ISSUE – NO. 444

22 March 2019

* * * *

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.

* * * *

  • STOP PRESS: What a pugilistic Project: In the red corner Waleed Aly vs in the blue corner Scott Morrison

  • Can You Bear It? Sydney Morning Herald Letters editor’s Howard Government howler; The Walkley Fund for Journalism Dinner – Australia’s most advertised fundraiser; The Saturday Paper’s Alex McKinnon’s News Corp demo flop; La Trioli praises Nancy Astor but forgets about her anti-Semitism; Julian Burnside AO QC puts out begging bowl at Kew Junction

  • An ABC Update: Taxpayer funded public broadcaster fails to report Victorian Court of Appeal decision in John Francis Tyrrell v The Queen

  • Who Told The Butcher? – or the fallibility of hearsay: Reader steps forward with suggestions that the “butcher boy”, might have been Mrs Robert (Pattie) Menzies

  • Correspondence: JM helps out re the Spanish Civil War; RC helps out re the Queensland public service and the coal industry & BK helps out re the Royal Commission

* * * *



What a stunning interview between The Project’s Waleed Aly and Prime Minister Scott Morrison last night on Network 10. MWD understands that the original invitation for the Prime Minister to appear came from The Project. However, this did not prevent Dr Aly (for a doctor he is) from engaging in an antagonistic interview replete with constant interruptions.

It seems that the Monash University academic, who doubles as an ABC Radio National presenter and doubles again as a presenter on The Project, believes that his views are more significant than those of the elected prime minister. Let’s go to the transcript where Scott Morrison tries to get a word in edgeways:

Waleed Aly: Will you be putting them [One Nation] last on your how to vote card?

Scott Morrison: What if Fraser Anning’s running candidates?

Waleed Aly: Right. So, if Fraser Anning is, you’ll put One Nation ahead of Fraser Anning?

Scott Morrison: Well you tell me.

Waleed Aly: I’m just asking.

Scott Morrison: Well this is the point Waleed. I don’t know who’s going to nominate in the electorate of Longman –

Waleed Aly: [interjecting] Okay let me rephrase –

Scott Morrison: In the electorate of Longman –

Waleed Aly: No, no

Scott Morrison: No? Well you’ve raised the issue. In the electorate of Longman –

Waleed Aly: No let me rephrase because I know what you’re [unintelligible]

[Talking over each other]

Scott Morrison: Waleed, will you please let me answer one question.

Waleed Aly: No, no. Because I’ll ask this question, because this is going to get to the point.

Scott Morrison: Okay. I’m just trying to answer your questions. I was raising this issue, the practical issue of Longman –

Waleed Aly: Let me rephrase. Prime Minister, I need to get through this question.

How about that? It seems that we will never know what Mr Morrison was trying to say about preference distribution in the seat of Longman since he was interrupted on this point by Waleed Aly on no fewer than four occasions.

MWD was most impressed by Waleed Aly’s constant “No” proclamation – particularly when the interviewer said that “no, no” he would not let the Prime Minister “answer one question”. How’s that for unprofessional journalism?

And then there was the exchange where Waleed Aly argued that the former Liberal MP Andrew Robb supported his interpretation of what was (allegedly) said at the shadow cabinet meeting in late 2010. Let’s go to the transcript again where Waleed Aly insists that he knows what Andrew Robb said – in spite of the fact that he did not have a quote from Mr Robb to support his assertion.

Waleed Aly: You talk about people who have been on the record. Well there is at least one of those people on the record saying that it [an attempt to make political capital out of Muslims] did happen. That being Andrew Robb. You have multiple journalists reporting from multiple sources –

Scott Morrison: [interjecting] Well no, hang on –

Waleed Aly: Let me finish the point

Scott Morrison: No I have to stop you –

[Talking over each other]

Waleed Aly: You can get to that point in a second. You have multiple journalists reporting from –

Scott Morrison: You are saying Andrew Robb said something that he didn’t

Waleed Aly: I read it with my own eyes today.

Scott Morrison: No, what Andrew –

Waleed Aly: You have – let me finish my question

Scott Morrison: I’ll let you finish, I apologise.

Waleed Aly: You have multiple reporters reporting from multiple sources that it happened. And you have one on the record saying the same.

Scott Morrison: No that’s not true Waleed. What is suggested is that I said that we should exploit – exploit – concerns about Islam in the community to our political advantage.

Waleed Aly: Exploit I think is your word.

Scott Morrison: No, no –

Waleed Aly: [Interjecting] Let me ask it this way –

[Talking over each other]

Scott Morrison: And Andrew Robb –

Waleed Aly: Let me ask it this way

Scott Morrison: Do you mind if I finish –

Waleed Aly: What did you say?

Scott Morrison: I’m sorry. Andrew Robb did not say that I did that.

Waleed Aly: No Andrew Robb said that you raised the issue.

Scott Morrison: I was the shadow immigration minister at the time. And I was very concerned about these issues and the way people were feeling in the community.

Waleed Aly: So when you raised those issues at that meeting, what did you say about them?

Scott Morrison: Well I was concerned that we needed to address them. Which is what I’ve been doing inside and out of the parliament for the last ten years of my life.

Waleed Aly: Address those concerns?

Scott Morrison: Yes, to lower them.

In fact, the Prime Minister’s account of what Andrew Robb said was consistent with Scott Morrison’s version of events and inconsistent with Dr Aly’s assertion which was based on the leak to Lenore Taylor.

The quote from Andrew Robb – as reported in The Sydney Morning Herald on 18 February 2011 – is as follows:

What Morrison was saying is that there were these perceptions in some parts of the community and that they [attitudes to Muslims] were becoming a problem and, [we] had to find some constructive way to deal with it before it became worse.

In short, Waleed Aly’s original rant on The Project, to which the Prime Minister objected, was based on an undocumented rumour that Mr Morrison had sought to make political capital of Muslims in Australia.


Can You Bear It


Without question, Peter Costello is one of the most successful treasurers in Australian history.  These days, among other tasks, he is chairman of Nine Entertainment – the publisher of such former Fairfax Media newspapers as the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Canberra Times and Australian Financial Review.

There was a time when the SMH checked facts – particularly with regard to what is published in the Letters Page – where readers are invited to express their (informed) views. On Wednesday, the SMH’s Letters Page editor decided to publish a letter from Sue Lubbers, of Sydney North Shore’s leafy Killara, under the bold type heading “Howard’s star power has waned”.  This is how it commenced:

It is disturbing to see the NSW Liberals using John Howard as “star power” to support Stuart Ayres’ re-election to the seat of Penrith. The fact the Liberal Party reveres Howard tells us much about past and current values of this party. Under Howard, the Liberals won three elections and he kept them in power for 11 years. Fair enough. He knew how to campaign and how to spend money to win marginal seats. What will never be fair enough, however, is the way he won the “unwinnable” election of 2001….

– Sue Lubbers, Killara

Ms Lubbers went on to make contentious claims about the 2001 election campaign – without a scrap of evidence to support her assertions. However, MWD is primarily interested in her claim, backed by the SMH Letters editor, that “under Howard, the Liberals won three elections”.

Can’t anyone at the SMH count these days?  John Howard led the Coalition to victory in 1996, 1998, 2001 and 2004. According to MWD’s abacus, that’s four election wins.  Not three.  It seems that the SMH’s Letters editor has forgotten that Nine Entertainment’s chairman Peter Costello played an important role in all four (not three) Coalition victories.  Can You Bear It?


Has there been a dinner so heavily advertised as the Walkley Fund for Journalism? – this year starring Mark Burrows (Nine News), Joanne McCarthy (Newcastle Herald), Caro Meldrum-Hanna (ABC), Helen Pitt (Sydney Morning Herald), Hedley Thomas (The Australian) and Peter Van Onselen (Network Ten). The function is hosted by Seven’s Samantha Armytage and the auctioneer is Craig Reucassel – one of The Chaser Boys (average age 431/2).

The gig is on Friday 5 April 2019 at Merivale’s Ivy Ballroom in Sydney and tickets are a relatively modest $165 per person (including a three-course meal, drinks and entertainment). The Ivy Ballroom seats a medium sized crowd of 400.

Yet the function has been advertised (presumably for free) in various newspapers over many weeks.  It’s unlikely that there is no interest in this high-profile function.  Rather, it seems that many journo types do not like paying for their own dinners – even in support of journalism. Can You Bear It?


MWD readers are aware of The Saturday Paper’s Alex McKinnon’s form. In December 2017, for example, he claimed that Gerard Henderson had written or said (it wasn’t clear) that the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was an “inquisition into one church” – i.e. the Catholic Church. Your man McKinnon went on to make references to the Spanish Inquisition and all that.  A gotcha moment?  Not really. Hendo never wrote, or said, anything about an inquisition – McKinnon just made it up. Your man McKinnon refused to answer correspondence on this matter and his editor Erik Jensen declined to publish a correction.  But a letter from Hendo was published in The Saturday Paper (27 January 2018).

Last Monday, (after St Patrick’s Day no less) Comrade McKinnon learnt that News Corps’ pitch to major advertisers – titled Come Together – was to be held on Wednesday 20 March at the Sydney Convention Centre at Darling Harbour.  He called on the sandal-wearing set to assemble there to protest against News Corp in general – and Sky News in particular.  The aim was to get companies to stop advertising in News Corp publications and on Sky News and to close down the company’s newspapers and its pay TV station.

On Monday night Comrade McKinnon put out the following tweet:

Alex McKinnon‏ @mckinnon_a

Working time and date confirmed: 12.30 on Wednesday outside the Convention Centre at Darling Harbour. Make a sign, text your mates, bring your dog (and an umbrella in case of rain). Making money off hate has hit its use-by date.

So, Comrade McKinnon’s March on News Corp had over a day to organise a turn out. Guess what? Barely a man and a woman rocked up.  Canines boycotted the occasion.  It seems that 20 protestors and 15 reporters attended the event. In other words, there were nearly as many journos as protestors.

Throwing the switch to delusion, Alex McKinnon put out this tweet as the anti-News Corp demonstration was under way:

Alex McKinnon‏@mckinnon_a

Getting underway now. Absolutely blown away by this turnout.


Now if Comrade McKinnon is “absolutely blown away” at a 20-person strong demo – at a time when it didn’t rain – he would literally be in space if, say, he achieved a roll up of three score and ten after five days’ planning.

Meanwhile, a planned demonstration in Melbourne protesting outside Sky News’ office that very evening had a turn-out of, wait for it, Zip.  Even Comrade McKinnon was not “absolutely blown away” by the flop.  It was a bit like the mythical revolution at which nobody turned up. Can You Bear It?


It seems that ABC TV Sydney newsreader Juanita Phillips is channelling former Liberal Party MP Julia Banks.  In that Ms Phillips has taken to blaming anonymous right-wingers for bullying her.  This is what she tweeted on Tuesday:

Juanita Phillips‏@Juanita_Phillip


The other day I passed a right-wing commentator on his way to a radio interview. He has abused me and other women so badly online it made me unwell. He smiled and nodded. How do we as professionals deal with these people in the workplace?

Ms Banks implies that she was bullied by conservatives when she was the Liberal Party member for Chisholm. But won’t name names. Juanita Phillips tarnishes those whom she classifies as “right-wing commentators” as abusers of women. But she won’t name a name. Despite the fact that the alleged abuse has occurred online – where the author of the abuse should be identifiable.

Jackie’s (male) co-owner has found, over the years, that if you criticise ABC presenters you rarely – if ever – get invited on to their programs.  How lucky is Hendo?  He has not visited the ABC Sydney studio at Ultimo for at least three years – and has only been there on three occasions since the end of 2007.

So Gerard Henderson is not the (so-called) right-wing commentator who makes the highly paid Juanita Phillips unwell. But, Mr Anon is, apparently. Can You Bear It?


Lotsa thanks to the avid Melbourne reader who drew MWD’s attention to this tweet by ABC TV star Virginia Trioli (which went out on Sunday) praising Nancy Astor (1879-1964) as a feminist:

Virginia Trioli‏ @LaTrioli

Retweeted BBC Archive

How to flatter a man: “Tell me more about yourself… and off they go.” Never a truer word.

BBC Archive @BBCArchive

“It was like going into a members’ club… an all-male club” Nancy Astor, the first woman MP to take her seat, recalled the experience on Panorama in 1959. …

8:24 AM – 17 Mar 2019

La Trioli is right.  Nancy Astor was an articulate feminist.  But she was also a vicious anti-Semite who spoke of Jews with contempt.  And she was an outspoken anti-Catholic sectarian.  And she opposed Czechoslovakian refugees who attempted to flee from Nazis.

Yet Virginia Trioli praises Nancy Astor without even mentioning her vile intolerance.  Can You Bear It?


While on the topic of gentlemen’s clubs, consider the case of Julian Burnside AO QC.  JB AO QC recently resigned from the blokes-only Savage Club in Melbourne so that he can parade as a gentleman-feminist when campaigning as the endorsed Greens’ candidate for the seat of Melbourne.  By the way, Gentleman Burnside replaced the endorsed Greens candidate – a woman, in fact.

Shame Burnside Shame.

In any event, an avid Melbourne readers has drawn Hendo’s attention to this tweet from Julian Burnside – in begging mode.


Julian Burnside (@JulianBurnside)

While it feels strange to see my face looming down at me when passing by Kew Junction, I do want people to know who I am, what I stand for, and trust me with their vote. Could you please contribute to help extend the lease on this billboard.

So there you have it.  JB AO QC lives in a Hawthorn pile and has lotsa other property assets. And he wants the good people of Kooyong to put some money in a hat to keep his billboard – in which he flashes his post nominals – looking down on the Kew Junction. Can You Bear It?


 As avid readers are well aware, the taxpayer funded public broadcaster is very reluctant to cover stories it does not want to cover – especially when they run contrary to the ABC line as determined by one of its many staff collectives (i.e. soviets).

Anyone who watches/listens to/reads the ABC in recent years would form the view that the Catholic Church is overwhelmingly responsible for cases of historic child sexual abuse in Australia.

Yet, as MWD readers well know, the ABC will not cover the fact that its one-time chairman, Professor Richard Downing, once declared – when speaking on behalf of the ABC – that “in general, men will sleep with young boys”. Also, the ABC has refused to give adequate coverage of its own case of historic child sexual abuse. On one occasion, ABC senior management told MWD that a hearing (where a man pleaded guilty) had not been adequately reported due to, er, Bushfires in the Hunter Region. Or some such.

In recent weeks, the ABC has given massive coverage to the conviction and sentencing of Cardinal George Pell in the Victorian County Court. Pell maintains his innocence and is appealing to the Victorian Court of Appeal – his case will be heard in early June.

However, the ABC totally ignored the decision of the Victorian Court of Appeal last Friday to quash the conviction and sentence of former Christian Brother John Francis Tyrrell for raping a young boy and other offences over half a century ago.

In John Francis Tyrrell v The Queen (15 March 2019), Judges Kaye, Niall and Weinberg overturned the jury’s decision in DPP v Tyrrell (26 April 2018). Tyrrell is close to 80 years of age, infirm and has poor vision.  He served close to a year in the Victorian prison system before the Court of Appeal instructed authorities that he be released immediately last Friday.

MWD followers are invited to read the judgement in John Francis Tyrrell v The Queen at [2019] VSCA 52.  ABC presenters, reporters and producers would be well advised to do so – since a disturbing number of journalists seem unaware that courts of appeal can overturn a decision on matters of law and/or fact.  And that in Victoria it is always juries – not judges – who find a defendant guilty or not guilty in the first instance. And that not all complainants should be believed.  On Wednesday ABC’s Charlie Pickering said on The Weekly that complainants should always be believed. Obviously he has not read the Tyrrell Case.

In John Francis Tyrrell v The Queen, the Court of Appeal found that the applicant’s conviction was unreasonable and could not be supported by the evidence.  The case turned entirely on the evidence of one complainant who alleged a series of sex attacks in a near public place – i.e. St Joseph’s College in Geelong.  There were no corroborative witnesses and no forensic evidence.  The court found that there were substantial inconsistencies in the complainant’s evidence and that aspects of his evidence were improbable.  Also, the delay in bringing on a trial was unfair to Tyrrell since two potential witnesses, who might have given evidence in favour of him, were dead.  The judges also found that the complainant had “false memories” concerning Tyrrell.

John Francis Tyrrell v The Queen is an important judgment by a senior court.  It was covered by the AAP (its report ran in The Age last Saturday on Page 16), News Corp newspapers and Network Nine. However, the case has not been reported by the ABC.  Not at all.

Why? Well ABC management has advised MWD that “the sentencing hearing for Robert Cerantonio, the leader of the so-called ‘tinny terrorists’ occurred on the same day and was the focus of the court reporter in Melbourne”.

How about that?  It seems that the ABC in Melbourne can only cover one court case on any one day. [Perhaps the ABC might bring home some of its numerous journalists in London and Washington and re-deploy them to report important Australian stories.  Just a thought. – MWD Editor.]

Also, ABC editors regard the sentencing of a man who pleaded guilty as more important than the decision of the Court of Appeal which overturned the conviction of an innocent man in the case of alleged historic child sexual abuse.

Ah, well – at least the ABC’s excuse in this instance was not, say, “Bushfires in the Dandenong Ranges”.

[Reading the judgment in Tyrrell v The Queen it is amazing how this case ever got to trial.  But Tyrrell was charged by Victoria Police and the prosecution appears to have been approved by the Victorian Office of Public Prosecutions.  Also a jury believed the complainant – despite the obvious inconsistencies in this evidence. – MWD Editor.]


 The “Who told the Butcher?” segment fulfills the need of MWD’s (many) avid readers who are especially interested when Jackie’s (male) co-owner challenges authors/commentators to document their assertions with evidence.

This segment does 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 second 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
Nobody knows

Or it could have been the Royal Coachman
Or Connemara Black….


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 noted that the Red Bandannaed One’s assertion contained 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?”

As MWD reported last week, Christopher from Melbourne reminded avid readers that, when prime minister, Ben Chifley lived at the Kurrajong Hotel – not at The Lodge.  And Liam from Sydney advised that the butcher’s shop might have been in Kingston – while acknowledging that Kingston is not located between Old Parliament House and the Kurrajong Hotel or the Lodge.

But, wait, there’s more.  The mathematician/historian James Franklin advises that the original Chifley/butcher’s shop story was related by Rob Chalmers in his 2012 book Inside the Canberra Press Gallery: Life in the Wedding Cake of Old Parliament House.  However, the late Mr Chalmers said that the man they called Chif phoned the old lady’s order to the butcher shop – it was not delivered.

And The Canberra Times’ Jack Waterford sent the following email just after MWD went out around Gin & Tonic time last Friday:

The butcher story is true, sort of, but for different folk. It involved Mrs Menzies, not Ben Chifley (or Bob Menzies). And Mrs Menzies wouldn’t physically pass on the order, but herself ring it through to the right number, I think. The butcher was, I think, at Manuka – originally a stop gap set of shops while they built shops at Kingston.

Perhaps the story is not true, but it is in any number of rgm [Robert Gordon Menzies] biogs. Mostly in accounts of the easy domesticity and ordinary life of the Menzies as ordinary Canberra citizens during the 1940s and 1950s. It often goes with stories of PM&C [Prime Minister & Cabinet] officials coming over with an urgent cable of a Sunday morning, and being invited, almost commanded, to share the Sunday roast. That is certainly true enough.

First up, Jack W. acknowledges that “perhaps the story is not true”. In short, he is not as naïve as Peter FitzSimons or David Day. However, according to Jack Waterford, the story is quite different to that told by Fitz/Day duo.

▪  It was Dame Pattie Menzies (prime minister Robert Menzies’ wife) who took the call when she lived at The Lodge after the Liberal Party won the December 1949 election. Not Ben Chifley and not Bob Menzies.

▪ Mrs Menzies would phone the order through – not hand deliver it.

▪ It seems that the butcher shop was located at Manuka, not Kingston.

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

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).


During his occasional appearances on ABC TV’s Insiders (in 2018 they amounted to six in total), at the end of the program Gerard Henderson usually makes a comment or observation about an international matter – not a national issue.  Last Sunday, he commented on the continuing prevalence in contemporary Spain of the Spanish Civil War of eight decades ago.  This upset a certain J.M.  Now read on – the deletion relates to another topic unrelated to Spain.

JM to Gerard Henderson – 17 March 2019

Today you mentioned on the Insiders some drivel about Franco. What you did not mention is that this murdering criminal asked Hitler and Mussolini to bomb the defenceless town of Guernica. Nor that this beast gave Himmler a list of around 6000 Jews, the fact they were never handed to the Nazis thugs is irrelevant, the intent was clear.

Santamaria supported Franco, Santamaria himself managed to avoid military service. Who attends Francos funeral? The butcher Pinochet….


Gerard Henderson to JM – 18 March 2019

Mr M

I refer to your email concerning my brief concluding comments on Insiders last Sunday – which you describe as “drivel”.  For the record, this is all I had to say – it took a mere 16 seconds:

Gerard Henderson: In Spain, the Socialist government has decided to dig up the body of General Franco and reinter it somewhere else or somewhere in Madrid. As you know, he was the man who initiated the Spanish Civil War of the early 1930s. And I noted that today the supporters of independence for Catalonia are marching in the streets of Madrid. It just demonstrates that, 80 years after these events, these issues [relating to the Spanish Civil War] are still rife in Spain.

My responses to your (abusive and emotive) email are as follows:

▪ As you know, at the end of Insiders all panellists are asked by the presenter to make a brief comment or observation.  I always try and say something of international – not national – significance.

▪ On Sunday, I made the observation about events on contemporary Spain concerning the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939. Namely, that Spain’s Socialist government has decided to move General Franco’s grave from what’s called the Valley of the Fallen to Madrid.  And that supporters of independence for Catalonia were marching in the streets of Madrid on the weekend.  The point was that the Spanish Civil War of eight decades ago still has relevance in Spain today.

▪ I said nothing positive or negative about Franco – and I did state that he was the person who initiated the Spanish Civil War.  In other words, your objection is to my statement of undisputed fact. I can only assume that you want comment on the Spanish Civil War censored on the taxpayer funded public broadcaster.  Somewhat intolerant, don’t you think?

▪ Since I did not say anything about what Franco and his Nationalists did – there was no reason to talk about Franco’s reliance on Nazi Germany and fascist Italy during the Spanish Civil war.  I also did not talk about the atrocities committed on the Republican side by, among others, communists or mention the fact that the Republican government was supported by the Soviet Union.  You are probably aware that the communists even attacked the anarchists (as George Orwell documented in his book Homage to Catalonia) in addition to the Nationalists.

▪ For all Franco’s many faults – and for whatever reason – Spain remained neutral during the Second World War of 1939-1945.  Also, as you acknowledge reluctantly, Franco’s Nationalist dictatorship did not move against the Spanish Jews.  European Jews circa 1940 were much safer in Franco’s Spain than in Petain’s France (which collaborated with the Nazis in sending French Jews to the death camps in Eastern Europe).

▪ In August 1939, the Nazi-Soviet (or Hitler-Stalin) Pact was signed.  Between August 1939 and June 1941 (when Germany declared war on the Soviet Union), members of the Communist Party worldwide – including in Australia – opposed the Allied war effort and supported Nazi Germany.

▪ If Franco had committed Spain in support of Germany in 1939, then Germany would have conquered Gibraltar and the British naval base there would have been used to devastating effect against Britain.  The same would have occurred if the Republican government had prevailed in the Spanish Civil War – since it would have followed the directions of Josef Stalin in Moscow and supported the Nazi-Soviet Pact.  This would have led to a situation whereby Nazi Germany could have conquered Gibraltar by attacking the British colony through Spain.

▪ It is true that the late B.A. Santamaria supported the Franco-led Nationalists in the Spanish Civil War – which commenced when Santamaria was 21 years of age.  However, Santamaria never said or wrote anything positive about Franco after the Spanish Civil War.  Moreover, Santamaria never visited Spain and never showed any interest in Franco’s Nationalist government up until the dictator’s death in November 1975.

▪ Sure, Santamaria was exempted from conscription during the Second World War. So were many thousands of Australians at the time – including some men who became prominent on the left side of politics after the end of hostilities.  Also, unlike the communists during the period 1939-1941, Santamaria neither opposed nor sought to sabotage the Allied war effort.

▪ By the way, Santamaria did not attend Franco’s funeral – so your point about General Pinochet is meaningless in this regard.

* * * * *

The final eight sentences of your email are rife with anti-Catholic sectarianism and attacks on Christianity.  I do not have time to respond to rants of this kind.


During Insiders on Sunday, Gerard Henderson made some comments about the importance of coal to the Australian economy and made some comments about how public sector workers in South East Queensland benefit from revenue raised from coal.  This upset a certain RC.  Here we go:

RC to Gerard Henderson – 18 March 2019

Dear Mr Henderson

On the Insiders program last Sunday you indicated that the SE of Queensland is totally dependent on the miners and the royalties obtained from coal mined in FNQ.

What bunkum, have a look at the Queensland Government budget documents. Coal royalties in 2017-18 is estimated at $3.8 billion. Total Queensland Government revenue, including grants, is estimated at $55.8 billion. This is only 6.8 percent of Queensland total budget.

Don’t mislead the public please.



Gerard Henderson to RC – 19 March 2019

Dear Mr C

I refer to your email of 18 March 2019 concerning my comments on Insiders on Sunday about the importance of the coal industry to the Queensland economy.  For the record, this is what I said:

Gerard Henderson: Just take Queensland, for example. The academics, the public servants and the teachers in Southern Queensland have their jobs because of the work done by the miners and their families in northern Queensland – so we have to recognise that. Queensland’s economy is very strong because of the very high revenues coming in from the mining industry –including the coal industry. And it’s not unreasonable for someone like Matt Canavan, who is a very sensible minister, to make that hard point. Our prosperity in this country – including the welfare of many people who work in this organisation [the ABC] that gets a billion dollars a year – it comes from, primarily, along with other things, from our exports and minerals including our leading export of coal, which is our leading export industry.

In response to your email, I make the following points:

▪ I did not say on Insiders that the South East of Queensland is “totally dependent on the mines and royalties obtained from coal mined” in Far North Queensland.  I was saying that jobs of academics/public servants/teachers in South East Queensland are made possible because of the work of miners – not just coal miners – in Far North Queensland. Many are.

▪ I accept that coal royalties amount to around 7 per cent of Queensland government revenue.  However, 7 per cent is a significant part of any budget. Imagine if the Queensland government cut funding to its police, teachers and the public servants by 7 per cent on a permanent basis.  This would cause an outcry that would threaten the government’s re-election.

▪ As you know, Queensland also receives grants and GST payments from the Commonwealth.  The Commonwealth government receives substantial corporate tax from the mining industry in general and coal in particular.  The Commonwealth also receives income tax from coal miners and those who work in industries which benefit from coal mining.  And then there is the GST paid by coal miners and others who benefit from the coal industry.  In other words, a substantial amount of taxation raised from the coal finds its way into Queensland’s revenue stream via the Commonwealth government.

I stand by my comments on Insiders – I did not “mislead the public” in any way when I pointed to the substantial role of mining in Australia’s past and contemporary economy.


Last week MWD published the correspondence between a certain BK and Gerard Henderson concerning the case of R v George Pell (Cardinal Pell is appealing the decision). BK fired off an emotive and somewhat pompous response – and received an irreverent reply. He also sent a second note on the same day – and received the courteous response published below.  This latter round of correspondence is published below.

BK to Gerard Henderson – 14 March 2019

Dear Gerard

I hope this provides a more positive outlook.

In many ways this saga has become a divisive side show. We need to step back and look at the big picture. The most important question is: how do stop abuse from happening again? The Catholic Church is by no means the only self regulated organisation where some members have abused positions of trust to take advantage of the vulnerable.

I have been a specialist clinician for nearly 40 years. The things some Doctor’s got away with still haunts me. Probably the most accurate observation back then was “you Doctors always stick together”.

So what changed?

The recognition that Doctors were and still are fallible.

Though we still, correctly, self regulate through our Colleges and Societies, we now have external oversight and a system in place that that can intervene at an earlier stage than criminal courts. This has dramatically reduced harm to our patients and the community. It is called Clinical Governance.

We have three bodies. The Australian Health Practitioner Regulatory Authority (AHPRA), The Medical Boards, and the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC). They have investigative and regulatory powers.  The standard of proof is not “Beyond Reasonable Doubt” but “Balance of Probabilities”. This is known as the Brigenshaw Principle. (Brigenshaw vs Brigenshaw 1938). I believe it is also referred to as “Reasonable Satisfaction”.

Perhaps we need a similar external body that has oversight, for want of a better term of ‘Spiritual Practitioners’. This could be applied fairly across all religions and be multidisciplinary and multi denominational, but also have community representation.  Spiritual Practitioners would have a code of conduct and some form of registration that that could be revoked, or have conditions placed upon it.

The obvious objection will be that of freedom of religion. But it would not interfere with freedom to practice religion.



Gerard Henderson to BK – 20 March 2019

Dear B

Thanks for your second note dated 14 March 2019.

Essentially, I agree with you.  However, I believe that your question as to how to stop abuse from happening again in the Catholic Church overlooks certain established facts.

As the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse found, the overwhelming majority of clerical child sexual abuse crimes within Catholic institutions took place between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s – with most crimes occurring in the 1970s.  That is, close to half a century ago.

Since the establishment of the Melbourne Response by the (then) Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne George Pell – and the establishment of Towards Healing in other archdioceses and all the dioceses the following year – clerical child abuse in the Catholic church has all but ceased. As you may or may not know, George Pell went a year before other members of the Hierarchy primarily because he was encouraged to do so by the Victorian premier Jeff Kennett and the Victorian governor Richard McGarvie.  Pell had only been in his position for three months after taking over from Archbishop Frank Little (who had covered up clerical child abuse).

Evidence before the Royal Commission actually found that a child in a Catholic religious institution during the time of high offending was safer than a child in a non-Catholic religious institution.  Royal Commission member Robert Fitzgerald has stated that 60 per cent of persons who reported abuse to the Royal Commission had been in Catholic religious institutions.  However, throughout most of the 20th Century, around 80 per cent of children in religious institutions belonged to Catholic institutions – since the Catholic Church operated its own education system and ran more orphanages and hospitals than other religious institutions.  So, on a pro-rata basis, offending was greater in non-Catholic institutions than in Catholic institutions.

However, you would not know this if you followed the media coverage of the Royal Commission – especially on the ABC and the (then) Fairfax Media newspapers.

As I understand it, the Catholic Church in recent years has substantially reformed its oversight of children in churches, schools and the like.  In short, the clerical authority over churches and schools of the past no longer prevails today.

I am not a practising Catholic and have no formal connection with the Catholic Church.  Perhaps you should address your proposal to the relevant authorities.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson


* * * * *


Until next time


* * * **