ISSUE – NO. 420

24 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.

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·         Stop Press: Stephen Mayne’s Unfortunate Prediction

·         The Unprofessionalism of 7:30

·         MWD Exclusive: The Drum Presents (again) as a Conservative Free Zone

·         An ABC Update: The Jon Faine Complaint plus Michelle Guthrie’s Troll Concern

·         Your Taxes at Work: The Byron Bay Writers Festival channels the Melbourne Writers Festival

·         The Abbott Phobia Clinic starring The Age’s John Silvester and the Battle of Rorke’s Drift

·         Can You Bear It? Margaret Simons; Jacqueline Maley; The Age & McCarthyism

·         Maurice Newman Segment or how everyone agreed with everyone else on RN Saturday Extra

·         New Feature: The Month’s Mind: MWD looks back on Super Saturday a month after the by-election starring Grahame Young, Catherine McGregor, Tony Walker, William Bowe, Phillip Coorey, Niki Savva.

·         Jackie’s Old Bones: 1918 Rumours about Archbishop Daniel Mannix revealed

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As the old joke goes, it’s not wise to make predictions – especially about the future.

This is what journalist and Crikey founder Stephen Mayne had to say in Crikey on Wednesday – under the heading “How cash, profile and coup fatigue will save Malcolm Turnbull”.

The Murdoch press and the right wing shock jocks might be salivating about decapitating Malcolm Turnbull but the man trying to govern from the sensible centre has a number of key cards at his disposal which should see him survive until May next year.

Your man Mayne even went so far as to suggest that Mr Turnbull might set up a Malcolm Turnbull Sensible Centre Party to contest the 2019 election. Mr Turnbull did not agree.


Last night ABC TV 7.30 invited two commentators to discuss the Liberal Party leadership crisis.  Namely, former Liberal Party leader John Hewson and former Liberal Party minister Amanda Vanstone. What the two have in common is that both support the moderate wing of the Liberal Party and both oppose the conservative wing of the Liberal Party.  This, apparently, is what the ABC calls “balance” in a debate over leadership of the Liberal Party.

So it came as no surprise when – individually and collectively – both Dr Hewson and Ms Vanstone tipped a bucket on the Liberal Party conservatives in general and Peter Dutton and Tony Abbott in particular.  At no stage did 7.30 presenter Leigh Sales advise viewers that the ABC’s chosen commentators were opponents of the Liberal Party contender Peter Dutton.

If 7.30 producers and its presenter had done any research of any kind they would have known that both John Hewson and Amanda Vanstone enthusiastically support Mr Turnbull and are deeply hostile to Mr Dutton.  Ms Vanstone appeared on ABC TV’s The Drum on Tuesday and Dr Hewson appeared on the same program on Wednesday. Their hostile attitude is documented in MWD’s “Exclusive” segment below.

Last night’s 7.30 was another example of the ABC as a Conservative-Free-Zone – without a conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets.  The evidence suggests that neither Ms Sales nor any other member of the 7.30 staff recognised that a panel of two consisting of John Hewson and Amanda Vanstone does not constitute a balanced presentation of contesting ideas – but, rather, a pile-on at the expense of Peter Dutton.  That’s what happens in a Conservative-Free-Zone.

It so happened that the interview was so focused on the Turnbull/Dutton clash that no one even considered the possibility that Scott Morrison might prevail in a party room ballot after a spill.



As avid MWD readers are aware, Gerard Henderson was not invited to appear on the ABC TV The Drum program for the first four years of its operation.  When Hendo was finally asked to appear on the program in February 2014 by presenter Julia Baird – he replied that since he was not invited on The Drum during its first four years he would not accept an invitation for another four years.  Time was up in February 2018 when an open invitation was activated by Dr Baird (for a doctor she is).

And so it came to pass that yesterday Hendo received an invitation from The Drum’s producer to appear on last night’s program.  He advised that this was the first time he had ever received an invitation from one of The Drum’s producers.  Then Hendo declined the invitation – with courtesy, of course.

The reason? Well Hendo said he was not prepared to lend credibility to a program like The Drum which was so unprofessional and invariably so unbalanced.  He referred to the two previous episodes. Namely:

٠ Tuesday 21 August 2018.  Ellen Fanning was in the chair and her panel comprised former Liberal Party minister Amanda Vanstone, former Labor Party staffer Sean Kelly, the Guardian Australia’s Katharine Murphy and social researcher Hugh Mackay.  Everyone barracked for Malcolm Turnbull to a greater or lesser extent and everyone opposed Peter Dutton and his supporter Tony Abbott to a greater or lesser extent. Everyone – including Ellen Fanning.

٠Wednesday 22 August 2018. Ellen Fanning was in the chair and her panel comprised ABC Radio National Saturday Extra presenter Geraldine Doogue, former Liberal Party leader John Hewson, political consultant Andrew Soter, News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst and Melbourne-based lawyer Maker Mayek.  Everyone barracked for Malcolm Turnbull to a greater or lesser extent and everyone opposed Peter Dutton and Tony Abbott to a greater or lesser extent.  Everyone – including Ellen Fanning.

As Hendo told The Drum – he saw no point in lending credibility to such an unprofessional program by gracing it with his (inaugural) presence.  Hendo said that rather than heading out to the ABC Ultimo studio in Sandalista Land – his time would be better spent in having a Gin & Tonic at home before taking Jackie for a (relatively sober) walk.  And so it came to pass.

As to The Drum’s (unprofessional) highlights of recent memory.  An examination of the Tuesday program will do. Sean Kelly declared that Peter Dutton as prime minister “would be a disaster for this country” – he added that Peter Dutton “is willing to use race as a political tool”.  Amanda Vanstone condemned Tony Abbott by alleging that “his Mum said to him he’ll be Prime Minister or the Pope and of course he believes it”.

Hugh Mackay declared that he agreed “absolutely with Sean’s assessment of Peter Dutton” and described the prospect of Mr Dutton becoming prime minister as “appalling”. Katharine Murphy and Ellen Fanning did not demur at any of the attacks by their fellow panellists directed at Peter Dutton and/or Tony Abbott.

In an opinion piece published by Fairfax Media on 28 July 2018, Julia Baird, co-presenter of The Drum, argued that her program attempted to get conservatives on the program. It would seem that no  one at The Drum tried last Tuesday or Wednesday.

No wonder some conservatives will not go on The Drum since, on many occasions, it lacks balance.  Especially when the alternative is a Gin & Tonic followed by escorting a canine around the block.

By the way, The Drum on Tuesday was so unprofessional that it ran three Green/Left style tweets depicting  Peter Dutton as a potato.  Including this one from Labor Party operative Dee Madigan who rejoiced in the contribution by Tara Nite (see below). By the way, Tara Nite describes herself as a “lefty  feminist activist”.

Enough said.




Is there any media outlet in Australia more protective of its journalists than the taxpayer funded public broadcaster?  The reference is to the ABC’s tendency to protect presenters and producers from being identified when complaints are upheld or corrections and clarifications are made.

Lotsa thanks to Stephen Brook’s “The Diary” in The Australian last Monday for drawing attention to this comment which was posted on the ABC’s website on 15 August 2018:

Mornings , 8th June 2018

Summary published: 15th August 2018


A complainant expressed concern that a presenter on ABC Radio Melbourne made offensive comments about the ethnic background of NBN workers during an interview with a representative from NBN Co.

Complaint Finding Status: Upheld

Upheld against 7.7 ABC Editorial Policies (11 April 2011)

Audience and Consumer Affairs response:

The ABC acknowledged that there was no editorial justification for the presenter’s reference to ethnicity in this context. Further, the presumed ethnicity of the workers was used in a pejorative sense and had the effect of condoning discriminatory stereotypes which was not in keeping with the ABC’s editorial standards for harm and offence. The ABC apologised for this lapse in standards.

Complaint finalised July 2018.

Somewhat discreet, don’t you think?  The program’s proper title is Mornings with Jon Faine. And the certain “a presenter” was none other than your man Faine himself.  According to “The Diary”, the complaint followed “an out of character ethnic slur he [Faine] made against Indian technicians” – working for the National Broadband Network.

How about that?  Just imagine what the likes of Jon Faine would have said if an ethnic “joke” had been made by a presenter on “Sky News After Dark”. But it seems that when the offender is an ABC heavy hitter like Jon Faine, the taxpayer funded public broadcaster throws the switch to don’t-talk-about-our-own-ethnic-slurs mode and the name of the offender is despatched down what George Orwell termed the memory hole.


There is a simple solution to the abuse which some ABC presenters are experiencing online. It’s this – stop reading out (usually) anonymous texts.

This became an issue following the report that that ABC Adelaide radio presenter Ali Clarke broke down after – during live radio – she monitored a text message which accused her of conducting a “pitiful interview”.

ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie put out the following statement following the Clarke incident:

Public feedback is part of the job and our frontline employees will be continually assessed on their performance.  But sometimes you need to draw the line.  Particularly in relation to anonymous online attacks or trolling which, unfortunately, are an increasingly common dark facet of online exchanges.  Personal abuse, threats and harassment, are not acceptable. Under any circumstances, ABC employees have the same right as every other person in the workplace to feel safe in their work environment.

Fair enough.  But the solution is simple. Just cease the practice whereby ABC Radio presenters are encouraged by ABC management to read out overwhelmingly anonymous tweets. Many, including those directed at ABC presenters, are aggressive.  Most of the trolls appear to be anonymous intolerant Green Left types who delight in attacking politicians and commentators and even ABC presenters from a leftist perspective.

The practice of reading out listeners’ tweets live on-air has not increased the quality of ABC content. At the very least, ABC management should insist that anyone attacking someone on the taxpayer funded airwaves should have the courage to identify themselves and be named on air.  If listeners are not prepared to stand by their own comments, there is no point in reading them out.



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]

There was enormous interest in last week’s coverage of the leftist stack that was the 2018 Melbourne Writers’ Festival. As reported in MWD Issue 419, MWF artistic director Marieke Hardy insisted that the taxpayer funded festival have “boundaries” to protect unidentified people from being hurt.  It so happened that Ms Hardy’s leftist comrades were accommodated inside the boundary fence while others were not invited to the gig.

Also, as Caroline Overington pointed out in The Weekend Australian last Saturday, there were many speakers from the ABC and Fairfax Media while News Corp authors were not invited inside the boundary. By the way, Germaine Greer was also on Comrade Hardy’s “Not Wanted” list.

What about the recently conducted 2018 Byron Bay Writers’ Festival? – MWD hears you cry. Well, it too was a left-of-centre stack as a list of the Australian guests reveals.  Take a look:

Paul Barclay, Caroline Baum, Anna Clark, Matthew Condon, Michelle de Kretser, Richard Denniss, Robert Drewe, Sarah Ferguson, Kitty Flanagan, Antony Funnell, Peter Greste, Clive Hamilton, Chris Hammer, Jenny Hocking, Karen Middleton, Louise Milligan, Christine Milne, Tanya Plibersek, Henry Reynolds, Margaret Throsby, Gillian Triggs, Debbie Whitmont.

Of particular note is a number of present or past Labor Party and Greens politicians viz:  Tanya Plibersek, Gareth Evans, Anne Aly, Christine Milne. No current or former Coalition politician got a gig in the 2018 Byron Bay Writers’ Festival which was yet another Conservative-Free-Zone. But the populist Jacquie Lambie got a gig.

Your Taxes At Work.



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.

* * * *

What a stunning article by Age crime reporter John Silvester in his “Naked City” column in The Age last Saturday.  This is how the piece – titled “Crime gangs: Facts, fiction and furphies” commenced:

First, an admission – this story is a waste of time. For it relates to the issue of Sudanese crime gangs, where everyone seems to have a firm opinion and no one shows the slightest inclination to change theirs. This is not a black-and-white topic. Those who say there is a problem are not necessarily paid-up members of the KKK and those who say there isn’t are not, by definition, ABC sympathisers who believe tofu should be compulsory in school lunches.

Yes, there is a sinister group (gang, if you like) well practised in the dark arts of moving quickly on the vulnerable for personal gain. They are the politicians who jumped into this debate with the subtlety of a belly flop in a wading pool. Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton claimed Victorians are scared to go to restaurants because of the threat of African violence. Then former prime minister Tony Abbott declared there is an African gang problem that the Victorian ‘‘socialist’’ government failed to address.

While Abbott threw in a couple of crime figures he knocked off from the previous day’s newspapers, the men’s assertions are flimsy at best and their level of research appears to consist of watching reruns of Zulu on late-night television.

And so it went on. And on.  The Age sub-editor even chose to illustrate your man Silvester’s rant with a colour pic from the 1963 film Zulu starring Stanley Baker, Michael Caine and Jack Hawkins.  It’s not at all clear what a film about the attack on British forces at Rorke’s Drift in 1879 has to do with Messrs Dutton and Abbott – but there you go.

Sure your man Silvester did acknowledge that home invasions in Melbourne by South Sudanese youths have had a traumatic effect on their victims – but added that a Victorian is more likely to be bitten by a black snake than to be a victim of an African gang.  How frightfully assuring. And The Age’s crime reporter did not attempt to explain why there is very little violent crime perpetuated by South Sudanese youth in New South Wales.  But at least we know that John Silvester is not a racist and remains welcome in tofu-eating circles in Fitzroy North.

Nurse Jackie Comments: Mr Silvester presents as a luvvie crime reporter intent on proclaiming that some violent crimes are more understandable than other violent crimes. He was also insistent on declaring that he is Ku Klux Klan (aka KKK) free. Fair enough. But what explains his apparent infatuation with a film half a century ago where Zulus are defeated by Mr Caine and his actor mates? I would recommend a Gin & Tonic each night before the home movies commence – and that the patient should change his late night movie viewing habits. Let’s start tonight with Mary Poppins.  I hope this helps.

Jackie (Dip. Wellness).


Can You Bear It


Lotsa thanks to the avid readers who drew MWD’s attention to the discussion about Sky News which took place on Phillip Adams’ little wireless program Late Night Live on Thursday 9 August.  The talent for the evening was author and journalist Margaret Simons.  The producer was Amruta Slee.

Let’s go to the transcript to get a flavour of the program from the very start:

Phillip Adams: Not everyone listening to our little wireless program will have seen it [Sky News]. Can you describe it to me?

Margaret Simons: Yeah, well it’s got a bit of a split personality. During the day it runs a pretty straight no-frills news service. Most newsrooms would probably have it on continuous play because it tends to give you unedited versions of media conferences. If the prime minister is at the door of Parliament House saying a few words you’ll get all of them, not just a sort of packaged version in a news broadcast. And of course it’s got very respected journalists such as David Speers their political editor and others. So during the day it’s sort of a –

Phillip Adams: Let’s look at the others. There’s Peter Van Onselen, there’s Samantha Maiden, Laura Jayes – all of them reasonable, respectable.

Margaret Simons: Yes, reputable journalists. But when the Sun goes down things change quite dramatically and they have a cohort of right-wing commentators who are given sort of magazine and interview type programs which seem to operate on totally different values. They skew to the right.

Alas, it seems that early in the Late Night Live discussion, the Sun went down on knowledge.  Dr Simons (for a doctor she is) seemed unaware that Peter Van Onselen and Samantha Maiden had already left Sky News when the LNL interview took place.  It would seem that she is an “expert” on Sky News who does not watch Sky News.  But wait – apparently the learned professor does not watch Fox News as well.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Phillip Adams: There are some serious shows still on [Sky News] at night I understand?

Margaret Simons: Yes there are, and unlike Fox News there are some commentators who are not from the right as well. There is some balance. But, so it’s not really a Fox News….

What a load of absolute tosh.  Obviously, Margaret Simons does not watch Fox News either.  In fact, Fox News has many contracted commentators who are liberal (in the American sense of the term) or left-liberal or left-of-centre.

And so it came to pass that the discussion [Shouldn’t you be saying the “conversation” – MWD Editor?] continued in all its ignorance. The learned professor advised that Pay TV Sky News rates poorly when compared to Channel 7’s My Kitchen Rules.  Quelle surprise!  Then Phillip Adams asked: “Is Mark Latham still around?” To which Margaret Simons replied: “No, I think he’s been dumped now – hasn’t he?  I think he’s too much even for them.”  It’s true that Mark Latham no longer co-hosts a show on Sky News but he is an occasional commentator. Dr Simons did not know this.

Margaret Simons also seemed to believe that the Sky News channel used to be shown at railway stations in the Melbourne CBD.  Not so – only an edited news and weather segment was shown.  And the learned professor did not demur when it was suggested that – unlike Sky News – ABC TV’s The Drum leans over backwards to get balance on its segments.  It seems Margaret Simons does not watch The Drum either. Since even its co-presented Julia Baird acknowledges that the program does not have enough conservative voices.

Dr Simons in an associate professor in the school of Media, Film and Journalism at Monash University. Can You Bear It?


While on the topic of Sky News, did anyone read the piece by Jacqueline (“I don’t answer difficult questions from Hendo”) Maley in the Sydney Morning Herald last Tuesday?  Titled “No sniping. It seems that Sky’s the limit”, it was a somewhat confused rant about Sky News – especially what is called “Sky News After Dark”. Namely Credlin, The Bolt Report, Paul Murray Live, Outsiders, Jones & Co and some others.

It was confused because the piece ran two theses. First, Sky News has a small audience. Second, Sky News has too much influence. To drum home the first point, the SMH ran the following break-out:

Outsize Influence



Peak Sky viewers between

8 pm and 10 pm.



Average viewers of 7.30

on ABC

That’s a big difference, to be sure.  However, anyone who read up to paragraph 21 of Ms Maley’s piece would have found that these figures are for 2016 – that is, two years ago.  [Why would anyone of sound mind read that far into an article by Ms Maley? – MWD Editor]

In her conclusion, the Sydney Morning Herald’s intrepid reporter argued that Malcolm Turnbull’s political difficulties are primarily due to The Bolter and others:

It is a small number of right-wing conservatives who have torpedoed the NEG, the policy that was supposed to be the grace note of the Turnbull prime ministership, the full stop at the end of the ideological energy wars we have tediously waged in this country for a decade.

But that conservative cluster was able to harness a disproportionate media presence to capsize the NEG, and cruel the genuine attempts by the Prime Minister and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg to end the impasse. And so, a policy supported by the public, and the majority of the Coalition party room, has been successfully wrecked.

That was early Tuesday morning. At around 9 am that very day, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull spilled the party leadership without notice. Only to find that he gained a mere 58 per cent of the vote.  A look at the 35 parliamentarians who voted for the initial spill motion last Tuesday reveals that many are not right-wing conservatives.  Moreover, many had priorities other than the National Energy Guarantee. What’s more, if Sky News After Dark is as influential as Ms Maley suggests – then Peter Dutton – not Scott Morrison – would be prime minister today.

It makes for a good story to maintain that the Liberal Party acts on the advice of the likes of Peta Credlin and Andrew Bolt.  But no more than a good story.  And what to say about the SMH’s decision to run a whole page on a Pay TV channel which Ms Maley reckons has a “very small reach”?  Well, Can You Bear It?


Last Saturday The Age splashed with its “Exclusive IPSOS Survey” on the attitudes of living Australians through the ages.  The groups comprised the Silent Generation (born 1928-1945), Baby Boomers (1946-1964), Generation X (1965-1980) and Millennials (1981-1996). The article was put together by Adam Carey and Alexander Gluyas.

This is what Messrs Carey and Gluyas had to say about The Silent Generation – in all 40 words:


Born: 1928-1945 (73-90 years old)

As young adults during the McCarthy era, many felt it was dangerous to speak out. Also named the “Lucky Few” as there were fewer of them due to being born around the Great Depression. Known as civil rights leaders later in life.

What a load of absolute tosh.  There was no “McCarthy era” in Australia. This reference is to the anti-communist advocacy of Senator Joe McCarthy (1908-1957) in the United States in the early 1950s.  Australians born between 1928 and 1945 spoke out – and those who are still alive continue to speak out.  In Victoria, for example, the home state of The Age, individuals in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s were active in the Communist Party of Australia, in the anti-communist National Civic Council, in the trade union movement, in business, the Liberal Party, the Country Party, the Labor Party and so on. There were wide ranging debates concerning Australia’s involvement in the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

It is a left-wing myth that it “was dangerous to speak out” in Australia in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and beyond.  Age journalists would know this if they read back-copies of, er, The Age.  Also it is not clear how anyone born after 1940 “was born around the Great Depression” of circa 1930.  As to the claim that Australians aged between 73 and 90 years old today were called “The Few” – well The Age just made this up.  Can You Bear It?


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

In other words, Mr Newman believes that the taxpayer-funded public broadcaster should be pluralist — while Nice Mr Scott reckons that it is just fine that the ABC is a Conservative Free Zone without a conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets.

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

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


The ABC’s  Geraldine  Doogue is one of MWD’s faves.  She is an interviewer who listens to what her interviewees have to say and she’s invariably well-informed. However, Ms Doogue was not in good form on her ABC Radio National Saturday Extra program on 11 August 2018.  This is how Saturday Extra defined the topic:

Just as we hit a new population high of 25 million people, a known racist was given a warm and welcome reception on Sky News. Immigration inevitably brings out the extremes of opinion – which have a way of hijacking any serious or measured talk. So how do we as a nation carve out a sensible, constructive debate on this topic, one which is not extreme, but which canvases many of the real concerns we have? Such as the unmanageable, even intolerable pressures currently placed on the infrastructure of our major cities.

Producers Gail Boserio and Ann Arnold called in a panel of three. All were left-of-centre. All were current or former journalists.  All were male.  And all agreed with each other.  Here they are:

James Button

Formerly Journalist with The Age. Co-author, with Abul Rizvi, of an essay on immigration politics in the most recent edition of Griffith Review, “Who we are”


Bernard Keane

Political editor of Crikey. Author of The mess we’re in (Allen & Unwin, July 2018)


Andrew Jaspan

Former editor in chief of The Age, co-founder of The Conversation website and professorial fellow at RMIT


The segment which ran for 25 minutes, commenced with James Button who was asked to respond to the question as to how there can be sensible and constructive debates which do no harm.  Mr Button said that Australians can have considered debates.  But he mentioned that on the contentious issue of immigration – it was okay for someone to talk about problems caused by high levels of immigration provided he or she mentioned the benefits of immigration.  And then your man Button bagged Sky News. Quelle surprise!  In other words, speech in this instance should be curtailed.

Step forward Andrew Jaspan – who declared “I broadly agree with James”. Your man Jaspan quickly moved to bagging Donald J. Trump and opposed President Trump’s response to global warming. Quelle surprise!

Step forward Bernard Keane who was more pessimistic than Messrs Button and Jaspan.  He said that there was a perception in the community that people were no longer in control of immigration. Your man Keane went on to bag Tony Abbott. Quelle surprise!

Then the presenter asked the three middle-aged blokes what they thought of Sky News.  Andrew Jaspan did a rant about Breitbart in the United States which he accused of condemning consensus.  Then James declared that Andrew and Bernard were “absolutely right” about the current political climate. Here Geraldine Doogue suggested that in the public debate we need places where we will not go and then bagged Sky News. Quelle surprise!

Ms Doogue quoted favourably from former Labor Party politician Craig Emerson that an article written by Sky News presenter Andrew Bolt was “very close to pre-war Nazi Germany”. Really. Then Mr Keane, wait for it, attacked President Trump – whom he said was worse than anyone in Australia. Phew.

At this stage Geraldine Doogue mentioned to her three guests that some citizens might say that, due to gatekeepers, they did not get their say. Whereupon Mr Keane bagged Sky News – which he declared set out to appeal to an older, conservative and heavily male audience. [Fancy that.  The Saturday Extra panel guests were all male and not all that young. Although it’s true that not one was a conservative. –  MWD Editor]

Then Ms Doogue quoted her ABC colleague James Valentine as saying that in the current political climate it’s up to the moderator of a debate to take control.  Whereupon James Button said that this made a lot of sense. And so the discussion went on as James agreed with Andrew who agreed with Bernard who agreed with James who agreed with Geraldine who agreed with Andrew who agreed with James who agreed with himself.

Then, lo and behold, your man Keane realised that this Saturday Extra gig was a discussion between four professional middle class people. But, by then, the discussion was over.

Maurice Newman Segment Scorecard:

Maurice Newman:           3

Nice Mr Scott:                 Zip



It was a practice of the Medieval Church to celebrate what was called a Month’s Mind – on the occasion of around a month since the death of a person.  This was remembered with a religious service followed by a feast.

It is a month tomorrow since the Super Saturday by-elections of recent memory.  On the Month’s Mind of this occasion, it is appropriate to recall just how many self-proclaimed experts foresaw that Super Saturday would be a super result for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and a super failure for Bill Shorten and the Labor Party.

The Liberal Party did relatively well in Braddon – since there was barely a swing against it.  But the Liberal National Party did poorly in the south-east Queensland seat of Longman.  And the Liberal Party did poorly in the South Australian seat of Mayo.  In Longman, the Liberal National Party’s primary vote was 29.6 per cent, in Mayo it was 37.4 per cent.

It was a disappointing outcome for the Liberal National Party in Longman that commenced the developments which resulted in the Liberal Party leadership crisis of this week.  So, at the Month’s Mind of Super Saturday it’s time to look back in wonder at how the experts got it oh-so-wrong in foreseeing the imminent death of Bill Shorten.

* * * *

٠Graham Young

If polls are right then Longman may be only the second seat to be taken from an opposition by a government since Federation. Longman is typical of the outer-ring suburban seats that decide the fate of governments in Australia: full of new families, and retirees, a feeder suburb where people leave home to go to work, trading mortgage payments against miles in the car. These are aspirational voters, with realism. They take modest steps towards their goals and tend to be frugal and careful.

So what makes this a possible win for the LNP now? First there is the margin – just 0.79%. It wouldn’t take too much to change that, a low turnout might be enough, without any change in underlying voter sentiment. And that margin was achieved after a 7.71 per cent swing – the largest in Queensland. That suggests that there may have been dissatisfaction with the previous member, Wyatt Roy, and there was. Electors thought he was too young, too aloof, too cocky, and they didn’t like him being a key plotter in toppling Tony Abbott. And there were morality issues, like his stance on gay marriage, all of which culminated in One Nation directing preferences against him.

– Graham Young “Why is Labor copping the Longman protest vote”, Australian Financial Review, 26 July 2018.

* * * *

٠ Catherine McGregor

To paraphrase [Nye] Bevan, it would require peculiar genius for Bill Shorten to forfeit two Labor seats to an unpopular, divided and divisive government this Saturday. Oppositions simply do not lose byelections to governments, especially one as riven by deep personality and policy divisions as this one. Should Labor lose Longman in Queensland, alone, it will have serious ramifications for the party. A loss there, coupled with defeat in Braddon, would almost certainly be the harbinger of defeat at the next general election and sound the death knell of Shorten’s leadership.

When I speculated in January, that I thought Malcolm Turnbull had Bill Shorten’s measure, I was roundly ridiculed. While Labor may yet retain both Longman and Braddon, it is clear that the political momentum has shifted away from Labor. Shorten’s personal standing in the polls renders him almost unelectable. And that is a term that I rarely employ, as in major elections where government has changed hands, the incumbent prime minister has often retained personal ascendancy over their opponent. It is the mystique of incumbency.

But the deficit facing Shorten is enormous and growing. It also seems to be deflating his party’s numbers as well. Labor still leads the government in all reputable polls, though, by a margin that would probably evaporate as voters confront the stark choice of Shorten as prime minister, as the election looms. This prediction gives me no joy.

– Catherine McGregor, “Shorten’s leadership is on the line”, Canberra Times, 27 July 2018.

* * * *

٠Tony Walker

What caucus giveth, caucus can also taketh away. Bill Shorten will not need reminding of this baleful detail as the countdown begins this week for what are, arguably, the most consequential byelections since Labor lost the seat of Bass in Tasmania in 1975, heralding the beginning of the end of the Whitlam government.

More than a generation later, another Labor leader is facing a similarly testing byelection moment – not from government, but from opposition. Byelections should benefit oppositions since they provide an opportunity for voters to register a protest without actually changing a government (the average byelection swing against the government since 1901 has been 3.8 per cent); but in this case pressure is not on the government of the day but on the opposition….

Four of the byelections are in seats won by Labor in 2016, and one by an independent. Labor seats are Fremantle, margin 7.5 per cent; Perth, 3.3 per cent; Braddon, 2.2 per cent; and Longman, 0.8 percent. Labor will win Fremantle and Perth, but results in the Tasmanian seat of Braddon and Longman on the outskirts of Brisbane are unpredictable, and thus politically precarious for Shorten.

– Tony Walker “Shorten faces his moment of truth on Super Saturday”, Sydney Morning Herald, 23 July 2018.

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٠ William Bowe

With tomorrow’s byelections, Bill Shorten faces what journalists intoxicated by the blood sport of leadership speculation like to call a “crucial test”. Should he fail, he will carry the millstone of being “the first Opposition Leader to lose a seat at a byelection since 1920”.

– William Bowe “How dangerous could the Super Saturday byelections be for Bill Shorten?”, Crikey, 27 July 2018.

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٠ Phillip Coorey

Had Labor’s Justine Keay (Braddon), Susan Lamb (Longman), Josh Wilson (Fremantle) and Katy Gallagher (ACT, Senator) also been referred last year, all of this would have been sorted before Christmas and in a much different political context.

One in which federal Labor was more ascendant in the polls, Malcolm Turnbull was struggling with internal unrest and, even if undeserved, there was a level of public sympathy for the MPs caught in the dual-citizenship debacle. Chances are, all MPs would have been returned.

That picture has changed. Today the polls are tighter, the Coalition has calmed down and the distance to the general election can be measured in months, making the outcomes a litmus test for Shorten.

– Phillip Coorey, “Labor peace depends on wins in Longman, Braddon”, AFR, 27 July 2018

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٠ Niki Savva

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.

It is tempting to say it, certainly a few Liberals are thinking it, but it is not quite true. It is true that inside the government, although they profess to be undaunted by the prospect of Anthony Albanese, they believe they have Shorten’s measure and would rather he stayed, spurred by private research that shows while disunity is their greatest liability, Shorten remains their most valuable asset….

As by-elections go, these are weird. Normally by-elections are a gift for an opposition, even if the sitting member dies. All it has to do is convince voters they need to send a message to the government. Obviously, many will. However, the greater weight has been on the message for Labor. If the party loses both Longman and Braddon, Shorten is a goner.

The only interpretation to be put on that devastating outcome would be that they need not only a new leader but a new approach. Labor sources wish in that case that Shorten would do the right thing, resign and go quietly. Good luck with that. They do not discount the possibility that Shorten, knowing he was done for, would throw his weight behind another likely contender, say Chris Bowen.

If he [Shorten] loses one and wins one, it gets more complicated. Some Labor MPs are inclined to allow events to maturate over weeks. Or fester, more likely. If he wins both, it still needs to be emphatic. While a win’s a win, if it’s by a sliver, doubts would remain over Shorten’s ability, in the face of an unpopularity that could not be denied, that he could win the general election.

– Niki Savva, “Nothing is quite as it seems for Super Saturday”, The Australian,  26 July 2018.

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Due to overwhelming popular demand, this segment returns – albeit under a different name (following the death of Nancy). It is devoted to digging up and revealing long-forgotten facts – and Jackie is up to the task.

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As avid readers are aware, MWD has a particular interest in the fallibility of memory – which, on occasions, leads to individuals having a clear “recollection” of events that never happened.  MWD is also interested in rumour and the willingness of individuals to believe what people tell them. This overlooks the fact that some people lie while some others make things up or repeat the errors of others.

One hundred years ago Australia was in what turned out to be the final months of what was termed the Great War – it was later referred to as the First World War or World War 1.

On 20 December 1917, the second plebiscite on conscription was defeated by a vote of 46.2 per cent “for” and 53.8 per cent “Against”. Victoria which voted “Yes” in the 28 October 1916 plebiscite voted “No” in December 1917.  The Irish-born Dr Daniel Mannix, the Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, played a significant role in the 1917 campaign as an opponent of conscription.  The campaign was rife with anti-Catholic sectarianism – which was directed by “Yes” supporters at Dr Mannix.

At the time there was a view that Catholics in Australia, most of whom were of Irish stock, were plotting the overthrow of democracy and to establish a theocracy ruled by the Pope.  It was still a sense of crisis that led the police to investigate a report that Archbishop Mannix – who moved into his home Raheen on Studley Park Road, Kew, in early 1918 – was involved in planning a revolution by storing arms.

And now for a look into Hendo’s Files – per courtesy of Jackie’s digging.  It is a report titled Re Rumour of Arms Stored at Raheen dated 10 May 1918.  The report was prepared by the Commonwealth Investigations Branch within the Commonwealth Department of the Attorney-General.


On 9.5.18 I visited Mrs Davies, 19 Yarra Street, South Yarra, who informed me that she had got the information from a Mrs Cashmore of 13 Yarra Street, South Yarra. I then paid Mrs Cashmore a visit and she stated that she had heard the rumour from her daughter, who then appeared.

Miss Cashmore stated she had heard it from a girl, a small child at school, who in turn had got the information from her sister who works at a Factory, the sister having got it from another factory girl who had got it from a carpenter who had worked at Raheen when the alterations and improvements were being made before Christmas.

From Miss Cashmore’s demeanour and evident desire that I should not proceed further with the enquiry, I came to the conclusion that this rumour was nothing more than idle gossip which had gathered importance in its travels.



How about that?  A Commonwealth Investigation Branch report was ordered on the basis of what a carpenter (allegedly) told a factory girl who (allegedly) told another factory girl who (allegedly) told her sister who was a small child who (allegedly) told Miss Cashmore who (allegedly) told Mrs Cashmore who (allegedly) told Mrs Davies – who was interviewed by the Commonwealth Investigations Branch.

So – there you go.

[I wonder if the Commonwealth Investigations Branch copper bothered to investigate the rumour that there was a tunnel underneath Studley Park Road from Raheen to John Wren’s home Studley House.  I understand that Jackie’s (male) co-owner clearly recalls travelling down this tunnel in 1968 – after a Gin & Tonic or two. – MWD Editor.]

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Until next time.


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