ISSUE – NO. 433

23 November 2018

* * * *

The inaugural issue of “Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch” was published in April 1988 – over a year before the first edition of the ABC TV Media Watch program went to air. Between November 1997 and October 2015 “Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch” was published as part of The Sydney Institute Quarterly. In March 2009 Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch Dog blog commenced publication.

* * * *

  • Stop Press: California’s burning but not due to climate change

  • Can You Bear It? Brad Norington & Michael Koziol and Malcolm Turnbull’s “miserable ghost” speech; Lawrie Zion misses the lead; Red Kerry on Red Kerry; Gay Alcorn & James Button & Arnold Zable in Fitzroy North mode;

  • The Chaser Boys (average age 44 ½): Off the taxpayer teat for the 2019 election

  • MWD Exclusive: Jane Caro’s “two minds” on Tony Abbott

  • Maurice Newman Segment: In which everyone on The Drum beats an anti-Dutton Drum

  • Hamish Macdonald’s Fake News: Featuring David Anderson, Alan Sunderland & Jonathan Green

  • Jackie’s Report on Pomposity (Julian Burnside), Abuse (Paul Bongiorno), Verballing (Bob Carr via Emma Alberici) & Hyperbole (John Silvester)

  • An ABC Update: While Four Corners sleeps; ABC fudge continues re its 1975 pederasty scandal plus a comment on James Campbell’s take on Senator Abetz, the ABC and Senate Estimates

  • Correspondence: FB helps out re Insiders and more besides

    * * * *



Hendo was walking Jackie last night while listening to Phillip (“I was a teenage commo”) Adams on his little wireless program Late Night Live (ABC Radio National). The Man-in-Black’s guest was Arizona State University environmental historian Stephen Pyne.

Professor Pyne spoke about the current California bushfires in historical perspective.  He referred to the dreadful fires in the US in the early 19th Century and after the American Civil War.  His point was that bushfires are endemic in the United States and that American Indians had controlled them before European settlement by fire – much as Aborigines had done in Australia.

Not a word was spoken about climate until Phillip Adams popped the question – and received an answer.  Let’s go:

Phillip Adams: How do you factor in climate change?

Stephen Pyne: We’re certainly seeing climate change in lengthening seasons and drier Springs, which can correspond with strong winds, further drying of fuels and so forth. All of this is clear. But I don’t think we can lay all of this onto climate change. I see climate change as doing today what logging slash did a century or more ago. That it’s a kind of performance enhancer, its aggravating and exaggerating conditions that are already there. It’s not creating new conditions for us.

So there’s the newsflash.  California is burning – in the American way.  But there is scant causal relationship between the bushfires and climate change. And you heard it first on Mr Adams’ little wireless program.


 Can You Bear It


What a scoop in last Sunday’s Fairfax Media newspaper by intrepid reporter Michael Koziol.  Readers of the Sun Herald and the Sunday Age (if readers there are) awoke on Sunday to find that Young Koziol had been able to report a speech by former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull the previous Friday night.

Mr Turnbull addressed the Australian Bar Association at the Cutaway in Sydney’s Barangaroo.  It was a “Chatham House Rule” event and journalists were not invited. But your man Koziol was able to record the former prime minister’s speech, in full miserable ghost mode, from above the venue.  Clever, eh?  Alas the intrepid reporter was man-handled by the Barangaroo Development Authority’s security – for which he received an apology – who attempted to stop his recording of the event from outside the premises.

However, in the face of such difficulties, Michael Koziol managed to report that Mr Turnbull had criticised the Morrison government’s policy on climate change. Quelle surprise!  And Young Koziol came up with this scoop:

Mr Turnbull told the adoring crowd the consequences of his removal – the government’s collapse in the polls – were “both predicted and predictable”. They were also “terrible for the government and terrible for the country, and for the Liberal Party”.

But Mr Turnbull reserved his harshest remarks for the man blamed for instigating his demise – Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, who scored 35 votes against Mr Turnbull in the first leadership ballot, in what turned out to be a fatal blow. “If Peter was the answer, you’d have to ask: what was the question?” Mr Turnbull said to roars of laughter and applause. He later added: “I’m not a hater, I’m a positive person.”

It must have been an audience of adoring tired and emotional barristers.  For the Peter Dutton “joke” is as old as Methuselah (born 3317 BC, approx.) Perhaps older.  Jackie’s (male) co-owner recalls that Bob Hawke declared in the 1990 election: “If the Liberal Party is the answer, then that’s a pretty silly question” – or words to that effect.

Still, you’ve got to hand it to Mr Koziol for attaining this scoop – in difficult circumstances. Or do you?  It turns out that Brad Norington reported the Malcolm Turnbull speech – including the Peter Dutton “joke” – in The Weekend Australian last Saturday – a full 24 hours before the Koziol “scoop”.  Without apparently, recording the occasion from the roof. Can You Bear It?


While on the topic of opinion polls, MWD notes that this was a matter that one commentator did not want to talk about while on the ABC News Breakfast program this week during the “Newspapers” segment.

On Tuesday, academic Lawrie Zion when on the News Breakfast couch spoke at some length about the Essential Poll which was published in The Guardian that very morning.  Your man Zion focused only on the fact that the Essential Poll indicated an increasing support for minor parties and Independents

And so it did. But this was not the real news – as Katharine Murphy pointed out in her lead:

Labor remains ahead of the Morrison government, although the national contest has narrowed appreciably during the past fortnight, and a large number of voters say they would consider voting for an independent at the next federal election.

The latest Guardian Essential poll has Labor ahead of the Coalition on the two-party-preferred measure 52% to 48%, compared with 54% to 46% a fortnight ago. The Coalition’s primary vote is on 37% and Labor is on 35%, which is a four-point drop from the last survey.

Murpharoo, as Malcolm Turnbull liked to call her, concluded her piece as follows:

The latest Guardian Essential result is the same as a new Ipsos poll published by Fairfax Media on Sunday night, which also has Labor ahead of the Coalition on the two-party-preferred measure 52% to 48%. The Guardian Essential poll a fortnight ago had Labor ahead of the Coalition 54% to 46%.

Over the past fortnight, there has been a terror attack in Melbourne. Scott Morrison has been campaigning in marginal seats in Queensland, and has also wrapped up the opening meetings of his first summit season as prime minister.

That’s correct. Both the Ipsos and Essential polls had the Coalition moving closer to the Labor Party.  Both polls have the outcome as 52 per cent for Labor and 48 per cent for the Coalition – a move of two per cent on the previous poll in favour of the Morrison government. It remains to be seen whether such a swing is confirmed in the next Newspoll, scheduled for next Monday.  We shall see.  But if there is such a move it will throw doubt on Malcolm Turnbull’s claim that the polls are “terrible” for the Coalition.

In the meantime, it’s remarkable that your man Zion thought there was no point in mentioning the main finding of the Ipsos poll.  Can You Bear It?


While on the topic of News Breakfast, did anyone see the love-in interview between presenters Michael Rowland and Virginia Trioli on Monday with former ABC hero Kerry O’Brien? Red Kerry was on the News Breakfast couch flogging his recently released book Kerry O’Brien: A Memoir (Allen & Unwin, 2018). Needless to say, La Trioli described it as a “terrific book” and Mr Rowland referred to your man O’Brien’s “fantastic” celebrity interviews which are documented in his tome. How lovely.

The interview went on and on and on. For 14 minutes in fact.  It reminded Hendo of Red Kerry’s inordinately long questions – which were really statements – when he fronted Lateline and then 7.30 on the taxpayer funded public broadcaster.

Red Kerry spoke primarily about the subject he knows best  – i.e. himself.  He ran the familiar ABC defence of the ABC – denying that it has a weird socialist culture. In short, according to Red Kerry, there is no ABC house style.  Neither the News Breakfast co-presenters queried why, then, the ABC is a Conservative Free Zone without a conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets but over the years has employed lotsa left-of-centre types like Kerry O’Brien.  It was not that kind of interview.

Midway through the interview, your man O’Brien threw the switch to condescension.  He stated that it is not only Labor Party supporters who support the ABC. This is hardly news.  Some two decades ago, former John Howard adviser Grahame Morris referred to the ABC as “our enemies talking to our friends”.

Kerry O’Brien went on to give everyone a lecture about how politicians have lost touch with the intelligence of the Australian people. Yawn. Perhaps Red Kerry, who once worked for Labor leader Gough Whitlam, should have remained a Labor staffer – in which capacity he could have kept at least some politicians in touch with the Australian people.

But Red Kerry rarely mentions his time as a Gough Whitlam operative.  And La Trioli and Mr Rowland did not see fit to mention such a fact in an interview which was a comradely love-in. Can you Bear It?


Now Geraldine Doogue is one of MWD’s faves.  She is invariably well informed – even to the extent of finding time to read books or long articles before interviewing her talent on air. Last Saturday, Ms Doogue took her ABC Radio National Saturday Extra program to Melbourne in the wake of the terrorist attack on Bourke Street in the Melbourne CBD on Friday 9 November 2018.  Her producer was Ann Arnold.  This is how the ABC described the program.

Melbourne is still grieving from the Bourke Street attack a week ago, on Friday afternoon, in which restaurateur Sisto Malaspina from Pellegrini’s, the famous café and bar, died at the hands of a man called Hassan Khalif Shire Ali. Sisto was part of the first wave of Melbourne immigrants, and his attacker arrived more recently from Somalia. A sympathy card outside Pellegrini’s said “Arrividerci Sisto. You were Melbourne”. Is it likely that this tragedy could dominate people’s thinking in the run up to Victoria’s state election in two weeks’ time?

Guests: Gay Alcorn, Melbourne Editor of Guardian Australia; James Button, former journalist, now education consultant. Arnold Zable, novelist, writer and human rights advocate.

It was all so frightfully nice as a group of chosen left-of-centre commentators came together in the ABC Melbourne Southbank studio to discuss immigration, terrorism and the like.  Gay Alcorn (a former editor of The Sunday Age and currently the Melbourne editor of The Guardian), James Button (formerly with The Age) and writer Arnold Zable.  Not a conservative among this lot – or even a tough-minded social democrat like Labor M.P. Michael Danby.

Sure, the get-together was at Southbank. But it could just as well have been in, say a Fitzroy North coffee shop with lotsa give-away copies of The [Boring] Saturday Paper lying un-read on a bean-bag.   During the 27-minute long interview, criticism was levied at former Victorian Liberal Party premier Jeff Kennett, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, the Herald Sun newspaper (proprietor Rupert Murdoch) and Victorian Liberal Party leader Matthew Guy.  No member of the Labor Party or the Greens was criticised.  It was, after all, a get-together in a Conservative Free Zone.

It was just oh-so-nice as Gay agreed with James who agreed with Arnold who agreed with Gay who agreed with Arnold who agreed with James who agreed with himself and so on.  It so happened that that very morning Julie Szego had a piece in The Age where she argued that it is futile to deny that Australia has a problem with terrorism – or that all the men who kill in the name of Islam are suffering from mental health problems. By the way, Ms Szego is not a conservative – just a realist.

Yet Saturday Extra’s producers chose not to invite someone like Ms Szego or a conservative to challenge “Melbourne-does-not-really-have-a-serious-problem-with-Islamist-terrorism – or African-crime-gangs” mantra proclaimed in such a nice way by the Alcorn/Button/Zable trio. But, then, perhaps Julie Szego was not judged to be a Fitzroy North type. Can You Bear It?



As a general rule, Hendo does not favour cases being taken to the Human Rights Commission.  But he makes an exception with reference to the ABC’s decision not to fund (yet) another election series by The Chaser.  This is clearly an attack on the ability of The Chaser Boys (average age 441/2) to receive yet another taxpayer funded handout to trespass on private property, dress up in funny outfits, be rude in public and run stale jokes.

You see, the taxpayer funded public broadcaster has funded “The Chaser’s Election Special” (or words to that effect) in 2004, 2007, 2010, 2013 and 2016.  Charles Firth (average age 441/2) has attacked the ABC’s decision. Following the release by the ABC of its 2019 program, which excluded The Chaser, your man Firth (who used to be a boy) released the tweet:

Fairfax Media’s Robert Moran reported this travesty on Wednesday, under the heading “ABC ‘in a death spiral’: The Chaser funding war”.

It is understood not all of The Chaser‘s original members were onboard for an election series next year, but member and founder Charles Firth says the majority of the crew were interested. “It’s one of those things if the ABC had wanted to go ahead with it, we would’ve jumped at the chance,” he says.

For Firth, the ABC’s decision – “They just said they didn’t have the money,” was the ABC’s reason behind the rejection ­– is further proof the public broadcaster is conceding to government influence. “The ABC is an institution in crisis, and it’s a very deliberate thing that’s happened,” he says. “This decision, along with lots of other decisions” – the recent axings of controversial comedy shows The Checkout and Tonightly, for example – “should leave everyone in no doubt that the Liberals have done their work on the ABC and it’s not the institution it once was.”

On Monday, the public broadcaster revealed its 2019 line-up, leaning heavily on dramas and documentaries. “The ABC is in a difficult position, so what some people inside the ABC have decided to do is to be safe because safeness means there’s no senate inquiries, there’s no questions from the prevailing government… [But] the moment you start being safe is the moment you start losing audiences, and you enter a downward spiral where you become irrelevant,” he says. “It hasn’t happened yet, but that’s the problem – they’re in a death spiral where they’re getting safer and safer.”

What a load of absolute (self-serving) tosh. According to Comrade Firth, the evidence for his claim that the ABC is in crisis turns on the public broadcaster’s decision not to give another hand-out to The Chaser.  Apparently it’s all the fault of the Liberal Party. This overlooks the possibility that ABC management might have decided that time’s up on funding middle-aged blokes running around the public square as if they were boys just out of Sydney Grammar or just into Sydney University or whatever.

For its part, the ABC told Robert Moran that The Chaser did not pitch to do an election special in 2019. Rather, The Chaser advised the ABC that it was in discussions with a commercial network to run its election special.  It was only when Channel 7, or Channel 9 or Channel 10 had the good sense to decline The Chaser’s offer did your man Firth spit the dummy and take his story to Fairfax Media.

[Perhaps this should have run this your hugely popular “Can You Bear It?” segment. Just a thought. – MWD Editor.]



As avid readers are aware (see MWD Issue 432), on 17 October 2018 The Saturday Paper ran an article by leftist activist Jane Caro titled “Running Against Tony Abbott”. The implication was that the ABC’s fave Jane Caro would contest Warringah against the sitting Liberal Party member Tony Abbott at the 2019 election.

MWD has always had doubts as to whether the dual British/Australian citizen who does not live in Warringah would take on the former prime minister next year.  Nevertheless, it seems that the resultant publicity got Ms Caro a guernsey on ABC TV’s One Plus One last weekend.   Let’s go to the transcript where the matter of Warringah is discussed – Jane Hutcheon is the interviewer:

Jane Hutcheon: So why at this stage of your life and your career, are you thinking of taking on the seat of Warringah? Which of course belongs to the former Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Jane Caro: Well I’ve certainly said to the Voices of Warringah, who are the people who have been working really hard, they’re modelling themselves on the Voices of Indi who got Cathy McGowan into the seat [of Indi in 2013] – that I would be willing to be the candidate if they wanted me to be. I suspect it’s unlikely that I will end up the candidate for Warringah. Because there are other people that have been working in that seat for longer and who have qualifications that I don’t have.

Jane Hutcheon: But you’ve been very enthusiastic up until now.

Jane Caro: Sort of. I’ve been in two minds –

So there you have it. Despite the headline of her boring article in The [Boring] Saturday Paper of recent memory, Ms Caro was never more than “sort of” interested in challenging the former prime minister in Warringah and is now “unlikely” to do so.  Oh well, at least she got a gig on One Plus One.  [As I recall, you used to call Ms Hutcheon’s program “Tosh Plus Tosh”. – MWD Editor.]


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 5 April, 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.


There’s nothing that the ABC loves so much as a former Liberal Party or Nationals politician who leaves politics and becomes a critic of his or her former party. It’s the John Hewson Syndrome. A recent entrant into the category is former NSW Nationals minister Adrian Piccoli.  So it came as no surprise when your man Piccoli made yet another appearance on The Drum on Monday. Kathryn Robinson was in the presenter’s chair.  The other panellists were Emma Dawson (executive director Per Capita), Aisha Novakovich (CEO Modest Fashion Australia) and Dr Suelette Dreyfus (University of Melbourne).

It was not long before discussion turned on Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton’s proposal that new laws should be introduced to get access to encrypted messages sent between terrorists, pedophiles and the like. And so it came to pass that all the panel, with the evident support of the presenter, agreed that Dutton’s proposal was not a good idea since it was not necessary or impinged on civil liberties or whatever.

In response to Ms Robinson’s leading question that there was a danger in the Dutton proposal, Dr Dreyfus (for a doctor she is) responded that – yes, there is a big danger.  Emma Dawson concurred.  The presenter then asked Andrew Piccoli if he was in agreement with the other two panellists.  Sure was.  Your man Piccoli accused Minister Dutton of “appealing to people’s fears”.  So there.  Then Ms Novakovich declared: “I have to agree with what’s already been said” – and proceeded to tell an irrelevant story about something or other which she had come across in a podcast.

And so a fine ideological time was had as Suelette agreed with Kathryn who agreed with Emma who agreed with Adrian who agreed with Aisha who agreed with everyone else. No other view was heard.

Maurice Newman Segment Scoreboard:

Maurice Newman :          2

Nice Mr Scott:                 Zip




Due to enormous popular demand, MWD  created a segment to monitor the accuracy – or otherwise – of Hamish Macdonald’s claim that ABC presenters are “not allowed to express opinions”. The assertion was made during your man Macdonald’s hostile interview on RN Breakfast with Senator Eric Abetz – the date was 20 June 2018. See MWD 22 June 2018.

As avid readers are aware, in a tweet on 25 September 2018 ABC Radio National Design for Living presenter Jonathan Green dismissed the view that the ABC should have some conservative presenters, producers and editors for some of its prominent television, radio and online outlets.  He described this position – stated by Hendo among others – “as consistently irritating”. (See MWD 426, 5 October 2018).

Jonathan (“Proudly the ABC’s Sneerer-in-Chief”) Green went on to praise what he termed the ABC’s “house style”. He described it as a “culture” that is a “moderately liberal, socially progressive, curious presence”.  Now, that sounds like an opinion – don’t you think?

The matter was raised by Senator Eric Abetz in Senate Estimates on 23 October 2018 – when he addressed questions to ABC acting managing director David Anderson who was assisted by the ABC’s editorial director Alan Sunderland. Let’s go to the transcript:

Senator Abetz : Finally, one question. Jonathan Green tweets about criticism about there not being sufficient conservative voices: …“what it comes down to is a demand by conservatives for presenters in their own image. They are arguing for bias when the house style of the ABC mirrors the culture …”

Senator Abetz: In other words, the Australian culture dismisses all conservatives, but I editorialise there. He says:  “… the house style of the ABC mirrors the culture: a moderately liberal, socially progressive, curious — [whatever that means] — presence. That’s what the country is.”

Senator Abetz: Does the ABC have a house style?

Mr Anderson: I don’t believe so, Senator. Mr Sunderland, do you know about these tweets?

Mr Sunderland: We have a set of editorial policies which you’re probably familiar with, Senator. That’s our house style.

Senator Abetz: Is the house style a “moderately liberal, socially progressive, curious presence”?

Mr Sunderland: No. Mr Green is entitled to his opinion.

So there you have it.  According to Alan Sunderland (the ABC’s editorial director) ABC presenter Jonathan Green “is entitled to his opinion”.  But Hamish Macdonald reckons that ABC presenters “are not allowed to express their opinions”.  Fake News! – Mr Macdonald.




It seems that Julian (“I just love flashing my post-nominals”) Burnside appears to be the go-to man for self-righteous endorsements in elections. As Rachel Baxendale revealed in Saturday’s Weekend Australian, JB AO QC appears to have a pro-forma endorsement which he downloads each election when bestowing his (secular) blessing on a candidate.

In 2014, your man Burnside endorsed Richard Wynne, the Labor candidate for Richmond, declaring that his work as a member for Richmond “has been marked by his consistent advocacy for human rights and social justice”.

Now, in 2018, JB AO QC is supporting Kathleen Maltzahn, the Greens candidate for Richmond in tomorrow’s Victorian State election – declaring that she has been a consistent advocate “for human rights and social justice”.  Ms Maltzahn is attempting to take the seat from Mr Wynne (JB AO QC’s one-time bestie).

So there you have it.  If you agree with JB AO QC circa 2014 – vote for Labor’s Richard Wynne in Richmond. But if you agree with JB AO QC circa 2018 – vote for the Greens’ Kathleen Maltzahn and hope she defeats Richard Wynne. Go to it.

By the way, JB AO QC does not live in Richmond – his pile is across the river in Hawthorn.


This is what Bonge told ABC RN Breakfast presenter Fran Kelly immediately after her interview with Minister Alan Tudge on Tuesday:

Paul Bongiorno: The fact of the matter is that what we’ve just heard is 8 minutes of blah from the minister.

Once upon a time, saying “blah” was a feature of the school playground.  Now the word is used in paid commentary on the ABC – where there is frequently a blurring of analysis and abuse.


On last Friday’s PM program, presenter Emma Alberici interviewed former NSW Labor Party premier Bob Carr about his dispute with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg concerning the location of the Australian Embassy in Israel. Let’s go to the transcript shortly after the interview commenced:

Emma Alberici: The issue Josh Frydenberg, the Treasurer, said this morning was, of course, that neither Malaysia nor Indonesia even recognise Israel. They don’t have diplomatic relationships with the country. Why should we be taking any advice or interest in what they have to say on this?

Bob Carr: But Emma, that’s not the point. You said a moment ago that the position of the Federal Government was that it was considering a move and that indeed was the language during the Wentworth by-election. But the Treasurer has said in two interviews, Radio National today and Sky yesterday, that we should make the move. In other words, he’s asserted in the context of his passionate support for Israel which he’s advertised on many occasions, he’s asserted that this is the position Australia should be taking.

This statement is incorrect.  In his interviews on Sky News (15 November) and RN Breakfast (16 November), Josh Frydenberg said that the government should consider moving Australia’s embassy from Tel Aviv to West Jerusalem. That’s all. The Treasurer never said that Australia should make the move.

High profile presenter Emma Alberici should be able to call out verballing when it occurs.  In this instance, Bob Carr’s incorrect assertion was not challenged at the time or subsequently corrected.


In his The Naked City column in The Age on Saturday, John Silvester had this to say about the law-and-order debate in Victoria:

According to the Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, we are hiding under our beds with tinfoil on our heads, surviving on tinned Camp Pie and filtered urine, too frightened to venture into the streets for as much as a stale bread roll because a tsunami-sized crime wave will surely carry us out to sea.

Considering how people reacted to the 2017 Bourke Street massacre and last week’s terror attack in the same street, Dutton profoundly underestimates the resilience of Melburnians.

The Age was so pleased with Mr Silvester’s exaggeration that his column was illustrated with a tin of Hamper Camp Pie. The problem is that Mr Dutton never said anything about tinfoil or Camp Pie or filtered urine or stale bread rolls. Your man Silvester just made this up.




There was enormous interest in MWD’s report last week that the ABC Four Corners program (presenter Sarah Ferguson) went on what journalists like to call a Well Earned Break (or W.E.B.) on the night of Monday 12 November – and will not return until late January or early February 2019.

MWD will be monitoring what runs on Four Corners’ 8.30 pm Monday time slot in the ensuing weeks – or, rather, months. Last Monday it was Episode 1 of the documentary Princess Margaret: The Rebel Royal.  It was titled “Pleasure v Duty”. How frightfully topical, in a W.E.B. kind of way.


As avid readers are aware, the ABC has consistently refused to report its own case of child sexual abuse – with the exception of one brief reference on one ABC Radio News bulletin to the offender’s term of imprisonment being reduced due to ill health.  The offender pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 12 year old while on official ABC duties near Gosford in 1981.

As was made clear in the Senate Estimates on 23 October 2018, ABC management is aware of this case and it has spent $14,000 on outside legal advice – presumably about how to handle the matter. It is not clear why the ABC’s own legal department could not deal with this case without external assistance.

However, David Anderson (the ABC’s managing director) was caught unawares in Senate Estimates about the ABC’s 1975 pederasty scandal.

In July 1975, the ABC Radio Lateline program (on the second channel – the equivalent of today’s Radio National) invited three self-confessed pederasts into the ABC studio in Sydney where they were interviewed by presenter Richard Neville.  In 1975 Neville was a self-confessed pedophile – having boasted about his offending in his 1970 memoir Play Power.

The Lateline program also interviewed a couple of underage boys who were child sexual assault victims.  The tape of the Lateline program – titled “Pederasty” –was destroyed following the controversy which followed the airing of the program.  The ABC chairman Richard Downing rationalised the ABC’s decision to run the “Pederasty” program and told the Sydney Morning Herald at the time that “in general, men will sleep with young boys”. In recent years, previous ABC chairs James Spigelman and Justin Milne declined to distance the ABC from the views expressed by Richard Downing in 1975 or to condemn the fact that “Pederasty” went to air in a form in which it did.

The ABC, which has widely reported cases of historic child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and the Anglican Church, has not covered the public broadcaster’s 1975 scandal. The controversy is documented in K.S. Inglis’ history This is the ABC (MUP, 1983) and, most recently and more fully, in MWD.

It seems that ABC acting managing director David Anderson was not briefed on this matter when he appeared before Senate Estimates on 23 October 2018 – as the transcript demonstrates:

Senator Abetz: Did the ABC in 1975 allow three self-confessed pederasts to be interviewed in the ABC Sydney studios and did the ABC ever report that to the New South Wales police?

Mr Anderson: I am not aware of that. Did you say 1975?

Senator Abetz: Yes. Could you please take that on notice?

Mr Anderson: I will take that on notice.

Senator Abetz:  These are three individuals who, through the interview, confessed or admitted to engaging in criminal conduct against children, and I’m wondering what attitude the ABC took at the time. I now ask: what would the ABC’s attitude be today if such a broadcast or interview were to take place?

Mr Anderson: I don’t know the nature of that particular interview, the subject matter or why—

Senator Abetz: Three pederasts were talking about their activities, which were clearly criminal. Given that which has occurred in the parliament just recently, I would trust that public institutions would be fully alert to this evil—I use the term “evil” very advisedly—and that what occurred in 1975 on the ABC would not be allowed—

Mr Anderson: Again, not knowing the context I—

Senator Abetz: The context was the three pederasts were talking about the illegal activity, which was abuse of children for their sexual satisfaction, if you need the detail. Now that you have that detail—I would have thought it was obvious—would the ABC allow that today?

Mr Anderson: The only context can I think of off the top of my head where we consider that would be, for instance, a Four Corners investigation, but we certainly wouldn’t be promoting people that would take that view.

MWD looks forward to Mr Anderson reporting back to Senate Estimates on this issue.  It is quite remarkable that the ABC’s acting managing director was not briefed on the ABC’s own pederasty scandal.  Especially since ABC management in 1975 did not report the pederasts to NSW Police – and the matter has still not been reported by the ABC to NSW Police.  Also, ABC management over four decades has declined to adopt a duty of care to the pederasts’ victims – who, if alive, would be in their fifties today.  MWD will keep you posted.


Writing in the Herald Sun on 25 October 2018, the normally sensible James Campbell criticised Eric Abetz’ questions of the ABC in the Senate Estimates on 23 October 2018.  In fact, the “Pederasty” program of 1975 was only one of a series of topics raised by Senator Abetz but the Herald Sun’s national political editor focused on this one issue.  This is what your man Campbell had to say:

The old war horse, Eric Abetz, was fighting a good fight on that front at a Senate Estimates hearing on Tuesday, at which he was keen to probe acting ABC boss David Anderson about his knowledge of a radio interview the national broadcaster had broadcast with three “pederasts”.

How much political mileage there is to be had from this line of attack in 2018 is not entirely clear given the interview aired in 1975, a year when, from the look of him, Anderson was still watching Play School and still had to beg his mum if [he] could be allowed to stay up for Dr Who – but “points for trying”, I suppose.

So according to James Campbell, Eric Abetz is wasting his time asking questions about a case of historic child sexual abuse in which three pederasts admitted their crimes on the ABC and ABC management failed to report the matter to NSW Police.  However, James Campbell, is the national political editor of the Herald Sun, a newspaper which has given Page One coverage to cases of alleged historic child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church going back decades.

According to the Campbell logic, if Senator Abetz raises a matter of historical child abuse concerning the ABC – then the Liberal Party senator is merely “banging on”. But if the Herald Sun raises a matter of alleged historic child abuse concerning the Catholic Church – then it’s breaking news.  How’s that for a double standard?


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).


A certain F.B – his initials only are published due to an act of courtesy by Gerard Henderson AC (aka Always Courteous) – sent an angry email to Hendo a couple of weeks ago alleging that Hendo was angry.  In view of F.B.’s obvious state of confusion concerning Hendo’s relationship with the ABC – he received a courteous response in order to clear the air, so to speak.  Here we go:

F.B. to Gerard Henderson – 9 November 2018

Dear Gerard,

You are the constant critic of the ABC and Q&A but you appear on Insiders and watch ABC with monotonous regularity. You are the hypocrite who just keeps on giving! If you hate the ABC so much as your columns suggest, stop watching it and stop going on it, then we can stop reading your totally boring and repetitive critiques of it’s [sic] programming! Please, please just move on and let the anger go!

Kind Regards



Gerard Henderson to F.B.  – 19 November 2018

Dear Mr B.

I refer to your (somewhat angry) email of 9 November 2018 – which you concluded by urging me to “let the anger go!”  This was the second exclamation mark in your missive of a mere three sentences.

I always try and reply to those who include exclamation marks in their emails.  So here is my response!!!!

▪ It is true that I am a critic of the ABC.  I happen to believe that individuals and organisations benefit from critique. I have always been a supporter of the ABC and have never argued that it should be closed down or privatised – I just happen to believe that it could do better.

▪ On the occasions I have been asked, I have usually agreed to appear on ABC programs. For example, I had a regular Friday commentary spot on RN Breakfast between February 1996 and December 2007.  I presented a Four Corners program on Bob Hawke in 1994.  And I have been an Insiders panellist since 2002.

▪ I am surprised that you seem to object that I appear on Insiders occasionally.  Contrary to the implication in your email, I am rarely on the public broadcaster.  In 2018, across all platforms, I have appeared on the ABC a total of seven occasions.  That works out at about once every seven weeks – and nearly always in the Insiders environment where my views are challenged by others. Even you should be able to handle this.

▪ I do not know how you came to the view that I watch the ABC with “monotonous regularity”. In fact, I like some ABC news and current affairs programs – including Insiders.  I also follow news and current affairs on Sky News, SBS, Channel 9, Channel 7, Channel 10 along with Fox News, CNN, Sky News UK and the BBC – plus various radio and online sources.

▪ I have criticised Q&A where I believe a program warranted criticism – especially in recent years since I believe Q&A has deteriorated. What’s wrong with that?

▪ You do not have to read anything I write about the ABC.  That’s a matter of your own personal consumption.  However, along with other taxpayers, I have no option but to contribute financially to the ABC.

▪ Contrary to your assertion, I have no “anger” with respect to the ABC.  Vladimir Lenin is reported as having said, before the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, that “worse is better”.

The fact 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 – suits me fine.  The ABC’s lack of balance provides much material for my Media Watch Dog blog which goes out every Friday (after lunch, of course). Without Australia’s very own Conservative Free Zone, I would have to work harder to find material each Friday.

In conclusion, I note that you would benefit from the proposal recently by an ABC grammar operative that we should all abandon the apostrophe.

Keep Morale High.

Gerard Henderson


F.B. to Gerard Henderson – 20 November 2018

Dear Mr Henderson

Thank you for responding to my email. I appreciate the fact that you have taken the time and trouble to reflect on my criticisms with some humour.

Clearly we have ideological differences but I do respect your views and your absolute right to project them.

I will endeavour to improve my grammar, in particular my use of the apostrophe.

Thank you also for revealing to me how exclamation marks will elicit a response from you.

Onward and Upward!

Kind Regards



Gerard Henderson to F.B. – 23 November 2018

Dear Mr B

Lotsa thanks for your note.

As you may or may not know, a diversity of views is heard at The Sydney Institute.  Over the years, I have invited the likes of David Marr and Anne Summers – and even Tariq Ali – to address The Sydney Institute.

On occasions, some speakers at the Institute have used our platform to criticise me. I am used to being criticised and have no problem with this. However, I note that if I criticise an ABC presenter or program, invitations invariably dry up.  For example, I now get invited to appear on Late Night Live – Phillip Adams’ little wireless program – every quarter of a century. My next appearance is due in 2040.  I can barely wait.

In the meantime – it being (relatively) late on a Friday afternoon – I’m off for a Gin & Tonic. I find that after a G&T or two, I can’t work out where – or if – to place an apostrophe and can share your pain at least in this regard.

Here’s to you. Or is it heres’ to you? Or perhaps heres to you?  Over and out.

Gerard Henderson



* * * * *


Until next time.


* * * *