ISSUE – NO. 448

26 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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Nine’s newspapers this morning carry an opinion piece by columnist and co-presenter of 10’s The Project, Waleed Aly concerning the terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka.

Dr Aly commences his piece by stating that “every terrorist attack in which innocent people are killed is devastatingly tragic – every one of them is heinous”. He adds that “terrorism is evil, debauched and often results in political failure”.

True – or true enough. But isn’t this the very same Waleed Aly who described terrorism, in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, as a “perpetual irritant” which “while it is tragic and emotionally lacerating…kills relatively few people and is not any kind of existential threat” (SMH 19 April 2013).

So does Waleed Aly regard terrorism as “devastatingly tragic” or a mere “perpetual irritant”? You be the judge.

[Perhaps you should have run this segment in your hugely popular “Great Media U-turns of our Time” segment. Just a thought. MWD Editor]


 It says something about the state of comedy at the ABC when 7.30 presenter Leigh Sales sends out a trigger warning that Mark Humphries’ occasional comedy sketches on the program are – yes – satire.  As was the case last night:

Leigh Sales, Presenter: The former deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce, this week defended his role in the 2017 purchase of $80 million worth of water licences from a Cayman Islands-based company. But Mr Joyce wasn’t the only Nats MP facing questions this week. Satirist Mark Humphries brings us this message from colourful backbencher Barabbas Loins.

And so it came to pass that your man Humphries’ satire commenced as follows – channelling a Year 12 skit at, say, North Sydney Boys’ High on Sydney’s fashionable Lower North Shore.

Barabbas Loins MP, Member For Offalseed and Former Minister For Bushman’s Hankies: Gidday, I’m Nationals MP, Barabbas Loins, member for Offalseed and former Minister for Bushman’s Hankies.

I get my water from the same place I get my clothes – Rivers. And yet some people have been criticising purchases I made while water minister. But anyone who thinks that $80 million is too much to pay for water, should see how much they charge for Mount Franklin at the airport….

And so it went on. And on.  With Mr Humphries doing a send up of Nationals backbencher Barnaby Joyce.  Here’s a humour-free summary prepared just after Gin & Tonic time last night:

Mark Humphries’ latest sketch finds him playing “Barabbas Loins, Member for Offalseed”. It’s a good thing he is wearing an Akubra throughout as his attempt at a rural Australian accent sounds more like someone from the American south. At one point he even punctuates a lame punchline with “yee har!”.  Perhaps Offalseed lies somewhere in Texas.

Aside from observing that Barnaby Joyce wears a hat, the great satirist Humphries has no real observations about the water purchasing controversy.  So, he falls back on tired jokes about the cost of water at airports. His character also mistakes Hamish Macdonald for a white Waleed Aly. Apparently, you can say that sort of thing on the ABC – but only if you are “satirising” conservatives.

Come to think of it, right now the leftist GetUp! would make a great target for satire. In recent times its supremo Paul Oosting did a train-wreck interview with Jon Faine on ABC Radio Melbourne 702.  Mr Oosting falsely claimed that Josh Frydenberg moved against Malcolm Turnbull in the Liberal Party leadership challenge last year. The Getup! supremo did not know Mr Frydenberg’s position in the government or his ministerial position. This suggests that Getup!’s leader does not know even bare facts about Australian politics.

Then this week Mr Oosting authorised the GetUp! advertisement which suggested that, in his capacity as a volunteer life-saver, Tony Abbott applauded those who drown at the beach. This had to be withdrawn and an apology was made to the Australian life-saving community.

All this would make for a great sketch.  It’s just that Green/Left types like 7.30’s in-house satirist don’t make fun of ignorant lefties like Comrade Oosting.

Mark Humphries – aka Barabbas Loins


In Australia, literary festivals are occasions where a group of leftists grab hold of a bag of taxpayers’ money and invite their ideological mates to get involved in discussions where essentially everyone agrees with essentially everyone else. There is more political diversity on Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News in the United States and Sky News in Australia than will be found at most literary festivals in Australia.

The taxpayer funded 2019 Sydney Writers’ Festival commences on Monday 29 April and runs until Sunday 5 May. Its core funders are the NSW Government, the City of Sydney and the Commonwealth Government (per courtesy of the Australia Council for the Arts).  The principal partner is the building services company, ARA. The premier partner is the University of Sydney. And major partners are the ABC, the Sydney Morning Herald, the University of New South Wales and more besides.  Media partners include The Monthly.  Mark Scott is chair of the SWF’s board.

Get it?  The SWF is very much a reflection of the ABC/Fairfax Media (now Nine Entertainment) nexus of old.  Nice Mr Scott is a former managing editor of the Fairfax metropolitan newspapers and a former managing director and (so-called) editor-in-chief of the ABC. He sets the tone of the 2019 SWF – as he did last year (see MWD Issue 299, 23 March 2018).

In her “A Message from the Artistic Director”, Michaela McGuire had this to say:

This May, hundreds of the world’s most exciting writers will gather in Sydney to examine the white lies and deceptions that are necessary for survival, and malicious lies that are spun with darker intent. They’ll explore the ways that writing can be used to deceive others in an increasingly post-truth world, look at the lies that we tell ourselves and each other, and those we collectively tell as a country.

The problem with this examination of “white lies and deceptions” in this (allegedly) post-truth world is that – once again – the topic will be considered from a left-of-centre perspective. For, once again, the SWF is a leftist stack and reflects the ABC’s Conservative Free Zone status.  Here’s a list of some of the Australian participants – with not a conservative in sight:

Richard Ackland
Louise Adler
Monica Attard
Greg Barns
John Birmingham
Judith Brett
Anna Broinowski
Julian Burnside
Jane Caro
Sophie Cunningham
Michelle de Kretser
Osman Faruqi
Marc Fennell
Richard Flanagan
Tim Flannery
Clementine Ford
Jan Fran
Anna Funder
Richard Glover
Sarah Hanson-Young
Bridie Jabour
Erik Jensen
Tom Keneally
Karl Kruszelnicki
Benjamin Law
Scott Ludlam
Jacqueline Maley
David Marr
Kate McClymont
Sophie McNeill
Katharine Murphy
Kerry O’Brien
Jamila Rizvi
Margaret Simons
Tim Soutphommasane
Jeff Sparrow
Jason Steger
Chris Taylor
Lenore Taylor
Gillian Triggs
Christos Tsiolkas
Tony Wheeler
Michael Williams

There are a couple of right-of-centre types on the program. Hedley Thompson has one session on crime.  And Sharri Markson is involved in one session, chaired by Annabel Crabb, on politicians and the media.  Also there is some diversity in the ABC TV Insiders session which includes Niki Savva, James Jeffrey and Peter Hoysted.  And Tom Switzer is involved in a discussion on Russia – but he is no conservative hawk on contemporary Russia. And that’s it.

An idea of Nice Mr Scott’s concept of what debate is all about can be found in the Sydney Writers’ Festival session on the taxpayer funded public broadcaster. Here it is:

Session on the ABC at 2019 Sydney Writers Festival

Topic: Whose ABC?

Saturday 4 May 2019



Sally Warhaft discusses the future of the ABC with former ABC managing director Mark Scott, On Aunty author and former Media Watch host Jonathan Holmes, host of ABC’s Download This Show and SBS’s The Feed Marc Fennell and journalist Margaret Simons.


Sally Warhaft is an occasional ABC presenter.  Mark Scott is an out-and-proud supporter of the ABC – as are Marc Fennell and Margaret Simons.  Jonathan Holmes always defended the ABC when he presented the ABC TV’s Media Watch program but these days supports the view that there should be some political diversity on the public broadcaster.  But not one consistent critic of the ABC will participate in the SWF’s “Whose ABC?” session. Rather it seems like a soviet get-together of the Friends of the ABC.

Can You Bear It


There’s nothing that MWD enjoys so much as a journalist’s EXCLUSIVE.  Why, MWD runs quite a few of its own exclusives – albeit not always with a straight face as the saying goes (or went).  In any event, here’s Annika Smethurst’s exclusive in last Sunday’s News Corp papers:

Pro-climate independents including Rob Oakeshott and Zali Steggall are banding together under the guidance of firebrand former Fairfax journalist Margo Kingston. The centrist candidates are targeting Coalition-held electorates and claiming the Liberal and National Parties are being overtaken by climate change deniers and business lobbyists. Ms Kingston is volunteering her media skills to advise and promote the group of hand-picked independents who include Ms Steggall in Warringah, Mr Oakeshott in Cowper and Ray Kingston in the Victorian seat of Mallee.

Well, that should be fun.  Comrade Kingston on the campaign trail again.  She told Annika Smethurst that she has decided to use her brand of activist journalism to “force a conversation”. Which seems like an activist journalist’s way of saying: “We have ways of making you talk.”  Can You Bear It?

[I note that, according to Ms Smethurst, both Rob Oakeshott and Zali Steggall are “centrists”. Come off it.  I can’t imagine Comrade Kingston going to the barricades in support of centrism – MWD Editor.]


Annika Smethurst’s report on the (political) resurrection of Margo Kingston also contained the following comment:

Ms Kingston said her switch from journalism to activist started with Kerryn Phelps’ bid for the Sydney seat of Wentworth.  “I supported Kerryn, I basically ran her Twitter campaign because I thought that if the Libs lost Wentworth, they would change their ways and do something on climate change and move back to the centre.”

So, there you have it.  Comrade Kingston was an activist in the Wentworth by-election last November – supporting Independent Kerryn Phelps and opposing Liberal Party candidate Dave Sharma.

Now step back to 25 July 2018 – when The Drum’s co-presenter Julia Baird wrote this in her Sydney Morning Herald column about guests on the program:

…we ask all guests to disclose conflicts of interest beforehand, in an email sent to them before they come on the show: “This includes associations with political parties, unions, lobby groups, industry associations or any other group associated with campaigning on contentious issues that may be discussed on the program. It may also be necessary to reveal funding sources of organisations you are associated with if they are relevant.”

How frightfully interesting.  Except that there seem to be exceptions to The Drum’s rule – for activist journalists, at least.

Flashback to 19 October 2018 when Margo Kingston appeared on The Drum on the eve of the Wentworth by-election (See MWD Issue 429). Dr Baird (for a doctor she is) was in the presenter’s chair that evening.  It was one of those oh-so-familiar ABC panels where everyone agrees with almost everyone else in a left-of-centre kind of way.  Dr John Hewson (for a doctor he also is) joined with Samantha Maiden, Stephen O’Doherty and Comrade Kingston in bagging the Scott Morrison government.

Ms Kingston called Tony Abbott “crazy” and Ms Maiden described the 40 per cent of Australians who do not support same sex marriage as “bigots”. Apparently this abuse fitted Dr Baird’s requirement that discussion on The Drum must be “respectful”. After all, at the end of the program she described it as a “cracking Drum”.

By the way, MWD does not recall that Drum viewers that night – if viewers there were – learnt that Comrade Kingston was running Kerryn Phelps’ Twitter campaign.  Can You Bear It?


While on the topic of Annika Smethurst, Jackie’s (male) co-owner never misses her “The Sauce” column – which she writes with Linda Silmalis and Miranda Wood – in the Sunday Telegraph. This is a tale from last week’s column:

Senate Hopes

Six years after vying for the seat of Bennelong, Labor has drafted Australian-Chinese lawyer Jason Yat-sen Li to fill the third spot on the Senate ticket. Li, who was born and raised in Sydney, has been in Labor’s sights for years with some suggestion that a spot be found for him in the NSW Opposition. However, the Sauce can reveal the UN International Criminal Tribunal lawyer has made it on the Senate ticket after former Transport Workers Union boss Tony Sheldon and fellow former union boss Tim Ayers….

Fancy that.  For starters, Jason Li is not Australian-Chinese.  If identity is to be made an issue – he is Chinese Australian. And what would the sheilas on “The Sauce” team say if the Coalition announced that all its Senate candidates, with a chance of winning a seat in NSW, were blokes? Can You Bear It? 


On Easter Thursday, The Australian ran a Page One “exclusive” by Dennis Shanahan and Joe Kelly titled “Liberal turncoat faced own claim of bullying”. The story revealed that Julia Banks – the former Liberal MP for Chisholm who is contesting the seat of Flinders as an Independent – had been involved in a case of bullying in 2014 while working for the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline.

The Australian reported that a young female executive assistant was paid compensation following a bullying complaint against Ms Banks. This was the subject of a confidentiality agreement. The Australian also reported that “Ms Banks did not deny the bullying complaint, the compensation or the confidentiality agreement when asked by The Australian.”

The matter was discussed on 18 April 2019 during the “Newspapers” segment on ABC TV’s News Breakfast.  Let’s go to the transcript – the presenters are Michael Rowland and Virginia Trioli and the guest is ABC TV 7.30 reporter Ashlynne McGhee:

Virginia Trioli: Let’s take a look at what’s making news in print and online this morning and we are delighted to be joined by 7:30 reporter Ashlynne McGhee…

 Ashlynne McGhee: …I think the other interesting thing – just while we’ve got The Australian up there – is that huge picture there of Julia Banks who is running as an independent. Now the story’s not particularly great, it’s about a bullying claim against her that was settled when she was at a pharmaceutical company but what you’ve got is a huge picture of an independent on the front page of the national paper. She needs brand recognition, she’s got it! A great picture!

 Virginia Trioli: [talking over] Well but also a huge picture of a former Liberal that drives The Australian newspaper crazy.

 Ashlynne McGhee: Correct.

 Virginia Trioli: And so they’ve gone with the bullying claim.

 Paul Kennedy: [attempting to interject] And and and [indecipherable]

 Virginia Trioli: This is, this is very dangerous. This is really dangerous stuff – you’ve got to be careful with this stuff.

 Ashlynne McGhee: I think what’s interesting and that is exactly right, that story there, is a very bad story –

 Virginia Trioli: [starts interjecting indecipherable]

 Ashlynne McGhee: Someone’s dug up dirt on her in that battle for Flinders where she’s challenging –

 Virginia Trioli: And The Australian’s running the dirt, has chosen to run it.

 Ashlynne McGhee: Correct. And I think, to be fair – I think most papers probably would run a story like that. I think there is merit in the story even though it’s quite some time ago but it’s relevant, I guess, to her character and, and comes up in an election cycle.

 Virginia Trioli: [interjecting] Well I guess, well I, I, you make an individual choice about that as a newspaper editor don’t you?

 Ashlynne McGhee: Correct, correct and you have to, you weigh all these things up editorially but what’s interesting is that photo too is very flattering and it, potentially won’t do her a huge amount of damage, a story like that.

What a load of absolute tosh – from La Trioli.  When Julia Banks left the Liberal Party, she claimed that she had been bullied during the August 2018 leadership challenge – but did not name any names.  Ms Banks has continued to rail against the alleged bullying in the Liberal Party by anonymous bullies.

So, The Australian’s report that Julia Banks had been involved in a bullying incident herself was obviously a genuine news story.  Yet Virginia Trioli condemned it as “very dangerous” and implied that the story should not have been run.  But just imagine if, say, Tony Abbott had been involved in a bullying incident when he worked for a company.  Would La Trioli have argued that a newspaper report of such an incident by a conservative was very dangerous and should be spiked?  Not on your Nelly? Can You Bear It?


Did anyone follow the report by Annabel Crabb on the ABC News website titled “There’s only one type of voter who prefers Morrison over Turnbull, Vote Compass data shows”.  You’ve guessed it, it’s the nasty supporters of nasty Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party.

And what about the methodology which led to this pro-Malcolm Turnbull conclusion?  According to Ms Crabb:

All participants in Vote Compass – while anonymous – are asked their gender, age, education level, language, region and past voting patterns, and the results are weighted to account for these factors to ensure that the results are properly representative of Australia’s actual population.

Turn it up.  The results of Vote Compass surveys are not “properly representative of Australia’s actual population”. Rather Vote Compass assesses the weighted views of voters who follow the ABC – on television, radio or online.  Since, for example, ABC TV News rates behind that of Seven, Nine and sometimes Ten – this suggests that Vote Compass is far from a reflection of the view of Australia’s actual population.  It seems that Ms Crabb has turned her (many) talents to spin on behalf of Aunty.  Can You Bear It?


Wasn’t it just great to see David Marr back on the ABC TV Insiders couch last Sunday for his second appearance of the year?  He certainly provides good copy for MWD.  Long may your man Marr remain on the Insiders couch, MWD says.

As is his wont, on Sunday Mr Marr emoted from time to time – but never so much as during his comment at the end of the program during the final observations or predictions segment.  Let’s go to the transcript:

David Marr: Let’s not forget the other great contest that’s going on here at the moment. One, of course, the open contest, the election because both are going to have a great impact on this country. The other is the contest inside the Liberal Party to wrest control from the ultra conservatives because that is going to determine the future of that party and the future of the shape of Australian politics is on the line in this election. And you can’t imagine the applause inside the party for the good work that GetUp! is doing to get rid of the most conservative members of the Parliament.

Now it may have come as a surprise to Insiders viewers that Comrade Marr of The Guardian Australia presented as some kind of expert on the Liberal Party – with access to the inner-most thoughts of its supporters.  But – there you go.

In any event, it’s quite delusional for David Marr to accept that (unnamed) Liberal Party insiders are applauding the leftist GetUp! campaign to ensure that the following lose their seats in the May 2019 election. Namely, Tony Abbott (Warringah), Kevin Andrews (Menzies), Peter Dutton (Dickson), Nicolle Flint (Boothby), Greg Hunt (Flinders) and Christian Porter (Pearce) – along with Josh Frydenberg (Kooyong), who is not a conservative but whom GetUp! does not like anyway.

[I note that GetUp! supremo Paul Oosting recently declared that Mr Frydenberg supported Peter Dutton in the leadership challenge against Malcolm Turnbull (wrong). He also said that Mr Frydenberg is Australia’s “deputy prime minister” (wrong) and that he is “finance minister” (wrong again). An impressive trio of howlers don’t you think? – MWD Editor]

So, according to David Marr, lots of Liberal Party members are applauding GetUp!’s campaign, led by Mr Oosting, to replace the sitting Liberal MP with a Labor Party or Greens member in seven seats – which would ensure that Bill Shorten is prime minister of Australia within a month.  And what evidence does Comrade Marr proffer for his (emotive) observation?  The answer – Zip.  Can You Bear It?

As avid readers are aware, the late Nancy (2004-2017) did not die. She merely “passed” on to the Other Side. Hence MWD has been able to keep in touch with her – with the help of the American psychic John Edward of Crossing Over fame. And so, Nancy’s “Courtesy Classes” continue – albeit from the “Other Side” – Nancy’s wise counsel is communicated to those living in this Vale of Tears by Jackie (Dip. Wellness, The Gunnedah Institute).

Appearing on ABC Sydney Radio 702’s Drive With Richard Glover on Tuesday, Sydney Morning Herald columnist Jacqueline Maley referred to former Australian prime minister John Howard first as “little Johnny” and then as “Johnny”. Eventually presenter Richard Glover thought that “Mr Howard” was the correct title. To which Ms Maley responded:

Jacqueline Maley: Sorry, oh my goodness. Well if we can call ScoMo “ScoMo” which I actually don’t approve of but …

So it went from Little Johnny to Johnny and on to ScoMo (aka Prime Minister Scott Morrison). And then, eventually, to Mr Howard – which Nine’s intrepid reporter conceded was John Howard’s “real name”. Thanks for that.

Nancy Comments (via Jackie with lotsa help from John Edward):

 Jacqueline Maley is an experienced journalist who should know that the correct terminology when referring to John Howard is either “John Howard” or “Mr Howard” or “the former prime minister”. Nine would be well advised to get Ms Maley to a courtesy class – perhaps mine- ASAP.


You’ve heard about Sky News After Dark.  Well, what about the ABC After Dark – what happens there?

Well, er, nothing much at all – going on its programming last Monday.  Sure, it was the Easter Monday public holiday.  But it was also the second Monday in the election campaign.

Sure, there was The Drum at 6 pm, ABC News at 7 pm and 7.30 at (surprise!) 7.30 pm.  And then Aunty went to bed – as the likes of Australian Story, Four Corners, Media Watch and Q&A took what many journalists like to call a Well Earned Break – or W.E.B.

Meanwhile, over at Sky the election campaign was covered by Credlin (6 pm), The Bolt Report (7 pm), Kenny on Media (8 pm), Paul Murray Live (9 pm) and so on.

For the record, this is what the taxpayer funded broadcaster’s main channel settled on:

8.00            Attenborough’s Wonder Of Eggs. Presented by Sir David Attenborough.

8.55            MOVIE: Maigret In Montmartre.
Rowan Atkinson, Sebastian DeSouza. French detective Jules Maigret investigates the murders of a countess and an exotic dancer.

So, there you have it. On the twelfth day of the election campaign, the ABC ditched its night of news and current affairs and ran a repeat of Sir David (“The end of the world is truly nigh”) Attenborough banging on about eggs. This was followed by Rowan Atkinson playing the French detective Maigret (in a 2017 movie) stumbling around Montmartre looking for a murderer who knocked off both a countess and an exotic dancer.

Perhaps this was a cunning plan to make viewers look more fondly on the likes of Sarah Ferguson, Paul Barry and Tony Jones when they return next Monday. In which case, it won’t work.


While on the topic of ABC TV’s Four Corners, this is what the program’s executive producer Sally Neighbour tweeted following the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election:

Sally Neighbour‏

Highlight of the Mueller report -Trump’s reaction when he learned of the inquiry: “Oh my God…This is the end of my presidency. I’m f**ked.”

6.54 PM – 18 April 2019

So, according to Ms Neighbour, the highlight of the Mueller Report turned on what Donald J. Trump said when he learnt that the inquiry had been set up.  And not the fact that Mr Mueller had cleared President Trump of colluding with Russia in the 2016 campaign or the fact that the Special Counsel refrained from finding that the President had interfered with the course of justice.

Moreover, the Four Corners executive producer took President Trump’s comments out of context.  A reading of the Mueller Report makes it clear that the president’s concern was that his presidency had been ruined – not that his presidency would be terminated by impeachment and removal from office.  This is what he was reported to have said:

Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels, it ruins your presidency.  It takes years and years and won’t be able to do anything.  This is the worst thing that ever happened to me.

It would seem that Ms Neighbour was attempting to detract attention from the fact that the (expensive) three-part investigation which Four Corners did on Russia’s alleged collusion in the 2016 US presidential election was hopelessly wrong. Hence her continuing Trump-phobia condition. An analysis of Four Corners presenter Sarah Ferguson’s travels from London to Washington and on to Moscow in search of a (non-existent) conspiracy will appear in next week’s MWD. [I can barely wait – MWD Editor.]


 Driving into Sydney on Easter Monday, Jackie’s (male) co-owner was listening to Drive With Patricia Karvelas. Her political panel comprised John Hewson (who was described as a former Liberal leader) and Craig Emerson (who was described as a former Labor Trade Minister).

Sounds like a balanced political panel- except that it wasn’t. It seems that Ms Karvelas’s producer has forgotten that Dr Hewson (for a doctor he is) is one of the leading critics of the Coalition government in general and the Liberal Party in particular. So is Dr Emerson (for a doctor he also is).

And so it came to pass that John Hewson agreed with Craig Emerson who agreed with John Hewson who agreed with himself. No other view was heard. That’s political debate- ABC style.



Following the publication of his book Robert Menzies: The art of politics (Scribe, 2019), Troy Bramston appeared on Phillip (“I was a teenage commo, as I keep telling everyone”) Adams’ little wireless program LNL (aka Late Night Live) on ABC Radio National.  The date was Tuesday 16 April 2019 – and it so happened that Gerard Henderson was tuned in while giving Jackie her very own LNW (aka “Late Night Walk”).  This is what Hendo heard, among other things:

Troy Bramston: …he [Menzies] didn’t actively mentor a new generation of Liberals – train them, skill them up and prepare them for the task of national leadership. Now maybe that’s not his job but I think he probably should have done –

Phillip Adams: Ah, I think it is. If you have to bestride the political scene like a colossus – and, of course, I’m quoting you there. I think that’s one of your jobs.

Troy Bramston: I think that’s right – and also he [Menzies] felt that Malcolm Fraser was the salvation of the Liberal Party. And he [Menzies] didn’t vote Liberal in 1972 which is extraordinary. And Arthur Calwell didn’t vote Labor in 1972 either. Of course, he [Calwell] didn’t like Gough Whitlam, his successor. And Calwell and Menzies confided these votes to each other. But he [Menzies] did think that Malcolm Fraser was the right person to lead the Liberal Party and he returned to the fold in 1975….

As those who have read the Bramston biography will be aware, the author makes it clear that, when Menzies did not vote for the Liberal Party, “it was likely that he gave his preference vote to the Liberal Party”. But neither Troy Bramston nor Phillip Adams made this point clear during this part of the discussion.  The listener could have made the (false) assumption that Menzies voted for Gough Whitlam and the Labor Party in 1972. Let’s go to the transcript:

Then, towards the end of the interview, the following exchange took place:

Phillip Adams: Why did he [Menzies] vote for the DLP [Democratic Labor Party] after his retirement?

Troy Bramston:   I think he couldn’t bring himself to vote Labor. That was a step too far. So he voted DLP. Now I know someone who is probably listening is Gerard Henderson who thinks that if you vote DLP you are essentially voting Liberal anyway – because the preferences go back. But that’s not really the case I don’t think [sic]. He [Menzies] didn’t want to vote Liberal. He wanted to vote for a different party. He was sending a message and he voted DLP. He actually thought later on in the mid-seventies that maybe the Liberal and National parties should merge and form a coalition with the DLP. He was arguing that as late as 1974.

It was here that your man Bramston verballed Hendo. Gerard Henderson has never argued that if you voted DLP you were “essentially voting Liberal anyway”.  Mr Bramston just made this up.  Gerard Henderson’s point was that Robert Menzies was not so disillusioned with the Liberal Party in the late 1960s and early 1970s that he was prepared to vote for the Labor Party ahead of the Coalition – either as a first preference vote or a second or more preference vote.

But Menzies was disillusioned enough to give his primary vote to the DLP.

The point is made in Gerard Henderson’s Santamaria: A Most Unusual Man (MUP, 2015):

In the 1980s, as part of his tactics to encourage the collapse of the Liberal Party, Santamaria publicly revealed details of some of his private discussions with Robert Menzies.  In his May 1985 Quadrant article, he writes that “as he came to the end of his life, Menzies was prepared more than once to state that the Liberal Party had probably run its course and that its end was merely delayed, rather than ultimately averted, by the election as parliamentary leader of Malcolm Fraser”.  On 5 December 1989 Santamaria wrote in the Australian that “by the end of the 1960s, Sir Robert Menzies…had ceased to vote for the party he set up”. He gave the fullest account of his conversations with Menzies on this issue when interviewed by Rod Beecham in March 1994 for the Melburnian:

He told me – I think it was at the end of ’72, I think it might have been after Whitlam won, I’m not quite sure – he told me that in his judgement the Liberal Party was finished and in the last two elections he hadn’t even voted Liberal.  When I asked him how he voted he told me he voted DLP.  He said “That [the LPA] was the party I thought I founded”. I wondered if he was pulling my leg, but I asked a member of his family to check it out for me and he said that was right.

Heather Henderson has confirmed that her father did not vote Liberal on some occasions towards the end of his life.  It appears likely that he voted DLP in 1969 (when Gorton was leader) and 1972 (when McMahon was leader).  It is also likely that he voted DLP in 1974 (when Snedden was leader) even though the DLP was in evident decline by then.  But Santamaria conceded to Pru Goward in 1994 that it is likely that in 1975 Menzies “would have voted for Malcolm Fraser”.  It seems evident that in 1969 and 1972 Menzies’ first preference for the DLP was followed by a second preference for the Liberal Party – your man Ming was no Labor voter. (emphasis added)

And that was the point. Gerard Henderson acknowledged that Menzies was disillusioned with the Liberal Party and, consequently, prepared to vote for the anti-communist Democratic Labor Party.  But not so disillusioned with the Liberal Party that he was prepared to cast a vote which could help the Australian Labor Party win an election.  In short – “Ming was no Labor voter”.  Hendo was just clarifying Menzies’ political state of mind in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s Gerard Henderson voted for the DLP and gave his preferences to the Liberal Party.  He never imagined that he was “essentially voting Liberal”. Nor was he.  Clearly Troy Bramston is confused on this point.

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 was 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).


In the November 2018 issue of The Sydney Institute Review Online (Issue 10), Gerard Henderson reviewed the book From the Paddock to The Agora: Fifty Years of La Trobe University (see here) which – believe it or not – has no editor.  It is published by La Trobe University Press in conjunction with Black Inc. in 2017.

La Trobe University Vice-Chancellor Professor John Dewar contributed a chapter titled “From the Vice Chancellor”. In it he admitted to having taken the “reckless step” of inviting the various chapter authors “to offer their own reflections, without any fear that their views would be mediated or censored by the university”. This means, in effect, that From the Paddock to the Agora was not fact-checked. How reckless can you get?

According to Professor Dewar, to have mediated or censored the authors “would have been at odds with everything…the university stands for”.  Apparently, then, La Trobe University stands for publishing historical howlers along with character assassinating the dead.

Dr Clare Wright wrote to Gerard Henderson after having read his review.  Which made it possible for Hendo to re-visit the matter.  Now read on:

Clare Wright to Gerard Henderson – 20 March 2019

Dear Gerard,

…Thanks also for passing on the link to your review.  Appreciating your penchant for factual accuracy, I thought you might like me to correct a couple of your statements in relation to my chapter of the book:

▪ “Born in Canada to a Canadian father and an Australian mother.” I was born in the United States to an American father and an American mother.

▪ “…she studied at Melbourne University and later taught at La Trobe.”  I have never held a teaching position at La Trobe.  I came to La Trobe as an ARC Postdoctoral Research Fellow and am still here as an ARC Future Fellow.

▪ “…the intellectually fashionable stance of spelling God in lower case.” The Oxford Dictionary spells god in lower case.

Thanks for engaging Gerard….



[I’m a bit confused here. In a review in Nine’s Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday, Clare Wright was described as an Associate Professor of History at La Trobe University.  I always thought that associate professors of history taught history – but what would I know? – MWD Editor.]

Gerard Henderson to Clare Wright – 15 April 2019

Dear Clare

Thanks for your note concerning, among other things, my review of From The Paddock to the Agora: Fifty Years of La Trobe University (La Trobe University Press, 2017) which was published in The Sydney Institute Review Online Issue 10, November 2018.

In response, I make the following comments:

▪ Apologies for getting the nationality of your parents wrong. Clearly I misinterpreted the “bad case of the 70s” to which you refer in your chapter “A University Life In Four Seasons”.  I have corrected this.

▪ That’s a minor point about whether you taught at La Trobe – or were an ARC fellow of one kind or another on the same campus. I thought that such fellows did some teaching but, alas, I was wrong.  I have also corrected this.

▪ As to the God/god matter – it seems to me that, like you, the Oxford Dictionary now follows the intellectually fashionable stance of spelling God in lower case. As I recall, the 1991 editors of The Compact Oxford English Dictionary went for the big “G”.

▪ In conclusion I should state that my failure for factual accuracy in this instance seems minor concerning the historical howlers in the chapters in From the Paddock to the Agora by Aunty Joy Murphy, Robert Manne and Marilyn Anderson.  I am genuinely surprised that La Trobe University vice-chancellor John Dewar authorised a publication in which essays were not fact-checked and no one took responsibility as editor.

Professor Manne’s essay even contains errors about La Trobe University itself.  Also he was able to traduce the personal and/or academic reputations of two deceased La Trobe professors – Hugo Wolfsohn, Joan Rydon – who obviously have no right-of-reply.  Robert Manne never made such accusations when Hugo and Joan were alive.  A lack of intellectual courage, to be sure.

I would have expected that, at the very least, Professor Dewar would have put a “blue pencil” through Robert Manne’s ridicule and sneering which was anything but scholarly and in which he exhibited a clear “recollection” of events that never happened.

As previously indicated, I did appreciate your comment that, along with Phillip Adams, I once “controlled cultural production in Australia”. I did not know this until I read From the Paddock to the Agora. Hearing this was a real morale booster.

I have just purchased a copy of Dominic Kelly’s Political Troglodytes and Economic Lunatics: The Hard Right in Australia which is published by La Trobe University Press and contains endorsements by La Trobe emeritus professors Judith Brett and Robert Manne. Unlike From the Paddock to the Agora, Dr Kelly’s book seems to have been fact-checked. However, when reading the Kelly treatise I was surprised to learn that – among others – I changed Australia’s political culture.

So, according to you, I once controlled culture in Australia. And, according to Dominic Kelly, I played a role in determining Australia’s political culture.  It seems that La Trobe types are being kind to someone who was on the staff for a mere three years (1973-1975). Here’s hoping for more morale-boosting publications from La Trobe University Press.

Best wishes


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Until next time.

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