ISSUE – NO. 439

15 February 2019

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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: SMH’s Lisa Davies’ boat arrivals howler; The left’s 180 degree turn on turn-backs

  • Can You Bear It? Stephen Mayne on Q&A; The AFR’s apparent non-tipping lunch with Mike Cannon-Brookes & Kerryn Phelps; The Sunday Age overlooks Miriam Lyons’ role in the anti-Abbott campaign; What the kinder/gentler Drum means in the time of Julia Baird & Ellen Fanning

  • Five Paws Award: Heather (no relation) Henderson gonged for nailing Clive Palmer’s falsehood re the United Australia Party and Robert Menzies

  • The [Boring] Saturday Paper featuring Bonge and Richard (“Call me Gadfly”) Ackland

  • MWD’s Scoreboard Returns – Depicting the ABC’s continuing silence about a former chairman’s comments on pederasty

  • An ABC Update: re Quentin Dempster’s “Politics in the Pub” rant about Rupert Murdoch and Hendo and more besides

  • Correction re Jon Faine and superannuation



 On ABC Radio Sydney 702’s Drive with Richard Glover yesterday, discussion turned on asylum seekers who seek to arrive in Australia by boat. There was reference to the Rudd/Gillard government when there were some 50,000 unauthorised boat arrivals – during which time it is estimated that some 1,200 asylum seekers drowned at sea. This is what Sydney Morning Herald editor Lisa Davies had to say:

Lisa Davies:  it was in excess of 50,000 people who arrived over those [Rudd/Gillard] years. And I think it’s important to probably note that the Morrison government, and Tony Abbott before, have reduced that number to only about 1000.

The editor of the SMH should know better.  The Coalition, under Tony Abbott, came to office in September 2013.  These are the official statistics for unauthorised boat arrivals for the years 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016:

YearNumber of boatsCrewNumber of people

(excludes crew)


MWD understands that there were no unauthorised boat arrivals in 2017 and 2018.

Since the overwhelming number of asylum seekers who arrived by boat in 2013 set out during the Rudd/Gillard government – it’s pure mythology for Lisa Davies to state that it is “important to note” that the Coalition government has reduced the number of boat arrivals to “about 1000”.  In fact, there have been virtually no unauthorised boat arrivals on the watch of the Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison government.


While on the topic of boat arrivals, did anyone catch the comments of former Labor Party operative and current Melbourne University academic and Sky News (“After Dark”) presenter Nicholas Reece last night?  This is what he had to say during a fiery exchange with the presenter Paul Murray and panellist Bronwyn Bishop on Paul Murray Live.

Nicholas Reece:  So we all know that the thing stopping the boats from coming to Australia is the turn-backs policy.

Well, yes.  This is true, to some extent at least.  What your man Reece did not say was – that in the period leading up to the election of the Abbott government in September 2013 – virtually all journalists and commentators said that turn-backs could not be done and would not work. Jackie’s (male) co-owner Gerard Henderson recalls hearing this “advice” circa 2012 and 2013 from the best and brightest in the Canberra Press Gallery along with the likes of David Marr on the ABC Insiders couch every sixth Sunday or so.

Now the likes of Nicholas Reece, who once said that turn-backs could not work, now maintain that turn-backs are all that is needed for border security.

[Interesting.  Perhaps this item should have been placed in your hugely popular Can You Bear It? segment.  Just a thought.  MWD Editor.]


Can You Bear It


Jackie’s (male) co-owner was reminded of the song Waiting at the Church – which carries the lines “Can’t get away to marry you today/My wife won’t let me!” – when watching Stephen Mayne’s Q&A performance on Monday.

As avid readers are aware, in 2016 Stephen Mayne (the Sage of Templestowe) ran as an Independent in the seat of Menzies in Victoria against the incumbent Liberal Party MP Kevin Andrews.  Your man Mayne claimed to be “a pro-Turnbull moderate liberal” – but directed his preferences away from the Coalition. In short, if a significant number of the good people of Menzies had taken Mr Mayne’s advice in 2016, then Kevin Andrews would have lost his seat to the Labor Party and prime minister Malcolm Turnbull would have presided over a minority government. How pro-Turnbull can you get?

In any event, Stephen Mayne did not do all that well last time – polling 6.72 per cent of the primary vote – and finished fourth behind the Greens candidate Richard Cranston and the Labor Party’s Adam Rundell.  Mr Rundell finished second to Mr Andrews (who polled 60.56 per cent of the two-party preferred vote).

Let’s go to the transcript to see what your man Mayne told the Q&A audience:

Stephen Mayne: Yeah, I should disclose. I mean, I ran as an Independent against Kevin Andrews at the last election in Menzies, thinking I would shake him up a bit and then he’d lose the next preselection. And then I was stunned when the Liberal Party and the religious right took over the Admin Committee of the Victorian Liberals and they abolished all preselections. Now there’s 500 furious Liberal members in Menzies saying, “We had our baseball bats ready for Tony Abbott’s best mate in Victoria, who voted against marriage equality….”

And then all of a sudden, he’s been centrally endorsed and the 500 local members have been disenfranchised. The same thing happened in New South Wales, where Abbott and Craig Kelly were all protected. ScoMo’s come in and gone: “You’re all safe. We’re abolishing local democracy.” The Labor Party did it in Victoria too, I think, Mark [Dreyfus]. You endorsed all sitting members and didn’t allow them to be challenged. So I can’t believe the big parties are both doing this.

Now I’m saying, “Who is the Independent who is going to run against Kevin Andrews?” Because he’s been there 29 years, longer than anyone. And people are sick of him, where I live. He doesn’t reflect Victorians. He’s a DLP impostor. And the challenge couldn’t happen. So, someone will run. My wife’s not letting me run this time ‘cause she’s the local mayor, has to work with Kevin [Andrews]. So looking for, maybe, Sarah, could you come down to Menzies and do a Julia Banks? You’re going to lose Corangamite, so you might as well run in Menzies.

Tony Jones: Before we go to Sarah…

Stephen Mayne: Why not?

Sarah Henderson: You know why.

Stephen Mayne: I’ll run your campaign.

That is a load of absolute tosh.  Here’s why:

▪ Stephen Mayne ran to win in Menzies in 2016. He failed. As late as the day of the 2016 election, Mr Mayne was confident that he could win the seat.

▪ Tony Abbott won endorsement by pre-selection to contest Warringah in the forthcoming Federal election – he was not protected by the NSW Liberal Party or Prime Minister Scott Morrison. [I note that Mr Mayne calls Scott Morrison “ScoMo” – somewhat unprofessional, don’t you think?  He should enrol in Nancy’s Courtesy Classes. – MWD Editor.]

▪ Kevin Andrews is not a “DLP impostor”. The Democratic Labor Party – which was founded after the Labor Party Split in 1955 – was officially wound up in 1978. Kevin Andrews was born in November 1955 and was not yet 20 when the DLP’s five senators were defeated in the 1974 double dissolution election.  Mr Andrews was never a member of the DLP.  Moreover, the National Civic Council president B.A. Santamaria – who was associated with the DLP – discouraged Kevin Andrews from seeking Liberal Party pre-selection in the lead-up to the 1991 Menzies by-election (which he won for the Liberal Party).

▪ Sarah Henderson would be unwise to have Stephen Mayne as a campaign manager for any election in which she might run.  Mr Mayne is one of Australia’s most unsuccessful political campaigners.

So there you have it.  When it comes to Stephen Mayne’s comments on the Liberal Party on Q&A everything was correct – except, er, the facts.

And consider your man Mayne’s hubris.  He gives (gratuitous) advice to both the Liberal Party and the Labor Party as to who should contest seats and he wants a prominent (so-called) Independent to run against Kevin Andrews in Menzies.  But Mr Mayne will not contest Menzies because Mrs Mayne will not let him.  Can You Bear It?


Once upon a time, Jackie’s (male) co-owner was asked to be interviewed for the Weekend Australian Financial Review’s “Lunch with the AFR” gig. Gerard Henderson (courteously) declined the invitation – on the basis that there must be a better way to do lunch than to talk to a Fairfax Media (as it then was) journalist and have the occasion recorded.

Since then, Hendo has read the segment – mainly to check what the guest and his or her host had for lunch. MWD’s attention has been drawn to the lunch with Atlassian’s Mike Cannon-Brookes which was reported in the AFR on 26 January 2019.  One of what Paul Keating once called the hyphenated name set, your man Cannon-Brookes is said to be worth a cool net $7 billion according to AFR journalist Ben Potter, who conducted the interview.

As it turned out, Mike fronted up in a cap over long hair and beard, tee-shirt, slacks and sneakers.  Mike and Ben ordered what the latter said was one of “Lunch with The AFR”’s cheapest lunches.  Skinless Chicken Laksa for Mike (at $12.70) and Rice Noodles with Chicken and Egg for Ben (at $12.50).  Plus, sparkling water at $6 for two.  Total $31.20.

So, the Malay Chinese restaurant at Hunter Street in Sydney received a lousy $31.20 for a meal to feed one of Australia’s richest men.  Mike and Ben occupied a table for just on two hours preventing other customers from taking this space.  And did the AFR or the billion-dollar man leave a tip for the toiling masses who serve at tables at Malay Chinese?  Not on your nelly – according to the official receipt published in the AFR.  Can You Bear It?

[Er, no.  Not really.  It seems that Mr Cannon-Brookes (who recently bought a Sydney Harbour Side mansion – the late Lady Fairfax’s home in Point Piper – for $100 million in cash) has started something of a trend when it comes to “Lunch with the AFR” occasions. I note that last Saturday Dr Kerryn Phelps, a multi-millionaire who is the Independent member for Wentworth, filled this gig in The Weekend Australian Financial Review. She had lunch with AFR journalist Emma Connors at Café Perons in Double Bay, Sydney. Their mains totalled $41 and the mineral water was “gratis”. Really.

It seems that neither Ms Connors nor Dr Phelps (who told Ms Connors that she is a “change agent”) left any spare change for the waiter – since no tip was recorded on the bill published in the AFR.

Perhaps this reflects the fact that Dr Phelps describes herself as “socially progressive, economically sensible”. [Could it be that economically sensible types don’t leave tips when lunching with journos from the AFR?  Just a thought. MWD Editor]


As avid readers are aware, the ABC, along with Nine’s newspapers (The Age, Sydney Morning Herald and Canberra Times) have been campaigning in support of the self-proclaimed Independent Zali Steggall who will take on former prime minister Tony Abbott in Warringah (on Sydney’s North Shore) at the forthcoming election.

Initially there was much excitement for one-time Malcolm Turnbull staffer Alice Thompson (who has since withdrawn from the contest). Then for Susan Moylan Coombs (who is still in the contest). And now Zali Steggall. It seems that any self-proclaimed Independent will do – provided they oppose Tony Abbott.

Writing in The Sunday Age on 10 February under the heading “GetUp poll points to defeat for ex-PM”, Dana McCauley reported that “Independent candidate Zali Steggall is on track to replace Tony Abbott as the Federal member for Warringah, according to a GetUp poll.”

According to Ms McCauley, GetUp is “an activist group” – she did not say that GetUp is an activist leftist group.  The Sunday Age’s intrepid reporter described Ms Steggall as a “sensible centre” candidate.  But she failed to advise readers that, on her own admission, Zali Steggall has never voted for the Liberal Party in her life at a Federal election – not even when Malcolm Turnbull was prime minister in 2016.

The Sunday Age reported that Ms Steggall was leading Mr Abbott “54 to 46 on a two-party preferred basis”, but did not provide details of the all-important primary vote. How about that?  Nor were the questions in the GetUp poll revealed in The Sunday Age. Convenient, eh?  But there’s more.  Ms McCauley quoted a certain Miriam Lyons – Zali Steggall’s campaign director – at some length.  This is what Ms Lyons had to say:

This is just one poll, and we’re still a long way off the election, but I can’t imagine these numbers help Tony Abbott sleep at night. He cannot escape the reality that most people in his electorate want to show him the door.

Tony Abbott is out of touch, [He] has had 24 years to show he’s willing to listen to his community on issues like climate change and marriage equality, and for 24 years he’s chosen to go off and fight right-wing culture wars instead. They [the Warringah voters] know that Tony Abbott, more than anyone else in Parliament, has sabotaged renewable energy and blocked action on climate change and they’re ready to hold him accountable.

How frightfully interesting.  What Dana McCauley did not tell her readers – if readers there were – is that Miriam Lyons is a leftist activist who co-founded (with John Menadue) the left-wing think tank Centre for Policy Development in 2007.

So, there you have it.  Zali Steggall has never voted for the Liberal Party in a Federal election.  And Miriam Lyons, her campaign director, is a leftist.  However, Dana McCauley reckons that Ms Steggall is but part of the “sensible centre”. Can You Bear It?

[I understand that Zali Steggall’s self-proclaimed links with the Liberal Party and conservatives turn on the fact that her grandmother was a lifelong member of the Liberal Party in Maitland.  This reminds me of Jackie’s (male) co-owner’s father, who frequently said that he had a father in the Navy and a sister in the Wax Works.  I hope this helps.  MWD Editor.]


Jackie (Dip. Wellness, Gunnedah Institute) is having quite an impact on her (male) co-owner when it comes to wellness, hand-holding and the like. So much so that Hendo might – just might – take up the long standing offer to appear on The Drum – presumably in the role of token conservative who is oh-so-nice to luvvies.

After all, who could not be impressed with the interview which The Drum’s co-presenters Julia Baird and Ellen Fanning gave to Nine’s Michael Lallo? – which was reported in the Sun-Herald on 27 January 2019. You see, in its new 6 pm to 7 pm format, The Drum will be very much a kinder/gentler forum. As Ms Fanning put it:

Our audience is very proprietorial. When people come up to me on the street, they don’t clutch my arm and say, “Gee, I love you Ellen Fanning, you’re the greatest.” What they actually say is, “I love The Drum, I love the engaged conversation and I love that people aren’t throwing rhetorical bombs at each other.” And that won’t change.

Or in the words of Dr Baird (for a doctor she is):

We don’t have just all white people talking about race issues, or a group of men talking about women … and we start every program by saying, “If you want to join in our robust conversation, you can do so respectfully on Twitter.”

Julia Baird went on to say that guests who bludgeon their ideological foes into submission tend not be invited back.  Or as Ellen Fanning put it:

The best shows are when someone leans around me and says to another guest, “Say that again, that’s interesting.” They’re having a genuine dialogue and actively considering other points of view.

How frightfully nice – in a wellness consciousness kind of way. So let’s go to the transcript of The Drum on Wednesday when Julia Baird asked a question and let her guest Sandra Phillips go on and on saying “interesting” things without throwing a rhetorical bomb at anyone:

Julia Baird: How do you view leadership Sandra?

Sandra Phillips: I will actually flag that Luke [Pearson] and I had a little chat beforehand, so I won’t steal your thunder on it. But Luke’s taking a bit of a different approach. I’ve reflected on this as we all do, particularly when we occupy roles that are about building capacity in others. So, we have to demonstrate certain ethics and values and morals in bringing other people forward. And bringing them through so that they become the upstanding citizens making the decisions for the rest of us you know in 10, 20, 30 years’ time. So, I think leadership is, by different names, is a regular kind of conceptual thought that people who have positions of responsibility have to be conscious of. So, I’d say that first.

I was asked, you know, who would I name as a really valuable leader. For me, my mind immediately went to a woman called Helena Gulash. Who’s an Aboriginal woman from South East Queensland, she’s a Gubbi Gubbi woman from the Sunshine Coast. So, I work in higher education, and I have for a long time, I’ve raised children though secondary education, my mother is an educationalist, so I’m very interested in education. So, Helena was one of those people in the 80s and 90s who lead innovative education policy for Indigenous Australians. Various independent Aboriginal committees as well as working within the bureaucracy to design policy that lead to me being able to step into University as an undergrad. That lead to me being able to enrol in a PHD. That lead to me now being in a role to support and build capacity amongst other Indigenous Australians in professionalising through higher degree, by research.

Julia Baird: What was it about her leadership?

Sandra Phillips: Yeah yeah so, her leadership. She’s calm, she’s thoughtful, she weighs up everything that she contributes, she weighs up what she’s saying and the potential for the impact of it on the people that she’s talking about and the people that she’s representing and the people that she’s trying to influence. So that all kind of goes into that. That’s a kind of style almost, isn’t it? That’s a social skill involved in it. Very intelligent, able to see the connections between things – I think that’s a big thing. So, if you’re designing for example, education policy, you need to know what it is about the people who you want to have in impact on.

So, what is it about Indigenous Australians’ lives that meant that access to education was truncated.  Well we know that it didn’t just sit with the individuals, we know that it sat with past policies. So you need to actually change the policy frameworks. You need to be aware of the – an astute intelligence but also an emotional intelligence – and you need to be able to see people as whole people. Who you can potentially influence. And people who are always capable of change and improvement. So, I like that about Helena [Gulash].

I will add though, Helena in her, after that kind of period, she took time out of her career to care for both in sequence her mother then her father. To both their respective deaths. So that to me is leadership. You know, we all kind of grapple with, how are we going to manage our families, how are we going to manage our careers, how are we going to get ahead. Well sometimes it actually means that you have to compromise.

Julia Baird: Tim, there are so many….

MWD just loves the kinder/gentler Drum brought to you by co-presenters Julia Baird and Ellen Fanning. It drives MWD to seek comfort in a Gin & Tonic at about 6.01pm. Can You Bear It?




Media Watch Dog’s Five Paws Award was inaugurated in Issue Number 26 (4 September 2009) during the time of Nancy (2004-2017). The first winner was ABC TV presenter Emma Alberici.  Ms Alberici scored for remembering the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 23 August 1939 whereby Hitler and Stalin divided Eastern Europe between Germany and the Soviet Union.  And for stating that the Nazi-Soviet Pact had effectively started the Second World War, since it was immediately followed by Germany’s invasion of Poland (at a time when the Soviet Union had become an ally of Germany).

Over the years, the late Nancy’s Five Paws Award has become one of the world’s most prestigious gongs – rating just below the Nobel Prize and the Academy Awards.  Joe Aston, of the Australian Financial Review’s “Rear Window” column, has declared that he would much prefer to win a Five Paws Award than a Walkley.  Mr Aston is a past Five Paws Award recipient. He is joined today by Heather (no relation) Henderson.

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MWD does not understand why the Australian Electoral Commission allowed Clive Palmer to establish the United Australia Party. As avid readers are aware, the REAL United Australia Party was established on the eve of the 1931 election and survived for just over a decade.  Its leaders were Joseph Lyons (prime minister 1932-1939) and Robert Menzies (prime minister 1939-1941).

Now our man Palmer asserts that the likes of Joe Lyons, Bob Menzies and Billy Hughes were once part of the UAP which he now leads.  It’s a load of crap – as the saying goes.

On Friday 8 February 2019, the Canberra Times published the following letter from Heather Henderson (nee Menzies).

Menzies’ name used dishonestly in absurd link to Palmer party

I have recently been told that Clive Palmer has claimed that my father, R. G. Menzies, was once the leader of his recently created (Palmer) United Australia Party. That, clearly, is nonsense, as Mr Palmer must know. Has he made this absurd claim so he could trade on the Menzies legacy?

The old UAP was amalgamated with other groups to form the present Liberal Party. It seems there is nothing to stop anyone from taking the UAP name, but there is absolutely no connection between the old UAP and Mr Palmer’s new UAP.

I am horrified that my father’s name has been used so dishonestly.

Heather Henderson, Yarralumla

Heather Henderson: Five Paws

Whatever Morry Schwartz’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 [Boring] Saturday Paper goes to press on Thursday evenings. So, when it comes out on Saturday morning its “news” is already 36 hours old. That’s why Hendo reads it on Monday – what’s the hurry? Even Martin McKenzie-Murray (The Saturday Paper’s correspondent) acknowledges that he writes incoherently and is inherently uninteresting – that is, BORING. (See Issue 404). [You can say that again. – MWD Editor.]


There has been enormous interest in the text exchange between Paul Bongiorno and Gerard Henderson which was published in MWD Issue 438.  As avid readers are aware, Bonge blamed Hendo (and Chris Kenny) for the fact that he was dropped from ABC Radio National Breakfast’s political commentary roster. His gig was Tuesday – now filled by Nine’s David Crowe.

For his part, Jackie’s (male) co-owner is upset by RN Breakfast’s decision – since your man Bonge provided such great copy for MWD with his weekly leftist rants.  So much so, that Hendo is planning an “Occupy Ultimo!” campaign to have Mr Bongiorno’s weekly chats with Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly reinstated.  Now!

During his many a (secular) sermon on ABC Radio national, Bongiorno the (secular) preacher ended with a sardonic “Good Bye”. And so it came to pass that, in his final text to Hendo, Paul Bongiorno had this – and only this – to say:

Do tell.  There are 3 factual errors in your rant and goodbye.

So, there you have it. Bonge started the matter by falsely accusing Hendo of having called Michelle Grattan left-wing, an assertion for which he had zip evidence.  And he ended by accusing Hendo of making three errors but failed to state what the alleged errors are.  Good Bye, as the saying goes – or went.

Since Bonge’s exit from RN Breakfast, Hendo now must follow The Thought of Bongiorno via his column in The [Boring] Saturday Paper. This is what he had to say last Saturday in piece titled “The beginning of the end game”:



Australia’s part-time federal parliament resumes next week, with just 10 sitting days scheduled before an election in May. To say the government is running scared would be an understatement. Equally, to say Labor is calmly in cruise control is wrong. The front-running opposition is nervous it could slip up, despite the fact it’s the Coalition that has been in panic mode, making mistakes at every turn so far this year.

The prime minister attempted to calm his worried MPs on Tuesday night. For the first time since 1929, they face the prospect of a government defeat on the floor of the House of Representatives on a substantial bill. Back then the prime minister of the day immediately advised the governor-general to call an election. It is a precedent Scott Morrison says he will not follow.

What a load of absolute tosh.  There is no such precedent.  As Gerard Henderson explained in his column in The Weekend Australian on 9 February 2019, in September 1929 Prime Minister Stanley Melbourne Bruce’s problem turned on the fact that four members of his Nationalist Party (led by Billy Hughes) crossed the floor and voted with the Labor Party – along with two Independents.  The defection of the Hughes quartet meant that Mr Bruce had lost his majority in the parliament – and the election was not due until late 1931. He advised the governor-general to call an election (which Labor won). It was held on 12 October 1929.

Scott Morrison’s situation this week in no way resembles the events of 1929.  The Prime Minister’s position today is not dissimilar to that of Prime Minister Theresa May in Britain.  She has recently lost votes in the House of Commons but retains the confidence of the Parliament.   As MWD has consistently said, The Saturday Paper’s proprietor Morry Schwartz should stump up the money to employ a fact-checker.


Meanwhile, how is The [Boring] Saturday Paper’s “Gadfly” columnist and Justinian editor Richard Ackland going with his school boy obsession of playing games with people’s names?  Well, judged by last Saturday’s effort not very well indeed.  Here we go – with Gadfly’s references to SloMo (aka ScoMo aka Scott Morrison), the Human Toilet Brush (aka Mitch Fifield), Greg Plywood (aka Greg Hywood), Kimbo Williams (aka Kim Williams), Lord Molock (aka Rupert Murdoch) and The Mad Monk (aka Tony Abbott). How funny can you get?

And there was this piece titled “Testes Times”.

Testes Times

Richard Beasley, SC, counsel assisting the Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission, this week subjected himself to a gruelling interview on Justinian’s couch. Among the probing questions [by Justinian’s publisher Richard Ackland], he was asked what would be the last meal he might request if he were on death row. He replied without hesitation: “Barnaby Joyce’s testicles.” Lightly fried in butter, garlic and parsley they could be quite tasty, or not.

How funny is that – or not?  In response to Mr Ackland’s (boring) question – m’learned colleague Richard Beasley SC declared that, in a certain situation, he would like to make a meal of Mr Joyce’s private parts.  Can it be long before Mr Beasley is promoted to the position of the head of the Adelaide Fringe Festival?  With “jokes” like this, he could bomb at a stand-up gig somewhere on Rundle Street.



Due to enormous popular demand, MWD is re-installing MWD’s scoreboards.

This week MWD re-visits the fact that in July 1975, (then) ABC chairman Professor Richard Downing defended the (then) ABC Radio Lateline’s decision to present a program titled “Pederasty”. Richard Neville, who in 1975 was a self-confessed pedophile, was the presenter. Richard Neville interviewed sympathetically three self-declared pederasts in the ABC studios.  The ABC did not report the pederasts to the NSW Police and did not adopt a duty of care to their victims (some of whom were interviewed for the program).

On 19 July 1975, in his official capacity as ABC chairman, Professor Downing wrote a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald in which he defended the Lateline program and called on Australians to understand pederasty.  On the same day, the Sydney Morning Herald quoted the ABC chairman as saying that “in general, men will sleep with young boys”.

Many ABC presenters and journalists expect that religious, secular and government institutions will accept responsibility for past acts of commission and omission of their predecessors.  MWD wrote to (then) chairman James Spigelman and later to (then) ABC chairman Justin Milne asking whether they would distance the contemporary ABC from the views and actions of one of their high-profile predecessors Richard Downing.  Both declined the opportunity – as the Scoreboard attests.

[This is a timely occasion to re-run this particular Scoreboard.  I note that a new ABC chair will be announced by the Morrison government shortly.  This means that you can soon write to the new ABC chairman about this very matter – and further update your scoreboard.  Looking forward to it. MWD Editor.]




On Tuesday 7 February 2019, former ABC journalist and once-upon-a-time staff appointed ABC Board member, Quentin Dempster – who now presents as a “public broadcasting advocate” – delivered a Politics in the Pub address at the Gaelic Club in the Sydney inner-city suburb of Surry Hills.  This was published – in an edited form, of course – in John Menadue’s Pearls and Irritations blog on 8 February 2019.

It is not clear how many of those involved in QD’s Politics in the Pub gig were sober at the beginning or in the middle or at the end of your man Dempster’s rant – which apparently went down a treat among the sandal-wearing inner city left who frequent such occasions.  After all, Surry Hills is just a hammer and sickle throw from the ABC’s headquarters in Ultimo.  This is how Mr Dempster’s rant to the comrades titled “The ABC is now fighting for its survival”, commenced:

In trying to defend the ABC as an institutional pillar of a fearless free media in Australia’s robust democracy, first, we have to confront paranoia. It comes in the form of constant Murdoch Press complaints that the ABC is biased and a force for “left wing” ideology. “All the ABC’s presenters are left wing!” columnists and ABC critics have written.

After such a doubt-free introduction, it’s a wonder that the audience did not head immediately to the bar since the matters seemed to have been settled after the speaker’s first two sentences – which included one exclamation mark.  MWD just loves exclamation marks!!!!  Comrade Dempster depicted the ABC as “an institutional pillar of a fearless free media” in Australia and bagged ABC critics as suffering a mental illness – to wit, paranoia.  In short, the ABC’s a gem and its critics are stark raving mad.

The speaker even claimed that columnists and ABC critics have written: “All the ABC’s presenters are left-wing!”  Who ever said or wrote this?  When and where?  Alas, Quentin Dempster did not provide any evidence in support of this claim. Presumably he just made it up.  Fake News, indeed. [Hold on for a minute, I’m off for a Gin & Tonic. – MWD Editor.]

After all this, it seemed like a Case Closed situation.  But your man Dempster ploughed on – making the same point over and over again. Here’s the second paragraph:

I found myself on Monday night (4/2/19) on Sky News “after dark” being interviewed on the “Chris Kenny on Media” program.  And again the paranoia was in the air. “Name me one conservative or right-of-centre presenter at the ABC?” Mr Kenny demanded. I said I wasn’t going to fall into that trap by offering up a name.  And, of course, to do so would be to make an admission that the question was valid and did have a basis in fact.

I suppose when you look at it, it’s a have-you-stopped-beating-your-wife type of question.  I confess to you in this pub that as a television interviewer myself I might even have tried to devise similar guilty-as-charged trap questions when interviewing slippery politicians.

I told Mr Kenny that his “ABC-is-left-wing” charge was a defamatory smear of professional ABC staff whose duty it was to abide by the editorial policies requiring objective journalism practice as set by the ABC Board.  The smear was used by Rupert Murdoch and his outlets as a tactic to vilify marketplace rivals, especially public broadcasters, ABC, BBC and PBS, here in Australia, in the United Kingdom and in the United States of America.

Kenny on Media airs at 8 pm on Sky News each Monday – a time which is not “After Dark” in early February in Hobart, Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane.  But there you go. In fact, Chris Kenny’s question was not at all of the “have you stopped beating your wife?” genre because there is nothing inherently wrong in saying that there are conservatives in the ABC. Unless, of course, this is not the case.

If Chris Kenny had asked an interviewee to name one left-of-centre or left-wing presenter, producer or editor of any of the ABC’s prominent programs – the answer would have been obvious.  Namely, Phillip (“I was a teenage commo”) Adams or Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly or Wendy (“I’m just an old-fashioned socialist”) Harmer and more besides.

Why, it was not so long ago that even the presenter of the ABC TV program Gardening Australia was a former member of the Communist Party of Australia – who joined the party in the late 1950s/early 1960s when the CPA was funded by the Soviet Union and the Soviet Union was run by Josef Stalin’s heirs.  Leonid Brezhnev, for example.  In short, not even QD would suggest that a question along the lines of “Can you name a left-winger at the ABC?” is akin to a “have you stopped beating your wife” gotcha trap.

The real reason why Quentin Dempster would not name one conservative presenter, producer or editor of any of ABC’s prominent television, radio or online outlets turns on the fact that no such individual exists. But QD and his comrades are in denial about this.

Many an ABC journalist proclaims the existence of what is called unconscious bias with respect to women, migrants, ethnic minorities, gays and so on.  This means that a person who believes that he/she is acting fairly with respect to another may in fact be biased without meaning to be.  However, according to Comrade Dempster’s oration-in-the-pub, ABC professional staff always act without bias – of the conscious or unconscious variety.  A self-serving analysis, if ever there was one.

So according to QD’s logic, a well-meaning male senior officer of the Australian Defence Force may approach a job application from a female ADF member with an unconscious bias. However, a like situation would never occur at the ABC because ABC journalists always abide by editorial policies “requiring objective journalism practice as set out by the ABC Board”. Really.  In short, according to QD, unconscious bias simply does not exist within the taxpayer funded public broadcaster. Convenient, eh?

Attendees at the Gaelic Club listening to Quentin Dempster’s Sermon on the Bar Stool learnt that all of the ABC’s discontents are due to Gerard Henderson plus “Rupert Murdoch and all his henchmen”.  Can you believe it?  In any event, Comrade Dempster does.  Let’s return to his Gaelic Club Rant:

In Australia “the ABC is left wing” charge has been used for decades by Fairfax and now Murdoch columnist Dr Gerard Henderson. It has been taken up by many Murdoch mouthpieces and columnists across his outlets. Gerard Henderson is always on the lookout for reds under the bed. When the threat of communist infiltration of unions, universities and institutions including the ABC led to a referendum to prohibit the Communist Party in Australia, the electorate said “no”.  Australia is a demonstrable democracy and even includes the constitutional rights of anti-democrats.

But in the ABC’s case the communist paranoia went on for years.    ASIO continued to vet ABC staff appointments for many years through the 1950s and 60s.   Perhaps they still do. That must be an official secret. But now the paranoia extends to other influences. Now it’s “progressives” or “left wingers”.

This is just more fake news.  The Communist Party of Australia lost its influence when the party split following the Soviet Union’s invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 – half a century ago.  The referendum to ban the Communist Party went to the vote in 1951. It obtained a majority in three out of six states and the national “Yes” vote was 49.94 per cent.  Clearly, in the early 1950s almost half of the Australian population believed that the CPA should be outlawed.

Quentin Dempster claims that the communist paranoia went on for years after 1951.  He overlooks the fact that the Soviet Union had an espionage ring active in Australia – including in what was in the late 1940s, 1950s and 1960s called the Department of External Affairs.  Also, in the 1950s the CPA operatives were planning to murder their political enemies if the CPA came to power in a communist revolution.  This is documented fact.  Concern about communism in the late 1940s, 1950s and 1960s was not an example of paranoia.  Here QD is just running a left-wing interpretation of Australian history.

For the record, Gerard Henderson has never said or believed that there are or were “reds under the bed” at the ABC or elsewhere.  Here again, QD has borrowed from the left-wing song book.  However, Hendo has pointed to the influence of avowed Marxist Allan Ashbolt who, as a producer in the late 1960s and 1970s, had much to do with stacking the ABC news and current affairs with young leftists.  They were classified as members of “Ashbolt’s kindergarten”.  Some of Ashbolt’s kindergarten had life-time careers at the ABC and appointed their successors.

Quentin Dempster went on to make the following assertion:

In the early 1990s I remember a conversation with Gerard Henderson where he remonstrated with me and complained that ABC staff introduced their reports of his comments with the descriptor “right wing” as in “right wing commentator Gerard Henderson”. I conceded the point after thinking about it.  Why should anyone’s contribution to public discourse be pre-emptively categorised?  Let the words speak for themselves after which the audience can unpack those words and only then consider possible motivations behind such an utterance.  But give the speaker the respect of listening without pre-judgment.  I conversationally told my ABC colleagues to please stop using the “right wing” descriptor. Gerard was sensitive about it.  And they did.   So much for decency. For decades since that conversation I’ve been laughing  and groaning each week as Dr Henderson in the Herald or the Oz  denounced anyone with whom he disagreed as “left wing” particularly ABC presenters, reporters and interviewers.

The charge is a defamatory smear of the entire ABC effort.  Fortunately the Australian public do not agree with Gerard Henderson or Rupert Murdoch and all his henchmen.  The latest trust survey shows that 82 percent of Australian adults aged 18 to 75 trust the information that the ABC provides.  Eighty-three percent of Australians believe the ABC performs a valuable role in the Australian community.

Gerard Henderson recalls that he has had only one significant conversation with Quentin Dempster in four decades – when he drove him home from an ABC Late Night Live discussion which was chaired by Vivian Schenker. Hendo made the point that he was a strong opponent of the extreme right in Australia, sympathetic to refugees and a supporter of an Australian republic – and this did not fit with the habit of some ABC presenters then and now (pace Richard Glover – see MWD Issue 437) to depict him as right-wing.  It was a pleasant conversation.   There was no “remonstration”.  QD has just made this up as he is wont to do when it comes to Hendo – in fact most of the car conversation focused on other issues.

In any event, Hendo’s critique of the ABC does not turn on the claim that everyone at the ABC is left-wing.  Rather his point is that the ABC is a Conservative-Free-Zone.  As it is. If this was not the case, your man Dempster would be able to name one prominent ABC presenter, producer or editor who is a conservative.

The absence of conservatives in the ABC leads to a situation whereby left-of-centre and left-wing views are virtually never challenged and, consequently, become the fashion – or ideology.  This does not mean that everyone in the ABC is left-wing. Some are professional and do not express their political views in public. Others are non-ideological.

However, it would be virtually impossible to find prominent ABC presenters, producers or editors or journalists who are sceptical about the eco-catastrophists in our midst, or who are staunch advocates of border security, or who believe that Australia’s embassy in Israel should be re-located from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, or who support Brexit, or who believe that marriage should only be between a man and a woman, or who oppose abortion except in exceptional circumstances, or who believe that low emission high energy coal fired power plants should be established in Australia or who supported Donald J. Trump in 2016 over Hillary Clinton and so on.

Yet all these positions are held – to a greater or lesser extent – by a significant percentage of Australians. But they are not held by any but the smallest number at Australia’s public broadcasting Conservative Free Zone.

Quentin Dempster is simply in denial if he maintains that such conservative or right-of-centre views, commonly held in the population, are represented within the ABC.  They’re not.  Which is simply another way of saying that the ABC is a Conservative-Fee-Zone.

The fact is that the ABC has been criticised by both Labor (Bob Hawke, Paul Keating, Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard) and Coalition (Malcolm Fraser, John Howard, Tony Abbott) governments alike.  In other words, the ABC criticises both the Coalition and Labor – from the left.  The Greens are not critical of the ABC – since they know the taxpayer funded public broadcaster, as an institution, is broadly sympathetic to the Green Left.  It is rare indeed when the Greens are criticised on the ABC, even in comedy programs – despite the great copy they provide.

The ABC is forever rolling out the statistic – cited by Quentin Dempster – that 82 per cent of Australian adults trust the information that the ABC provides. Yet ABC news tends to rate below the news bulletins of Nine, Seven or at times Ten.  Which – according to QD’s logic – suggests that a majority of Australians watch a channel they regard as less trustworthy than the taxpayer funded public broadcaster.  Presumably this explains why – as QD concedes in his Gaelic Club rant – that the ABC is barely a blip “on the political radar at election time”.

Contrary to the implications in QD’s Gaelic Club Rant, Gerard Henderson believes in public broadcasting.  But he believes that the ABC should be able to get by on $1 billion a year.  And he believes that if the ABC was properly run, it should be able to provide quality late night television news and current affairs (like Lateline once was) along with an hour long radio program at lunch time and in the evening (like The World Today and PM once were). Likewise it should be able to focus more on rural and regional Australia – where public broadcasting is most needed.

Neither Gerard Henderson nor Rupert Murdoch nor the latter’s (so-called) henchmen are the cause of the ABC’s current problems.  The likes of Quentin Dempster would do well to consider why 95 per cent of criticism of the ABC focuses on a mere five per cent of the output – and act accordingly.  A good start would be to appoint a number of conservatives to present, produce or edit prominent ABC outlets and to cease the situation whereby current ABC staff appoint other ABC staff.  It’s in the ABC’s interest to dismantle its Conservative Free Zone.

You would have to be on the turps to believe that Gerard Henderson, Rupert Murdoch and the latter’s (alleged) henchmen are primarily responsible for the ABC’s current situation. For the record it appears that Quentin Dempster’s Politics in the Pub oration went down a treat and that the comrades in the pub increasingly warmed to the speaker as the night went on. Fancy that.


Media Watch Dog is willing to make corrections – and, where necessary, apologise for its errors.

Last week in Issue 438, it was suggested that ABC Radio Melbourne presenter Jon Faine might be on a generous defined benefits superannuation scheme – in which case he would not be entitled to present himself as part of “the rest of us” when it comes to superannuation.

MWD came to this position after Mr Faine avoided answering Hendo’s question of 30 January as to whether he is on a defined benefits scheme.

On Monday, Mr Faine advised that he is not on a defined benefits scheme.  MWD accepts this – as the following correspondence attests.

Jon Faine to Gerard Henderson – 11 February 2019

Hilarious, you really cannot help yourself

The answer is “no”

Like almost everyone still at the ABC I am in the standard public sector scheme


Gerard Henderson to Jon Faine – 11 February 2019


Where I made errors I immediately correct them – unlike you.  And, where warranted, I apologise immediately – unlike you.

If you had answered “No” to my question of 30 January as to whether you are on a defined benefit scheme – I would have accepted your statement.  As you know, some long-serving ABC staff are on defined benefit schemes.

Instead you avoided answering my specific question until this morning – almost two weeks after I asked you.  This from a leading ABC presenter who demands that his guests answer questions directly and immediately.

Keep Morale High.


PS: I will make the correction in next Friday’s Media Watch Dog.

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Until next time.

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