ISSUE – NO. 429

26 October 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: John Barron and the Pipe Bombs

  • Editorial: Nothing Much Happened in the (latest) ABC “crisis”

  • Can You Bear It? Mike Carlton’s “Lost in the mists” Memoir; PVO: A Future Aunty Star? Craig Laundy’s Double Standard’s not challenged on Sky News; Anne Summers on Conservative “bitches”

  • MWD Exclusive: Jackie Gets Access to Fran Kelly’s Latest Recording titled “Mal Used to Give Me Roses”

  • An ABC Update: In Which Everyone Essentially agreed with Everyone Else on both The Drum and ABC Sydney Drive re the Wentworth by-election – featuring Margo Kingston Dancing with Kerryn Phelps

  • History Corner: Bob Carr’s Criticism of the late Jim Cairns’ support for Totalitarian Communist Regimes

  • Correspondence: Bonge helps out (albeit reluctantly) on Julia Gillard and the Royal Commission; Quadrant Online’s Roger Franklin replies to Catherine McGregor’s Rant re Quadrant and the Pius X Society

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John Barron, who co-presents Planet America on the second ABC TV channel, is one of a bevy of ABC journalists who invariably join the pile-on against President Donald J. Trump.  Also, your man Barron is attached to the taxpayer funded United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.

As avid readers are aware, no one at the US[eless] Studies Centre predicted that Donald Trump would win the 2016 presidential election. Moreover, as USSC supremo Professor Simon Jackman said on Sky News on 9 November 2016, no one at his centre supports Donald Trump. Not a single soul.

So it came as no surprise on ABC TV News yesterday that John Barron appeared to join the chorus blaming Donald Trump for the fact that pipe bombs were delivered in the US this week to the offices/homes of some of President Trump’s most vocal critics.

In fact, yesterday no one knew the motivation for the crime or the names of the offender or offenders.  Yet Mr Barron was happy to go along with the CNN view that it was Donald Trump’s fault.  Let’s go to the transcript:

John Barron:  They [CNN] have said, as they have said many times, that if you keep victimising and targeting – particularly naming individual reporters at Trump rallies and so on – keep on criticizing these people, you are going to see someone unhinged, no matter what their politics is, being motivated to do something crazy, like send half a dozen more pipe bombs.

Well maybe this is the case.  Or maybe it’s not.  At this stage, we simply do not know.  And that includes John Barron.

The most serious attempt at political assassination during the period of the Trump administration occurred in June 2017 when a crazed supporter of Democrat Bernie Sanders shot at Republican congressional representatives – wounding, among others, senior Republican Steve Scalise. Then in August 2017 a member of the American extreme right-wing drove into a group of left-wing demonstrators, killing one.

President Trump’s confrontational rhetoric with respect to his opponents was not responsible for either of the above crimes.  As to the current crime, we have no idea of the culprit or his/her motive.  John Barron’s comments yesterday were a familiar Blame-Trump rush to judgement commonly heard on the ABC.



Thanks to the Royal Visit and the Wentworth by-election and more besides, the ABC news and current affairs outlets have scaled down their reporting of the recent ABC “crisis” – or so it was termed.  In fact, as the inquiry headed by Mike Mrdak AO (Secretary of the Department of Communications and Arts) demonstrates – not much happened in so far as the independence of the ABC is concerned.

Mr Mrdak’s report, dated 11 October 2018 and titled “Inquiry into allegations relating to the ABC”, leads to the following conclusions:

▪ The then ABC chairman Justin Milne asked then ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie to sack ABC journalist Emma Alberici. Nothing happened.

▪ It appears that Mr Milne also asked Ms Guthrie to sack ABC journalist Andrew Probyn. Nothing happened.

▪ Mr Milne wanted Ms Guthrie to restore the date of ABC Triple J’s “Hottest 100” to Australia Day (26 January).  His suggestion was rejected.

▪ Mr Milne objected to Ms Guthrie about the use of the “c” word in the ABC Comedy Tonightly program. Nothing happened.

Er, that’s it.

The whole saga demonstrated, once again, that the ABC board does not – and cannot – run the ABC.  The ABC managing director has the power to run the taxpayer funded public broadcaster – but recent managing directors Mark Scott and Michelle Guthrie declined to do so by exercising their right to take up the additional role of editor-in-chief.

The saga produced no evidence that then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull or Communications Minister Mitch Fifield had attempted to overturn the independence of the ABC.

Meanwhile, in due course, the Coalition will choose a new chairman and the ABC board will appoint a new managing director. Only the latter decision is of any real importance.

In short, the ABC’s excited coverage of the ABC has been self-indulgent.  It is ever thus when journalists interview journalists about journalism.


 Can You Bear It


Mike (“I’ll pour the gin”) Carlton’s 550 page memoir On Air (William Heinemann) arrived with a heavy thud on Hendo’s desk this week. According to the publisher’s blurb, On Air is a “no holds barred” account – whatever this might mean.  It seems that this Life of Mike is written “with characteristic humour and flair” – in that the Sage of Avalon Beach “tells of his feuds and the friendships, fun and the follies” engaged in by the author over the decades. Go on.

This book’s close type-face suggests that Mike Carlton’s memoirs are longer than those of former prime ministers Bob Hawke and John Howard.  Yet Mike is a life-long journo who has never run anything.  MWD will keep avid readers aware of anything worth reading in this lengthy tome.  In the meantime, here’s how the acknowledgements section commences:

The hard part of writing this book was trying to recall stuff. I have never kept a diary nor compiled any sort of scrapbook, and I have only rarely bothered to retain copies of the stories, scripts and columns I have churned over the decades.  Often I found that times and dates, names and places, were lost in the mists behind me. I could not have got this memoir together without the generous help of my family, friends and former colleagues, who went to a lot of trouble to prod my memory and steer me in the right direction.

So there you have it.  Your man Carlton has written a massive tome – despite the case that facts of his life are “lost in the mists” behind him. Jackie’s (male) co-owner understands the problem.  Sometimes at Hangover Time he can’t remember whether he gave Jackie a late walk the night before – it’s all lost in the mists, so to speak.

On Air contains a good index.  So Hendo decided to check out if Mr Carlton had anything to say about him. Sure did – albeit not much.

At Pages 516-517 [I don’t think anyone will read this far – MWD Editor], Mike Carlton claims that “Gerard ‘Gollum’ Henderson, that hectoring crank…contributed a few gobs of bile” to an article in which Carlton alleges that Hendo argued that Carlton should be prosecuted for breaching the Racial Discrimination Act.  Carlton does not say where or when – that’s the problem when an autobiographer cannot remember things like times and dates and names and places.

In fact, Hendo has never argued that anyone should be charged under the Racial Discrimination Act  – including Mr Carlton. Mike (“I’ll pour the Gin”) Carlton just made this up.  Presumably from what was “lost in the mists behind” him.  Can You Bear It?


MWD can see a fine future for Peter van Onselen at the ABC – illustrated by the fact that he appeared on the ABC TV Insiders program on Sunday morning followed by the ABC Q&A program on Monday night. PVO is also a regular presenter on ABC TV’s The Drum.  Seems like a brilliant ABC career is his destiny.

By the way, this week’s Q&A was another of those occasions which demonstrated that the taxpayer funded public broadcaster is a Conservative Free Zone. The panel comprised senior Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese, Independent candidate for Wentworth Kerryn Phelps, feminist author Anne Summers, NSW Liberal Party president Philip Ruddock and political commentator and one-time Malcolm Turnbull staffer Peter van Onselen.

Early in the program, Mr Ruddock declared “I like to think I am a liberal, not a conservative”. Fair enough. Then PVO did a pile-on against conservatives. Let’s go to the transcript:

Peter van Onselen: Look, I think the problem…with the right-wing of the Liberal Party is that it calls itself conservative now when it no longer is. I call them reactionaries, because true conservatives are protectors of institutions and they’re very incremental about change without opposing change per se. Whereas the so-called conservatives, which I don’t think actually fit the title now, they’re not protecting institutions – they’re prepared to blow them up. For example, the institution of prime minister. And, equally, they’re not open to incremental change even – but they’re reacting to the sort of policy shifts that they see as either popular with their base or populist in a way that they can utilise in a sort of electoral sense. So I think that’s the real problem with the right-wing of the Liberal Party. I like the concept of the balance between conservatism and liberalism in the Liberal Party. But I don’t think that the “isms” are being represented by the people in parliament, or indeed by the power brokers that now control those sections.

So there you have it. PVO describes Liberal Party conservatives (presumably like Angus Taylor) as “reactionaries” who are prepared to “blow up” institutions (presumably like Guy Fawkes of Gunpowder Plot fame). Somewhat over the top, don’t you think?

On 18 October, your man van Onselen supported Alex Turnbull’s rant from Singapore that there are at least five Liberal Party “crazies” in the Federal parliament. PVO nominated Angus Taylor as one such crazy.  His reason?  Well, PVO wrote in The Australian that “Taylor was a minister in the Turnbull government who decided to knife the very man who promoted him”.

On this reasoning, for want of a better word, Foreign Minister Marise Payne is also a “crazy” since she voted to sack Tony Abbott as prime minister in September 2015 – despite the fact that he was the first Liberal Party leader to promote her.  But PVO did not say this in the piece he wrote for The Australian.

It was much the same on Q&A. PVO accused conservatives of blowing up institutions when they deposed Malcolm Turnbull as prime minister in August 2018.  But PVO did not accuse small “l” Liberals of blowing up institutions when they deposed Australia’s 28th prime minister in September 2015. Can You Bear It?

[I’ve just come across Peter van Onselen’s interview with Kerryn Phelps in Wednesday’s Wentworth Courier titled “Wait of destiny”.  It reveals that Dr Phelps will not join the Liberal Party or become health minister in the Morrison government.  Quelle surprise!  I was most impressed by this PVO insight:

The overall scene here today speaks to the tumult caused by her decision to run for parliament so suddenly…Yet this doctor still had a full fruit bowl — a sign of a healthy lifestyle and a sharp contrast to the empty fruit bowl in Julia Gillard’s house when doing her first interview as PM.

What a twist on the old saying.  Dr Phelps is a bowl totally full type – whereas Ms Gillard is a bowl totally empty type.  How handy to know. MWD Editor.]


There was a similar lack of self-awareness when former Turnbull government cabinet minister Craig Laundy appeared on the Sky News Wentworth by-election panel on Saturday night.  No one on the panel, headed by MWD fave David Speers, said anything when Mr Laundy threw the switch to self-righteousness about stability and loyalty and all that stuff.

This is what the Liberal Party member for Reid (who moved outside his electorate recently and who never landed a blow on Bill Shorten’s Labor opposition when a senior minister in the Turnbull government) had to say:

Craig Laundy: If we do lose the seat [Wentworth] tonight, I think one of the interesting things we’re going to see is how quickly those that were responsible try to turn it to: “It was Malcolm’s fault, not what we did”. I obviously argued all the way through for stability and loyalty – and came up short.

Your man Laundy, in his capacity as a Sky News commentator, overlooked two facts.  First, the by-election was caused by Malcolm Turnbull’s decision to quit politics rather than go to the backbench until the next election, expected around May 2019.  Moreover, Mr Turnbull lost 14 seats to Labor in 2016 – which made the Wentworth by-election so crucial to the stability of the Coalition government.  If the Coalition had a comfortable majority in the House of Representatives, the Wentworth by-election would not have been so important.

Second, Craig Laundy did not argue “for stability and loyalty” in 2015. Rather, he was one of the leaders in the move to dump Mr Abbott and replace him with Mr Turnbull.  But he did not tell Sky News viewers this last Saturday night – and no one queried him about his double standard. Can You Bear It?

[Er, no. Not really.  I expect that it will not be long before your man Laundy will be signed up by the ABC or Fairfax Media or both as a commentator in the tradition of John Hewson who never fronts a camera which he does not use to attack the Liberal Party.  Not long I expect – especially if Mr Laundy does not run in the 2019 election. – MWD Editor.]


Anne Summers’ appearance on Q&A last Monday was referred to earlier in this segment. In view of this, avid MWD readers in Adelaide may be interested in tonight’s gig at the University of Adelaide’s Scott Theatre.  It features “Anne Summers AO, in conversation with Julia Gillard AC” on the occasion of the publication of Dr Summers’ (most recent) autobiography titled Anne Summers: Unfettered and Alive. (Allen & Unwin).

It’s likely to be a great night for feminist authors with post-nominals.  Jackie’s (male) co-owner will not be attending – since he is in Sydney tonight.  But Hendo anticipates that there will be condemnation of male sexism including reference to the sign “Ditch the Witch”. Unbeknown to Tony Abbott, this misogynist sign (referring to the prime minister Julia Gillard) was held up behind him when the then Opposition leader addressed a rally outside Parliament House in March 2011.

MWD does not get into words like “witch” or “bitch”.  So it is to be hoped that MWD fave Ms Gillard will find time to condemn the use of similar such words by leftist feminists, against conservative women – in addition to condemning the use of the term by right-wing men against feminist women.

Who might have done this? MWD hears you cry.  Well, try Anne Summers in her (first) autobiography titled Ducks on the Pond: An Autobiography 1945-1976 (Penguin Books, 1999).

As Gerard Henderson documents in Santamaria: A Most Unusual Man (MUP, 2015), Anne Summers worked briefly in 1963 for B.A. Santamaria’s anti-communist, and predominantly Catholic, National Civic Council.  Anne Cooper (as she then was) soon got bored with the work and came to resent her conservative Catholic female co-workers whom she regarded as “goody-goody”.  Believe it or not, the author disapproved of the fact that the Catholic married men in the office “did not hang around and gossip or flirt with the girls”.

And now – wait for it – in her 1999 autobiography Anne Summers also referred to her one-time fellow NCC workers as “SNIGGERING LITTLE BITCHES”.

It seems that it is only in the last two decades that Dr Summers has commenced railing against sexual harassment (like flirting) and misogynist language (like the use of the word “bitch” with respect to women) in the workplace. Can You Bear It?

[Er, no. Not really.  It would be worth checking out how Kerry-Anne Walsh refers to her female opponents in her recently released book Hoodwinked: How Pauline Hanson Fooled a Nation (Allen & Unwin, 2018). Perhaps this could be a project for next week. – MWD Editor.]



There was enormous interest when, last Sunday, MWD fave Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly sang her final comment on ABC TV Insiders program.

Written in the anticipation of a Liberal Party defeat in the Wentworth by-election, Ms Kelly performed posing as a disappointed Liberal.  The song was set to the music of Allan Caswell’s On the Inside (the theme song of the Australian TV soapie Prisoner). These are Comrade Kelly’s lyrics:

“On the (Wentworth) Inside” by Fran Kelly – as sung on Insiders at Hangover-Time last Sunday

It used to be a safe seat

How I wish it were again.

But with Malcolm on the outside

Wentworth’s not the same.

We tried to win with Sharma

But Kerryn Phelps gained too much ground

Now we know the price of karma

If only Malcolm hung around

On the outside the NEG* was gone

Religious freedoms locked away

But the doctor she’s a local

Independent, Jewish, gay.

On the inside the polls declined

We could not afford to lose

But we ran right out of promises

And embassies to move

* National Energy Guarantee


Set out below are the lyrics of the new version of Ms Kelly’s song – destined to be sung sometime on the Insiders’ Couch. MWD publishes the words for the first time here – they were recorded when Jackie crashed a recording session last night.

“Mal Used to Give me Roses” by Fran Kelly – as recorded by Jackie at Gin-and-Tonic time last evening

Mal used to give me roses

I wish he could again

But now he’s on the outside

It’s time to say “amen”

We’d built our world together

A Conservative Free Zone

Mal claimed to be a Liberal

And Leigh* just loved his tone.

On Aunty’s inside the sun still shines

And the rain falls down

No denying climate change

Or that Abbott is a clown.

Last night we were together

Sharing Green/Left views we hold

A soviet of activists

We’re all in the same mould.

But now it’s time to break out

And say “ScoMo is a grouch”

Plus “Conservatives are doomed”

I’ll declare it on the Couch

Mal used to give me roses

I wish he could again

But now he’s on the outside

It’s time to say “amen”.

* 7.30 presenter Leigh Sales


It is MWD’s contention that the ABC is a Conservative Free Zone without one conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, media or online outlets. No one at the ABC has challenged MWD’s assessment by providing the name of any one conservative. Every now and then, MWD looks inside the ABC’s CFZ to see what can be found.  Here’s the very latest.


In the words of the cliché, what a way to book-end the Wentworth by-election campaign.

On Friday 19 October, ABC TV’s The Drum performed to the standard of what presenter Julia Baird later said was a “cracking Drum”.  Sure was.  The Drum’s producers went out on to the highways and byways to assemble a panel to discuss the Wentworth by-election and found former Liberal Party leader and constant Liberal Party critic John Hewson [Yawn – not again. – MWD Editor], Brisbane-based Green/Left activist Margo Kingston, Canberra freelance journalist Samantha Maiden and former NSW Liberal Party minister and now Christian radio broadcaster Stephen O’Doherty who is the chair of Hope Media.

For the record, early in what Dr Baird (for a doctor she is) likes to call The Drum’s RESPECTFUL DISCUSSION, Mr O’Doherty declared that he certainly was not a conservative and had resigned from the Liberal Party.  Dr Hewson (for a doctor he also is) said that he was not a financial Liberal Party member and had not paid his dues.  [Fancy that – perhaps this would be a suitable time for the Liberal Party to expel the failed Liberal Party leader for constantly campaigning against it. – MWD Editor.]

As would be expected in a panel of this kind, virtually everyone agreed with virtually everyone else on almost everything – especially climate change and asylum seekers/refugees and abortion law. Later in the program, a gay Anglican man appeared and everyone agreed with him about LGBTI rights. The only panellist who disagreed with other panellists was Stephen O’Doherty who spoke up for the rights of religious schools.

As to Respectful Discussion, Julia Baird did not object when Comrade Kingston described Tony Abbott as “crazy” and argued that he was supporting acts of “political terrorism”. Ditto when Ms Maiden referred to some 40 per cent of Australians who disapprove of same sex marriage as “bigots”.  By the way, the likes of Kingston and Hewson seem to believe that an argument is won when they declare anyone “Trump-like”.  Margo Kingston was concerned that a Liberal Party victory in Wentworth would lead to the Trumpification of Australia – or something like that.

Let’s go to the transcript when John Hewson attacked Prime Minister Scott Morrison on the Coalition’s response to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC):

John Hewson:..The IPCC comes out with a report on climate. Most of the world sees it as a very significant document and a very alarming set of projections. He [Scott Morrison] dismisses it as global – it’s of no interest to Australia even though we’re the second largest exporter, I think, of fossil fuels. And then he says “don’t worry we’re on track”. And he asserts it – and as long as he’s not challenged he moves on. And I think that –

Margo Kingston: Very Trump-like isn’t it?

John Hewson: It’s very Trump-like.

Margo Kingston: Keep telling the lies.

John Hewson: Almost to the point that if someone mounts a counter-case it must be fake news: “I’m right, you’re wrong”.

More Respectful Discussion, of The Drum genre, when Ms Kingston and Dr Hewson accused the Prime Minister not only of being “very Trump-like” but also of “telling lies”.

It certainly was, as Dr Baird came to comment, a “cracking Drum” – with no conservative voice to be heard.


Then on Monday, Jackie’s (male) co-owner tuned into the ABC Radio Sydney 702’s Drive program. Deborah Knight was in the presenter’s chair.  And guess who comprised the panel which discussed, among other things, the Wentworth by-election?  And the answer is – Not One Conservative.  Believe it or not, the panellists were Dr Kerryn Phelps (the successful Independent candidate for Wentworth), Tanya Plibersek (Labor’s deputy leader who campaigned against the Liberal Party in Wentworth) and John Hewson (who also campaigned against the Liberal Party in Wentworth).

* * * * *

The Drum on Friday morning, followed by the ABC Sydney Radio’s Drive on Monday, demonstrate the day-to-day reality of the taxpayer funded public broadcaster as a Conservative Free Zone.

And now An Avid Reader’s Special.  Here’s a pic of Margo Kingston discussing Dr Kerryn Phelps’ chances of winning Wentworth on The Drum on Friday.  And here’s a pic of the very same Margo Kingston dancing with Kerryn Phelps at the Independent candidate’s Wentworth victory party on Saturday night.



Half a century ago Jim Cairns (1914-2003), the Melbourne based Australian Labor Party member for Yarra, was the hero of the Australian left.  Your man Cairns was invariably called “Doctor Cairns” – he had a Ph.D. in economic history from Melbourne University. This put him in the tradition of one-time ALP leader and left-wing hero Dr Bert Evatt, who flashed his LLD and basked in the title of “the Doc”.

The evidence indicates that Dr Cairns attempted to join the Communist Party of Australia in the 1940s – but his application was rejected by the CPA leaders who were suspicious of the fact that he had been a member of Victoria Police for some time.  After his time on the beat and in the Australian Army, Cairns obtained an academic position in Melbourne University’s economics department. He was invited to apply for a position in the department by left-wing academic Herbert Burton and commenced in January 1946.

Jim Cairns entered the House of Representatives in December 1955, as a consequence of the Labor Split of that year.  Many anti-communist Labor Party members were expelled/resigned from the ALP at the time.  Cairns narrowly defeated the incumbent member for Yarra, Stan Keon (1915-1987), who contested the election as the sitting member of the Australian Labor Party (Anti-Communist) – which was later to become the Democratic Labor Party.

Cairns was the leader of the Australian Left from around the time of his election to Parliament in 1955 until he was sacked by Labor prime minister Gough Whitlam in  July 1975 for misleading the House of Representatives over what was called the Loans Affair.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, it was said that Cairns led the Vietnam anti-war movement – or the peace movement. In fact, Dr Cairns was not anti-war or pro-peace.  Rather he supported one side in a war against the other side.  Namely, Cairns wanted communist North Vietnam to conquer anti-communist South Vietnam. When this happened in April 1975, he said that a military victory for Hanoi was the only way to stop the carnage, the bloodshed and the suffering.  On May Day 1975, Dr Cairns greeted North Vietnam’s conquest of South Vietnam “with relief as though a load has been lifted”.

MWD understands that in the first draft of his memoir Run For Your Life (MUP, 2018), former NSW Labor premier Bob Carr commented that he always regarded Jim Cairns as a de-facto communist.  And that, following advocacy from some members of the Jim Cairns Fan Club, Bob Carr deleted this comment from the final version. This is what appears about Jim Cairns in Bob Carr: Run For Your Life.

One day during first year [1965, at the University of New South Wales] I churned with excitement, counting the minutes to the lunchtime meeting in the Roundhouse to hear Dr Jim Cairns, a former policeman and economics lecturer who was the spokesperson for the Labor Left.  He spoke about Vietnam. He quoted statistics to prove the war was a civil one fought within South Vietnam and said the communist North had no part in it. Even then I wanted Australian Leftists who opposed the Vietnam War to accompany their opposition with an ironclad statement they had no truck with the dictatorial North Vietnamese regime.  I never got it.  This was pre-echo of what would become my long-term irritation with the left.

Bob Carr’s comment is correct.  Jim Cairns and the Labor Left never opposed Ho Chi Minh’s totalitarian dictatorship in Hanoi.  On the contrary, Dr Cairns and the Australian left supported the communist cause in Vietnam. This point was made by Heinz W Arndt, a social democrat, in 1965. He was later expelled from the ALP. Professor Arndt wrote this in the Australian National University student newspaper Woroni in 1965:

The majority of the politically active opponents of the present Australian policy are in two other categories; they are either convinced communists or they believe that, while communism is not desirable for Australia, it is desirable for Asia, or at least the lesser evil as compared with American capitalism or with the regimes that the United States are prepared to support.

I have already explained why I disagree with this view.  The point I now want to stress is that it is primarily if not wholly because, on balance, they want communism to win in Vietnam that all the [Coalition] Government’s most active critics, and in particular the leaders of the ALP Left like Calwell and Cairns, oppose the present policy.

Then there is Jim Cairns’ general attitude to communism.  This is what he wrote in the Spring 1964 issue of Dissent magazine:

We are situated in the political spectrum next to the communists and they will stand for many things for which we also stand.  We cannot therefore oppose those things. Because of our position in the political spectrum we will find ourselves in the same places as communists on some occasions, doing the same things for the same ends.

When Jim Cairns wrote this in late 1964, Leonid Brezhnev presided over Stalin’s Heirs in Moscow.  It was not long after the Soviet Union’s invasion of Hungary and some years before the Soviet Union’s invasion of Czechoslovakia. Brezhnev ran a police state as did the communist leaders of the Soviet satellites in Eastern Europe – for example, East Germany, Poland and Romania.  In 1964, China had just come out of the Great Leap Forward in which some 45 million Chinese died as a result of the forced famine and resultant disease.  There were also communist dictatorships in North Korea, North Vietnam and Cuba.

In 1964 members of the Communist Party of Australia still supported Josef Stalin’s show trials and the forced famine in Ukraine.  Along with the August 1939 Nazi Soviet Pact, the Soviet Union’s invasion of Hungary and the continuing persecution of dissidents and the gulags. And yet Jim Cairns in 1964 said that the ALP was closer to totalitarian communists (like Leonid Brezhnev) than democratic conservatives (like Robert Menzies).


Postscript: Jim Cairns’ Claim that the Soviet Union Was No More Suppressive than Australia

In December 1971 Jim Cairns visited the Soviet Union. On his return to Australia, he made the following comment – which was reported in The Age on 5 December 1971:

Labor Parliamentarian Dr. Jim Cairns said yesterday he had found no more suppression in Russia than in many aspects of Australia. “Democracy is a matter of degree, and there’s not much of it in Australia”, he said. “There’s a great deal of apathy and lack of concern, but that mustn’t be mistaken for democracy”.

On 10 December 1971, The Age published this letter from Australian National University academic Professor T.H. Rigby:

Political Freedom lacking in Russia

Sir, – As a Labor-voting socialist and fellow-opponent of our involvement in Vietnam, I have no political motive to discredit Dr Jim Cairns, but it would be a betrayal of responsibility as one of Australia’s few professional students of Soviet politics to pass over unchallenged his reported statement that he had found no more suppression in Russia than in many aspects of Australian life. (The Age, 5/12)

Russia has some strong points but political freedom is not one of them. In view of the vast and incontrovertible evidence of political repression of an order that makes the limits on freedom in countries like Australia look almost inconsequential, the mind boggles at the audacity of a politician who tells us we should reject this evidence because he saw no repression during his one and half day visit.

Apparently Dr Cairns did not manage to fit in a visit to Alexander Solzhenitsyn or Academician Sakharov, inspect any camps for political prisoners or run into any Volga Tartars arrested for attempting to return to their homeland from which they were expelled by Stalin, or any Independent Baptists imprisoned for objecting to religious persecution.

If there were really little difference in the level of political repression between Australia and Russia, then (just to take one issue) Dr Cairns, along with thousands of other Australians (me included), who had publicly opposed the Government over Vietnam, would now be in camps, prison or “special” psychiatric hospitals, all processions and meetings to protest against our involvement would be prohibited and forcibly supressed if attempted, thousands of university students expelled and restricted to labouring jobs for their involvement in protests and hundreds of scholars and intellectuals signing petitions and appeals against this repression would have been demoted, posted to the backblocks or prevented from obtaining work at all.

It is true that each generation must face anew the task of maintaining and extruding existing freedoms and the no less difficult task or harmonising this objective under changing conditions with other important social and personal values. Dr Cairns rightly stresses this as an acute problem for Australians today, but he scarcely enhances his credibility as a leader in this task when he equates the grossly different conditions of freedom in Australia and the Soviet Union.

(Dr) T.H. Rigby (Australian National University, Canberra)

Jim Cairns even had a positive take on East Germany – one of the most repressive regimes in the then communist world. When in East Berlin in February 1972, Dr Cairns called for the immediate recognition of East Germany along with its admission to the United Nations. See “Cairns backs East Germany”, The Sun News Pictorial, 10 February 1972.

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).


As avid readers know, ABC Radio National Breakfast, presented by Fran Kelly, does not have one conservative commentator for its daily political round-up.  The group comprises Michelle Grattan (Monday), Paul Bongiorno (Tuesday), Peter van Onselen (Wednesday), Phil (“I was a John Pilger fan at uni”) Coorey (Thursday) and Alice Workman (Friday). PVO presents as a small “l” liberal – he is not a conservative. Nor are Ms Grattan, Mr Coorey or Ms Workman.  And your man Bonge is a leftist.

This is how Tuesday’s RN Breakfast concluded:

Fran Kelly: And Paul, the National Apology to the survivors of child sexual abuse yesterday in the Parliament. Two strong speeches, I thought by the leaders. And interestingly, I was in the Great Hall during it. The points where the crowd reacted and they reacted a lot through it – a lot of it in anger and a lot of it in suspicion. And the times when they all got to their feet repeatedly was when Julia Gillard’s name was mentioned.

Paul Bongiorno: Yes, that was clear –

Fran Kelly: – quite noticeable.

Paul Bongiorno:  It was quite noticeable and she was extremely warmly accepted as you say. So what a vindication for Gillard because you might remember five or six years ago there was even vilification of her for daring to do this. This was seen to be an atheist having a hack at religion even. They were the terms of the criticisms made of her. So vindication for her.  Great to see, as you say, both our leaders – the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition – making heartfelt and great speeches. We all know that we want to see action now….

Gerard Henderson has researched, and written on, the Royal Commission.  He was not aware of anyone, circa 2012, who vilified (then) prime minister Julia Gillard for being an atheist who wanted to have a hack at religion by means of a royal commission.  So he texted Mr Bongiorno seeking evidence for his assertion.   Bonge produced no evidence – but implied that such statements had been made by Cardinal George Pell and three others whom he named.  In time, Bonge was insistent that he had not named any names in his interview with Ms Kelly – however, he obviously had George Pell and the three others in mind.

Now read on.  MWD has rejected Mr Bongiorno’s request for confidentiality on this occasion – which came midway throughout the correspondence.  Mr Bongiorno is a journalist who is paid by The Saturday Paper and the ABC – both organisations frequently publish private correspondence.

Gerard Henderson to Paul Bongiorno – 23 October 2018


I don’t have your email address hence this text. On RN Breakfast this morning you said that when Julia Gillard established the Royal Commission “five or six years ago – she suffered vilification for daring to do this”. You added that Ms Gillard’s action was “seen to be an atheist having a hack at religion”.

I cannot remember anyone saying that JG was an atheist whose decision to set up the Royal Commission was an attack on religion.  Who made such comments – and when?

Gerard Henderson


Paul Bongiorno to Gerard Henderson – 23 October 2018

Read A’s columns at the time and the direct inferences from B and C. Also Quotes from George Pell. The sub text in all was clear in A’s case more explicit.

[Note: The names mentioned by Paul Bongiorno have been deleted in order to prevent verballing. MWD Editor.]


Gerard Henderson to Paul Bongiorno – 23 October 2018

You just made this up. George Pell never criticised Julia Gillard for being an atheist. Indeed he praised her for supporting the Catholic school system when she was prime minister. Pell also agreed to the establishment of the RC – as JG makes clear in her memoirs.

I note that you have produced no evidence to support your claims about

A, B and C. I will check with them to see what they have to say.  I do not recall that any of this trio criticised Julia Gillard for being an atheist.  BTW, A is a self-proclaimed atheist.


Paul Bongiorno to Gerard Henderson – 22 October 2018

I have told you what I had in mind. I did not name any of these people on air.  I certainly did not make it up.

Btw I consider this correspondence private. I was making a broad point in good faith and did not intend to attack anyone by name. I mentioned them to you by way of explanation.


Gerard Henderson to Paul Bongiorno – 23 October 2018

I know what you had in mind. I also know that you provided no evidence to support so serious an assertion – and that Fran Kelly did not ask for any evidence.

It seems that RN Breakfast a cosy place for fellow leftist activists.

Over and out.

Keep morale high.



Paul Bongiorno to Gerard Henderson – 23 October 2018

Et cum spiritu tuo


Gerard Henderson to Paul Bongiorno – 26 October 2018

Dominus vobiscum

I have checked with A, B, C. Not one vilified Julia Gillard circa 2012 by saying that she was an atheist intent on having a hack at religion by establishing the Royal Commission. Not one. Nor did George Pell.

You claim to have made your comments in “good faith”.  But it is not acting in good faith to make inaccurate claims on important matters on RN Breakfast – whether or not you name the names of those whom you allege made the comments with respect to Ms Gillard.

In my view, you should correct the comment when you speak to Fran Kelly next Tuesday – or provide evidence in support of your assertion before Tuesday.




There was enormous interest in last week’s Can You Bear It? segment which quoted Catherine McGregor’s “respectful discussion” on The Drum on Monday 15 October 2018.  As avid readers will recall, before referring to Lyle Shelton as a “white sepulchre” and a “pharisee”, Ms McGregor had this to say:

Catherine McGregor: [The Morrison Government’s] quixotic attempt to pursue religious freedom has now become ScoMo’s 18c [Racial Discrimination Act] humiliation. He’s now running to say that he’s looked on God’s creation and found it good and he’s now going to take a rest on this kind of Jihad that he was launched on to preserve religious freedom. So, let me know what the [Liberal Party] base have to say about that in the next couple of weeks. I can’t wait to see the provisional wing of the St Pius X Society over at Quadrant next week when they get to digest this news about uh, with Roger Franklin and his Symbionese Liberation Army guys. I’d like to see what they have to say at this back down. You know, two weeks ago he [Prime Minister Scott Morrison] was worried about gender whisperers. Now he can’t fawn over gay kids fast enough and presumably gay teachers are okay too.

It is not at all clear how many (if any) Drum viewers knew what Catherine McGregor was on about with her references to the St Pius X Society or the Symbionese Liberation Army – or their connection with Quadrant magazine.  But there you go. Now this is the response of Roger Franklin, editor of Quadrant Online.


Roger Franklin to Gerard Henderson – 19 October 2018

Dear Gerard

I was bemused to see in your latest post how my name had been invoked by Ms McGregor, who virtually states for the record that I am a poofter-bashing Captain Catholic right-wing bigot and bastard. This astonished me, as several years ago I became the target for one of [her] fusillades of emails over some small, petty, picayune exception she took to something published at Quadrant Online. It was so trivial I can’t even recall what it was.

In any event, she then accused me of being homophobic. I wrote her back, noting that a close family member has transitioned from male to female and expressing my sympathy for those who, as they say, are trapped in the wrong body. More than that, I counselled her against shooting off her mouth, as it does her cause no good at all.

Knowing this she yet came out to depict me as the opposite of that which she knows me to be. As for the reference to the Symbionese Liberation Army, what has the woman been smoking?

For your information, I have pasted that email below. Should you be inclined to quote it, feel free.


Roger Franklin

Editor, Quadrant Online



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Until next time.


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