ISSUE – NO. 414

13 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.

* * * *

  • Stop Press: Tonightly’s Fake News On Hendo

  • An ABC Update: The Red Bandannaed One – Yet Another Leftist Gets an ABC Gig

  • Can You Bear It? Michael Koziol; Helen Razer; Scott Burchill, Hamish Macdonald & Bonge plus David Leyonhjelm & Hamish Macdonald

  • Nancy’s Courtesy Classes: Open Now for Peter Van Onselen and his All Female Panel for the Pile-on re Mark Latham

  • New Segment: Jackie’s Fave (Contemporary) Conspiracy Theory – Ross Cameron Blames MI6 for Almost Everything

  • Maurice Newman Segment: In Which Everyone Agrees with Everyone Else on The Drum about the “Evils” of both Coal and the Catholic Church

  • Correspondence: Richard Glover Helps Out re the ABC & The Rev. Rob MacPherson Helps Out on the Seal of Confession

* * * * *


MWD has a theory that the “F” and “C” words are dropped more often on Tonightly with Tom Ballard than there are jokes. Last night on ABC Comedy, Gerard Henderson counted only three “F” word utterances – but there may have been a couple more as he headed to the kitchen to top up his Tonic with lotsa Gin. As to jokes – well last night’s program was a Humour Free Zone.

It seems that Tonightly’s production team is more interested in banging out green/left political messages than getting genuine laughs.  It’s not clear why – since the program’s (small) audience consists almost entirely of followers of The Thought of Green Left Weekly and hardly needs a political conversion experience.

Last night Greta Lee Jackson did a piss-poor sketch on the (alleged) plan of the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation to take over Australia’s universities – and for conservatives to dump down NAIDOC due to their (alleged) opposition to Indigenous causes.  Let’s go the transcript as Ms Lee Jackson attempts to channel a right-wing reactionary interviewer.  Funny, eh? The fake interviewer spoke to a genuine interviewee who happens to be an academic at Macquarie University in Sydney.  Ms Jackson’s targets were the usual suspects.  Namely, the Institute of Public Affairs and, you’ve guessed it, your man Hendo.

Greta Lee Jackson: I’ve come up with some suggestions to make the NAIDOC awards a bit more inclusive. How about the IPA Award for best Quarterly Essay on “The problems with Indigenous culture from a Western democratic liberal perspective”?

Professor Bronwyn Carlson: So, I did mention that NAIDOC was about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people? So I think we’ll just keep having awards for ourselves in that week.

Greta Lee Jackson: What about the Gerard Henderson award for “The most effective lobbying on the perils of constitutional recognition”?

Professor Bronwyn Carlson: Are you kidding right now?

This is just FAKE NEWS.  Gerard Henderson has not commented on the issue of Constitutional recognition.  The taxpayer funded Tonightly crew just made this up. Why?  Well, here’s a theory.  Recently Tonightly’s producer urged Hendo to come on the program and talk to Mr Ballard.  Hendo declined the invitation preferring to talk to a Gin & Tonic instead.   Could it be that last night’s FAKE NEWS was constructed as revenge for Hendo’s rejection of your man Ballard?



MWD Issue 407 mentioned that the ABC was about to commission Fairfax Media’s Sydney-based journalist Peter FitzSimons to do a gig on the taxpayer funded public broadcaster. It turns out the Red Bandannaed One has been commissioned to present an episode of Foreign Correspondent on ABC TV about the New Zealand citizens who have been deported to the land of their birth by Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton. All some 1300 deportees have committed serious crimes in Australia.  Your man Fitz flew to New Zealand to cover the story.

It’s not clear what New Zealanders will make of this tall, wealthy, privately educated, middle-aged man who wears a red rag on his head.  But the choice of Peter FitzSimons as the guest presenter of Foreign Correspondent suggests that – despite the $1 billion plus annual budget – there is no one at the ABC capable of covering this straight-forward story.  And then there is the point that Mr FitzSimons is not a foreign correspondent.

Yet there is a more serious issue here.  In their recent major speeches in Melbourne and Sydney respectively, ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie and ABC chairman Justin Milne chose to defend the ABC by ignoring the chief criticism of the public broadcaster.  Namely, that it lacks political and cultural diversity among the presenters, producers and editors of its prominent television, radio and online outlets.

As MWD documents in this issue, the former ABC TV Media Watch presenter (Jonathan Holmes) and the program’s incumbent presenter (Paul Barry) have acknowledged that the ABC has too few conservatives.  Yet Ms Guthrie and Mr Milne throw the switch to denial whenever they hear such a criticism from outside the ABC.

Peter FitzSimons’ Foreign Correspondent gig illustrates the problem.  This is yet another ABC position that has gone to a leftist.  Currently, the Red Bandannaed One is campaigning against the Coalition government in NSW over sports stadiums.  Also Fitz is an aggressive atheist who mocks believers.  He is also hostile to political and social conservatives. MWD is not aware of a fashionable left-wing cause which Peter FitzSimons does not embrace.  But Ms Guthrie and her team have chosen him over possible internal and external candidates to present a high profile program.  When will the ABC ever learn?


Can You Bear It


Sydney Morning Herald journalist Michael Koziol is one of Jackie’s (male) co-owner’s faves.  As avid readers will recall, MWD rejoiced in the column which Young Mr Koziol wrote about the trauma of reaching the grand old age of 25 years on this earth and how this would affect his next decade. [Did anyone really care?  MWD Editor.]  See MWD Issue 378.

And now, last Monday, your (young) man Koziol told SMH readers – if readers there were – about the trauma he has experienced following the closure of the Well Connected Café,  or WellCo, on Glebe Point Road in inner-city Sydney, not far from Sydney University, the UTS, Sydney and the ABC’s Ultimo headquarters. In short, Sandalista Country.

Let’s hand over to the SMH journalist to hear his very latest tale of woe:

When I was a fresh-faced student at the nearby University of Sydney, WellCo was an exciting lunch destination during a long break between classes. Later, it became an off-campus ground zero for all manner of plots and schemes. We fooled ourselves into thinking its walls afforded us secrecy. In its upstairs sanctuary we plotted student elections, planned to edit Honi Soit and wrote lurid revues. A meeting at WellCo between two budding student politicians was far enough from Manning Bar to afford the illusion of privacy, but conspicuous enough to be spotted by someone who would fuel the rumour mill.

WellCo was a reliable place to sit and write. Some of my first published works were crafted there, laptop plugged into one of its many power points. As a journalism student, you could take a quiet moment to read the Herald and imagine seeing your name inscribed in its pages.

Go on. Alas, he did.  And on. And on.  All about a café  in Glebe which has just closed. It was like Mr Koziol is in mourning for a close friend who has recently died. [Do you mean “passed”? – MWD Editor.]  The SMH journalist reflected as to why WellCo might have closed its doors – before concluding his piece as follows:

Perhaps only fools hold a candle for a closed cafe. Such is the nature of hospitality: stayers are rare, most things come and go. A few doors down a true Glebe institution, Badde Manors, soldiers on. But in life – where change is constant and youth steadily fades further into the rear-view mirror – it’s nice to hold on to a few things, however simple, however plain. Today in Sydney you can get a $20 poke bowl at every second shop, but you can’t nurse a latte at the Well Connected Cafe for three hours and write poetry. And that’s a damn shame.

It seems that Michael Koziol lacks a certain self-awareness.  No wonder WellCo closed if the likes of Koziol and his uni mates were each occupying a table for a whole three hours while consuming just one latte – in order to write poetry.  It seems that the only way WellCo could have survived is if it had got rid of the skin-flint aspiring poets and sold latte by the bucket load to poetry averse tradies who were not intent on three hour sit-ins. And Fairfax Media reckons this absolute tosh deserves publishing in a newspaper which is shrinking in size by the day.  Can You Bear It?


While on the topic of journalistic self-indulgence, did anyone read Helen Razer’s piece in last Tuesday’s Crikey titled “I turned 50 under capitalism. It was pretty shit except for the food.”?

It turned out that the talented Ms Razer used the occasion of passing two score and ten years to grumble about her financial state.  First up, she confessed to being a white female – and then predicted her continuing financial doom. As if society is somehow at fault for a talented middle aged woman’s financial plight at age 50:

I declare that my person is listed as female and of the variety generally referred to as white. These are not co-ordinates I am wont to disclose and do so here only in the interest of readers eager to evaluate their own experience or that of other social groups against that of a pale and perimenopausal lady.

It is convenient but distressing to report that my current superannuation balance matches the national median for females quite closely. Ladies in the 50-54 age-range are likely to have pleased Mr Keating only to the tune of AU$45,000. Chaps, by contrast, have close to $100,000. Either way, this sum should be enough to fund just a year or two of Uber rides in retirement, and is one increasingly unlikely to grow. The underemployment trend is up for persons in my age range. It is flattering but distressing to report that I am as undesirable to employers as a millennial.

There was lotsa moaning about Aboriginal disadvantage, HECS debt, rent-slaves, youth unemployment – before the following conclusion:

I am 50 and, as a Lady of a Certain Age, I believe that there are certain privileges due. One of these is taking dinner without shame in my bed. Another is telling the Minister for Women that she can take her “financial literacy initiatives” and shove them in the vast space our indistinguishably market-friendly governments have created between the investor class and the rest of us no-asset chumps. Happy Birthday, nonetheless, and even to the wealthy, upbeat few. Believe for as long as you can that the regulation of the many into poverty is something the impoverished many can continue to ignore. In the meantime, treat yourself to a birthday home on the top of a very high hill. For when a lady like me turns 60, all her super will be gone. Instead, she has a pitchfork. It is 2028 and this will be her final purchase from Amazon, the final store in the world. Happy Birthday.

It seems that Ms Razer is unaware that, in Western capitalist societies, there is a social safety net. If Ms Razer has no or little superannuation by the time she reaches the pensionable age, there will be the age pension. So the Crikey  scribbler will be able to purchase another pitchfork after taking an uber to the local Amazon store. Mainly funded by what the Marxists used to call the work slaves – aka taxpayers like Hendo.  Can You Bear It?


Last Tuesday The Australian reported that Nabil Shaath – a senior official in the Palestinian Authority – had criticised the Australian government’s decision to cancel a $10 million aid contribution to the PA.  The Turnbull government recently expressed concern that payments made direct to the Palestinian Authority, headed by Mahmoud Abbas, were being funnelled to pay the families of terrorists who are convicted in Israel of attacking – including killing – Israelis or who die in a terrorist attack.  This money is called by the PA “martyr payments”. Instead, Australia will now forward the $10 million to the United Nations Children’s Fund.

So Australia’s aid will now go to children in the Palestinian Authority and not to the families of PA supported terrorists.  What’s wrong with that?  Lots apparently down Deakin University way – it seems.

Hearing that the PA’s Nabil Shaath’s response to the decision had been to describe Australia as “worthy of being spat on” and “servants of the United States” – Deakin University senior lecturer Scott Burchill rushed to the computer to express his solidarity with the PA operative:

Scott Burchill @IRanalyst

He’s certainly correct in his comments on Australia-US and UN voting –

11:19 AM – 10 Jul 2018

Your man Burchill – who in a brilliant academic career has risen to the lofty heights of a Deakin University senior lecturer – did not distance himself from Shaath’s view that Australia deserves to be spat on due to its alliance with the United States and voting record in the United Nations. Can You Bear It?

[Could it be that Dr Burchill (for a doctor he is) dresses as if he is going to the tip during his occasional appearances on the ABC TV News Breakfast program because – as an Australian – he is prepared to take a spit-projected shower from Mahmoud Abbas’ man for the Aussie team? Just a thought. – MWD Editor.]


Paul (“I once shared clerical digs with Gerald Ridsdale but I don’t talk about it much”) Bongiorno seems to be as addicted to Twitter as President Donald J. Trump.

Here’s Bonge’s contribution last Sunday after Suren Senat tweeted that the ABC TV Insiders panel of Karen Middleton, Peter Van Onselen and Denis Atkins were a load of lefties:

It turns out that there was a certain inaccuracy in the Suren Senat’s tweet. Not all the Insiders panel last Sunday are leftists.  But all united in piling-on the conservative former prime minister Tony Abbott. But MWD is more interested in Bonge’s reply – where the reference to “Dky after dark” should have read “Sky after dark”.

For starters, there are many regular left-of-centre panellists on the Sky News programs which commence after 6 pm.  Including Gay Alcorn, Stephen Conroy, Craig Emerson, Warren Mundine, Nicholas Reece, Graham Richardson and more besides.  In fact, there is usually greater pluralism exhibited on Sky News panels than on ABC TV and radio panels – where there is a tendency for everyone to agree with everyone else.

But what was particularly offensive about Paul Bongiorno’s comment was the use of the racist slur “Uncle Tom” – which was clearly directed at former ALP national president and occasional Sky News panellist Warren Mundine.  This is a term of derision directed at a man of colour who, aware of his own inadequacies and lack of class, sucks up to his betters.

The truth is that the Australian indigenous leader Warren Mundine has taken on leaders in politics (Coalition and Labor alike) as well as in business in calling for improvements in living standards for Indigenous Australians. For Bongiorno to call Mundine an “Uncle Tom” is an appalling slur – and totally unwarranted.

Warren Mundine – and many others – objected to the Bongiorno tweet. But the one-time Catholic priest did not apologise.  In any event, on Tuesday (10 July) the leftist Bonge took up his weekly ABC Radio National Breakfast slot where he was interviewed by presenter Hamish Macdonald.

The previous week your man Macdonald had dressed down Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm for a demeaning comment he made on Sky News about Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.  And yesterday Macdonald complained about the vicious abuse of individuals on Twitter. He later sent out a tweet condemning “personal attacks” on Twitter.

So, given the opportunity of dressing down Paul Bongiorno for the vicious, personal and demeaning comment he made on Twitter about Warren Mundine – what did Hamish Macdonald say?  Nothing – absolutely nothing.  Can You Bear It?


While on the topic of David Leyonhjelm and Hamish Macdonald, MWD just loved parts of the long discussion between them that went to air on Wednesday 4 July 2018 concerning the senator and Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.

Now, MWD stands to be corrected. However, Hendo detected a certain feeling of lost love as the interview proceeded. Here are the highlights:

Hamish Macdonald: The slur against her [Sarah Hanson-Young] came during a debate over whether women should be legally allowed to carry pepper spray. Why didn’t you try to win the argument on that, rather than resorting to name-calling?

David Leyonhjelm: You’re – you really are pushing the friendship here. Name calling did not occur….

As the discussion continued, your man Leyonhjelm appeared to come to the view that what was once a “friendship” was now of the unrequited kind and he had been dumped-on on national radio:

Hamish Macdonald:  Well if I, if I spoke to one of my female colleagues in that way I would immediately be reported to Human Resources. I’d be surprised if I didn’t lose my job.

David Leyonhjelm: Well look, you have your opportunity. Instead of voting for me again at the next election, you’ll vote for somebody else. Probably Sarah, I would imagine.

Hamish Macdonald: (pauses and chuckles). Men obviously, as you say, cop your rants as well….

You see Mr Macdonald did not refute the suggestion that he voted for the libertarian senator in the 2016 double dissolution election. This despite the fact that Senator Leyonhjelm hasn’t changed his style over the years.  Could the RN Breakfast presenter have voted 1 for sexism and misogyny only two years ago – and is now lecturing the sexists and misogynists in our midst?  Can You Bear It?


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”.


While on the issue of personal abuse and ridicule, where is Julia Baird when you need her? When she presents ABC TV’s The Drum, Dr Baird (for a doctor she is) frequently calls for a “respectful conversation” (3 July 2018) or a “civil conversation” (4 July 2018).  And Julia Baird urges her Twitter followers “not to troll any of our guests” (5 July 2018).

Alas, it seems that respect and civility were abandoned when Peter Van Onselen presented The Drum last Tuesday – with a panel that comprised Dr Caroline West (for a lifestyle medical doctor she is), Small Business Party founder Angela Vithoulkas, lawyer Josephine Cashman and McKell Institute Victoria Board member Jamila Rizvi.

Now Mark Latham is not one of Hendo’s besties – as avid MWD readers will be aware.  However, over the last three years (since catching up at the 2015 Melbourne Writers Festival – see Issue 284) they have enjoyed a civil, even respectful, relationship.  It is MWD’s current view that the former Labor Party leader’s position that, in current circumstances, social democrats and conservatives have certain common interests is correct.  Moreover, whether or not you like him or agree with him, Mark Latham does enjoy a degree of support in Australian society.  In any event, there was no civility and scant respect when The Drum panellists piled on your man Latham last Tuesday.

This followed reports that he had done a robo-call, sponsored by Pauline Hanson, supporting minor party candidates in the Longman by-election and urging the voters of Longman to reject Labor Leader Bill Shorten.  Here we go:

Josephine Cashman: I do feel sorry for the people, the good people of the seat of Longman to hear Mark Latham’s voice.

Caroline West: (Laughs)

Josephine Cashman: I mean that would ruin your dinner and you would be choking on your sausage and you would be like “What the hell” –

Caroline West: What is he doing?

Josephine Cashman: I mean seriously

Angela Vithoulkas: Why are you answering your phone at dinner?

Josephine Cashman: – I do feel sorry for the half a million people who are subjected to this. But it is a unique situation. I mean –

Peter van Onselen: Would you want Mark Latham campaigning for you though?

Josephine Cashman: Oh hell no

Peter van Onselen: I mean, he entered the 2004 election, ahead 54-46, and he managed to lose a seat –

Angela Vithoulkas: (intrerrupting) Can I categorically –

Peter van Onselen: (continuing) – in every single state around the country.

Angela Vithoulkas: I wanna say categorically, no thank you, don’t help me next year at the state election Mark. Thanks anyway though.

Josephine Cashman: I mean how desperate do you get to sort of get that washed-up old guy to ring around? You know. But the poor people –

Angela Vithoulkas: But he was probably free, so that’s the right price. And he had nothing else to do, another right price.

Josephine Cashman: Except in his basement fiddling with his equipment, now he’s doing his podcast or something.

Angela Vithoulkas: Now I need to stab my eyes on the image. I think um, I think the interesting thing here is that we have a popular Liberal leader and an unpopular party. And we have an incredibly, as some stats showed today, an incredibly unpopular Labor leader and a party that has a following, clearly. So, I will be very interested to see –

Peter van Onselen: Where that all lands…

Angela Vithoulkas: – where that all lands….

Jamila Rizvi: The one thing I think I do want to add, though, is that the re-entry of Mark Latham at any time, as distressing as it is to many of us, does bring us all together as a country

Peter van Onselen: (Laughs)

Jamila Rizvi: – because the very vast majority of Australians, regardless of how they’re going to vote, aren’t fans of Mark Latham

Peter van Onselen: Yes, well it’s hard to disagree with that. Alright, we’re going to move on.

Not one of The Drum panellists made a considered critical statement concerning Mark Latham.  It was all abuse and ridicule. Even to the extent of Ms Cashman declaring that the 57 year old Mark Latham “is a washed-up old guy” – despite the fact that Prime Minister Turnbull is over six years older than Mark Latham.

Peter and Josephine and Caroline and Angela and Jamila – it’s off to Nancy’s Courtesy Classes for you.




Jackie’s (male) co-owner just loves a you-beaut conspiracy. So Hendo has commissioned Jackie to watch out for new works in this genre.  Last Sunday the following gem was discovered – just after 10 am on Outsiders when co-presenter Ross Cameron responded to the criticism of his position on the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and Yulia Skripal and two others with nerve agent Novichok which was developed in the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Let’s go to the transcript.

Ross Cameron: Gerard [Henderson] took exception to my characterisation of the Skripal nerve agent poisoning. Which – let me just to tell you – if you guys wanna have the fight, wanna camp on this particular story, I’m up for it. I am fully up for it. Because no greater stream of bullshit has been fed to the Australian people by its so-called, you know, establishment news organs – including Sky News – as the Skripal poisoning and, more recently, the reprisal.

And I just want to say to you, I want to ask you, this is a case in which there was absolutely no motive for this alleged poisoning. We had the problem that for –

Rowan Dean: – Other than to kill him.

Ross Cameron: Well, no motive. What you have here is Russia re-emerging from a slumber of several generations, under the pull of Marxism. But the boys on the playground – who have enjoyed their unchallenged dominance for a long period of time – don’t like it.  And we see it in this absolutely magnificent festival of citizen culture of sport – the World Cup – which Russia is doing so beautifully in. And Britain, who bid for the World Cup but lost, cannot cope with the fact that it is going so well.

So right at the time that Putin was running for re-election as president – you know, MI6 and the team had to discover a lethal nerve agent poisoning of a couple who were not allowed to be interviewed, who were hidden away, who the toxicology has never been released, who the Swiss laboratory who reviewed said it was not Novichok, who the head of chemistry at Columbia University says “any senior chemist can make this substance.” It was obviously not lethal. They were happily released from hospital – what? three days, three weeks later? I don’t care.

It was obviously not a nerve agent because all the nerves recovered, and a nerve agent destroys them. One of the two, here in the new Amesbury incident, is a heroin addict. And Theresa May is saying to Russia: “Please explain why a British, dole-bludging heroin addict has just been admitted to Salisbury Hospital.”

Well, I say, Theresa May, you know, I could not find the highlighter and stapler before I came into the office today. So, can MI6 please explain to me where it is? Because it has about as much connection as Russia does to this event. It’s a bull story, it always was, and anyone who defends it has no respect for facts.

Rowan Dean: To quote Ross Cameron: “I got it the first time around, and the time before that.” But, there we go. We’re going to a break, we’ll be back in a tic.

How about that?  According to Ross Cameron (but not Rowan Dean), this is what happened. Britain lost its bid to host the 2018 World Cup to Russia.  Leading figures in the British government could not cope with the fact that the staging of the World Cup by Russia has been very successful.  So the anonymous powers-that-be in London commissioned MI6 to develop the nerve gas Novichok (which was first developed in the Soviet Union when Vladimir Putin was a KGB operative ) and apply it to the Russian defector Sergei Skripal in Salisbury.  The aim was to discredit Russia in general and Putin in particular during the World Cup.  Er, that’s it.  That’s the CONSPIRACY.

According to Ross (“I’m a fan boy of both Marcus Aurelius and Vladimir Putin”) Cameron, there was no motive in this case.  This conveniently overlooks the fact that Sergei Skripal was a Russian double agent who spied for MI6 before settling in Britain. And your man Cameron – who has no expertise in medical science – reckons that the Skripals were not attacked by a nerve agent.  His evidence? Zip.

As to the British citizens Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley who appear to have inadvertently come into contact with Novichok sometime after the Skripal attack – well, the man is a “dole bludging drug addict”. So presumably MI6 are now recruiting drug addicts to the anti-Putin cause. Ross Cameron said nothing about Ms Sturgess last Sunday – sadly she died earlier this week.

In his rant, Ross Cameron attacked the Australian media for spreading falsehoods about the Salisbury incident – including Sky News itself. Really.

So it seems that the Cameron Conspiracy was born in MI6’s London HQ and penetrated all the way to Sky News’ HQ in Sydney’s Macquarie Park.




In Which Ellen & Peter & Bridie & Tim & Nicky Beat the Down-With-Tony-Abbott Drum While Julia & Dee & Stephen & Megan & Karen Rage In Unison Against the Catholic Church

Due to unprecedented demand, the re-booted Maurice Newman Segment gets another run this week. As MWD readers will know, this (hugely popular) segment is devoted to former ABC chairman Maurice Newman’s one-time suggestion that a certain “group think” was prevalent at the ABC. And to former ABC managing director Mark Scott’s belief that there is no causal relationship between the political beliefs of ABC presenters, producers and editors and what they say (or the talent they commission) on ABC television, radio and online outlets.

In other words, Mr Newman believes that the taxpayer funded public broadcaster should be pluralist – while Nice Mr Scott reckons that it is just fine 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.

Formerly this segment involved a play-off between one-time ABC TV Media Watch presenter Jonathan Holmes and Maurice Newman. However, shortly after handing over the Media Watch presenter’s chair to Paul Barry, your man Holmes conceded – at least with respect to ABC Radio – that the likes of Andrew Bolt and Gerard Henderson were correct in maintaining that the taxpayer funded public broadcaster’s output was overwhelmingly leftist (see Jonathan Holmes’ column in Fairfax Media on 5 April 2016 and also MWD Issue 329).

Consequently, Jonathan Holmes was retired from the Maurice Newman Segment and replaced by Nice Mr Scott, who never spoke a critical word about his ABC when he was ABC managing director and (so-called) editor-in-chief. Now read on.

* * * * *

In recent times, even ABC TV Media Watch presenter Paul Barry has agreed with the view that there should be more conservative views on the ABC and that the public broadcaster recruits from too limited a cultural and political gene pool. See Issue 412:

In his perceptive column in the “Media” section of The Australian on 2 July 2018, Chris Mitchell quoted Paul Barry’s comment and then drew attention to the debate on ABC TV’s The Drum program on 25 June 2018 about the proposed National Energy Guarantee Scheme (or NEG). It was one of those discussions on the taxpayer funded public broadcaster where everyone agrees with everyone else on the intellectually fashionable issues of the day.

Ellen Fanning was in the presenter’s chair as the Sydney Morning Herald’s Peter Hartcher agreed with The Guardian Australia’s  Bridie Jabour who agreed with Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane who agreed with University of Technology Sydney’s Institute for Sustainable Futures’ Nicky Ison that the main purpose of the NEG was to reduce emissions and increase reliability.  There was no focus on the cost of electricity. And, of course, all the panellists agreed with each other that coal has no future as a producer of energy within Australia.

Your man Hartcher asserted that former prime minister Tony Abbott’s only interest in the energy debate was to score political points against Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. He did not concede that Mr Abbott has a genuine concern about the rising cost of electricity over the past decade and its impact on less well off Australians who struggle to pay power bills. And Comrade Jabour asserted that the “right wing of the government and the Liberal Party believe in coal for purely ideological reasons and certainly not for practical ones”. She provided no evidence for this assertion.


It was much the same in the episode of The Drum which aired on 3 July 2018 following the sentencing of Archbishop Philip Wilson for not reporting a case of child sexual abuse of which he was informed some four decades ago when a junior priest in the Maitland-Newcastle diocese.  Presenter Julia Baird was in the chair as, variously, Dee Madigan and Stephen O’Doherty and Megan Motto and Karen Middleton paid out on Archbishop Wilson in particular and the Catholic Church in general. No other view was heard.  For the record, the legal case against Wilson was highly technical and the archbishop has appealed the magistrate’s decision.

At one stage Julia Baird conceded: “There seems to be a consensus on the panel here” – after previously having bagged the Catholic Church’s “obstructive clericalism”. That’s “debate”, ABC-style – or rather “group think”.

And now let’s go to the scoreboard.

Maurice Newman   :        4

Nice Mr Scott        :        Zip


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).


Of late there has been a bevy of prominent ABC identities lining up to declare that the ABC is not a Conservative Free Zone (pace Julia Baird, Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales) and is really and truly balanced (pace Richard Glover). Hendo raised this matter with the ABC Radio Drive with Richard Glover presenter. Here we go:

Gerard Henderson to Richard Glover – 11 July 2018


I note that you and some other ABC presenters (including Julia Baird) have been out stating the case for the public broadcaster in recent days.  This is understandable – since most of us are likely to defend our workplace and work friends and associates against criticism.

I was interested in this tweet which you sent out on 4 July 2018:

richard glover (@rgloveroz)
4/7/18, 8:54 am

I’ve been at the ABC for years and never seen this level of abuse – from left and right. No enthusiasm for our attempt at balance; none for our desire to reach out to all, and not be hunted into niche broadcasting. My fear: only when it’s gone will they realise what’s been lost.

I do not believe that any government – Coalition, Labor or whatever – is going to abolish or privatise the ABC.  So I do not think that the ABC will ever be “gone”.  Assuming this judgement is correct, there remains the criticism of the ABC which upsets you, Julia Baird and more besides.

In her series of tweets on 18 June 2018, Dr Baird said that it was “bizarre” for anyone to claim that “there are no ‘mainstream or conservative’ managers, producers or voices at the ABC”. She added that such a claim is “factually incorrect” since “there are many” such conservatives.  However, Julia Baird did not name any. As you will be aware, Annabel Crabb agreed “with every word” of Julia Baird’s tweets.  But she also did not name any of the conservatives.

As we have discussed in the past, I hold the view that Drive with Richard Glover on ABC Sydney Radio is a fair and balanced program.  But is just one program on the public broadcaster which runs multiple television and radio stations in the main capital cities plus a website and so on.

You refer to the ABC’s “attempt at balance”.  That’s all very well.  Yet despite the refrains of Dr Baird and Ms Crabb – the ABC remains a Conservative Free Zone without one conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets.

If, as you say, the ABC is committed to “balance” and desires to “reach out to all” – then such a commitment should be reflected in pluralism within the public broadcaster itself.

I note that Julia Baird and Leigh Sales run the line that no-one-knows-how-individuals-vote. This implies that some ABC employees vote for the Coalition.  Maybe they do.  But voting Coalition does not make someone a conservative.  For example, Amanda Vanstone votes for the Liberal Party – but she emphatically denies being a conservative.

The key question is whether any prominent ABC identities support what are commonly regarded as contemporary conservative positions in the political debate.

For example, can you – or Julia Baird or Annabel Crabb or Leigh Sales or, indeed, Michelle Guthrie – name one or more prominent ABC identities who agree with one or more 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 hold 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.

▪ Advocates of renewable energy grossly exaggerate the consequences of climate change and falsely blame CO2 emissions for any global warming that can be identified.

▪ Coal fired power stations are a reliable and relatively cheap form of electrical generation for Australia and other nations.

▪ Governments should immediately abandon subsidies for such renewable industries as solar and wind.

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I doubt that any ABC presenter, producer or editor of prominent television, radio or online outlets would hold even a couple of these views.

Unless my thesis can be disproved – the ABC clearly does not reflect the political and social diversity in the Australian community.  A genuine ABC attempt at “balance” would see political and social diversity within the organisation.

So my question is – if the ABC is intent on balance, why is it a Conservative Free Zone with respect to ABC identities who work on its prominent programs.

Over to you.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

Richard Glover to Gerard Henderson – 11 July 2018

Hi Gerard,

I enjoyed doing your quiz and was personally interested in how I scored. My view, though, is that my own opinions are not the point; I rather like people not knowing them. As a hopefully-professional journalist I should, during an interview with a proponent, be able to put the other side on any of the issues you mention. It’s true, I think, that I found it difficult to hide my own positive view about gay marriage, but on many of the other issues you mention I’d hope listeners would not know my views.

Certainly I have had listeners complain about both my pro-Israeli views and my anti-Israeli views. Some strongly believe I’m in favour of offshore detention; some believe the opposite. My friend Peter FitzSimons shakes his bandannaed head at my disinclination to sign-up with his Republicans.

I’m not claiming to be perfect in these things and perhaps sometimes a view does slip through. For instance: those dockless share bikes were an alienation of public space for corporate profit rather than some sign of environmental hope! I hope though, even in these cases, I don’t “privilege” my views above those of anyone else; nor hold contrary facts or views out-of-sight of the listener.  My task here is really a traditional journalistic one: to try and establish a “town square” in which people of all ages and views can mingle, talk and hear the opinions of others. I worry that, due to the silo-effect of social media, some listeners no-longer understand this project.

Some of the responses to my tweet were from the left, saying “we don’t want balance, we want the truth” – the “truth” being, of course, code for having their own opinion repeated back to them, and never having what they see as the appalling indignity of hearing from someone aligned with the IPA. There were similar responses from people on the right.

It was interesting that, in the admittedly weird world of Twitter, the responses seemed evenly divided between those who believed the ABC had been captured by the right and those who believed it had been captured by the left. Outside the weird world of Twitter, I take comfort that most Australians do understand what we are trying to achieve, with the latest survey showing 80 percent trust the ABC, compared to an average trust of 57 per cent for the commercial media.

So maybe, despite my fears, the precious town square still exists.

Best from me


PS: I noticed you mentioned in one of your Media Watch Dog blogs that you didn’t view Australia All Over as part of the key broadcasting done by the ABC in the same way as something like Q&A. I did want to mumble back: Mate, it’s Australia’s most listened to radio show!

Gerard Henderson to Richard Glover – 13 July 2018


Thanks for your (courteous) reply.  I note, however, that you did what many journalists accuse politicians of doing.  Namely, avoiding the question.  You did not provide the name of one presenter, producer or editor of a prominent ABC television, radio or online outlet who would hold one or more contemporary conservative positions in the political debate.

I have always acknowledged that you are highly professional as a presenter and interviewer.  But the same cannot be said of all your counterparts. If the ABC is as committed to a “town square” as you claim – how come there are so many “left-of-centre” types conducting the prominent debates but not one right-of-centre type?

I understand that it’s the ABC line to quote surveys that 80 per cent of Australians trust the ABC news.  If this is a meaningful figure, then ABC TV News would outrate both Channel 9 and Channel 7 news. It does not beat either.

By the way, I did not ask you to “score” my “quiz”.  I just asked if you are aware of anyone at the ABC who holds such conservative positions. Alas, like Julia Baird and Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales – you did not name any names.

Keep Morale High.


PS: You may be correct about Australia All Over – but I do not regard it as a prominent program like Q&A.  The last time I tuned in, Ian McNamara was discussing the implication for conservatives of the fact that a three legged cattle dog at the Nowra Fair had fallen into a sheep dip and come up infested with fleas.  Your man McNamara is not Edmund Burke, you know.


In MWD Issue 412, Gerard Henderson commented on ABC Radio National Breakfast presenter Hamish Macdonald’s ultra-soft interview with the Rev Rob MacPherson on 25 June 2018. Rev MacPherson wrote to Gerard Henderson about this last Friday 6 July and received a reply. Here we go:

Rob MacPherson to Gerard Henderson – 6 July 2018

Dear Mr. Henderson,

I appreciate the extra attention you recently gave my interview with Hamish MacDonald on ABC Radio National in which I called for an end of the seal of the confessional by the Catholic Church. I would like to address some of the points that you made in your Media Watch Dog column of June 29.

  1. “He said that he would not name the archdiocese where the incident occurred.

I was born and grew up in the United States, which is where the abuse occurred. However, I fail to see this is germane to the change I advocated in the ABC interview. The relevant point is that the sealed confessional enabled and prolonged suffering in a way that mandatory reporting would not have done. The pain is the same – whether it occurred in America or Australia.

  1. “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 … In the incident described by Rob McPherson {sic} 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.

Oh, that we lived in a world where priests could be relied upon to do the right thing in every case. Or that nine-year-olds could parse the difference between complicity and coercion. As a Catholic boy, I did not imagine myself to be the victim of crime. I imagined myself to be guilty of sin.

In my case, the confessor priest both gave me absolution and told me I was not to blame – which in hindsight is crazy-making all by itself. What the priest did not do was report the abuse nor take any action that would remove the deacon who abused me from his position of privilege – with the potential for future abuse – within our parish.

While your point about canon law may be literally true for a theologian in December 2017, in practical terms, the seal of the confessional has veiled great pain and suffering for many decades – indeed centuries – causing many Catholic children to flee the faith of their families, as I did.

I have the privilege of knowing acting archbishop of Adelaide Greg O’Kelly as an intelligent, wise and compassionate man, having worked for him nearly 20 years ago. Indeed, I moved to Adelaide from the UK to become Director of Creative Arts at St. Ignatius College precisely because I found him an impressive man with true moral authority. He remains the best ‘boss’ I’ve ever had. I appealed to Bishop O’Kelly to use his authority to nuance and improve on canon law, not to dispense with it, something which has been done in the past.

Up until about the sixth century, confession was a public practice, given in the presence of fellow believers, and absolution and grace were bestowed communally. Sealed confession was widely practised within the church only from the 11th century. I believe that the sacrament of confession is as flawed as the people who practice it. Along with indulgences, the abuse of confession by a psychosexually immature celibate clergy was a contributing factor to the Protestant Reformation.

Knowing everyone’s darkest, most shameful secrets gave the priestly class immense power, and for all their ontological posturing, priests are merely people, subject to the same stupidities and venalities as the rest of us. Holding others’ secrets led to priestly abuses ranging from sexual coercion, financial gain, and political influence. Institutional corruptions such as these continue to the present day – even here in Australia – a fact that the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has made plain.

  1. Rod {sic} MacPherson’s schoolboy experience is sad. But it has nothing to do with the debate currently taking place in South Australia about the secrecy of confession.

While it may be easy to dismiss the lived experience of sexual abuse and misbegotten confession, it is much more difficult to reject the experience of the multitudes of people who came forth to share their stories of pain and shame before the Royal Commission, which recommended an end to the seal on the confessional. My experience has everything to do with the debate in SA because it is not unique. I came forward to Bishop O’Kelly – and consequently to the media – not to aggrandise myself, but to do what I could to prevent any more innocent Catholic children from going through what I did.

With the Archbishop of Adelaide Philip Wilson absent due to his conviction for covering up historical child sexual abuse in his church and the acting archbishop publicly stating the intention to ignore mandatory reporting laws that come into force in SA this October, I cannot and will not keep silent.

My aim is not to attack Bishop O’Kelly personally nor to seek revenge upon the Catholic Church. It is simply to prevent the concealment of further abuse through an antiquated practice that has had its day.

Yours sincerely,

Rev. Rob MacPherson


Unitarian Church of South Australia

Gerard Henderson to Rob MacPherson – 9 July 2018

Dear Rev MacPherson

I refer to your email of 6 July 2018. In response, I make the following comments:

  1. You wrote a letter to Bishop Greg O’Kelly (the Acting Catholic Archbishop of Adelaide) criticising his response to the proposed South Australian legislation on the seal of confession.  You then released this letter to the media – and was interviewed on the matter on the ABC Radio National Breakfastprogram by Hamish Macdonald.

In other words, you have no problems with identifying the Archdiocese of Adelaide in your debate with the Catholic Church in Australia.  However, you refuse to name the archdiocese in the United States where you went to confession some decades ago.  Also you have not stated the year in which the incident occurred. Or whether your abuser is still alive. Or whether you reported the abuse to police when you became an adult.

  1. The date is important since there has been a significant change in attitudes towards child sexual assault in recent years.  I do not happen to believe that Archbishop Philip Wilson is the only person not to have reported an incident of child sexual abuse in Australia since the end of the Second World War. (For the record, as you know, the Archbishop is appealing his conviction to a superior court in New South Wales).  In decades past, it was common not to believe the testimony of children who alleged sexual assault by an adult.  Many adults refused to believe children in this instance – including parents, relatives, doctors, clergy and even police.

Contrary to your claim, there is no evidence in Australia that the seal of confession has “enabled” child sexual abuse.  In short, there is no evidence that pedophiles – including ordained priests and religious brothers – confess child sexual abuse in the confessional.  Likewise there is no evidence that pedophiles advise medical professionals of their crimes.

In any event, few Catholics go to confession these days.  Moreover, any legislation compelling a priest to report a confession of child sexual abuse to police would almost certainly mean that no such confession would be made.  In any event, confession is secret and the confessor would not usually know the identity of the person making the confession.

  1. According to your own account, the priest who heard your confession told you that you were not to blame for the sexual assault you suffered.  I don’t know what else he was supposed to say to you.  For whatever reason, the priest who heard your confession did not report the crime of the abuser to authorities in church or state. All I have said is that I do not regard his inaction in this instance as resulting from the directions of Canon Law – since you were the abused not the abuser and you had not committed a sin which would have been covered by the seal of confession.
  2. I note your regard for Bishop O’Kelly. I also note that, rather than engage with the Archbishop of Adelaide on a personal level, you released your personal correspondence with him to the media.

Your comments about the seal of confession in the 6th Century, the 11th Century and at the time of Reformation are all very interesting.  But they are of scant relevance to the early 21st Century where, in Western societies at least, few Catholics go to confession.

I am not aware that the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Assault made any findings linking the seal of confession in recent years to such “corruptions” as “sexual coercion, financial gain and political influence”. What is your evidence for this assertion?

  1. It is true that “multitudes of people…came forth to share their stories of pain and shame before the Royal Commission which recommended an end to the seal of the confessional”. It is also true that around 60 per cent of those who reported child sexual abuse in a religious setting were in Catholic institutions.  At the time, around 80 per cent of children in religious settings would have been in Catholic institutions – since the Church ran its own school system along with more orphanages and hospitals than other religious institutions.  In short, on the Royal Commission’s own findings, a child in a Catholic religious setting was safer than a child in a non-Catholic religious setting (where the sacrament of confession was not practised).  Yet you would never know this from following the coverage of the Royal Commission on the ABC or Fairfax Media

The Royal Commission did not provide any evidence of a link between child sexual assault and the seal of confession. What’s more, as the journalist Joanne McCarthy – a fervent critic of the Catholic Church in Australia – pointed out in The Drum on 3 July 2018, most child abuse occurs in families, not in institutions.  The debate on confession in the Catholic Church is a distraction from addressing the current problems of contemporary child abuse victims.

Your intention “to prevent the concealment of further abuse through an antiquated practice [i.e. confession] that has had its day” – is laudable. However, there is no evidence that Catholic priests are hearing confessions of child sexual abuse – from priests, the religious or laity – which they are not reporting to the authorities.

Yours sincerely

Gerard Henderson

PS: Apologies that on one occasion in MWD Issue 412 your first name was spelt incorrectly and on another occasion your surname was spelt incorrectly. These typos have been corrected.


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Until next time.


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