GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG
ISSUE – NO. 443
15 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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STOP PRESS: ABC News Breakfast on Beto O’Rourke & Brexit
Can You Bear It? The Red Bandannaed One on the Newcastle Knights; The Sunday Age confuses Rugby Union with Rugby league; Julian Burnside AO QC’s Billboard with post-nominals & Maxine McKew’s Leading Question Backfires
Five Paws Award: Step forward Katharine Murphy for a rare press gallery apology
Hamish MacDonald’s Fake News: ABC presenter Jonathan Green expresses an opinion contrary to Mr MacDonald’s assurance
Great Media U-Turns of Our Time: Shane Wright on coal then and now
Jackie’s Recycling Depot: Kevin Rudd recycles Hendo’s Land of Hope and Glory Set refrain
New Feature: Who Told The Butcher? The fallibility of hearsay starring Peter Fitzsimons, David Day & Ben Chifley as a butcher boy
Correspondence: Mark Riley helps out (sort of); B.K helps out re Lindy Chamberlain
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ELECTRIC BETO’S CRUZ FUSE
When walking Jackie this morning, Gerard Henderson turned on the ABC AM program to hear a segment on Democrat Beto O’Rourke announced by Sabra Lane saying that O’Rourke had electrified the 2018 United States Senate campaign. Well, maybe – buy only in the sense that he got fried. For the fact is that the Texas based O’Rourke could not defeat Ted Cruz in the Texas Senate race. That’s the bloke Donald J. Trump once called “Lying Ted”. If O’Rourke cannot defeat Cruz in Texas he is unlikely to cause much trouble for President Trump – electrified or otherwise.
ABC TV PROMOTES APRIL FOOL’S DAY DEPARTURE FROM A BREXITED BRITAIN
On returning home, Jackie’s (male) co-owner Gerard Henderson turned on ABC TV News Breakfast and heard the very latest Brexit news as told by two Aussies in London talking to each other.
Andrew MacLeod (business man and lawyer): My gut feel still is that Theresa May’s deal is going to get over the line because the hard Brexiteers will now be scared that a delay will lead to a referendum that will lead to reversal. So I wouldn’t be surprised if both the DUP and the ERG, the European Research Group say to Theresa May: “Bring your deal back and we’ll vote for it.”
Samantha Hawley (ABC journalist): So, for Australians living in the UK, should we all kind of pack up and head home do you think? Or will we be safe here for a bit longer?
Andrew MacLeod: Well we have our blue passports already. The English have the red European passports, they’re all excited about getting blue ones back. We already have our blue ones. I think it is safe to just be aware of how many tickets are still available on Qantas Flight One on the first of April .
Turn it up. If the Hawley/MacLeod interview was pre-recorded it should have been spiked. If it was live, then the exchange was unfortunate, to say the least. Is Ms Hawley really suggesting that Australians in Britain would not be safe in a post-Brexit London? And is your man MacLeod really saying that QF1 might be the last plane from Britain to Australia – and departing on April Fool’s Day? No wonder a man can feel the call of a Gin & Tonic so early in an Australian morning.
THE RED BANDANNAED ONE CAN’T TELL A NEWCASTLE FULLBACK FROM A FIVE EIGHT
If you are an author who puts out about four books a year – even with the help of half a dozen researchers – you are bound to write a “filler” or several when it comes to filing columns for, say, the Sydney Morning Herald.
How else to explain Peter FitzSimons’ column in yesterday’s SMH titled “Time to be reminded what makes NRL great – not grate”? The Red Bandannaed One went on about, well, nothing much at all. Until he opined about Newcastle’s National Rugby League club – known as the Newcastle Knights – and its coach Nathan Brown. This is what Fitz had to say about Newcastle’s NRL team, its coach and its players Mitchell Pearce and Kalyn Ponga.
The delightful town of Newcastle, one of the tightest communities in the country, gets in behind him [Nathan Brown]. He is helped along the way by Mitchell Pearce who shows ’em all – extra points if he does it against his old club the Roosters in the grand final – by performing at the highest level in the most important match of all. And the star of the show is the most exciting player in the game, Knights fullback Kalyn Ponga, who sends a jolt of electricity through every seat in the stadium, every time he touches the ball. Does it get much better than that?
Probably not. Except that your man Fitz should know that, last November, the Newcastle Knights announced that Kalyn Ponga would in future play in the five eight position. The Red Bandannaed One is among SMH’s leading sports writers and he does not know where one of the NRL’s star players will play this year. Can You Bear It?[Perhaps the error was caused by the fact that well-heeled Fitz (Knox Grammar and Wesley College at Sydney University) is a Rugby man – not a League kind of guy. Just a thought. By the way, thanks to the avid (League) reader who drew MWD’s attention to this. – MWD Editor]
THE SUNDAY AGE’S RUGBY/RUGBY LEAGUE CONFUSION
While on the topic of the Rugby Union/Rugby League divide, MWD recalls that once upon a time, circa the late 1970s, the Melbourne Grammar-schooled Liberal Party prime minister Malcolm Fraser said that he was going to Sydney to attend the Rugby Grand Final. Except he wasn’t. Mr Fraser was off to see the Rugby League Grand Final. From Nareen in Victoria’s Western District, your man Fraser did not know the difference between the predominantly upper-class Rugby and the predominantly working-class Rugby League. Both sports are prominent in NSW and Queensland.
It seems that, around four decades later, some Melbourne types remain ignorant of the difference between Rugby (which some call “the game they play in Heaven”) and League (which is played on Earth).
Last Sunday, Nine’s Jacqueline (“I don’t answer questions from Hendo about the use of statistics”) Maley wrote with disapproval about the behaviour of some League players with respect to women. Fair enough. Except that the Sunday Age in Melbourne committed the Fraser faux pas by confusing the two codes.
Here is the Melbourne’s Sunday Age heading for Ms Maley’s column:
And here is Sydney’s Sun-Herald’s heading for the very same piece:
It seems that the subs on the Sunday Age in Melbourne are destined to repeat Malcolm Fraser’s howler of bygone times. Can You Bear It?
JULIAN BURNSIDE FLASHES HIS POST-NOMINALS ON BILLBOARDS IN KOOYONG & A CHALLENGE FOR PHILLIP ADAMS AO etc, etc, etc
While on the topic of Melbourne Grammar School types, consider the condition of MWD fave Julian (“I just love flashing my post-nominals”) Burnside AO QC. As avid readers are aware, your man JB AO QC recently threw his (top) hat in the (political) ring by announcing that he will contest the Melbourne seat of Kooyong for the Greens in the forthcoming Federal election.
It did not get off to a good start. Interviewed by Nicholas Reece on Sky News – your man Burnside got himself into one hell of a mess about his 40-year old membership of the Melbourne “gentlemen-only-please” Savage Club. When the Liberal Party’s Senator Jane Hume put it to JB AO QC on Sky News that not only had he failed to speak up for the rights of women to become members of this gentlemen’s club but that he had his (second) marriage there – the Greens candidate threw the switch to finger pointing along with the “Don’t Interrupt” refrain. As the feisty and clever Senator Hume pointed out, this is no way for a modern gentleman to treat a lady – least of all a sassy and articulate one.
Soon after, JB AO QC announced that, after a mere four decades, he was resigning from the Savage Club in this tweet:
Same-sex only clubs are a relic of the past. I joined the Savage Club 40 years ago as a very different person to the one I am today. I’ve argued for change from within but it’s too slow in coming, so I am resigning my membership until it welcomes all people.
5:33 PM – 8 Mar 2019
So, JB AO QC is a very different man today from when he joined the Savage Club circa 1979. Even though he only gained the conscience to abandon the club’s famous/infamous secular relics of New Guinea artefacts – including, as MWD is advised, the odd skull or two – in 2019 after a doing-over by Senator Hume. Can You Bear it?[Er, no, not really. Thanks to the avid reader who noticed this display advertisement which is going up on billboards on the streets of leafy Hawthorn (the location of the Burnside pile), Kew, Camberwell and so on in the electorate of Kooyong. Note that the Greens’ candidate has decided to flash his post-nominals on his billboard in keeping with his habit. See below.
Alas, the sitting member for Kooyong, Josh Frydenberg, has no post-nominals as yet. Since MWD wants a post-nominals contest in Kooyong, MWD is encouraging the Kew-born and Green/Left Radio presenter (aka Late Night Live) Phillip Adams to throw his sandals into the ring and run for Kooyong. With a little help from Jackie (Dip. Wellness, The Gunnedah Institute), MWD has put together a billboard proposal for Phillip (“I was a teenage commo”) Adams. See below – note that Comrade Adams has lots more gongs, albeit mainly of the honorary genre, than your man Burnside. MWD Editor.]
MAXINE MCKEW – ASKS LEADING QUESTION THAT BACKFIRES ON THE KINDER/GENTLER DRUM
What a stunning performance by former ABC presenter and former Labor MP Maxine McKew on ABC TV’s The Drum on Tuesday. Oh yes, Ms McKew is currently on the staff at Jackie’s co-owners’ alma mater – the University of Melbourne. Ellen Fanning was in the presenter’s chair and fellow panellists were Bill Crews, Kate Mills and Fiona Scott.
Now, as avid readers are aware, early this year The Drum’s regular presenters Julia Baird and Ellen Fanning, announced a kinder/gentler program for 2019. Indeed, Dr Baird (for a doctor she is – and as her Twitter account attests) flagged her intention in a column in the Sydney Morning Herald (27 July 2018) titled “Shouting down your opponents only cements the silos”.
Alas, it seems that the Baird/Fanning vision of a non-shouting kinder/gentler Drum has not blossomed in 2019 – so far, at least. This is an audio clip from last Tuesday’s program where everyone – or nearly everyone else – is shouting at everyone – or nearly everyone – else.
. Also, your man Bill Crews used the occasion to condemn those who have a different approach to climate change from he as a “cabal of flat earthers”. Now MWD asks – how kinder/gentler is that?
But MWD digresses. It seems that Ms McKew has not got over the habit of asking questions – even though she now appears as a panellist and is expected to respond to questions.
On Tuesday, Wagga Wagga farmer Alan Brown was the special guest – or “invader” – on the program. During a discussion on the drought in NSW, Maxine McKew went into presenter mode. Let’s go to the transcript:
Maxine McKew: Alan, Alan, could I just come in here? – Maxine here. I just want to ask you, is it your view – and the view of those you speak to – that, in fact, the NSW government has not invested in infrastructure in your area on the other side of the Dividing Range?
Alan Brown: No, no it’s not my view. Wagga’s been particularly well served, especially since we became marginal – and I’m slightly cynical about that. But we are seeing big announcements here. You’re probably aware we’ve just been given $15 million for a rail intermodal site in Wagga which is a huge development for the whole of the Southern Riverina. There’s lots of money flowing into timber bridge repair in other – I’m good friends with a bloke at Tenterfield, they’ve got big money to spend on replacing timber bridges. That’s the sort of critical infrastructure that this state needs to move on with. And that’s what I’m seeing that pleases me….
How disappointing. It seems that Ms McKew expected that Farmer Brown would tell Drum viewers – if viewers there were – that Gladys Berejiklian’s Coalition government in NSW had been beastly and neglected Wagga Wagga. But he didn’t.
Later on, the Melbourne University honorary fellow surprised Hendo when she declared that those – like her – who advocate what is called immediate action on climate change have gone under-the-bed in recent years. She claimed that they have surrendered the public space to the likes of Ian Plimer, Andrew Bolt and that “cabal” (to use the Greens terminology). Really. If you don’t believe this – here’s what was said:
Maxine McKew: Ellen, I think there’s another dimension here. I mean, I am certainly with the panel on saying “yes” – all of our politicians need to step up [on climate change]. There’s something else that’s happened. I think a lot of people who otherwise would be a part of the public policy debate have been gun-shy in recent years. Now that’s particularly true around, say, something like climate change.
Bill Crews: Yep
Maxine McKew: Those who have been, you know, proponents of doing something to address the fact that the climate [is changing], have, have retreated if you like. I sense that is changing. But it also means, if you like, the elites who have been despised and mocked and all the rest of it, the elites – and I mean that broadly, business, politics, academics – they all have to step up and re-enter the public policies sphere.
Kate Mills: So why did they retreat?
Maxine McKew: Well, because the demonising, and the mockery and the nastiness associated with the climate change deniers was pretty unbearable. I can quite understand why some people retreated. Absolutely. It was very nasty here, it’s been very nasty in the US and in the UK.
Fiona Scott: I have to say Maxine…
So, there you have it – or not. Maxine McKew believes that her “besties” among the elites – you know, business/politics/academic types – have gone quiet on climate change. Really. It would seem that Ms McKew never listens to Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly’s Breakfast program on ABC Radio National (aka Green/Left Radio). Or that she has not listened to the constant preaching of Australia’s leading eco-catastrophist Tim Flannery.
Soon after, the program ended with the Reverend Bill Crews lamenting that Australia has never done anything to curtail what the great Dorothy McKellar termed our land of “flooding rains”. He did not say what can be done to stop floods. And Ms Fanning did not ask him. 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).
MURPH’S 50 MINUTES/5 HOURS HOWLER – FOLLOWED BY A RARE CANBERRA PRESS GALLERY APOLOGY
On Insiders last Sunday, The Guardian’s Katharine Murphy (a MWD fave if ever there is one) criticised Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s recent visit to Christmas Island as a, sort of, waste of money. Let’s go to the transcript:
Barrie Cassidy: [Nine’s] David Crowe certainly put them [the Morrison government] on the back foot with his observation – that Bill Shorten then picked up, of course – that it was $2000 a minute –
Katharine Murphy: Yep
Barrie Cassidy: – to hold that news conference. When you calculate the cost of taking everybody to Christmas Island for–
Katharine Murphy: For 50 minutes.
Barrie Cassidy: For a 30 minute–
Katharine Murphy: I think it was 50 minutes on the ground.
Barrie Cassidy: Oh, 50 minutes on the ground?
Katharine Murphy: Well, 50 minutes on the ground I think, yeah.
Yeah. Except that the Prime Minister was on Christmas Island for five hours – which is a long way north of 50 minutes – even on Christmas Island. It seems that the journalist in Mr Crowe overlooked the fact that the Prime Minister has more people to talk to than journalists. In any event, when it came to the Comments section at the end of the program, panellist Peter Van Onselen proffered a correction, of sorts:
Peter van Onselen: Well firstly some breaking news. We were saying that the Prime Minister was only on Christmas Island for 50 minutes. His supporters have been very quick to point out that no – that’s not the case. It was five hours. So no stunt there. It was five hours – not 50 minutes.
Katharine Murphy: [ironically] So much better.
In fact, the Morrison party devoted a whole day to travelling Perth/Christmas Island/Perth – including five hours on the ground. How much longer should the prime minister have stayed there?
The good news is that, soon after she got off the Insiders program couch, Murph issued the following apology – a rare occasion for a member of the Parliament Press Gallery. The PMO reference is to the Prime Minister’s Office:
|Katharine Murphy (@murpharoo)|
|10/3/19, 10:29 am
On @InsidersABC this morning I said PM was on the ground for 50 minutes on Christmas Island. The PMO says that’s incorrect: was five hours. Apologies for relaying incorrect info about the duration. Facts matter & I try not to get them wrong. My broader analysis, stands #auspol
Katharine Murphy: Five Paws
IN WHICH ABC PRESENTER JONATHAN GREEN EXPRESSES A STRONG OPINION ON THE “MURDOCH MEDIA”
Due to enormous popular demand, MWD created a segment to monitor the accuracy – or otherwise – of Hamish Macdonald’s claim that ABC presenters are “not allowed to express opinions”. The assertion was made during your man Macdonald’s hostile interview on RN Breakfast with Senator Eric Abetz – the date was 20 June 2018. See MWD 22 June 2018.
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This is the tweet which Jonathan (“Proudly the ABC’s sneerer-in-chief”) Green put out last Saturday – re Julian Burnside AO QC, the Greens candidate for Kooyong:
|Jonathan Green (@GreenJ)|
|9/3/19, 6:53 pm
Poor ol’ @JulianBurnside … he must wonder, with other political aspirants, whether it’s worth sticking your head above the parapet and having a go. The Murdoch media are just hyenas. It’s nothing to do with the contest of ideas, it’s just punishment of audacity.
So there – according to Jonathan Green who presents Blueprint for Living on ABC Radio National every Saturday morning, “the Murdoch media are just hyenas”. Sounds somewhat opinionated, don’t you think? Over to you Hamish Macdonald.
SHANE WRIGHT’S COAL APOSTASY AND LATER APPARENT CONVERSION
ABC TV’s Insiders on Sunday 24 February discussed the comment by Labor frontbencher Richard Marles that the thermal coal market has collapsed.
This was discussed – on the Insiders Couch – by panellists Annabel Crabb, Patricia Karvelas and Shane Wright (formerly of the West Australian, now with Nine’s newspapers). Towards the end of Insiders, Mr Wright opined as follows with respect to Richard Marles’ statement:
Shane Wright: I think the blunder was saying the thermal coal market collapsed –
Quite so. Thermal coal is doing well on the world market. But – hang on a second – could this be the very same Shane Wright who had this to say on Insiders on 11 June 2017?:
Shane Wright: ….we keep talking about the national electricity market. Western Australia and NT are not part of this. I was talking to, say, the premier of WA and he’s going: “What’s the hell’s going on?” Because the East Coast are going through the problems that the West Coast went through a decade ago and managed to resolve without interference of Canberra. But I think the advent of politics into this space has absolutely cruelled it and we’ve got a bunch of – we’ve got a lot of people saying: “Coal has to survive”. They remind me of the Candlestick Makers Union about 150 years ago saying: “These lightbulbs, they’ll never catch on.” Sorry, you can see the lights turning out on coal fairly quickly.
So there you have it. In July 2017 your man Wright told the Insiders audience that you can see the lights turning out on coal fairly quickly. And in February 2019 the very same Mr Wright declared that it was a blunder for Richard Marles to say that the thermal coal market has collapsed.
And – as far as the assertion that coal circa 2020 is the equivalent of candlesticks – circa 1870. What A load of absolute tosh.
KEVIN RUDD DISCOVERS THE LAND OF HOPE AND GLORY SET – OR DOES HE?
Jackie’s (male) co-owner makes few claims to originality. However, he believes that he invented the term “Lunar Right” – as a way of depicting the extreme right in Australia three decades ago. Hendo also popularised the term “Industrial Relations Club” in a Quadrant article in September 1983 – no one is sure of its origin. And he brought the “Limelight Deprivation Syndrome” term to Australia – in doing so, he cited Christa D’Souza as the first person to have used it. The term was later re-branded by Gareth Evans as “Relevance Deprivation Syndrome” and claimed to be an original word usage.
Also, in the led up to the republican debate, Gerard Henderson invented the term “The Land of Hope and Glory Set” to depict Australian constitutional monarchists at the time. See, for example, the column titled “Hope and Glory Set Have Nowhere to Go”, Sydney Morning Herald, 8 July 1994 (around a quarter of a century ago).
So it came as some surprise when Hendo’s attention was drawn to a column by former prime minister Kevin Rudd in The Guardian on Tuesday which contained the following first paragraph:
I’m struck, as the British parliament moves towards the endgame on Brexit, with the number of times Australia, Canada, New Zealand and India have been advanced by the Brexiteers in the public debate as magical alternatives to Britain’s current trade and investment relationship with the European Union. This is the nuttiest of the many nutty arguments that have emerged from the Land of Hope and Glory set now masquerading as the authentic standard-bearers of British patriotism. It’s utter bollocks.
Can it be that Mr Rudd has recently paid a visit to Jackie’s Re-cycling Depot?
NEW FEATURE: WHO TOLD THE BUTCHER? – OR THE FALLIBILITY OF HEARSAY
MWD’s (many) avid readers are especially interested when Jackie’s (male) co-owner challenges authors/commentators to document their assertions with evidence. So much so that, in response to a huge demand, MWD commences a segment covering this very subject. It is bound to be hugely popular.
This new segment will not compete with MWD’s also hugely popular occasional Scoreboard Segment. For example, the one which records the number of days since author David Day said he was “flat out like a lizard drinking”. So flat out, indeed, that he could not name one historian of 20th Century Britain or one Churchill biographer who wrote or said that, in 1941, Australian prime minister Robert Menzies wanted to replace Winston Churchill as prime minister of Britain and that there was significant support in Britain for such an outcome. This is the thesis of your man Day’s book Menzies & Churchill at War. Dr Day’s evidence? Zip – at least until he is no longer flat out like a lizard drinking and stumps up some facts.
And now for the first episode of Who Told The Butcher? – named after the Steeleye Span song which contains the following lyrics:
Oh, who told the Butcher
All about the Grey Goose?
Oh, it could have been the Poacher
Or it could have been the Royal Coachman
Or Connemara Black….
BEN CHIFLEY AS A (MYTHICAL) BUTCHER BOY
MWD Issue 440 carried an item titled “The Red Bandannaed One Stumbles on Billy Hughes, Ben Chifley and Zhou Enlai”. It referred to a column in Nine’s Sydney Morning Herald (19 February 2019) in which Peter FitzSimons made this point about former Labor prime minister 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.
How empathetic can you get? However, MWD notes that the Red Bandannaed One’s assertion contains no evidence. So MWD commented in Issue 440:
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?”
Two readers, trying to be helpful as MWD’s readers invariably try to be, proffered comments. This is what they had to say.
First up, Christopher from Melbourne:
Your remarks to Fitz include a reference to Chifley and a butcher’s shop. It’s worth noting that Chifley didn’t live in The Lodge although he used it for formal occasions from time to time. He remained a resident of the Kurrajong Hotel until his death in 1951, having been in it for 11 years by then. Having said that, memory tells me that there is nothing resembling a butcher’s shop between the Kurrajong and Parliament House.
And this one from Liam in Sydney:
I think the butcher in question was at Kingston. Not in a straight line but close, especially in Canberra at that time.
So there you have it. In the period July 1945 to December 1949, when Ben Chifley was prime minister, there was no butcher shop between Parliament House (where he worked) and the Kurrajong Hotel (where he resided). There was a butcher shop in Kingston – but this suburb is not located on the way back from Parliament House to either the Kurrajong Hotel or The Lodge.
It all sounds like ill-informed hearsay to MWD.
Peter FitzSimons and David Day – over to you.
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).
GERARD HENDERSON AND MARK RILEY re THE INSIDERS COUCH ON SUNDAY 3 MARCH AND THE GEORGE PELL CASE
As is his wont, Gerard Henderson watched the lively Insiders program on Sunday 3 March. He took up a howler by The Saturday Paper’s Karen Middleton re the role of the Appeal Courts in his Weekend Australian column last Saturday. It seems that Ms Middleton channelled Sky News’ Paul Murray in believing appeals in criminal cases turn only on matters of law and never on matters of fact. Gerard Henderson also wrote to Channel 7’s Mark Riley about two comments he made on the program on a different matter. Here we go:
Gerard Henderson to Mark Riley – 13 March 2019
I understand that Sam Clark informed you on Sunday 3 March 2019 about my concern re comments made by you and Karen Middleton during the segment on George Pell towards the end of the Insiders program.
Karen said that the Victorian Court of Appeal in Pell’s case would look at “matters of law, not matters of the [sic] fact”. This, as you know, is hopelessly wrong – since you acknowledged that the court “could find the verdict unreasonable on the grounds of the evidence”. Unfortunately, Karen had the last word on the topic and her false claim was not corrected on air.
As you will recall, you made the following comment when discussion turned on John Howard’s character reference for George Pell (as you know, references for convicted persons are part of the legal process in Australia):
Mark Riley: [John Howard’s] saying what he believes about a friend. Remember, it refreshed my memory on this this week. In 2002 when Pell faced allegations that he had abused children on Phillip Island – and there was an internal Catholic Church investigation that reported to Archbishop Phillip Wilson, as it happened, in Adelaide – Howard was very staunchly supportive of Pell at that time. And there were echoes of that in his letter. Now, you know, maybe it’s the old political warrior who’s so disciplined on the line he just repeated what he said before. I think he’s, that if he were given the opportunity to write that again he may think about playing some courtesies towards –
Karen Middleton: [interrupting] A bit like Robert [Richter].
Mark Riley: – the victims…*inaudible*.
It is inaccurate to describe the 2002 inquiry into the alleged Phillip Island incident as an “internal Catholic Church investigation”. It is true that the inquiry was set up by Archbishop Philip Wilson – the then acting co-chairman of the National Committee for Professional Standards. But it is also true that the inquiry was independent. It was headed by retired Victorian Supreme Court judge Alec Southwell QC, a non-Catholic. In short, this was not “an internal Catholic Church investigation” as you told the Insiders’ audience. Moreover, Mr Southwell’s report was released.
This is how Pell antagonist Barney Zwartz described the outcome of the Southwell Inquiry in his article in The Age on 8 March 2018:
Then there is the allegation that Pell fondled a boy at a camp on Phillip Island in 1961. In his 2002 investigation, retired Supreme Court judge Alec Southwell found both the boy, [Name deleted], and Pell to be credible witnesses. He also found that the complaint against Pell could not be established.
So, even a Pell antagonist like Barney Zwartz acknowledges that Mr Southwell found Pell (along with his accuser) to be a credible witness. And Barney Zwartz also acknowledged that the complaint against Pell could not be established.
In view of this, your statement on Insiders that the Southwell investigation was “an internal Catholic Church investigation” was ambiguous at best and misleading at worst.
In addition, you said that John Howard, in his character reference, did not pay “sufficient courtesies towards the victims”. This is also misleading – in that it implies that George Pell is somehow responsible for the crimes of others. For the fact is that there is one surviving victim of Pell with respect to whom John Howard can be accused of not treating with courtesy. To say that there are surviving victims (plural emphasised) is just false. It is especially prejudicial to George Pell since you implied that he is somehow guilty of offences concerning which he has not been convicted. This is the kind of guilt-by-association which Chief Judge Peter Ridd warned against in his sentencing judgment today.
I believe that in this sensitive matter, facts are extremely important.
Mark Riley to Gerard Henderson – 13 March 2019
I hope you are well.
Thank you for your email.
I am happy to respond to your two points of contention.
Mr Alex Southwell QC was engaged by the Catholic Church to investigate allegations made to the Catholic Church, under terms of reference drawn up by the Catholic Church, to produce a report on his findings to the Catholic Church. This is what I meant by an internal inquiry.
I said that John Howard might accept, on reflection, that he had not paid “sufficient courtesies towards the victims” in his reference for George Pell. The “victims” in that context are the two boys Cardinal Pell is convicted of molesting. You are correct in saying that one of them is now dead. That, however, does not make him any less of a victim. There were two boys. That makes them “victims”, in the plural.
Your accusation that I implied “George Pell is somehow responsible for the crimes of others” is simply untrue.
I agree with you that facts matter.
Gerard Henderson to Mark Riley – 14 March 2019
Thanks for your prompt reply. In response, I make the following points:
▪ Of course, Alec Southwell QC was engaged by the Catholic Church in 2002 – with respect to the allegation about George Pell’s behaviour in Phillip Island in 1961. Victoria Police chose not to investigate the matter. So which other organisation would have set up the inquiry?
▪ Even so, this was not “an internal Catholic Church investigation” – as you claimed on Insiders on Sunday 3 March. An internal Catholic investigation would have involved a senior figure in the Catholic Church presiding over the matter. Alec Southwell QC was not a Catholic. (By the way his first name is Alec – not Alex).
▪ There is no record of any of the parties to the Southwell Inquiry having complained about its terms of reference or the way Mr Southwell handled the inquiry.
▪ You referred to John Howard exhibiting a lack of courtesy concerning Pell’s “victims”. Since there is only one living “victim” to whom John Howard could have been discourteous – the implication is that the reference is to multiple victims. There can only be multiple living victims if Pell is held responsible for the crimes of others. This is not an uncommon, albeit erroneous, position – as Chief Judge Kidd warned in his judgment yesterday.
I accept that this was not your intention. But viewers hear what you say – not what you mean.
Mark Riley to Gerard Henderson – 14 March 2019
Yes. It is Alec not Alex. My mistake.
- B. K. [FULL NAME SUPPLIED BUT ADDRESS NOT SUPPLIED] AND GERARD HENDERSON re LINDY CHAMBERLAIN AND MORE BESIDES
Gerard Henderson’s column in The Weekend Australian last Saturday was titled “It is not uncommon for jury verdicts to be questioned”. It attracted the interest of a certain B. K. who sent out an email headed “Lindy Chamberlain Analogy”. Here’s the full correspondence – for those who are interested in such matters.
B. K. to Gerard Henderson – 10 March 2019
Gerald Henderson is using a faulty analogy when comparing the guilty verdict from Cardinal Pell’s trial to Lindy Chamberlain’s trial. (It is not uncommon for jury verdicts to be questioned The Australian 9-10 of March.)
Lindy Chamberlain gave testimony and subjected herself to cross examination, knowing she was innocent.
She was found guilty because her story (from which she did not deviate) was considered implausible.
Cardinal Pell did not take the witness stand. The complainant did and was subjected to intense cross examination. The defence’s strategy was to attack the veracity of the victim’s testimony, because the story was considered implausible. Pell’s defence was not able to prove that the victims account was impossible.
Fr Frank Brennan in The Australian 7th March (Cardinal Pell conviction: Priest wrote article to shed legal light) was quoted as saying that he “did not question the honesty and truthfulness of the victim”
The victim is the ‘Lindy Chamberlain’ analogue here.
Gerard Henderson to B. K. – 13 March 2019
I refer to your email of 10 March 2019 titled “Lindy Chamberlain Analogy” concerning my column in The Weekend Australian last Saturday which was headed “It’s not uncommon for jury verdicts to be questioned”. In response, I make the following comments:
▪ The fact is that, according to the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory, the jury’s decision in the Lindy Chamberlain case in 1982 was wrong.
▪ The fact is that, according to the Supreme Court of Victoria, the jury’s decision was wrong in the 1921 trial of Colin Campbell Ross. Mr Ross was hanged in Melbourne Gaol in 1922 and pardoned in 2008.
▪ Cardinal George Pell did not take the witness stand in either of his two trials with respect to the St Patrick Cathedral allegations. This is normal practice in trials of this kind. (As you know, the first trial did not result in a verdict.) However, both juries watched a 45 minute interview which George Pell voluntarily gave to Victoria Police in Rome before he was charged. Pell did not have to give this interview.
▪ You seem to be ill-informed about the law. You write that “Pell’s defence was not able to prove that the victim’s account was impossible”. This is hopelessly wrong. In criminal trials, the prosecution has to establish the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt. The defendant does not have to prove anything.
▪ I have not questioned “the honesty and truthfulness of the victim”. You just made this up. The fact is that some people have honestly held clear recollections of events that never happened. Also there are instances of mistaken identity. So a witness can be honest and truthful – and still be wrong. It’s called the fallibility of memory – check out works on psychology and/or psychiatry about memory if you have any doubts about this.
▪ No trial in recent Australian history has experienced so hostile a media pile-on against a defendant – which extended for over two decades. If you believe this is of no concern – perhaps you should read the judgment of Judge Roy Ellis in the Philip Wilson case in the NSW District Court in 2018.
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In conclusion, I should draw your attention to a number of considered comments on R v George Pell.
The Beyond Reasonable Doubt Criterion – John Silvester & Geoff Horgan QC
On 28 February Nine newspapers’ John Silvester wrote an article on the Pell case. In the Sydney Morning Herald it was headed: “A verdict beyond reasonable doubt?” Mr Silvester is not a Catholic and has no known connection with Pell. Towards the end of his article, John Silvester made the following comments:
If Pell did molest those two teenagers in the busy cathedral, it certainly does not fit the usual pattern of paedophile priests. Those in power identify vulnerable potential victims, groom and then isolate them, committing offences in private then pressuring the abused into silence. Most of the successful historical prosecutions come when police find multiple individual victims who testify about similar facts.
Take Mildura’s Monsignor John Day (whose crimes were wickedly covered up by the church and police). He would take a boy to Melbourne on the pretext of an excursion, then say they would be staying at his sister’s house and would have to share a bed.
In the Pell case, although he had access to hundreds of boys over his career he did not groom the vulnerable. Instead he attacked two he did not know in broad daylight in a near public area. He could not have known if one of them was not the son of the chief commissioner, the premier or the chief justice who were waiting outside to collect them.
He could not have known if one of them would walk straight out and blow the whistle on him, and with two kids in the room he would have been sunk. This is not the action of a cunning paedophile but of a random, opportunistic criminal who usually turns out to be a serial offender. Yet no one has alleged Pell had a history of this type of crime.
Again, we stress, this is not about what happened in St Patrick’s Cathedral in 1996 but what has happened in the County Court during Pell’s prosecution.
Much has been made of the fact that Pell did not take the witness box to defend himself. In all probability Pell’s lawyer, Robert Richter, QC, thought the case was so weak and, as Pell can come over as cold and aloof, his testimony could do more harm than good.
Our courts are not supposed to be swayed by outside influences, which is why judges are appointed and not elected and juries are promised anonymity. They are duty-bound to provide just outcomes, no matter how unpopular.
Back in 1991, a jury heard the evidence against four men accused of the 1988 ambush and murder of two police officers, constables Steven Tynan and Damian Eyre, who were ambushed in Walsh Street, South Yarra.
The men accused were career criminals and evil men. There was tremendous public pressure to convict but the case was weak and they were acquitted. It was a triumph for the legal system that no matter how foul the crime and detestable the accused, the case was decided without fear and favour and beyond reasonable doubt. Can we say the same now?
In the online version of his article, John Silvester, added the following point: “It should also be recorded that when he was interviewed by police, Pell answered all questions and didn’t choose to invoke his right to silence. In all probability Richter thought the case was so weak and, as Pell can come over as cold and aloof, that his testimony could do more harm than good.”
Also, the former Victorian crown prosecutor Geoff Horgan QC had this to say in The Australian’s Letters Page on 1 March 2019:
While not suggesting for a moment that the jury in the Pell case was not satisfied of Pell’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt, as a former crown prosecutor of major cases I find it difficult to understand how a jury could have reached that degree of satisfaction on the evidence of one complainant, without corroboration, and with internal inconsistencies and improbabilities in the allegations, that is, grievous sexual assaults in a public place.
Was it because the vitriol directed at the cardinal over months and years made the verdict all but inevitable?
Geoffrey Horgan QC, Melbourne
The Fallibility of Memory
On Sunday 10 March 2019, the Sun-Herald published this letter from a female GP on the fallibility of memory – in response to a column by Pell antagonist Peter FitzSimons the previous week which was titled “Doubters’ outcry over Pell verdict disrespectful to the jury, legal system”:
I am a female GP and some years ago a patient came in to see me with the greeting ‘‘It’s nice to see you again’’ I was surprised, as I had never seen her before. But she was convinced. Had she brought a complaint and if I had been convicted of malpractice as a result, I would want thinking people to consider the possibility of doubt about the verdict with only one person’s word against mine and the fact one’s memory can be highly inaccurate.
Similarly, I have no doubt that those 13-year-old choirboys were abused and probably by a Catholic priest, but I don’t know beyond a reasonable doubt if that offender was Cardinal Pell, and I do have grave concerns that he was found guilty on the historic testimony of one remaining victim, without forensic evidence, numerous witnesses, an abusive pattern of behaviour or a confession.
I would also like to think that we still live in a democratic society where we are permitted to come to different conclusions about a matter without being considered disrespectful to those with whom we disagree or in this case, the legal system. Peter FitzSimons, you are the one setting a dangerous precedent.
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I suggest to you that the likes of John Silvester, Geoff Horgan QC and the anonymous Female GP are considered people who have a first-hand knowledge of the operations of criminal law and/or the fallibility of memory.
The initial conviction of Lindy Chamberlain tells us that the jury system is sometimes flawed. That’s why there is a right of appeal. Sometimes even appellate courts get it wrong. For example, the Victorian Supreme Court and the High Court of Australia upheld Colin Campbell Ross’s conviction – they were found to be wrong by the Supreme Court of Victoria nearly a century later (following the introduction of DNA testing).
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Until next time
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