ISSUE – NO. 430

2 November 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: Kate McClymont’s Late Night Taxi Experience; Happy Birthday ABC TV News Breakfast

  • MWD EXCLUSIVE: Leunig & Jackie Face Off on Fashion Scoops

  • An ABC Update: The Apostrophe Wars and Michelle Guthrie – or is it Guthries?

  • Last Tango in Southbank: Sunday’s Insiders

  • Can You Bear It? Nick O’Malley on the Liberal Party Base; Nigel Gladstone on the Liberal Party’s Book Preferences; A Modest Proposal to solve ARC funding problems at Sydney University; Mark Riley’s Wild Allegation on his School Days

  • Report from Sandalista Land:  The Saturday Paper and Jane Caro

  • Clarifications, Corrections & Deliberate Mistakes: re PVO, Stephen O’Doherty & Vladimir Lenin

  • Correspondence: In Which Hendo Accuses Melbourne Law School’s Shireen Morris of Verballing & Dr Morris Replies (sort of)

    * * * *





Jackie’s (male) co-owner could not sleep last night or early this morning after reading this tweet from Sydney Morning Herald intrepid reporter Kate McClymont.  It seems that Ms McClymont went to the Andrew Olle Media Lecture black-tie gala dinner knees-up at The Westin Grand Ballroom in Sydney last night.  It’s an occasion when inner-city journos and their partners travel to the CBD to catch up with other inner-city journos and their partners – and then return to the inner-city, with or without their partners. Sometimes by taxi.

And now read Ms McClymont’s tweet sent at 11.45 pm last night:

Kate McClymont (@Kate_McClymont)
1/11/18, 11:45 pmCan’t believe that I just got abused by a cab driver from GM cabs who told me to “f…k off” for “only” incurring a $23 cab fare from the city. And they whinge about Uber. “Thank you for using GM Cabs,” says my receipt. I don’t think so!


Now, MWD does not approve of bad language – or the use of exclamation marks!!!!! But it’s possible, just possible, that the cabbie in question learnt English by watching ABC Comedy’s Tonightly with Tom Ballard  and regards the “f” word as normal parlance. See MWD passim – ad nauseam.

Kate McClymont is a highly paid journalist.  Last night  it seems that she hopped into a cab on the rank outside The Westin on George Street.  It’s possible that the cab driver had been on the rank for a considerable time. Then she took a brief ride to her inner-city digs after paying the $23 fee – for which she requested a receipt.  There is no suggestion that the Fairfax Media journo offered a tip to the driver – in spite of the fact that some taxi drivers in Sydney make around $13 an hour.  Many live in Western Sydney – miles away from the CBD and inner-city.

It seems that Ms McClymont has not got a clue about how the other half – really the other 90 per cent – live.  Her reference to “only $23” seems to suggest that she regards this as big money for a taxi driver at night. Nor, apparently, does MWD fave Matthew Knott – who put out this tweet at 12.30 am, presumably after attending Caroline Wilson’s oration last night.

Matthew Knott‏ @KnottMatthew

Matthew Knott Retweeted Kate McClymont

Top rule for life: Do not, under any circumstances, f-ck with Kate


Turn it up.  Is Mr Knott, who also works for Fairfax Media, really suggesting that Kate McClymont’s angry tweet is going to be the end of GM cabs? It may be that GM cabs will no longer allow non-tipping Fairfax Media journalists to ride in their taxis.

  • NB, HB, GH

MWD wishes H B to ABC TV News Breakfast on the occasion of its 10th Anniversary.  Gerard Henderson (aka GH) appeared on the program once in the last decade and is looking forward to another gig circa 2028 – by which time the Planet will only have a couple of years left, according to the Thought of Jane Caro (re which – see below).

Hendo just loves News Breakfast’s  co-presenter Virginia Trioli and Michael Rowland since their guests sometimes provide great copy for MWD.  However, MWD wants more of Scott Burchill on the “Newspapers” segment.  The idea of interviewing the Deakin University senior lecturer occasionally when he is on his way to, and dressed for, the Tip was brilliant – and worthy of a Walkley. Here’s hoping that Dr Burchill (for a doctor he is) has lotsa loads ready for the next decade and that Vinnies can remain his dresser.


It seems that Fairfax Media’s house-leftist Michael Leunig (Hon. DLitt, La Trobe; Hon. DUniv, ACU) is angry about ladies with hyphenated names who dress up for the Melbourne Cup.  How else to explain your man Leunig’s cartoon titled “Melbourne Cup Preview Fashion Scoop”? – which was published in The Age last Wednesday (see below). It is a statement by the Sandalista Class against ladies-who punt in high heels. [I note that Mr Leunig has fewer honorary degrees than Phillip Adams. Can anyone do anything about this?  MWD Editor.]

Last evening, at Gin & Tonic Time, Jackie’s (male) co-owner commissioned Jackie to reflect on the fashions of the Sandalista Class on May Day – comrades who march in leather sandals. Here it is, titled “May Day Preview Fashion Scoop”.



What was the most productive work to come out of the ABC this week?  Without question, in Hendo’s view, the article by Tiger Webb titled “Lets [sic] get rid of the apostrophe”.

It’s not clear what makes your man Webb an expert in the English language – apart from his taxpayer funded role as the pretentiously titled “Researcher with ABC Language”.

MWD has just got hold of a note approved by ABC Language about the ABC which, in addition to being a Conservative Free Zone, seems soon to become an Apostrophe Free Zone.  Here it is:

Its a long time since Aunty lost its

CEO along with Ms Guthries

management skills


So there you have it – drop the apostrophe and the spelling of the ABC’s past managing director changes.  Thanks a lot,Tiger.


Jackie’s (male) co-owner is heading to Melbourne on Saturday night – to make his final appearance on the Insiders couch for 2018.  Here’s the official announcement – along with the first three responses:

It will be great to catch up again with Katharine (“I agree with punching Trump in the face”) Murphy and Malcolm (“Gerard is a complete f-ckwit”) Farr. Hendo can barely wait.


 Can You Bear It


Last Saturday, the Sydney Morning Herald (along with The Age and the Canberra Times) ran a piece by Nick O’Malley titled “On the hunt for the Liberal ‘base’”.  Your man O’Malley’s conclusion?  Well, it’s that the Liberal Party’s base does not lie with the party’s members who join the branches and rock up at election time to man the polling booths in the suburbs and rural areas.  Really. The Fairfax Media leftist did not identify the Liberal Party base – except to say that it was not beholden to Scott Morrison or Peter Dutton or Tony Abbott or, apparently, John Howard.

The SMH’s intrepid reporter cited speeches made or columns written by the likes of Senator Zed Seselja and Janet Albrechtsen.  But the only people he spoke to were critical of Liberal Party conservatives – namely (the usual) “one Liberal insider” plus Senator Dean Smith, Judith Brett and Marion Maddox plus pollsters John Stirton and Peter Lewis.  All are critical of conservatives to a greater or lesser extent.  And Mr Lewis publicly aligns himself with the Labor Party.  No other view was canvassed by Mr O’Malley.  That’s Fairfax Media’s self-proclaimed “Independent. Always.” ethos for you.

In 2005 Marion Maddox wrote the book God Under Howard: The Rise of the Religious Right in Australian Politics. It was critical of Mr Howard’s (alleged) religious alignments.  However, Dr Maddox did not even ask the then prime minister for an interview.  That’s how interested she was in Mr Howard’s own opinions.

And then there is Judith Brett – a one-time editor of the former Marxist and now called leftist journal of opinion Arena Magazine.  Mr O’Malley concluded his piece with Dr Brett’s words of wisdom:

Even as conservative elements of the Liberal Party seek to define themselves as the party’s base, far-right elements have already broken away, a trend most clearly seen with the rise of One Nation, and more recently with Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives. This reformation mirrors the schism the Labor Party suffered over the past generation with the rise of the Greens, says Peter Lewis, director of the research firm Essential Media.

Brett believes that the conservatives’ drift to the right in pursuit of a phantom base could cause a long-term and crippling division for the party, similar to the divide that hobbled the ALP between the 1930s and the 1960s, when Menzies’ Liberal Party dominated the nation. If it is not healed, she says, Labor could become Australia’s natural party of government.

What a load of absolute tosh.  There is no evidence of a split in the Liberal Party of the kind that devastated Labor in the early 1930s (when the party split into three) or in the mid-1950s (which led to the formation of the Democratic Labor Party). Moreover, the Brett analysis – for want of a better word – overlooks the challenge to Labor from the Greens in Australia’s inner-city capitals.

In any event, what kind of a prophet is the sandal-wearing Brett?  Not much. On 17 July 1993, The Age  published an article by Judith Brett titled “The Party on the road to nowhere”.

In it Dr Brett (for a doctor she is) wrote that “the Liberal Party in the 1990s seems doomed”.  Three years after the Brett (false) prophecy, John Howard led the Coalition to victory in 1996 becoming the second longest serving prime minister in Australian history (after Sir Robert Menzies). And Nick O’Malley reckons that Judith Brett is an authority on the Liberal Party.  Can You Bear It?


While on the topic of Fairfax Media and the Liberal Party, did anyone read the piece in the Sydney Morning Herald on Tuesday by Nigel Gladstone?  His article was titled “Lib MPs paid $9000 for free Menzies tomes”. This is how it commenced:

Liberal Party politicians have spent more than $9000 buying 614 copies of a book that is published by a Liberal Party think tank and available online for free. The book, The Forgotten People – R.G Menzies (75th Anniversary Edition), is a compilation of former prime minister and founder of the Liberal Party Robert Menzies’ weekly 15-minute radio broadcasts which began in November 1941.

The tome was printed for the Menzies Research Centre, a Liberal Party think tank, which described it as “a creed to guide the conservative cause for generations”, on its website. The contents of the book are available for free online.

Boothby MP Nicolle Flint, who bought 400 copies of the book for $5818 last year, spent more than any other politician on publications between July 2017 and June 2018 – $8443 in total. Ms Flint said it was a “one-off cost that has helped support many community groups and schools” in her electorate.

Has Fairfax Media got nothing more important to write about?  For starters, what’s wrong with buying and donating a book – even one containing the speeches of Liberal Party founder Robert Menzies – to a school? Even if there is a free online edition?  And even if it came out of a politician’s electoral allowance?

This is a bit like saying that no school should purchase a copy of the print edition of The Age since its sort of free online.  In any event, it’s useful to let students know that books exist.

Obviously, your man Gladstone was having trouble stumping-up enough words to fill his quota.  Hence this effort towards the end of his piece:

Tasmanian senator Jonathon Duniam bought three copies of the book for $99.85 and Bradfield MP Paul Fletcher bought one copy for $27.23.

Go on.  Paul Fletcher, the Liberal Party MP for Bradfield, bought one copy of The Forgotten People at $27.23 out of his electoral allowance. What a scandal.  Let’s establish a Commonwealth anti-corruption agency NOW headed by Fairfax Media apparatchiks.  Can You Bear It?


While on the topic of the use of taxpayer funds, what a stunning piece by Sydney University’s Professor of Art History – a certain Roger Benjamin. You see, your man Benjamin is mighty upset that his application for a taxpayer funded Australian Research Council Grant to fund his project – titled, wait for it, “Double Crossings: post-Orientalist arts at the Strait of Gibraltar” was rejected by former Education Minister Simon Birmingham.

Of the proposed grant of $223,000 (discounted from the $315,000 application) 25 per cent was to go on travel costs to the Strait of Gibraltar and back. This is how the learned professor concluded his piece:

Like a major football code, the ARC is a big institution: the universities are the clubs, the research offices the coaching staff, and the academics the players. It’s gutting, after years of preparation, to realise that you had kicked a winning goal – the ball passing squarely between the posts – but it was disallowed by a secret umpire without the courage or capacity to give a credible explanation.

Hendo feels Professor Benjamin’s pain on having his goal overruled by a wrong video replay decision.  In another era, Hendo recalls the late historian Geoffrey Fairbairn wrote in Quadrant about a research application to cover something like “The political, social and economic impact of the construction of women’s public lavatories in the Wagga Shire, 1896-1898”. Trigger-warning – this was a (Fairbairn) joke.

The good news is that what was going on in the Strait of Gibraltar all those years ago has something to do with Western Civilisation.  Prof Benjamin works at Sydney University – which seems reluctant to accept funding from the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation.

It seems that the dons at the University of Sydney whinge when they miss out on taxpayer funding for research on the humanities – but take the high moral ground when opposing private funding from the Ramsay Centre (chairman John Howard) for research into Western Civilisation. Can You Bear It?


It is MWD’s experience that many journalists are hostile to the Catholic Church – including quite a few who were educated in the Catholic school system and may have junked “The Faith or Our Fathers” – as the hymn goes, or went.

The current issue of whether independent schools should be entitled to refuse employment to gay teachers who disagree with the teachings of a particular church was discussed on Insiders last Sunday.   Network 7’s Mark Riley ignored the policy on such matters held by Jewish, Muslim and non-Catholic Christian institutions and focused only on the Catholic Church.  This is what he had to say:

Mark Riley:   The real issue is teachers – whether this legislation will apply to the rights of gay and lesbian teachers to be employed by religious schools.  And the schools have said, on the record, that this is a line in the sand for them. They want to have the right to hire and fire whomever they like, on whatever basis they like. Well that’s not the way that discrimination laws work.  And my experience with the Catholic Church system is – there were plenty of gay teachers there when I was there.  They just didn’t admit it.  And they wore the Holy Orders to hide it.  And then they abused children. I mean, get real.

Mark Riley went to a single sex Catholic boys’ school – on Insiders he did not identify the school.  What he said on Insiders was that male homosexuals became priests and brothers in order to “hide” their homosexuality.  Then they abused children as teachers.

So, according to Mr Riley on Insiders last Saturday, “plenty” of the homosexual priests/brothers, who taught him at school, were child sexual abusers.  “Plenty” suggests that Mark Riley believes that a majority or so of male Catholic homosexual clerical teachers he knew at school abused children. His evidence?  Zip.

If a conservative practising Christian male had made such a remark, he would probably have been accused of homophobia.  But progressive journos like Mark Riley, apparently, can say what they like. Can You Bear It?

[Interesting.  I note that in his article in the November 2018 issue of Quadrant, Gerard Henderson cites the Royal Commission’s own statistics to demonstrate that in the 1960s and 1970s (on a per capita basis) a child in a Catholic religious institution was safer than a child in a non-Catholic religious institution. No such comparable statistics are available for government and secular institutions.  But Mark Riley seems to believe that Catholic seminaries at the time were loaded up with homosexuals intent on sexually abusing boys.  A somewhat prejudicial statement with respect to gay men who believed they had a commitment to serve God. – MWD Editor.]




Whatever Morry Schwatz’s The Saturday Paper is – it is not a newspaper, in that it contains scant news. More like a weekly leftist house-journal.  The problem is that the Saturday Papergoes to press on Thursday evenings. So when it comes out on Saturday morning its “news” is already 36 hours old.  It seems to hit the coffee shops of Fitzroy North and Newtown on Saturday mornings at Hangover Time.  But Hendo reads the work of editor-in-chief Erik Jensen on Monday. What’s the hurry?

It was Monday – so Jackie’s (male) co-owner opened up his copy of The [Boring] Saturday Paper. Not much on the front page. The main story, by Martin McKenzie-Murray (he of what Paul Keating used to call the “Hyphenated-Name Set”) was five days old – and the second story by Karen Middleton was three days old.  However, at the top of the paper there was a dinkus of Jane Caro highlighting a story on Page 7. The heading was “Warringah Pall: Jane Caro running against Tony Abbott”.

Now, here was some news/news, surely.  Hendo turned excitedly to Page 7 to see what Ms Caro, one of Australia’s leading leftist-luvvies, had to say.  Guess what? Jane Caro did not say whether she plans to run against Tony Abbott in the Warringah 2019 election. [Really?  Sounds like false advertising to me.  Why not complain to the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission? – MWD Editor]

It turned out that Ms Caro merely said that she had put up “a tentative hand as a possible candidate for the seat currently held by former prime minister Tony Abbott”.  That’s all. There was a query to herself about whether she “should consider running for Warringah” and a promise that she was “thinking about it”.  There followed such words as “if I do run for Warringah” and “whether I run for Warringah or not”. Er, that’s it.

You see, while Jane Caro feels “duty bound to at least try” to win the seat as an Independent from Australia’s 28th prime minister, there are some problems.   For starters, she lives in the electorate of North Sydney and does not want to move into neighbouring Warringah.  Moreover, Jane Caro’s an Australia-Britain dual citizen and would have to surrender her British citizenship and British passport – and it is not clear that she would like to do this.  In other words, the piece should have been headed: “Running against Tony Abbott – or perhaps not”.

By the way, there was lotsa hyperbole in The Saturday Paper piece. Jane Caro claimed that Australia has “deliberately destroyed…public schools, public broadcasting, public health, public transport”. Really.    The ABC has been “destroyed” by getting a $1 billion a year taxpayer funded handout – according to the (possible) Independent candidate for Warringah.

And Jane Caro is disturbed by “reactionary change”. The reference is to “Brexit, Brazil, Putin, Duterte, school shootings, Poland, Erdogan, Saudi Arabia” and the like. But not North Korea or China (with its Muslim Uyghur gulags) or Cuba or Venezuela or Iran.  Get the leftist-luvvie picture?

Oh yes, Ms Caro reckons the planet only has “12 short years left” before global warming impact sets in and “all bets are off” – unless we all embrace the teachings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  Which suggests if Ms Caro wins Warringah in 2019 – and the United States, China, India and Russia do not dramatically reduce emissions – then the last election in Warringah is scheduled to be held in 2030. The end of the world is not just nigh but already here.

[Perhaps this should have been placed in your hugely popular Can You Bear It? segment. – MWD  Editor]


The ABC is oh-so-reluctant to acknowledge errors on-air or in prominent positions on the notes which accompany programs which are uploaded on-line.  Instead the taxpayer funded public broadcaster has a Corrections page which is difficult to locate on its website and which never names the ABC journalist responsible for his or her error.  MWD, on the other hand, readily makes corrections/clarifications and explains “Deliberate Mistakes” which are picked up by avid readers.  After all, it is published by Gerard Henderson AC (aka Always Courteous).

[If only your man Julian (“I just love flashing my post-nominals”) Burnside AO QC were into courtesy.  Then MWD would be able to cite him as “JB AO QC AC”. Just a thought. – MWDEditor]


Last week’s MWD referred to Peter van Onselen as a “political commentator and one-time Malcolm Turnbull staffer”. In fact, Mr van Onselen was never employed by Mr Turnbull. However, he was a Liberal Party pre-selector when Malcolm Turnbull replaced the sitting Liberal Party member for Wentworth (Peter King). In the pre-selection process, Peter van Onselen worked – in a voluntary capacity – to get Mr Turnbull votes from Liberal Party members in Wentworth. [That’s fascinating.  According to my research, the 2003 Wentworth pre-selection contest saw the biggest branch stack in the history of the Liberal Party. PVO must have had lotsa fun at that time. – MWD Editor]


Last week’s MWD cited (yet another) episode of ABC TV’s The Drum where there was no conservative on the panel and all panellists agreed with each other on almost everything.  It took place on Friday 19 October 2018 – with a panel comprising John Hewson (yet again), Kerryn Phelps’ dance partner Margo Kingston, Samantha Maiden and Stephen O’Doherty. All discussed the Wentworth by-election.

Your man O’Doherty was described by MWD as a “former NSW Liberal Party minister and now Christian radio broadcaster”. In fact, Mr O’Doherty was never a minister in a NSW government – only a shadow minister in opposition.  He quit politics in 2002 becoming the inaugural chief executive of Christian Schools Australia.  Stephen O’Doherty was the only member of the various Christian organisations who supported Labor leader Mark Latham’s school funding policy in the 2004 election.  Mr Latham lost the election to John Howard.


Thanks to the Gippsland avid reader – and intellectual pedant – who identified the John-Laws-Style-Deliberate-Mistake in MWD Issue 429. Yes, it was Vladimir Lenin, not Leon Trotsky, who is said to have claimed, before the Bolshevik Revolution, that “worse is better”.  This is the inspiration for MWD’s attitude to the ABC. Very Leninist, don’t you think? But, alas, apparently not Trotskyist.


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).


This week saw the publication of Damien Freeman’s edited collection Today’s Tyrants: Responding to Dyson Heydon (The Kapunda Press).  It contains some important chapters responding to the Inaugural PM Glynn Lecture on Religion, Law and Public Life which was delivered on 17 October 2017 by former High Court of Australia judge Dyson Heydon.  Contributors include Frank Brennan, Anne Henderson, Paul Kelly, Michael Casey, Sandra Lynch, Peter Kurti and Catherine Renshaw.

Shireen Morris, a postdoctoral fellow at the Melbourne Law School, contributed an essay to the book titled “A Warning to Conservative Elites”.  To his surprise, Gerard Henderson was included as one of this group – along with just four others.  Namely Tony Abbott, Dyson Heydon, Paul Kelly and Michael Sukkar.  It seems that Dr Morris believes that Conservative Elites in Australia resemble a men’s shed – all of whom agree with each other on everything. She declined to write about any of Australia’s conservative women.  Hendo took exception to Shireen Morris’ poor scholarship plus her tendency to verbal others and engage in personal abuse. In short, he was surprised at what now passes for scholarship at his alma mater – the Melbourne Law School at the University of Melbourne. Now read on:

Gerard Henderson to Shireen Morris – 29 October 2018


I have just seen a copy of Damien Freeman’s edited collection Today’s Tyrants: Responding to Dyson Heydon (The Kapunda Press, 2018).

From one graduate of the Melbourne Law School to another, I regard your essay in this collection, titled “A Warning to Conservative Elites”, as intellectually shoddy and, at times, simply unprofessional.  In view of our past association – you have addressed The Sydney Institute and you make a favourable reference to Anne Henderson and myself in your book Radical Heart – I am surprised that you cite what you claim are my views without doing the courtesy of checking my (alleged) opinions with me, or citing a source for my (alleged) opinions.

At Page 111 you make the following claim:

I was astounded to watch staunch right-wing opponents of a bill of rights change their tunes during the same-sex marriage debate – as soon as their own rights to religious freedom were at stake.  Suddenly members of the conservative elite, like Paul Kelly and Gerard Henderson, were quoting from United Nations human rights treaties and urging legislation to protect religious freedom rights. Why?  Because conservative elites are worried, as Heydon explains, that “the tyrants of tolerance” will “pay lip-service, but only lip-service, to freedom of religion as a fundamental human right”.  Suddenly we see conservatives arguing for stronger legislated rights protection – a quasi-bill of rights. Because, evidently, empowering unelected judges is acceptable when the rights of the privileged are at stake.

What is your evidence for your assertion that, during the same-sex marriage debate, I quoted from “United Nations human rights treaties” and advocated for the implementation of “a quasi-bill of rights”?  No source is quoted in your essay or in your endnotes. I can only assume that you just made this up.

In fact, I wrote and said virtually nothing during the same-sex marriage postal survey debate.  In the one article I wrote on this topic (The Australian, 30 September 2017), I merely contested Fran Kelly’s claim that there were no concerns about religious freedoms in New Zealand following the introduction of same sex marriage and that, consequently, there should be no such concerns in Australia.  I pointed out that – contrary to Ms Kelly’s claim – New Zealand has a Bill of Rights that is designed to protect civil and political rights.  And, second, New Zealand has a unitary system of government – without states or territories which pass their own legislation.  As a lawyer, you should understand this.

In this column, I quoted from Frank Brennan (who supports an Australian Bill of Rights) and John Howard (who opposes an Australian Bill of Rights). I did not advocate an Australian Bill of Rights and I did not quote from United Nations human rights treaties.

My final point was that without the kind of provisions that apply in New Zealand – it was difficult to see how Bishop Vincent Long’s view that the Catholic Church will be able to teach without qualification that marriage is “a natural institution established by God to be a permanent union between one man and woman” once same sex marriage is legalised.   I concluded the column where I commenced it – by stating that Fran Kelly was wrong in stating that there was no difference between New Zealand and Australia in this area.  I had in mind the still unresolved matter of the Archbishop Julian Porteous case in Tasmania.

As to the rest of the essay, it is essentially a rave.  Do you really believe it is professional to describe Dyson Heydon – a respected former judge of the High Court – as “experiencing a form of postcolonial victim-envy”? This is just abuse.

Then there is the tenor of your “A Warning to Conservative Elites” chapter. In 15 pages, only five alleged “conservative elites” are mentioned by name – Dyson Heydon, Tony Abbott, Michael Sukkar, Paul Kelly and myself. Consequently, I am associated with positions either which I do not hold or on which I have not expressed an opinion.

You imply that I support Australia’s British institutional inheritance.  In fact, I am a republican.

You imply that I have opposed the Uluru Statement from the Heart. This is false.

You imply that I have opposed the Expert Panel’s attempt to insert a racial non-discrimination guarantee in the Constitution. This is false.

You imply that I advocated watering down Section 18(c) of the Racial Discrimination Act.  In fact, I did not get involved in the debate with respect to whether the legislation should be amended since I never thought that any proposed changes would pass through the Senate.

You imply that I am a defender of “the old white Western Christian dominance”.  If you looked outside your office at the Melbourne Law School, you would realise that many of Australia’s most avowed Christians are not white.

You imply that I do not advocate debate and discussion across ideological lines.  In fact, there is much more debate across ideological lines at The Sydney Institute than takes place at the Melbourne Law School.

You also imply that I lack “compassion and empathy”. You don’t know me and have no idea about my private life.

And then there is the question of guilt by association.  Along with four others, you imply that I am “conservative” who perhaps is best described as a “reactionary”.   More abuse – and totally unfair.  I note that you describe yourself as a “progressive”.  How nice.  However, I recall that when I attended the launch of your book Radical Heart  this year, you described yourself as being “on the left”.  In your essay you (falsely) depict Paul Kelly and myself as “staunch right-wingers”. But do not refer to progressives as left-wing. How convenient.

In conclusion, I provide some (gratuitous) advice. If you intend to cite someone’s opinions – either quote them correctly or check out their views.  It only takes a phone call or a text.  It’s not difficult – it’s only professional.

Best wishes

Yours sincerely

Gerard Henderson


Shireen Morris to Gerard Henderson – 30 October 2018

Dear Gerard,

I’m sorry you’re upset by my essay in the collection, Today’s Tyrants. The essay was not about you: the reference to your observations about Australia’s lack of legislated religious freedom protections was part of a broader point about the irony in hearing people who would usually advocate against bills of rights, in this instance advocating in favour of increased legislated protection of religious freedom rights.

I understand that you believe I misinterpreted your remarks.  If I did, I apologise for this.  My interpretation was that commentators like you and Paul Kelly were making the same kind of argument with respect to the absence of legislated religious freedom protection in Australia. On 13 September 2017 in The Australian, Kelly pointed out that:

Unlike many Western nations, Australia has no statutory expression of a stand-alone right to religious freedom. There are far greater legal protections in relation to sexual orientation than in relation to religious belief.

This is an anomaly given that under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights freedom of religion is an inviolable right. The risk now is our parliament undermining Australia’s commitment to the ICCPR.

Kelly was advocating for greater legislative protection of religious freedoms. On 30 September 2017, you wrote the following in The Australian, to show why Fran Kelly’s argument regarding religious freedom protection in New Zealand was not adequate in the Australian context:

[Here Shireen Morris quotes at length from Gerard Henderson’s column referred to above which was published in The Weekend Australian on 30 September 2017]

I interpreted your above comments as highlighting the inadequacy of religious freedom protection in Australia, given we have no bill of rights. You suggested that arguments for increased legislative protection of religious freedom should be regarded seriously. I inferred from your arguments that you felt similar legislated protections for religious freedom would be desirable in Australia.

When I read these remarks by you and Kelly, and when I heard similar arguments made by others, I was surprised: I was used to hearing anti-bill of rights arguments from conservative commentators. I tried to explain in my essay the sense of double standards that I feel comes into play in such debates. Kelly has argued against a bill of rights, and against a racial non-discrimination clause in the Constitution. You have also made anti-bill of rights arguments. In 2008, on the question of a constitutionalised or legislated bill of rights for Australia, you wrote in the SMH that:

Both changes, if implemented, would give unelected and tenured judges greater powers to determine the rights and liberties of citizens and residents alike by reducing the powers held by elected and untenured politicians…. at least we can vote out poorly performing politicians. Not much right exists with respect to poorly performing judges.

You have also at various times expressed concern about the Expert Panel’s proposals for more substantive forms of constitutional recognition. In 2013 in the SMH you cautioned:

The potential problems turn not on what is proposed to be deleted from the constitution but what might be added. The panel proposes that the constitution should contain provisions aimed at securing the advancement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. At any referendum, this could raise the complex question of who is an indigenous person entitled to such advancement…

I found it interesting and ironic that commentators who often warn against increased rights protections when discussing Indigenous recognition or bills of rights, then seemed to argue the opposite when it came to protection of religious freedom rights. This is the point I was trying to make. Perhaps I did not make it clearly enough.

As to the other issues that you feel I imputed to you – this was not at all my intention, and I apologise. I did get the sense that you may support the Uluru Statement, and I did not intend to suggest that you didn’t. As I said, the essay was not about you – it was a response to Heydon’s speech. I was trying to make the point that many of the conservatives now advocating for religious discrimination protection, also opposed a racial non-discrimination guarantee in the Constitution, wanted to water down section 18C of the RDA, and did not support (or certainly did nothing to help achieve) a First Nations voice in the Constitution. This should be cause for reflection.

Heydon’s speech makes high level, generalised observations about an amorphous group he calls the ‘modern elites’. I wanted to interrogate this device, and make some similar high level observations about the attitudes of ‘conservative elites’, to show that the criticisms Heydon makes actually run both ways. Progressives do deserve criticism, as I note in the essay. However I wanted to also critique the way many conservatives have often failed to come to the table to address the concerns of disenfranchised groups who have sought greater recognition and protection of their rights.

The point I was trying to make was that both left and right should seek to hear and address each other’s concerns, to find ways to meet in the middle on such matters. We should be able to address concerns about Indigenous rights, gay rights, and religious freedom rights – and we should do so in a way that addresses the concerns of others, not just our own concerns. Too often we do not come to the table in a constructive way, however. Our politics would be so much better if we all sought to find common ground across ideological divides, rather than dismissing each other views. I was trying to show that Heydon was actually dismissing the legitimate concerns of the so-called ‘modern elites’, rather than constructively addressing those concerns – just as he argues progressives too often dismiss the views of conservatives.

I made the arguments in my essay in good faith, and I believe the points needed to be made. I am sorry if I misinterpreted your comments, however, and I’m very sorry to have upset you. I have appreciated your support, and seeing you at various events over the years, and offending you was certainly not my intention. I will try to be more careful in the future.

Yours sincerely,



Gerard Henderson to Shireen Morris – 30 October 2018


I refer to your email of today.  In response, I make the following comments:

▪ I am not “upset” about the reference to me in your chapter in Damien Freeman’s edited collection Today’s Tyrants. After all, I have been attacked by the left for half a century.  You may recall that at the launch of your book Radical Heart  on 29 June 2018 you proudly stated that you are on “the left”.  I merely resent being verballed by commentators – devoid of any direct quotes of what I have written or said.

▪ It is quite disingenuous for you to state – on two occasions – that your essay titled “A Warning to Conservative Elites” was “not about” me.  It was – since I was one of only five conservatives named.  The others being Tony Abbott, Dyson Heydon, Paul Kelly and Michael Sukkar.  If the essay was not about us five – who was it about?

You make the following claim:

The essay was not about you: the reference to your observations about Australia’s lack of legislated religious freedom protections was part of a broader point about the irony in hearing people who would usually advocate against bills of rights, in this instance advocating in favour of increased legislated protection of religious freedom rights.

This is intellectually dishonest.  In your essay you did not accuse me of merely “advocating in favour of increased legislative protection of religious freedom rights”. Rather, you accused me of “quoting from United Nations treaties” and of having changed my opposition to an Australian bill of rights.  Both statements are false – and were advanced by you without any evidence of any kind. You just made this up.

▪ I am not responsible for anything that Paul Kelly has written – so I do not understand the reference to his articles in your email.

▪ I know what I wrote in The Australian column on 30 September 2017 – I referred to it at length in my email yesterday.  By the way, you did not cite this column either in your essay on in the endnotes and it is not clear that you even read it before writing your essay.  You make the following claim:

interpreted your above comments as highlighting the inadequacy of religious freedom protection in Australia, given we have no bill of rights. You suggested that arguments for increased legislative protection of religious freedom should be regarded seriously. I inferred from your arguments that you felt similar legislated protections for religious freedom would be desirable in Australia. [Emphasis added].

The point is not how you “interpreted” my column or what you “inferred” from it.  As a lawyer you should understand that what matters is what I actually wrote.  There is nothing in my column that justified your undocumented assertion that I advocated an Australian bill of rights or that I supported such an (alleged) argument with reference to United Nations treaties.

▪ You write that Paul Kelly has argued against a bill of rights and that I have “also made anti-bill of rights arguments”.  Of course I have – since I oppose an Australian bill of rights. So what’s your point?

▪ Of the various imputations which you make with respect to me and the four others, you only defend one in your long email. You write:

You have…at various times expressed concern about the Expert Panel’s proposals for more substantive forms of constitutional recognition. In 2013 in the SMH you cautioned: “The potential problems turn not on what is proposed to be deleted from the constitution but what might be added. The panel proposes that the constitution should contain provisions aimed at securing the advancement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. At any referendum, this could raise the complex question of who is an indigenous person entitled to such advancement….”

I found it interesting and ironic that commentators who often warn against increased rights protections when discussing Indigenous recognition or bills of rights, then seemed [sic] to argue the opposite when it came to protection of religious freedom rights. This is the point I was trying to make. Perhaps I did not make it clearly enough.

This is a selective quotation. In my column in the Sydney Morning Herald on 24 January 2012, I did not oppose increased rights protections for Indigenous Australians.  Again, you just made this up.

I essentially supported the view of Mark Leibler (the co-chair of the Expert Panel which wrote the Recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Peoples in the Constitution report), that such a proposal should only be put to a referendum when there are “the best prospects of success”. And I gave reasons for my opinion.  I do not recall that anyone objected to my column at the time – or since (until your email of today).

▪ The fact is that you did make imputations with respect to me and four others – including (i) that I support Australia’s British institutional inheritance in all its aspects (along with the continuation of the constitutional monarchy), (ii) that I have opposed the Uluru Statement from the Heart and (iii) that I lack compassion and empathy. All these claims are false. If you are not making these and other imputations about me and the other four – with respect to precisely whom are you making them?

▪ It is intellectually shoddy to create a group you depict as “Conservative Elites” and to then make broad undocumented generalisations with respect to such an (alleged) group – as if everyone holds the same view as everyone else on everything.  When I taught at universities, I would have failed – and then counselled – a student who presented such intellectually shoddy work in an essay.  It seems that different standards apply in the contemporary Melbourne Law School.

* * * * *

In conclusion, I am genuinely surprised that you do not understand the difference between argument and abuse. You imply that Dyson Heydon, Paul Kelly and myself are reactionaries.  And you believe it is professional to describe former High Court judge Dyson Heydon as “experiencing a form of postcolonial victim-envy”. And yet, in your penultimate paragraph, you state that “our politics would be so much better if we all sought to find common group across ideological divides rather than dismissing each other’s views”.  I should have thought that depicting a respected former High Court judge as “experiencing a form of postcolonial victim-envy” was dismissive.

Perhaps you should first cast out the beam from your own eye before casting out the mote from the eye of those with whom you disagree – as the Bible advises.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

PS: I note that you have form in this area. You book Radical Heart is replete with personal attacks on individuals and undocumented assertions.

By the way, I note that you did not respond to my comment that much more debate takes place across ideological divides at The Sydney Institute than at the Melbourne Law School.

* * * * *

Until next time.

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