ISSUE – NO. 413

6 July 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: Ross Cameron and Novichok in Salisbury; The Checkout Checks Out

  • Editorial: Bert Newton at the Logies – and the Royal Commission

  • Can You Bear It? Adam Hills; Denis Muller forgets At Home With Julia & Nice Mr Scott

  • Jackie’s Media U-Turns of Our Time – In Which Geoffrey Robertson QC Comes up with a New Explanation for his Accent

  • Five Paws Award: Step forward Paul Collins for his Comments Re Archbishop Wilson

  • Outside Outsiders – MWD’s Gratuitous Advice for New Outsiders’ Book Club Supremo Caroline Marcus

  • Correspondence: (The real) Dr David Storrs Helps Out on Israel, the Gaza Strip & Insiders & Karen Middleton & Hendo

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Did anyone see Ross (“I’m a Marcus Aurelius fan boy but I also love Vladimir Putin”) Cameron on Sky News’ Outsiders last night?

The Outsiders’ co-presenter continued his line that Vladimir Putin’s Russia had nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that the Russian double agent Sergei Skripal (who spied for Britain) and his daughter Yulia Skripal happened to be poisoned by the nerve agent Novichok in Salisbury last March. This poison was developed in the Soviet Union in the days when Mr Putin was a KGB operative before the collapse of Soviet Communism and the birth of Russia.

On 22 March, your man Cameron opined on Outsiders that Mr Skripal “may well be lying on a beach in Brighton for all we know”.  In fact, he was in intensive care in Salisbury Hospital close to death.

Mr Cameron was at it again last night – following news from Britain that Dawn Sturgess and James Rowley have also come down with Novichok poisoning at Amesbury (near Salisbury). Let’s go to the transcript last night where the Outsiders’ co-presenter again dismissed the gravity of the occasion – in his rush to clear Putin’s Russia of any involvement in the matter.

Ross Cameron: Well we do know that Sergei and Yulia – after being exposed to the, of, to the lethal chemical-grade nerve agent of a type made by Russia – that they walked out of the hospital a few days later…happy as larry. Ah so, it wasn’t that lethal. But, nonetheless, of a type made by Russia. Uh, off you go.

Yeah. Off he went. The news from Britain is that both Ms Sturgess and Mr Rowland are in a critical condition.  Moreover, as Ms Skripal has said, following the attack she spent almost three weeks in a coma – which was followed by a slow and painful recovery.  Her father’s condition was even worse.

And yet, according to Ross Cameron, the Skripals walked out of Salisbury “a few days” after the attack “as happy as larry”.  What a load of absolute tosh.

[Perhaps you should have awarded Ross Cameron your “Media Fool of the Week” gong for this one.  Just a thought.  MWD Editor.]


MWD is shocked, deeply shocked, after reading today’s statement by Julian Morrow – leading boy of The Chaser Boys’ (Average age 431/2) – that the ABC will not fund yet another series of The Checkout.  Your man Morrow’s media release was titled “R.I.P. The Checkout”.

In fact, The Checkout has not died. All that has happened is that Mr Morrow and his team will no longer receive bucket loads of taxpayers’ money to put their program to air on the ABC.  If it’s a viable product, The Checkout should be able to survive in the media market.

The problem with The Checkout is that it was aimed at the intersection of business affairs and comedy – without being funny.  Julian Morrow’s media release suggests that the demise of the modest rating program will lead to an upsurge in commercial rip-offs. Well, that is amusing.



There was widespread agreement that the 79 year old comedian Bert Newton overstepped the mark at the Logies on the  Gold Coast last Sunday when he made the following remark about his one-time Channel 9 colleague – the late Graham Kennedy.

He enjoyed giving young people a chance on television.  He was a great mentor, he mentored a lot of young people.  You knew if you went to his dressing room and it was locked – he would be inside doing some mentoring.

As Jonathan Moran put it in the Daily Telegraph on 2 July 2018, Graham Kennedy was “famously guarded about his sexuality”.  Bert Newton went on to make a similar, but briefer, remark about the out-and-proud heterosexual Don Lane with whom he also worked.

In the current climate, Bert Newton would have been well advised not to perform this kind of joke in front of a live television audience and a room full of media personalities.  He would have got away with it a decade ago – but attitudes change.  However, there is a broader point which most journalists and commentators have avoided.  Namely, could Mr Newton have been making a serious comment here on top of his attempt at humour?

The Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse decided not to conduct hearings into child sexual assault in the Australian media.  This despite the fact that the Jimmy Savile case in Britain revealed that pedophilia was rife at the BBC and despite the fact that one former Australian television presenter is currently serving time in prison for child sexual assault.

Moreover, former ABC TV producer Jon Stephens pleaded guilty last year to assaulting a 12 year old boy while on official ABC duties on the NSW Central Coast in 1981.  As MWD readers will be aware, the ABC has not properly reported the Stephens conviction and delayed approaching his victim for around a year.  ABC management has yet to report to Senate Estimates about the outcome of its response to the case.

MWD is not aware whether Bert Newton’s reference to Graham Kennedy was just an attempt at humour or more than that.  But it’s important to remember that In Melbourne Tonight (presented by Graham Kennedy) was airing close to the time when ABC chairman Professor Richard Downing declared in July 1975 that “in general, men will sleep with young boys”. The current ABC chairman Justin Milne and his predecessor James Spigelman have refused to disassociate the contemporary public broadcaster from Professor Downing’s comment made in his official capacity as ABC chairman.

Since pedophiles operated in most institutions – along with some families – it takes an act of faith to conclude that pedophilia was not extant in the Australian media in the 1970s and 1980s.  It is a matter of regret that Justice Peter McClellan’s Royal Commission decided not to investigate the institutional response of the Australian media to child sexual assault.

Can You Bear It?



There has been much gnashing of teeth on the ABC of late about the alleged misogyny of others – including President Donald J Trump in the United States and Senator David Leyonhjelm in Australia.

However, the ABC saw fit to run this segment from Australian comedian Adam Hills’ program The Last Leg on Wednesday – when the presenter was in conversation with American comedian Harry Shearer. Let’s go to the transcript:

Adam Hills: Here’s the interesting thing – his press secretary, Sarah Sand – Sarah Huckabee Sanders

Harry Shearer: Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Adam Hills: Sarah Huckabee Sanders was refused service at the Red Hen restaurant in Virginia this week because she worked –

Harry Shearer: Because she looked like a red hen.

Adam Hills: Ah, well I’m going to pull you up on that. Okay so she was refused service.

Harry Shearer: Yep.

Adam Hills: Okay, and then Donald Trump responded with this damning tweet basically saying that the restaurant “should focus more on cleaning its filthy canopies, doors and windows (badly needs a paint job) rather than refusing to serve a fine person like Sarah Huckabee Sanders.” Blah blah blah you know the usual. The irony is that Trump’s own Mar-a-Lago resort has had 78 health violations in the past three years.

For starters, the “Sarah Huckabee Sanders looks like a red hen” gag is a piss-poor attempt at humour.  Moreover, even though the ABC takes The Last Leg from Channel 4 in Britain, the powers-that-be at the taxpayer funded broadcaster decided not to cut Harry Shearer’s Sarah Huckabee Sanders put-down from the program. Meanwhile ABC presenters moralise-at-large about misogyny, sexism and so on. Can You Bear It?


While on the topic of misogyny and all that, consider the stunning piece by Melbourne University academic and one-time Fairfax Media journalist, Denis Muller in The Conversation this week.  It was run on the ABC website last Wednesday under the title “David Leyonhjelm’s comments to Sarah Hanson-Young continue parliament’s history of sexist abuse”.

This is how the Muller article – written from the bowels of Melbourne University’s quaintly titled Centre for Advancing Journalism – commenced:

In one foul-mouthed phrase, Senator David Leyonhjelm has turned a debate about the safety of women into a sleazy political sideshow. Claiming — without a shred of factual support — that he had interpreted Senator Sarah Hanson-Young as having said words to the effect of “all men are rapists”, Senator Leyonhjelm called across the chamber that she should “stop shagging men”. Confronted by her afterwards, he told her to “f*** off”.

It is one more example of the debasement of political debate in Australia, aided and abetted by elements of the media, in this case Sky News. Its Outsiders panel of Rowan Dean and Ross Cameron gave Senator Leyonhjelm a platform on which he repeated his offensive remarks, and sat back obligingly while he did so.

Only when the network was deluged with complaints did Cameron apologise for the pair of them, and the network took its own action….

It was one of those occasions when the Outsiders co-presenters would have been well advised to leave Senator Leyonhjelm in the shed and devoted the time spared last Sunday to yet another rant about the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius by co-presenter Ross Cameron.

But it was not to be.  Consequently, journalists and commentators weighed in attacking not only the Liberal Democrat Party senator but also Sky News – which, by the way, has quite a number of female presenters.

In his article in The Conversation, Dr Muller (for a doctor he is) focused on misogynist attacks on the likes of such Labor identities as Julia Gillard, Cheryl Kernot along with Sarah Hanson-Young (of course). In the process such media personalities as Alan Jones, Ray Hadley and Chris Smith were bagged. But Dr Muller did not criticise the ABC for misogyny and all that.

It seems that the Melbourne University academic forgot all about the taxpayer funded public broadcaster’s very own contribution to misogyny in recent times.  The reference is to the ABC TV comedy At Home With Julia which aired in September 2011. This program made lotsa fun about the relationship between Prime Minister Gillard and her partner Tim Mathieson – including depicting the two characters in flagrante delicto under an Australian flag on the floor.  Funny, eh?

On 17 August 2016, The Atlantic published a piece by Michelle Cottle – who interviewed Ms Gillard for her story titled “The Era of ‘The Bitch’ Is Coming”. It contains the following paragraph:

Gillard detected subtler differences in treatment as well. For instance, she recalled, the state-owned Australian Broadcasting Corporation did a comedy about her prime ministership. “They chose bizarrely, in my view, to finance a comedy where an impersonator played me,” said Gillard, noting that this was something not done for any other prime minister before or since.

Good point. But did your man Dr Muller mention Ms Gillard’s criticism of the ABC in the article he wrote and which appeared on the ABC website?  Not on your nelly. Can You Bear It?

[Er, no. Not really.  I note that At Home With Julia went to air on the ABC TV when Mark Scott was ABC managing director and (so-called) editor-in-chief. – MWD Editor.]


While on the topic of Nice Mr Scott, MWD notes his apparent change of stance on the late Deborah Cameron (1958-2018) who died of cancer early last month.  Ms Cameron was a successful Sydney Morning Herald journalist who moved to ABC Radio in Sydney in early 2007.

Ms Cameron’s farewell was held at St James’ Catholic Church in Glebe.  Shortly after the gathering Mark Scott posted the following comment on Twitter:

Mark Scott‏ @mscott@mscott

A loving farewell to Deb Cameron today: packed with family, neighbours, farmers, reporters, broadcasters, community campaigners – full of admiration for her wonderful journalism and vibrant spirit.

Writing in The Australian Online on 20 June 2018, Brad Norington reported on the occasion:

Mark Scott, who knew Cameron when he was a Herald editor, was later instrumental in bringing her to the ABC, not long after he was appointed its managing director. He told The Australian today how he was asked by management executives who would be “good radio talent”, and responded that Cameron topped his list because he remembered her freewheeling radio conversations as a “correspondent” from Indonesia with [Richard] Glover, by then an afternoon ABC radio host on Sydney’s 702.

“She was so vibrant, and so curious, and so interesting, it was just very, very infectious, and she leapt out of the radio as a presence,” Scott said.

“I said, ‘you’ve really got to talk to Deb Cameron’, and they brought her in for a test, and they were amazed by her too. They’d known of her. But then, almost as much to my surprise, they said, ‘yeah, we should put her into Monday to Friday mornings’.”

There was “no soft, off-Broadway tryout for her” — as Scott put it — when Cameron replaced Virginia Trioli on 702 in December 2007. “It took a little while to get her rhythm of the complexity, but when she did, the audience found that warmth and authenticity, and that passion for the city,” he said.

Ms Cameron presented Mornings with Deborah Cameron between 2007 and 2011.  Her exit from the ABC was described by Malcom Brown in his obituary in the Sydney Morning Herald on 14 June 2018:

In her four years of presenting, the show’s ratings peaked at 10.6 per cent of the available audience. She became interested in urban affairs and met Kathy Jones, who ran a company, KJA, which specialised in community engagement and communications. When in 2011 the ABC management decided not to renew Cameron’s contract, on the grounds that the program needed to be “refreshed”, Cameron joined Jones.

So who happened to be ABC managing director and editor-in-chief when Deborah Cameron’s contract with the ABC was not renewed at the end of 2011 in order to “refresh” the program?  Why, Mark Scott – that’s who. Can You Bear It?



This hugely popular segment of MWD is devoted to journalists, commentators and the like who will change their mind without explanation – or forget a cause which they have previously advocated or a comment which they have previously made. This week’s focus is on Geoffrey Robertson’s (QC) changing story on how the Aussie kid from the Sydney suburb of Eastwood ended up speaking like Little Lord Fauntleroy with a rather large plum in his mouth.  Master Robertson was educated at Epping Boys’ High – close to his Eastwood home.

The 29 June-12 July 2018 issue of Private Eye carries a “Diary” column by “Geoffrey Robertson Queen’s Counsel” – as told to Craig Brown.  Craig Brown is up to his usual witty self in depicting Robertson’s pomposity as revealed in his name-dropping tome Rather His Own Man: In Court with Tyrants, Tarts and Troublemakers (Biteback Publishing, 2018).

MWD was particularly interested in the first couple of paragraphs of Julia Llewellyn Smith’s piece on GR QC in The Sunday Times of 17 June 2018 viz:

Geoffrey Robertson irritates as many people as he impresses. His record as a defence barrister is impeccably iconoclastic, with his greatest hits including the Oz magazine obscenity trial, Spycatcher, Cynthia Payne and Julian “WikiLeaks” Assange. He is also dazzlingly well connected: “I suppose the ultimate north London gathering was one we held for Tony and Cherie Blair to meet some of our friends — John Mortimer, Salman Rushdie, Billy Connolly, Pamela Stephenson,” is a typical line in his new — second — autobiography, Rather His Own Man.

“People accuse me of name-dropping,” muses Robertson, 71, in his almost parodically plummy tones (he’s actually Australian but had a “vowel transplant” from years of “grovelling before English judges”), sitting in his streamlined, proudly uncrusty Doughty Street chambers.  “But it’s been a privilege to know some of these people.”

As avid readers are aware, MWD has had an explanation for your man Robertson’s plummy tone – as described in Issue 307:

MWD has always maintained that Robertson QC, now a dual British-Australian citizen who resides in London, has an Epping/Eastwood accent.  What’s an Epping/Eastwood accent? – I hear you ask.  Well, it’s the kind of accent which an Epping/Eastwood chap puts on to disguise the fact that he was born in the Epping/Eastwood area of Sydney suburbia.  That’s what.  These days, your man Robertson talks like an Eton graduate with a mouth full of cucumber sandwiches.  Or is it bespoke plums?  It’s not the sort of accent that a real Epping/Eastwood Man has.

On Wednesday 9 March 2016, GR QC was interviewed by Julia Zemiro for her Home Delivery program on ABC TV.  It was Ms Zemiro’s habit to take interviewees for a chat to where they grew up.  And so it came to pass that GR QC ended up at his old house in Eastwood – which happened to be on the market.

The oh-so-rude Robertson told a national television audience that it was a pity that no one had built a “decent house” on the site. He then banged on about attending Epping Boys High and Sydney University and all that. Yawn.

GR QC told Ms Zemiro that his accent was an accident – and not an “affectation”.  However, this assertion was discredited when, at the end of the program, black and white footage was shown of Robertson at Sydney University in 1970 without a trace of affectation or plum-in-mouth syndrome.  In other words, GR QC just made up the story of a mute 5 year old in Eastwood circa 1950 learning to speak by mimicking ABC newsreaders mimicking BBC newsreaders.

And now Geoffrey Robertson has ‘fessed to The Sunday Times that his plummy accent is an acquired affectation designed to impress English judges.

So there you have it – or not.



Media Watch Dog’s Five Paws Award was inaugurated in Issue Number 26 (4 September 2009) during the time of Nancy (2004-2017). The first winner was ABC TV presenter Emma Alberici.  Ms Alberici scored for remembering the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 23 August 1939 whereby Hitler and Stalin divided Eastern Europe between Germany and the Soviet Union.  And for stating that the Nazi-Soviet Pact had effectively started the Second World War, since it was immediately followed by Germany’s invasion of Poland (at a time when the Soviet Union had become an ally of Germany).

Over the years, the late Nancy’s Five Paws Award has become one of the world’s most prestigious gongs – rating just below the Nobel Prize and the Academy Awards.  Joe Aston, of the Australian Financial Review’s “Rear Window” column, has declared that he would much prefer to win a Five Paws Award than a Walkley.  Mr Aston is a past Five Paws Award recipient. He is joined today by Paul Collins.

Next week MWD will discuss the conviction of Archbishop Philip Wilson for not reporting child sexual abuse which occurred when he was a junior priest in the Maitland-Newcastle diocese.  This is a very complicated case which was well analysed by lawyer Fr. Frank Brennan in Eureka Street this week.

The ferocity of the media’s coverage was illustrated in the Sydney Morning Herald’s  editorial last Wednesday which suggested that the Catholic Church improperly “fought the case against Wilson hard”.  The SMH seems unaware that, under our legal system, accused individuals are entitled to defend themselves in accordance with their legal rights. Archbishop Wilson has always maintained his innocence and will appeal the magistrate’s decision (note this was not a trial by jury) to a superior court in NSW.

In the meantime it is interesting to note that Paul Collins (a former Catholic priest who is not in the Church’s conservative tradition) spoke out in favour of Archbishop Wilson on PM  last Tuesday. He had this to say with respect to the Magistrate’s decision to find Archbishop Wilson guilty and sentence him to a maximum term of 12 months detention. Let’s go to the transcript where discussion turned on the Magistrate’s sentence.

Paul Collins: I think it’s a bit too severe. My own view is that Archbishop Phillip Wilson has been one of the more proactive bishops in Australia with regard to dealing with sexual abuse cases. I think that this case has been used by the legal system as, if you like, a kind of test case.

Katherine Gregory: Saying that, he [Collins] does think the Archbishop should resign.

Paul Collins: His position has now become probably close to impossible. And I think that if Archbishop Wilson doesn’t resign, some action will be taken by the Vatican.

Unlike many journalists, Mr Collins recognises that Archbishop Wilson has a right of appeal and that he has been very much a subject of a test case. However, Paul Collins also recognises that, in view of his current circumstances, the archbishop should resign.

Paul Collins: Five Paws.



The bad news is that the MWD fave, the witty Jaynie Seal, will no longer be reading the news – and commenting on books that no one on Outsiders has read – on Outsiders on Sunday.

The good news is that Ms Seal will be replaced by another MWD fave – to wit, the clever Caroline Marcus.  As the Outsiders newsreader on Sundays, Ms Marcus automatically takes over the role of honorary secretary of the Outsiders Book Club.  It’s not an onerous task – since Outsiders co-presenters Ross (“I’m a Marcus Aurelius fan boy”) Cameron and Rowan Dean – along with their guests – tend to discuss books which they have not read.  In short, your man Dean does not read them so that nobody else has to read them. But, nevertheless, it is an important gig.

Let’s go to the transcript last Sunday when Mr Dean announced the BIG NEWS shortly after 10 am last Sunday:

Rowan Dean: Well, thanks – Caroline, and welcome to your new weekend gig. Obviously, you do realise that you are now in charge of the Outsiders’ Book Club. What have you got for us?

Caroline Marcus: I certainly do Rowan. And this week I chanced upon Leon Festinger’s fascinating book, no doubt you’ve already read this, first published in 1957 – A Cognitive Dissonance. Now Festinger proposed that we humans strived for internal psychological consistency in order to mentally function in the real world. A person who experiences eternal inconsistencies may become visibly stressed and will try to reduce that cognitive dissonance by making bizarre changes to their routine patterns of behaviour.

Rowan Dean: Well Caroline, I’m blown away. I have to confess I have not read that – but I shall on your advice. And speaking of bizarre changes to routine patterns, it’s now time for “Outsiders’  Weather and Ice Age Watch”….

As avid readers would expect, MWD will monitor whether Mr Dean breaks his promise to read Leon Festinger’s A Cognitive Dissonance.  Being of a certain age, Jackie’s (male) co-owner rarely reads old books. Rather, he tends to re-read them. [Oh, come on.  – MWD Editor.] It so happens that, at the very moment, Hendo is re-reading A Cognitive Dissonance which he first came across at Melbourne University in a previous century (he’s not saying which one).

Needless to say, Ms Marcus’ recommendation is a you-beaut idea. For Leon Festinger’s thesis helps to explain why Outsiders’ co-presenter Ross Cameron regards himself as an outsider despite the fact that he has not renounced his generous taxpayer subsidised superannuation benefit which he received following some eight years in the House of Representatives as the taxpayer funded Member for Parramatta between March 1996 and October 2004. [Sounds like an insider to me.  MWD Editor.]

Your man Cameron would be well advised to follow the Marcus reading recommendation. The evidence suggests that Mr Cameron has made some bizarre changes to his pattern of behaviour over the years – which may be explained with reference to Festinger’s magnum opus (or is it opus magnum?).  Why, Hendo even remembers attending a lunch before the Coalition came to government in NSW in 2011 under the leadership of Barry O’Farrell.  At that time Ross Cameron advocated that the Liberal Party’s best chance to attain office was to enter into an alliance with – wait for it – The Greens.  Yep, Bob Brown, Christine Milne, Adam Bandt, Lee Rhiannon and all that lot. What would Marcus Aurelius have thought about this? – MWD hears avid readers cry in unison.


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).

Here’s hoping that the clever Ms Marcus’ Outsiders Book Club will find time to read – or not read, as the case may be – Pierre Duhem’s To Serve the Phenomena. The French physicist who lived from 1861 to 1916 believed that theories cannot enjoy their own empirical consequences. Whatever that might mean.


On 24 June Gerard Henderson received an email from David Storrs enclosing an email which he had addressed to the Israeli Embassy in London critical of the actions of the Israeli Defence Force on the Israel/Gaza border. It made reference to Israel’s ambassador in London – a certain Mark Regev.  MWD was impressed by the fact that this missive was signed David Storrs M.B.B.S.  F.R.A.C.G.P. D.R.A.N.Z.C.O.G. [Wow, for a real doctor he surely is – MWD Editor.]

Dr Storrs’ essential argument turned on a statement made by Gerard Henderson on Insiders on Sunday 20 May 2018 – which was opposed by Karen Middleton and David Crowe and presenter Barrie Cassidy. Being a courteous kind of guy, Hendo responded to the Storrs’ letter. Now read on.

David Storrs to Gerard Henderson – 24 June 2018

Dear Gerard

I thought you’d be interested in this email trail [to the Israel Embassy in London], especially as you suggested to Karen Middleton on Insiders that there should be no independent enquiry into the Gaza deaths and whether any could be regarded as unlawful killings.

I have yet to receive a response from the Israeli Embassy.

Best wishes



Gerard Henderson to David Storrs – 25 June 2018

Dear David

I refer to your email of 24 June 2016 which included a copy of your email to the Israeli Embassy in London.

I do not recall saying to Karen Middleton on Insiders (20 May 2018) that “there should be no independent enquiry into the Gaza deaths”.  I suspect that you just made this up.

As I recall, I supported the Turnbull government’s decision to oppose an enquiry into the conflict on the Israel/Gaza border by the United Nations Human Rights Council.

In view of its membership and long-term hostility to Israel, I do not regard the UN Human Rights Council as in any sense “independent” with respect to Israel and the Hamas-led Gaza Strip.  I am surprised that you seem to take a different position.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson


David Storrs to Gerard Henderson – 1 July 2018

Dear Gerard,

I do find it amusing that you are showing a sense of humour. I am sure it must not be unusual to find someone who has a different opinion to you.

Just in case you have trouble with remembering what you said it is an easy task to view repeats of the programme or transcripts of the telecast.

I previously had to mention your aside on Insiders about the Curtin government not being a successful government because they were voted out of office ( whereas you meant to say that they were voted out because they had passed their used by date and were trying to privatize the banks which was a very unpopular move in the electorate).

I welcome your suggestion that you are now suggesting that you would agree to there being an independent inquiry into the deaths on the border with Gaza. I can only agree with you that there should be one. You however were not able to make an answer to Karen Middleton’s question as to who you could suggest to run an independent review of the tragic circumstances. You were only able to suggest that the UN through the Human Rights Commission should not be the leader of the inquiry because their investigation would not be rigorous and independent because they have been critical in the past and have unacceptable membership. I presume that you mean that any inquiry under their stewardship would have a predetermined result because they are prejudiced.

Perhaps you could share your views on how any inquiry could be formulated that could result in findings that were unlikely to be critical!  How for instance could you ensure that those doyens of Human rights (U.S.A., Guatemala and Australia) could constitute a tribunal where they were a majority?. Even then information would enter the public space that would be worthwhile. The Israeli Parliament is tacitly admitting this by trying to formulate legislation that would make it illegal to film IDF actions. My wife sent critical communications to the PMs Department and the Immigration Minister after our trip to Dachau which revealed how disgraceful organizations always try to shield the public from information that could attract opprobrium or disquiet.

Perhaps you and I can not only agree that there should be an independent inquiry but that it should not be run by the IDF. Previously Mark Regev has suggested that a rigorous internal investigation would be held whenever another horrendous act was revealed. Then nothing ever happened or was publicly revealed!!

So I am sure that you will enjoy the email trail with the UK Israeli Embassy where they keep promising an answer. I presume the same is said in Hebrew at the end of the emails. Either way the promise is made I hold little hope of it being honoured.

Sometimes it is more fun watching when people can’t or won’t answer a direct question as you did with Karen Middleton (or the Israeli Embassy to me).



Gerard Henderson to David Storrs – 6 July 2018

Dear David

I refer to your second email concerning my comments on the ABC TV Insiders program on 20 May 2018.  In response, I make the following comments.

▪ I do not understand your first paragraph. I spend much of my life meeting people who disagree with me.

▪ I do not have any trouble remembering what I said on Insiders and have checked my comments against the transcript when the issue about the protests on the Israel/Gaza border was discussed on 20 May 2018.  A transcript can be found here.

▪ For the record, I never said on Insiders – or anywhere else – that John Curtin’s Labor government was “voted out of office” following the decision to nationalise the private trading banks. John Curtin died in office on 5 July 1945.  His successor Ben Chifley announced his intention to nationalise the banks in August 1947.  In between, Labor won the September 1946 election. All I have ever said in this regard is that Mr Chifley’s decision to nationalise the banks was counter-productive in that it gave Robert Menzies a platform to campaign on in the 1949 election and led to an increase in support for the Coalition among white collar workers in the banking and insurance industries.  This is a fact.  Frank Green, who knew Mr Chifley well, recorded in his memoir Servant of the House that Chifley conceded that his decision to nationalise the banks had contributed to Labor’s defeat in 1949.

▪ I have never said that I support – or oppose – an independent inquiry into the protests by Hamas operatives and the response by the Israeli Defence Force last May.  All I said on Insiders was that the United Nations Human Rights Council was not independent – in that it had already criticised the IDF, but not Hamas, before it announced its intention to inquire into the matter.

▪ On Insiders I was asked by Karen Middleton as to which organisation could hold an independent inquiry into the Israel/Gaza Border conflict.  And I answered – “someone other” than the UN Human Rights Council.  Since I did not call – and have not called – for an inquiry into the matter, it is not up to me to suggest which organisation might understand such a task.

▪ I note that, in your mocking tone, you describe the United States and Australia as “doyens of human rights”.  In fact they are – when compared with such UN Human Rights Council members as China, Saudi Arabia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cuba and Venezuela.

▪ Your reference to the Nazi Germany concentration camp at Dachau – and your attempt to link it to Israel by alleging that Dachau provides an example of “how disgraceful organisations always try to shield the public from information that could attract opprobrium or disquiet” is both desperate and false.

Unlike Germany between 1933 and 1945, Israel is a democracy.  It has a government elected by Israeli citizens – around 20 per cent of whom are Arabs, the overwhelming majority of whom are entitled to vote.  It has an opposition. Members of the Israeli Knesset even include representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood – the organisation is banned in many Muslim majority nations.  And Israel has an independent Supreme Court along with a free press.

You would only compare Israel today with Nazi Germany eight decades ago if you were ignorant of both entities.  Or deliberately making thing up.

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In conclusion, I stand by my comment on Insiders.  In the discussion, not only Karen Middleton disagreed with me. So did fellow panellist David Crowe and presenter Barrie Cassidy.  I assume that, in this instance at least, you do not want to hear a view different from your own.

My position is as follows. That part of Israel which is next to Gaza is within the original boundaries of Israel when the new nation was formed by the United Nations in 1948.  That is, it is within what has been termed the Green Line which designates the land of Israel in 1948. Hamas, the dictatorship which controls Gaza, is committed to the destruction of Israel.

Hamas massed thousands of Gaza citizens to protest on the Israel/Gaza border where attempts were made to break though the border fence.  If thousands of Hamas operatives had invaded Israel, this would have put at risk the lives of Israelis living close to the border and beyond. In the past, the same Israeli citizens have been attacked by missiles launched from Hamas controlled Gaza.

I believe that a nation like Israel is entitled to defend its borders.  That is how I concluded my comment on Insiders on 24 May – and I have no reason to change my view.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

PS:  I note that you have sent correspondence to the Israeli Ambassador to the United Kingdom.  I have no idea about the priorities of Israeli diplomats in London. However, I would be surprised if Ambassador Regev and his staff would give high priority to responding to emails from citizens of Australia and similar nations.

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Until next time.


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