ISSUE – NO. 442

8 March 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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Could it have been the post-dinner port interrupting MWD’s understanding? MWD tuned in on Sky News’ Paul Murray Live last night – and was overwhelmed by the Melbourne-based Herald Sun national political editor James Campbell’s stream-of-consciousness bluster about the Sydney Football Stadium (aka Allianz Stadium). As readers may or may not know, Allianz Stadium is scheduled to be demolished and a modern facility constructed in its place.  Now – let’s hear from your man Campbell:

James Campbell: Yeah, I mean I, I guess, I remember picking up the paper when the original plan, they were gonna do two or three [stadiums] at once, and I remember thinking – Jeez I love New South Wales. Like, one of the kind of great, like, permanent comparative advantages that Victoria has is that New South Wales is basically run by idiots. Like they got, whatever billion dollars they got for selling their power system and they’re gonna spend, they were gonna spend one point something [billion] of it on a bunch of footie stadiums. Like I, I hope they–

I wish they’d spend the whole lot on footie stadiums. Like, really, that’s an important use of their money. I just don’t. It’s just cack-handed politics. It’s like, it so obviously looks like everything’s being done to please a bunch of stakeholders, you know. And I’m not saying that the VFL, sorry the AFL, doesn’t get its way around here [in Melbourne]. I mean it does. Like you know what the AFL gets it wants [sic]. But, you know, [NSW] Labor’s managed, as you said, to play itself back into this simply by, you know, because people don’t, I don’t think people like the fact that these stakeholders get their way and they get their hand into the, into the cookie jar, with the ease with which they get it.

And you know, good on this bloke [Opposition leader Michael Daley] for standing up and saying “нет” [no in Russian]. I think that going, I mean, I thought it was a coldblooded and clever thing he did going on [Alan] Jones and just saying “no”. It struck me in some ways as very similar to Ted Baillieu in 2010 down here saying “I’m putting the Greens last”. People went “Oh wow, this guy’s not just, this guy means something, he stands for something”.

It was, and it also, you know, the fact that he was going up against a bloke, it was man-on-man thing, meant that as an aggressive act, it didn’t kind of, it was better for him than it would’ve been if he was, when he’s attacking the Premier who’s a woman. I just, I think it was, it was a, it was a stroke of genius and if he [Daley] wins this election I think we’ll look back on it and say “That was where he won it”.

Well, that’s all pretty clear then?  Especially to PML viewers in, say, Perth or Hobart.


This is how the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age announced on-line yesterday its latest article in its anti-George Pell series, which has now extended over two decades. The piece was written by long-term Pell antagonist Barney Zwartz. [As readers will be aware, George Pell was convicted on five counts of historic child sexual abuse. He maintains his innocence and his appeal will be held in early June. Sentencing will take place next Wednesday. – MWD Editor.]

The Sydney Morning Herald (@smh)
7/3/19, 12:16 pm

George Pell was accused in 1996 – the year he became Melbourne archbishop – of having had sex with trainee priests. The uncorroborated complaint was never finalised by the…

So this was a big story – with the strong headline “Church knew Pell was at centre of decades-old lurid sex claims”. Let go to the first five paragraphs of the Barney Zwartz column to see if the evidence matches the headline:

The claims were lurid and unverified so Helen Last, the counsellor hired by the Catholic Church in Melbourne to assist victims of clerical abuse, agonised before reporting them to her superiors.

It was 1996 and the newly appointed archbishop, George Pell, had just set up the Melbourne Response to handle the rising numbers of sex abuse claims received by the archdiocese.

An ex-seminarian known as ‘‘Joe’’ came forward alleging that Pell and several other priests had, 10 to 15 years earlier, been having sex with Mannix College trainee clerics at ‘‘parties … involving young men’’.

Joe was not a strong witness. He wanted $20,000 for compromising photographs that appeared to be of Pell and others engaged in sexual acts, but could not produce the negatives. Despite this, Ms Last felt she could not dismiss Joe’s allegations.

She reported the claims to her superior and also to the vicar-general, Monsignor Gerald Cudmore (who died in 2007)….

So what is the extent of Barney Zwartz’s evidence?

A man named only “Joe” approached Helen Last, who happened to be a Pell critic, and told her that he had compromising photos which “appeared to be of Pell and others engaged in sexual acts”. Just appeared.  “Joe” wanted $20,000 (in 1996 money) for the photos. But he could not produce the negatives.  At first instance, this looks like an attempt at bribery based on dodgy photographs.  But it’s enough for The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald to give Barney Zwartz’s beat-up a whole page in today’s Nine newspapers – suggesting that somewhere between 1986 and 1991 Pell was having sex with young men (not boys).

This is a story based on no evidence at all.   Yet Nine’s editors chose to highlight Pell antagonist Zwartz’s beat-up on the eve of Pell’s sentencing in the Victorian County Court. So the decades long media pile-on against Pell continues.

Can You Bear It


Thanks to The Australian’s “Media” editor Nick Tabakoff for drawing attention in his column on 25 February to this pic of Sydney Morning Herald/Sun-Herald columnist Peter FitzSimons’ recent party in honour of SMH journalist Julia Baird – one of MWD’s faves.  It was held in Fitz’s fashionable Neutral Bay abode.

That’s the Red Bandannaed One in the centre of the back row.  Other luvvies in the pic include Mia Friedman, Kate McClymont, David Marr, Dr Julia Baird (for a doctor she is), Nigella Lawson (on a visit to Sydney), Tim Minchin, Norman Swan, Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales. [Where was Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly, I wonder? – MWD Editor.]

Now here’s a challenge. Can any avid MWD reader suggest any topic on which this collection of luvvies – mostly from the ABC, Nine’s newspapers and The Guardian – might have disagreed? Also, who might have taken the photo – possibilities are Tony Jones, Emma Alberici or perhaps Phillip (“Have I told you that I was once a teenage commo”) Adams AO, AM, Hon DUniv (Griffith), Hon DLitt (ECU), Hon DUniv (SA), DLitt (Syd) [sic], Hon. DUniv (Macquarie), FRSA, Hon FAHA.

Has there ever been such a collection of well-heeled luvvies assembled in Neutral Bay at the invitation of a leftist who wears a red rag on his head? Can You Bear It?


While on the subject of Annabel Crabb, didn’t she put on a wonderful performance on the ABC TV Insiders program on 24 February 2019?  Jackie’s (male) co-owner just loved Ms Crabb’s historical references.

Early in the program, the ABC fave looked at Julie Bishop and saw Joan of Arc:

Annabel Crabb: So on Thursday Julie Bishop rides out of parliament in her Joan-of-Arc-esque white armour, and leaving, I think it would be fair to say, a reasonably firm impression that she thought it’d be a good idea if a woman replaced her in the seat of Curtin – a little nod to the Liberal Party’s issues with ladies at present.

Then towards the end of Insiders, Annabel of Crabb looked at Michaelia Cash and saw – wait for it – the End of The Roman Empire. And before it the controversy as to who advised media of the Australian Federal Police raid on the Australian Workers Union of recent memory.

Annabel Crabb: …You know, this started because a guy at the Registered Organisation Commission was talking to Michaelia Cash’s staffer sort of about the possibility of that person coming and working for Michaelia Cash. So, there’s this kind of weird back channel sort of “oh by the way this is happening, you might be interested”. Okay fan out, brief the media, all of a sudden you’ve got all of these cameras at this raid. Like, the nucleus of this controversy is a kind of weird, jobs for the boys situation which feeds into everything else we’re seeing at the moment. It’s kind of like the Last Days of Rome, you know, you’ve got people scathing through to try and get to the election –

A fascinating set of historical comparisons to be sure.  All that was missing in Annabel Crabb’s analysis was a reference to The Charge of the Light Brigade. Can You Bear It?


As avid readers are aware, the “Newspapers” gig on the ABC TV News Breakfast program is MWD’s fave segment.   Especially when the presenters agree with the guest on, er, everything.

And so it came to pass on Wednesday when Melbourne based presenters Lisa Millar and Michael Rowland spoke to Melbourne-based guest Danni Hunter (Urban Development Institute of Australia) about the decision of the NSW Coalition government to demolish the Allianz Stadium – sometimes termed the Sydney Football Stadium – in inner-city Sydney and build a new stadium on the site.  Let’s go to the transcript as three current Melburnians talk about the topic of which they know little. [Trigger warning – it was a difficult discussion to transcribe since the trio at times spoke over each other in agreement – and occasionally laughed out loud at the (alleged) foolishness of those who do not agree with them on the plight of the Allianz Stadium  in Sydney. – MWD Editor.]

Lisa Millar: This next story that you’ve picked up, I think is fascinating. You don’t need to be a Sydney-sider–

Michael Rowland: No.

Lisa Millar: To find it fascinating. Talk us through it.

Danni Hunter: So, the opposition leader in New South Wales, Michael Daley, has vowed to sack the entire board of thirteen members, who, some of whom, like Alan Jones, have been on the board of the Sydney Cricket Ground for 30 years or more. There’s two women of thirteen board positions so he’s taken a gender-angle. But also really just gone after them for their support of the destruction and build of the Allianz Stadium on the site.

Lisa Millar: And why, of course, this becomes an even bigger deal is one of the board members happens to be Alan Jones.

Danni Hunter: That’s right. Yes. So–

Lisa Millar: And the interaction between the two of them on radio yesterday was something to behold–

Danni Hunter: Fiery.

Lisa Millar: Because I think Alan Jones is not used to having people–

Michael Rowland: No he’s not

Lisa Millar: Fight back–

Michael Rowland: No he’s not.

Lisa Millar: And have a politician who doesn’t bow to his superiority on all things

Danni Hunter: That’s right. And maybe there is an era coming to an end there.

Michael Rowland: Well, and I think and Labor’s sources have told journalists up there [in NSW] that it was a calculated move by Michael Daley. The Premier Gladys Berejiklian was saying in the minutes after the interview it was a hot-headed, off the cuff response from Michael Daley. But uh, I mean, it could be–

Lisa Millar: Perhaps it’s more strategic than we think.

Michael Rowland: Yes there could be something in this, as you say Lisa.

Lisa Millar : On air he basically told Alan Jones–

Michael Rowland: He went–

Someone: That he’d be–

Michael Rowland: Yep–

Someone: Sacked from the board–

Michael Rowland: Yep. Yep.

Danni Hunter : You’ll be gone, you’ll be gone.

Lisa Millar: And Alan Jones said, “Well we volunteer, we volunteer”. He was so like he was, it was like [*laughs*], you know.

Danni Hunter : Well there will be a whole lot of volunteers putting their hands up.

Michael Rowland: Well exactly. Will it, – it’s the rare sight of a politician in New South Wales actually taking this man on, and not just taking this man on, but taking him on face-to-face on his program. Will it result in electoral dividends for Michael Daley?

Danni Hunter : Well that’s right. It, it, it, it is good. Just as the media should challenge politicians, politicians should challenge media personalities and their say.

Lisa Millar: Now, we’ve also, we’ve got a great, very interesting development happening in Melbourne around Federation Square…

And now for some facts – free of mocking laughter.

٠There is an argument about the Berejiklian government’s timing of its decision to re-build the Sydney Football Stadium in Moore Park. This stadium accommodates the codes of rugby, rugby league and football (aka soccer).

However, few Sydneysiders believe that Allianz Stadium is fit for purpose.  It is not safe if there were a sudden evacuation. It has a huge deficit of female toilets.  Its catering facilities are hopeless in the modern age.  And more besides.

The NSW government proposed to spend $2 billion to re-build – a small fraction of the current infrastructure build in NSW. The proposal is supported by various government authorities, including Infrastructure NSW.

٠ In recent years State governments outside of NSW have provided substantial funds to build modern stadiums in Melbourne (two, in fact), Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. This means that Sydney, Australia’s largest city, has the nation’s worst sporting facilities. Sydney Olympic Park is not fit for purpose since it does not meet the requirement of any of the football codes. This is not good for either the state or national economy.

It’s true that Labor Opposition leader Michael Daley clashed with 2GB presenter Alan Jones on radio this week.  But the argument occurred with reference to the Sydney Cricket Ground Trust which has a fiduciary duty to ensure that the Sydney Football Ground is a safe and efficient place for customers, players and staff.  Mr Jones is a member of the Sydney Cricket Ground Trust.

Allianz Stadium is unlikely to remain in situ whichever party wins the NSW election on 23 March 2019. Yet, according to the Melbourne trio on the Newspapers couch on Wednesday, the sporting facilities in Sydney are quite okay and an occasion to mock Alan Jones.  In other words, a BIG JOKE.  Can You Bear It?


And now for some good news.

As avid readers are well aware, speaking on ABC TV’s Lateline on 7 April 2009 presenter Tony Jones told (then) environment minister Peter Garrett the upper level of sea level rises by the end of the century “could be as much as six metres”. Yes, six metres.

So it was good news indeed when on ABC Radio AM yesterday, Thomas Oriti reported a comment to the effect that “if the current rate of ice melt continues, sea levels could rise six inches by the year 2100”.

Six inches by 2100. Six metres by 2100.  What’s 19 feet 2 inches between friends? Can You Bear It?

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 Peter Comensoli, the Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, following the conviction of Cardinal George Pell on five counts of historic child sexual abuse. The other 21 charges were dropped.  Jon Faine interviewed Archbishop Comensoli on 27 February 2019 following news that George Pell would appeal the verdict to the Court of Appeal in Victoria. Let’s go to the transcript:

Jon Faine: Some of the appeal points border on the absurd. One of them is that the jury were not properly selected. The jury couldn’t all fit in the court room so there was an overflow room, video conferencing was used. The defence were asked if they had any concerns about it. At the time they said, “no we have no concerns about it”. Now they use it as an appeal point.

Peter Comensoli: As I understand these sort of processes – the submission is made by the defence as to which particular areas of appeal, I think. As I understand it, the three key areas were put up. One is whether the jury was properly prepared. I think there is an appeal at the level of whether the jury could come to the reasonable decision that they have. And there is a third area that I can’t remember off the top of my head.

Fair enough.  Neither Archbishop Comensoli nor the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne had any role whatsoever in the R v George Pell trial.  So there is no reason why Archbishop Comensoli should know about the grounds of appeal in a case concerning which he had no involvement.

What about Mr Faine’s claim that some of George Pell’s points of appeal “border on the absurd”?  Well, that sounds somewhat opinionated – don’t you think?  Over to you Hamish Macdonald.

On another point. Jon (“I don’t correct my mistakes”) Faine’s comment to Archbishop Comensoli was hopelessly wrong.  Late on Thursday last week, George Pell’s grounds of appeal were released by the Court of Appeal.  The third ground (of three) is as follows:

There was a fundamental irregularity in the trial process because the accused was not arraigned in the presence of the jury panel, as required by sections 210 and 217 of the Criminal Procedure Act of 2009.

Jon Faine made his erroneous comment before George Pell’s grounds of appeal were released.  In fact, the third ground has nothing to do with whether the jury was “properly selected” but rather turns on whether the accused was arraigned as required by Sections 210 and 217 of the Criminal Procedure Act.

Mr Faine, presumably acting on gossip and rumour, just made this up.  But don’t expect a correction for his prejudicial statement – still less an apology.  ABC stars like Jon Faine act according to the mantra that – being a journalist means you never have to make a correction.


 As avid readers are aware, MWD is the enemy of hyperbole and false prophecy (which, really, is all prophecy). So, it has decided to single out exaggerations and false predictions on a regular basis – commencing last week. Jackie (Dip, Wellness, The Gunnedah Institute) has been put on the case. Here’s her report for this week.


On Monday, ABC Radio National Breakfast introduced an interview between presenter Fran Kelly and Greg Bourne (an advocate for the Climate Council of Australia) as follows – according to the program notes:

The Morrison government insists carbon emissions are declining and Australia will meet its Paris commitments. This is despite the latest Environment Department report showing a continuing pattern of increases over the past five years. Although Energy Minister Angus Taylor and Prime Minister Scott Morrison insist Australia is on track to meet its Paris target of reducing emissions by 26 to 28 per cent by 2030, more than two dozen climate and energy experts disagree — they’ve issued a joint statement to declare their stance.

Now let’s go to the transcript to witness part of the soft interview which Ms Kelly gave Mr Bourne:

Greg Bourne: It is legal to hold the [Kyoto] offset, it has not yet been agreed whether or not those credits can be carried over to meet the Paris commitments. Those rules have not yet been made. The fact that they’re [the credits] on your books is one thing. Whether you can carry them to meet your Paris targets, that has not yet been decided. But one thing that is absolutely decided by all the other countries in the world is that it would be morally wrong, morally reprehensible –

Fran Kelly: Why? Because the Minister [Angus Taylor] says these are offsets that we’ve made, these are emissions that we’ve cut.

Greg Bourne: We could go back in history Fran and Australia had the easiest, easiest targets in the first Kyoto period. A very easy target in the second Kyoto period. It was always going to be the case that Australia would meet its first Kyoto period, and always was going to be the case that it would have credits. And in fact, many, many countries in the world looked at Australia and said “this is reprehensible behaviour”. Now using those credits right now, and trying to be able to carry them forward, will be seen by every other country as – “this is just disgusting, just disgusting”.

Fran Kelly: You’re listening to RN Breakfast.

Quite so.  But how about Greg Bourne’s assertion that if Australia carries over its Kyoto credits to meet its Paris targets – then “all the other countries in the world” would regard such a decision as “morally wrong, morally reprehensible”.  And that “every other country in the world”, apart from Australia, would regard Australia’s decision as “disgusting, just disgusting”. Everyone?  Including the United States at the time of President Donald J. Trump? Turn it up.

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).


As avid readers who read former ABC journalist and current The New Daily scribbler Quentin Dempster’s tweet last Saturday, anti-Catholic sectarianism is once again all the rage in the Antipodes. A throwback to a century or more ago.

[For those who did not see Quentin Dempster’s rant-by-twitter, it is republished in today’s Correspondence segment below. – MWD Editor]

On Sunday, ABC presenter Ellen Fanning issued this timely warning:

Ellen Fanning:Journo (@ellenmfanning)
3/3/19, 2:57 pm

I am increasingly disturbed by the anti-Papist sentiment evident in Australia. A brilliant local priest – kind and a servant to the poor- reports being abused, spat at in public in Sydney.There’s a disturbing history of anti-Catholic sentiment in Australia – let’s be very careful…

Ellen Fanning: Five Paws.


This is what the Red Bandannaed One wrote on his “Fitz on Sunday” column in the Sun-Herald last Sunday about Liberal MP Craig Kelly: [Strange. Didn’t it used to be called “The Fitz Files”? – MWD Editor]

Me? I love the words of Dorothea Mackellar’s famous poem, My Country, and recite them often: “I love a sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains, of ragged mountain ranges, of droughts and flooding rains.”

But the idea of quoting them as evidence against the reality of climate change, sheer takes my breath away. Enter the Prime Minister’s Captain’s Pick as the member for Hughes, Craig Kelly, who this week – the very week the Coalition tried to present credentials that they really do have a plan of action on climate – rallied against a textbook asserting that climate change is real. I am not making that up!

“We need to understand,” he thundered, “that we live in that same country that Dorothea Mackellar wrote about over a hundred years ago. That is why we need to prepare and help people recover from their resources instead of wasting money pretending that we can change the weather.”

Seriously, Prime Minister. Kelly was your pick as one who had to be saved, because he was so valuable to the government? If I was a LNP member defending a marginal seat, I would tell Kelly that there is a bus leaving in five minutes, and he should throw himself under it.

And here is Daily Telegraph columnist Caroline Marcus’ response:

Caroline Marcus @carolinemarcus

I’m sure Peter FitzSimons will say it was an innocent turn of phrase, but imagine if a conservative commentator said a person of the Left should throw themselves under a bus? They’d be excoriated. @CraigKellyMP

Yes it’s bitter times indeed when leftist Nine journalist Peter FitzSimons urges a member of parliament to commit suicide.  Imagine the outrage if a News Corp columnist urged, say, Penny Wong to throw herself under the bus. For the record, Fitz’s rant remains unedited on the Sydney Morning Herald website.

Caroline Marcus:   Five Paws.


Journalists invariably present themselves as a cynical/sceptical lot. Except when it comes to their own profession. Which explains why every couple of months or so the leading media types in the land like to get dressed up in their finest and present each other with awards. You know, the Quill awards and the Walkleys and the Australian Media Hall of Fame and so on. Why, in 2016, even hard-nosed Laurie Oakes rocked up in his finest to receive his gong at the Media Hall of Fame. Inspired by this momentum, Jackie (Dip. Wellness, The Gunnedah Institute), decided to initiate her very own awards last year – they continue this year. Join with MWD as we Look Back in Amusement at the Media Stars of 2018 over the next three months or so. One by one.

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There was enormous interest in last week’s segment which featured Nine’s David Crowe (who writes for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age). In an interview with Richard Glover on ABC Radio Sydney 774 on 29 August 2018, your man Crowe cited the names of conservative Liberal Party MPs Michael Sukkar, Zed Seselja, Andrew Hastie and Tony Pasin when mentioning that former Liberal Party MP Julia Banks (now the Independent MP for Banks) had been bullied during the Liberal Party leadership contest last August.  Mr Crowe made it clear that the alleged bullies came from Peter Dutton’s camp.

Er, except that they didn’t.  Julia Banks has never named the names of any (alleged) bullies.  But she told the Women’s Weekly in January 2019 that pressure was put on her to vote for Scott Morrison – rather than Julie Bishop – in the first leadership ballot. The result in this ballot in order of votes scored, was Dutton, Morrison, and Bishop – whereupon Ms Bishop was excluded from the ballot.  There is no evidence that any one of Messrs Sukkar, Seselja, Hastie or Pasin even spoke to Ms Banks during the leadership challenge.  Why would they? They were Dutton supporters and Julia Banks was never going to vote for Peter Dutton.  They had better ways to spend their time.

However, your man Crowe was not alone in this beat-up.  The ABC’s Jane Norman had this to say on ABC Radio National Breakfast shortly after the leadership change.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Jane Norman: It’s no secret that during what has been described as a horrible and bruising week of the leadership spill, there were some nasty tactics really being employed by the Dutton camp. We heard MPs speak out publicly against this. Liberal MP Julia Banks from Victoria said she was so disgusted by the bullying and intimidation that she was subjected to that she’s quitting at the next election. Her South Australian Senate colleague Lucy Gichuhi has threatened to name and shame some of the worst culprits when Parliament returns next week. So we’re starting to get a bit of a picture of just what went on down that week.

As you mentioned, MPs have told me that members of the Dutton camp would be in their office first thing in the morning and would refuse to leave until they signed the petition. One MP said it took a very terse exchange for their colleague to leave the office. The pressure apparently continued on the floor of Parliament where during divisions – when there were a couple of minutes for the senators to mull around waiting for the vote to take place – Dutton’s forces would be at it again, sitting next to people whose support was sort of wavering, putting pressure on them to sign the petition.

Now of course, the then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull had really raised the stakes at this stage. He said, show me a petition with 43 names on it and then I will call a leadership spill. So that was kind of the context of the pressure, then we understand some Liberals were even threatened with their pre-selections unless they supported Peter Dutton’s challenge and on the day of the spill. On the Friday where Scott Morrison ended up winning, we understand people from Dutton’s camp actually told MPs that they would have to show another colleague their secret ballot paper to prove which way they voted. So this has been described to me as pretty nasty and extraordinary tactics by people in the Liberal Party and obviously there is still some deep seated anger within the party directed at the people who have sort of been called the Liberal insurgents.

What a load of absolute tripe. Here’s why:

٠ There is no evidence that Julia Banks was bullied by anyone.  However, if pressure was put on her, it came from Scott Morrison’s supporters – since Ms Banks was never going to vote for Peter Dutton and there was no point in Dutton’s supporters approaching her.

٠ Senator Lucy Gichuhi never provided evidence that she was bullied by anyone during the Liberal Party leadership contest.  However, she did later allege to have been bullied during a pre-selection contest in South Australia sometime earlier.

٠ Sure, there was tension during the leadership tussle due to Malcolm Turnbull’s decision to break Liberal Party tradition by refusing to bring on a leadership ballot when asked by a challenger – in this case Peter Dutton.  Tony Abbott had provided for a leadership ballot when Malcolm Turnbull challenged him in September 2015.

٠ Instead, Mr Turnbull demanded that a majority of Liberal Party MPs sign a request for a ballot – 43 in total. This brought about a situation where there was much greater tension than usual in a leadership contest – since the prime minister junked the secret ballot. However, the instances cited by Jane Norman did not amount to bullying or even nasty tactics.

▪ It is not uncommon for politicians to show each other their ballot papers to demonstrate a promise to a particular candidate has been honoured.  Ms Norman exhibited naivety in this regard.

▪ There is no evidence that supporters of either Peter Dutton, Scott Morrison or Julia Banks threatened the pre-selections of others.  No examples have been cited.

Jane Norman’s reference to “Liberal insurgents” merely channelled the line of the Turnbull camp.  No one in the Canberra Press Gallery spoke about “insurgents” or an “insurgency” when Malcolm Turnbull successfully challenged the incumbent prime minister Tony Abbott in September 2015.

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In other words, Jane Norman’s long rant-to-camera in August 2018 was just fake news (to borrow a phrase) of the barracking kind.  But a media “highlight” of 2018 – to be sure.  Well done Ms Norman.

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 avid readers are aware, last week’s (hugely popular) Correspondence segment covered Q&A’s last minute invitation to Hendo to appear on the program on Monday.  It was the third time in three years that Hendo has been asked at late notice to do Q&A a favour to help out when its panel was so unbalanced that even left-wing executive producer Peter McEvoy was concerned.  As in 2017 and 2018, Hendo declined the late invitation but did suggest on this occasion that The Age’s John Silvester should fill the gap and provide some balance. On 27 February 2019 Mr Silvester wrote an article in the Sydney Morning Herald titled “A verdict beyond reasonable doubt?”

Gerard Henderson was asked by Mr Olney to match Viv Waller – a Pell antagonist. Kristina Keneally, another Pell antagonist, was already on the panel. So Hendo was asked to oppose two Pell antagonists.  When he declined Q&A’s invitation – Q&A went out and found – wait for it – another Pell antagonist.  To wit, Francis Sullivan.  When Hendo found out that Q&A had increased its Pell antagonists from two to three – he wrote to Q&A’s Lindsay Olney. Now read on:

Gerard Henderson to Lindsay Olney – 2 March 2019


As you may or may not know, Francis Sullivan is a long-time critic of Pell. He does not meet the criterion of someone who can speak in favour of the cardinal which you set out in your text of 27 February 2019.

It looks like another pile on with three Pell protagonists (KK, VW, FS) and [Jim] Molan in a position where it is difficult for him to support Pell for political reasons.

Yet another Q&A stack – and this does not even cover the audience and the tweets.



Lindsay Olney to Gerard Henderson – 2 March 2019

Well you should have come on Gerard. Btw it’s ‘antagonist’


Gerard Henderson to Lindsay Olney – 2 March 2019

So it is all my fault that Q&A has gone from 2 Pell antagonists to 3. The only way to balance a non-Catholic Pell antagonist like Waller is with a non-Catholic who is not a Pell antagonist. I suggested one name and can provide others.

I told you in 2017 and again in 2018 that I did not want to go on Q&A since the program had deteriorated in recent years. As I understand, quite a few conservatives hold a similar view and do not want to give a temporary legitimacy to the program which it does not warrant.

In any event Q&A only ever asks me on at late notice when it is desperate to “balance” an already stacked panel – as in this case.

Btw,I know the meaning of antagonist- as you would be aware if you read the Correspondence section on Friday in Media Watch Dog. Smart phones can get ahead of the writer.



PS to last Text:

If Q&A genuinely wants a panelist who could contest the view of Pell antagonist Waller why not try Ross Fitzgerald or Piers Akerman. I do not know if you approached John Silvester. None of this trio (like Waller) is a Catholic.

Btw, there was a typo in my earlier to you. Tony Jones said in 2011 that I was a “natural” (not “neutral’”) for Q&A. I will correct.


Gerard Henderson’s column in The Weekend Australian last Saturday stirred up some anti-Catholic sectarianism in our midst.  Like former ABC presenter and board member Quentin Dempster.  Believe it or not, Russell Skelton, the RMIT-ABC Fact Check Unit supremo and self-declared anti-conservative embraced Comrade Dempster’s tweet.  This led Hendo to email Mr Skelton.  Quelle surprise! – Russell Skelton went under the (taxpayer funded) bed and went into “no comment” mode.  MWD will let you know if your man Skelton finds the intellectual courage to respond. But don’t hold your breath. Here we go:


My attention was drawn to a tweet you put out on Sunday 3 March following Quentin Dempster’s tweet of the previous day. As a reminder, here are the tweets:

Quentin Dempster (@QuentinDempster)
2/3/19, 5:51 pm

Methinks Dr Gerard Henderson should register as an agent of influence for the state of The Holy See (Vatican) as now required by the Commonwealth of Australia for complete transparency. See ad in today’s media. #Auspol…


Russell Skelton (@Skellor)
3/3/19, 12:28 pm

⁦‪@QuentinDempster⁩ I am astonished by the criticism flowing from those who were not in court and who did not hear or see the witness testify. The jury were.

I am surprised that you would identify with Quentin Dempster’s anti-Catholic sectarian rant which is redolent of the worst excesses of the Ulster Protestant Federation papist conspiracy mantra circa 1917.  By the way, I am not a practising Catholic and I have no contact with the Vatican.

Leaving that aside, it is interesting to note your view that “those who were not in court and who did not hear or see the witness testify” have no right to question the decision of a jury.  In which case, why have a court of appeal in the first place – if all jury decision are correct? And why do some jurisdictions in Australia (but not Victoria) allow for trial by judge alone, including for high profile cases?

Do you really believe that, in the aftermath of the Lindy Chamberlain conviction for the murder of her daughter Azaria, no one was entitled to doubt the decision if they were not in court and did not hear or see the witnesses testify?

And do you hold the same view with respect to Colin Campbell Ross who was hanged in Melbourne Gaol in 1922 – following the unanimous verdict of a jury who found that he had raped and murdered 12 year old Alma Tirtschke in Melbourne the previous year?  This conviction was upheld by both the Victorian Supreme Court and the High Court.

Mr Ross always vehemently maintained his innocence.  His conviction and execution followed a media pile-on led by The Herald and Argus newspapers implying that he was guilty – despite the paucity of evidence against him. As you may, or may not, know in 1990 the key evidence was re-examined and Ross was pardoned posthumously in 2008.  By the way, in the 1920s a number of commentators insisted that Ross was not guilty of the crime – including T.C. Brennan who wrote the book The Gun Alley Tragedy.  Tom Brennan was Ross’s defence counsel. He was told by some to shut-up at the time.

In other words, is the head of the RMIT-ABC Fact Check Unit saying that every jury verdict must be accepted as safe including the Chamberlain and Ross cases?  And are you really saying that the ABC should not have run its Exposed: The Case of Keli Lane program in 2018 which queried the jury decision in the R v Lane murder case?

Over to you.



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Until next time.


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