ISSUE – NO. 440

22 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: Featuring Madeleine Morris & Andrew Probyn

  • Can You Bear It? David Marr’s “One Plus One” to Julia Baird; The Kinder, Gentler Drum Bores On as No One Wants to Talk about Paul Ehrlich’s False Prophecy; Paul (“I don’t want a book for Christmas – I already have a book”) Murray Fires Up Against Bill Shorten but not Derryn Hinch; Peter FitzSimons Stumbles Over Zhou Enlai

  • Media Fool of the Week: Step Forward Julian Burnside

  • An ABC Update: Fran Kelly’s Interviewing Styles Compared; Leigh Sales, Malcolm Farr and Richard Glover Exhibit Naïvety on People Smugglers

  • Hamish Macdonald’s Fake News: In Which Jon Faine Expresses an Erroneous Opinion Concerning John Howard

  • MWD Scoreboard: An Update – Anne Henderson vs David Day re Robert Menzies & Winston Churchill circa 1941

  • Correspondence: Stephen Mayne Helps Out on Kevin Andrews, B.A. Santamaria and More Besides; Paul Murray Goes Under the Bed and Avoids Hendo’s Questions

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What a stunning start to the day on the taxpayer funded public broadcaster this morning.


At around 6.45 am on ABC TV News Breakfasts “Newspapers” segment, Mike Smith commented that the Nine newspapers (Sydney Morning Herald and The Age) along with The Guardian were against the Morrison government on both border protection and its opposition to Labor’s property taxes – whereas the Coalition is broadly supported by News Corps’ newspapers (Daily Telegraph, Herald-Sun, The Australian) on both issues.

Whereupon co-presenter Madeleine Morris asked the following question:

Madeleine Morris: So where do you stand Mike on what some other countries do? – which is on the masthead – I think they do this in Sweden – they say this paper is from a centre-right perspective, or this paper is from a socialist perspective. What about just laying it open, would that be a good idea?

Mike Smith: Well I think it’s pretty transparent at the moment.

Yes, it is.  But what was interesting was the fact that not one mentioned the ABC.  If Ms Morris is correct – and the Daily Telegraph should say it comes from the right-of-centre perspective and The Age from the left-of-centre perspective – then the ABC should declare that it is A Conservative Free Zone.  After all, the taxpayer funded broadcaster does not have a conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets.

You be the judge.  Can anyone name one ABC presenter, producer or editor on any of the ABC’s prominent outlets who supports Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s attitude to border security or who opposes the Labor/Greens/Independents medevac act. Give up?  MWD is not surprised.

Which suggests that Ms Morris claims to be aware of the political message of various commercial outlets but in denial about the public broadcaster as a Conservative Free Zone.


Alas, MWD’s attempt to have Paul Bongiorno returned as RN Breakfast’s  Tuesday political commentator seems to have failed despite Jackie’s “Occupy Ultimo! Bring Back Bonge” campaign.  It’s true that your man Bongiorno – who blames Jackie’s (male) co-owner for his fate – got a gig on RN Breakfast’s  political forum last Friday. But not today.  Sad. Because Bonge provided such great material for MWD with his leftist rants.

This morning presenter Fran Kelly’s political forum comprised ABC TV political editor Andrew Probyn (Ms Kelly called him “Probs”) plus The Guardian’s political editor Katharine (“I’m obsessed with climate change”) Murphy and Shane (“Coal is as irrelevant as candle sticks”) Wright of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

Guess what?  Virtually all the discussion involved a pile-on against the Morrison government – covering Julie Bishop’s resignation, women in the Liberal Party, the Mathias Cormann/Joe Hockey matters re Helloworld, Coalition Senator Michaelia Cash and so on. It was only towards the end of the 20 minute segment that anyone raised the issue of Labor’s current problems and internal discussions re border protection.

Here it was Probs who surprised.  On ABC News last night, your man Probyn made the following comment:

Andrew Probyn: And so ends a difficult fortnight for the government, capped off by the loss of Julie Bishop. When parliament returns it will be for April’s budget which will throw us into an election campaign. The Coalition sees its salvation in tax cuts and depicting its opponents as weak on border security. But Labor believes public sentiment remains its firm friend – on banks, wages and refugees. Themes that will frame a viciously fought election.

So, last night Andrew Probyn said that Labor believes that public sentiment is on its side with respect to border protection.  But here’s what the very same Mr Probyn said on RN Breakfast this morning:

Andrew Probyn: And Fran there’s absolutely no doubt that it has affected the Labor vote ever so slightly. Labor recognises it, they say that putting aside the IPSOS poll, which I think had hairs on it, Labor thinks it’s sitting, and has been sitting between 53 and 54 in two party preferred – but that the boats issue has probably knocked off half a point. Now that’s not insignificant because it shows you immediately the sensitivities on this….

So, according to the ABC TV’s political editor (i) Labor believes that it has the public’s sentiment on refugees and (ii) Labor believes that there is virtually no doubt that the asylum seeker/refugee issue has adversely affected its support.

So there you have it. Or not – as the case may be.


Can You Bear It


Did anyone see Julia Baird interview MWD fave David Marr on ABC TV’s One Plus One in recent times?  The reference to recent times is that the program ran last Friday and then again on Saturday and again on Sunday. Or something like that.  And it’s also on iView.

MWD cannot remember a time when your man Marr received anything but a soft interview on the taxpayer funded public broadcaster.  And nothing changed on this occasion as Dr Baird (for a doctor she is) took Mr Marr through his life as a young Christian boy growing up on Sydney’s North Shore, to his time at Shore (Sydney Church of England Grammar School) and on to Sydney University and on to a brief career in law and on to journalism and so on.  It’s a familiar – and interesting – story. But not one we haven’t heard – or read – before.

Your man Marr seems to spend a lot of time thinking, speaking and writing about himself.  The occasion for the most recent excuse to do so is the publication of David Marr My Country: Stories, Essays & Speeches (Black Inc, 2018) which runs for some 562 pages of relatively close type.  Cunningly, it does not contain an index – as Hendo found out when first encountering the tome at a Melbourne bookshop. So, it’s impossible for anyone to quickly check what the Secular Saint of Sydney’s Luvvies might have written about them. It seems that Black Inc is aware that many journalists don’t like buying books and use indexes, when in bookshops and libraries, to check whether they get a mention.  No index is often an attempt by publishers to encourage purchases.

What was missing from the Baird/Marr exchange was any probing questions. The interviewer let her subject get away with saying what he liked. It was interesting television – but no more than that.

For an incisive assessment of My Country, avid readers should examine Gerard Windsor’s review in The Weekend Australian on 12 January 2019 – if they haven’t already done so.  The reviewer describes the author as “a great comic writer”. But Gerard Windsor also points to David Marr’s work as exhibiting partisanship, snobbery, the zealot’s righteousness, patrician sniffiness plus sneering along with ironic pithy contempt and bigotry.  Also, as Windsor puts it, “Marr does not do doubt”. Julia Baird raised no such criticisms of David Marr’s output of around half a century.  Which is a pity because Marr invariably defends himself – sometimes with considerable emotion – when he is criticised.

During the One Plus One discussion, Baird even accepted Marr’s assertion that he is “never much good at rage”. This is not a view shared by Gerard Windsor – or Gerard Henderson.  As MWD readers will be aware, Hendo reported in MWD Issue 196 an exchange at Melbourne Airport in August 2013 where David threw the switch to rage and berated Hendo at the Taxi Rank outside the Qantas terminal in Melbourne.  Alas, Julia Baird did not query David Marr’s assessment of himself. Yet One Plus One is presented as ABC TV’s leading interview program. Can You Bear It?


While on the topic of Julia Baird, how’s ABC TV’s The Drum going in its extended format in the 6 pm time slot? As revealed, Dr Baird and her co-presenter Ellen Fanning have decided to preside over a kinder/gentler Drum.  Any panellist who argues strongly with another panellist will not be invited back on to the program.  Moreover, the preferred panellists are those who have a conversion experience on live television and lean across the set and say something like: “That’s interesting; please tell me more about your position.” Boring, eh?

Take The Drum on Tuesday, for example. The panel comprised Bob Carr, Rebecca Davies, Adam Liaw and Annika Smethurst. Ms Fanning was in the presenter’s chair.  After a clip was shown on the 1970s in Australia, those who remembered those years reflected on their times.

Rebecca Davies: It was a time when a lot of us, I think, got involved in political activity. One of the things that I got involved with was the early stages of the environmental movement. Remember Paul Ehrlich, Rachel Carson?

Bob Carr: Absolutely.

Rebecca Davies: – writing about the impending disaster that there would be.

Bob Carr: The Population Bomb, Ehrlich.

Rebecca Davies: And I was heavily involved with a group called Zero Population Growth Group….

In this kinder, gentler Drum experience, no one pointed out that Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb (Random House, 1968) was hopelessly wrong and that your man Ehrlich is a false prophet.  Dr Ehrlich commenced his 1968 tome with the statement:

The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.

This did not happen.  World populations continued to grow. And apart from forced famines (in China during the Great Leap Forward and in North Korea) and wars, humanity was fed.  Also, the movement of such nations as China and India out of poverty was accompanied by rises in population.

However, no one on The Drum mentioned that population growth catastrophists like Paul Ehrlich, Bob Carr and Rebecca Davies proved to be wrong in that there was no population disaster in the decades after 1968.  It would have been impolite, apparently. That’s the kinder/gentler Drum for you. Yawn.

[Interesting. I note that ABC management is banging The Drum a lot this year.  It’s on at 6 pm on the main channel, and 7 pm on both ABC Channel 24 and ABC Radio. Spreading the boredom, I guess.  – MWD Editor.]



Did anyone watch the presenter’s anti-book rant on Paul Murray Live last Sunday?  It was a somewhat unhinged Paul Murray who declared that “no one cares about political books”.  Yep – absolutely no one.  He then went on to say that “few books” are sold to “normal people”.  Then, later in the program, PM declared that political books should only be written by “former prime ministers” like Malcolm Turnbull and “significant people”.  Really.  Your man Murray did not define what he means by “normal people” or “significant people”. Convenient, eh?

In his introductory rant, Murray listed some 18 authors who have been published in recent years by Melbourne University Publishing. Here they are – Michelle Payne, Maxine McKew, Barrie Cassidy, Gillian Triggs, Greg Combet, Quentin Bryce, Tony Windsor, Sam Dastyari, Christopher Pyne, Gerard Henderson, Bill Shorten, Sarah Hanson-Young and Jane Caro. Paul Murray’s little list of MUP authors – which was shown on the screen – also included Gareth Evans, Ray Martin, Katharine Murphy, Kim Carr and Germaine Greer.  All this lot was described as “people who have very big Twitter followings, endless appearances over there on Channel 2 [ABC TV] and plenty of cuddles from the left”.

In his ignorance, Paul Murray described the only book that Gerard Henderson has written for MUP as a “political book”.  It isn’t. It’s a biography and it sold for $60.  Also, it was news to Hendo to find that he enjoys endless appearances on the ABC and gets plenty of cuddles from the left.  How ill-informed and irrational can a PML presenter get?  [Gerard Henderson’s email to Mr Murray (to which the PML presenter did not have the courage to reply) can be found in this week’s hugely popular “Correspondence” segment. – MWD Editor.]

What was interesting in Paul Murray’s little list last Sunday turns on its selectivity.  He only bagged the (alleged) political books by MUP authors he does not like.  For example, the PML list did not include such MUP authors as Paul Kelly, Sky News’ David Speers, Derryn Hinch (whom Murray used to address as “Dad”), Mark Latham, Sam Crosby and Dee Madigan.  Latham and Madigan appear regularly on Paul Murray Live – and Hinch and Crosby used to be regular PML panellists.

It seems that Paul Murray Live did not want to name the names of his besties who write for MUP – since he branded all MUP authors as “political somebodies” and “media nobodies” and alleged that “no one actually buys” MUP books.

Your man Murray has scant understanding of the Australian book market. For starters, Australia is a very small market when compared to the United States and even Britain.  Moreover, he only cited sales at bookshops – he is apparently unaware that bulk sales (including at book launches) and E-books exist.

Paul Murray’s motivation for his rant was evident in his treatment of two MUP authors – namely Labor leader Bill Shorten and Justice Party Senator Derryn Hinch.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Paul Murray:  Bill Shorten wrote a book in 2016 that sold 883 [copies]. No one cares about these books.

The reference was to Bill Shorten’s For the Common Good (MUP, 2016).  But what about Derryn Hinch’s Hinch vs Canberra: Behind the Human Headline (MUP, 2017)? How many books did Senator Hinch sell?  Well, in the figures PML used, 806 copies.  That is, around ten per cent fewer than Mr Shorten did.

So, there you have it.  Paul Murray bagged Bill Shorten for sales of allegedly 883 books.  But he covered up the sales of allegedly 806 books by his bestie “Dad” Hinch. Can You Bear It?

[Er, no.  Not really.  I note that when Paul Murray asked his panel about political books they had read recently, the answers were not quite what the presenter anticipated.  Adam Giles named Tony Abbott’s Battlelines and John Howard’s Lazarus Rising.  Michael Kroger cited John Howard’s Lazarus Rising, Mark Latham’s The Latham Diaries, Paul Kelly’s Triumph and Demise and Christopher Pyne’s A Letter to My Children.  All of the above books, except for John Howard’s memoirs, are published by MUP.  Clearly the PML panel did not share Paul Murray’s view that MUP authors are “political somebodies” who write books that “no one” buys. – MWD Editor].



While on the topic of non-fiction books, on Paul Murray’s criteria Peter FitzSimons must be the best historian in the land. You see, the Red Bandannaed One’s writing machine produces about a book a year – and they sell well. If books are judged by book shop sales only, then Fitz is a much better historian than even Professor Geoffrey Blainey. According to your man Murray’s criteria, that is.

So how’s Fitz the historian going?  You be the judge.  On Tuesday, in Nine’s Sydney Morning Herald, Fitz wrote a piece titled “In my dreams: the model of a perfect Aussie prime minister”. He listed the following prime ministers as exhibiting various characteristics:  Billy Hughes (humility), James Scullin (strong sense of Australian identity), Robert Menzies (sheer writing ability and wit), John Curtin (vision), Ben Chifley (empathy), Gough Whitlam (sheer bravado), Malcolm Fraser (global perspective), Bob Hawke (sporting ability plus consensus politics), Paul Keating (economic acumen) and John Howard (political courage).

The idea that Billy Hughes – who commenced with the Labor Party and then moved to National Labor which became the Nationalist Party which became the United Australia Party which became the Liberal Party – was into humility is absolute tosh.  W.M. Hughes was one of Australia’s most arrogant leaders.  At the Versailles conference, following the end of the First World War, Mr Hughes found himself in dispute with the Polish leader Jan Paderewski, who was a pianist and composer.  Hughes told Paderewski to take his plan, go back to Poland and play it on his piano.  How humble is that?

The Red Bandannaed One also made the following point about Ben Chifley’s empathy:

In a story confirmed to me by Chifley’s biographer David Day, our prime minister of the late 1940s had a phone number in his parliamentary office which was one digit different to that of a local butcher. When, regularly, an old lady would ring up to place her order for chops and sausages, he would dutifully take it down and drop it off to the butcher on his way back to the Lodge.

It’s a wonderful story – complete with empathy, to be sure.  But is it – as told by Fitz – true?  To which Jackie’s (male) co-owner answers: “Pray tell me where, in the late 1940s, was there a butcher shop between Old Parliament House and The Lodge in Yarralumla?” [Good point.  Perhaps you should re-publish today your scoreboard concerning David Day’s mythology about Robert Menzies. Just a thought.  MWD Editor.]

And then the Red Bandannaed One wrote this about how Australia’s recent prime ministers should be assessed:

As to the most recent slew of PMs – Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull – I cite Chinese premier Zhou Enlai speaking in 1972 supposedly about the French revolution of 1789: “Too early to say.”

How wise was the Chinese Communist Party dictator Zhou Enlai?  Not so much, in fact.  This is just fake news.  Zhou Enlai’s reported comments were not made with respect to the French Revolution of 1789.  But rather to the French protests of 1968.  Zhou Enlai was correct to say in 1972 that it was too early to assess the impact of the 1968 riots in France.  That was not a particularly clever comment.

All of the above brought to you by Peter FitzSimons – who, according to Paul Murray’s criteria, is Australia’s best historian.  Can You Bear It?


Media Fool Of The Week


Due to overwhelming popular demand, MWD’s “Media Fool of the Week” returns this week, after a somewhat long well-earned break – or W.E.B.  Lotsa thanks to the avid reader who drew attention to this Tweet by media fave Julian (“I just love flashing my post-nominals”) Burnside AO, QC.  It was put out at 3.22 pm on Sunday – i.e. after lunch.

Julian Burnside‏ @JulianBurnside

Prediction: A few refugee boats will arrive before the election; Labor will win; Enquires will show that #Scomo told Operation Sovereign Borders to let some boats through

3.22 PM – 17 Feb 2019

To re-work the old joke – it’s foolish to make predictions, especially about the future. This is what JB AO QC wants us to believe:

  1. A few boats carrying asylum seekers “will arrive” on Australian shores before the next election – likely to be held on 11 May or 18 May.
  2. The Labor Party “will win” the 2019 election.
  3. After the election, enquiries “will” reveal that Scott Morrison “told” Operation Sovereign Borders “to let some boats in”.

Now, Labor may win the 2019 election. But it’s a prophecy of the late Bob Ellis kind, the one-time False Prophet of Palm Beach, to predict that asylum seekers “will” arrive by boat in the next three months. Sure, this might happen – but then it might not.

As to your man Burnside’s suggestion that Prime Minister Morrison “will” instruct Operation Sovereign Borders to let some unlawful boat arrivals to land on Australian shores – this is just bunkum.  Does m’learned friend really believe that any such instruction could be kept confidential in the lead-up to an election – or that Prime Minister Scott Morrison would be so foolish as to do such a thing, even if he thought it might be politically beneficial in the short term?  Apparently JB AO QC thinks he does.  How foolish can you get?

Julian Burnside – Media Fool of the Week.




The evidence suggests that ABC Radio National Breakfast presenter Fran Kelly did not take a sufficiently lengthy Well-Earned Break – as many journalists like to call leave or holidays.  You see, it seems that Ms Kelly is becoming increasingly frustrated when interviewing Coalition ministers.  Compare, for example, her recent aggressive interview with Mathias Cormann (12 February) with her soft interviews with Labor’s Penny Wong (also 12 February) and the former Liberal Party MP – now Independent – Julia Banks (11 February).

Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly was at her aggressive best – or worst – when interviewing Attorney-General Christian Porter yesterday about the legal implications of the medevac legislation – introduced by Labor, Independents and The Greens. It provides for medical evacuations from Manus Island and Nauru for asylum seekers/refugees deemed by medical professionals to need treatment and/or assessment in Australia.

As anyone who listened to the program yesterday would be aware, the presenter would not accept the Attorney-General’s view – which he said was supported by legal advice – that the medevac legislation was flawed to the extent that it would not allow for anyone to be returned to Manus Island or Nauru following treatment/assessment in Australia.

When it came to the follow-up discussions with regular RN Breakfast commentator Phil Coorey, Fran Kelly saw fit to read out a Tweet from a listener who asserted that any fault in the legislation was the responsibility of – wait for it – the Morrison government.  Despite the fact that the Coalition had opposed the legislation. Let’s go to the transcript:

Fran Kelly: I’ve infuriated at least one listener who points out that legislation, all legislation, is drafted by parliamentary drafters employed by the government.  And part of their responsibility is to close the loopholes. It’s not Labor’s responsibility.  Is that a fair point?

Phil Coorey: I don’t know, perhaps so.  But I mean, there wasn’t a great deal of scrutiny on this legislation before it was through.  But I figured if parliament was sitting there’s no reason why, as you put to the Attorney General, it couldn’t be amended to close this loophole if indeed it does exist.

Fran Kelly: Yeah, indeed.

This is not a fair point at all.  Parliamentary drafters act in accordance with the advice of parliamentarians initiating legislation. The Coalition cannot be blamed for deficiencies in legislation drawn up by public servants at the request of non-government parliamentarians. To maintain the opposite is absolute tosh.

As for the closing utterance – “Yeah, indeed” – this was Ms Kelly agreeing with Mr Coorey who agreed with her.  How frightfully Aunty.


While on the topic of the coverage of the asylum seekers on the ABC, here are examples of presenters/commentators on the taxpayer funded public broadcaster channelling the (alleged) thoughts of people smugglers.

٠ Leigh Sales on 7.30, 12 February 2019

Leigh Sales: But for your [Peter Dutton] theory to be true, people smugglers will have to offer a product like this: Okay, you can get on a boat to Australia, but there is a very high chance that you will be turned back. If you’re not turned back, you might be sent to Nauru and Manus Island. If you’re there, you might be able to get two doctors to sign off on a medical evacuation for yourself. The minister might allow that to happen. If you get to Australia, you might be able to lodge a court action and find yourself staying in Australia.” She added: “That doesn’t sound like a very attractive product.”

٠Malcolm Farr on ABC Radio Sydney Drive with Richard Glover, 12 February 2019

Malcolm Farr: It’s difficult to imagine the people smugglers’ marketing pitch: “Okay you give me just about every cent that you have and I’ll make sure that you go to this godforsaken island where you will live in the most wretched conditions for 5 or 6 years, possibly – see your children grow up in what are essentially dumps, without proper education or medical attention. And then maybe, you never know your luck, maybe possibly you might get to go to Australia if you are sick enough.”

Richard Glover: If you are sick enough. Yeah, that’s right….

How naïve can you get? It seems that both Leigh Sales and Malcolm Farr really believe that people smugglers speak the truth to their clients and highlight the reasons not to take a boat to Australia.  In fact, people smugglers regularly lie to asylum seekers about their trade.  They point out the possibility of making it to Australia. They do not focus on the risks of the trip by sea or the chances of not succeeding in their aim.

Also, it’s a bit much for Malcolm Farr to state that Manus Island and Nauru are essentially “dumps”.  Compared with what, precisely? Compared with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) camps in parts of Africa and Asia – Manus Island and Nauru are anything but dumps.  Moreover, neither Manus Island nor Nauru is “godforsaken”.

Yet Richard Glover agreed with Malcolm Farr’s account of people smugglers’ pitch and accepted Malcolm Farr’s put-down of two of Australia’s Pacific neighbours.




Due to enormous popular demand, MWD has 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.

Thanks to the avid Melbourne-based reader who drew MWD’s attention to the following opinion proffered by ABC Melbourne Radio 774 presenter Jon Faine when interviewing George Megalogenis on Tuesday:

Jon Faine: John Howard famously said, you know, “you just fly over Asia” and Paul Keating famously said “no we have to engage” – where are we now?

For the record, George Megalogenis made no comment in response to the claim.  Certainly Paul Keating said that Australia had to engage with Asia. This was hardly an original position.  After all, Australian governments had been engaging with Asia since at least the election of Joseph Lyons’ Coalition government in late 1931.

However, there is no evidence that former prime minister John Howard ever said “you just fly over Asia”. In fact, the Howard government, between March 1996 and November 2007, was deeply engaged with Asia.

So what is the source for Jon Faine’s opinion that Mr Howard ever said that “you just fly over Asia”?  He did not cite one – and presumably he just made this up.  But don’t expect a correction or an apology.  To your man Faine – being a journalist means never having to say you’re sorry.

As to Mr Faine’s claim that John Howard said that “you just fly over Asia” – sounds somewhat opinionated, don’t you think?


 DAVID DAY vs ANNE HENDERSON re Robert Menzies and Winston Churchill

Due to the popularity of MWD’s scoreboards, Issue 340 re-visits the case of the historian David Day.

As veteran avid readers will be aware, Dr Day (for a doctor he is) was asked to back up the claim in his book Menzies & Churchill At War that Mr Menzies wanted to replace Winston Churchill as the prime minister of Britain in 1941 and that there was substantial support in London at the time for this to occur.

In July 2014 – close to five years ago – MWD requested that David Day provide the name of any biographer of Churchill or any historian of 20th Century Britain who supported his claim in Menzies & Churchill At War. On 8 July 2014, your man Day advised that he was flat out like a lizard drinking and too busy to provide evidence to support his assertion re Mr Menzies and Mr Churchill.

Apparently Dr Day is still flat out like a lizard drinking today – a mere 1651 days later.  Or could it be that the learned doctor has no evidence to support his assertion?  Surely not.  Now here’s a Scoreboard update in the dispute between authors David Day and Anne Henderson on this matter.


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).


Last week’s hugely popular “Can You Bear It?” segment ran an item titled “The Sage of Templestowe’s Wife Won’t Let Him Run Against Kevin Andrews In Menzies”. The reference was to Stephen Mayne’s comment on Q&A (on 11 February 2019) that he would like to run against Liberal MP Kevin Andrews in the Melbourne seat of Menzies as an Independent – but his wife did not want him to do so.  In “Can You Bear It?”, Hendo corrected some errors made by your man Mayne on Q&A concerning Kevin Andrews.  Following which, Mr Mayne wrote a polite letter to MWD – and received a courteous reply from Gerard Henderson AC (aka Always Courteous).  Now read on:

Stephen Mayne to Gerard Henderson – 15 February 2019

Hi Gerard, interesting comments about BA Santamaria and Kevin Andrews in your Media Watchdog column today.

Could you tell me a bit more about their relationship? Was it deep? Was Mr Santamaria a mentor of the extremely conservative, anti-abortion and anti-euthanasia Catholic who currently represents Menzies.

Also, I’m puzzled by your claim that the DLP hasn’t existed for a long time.

Don’t you remember Senator Madigan.

It was only weeks ago in Victoria that I was talking to the DLP state secretary about their excellent pokies policy.

When referring to Kevin as a “DLP impostor” I was clearly referencing his conservative social views and if there was previously a tight relationship with Mr Santamaria, wouldn’t that strengthen the claim?

Best as always,

Stephen Mayne

Gerard Henderson to Stephen Mayne – 20 February 2019                               


Thanks for your note of last Friday evening.  My responses to your questions are as follows:

▪ Your reference to Kevin Andrews – as an “extremely conservative, anti-abortion and anti-euthanasia Catholic” is a bit over the top.  As I understand it, Kevin Andrews’ positions on these issues is consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church going back centuries.  This does not make him extremely conservative – although, obviously, he is a social conservative.  By the way, a number of other faiths are opposed to abortion and euthanasia – as are a number of non-believers.

▪ I covered B.A. Santamaria’s relationship with both Tony Abbott and Kevin Andrews in my book Santamaria: A Most Unusual Man (MUP, 2015) at pages 296-297:

Nor did Santamaria encourage conservative Catholics to join the Liberal Party.  At the time of his death, the two Liberal MPs who were most in agreement with Santamaria’s philosophy were Tony Abbott and Kevin Andrews….

In 1994, Abbott asked Santamaria for a reference for use in his pre-selection [for Warringah].  During an interview on 8 May 2000, Abbott recalled the occasion:

I asked Santa for a reference for my pre-selection. And Santa said to me: “I don’t think it will do you any good”. And I said to him: “Well let me be the judge of that.”  He said: “Well, let me think about it and come back to you”.  And he came back to me about 24 hours later and said: “Look, Tony, I just don’t think I can do it.”  And I said: “How come?” And he said: “I just don’t think at my time in life I really should be writing references for people in Liberal Party pre-selections”.  Anyway, I said: “I don’t agree with you Bob, but it’s your call.”

And then, of course, I won the pre-selection. And I think there was a slight sense of disappointment that I had disproven his deep conviction that someone who was very publicly a Catholic – as opposed to simply, quietly and unobtrusively a Catholic – could get anywhere inside the Liberal Party. I think he always regarded me as a bit of a jarring figure in his intellectual and social landscape because I was a public Catholic and still it didn’t appear to be stopping me from going places inside the Liberal Party.

Andrews had a not dissimilar experience.  Unlike Abbott, he had not been active in the NCC.  Andrews first met Santamaria when, as a residential student in Newman College at Melbourne University, he and a group of friends decided to establish a Daniel Mannix Lecture – and asked Santamaria to deliver the inaugural oration in October 1977. Over the next decade or so, Andrews met Santamaria on about ten occasions.  There were also irregular telephone conversations.

Andrews was not a long-term Liberal member prior to contesting Menzies. Before deciding to enter the pre-selection ballot, he visited Santamaria at his office.  He recalled that the NCC president was not at all encouraging and seemed to exhibit a negative attitude to party politics in general – and to the Liberal Party in particular.  Andrews commented that, if Santamaria were intent on influencing Liberal MPs, he would have expected to receive invitations to NCC board lunches – along with regular telephone calls – once he became a parliamentarian.  This did not happen. Insofar as the euthanasia debate was concerned – in which the Liberal Party MP for Menzies was active – Andrews had much more contact with Dr Joseph N. Santamaria (at St Vincent’s Hospital) than with his older brother, Bob.

In short, the answer to your question is: No – the relationship between Kevin Andrews and B.A. Santamaria was not deep.

▪ You seem under the misapprehension that Bob Santamaria (and his National Civic Council) was close to the Liberal Party.  Mr Santamaria always said that he never voted for the Liberal Party.  He voted Labor up to the 1955 Split and then for the Democratic Labor Party.  After the DLP went out of existence in 1978, it seems that Santamaria voted informal – certainly this was the case in 1983 when Bob Hawke defeated Malcolm Fraser.  While B.A. Santamaria got on well with Robert Menzies (after the latter’s retirement) and Malcolm Fraser (during his early years as Liberal Party leader) he was never close to the party and was a constant public critic of the Liberals.

▪ The Democratic Labor Party (DLP) was formed following the Labor Party Split of 1955.  The DLP was primarily strong in Victoria and Queensland. At the 1974 double dissolution election, all the incumbent DLP senators were defeated –  Frank McManus and Jack Little in Victoria, Condon Byrne in Queensland (Vince Gair had resigned from the DLP in early 1974) and Jack Kane in NSW.  After that the DLP was a substantially diminished force and – where it ran candidates – performed very poorly in the December 1975 double dissolution election.

What was officially termed the Democratic Labor Party (Victorian Branch) was formally wound-up at a Special Conference held on 19 March 1978.  This decision was reported by Jim Brosnan in an article titled “The Final Curtain” which was published in the May 1978 edition of The Democrat, the official origin of the DLP in Victoria.

▪ Yes, of course, I remember John Madigan – who was elected in the Senate as a DLP candidate in 2011 (he quit the party three years later).  But there are no legal or even causal links between the DLP which was formed in the second half of the 1950s and the party which was revived circa 2000 – some three decades after the DLP was formally wound-up.  Many of those who set up the DLP circa 2000 were the grandchildren or grandnephews or grandnieces of the men and women who were members of the original party between 1955 and 1978.

Sure, you recently met the DLP’s state secretary in Victoria.  However, this would be the equivalent of meeting an official in a couple of decades time who has re-established a Democrats party.  As you know, the Democrats (which was established in 1976) effectively died in 2008 and were formally de-registered in 2016.

▪ Kevin Andrews is not a “DLP impostor” because he was never a member of the DLP and was only 22 years old when it ceased to exist.  Moreover, as previously explained, he did not have a deep relationship with B.A. Santamaria. In any event, Mr Santamaria was never a member of the DLP and – as I explained in Santamaria: A Most Unusual Man – he had a difficult relationship with the likes of Frank McManus and Vince Gair (but not with Jack Kane).

In conclusion, I should state that I regard your reference to Kevin Andrews as a “DLP impostor” as a manifestation of anti-Catholic sectarianism.  It’s a way of saying “conservative Catholic” without using the term. Your appearance on Q&A refers.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

Stephen Mayne to Gerard Henderson – 20 February 2019

Thanks Gerard, appreciate you taking the time to spell all that out.


Stephen M

Gerard Henderson to Stephen Mayne – 21 February 2019


It was an absolute pleasure.

Keep Morale High.


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Jackie’s (male) co-owner turned on Sky News’ Paul Murray Live on Sunday, just after a post-dinner Gin & Tonic, only to find Paul Murray, at the top of the program, bagging Hendo – even to the extent of linking him with lotsa leftie luvvies.  Since Mr Murray has never invited Gerard Henderson on his program to correct previous errors concerning him – there was no alternative but to send an email.  No reply was received. Quelle Surprise! Here we go:

Gerard Henderson to Paul Murray – 18 February 2019


Your Howler on PML re my Book

I refer to your comments re Melbourne University Publishing’s list on Paul Murray Live last night.  This following Stephen Romei’s “exclusive” story in The Weekend Australian on Saturday which you seemed to latch on to without acknowledgement.

In introducing the segment, you declared that “no one cares about political books”.  And you spoke about how few books have actually been sold to “normal people by the Twitterati – by the people who have big Twitter followings, endless appearances over there on Channel 2 and plenty of cuddles from the left.”  You later included me in the group you described as “political somebodies, media nobodies” and added that “no one actually buys” the books of this group.  This is mere abuse followed by hyperbole.

You listed me among the MUP authors – along with Michelle Payne, Maxine McKew, Barrie Cassidy, Gillian Triggs, Greg Combet, Quentin Bryce, Tony Windsor, Sam Dastyari, Christopher Pyne, Bill Shorten, Sarah Hanson-Young and Jane Caro. The names on the Sky News screen also covered Gareth Evans, Ray Martin, Katharine Murphy, Kim Carr and Germaine Greer.

In response, I make the following comments:

▪ If you had bothered to do any fact-checking you would have learnt that the only book I have published with MUP is not a “political book”. B.A. Santamaria: A Most Unusual Man (MUP, 2015) – which was launched by Tony Abbott – is a biography.  So, it is not comparable with the books by any of the MUP sources you mentioned last night.

Santamaria: A Most Unusual Man was published in MUP’s The Miegunyah Press series. This is set aside for scholarly works. By the way, my biography was well received by both supporters and critics of the late B.A. Santamaria.

▪ I did not request – or receive – an advance for Santamaria.  The book sold out – and is now available on a POD (Print on Demand) basis as well as on E book. By the way, the sales figures you cited last night did not cover direct book sales or E book sales.  All copies of Santamaria purchased as direct sales by The Sydney Institute were sold at the full recommended retail price.  It seems that you have scant knowledge of book marketing. You should have read Stephen Romei’s report more carefully.

▪ Contrary to your assertion last night, I do not tweet and I do not make “endless appearances” on the ABC (in 2018 I made seven appearances on the ABC across all platforms).  Nor am I a member of “the left”.  You just made all this up.

▪ Last night you expressed condescension at virtually all MUP’s “political books”. But you were somewhat selective in the authors you cited – particularly those whom you ridiculed for what you regard as low sales.  I note that you did not mention such MUP authors as Tony Abbott, Paul Kelly and David Speers. Nor did you mention your “bestie” Derryn Hinch (who according to the statistics you used last night sold 806 books), Mark Latham, Sam Crosby and Dee Madigan – all of whom have made regular appearances on Paul Murray Live.  All this suggests that you bag the (alleged) political books of those whom you do not like but forgive any MUP authors who appear on Paul Murray Live.

▪ I do not believe it is smart for a Sky News presenter to judge the success, or otherwise, of any book by its sales alone.  As you know, Sky News is mocked by some ABC types for what are alleged low ratings.  However, this overlooks the fact that Sky News – both before and after dark – attracts an influential and important audience.  It is foolish and immature to judge the success of a program on its ratings alone – or a book on its sales alone.

If your analysis is correct, then high-selling author Peter FitzSimons is Australia’s best historian – far ahead of even Professor Geoffrey Blainey.  Moreover, as you may or may not know, Henry James sold relatively few books during his life.  Peter FitzSimons’ work is historical sludge, Henry James is one of America’s finest writers.

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In conclusion, I should state that – like your counterparts at the ABC – you rarely correct, still less apologise for, errors.  So, I do not expect that you will correct your howler last night which confused a considered biography with a “political book”.

Also, like your counterparts at the ABC, you do not allow people you have falsely criticised on air (like myself) a right of reply.  As you are aware, former Sky News supremo Angelos Frangopoulos personally apologised to me for what he described as your “unfair” treatment of me some years ago – and, in particular, your refusal to invite me on to Paul Murray Live to state my case. This demonstrated a lack of intellectual courage on your part.

Since I do not expect to hear from you in this instance, I have circulated my email to some of your colleagues – including a couple who appeared as guests on Paul Murray Live last night.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

cc:     Paul Whittaker

David Speers

Michael Kroger

Georgina Downer


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Until next time.


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