ISSUE – NO. 434

30 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: Leigh Sales avoids Kerryn Phelps’ possible Section 44 Problem

  • Can You Bear It? ABC and Fairfax Journos join Liberal Party pile-on: Featuring David Crowe, Jon Faine, Peter Hartcher, Katharine Murphy, Kerry O’Brien, Paul Bongiorno & Latika Bourke

  • An ABC Update: ABC (finally) corrects unprofessional Fran Kelly interview re two deceased Catholic Priests – but without an apology from Ms Kelly

  • MWD Exclusive: Our man in Ultimo drops in on ABC Alumni knees-up: Including a “scoop” on Aunty’s role in the Wentworth by-election

  • Paul Barry’s Sermon on the Mount (per courtesy ABC TV’s Media Watch program) covering Joe Gersh, Scott Morrison and matters Queensland

  • Maurice Newman Segment: Everyone agrees with everyone else on The Drum (again) in a non-conservative kind of way

  • New Feature: Rant of the Month starring Van Badham on something or other

  • Correspondence: Matt Peacock helps out re Hendo and the ABC Alumni

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How’s that for a soft interview on 7.30 last night?

Presenter Leigh Sales interviewed the new Independent member for Wentworth Kerryn Phelps. Initially discussion turned on children in detention in Nauru.  Fair enough. But then Ms Sales delivered the softest of questions about the eligibility of Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton to sit in the House of Representatives with respect to Section 44 of the Constitution.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Leigh Sales: You said earlier today that you’ve not yet made a decision about whether Peter Dutton should be referred to the High Court. What are the key considerations for you?

Kerryn Phelps: Well there are a number of considerations here. I think looking at the merits of the case legally, I’m not a lawyer so I really have to apply the common sense test. I think we have to look at what this means in terms of the future of the government given that we’re only six months out from an election. And I’ll certainly be thinking very carefully about the appropriate way forward for this.

Er, that was it.  There was no other follow-up question.  The fact is that if Mr Dutton has a potential Section 44 problem – then so does Dr Phelps.  The former has a financial interest in a family trust that, through a trustee, owns two child care centres; the latter has a financial interest in medical clinics. Both childcare and healthcare benefit from government financial assistance. The question is whether either parliamentarian has a financial relationship with the Commonwealth that initiates inability to sit in the Parliament with respect to Section 44.

Leigh Sales’ question implied that Peter Dutton was the only MP that has a possible Section 44 problem.  This is not the case.  On Leigh Sales’ logic, so does Kerryn Phelps.  And so do a couple of Labor members.

For her part, Dr Phelps neglected to mention that one consideration in this area would almost certainly involve herself. MWD imagines that Ms Sales would put a much tougher question to the Home Affairs Minister.


 Can You Bear It


It’s no surprise that many a leftist journo at the ABC and Fairfax Media has been jumping on the Liberal Party’s grave – or, perhaps, proposed burial plot – following Labor’s convincing win over the Liberal Party in last Saturday’s Victorian election.

The narrative was that the Liberal Party has been taken over by reactionary white males who have driven the party to the right.  This despite the fact that Matthew Guy – who led the Liberal Party to defeat in Victoria at the weekend – is a moderate kind of guy who supports same sex marriage and is concerned about climate change.

Let’s follow some of the analysis in chronological order – here we go.

٠ David Crowe – Sunday 25 November 2018

Fairfax Media’s David Crowe had this to say on the ABC TV Insiders program on Sunday – with specific reference to the Liberal Party’s NSW Senate pre-selection which took place in Sydney the previous day.

David Crowe:  We’ve talked about women in the Liberal Party and the NSW Senate pre-selection. The message from the mainstream conservatives, which they texted to everybody on Saturday in that pre-selection, was a list of who to vote for. They put three women on the ticket, last on their list.  And I got a text from a conservative woman saying: “Wouldn’t you think it rather stupid to send a text recommending three women last?”  I think the verdict is in on that.

Your man Crowe’s analysis is true as far as it goes – it’s just that it does not go very far. It’s correct that the NSW Liberal Party conservatives put women last on their how-to-vote pre-selection ticket last Saturday.  But it’s also true that they had only one candidate with a chance of attaining a winnable slot on the joint Liberal Party-Nationals ticket. Namely, Jim Molan. As it turned out, General Molan came in third on the Liberal Party ticket which will see him fourth on the Coalition ticket – an unwinnable position.

Meanwhile what about the self-proclaimed moderate, or left-wing, Liberal Party faction? – MWD hears you ask. Well, it too had only one available winnable slot – the second position on the Senate ticket.  And it went to, wait for it, a young bloke – Andrew Bragg.  Yep, this is the very same Mr Bragg who pulled out of the Liberal Party pre-selection for the Wentworth by-election because he wanted the position to go to a woman.  Within a month or so, your man Bragg had achieved a life-time gig as a NSW senator – in spite of the fact that many able Liberal women of the moderate faction could have done this job.

So David Crowe criticised the conservative-right for backing the bloke Molan.  But he said nothing about the fact that the moderate-left faction backed the bloke Bragg.  What a double standard. Can You Bear It?

٠ Jon Faine – Monday 26 November 2018

This is what the presenter of “Mornings with Jon Faine” said on ABC Melbourne Radio 774 in the wake of the Victorian election:

Jon Faine:  The Liberal Party takes its riding instructions from Murdoch tabloid columnists, Sky News and shock jocks.  If you keep going down that path, well, this is where you end up – is it not?

So, according to your man Faine, Liberal Party parliamentarians take their instructions from newspapers like the Daily Telegraph (Sydney), Herald-Sun (Melbourne), and Courier Mail (Brisbane) along with Sky News and radio stations like 2GB (Sydney) and 4BC (Brisbane). Mr Faine’s evidence? Zip.

It seems that, according to the ABC Melbourne radio presenter, Liberal Party members and senators are so weak and so stupid that they do what they are told by the likes of Andrew Bolt, Paul Murray, Peta Credlin and Alan Jones without question.  This overlooks the fact that this quartet believes that the Liberal Party is not following their advice.

Jon Faine simply does not accept that anyone could disagree with his centre-left position without being both weak and ignorant. Can You Bear It?

٠ The Drum (Peter Hartcher, Katharine Murphy & Kerry O’Brien) – Monday 26 November2018

See today’s (hugely popular) “Maurice Newman Segment”.

٠ Paul Bongiorno – RN Breakfast 27 November 2018

This was what Bonge – whom the Howard government regarded as the most left-wing journalist among the Canberra Press Gallery’s commercial media reporters (he used to work for Channel 10) – had to say last Tuesday in his paid slot on Radio National Breakfast.

Paul Bongiorno: …sensible people in the [Liberal] Party…realise that keeping silent in the wake of the results in Wentworth and now in Victoria on a whole agenda of the – not just the centre-right but the far-right – is damaging their electoral prospects.

So your man Bonge criticised the Liberal Party defeats in the Wentworth by-election of recent memory and the Victorian election – both of which occurred on Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s watch. According to Mr Bongiorno, the fault for these outcomes lies with the Liberal Party’s far-right.

But what about the fact that the oh-so-moderate former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull lost 14 seats at the July 2016 election and presided over the LNP when it won only 29 per cent of the primary vote in the July 2018 Longman by-election?  Bonge just avoided this – since he barracks for the moderate-left faction in the Liberal Party. Can You Bear It?

[Er, no. Not really.  By the way, I note that not one of Bonge’s fellow commentators on the 7.45 am RN Breakfast political comment daily slot – who talk to Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly – is a conservative.  The list is Michelle Grattan (Monday), Paul Bongiorno (Tuesday), Peter van Onselen (Wednesday), Phil Coorey (Thursday) and Alice Workman (Friday). Not a conservative among this lot – confirming the taxpayer funded public broadcaster’s reality as a Conservative Free Zone. MWD Editor.]

٠ Latika Bourke – 28 November 2018

Late on Wednesday afternoon, London-based Sydney Morning Herald reporter Latika Bourke filed a story on the Fairfax Media website under the heading “Liberals urge Dave Sharma to run against Tony Abbott in Warringah”. Here’s how it commenced:

Liberal Party branch members and sitting MPs have privately urged Dave Sharma to oust Tony Abbott from Parliament, as consensus grows in Canberra that the former prime minister needs to leave politics to let the Coalition heal from an expected election loss. But Mr Sharma – who lost last month’s by-election in the neighbouring electorate of Wentworth to independent Kerryn Phelps – rebuffed the advances and is focused on recontesting the seat next year.

Mr Sharma confirmed multiple Liberal Party figures had urged him to run in Warringah, a prized seat on Sydney’s northern beaches held by Mr Abbott since 1994. “I’ve never considered it as anything more than a ridiculous suggestion,” Mr Sharma told Fairfax Media.

Talk about a non-story, as even La Bourke conceded.  For starters, Dave Sharma – as the Sydney Morning Herald itself reported earlier this week – has moved into a house in the Wentworth electorate – quite some way from Tony Abbott’s electorate in Sydney’s northern suburbs. Moreover, Tony Abbott has already been endorsed as the Liberal Party’s Warringah candidate for the 2019 election – and there is no prospect that Dave Sharma would contest the seat as an Independent.

And then there is the howler.  Latika Bourke led her story with the assertion that “Liberal Party branch members and sitting MPs” had urged Mr Sharma to run against Mr Abbott.  But she did not name one name.  Tony Abbott has said that David Sharma has “confirmed” that “no Liberal MP has asked him to contest Warringah”.  It appears that Ms Bourke committed the sin of simply believing what someone told her – without checking.  How naïve can you get?  Can You Bear It?



Issue 425 (28 September 2018) carried a MWD Exclusive titled “Dead Catholic Priests – An Easy Target for Accusers”. It referred to the Radio National Breakfast program of 4 September 2018 in which presenter Fran Kelly gave a soft interview to Tjanara Goreng Goreng. She alleged in her book (written by Julie Szego) A Long Way from No Go: A Memoir (Wild Dingo Press, 2018) that, when a young girl, she had been sexually abused by two Catholic priests.  Namely, the late Fr Grove Johnson (1923-2018) and the late Fr Mick Hayes (1926-2011). In her introduction to the interview on RN Breakfast, Fran Kelly stated for a fact that Ms Goreng Goreng was “abused” when a “small girl” in Longreach in the 1960s by both Fr Johnson and Fr Hayes.  Ms Goreng Goreng alleged that the assaults had taken place with the acquiescence of her late father.

Fran Kelly also stated for a fact that Fr Grove Johnson was dead by the time the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse had been created, the suggestion being that there was no opportunity to establish the truth of Ms Goreng Goreng’s claims.  In fact, Fr Johnson was very much alive and had retained a lawyer to clear his name when Ms Goreng Goreng had first made her complaint to the Queensland Police in 2015.

Tjanara Goreng Goreng’s book was previewed by some News Corp newspapers in Queensland – including the Rockhampton Morning Post, the Gladstone Observer and the Courier Mail – in late August 2018. Fr Frank Brennan wrote to News Corp advising that Fr Hayes died before the allegations were made – but that Fr Johnson told Queensland Police, through his lawyer, that he had never been to Longreach.  Queensland Police found no evidence to support the allegation and closed the investigation.  Consequently, News Corp placed an Editor’s Note at the end of the story on its online editions in late September 2018 with respect to Fr Johnson.

The ABC was far slower to respond to Fran Kelly’s Tjanara Goreng Goreng interview. However, in late November 2018 – following a formal complaint by Fr Brennan on 4 October 2018 –  it placed the following Editor’s Note on the program notes which cover this interview.  Here it is:

Editors’ note: In this interview it is stated as fact that Father Mick Hayes and Father Grove Johnson sexually abused Ms Goreng Goreng and Father Johnson died before the establishment of the Sex Abuse Royal Commission. Father Hayes died before the allegations were made. Father Johnson was alive when the Royal Commission was established but denied the allegations and a police investigation was reportedly closed before he died for lack of evidence. The headline has been altered to clarify that the accusation is an allegation.

A similar note has been placed on the ABC’s “Corrections & Clarifications” web page. News Corp made its clarification shortly after Frank Brennan drew the matter to its attention. The ABC, on the other hand, took a couple of months to do likewise.

It is about time that the ABC management counselled journalists like Fran Kelly that there is a difference between a fact and an allegation and that journalists should not believe that everything they are told is accurate.

There is a more serious point.  There has been no suggestion that Fran Kelly will make a correction or clarification on her influential RN Breakfast program.  This despite the fact that few listeners will read the ABC’s “Corrections & Clarifications” webpage on this issue or the program notes relating to the online audio.  Moreover, Ms Kelly is not named in the “Corrections & Clarifications” webpage.  This is a cop-out – which simply covers incompetence in this instance.  If an incorrect claim is made on ABC TV or ABC Radio, it should be corrected on ABC TV or ABC Radio. Anything else is a cover-up.

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Postscript:  Frank Brennan concluded his complaint to ABC Audience & Consumer Affairs – which made a rare finding in favour of the complainant – as follows:

I ask that Fran Kelly’s mistake be acknowledged publicly. An apology for the hurt caused to his [Fr Johnson’s] family and friends would be good.  But I won’t be holding out for that. Please give Fran my regards and best wishes.  I don’t expect either she or the Pope to get it right all the time.  But when they get it wrong, they or their minders should respond.

MWD concurs – but recognises the reality that being a journalist (like Fran Kelly) means never having to say you’re sorry.  In any event, Fran Kelly has not apologised so far. MWD will keep you posted.


The ABC claim of 4 September 2018 that two Queensland Catholic priests had abused a young girl


The ABC’s revised note which acknowledges that the claim against the two Queensland Catholic priests is an allegation




The inaugural meeting of the ABC Alumni was held at the ABC’s headquarters in the inner-city Sydney suburb of Ultimo on Thursday 22 November. The speakers were – in order of appearance – convenor Matt Peacock, acting managing director David Anderson, Kerry O’Brien, Fiona Stanley and Penny Chapman.  Mr Anderson spoke for 10 minutes – and Dr Stanley and Ms Chapman spoke for 5 minutes each.  Red Kerry, on the other hand, went on and on and on for 20 minutes. KOB referred to former ABC chairman Donald McDonald as once having exhibited “pursed lips”, quoted from himself talking at an ABC Rally, spoke about himself and plugged his book Kerry O’Brien: A Memoir which he declared would be of “obvious” interest to the assembled audience.

Oh yes, Red Kerry also bagged News Corp (yawn), said there was no bias in the ABC and declared that the ABC would “go under” if it was not allowed to extend into new media areas.  He did not say how an organisation which receives $1 billion a year from the government could “go under”. But, there you go.

Your man O’Brien also declared that the ABC is the “most trusted institution in the nation”. But he failed to explain why – if this is the case – ABC TV rates lower than Channel 9 and Channel 7 and, occasionally, Channel 10.

In other words, Red Kerry – one of five speakers – occupied 45 per cent of speaking time. [Interesting. As I recall, Red Kerry was wont to ask questions that were longer than the answers he received when fronting Lateline and the 7.30 ReportMWD Editor.]

During his speech, Matt Peacock made the following comment in response to a member of an ABC soviet who made an interjection:

Interjector: Is Gerard Henderson here?

Matt Peacock: …We didn’t ask Gerard Henderson – there’s quite a few people we didn’t ask. And you know – he’s a wannabee alumni, I figure.

This matter is covered today in MWD’s (hugely popular) Correspondence section in which Mr Peacock admitted that, in this instance at least, Hendo is no “wannabe alumni” since he qualifies as an alumni due to past employment as an ABC casual.

Early on, the convener set the tone for the social occasion which was scheduled to follow the speeches:

Matt Peacock: Some of you probably still have old scores to settle but I’m urging you not to have the punch-up here. We’ll be adjourning to the UTS Loft Bar across the road and you can deal with each other there.

Thanks for the guidance. There were further references to the likely “punch-up”. It seems that Matt Peacock thought the ABC Ultimo headquarters was not the appropriate place for a fight – and that it would be best if this took place at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS). And then there was an appeal for money:

Matt Peacock: And remember, we’re all volunteers. We need help and donations. We have to foot the bill. The ABC has been fantastic in providing the venue. But we provided the sandwiches and the grog – and that’s already probably halved our existing financial reserves. We’re hoping you don’t drink it all because we’ll save it up for the next function.

The assembled ABC Alumni last Thursday were not short of a quid and included some millionaires.  Even so, the ABC Alumni requested – and received – a function room free of charge per courtesy of the tax payer.  This suggests that ABC Alumni consider that they are entitled to receive taxpayer funded largesse even into the years of their retirement from the taxpayer funded public broadcaster.

Then the convener entered the political field – while speaking on ABC premises – despite the fact that the ABC proclaims itself to be free of partisan politics:

Matt Peacock: …Our Alumni joined Friends of the ABC in pamphleteering the booths on election day in the seat of Wentworth. We plan much more targeted activity like that in the future – and I hope you can join us. And of course we intend to hold social gatherings like the one we hope that you’re going to come to across the road, where you can witness the punch-ups.

How about that?  Speaking on an ABC platform at the ABC’s headquarters in Sydney, the convenor of ABC Alumni boasted that ABC Alumni joined the Friends of the ABC in “pamphleteering the booths” at the Wentworth by-election on 20 October 2018.  That’s political action.

During the Wentworth campaign, the Friends of the ABC put out a document titled “Wentworth By-Election: How To Vote For The ABC”. It placed Kerryn Phelps (Independent), Tim Murray (Labor) and Dominic Wy Kanak (The Greens) well ahead of Dave Sharma (Liberal Party).  No wonder Kerryn Phelps and John Hewson rocked up at the inaugural ABC Alumni gig.  Dr Phelps defeated Mr Sharma – and Dr Hewson called for the Liberal Party to be defeated during the by-election campaign.

Needless to say, when Kerryn Phelps and John Hewson were introduced to the audience by Comrade Peacock they received cheers and applause. Two groups mentioned favourably at the function were the leftist Get Up! and the leftist Australia Institute – both of which called for a vote against the Liberal Party in Wentworth.

And so it came to pass that the ABC provided an ABC venue free of charge to the ABC Alumni who co-operated with Friends of the ABC in opposing the Liberal Party at the Wentworth by-election. And plan similar political action in the future. You read it first in MWD.


The ABC TV program Media Watch commenced in May 1989 – a month after the publication of Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch (which became, in time, Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch Dog Blog).  The inaugural presenter of ABC TV’s Media Watch was Stuart Littlemore – he was followed by Richard Ackland, Paul Barry, David Marr, the late Liz Jackson, Monica Attard, Jonathan Holmes and Paul Barry (again).  As is to be expected, all Media Watch presenters have been left-of-centre types.  No conservative has had this gig in three decades – confirming the taxpayer funded public broadcaster’s reality as a Conservative Free Zone.

Since Stuart Littlemore QC fronted the inaugural program on May 1989, Media Watch has had the format where the presenter lays down the law.  There is no debate and discussion and no one has a right-of-reply on air.

This contrasts with “MediaBuzz” on Fox News (proprietor Rupert Murdoch). Currently presented by one-time Washington Post columnist and CNN presenter Howard Kurtz, “Media Buzz” encourages debate and discussion on the program – where different political and social views are heard. Howard Kurtz chairs a media panel and also interviews journalists/commentators on an individual basis. He does not editorialise at length – unlike Paul Barry and all his predecessors back to May 1989.

In recent times, Paul Barry has extended his editorialising on the media to sermonising on Australian politics.  Due to popular demand, MWD will record your man Barry’s occasional (political and social) Sermon on the Mount.


On 1 October, Media Watch lectured-at-large on the Coalition’s appointments to the ABC Board.  Paul Barry had this to say, in part, about Communications Minister Mitch Fifield’s response to the recommendations of the ABC nominations.

Paul Barry: But even then, the selection panel [for ABC Board appointments] has been overridden by the government.  Three of the ABC’s remaining directors – Donny Walford, Vanessa Guthrie, and Joseph Gersh – were not the panel’s pick. While Guthrie and Walford were not even on the shortlist. So why did Mitch Fifield pick them? Well, we don’t know. But Vanessa Guthrie is chair of the Minerals Council of Australia. And Joseph Gersh is an old friend of Peter Costello and on the board of The Sydney Institute.

So, according to Paul Barry’s sermon, Joe Gersh “is an old friend of [former treasurer and former Liberal Party deputy leader] Peter Costello and on the board of The Sydney Institute”. That’s all, apparently.   What Paul Barry did not tell Media Watch viewers is that Mr Gersh has been appointed to government boards by both sides of Australian politics.  His appointments are as follows:

▪ Federal Airports Corporation (Keating Labor government)

▪ Reserve Bank of Australia Payments System (Howard Coalition government – Mr Gersh was re-appointed to the Board by the Rudd/Gillard government).

▪ Australian Reinsurance Pool Corporation (Howard Coalition government – Mr Gersh was re-appointed to this Board on two occasions by the Rudd/Gillard Labor government).

Yet, in his sermon, Mr Barry only said that Joe Gersh is “an old friend of Peter Costello”. Sure Peter Costello was treasurer on two occasions when Joe Gersh was appointed to government boards. But he was also appointed or re-appointed to government boards by such senior Labor ministers as Wayne Swan, Chris Bowen and Bill Shorten.

Also, Paul Barry failed to point out that The Sydney Institute is a forum for debate and discussion which hears a range of views. Unlike the ABC TV’s Media Watch which hears only one view – the thought of the presenter.


On 29 October 2018, Paul Barry devoted a segment of Media Watch to attacking – and ridiculing – Prime Minister Morrison’s reference to what he called “fair dinkum power generation”.  The Media Watch presenter also bagged Energy Minister Angus Taylor.  But he quoted with approval Labor’s Mark Butler.

This story had virtually nothing to do with the media.  Even Paul Barry conceded that Scott Morrison had invented the term “fair dinkum power”. Paul Barry also criticised Josh Frydenberg’s statement that, under a Labor government, “if you own your own home it will be worth less; if you rent your home it will cost you more”.  Once again, this story had virtually nothing to do with the media.  Mr Barry conceded that Josh Frydenberg was the first to come up with this house/rent line. So his sermon was all about politics – not the media.


On 12 November 2018, Paul Barry ridiculed Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s visit to Queensland – he even concluded his segment by pointing out that the Coalition was behind Labor in the polls. What’s that got to do with the media?

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Perhaps, under Paul Barry, ABC TV’s Media Watch should be re-named “Political Watch”. We’ll keep you posted.


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.


Did anyone see The Drum’s coverage last Monday about the Victorian State election and calls for a Commonwealth anti-corruption body?  Well, quelle surprise!  It was one of those oh-so-familiar occasions on ABC panels where everyone agrees with everyone else.

The panel comprised Fairfax Media’s Peter Hartcher, former ABC presenter Kerry O’Brien and The Guardian Australia’s (and MWD fave) Katharine Murphy.  Academic Ketan Joshi dropped in to present a few statistics but he did not play a major role in the panel discussion.

Kerry O’Brien fired off the first cliché with the claim that the Liberal Party’s extreme right is “like the tail wagging the dog”. Groan.  According to Red Kerry, Malcolm Turnbull failed to lead the party back to its traditional centre and the party is all at sea. [Another KOB cliché, I note – MWD Editor.]

Then presenter Ellen Fanning asked Katharine Murphy whether there is a lot of panic in the party about the voter backlash in Wentworth.  Surprise, Murph’s answer was “Yes”.  Then Peter Hartcher quoted Malcolm Turnbull and Kerryn Phelps favourably about the need for the party to return to the “sensible centre”.  For the record, Dr Phelps has not been a Liberal Party member for many years. Hartcher supported Mr Turnbull’s line that “terrorists” yes, terrorists, were blowing up the party. The Turnbull/Hartcher view is that Peter Dutton is a “terrorist”. Hartch went on to call the Liberal Party’s right-wing group “the Trump faction”- forgetting that it was in existence when Donald J. Trump was but a New York based commercial property owner and Reality TV superstar.

And so it came to pass that Ellen agreed with Red Kerry who agreed with Katharine who agreed with Peter who agreed with Red Kerry who agreed with Katharine who agreed with Peter who agreed with Red Kerry who agreed with himself. KOB went on to declare that the Liberal Party was facing a split like the one that befell the Labor Party in the mid-1950s. Quite a statement, to be sure. He seemed to argue that the Liberal Party today should follow Kerryn Phelps rather than John Howard. Really.  But then Red Kerry once worked for Labor Party stalwarts Gough Whitlam and Lionel Bowen.

Peter Hartcher said that the Coalition’s poor showing in Queensland under Turnbull’s leadership had been part of an excuse by the Trump faction to wield power – overlooking the fact that President Trump might belong to the Peter Dutton faction. Just joking. Then Ellen Fanning showed a clip of Red Kerry talking at the recent ABC Alumni function about – you’ve guessed it – Red Kerry. Re which see MWD Exclusive and Correspondence sections in this issue.

Then Ms Murphy reminded viewers – if viewers there were – that she had done a podcast with Craig Laundy (a leading Turnbull supporter) and that he had bagged Sky News After Dark. Fancy that.  She advised that your man Laundy was critical of leadership changes – without mentioning that Mr Laundy had been a leading figure in the move to replace Mr Abbott with Mr Turnbull in September 2015 – which commenced the Liberal Party’s current leadership instability, about which he now complains.

And so it went on and on and on – with everyone agreeing with everyone else in the familiar Drum kind of way.  No conservative view was heard.  And, of course, Red Kerry criticised Prime Minister Scott Morrison about his attitude to coal – which happens to be Australia’s leading export earner and, consequently, helps to fund Red Kerry’s besties at the ABC.

Earlier, in line with the ABC’s obsession with Sky News, Ellen Fanning kicked off a “conversation” about Sky News, 2GB and so on.  Here we go:

Ellen Fanning: ..We see Alan Jones, speculation about whether Alan Jones’ contract will be renewed next March as a result of the big defamation pay out awarded recently against him, we see questions about whether Andrew Bolt might spend more time on the farm and less time on television. Do you see any prospect with a change in the electoral mood, or evidence of a change in the electoral mood, that we might see a change in the conversation?

Peter Hartcher: No I don’t –

Ellen Fanning: Please? Please? [Laughing]

Peter Hartcher: I’d love to tell you otherwise, I’d love to tell you what you want to hear but I wouldn’t be doing you any favours.

Ellen Fanning: I don’t want to hear anything, I work for the ABC. Always objective. [Joking]

Nod, nod – wink, wink. Yup. The ABC is “always objective” – a good joke to be sure. Despite the fact that it has lotsa trouble in finding even one conservative for its panels on programs like The Drum.

Maurice Newman Segment Score:

Maurice Newman:           2

Nice Mr Scott:                 Zip




As avid readers are aware, Jackie’s (male) co-owner likes nothing better than witnessing a long rant. In these times of social media and all that – there is a tendency for ranters to play a short game.  However, from time to time, a ranter can play a long game – on programs like Q&A.

Appearing on Q&A on 5 November 2018, Van Badham – who was described by presenter Tony Jones as a “social commentator and online warrior and playwright” was given the opportunity to deliver three rants to camera. Yes, three.  MWD judged the rant below as the rantiest rant of the lot.  It also contained the cliché “conversation” on no fewer than five occasions. Let’s go to the transcript – in which Van Badham’s rant takes over 90 seconds – significantly longer than it takes to conclude the Everest Race at Royal Randwick Racecourse:

Tony Jones:  OK, Van, what do you think about that? And, actually, you mentioned earlier that group of men who describe themselves – though you didn’t put it in these terms – there’s a group of men who describe themselves as “involuntary celibate”.

Van Badham:  Incels. Yeah.

Tony Jones:  Incel. Some might say this [sex robots] is a way of helping them.

Van Badham:  My experience of incels on the internet would suggest that this would be a way of encouraging them to further demonise and target women. And in that way, the broader conversation here is about conversation. It’s about using a tool – which is what a sex robot is – that can be an object which – a sex educator, an intimacy counsellor, a couple, like, can have a negotiation around sexual behaviour and, you know, performance of techniques, if that’s important.

Personally, you know, the history of awkwardness around sex and its very human quality is one of the things I find really exciting about it. The idea of sort of coming to sexuality fully-formed, I think – you’ve missed some of the most fun parts. But that conversation, I think, is really important. And I absolutely agree with Emma Maye, that the idea that people are more comfortable with people from marginalised communities performing intimacy with sex robots than they are with providing human rights to sex workers and recognising that sex work is work is a real testament, I think, about traditions of misogyny.

And the idea that we have people in the community who do not sell their bodies, they sell a service, there is a conversation around that that involves human beings negotiating boundaries and behaviour. And that’s actually a really powerful and useful conversation for us as broader humanity. A robot in isolation, like porn in isolation, you know, like I said before, like, driving this further separation of individuals from other people and from sexuality, that is what is dangerous.

So there you have it – whatever that is. Still it is nice to know – per courtesy of Van Badham – that “the broader conversation here is about conversation”. What a rant. What a ranter – the very best for the month of November.


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 reported earlier, the inaugural get-together of the ABC Alumni organisation was held at the ABC headquarters in Sydney’s inner-city Ultimo on Thursday 22 November 2018.

Jackie’s (male) co-owner was not invited.  Shame. But he received a mention all the same. Great.  This led to correspondence between Hendo and ABC Alumni convenor Matt Peacock. Now read on:

Gerard Henderson to Matt Peacock – 26 November 2018


I have just read Amanda Meade’s piece in The Guardian on Friday about the inaugural ABC Alumni knees-up at Ultimo last week. It must have been lotsa fun. According to Ms Meade:

ABC Alumni is a group of former ABC staff “concerned about the serious threats to Australia’s public media, amid constant attacks from hostile politicians, Murdoch and some other media, and the digital disruption facing all broadcast organisations”.

It’s is the brainchild of the ABC broadcaster and staff-elected board member Matt Peacock, who has just retired from both roles. Peacock told the room he hadn’t invited the perennial ABC critic Gerard Henderson, who was a “wannabe alumni”.

In the audience were public broadcasting supporters and former staffers including John Hewson, Kerryn Phelps, Bob Carr, David Hill, Jonathan Holmes, Quentin Dempster, Peter Manning, Tim Bowden, Stephen Crittenden, Helen Grasswill and Greg Wilesmith.

And now for a fact-check.

I don’t’ know what you mean by the claim that I am a “wannabe” ABC Alumni.  I know that – over the years – the likes of Donald McDonald, Phillip Adams and James Spigelman among others have asserted that I wanted a job at the ABC.  This is just the invention of some lively imaginations. Their line turned on the assertion that any criticism I made of the ABC was motivated by the (alleged) fact that I had been rejected for a job at the ABC. A convenient case of avoiding criticism, don’t you think?

In fact, for the past three decades I have been completely happy at The Sydney Institute. In this period I did not apply for – and would not have accepted – any full-time position at the ABC. So, as to your claim that I am a “wannabe [ABC] alumni”, well – you just made this up. Without checking with me, of course.  But I’m sure that it went down a hoot with such taxpayer funded public broadcaster Luvvies as Comrades Manning, Dempster and Crittenden along with Red Kerry (who joined you on the Ultimo pulpit last week).

There is one other point.  Over the last three decades I was employed as a casual on ABC Radio National Breakfast from early 1994 until late 2007.  Also, at the late Ian Carroll’s request, I presented a Four Corners program on Bob Hawke in 1994 (which was well reviewed at the time – and even praised (sort of) by the ABC’s Man-in-Black himself).

Now – here’s my question. Does my past casual employment with RN Breakfast and Four Corners entitle me to an invitation to the next ABC Alumni knees-up at Ultimo?  If not, why not?

I know that your inaugural function re-inforced the reality that ABC is a Conservative Free Zone.  It might be fun to have one – just one – conservative in the building next time. I will bring my own Gin & Tonic.

Keep Morale High.

Gerard Henderson

Matt Peacock to Gerard Henderson – 27 November 2018

Dear Gerard,

We are a broad church at the ABC Alumni!

And I must disagree with the suggestion that we are a conservative-free zone.

Several of our prominent Alumni and supporters are from the political right; for example, former staffers Pru Goward and Peter Collins became Liberal politicians, others like John Hewson, Tim Fischer and Ron Boswell have been strong ABC supporters and there are many others. In fact, we support any politician who advocates for the ABC.

The chief qualification for membership to join the Alumni as a full Alumnus is that the applicant has to have worked full time (or the equivalent part-time) for the ABC for one year. There will always be grey areas with that definition and the directors can exercise their discretion over eligibility. Anyone who supports our objectives is eligible to join as an Associate.

To join one has only to sign up via the Alumni’s website,, pay the annual fee and agree to abide by the company’s rules – bearing in mind that its stated purpose is to “promote properly funded, high quality, independent, ethical, and free public media in Australia”.

I apologise if you have taken offence at my off-the-cuff answer to a heckle. In fact, I have no objection to your joining our group. Your work with the ABC that you have mentioned, together with more recently appearing as a panellist on Insiders, I am sure would qualify you to join, either as an Alumnus or Associate.

I look forward to seeing your application.

Please feel free to call me if you’d like to discuss this more.


Matt Peacock.

Gerard Henderson to Matt Peacock – 27 November 2018


Lotsa thanks for your email received today.  In response, I make the following comments.

▪ I was not offended by your comments about me at the ABC Alumni knees-up on Thursday 22 November in Ultimo.  I am used to criticism (unlike many ABC types) and I do not readily take offence.

According to reports, you told those who had gathered together in Aunty’s name that I had not been invited to the inaugural ABC Alumni get-together since I was only a “wannabe alumni”.  I understand that this comment drew some laughter and applause from the audience. Well done.  It was a good joke – albeit not quite as funny as Kerry O’Brien talking about himself and Bronwyn Bishop. Yawn.

In my view, it’s better to get named at such a gig than be ignored.  As it turned out, I got a mention without having to attend a self-regarding get-together of ABC Alumni. In the process, I missed Red Kerry speaking about Red Kerry. Shucks.

▪ You told the ABC Alumni audience that I had not been invited since I was not an ABC Alumni.  Now you are saying that I am invited to attend because I am an ABC Alumni – albeit of the casual kind.

Thanks, but no thanks.  Groucho Marx once said that he did not want to be a member of a club that would admit someone like him.  For my part, I do not want to be a member of a club that initially decided that it did not want me – at either the Alumnus or Associate level.

▪ You disagree with my view 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.  But you do not name one contemporary conservative who fits the bill.  The likes of Julia Baird, Ellen Fanning and Leigh Sales have made a similar claim to yours. But, like you, they have not been able to provide a name.  Convenient, eh?

The two names you mention – Pru Goward and Peter Collins – left the ABC decades ago.  For the record, I doubt that Pru Goward was a conservative during most of her time at the ABC.  Peter Collins did not have a prominent role in the ABC and, in any event, would not regard himself as a conservative.

John Hewson has been a leading critic of the Howard, Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison governments.  He even joined with the Green Left to oppose Dave Sharma at the Wentworth by-election.  Certainly Tim Fischer and Ron Boswell support the role played by the ABC in rural and regional Australia.  But both have been critics of the lack of diversity in the taxpayer funded public broadcaster’s news and current affairs programming.

In view of all the above, your claim that the ABC is not a Conservative Free Zone is pretty weak.

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In conclusion, all the best for the ABC Alumni.  It should work well – since ABC Alumni and current staff are well used to an environment where virtually everyone agrees with virtually everyone else, in a left-of-centre kind of way.  I note that Shelley Gare has written that she could have “gotten to within 95 per cent accuracy, the views of nearly everyone there on everything from refugees to euthanasia to Prime Minister Scott Morrison” at your inaugural gig.  Sounds familiar to me.

Give my love to the ABC soviets.

Gerard Henderson

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Until next time.

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