ISSUE – NO. 417

03 August 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: Mike Smith’s News Breakfast’s Catholic “joke”

  • ABC UPDATE: ABC Life throws the switch to Wellness and why Michelle Guthrie needs her own fact checker

  • MEDIA FOOL OF THE WEEK: Jane Caro sees Trump in Longman

  • CAN YOU BEAR IT? The Drum in Search of Conservatives; Farewell to old Fairfax from Katharine Murphy, Virginia Trioli & Michelle Grattan; Ellen Fanning’s Interviewing Double Standards

  • FIVE PAWS AWARD: Barrie Cassidy scores for his Insiders Mea Culpa

  • MWD EXCLUSIVE: Lawyer Fr Frank Brennan to the NSW Attorney General re the Unavailability of the Court’s Decision in the Philip Wilson Case

  • NEW SEGMENT – Jackie looks back on False Prophecy: Ross Cameron’s Super Saturday Super Howler

  • DOCUMENTATION: Warren Mundine & Michelle Guthrie re Uncle Bonge’s Tweet

  • CORRESPONDENCE: Julia Baird helps out re The ABC as a Conservative Free Zone – Or Not

 * * * *


The big hand was close to 7 and the little hand was on 9 when the “Newspapers” segment commenced on ABC TV News Breakfast this morning.  The co-presenters were Ben Knight and Virginia Trioli – and Mike Smith of Inside Public Relations had the gig.

Jackie’s (male) co-owner was nodding off as your man Smith ploughed through this morning’s print and online media.  But he woke up when Mr Smith, a former editor of The Age, criticised some commercial online media outlets for “providing news for free” – while providing news for free on the taxpayer funded public broadcaster.

Then finally, Mr Smith decided to have a go at clichés.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Mike Smith: While we’re on Coles if we have time, the Coles managing director was one of a number of people who should know better who used a cliché today that we’ve got to kill. When he said, “customer service is in our DNA”.

Virginia Trioli: Oh yeah.

Mike Smith: Others just in the past week who’ve used it, and again all these people should know better. Greg Hywood – “quality is in our DNA”, Jon Faine – “quality over ratings is in our DNA”, Huawei corporation in full page ads – “innovation is in our DNA”. Even the Catholic archbishop in America used it when he said “looking after the flock is in our DNA”. When a Catholic archbishop uses it you know it’s time to stop using it.

[Lotsa Laughter]

Virginia Trioli: Ouch

Mike Smith: It’s become a dead word.

Virginia Trioli: [interjecting] You’re going to get us into trouble….

And so yet another morning on the ABC commenced with a dose of anti-Catholic sectarianism as Mike laughed loudly at his very own Catholic archbishop “joke” and Virginia and Ben joined in.

[As I recall, when ABC managing director and (so-called) editor-in-chief, Mark Scott was wont to say that efficiency was in the ABC’s “organisational DNA”, I don’t recall anyone on the ABC laughing at Nice Mr Scott when he pretended to run the joint. – MWD Editor.]



As Darren Davidson reveals in The Australian Online today, the ABC’s new lifestyle website will launch on Monday. Titled ABC Life, it provides yet another instance where the taxpayer funded public broadcaster is moving into areas once the preserve of the commercial media. In Britain, the BBC’s march into commercial media territory has been curtailed – but not so in Australia.

ABC Life will be led by Scott Spark and cover such topics as recipes, travel, fashion, relationships and sex – not necessarily in that order. It will be directed at sheilas – which is somewhat condescending, don’t you think?

Apparently staff at the new site include leftist Osman Faruqi who as recently as 1 August tweeted that “Australians are deeply conservative, insular and fearful people with a collective delusion that they are laidback and forward thinking.”

It appears unlikely that ABC Life will change the reality of the ABC as a Conservative Free Zone.


ABC managing director and (so-called) editor-in-chief Michelle Guthrie has created ABC Life out of the ABC Content Fund that she recently established.  This is a down-market move from the ABC’s intended role in providing first rate coverage of news and current affairs along with the arts and where possible, sport.

Ms Guthrie’s attention to the Content Fund and the like has led to a situation where – like her predecessor Mark Scott – she does not focus adequately on her important responsibilities as editor-in-chief.

Today’s Documentation section carries correspondence between Warren Mundine and Michelle Guthrie concerning the racist term “Uncle Tom” which was used against him by ABC contractor Paul Bongiorno when Mr Bongiorno was attempting to defend the ABC.

As the correspondence makes clear, Ms Guthrie is not fully aware of the ABC’s very own social media policy.  Nor was her letter adequately fact-checked before it was sent.  And so it has come to pass that the ABC is moving into areas of wellness and relationships while it does not adequately fact-check its own content.



There is a debate about what the Super Saturday by-elections last weekend mean. Were they the results that should be expected in by-elections where there is a traditional swing against a government? – especially since no government has won a seat from the opposition in a by-election since 1920.  Or did the results – especially in the outer Brisbane seat of Longman – indicate a softness in the Coalition’s vote? Especially since Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull presented the campaign as a test of his leadership as against Opposition leader Bill Shorten.

None of the above – according to the leftist luvvie Jane Caro. This is what Ms Caro had to say about the matter late on Sunday night:


Just when Australians were reflecting on whether such matters as company tax cuts and hospital funding could have been central to the outcome, Ms Caro explained the results of the by-election in Longman (Queensland), Braddon (Tasmania), Mayo (South Australia), Perth and Fremantle (Western Australia) as a vote against Donald J Trump and his (alleged) racism.  This despite the fact that President Trump was not on the ballot paper and did not feature in the campaign. Clearly, Jane Caro has a severe case of Trump Derangement Syndrome.

Jane Caro: Media Fool of the Week.

[How condescending can you get?  Does Jane Caro really believe that the good people of Longman, Braddon, Mayo, Perth and Fremantle give a toss what a Sydney-based leftist thinks about how they voted last Saturday? Perhaps this piece should have been run in the hugely popular “Can You Bear It?” segment.  Just a thought. MWD Editor.]



 Can You Bear It


What a stunning column by Julia Baird in Fairfax Media newspapers last Saturday. The Fairfax Media columnist, who is also a presenter of ABC TV’s The Drum, complained about the intolerance of viewers who abuse the (few) conservatives who appear on the program. Towards the end of her piece, Dr Baird (for a doctor she is) made the following point:

It’s incredibly frustrating to witness silos of ideas calcify in Australia. But when conservative advocates, thinkers, pundits and policy analysts like those from the IPA do appear on the show, Twitter automatically erupts with abuse – irrespective of what they actually say.

This is foolish. Silos are about gathering armies, about attack, and the casualties are civility and persuasion. It’s taking more and more muscle to carve out public spaces for argument, not antagonism, and for talking, not trolling. If you have only conviction without persuasion, you won’t convince anyone.

So, on Saturday, Julia Baird – a co-presenter of The Drum – called for more conservatives to come on the program.  She also wrote that it is only the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) identities who “are shouted down when they are on air”.

That was Saturday.  On Monday, Georgina Downer, a former adjunct fellow at the IPA who was the unsuccessful Liberal Party candidate in the Mayo by-election, was invited on to The Drum to be interviewed by co-presenter Ellen Fanning. What happened?  Well, in an extraordinarily unprofessional interview, Ms Fanning berated and verballed Ms Downer – even to the extent of questioning whether she could have a considered position on any issue in view of the fact that mining magnate Gina Rinehart is said to be a generous financial supporter of the IPA.  This despite the fact that Georgina Downer said that she never had a role in managing the IPA or in the organisation’s fund-raising.

This would be a bit like saying that Ellen Fanning cannot hold a considered personal view on any issue in view of the fact that she works for an organisation which is dependent on government funding.

MWD readers can hear the aggressive Fanning interview here and judge for themselves.  But if Ms Baird wonders why conservatives are reluctant to come on The Drum, she should have a listen to Ellen Fanning’s interview which was really an interrogation. Can You Bear It?


MWD does not welcome the demise of any form of journalism, no matter how left-wing. So the likely take-over of Fairfax Media by Nine is regrettable – albeit probably necessary in view of Fairfax Media’s condition, which was discussed in last week’s editorial.

Yet Jackie’s somewhat tribal (male) co-owner was interested in the following three tweets from MWD’s faves – namely, Katharine Murphy, Virginia Trioli and Michelle Grattan – which were sent out on Thursday 26 July soon after Nine’s takeover of Fairfax Media was announced.  If the takeover goes ahead, the title Fairfax Media will be junked.  Here we go:


Katharine Murphy‏Verified account @murpharoo


“The merged company will be called Nine”. I’ve spent most of my working life at Fairfax. I want to cry.



Virginia TrioliVerified account @LaTrioli

They gave away the name “Fairfax”? I want to cry, too. @murpharoo


And Michelle Grattan tweeted Denis Muller’s article from The Conversation titled “A modern tragedy: Nine-Fairfax merger a disaster for quality media”

Tears were streaming down Hendo’s face as he read these tweets.  Until he thought about a few harsh realities.

٠ Murph left Fairfax Media for The Guardian Australia – which dumps news and analysis on the web free of charge and is one of Fairfax Media’s competitors.

٠ La Trioli left Fairfax Media for the taxpayer funded ABC – which dumps news and analysis for free on the web and is one of Fairfax Media’s competitors.

٠ Grats left Fairfax Media for the taxpayer funded The Conversation – which dumps analysis for free on the web and is one of Fairfax Media’s competitors.

Since The Guardian Australia, the ABC and The Conversation are on the left of the political debate, they have harmed Fairfax Media’s print and online outlets more than News Corp which has a different market base. This did not stop Ms Murphy, Ms Trioli and Ms Grattan expressing regret at the demise of Fairfax in which they all have played a (small) part.  Can You Bear It?


While on the issue of Ellen Fanning as interviewer, consider her contrasting styles when she presented 7.30 while Leigh Sales was absent from the program.

On 16 July 2018, Ms Fanning interviewed Sebastian Gorka, who worked briefly in the White House for the Trump Republican Party administration and is a supporter of the President.  Then on 23 July 2018, Ms Fanning interviewed Madeleine Albright, a former US Secretary of State in President Bill Clinton’s Democratic Party administration and the author of the recently released Fascism: A Warning.

Ellen Fanning indicated early in the program on 16 July that she had little time for President Trump.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Ellen Fanning: It has been suggested that Mr Putin could pull out maps of Crimea or Ukraine, and say, “Well, let’s put a permanent border here or here”. Would Mr Trump understand the implications of doing a deal like that?

Sebastian Gorka: Sorry, are you going to pull out weird scenarios from thin air? We could talk about how Vladimir Putin could invite him to play croquet in St Petersburg?

Ellen Fanning: But there is no formal agenda for the meeting, Dr Gorka. Why wouldn’t Mr Putin try that – given there is no agenda?

Sebastian Gorka: Because he is not a stupid man and he realises that Donald Trump is the most powerful man in the world and you don’t create a positive relationship at any level, at any level by starting it with something as aggressive as that. So, no, I don’t expect him to be pulling out maps of Crimea…

Ellen Fanning: It is a tough conversation, yeah?

Sebastian Gorka: It will be a tough conversation. These are both alpha males, they are both powerful individuals – although the Russia of today is a shadow of the Soviet Union. But it will be a serious conversation between serious men.

Ellen Fanning:  And yet he says, thinking of this tough conversation he has with Putin that it’s actually an easier discussion than talking to NATO or talking to the British?

Sebastian Gorka: Oh, I agree, I agree it is. For the last generation, NATO has been a lot of talk and not a lot of seriousness. There has been a lot of lovely protocol discussions and not talking candidly about real issues, like the fact that 80 per cent of NATO members don’t keep their promises to pay for their own defence, and are free-loaders. So I don’t think you will have a lot of needless protocol between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

Ellen Fanning: See, that seems extraordinary to me that it’s easier to talk to Mr Putin about his annexation of Crimea, about his support for the Syrian tyrant Bashar al-Assad, about the fact that Russia supplied weapons to shoot down MH-17, about the fact that Russian agents have taken Novichok into the UK and accidentally killed an innocent civilian – that’s an easier conversation than talking about defence budgets?

Sebastian Gorka: Why are you so adamant at being critical of the President?

A good question, to be sure.  But one that was not necessary to ask when Madeline Albright was interviewed by Ellen Fanning on 23 July 2018 when the following leading questions were asked of Dr Albright whose book Fascism: A Warning is very much a criticism of President Trump. Here are some examples:

Ellen Fanning: Ms Albright, a theme of this book is that fascism creeps up on you, not everyone sees it coming. What are the warning signs?

Ellen Fanning: I was astonished to read in your book that Donald Trump’s line “drain the swamp”, by which he means get the vested interests out of Washington, is taken directly from Mussolini who said “drenare la palude” which means “drain the swamp”. Does Donald Trump have the instincts of an authoritarian?

Ellen Fanning: How do you view President Trump’s recent European trip, his denigration of NATO leaders, his humiliation of the UK Prime Minister with that Sun article and then the summit with Vladimir Putin?

Ellen Fanning: To what extent, in your opinion, is the problem with Mr Trump an ignorance of history?

You get the picture?  Ms Fanning aggressively interrogates President Trump’s friends – like Sebastian Gorka. And Ms Fanning sucks up to President Trump’s political enemies – like Madeleine Albright. Can You Bear It?




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 Ashton is a past Five Paws Award recipient. He is joined today by Barrie Cassidy.

This is how presenter Barrie Cassidy commenced the panel discussion on the ABC TV Insiders program last Sunday:

Barrie Cassidy:  Okay, off the top. The media, I’m part of it, we’re all part of it – I think the media predicated maybe 90 per cent of its pre-poll analysis on the basis that Labor would lose one or perhaps two of those seats.  We wasted your time, we wasted a lot of your time on that.  Is it time for a mea culpa?

Good point.  In the lead-up to Super Saturday, many journalists – including members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery in Canberra – held the view that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was increasing his lead in the the more popular leader category and that the Coalition would defeat Labor in at least one seat and possibly two.  There was a view that the Liberal National Party could win Longman and that the Liberal Party might win Braddon.  As we all know now – and a few political pundits predicted before the event – neither outcome occurred.

Your man Cassidy put his mea culpa proposition to panellists Katharine Murphy (The Guardian Australia), Malcolm Farr (News Corp) and Niki Savva (The Australian). It’s fair to state that none of this trio welcomed the idea of confessing errors on national television early in the morning.

Murph (as Malcolm Farr likes to call her) was the most reasonable.  She gave a “yes and no” answer to Barrie Cassidy. Then your man Farr had his say:

Malcolm Farr:  Well like I’m just worried – I don’t feel like apologising to anyone even though you’ve kindly invited me to.

Barrie Cassidy:  You think there might have been a bit of a correction though, in order?

Malcolm Farr: From whom? Me?

Barrie Cassidy:  Well in terms of the story around the country was that Bill Shorten’s leadership was in strife.

Malcolm Farr:  Well not from me, I’ve specifically written that his leadership is not in – that’s why – please don’t throw blanks out and expect me to stand up.

Now it’s true that Malcolm Farr did state that Mr Shorten’s leadership was in no difficulty if the Labor Party lost one or two by-elections.  But it is also true that Malcolm Farr commenced his piece on the website on Friday 26 July 2018 – which was headed “Party concerns as Labor faces Super Saturday by-election defeats” – as follows:

Labor is facing the wrenching prospect of losing every seat it contests against the Liberals in Saturday’s multi by-election showdown.

It seems that your man Farr is not the mea culpa type.  For her part, Ms Savva agreed with Mr Farr – but without the same sense of defensiveness. A good move don’t you think? – in view of the fact that this is what she wrote in her column in The Australian on Thursday 26 July 2018:

It is tempting to say no matter what happens in Saturday’s by-elections it’s a win-win for Malcolm Turnbull. If the Prime Minister regains Longman or Braddon, or, even more incredibly, pulls off a historic double, he will have accomplished a once-in-a-century feat. And if he doesn’t, well, it still helps ensure Bill Shorten survives as Opposition Leader….

Two precious commodities in Australian politics today, and the rarest, are stability and trust. After months of painstaking work, Turnbull has restored some faith. Queenslanders report the Liberal National Party feels better about Turnbull’s prime ministership. They will never love him but it appears they are getting used to him. In Tasmania, they reckon he is well liked. Turnbull has rebuilt his standing by getting on with the job….

The result in Braddon was reasonable for an incumbent government.  However, the decline in the LNP vote in Longman poses serious problems for the Coalition in the lead-up to the election which is likely to be held by May next year. In Longman the LNP primary vote dropped to 29.7 per cent.  It was at 44.8 per cent in the 2013 election.

In the discussion, Barrie Cassidy acknowledges that journalists have underestimated Bill Shorten’s ability as a campaigner in the past – and had done so again last Saturday.  His panel did not embrace this rare example of media self-criticism. But his view was correct.

Barrie Cassidy: Five Paws.



As pointed out in Issue 414, the 3 July 2018 edition of ABC TV’s The Drum included a discussion on the sentencing of Archbishop Philip Wilson after he was found guilty by a magistrate in Newcastle Local Court for not reporting a case of child sexual abuse when he was a junior priest in the Maitland-Newcastle diocese some four decades ago.

It was one of those familiar ABC scenarios where everyone-agrees-with-everyone-else as presenter Julia Baird plus her panellists Dee Madigan, Karen Middleton, Megan Motto and Stephen O’Doherty paid out on the Catholic Church in general and Archbishop Wilson in particular.  No other view was heard.  At one stage Dr Baird declared: “There seems to be a consensus panel here.”  The presenter was part of the consensus – she bagged the Catholic Church’s “obstructive clericalism”.

What Julia Baird and her panellists did not say was that no one had read Magistrate Robert Stone’s decision since it was not released – not even in a redacted form with the names of the victims blackened out. The decision still has not been released and may never be released.  As pointed out in Issue 414, the judgment can only be read, under supervision, in Newcastle Local Court and, then, only handwritten notes can be taken. It is extraordinary that an important legal decision which has attained international attention has not been released in any form in Australia.

The lawyer Fr. Frank Brennan S.J., who travelled to Newcastle to read the decision, under supervision, has written to NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman SC with a view to a redacted publication of the decision in the DPP v Wilson being made available – in the interest of justice. Frank Brennan’s letter to Mark Speakman is set out below:

Xavier House

122 Empire Circuit

Yarralumla ACT 2600


27 July 2018


The Hon. Mark Speakman, SC MP

Attorney General of New South Wales

GPO Box 5341,

Sydney NSW 2001


Dear Mr Attorney

Re: Possible Redacted Publication of Magistrate Stone’s Judgment in the matter of Wilson, Newcastle Court, 22 May 2018

In the interests of justice being seen to be done, I urge you to reform the processes of the New South Wales Magistrates Courts in two particulars.

First, when the court delivers a judgment which contains material which might identify particular persons entitled not to have their identities published, the court should provide a means whereby interested persons might gain access to a redacted copy of the judgment in the same way as they would have access to any other judgment of the Magistrates Court, while ensuring the anonymity of all persons entitled to a suppression order.

Second, when the court delivers a judgment (especially when outside Sydney) which is said to be a “world first” and “of international significance”, the court should ensure that the judgment is accessible not just to those media outlets and interest groups with the resources or proximity to the local court where the decision is delivered.  At the very least, a copy of the judgment should be made available in Sydney.

On 22 May 2018, Magistrate Stone delivered a 59 page judgment convicting one Philip Wilson of an offence under the highly problematic and relatively untested s.316 Crimes Act.  This conviction has attracted international attention and has involved the Prime Minister and the Australian Ambassador to the Holy See being involved in calls for the dismissal of the defendant from a high position held in the Catholic Church.  It is essential that persons responding to or acting on such calls have access to good advice which cannot be proffered unless the substance of the judgment is available for scrutiny.  Absent such scrutiny, there is an increased risk that Australian judicial processes will be compared with “kangaroo courts”.

It is very regrettable that a redacted copy of the judgment has not been made publicly available so that members of the public might assess the law and evidence, while of course ensuring the anonymity of any complainant who did not want their identity disclosed.

I have jumped the hoops. I did drive to Newcastle. I sat for hours in a public waiting room and took notes under supervision. I have read the judgment. I will set out the email trail of what I wrote in order to get access. This is the tortuous path that awaits any other conscientious citizen or representative of a foreign power receiving representations from the Prime Minister who would like to form a fully informed view on the decision.

I first wrote to the court on 25 May 2018, saying: “I would like to obtain a copy of Magistrate Stone’s decision in the Wilson case delivered at the Newcastle court on 22 May 2018. Could you please advise the procedure and what payment may be required.”

I then spoke to a court officer in Sydney and wrote again on 25 May 2018: “I have now spoken to a court officer in Sydney who informs me that the decision delivered by Magistrate Stone in open court on 22 May in relation to Philip Wilson cannot be made available to a mere member of the public, even on the payment of prescribed fees. This surprised me. I was told that I would need to explain who I am and why I wanted a copy of the decision. Being a lawyer, and sometime professor of law, this surprised me even more. But if that is what the administration of justice has come to, I am happy to provide these details. As to who I am, you will find a brief CV at If you require further details, please ask. As to why I want a copy, being a priest and a lawyer in the Catholic Church who has been a long time commentator on issues to do with the Church, the law, and the public square, it is essential that I be familiar with the law as it develops in this field. You will be aware that this decision is being hailed as a “world first” internationally. It’s just that those of us not able to be in the courtroom on 22 May are none the wiser as to what the new law and its application is. This is very regrettable in terms of the application of the rule of law, especially when I am being asked to provide expert commentary on the decision. If you require further reasons for this request, please advise. I would be happy to pay any fees required for a copy of the judgment. Thanks for your assistance.”

I then wrote again saying, “This link gives you an idea of the sort of commentary I am required to give: I have received a request to write a more detailed analysis of the judgment. You will appreciate that given the international media coverage of the judgment, time is of the essence.”

I wrote again on 28 May 2018 saying, “As you know, I have been making inquiries since last Friday about obtaining a copy of the decision delivered at your court on 22 May 2018 by Magistrate Stone in relation to Philip Wilson. On Friday, I spoke to a court official who told me that I would need to give an explanation of who I was and why I wanted a copy of the judgment. As you know, that rather surprised me. But I provided the information promptly and in good faith. Then having received no response from you, I asked if there was a need for me to provide any further information. Could I ask that you do one of two things. Could you give me the name and phone number of a person to whom I can speak about the mechanics of obtaining a copy of the judgment or about the reasons why I am not to be provided with a copy of the judgment. Alternatively, could you by email let me know what more I need to do. I have already given the assurance that I will pay any necessary fees. If I receive no response from you tomorrow, would it be fair for me to assume that you will not be responding to my emails, and thus it will be necessary to pursue alternative courses than direct approaches to the court for a copy of the court’s decision?”

I then wrote again saying, “I have now been informed by another person who is seeking access to the Wilson judgment that the court is unwilling to make copies of the judgment available to members of the public. I am further advised that I can attend the courthouse and view a copy of the judgment, and that is the only way that a member of the public who was not in open court on 22 May can accurately assess what was decided by the magistrate on 22 May in ‘open court’. I hereby apply to the court seeking permission to come to the court TODAY and read a copy of the judgment. As I will have to travel from Sydney, I will need to set out shortly. I would appreciate it if you could advise me immediately on receipt of this email if you intend to deny approval for any access to the judgment today.”

I then received a response: “I acknowledge receipt of your request and apologise for the delay in responding. As a non-party to the proceedings, I am satisfied that you have disclosed sufficient interest and reasons for access to the documents to be granted. Accordingly, leave has been granted to allow you to have access to the decision of Magistrate Stone in the matter of Phillip Wilson. Access to the document can be facilitated at the Registry counter of Newcastle Courthouse any weekday between 9am and 4.30pm. You should bring your identification with you and present that to staff at the registry counter. Approval has been given to inspect the document only, and no copies can be taken or will be provided, however you can make hand written notes. It should be noted that a Non Publication Order exists in respect to identifying two of the victims in the proceedings, which can be confirmed upon your attendance. The proceedings have been adjourned to 19 June 2018 for sentence. Please don’t hesitate to contact myself should you have any further enquiries.”

On 23 July 2018, I wrote again to the Registrar of the Newcastle Court asking: “Given that two months have now elapsed since the delivery of the decision, is there any prospect that you will be making a redacted copy of the judgment available simply omitting any material which would identify any complainant not wanting to be publicly identified? If not, would you ever be in a position to provide a copy of the judgment to concerned members of the public?” On 26 July 2018, the Registrar replied, “It is highly unlikely that this will ever occur in respect to these current proceedings before the Local Court.”

So there you have it. We the public will NEVER have access to the substance of the judgment in the Wilson proceedings. This is outrageous. It is not the rule of law. I dare to suggest that if the judgment related to any person other than a Catholic bishop and to any issue of law other than failure to report child sexual abuse, there would have been all manner of academic, professional, media, and human rights groups expressing at least a note of mild concern. We’re moving into dangerous waters.

There has to be a better way ensuring the rule of law is protected for the well-being of all citizens.  I think it can be done at minimal cost if you were to adopt the two modest reforms set out at the commencement of this letter.

Yours sincerely

Fr Frank Brennan SJ AO

* * * * *

In view of the importance of the decision of DPP v Wilson, it seems extraordinary that media outlets like the ABC have failed to report that the judgment is not available for study.  MWD will keep readers informed of any developments in this case.



Due to popular demand, this new segment will document false prophecy – and failed prophets – in the media.  It looks likely to be quite a contest to get into this section of MWD since so many a false prophet can be found in the land these days.

This week Jackie decided to kick off what is bound to be a hugely popular segment with what Ross (“I’m a Marcus Aurelius fan boy”) Cameron said on Sky News Outsiders program on 5 June 2018 concerning the Super Saturday by-elections in Longman, Braddon and Mayo.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Ross Cameron: Well look, I’m going to say if we’re going to move towards domestic policy, I think I’m prepared to concede – I’m prepared to make a bold prediction that I think Malcolm Turnbull is going to win three out of three.

Rowan Dean: Of these by-elections?

Ross Cameron: Of these by-elections.

Rowan Dean: Good. Excellent.

Ross Cameron: Of the ones which are in play. I think he’s going to win Mayo, I think he’s going to win Longman and I think he’s going to win, is it Bowman? What’s the third – anyway. [MWD Editor’s note: He meant Braddon in Tasmania.]

Rowan Dean: The problem is of course that if you’re right, and you frequently are right, in fact on this show we’re rarely wrong.

Ross Cameron: Yes.

Rowan Dean: I’m right, thank you. Or am I wrong. The point is that if those three elections to go to the government, Shorten’s cactus.

So there we are. On 5 June the Marcus Aurelius Fan Boy reckoned that the Liberal Party would win Longman, Braddon and Mayo.  It failed to win all three – its vote after preferences was 45.7 per cent in Longman, 47.7 per cent in Braddon and 42.4 per cent in Mayo.

Ross Cameron – it’s time to replace your crystal ball.



As avid readers will recall, Gerard Henderson first raised Paul Bongiorno’s “Uncle Tom” tweet of 8 July 2018 when he appeared the following day on Sky News’ The Bolt Report. The matter was covered in Issues 414 and 415.

This week’s “An ABC Update” describes how ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie has ended up in a state of confusion by failing to understand, let alone implement, the taxpayer funded public broadcaster’s social media policy with respect to ABC contracted employee Paul Bongiorno.

In response to popular demand, MWD prints below the correspondence between Warren Mundine and Michelle Guthrie which has taken place so far.  It is taken from Warren Mundine’s website.

Warren Mundine to Michelle Guthrie – 15 July 2018

Dear Ms Guthrie

I’m writing about the conduct of RN Breakfast’s weekly commentator, Paul Bongiorno.

Mr Bongiorno is a regular contributor to ABC Radio National on the RN Breakfast program and promoted by the ABC as key talent on ABC’s website:

On 8 July 2018, in response to a tweet about the line-up on ABC’s Insiders Program which said:

“How many Lefties does it take to say the same thing?”

Mr Bongiorno tweeted in reply:

“As many “righties” on Dky [sic] after dark panels…and that includes “Uncle Tom” lefties craving relevance.”

The expression “Uncle Tom” is a racial slur. It originates from the United States and is the name of the lead character in the book by Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The character was a slave. As a racial slur it has long been used to condemn and silence black people who have conservative views among other things. The suggestion is that by having conservative views or other views that don’t conform to the opinions black people are supposed to have, the black person is being subservient to white people and a traitor to their race.

For all my lifetime the expression “Uncle Tom” has been used in the same way against Aboriginal Australians. It signifies the person is a race traitor for having particular views, that they cannot think for themselves and that they are so self-loathing they will tolerate being subordinated to appease their oppressors. It assumes that members of a group must all have the same views and should be abused as a traitor if they do not.

More recently it has sometimes been used to signify anyone who supposedly betrays another minority or group identity. Notwithstanding its expanded use, it remains a racial slur and a term that invokes slavery. It is unquestionably a term of abuse and a bigoted expression.

I am an Aboriginal Australian. I also host a program on Sky News LIVE called Mundine Means Business and am a regular guest on other Sky News LIVE evening programs. I’m a former National President of the ALP. I am one of the people Mr Bongiorno’s tweet was directed at.

In my view it disgraceful that a paid ABC commentator should use the expression. It is also disgraceful that the ABC would continue to hire a regular commentator that uses this expression without requiring him to apologise as a condition of continuing to be a paid ABC commentator.

I made a complaint about Mr Bongiorno’s comment via the ABC website and received a response from an acting Executive Producer of RN Breakfast who said:

“Paul Bongiorno made those comments on his personal Twitter account, not an ABC platform.

We have no control or responsibility for what Mr Bongiorno does on his private Twitter account.

He is not an ABC employee but a contractor.

If you would like to take further action, you’ll need to contact Paul Bongiorno directly.

Thanks for your kind attention.”

I don’t find this response satisfactory at all. And I therefore ask you, as Managing Director and Editor in Chief of the ABC:

  • Is it your view that the ABC should engage paid commentators who use racial slurs and terms of abuse that invoke slavery in a public forum?
  • Do ABC’s policies regarding things like diversity, inclusion, bullying and using racial slurs only apply to employees and not to contractors?
  • Is it consistent with ABC’s policies and standards for a paid media personality who is promoted on ABC’s website as key talent (whether engaged as an employee or contractor) to make racial slurs or to abuse people using terms that invoke slavery on public forums like Twitter?
  • Would the answer to the above questions be different if Mr Bongiorno had used a different racial slur? For example, if Mr Bongiorno had tweeted that Sky News commentators are “niggers” would ABC continue to use and promote him as an ABC personality? If so, why is that different?

I look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely

Nyunggai Warren Mundine AO


Justin Milne, Chairman ABC

Senator The Hon. Mitch Fifield, Minister for Communications


Link to tweet:

Note: The tweet misspelled “Sky” as “Dky”.

Michelle Guthrie to Warren Mundine – 23 July 2018


Office of the Managing Director

700 Harris St.

Ultimo NSW 2007

Monday 23 July 2018

Nyunggai Warren Mundine AO

PO Box R1715

Royal Exchange NSW 1225


Dear Mr Mundine,

Thank you for your letter and for your tireless efforts to promote Indigenous causes through a range of activities.

Given the widespread airing of your complaint against Mr Bongiorno I thought it best to respond quickly in writing. It is entirely up to you if you wish to make the contents public.

I need to reassert that the comment to which you refer was not made on an ABC platform and therefore the ABC does not have direct responsibility for the remark. While there are caveats, it is impractical and unjust for the Corporation to be held accountable for every utterance on a third-party platform made by any person who has ever appeared on an ABC program.

Our social media policy requires those who work directly for the ABC to adhere to basic tenets. They cannot undermine their ABC work through social media activities.

Mr Bongiorno is in a different category to those who represent the ABC in their work as journalists, presenters and commentators. He appears solely as an external political commentator, expressing his personal views on national politics.

He does not represent the ABC and his commentating cannot be construed as representing the ABC’s perspective or policy.

I note that Mr Bongiorno has subsequently stated that he did not intend his remark to constitute a racial slur and has deleted it. Mr Bongiorno has also apologised and undertaken not to repeat such language in future.

As someone who is fully aware of the potency of language and the need for civil discourse, I think those actions are appropriate.

I trust this addresses the concerns you raise in your letter.

Yours sincerely

Michelle Guthrie


Warren Mundine to Michelle Guthrie – 31 July 2018

Dear Ms Guthrie

Thank you for your response to my letter of 15 July 2018.

I think you have misunderstood the purpose of my letter and the nature of my complaint against the ABC.

I am not holding the ABC responsible or accountable for Mr Bongiorno’s tweet. I am not claiming that the ABC had editorial control over his tweet. I am seeking a response from the ABC as to the consequences under ABC’s policies and standards for Mr Bongiorno having made the tweet.

Since writing to you I have been provided with a copy of the ABC’s Social Media Policy. It is written in very clear and plain language and states:

“Personal and professional use of social media by ABC staff and contractors must not bring the ABC into disrepute, compromise effectiveness at work, imply ABC endorsement of personal views or disclose, without authorisation, confidential information.”

Under the heading “Who it applies to” it states “All Workers”. The expression “Workers” is defined as:

“Any person who carries out work in any capacity for the ABC, including work as: an employee; a contractor or subcontractor; an employee of a contractor or subcontractor; an employee of a labour hire company who has been assigned to work at the ABC; an outworker; an apprentice or trainee; a student gaining work experience; or a volunteer.”

Mr Bongiorno is a paid contractor of the ABC and a “worker” as defined in the policy. Therefore, the policy applies to him.

The policy lists four specific “standards” that “apply to work and personal use of interactive services by Workers using both ABC accounts and personal accounts at any time”. These include:

“1. Do not mix the professional and the personal in ways likely to bring the ABC into disrepute.

  1. Do not undermine your effectiveness at work.
  2. Do not imply ABC endorsement of your personal views.”

Mr Bongiorno’s tweet calling Sky News commentators such as myself “Uncle Toms” was made in a specific defence of the ABC. He was seeking to counter a claim that the ABC’s Insiders program did not have a politically balanced line up.

His tweet received widespread publicity and a great deal of condemnation. It included a racial slur. He is a paid ABC commentator and highlighted on the ABC website as key talent. Also, contrary to the statement in your letter, Mr Bongiorno has not deleted the tweet. As at today’s date it remains on Twitter.

Mr Bongiorno has a clear case to answer to the ABC under its Social Media Policy for bringing the ABC into disrepute and breach of the other standards.

I am not seeking any particular consequence for Mr Bongiorno. It is up to the ABC as to what disciplinary action, if any, it takes.

What I do expect of the ABC, as a public agency, is to formally review Mr Bongiorno’s tweet under its Social Media Policy (and any other policies that may be applicable), make a formal decision whether the policy has been breached and, if so, determine what, if any, disciplinary action should follow. I also expect those decisions and the reasons for them to be communicated to me.

The ABC has in the past taken a very strong stand against racism and its news and current affairs highlighted the impact of racism on Aboriginal people. It has ensured arts and culture programming includes Aboriginal performance and stories and has given great opportunities to Aboriginal talent in the arts. I find it difficult to reconcile how the ABC could take the view that one of its paid commentators using a racial slur does not bring it into disrepute, without even taking the time to properly review and apply its own standards.

It would be very disappointing to see the ABC wash its hands of one of its paid commentators abusing others with a racial slur in a public forum and fail to apply its Social Media Policy which very clearly applies.

Yours sincerely

Nyunggai Warren Mundine AO

Justin Milne, Chairman ABC
Senator The Hon. Mitch Fifield, Minister for Communications


 * * * *


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 will be aware, on 18 June 2018 ABC presenter and Fairfax Media columnist Julia Baird put out a series of tweets in defence of the taxpayer funded public broadcaster.  Without mentioning Hendo, Dr Baird took issue with his claim that there are no conservative presenters, producers or editors on any of the ABC’s prominent television, radio or online outlets. Here are the tweets:

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

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


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

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


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

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



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

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


* * * * * *

A month passed – and then Gerard Henderson took up the issue with Julia Baird. Now read on:

Gerard Henderson to Julia Baird – 18 July 2018


I am interested in the series of tweets you put out on 18 June 2018 disagreeing with the argument that there are no mainstream or conservative managers, producers or voices on the ABC.  I am not aware of anyone who has said that no conservative “voices” are heard on the ABC.  But I am familiar with the claim that there are no conservative presenters, producers or editors for any of the ABC’s prominent television, radio or online outlets.

You claim that the latter view is “factually incorrect” and that there “are many” conservatives employed by the ABC.  The issue has nothing to do with how ABC employees vote.  As you may be aware, Amanda Vanstone votes for the Liberal Party but declares that she is not a conservative.

In relation to your claim that there are many conservatives in the ABC, can you 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.

▪ Australia should follow the Trump administration and move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

▪ Israel is entitled to use live ammunition to defend its border against Hamas on the Israel/Gaza boundary.

▪ 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 all 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.

* * * * *

If there are “many” conservatives at the ABC it should not be difficult to name at least a few names. Looking forward to hearing from you in due course.

Best wishes



Gerard Henderson

(02) 9252 3366

0412 950 412


Julia Baird to Gerard Henderson – 27 July 2018

Dear Gerard,

My apologies for the delay. I must note first of all that you have shifted the parameters of the original claim I was questioning – that there are no “conservative presenters, producers or editors” at the ABC. You are now asking about “prominent ABC identities” – a substantially different claim.

Nonetheless, three responses to your question:

  1. These ten points, or planks of belief, are an interesting selection – is this your personal definition of conservatism?
  2. I cannot of course reveal the personal views or voting habits of any of my colleagues – as you are aware we are obliged to report, produce, edit, as journalists and therefor do so impartially and not for partisan purposes. I can only say, as someone who has worked at the ABC on and off for many years, that there are many people with conservative beliefs living, breathing and working at the ABC. To claim otherwise is factually incorrect. There are also many who are genuinely non partisan.
  3. I can tell you that I might believe one of those views, but as an ABC presenter, I cannot tell you which one.

I would like to take this opportunity to remind you your invitation to join us on the panel of the Drum remains an open one.

all best


Gerard Henderson to Julia Baird – 30 July 2018

Dear Julia

Thanks for your email of 27 July. No problem re the delay in replying – I know that you are busy. In response, I make the following comments.

  1. I have not changed my position on this issue. My position was – and remains – that there are no conservative presenters, producers or editors on any of the ABC’s prominent television, radio on online outlets. I make this point because the ABC’s defenders like to refer to the likes of such contracted presenters as Amanda Vanstone and Tom Switzer.  Neither Counterpoint nor Between The Lines is a prominent program.  In any event, neither Amanda nor Tom would classify themselves as “conservative”.  I do not believe that there is any substantive difference between saying that there are no conservative presenters of prominent programs and saying there are no prominent ABC identities who are conservative.
  2. My point in this instance has nothing to do with how ABC identities, prominent or otherwise, vote. Amanda Vanstone says she votes for the Liberal Party but denies she is a conservative.  Paul Barry announced on at least one occasion that he voted for Malcolm Turnbull in Wentworth.  But this does not make Paul a conservative.
  3. The idea that ABC presenters, journalists, editors and the like never state partisan positions is just a self-serving myth. If you doubt this, check out what Matt Bevan and Fran Kelly said about President Trump on RN Breakfast this morning – for example.
  4. I note you state that there are “many people with conservative beliefs living, breathing and working at the ABC” – and that for me “to claim otherwise is factually incorrect”. But you have not been able to name one conservative presenter, producer or editor of any prominent ABC outlet. Which raises the question – Why are there some identifiable left-wing presenters, producers, editors employed on prominent ABC outlets but no identifiable conservatives?
  5. I accept that there are some genuinely non-partisan staff at the ABC – and have never said otherwise. My point turns on a lack of conservatives within the taxpayer funded public broadcaster – not to the presence of some non-partisan types.
  6. I note that you “might” hold one of the ten views that I described in my email as conservative. That does not do much to advance your case that there are “many” conservatives in the ABC.
  7. I note that you and Richard Glover and others state a position on this matter consistent with former managing director Mark Scott and current managing director Michelle Guthrie. However, even those appointed by the ABC management to do media-watching on behalf of the ABC do not hold this position. On 5 April 2016 Jonathan Holmes conceded that Andrew Bolt and myself were correct to talk about a lack of political diversity within the ABC – at least with respect to ABC Radio. He wrote that ABC management was in denial on this issue.  And on 25 June this year, Paul Barry conceded that there are too few conservatives within the ABC and that the ABC recruits from a limited cultural and political gene pool.

I don’t see why Mark Scott and Michelle Guthrie should deny what even the likes of Jonathan Holmes and Paul Barry concede about what I have termed the Conservative Free Zone that is the ABC.

* * * * *

Thanks for reminding me about the open invitation to join the panel on The Drum.  As you may recall, you first invited me on The Drum when we met at Admiralty House in February 2014.  I replied, light-heartedly, that I had not been invited on to The Drum in its first four years and would not consider an invitation until another four years’ time. Which is about now.

I do appreciate the offer to appear on The Drum. However, I decline the invitation. I do watch The Drum when I can, but I do not want to appear on a program where panelists are asked to comment on virtually anything – irrespective of whether a panelist has a position which he or she wants to proclaim.

These days I appear occasionally on ABC TV’s Insiders and Sky News’ The Bolt Report. Also, I do a weekly column for The Weekend Australian in addition to my Media Watch Dog blog. I believe that some commentators do too much electronic media and that more is not usually better.  I also maintain that it’s too late to make an inaugural appearance on The Drum, eight years after it commenced.

I read your column in last Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald with interest – and I also noticed The Drum’s tweet on this matter. I am sure there are many more conservatives willing to appear – or willing to appear more frequently – on The Drum than the ABC imagines.  Even though, as The Drum itself acknowledges, many in its audience are hostile to hearing the views of conservatives.  I guess this reflects the mindset of quite a few ABC viewers who regard the public broadcaster as the preserve of the Green Left.

Best wishes


PS: There is no need to reply to this.


* * * *


Until next time.


* * * *