the learned professor seems to have directed much of his criticism at Ramsay board member Tony Abbott.  It’s an unusual practice for an executive director to bag one or more of his or her board members in public.  But Simon Haines did not hold back in criticising an article about the Ramsay Centre which Tony Abbott had contributed to Quadrant in early April concerning the Ramsay Centre. How unprofessional can you get?

Needless to say, Haines’ lunch at the Azuma led to the Page One beat-up in last Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald. Here’s how the story began:

Culture Wars

Ramsay CEO says

Abbott blundered


Jordan Baker

Education editor


The chief executive of the Ramsay Centre says Tony Abbott made mistaken and mistimed comments about the centre’s Western civilisation degree that “frightened a lot of people”.

MWD has some gratuitous advice for the Ramsay Centre’s executive director.  When asked to lunch by Fairfax Media – just say “no” (See Issue 411). There is no upside – only a downside of the kind that occurs when management is foolish enough to criticise a non-executive director in public.

By the way, this is how the SMH reported the details of the “Lunch With Simon Haines”:


Level 1,

Chifley Plaza

2 Chifley Square



Grilled salmon

Bento x 2….$80

1 Pellegrino…..$10

Green tea






Yep. That’s right. Jordan Baker appears not to have left a tip for the serving-waiter who served lunch.  Can You Bear It?


What a stunning performance by Erik Jensen, editor-in-chief of The [Boring] Saturday Paper on The Drum last Wednesday. Julia (“Call me doctor”) Baird was in the chair and fellow panellists were Rebecca Davies, Shane Wright and Jackie’s (female) co-owner Anne (“Pour me a Gin & Tonic”) Henderson. The special guest was Sydney lawyer Nicholas Stewart.

Early in the program, there was a considered discussion on the findings of the NSW Police Force’s Strike Force Parrabell Report which found that there were numerous opportunistic murders of gay men in the area in and around Sydney between 1976 and 2000.  However, in his comment towards the end of the discussion, your man Jensen attempted to link homophobia with the Coalition government. Let’s go to the transcript:

Erik Jensen: There’s something important here beyond the efficiencies of police investigations. And that’s societal willingness to accept high rates of suicide in the queer community. Many of these cases weren’t properly investigated because they were written off as suicides. It’s troubling to me that society then, and somewhat society to an extent now, is comfortable with thinking that, you know if a person hasn’t been killed in a gay hate crime that it might be okay that person’s killed themselves. I think that’s really an underlying part of this report that needs to be reckoned with, and you know, as recently as the same sex marriage vote we’ve continued in this country to facilitate a kind of state accepted homophobia. And you know we just had a national debate on that. We’re still not properly reckoning with the way that queer people are demonised in the community and that affects their mental health.

So Mr Jensen alleged that contemporary Australia is “comfortable with thinking” that it “might be okay” if gays – who are not killed in a hate crime – commit suicide.  His evidence?  Zip.  Then Mr Jensen alleged that the Turnbull government’s same sex marriage postal survey (during which there is no evidence of an increase in suicide by gays) facilitated “a kind of state accepted homophobia”. His evidence for the assertion. Again, zip.  Can You Bear It?


There was enormous interest last week in MWD’s report that ABC Radio National presenter Hamish (“No ABC presenter ever states their personal opinion”) Macdonald accused Eric Abetz of falsely stating that the ABC had not reported the finding against ABC political editor Andrew Probyn by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).  Your man Macdonald contradicted the Liberal Party senator and declared that the ACMA finding had been reported by Paul Barry on the ABC TV Media Watch program.

Hamish Macdonald conveniently overlooked the fact that Mr Barry had not “reported” the Andrew Probyn matter. Rather – about a week after the ACMA report was released – Media Watch criticised the rest of the ABC for not reporting the ACMA finding at the time.  How disingenuous can you get?

But MWD should not digress.  This is how Breakfast cited Hamish Macdonald’s interview with the Rev. Rob MacPherson last Monday:

The Acting Archbishop of Adelaide [Greg O’Kelly] is being urged to accept new laws forcing priests in South Australia to report child abuse revealed in confession to police. The laws come into effect in October, but Bishop Greg O’Kelly says they won’t apply to the state’s Catholic priests. But one of Bishop O’Kelly’s former associates has written a letter pleading with him to reconsider his position. Reverend Rob MacPherson, a minister of the Unitarian Church in Adelaide, says the welfare of children should be put ahead of religious law.

By the way, it is not clear in what sense Rob MacPherson is a “former associate” of Bishop O’Kelly.

Initially Rob MacPherson told Hamish Macdonald that he had been sexually assaulted by a Catholic priest at nine years of age – and that he had reported the assault to another Catholic priest in confession.  He said that he would not name the archdiocese where the incident occurred.  Since Rev MacPherson describes himself as an “expat US citizen” and speaks with an American accent, it seems likely that the incident took place in the United States.  But Rev MacPherson did not say this.  Nor did he state the year of the offence or refer to whether he had since reported the matter to police or to whether the alleged culprit was still alive.  Mr Macdonald did not question the Rev MacPherson on any of these matters.

This is how the Unitarian minister described his experience in the confessional as a nine year old boy:

Hamish Macdonald: Did you reveal during your confession who it was?

Rob MacPherson:  Oh yes.

Hamish Macdonald: And they did nothing to separate you – to place you in safe distance from him?

Rob MacPherson: No. So, I internalised – this shameful act, as far as I knew, was known – and my confession was known by the priest. And I feared the perpetrator. So I had a very unhappy childhood because of this, as you would imagine.

Later on, the following exchange took place:

Hamish Macdonald: What do you hear today when you hear senior figures in the Catholic Church in Australia saying that they find it hard to ever consider breaking the Seal of Confession? That in fact, the seal of confession – the Canon Law – can be upheld at the same time as the law. And that the law can protect children whilst also upholding the Seal of Confession?

Rob MacPherson: Clearly not. The stories are many and legion. It hasn’t happened so far, there’s no reason to believe it will happen, now that the Royal Commission has happened. When I hear them, I hear people in a besieged institution trying to bolster and fortify the power and integrity of the institution. But in doing this I don’t think we serve God, we make a god of the institution by putting it [the Seal of Confession] above the safety of children. And that, I think, cannot and should not be allowed to stand in SA law.

It is not clear when Rob MacPherson ceased being a Catholic.  But it is clear that neither he nor Hamish Macdonald understand the sacrament of confession in the Catholic Church.  Confession takes place between a confessor and a penitent.  The confessor hears the confession and can dissolve the sins of the penitent after determining a suitable act of penance. The confessor cannot reveal what he heard in confession due to what is termed the Seal of Confession.

In the incident described by Rob MacPherson when he was a boy, the Seal of Confession did not apply. As the victim of a crime, young Rob MacPherson had not committed a sin and, consequently, was not confessing a sin.  Consequently, his confessor was under no obligation to regard what he heard in the confessional box as secret and covered by the Seal of Confession.  The priest could have reported the matter to his superior and/or the police without breaking the Seal of Confession. All this was made clear when the theologian, the Very Reverend Professor Ian Waters, explained the Sacrament of Confession on The Drum on 15 December 2017.

Rob MacPherson’s school boy experience is sad. But it has nothing to do with the debate currently taking place in South Australia about the secrecy of confession.  Clearly Hamish Macdonald was out of his depth in attempting to present himself as some kind of expert on Canon Law.  Can You Bear It?

[Er, no. Not really. It seems that RN Breakfast is somewhat obsessed about the Seal of Confession – despite the fact that this is not a front line issue in countering contemporary child sexual abuse in both institutions and families.


Thanks to the avid reader who drew MWD’s attention to this tweet which ABC star reporter Louise (“I won’t answer questions from Gerard Henderson”) Milligan sent out on 9 May – almost two months ago. Here it is:

Louise Milligan @Milliganreports “#Catholic contacts tell me there could well be news regarding Archbishop Denis Hart’s future very shortly”

9 May 2018

And now for some facts – known to Ms Milligan’s “Catholic contacts” and others.

In the Catholic Church archbishops and bishops are required to submit their resignation to the Pope on turning 75 years of age.  Denis Hart, the Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, turned 75 two years ago.

So it’s hardly surprising that, one day, there will be news regarding Archbishop Hart’s future.  This has been the case since at least May 2016 and the matter has been covered in the media.

As to Ms Milligan’s breathtaking comments of almost two months ago – sent out at 11.33 pm – that her Catholic contacts have told her that there could well be news about Archbishop Hart’s replacement “very shortly”.  Well you don’t need contacts – Catholic or otherwise – to know this.  And so far the “very shortly” hasn’t happened.  Can You Bear It?

I note that Hamish Macdonald did a long interview with Christopher Prowse, the Catholic Archbishop of Canberra-Goulburn, on 12 June 2018. Mr Macdonald insisted that Archbishop Prowse answer the question: “Do you think the Australian public would accept that the person [i.e. a priest] that took that confession [i.e. a priest confessed to sexually assaulting a child] would not have to report it?

There is no evidence that any Catholic priest in Australia has confessed child sexual assault in the confessional. Moreover, an RN Breakfast presenter would never think of directing a similar question to a lawyer where a client had admitted to child sexual assault.  It seems that the likes of Macdonald have one view on the Seal of Confession and quite another one on legal professional privilege.  A convenient double standard, to be sure. – MWD Editor.]



The Corrections and Clarifications segment is not easy to find on the ABC’s website.  This probably does not matter much since ABC journalists are most reluctant to correct errors.  However, every now and then, an important item appears in this segment. Like last Tuesday when the following item appeared:

Super Saturday by-elections

Posted Tuesday at 14:21

News: On Friday 25 May, 2018 the 7pm News broadcast a story on the ramifications of the decision to call a series of by-elections on 28 July. The story attributed that decision to the prime minister despite him having denied earlier that day that he had made the decision. The story should have included that denial and a similar statement from the Speaker of the House of Representatives. ABC News apologises for the error.

This is a reference to a report on ABC News on 23 May by ABC TV political editor Andrew Probyn.  It followed a complaint to the ABC by Communications Minister Mitch Fifield. This matter could have been resolved within an hour.  But ABC managing director and editor-in-chief Michelle Guthrie does not act as editor-in-chief. Nor did her predecessor Mark Scott. Hence the delay while the ABC bureaucracy handles the matter.

In recent times, the ABC has also made corrections/apologies concerning its coverage of the Coalition’s child sexual abuse redress scheme and its cashless welfare card. This means that Communications Minister Mitch Fifield was correct in complaining to the ABC managing director about the errors of its journalists.


This is part of what Paul Barry had to say on the ABC TV Media Watch program last Monday when discussing the debate over ABC bias.

Paul Barry: So, how biased is the ABC? Well, its editorial guidelines are tougher than in other media groups. Several ABC reviews have failed to find evidence of systemic bias. And the polls show that around four in five Australians believe the ABC is fair and balanced.

As Michelle Guthrie observed this week

Michelle Guthrie : … the 12 million Australians who will watch ABC TV this week; the nearly five million who will listen to ABC Radio; the 13 million ABC podcast downloads that now happen every single month. Now, if all those listeners and viewers were on the one side of politics, there wouldn’t be much politicking left to do

— Melbourne Press Club, 19 June, 2018

But the Chaser’s Chas Licciardello told Sky News last week he reckons the ABC does lean to the left:

Chas Licciardello: I do think the ABC is a left-wing network. I do think that. Especially, a left-wing sort of upper-middle class kind of sensibility. I do think that’s the case …

Outsiders, Sky News, 18 June, 2018

And he went on to say:

Chas Licciardello: I think you should have more conservative views on the ABC, personally, as a taxpayer’s network and I think there are ways to do that. I think selling it is not the way to do it.

Outsiders, Sky News, 18 June, 2018

And former CEO of the Committee for Sydney, Tim Williams, made a similar point on ABC Sydney last week:

Tim Williams: … sometimes the ABC does choose from too limited a gene pool, in cultural and political terms, to have the debate with the Australian people and it needs to own up to that …I think the ABC can do better, but to abolish it is ridiculous

Drive, ABC Sydney, 18 June, 2018

Paul Barry: I agree. On both those points.

Unless his expression was garbled, Paul Barry agreed with the propositions that (i) there should be more conservative views on the ABC and (ii) that the ABC chooses from too limited a gene pool in cultural and political terms.

Which is a bit like saying that the ABC is a Conservative Free Zone – as MWD has argued for decades – sometimes being criticised by your man Barry for so doing.


There was considerable interest in MWD’s coverage last week of the fact that Fairfax Media columnist Tony Walker had not replied to Gerard Henderson’s email as to whether he thought that the ABC is a Conservative Free Zone.  As avid readers will recall, Mr Walker himself asked this very same question of new ABC board member Joe Gersh.

The good news is that Hendo finally received a reply from your man Walker yesterday.  Here it is:


Regarding your question to me published in your Media Watch column of 22 June: Do you subscribe to the view the ABC is a Conservative Free Zone? Since I don’t believe the ABC, under its charter to reflect the “cultural diversity of the Australian community” should purvey a particular progressive, conservative, or Callithumpian viewpoint, for that matter, your question, in this instance, is not germane.

However, the public broadcaster should make more effort to accommodate a range of viewpoints — including conservative perspectives — in its various panel programs. One obvious vehicle would be to extend and reformat Media Watch to enable competing views to be expressed in open debate in order to rake over the media issues of the day.


Tony Walker

Well, fancy that.  MWD has been arguing for decades that the ABC TV Media Watch program should have a diverse panel – and not just consist of a left-of-centre ABC journalist preaching sermons on a Monday night.  In recent years, MWD has suggested that Fox News’ Mediabuzz and its predecessor News Watch exhibited much more diversity of views that ABC’s Media Watch.

It’s good to know Tony Walker holds a not dissimilar view.



As avid readers will be aware, in last week’s MWD (Issue 411) Chris Berg was awarded the “Media Fool of the Week” award for a stunning performance on The Bolt Report on 18 June 2018.

Your man Berg, who is a taxpayer funded academic at RMIT University in Melbourne, told Andrew Bolt that the ABC “was set up in 1932” (correct) and that the Labor Party “set up the ABC” (incorrect).   The ABC was set up in 1932 by the United Australia Party government led by prime minister Joseph Lyons.

Chris Berg was discussing the book Against Public Broadcasting: How We Should Privatise The ABC And How To Do It (Connor Court Publishing, 2018) which is co-authored by Chris Berg and Sinclair Davidson. Your man Davidson is also a taxpayer funded academic – a professor indeed – at RMIT University.

As far as MWD is aware, Mr Berg did not respond to his mention in last week’s issue.  However, Professor Sinclair sounded off on his Catallaxy Files blog last Saturday in a post titled “Berg v Henderson”.  The Davidson rant was not the work of a mild-mannered professor.  It contained some personal abuse and many errors.  However, a careful reading of the Catallaxy Files post and Gerard Henderson’s response (see below) does solve the problem as to how the error came about. During his interview on The Bolt Report, Chris Berg neglected to mention the change to the ABC’s news coverage which was introduced by Ben Chifley’s Labor government in 1946.  He meant to say that the Labor Party changed the ABC legislation over a decade after it was set up by the UAP government – but neglected to do so.

At the time of MWD going out today, Sinclair Davidson had not replied to Gerard Henderson’s response or mentioned it on his Catallaxy Files blog.  MWD, on the other hand, consistently publishes the correspondence of Gerard Henderson’s critics.  Here is Hendo’s (unanswered) letter to Davo.

A Response to Professor Davidson’s Rant


Someone drew my attention to the “Berg v Henderson” piece which you posted on the Catallaxy Files last Saturday – the first paragraph of which reads as follows:

For those of you who don’t know Gerard Henderson runs a blog at The Australian where he pretends to be a bitch female dog called Nancy who comments on the passing parade.  This column used to be at the SMH but they axed it and for reasons I can’t quite work out (pity? affirmative action?) he soon got a gig at The Australian peddling the same stuff.

This is hopelessly wrong.  In my Media Watch Dog blog, I do not “pretend to be Nancy” – the references to my former and current dog are written with a sense of irony. By the way, Nancy died a year ago.  My MWD blog was never published by the Sydney Morning Herald – you just made this up.

Moreover, I was not “axed” as a columnist by the SMH. In December 2013 the SMH editor Darryn Goodsir advised me that he wanted to run my column every second week – not weekly.   I indicated that this did not suit me since I had been writing weekly for the Herald since January 1990.  I also advised Mr Goodsir that I had other offers – I got the impression that he did not believe me.

In any event, I signed up the same day to write a weekly column in The Weekend Australian.  I had written a weekly column for The Australian between 1987 and 1989. The Australian also wanted to run my Media Watch Dog blog on Friday afternoon. Previously, MWD only appeared on The Sydney Institute’s website, commencing in March 2009.

If you did any research you would know this.   For example, Megan Reynolds published a report on the matter in Mumbrella on 11 December 2013.

* * * * *

In response to your Catallaxy Files rant – which contains a fair bit of personal abuse – I make the following comments:

▪ I do not dislike Chris Berg whom I have met on at least one occasion when we had a pleasant, albeit brief, conversation – and I don’t regard him as a threat (whatever that might mean).

▪ In MWD Issue 411 last Friday, I simply referred to the fact that Chris Berg and you were the authors of Against Public Broadcasting. I did not claim to have read the book which I only recently noticed.

▪ My criticism was of Chris Berg’s comments in an interview which he did on The Bolt Report on 18 June 2018 – in which the following exchange took place:

Andrew Bolt: First of all, what’s wrong with the ABC’s bias?

Chris Berg: Look there’s a lot of problems with the ABC and bias is one of them. Our argument is that the ABC is an anachronism. It was set up in 1932 to solve a specific problem. There were serious problems with broadcasting markets in 1932, those are not the problems that we have today. And I think it’s incumbent on us to look at a one-billion-dollar public policy initiative and understand whether it still suits the Australian media market….

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.

I do not know what Chris Berg intended to say on The Bolt Report.  I only know what he did say.  Chris Berg told Andrew Bolt (i) that “the ABC was set up in 1932” and (ii) that the Labor Party “set the ABC up”.

The second statement was a howler. In your Catallaxy Files piece, you failed to mention the Berg statements quoted above.  Convenient, eh?

In his appearance on The Bolt Report, Chris Berg made no reference to Ben Chifley’s Labor Party government or its change to the ABC and its coverage of news which was legislated in 1946.  If Mr Berg had made this point to Andrew Bolt, he would have avoided criticism in MWD.  But he didn’t. This legislation was not changed by the Robert Menzies government after it was elected in December 1949 – despite the fact that for many years the Menzies government had a majority in both houses of parliament.

▪ The comments which you cite from Labor MP Albert Green were made with respect to the legislation introduced by the Lyons government to establish the ABC.

▪ You describe as “a lie” the following comment which I made in MWD last Friday, viz:

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.

I accept – following your clarification – that Chris Berg did not intend to make this claim. But, due to his failure to mention the Chifley Labor government’s 1946 legislation, this is a fair and accurate representation of what he said on The Bolt Report.  As the transcript demonstrates, Andrew Bolt queried Chris Berg’s statement that the left “set up the ABC”.

It is grossly unprofessional to accuse me of lying when Chris Berg’s comments were at best ambiguous and at worst downright clumsy.

▪ I accept that K.S. Inglis wrote that on 25 November 1931 the Scullin government introduced draft legislation replacing what was called the Australian Broadcasting Company by a commission modelled on the BBC in Britain. This was the day the Scullin government fell – so the proposal got nowhere.  It is also true that this was not a priority of the Scullin government and that discussion about the creation of a public broadcaster had formed part of the considerations of the Royal Commission set up by the Bruce-Page Nationalist government in 1927.

Shortly after coming to office, Prime Minister Lyons received a deputation from Melbourne citizens urging the government to create an independent broadcasting service.  The delegation included Robert Menzies and May Couchman (of the Australian Women’s National League) – neither had any connection with the Labor Party or the left.

The point here is – whatever happened before the election of the Lyons government in December 1931, it was the Lyons government that established the ABC on 1 July 1932.  The fact that Geoffrey Sawer regarded James Fenton, when introducing the legislation, as “speaking more like a Labor man than a U.A.P. man” is of little moment.  Fenton was post-master general in the United Australia Party government in a cabinet that included Joseph Lyons, John Latham and Stanley Melbourne Bruce – hardly a collection of left-wingers.

▪ Your final comment is as follows:

Bottom line is this – Nancy has misled The Australian readership as to his understanding of the events he is discussing. He has misled his readership as to what Chris Berg was saying. He has not read our book, he has not read Inglis. Presumably he has read Mrs Nancy’s book.  Pretty poor effort.

This comment is false. I did not mislead anyone about what Chris Berg said on The Bolt Report. On the contrary, I quoted his comments accurately. I never said I had read Against Public Broadcasting. The reference to “Mrs Nancy’s book” is pathetic – as an RMIT University professor you should be able to do better than that.


In conclusion I should state that I regard the argument in Against Public Broadcasting as most unfortunate.  There is little point in advocating a cause that will never be implemented.  If you understand the Coalition, you will know that there is strong support for a taxpayer funded public broadcaster within the Nationals and among most Liberals from rural and regional areas.  Also, as you know, neither Labor nor the Greens would support such a legislation.

I understand that academics like you and Chris Berg can obtain media coverage by promoting lost causes like privatising the ABC.  But, as Chris Mitchell wrote in The Australian today, it’s a dumb idea – since it will never be achieved.

More seriously, the thesis in Against Public Broadcasting is counter-productive in that it provides ammunition to ABC supporters to discredit critics of the public broadcaster.  That’s why, in her rather weak speech to the Melbourne Press Club last week, ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie cited Against Public Broadcasting as a reason why genuine criticism of the ABC should be dismissed.

Right now, you and Chris Berg are the best thing that the Friends of the ABC have got going for them.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

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 avid readers are aware, Jackie’s (male) co-owner is on the Australian Republic Movement’s email list.  Being a courteous and well brought up kind of guy, Hendo likes to reply to emails when possible – including from the Red Bandannaed One.   Since Peter FitzSimons is one of the most divisive individuals in Australia, Hendo believes that he cannot successfully lead the campaign for an Australian head of state.  However, Hendo is always happy to provide the ARM with (gratuitous) advice. Now read on.

Peter FitzSimons to Gerard Henderson – 26 June 2018

Hi Gerard,

I’m happy to announce our annual Republic essay competition for high school students is now open – could you pass it on to any Year 10, 11 or 12 students you may know? 

The Republic Essay Competition is designed to recognise and reward talented young writers. It aims to encourage future leaders to reflect on Australian civics and citizenship.

Year 10, 11 and 12 students in Australian secondary schools are invited to submit an essay on the following topic (up to 1,000 words):

“Young Australians deserve to have a say on an Australian head of state. Discuss.”


  • 1st place: $300 and publication by FairfaxMedia
  • 2nd place: $200
  • 3rd place: $100

Shortlisted entrants will receive an annual membership to the Australian Republic Movement.


Submissions can be sent as a word or PDF document by 5:00pm 31 August 2018 to Here is a PDF flyer to share, and feel free to contact us with any questions.

Thanks for your support!


Peter FitzSimons
Australian Republic Movement


Gerard Henderson to Peter FitzSimons – 27 June 2018

Hi Fitz

Lotsa thanks for your email of 26 June 2018 requesting that I circulate details about the ARM’s Republic Essay Competition to students in Years 10, 11 and 12.

Before I do so, can I make a couple of modest proposals?

▪ The topic “Young Australians deserve to have a say on an Australian head of state” seems somewhat dull.  What about adding a lively alternative topic? – like this one:

“Young Australians will not say ‘Yes’ to an Australian head of state while the ARM’s leader is a millionaire Neutral Bay resident who wears a red rag on his head and constantly insults political and social conservatives.  Discuss.”

▪ The prizes are very low.  Namely, $300 for a winner and publication by Fairfax Media plus $200 for second place and $100 for third place. That is $600 all up. Pretty lousy, don’t you think

As you know, a lot of ARM members are well-heeled types who live in posh suburbs like, er, Neutral Bay in Sydney.  Surely, you could take the hat around your wealthy leftie mates and increase the prizes to, say, $1300, $500 and $200 – a total of $2000. About the cost of a night on the tiles for ten in The Oaks hotel in Neutral Bay.

Here’s hoping my modest proposals are helpful.

Keep Morale High.

Gerard Henderson

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Until next time.

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