ISSUE – NO. 419

17 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.

* * * *

  • NEW FEATURE: Jackie at the Barricades in Support of Tonightly

  • CAN YOU BEAR IT: Malcolm Farr; Alex McKinnon; Morry Schwartz’s The [Boring] Saturday Paper plus the Red Bandannaed One (Topless)

  • AN ABC UPDATE: Matthew Doran’s Election Date Quiz & Fran Kelly’s Mitch Fifield Interview

  • GREAT MEDIA U-TURNS OF OUR TIME: John Hewson on Tony Abbott & Bill Shorten

  • HAMISH MACDONALD’S FAKE NEWS – Featuring ABC Presenter John Barron’s Strong Opinion on President Trump

  • FIVE PAWS AWARD: Step Forward Chris Uhlmann (on the ABC) & Douglas Murray (on Ross Cameron’s Russia Obsession)

  • NANCY’S COURTESY CLASS: Welcome Mike Seccombe

  • YOUR TAXES AT WORK: Another Left-Wing Stack at the Melbourne Writers’ Festival

  • MWD EXCLUSIVE: Hendo has Doubts about Leigh Sales Latest Essay On Doubt

  • ABBOTT-PHOBIA CLINIC: Suggested Prescription for the Insiders’ Trio

  • DOCUMENTATION: Lawyer Father Frank Brennan on DPP v Wilson – The Latest

* * * *



As she walks the streets, lotsa people are inclined to ask Jackie – “Are you okay?” The answer is invariably, “Yes”, even when this is not the case. Following self-analysis, Jackie (Dip Wellness) has decided to vent her anger by taking on causes in which she believes. It is expected that this will be a regular segment in MWD. And today’s cause is:


Jackie’s (male) co-owner was devastated, absolutely devastated, to learn on Tuesday (at around pre-lunch drinks time) that the ABC has decided to drop Tonightly with Tom Ballard with effect from Friday 7 September 2018. With him will go such amazing comedic talent as Greta-Lee Jackson, Bridie (“I’ve been to Dublin”) Connell, Nina Oyama and Greg (“F-ck off you c—“) Larsen. All on the ABC’s brand new ABC Comedy channel.

The statement put out by Peter Munro (who goes by the fine title of “Communications Lead, ABC Entertainment & Specialist”) was along these lines: ‘Tonightly was a terrific program. It attracted a younger audience and pushed boundaries. We are immensely proud of Tonightly with Tom Ballard. But, er, the ABC will junk it on the first Friday of September’. Or something like that.

Then Tom Ballard said something like: ‘It was a privilege to get the sack in public around lunch-time on a Tuesday. I can’t thank the ABC enough – and I’m available to do another stint as Q & A presenter if Tony Jones goes down with the gout and La Trioli breaks a foot dancing to The Internationale.’ Or something like that. He added in all seriousness: “Getting the chance to host Tonightly has been an absolute honour, even though we never got to be on Media Watch.”

That’s true. Up until today at least, Tonightly has never got on the ABC TV Media Watch program (host Paul Barry). But your man Ballard did get a run in Media Watch Dog. Often. That’s why MWD is campaigning for Tonightly with Tom Ballard to be re-instated with effect from 10 September 2018.

MWD just loved counting all those truly shocking “F” words and the occasional “C” words. That was just oh-so-funny. And MWD really appreciated all those Tom Ballard sermons on all his favourite leftist causes. MWD will not know how to live without your man Ballard and his little group of players.

So all avid readers are urged to assemble outside the ABC studio in Sydney and


at around Gin & Tonic time on Friday 7 September. And remain there until the ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie surrenders and brings back the “F” and “C” words on Tonightly. Put this in your diary NOW. Bring your own G & T.


Can You Bear It


In recent times, political editor Malcolm Farr has equated any government support for high efficiency low emissions coal fired power stations as a product of the kind of economics that was practised by Josef Stalin or his various communist minions in the Eastern Bloc after the Second World War.

This despite the fact that such nations as Germany and Japan are constructing coal fired power stations. And despite the fact that Australian governments have intervened in the renewable energy market and, most recently, in the Snowy 2.0 hydro power proposal. Even Mr Farr is not seeing Soviet style communism in this process.

However, during his commentary segment on ABC Radio 702’s “Drive with Richard Glover” last Monday, your man Farr went even further – suggesting that the brutal East German secret police, the Stasi, were advocates of coal. Really.

Let’s go to the transcript – just after your man Farr referred to the fact that Coalition backbencher Barnaby Joyce suggested that the government should act to ensure Australia’s energy supply:

Richard Glover: So when did Barnaby Joyce – and for that matter, Tony Abbott – become Maoists?

Malcolm Farr: Well, this is true.

Richard Glover: I mean, I haven’t noticed them in the little cap and the little jacket.

Malcolm Farr: Well, I think they must have had a summer session in Albania to pick up a few tips. Because Tony Abbott believes that there should be compulsory acquisition of the Liddell Power Station – and he repeated that today. And you’re quite right, it is extraordinary that these people who are one second breathing the firm fresh air of free enterprise – and the next minute they’re threatening to send in the secret police.

Richard Glover: Get the Stasi on to AGL.

Malcolm Farr: Really, it’s extraordinary.

What a load of absolute tosh. For starters, energy is central to the health of the Australian economy. A bit like defence. A competent government has to be willing to act on energy production if this is necessary.

In any event, Malcolm Farr’s suggestion that the Stasi was interested in establishing or maintaining coal fired power stations suggests that he does not understand the communist regimes of Eastern Europe between circa 1945 and circa 1990. Moreover, it is offensive to the victims of the Stasi terror to suggest that their tormentors were a bit like Barnaby Joyce and Tony Abbott. Can You Bear It?


The Saturday Paper goes to print on Thursday and rocks up into coffee shops in inner-city Melbourne and Sydney on Saturday mornings at around breakfast time in Sandalista Land. This means that it is not really a newspaper since it does not contain any “news” younger than 40 hours old.

And so it came to pass last Saturday when Alex McKinnon’s piece titled “The Sky is flailing” appeared on page 3. The Saturday Paper’s morning editor [Is there an afternoon or evening one? MWD Editor] did an article on the fall-out from Adam Giles’ disastrous interview with extreme right-wing ideologue – and convicted criminal – Blair Cottrell. After this occurred on Sunday 5 August, The Adam Giles Show was suspended and Sky News apologised for airing the interview. It also advised that Cottrell would not be invited to Sky News again – in other words, he is barred.

There was nothing new in your man McKinnon’s piece. However, it contained this howler:

On Thursday, Victorian Transport minister Jacinta Allan announced the state government will pull Sky News from its train stations, stating “hatred and racism have no place on our screens in our community”.

Sure, that’s what Jacinta Allan said on Thursday – before she became aware that Sky News programs are not shown at train stations in the Melbourne CBD. Rather, Sky News produces a special news and weather bulletin for certain railway stations. The Adam Giles Show was not shown at Melbourne CBD train stations – when Ms Allan applied the ban, she was not aware of this fact. It seems that The [Boring] Saturday Paper went to print before Ms Allan’s howler was revealed.

Alex McKinnon bagged Sky News for having interviewed Cottrell – despite its apology and the prompt removal of the interview from Sky News’ online outlets. But The Saturday Paper morning editor did not criticise the ABC for the fact that Cottrell was interviewed on Hack Live with Tom Tilley on 22 September 2016 in an episode entitled “Aussie Patriots”. ABC management has never apologised for interviewing Cottrell, it never suspended Hack Live with Tom Tilley and it has never removed the Cottrell interview from the ABC’s online outlets.

Yet McKinnon has flailed Sky News (which belatedly acted against Cottrell) but has not criticised the ABC (which has never acted against Cottrell). An unpleasant double standard, to be sure. Can You Bear It?

[Er, no. Not really. As I recall, it was Alex McKinnon who simply made up the claim that Gerard Henderson had referred to the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse as “an inquisition into one church” and wrote about “the irony” of Hendo “crying ‘inquisition’ against the [Catholic] Church that invented the concept”. In fact, Gerard Henderson has never used the term “inquisition” with respect to the Royal Commission – The Saturday Paper’s morning editor just made this up.

This totally false claim was made in The Saturday Age on 23 December 2017. What was the response? Alex McKinnon did not respond to correspondence. The Saturday Paper refused to apologise (although it did publish a letter from Hendo) and your man McKinnon’s wilful howler remains uncorrected on The Saturday Paper’s online outlets. How unprofessional can you get? MWD Editor]


While on the topic of The [Boring] Saturday Paper, did anyone see the most recent edition? There were 32 pages in all – about a third of which were advertisements. And many of the advertisements were paid for by you – in one way or another – as the taxpayer.

Here we go:

Page 2: Quarter page advert for the Adelaide Festival

Page 5: Full page advert for Bank Australia (“we don’t fund industries that cause harm to people or the planet”)

Page 6: Full page advert for the National Portrait Gallery

Page 13: Full page advert for the Melbourne International Arts Festival

Page 16: Half page advert for the City of Sydney’s City Recital Hall

Page 17: Half page advert for Uni Super

Page 22: Quarter page advert for the Australian Museum

Page 23: Quarter page advert for the Whitlam Institute at Western Sydney University

Page 22: Half page advert for the City of Sydney’s City Recital Hall

Page 23: Half page advert for the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra

Page 25: Full page advert for Morry Schwartz’s The Saturday Paper

Page 27: Full page advert for the Horne Prize (sponsored by Aesop and The Saturday Paper)

Page 29: Full page advert for Morry Schwartz’s The Monthly and The Saturday Paper (featuring a pic of your man Schwartz as a young man)

Page 32: Full page advert for Breguet (i.e. watches)

MWD was particularly taken by the fetching photo of Schwartz The Younger which contained the following self-regarding copy:

Morry Schwartz started as a counterculture publisher in 1974, producing books that were radical and necessary. Today Schwartz Media continues that willingness to publish against orthodoxy. The Monthly and The Saturday Paper believe in the power of journalism to make this country better. We believe in a country that is more serious than it is often credited with being. As Schwartz says: A great writer is able to somehow feel the country. A country has to be told what it is. That’s the project.

What a load of absolute tosh. Your multi-millionaire man Schwartz reckons that he is publishing “against orthodoxy”. In fact, Schwartz Media is the epitome of the fashionable leftist orthodoxy that prevails in the inner-cities of Australia. As to the idea that Australia “has to be told what it is” by Schwartz Media. Well, all MWD has to say is – Can You Bear It?

Morry Schwartz circa 1974 as depicted in Morry Schwartz’s The Saturday Paper



It was great to receive advice from the Australian Republic Movement chair Peter FitzSimons about the ARM’s knees-up at Parliament House last Tuesday. Here’s what he had to say:

There were other pics like this one.

What was notable about the occasion is that republican blokes far outnumbered the republican sheilas. And Fitz removed his red bandanna for the occasion. Hendo, a republican, has said that Australia will never have its own head of state while the head of the Australian Republic Movement wears a red rag on his head.

Alas, it seems that the Red Bandannaed One was soon back to being sausage free and fully dressed as depicted in the advertisement (see below) for Uber Eats. The man was born in 1961. Can You Bear It?




Question: How many ABC types does it take to write a piece on ABC News Online about when the next Federal election will be held?

Answer: Four – that’s all.

What a stunning article by Matthew Doran, Lucy Sweeney, Georgina Piper and Andrew Keeper which appeared on the ABC News website yesterday – titled “When will Malcolm Turnbull call the election?” The ABC’s very best and brightest set up – yes – a game whereby readers (if readers there were) were invited to guess the election date out of 20 possible options suggested by the Doran/Sweeney/Piper/Keeper network.

The Doran Collective put forward the following options:

5 or 12 or 19 or 26 January 2019

2 or 9 or 16 or 23 February 2019

2 or 9 or 16 or 23 or 30 March 2019

6 or 13 or 20 or 27 April 2019

4 or 11 or 18 May 2019

Well, thanks for that. It seems that the Doran Collective believe it possible that Prime Minister Turnbull might call a five week campaign ending sometime in January 2019. This would mean a campaign that ran through the 2018 Christmas period. Also, the Doran Collective raised the possibility of an election on Saturday 20 April – which happens to be Easter Saturday. It also cited 23 March 2019 as a possible election date – despite the fact that this is the date of the NSW State election.

What’s more, the work of the Collective ran for a total of 160 words – that is 40 words each. [I hope the taxpayer funded public broadcaster pays penalty rates for such a work commitment – especially since the opus magnum was posted at 6am yesterday – MWD Editor]

By the way, the Doran Collective reckons that the Prime Minister will call the election for “the beginning of March or the middle of May”. Brilliant – don’t you think?


MWD just loves it when journalists interview journalists about journalism. Next best – when journalists interview their employers. [I just loved it when Nice Mr Scott was ABC managing director and (so-called) editor in chief and he received so many, oh-so soft interviews from ABC journos. MWD Editor]

And then there is the self-serving occasion when ABC journalists interview the Minister for Communications about the taxpayer funded public broadcaster.

Like on Wednesday when Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly interviewed Minister Mitch Fifield. Here’s how the interview concluded – with the interviewer asking the interviewee whether she can ask him a question. Let’s go to the transcript:

Fran Kelly: And can I ask you a question? I really can’t let you go without asking about the ABC. The Federal Government has launched yet another Efficiency Review of the ABC and SBS. We had the last review in 2014. Now we’ve got another one. Why is the Government trying to dictate how the public broadcasters spends their money when that’s the province of the Boards isn’t it? We are a public broadcaster not a state broadcaster.

Mitch Fifield: Absolutely. And one of the great underpinnings of public broadcasting is the legislated independence that the ABC and SBS have. And we’re not seeking to change that. But the ABC and SBS as community taxpayer funded organisations need to make sure that they are the best possible steward of taxpayer dollars. And the Efficiency Review is aimed at supporting the ABC to make sure that it is just that.

Fran Kelly: Do you think we’re not spending money wisely at the moment?

Mitch Fifield: All Commonwealth agencies should strive for continual improvement. The last efficiency…

Fran Kelly: Do they all have efficiency reviews though all the time?

Mitch Fifield: Well, yes all Commonwealth agencies are subject to efficiency reviews to make sure that they’re doing their work the best that they can. The last Efficiency Review into the ABC was about three years ago. And in the fast evolving world of media that is an eternity. But Fran the good news for your listeners is that the ABC will continue to receive in excess of a billion dollars a year. And that does represent a very important underpinning of media diversity in Australia and a significant Commonwealth contribution to civic journalism.

Fran Kelly: Minister thank you very much for joining us.

Mitch Fifield: Good to be with you Fran.

So, there you have it. Clearly Ms Kelly reckons that (i) the Coalition government is trying to dictate how the ABC spends its money and (ii) that the ABC is spending its annual $1 billion hand out wisely. Fancy that.

Well, as MWD has advised in the past – Fran Kelly is an activist.



John Hewson on why Tony Abbott should have a senior role in Malcom Turnbull’s government:

There can be no doubt that Malcolm Turnbull feels – even if he won’t readily admit it – that Bill Shorten has clearly bettered him, both in the last election and now in the Longman by-election.

This has been evident in Turnbull’s responses. In rationalising the electoral outcomes, Turnbull attacked Shorten for “running a Mediscare campaign” in the federal election and for “lying” about health cuts in Longman. But these responses fail to recognise how Shorten was able to do this: how he was left with the opportunity and the financial and manpower capacity (mostly via the unions and the likes of Get Up) to “scare” and “lie” and get away with it.

If Turnbull wants to win the next election, he needs to tackle Shorten’s ability to finance such campaigns – and his capacity to sell them to the public…I have been at a loss to understand why Turnbull has allowed Shorten the opportunity and capacity to run such destructive campaigns. In the early days of the last federal election, Turnbull attacked me over my suggestion that he give Abbott, the genuine “master of the negative”, the job of effectively destroying Shorten. This would have put the Opposition Leader on the back foot and made it difficult, if not impossible, for him to have the time and credibility to run a dishonest scare campaign. But, no, Shorten was left to roam free.

John (“Call me doctor”) Hewson – Sydney Morning Herald, 2 August 2018


John Hewson on why Tony Abbott should not have any position in Malcolm Turnbull’s government:

…Turnbull would, and should, do much better, by not only outing the prejudices and folly of Abbott and his mates, but also by negotiating directly with Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, in our national interest. If they could agree, the likes of Abbott become irrelevant. If Turnbull and Shorten can’t agree, even fewer Australians (one in three didn’t last time) will vote for either major party at the next federal election.

John (“Call me doctor”) Hewson – Sydney Morning Herald, 6 August 2018


So there you have it – according to the Thought of Dr John – Malcolm Turnbull should be attacking Opposition leader Bill Shorten and should put Tony Abbott in the front line (2 August 2018). And Malcolm Turnbull should be co-operating with Opposition leader Bill Shorten and should bring about a situation whereby Tony Abbott becomes irrelevant (6 August 2018)

Dr John Hewson is a professor at the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University and a former (failed) leader of the Liberal Party of Australia. [Enough said – MWD Editor]



Due to enormous popular demand, MWD has created a segment to monitor the accuracy – or otherwise – of Hamish Macdonald’s claim that ABC presenters are “not allowed to express opinions”. The assertion was made during your man Macdonald’s hostile interview on ABC Radio National Breakfast with Senator Eric Abetz – the date was 20 June 2018.

Lotsa thanks to the avid reader who drew MWD’s attention to John Barron on the Trump Tuesday segment on ABC Radio 702’s “Drive with Richard Glover” program last week and this. John Barron presents the Planet America program on ABC TV’s second network.

Your man Barron is also an honorary associate at the US[less] Studies Centre at the University of Sydney. As avid readers are only too well aware, no one at the US Studies Centre predicted that Donald J Trump would defeat Hillary Clinton in November 2016. And, according to USSC executive director Professor Simon Jackman, no one at the US Studies Centre supports President Trump. Not a single person.

Indeed, John Barron reckons that the US president is a racist. This is what he had to say on Trump Tuesday over the last two weeks when standing in for the US[less] Studies Centre’s Dr David Smith (for a doctor he is) who is currently out of Australia.

John Barron: He [Trump] reserves “stupid” for black people. He’s done it time and time again, including Maxine Waters, the congresswoman and so on. It’s just one of these things that people that worry ­– that whether Donald Trump knows it or not, somewhere lurking in that 70 plus year old white American man’s heart, is a racist.

Trump Tuesday, 7 August 2018


John Barron: It comes back to that thing we were talking about last week – why is it that Donald Trump – he’s got all these ways of criticising all sorts of people, but when it comes to black people he starts criticising their intelligence. And he’s done it again with Omarosa. And that, I would argue – more than any possible tape of him using the “n” word – I think that portrays the racial views of Donald Trump. That he is once again, just as he was with Lebron James and Don Lemon and Maxine Waters and all these other African Americans, he questions their intelligence. Omarosa earlier today on The View TV show said exactly that. He criticises the intelligence of black people because in his heart he believes that black people are stupid.

Trump Tuesday, 14 August 2018

So, there you are. ABC presenter John Barron has twice used the ABC to state that President Trump is a racist. Sounds somewhat opinionated – don’t you think?




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

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


When walking Jackie last Wednesday night, Jackie’s (male) co-owner happened to hear Chris Uhlmann’s 2018 Manning Clark Lecture “Secret City: Fact, Fiction and Australian Politics”. It was broadcast on ABC Radio National’s Big Ideas program.

Now, as MWD readers are only too well aware, Chris Uhlmann is Nine News’ political editor – having succeeded Laurie Oakes in this position. Before that, he was ABC TV’s political editor.

So, obviously, your man Uhlmann knows a lot about the taxpayer funded public broadcaster. While not a conservative in the Conservative Free Zone that is the ABC – Chris Uhlmann was not one of the battalion of leftists that prevail in the ABC soviet.

Mr Uhlmann’s views on his former colleagues are worth listening to. Here is what he had to say about the ABC in his 2018 Manning Clark Lecture – concerning the ABC in the wake of change that accompanied the Global Financial Crisis of a decade ago:

Chris Uhlmann: The ABC’s management pitched into a near permanent state of panic as it wrestled with the reality that its journalists are a pretty fair reflection of the views of university educated people who populate Southbank in Melbourne and Ultimo in Sydney.

How about that? Contrary to the view of ABC presenters Julia Baird, Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales – Chris Uhlmann appears to support Hendo’s view that the ABC is a Conservative Free Zone. In that the ABC does not have a conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets.

As Chris Uhlmann has put it – ABC journalists tend to think alike and are a pretty fair reflection of the university educated types who live in the inner-city of Melbourne and Sydney. There are few if any conservatives among this left-of-centre lot.



Douglas Murray is one of Britain’s finest conservatives and the author of the important The Strange Death of Europe. So, it was great to see Douglas Murray on the Sky News Outsiders program last Sunday – where he was interviewed by presenters Ross (“I’m a Marcus Aurelius fan boy”) Cameron and Rowan Dean. And it was great to see Mr Murray demolish your man Cameron’s conspiracy that somehow the West – and not Russia – is responsible for the civil war in Syria. Let’s go to the transcript:

Ross Cameron: Can I ask you, when we talk about the Syrian Civil War – if we take a step back, I’m going to have a little crack at the UK on this point. … But the Syrian Civil War has been going as you say since 2011, 500,000 dead. It has mobilised probably 20 million by various proxies whether from Bangladesh or Myanmar or from Syria. But, I mean, that’s a war which we, the Western – the Anglosphere – most particularly the UK and the United States but also Australia – have very aggressively prosecuted on one side of the argument I would say for nearly –

Douglas Murray: Very aggressively?

Ross Cameron: Well I mean if you drop 50 Tomahawk missiles on a country I’d say it’s pretty aggressive, wouldn’t you?

Douglas Murray: I think it’s on the light end of intervention.

Ross Cameron: Okay.

Douglas Murray: We’ve conspicuously not intervened in the Syrian Civil War. The main interveners in the Syrian Civil War have been Iran, which has had its armies waging war from the very beginning on the side of Bashar al-Assad, the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia which have been intervening from the beginning. Turkey which has been intervening from the beginning. Russia which has been intervening from the beginning. Because these were countries with strategic objectives inside Syria. I mean I was always in favour of not intervening at all in Syria. Other than when ISIS was planning attacks in Europe to go in and take out ISIS camps.

Ross Cameron: Which I say that is a rational policy.

Douglas Murray: But we had no other idea of what to do. We didn’t have any plan of how to replace Assad, we have no plan for what a post-Assad Syria is going to look like and, having made the mess we made in Libya, it was my view from the start that if you don’t know what you’re going to do after the dictator don’t try and get rid of the dictator.

As with so many an interviewer, Mr Cameron appears not to have listened to the answer. So he repeated the claim that the West should take responsibility for formenting the instability. And, received the same answer. Namely that the main actors in the Syrian Civil War are (Cameron’s fave nation) Russia, Iran, Turkey and others. Douglas Murray added:

…The main story in Syria is not us – the main story is a set of other powers that had very specific objectives of what they wanted to get out of the instability after the so-called Arab Spring began in Syrian.

Douglas Murray: Five Paws


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


What a stunning performance by sneering Mike Seccombe – the national correspondent for Morry Schwartz’s The (Boring) Saturday Paper on the ABC TV Insiders program last Sunday. Despite Mr Schwarz’s wealth, and despite the existence of editor-in-chief Erik Jensen and editor Maddison Connaughton, it seems that your man Seccombe has yet to be taught the difference between abuse and argument. This despite the fact that courtesy classes are not that expensive.

And so it came to pass on Insiders last Sunday that Mr Seccombe referred to people with whom he disagreed as “knuckle heads”. He also dismissed associates of Prime Minister Turnbull as “rich dudes”.

Mike Seccombe – Off to Nancy’s Courtesy Classes for you.



As avid readers are aware, literary festivals are occasions when a group of leftie luvvies get a bucket load of taxpayers’ money – and invite their ideological besties to meet together to talk and talk and talk. [Don’t you mean – in the terms of the modern cliché – “have a conversation”? – MWD Editor]

This weekend will see the sandal wearers of Melbourne Town assemble at Federation Square for the 2018 Melbourne Writers’ Festival. The MWF is funded by the Victorian State government and the City of Melbourne, among others.

The leftist Marieke Hardy is the artistic director of the 2018 MWF. In an interview with Virginia Trioli (who is standing in for Jon Faine) on ABC Melbourne Radio 774 on Monday, Ms Hardy told La Trioli that the 2018 MWF will abide by the “new boundaries being set”. She did not say precisely who is setting the boundaries but made it clear it was her leftist comrades.

The interview is worth listening to for those who are concerned about the future of debate and discussion. Virginia Trioli argued the line that literary festivals should be about the exchange of ideas and that participants should be allowed to say what they want to say – provided they abide by the existing rules covering such matters as defamation and anti-discrimination.

Marieke Hardy did not agree. She declared that she is “moving Melbourne away” from controversy where ideas are contested – and that she did “not want to hurt people”. Whereupon, Virginia Trioli suggested that the 2018 MWF’s artistic director was confusing a difference of opinion with abuse – and that literary festivals should be able to handle ideas.

Alas, La Trioi’s views seem dated. Marieke Hardy gave the very clear impression that she supports the 2018 Brisbane Writers’ Festival’s decision to effectively ban Germaine Greer – despite having initially invited her. According to Ms Hardy, Dr Greer’s legacy has been “diminished” of late and, apparently, she is no longer welcome at the MWF. So there. It seems that Germaine Greer has upset the feminist left.

Virginia Trioli valiantly defended debate and discussion but could not convince Marieke Hardy. So, in 2018, taxpayers’ money will be used to restrict debate within the “boundaries” determined by Marieke Hardy and her Sandalista Land comrades.

For the record, here’s a selection of the Australian speakers at the 2018 Melbourne Writers’ Festival:

Yassmin Abdel-Magied, Waleed Aly, Wil Anderson, Mark Baker, Jimmy Barnes, Bob Carr, Kate Ceberano, JM Coetzee, Geoff Cousins, Annabel Crabb, Sophie Cunningham, Mark Davis, Michelle de Kretser, Catherine Deveny, Dr Karl, First Dog On The Moon, Clementine Ford, Raimond Gaita, Richard Glover, Peter Goldsworthy, James Grant, Barry Jones, Paul Kelly (the singer-songwriter), Benjamin Law, Kathy Lette, Judith Lucy, Anne Manne, Robert Manne, David Marr, Sheree Marris, John Marsden, Tony Martin, George Megalogenis, Sybil Nolan, Celia Pacquola, Fiona Patten, Alice Pung, Henry Reynolds, Jamila Rizvi, John Safran, Leigh Sales, Jeff Sparrow, Tracey Spicer, Andrew P Street, Magda Szubanski, Christos Tsiolkas, Sally Warhaft, Myf Warhurst, Alexis Wright, Clare Wright and Arnold Zable.

A Conservative Free Zone, to be sure. It seems that the only way for conservatives to find themselves on a platform at Federation Square is if they get lost on their way to the offices of the Herald-Sun.

Your Taxes at Work.




Talk about fake news. Here is the blurb on the back of Leigh Sales’ On Doubt – published by Melbourne University Press as part of its Little Books on Big Themes series:

Acclaimed journalist Leigh Sales has her doubts, and thinks you should, too. Her classic personal essay carries a message about the value of truth, scrutiny and accountability – a much-needed, pocket-sized antidote to fake news.

Donald Trump, the post-truth world and the instability of Australian politics are all contained in this fresh take on her prescient essay on the media and political trends that define our times.

Everything is true about this blurb – apart from the facts. For the 2018 edition of Leigh Sales’ 2009 booklet is not a “fresh take” on anything much. Look at it this way. The 2018 issue of On Doubt contains a total of 14,002 words. The original essay is 10,084 words and what’s titled “Postscript 2017” consists of 2667 words. There is also a “Notes” section of about eight pages, about two thirds of which relates to the 2009 edition. In other words, about 20 per cent of this “fresh take” is really fresh. The rest is the 2009 issue re-printed without change.

As for the claim that “Donald Trump, the post-truth world and the instability of Australian politics” are all examined here – well, in fact, this is but a mere postscript to an essay published a decade ago. When On Doubt was first published in 2009, Donald Trump was hosting The Apprentice.

According to the blurb, “Leigh Sales has her doubts”. But does she really? An author with real doubts would have doubted the quality of the 2009 version of On Doubt and totally revised the 2018 edition. But Ms Sales changed nothing.

Annabel Crabb, one of the author’s “besties”, wrote the endorsement on the cover of the new edition: “A superbly stylish and valuable little book on the century’s great vanishing commodity”. So, according to Ms Crabb, doubt is the great vanishing commodity of the 21st Century – which suggests that there was plenty of doubt around in the 20th Century and earlier. This is ahistorical nonsense.

The 20th Century was a time of rampant political ideology – as communism, fascism, Nazism and Islamism prevailed at various times. It was the century of Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Josef Stalin, Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong, Ho Chi Minh, Fidel Castro, Hasan al-Banna and more besides. Not many doubters in this lot.

Gerard Henderson – who, along with Robert Manne, was depicted as a person without doubt in On Doubt – reviewed Ms Sales’ 2009 essay in MWD Issue 14 on 12 June 2009 and in the June 2009 issue of The Sydney Institute Quarterly. He sees no reason to re-consider what he wrote there. [Perhaps Ms Sales is correct – perhaps you have no doubt. MWD Editor] Except to make two points. Here they are:

  • If, as she claims, Leigh Sales is a doubter – why did she not question the wisdom of omitting this literary sludge which appears in the 2009 issue and is re-printed in the 2018 issue? Turn to page 88 of either edition and you will find this:

It is difficult to be passionate about anything when I question everything. I have things that I love to do in my life, but I don’t really feel that anything is a matter of life and death. I love playing the piano, and if tomorrow I no longer had that ability, I would be devastated. But I wouldn’t rather be dead. I love being a journalist. I’d be gutted if I had to change jobs. But I’m sure I’d find something else. I believe in the adage “hard work pays off” with great conviction. But if somebody were to disagree with me on that, I wouldn’t feel the need to write a column deriding them for their incomprehensible stupidity. I envy people with great passion and wonder what it might be like.

What’s for sure is that Leigh Sales has no doubts about using the first person singular. There is almost one use of the first person pronoun in each line as set out in the essay – as “I”, “I’m” or “I’d” are used once every seven words. [I find this hard to believe. It’s not something I ever do. I sometimes wish I had the self-regard of a Ms Sales. But I don’t think I will ever have – or that I’d manage well with it since I’m someone who is into doubt. I’ll sign off now. – MWD Editor]

  • Then there is Leigh Sales’ claim that Martin Luther (1483-1546), the founder of the Protestant Reformation, was into doubt. According to the author, “Martin Luther asked whether the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching on salvation was biblical”. A bit simplistic – don’t you think? Luther opposed the teachings of the Catholic Church in general, and the Pope in particular, on salvation and some other matters. Here, Leigh Sales has confused the concept of doubt with the reality of disagreement. Just because Luther said the Catholic Church was wrong does not mean that he was into doubt.

It is said that, on 31 October 1517, Luther nailed his 95 Theses against the Catholic Church’s sale of indulgences on the door of the Wittenberg Church. Some have doubted that Luther’s statement was nailed to the church door. However, as Lyndall Roper writes in her chapter “Martin Luther” in The Oxford Illustrated History of the Reformation, there is evidence that printed theses were put on church doors in the early 16th Century.

In his book 1517 Martin Luther and The Invention of The Reformation (OUP, 2017), Peter Marshall quotes from the speech Luther made in April 1521 before the emperor Charles V:

Unless I am convinced by the testimony of scripture or plain reason (for I believe neither in pope nor councils alone, since it is agreed that they have erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I neither can nor will revoke anything, for it is neither safe nor honest to act against one’s conscience.

These are not the words of a doubter. Quite the contrary. As Peter Marshall has written:

Soon afterwards, accounts printed by Luther’s supporters in Wittenberg, and possibly drawing on his own testimony, added to the speech several further phrases in German: “I can do no other, here I stand, God help me. Amen.” It is possible that Luther never said these famous words, though the contemporary evidence for his doing so is considerably stronger than for his posting of the Theses. Either way, the words he used, and the imposing context in which he said them, were impressive and memorable.

And, that’s the point. Someone who declares, “I can do no other; here I stand” is not someone who is into doubt. Moreover, there is no evidence that Luther ever wondered whether his 95 Theses should have been reduced to 93 or increased to 97. In George Thomas Kurian’s edited collection The Testament Christian Dictionary, reference is made to the fact that “Luther tended to be fiercely hostile to his opponents”. Not a sign of doubt. Also Martin Luther was a virulent anti-semite; he had no doubts about his contempt for Jews.

And yet, despite this aspect of the 2009 edition having been criticised, Ms Sales ran her certainty about Luther’s (alleged) doubt again in the 2018 edition. For the record, Leigh Sales declined to answer – or even acknowledge – correspondence from Gerard Henderson concerning her views on Luther in 2009. The 7.30 presenter seems to be one of those many journalists who like asking questions but avoid answering queries about their own work.



For all her claim to be replete with doubt – the 2009 edition of On Doubt was very much what is to be expected from a presenter on the ABC – which is a Conservative Free Zone without a conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets.

In 2009 Leigh Sales praised the left-liberal Al Gore. And she bagged such conservatives as Sarah Palin, George W Bush and, of course, Rupert Murdoch. This despite the fact that Al Gore has no doubts whatsoever about humankind’s contribution to climate change. So, what about the postscript?

  • For starters, Leigh Sales presents herself as a journalist/interviewer without fault. She is well-informed, incisive, professional, fair and objective. She depicts her employer the ABC – along with SBS – as the “most trusted” sources of information. But the 30 presenter does not explain why – if this is the case – ABC TV News invariably rates behind that of Channel 9 and Channel 7.
  • Leigh Sales gets off to a predictable start, in the Postscript, by describing President Donald J Trump as “a proven liar and bully”. She has no doubt about this.
  • Ms Sales refers to herself as “one” – as in “one’s views”. Anyone who doubted their writing skills would edit out such poor expression – she didn’t.
  • The author opines that “even the term ‘fake news’ is itself now being used dishonestly by politicians, especially President Trump, to discredit legitimate investigative journalism that simply isn’t to their liking”. Again, no doubt here re President Trump.
  • Ms Sales confesses that, not without some “niggles”, she “considered Donald Trump unelectable for one simple reason: his character”. Again, no sign of doubt here in the lead-up to the November 2016 US presidential election.
  • Ms Sales adds that she “thought Americans would never denigrate such a respected office [the presidency] by letting a bombastic narcissist like Donald Trump move in”. Again, she had no doubt then. But now admits that she was wrong – but retains her certainty that President Trump is a “bombastic narcissist”.
  • The author quotes favourably from interviews she did with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition leader Bill Shorten before the 2016 election. In the first interview, Leigh Sales’ questions run for 16 lines and Malcolm Turnbull’s answers run for a mere 10 lines. And the author cut one of her questions for the book. Sales’ questions for her interview with Bill Shorten cover 27 lines; Shorten’s answers take up 32 lines. In other words, the contribution to the interviews by the presenter (Sales) – as presented in On Doubt – is longer than the total responses of the interviewees (Turnbull and Shorten combined). Being more interested in the content of questions than in the answers is not a sign of a doubting journalist.
  • Leigh Sales declares: “I still think there is value in readers or viewers not knowing my personal opinions on controversial issues.” Yet in the previous paragraph she had stated her personal view on global warming and railed against what she described as false balance.

The author declares that “there are not two sides to racism or bigotry” – the implication being that racists and bigots do not deserve publicity. But there is no definition of what is meant by the terms “racism” and “bigotry”. There is a problem here since such terms as “racist”, “bigot” and “fascist” are used as weapons in order to silence individuals whom you do not like or with whom you disagree.

  • Then in her concluding paragraph Ms Sales has – you’ve guessed it – another go at President Trump:

What’s become clear in the decade since I wrote On Doubt is that everything I was worried about back then has become an even bigger problem. What can we do to change that? I can only come back to the things that I hold to be true. Facts matter. Integrity matters. Honesty matters. It’s important to understand that your own opinion is not always right and it’s vital to be open to the views of others. If we do embrace these ideals, will reason, truth and logic ultimately triumph over fake news, post-truth and Trumpism? The simple answer is I don’t know and I’m not afraid to admit it.


So, there you have it. In her self-serving essay, Leigh Sales states that she is a doubter and that she does not state her personal views – seemingly unaware in the very same postscript she has stated her personal opinion on such matters as climate change and President Trump while expressing no doubt whatsoever on either matter.

In fact, it’s not clear from On Doubt precisely what Leigh Sales doubts. Certainly, she has scant doubt in her journalistic ability and no doubt whatsoever that President Trump has denigrated the United States presidency.




This (hugely popular) segment is devoted to helping out public figures – including journalists – who have contracted a serious dose of Abbott-phobia. Sufferers of this condition present as normal individuals who become temporarily unhinged when confronting the real or spoken or written word about Tony Abbott. Some attempt to blame their own particular Valley of Tears on Australia’s 28th prime minister – while others lose their sense of judgment with respect to Tony Abbott or his family. It’s a complicated condition.  That’s why Nurse Jackie’s here to help, all the way from Gunnedah.

* * * *

Let’s go to the transcript of last Sunday’s ABC TV Insiders program when the issue of race was raised and discussed by panellists on-the-couch. Note that this was before the controversial first speech in the Senate by Katter’s Australian Party’s Senator Fraser Anning.

Mike Seccombe: … the demographics from the census show that there is an increasing percentage of people coming to Australia who are not fluent in English – speak English poorly or not at all. So that is clearly something practical that can be done. But that doesn’t have to involve race baiting. Which is happening to some extent…

Niki Savva: That’s the danger when you have people like Abbott coming out and saying “we stir up trouble for ourselves when we allow people to come in who don’t integrate”. Well what does that mean? It sounds like a whistle to me about White Australia.

Lenore Taylor: Absolutely…

Mike Seccombe: But he’s [Barnaby Joyce] dropped that [reference to white Australians] in a couple of interviews now and this is just another indication of what Niki was saying: there are people out there who are dog-whistling and I think that’s another little bit of it just there.

In fact, Tony Abbott has not engaged in race baiting and has never advocated White Australia. Indeed, when prime minister, he decided that Australia would take some 12,000 refugees from the Syrian Civil War in addition to Australia’s generous refugee and humanitarian intake. None of this refugee intake was white.

Jackie (Dip. Wellness) Opines for MWD:

Mr Seccombe, Ms Savva and Ms Taylor presented on Insiders last Sunday as if they had been handed the anti-Abbott tablets from Mount Macedon the night before. This can happen to individuals visiting the ABC studios in Melbourne. In future, I would prescribe that dwellers on the Insiders couch have several Gin & Tonics in the Green Room before it’s lights/camera/action moment. I have found that such medication decreases unanimity and can repress delusion. Worth a try, surely.



Fr Frank Brennan on DPP v Wilson: The Latest

As readers are aware, MWD Issue 417 contained a copy of Fr Father Brennan’s letter to NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman calling for the release of a redacted copy of Magistrate Robert Stone’s decision in DPP v Wilson which was handed down on 29 May 2018. The decision is being appealed.

The conviction of Philip Wilson for failing to report a case of child sexual abuse which occurred four decades ago has been widely commented on in Australia and internationally. However, the Newcastle Local Court has not released a copy (even in redacted form) of Magistrate Stone’s decision. Currently DPP v Wilson can only be read in Newcastle Local Court under supervision and only hand written notes can be taken of the decision.

As MWD has pointed out, ABC TV’s program The Drum devoted considerable time on 3 July 2018 to Archbishop Wilson’s conviction and sentence – despite the fact that neither the presenter nor any of the panellists informed viewers that they had not read the case. All participants criticised the Catholic Church in general and Philip Wilson in particular.

In view of the interest in this matter, MWD re-prints below the latest comment piece on the matter by the lawyer Frank Brennan dated 14 August 2018.

* * * * *

Today Philip Wilson was sentenced to one year’s home detention.  He has 28 days in which to appeal his conviction, as is his right.  I understand the hurt of the victims who want closure on this matter.  But this case was set up as a test case precisely because the law as applied and stretched with a retrospective touch was so untested.

Now that Wilson has resigned as archbishop, I think he is perfectly entitled to exercise his right of appeal in relation to a charge for an offence based on evidence of conversations in the 1970s – an offence which was instituted only in 1990, which was recommended for repeal in 1999, and which is already slated for replacement by the NSW Parliament in relation to child sexual offences.

Back in February 2017, I told the Australian Lawyers’ Alliance: “My own view, based only on the publicly available information, is that the charge is unwarranted and unlikely to be proved. The DPP has clearly viewed this case as a test case on the limits of s.316.  You would have thought they could have found a more compelling set of facts for a test case alleging that the person charged had failed recently to report fresh compelling evidence to police when that evidence could not have been provided by any other credible adult witness.  But that’s not the point.  There is a criminal charge still standing, and presumably the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions is not acting out of some animus to the Catholic Church and its hierarchy, even despite the public disquiet about the Church and its historic handling of these matters, especially in places like Maitland-Newcastle where the criminal priest and the accused bishop were based back in 1976 when the bishop as a newly ordained priest first heard an allegation against the criminal priest and handed on the information to his now deceased parish priest.”

For the offence to be proved, the court needs to be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that between 2004 and 2006, Wilson believed or knew that Fletcher had committed an offence against Creigh back in 1971 AND that Wilson believed or knew he had information which he received in 1976 and which might be of material assistance in convicting the already apprehended Fletcher between 2004 and 2006, AND that Wilson had no reasonable excuse for failing to bring that information to the attention of the police who had already charged Fletcher with a series of offences relating to child sexual abuse.

There’s a deal of material in the magistrate’s unpublished, relatively unavailable, decision which leave me wondering how he could be convinced of all these elements beyond a reasonable doubt.   I can understand how many people, including victims, could think that Wilson was wrong.  But the test of criminal guilt is proof beyond reasonable doubt.  I think it best that we all wait patiently, now that Wilson has resigned, for the appeal processes to take their course.

* * * * *

Philip Wilson’s appeal was lodged on Wednesday 15 August 2018. MWD will keep readers advised of any developments in this matter.