ISSUE – NO. 445

29 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: David Crowe’s Liberal Party Howler; 7.30 bores; ABC fails to report Peter Ridd case; a Heads up re Peter Charley

Can you Bear it? Julian Burnside’s Post-Nominals: An Update; Peter Fitzsimons Drums on about the Allianz Stadium – again; Ben Knight Goes Soft on New Zealand

MWD Exclusive: A Full Unedited transcript of the Q & A Pile-On against Teena McQueen

Five Paws Award: Joe Aston Steps Up for Demolition of the Red Bandannaed One

Media Fool of The Week: Jane Caro’s Post Election Apology to All Australians

An ABC Update: Will Glasgow, Annabel Crabb and Hendo discuss Barrie Cassidy’s Replacement; Jonathan Holmes channels John Howard re Phillip Adams

Documentation: Why so Many Journalists need to read Victorian Court of Appeal Judgement in Tyrrell v The Queen

Correspondence: Inside Insiders as Dennis Atkins, David Marr, Murph and Barrie Cassidy (sort of) help out

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 The lead piece in the Sydney Morning Herald Opinion page this morning is by the SMH’s  chief political correspondent David Crowe titled “The risible rise of Teena McQueen”.  The column is also in The Age – with the heading “Power failure for the PM”.

Your man Crowe has jumped on the fashionable cart and joined the pile-on of criticism against Liberal Party deputy-president Teena McQueen following her appearance on Q&A on Monday. But did the SMH’s chief political correspondent watch the program?  MWD asks this question as a consequence of David Crowe’s comment set out below:

[Teena McQueen’s] appearance on Q&A showed the danger to the government of someone who can now express her views as a senior office-holder. But who else did they have to represent the party on Q&A on Monday? Despite a desperate search, no minister could be found at short notice to replace Craig Laundy, who pulled out of the program for family reasons…..

This is hopelessly wrong.  Teena McQueen was due to appear on Q&A on 4 March 2019 but her appearance was postponed due to a change in the scheduled topics under discussion.  On Monday 18 March Tony Jones announced that Ms McQueen would be a Q&A panellist – along with Craig Laundy and three others – on Monday 25 March.

In other words, it was inaccurate for David Crowe to write this morning that Teena McQueen only appeared on Q&A because the Liberal Party could not find a replacement for Mr Laundy.

David Crowe and his editors would have known this if they had watched Q&A.  Here’s what Tony Jones said at the commencement of the program:

Tony Jones:  Now, before we start, retiring government MP Craig Laundy was forced to withdraw late today because of a family emergency.  We wish him and his family all the best. Thank you, Simon [Cowan] for stepping in at the last minute.

So David Crowe is just wrong. Craig Laundy was not replaced by Teena McQueen on Q&A but, rather, by Simon Cowan – the research director of the Centre for Independent Studies.  Ms McQueen was always scheduled to appear on Q&A on Monday – a fact that would have been known to the powers that be in the Liberal Party at least a week before the program went to air.

Note that today’s MWD contains an actual transcript of Teena McQueen’s most controversial comments on Q&A. Alas, the ABC’s transcript is inadequate.  For the documentation of who said what – complete with interjections and ridicule – read on.



On Emma Alberici’s watch, ABC management closed down ABC 1 Lateline program. For some time now, the public broadcaster’s main channel has not had a nightly news and current affairs program.  What’s more, as one-time regular ABC viewer John Howard has pointed out – what currently passes for news and current affairs on the ABC News and 7.30  programs is hardly essential viewing.

Take last night’s 7.30 – presented by Leigh Sales – for example.  It’s the final 7.30 for a week in which there was big news in Australia, Britain, New Zealand and the United States among other places.

However, last night’s 7.30 topics were (i) the chiropractic industry, (ii) where to store Australia’s nuclear waste, (iii) Defence superannuation, (iv) underwater diving and (v) Brexit.  The last topic was up to date. Not so the others which could have been run at any other time.

The fact is that, on Leigh Sales watch, 7.30 is rarely must-see television.  This applies to the live broadcast and the iview viewings alike.  Sky News on cable TV may have fewer viewers – but it is invariably newsworthy. And always covers the big issues.



The Federal Circuit Court in Brisbane has just concluded a three day hearing concerning Peter Ridd’s application that he was wrongly dismissed by James Cook University.  Dr Ridd holds the view that the Great Barrier Reef is in reasonable condition – a position at odds with that of some of his colleagues.

MWD awaits with interest the decision of Judge Salvatore Vasta in this important matter – which goes to the issue of academic freedom.  The Ridd Case has been covered by News Corp papers but ignored by the ABC.

According to Jennifer Marohasy – who is monitoring the case on her website – ABC journalists did not attend the court hearings and have not reported the case.  This in spite of the fact that the taxpayer funded public broadcaster’s newsrooms in London and Washington DC are replete with reporters – while important cases go unreported in Australia.

However, so far at least, the ABC has not attempted to rationalise the non-coverage of the Ridd Case due to, say, “Bushfires in the Brisbane region”. Past issues of MWD refer.



MWD notes with interest the re-emergence of former ABC TV Lateline producer Peter Charley in the current Al Jazeera coverage of Pauline Hanson and some her staff concerning international finance raising, gun legislation and the Port Arthur mass murder.

MWD readers will be delighted to know that Gerard Henderson tackled your man Charley back in 2005 concerning his comments on the former Governor-General Sir John Kerr. Learn all about this next week. [I can barely wait. – MWD Editor]

Can You Bear It


 Thanks to the avid Melbourne reader who has brought MWD’s attention to the very latest developments in the campaign of the Greens candidate Julian (“I just love flashing my post-nominals”) Burnside AO QC in the seat of Kooyong in Melbourne’s inner-east.

As MWD reported last week, the multi-millionaire JB AO QC is asking the good people of Kooyong to kick the can by helping to pay for a billboard of your man Burnside which is attached to the Junktion Hotel. The sign, which looks over Kew Junction, reads as follows: “Julian Burnside AO QC: Your Local Candidate for Kooyong.”  Impressed? Well, Jackie’s (male) co-owner certainly is.  So is Jackie whose top qualification is a Dip. Wellness from The Gunnedah Institute.

As avid MWD readers are only too well aware, the post-nominals flasher lives in a $8 million plus pile in Hawthorn – just a short Lamborghini drive from Kew Junction.

And now for a MWD News Flash.  MWD has learnt that JB AO QC’s billboard in Adeney Avenue, Kew makes no reference to the Greens’ candidate for Kooyong’s post-nominals. It just reads: “Vote 1 Julian Burnside For Kooyong”. Er, that’s all folks.

How snobbish can you get?  The Greens candidate for Kooyong seems to believe that those who travel from, say, an exclusive street in Hawthorn through to Kew Junction will be impressed by his post-nominals.  But that those who walk their canines down Kew’s Adeney Avenue or Argyle Road won’t know the importance of an “AO” still less a “QC”.  Can You Bear It?

[Er, no. Not really. My attention has been drawn to Julian Burnside AO QC’s entry in Wikipedia.  The material from his “Early Years” segment – which contains few citations – looks suspiciously like your man Burnside’s very own work.  You be the judge – here it is:


Burnside was born in Melbourne to Kennedy Byron Burnside and Olwen Lloyd Banks. His father was a prominent Melbourne surgeon. Burnside attended Melbourne Grammar School, graduating with a range of scholarships and prizes. He then studied law and economics at Monash University, with aspirations to eventually work as a management consultant. While at university, Burnside showed immense talent for the study of law and successfully competed in Moot Court competitions (moot court). He was selected to represent Monash at an international competition in New Zealand, in which he was named best speaker and won the Blackstone Cup. After a conversation with Sir Richard Wild, the Chief Justice of New Zealand who had adjudicated, Burnside was persuaded that he should pursue a career as a barrister. He obtained a Bachelor of Economics in 1972 and a Bachelor of Laws in 1973.

Isn’t it nice to know that Young Burnside showed immense talent while at Melbourne University and that his old man was not just a surgeon but a “prominent” one at that.  And that Young Burnside won lotsa prizes at Melbourne Grammar School. – MWD Editor].


Did anyone see Ellen Fanning presenting ABC TV’s The Drum last Friday on the eve of the NSW State election?  It turned out to be quite a stack with the Sydney based Peter FitzSimons, Labor Party member Chris Brown, former Independent Tony Windsor who detests the Coalition and Reem Sweid in Melbourne who bagged either the Coalition government in Sydney or the Coalition government in Canberra or both.  Only former NSW Liberal Party parliamentarian Robyn Parker provided any “balance”.

What was notable about the occasion was that The Red Bandannaed One appears to have abandoned the red rag on his head for appearances on The Drum.  [Who knows – could this could be a health & safety issue? – MWD Editor.]

It’s not clear how many of The Drum’s Australia-wide audience – if an Australia-wide audience there is – cares about NSW elections.  Apparently, Ms Fanning and her executive producer reckon that this is the case – since they devoted a considerable amount of time to the issue last Friday.  Particularly to Peter FitzSimons’ well known obsession against knocking down the 30-year old Allianz Stadium and rebuilding a modern facility on the site.  After all, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald on 6 March 2019, Fitz said that the Labor Party leader Michael Daley’s opposition to demolishing Allianz Stadium had led to Mr Daley receiving the equivalent of a standing ovation from Sydney and regional NSW that week and added that “as demonstrated by every poll the people have had a gutful of the whole stadium debate”.

Let’s go to the transcript to see how the matter was covered in The Drum last Friday:

Ellen Fanning: Peter FitzSimons, I don’t want to be flippant about democracy. But it seems to me wherever you go in NSW people say: “I don’t know, what are you going to do? I don’t know what are you going to do?” – it’s a very interesting campaign.

Peter FitzSimons: I just don’t know. Usually on the eve of an election you’ve got a gut feel, and mostly you come up good – except for the Trump election which I got entirely wrong. My gut instinct as someone who goes west of the Blue Mountains a lot is, I’ll be fascinated what happens there. I think they’ll lose badly west of the Blue Mountains. And it will come down to what happens in the cities – if they’ve got enough to hold on there. The stadiums is the issue I guess I’ve been the most concerned about.

 Ellen Fanning: Whether to rebuild them, refurbish them, how much money is being spent.

 Peter FitzSimons: It was ludicrous from the beginning. Absolutely ludicrous. There was no big push from the people who go to the stadiums, [to say] “let’s knock down a piece of 20-year-old [sic] infrastructure”. They handled it very badly. I note my own newspaper The Sydney Morning Herald had an editorial saying “stadiums no big deal don’t worry about it” today. But I think that will be, not a deciding issue, but I think it will be a factor in the way that people vote because it gives everybody that’s not getting what they want in their own electorate, it gives them a narrative, “You bastards can put out a 2.2 billion dollars on this but you can’t pay for the kidney machine in my local hospital, or we can’t build a basketball court, we can’t build bridges”.

As it turned out, Fitz was hopelessly wrong. A Galaxy exit poll revealed that only 12 per cent of NSW voters regarded the stadium issue as something which was important in determining their vote.  In other words, The Red Bandannaed One is completely out of touch.

Fitz’s analysis proved false – and the Coalition government was returned for a third time with a majority. Did he express any humility for getting it wrong?  Not on your Nelly.  Instead, late into the night on Saturday 23 March, Fitz wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald’s online edition that Premier Berejiklian’s victory had really been a disappointment and that, wait for it, the stadium issue had been a big negative for the Coalition. Here’s part of what he had to say:

Obviously, the key reason the state government struggled so badly is it bears the same “Liberal National Party” brand as the incumbent federal government, which is held in such low esteem by such a broad swath of the population that some points will have been lost to people who just want to bash an LNP member, and any LNP member will do, even if they’re only a state member.

More obviously still – and I think I might have mentioned this before, yes? – there was the complete debacle of the stadium policy, which fed into a general perception the Berejiklian government in its first incarnation was too close to the famed Big End of Town, not to mention appearing to be at the beck and call of media bully boys such as Alan Jones.

The single moment in the entire staggeringly dull campaign that will live in popular memory will be Opposition Leader Michael Daley telling Jones that he and the rest of the SCG Trust would be sacked not long after premier Daley had his first cup of coffee on the Monday after the election.

In the intermediate future, the Liberal Party will, I suspect, look sideways at Premier Berejiklian and work out the chances of a premier who fell across the line this time, managing to win again next time. The likely conclusion is that she is unlikely to – and my pound to your peanut says that the leadership merry-go-round that has featured as the main attraction at the Liberal Party’s federal showground will be making a visit to Macquarie Street in the next two or three years. Premier Perrottet, by 2022? We’ll see.

So, there you have it.  The Coalition has won three elections in a row and is now the longest serving Coalition government in NSW history. And Fitz reckons that Premier Berejiklian just “fell across the line” and will not win again in March 2023.  Fitz also reckons that Gladys Berejiklian will be replaced by Dominic Perrottet by 2022.

It seems that Fitz has decided to channel the late Bob Ellis – the False Prophet of Palm Beach.  The Red Bandannaed One was wrong about the political impact of the demolition of the Allianz Stadium. And now he’s predicting the political demise of Premier Berejiklian. Can You Bear It?


 Jackie’s (male) co-owner turned on the ABC AM program on Saturday morning to get an update on the mass murder in Christchurch where the alleged killer is an Australian white supremacist.  Here is what he heard:

Thomas Oriti: And we’ve been learning more about the man who has been charged and his digital footprint, if you like. Are we hearing anything more about the alt-right culture in New Zealand and how it compares to what’s happening in Australia?

 Ben Knight: Tom, when I got here the first thing I wanted to do was to try and find out what is going on with the alt-right, particularly in Christchurch. And initially I did discover that in fact there had been a pretty disturbing incident a couple of years ago, when a local businessman was fined after he turned up to the Al Noor Mosque – one of the ones that was attacked – with a box of pig’s heads. But other than that, there didn’t seem to be a lot.

There had been some alt-right, extreme right, rallies that took place in some cities across New Zealand. But that goes back to 2012/2013 and since then, doesn’t seem to have been a lot. One counter terrorism expert I spoke to said the numbers have seemed to have remained the same.  But it’s interesting to compare that with what’s, of course, going on in Australia.  I mean, we were seeing these sorts of rallies. Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux, who were darlings of the extreme right, came to Australia last year. They were spoken to by conservative journalists and commentators. When they left Australia and came to New Zealand, the Mayor of Auckland said: “you’re not speaking here” – banned them from the city’s venues and they had to leave.

Ah, even back then, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that “we’re hostile to their views”. She said that she’s quite proud New Zealanders have reacted this way – that those views are not shared by this country. So, it’s quite a difference that – even though this attack happened here – the alt-right seems to be more visible and present in Australia than it is in New Zealand at the moment.

 Thomas Oriti: Ben Knight reporting here from Christchurch.

Not surprisingly, Ben Knight ran the so-called “progressive” line that New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern is the greatest-leader-of-our-time.  Your man Knight did not advise AM listeners that Ms Ardern led New Zealand Labour to victory in September 2017 with a promise to drastically reduce immigration. Or that, having finished behind the National Party’s Ben English, Ms Ardern formed a minority government with the support of New Zealand First’s Winston Peters – who has a record of making statements critical of Islam and Muslims.

And there’s more.  The alleged Australian killer was able to do what he did because of New Zealand’s lax gun laws.  And because, after 18 months in office, the Ardern government tolerated a situation whereby the New Zealand Security and Intelligence Services (SIS) was not monitoring extreme-right groups.

In Australia, on the other hand, there are tough gun-control laws.  And the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) has monitored extreme right groups for decades. New Zealand’s intelligence has been so weak that the joke within the Five Eyes Intelligence group (i.e. Australian, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and United States) is that it should be renamed Four Eyes – since New Zealand has virtually no intelligence at all.

In short, Ben Knight’s report told AM listeners everything they needed to know – except, er, the facts. Can You Bear It?



It has been MWD’s position for some time that conservatives and right-of-centre types should decline invitations to appear on the ABC Q&A program (executive producer Peter McEvoy, presenter Tony Jones).  Those who appear on Q&A invariably get mocked by a baying mob of leftists in the audience – and are rarely defended by the presenter.

Last Friday, Q&A declared that the break-up of its audience was as follows:-

Note Q&A’s figures only add up to 90%

Coalition – 29 per cent

ALP – 24 per cent

Greens – 7 per cent

Undecided – 24 per cent

Other – 6 per cent

This is a dodgy claim since it is based on what the audience members declare to be their political allegiances.  No fact-checking is done to vet the veracity of the claims.  Since the Q&A audience invariably has an abundance of sneering Green Left types – MWD is of the view that many a Q&A audience member changes out of their Che Guevara tee shirt and sandals and puts on a shirt and sensible shoes before rocking up to the ABC TV studio in inner-city Ultimo as pretend Coalition voters.

Last Monday the Q&A baying mob focused on Liberal Party vice-president Teena McQueen. She was ridiculed for stating two facts. First, that John Howard’s Coalition government introduced strict gun control laws in 1996 – more than two decades before Jacinda Ardern’s Labour government in New Zealand.  Second, that Ms Ardern became prime minister of New Zealand after making a deal with New Zealand First populist leader Winston Peters.

Q&A released its transcript of last Monday’s program on Tuesday afternoon.  It is a deficient transcript and glosses over the venom that was directed at Ms McQueen by a panellist, the presenter and audience members alike.   Here is the real Q&A transcript for the segment – which is dramatically different from Q&A’s fake transcript:

Tony Jones: …We’ve got one last question on this subject and we need to go to it. It’s from Caitlin Figueredo

Caitlin Figueredo:  Since the Christchurch terrorist attack, we have witnessed starkly contrasting leadership styles between Jacinda Ardern and Scott Morrison. Many Australians have commented online that they want to see a more compassionate and courageous leader, like the New Zealand Prime Minister. Do you think there will be a swing against the standard masculine, power-driven politicians in the upcoming election?

Tony Jones: Roxane, I’ll start with you. Uh, just make the broad point, um, as a “bad feminist”, if you like.

Roxane Gay: [laughs] Sure.

Tony Jones: Um, but you would have watched the – much of the world has watched – the way Jacinda Ardern handled this.

Roxane Gay: Absolutely. I thought she did a remarkable job. For once, we saw a politician who didn’t think about politics, and thought about humanity and empathy, and said the exact right things at the exact right time, and then did the right political thing by, within six days, banning semiautomatic weapons. Which isn’t going to eradicate this kind of violence, but it’s certainly a huge step in the right direction. I was incredibly impressed with what Jacinda Ardern did, and I really hope that more politicians around the world take a cue from her and I don’t think it’s even about gender.

Teena McQueen: [speaking over] We did that years ago. The Liberal Party did that years ago, with John Howard.

Roxane Gay:  [dismissively] Of course you did.

[audience laughter]

Tony Jones: [laughs]: Uh, I mean the – I guess one of the –

Teena McQueen: [interjecting, addressing the audience] Um, you seem to think that’s funny. John Howard DID do that. Jacinda Ardern is copying exactly… OK.  [audience dismissively laughing and groaning]

Tony Jones: No, no. I mean –

Teena McQueen: [interjecting, addressing the audience] Can I also remind you, Jacinda Ardern is only there because she formed an alliance with Winston Peters. I think everyone forgets that little fact.

Tony Jones:  Um, what about the general point – was, I think, that Jacinda Ardern handled it in a certain way, and that other politicians in Australia, including our leaders, handled it in a different way? Do you agree with that?

Teena McQueen: I think it’s – It happened in Jacinda’s country. I mean, naturally, she’s going to be closer to it and more connected to it. I mean, Scott Morrison was absolutely disgusted –

Tony Jones:  [interjecting] The person who did it came from THIS country, and that’s part of the problem.

Teena McQueen: Well, he spent a number of years overseas. [audience laughs] But I don’t think the Prime Minister [Scott Morrison] could express his disgust any more than what he did. I mean, he was appalled by it. He’s a very sensitive man. And he was absolutely shaken by it, appalled by it. And I think he made that very clear.

The dinky-di transcript demonstrates that, on this point, Teena McQueen was correct, despite the ridicule directed at her, and American feminist Roxane Gay was not. But the leftist baying mob in the audience went with the American leftist Roxane Gay.



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

Over the years, the late Nancy’s Five Paws Award has become one of the world’s most prestigious gongs – rating just below the Nobel Prize and Academy Awards.

MWD was awaiting any follow-up of Joe Aston’s withering Australian Financial Review “Rear Window” column of 11 March 2019 titled “Peter FitzSimons overcomes crippling self-doubt”. But there wasn’t any. It seems that Fitz and his mates go by the maxim that it pays to get stuck into weak and inaccurate criticism. But if someone lands a bulls-eye, then it’s best to go under the bed for a while.

Young Mr Aston referred to Fitz as a “great impostor” who was “drowning in his oppressively generous garnish of self-reference”. MWD was particularly impressed by Aston’s demolition of Fitz’s rants about the Allianz Stadium – re which see Can You Bear It? in this issue.

The Aston critique went on and on. It featured two pics of Fitz as The Bandannaed One. It seems that, after this mauling, Fitz took off his red rag and appears to have abandoned it for appearances on The Drum.

Joe Aston – Five Paws


Media Fool Of The Week


This is what leftist Jane (“Call me progressive”) Caro tweeted at 10pm on Saturday night – after it became evident that the Gladys Berejiklian led Coalition had won the NSW State election.


Jane Caro (@JaneCaro)
23/3/19, 10:00 pm

⁦‪@NyadolNyuon⁩ ⁦‪@abcnews⁩ Ashamed to be a New South Welsh woman. Apologies to the rest of Australia.

So Ms Caro believes that the good people of Australia are so aware of her and that she needs to apologise for the fact that the Coalition won the NSW election – even though many of them are Coalition supporters.

Jane Caro – Media Fool of the Week



It was great to see the ABC joined over 800 others at The Star, Sydney, on Wednesday on the occasion of The Sydney Institute’s Annual Dinner.  Representatives on the ABC table included managing director David Anderson plus the likes of Gaven Morris and Annabel Crabb.

Avid MWD readers may be interested in the exchange which took place between The Australian’s “Margin Call” supremo Will Glasgow, Annabel Crabb, Helen McCabe and Gerard Henderson as they entered The Star’s Events Centre. It went something like this:

Will Glasgow: Gerard, I hear you’re under consideration to replace Barrie Cassidy as the presenter of Insiders.  What chance have you got?

Gerard Henderson:  Pretty good, I think.  I’ve slipped $20 under David Anderson’s plate this evening – I’m hoping that, when he discovers this, it might help my case.

Annabel Crabb:  It you get Insiders, they’ll have to extend the program to five hours.

Gerard Henderson: I expect they will – to accommodate a much bigger audience.

Helen McCabe:  That’s a quick comeback.

Later in the evening Hendo suggested to an ABC manager that someone like the British radical Marxist Tariq Ali would be ideal for the job since he would provide MWD with much material.  As avid readers would know, when it comes to the ABC, MWD follows Vladimir Lenin’s teaching that worse is better.


Margot Saville of Crikey, who identifies as a Sydney-based freelance journalist, has been known to attend The Sydney Institute’s Annual Dinner from time to time. However, she was not present at The Star on Wednesday when the Institute celebrated its 30th Anniversary with its 30th Annual Dinner/Lecture. Former prime minister John Howard was guest speaker.

Instead, on Wednesday night, the gallant and irreverent Ms Saville travelled all the way from inner-city Balmain to inner-city Glebe to attend a Friends of the ABC gig at Gleebooks.  The occasion was the launch of a book [Do you mean booklet? – MWD Editor] by former ABC TV Media Watch presenter Jonathan Holmes titled On Aunty.  It seems to have been a Che Guevara tee-shirt, sandal-wearing occasion where everyone in the audience agrees with everyone else in a leftist kind of way.  Here’s how Margot Saville commenced her report:

It is a brave man who will stand up in front of a group of “Friends of the ABC” and call for more right-wing voices on the national broadcaster.

Addressing the 60-strong audience for the launch of his book On Aunty at

Gleebooks last night, Jonathan Holmes went further, asking, “where is the right-wing Phillip Adams on the ABC?” To this lot, it was like suggesting a Rolf Harris concert in a primary school. If I was going to slaughter a few sacred cows of Australian media, I certainly wouldn’t be doing it in Glebe, an inner-west suburb where even the pets are vegans.

As the air was sucked out of the room, the retired journalist went further, picking up his slender tome to read out a passage:

In the week that Guthrie was ousted and Milne resigned, The Australian’s editor-at-large, Paul Kelly, posed a series of questions to those who claim the ABC is impartial: ‘Didn’t the ABC display a strong preference for same-sex marriage?… Doesn’t it favour strong action on climate change and criticise governments for not being sufficiently ambitious? Doesn’t it project support for renewables and faster efforts to phase out fossil fuels? Wasn’t the ABC distinctly unsympathetic to the policy of corporate tax cuts? Wasn’t it hostile towards reform of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act and unsympathetic to free speech arguments?

It’s an interesting point; one which has long been debated within the walls of the ABC. Finding an intelligent conservative voice is the Holy Grail of Australian journalism. Basically, if you could avoid endorsing Nazis and sound slightly more articulate than the nincompoops on Sky, you’d have a job for life.

Pretty funny, eh?  Crikey’s Sydney-based occasional reporter reckons that telling Friends of the ABC that the taxpayer funded public broadcaster should have a right-of-centre presenter is a bit like saying that Rolf Harris (who served prison time for child-sexual assault) should do a concert in a primary school.

Then Margot Saville suggested that if only a conservative “could avoid endorsing Nazis and sound slightly more articulate than nincompoops” then he or she would “have a job for life”.  Is Ms Saville suggesting that all Australian conservatives are Nazi-loving nincompoops on Sky News?  Apparently so.  Brought to you by Eric Beecher (Crikey’s publisher) who is always bewailing the (alleged) declining editorial standards in the publications of others.

For the record it was John Howard when prime minister in 1996 who first suggested that the ABC might find a “right-wing Phillip Adams” to present a prominent program on television or radio. Nearly a quarter of a century later, ABC management has yet to find such a person. Fancy that.

MWD can barely wait to read Mr Holmes’ (small) tome.  The first report suggests that it will endorse Jackie’s (male) co-owner’s claim that the ABC is a Conservative-Free-Zone without one prominent conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets. However, MWD suspects that Mr Holmes will not mention Hendo’s name.  The claim that the ABC is a Conservative-Free-Zone has been denied by the likes of Leigh Sales, Julia Baird and Annabel Crabb. But not one of this trio has been able to name one conservative in the ABC.

It seems that Balmain residing Margot Saville is happy with the taxpayer funded public broadcaster as it is – since she believes that “Australians support same sex marriage, …immediate action on climate change, more funding for the ABC and reform of electoral donations with many ‘progressive’ issues”.  This may be true of a majority of Australians. But it is certainly not true of all Australians.

Apparently Ms Saville believes that for the ABC to employ one right-of-centre presenter “would simply be appeasing the Liberal Party ‘base’”. Perhaps she should formally join the intolerant Friends of the ABC.



There was considerable interest in last week’s “An ABC Update” – which covered the failure of the ABC to report the important decision of the Victorian Court of Appeal 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, a former Christian Brother, had been convicted of rape and other offences against a boy over half a century ago.  Tyrrell was charged by Victorian Police and prosecuted by the Victorian Director of Public Prosecutions.

In recent times, ABC presenters have been busy commenting on the decision of R v George Pell. Victoria, unlike NSW and Western Australia, does not allow for trial by judge alone – not even in high profile cases.  On Q&A (Monday, 4 March 2019) presenter Tony Jones commented that it was disrespectful for anyone to query a jury’s decision. And on the ABC TV program The Weekly (20 March 2019), presenter “comedian” Charlie Pickering declared that the voice of the victim should not be contested.

Also, some journalists (eg Karen Middleton, Paul Murray) wrongly believe that jury decisions can only be overturned on matters of law – not fact.  And others still (e.g. Peter FitzSimons, Craig Reucassel) have expressed the erroneous view that in a trial by jury, judges, as well as juries, find defendants guilty or not guilty.  In fact, as Victorian County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd pointed out in R v George Pell it was not his role to second guess the jury’s decision. When it comes to covering criminal law, a lot of Australian journalists are ignorant.

In view of this, MWD has provided a link to Tyrrell v The Queen – see here.

In Tyrrell v The Queen, all three Court of Appeal judges found that the applicant’s conviction was unreasonable and could not be supported by evidence.  The case turned entirely on the evidence of a man about when he was a boy.  There were no corroborative witnesses, no forensic evidence, no confession and no evidence of similar criminality by Tyrrell before or after the events which came before the court.

The Court of Appeal in Tyrrell v The Queen also found that there were substantial inconsistencies in the witness’s evidence and that he had changed his story about Tyrrell.  Moreover, two of Tyrrell’s potential witnesses were dead – and this disadvantaged the defendant’s case – since they might have given evidence in his favour. The Court of Appeal also drew attention to the improbability that the offences, for which Tyrrell was charged and convicted, took place in a public place – St Joseph’s College, Geelong. What’s more, there was no evidence of grooming.  The Court of Appeal also held that the complainant had false memories.

As previously advised, the ABC did not report Tyrrell v The Queen at the time – and has not covered it since.  Apparently, ABC editors do not regard the case as important – despite the fact that it is a decision of the Court of Appeal in the State of Victoria which does not allow for trial by judge alone.

The Age ran a brief report from an AAP (Australian Associated Press) story on Page 16 of its edition of Saturday 16 March 2019.  This despite the fact that it gave massive coverage of R v George Pell.

On 14 March 2019, The Age had run a much larger opinion piece by an anonymous author headed “Why cases need to be decided by jury”. The anonymous writer commenced his/her piece with a reference to George Pell.  However the author, who wrote about a child sexual abuse case on which he/she served on the jury, was dramatically different from R v George Pell.  For example, there were a number of child witnesses who spoke to Victoria Police about the defendant. In short, the defendant was accused of a contemporary – not historic – offence. The Age’s anonymous author implied that juries are always correct in their decisions.  This is not always the case as the Court of Appeal in John Francis Tyrrell v The Queen found.


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 viewers of the ABC TV Insiders program well know, in the final segment the presenter invites panellists to make a final quick comment or observation.  When Gerard Henderson makes an occasional appearance “on the couch”, he invariably proffers a comment/observation about an international (rather than a national) issue.

During his first appearance on Insiders for 2019 (on 17 March), Gerard Henderson made an observation about Spain eight decades after its Civil War of 1936-1939.  The following week (24 March), David Marr made his inaugural appearance on Insiders for 2019 – and took the unusual step of criticising what a fellow panellist had said the previous week.  Gerard Henderson took up the issue with acting executive producer Robyn Powell and, then, presenter Barrie Cassidy. And then Dennis Atkins, David Marr and Katharine Murphy joined in. What fun.  Now read on:

Gerard Henderson to Robyn Powell – 24 March 2019


David Marr verballed me this morning. I did not oppose the digging up of Franco’s body. I merely commented on the Catalan protest in Madrid. The Catalonians were anti Franco. Marr should know this. Check the transcript. This should be corrected next week.


Robyn Powell to Gerard Henderson – 24 March 2019

Thanks Gerard, I’ll get back to you.

Gerard Henderson to Barrie Cassidy – 25 March 2019


David Marr’s comment about me in the final segment on Insiders yesterday was profoundly dishonest. Moreover, it was professionally damaging – in view of the fact that I have no right of reply.

This is what David Marr said:

David Marr: Sad news from Spain, Barrie. Despite protests on this show from Gerard Henderson last week, the government is still intending to dig up the remains of General Franco.  It’s yet fresh proof, if fresh proof was required, that left-wing governments do not know how to honour the memory of fascist dictators.

Barrie Cassidy: Thank you for that.  Dennis.

Dennis Atkins:  Well, I can’t top that….

[Note. Due to a typographical in the transcript which was prepared for MWD, Dennis Atkins was referred to incorrectly as “Dennis Atkinson”. This has been corrected.  Dennis Atkins’ correct name was in the header in Gerard Henderson’s email forwarded at the time. – MWD Editor.]

David Marr’s statement is wilfully false. I did not protest on Insiders (17 March 2019) about the fact that the Spanish government has decided to exhume Franco’s body and re-inter it in Madrid.  I merely commented on the fact that the exhumation was under way – along with the fact that Catalan independence movement was demonstrating in the streets of Madrid last weekend. This is what I had to say:

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 comment was unexceptionable.  I acknowledged that Franco commenced the Spanish Civil War. I merely drew attention to the fact that, eight decades later, the issues re Franco and Catalonia are still part of the political debate in Spain.  David Marr should know that the Catalan region was hostile to Franco before and after the Spanish Civil War – I assume that he has read George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia.

David Marr’s assertion that I protested at the Spanish government’s decision with respect to Franco’s remains is simply untrue.  It should be corrected this week. Moreover, his implication that I support fascist dictators is contemptible.

I raised this matter with Robyn Powell immediately after the program on Sunday.  Robyn said that she would get back to me – but I have not heard from her so far.

Needless to say, David Marr did not check with me about what I said on 17 March. Had he done so – I would have forwarded a transcript.

Gerard Henderson


cc:     Sam Clark

Robyn Powell

Dennis Atkins

Katharine Murphy

David Marr


Dennis Atkins to Gerard Henderson – 25 March 2019

My name is, and always has been, Dennis Atkins.

Gerard Henderson to Dennis Atkins – 25 March 2019


I know your name – as indicated in the spelling of your name in the header.

It was an error in the transcript done by a casual employee which was overlooked when checking. It was a very busy morning today.  The error will be corrected.

Not as substantial an error, I would argue, as your apparent agreement of David Marr’s verballing of me on Sunday.

Best wishes


David Marr to Gerard Henderson – 25 March 2019

Let’s not leave out of the conversation the good word Gerard put in for Franco in his Media Watch Dog:


Gerard Henderson to David Marr – 25 March 2019


Your response to Dennis Atkins does not address the false claim you made about me on Insiders. It seems that you have gone-under-the-bed on this issue.

For the record, I did not put in a good word for General Franco in my Media Watch Dog  blog on Friday. My point was that, as historians like David Pryce Jones, Antony Beevor and Hugh Thomas have acknowledged, there was no “good” side in the Spanish Civil War. As far as I am aware, none of this trio is Catholic.

For the record, in my book Santamaria: A Most Unusual Man I described Franco as a “ruthless dictator’.  You told me that you read my book. So you should be aware of my views on Franco.

You really should stop making things up about me.


David Marr to Gerard Henderson – 25 March 2019


I draw plain meanings from plain words. You were complaining about Madrid shifting Franco’s body and no frantic exegesis down the track can change that. From this point I have nothing to add.


Gerard Henderson to David Marr – 25 March 2019


That’s oh-so-theatrical.  The fact is that, in my Insiders comments, I complained about nothing. I did not complain about the removal of Franco’s body. And I did not complain about the Catalan protest march in Madrid. I just spoke about facts.

Also, in my Media Watch Dog blog I did not put in a good word for Franco. You just made this up.

Unlike you, I do not emote.  I have not engaged in any “frantic exegesis down the track”.

I understand why you have nothing more to say – it’s because you cannot cite one word to support your assertion that I protested about the removal of Franco’s body.  I didn’t.   This professionally damaging allegation should be corrected.

It’s a cowardly act to make a false accusation sure in the knowledge that I have no right of reply. As far as I am aware, no one has used this Insiders segment previously to verbal a fellow panellist in his/her absence.

Gerard Henderson

Katharine Murphy to Gerard Henderson – 25 March 2019

If you were all here with me, I would offer to put the kettle on at this juncture, and pass out the biscuits. But as you are not, I will continue my long-standing practice of not emailing Gerard as per my tweet of 6 June 2014 at 4.33pm, (except to convey Christmas greetings).

Katharine Murphy

Gerard Henderson to Katharine Murphy – 25 March 2019


Thanks for the email – noted.

We’re a bit light on tea and biscuits today. So I’m off for a Gin & Tonic.

Keep morale high


Robyn Powell to Gerard Henderson – 25 March 2019

Hi Gerard,

Thank you for your email.

David’s comments were intended to be satirical, and as such, we will not be issuing a correction.

Kind regards,


Gerard Henderson to Robyn Powell – 25 March 2019


What fun.

You say that David’s comments about me on Insiders on Sunday “were intended to be satirical” and that, consequently, you will not be issuing a correction next week.

However, David says that he was completely serious in claiming that I had protested against the removal of Franco’s remains. Check his emails to me of yesterday if you doubt this.

By the way, with a straight face, Barrie thanked David for his comments – which implied that Barrie took David’s contribution seriously.

In any event, if David’s comments were intended to be satirical – why not tell Insiders’ viewers this on Sunday?

Keep morale high.


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Until next time.

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