ISSUE – NO. 446

5 April 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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 This is how Fran Kelly introduced the ‘Political Forum’ on ABC Radio National Breakfast this morning:

Fran Kelly: Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Question Time yesterday. And earlier this morning the Opposition Leader Bill Shorten we heard wants to make the looming election a contest on tax and Medicare. Promising tax cuts for lowest income earners, those earning under $40,000 and billions in funding for cancer patients- $2.3 billion was the promise made last night.

Well to discuss what’s ahead and what’s just gone on over the last week, we’re joined in our Parliament House studio by Michelle Grattan (chief political correspondent with The Conversation), Katharine Murphy (political editor of Guardian Australia) and Paul Bongiorno (a columnist with The Saturday Paper). Welcome all of you back to breakfast…

How’s that for balance? Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly interviewed Michelle Grattan (who is not a conservative) plus Katharine Murphy (who is a constant critic of the Coalition and works for the leftist Guardian Australia) and Paul Bongiorno (who is perhaps the most left-wing journalist in the Canberra Press Gallery and works for the leftist Saturday Paper). It would seem that Breakfast’s executive producer could not find one conservative to take part in the Political Forum.

Needless to say, Bonge came up with the quote of the morning – which comprised a rant against the Morrison government. Here it is:

Paul Bongiorno: The government has gone into this campaign with both hands tied behind its back. The government has gone into this campaign with, uh, its credibility in tatters due to the fact that the person leading it is not Malcolm Turnbull but it is Scott Morrison.

 Well done Bonge. No other view was heard.




 On 26 March 2019, the Supreme Court of Victoria announced that “proceedings had been filed with the Supreme Court of Victoria by the Director of Public Prosecutions with respect to 36 respondents” and that the first directions hearing for this matter is scheduled for 15 April 2019.

The declaration states that each of the respondents be adjudged guilty of contempt of court on the basis that publications cited by the DPP “had a tendency to prejudice or interfere with the due administration of justice in the prosecution of [George] Pell”. The respondents include The Herald and Weekly Times, Nationwide News, Fairfax Media Limited, The Age, Michael Stutchbury, Macquarie Media Limited, Ray Hadley and Deborah Knight.

The declaration relates to coverage of George Pell – following his conviction by a jury in the County Court of Victoria on 11 December 2018 of historic child sexual assault.  The declaration relates to the nature of the coverage by some media companies and editors/journalists of the decision – since a suppression order was in place and in view of the fact that Pell was facing another trial on another matter.  On 26 February 2019, the DPP decided not to proceed with this trial – which meant that the suppression order was lifted at this stage.

In other words, proceedings initiated by the Victorian DPP relate to a suppression order with respect to a trial which did not take place.  MWD awaits with interest the outcome of these proceedings which relate to some of Australia’s highest profile media companies and personalities.

Now step back to 28 November 2018 – when the case of R v George Pell was under way and the jury had yet to retire to consider its verdict.

In the County Court of Victoria on 28 November 2018, Chief Judge Peter Kidd expressed concern about a media release by Melbourne University Publishing concerning an award won by Louise Milligan – the author of Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell (MUP, 2018). Chief Judge Kidd also expressed his concern about tweets on the same subject by, among others, Louise Milligan, Louise Adler and Peter FitzSimons. Senator Derryn Hinch also involved himself in the twitter thread.  The MUP media release was taken down from its website – and the tweets were deleted.

On Monday, Gerard Henderson wrote to Anthony Loncaric, Senior Communications Advisor, Executive Services Office of Public Prosecutions, Victoria inquiring as to whether the Victorian DPP intended to issue proceedings with respect to the concerns raised by the court on 28 November 2018.

When no response or acknowledgement had been received by midday Thursday, Gerard Henderson sent a “Did You Get This?” email.  The correspondence continued as follows:

Anthony Loncaric to Gerard Henderson – 4 April 2019

Thanks for your email Gerard, we are still looking at this.



Gerard Henderson to Anthony Loncaric – 4 April 2019


Thanks for your response.

I intend to write about this issue in my Media Watch Dog blog tomorrow  (which is also published in the online edition of The Australian). So if I am to take the OPP’s position into account, I will need a response by 10 am tomorrow.

Best wishes


Anthony Loncaric to Gerard Henderson – 4 April 2019

Hi Gerard,

we don’t wish to make a comment in response to your query.



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The media was not allowed to report R v George Pell up until the DPP dropped the second trial. It remains to be seen whether the DPP will issue proceedings with respect to the apparent contempt issues during R v George Pell which so concerned Chief Judge Peter Kidd while the trial was still under way.

PETER COLEMAN AO (1928-2019)

Peter Coleman AO died on Sunday 2 April 2019. He made a significant contribution to Australia’s political and intellectual life over many decades – as associate editor of The Observer (1958-61), editor of The Bulletin (1964-67) and editor of Quadrant (1967-1990). Peter Coleman’s books included works on Jim McAuley, Barry Humphries, Bruce Beresford and Heinz Arndt.  He also wrote The Liberal Conspiracy: The Congress for Cultural Freedom and the Struggle for the Mind of Postwar Europe. His Memoirs of a Slow Learner was published in 1984 and re-issued in 2015.  The title is taken from a poem by Jim McAuley, which was published in The Bulletin in the 1960s when Coleman was its editor.

Some like me are slow to learn;

What’s plain can be mysterious still.

Feelings alter, fade, return,

But love stands constant in the will.

After a flirtation with the Communist Party as an undergraduate, Peter Coleman became an unfashionable person in Australian intellectual life – a dedicated anti-communist. As such his political views over the years remained remarkably consistent. Speaking at The Sydney Institute in June 2015, Peter Coleman described his background as similar to that of McAuley – freethinking father and Protestant mother, educated in the selective NSW State high school system and Sydney University, and an infatuation with communism, anarchism and mysticism. He added:

But whereas McAuley found a resolution of his quest in the Catholic Church, I persevered with secular liberalism, in the belief that imagination and feeling could still moisten its parched landscape.

In the second half of his life, Peter Coleman was involved in party politics – as the Liberal Party member for Fuller in the NSW Parliament (1968-1978) – he was leader of the Opposition 1977-1978 – and the Member for Wentworth in the Commonwealth Parliament (1981-1986). He was also the administrator of Norfolk Island (1979-1981). After retiring from politics he contributed regularly to Quadrant and, later, The Spectator.

 Throughout his career Peter Coleman was a fine writer who expressed himself with great clarity and conviction.  His essential legacy was his substantial written output over more than half a century.

Peter Coleman – Rest in Peace (in a secular way).

Can You Bear It


 Did anyone wade through Peter Hartcher’s five part Endgame series on the Liberal Party’s August 2018 leadership change and its consequences?  – which ended in Nine’s newspapers (the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age) last Saturday.

It seems that your man Hartcher is still wondering why Malcolm Turnbull was replaced as Liberal Party leader in August last year. The answer is that Mr Turnbull lost the support of the Liberal Party parliamentary room – just as Tony Abbott did in September 2015.  That’s all, folks.

In any event, MWD was most taken by the second article in the Endgame series where Nine newspapers’ international editor sought guidance from “the political psychologist James Walter of Monash University”. It seems that, inspired by your man Walter, Mr Hartcher decided to throw the switch to psycho-babble when criticising the fact that when Prime Minister, Turnbull did no act the way the Nine journalist thought he should have acted.  This is what Peter Hartcher had to say concerning what he regards as Mr Turnbull’s failure to stand up for what he really believed in when prime minister.

It never does hurt immediately to sell your soul, as Dr Faustus would attest. The gain is always immediate, the full price redeemable later. In Christopher Marlowe’s famous 16th century version of the tale, Faustus is given supernatural power to satisfy all his desires for 24 years. He merely needs to cut his arm for the blood to sign his pact with Lucifer. He airily dismisses the information that he will suffer pain in a hellish afterlife. It is only as the last hour expires that he comprehends his fate, as an angel of Lucifer opens the way to his doom: “Now, Faustus, let thine eyes with horror stare/ into that vast perpetual torture-house.”

Later on Peter Hartcher quoted the learned Professor Walter as referring to Malcolm Turnbull’s “Faustian bargain”. And he concluded the second part of Endgame series with the comment: “As Dr Faustus might have told him, it was only a matter of time.”

If you ploughed through Endgame, there is another reference to a certain Dr Faustus (for a doctor he apparently was) in the final segment;

Turnbull’s anger at Cormann today stems from his view that, as a former Turnbull aide says, “Cormann could have stopped it. All he had to do was to tell Dutton and a couple of others, ‘F— off, I’m with him’,” indicating the prime minister. But Cormann’s view was that the longer the government continued with an injured PM, the worse the situation would get. He wanted certainty for the party, the government and the country. By the end of the week.

Turnbull told colleagues that he was thinking of calling an early election, perhaps the Friday of that week. Anything might have happened. It was the inevitable conclusion to the Faustian bargain Turnbull had made to win the prize. He had sold his soul for his supernatural powers and, just as an evil angel foretold to Dr Faustus in Marlowe’s play, when his time was up he would “tumble in confusion”. Turnbull’s prime ministership ended as it began – on the conservatives’ terms…

What a load of absolute tosh. Malcolm Turnbull’s political fate was determined by the fact that he lost 14 seats in the 2016 election and that the Liberal Party got under 30 per cent of the primary vote in the Longman by-election of July 2018. It had nothing to do with the lead character in a 1590 circa play. CAN YOU BEAR IT?


 What a stunning performance by Jon Faine, the presenter of Mornings with Jon Faine on ABC Radio 774 in Melbourne, last Wednesday.  The highly opinionated Mr Faine was chosen to present the “Newspapers” gig on MWD’s fave ABC TV News Breakfast program. Hamish Macdonald and Virginia Trioli were the presenters.

It came as no surprise when the first topic which your man Faine chose to comment on was HIMSELF.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Virginia Trioli: Let’s take a look now at what’s making news in print and online this morning and we work our people very hard as you know. We are joined now by ABC Melbourne Mornings presenter Jon Faine. He’ll be on air in a little bit but we thought we’d grab him first. Jon, good morning.

Jon Faine: [chuckling] Good morning, I don’t know why you want someone doing your newspaper review who was called by the Prime Minister yesterday [i.e. Wednesday 3 April] live to air as “a serial liar”. If people aren’t familiar with it there was feisty –

 Virginia Trioli: [talking over] Do we have our lie detector test?

 Jon Faine: – feisty exchange with the PM yesterday after a feisty exchange with the Opposition leader and last week a feisty exchange with Anthony Albanese.

 Virginia Trioli: [talking over] That’s what they pay you for, Jon Faine.

 Jon Faine: Exactly but there was a big write up in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age and I thought it was wonderful that you wanted a liar to come in…

And so it went on. And on. With Jon Faine talking about the subject he knows best – i.e. Jon Faine – and his argument with the Prime Minister. Since Mornings with Jon Faine is a Melbourne program and News Breakfast is a national show – it’s not sure whether most viewers knew – or cared – about the incident.

In fact, the Prime Minister did not use the term “serial liar” with respect to Jon Faine.  Mr Faine just made this up. Scott Morrison did accuse Jon Faine of peddling lies about funding for the NDIS – but that’s not quite the same thing.  It’s true that Tony Wright reported the exchange in the online edition of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age – but the story did not make it into the print edition of either paper and was not covered by other media.

Jon Faine then declared that Labor Party strategists had listened to the program and plagiarised his question (about the NDIS) in Question Time:

Jon Faine: [interjecting] I want royalties from the Labor Party – they used my question, they plagiarised my question in Question Time.

Hamish Macdonald: [laughing]

Virginia Trioli: But enough about you. How about the papers? – but just bracketing the fact that we have a serial liar on the couch and you can take it as you like depending on what he says this morning.

There followed some discussion of the morning newspapers.  However, it was not long before Mr Faine was wrapping up the segment by talking about himself – again – this time with reference to, wait for it, his socks.

Virginia Trioli: Jon Faine thank you for bringing your sock game to News Breakfast, we play a pretty hard sock game. You probably can’t get shot though.

[A groan is heard as the Faine socks are revealed]

Virginia Trioli: Oh look at that, there you go, there’s the sock game. And there’s Hamish’s sock game as well.

Hamish Macdonald: There we go – some red socks. [At this moment, the co-presenter revealed his shock/horror red socks.]

Jon Faine: Oh now look that’s going to be a whole page in the Murdoch papers about “ABC presenter wearing red socks”.

Hamish Macdonald: With a blue suit! And a blue shirt.

Jon Faine: Yeeeah – but the socks are where you’re hiding your true colours, you see.

Hamish Macdonald: Oh God.

Virginia Trioli: It’s true.

 Hamish Macdonald: I had blue ones on yesterday.

 Virginia Trioli: It’s exhausting. Jon Faine good to see you, thank you….

How trivial can you get?  For the record, no one in the so-called Murdoch press reported on Mr Macdonald’s socks.  Perhaps because the red socks/left-wing joke is as old as the late Vladimir Lenin.

There was a moment in the middle of the discussion when Mr Faine spoke about the news coverage of the Federal election and when it will be held. This is what he had to say:

Virginia Trioli: Do you expect the Prime Minister to be taking the drive to Government House before the end of the week or on the weekend?

 Jon Faine: Yeah I am expecting Friday afternoon. They’ll want the Saturday papers, the big splashes on the Saturday papers, so Friday afternoon. That could be wrong, different people say yes-no-yes-no. One thing he won’t do is do it on Sunday because if parliament is supposed to sit next week they won’t want people in Western Australia, far-north Queensland and the Territory starting their journey back just to be told turn around and go home again.

 Virginia Trioli: So that means an 11th election?

 Jon Faine: I think maybe the 11th. If not, then it’s the 18th. But it’s my wife’s birthday on the 11th and I did ask the Prime Minister yesterday on-air “can we go ahead with the planned party or are you going to interrupt it?” and he just wouldn’t tell us.

Shucks. Well at least we got to know the date of Mrs Faine’s birthday.  It so happens that on one of the few occasions when your man Faine got to talk about a non-Faine topic he was wrong.  The House of Representatives is not scheduled to sit on the week beginning Monday 8 April. Senate Estimates are scheduled to sit – but neither the House of Representatives nor the full Senate.

So viewers of News Breakfast on Thursday got lotsa information about Mr Faine and his wife and his socks. But, alas, were misinformed about scheduled parliamentary sitting dates. Can You Bear It?

The Battle of Socks Appeal: Hamish Macdonald vs Jon Faine


Did anyone see the front of The Age’s “Budget 2019 12-Page Special” on Wednesday?  What a striking dinkus of the men and women exhibited by The Age as providing its expert analysis.  They are (see below from left to right) Peter Hartcher, Ross Gittins, Jessica Irvine, Shane Wright, Davie Crowe, Jacqueline Maley, Noel Towell and Tony Wright.

That’s correct. Six blokes but only two sheilas.  In short, 75 per cent of The Age’s budget experts were men – and a mere 25 per cent were women.

And yet this group includes Nine newspapers’ journalists who are always banging on about the under-representation of women in the Liberal Party.  This is a familiar refrain of the likes of Ms Maley, Mr Crowe and Mr Hartcher. Yet The Age’s expert 2019 budget line-up resembled something close to a Men’s Shed. Can You Bear It?

[Er, no. Not really.  Especially since Jacqueline Maley uses her Age columns frequently to bag the lack of women in key Liberal Party roles. I note that on the same day, The Australian highlighted its 14-page “Budget 19 special” by the “nation’s leading analysts”. They were Peta Credlin, Robert Gottliebsen, Judith Sloan and Chris Kenny. That is a 50/50 gender balance.  Shame Age Shame. – MWD Editor]


Eric Beecher – the publisher of the leftist Crikey newsletter among other things – is wont to lecture-at-large about the (alleged) decline of journalism in Australia and elsewhere.  But for evidence of any such decline – you don’t have to look further than Mr Beecher’s very own Crikey.

Take, for example, Crikey’s edition of Tuesday 2 April 2019.  Here are some examples of the journalistic standard which Eric Beecher is prepared to accept.

▪ In a piece titled “Notable dissenters: when and why politicians go off-script”, Charles Lewis has this to say about Australia’s 10th prime minister Joseph Lyons:

Of course, if we look past the chaos of the past decade, where clattering dissent became a constant low level hum in the background, it was once quite an event when an MP (particularly a minister) broke ranks with long-held policy positions. We’ve spoken about Joe Lyons before, as a political turncoat who, whatever else you want to say about him, quit his party for sincere ideological reasons. When the depression hit in 1930 and Lyons was made acting treasurer, he pushed for a more conservative response to the crisis than prime minister James Scullin, who promptly re-appointed former treasurer Ted Theodore.

Lyons resigned from the cabinet — as did minister for customs and trade James Fenton — and then the Labor Party in 1931. The pair, with four other right-wing Labor MPs joined Billy Hughes’ United Australia Party. Regardless of Lyon’s ideological purity, the move worked out well for him in a career sense. Later that year, a massive swing to UAP candidates saw them voted into power, and delivered Lyons to the prime minister’s office.

This is hopelessly wrong. Apparently, the well-heeled Eric Beecher won’t engage a fact-checker for Crikey.

In March 1931 Joseph Lyons and five others (including James Fenton) left the Australian Labor Party and sat on the cross-bench. They did not join “Billy Hughes’ United Australia Party” – there was no such entity in existence.  In March 1931, the main Opposition party was the Nationalist Party – it was led by John Latham.

On 5 May 1931, the Nationalist Party merged with the Lyons group as the United Australia Movement. On 7 May 1931, Lyons was elected unopposed as leader of the parliamentary UAP.  Latham resigned as Leader of the Opposition and became deputy leader of the opposition.  Lyons became Leader of the Opposition.

In short – contrary to history as told by Crikey – in 1931 Lyons did not join Hughes’ UAP.  Rather, Lyons founded the UAP.

▪ Then there is a piece by Nelson Groom titled “The last lesson from my old teacher, George Pell”. It tells of a time when, as Archbishop of Sydney, George Pell would occasionally take a class at St Mary’s Cathedral College.

Talk about non-story.  This is what Mr Nelson had to say:

It’s important to note that I was educated well and was not abused, nor to my knowledge were my peers. That said, predators often inflict wounds so deep that their prey are left too scared to open them up.  Looking back, big questions hang heavy: were there victims among us?  Could we have done more to protect them?  If we had voiced our concerns, would anyone have listened?  Studies show children have a higher awareness of adults who stare at them too long, touch them, or venture too close.  Conversely, adults downplay this threat.

In other words, nothing happened to Nelson Groom at St Mary’s Cathedral College and, so far as he is aware, nothing happened to his peers.

There is no point to this story.  Except to make hints about Pell – in the absence of any evidence.  It seems that Crikey is intent in maintaining the media pile-on against George Pell – whose appeal against his conviction for child sexual assault will be heard by the Victorian Court of Appeal in early June.

▪ And then, right at the end of Crikey where few people will read it, this apology appears:

Apology to Eric Abetz MP

Regarding the piece by Kishor Napier-Raman on 27 March 2019 “How blaming the Greens went from far-right talking point to mainstream debate”: Senator Abetz has contacted Crikey to say that he has never promoted anti-Semitic views or myths nor mentioned the antecedents or background of Mr George Soros and he considers the reference to his comments about Mr Soros’ involvement in promoting the left to be a misrepresentation of those. Crikey unreservedly apologises for this misrepresentation.

This is what journalist Kishor Napier-Raman wrote in Crikey on 29 March 2019:

Another anti-Semitic myth, that Jewish financier George Soros is a puppet-master secretly manipulating the global left, has been spouted by Australian columnists and Liberal Senator Eric Abetz.

As Crikey now concedes, Senator Abetz has never “spouted” the myth that Jewish financier George Soros is a puppet master who is secretly manipulating the global left.  It seems that Napier-Raman just made this up.  Needless to say, Crikey made no reference to an apology of any kind at the front of its edition of 2 April.

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So there you have it.  Crikey publisher Eric Beecher bemoans the journalistic standards of others – while his newsletter Crikey publishes sludge by the likes of Charlie Lewis, Nelson Groom and Kishor Napier-Raman. Can You Bear It?



 Wasn’t it great to see former Lateline executive director Peter Charley back in action? – this time in front of the camera. Your man Charley moved from ABC TV to Al Jazeera – a kind of media “Stairway to Heaven” event. At the Qatari funded state broadcaster, Peter Charley was executive producer of the two part story about the relationship between Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party and the National Rifle Association. Sure, it was a great story – but it did involve unprofessionalism, deception and entrapment. So much so that journalist/academic Peter Greste has said that Al Jazeera “crossed the line” when it set up meetings between the NRA and One Nation.

The re-appearance of Peter Charley on Australian television screens reminded MWD of a previous dealing with the man when he headed ABC TV Lateline.  The full details of the correspondence between Gerard Henderson and Peter Charley at the time is published in this week’s Documentation segment.

Here’s what happened, in brief.  On Monday 7 November 2005, Lateline covered the launch of the third edition of Gough Whitlam’s The Truth of the Matter. During the piece – which focused on Governor-General Sir John Kerr’s dismissal of Gough Whitlam’s Labor government on 11 November 1975 – reporter Michael Edwards said that “Sir John Kerr died a bitter and broken man”.

Gerard Henderson asked if Mr Edwards – or anyone at Lateline – had ever met John Kerr in retirement or had ever spoken to his family or friends about his life in retirement.  In response, Michael Edwards said that he had come to the conclusion that Kerr died a bitter and broken man following discussions with Lateline staff.  In other words, Lateline just made up its assessment of Kerr’s final years, after a workshopping experience.

Subsequently, on 10 November 2005, Peter Charley wrote to Gerard Henderson, conceding that “the wording of Michael Edwards’ story was not ideal”.  According to the (then) Lateline executive producer, Mr Edwards had formed a “collective view of Sir John’s final years” – whatever that might mean.  Peter Charley added the following remark:

While I never met Sir John, I can clearly recall that my grandfather, Sir Philip Charley (a committed Liberal), spoke to me of his contact with him and told me that he had observed Sir John descending into a state of depression…after “The Dismissal”. These were obviously confidential observations passed to me in private, but I mention them as a means of explaining why, as Executive Producer, I felt it was not necessary to edit the wording of Mr Edwards’ story. In light of your remarks, I concede that Lateline’s story should have contained either a qualification or a different description of Sir John’s state of mind in his final days. But I wanted you to know that the description was not entirely the repetition of malicious rumours generated by Sir John’s enemies.

At this stage Hendo decided that it was time to throw the switch to research.  Here’s what he found:

Sir Philip Charley was born on 28 December 1893 and died on 7 February 1976 – i.e. less than three months after The Dismissal.  Sir John Kerr died on 24 March 1991 having outlived Sir Philip Charley by over 15 years.

In view of this, Sir Philip Charley could not have told Peter Charley that “he had observed Sir John [Kerr] descending into a state of depression after The Dismissal” since Sir Philip died less than three months after the event.

MWD’s conclusion?  Well, either Peter Charley just made up the discussion which had with his grandfather. Or, more likely, Peter Charley has a clear “recollection” of an event which never happened.

In Brian H. Fletcher’s book The Grand Parade: A History of the Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales, the following comment was made about Peter Charley’s late grandfather:

[Philip Charley] was a widely experienced “down to earth” man who was noted for being a great raconteur with a delight in telling bush yarns.

Like grandfather, like grandson.  Or so it would seem.  It appears that Sir Philip Charley’s capacity to tell a “bush yarn” was passed down the Charley generations to Peter Charley – especially when it came to Sir John Kerr.



On Monday, ABC Radio National News Breakfast presenter Fran Kelly interviewed Finance Minister Mathias Cormann. Let’s go to the transcript as Fran Kelly spoke to Senator Cormann about wage growth:

Mathias Cormann: When we came into government the economy was weakening, unemployment was rising and rising unemployment means that wages will be lower than they otherwise would be. Under our period in government, over the last five and a half years, on the back of a stronger economy, stronger employment growth, a lower unemployment rate, wages growth has been stronger than it would have been if –

 Fran Kelly: [interjecting] Wages growth is not strong, Minister. You are not telling people listening that wages growth is strong, are you?

 Mathias Cormann: What I have said just now, if you listen to me, wages growth has been stronger than it would have been if we had not reversed the rising unemployment rate that we inherited from the Labor Party….

Now, there are two possible explanations for this exchange.  Either Ms Kelly was not listening to Senator Corman. Or, as is common in her profession, she verballed him.  Since the RN Breakfast presenter is an experienced interviewer, MWD adopts the second explanation.

Fran Kelly – Media Verballer of the Week.

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.


 This is what Australian Financial Review editor Michael Stutchbury had to say about coal – which is often demonised by journalists, including ABC journos – in the comment/observations segment of the ABC TV Insiders program on Sunday:

Michael Stutchbury: There is a lot of talk about a crackdown on coal, we’ve heard on this program. A budget on Tuesday night will enlarge the surplus – whatever spending on the NDIS, whatever cash splash – will largely be built on the boom in Australian coal exports and export receipts. Both coal and iron ore, which uses coal as well to produce steel. So coal and iron ore, the mining sector, will deliver a lot of the goodies in Tuesday night’s budget.

As avid readers will be aware, it was not so long ago that Nine’s Shane Wright declared on Insiders the future of coal today is akin to that of candlesticks in the 19th Century. But last Sunday the AFR’s editor stepped up to remind Insiders’ panellists and viewers that without coal or iron ore the budget would not be heading for surplus and there would not be all that money to fund such good causes as the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Michael Stutchbury – Five Paws.

[An appropriate award, to be sure.  I recall that Jackie’s (male) co-owner in his only appearance on Insiders so far for this year reminded viewers that revenue from coal helped to fund the ABC’s $1 billion yearly taxpayer handout. – MWD Editor.]



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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Last Sunday, Michael Rowland stood in for Barrie Cassidy as presenter of the ABC TV Insiders program. One of the segments for discussion turned on the Al Jazeera scoop whereby various One Nation operatives were filmed talking to the National Rifle Association about Australian gun laws, the Port Arthur massacre and more besides.  Let’s go to the transcript as Fran Kelly defends Al Jazeera’s coverage as being in the public interest:

Fran Kelly: There are ethical debates of course, you couldn’t do it in this country, you can’t record someone without their permission. In the [United] States, in some states, you can record with permission from one party – which is bizarre, but you can. So yeah there’s ethical questions but this wasn’t set up, if we are going for the foreign interest line, to entrap One Nation. This was set up originally, it ran for two years this undercover sting, to look at what the NRA was doing and to get a sense of, you know, their propaganda techniques and whether they did have global outreach. One Nation got caught in the end of this process and yes you can discuss the ethical issues of people not presenting themselves as who they are. But, in public interest terms, you have to say [trails off]

 Michael Rowland: No. I mean I agree with that as well. Malcolm [Farr], do you agree with the ends justifying the means here?

So there you have it.  Michael Rowland agreed with Fran Kelly’s opinion that, in this instance, the end justified the means.  Something of an opinion, don’t you think?


It was (very) early on Monday morning when the newspapers – having been thrown over the gate – crash-landed on Jackie’s kennel.  Jackie’s (male) co-owner first opened The Australian and noticed a dinkus on the left hand side of Page One.  It read:

Mark Scott

Why the ABC

needs an


(P – 24)

Before turning to The Australian’s “Media” section, Hendo glanced across to the date on the right hand side of the paper. It read: “Monday April 1, 2019”. April Fool’s Day, no less.

However, this turned out not to be an April Fool’s Day joke.  Page 24 carried an “Exclusive” story by Andrew White – who interviewed the former ABC managing director and editor-in-chief Mark Scott on the occasion of the publication of his booklet On Us (MUP, 2019).  This is part of the continuing MUP series in its “On….” series.  Recently MUP published Jonathan Holmes’ On Aunty (see MWD Issue 445).  MWD is anticipating a future tome by, say, Mike Carlton titled “On Pouring the Gin”.

This is what Mark Scott told Andrew White about what should be the role of the managing director/editor-in-chief at the ABC:

Mr Scott, who was editor-in-chief at the then Fairfax newspapers before being hired to the ABC, said the chief executive of the broadcaster needed to embrace the editor-in-chief role.  “The chief executive is responsible for everything that goes to air and you cannot have a structure where finally the chief executive is not responsible,” he said.

Mr Scott said he drew on advice from executives such as the heads of news, television or radio, but that the buck stopped with him and that the board would look to him to explain tough decisions. “I don’t think you have to be a newsperson to do the job, but you have to be confident around content. You have to be a decision maker around content, you have to know editorial standards, you have to be able to decide whether material is appropriate and you need to have actually been involved in making tough decisions editorially,” Mr Scott said.

Turn it up. When Mark Scott was appointed ABC managing director and editor-in-chief in 2006, he vowed and declared that he would act in both roles.  Mr Scott also said that he would ensure greater plurality within the ABC.  He failed to deliver on both promises.  Mark Scott initially appointed a director of editorial policy reporting to him.  Paul Chadwick got the job – but he came from the ABC/Fairfax Media set which has controlled the taxpayer funded public broadcaster for eons. This was unlikely to – and did not – lead to greater political diversity within the ABC. Mark Scott also upgraded a complaints unit staffed by ABC bureaucrats in Canberra – the Canberra-based Audience & Consumer Affairs unit rejects some 95 per cent of the complaints against ABC reporting which it considers.

When Mark Scott arrived at the ABC in 2006, the taxpayer funded public broadcaster was a Conservative Free Zone without a conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets.  When he left the ABC a decade later, nothing had changed – it was still a Conservative Free Zone.

Earlier, Andrew White reported:

In a wide-ranging interview Mr Scott also dismissed claims of bias in the media and said the introduction of the ABC News 24 digital channel had given conservative voices such as the Institute of Public Affairs and the Centre for Independent Studies a bigger media voice than they had ever had.

What a load of absolute tosh.  The ABC News 24 digital channel has to fill space with talking heads.  So it stands to reason that “conservative voices” from the likes of the Institute of Public Affairs and the Centre for Independent Studies have been heard on ABC News 24.  But so have voices from left-wing groups like the Australia Institute, the McKell Institute and Per Capita as well as many voices of the Green/Left.

In any event – why is it that Nice Mr Scott believes that conservative voices should be heard on the ABC’s second channel and not the ABC TV’s main channel?  And Mark Scott implies that his successor Michelle Guthrie was not up to the job as acting editor-in-chief without acknowledging that, when in a position to do so as editor-in-chief, Mr Scott squibbed the opportunity to take on the staff collective (or soviet) which effectively runs the ABC.

In his On Us, Mark Scott apparently gives advice to the next managing director/editor-in-chief (the position yet to be finalised) about how to run the ABC – without conceding that he never took up the role of ABC editor-in-chief himself in the way that he promised.

[Perhaps this should have appeared in your hugely popular Can You Bear It? segment. Just a thought. – MWD Editor.]


 As readers of this week’s Exclusive segment will be aware, in 2005 Gerard Henderson discovered that (then) ABC Lateline executive producer Peter Charley had a false memory with respect to the late Sir John Kerr.  In view of the fact that your man Charley has become famous following the Pauline Hanson One Nation/National Rifle Association story – MWD publishes the Henderson/Charley correspondence of recent memory in full. For the record and in the public interest, of course.

 Gerard Henderson to Peter Charley – 9 November 2005

 Good Morning Mr Charley

I don’t know whether you remember me or not – I used to appear on Lateline in the olden days.

As I recall – from those (distant) times – I used to get some invitations to appear on Lateline when I was a critic of the Howard Government on some social and political issues. It seems that the invitations dried up around the time – after 9/11 – when I became a supporter of the Howard government’s foreign policy.  Alas. These days I only seem to get invitations to go on Lateline to discuss the sex lives of Labor (Mr Latham) or Liberal (Mr Abbott) politicians – which I routinely reject.  So help me.  There was, of course, a recent interview for an edited Lateline story – but this is somewhat different to the real thing, so to speak.

But I digress.  The point of this note turns on Lateline’s coverage of the launch of the third edition of Gough Whitlam’s The Truth of the Matter.

I phoned Michael Edwards yesterday to check on the sources for his (editorial) comment on Lateline on Monday 7 November 2005 that “Sir John Kerr died a bitter and broken man”.  I asked Mr Edwards whether he – or anyone at Lateline – had contacted any members of the Kerr family, or any of the former Governor-General’s surviving friends, before coming to his conclusion.

Michael Edwards (who was understandably busy yesterday) said that he had come to this conclusion following discussions with Lateline staff – his exact words were “we discussed it”.   It seems that the opinion that John Kerr died “bitter and broken” was workshopped by the Lateline team.  It is not clear whether any of the Lateline staff concerned had ever met John Kerr in retirement or had spoken to his family or friends about his retirement.  However, I would doubt this.  Certainly Mr Edwards did not claim that Lateline had made any effort to fact-check this issue.

Lateline’s comment about John Kerr last Monday was unprofessional – in that Lateline simply repeated the allegations made by Kerr’s enemies (e.g. Gough Whitlam and the late Jim McClelland) that Kerr was bitter and broken in retirement.

I knew John Kerr in retirement.  I met him for lunch at his office, Anne Henderson and I were invited to his annual Christmas parties and he and Anne Kerr came to our home for lunch.

John Kerr was neither bitter nor broken and he had a group of friends – including active and retired judges (e.g. Anthony Mason, Laurence Street, Harry Gibbs, Garfield Barwick and Murray Gleeson) along with the likes of Bob Ellicott, Laurie Short, Ken Gee, John Paul and Don Markwell and more besides.  As Anthony Mason acknowledged, in his retirement John Kerr was on occasions obsessive. This is hardly a novel condition and certainly did not adversely affect his many friendships.

In his retirement John Kerr wrote two books and one unpublished manuscript. He was in no sense bitter although, understandably, he was critical of some people – above all, Malcolm Fraser.  John Kerr was actually quite proud of the decision he made on 11 November 1975 and said that, given similar circumstances, he would make the same decision again. He believed that he had done his duty in resolving a constitutional deadlock while keeping Buckingham Palace out of the matter.

The comment that John Kerr was “bitter and broken” in his retirement could only be made by someone who disliked him or by someone who never met him.  I assume that the Lateline team fits into the second category.  In my view, the Lateline claim should either be corrected or else Lateline should present an alternative point of view.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

PS: On a happier note, my thanks to the Lateline team for consistently acknowledging The Sydney Institute when Lateline covers Institute functions.  Much appreciated.

cc:     Tony Jones

          Presenter – Lateline

           Maxine McKew

          Presenter – Lateline

Peter Charley to Gerard Henderson – 10 November 2005

Dear Gerard,

I do indeed remember you as a distinguished guest who brought intellectual rigour and elegant debate to Lateline and I look forward to having you back on the program to discuss something other than the sex lives of politicians.

I take your point that the wording of Michael Edwards’ story was not ideal. Our reporter had not met Sir John and has told me that he wrote that the former Governor General died “a bitter and broken man” from his observation of a collective view of Sir John’s final years, partially inspired I suspect by Sir John’s speech at the 1977 Melbourne Cup.

Had that view been concocted by vengeful Whitlam supporters? Or does it hold some truth? You are correct to point out that personal contact with Sir John may have clarified the matter.

While I never met Sir John, I can clearly recall that my grandfather, Sir Philip Charley (a committed Liberal), spoke to me of his contact with him and told me that he had observed Sir John descending into a state of depression (perhaps Anthony Mason’s description of “obsession” is more apt) after “The Dismissal”. These were obviously confidential observations passed to me in private, but I mention them as a means of explaining why, as Executive Producer, I felt it was not necessary to edit the wording of Mr Edwards’ story. In light of your remarks, I concede that Lateline’s story should have contained either a qualification or a different description of Sir John’s state of mind in his final days. But I wanted you to know that the description was not entirely the repetition of malicious rumours generated by Sir John’s enemies.

I appreciate your remarks about Lateline’s acknowledgement of The Sydney Institute when we cover your functions there. It’s the least we can do to credit your often stimulating and important gatherings.

Kind regards,


Gerard Henderson to Peter Charley – 10 November 2005

Dear Peter

Thanks for your generous note.

In view of the fact that you do not propose to correct Lateline’s assessment of John Kerr, I will probably discuss the issue on my RN Breakfast slot tomorrow morning.

I understand why Michael Edwards’ story may have been inspired by John Kerr’s performance at the 1977 Melbourne Cup.  But I believe he drew the wrong conclusion.  I discussed this with JK.  He was just pissed – driven, I suspect by mere thirst (certainly that’s my rationale for such occasions).  JK was not the first, and won’t be the last, Australian to have what is now called a “Melbourne Cup issue”.

I never saw any evidence that John Kerr suffered depression – quite the contrary, in fact.  Interesting about your grandfather – I should find out more about him.

Best wishes


cc:     Tony Jones

Maxine McKew

Gerard Henderson to Peter Charley – 21 November 2005

Good morning Peter

The Late Sir John Kerr and the late Sir Philip Charley

…In your email of 10 November 2005, you conceded that Lateline should not have reported that John Kerr died a “bitter and broken man” without at least some qualification.  However, you maintained that “the description of Sir John’s state of mind in his final days…was not entirely the repetition of malicious rumours generated by Sir John’s enemies”.  Your rationale for this comment was as follows:

While I never met Sir John, I can clearly recall that my grandfather, Sir Philip Charley (a committed Liberal), spoke to me of his contact with him and told me that he had observed Sir John descending into a state of depression (perhaps Anthony Mason’s description of “obsession” is more apt) after “The Dismissal”. These were obviously confidential observations passed to me in private, but I mention them as a means of explaining why, as Executive Producer, I felt it was not necessary to edit the wording of Mr Edwards’ story.

As indicated in my email of 10 November 2005 – following your note, I became interested in your grandfather.  I could not find any detailed reference to him on the internet or in my copies of past editions of Who’s Who In Australia.  However, I got lucky with the Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales, which sent me some information from its archives.

Sir Philip Charley was a stimulating/high achieving man.  That’s for sure.  Yet he could not be an authority for the proposition that John Kerr died “bitter and broken”. That’s for sure.

Correct me if I am wrong.  But, as I understand it, Sir Philip Charley was born on 28 December 1893 and died on 7 February 1976.  This means that he was aged 82 years when John Kerr dismissed Gough Whitlam on 11 November 1975.  Sir Philip died less than three months after the Dismissal.

In view of this, I do not believe that, Sir Philip Charley (irrespective of his obvious abilities) was in a position to judge John Kerr’s state of mind in the mid to long-term period after the Dismissal. And, of course, Sir Philip was in no position to judge whether John Kerr died “bitter and broken” – since Sir John outlived Sir Philip by over 15 years.

I note that in Brian H. Fletcher’s book The Grand Parade: A History of the Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales, the following comment is made about your late grandfather:

[Philip Charley] was a widely experienced, “down to earth” man who was noted for being a great raconteur with a delight in telling bush yarns.

A gene, I suspect, which might have passed down from grandfather to grandson – at least in so far as John Kerr is concerned.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

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).


A certain Neale Maher wrote a somewhat pedantic email to Hendo about MWD.  Your man Maher requested a courteous reply. He got one.

Neale Maher to Gerard Henderson – 30 March 2019


I read your latest Media Watch Dog and would like the following questions answered please.

  1. In Issue 435 you told Julian Burnside “if this ‘pile’ reference offends you, I will not repeat it”, yet you went and repeated it in the current Issue.  Was your comment in Issue 435 a complete falsehood?
  2. You state that Julian Burnside’s Wikipedia page “looks suspiciously like your man Burnside’s very own work”.  On what basis do you make this assessment?  You simply made this up.
  3. At the Sydney Institute dinner when asked about if you get the Insiders, they will have to extend the program to five hours, you replied “I expect they will – to accommodate a much bigger audience”.  How exactly does extending a program to five hours accommodate a much bigger audience?  If they extend the Academy Awards to five hours will more people watch the program?  I’d suggest the complete opposite is in fact the case.
  4. You state “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”.  On what basis do you make this assessment?  You simply made this up.
  5. You state the Q&A audience political leaning percentages are dodgy and that “no fact-checking is done to vet the veracity of the claims”.  How exactly would you propose this is done?

In relation to your comments about the Tyrrell case, I would just take this opportunity to point out a few observations from my time involved with such cases – “there were no corroborative witnesses” – sex offenders rarely offend in view of others wherever possible, “no forensic evidence” – highly unlikely 50 years later and further hampered by quite unsophisticated techniques that long ago, “no confession” – meaningless and also uncommon in the case of sex offenders, many of whom see they have done no wrong and “no evidence of similar criminality before or after” – even if something occurs just once it still occurred.  Not every person who commits a serious crime is a serial offender.

Also please accept my congratulations on mentioning Peter FitzSimons 22 times in the current Issue, which I believe is a new record. We clearly watch different channels as I wouldn’t see him from one month to the next, but it is always good to be told what he is up to in such minute detail each week.

I look forward to your reply, which would be the courteous thing to do.

Kind regards

Neale Maher

Gerard Henderson to Neale Maher – 2 April 2019


How wonderful to learn that you are an avid MWD reader.  In reply to your email of April Fool’s Day, I make the following responses.

  • As you may or may not know, MWD is, at times, an irreverent publication – and, consequently, not always totally serious. Unlike my column in The Weekend Australian, for example. After all, the late Nancy (2004-2017) makes an appearance in the MWD blog – giving guidance on courtesy, with a little help from the American psychic John Edward.  And then there is Jackie (Dip. Wellness, The Gunnedah Institute) who makes an appearance every now and then.

Your email implies that you are an oh-so-serious person who is inclined to pedantry.

  • I’m disappointed that you did not cite Julian Burnside’s post-nominals in your email. He is Julian Burnside AO QC – if you don’t mind.
  • It’s true that JB AO QC did get upset that I mentioned his Hawthorn pile and that I promised not to do so again. But that’s before he threw his hat in the political ring for the Greens and decided to beg the good people of Kooyong to help finance his billboard that looks down on the toiling masses from atop the Junktion Hotel at the Kew Junction. Long-time members of the gentlemen-only Savage Club, with a Hawthorn mansion, should be able to fund their own billboards – don’t you think?

I guess it’s a broken promise – of the kind that JB AO QC seems destined to make if he makes it to the House of Representatives.  But – Mea Culpa nevertheless.

  • I made the assessment of JB AO QC’s Wikipedia entry on his “Early Life” on the basis that it contains no citations for the claim that “while at university, Burnside showed immense talent for the study of law”. Who else would know this? Did he receive all firsts?  Did he top his final year?  In short, how was this “immense talent” demonstrated?

By the way, I did not make an assertion about this – I merely expressed my suspicions.  I remain suspicious.

  • If you had a sense of humour you would understand that the Will Glasgow/Annabel Crabb/Gerard Henderson exchange was light-hearted. Mr Glasgow’s comment that I might get the gig of Insiders’ presenter was a JOKE. Ms Crabb’s claim that, in such a circumstance, the program would need to run for five hours was a JOKE. And my response that such a time extension would be needed to accommodate the resultant larger audience was a JOKE.

By the way, Insiders commenced in 2001 at 30 minutes and was extended to 45 minutes and then to 60 minutes – all in response to audience demand. So, who knows what the future might hold?

  • The very fact that “Nancy’s Five Paws Award” exists should indicate that this is not a serious title. Perhaps you have had an irony by-pass.
  • I have never suggested that Q&A should do fact-checking to vet the veracity of its claim about the political allegiances of its audiences. You just made this up.

All I have ever said or written is that Q&A should declare that its account of the political views of its audiences is based on their self-assessment. What’s wrong with that?  Better still – it would make sense not to attempt to assess the political make-up of Q&A audiences – since it is a meaningless figure.

  • If you had read the Victorian Court of Appeal’s judgement in Tyrell v The Queen you would know that, in last Friday’s MWD, I simply summarised the decision of Judges Kaye, Niall and Weinberg. You should direct your disapproval of the decision to someone other than me – I have no responsibility for the judgment in Tyrell v Queen.
  • I’m impressed that you counted 22 references to the Red Bandannaed One in last week’s MWD. Well done – and it’s good to know your abacus is extant. However, they were made in just two segments. By the way, Fitz does not only appear on television, he also writes a column in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Sun-Herald. And he provides great copy for MWD – which just loves it when a multi-millionaire, middle-aged, leftist bloke walks about with a red rag on his head.

Keep reading MWD – and Keep Morale High.

Gerard Henderson AC (aka Always Courteous)

Neale Maher to Gerard Henderson – 3 April 2019


Just to clarify –

▪ I never said I was an avid MWD reader, so I’m not sure how you have deduced that I am.

▪ I have no interest in how Julian Burnside funds his billboard, that is his problem, and I’m not sure how that relates to breaking an agreement to cease describing his property as a Hawthorn pile.  Yes, it is a broken promise, there is no need to “guess it’s a broken promise”.

▪ In terms of Julian Burnside’s university studies, perhaps one of his enormous cohort provided the information, or one of his many lecturers or tutors.  Who knows, we can all make guesses.

▪ I’m glad you make an assessment of my sense of humour.  You are somebody whose sense of humour is revered by many.

▪ Nobody suggested the Insiders exchange wasn’t light hearted, my query was simply how does extending the time of a program accommodate a larger audience.

▪ I never said that you suggested Q&A should do fact checking to vet the veracity of its claim, you just made this up. I merely quoted you saying “no fact-checking is done to vet the veracity of the claims” and then simply asked you “How exactly would you propose this is done”.

▪ I never said I disapproved of the verdict in the Tyrrell (note the correct spelling) v The Queen case, I have no idea why you suggest I did.  I accept all court decisions.

▪ I didn’t count the references to Peter FitzSimons in your column, this is a Google feature.  Unfortunately I work during the day so find it inconvenient to watch daytime television and I have no great interest in sifting through the pictures in the Sun-Herald to read his column.

Keep spirits high.


Gerard Henderson to Neale Maher – 5 April 2019


In response to your latest email, I make a few final remarks:

▪ You claim that you are not an avid reader of MWD – but you read MWD avidly.

▪ As explained, the Will Glasgow/Annabel Crabb/Gerard Henderson exchange was a JOKE.  You’re the only avid MWD reader – sorry, the only person who reads MWD avidly – who does not understand this.

▪ All I ever said about Q&A is that its claim concerning the political break-up of its audience is a fiction.  You have not contested this.

▪ If you have no problem with my analysis of the Court of Appeal’s decision in Tyrrell v The Queen why did you write to me about it?

Over and out.  It being Friday afternoon – I’m off for a Gin & Tonic.  Or more.

Gerard Henderson

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Until next time.

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