ISSUE – NO. 455

14 June 2019

* * * *

The inaugural issue of “Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch” was published in April 1988 – over a year before the first edition of the ABC TV Media Watch program went to air. Between November 1997 and October 2015 “Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch” was published as part of The Sydney Institute Quarterly. In March 2009 Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch Dog blog commenced publication.

* * * *

  • Stop Press: Nicholas Reece’s Hanson howler; Bill McKibben flies in and out of Great Barrier Reef to save the planet from fossil fuel use

  •  Can You Bear It? Samantha Hutchinson; Peter FitzSimons’ Chocolates and unnecessary trip to Ireland; Malcolm Farr dismisses the 2019 election result; David Marr on Barrie Cassidy as a “cliff”

  •  New Feature: Ask Jackie (Dip. Wellness) On The Couch with lotsa thanks to Jane Caro AM (believe it or not)

  •  An ABC update: Ita Buttrose doubles down on her ABC bias comment

  •  The [Boring] Saturday Paper’s Karen Middleton bores on about Scott Morrison’s 2006 employment dispute

  •  Jackie on the Campaign Trail: Why it is fortunate that Laura Tingle’s prophecy re Rob Oakeshott was false; Mark Kenny’s election (reverse) hat-trick

  •  The John Laws “Deliberate Mistake” segment returns

  •  The Flann O’Brien gong for verbal or literary sludge: Ray Gaita stars on Radio National about place and himself

  •  Correspondence: 7:30’s executive producer helps out (sort of) re its one sided law report


The approach of the Southern Hemisphere’s Winter Solstice – with the shortest day and longest night of the year – brings about a situation where even such Sky News moderates as David Speers, Laura Jayes and Kieran Gilbert find themselves broadcasting After Dark.  Even if Sky News “After Dark” officially kicks off at 6 pm – according to Sky News critics, that is.

In any event, the real Sky News After Dark is not all that, er, dark. How else to explain that the channel’s presenters include such Labor types as Graham Richardson, Stephen Conroy and, of course, Labor operative Nicholas Reece. Your man Reece also makes regular appearances on Paul Murray Live – along with some other comradely blokes and sheilas.

Last night on PML Nicholas Reece ran a kind of defence of CFMMEU heavy John Setka – declaring that there was many a member of parliament who would not pass a “proper person test”.  The only problem was that he came up with the wrong example.  Let’s go to the transcript – with the interruptions from Paul Murray and Bronwyn Bishop deleted:

Nicholas Reece:  I mean is there a fit and proper person test that applies to the federal parliament, people who serve in that Parliament? Would Pauline Hanson for example be in the Federal Parliament?…[indecipherable crosstalk] she has been to jail before uh so would she be, would she pass?

It seems that Nicholas Reece, who holds a position at the University of Melbourne, knows little about Senator Hanson.  She was convicted – following a trial by jury in Queensland – of electoral fraud and sentenced to a prison term. However, she served over two months in jail before her conviction was overturned by the Queensland Court of Appeal.

In other words, Pauline Hanson would pass a proper person test since she has never been convicted of a crime that warranted a term in prison.  In short, on Sky News After Dark last night, Nicholas Reece did not know what he was talking about.


The American environmental catastrophist Bill McKibben appeared on Sky News UK’s All Out Politics last night (Australian time).  He claimed that the Great Barrier Reef – which he visited last year – is “about half as living as it was four years ago”.  Which suggests that for every ten fish on the Reef in 2015 there are only five today. Something of an exaggeration, surely.

At the end of the interview, Adam Bolton asked Bill McKibben about what he would do to save the planet, sort of:

Adam Bolton: And just finally, what would we have to give up to deliver on this?

Bill McKibben: We’ve have to give up coal and gas and oil and replace them with sun and wind.

Adam Bolton: And cars?

Bill McKibben: No you can run a car – I mean I went past the Tesla dealership here yesterday – you can run a car off the sun and the wind. But you’d probably be better off riding a bus or a bicycle.

Well, yes. But your man McKibben got to London – to flog his new paper intensive book – by air.  You see, you can’t ride a bus or a bicycle from the US to the UK – or to the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland.

Can You Bear It



Did anyone watch Samantha Hutchinson, the Melbourne based part of the Nine Newspapers’ “CBD” column, on the ABC TV News Breakfast program doing the “Newspapers” gig on Wednesday?  It so happened that one of the topics on which she chose to comment on was the story in The Australian that very morning by Jamie Walker and Sarah Elks titled “Gas tax hike: Treasurer sparks energy backlash.”

The story commenced with the report that former Labor federal resources minister Martin Ferguson had warned that the Queensland Labor government’s decision to increase gas production royalties by 25 per cent in the state budget would jeopardise investment in mining and increase energy prices.  Let’s go to the transcript to see what Ms Hutchinson had to say about this:

Samantha Hutchinson: Yeah, so we had the Queensland budget yesterday, Jackie Trad came out and said that – I suppose the big surprise of the budget was that there was going to be an increase on gas producers, an increase on the royalties on the gas producers from 10 to 12.5 per cent. It doesn’t sound that much when you say it that way. But the reality is it’s a 25 per cent increase on the royalties that gas producers like Shell and Santos are going to have to pay. I think it’s going to bring in about 500 million over the fords [i.e. forward estimates], so over the next five years or so. And you’ve got Martin Ferguson, a former resources minister – admittedly he is now head of the Australian Petroleum Producers Association –

Virginia Trioli: So, you can see he went to an interesting place after politics.

Samantha Hutchinson: Yes, you can see which camp he’s in. But I think he raises a very valid point, that these gas producers have had the royalties hiked overnight and he’s raising concerns about the level of sovereign risk that some big producers. And it’s not just energy producers, it’s just any big company that has a sizeable investment in any state that they can wake up to a budget one day and find that the goal posts have been shifted. I mean we saw the same under the Rudd government with the mining super tax. But I think this also happens when State governments are forced to act in the absence of a National Energy Guarantee or any sort of coherent federal energy framework.

Virginia Trioli: Which we are missing.

Samantha Hutchinson: Which we are missing. And I think Shell and Santos would probably agree.

What a load of absolute tosh.  The Queensland government’s decision to increase gas production royalties has nothing to do with the fact that the Coalition government in Canberra has not introduced a National Energy Guarantee scheme. Nothing at all.

Rather, it is due to the fact that the Palaszczuk government has been spending money at a rapid rate to cover, among other things, a blow-out in numbers in the Queensland public service.  That’s why.  And Samantha Hutchinson with the support of presenter La Trioli, reckons its all the Morrison government’s fault. Can You Bear It?

[Er, no. Not really.  By the way, I wonder what viewers made of Ms Hutchinson’s reference to “fords” – perhaps that money could be raised for providing a spot to wade across water.  That’s the problem with “CBD” types – they’re too bound up with jargon. – MWD Editor.]



Has anyone noticed how the baying, sneering, leftist mob have gone rather quiet since the victory by what Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called the “Quiet Australians” on 18 May?  None of this lot thought that, a month after the election, Australia would be led by a fundamentalist Christian who once held up a lump of coal in the Commonwealth parliament.  But there you go.

Even Australia’s leading sneering atheist has toned down a bit.  The reference is to Peter FitzSimons who writes the “Fitz on Sunday” column in Nine newspapers’ Sun-Herald. In recent times it’s becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish the Red Bandannaed One’s “Joke of the Week” from the rest of his column.

Take Fitz’s last two pieces, for example.  On 2 June he wrote that he flew Qantas from Melbourne to Sydney recently in business class. How about that?  Only to find the chief executive of the National Rugby League and Ticketek travelled economy.  Fitz concluded his piece as follows: “I sent them both some business-class chocolates but am not sure it got through.”

Turn it up.  The Melbourne/Sydney trip is a short, busy flight.  But your man FitzSimons believes that flight attendants have time to pass his business class chocolates down to two gents in steerage who probably don’t want them anyway. Somewhat self-indulgent, don’t you think?

Then last Sunday more of the same.  The Red Bandannaed One wrote that on a trip from Sydney to Brisbane he saw the chief executive of Nine “also flying economy class”. Shock, horror.  Fitz told his readers that he “sat low”.  You wonder why Nine pays good money for such self-important albeit unimportant tripe. Can You Bear It?

[Perhaps some of these blokes fly economy because they do not want to share business with a man who wears a red rag on his head. Just a thought.  – MWD Editor.]



While on the topic of The Red Bandannaed One, it seems that the Australian Republic Movement (chair, Fitz) is re-grouping following the Coalition’s victory last week.  According to a report in The Australian on Monday, the ARM’s national director Michael Cooney has resigned to spend more time with his family.

Why not.  Jackie’s (male) co-owner supports an Australian head of state.  But it’s delusional to believe that a majority of Australians will support the republican cause while it is led by a middle-aged, Lower North Shore Sydney millionaire who wears a look-at-me red bandanna.

Meanwhile the word is that Fitz now supports a directly elected head of state for Australia and he’s off to Ireland to find how such a system works there.

What a waste of time.  You don’t need to go to Ireland to find out about the role of the Irish president. The Irish political system is different from Australia’s. In Ireland, the Senate has no power to deny supply to the government in the Dail. Consequently, the Irish president has no role in resolving a conflict between the lower and upper house as occurred in Australia in November 1975 – he/she is essentially a symbolic figure.

Moreover, the Irish president, who is elected, is severely restrained from making public comments about contemporary politics – unlike the Australian governor-general who is not under such constraints.

It seems that Fitz is ignorant of all this. So, he’s off to Ireland to find out what any students of constitutions already know.  Stand by for another Sun-Herald column about his flight en route to Dublin and how he was seated in business class (or perhaps first) attempting to pass chocolates to the poor souls in economy. Can You Bear It?


It was Barrie Cassidy’s last occasion as presenter of ABC TV’s Insiders last Sunday. On the couch were Dennis Atkins (Courier Mail), Malcolm Farr ( and Karen Middleton (The [Boring] Saturday Paper).  Needless to say, there was not much disagreement on politics and all that.  But there was one moving moment. Let’s go to the transcript:

Clip of Treasurer Josh Frydenberg: We have a range of measures, but we do face economic challenges. And we are best placed to manage these economic developments.

Barrie Cassidy: It’s useful logic to call on isn’t it? – that the worse it gets, the more imperative it is to stick with the government. You can’t lose with that argument.

Malcolm Farr: Its bold argument after six years – the Coalition being in power for six years. Look, the economy is barely registering a pulse and yet during the election campaign, given such flowery assurances that the fundamentals are good, and we haven’t had a recession for 28 years, therefore things must be marvellous. Well, tell that to people whose wages haven’t gone up significantly. Tell that to people who can’t get a job. Tell that to businesses who are really in trouble because their customers don’t have the extra cash that should be spent in the retail sector. Retail growth in April went down 1 per cent, it’s an extraordinary – and we’re yet to see what might happen in a US-China trade war. Things are in a delicate and tenuous position.

A fine rant by Mr Farr, don’t you think?  The only problem is that it was somewhat out of date. According to your man Farr (i) the economy is barely registering a pulse, (ii) wages have not gone up significantly, (iii) some people can’t get a job and (iv) some retail businesses are in trouble. Plus, we don’t know what might happen with a US-China trade war. And, consequently, the Morrison government is not entitled to say that it is better placed than Labor to manage the economy and that “the people” should understand this.

Perhaps someone should have reminded Malcolm Farr that the election was held on 18 May – and a majority of Australian voters, i.e. “the people”, decided to re-elect the Coalition.  It would seem that your man Farr reckons that the electorate made the wrong decision and that he knows what’s best for “the people”. Can You Bear It?


While on the topic of Insiders – alas, Jackie’s (male) co-owner, and occasional Insiders panellist, was not asked to proffer a comment about Barrie Cassidy last Sunday.  However, it was not really necessary since your man Cassidy won MWD’s (most prestigious) Five Paws Award last Friday for his key role in founding what has become the ABC’s most successful news and current affairs program. What greater praise can there be?

In any event, Hendo could not have matched David Marr’s contribution which – illustrated with extravagant hand signals – was as follows:

David Marr: Barrie Cassidy is a cliff that speaks. The cliff opens – and out comes a brutally simple question. And the cliff just goes back into shape again – while his victim has to find an answer.

See video here:

So, there you have it.  Barrie Cassidy is a cliff which opens – and then shuts.  And, presumably, opens and shuts again and again and again. Which is an over-the-top way of saying that Barrie Cassidy asks good questions.  Can You Bear It?


Over recent years, some avid readers have expressed disappointment that a segment on applied psychology, commenced by Nancy (2004-2017), has not been continued by Jackie. Especially since the late Nancy had no qualifications other than common sense – whereas Jackie has a Dip. Wellness from The Gunnedah Institute in addition to canine sense.

The good news is that – after negotiations with Nancy’s estate – Jackie has been able to take over this practice.  And that Jane Caro AM has stepped forward to be the first of Jackie’s patients on the couch.  Here’s an extract from the consultation transcript:

Jackie: Thanks for being my first patient.

Jane: It’s fine.  I will talk about myself to anyone – especially a feminist like you with a Dip. Wellness.  You are almost as well qualified as I am with my B.A. from Macquarie University.

Jackie: Congratulations on your recently awarded A.M. in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. Not many avowed republicans accept honours approved by Buckingham Palace on this particular date.  Why did you accept a gong on Mrs King’s birthday?

Jane: Well, I felt so humbled by the offer that I decided to accept the AM.  On behalf, of course, of all other radical feminist atheists who detest believers of all gender – including the (female) head of the Church of England.  In other words, I’m a non-discriminatory ranter.

Jackie: Yes, I’ve noticed this. I also note that, after the defeat of the Green/Left at the 18 May elections, you tweeted at 9.41 pm that Australia “may be f-cked” due to the victory of Scott Morrison and the Coalition. Do you really think Australia has been “f-cked”– and was it an enjoyable experience?

Jane: Yes. No. You see, I was pissed when I tweeted that.

Jackie: Okay, but did you mean what you said? I also note that you described your fellow Australians who voted for the Coalition as “truculent turds” and urged others “to stick two rude fingers up” at such truculent turds.

Jane: Well, they are turds. Look at it this way. Turded and non-turded Australians were given a chance on 18 May to (i) save the planet from catastrophic climate change, (ii) clamp down on private religious schools (except Muslim institutions which are fine), (iii) move to electric cars and (iv) pay more for power.  And the turds rejected this nirvana.  Perhaps I should have urged a rude two-finger salute on both hands – just not one.  But I like to consider myself as a moderate.

Jackie: But how do you explain such anger? – which occurs during both your pissed and non-pissed hours.

Jane: Well, I guess that the toiling masses have let me down. Look at it this way. I have a B.A. and I worked first in marketing and then in advertising.  What’s more, I’ve appeared on The Gruen Transfer, Q&A and The Drum on ABC TV which must make me one of the leading minds in the land.  It seems fitting that so qualified a person should be listened to – and followed – by the truculent turds who believe in God (with a capital “g”) and jobs in mining and cheaper power bills and four-wheel drives (sans electricity) and franking credits and negative gearing and meat pies and so on.  But, alas, the turds turned against the Green/Left on 18 May.  They will live to regret it.  That is – if they live and survive the predicted end-of-the-world which a 16 year old feminist told me will take place circa 2030.  She’s a feminist catastrophist, so she must be correct.

Jackie: So, how do you see the immediate future?

Jane: Well, as you are probably aware, on election night I declared that Australia is a “backward looking country in a backwater”. And added “I wish I was a New Zealander”.

Jackie: Do you still hold this view?

Jane: Well, I do. Can you keep a secret?  New Zealand recently restored knights and dames. If I was a Kiwi, I would almost certainly end up as Dame Caro AM BA.  This should make me even more attractive to The Gruen Transfer, Q&A, The Drum and so on.

Jackie: Time’s up.  I trust you will make another appointment.

Jane: Certainly, since I don’t believe that I have fully downloaded about those   f-cking truculent turds who don’t live in New Zealand and who refuse to follow The Thought of Jane Caro AM. What about tomorrow around Gin & Tonic Time? I find I’m at my most incisive when I’m well and truly pissed.


There was considerable interest in the full transcript of the Rafael Epstein-Ita Buttrose interview on ABC Melbourne Radio 774 two weeks ago on ABC Melbourne Radio 774 (which was printed in MWD issue 453) – concerning the ABC and bias.  This was the first occasion in which a senior member of the ABC board or ABC management has acknowledged that the public broadcaster had a problem with bias.

As was evident from the transcript, Rafael Epstein asked the ABC chair what was intended to be a leading question – inviting her to refute the proposition. But Ms Buttrose didn’t.

There was more of the same when Fran Kelly interviewed Ita Buttrose on ABC Radio National Breakfast on Monday – as the transcript attests:

Fran Kelly: And just another issue recently, you’re new to the ABC and you suggested publicly that ABC people sometimes reveal a bias without really knowing it. What did you mean? Where does that perception come from?

Ita Buttrose: Well we’re all biased in one way or another. It can be the question we ask, or the question we don’t ask. It can be the person we have on. Or the person we don’t have on. It’s as simple as that. It can be the topic – you know it’s very easy. And I think sometimes we, in the media, need to question ourselves. And I’ve said this many times. We are the least critical of ourselves as any people. And I always think that when we work in the media, with the power that we have – and we do have power and responsibility – that sometimes we do need to be critical of our own performance. Can we do better? And I’ve always applied that to myself. And I think it’s a good rule for everyone in the media.

Fran Kelly: Do you think the ABC’s any different from any other media organisation? I mean you’ve worked for a few now – in terms of bias?

Ita Buttrose: No I don’t, I think we’re all pretty similar, really.

So, Fran Kelly asked Ita Buttrose the same question as Rafael Epstein had. And received the same answer. Which suggests that the ABC chair said exactly what she meant to say about the public broadcaster.



Whatever Morry Schwartz’s The Saturday Paper is – it is not a newspaper, in that it contains scant news. More like a weekly leftist house-journal. The problem is that The Saturday Paper goes to press on Thursday evenings. So, when it comes out on Saturday morning its “news” is already 36 hours old. That’s why Hendo reads it on Monday – what’s the hurry? Even Martin McKenzie-Murray (The Saturday Paper’s chief correspondent) acknowledges that he writes incoherently and is inherently uninteresting. (See Issue 404). [But he’s still on the Schwartz payroll – a self-declared boring correspondent for a boring newspaper. – MWD Editor.]

Scott Morrison became prime minister in August 2018. Then, in May 2019, he led the Coalition to victory – an event which was not anticipated by such scribblers for The Saturday Paper as Karen Middleton, Paul Bongiorno, Martin McKenzie-Murray (your man with a hyphenated surname) et al ad nauseam.

So, guess what? Having failed to anticipate that Mr Morrison might retain his job in May 2019, The [Boring] Saturday Paper is focusing its attention on why Mr Morrison and his employer Tourism Australia parted company in 2006.  Yes, 2006 – some 13 years ago.  It seems that Ms Middleton has been on the case for a full six months.

Last Saturday, Morry Schwartz’s no-news newspaper led with a story by chief political correspondent Karen Middleton titled: “Fresh documents in Morrison’s sacking.” It took up all of Page 1 and Page 4. The breakout read as follows:

New documents show the cleanest picture yet of Scott Morrison’s dismissal at Tourism Australia, including scathing correspondence from Fran Bailey, writes Karen Middleton.

And so she did.  It’s just that it’s been known for years that Scott Morrison (Tourism Australia’s managing director in 2006) and Fran Bailey (the Minister for Tourism in 2006) had a falling out more than a decade ago.  He left.  She stayed. A not uncommon experience in the private or even public sector.  And The Saturday Paper last Saturday pretended that this was an appropriate Page One lead.  Groan.


There was enormous interest in last week’s coverage of Laura Tingle’s many false prophecies about the outcome of the 18 May election. In particular, her prediction that the Independents would win the NSW seats of Farrer and Cowper.  In fact, the Nationals’ candidate Pat Conaghan won 56.8 per cent of the total vote in Cowper. While the Liberal Party’s Sussan Ley scored 60.9 in Farrer.  La Tingle’s pick in Cowper scored a mere 24.4 per cent of the primary vote. While her pick in Farrer made it all the way to 20.5 per cent.  La Tingle lives in Canberra.

When you think about it, it’s just as well that Laura Tingle got the Cowper outcome hopelessly wrong. Remember that the 7.30’s intrepid reporter told viewers – if viewers there were – that none other than the oh-so-loquacious Rob (“My short speeches run for 17 minutes”) Oakeshott would prevail in Cowper. As avid readers will recall, your man Oakeshott joined with fellow Independent Tony Windsor in making it possible for Julia Gillard to form a minority government after the 2010 election.

On Wednesday 15 May 2019, Mr Oakeshott received a soft interview from Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly on ABC Radio National Breakfast. Let’s go to the transcript where the Independent candidate for Cowper got himself into lotsa confusion.

Fran Kelly: [interjecting] Okay so which party – if it was a hung Parliament, I accept it’s a hypothetical – but where would you be inclined to put your support with?  A Liberal government or a Labor government?

Rob Oakeshott: So this is where the explainer comes in. I am running as an Independent, I don’t need to form a majority government. My starting point is to be a member of a 151, uh with 151 colleagues in the Australian Parliament. The one person who, uh, this should occupy their mind on Sunday is Scott Morrison. He uh, even if he loses the seat of Cook, even if there is not a single Liberal/National Party member of Parliament elected on Sunday, he is still the sworn in prime minister who has to go down to the Governor-General and in a cordial way say “These are the arrangements for the next Parliament”.

Now when he [Scott Morrison] came to Port Macquarie last week, he was asked the question “would you pick up the phone and ring the Independent members in the situation of minority government?”.  He could not and would not be drawn on that question. So this is really a moot point – um, the person who needs to form a majority on Sunday is Scott Morrison. If he can’t, Bill Shorten kicks in. I have said I’ll pick up the phone with anyone but you know there’s some leaders of major political parties in this country who aren’t even willing to pick up the phone, to have a stable Parliament for the next three years.

How hopelessly wrong is that? – especially for a man who has served in both the NSW and Commonwealth parliaments?

If the Coalition had not won a single seat on 18 May, then Scott Morrison would not be advising the Governor-General about the arrangements for the next parliament. Not at all. Rather he would simply resign his commission. Whereupon the Governor-General would then have called on opposition leader Bill Shorten to form a government.  And to think that Laura Tingle believed that so ill-informed a former politician as Rob Oakeshott would win support from the good people of Cowper.


While on the topic of false prophecies by members of the Canberra commentariat, thanks to the avid readers who drew attention to the comment proffered by Mark Kenny on Insiders on Sunday on 12 April 2019.  Your man Kenny used to write for Fairfax Media (remember it?) and has since moved to some kind of role at the Australian National University in Canberra – in between media appearances.

It seems that the Canberra academic is far from shy in volunteering his predictions. This is what he had to say in the final predictions/observations segment on Insiders just a couple of months ago.

Mark Kenny: Just on the prediction front – given that I probably won’t be on this couch again between now and the election itself. I think I’d give, I’d put the odds of a Labor win pretty high at this stage. I’d say probably the second possible option is a BIG Labor win. And the third possible option, I would say, is the Coalition surviving but even then that’s probably a hung parliament sort of territory.

That’s pretty good, don’t you think?  Mr Kenny pointed to three possible outcomes for the 2019 election – all of which were wrong. A reverse hat trick, to be sure.  With form like this, don’t be surprised if the ANU promotes Mark Kenny to the status of professor.



One of the most challenging tasks for avid readers each Friday – after lunch, of course – is to find a John-Laws-Style-Deliberate-Mistake in MWD. If there is one.

As avid MWD readers will know, Hendo is not into pedantry and does not focus on the written typos and verbal misstatements of journalists – since everyone makes them.  Not so some other scribblers.  But deliberate mistakes are still mistakes – and need to be corrected.

Congratulations to avid reader Don who picked the Deliberate Mistake in last week’s issue.  President Richard Nixon was not impeached following the Watergate incident. An impeachment process was commenced. But President Nixon resigned before the House of Representatives could vote on the impeachment resolution.

Due to overwhelming popular demand, the Flann O’Brien Gong returns this week. As avid MWD readers will be aware, this occasional segment is inspired by the Irish humourist Brian O’Nolan (1911-1966) – nom de plume Flann O’Brien – and, in particular, his critique of the sometimes incoherent poet Ezra Pound. By the way, your man O’Brien also had the good sense not to take seriously Eamon de Valera (1882-1975), the Fianna Fail politician and dreadful bore who was prime minister and later president of Ireland for far too long.

The Flann O’Brien Gong for Literary or Verbal Sludge is devoted to outing bad writing or incomprehensible prose or incoherent verbal expression or the use of pretentious words.


It was Sunday 2 June and, perchance, Hendo turned on ABC Radio National only to hear a repeat of the previous Wednesday of The Minefield – presenters Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens. This is the program’s advertising blurb:

As we wrap up this year’s Ramadan series, we turn to the importance of having a place to be and a people to be among. The concept of “love of country” has fallen out of favour in many quarters today, not least in reaction to what is considered an excessive or uncritical form of nationalistic pride displayed by some. For others, a sense of shame at the behaviour or unaddressed historical wrongs of a nation is simply too powerful to permit one to profess their love of their national home — at least, as it currently stands.

And yet for a love of one’s nation to be truthful, does it not entail — indeed, demand — criticism? Perhaps even judgement? And what about the problem, keenly experienced by the likes of Henry David Thoreau, that one is a stranger among one’s fellow citizens as they currently live and squat on land which, though prized and precious, fundamentally does not “belong” to us? So, in our time, how does love of country square with the ongoing failure of non-indigenous Australians to square their accounts with the First Nations peoples of this land … and indeed of our collective failure to address the way we are ravaging our “common home”?

How frightfully profound.  But what does it mean? And what’s Thoreau got to do with it? MWD hasn’t got a clue. The program commenced with a ramble by Dr Aly (for a doctor he is) and Mr Stephens (for a doctor he isn’t). And then – lo and behold – there was soon another doctor in the studio.  Dr/Professor Rai Gaita, no less.  The professorial fellow in the Melbourne Law School and the Faculty of Arts at the University of Melbourne and the emeritus professor of moral philosophy at King’s College, London – who is regarded (by some) as Australia’s leading moral philosopher. [I’m so impressed – MWD Editor.]

Your man Gaita was invited on The Minefield to discuss the issue of place after the co-presenters had opined on this issue. However, it was not long before the learned professor focussed on the topic he knows best – HIMSELF – including his over-written work Romulus My Father. Let’s go to the transcript:

I fully understand why people never want to hear the expression love of country. So in quite a lot of writing, mostly unpublished so far, I thought about this….

Now, here’s some good news. Most of Rai Gaita’s latest writing is “unpublished so far” – which means that no one has to drag themselves though his literary sludge to read it. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that RG went on to talk about his “epiphany” when, at age 11, he fell in love with nature.  Go on. He did:

…I grew up in central Victoria on a farm. Although we didn’t actually farm, it was on a farm. And partly through an epiphany I had when I was 11 years old, I fell in love with nature with a kind of shock.  I think I used the word in Romulus, My Father and had an experience that prompted me to say again in that book that I’d been gifted, as it were, a perspective on a landscape that my father and all his immigrant friends had constantly denigrated. I said that God had taken me to the back of his workshop and shown me something really special. And then –  I now I regret saying this, although maybe later I’ll be interested in explaining why I said it and why I regret it –  I essentially introduced it as central transcendence into my life.

Get it?  RG regrets saying something some time ago – but he may be interested in explaining what he said and why he regrets saying it at some later date.  MWD can barely wait for such a clarification.

RG went on to talk about Leeds (doesn’t like it) and Yorkshire (likes it) and war and Romulus My Father. During his time in England, RG falls out of love with Australia in general and Central Victoria in particular.  And then – at age 50 – RG experiences another EPIPHANY following a visit to his “ancestral” place in Central Victoria – to wit, the Moolort Plains:

…it wasn’t until I wrote Romulus, My Father – I was 50 by then – and I went to where I had grown up to write, still estranged from that countryside. And I sat for a while where the house had been where I grew up and after driving back one summer’s afternoon, just like that, I had another epiphany as I did as a boy. And what I found interesting on reflection about all this is that it wasn’t just a landscape, it was a sense of Central Victoria, a sense that had been nourished by the kind of people that I knew when I grew up. Both immigrants and Anglo-Celtic farmers and the people who were in the towns and in the shops and that sort of thing. And I noticed when years later I was in London when Black Saturday happened and I was checking my computer every second to see what was happening. But there were also quite serious fires in NSW at that time and I noticed that I took far less interest in what was happening in NSW than I did in Victoria. And so quite without thinking, I discovered myself to be a kind of Victorian patriot….

Absolute tripe.  The Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria on 7 February 2009 killed 173 people and devastated large parts of the state.  There were no serious bushfires in NSW in February 2009 and no fatalities.  RG took less interest in NSW than Victoria at the time for the simple reason that there was no catastrophe in that state.  Here Professor Gaita has a recollection about an event that never happened – it’s called a false memory.  Possibly caused by experiencing too may epiphanies.

Then the learned professor spoke about his apartment in London “just near the British Museum” and his “house in St Kilda”. But his heart belongs to Central Victoria – as he discovered one day when walking down a London street:

Raimond Gaita: Oh, but I love London, and I miss it very painfully – and, in fact, for a period in my life I was spending six months in London and six months here. And though we have a house in St Kilda, to which I am very attached as a home, because we’ve lived there since ’85. The children grew up there – as I was telling you, my wife and I were even married in the home. After a while, moving back and forth became so seamless that I said to my wife once when we were walking down a street in London: “Oh, maybe this weekend we’ll go to Shelva.” Now Shelva is the name of our house in the country [in Central Victoria]. And I often felt I could easily skip St Kilda altogether, Melbourne altogether, actually and our apartment in London….   So, I don’t feel this division between city and country. Although I think I now could, age 73, happily retire to Shelva – that is the place in Central Victoria.

Yes, we know.  At this stage Jackie’s (male) co-owner headed for an early Sunday morning G&T to get over the experience.  Scott Stephens advised RN listeners – if listeners there were – that discussion would continue on the podcast. Hendo declined the invitation. [Pity, really.  Perhaps you should follow this up next week.  Just a thought. MWD Editor.]

How to summarise the occasion?  Well, asked to discuss place, your man spoke about his very own places – Central Victoria (the Moolort Plains), Melbourne (St Kilda) and London (near the British Museum). And that’s all he spoke about – his places.

All of this brought to you by the taxpayer funded public broadcaster. And now it’s time for Jackie to reflect on the philosopher Gaita’s property-focussed literary sludge which puts him close to the high standard reached by poet Pound.

Literary Criticism

By Flann O’Brien

of Ezra Pound


My grasp of what he wrote and meant

Was only five or six %

The rest was only words and sound —

My reference is to Ezra £


Inspired by your man O’Brien, this is Jackie’s literary effort for today:

Literary Criticism

By Jackie

of Rai Gaita

My grasp of what Rai said and meant

Was only four or five per cent

All that talk concerning the self

Just a boast of property wealth

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).


Last week’s “Stop Press” pointed to the fact that, following the conclusion of the two-day hearing of George Pell v The Queen in Victoria Court of Appeal on Thursday 6 June, ABC TV’s 7.30 interviewed one person to comment on the case. Namely, David Marr – a long-time Pell antagonist. This from the taxpayer funded public broadcaster which, per courtesy of its “star” reporter Louise Milligan, led the pile-on against Cardinal Pell in the lead-up to him being charged by Victoria Police on historic child sexual assault charges.

It is uncertain when the Court of  Appeal will bring down its decision. What is certain is that 7.30 viewers only heard a report about the hearing from an avowed and declared Pell critic.

[Could this be what ABC chair Ita Buttrose has in mind when she said recently that the public broadcaster is not without bias? – See Issue 453 – MWD Editor.]

Last Friday, MWD drew attention to one typographical error in the 7.30 transcript of the Leigh Sales/David Marr interview.  The word “robes” was transcribed as “roads”.  This has now been corrected, following the matter having been drawn to 7.30’s attention by MWD.

However, 7.30 has yet to correct David Marr’s comment to Ms Sales that, during the George Pell v The Queen hearing, three judges made “authoritative” statements that it would be possible for a man to go to the toilet wearing archbishop’s robes.  In fact, all three judges did not make authoritative statements to this effect. Moreover, the Court of Appeal has yet to make a finding on George Pell v The Queen. MWD will keep you advised if 7.30’s executive producer stumps up evidence to support David Marr’s assertion. Don’t hold your breath. Now read on:

Gerard Henderson to Justin Stevens – 12 June 2019


There was a significant typo in the 7.30 transcript of the Leigh Sales/David Marr interview on Thursday 6 June.  I mentioned this in my Media Watch Dog blog last Friday. Also there was an error of fact.

Transcript Error:                   

Paragraph 22:

This is a case where the judges in Victoria know the world is looking at them, they’re across every nook and cranny of the case. They’ve been to the supposed scene of the crime, they will be handling the roads tonight they tell us.

Should read:

This is a case where the judges in Victoria know the world is looking at them, they’re across every nook and cranny of the case. They’ve been to the supposed scene of the crime, they will be handling the robes tonight they tell us.

You may wish to correct this.

Factual Error

By the way, David Marr’s comment that all three judges of the Victorian Court of Appeal “authoritatively stated…that you can actually have a piss while wearing this [archbishop’s] gear” is simply false.  The court has made no such finding – as Mr Marr would be aware if he has read the transcript of the proceedings last Wednesday and Thursday.  In my view, this should also be corrected.

* * * * *

Please note that this is not a formal complaint and I do not want this matter to go to the Audience and Consumer Affairs in Canberra – where the ABC bureaucracy makes judgments about ABC content, usually after a delay of some six weeks.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

Justin Stevens to Gerard Henderson – 12 June 2019

Thanks Gerard – I have been on leave but will forward this to an appropriate person to look at and correct.


Justin Stevens

Executive Producer – 7.30

Justin Stevens to Gerard Henderson – 12 June 2019

I should add – we will correct the transcription error and I will ask the team to investigate your second comment about the judges.


Justin Stevens

Executive Producer – 7.30

Gerard Henderson to Justin Stevens – 12 June 2019


That’s all fine.

On the second point – Chief Justice Ferguson made it clear at Page 306 of the transcript of the Court hearing that “the Court will reserve its decision”.  In short, the Court has made no “authoritative” statements – although individual judges have made individual points during the course of the proceedings.

If David Marr can demonstrate that all the three judges made the comment he claims that they made – then all he has to do is provide the relevant pages of the transcript to document his point. It’s not a difficult task.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson


* * * * *

Until next time.


* * * * *