ISSUE – NO. 456

21 June 2019

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

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  • Stop Press – Yet more Trump-phobia on 7:30 starring Michael Wolff

  • Can You Bear It? John Birmingham; Geoff Kitney; Tony Walker & Richard Denniss

  • New Feature: Fancy That? Peter FitzSimons on Father Bower & Father Bower on Peter Dutton

  • Hyperbole of the Week – Virginia Trioli equates criticism of Jane Caro with public stonings in Iran

  • Your Taxes at Work – John Hewson bags the prime minister at the ANU; ABC Life’s big stories – from smelly armpits to smelly sausage dogs

  • The [Boring] Saturday Paper – Eric & Karen & Bonge are off to Byron Bay to tell the Sandalistas how politics should be covered (but don’t talk about The Saturday Paper and the 2019 election)

  • Paul Barry’s Sermon on the Mount – In which Mr Barry ignores the message of his own managing director while verballing Sky News’ Peta Credlin

  • Correspondence – 7:30’s Justin Stevens helps out (sort of) re David Marr – and sends a surprise cheerio to MWD readers


It was just after pre-dinner drinks time last night when Jackie’s (male) co-owner switched on 7.30 to find Leigh Sales interviewing one of the United States’ leading Trump-haters.  A certain Michael Wolff.

Now Mr Wolff’s previous book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House was an anti-Donald J Trump rant which is littered with errors, unsourced allegations and plenty of hearsay upon hearsay.

Being the author of such a shoddy hatchet job did not stand between Mr Wolff and 7.30’s Ms Sales interviewing him last night.  Here’s how the discussion commenced:

Leigh Sales: Michael Wolff, thanks for being with us there in London on your book tour. Donald Trump has announced his intention to run for president again in 2020. From what you’ve seen about how the Trump administration’s functioning in your book research, how do you rate his chances?

Michael Wolff: Well I’ve primarily seen that the Trump administration doesn’t function, it certainly doesn’t function very well. So I’d rate his chances as low if not nil. I think it’s a really uphill battle for Trump. Here’s a person who is really not interested in campaigning, doesn’t understand the nature of campaigns, doesn’t really have anybody to run his campaign and on top of that his numbers have not appreciably increased since he’s been in office. So I would, if I were a betting man, I’d say bet against that.

How about that? Michael Wolff got to flog his new book titled Siege: Trump Under Fire, on 7.30.  He not only suggested that President Trump’s chances of re-election in 2020 are “low if not nil” but made the contentious allegation that the President is “really not interested in campaigning”. Many a pundit predicted a Trump defeat by Hillary Clinton in 2016 only to be proven wrong.  Wolff is banging the same drum again this time around.

Likewise the assertion that President Trump is not interested in Campaigning. In the lead-up to the 2016 election he campaigned vigorously and well. Moreover, a passing Google search would reveal the existence of a well-funded and well-staffed campaign to re-elect President Trump. You would have to suffer from Trump-phobia to maintain that the candidate who won the 2016 presidential election does not understand campaigning.

Michael Wolff went on to make the extraordinary assertion that “although he [Trump] was elected president he lost by 3 million votes”.  In fact Donald J. Trump won by gaining a majority of votes in the Electoral College.  He did not lose – if he had, then Hillary Clinton would be president today.

Mr Wolff went off with unsourced assertions about The Mueller Report – as MWD headed off for another drink.  7.30 is supposed to be about serious current affairs not an outlet for the ranting of hyperbolic polemists.  [Come to think of it, this is the second occasion in three weeks that 7.30 has given publicity to a Trump-hater. See MWD Issue 453 – MWD Editor.]


Any MWD avid reader who would like to receive a “Hello” from 7.30 executive producer Justin Stevens can do so by turning to the (hugely popular) “Correspondence” segment in today’s issue.

Can You Bear It


Lotsa thanks to the avid reader who drew MWD’s attention to this tweet by the Brisbane based luvvie John Birmingham – who writes a column for Nine Newspapers’ The Brisbane Times online.  This is what Birmo had to say shortly after Gin & Tonic Time on Thursday 13 June:

Jonathan Green Retweeted

John Birmingham

Finally got around to cancelling @Foxtel after GoT. (Wanted to finish Westworld too) When asked why, I said, “Because Rupert Murdoch is a cancer on our civilisation”. And I was paying more for the monthly subscription fee than he pays in tax. Ever.

7.56 pm – 13/6/19

So there you have it.  Following the election, your man Birmingham believes that News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch is such a cancer on our civilisation that he has cancelled his Foxtel subscription.  But only after he had watched the end of the Game of Thrones and Westworld series on Foxtel – brought to you courtesy of News Corp’s 65 per cent ownership of Foxtel.

How principled is that? If Birmo is so concerned about Rupert Murdoch as “a cancer on our civilisation” – then perhaps he could have cancelled his Foxtel sub before both Game of Thrones and Westworld concluded.   What a (sanctimonious) hypocrite. Can You Bear It?

[I note that Jonathan (“Proudly the ABC’s Sneerer-in-Chief) Green retweeted Birmo’s rant.  Which raises the question – does Mr Green have Foxtel? I also note that his Blueprint for Living program on Radio National last Saturday ran a not-to-be-missed segment on how to conduct a dinner party in Fitzroy North. Or something like that.  Perhaps you might cover this next week – MWD Editor.



While on the topic of elections and all that, the good news (for MWD at least) turns on the fact that the pre-election delusion that afflicted so many of  the ABC and Nine Newspapers’ political “experts” has continued beyond 18 May.

How else to explain the article by Geoff Kitney in the Australian Financial Review last Saturday titled “ScoMo’s test of national leadership has only just begun”?  Early on in his article, Mr Kitney compared democratic leaders like Donald J. Trump and (maybe soon) Boris Johnson with such authoritarian types as Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan.  Really.  After referring to some other leaders “who have chosen a quieter style of leadership” – for example, the saintly Jacinda Ardern – the columnist continued:

So, in this changing world order, where will Scott Morrison fit? The thing about Morrison is that Australian voters didn’t really “choose” him. With Labor overwhelmingly expected to win the May election it is certain that many of those who voted for the coalition cast their vote expecting that Morrison would lose. It’s safe to say that many of those voters made their choice based on what they did not want – Bill Shorten as prime minister.

So when these voters woke up on the day after the election – don’t forget, millions of Australians went to bed rather than staying up and watch the television coverage of the counting – and discovered that Morrison had been re-elected, the first question that may well have asked was “what happens now?”

What a load of absolute tosh.  According to your man Kitney, Australian voters didn’t really choose Scott Morrison to be prime minister after 18 May.  (Note that he put the word “choose” in inverted commas – whatever that might imply). Rather, many who believed that the Coalition would not win voted for the Coalition anyway because they did not want Labor’s Bill Shorten to become prime minister. Eh?

What’s more, Mr Kitney – who did not know what Australian voters were going to do on 18 May – now claims to know what so many of them said  on waking up on the morning after the election night before. Namely: “What happens now?”

How does Geoff Kitney know this?  Jackie’s (male) co-owner has done polling on this [Oh, no. MWD Editor]. He found that the first words of quite a few voters on Sunday 19 May were – “God, I’ve got an awful hangover”, “Sorry I forgot to put the cat out last night”, “I’m going back to sleep” and “How about it?”.

In any event, the AFR’s scribbler went on to whinge about how, allegedly, we don’t know “the way the newly elected government will govern”. There followed a contradiction whereby Geoff Kitney wrote:

The May 18 vote was an election in which the Labor opposition failed to make a compelling case for a change of government and which therefore saw lots of different and conflicting factors influencing the way people voted. But there is little doubt that a lot of voters were voting for “steady as she goes” government.

So, according to GK, “a lot of voters” voted for a Scott Morrison led “steady as she goes” – government. But, earlier, GK declared that “many” voters only voted for the Coalition because they thought that the Coalition would lose and, consequently, there would be no steady-as-she-goes Labor government.  Can You Bear It?


Toward the end of his column, Geoff Kitney – formerly of the late Fairfax Media – ran the familiar line that Labor’s Paul Keating was a genius while the Liberal Party Robert Menzies was a fool. This is what he had to say:

Paul Keating was fond of saying that in the Menzies years Australia became a “Rip van Winkle” nation, going to sleep instead of tackling the big challenges of leading Australia to adopt to and keep up in a changing world. A “steady as she goes” approach now would involve the great risk of returning to Rip van Winkle complacency, of delaying important choices for the nation for the sake of internal coalition unity. It would be a total abrogation of the responsibilities of leadership for the Morrison government not to respond decisively to the challenges now facing Australia.

In fact, for most of the time of Robert Menzies’ post-war government (December 1949 to January 1966) Australia experienced high economic growth, low inflation, full employment and low interest rates.  Moreover, millions of immigrants chose to settle here.

Yet Geoff Kitney has decided to lecture the Morrison government about not going back to a “Rip van Winkle” complacency that never existed outside of Paul Keating’s (political) imagination, that is.  Can You Bear It?

[Er, no. Not really. By the way, what’s Washington Irving’s Mr van Winkle got to do with it? – MWD Editor.]



While on the topic of former Fairfax Media scribblers who have crossed over to Nine Newspapers, consider the case of Tony Walker.

As indicated above, Comrade Kitney reckons that Scott Morrison prevailed on 18 May because many thought that he would lose. However, Sydney Morning Herald/Age columnist Tony Walker (who happens to be one of a number of vice-chancellor’s fellows at La Trobe University) wrote on 3 June a column headed: “Was this a good election to lose?”.

In fact, as those who have worked in politics would understand, there is no such thing as an election which is good to lose.  Comrade Walker is a life-time journalist.

Initially, the Nine Newspapers’ scribbler wrote:

If a shell-shocked Labor can draw encouragement from a disastrous outcome it is that the bloom may come off the Morrison government sooner rather than later. It is one thing for the marketer-in-chief to have fought a copybook scare campaign against a vulnerable opponent, made more vulnerable by electorally suicidal tax policies; it is quite another to deal with a slowing economy in a global environment that is dangerous, if not mad.

Go on. Alas he did:

This invites the obvious question: was this an election that will prove a good one to have lost? While readers contemplate the answer to that question – with the caveat no absence from the Treasury benches is necessarily desirable – these are the headwinds.

Your man Walker went on to suggest that a recession may just be around the corner. So there you have it.  The 2019 election was a good one to lose.  Except that no absence from the government is necessarily desirable.  That’s clear then. Can You Bear It?


While on the topic of post-election reflections, has anyone read the piece by Richard Denniss – he of the loquacious leftist Australia Institute who is forever being quoted on the taxpayer funded public broadcaster – in the June 2019 issue of Morry Schwartz’s The Monthly (editor-in-chief Erik Jensen)?

Titled “The  Morrison Election: What we need to know” – and accompanied by fashionable black and white photos by Emma Phillips which appear to be neither black nor white, just loser grey – your man Denniss runs a Marxist false-consciousness analysis of what befell Labor on 18 May.

The theory advanced by Dr Denniss (for a doctor he is) turns on the belief that voters acted against their own interests on 18 May.  In short, the Australia Institute wants governments “to collect more tax and spend more money”. And its chief economist can’t comprehend why a majority of Australians did not support the Australia Institute’s agenda.

In his election post-mortem, your man Denniss lectures Labor about the “advertisement that, in hindsight it should have run”. He later writes that “in hindsight, the biggest mistake Labor made was to spend too much time talking about the revenue it planned to raise and not nearly enough time talking about what it wanted to spend it on”. Ah, hindsight.

It is only later that Hindsight Denniss ’fesses up that he was “one of the architects of the idea that ended up becoming Labor’s biggest revenue measure” – the abolition of franking credits.  He reckons that Labor would have got away with this if only Bill Shorten and company had spent more time talking about Labor’s plans with respect to cancer treatment.  His evidence?  Zip.

Towards the end of his rambling piece, Comrade Denniss implies that, perhaps, Labor did not do too badly on 18 May:

Nationwide there was a near-identical primary swing against both the Coalition (0.7 per cent) and Labor (0.9 per cent), and while the LNP collected 23 of the 30 Queensland seats, they did so off the back of a tiny 0.3 per cent swing.

Turn it up.  As Dr Denniss should know, Australia has a preferential voting system.  Consequently, what matters is the vote after the distribution of preferences.  On 18 May, the Coalition won 51.5 per cent of the total vote – a swing to it of around 1 per cent.

It’s nonsense to discuss the election in Queensland – or anywhere else – on the basis of the swing on primary votes. Clearly the Australia Institute’s chief economist doesn’t know what he is talking about.  Can You Bear It?

Peter FitzSimons on Fr Rod Bower – the (Caring) Christian

Peter FitzSimons 
17/6/19, 8:09 am

The world is filled with caring Christians like ‪@FrBower who do wonderful work. And then there is the former Wallaby fullback:
Folau launches fresh attack on gay and transgender people.

Caring Christian Fr Bower on Peter Dutton – the (alleged) Sodomite

As avid readers are aware, MWD is the enemy of hyperbole and false prophecy (which, come to think of it, is all prophecy). “Hyperbole of the Week” is committed to nailing exaggerations and false predictions as the spirit moves it.


On Friday The Australian Online ran a column by Jason Gagliardi titled “Caro’s Order of Australia diminishes the honour of others”. This is a feature where Jason Gagliardi publishes the views of the paper’s readers.  The point last Friday was that  the republican Jane Caro, who railed against Australians as “truculent turds” on election night (18 May), had accepted an AM in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List (10 June).

As it turned out, a total of 17 blokes and sheilas had a whinge about Jane Caro AM’s AM.  Quite a few declared that until recently they had never heard of her.  But all comments were civil – there was no bad language or personal abuse.

Nevertheless, the very fact that 17 Australians had criticised Ms Caro’s gong was enough to rile ABC TV’s News Breakfast co-presenter Virginia Trioli to throw the switch to rant. This led to the following Twitter thread:

Virginia Trioli‏  

I worked for great – GREAT – editors who would rather, to contextually quote Alan Jones, have died of shame than publish this appalling stuff. So now an Iranian-style public stoning is journalism?

12:43 PM – 15 Jun 2019


Replying to @LaTrioli

Um, Virginia, it is a collection of opinions posted by members of the public, not journos. But then your ABC doesn’t care much general public opinion, do they?

Virginia Trioli‏

Yes I’m aware of what it is – like I said, a public stoning.

1:45 PM – 15 Jun 2019

In short, La Trioli equated criticism of Jane Caro’s AM with “an Iranian-style public stoning”. Not once – but twice.

So there you have it.  Ms Caro was criticised online by 17 Australians in a civil, albeit tough-minded, manner.  And Virginia Trioli reckons this is just like Iran where men and women are stoned to death for (alleged) adultery and other (alleged) crimes in an act of lethal violence. And yet La Trioli looks at democratic contemporary Australia and sees the mullah theocracy that is contemporary Iran.

[Good point.  However, perhaps you should have run this piece in MWD’s hugely popular Can You Bear It?  Just a thought – MWD Editor.]


On Wednesday in the Canberra Times, Katie Burgess reported on the Sir Roland Wilson’s post-election policy forum which was held at the taxpayer funded Australian National University’s Crawford School of Public Policy.  The topic was “Miracles or Mayhem?  Post-election policy forum”

The principal panelist was former Liberal Party leader – and continuing Liberal Party critic – John Hewson.  Dr Hewson (for a doctor he is) – who lost the unlosable election of 1993 – did a rant against Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Coalition government.

This is some of what John Hewson had to say about Scott Morrison to the learned audience at the ANU:

He is an advertising guy, he does have a pocketful of slogans, if you ask him a question he gives you a slogan, don’t ask him a second question or for detail, he hasn’t got any.

The slogan was “we have a strong economy and I’ll make it stronger” which defies logic because the economy isn’t strong and the numbers since the election have revealed it isn’t as strong as they’d like us to believe and in fact the biggest risk in terms of the future of the government is whether or not our economic circumstances unravel further.”

So there you have it – according to John Hewson – the Prime Minister is “just an advertising guy” who has no grasp of detail. This is what passes for analysis, apparently, at the ANU’s Crawford School of Public Policy.

Another panelist presented as an “expert” by the ANU was none other than former Fairfax Media journalist Mark Kenny – who now has a sinecure of sorts at the ANU.  It is not clear from the Canberra Times report whether your man Kenny acknowledged that his political expertise was such that his prediction as to which party would win the 2019 election was hopelessly wrong.


The taxpayer funded ABC will not say how much it is spending on the ABC Life online site – except that it’s somewhere between $1 only and $20 million.  Whatever the amount is, ABC Life is a waste of money.

MWD asked a millennial to check out the highlights of ABC Life’s recent efforts.   This is what she came up with.

MWD was particularly impressed to read about author Bryan Kozlowski’s account of how he resolves his wellness deficiency by asking the question “What would Jane [Austen] do?” – and acts accordingly.  So he followed the likes of Elizabeth (Pride and Prejudice) and Elinor (Sense and Sensibility) and so on.

Other agenda setting ABC Life stories reveal how “a doctor’s one night stand could lead to a change in your underarm smell”. And have you heard the story about the frequent flyer sausage dog who has visited 33 countries?

Also impressive was Kellie Scott’s account of how a certain Michael Mann (age 36) decided to solve his looming mid-life crisis by taking a solo holiday sans pregnant wife and two kids. It came as no surprise that Michael’s wife was happy to see him go away for a while.  Quelle surprise!

Jackie’s male co-owner would like to have read about the sheila who owns 17 pairs of glasses – but he mislaid his specs.

That’s life – ABC style.

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 (and is delivered to inner-city coffee shops) 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.


The Byron Writers Festival – based on the Sandalista Set hub that is Byron Bay –  will be held on 3-5 August 2019.  It’s sure to be another leftist affair whereby leftists “debate” leftists in the presence of a leftist chair and in the presence of a leftist audience – and a fine ideological time is had by all.

This year Schwartz Media proprietor Morry Schwartz is sponsoring The Saturday Paper marquee at the main festival site – as revealed to Jackie’s (male) co-owner last Saturday morning at Hangover Time when he received this email from Morry and his mates:

Join The Saturday Paper editorial team at the Byron Writers Festival, as they dissect, analyse and decide the events that should be covered and how. Featuring Erik Jensen, Maddison Connaughton, Paul Bongiorno, Maxine Beneba Clarke and Karen Middleton. Saturday, August 3 at 10am in The Saturday Paper marquee at the main festival site.

How about that? The Saturday Paper team – from editor-in-chief Erik Jensen down – got Australian politics in the lead-up to the May 2019 election hopelessly wrong.  Neither your man Jensen nor Karen Middleton nor columnist Paul Bongiorno understood that the Coalition had a pathway to victory – and none of this trio showed any awareness of the views held in the general Australian community outside of the inner-cities.

Indeed shortly before the election Bonge had this to say on the ABC Radio National Breakfast program:

Paul Bongiorno: The [Coalition] 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.

In fact Mr Morrison did significantly better in the 2019 election than Mr Turnbull did three years earlier.

And now Comrade Bonge along with Comrade Jensen and Comrade Middleton will be lecturing Byron Bay Writers Festival attendees about what events in the future should be covered and how. Really.

Now here’s MWD’s modest proposal about what would be a more useful session at the Byron Writers Festival if only The Saturday Paper’s soviet had a degree of self-awareness:

Join The Saturday Paper team at the Byron Writers Festival, as they dissect, analyse and decide why they were so hopelessly wrong about the 2019 election.  Featuring Erik Jensen, Paul Bongiorno, Karen Middleton among others as they go into mea culpa mode and reveal how their own wish-fulfilment along with a tendency to project their political views onto the electorate brought about a situation where – as an election guide – The Saturday Paper was about as useful as a refrigerator in the Antarctic.  Morry will provide free admission – leave your sandals at the door.


The big media news last Monday turned on the page one report in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age that David Anderson, the newly appointed ABC managing director and editor-in-chief, has acknowledged a lack of political diversity within the public broadcaster.

Nine newspapers’ report by Jennifer Duke included the following comment:

Mr Anderson said there was no evidence of systemic bias at the broadcaster but conceded the make-up of the broadcaster’s panel shows – which also include weekday current affairs discussion program The Drum – could negatively affect public perception. The greater diversity could include political views, ethnic background and gender.

“I think that is what leads to people’s rush to judgment about the ABC being biased perhaps, that we haven’t accurately reflected what would be the views of the country for whatever reason,” he said.

ABC chairwoman Ita Buttrose, who replaced Justin Milne in February, said last month that some staff at the broadcaster “might be biased” and supported broadcasting a greater range of views.

So what did Paul Barry, presenter of ABC TV’s Media Watch say about David Anderson’s comments last Monday night?  Nothing. Absolutely nothing.  Instead your man Barry focused on his Sky News obsession.   Groan.


Has anyone noticed that ABC TV Media Watch presenter Paul Barry is invariably banging on about Sky News’ (allegedly) low ratings?  Which raises the question – if Sky News’ ratings are so low, why is the taxpayer funded public broadcaster’s media commentator always banging on about its programs?  It’s interesting to note that your man Barry does not refer to ABC Radio National Breakfast’s low ratings.

The fact is that television and radio programs can have an influence far beyond the number of viewers/listeners on any given occasion. That’s true for Radio National and for Sky News. In any event, due to social media, it’s possible to watch large parts of Sky News’ programs without being recorded for ratings purposes.

In his sneering tone, Mr Barry set out on a demolition of Adani’s proposed Carmichael mine in Northern Queensland, Gautam Adani himself and Peta Credlin.

First up, the Media Watch presenter referred to Ms Credlin (the presenter of Credlin) as a “Coalition strategist turned Sky News host”. Funny that – because he never introduced, say, Barrie Cassidy or Kerry O’Brien as a “Labor strategist turned ABC host”.  Mr Barry then accused Ms Credlin of asking a “leading question”.  Funny again – because Barry has never accused the ABC’s very own Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly of asking leading questions (re which see MWD 333 and 334).  Paul Barry also referred to Ms Credlin as “Peta” – another attempt at demeaning.

And so the sneering went on.  Mr Adani was mockingly referred to as “the great man”. And Barry also mocked Indian “locals apparently desperate to receive our clean Aussie coal”. Then Paul Barry threw the switch to a Green/Left mantra and spoke about the proposed mine’s alleged (i) threat to wildlife, (ii) adverse impact on agriculture, (iii) often over-hyped promises on job creation and (iv) failure to receive funding from banks. And so on.  He seems to be of the view that Queenslanders do not need the jobs that the Carmichael mine will create and that power-deprived Indians do not need its coal.

Your man Barry went on to accuse Sky News of running a program which has a “lack of balance”.  Barry works for the ABC.  Even David Anderson, the ABC’s managing director and editor-in-chief, now concedes that the ABC lacks political diversity and that at least some of its programs lack balance.

However, Paul Barry’s main criticism of Sky News’ Credlin program on 13 June turned on an allegation that Peta Credlin did not reveal that her trip to India was paid for by Adani. Let’s go to the transcript:

So, did Peta tell her 40,000 Sky News viewers that Adani picked up the tab for her hard-hitting interview? Well no, unless you count this as disclosure:

PETA CREDLIN: … on Sunday I travelled to India with Adani.

Credlin, Sky News, 13 June, 2019

There was also this strapline that briefly appeared a few times during the hour-long special. [Sky News strapline shown here]. But many viewers may have missed the message that Adani paid for the trip in its entirety.

This is the Sky News’ strapline to which Mr Barry referred:

So (to use Paul Barry’s favourite word), just as the Media Watch presenter was condemning Peta Credlin for not telling viewers “that Adani picked-up the tab for her…interview”, Media Watch was showing the Sky News strapline which declared: “Peta went to India as a guest of Adani.” In fact, Credlin ran this strapline on a number of occasions.

Now if, like Sky News, ABC News and current affairs programs had one producer – then Paul Barry’s contradiction might be understandable.  But Media Watch has a total staff of eight (6 full-time and 2 part-time), not counting your man Barry himself.  All this for a 12 minute weekly program. There’s not a preacher in Australia who has so formidable a staff and still does not realise that he is contradicting himself in his sermons. This is lazy journalism.

In conclusion, MWD offers its own strapline to explain the self-contradictory Paul Barry.

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).


As avid readers will be aware, last week’s hugely popular Correspondence segment carried Gerard Henderson’s correspondence with ABC TV’s 7.30 executive producer Justin Stevens – concerning the appearance of David Marr on the 6 June 2019 edition of the program.

Gerard Henderson drew attention to a typographical error in the ABC’s transcript of the program and raised the issue of an error made by Mr Marr in his account of the hearings in George Pell v The Queen. The former was acknowledged by Mr  Stevens, the latter issue was not resolved.  So the correspondence continued. Now read on:

Gerard Henderson to Justin Stevens – 20 June 2019


Just a reminder of your email to me of 12 June 2019 where you stated that (i) you would correct the transcription error in the 7.30 transcript of the Leigh Sales/David Marr interview which aired on 6 June 2019 and (ii) ask the 7.30 team to investigate my claim that David Marr made an inaccurate statement during the interview.

I note that the transcription error has been corrected.  However, I have not heard back from you or your team on the second matter.

I understand that you were on leave when the decision was made to interview David Marr – following the conclusion of the two day hearing in the Victorian Court of Appeal in George Pell v The Queen.

However, someone in authority chose to interview only David Marr about George Pell v The Queen – despite the fact that Mr Marr is a long-time Pell antagonist.  No other view was heard on 7.30 concerning the Victorian Court of Appeal hearing.  In short, the segment lacked balance.

It seems clear that David Marr suggested the line of questioning set out below – since Ms Sales has not previously exhibited any expertise with respect to these legal proceedings:

Leigh Sales: Something that seems to constantly come up is Pell’s robes and whether one could get one’s penis out. Can you explain what is possible with that garment and what’s been discussed in the court about it?

David Marr: That issue was exhaustibly examined in the court today and it was authoritatively stated by the three judges on the bench that you can actually have a piss while wearing this gear. And that being possible, then without any kind of details, other things are possible as well.

As previously advised, at the conclusion of the two day hearing in George Pell v The Queen – Chief Justice Ferguson stated: “The Court will reserve its decision.”

In other words, contrary to David Marr’s assertion on 7.30, the Victorian Court of Appeal has not made any authoritative statement concerning George Pell v The Queen.

Also David Marr’s claim that “it was authoritatively stated by all three judges on the bench that you can actually have a piss while wearing this gear” is simply inaccurate.

A transcript of George Pell v The Queen has been available for two weeks.  David Marr should be able to support his assertion with reference to the pages and lines in the transcript which support his claim about “all three judges”.

So far, David Marr has not done so. And 7.30 seems to hope that the issue will go away. It won’t.

Over to you.

Best wishes


Gerard Henderson

cc:  David Anderson, Managing Director & Editor-in-Chief

Justin Stevens to Gerard Henderson – 20 June 2019

Dear Gerard

Thanks again for your email and raising this with me.

Given you have a habit of publishing private email correspondence like this, let me take this opportunity to say hello to anybody who may read your Media Watch Dog Blog in the event you share my reply to you with them.

I have looked back at David Marr’s transcript, the full court transcript, and we have discussed with Mr Marr (who was in attendance in the court for this particular proceeding) his analysis of the proceeding.

In the court transcript, it’s clear that all three judges were involved in the discussion. Since this was an appeal, not a trial, the issue was whether it was reasonable for a jury, given the evidence they were presented with, to find that the Cardinal could have revealed his genitals while wearing the robes. Whether he could urinate was a crucial part of that discussion. Weinberg and the prosecutor agreed that urinating while wearing the garment was possible. While the other judges didn’t expressly state they agreed with that conclusion, the transcript shows they did not expressly contest it, and their subsequent questioning seemed to accept that.

The judges sought to confirm that the jury had access to the robes to check for themselves. Once they were satisfied that the jury had had access to the robes, the transcript shows the three judges didn’t raise this matter again, or question it – and moved on.

Therefore, we are satisfied Mr Marr’s account, although necessarily abbreviated, is an accurate reflection on the substance of what was discussed and stand by the reporting on this proceeding.

I would add in regards to your ongoing bigger picture criticisms that 7.30 has taken a one sided approach to reporting the Pell proceedings, I respectfully disagree and it omits the multiple efforts we’ve made over time to the likes of the Archbishop of Sydney, Archbishop of Melbourne, Archbishop of Brisbane, Mr Pell’s legal representatives past and present all of whom have declined our requests.  We’ll continue to ask them for interviews in coming weeks and we hope they’ll accept our approaches.



Justin Stevens

Executive Producer, 7.30

Gerard Henderson to Justin Stevens – 21 June 2019

Dear Justin

Thanks for your email of 20 June in response to my initial email of 6 June and follow-up of yesterday.

And lotsa thanks for sending a cheerio – in the form of a “hello” – to MWD’s avid readers.  MWD’s “Correspondence” segment is hugely popular – and your contribution of recent times is much appreciated towards the success it has become.

By the way, I think it’s somewhat sensitive of a journalist at the taxpayer funded public broadcaster to take offence at MWD’s “habit of publishing private email correspondence”. The media is a frequent depository for publication of private correspondence. Moreover, an exchange of views on a matter of public interest is hardly private. Also, as I recall, during Mark Scott’s time as ABC managing director the public broadcaster was an active member of the Right to Know Coalition.

For my part, I would love to send a “hello” to 7.30 viewers per courtesy of ABC TV.  Alas, as I recall, I have only been on the 7.30 program about once in the last decade – and that was a pre-record. So I have been denied the opportunity to despatch a cheerio to your audience.  Perhaps if I could get election forecasting as wrong as your political correspondent Laura Tingle, more opportunities would have arisen for me to appear on 7.30 as an occasional political commentator. But – there you go.  And now for something completely serious.

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My responses to your (somewhat belated) defence of the Leigh Sales/David Marr interview on 7.30 on 6 June 2019 are as follows:

▪ I accept that The Guardian Australia’s David Marr was present in the Victorian Court of Appeal for George Pell v The Queen. However, the proceedings were live-streamed and transcripts were published soon after the morning and afternoon sessions on both days. So there was nothing “exclusive” about David Marr’s report.

▪ David Marr told 7.30 viewers that all three judges “authoritatively stated” that a man “can have a piss” while wearing archbishop’s gear.  This is not the case – which explains why neither David Marr nor you have been able to provide a quote or quotes from the transcript to support this assertion with reference to “the three judges”.  David Marr just made this up.

▪ In your email, you only refer to the exchange between “Weinberg and the prosecutor”. Weinberg AJ is a judge.  When I studied law, prosecutors were not regarded as judges.  So the prosecutor Christopher Boyce QC cannot be regarded as one of David Marr’s “three judges”. Another howler.

▪ It is simply unprofessional for David Marr or yourself to make dogmatic assertions about what you concede the judges “seemed [emphasis added] to accept”. To seem to do something – is not necessarily to do it.

▪ By the way, David Marr told 7.30 viewers on 6 June that “the judges will be handling the robes tonight, they tell us”.  If, as Mr Marr alleged, the three judges had reached an authoritative position on the archbishop robes on the afternoon of 6 June – why would they have examined them on the night of Thursday 6 June? You (or David Marr) tell me.

▪ Unlike David Marr and yourself, I am prepared to await the finding of the Victorian Court of Appeal on this and other matters. No such finding has yet been made.

▪ David Marr’s report on 7.30 was not “necessarily abbreviated”. It was simply wrong. There is no causal relationship between brevity and error. However, I am not surprised that 7.30’s executive producer has supported the comments of David Marr – an ABC “fave” if ever there was one – on this issue.  It is my experience that the ABC is frequently into denial of this kind.

▪ David Marr’s comment on 7.30 would not have mattered so much if the program had asked someone else on to discuss the George Pell v The Queen hearing. But 7.30 didn’t.  Instead 7.30 invited David Marr, a long-time Pell antagonist, as the only person to discuss the case.  That’s unprofessional – and demonstrates a lack of balance on behalf of 7.30.

▪ Contrary to your self-serving claim, 7.30 has taken “a one-sided approach” to the coverage of George Pell.  Have you forgotten that 7.30 devoted an entire program to Pell on 28 July 2016.  Louise Milligan, who was the reporter, subsequently acknowledged, that she had covered the allegations against Pell “from the point of view of the complainants”. That’s not balanced – it’s the work of a player, not a reporter.  By the way, many of the allegations contained in Ms Milligan’s report were not proceeded with by the Director of Public Prosecutions due to lack of evidence – a fact which has not been reported by 7.30.

▪ Contrary to the implications in your email, the fact is that the current archbishops of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane have nothing to do with George Pell v The Queen.  Moreover, in my view, it would have been improper for Pell’s lawyers to discuss his case when – as Chief Justice Ferguson has made clear – the court had reserved its decision.

▪ There were a number of qualified commentators whom 7.30 could have invited on to 7.30 on 6 June to put a different view from that of David Marr concerning George Pell v The Queen.  But 7.30 chose only a Pell antagonist.

In conclusion, your comment that at issue in George Pell v The Queen “was whether it was reasonable for a jury to find” the accused guilty is simply false.  In fact, the test is not about what was “reasonable” but, rather, whether the jury could make such a finding without reasonable doubt.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

cc: David Anderson, Managing Director & Editor-in-chief

Sally Jackson, Communications Lead, ABC News, Analysis and Investigations


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Until next time.

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