ISSUE – NO. 423

14 September 2018

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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: ABC Fact Checkers AWOL on Wentworth By-election

  • Can You Bear It? Fran Kelly; Maureen Dowd; Nikolai Beilharz’s Pool Cake

  • MWD Exclusive: ABC Clears Bongiorno (Of Course) – Using the “Ignorance” Defence

  • An ABC Update Featuring ABC Life’s Time Travel & Juanita Phillips’ Insensitivity

  • Five Paws Award: Step Forward Tim Tilley for Chelsea Manning Interview

  • Maurice Newman Segment: Everyone Agrees with Everyone Else on The Drum as Julia Baird Throws the Switch to a Panellist’s Stream-of-Consciousness

  • New Feature: Curt & Quick Reviews featuring Ms Sales on Mr Bolt and Hendo on Ms Sales

  • History Corner: Sky News’ Paul Murray Embraces the Left’s “Fake News” on the Brisbane Line

  • Correspondence: Stephen Mayne Helps Out (Sort of)

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MWD has long maintained that the ABC should check its own “facts” before checking the facts of others via its RMIT-ABC Fact Check unit.  As MWD documented last week, Madeleine Morris’s attempt to fact-check Tim Wilson’s comment on the ending of the White Australia Policy was ahistorical.  But MWD digresses.

Here are two ABC “facts” in the lead up to last night’s Liberal Party pre-selection to contest the Wentworth by-election on October 20. The Wentworth by-election is destined to be one of the most reported such events in Australian history.

The World Today – 10 September 2018

Stephanie Borys (ABC journalist): Whenever the Wentworth by-election is held, there won’t be a female Liberal candidate because no women nominated for pre-selection.

Hendo’s Fact Check:  Hopelessly wrong.  Liberal Party nominations for Wentworth pre-selection closed before last Monday and it was widely known that there were three female candidates.

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News Breakfast – 14 September 2018, “Newspapers” Segment

Liberty Sanger (ABC commentator): Dave Sharma, as I understand, is also a very good quality candidate. He comes from a Jewish background. There’s a large Jewish community in that seat [Wentworth] too, that may well play to his favour. But whether that will be enough, we’ll have to wait and see.

Hendo’s Fact Check:  Dave (Devanand) Sharma was born in Canada to parents of Indian heritage.  His family moved to Sydney in 1979.  Mr Sharma is not Jewish and does not have a Jewish background.


Can You Bear It


Did anyone hear the interview between Fran Kelly and Green MP Adam Bandt on ABC RN Breakfast on Tuesday?  It was one of those tell-me-what-you-think-in-the-knowledge-that-I-won’t-interrupt-or-challenge-your-point-of-view discussions.  They are quite common when Greens types are interviewed on the taxpayer funded public broadcaster.

Adam Bandt banged on and on about Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and the dreadful scandal in the fact that – some years ago – he had given two au pairs a three month tourist visa and released them from an airport detention centre.  Mr Bandt also claimed that Minister Dutton spoke with the then head of Customs, Roman Quaedvlieg, about giving two policemen jobs at Border Force. How shocking is that?

It was essentially a free kick for Adam Bandt to rail at Peter Dutton. It seems that Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly simply forgot to raise the Instagram entry – which was in the news – that the Member for Melbourne posted at the weekend in which he referred to his “hot wife”.  That’s not okay talk in Fitzroy North – aka Sandalista Central – but Ms Kelly let the topic go as if there had been no mention of Mr Bandt’s “hot wife”.

Just imagine the lecture that Ms Kelly might have given to say, Tony Abbott, if he had been so sexist/insensitive to refer to his own wife as “hot”.  It seems that Greens MPs often get some kind of dispensation while being interviewed on what is effectively “Green/Left Breakfast”. Can You Bear It?


While on the topic of Peter Dutton/Roman Quaedvlieg and all that – what a stunning piece by opinion columnist Maureen Dowd in the New York Times on 1 September. She was recently a guest of the Antidote Conference at the Sydney Opera House.

It was your typical Dowd over-written column.  The ostensibly white Maureen Dowd commenced by bagging Australia’s “scheming white men”. And she referred to a “juicy government scandal” involving “illicit favours for a pair of comely young women”. What a load of absolute tosh.

There is no suggestion – apart from that of Ms Dowd herself – that anyone got “illicit favours” in this instance.  Maureen Dowd just made this up.  Also the NYT opinion writer’s claim that Peter Dutton helped “friends and donors keep two au pairs – one French and one Italian – in the country” is false.  They were given three months tourist visas and returned to France and Italy respectively a long time ago.

Maureen Dowd also claimed that, in the recent leadership ballot to replace Malcolm Turnbull as prime minister, Julie Bishop “was shockingly shoved aside at the last minute”.  In fact, Ms Bishop entered the ballot at the last minute.

And who might Ms Dowd have got her information from before writing her NYT opinion piece?  Well, she only cited one source, Australian National University professor Frank Bongiorno.  Dr Bongiorno (for a doctor he is) is author of the piss-poor book The Eighties which was analysed in MWD Issue 295.  In his analysis of Australia provided to the NYT, your man Bongiorno found time to blame Donald Trump and Rupert Murdoch for what Ms Dowd claimed was the “chaos” in Australia.  The familiar Blame Donald/Blame Rupert line.

Maureen Dowd concluded her NYT piece by claiming that the recent leadership change in Australia was “so crazy because it was not a contest of ideas, just slippery and mud wrestling”. However, earlier in her article, she wrote that Malcolm Turnbull’s removal was sparked by his emission reductions policy – which sounds like a contest of ideas, don’t you think? Can You Bear It?


It was Tuesday morning on 11 September 2018 and ABC journo Nikolai Beilharz was doing the “Newspapers” gig on ABC TV News Breakfast.  It seems that your man Beilharz regarded last Tuesday as a slow news day – since he chose to talk about cake – yes, cake – as the final in his chosen topics about the news that morning.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Virginia Trioli: And just finally this morning Nikolai – The Australian Women’s Weekly Birthday Cookbook. Go.

Nikolai Beilharz: So, my wife, who –

Michael Rowland: Good morning Monique.

Nikolai Beilharz: Good morning Monique – who has been on the Great Australian Bake Off, was a finalist in the Great Australian Bake Off.

Virginia Trioli: Oh was she?

Nikolai Beilharz: She was. So I, perhaps against my better judgement, decided I’ll bake her a cake for her birthday.

Virginia Trioli: That’s nice.

Nikolai Beilharz: So I decided to go for the Pool Cake.

Michael Rowland: Well done Nikolai, that looks fantastic.

Nikolai Beilharz: The grass isn’t very natural, I don’t think.

Virginia Trioli: What’s it made from, that grass?

Nikolai Beilharz: Coconut.

Virginia Trioli: Dyed coconut? Lovely. And you went for the blue jelly not the green jelly, okay.

Nikolai Beilharz: Controversial choice.

Virginia Trioli: How do you even buy blue jelly?

Nikolai Beilharz: Yeah well it was hard to find. And between you and me and Australia – it crushed me. Emotionally, spiritually, physically.

Virginia Trioli: I bet.

Nikolai Beilharz: It took hours to do.

Virginia Trioli: I bet you started in the afternoon thinking, “Oh I’ll have it done” and then at midnight you were still going.

Nikolai Beilharz: Yeah because I’ve never really baked before, as well. So it was a bit of a learning curve.

Virginia Trioli: Nice job, well done….

Yeah.  Nice job. Well done.  There was much news that morning – covering Australian national politics, international politics and more besides. Yet Mr Beilharz seriously believed that viewers were interested in the fact that his wife was a finalist in the Great Australian Bake Off and that he baked her a cake – his inaugural bake off – for her birthday. Go on – alas – he did. [Hold for a moment – while I wipe a tear from my eye – MWD Editor.]  What’s more it was a Pool Cake with green dyed coconut for grass and blue jelly for water.  And the project crushed the ABC man.  Not only emotionally but also spiritually and physically. [Can’t he talk about anyone but himself? – MWD Editor.]

Meanwhile, as Nikolai threw the switch to self-indulgence, thousands and thousands of viewers throughout the land went back to bed/walked the dog/read a newspaper/poured an early Gin & Tonic/or switched to Sky News in order to escape the Pool Cake induced boredom.  At the end, co-presenters Michael Rowland and Virginia Trioli suggested that Baker Beilharz might make another cake one day. Hold the front page. Groan. Can You Bear It?



As avid readers are aware, The Saturday Paper’s house leftie Paul Bongiorno – who has a paid gig on ABC Radio National’s Breakfast – recently called Warren Mundine an “Uncle Tom” (in a tweet). This is a term of abuse directed at black men who allegedly sell out their principles in order to attain the favour of whites.

Understandably, Warren Mundine took issue with Bonge’s assertion. On 15 July 2018, Mr Mundine wrote to ABC managing director and (so called) editor-in-chief Michelle Guthrie complaining about Mr Bongiorno’s abuse.

Riley Brown – one of MWD’s avid readers – filed an official complaint with the ABC about the Bonge tweet.  Mr Brown said that it was not in accordance with the ABC’s social media policy since it had brought the ABC into disrepute and undermined Paul Bongiorno’s effectiveness as a political commentator.

On 23 August 2018, Matthew Galvin of ABC News Management wrote to Riley Brown in the following terms:

Dear Mr Brown

Thank you for your email, which has been referred to ABC News Management for response. Your concerns regarding a recent tweet by Paul Bongiorno from his personal Twitter account are noted.

Given the relatively loose and occasional relationship the ABC has with Mr Bongiorno, the fact that he does not report for or represent us but simply shares his own views, and the fact that the post was made on a third-party site, Mr Bongiorno is subject to the ABC policy on private use of social media in a very limited way. With this in mind, ABC management has, of course, considered whether his post does bring the ABC into disrepute or undermine his effectiveness as an occasional commentator on the ABC.

Our conclusion is that it has not. That is not to say that we in any way endorse what he wrote. Mr Bongiorno used an obnoxious racial epithet apparently without realising its meaning. When the significance and origin of the term was pointed out to him, he immediately apologised. ABC News management has discussed the matter with Mr Bongiorno and we are sure his apology was sincere and complete. Considering his error was caused by ignorance rather than prejudice we consider the matter closed.

Thank you for bringing your concerns to the ABC’s attention.

Yours sincerely

Matthew Galvin

ABC News Management

So everything’s all right then.  Sure Bonge used “an obnoxious racial epithet” but he did not understand what he was saying.  In short, according to the ABC – Bonge is not a racist. He’s just an ignoramus. So that’s okay.




Thousands upon thousands of avid readers have requested an update about how the multi-million dollar initiative called ABC Life  is going at the taxpayer funded public broadcaster.  Well, the truth is that Jackie’s (male) co-owner has been just so busy that he has not had time to view all the helpful insights provided on the ABC website.

Hendo’s time problems may soon be solved.  You see, ABC Life is running a campaign titled “Take Back Your Life”. Written by Sonya Gee, this provides advice about how we can take control over a crucial aspect of our life “as we head towards the end of the year” [Funny that – I thought we were heading towards Christmas. – MWD Editor].  You see, Ms Gee and her taxpayer funded colleagues are going to help us all take control over a crucial aspect of our lives.  To wit, our time.

Here’s Sonya Gee’s clever plan. Week 1 – We all take a time audit with the help of – you’ve guessed it – a downloadable spreadsheet.  Week 2 – we work on ways to eliminate the optional matters in our life. Week 3 – having saved all this optional time, we can use the saved time to do something we always wanted to do but never had the time to undertake.  Week 4 – Ms Gee checks in to see how we have done in Weeks 1, 2 and 3. Er, that’s it. Brilliant, eh?

Jackie (Dip Wellness) comments for MWD

I’m so pleased that the taxpayer funded public broadcaster has found time to discuss time. Growing up in Gunnedah I found that time is your worst enemy.  You’re either too young or too old – too early or too late. Now, thanks to the ABC, I can organise my life with the help of a downloadable spreadsheet. I expect that life will never be the same. Lotsa thanks to all those Australian taxpayers who have so helped me to improve my quality of life.


ABC presenters and journalists spend their careers asking questions of others. But, as MWD readers know, many are reluctant to answer questions. This despite the fact that the ABC formally backs the Right to Know campaign.

As The Australian’s Lilly Vitorovich reported on Wednesday, the ABC has refused to clarify whether its political editor Andrew Probyn participated in a re-enactment of the Liberal Party leadership challenge for ABC TV News.   Certainly someone who looks a bit like your man Probyn was depicted attempting to get a parliamentarian to sign a petition seeking a party room meeting that would lead to a leadership spill.  This is a contentious issue since what took place in the lead-up to Malcolm Turnbull losing the Liberal Party leadership is contested and, consequently, not suitable for re-enactment at this time.

This is a simple matter.  Did Mr Probyn take part in the re-enactment?  A “Yes” or “No” answer will suffice. But Sally Jackson, who holds the position of ABC Head of Communications, has merely said that “we don’t have anything to contribute”. She did not say why.

So here we have a situation where the taxpayer funded public broadcaster refuses to answer straightforward questions about its programming.

What’s more, ABC presenters and journalists have attempted to sneer at those criticising the ABC’s lack of accountability in this instance.  Here are a couple of examples of ABC journos defending ABC secrecy in response to Lilly Vitorovich’s report – which ABC Radio National Matt Bevan described as “the dumbest Oz shot at the ABC ever.”

Comrades Bevan and Phillips seems somewhat confused here.  If The Australian’s story is no big deal – then Andrew Probyn should simply say whether he appeared in the re-enactment or not. It’s easy.

And as to Juanita Phillips’s tweet.  Can you believe that the ABC TV Sydney newsreader could use the memory of the young mother Lyn Dawson – who disappeared in 1982 and who two coroners have found was murdered – to make a non-funny rant in defence of Andrew Probyn?  Ms Phillips should be able to do better than this.


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 Tom Tilley.


Thanks to avid reader Michael Danby MP who drew MWD’s attention to the pre-recorded interview conducted by Triple J Hack’s Tom Tilley with Chelsea Manning last weekend.  Manning had been due in Australia for a conference at the Sydney Opera House last Sunday – but was not granted a visa in time to make a personal appearance. So Triple J’s Hack program arranged for a pre-record.

Chelsea Manning was convicted of espionage after the biggest leak of United States secrets in the history of the nation.  Manning served seven years in prison – her sentence was commuted by President Obama towards the end of his second term.  During the trial, the prosecution maintained that Manning betrayed the US by leaking documents – knowing that they might find their way to Al Qaeda and other enemies of the United States.

The Tilley/Manning interview ended sooner than expected – as the transcript demonstrated:

Tom Tilley: Some of our leaked documents were found in Osama Bin Laden’s compound though, after his death, that’s information in the hands of one of America’s biggest enemies. Do you have any regrets about that outcome? What did you think when you heard that?

Chelsea Manning: Ah, look, I can’t really talk about specifics of my court-martial. The record of trial is still classified.

Tom Tilley: But why does that mean you can’t say how you felt when you found out that piece of information? Do you dispute that’s true?

Chelsea Manning: Ah I can’t – I can’t even tell you whether or not we dispute that it’s true. It’s that highly classified.

Tom Tilley: Ok. What was the message you were hoping –

Media minder 1: Can I intervene here for a second? Sorry –

Tom Tilley: You can intervene but it will go to air. It will go to air if you intervene. So go ahead.

Media minder 2: Sorry what was that Tom?

Tom Tilley: If you guys jump in, I’m going to put it on radio.

Media Minder 2: Ok we’re just going to end this here.

Tom Tilley: Why?

Media Minder 2: Thank you very much. Chelsea, hang up.

Tom Tilley: Why? Why can’t we carry on this interview? What was wrong with my questioning? If you guys are talking about transparency and openness, surely we can continue this interview.

Suzi Jamil: Tom this is Suzi, the director of Think Inc. I guess what’s a priority for us is to be respectful to our talent. I understand there might be nothing wrong with your questioning. But we just want to be really respectful to Chelsea, because she’s given up her time to have this conversation.

Tom Tilley: But don’t you think you should be respectful to the Australian people? This is a taxpayer funded government broadcaster, we’re giving her the platform to come on and put forward her views. Surely she can answer some reasonable questions.

Suzi Jamil: I appreciate that Tom. And I think that at this point we’d rather not move forward any further. Happy to talk to you off the line, after this, one on one. If you’d like my comment, I’m happy to give it.

Tom Tilley: Ok I guess we’ll leave it there.

So there you have it. Manning was willing to leak thousands of confidential US documents. But Manning will not say how she felt when she discovered that documents she leaked ended up with the terrorist and murderer Osama bin Laden and maintains that matters relating to her trial are classified.   What a hypocrite.

Tom Tilley: Five Paws


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.


Did anyone watch The Drum on Wednesday?  Julia Baird was in the chair and the panel comprised Kate Eastman, Ming Long, Caroline Overington and Joe Williams.

As readers are aware, Dr Baird (for a doctor she is) wrote an article in the Sydney Morning Herald on 28 August 2018 in which she maintained that the ABC had a “recurring problem in finding strong conservative voices to come on the show”. [Perhaps the ABC is not looking hard enough – MWD Editor.]

Now normally Ms Overington (who is younger than Kylie Minogue) talks a lot of sense.  It just happened on Wednesday evening that on the issues of the Mark Knight cartoon on Serena Williams and the tragic death of two young Indigenous Australians who drowned while fleeing police – everyone agreed with everyone else, which meant that Ms Overington was not her usual fresh self.

It being Gin & Tonic Time, Hendo freshened up his glass as he watched Kate agree with Caroline who agreed with Julia who agreed with Ming who agreed with Kate who agreed with Joe who agreed with Julia who agreed with Ming who agreed with Joe who agreed with himself. Or something like that.  It’s what The Drum apparently regards as debate.

But what an ending.  Towards the end of the show, Julia Baird asked a question of Ming Long who was allowed what amounted to a stream-of-consciousness rant which went for over five minutes. Really. Here’s a summary:

Ming Long (in summary):  It requires humility to admit to being wrong and people don’t like being told they’re racist and the plight of the boys in the Swan River shows that people of colour are valued less by larger society.  People like Donald Trump and Fraser Anning are given licence to regular Joes to be openly racist but it’s better if racist views are publicised since you can’t pretend they don’t exist and I believe this since I don’t want to be an echo chamber thinking that everyone is going to think like me.  But social media anonymity is worrying especially since we are on a precipice of racial violence against people of colour – Indigenous Australians. There’s a backlash against giving up privilege and Indigenous kids are aware of bias in the police force.  What can we do about prejudice against Indigenous Australians since we give voice to racist trolls without having a conversation about why racism exists since people aren’t born racist they’re taught to be racist.

Or something like that. The oh-so-respectful Julia Baird did not interrupt the 5 minutes plus rant and no one contradicted Ms Long in The Drum’s very own echo chamber.

Maurice Newman:           3

Nice Mr Scott:                 Zip



Due to popular demand, MWD is setting up a quickie book review section (sponsored by Jackie) which will engage in really truthful albeit brief reviews – and, on occasions, comment on the critique of others.

And now for a flash-back.  On 3 September 2018 Andrew Bolt put out the following tweet concerning the leftist criticism – which is heard especially at the ABC – of what is known as “Sky News After Dark”.

The Bolt Report @theboltreport


: I want to reassure you. None of us on Sky are far Right. The only party I’ve worked for is the Labor party. Twice. The truth is that the ABC is so far Left that almost anything now is far right.

#theboltreport @SkyNewsAust

Andrew Bolt’s comment is true.  No one at Sky News can be accurately described as “far right” or extreme right, or, indeed Lunar Right.  Andrew Bolt has worked as a staffer for the Labor Party on two occasions.  What’s more, Sky News has left-of-centre presenters for some of its prominent programs – namely, Graham Richardson, Nicholas Reece – and before them Peter Beattie.

Meanwhile – despite ABC TV 7.30 presenter Leigh Sales’ denial – the ABC is a Conservative Free Zone without one conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets.  Ms Sales claims that this analysis is not true – but she has not been able to provide any evidence to support her claim.

Despite this and in the face of the evidence, Ms Sales decided to ridicule Andrew Bolt’s comment – without making any attempt to deal with the points he had made.  This is what she had to say on 3 September in response to Andrew Bolt’s tweet:

Leigh Sales @leighsales

“Joe Bess and Fanny went through the hole in the cloud and realised they were once again in the Land of Nonsense.”


It’s so much easier to dismiss a position by means of four words – in this case “the Land of Nonsense” – than to critique an argument.  MWD commissioned Hendo to review – with truthfulness and with a brevity of no more than four words – Leigh Sales’ book On Doubt (MUP 2009, second edition 2018).

[As I recall, MWD Issue 14 carried a long review which critiqued Leigh Sales’ opinion that Martin Luther was transfixed by doubt. Tell that to the Pope. – MWD Editor.]

The quickie review below takes two quotes from Ms Sales’ ego-centred account of doubt in On Doubt and provides “the Land of Nonsense” style response.

Let’s start by quoting just two sections from Leigh Sales’ booklet On Doubt. Here they are:

I am always going to be a person who wonders What if? Even if I wanted to be more sure of myself, more certain of my own opinions, I wouldn’t be able to manage it. I can’t change who I am, and I’m fine with that.  But I have learnt that a doubtful mind comes with two major drawbacks – three if you include your father’s ability to traumatise you…. (Page 87).

The second drawback is a lack of all-consuming passion. It is difficult to be passionate about anything when I question everything.  I have things that I love to do in 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. (Pages 88-89).

* * * *

Here’s Hendo’s curt and quick review of Leigh Sales’ On Doubt – written in the Land of Nonsense.

“When it comes to Ms Sales’ On Doubt booklet – the I’s have it.”



Sky News presenter Paul Murray is wont to express his admiration for Queensland and Queenslanders.  Pity, then, that he is hopelessly wrong about what happened north of the Tweed River during the Second World War.

Now here’s Hendo’s advice:  Whenever the term “Brisbane Line” is mentioned, it’s usually a warning that absolute tosh is soon to follow.

Here’s an excerpt from the somewhat discursive discourse on Paul Murray Live last Sunday when discussion turned on, well, it’s not quite clear.  However, the following comment followed Paul Murray’s claim that Australians did not know as much as they should about the First World War – apart from Gallipoli.  Paul Murray also said that Australians should know more about Japan’s bombing of Darwin in 1942 during the Second World War. Fair enough.  He then made the following point about Queensland. Let’s go to the transcript:

Paul Murray: It brings us to the sort of bigger event – which is when you didn’t live through a moment in history-

Peter Berner:  That’s right

Paul Murray: – understanding why it changed the world on an axis. And I always think that it is, one of- like I’m pretty good with my history but I’m not all the sort of deep-diver that my dear friend Andrew [Bolt] is and others who can tell you the titular point of this, that and the other. But I think we are, in terms of public conversation, pretty shithouse in our ability to turn around and say “Um, you know on Anzac Day it’s just Gallipoli, Gallipoli, Gallipoli”. We don’t even go “Oh, Darwin, – the bombing of Darwin”. Like, who would know? – apart from those that have ever bothered to either – that lived it or ventured to learn about it. Yet that’s an event that changes a country. When, when, when, when something like that –

Peter Berner:  Totally, again seismic. You talk about the, you talk about the death toll from 9/11 of 3000 people in the two towers – and and to put the First World War into context – 40, 000 men a day on the fields of France, you know.

Paul Murray: Yeah also –

Peter Berner:  40,000 a day; that’s a nation’s young men


Paul Murray: But also it too, is that, you know: “Oh jeez, they’re different in Queensland”. Well, there was a thing. The Brisbane Line meant they [i.e. the politicians] were willing to trade the half of the country off.

Peter Berner:  Yes

Paul Murray: So there would be to a certain generation, a certain –

Peter Berner:  A certain, of real visceral –

Paul Murray: Yeah

Peter Berner:  – Distaste – for the enemy [sic]

Paul Murray: But you know, but when somebody sort of sits there writing a think piece for The Guardian: “Jeez those Queenslanders are odd.” You know, well hang on –

Peter Berner:   They’re got a reason to be – they’ve got a bit of odd in their background.

Paul Murray:  Do you understand?

Peter Berner:  Yeah, totally.

What a load of absolute tosh.  There never was a Brisbane Line.  This was fake news initially put about on October 1942 by the Australian Labor Party left-winger Eddie Ward (1889-1963) in an attempt to discredit Robert Menzies (who was the United Australia Party prime minister between April 1939 and August 1941).

During an election campaign in Victoria in October 1942, the Labor Minister for Labour and National Service, Eddie Ward, alleged that when the Curtin Labor government came to office in October 1941 a plan existed to abandon an important part of northern Australia to the Japanese Army without firing a single shot.

Ward’s claim covered the period of the prime ministerships of Robert Menzies (26 April 1939 to 29 August 1941) and Arthur Fadden (29 August 1941 to 7 October 1941).

Immediately, Robert Menzies and Arthur Fadden (along with other members of previous United Australia Party and UAP – Country Party governments) denied Ward’s claim.  They were supported by Labor Prime Minister John Curtin who said that Ward should not have made the statement.  So, in October 1942, John Curtin did not support Eddie Ward’s assertion that the Menzies and/or Fadden government was prepared to abandon an important part of Northern Australia to the Japanese Army.

Despite Prime Minister Curtin’s intervention, Ward continued to make the false allegation.  In May 1943 Ward asserted that a line – the Brisbane Line – had been drawn north of Brisbane and that the Menzies and Fadden governments had a “defeatist plan” to withdraw behind the Brisbane Line in the event of a Japanese invasion of Australia.

On this occasion, in what Menzies described as a “cunning piece of evasion”, Curtin declined to specifically rebuke Ward’s claim.  It was not Mr Curtin’s proudest moment – in that he squibbed standing up to Labor’s left-wing firebrand.

In fact, the only proposal submitted resembling something like a Brisbane Line was made in February 1942 to the Curtin Labor government – by which time both Menzies and Fadden were in opposition.  Even so, Ward continued his false allegation against Menzies and Fadden during the August 1943 election campaign.

The Curtin government set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the matter – headed by Justice Charles Lowe of the Victorian Supreme Court.  In due course, Justice Lowe found that any proposals not to reinforce the defence of outlying parts of Australia were military proposals.

Moreover, the only military contingency plan to withdraw to south-east Australia was presented at the time of John Curtin’s Labor government – not during the time of the Menzies or Fadden governments.  This is not surprising since Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbour took place when the Australian Labor Party was in office.  It is notable that Eddie Ward refused to give evidence to Justice Lowe’s inquiry.  Ward claimed that the files about the so-called Brisbane Line had been removed from the Defence Department – this was denied by Prime Minister John Curtin.

No proposal to abandon parts of northern Australia came to the notice of the War Cabinet and/or Advisory War Council during the period of the Menzies and Fadden governments.  Curtin and his ministers – who had been members of the Advisory War Council under Menzies and Fadden governments – never provided support for Ward’s allegations. This is evident from a study of contemporary government papers.  In other words, Ward just made up his Brisbane Line myth.

As Paul Hasluck wrote in the official history The Government and the People: 1942-1945:

An examination of these and other records of the War Cabinet and Advisory War Council supports the opinion that, if there had been any discussions of this kind earlier than February 1942 – and the documents did not disclose any evidence of such discussions – they would have been discussions at the level of military planning and would have been tentative and speculative, being directed towards an imagined contingency and not to an existing situation or to a situation that was in clear prospect.  No evidence was discoverable that any such hypothetical case of the military abandonment of part of the continent ever reached the War Cabinet or Advisory War Council during the terms of the Menzies and Fadden Governments or that any political direction on the subject was ever given to the military planners [by the Menzies and Fadden Governments]…

The way in which the charges were originally made and persistently repeated suggests that Ward was wilfully and maliciously distorting the truth in order to gain political advantage.  The fact that he persisted in his charges to the embarrassment of his own party leader [John Curtin] leaves the historian in some doubt as to whether the only advantage he was trying to gain was the besmirching of the Opposition parties on the approach of an election.  The action of Ward in creating a false impression for political advantage was not novel.  The novelty was in Curtin’s conduct. His failure on this occasion to repudiate firmly suggestions which he must have known to be untrue fell below his customarily high standards of honesty and courage.

In short, there was no Brisbane Line.  It was a figment of Eddie Ward’s left-wing imagination intended to discredit his political opponents Robert Menzies and Arthur Fadden.

How strange, then, that Paul Murray on “Sky News After Dark” is running the anti-Menzies line once put out by the left-winger Eddie Ward, with the support of the Communist Party of Australia, in an attempt to discredit Robert Menzies.

[Yes, it is strange that your man Murray is just so ignorant that he is running fake news about Robert Menzies.  Perhaps this item should have been placed in your hugely popular Can You Bear It? segment. Just a thought. – MWD  Editor.]


This overwhelmingly popular segment of Media Watch Dog usually works like this. Someone or other thinks it would be a you-beaut idea to write to Gerard Henderson about something or other. And Hendo, being a courteous and well-brought up kind of guy, replies. Then, hey presto, the correspondence is published in MWD – much to the delight of its avid readers.

There are occasions, however, when Jackie’s (male) co-owner decides to write a polite note to someone or other – who, in turn, believes that a reply is in order. Publication in MWD invariably follows. There are, alas, some occasions where Hendo sends a polite missive but does not receive the courtesy of a reply.

Nevertheless, publication of this one-sided correspondence still takes place. For the record – and in the public interest, of course.

As MWD readers are aware, The Guardian Australia’s deputy editor Katharine Murphy put out the following tweet on 6 June 2014 at 4.33 pm – when that issue of MWD was “hot off the press”. Here is Ms Murphy’s tweet: “Without in any way wanting to breach anyone’s human rights or free speech – why do people write emails to Gerard Henderson?” It’s a very good question. Thankfully, not everyone follows Katharine Murphy’s wise counsel – not even Ms Murphy herself (See MWD Issue 297).


Appearing on ABC TV Insiders last Sunday, Hendo drew attention to the fact that Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton on occasions has used his ministerial intervention powers to prevent deportations from Australia to the Sub-continent and elsewhere.  This upset the Templestowe-based avid (but not uncritical) MWD reader Stephen Mayne – who put out a tweet complaining that Hendo ran the country, or something like that.  Gerard Henderson AC (aka Always Courteous) wrote to Mr Mayne.  But the Sage of Templestowe did not reply.  We’ll let you know if he does.  Now read on:

Gerard Henderson to Stephen Mayne – 12 September 2018

Good afternoon Stephen

Someone drew my attention to this tweet which you posted on Sunday during the ABC TV Insiders program:

Stephen Mayne (@MayneReport)
9/9/18, 9:43 am

Gerard Henderson thinks he was helping ⁦‪@PeterDutton_MP⁩ on Insiders today with his own mercy story. To the contrary, he just highlighted how white, privileged, connected, powerful insiders like him can get access to power and favours down.


I note that – like many others – you used the words “white” and “privileged” as terms of abuse. Strange.  When I last saw you, you looked white.  Moreover, as I recall, you were educated at Ivanhoe Grammar.  Seems like a privileged background to me.

Your reference was to the case study I mentioned – in response to the claim that Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has misused his powers by giving two au pairs (who had been detained at airports) a three month tourist visa some years ago and in giving attention to a case concerning a polo player.  The line is that Mr Dutton looks after the rich and powerful – hence the references to a grazier, the squattocracy, polo and the like.

In any event, the women returned home voluntarily after spending three months in Australia. Hardly a big deal.

If you had any knowledge of the immigration system you would know that immigration ministers – Coalition and Labor alike – receive thousands of applications to exercise their right to overrule decisions of the Department of Immigration.  What’s wrong with that?  You seem to believe that bureaucrats should have the sole power to deport men, women and children.  If this is the case, why have an immigration minister at all?

My case study was as follows.  A male African who was accepted as a refugee some years ago (Mr A)  was told by his African Australian wife who is an immigrant (Ms B) that the Immigration Department was about to deport a man from the Sub-continent along with his wife and children (the C Family).  This family had a genuine fear of persecution if they were deported to the nation of their births.  Mr A approached Anne Henderson and I took up the C Family case with Peter Dutton.  The case was duly re-assessed and the C Family was given Australian residence. The Department of Immigration was found to have ignored important evidence.  Neither Anne nor myself met the C Family. But we did read and study their case history before I wrote to Minister Dutton.

You have a strange idea of what you term “white privilege”. If I had done what you suggest – and what Katharine Murphy suggested on Insiders last Sunday – that is, nothing – then the C Family would be back in the Sub-continent.

If I acted improperly in this case – then, by your own logic – so have the likes of Labor frontbenchers Chris Bowen and Tony Burke who have lodged some hundreds of applications with Peter Dutton seeking ministerial intervention in immigration cases.

In your ignorance, you seem to believe that only white people petition the Minister to intervene to stop deportations. This is not true.

I note that you spend much of your time seeking media publicity for your various causes.  You might think of helping some individuals less privileged than yourself who are facing deportation – away from the media.

Contrary to your assertion, I did not receive any “favours” from Mr Dutton in this case. You just made this up.

In conclusion, I make this point.  Anne Henderson and myself have been involved in immigration matters for years.  It is our experience that, when it comes to applications on behalf of asylum seekers and others seeking Australian residence a strong case has to be made based on evidence.  It is also our experience that the Department of Immigration along with Customs and Border Protection do, on occasions, make serious mistakes.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

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Until next time.