ISSUE – NO. 463

9 August 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 – Derryn Hinch lands on Hugh Hefner After Dark

  •  Editorial – How the ABC fudges the errors of its journalists by not naming names 

  • Can Your Bear It? Samantha Hutchinson & Michael Koziol; Tony Walker; Peter McEvoy and Gray Connolly 

  • Media Fool of the Week – Starring Quentin Dempster with a guest appearance by Amanda Meade 

  • Your Taxes at Work – The US Studies Centre’s David Smith as Trump Hater-in-Chief 

  • History Corner – Rationalising the 1939 Nazi-Soviet Pact as told by Melbourne University academic Carolyn Rasmussen 

  • Documentation – David Marr’s howler in the (alleged) case of The High Court of Australia v The Victorian Court of Appeal 

  • Correspondence – Amanda Meade helps out (sort of)

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Did anyone watch Hinch on Sky News (After Dark) last night?  If so, MWD would be interested in your opinion on whether the Herald Sun’s  Annika Smethurst and Nine Newspapers’ Rob Harris have been pulling presenter Derryn Hinch’s leg, so to speak. Or perhaps both legs.

How else to explain his decision to run a segment termed “Spin a Yarn” at the end of the program?  It’s so bad it’s sort of good.  Derryn Hinch maintains that the journalists talked him into it.  Perhaps.  But it would not have taken much persistence.  For there is one subject that the self-declared Human Headline likes talking about – and that is Derryn Hinch.

The segment works like this.  Ms Smethurst and Mr Harris choose a few of the stories that your man Hinch told when he was a senator in Canberra up until 30 June 2019.  The names are placed on a turn-table which is then spun until an arrow lands on a name. Last night’s personalities were Meryl Streep, Harrison Ford, Hugh Hefner, the Dalai Lama and Geena Davis.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Derryn Hinch: On a lighter note, for people – if you are tuning in for the first time, this is part of the program where we play “Spin a Yarn”. Now these guys, came up with the idea after I joked that I once threatened to write a book called “Famous People Who Have Met Me”. So, they stacked heaps of names onto the wheel, and each week we spin the wheel, and obviously I don’t know where it will land so here goes. [The arrow lands on Hugh Hefner]

Okay, Hugh Hefner. Alright, Hugh Hefner. Well in the sixties when the Playboy headquarters were in Chicago, I went there and stayed the night in the Playboy Mansion because I was doing an interview with, I think the first Australian Playboy centrefold. She was a Chinese-Australian girl.

Anyway, at the mansion, two things. One – there was a, like a fireman’s pole in the mansion down to the swimming pool below. And we had to be very careful of the tackle as you went down the pole. The grotto was full of the Playboy bunnies.

The second thing was that Hefner, had two things I remember about him. He had an absolute passion for Pepsi Cola. And he had little Pepsi Cola fridges everywhere. On the headboard behind his round bed, Pepsi Cola. On the stairs going up to his bedroom. And what he also used to do was he would, he was right into the Playboy philosophy at the time, and he had this white shag carpet in his bedroom. And he would throw bits of paper all over the place, and files and whatever. When he’d go out of his bedroom, and he’d never left his dressing gown and pyjamas. He’d go downstairs, a crew would race into his bedroom, draw a map of everything on the bedroom floor, take it all away, take out the shag pile carpet, put a clean one down and put everything back where it was including the torn-up bits of paper. How about that for being a weirdo?

Rob Harris: Goodness gracious. Why am I not surprised you spent a night at the Playboy Mansion, Derryn?

Annika Smethurst: Yep.

Rob Harris: How did it go?

Derryn Hinch: It was a long, long time ago. Annika?

Annika Smethurst: I have no words on that. I just – look I was hoping the Dalai Lama would come up. You had quite a different story to what I was expecting.

Rob Harris: I look forward to reading about this one in Gerard Henderson’s blog.

Annika Smethurst : Hello, Gerard.

Derryn Hinch: Oh yes, yeah, I’m sure we will. I don’t think he likes “Spin a Yarn” But at least it wasn’t my idea. It was your idea. Alright guys I’ll see you next week Annika. Have a safe trip there Rob and I’ll talk to you again.

So there you have it.  Half a century ago Derryn Hinch visited the Playboy Mansion and had to be careful about his tackle as he descended a pole.  This, clearly, is need-to-know information.  So is the fact that Hugh Hefner was devoted to both Pepsi Cola and his dressing gown and pyjamas.  And what about the cleaning of the shag carpet?

Now here is a theory.  When he was a senator, Derryn Hinch bored politicians, journalists and staff in Parliament House witless with his never ending stories – or was it just one story? – about himself and those to whom he has spoken over six decades.  Yawn.  It would seem that Ms Smethurst and Mr Harris stroked Hinch’s ego by telling him that he should share his boring stories – or is it just one ongoing story? – with Australia and New Zealand per courtesy of Sky News.  Which is bad for the good people of Australasia – but good news for the (small) team at MWD.



On Tuesday 6 August 2019, the ABC put out the following tweets after the screening of the second episode of Waltzing the Dragon with Benjamin Law.

Then yesterday, the following comment appeared in the “Corrections & Clarifications” section of the ABC website:

Lambing Flat Riots

Posted yesterday at 11:15 8 August 2019

Waltzing the Dragon: In the second episode of the series, broadcast on ABC on August 6th, in a scene describing the Lambing Flat Riots, historian Dr Sophie Couchman cited newspaper reports that suggested Chinese miners were scalped. In the full interview Dr Couchman went on to state others at the time reported there was no scalping. This was omitted from the edited program, therefore misrepresenting Dr Couchman. The ABC and producers acknowledge this error and apologise sincerely to Dr Couchman.

That’s all very well.  But how did this “error” occur? How come the program cut Dr Sophie Couchman’s comment so as to completely distort what she was saying?

Moreover the “Corrections & Clarifications” cover does not name one person associated with the misrepresentation.  Not one.  For the record, here are the key players in Waltzing the Dragon with Benjamin Law:

Benjamin Law – Writer & Presenter

Alex Barry – Writer & Director

Alan Erson – Producer

Clearly Benjamin Law and Alex Barry are primarily responsible for showing Dr Couchman’s comment on scalping out of context.  Have either been disciplined or counselled?  We don’t know.  Reading the ABC website it would appear that the partial censoring of Sophie Couchman’s account happened without human intervention.

Can You Bear It


The business communities in the Central Business District of Melbourne and Sydney have never been quite the same since Nine’s Newspapers (nee Fairfax Media) introduced its CBD column – which, believe it or not, appears on Page 2 of each paper in the category reserved for News.  Yes, News.

Currently CBD is being edited by Samantha Hutchinson (in Melbourne) and Michael Koziol (in Sydney). This was part of CBD’s News last Tuesday under the heading “Own Goal”:

CBD was pained to miss the Sydney University Liberal Club’s annual dinner at the weekend – which, by the sound of it, fell victim to the city’s increasingly hostile attitude toward fun of any kind. Apparently, it’s club tradition to sequester the evening’s raffle tickets inside helium balloons. Sadly, the custodians of the Castlereagh Boutique Hotel didn’t take too kindly to the sound of incessant balloon-popping at 10.30pm. That’s bedtime in Sydney under the O’Farrell-Baird-Berejiklian government. According to CBD’s spies, hotel staff finally intervened by turning the lights off and telling everyone to go home.

Meanwhile, Families Minister and MC Gareth Ward “made a whole bunch of insider jokes that no one understood”, a lucky raffle winner took home a Johannes Leak cartoon signed by Alan Jones, and an unknown young Tory forked out $850 to buy lunch with federal MP Jason Falinski. Not all students are crying poor, it seems.

Now, could news about Sydney University Liberal Club’s annual dinner be a need-to-know event in the Sydney CBD? Well, apparently Nine believes that an account of the helium balloon murdering antics of attendees at the annual Sydney University Liberal Club knees-up at 10.30 pm in the Castlereagh Boutique Hotel is of some (business) moment. And that it is also News that no one can understand Gareth Ward’s jokes.

At least the non-story about Sydney University Liberal Club ran only in the Sydney Morning Herald.  In The Age it was replaced by an old story about how a bloke got his finger caught up in the till, so to speak, in the Melbourne sheilas-only Lyceum Club.  The one-time general manager is now the former general manager.  How about that?

The good news is that there was consensus between Mr Koziol and Ms Hutchinson about the need to run a story titled “A Real Dog’s Breakfast” in both newspapers.  It told the tale of how former prime minister Kevin Rudd’s dog “devoured family passports on at least four occasions”. Yep – four.  At the time there were five Rudds living at home. Which means that, all up, Canine Rudd ate a score of passports.  [Why didn’t Mr Rudd give his dog food for nourishment? Just a thought. – MWD Editor.]

The CBD piece finished its coverage about Kevin Rudd and family pets with this story – taken, with acknowledgement, from Kevin Rudd’s article in the current edition of The Big Issue.

One of Australia’s corporate leaders was apparently rather shocked to discover the PM on the roadside on all fours trying to coax [cat] Jasper off his neighbour’s porch.

This story related to Mr Rudd’s time at Kirribilli House in Sydney.  It would seem that CBD expects readers – if readers there are – to believe that there are no footpaths in Kirribilli – just roadsides adjacent to porches.  Essential knowledge for CBD types.  Can You Bear It?


While on the topic of Nine Newspapers, remember this Sydney Morning Herald/Age column about Boris Johnson by Tony Walker (who doubles up as a La Trobe University vice chancellor fellow)?  It appeared on 23 July 2019 and was cited in MWD issue 461:

Boris Johnson may be a buffoon in the eyes of many of his fellow countrymen but in the next day or so he is likely to become prime minister of Britain, resident of 10 Downing Street and a man committed to taking Britain out of Europe.

Putting this into context, Johnson will occupy the same premises and assume the same office as some of the outstanding Whig, Tory, Liberal and Labour figures of the 19th and 20th centuries in peace and in war.

How a man who was sacked from The Times and whose shambolic personal life goes beyond tabloid fodder is about to hold the same office as Palmerston, Gladstone, Disraeli, Asquith, Churchill, Wilson or Thatcher is little short of astonishing.

MWD Issue 461 pointed to the fact that your man Walker must have been unaware of the shambolic personal lives of the likes of Benjamin Disraeli and Henry Herbert Asquith.  An avid reader has drawn Jackie’s (male) co-owner’s attention to the private life of Henry John Temple Palmerston (1784-1865). This is what the historian Dominic Sandbrook wrote about Lord Palmerston in the Daily Mail on 4 November 2017:

I shudder to think of what today’s Westminster Press corps would make, for example, of the Victorian statesman Lord Palmerston who, staying with the Queen at Windsor Castle in his mid-50s, crept into the bedroom of one of her ladies-in-waiting and was only repelled when his victim screamed for help. But as far as Palmerston was concerned, this was merely par for the course. In his diaries, he used weather references to record his conquests; a “fine night in the garden” with “E” meant a liaison with his mistress Emily Cowper.

In later years, he earned the reputation “Lord Cupid”. The story goes that he died at the age of 80 while having sex with a maid on the billiard table.

While almost certainly apocryphal, historians used to tell that story as a semi-comic tribute to the Liberal leader’s potency. In today’s climate, though, we might see it very differently: a shameless predator, preying on a helpless woman.

Is there no one at La Trobe University who can help out Vice-Chancellor fellow Tony Walker with a brief on the private lives of the past occupants of 10 Downing Street?  Is your man Dr Walker such a Boris Johnson hater that he is only interested in the “shambolic personal life” of one Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson?  Can You Bear It?


Thanks to the avid reader who drew MWD’s attention to Mike (“I’ll pour the Gin”) Carlton’s retweet of this missive from ABC TV Q&A’s executive producer Peter McEvoy dated 28 July 2019:

Comrade McEvoy’s complaint was that, on 28 July 2019, The Australian re-commenced publishing Newspoll – despite the fact that the pollster had got it wrong in forecasting the outcome of the May 2019 election.  That’s true.  But it is also true that Newspoll’s David Briggs has acknowledged that the polling failed on this occasion. Moreover, Newspoll took a break of over two months before publishing its poll again.

So what about the taxpayer funded public broadcaster? – MWD hears you cry.  Well, MWD can find no evidence that Q&A’s executive producer has objected to the “gall” of ABC journalists returning to commentary immediately after getting the results of the 2019 election so hopelessly wrong. Unlike Newspoll, ABC journalists and columnists offered no explanation why they and/or some of their colleagues so misjudged the mood of Australian voters last May.

Take the ABC’s political correspondent Laura Tingle, for example.  As documented in MWD Issue 454, La Tingle confidently declared on 16 May 2019 that Bill Shorten and Labor “will” win the election. She even prophesied that the oh-so-loquacious Independent candidate Rob (“My short speeches run for 17 minutes”) Oakeshott would defeat the Nationals’ candidate in the seat of Cowper in northern NSW.  Another hopelessly wrong prediction.

So Peter McEvoy reckons The Australian has the “gall” to publish another Newspoll some two months after the election – despite the fact that Newspoll has acknowledged that it got the election wrong.  But Comrade McEvoy sees nothing wrong in the ABC’s Laura Tingle fronting up as an expert commentator a few days after getting the election wrong – without acknowledging her errors.  A double standard, to be sure. Can You Bear It?


It was Gin & Tonic Time last Friday afternoon and Jackie’s (male) co-owner switched on Sky News. Rita Panahi was in the presenter’s chair and the panellists were Sydney lawyer Gray Connolly and the Institute of Public Affairs’ Gideon Rozner.

Discussion turned on the speech by the Duke of Sussex (aka Prince Harry) in Sicily on climate change and all that.  The issue was around whether this was a proper intervention in the public debate by a member of the Royal Family, which is supposed to be non-political.

Gray Connolly declared – quite properly – that your (princely) man Harry’s behaviour in this instance was not professional.  However, he primarily bagged the wife – to wit, the Duchess of Sussex (nee Meghan Markle).

Let’s go to the transcript to take in what your man Gray Connolly had to say:

Gray Connolly: As with Meghan and Harry, I think we just have to all pray that Prince Charles – who himself has a tendency to be outspoken – stays in good health, and that Kate and William and their children will be fine, and that Harry and Meghan sort of fit into the eccentric relatives that hopefully only trouble us every now and then.

I think one of the big problems with Meghan and Harry is that – I have a great deal of respect for Harry, Harry did two tours in Afghanistan, Harry is a very brave guy. I think we can all have our own opinions on who everyone else marries and couples up with. I think in terms of Meghan, I hate to say it, she’s a divorced American actress –

Rita Panahi: Oh, it’s MEGhan, not Meeghan. Meghan. Meghan. Meghan.

Gray Connolly: Meghan. Meghan. Meghan. Divorced American actresses have historically not been good for the British Royal Family. And I think hopefully Harry will somehow be able to mitigate the damage she will undoubtedly do. I think there’s a very big danger, is the fact that bring in someone like Meghan, who did not grow up with the Royals and really does not understand what the Royals do. Actually, how humble their lifestyles generally are. Apparently, she’s very demanding – she needs macrobiotic this and organic that – in a family headed by the Queen who would still remember rationing during the Second World War.

And I would remind anyone watching – the Queen was a truck driver and a truck mechanic during the Second World War. And I think Meghan married into it thinking she was marrying into the Princess Diaries, and in fact she’s married into The Windsors, living in fairly straitened circumstances.  So, I think the best we can do for Meghan is hope that the damage she does to the institution is limited. But nevertheless, we wish them all the best in their future endeavours.

Turn it up.  Here’s what’s wrong with the Gray Connolly rant:

▪ No member of the Royal Family has made more interventions on British – and, indeed, the Commonwealth of Nations – politics than Prince Charles.  So it is not clear how Charles (the first in line to the throne) can protect Britain from Harry (the sixth in line to the throne).

▪ No “divorced American actress” has had any personal relationship with the Royal Family – before Meghan, that is.  Wallace Simpson, who married Edward VIII (the Prince of Wales) was divorced and American – but she was not an actress.

▪ The lifestyles of the Royal Family are anything but humble.  They live a lifestyle that even the richest cannot match – since they can never lose their wealth.

Moreover, as to the suggestion that members of the Royal Family – with their palaces and all that – somehow live in “fairly straitened circumstances” – all MWD can say is – Can You Bear It?

Media Fool Of The Week


 There was enormous interest in last week’s revelation that The New Daily’s Quentin Dempster had verballed Gerard Henderson by falsely stating that Hendo had supported the Joh Bjelke-Petersen for Prime Minister campaign of three decades ago. Comrade Dempster also overlooked the fact that former NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell had been cleared by the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

Comrade Dempster is either bone lazy or else he just makes things up. For the record, your man Dempster is still under the bed and won’t respond to Hendo’s missive. See last week’s Correspondence segment.

While on the question of journalists who ask lotsa questions but refuse to answer questions, consider the case of The Guardian’s Amanda Meade who appears to have joined Comrade Dempster under the bed and is not answering Hendo’s (courteous) questions. See this week’s Correspondence segment.


As avid readers are only too well aware, Professor Simon Jackman (the head of the United States Studies Centre) said in November 2016 that no one at the USSC expected that Donald J. Trump would defeat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.  He also ‘fessed up that no one at the USSC supported Donald Trump. David Smith, who suffers from Trump-phobia, is a USSC staff member.  Now read on.

Ever since Donald J. Trump became President of the United States, ABC Radio Sydney’s Drive with Richard Glover program has featured a segment called “Trump Tuesday”. It’s based on the (fashionable) leftist assumption that President Trump is a freak who presides over a freak administration.

The interviewee on “Trump Tuesday” is usually a pony-tailed, or is it bushy-tailed?, David Smith.  At least the presence of Dr Smith (for a doctor he is) puts a limit on jokes about Donald Trump’s hair.

It’s possible that your man Smith was at the hairstylist on Tuesday 30 July.  In any event, RMIT University’s Dr Emma Shortis did the “Trump Tuesday” gig.  Sure, she was critical of President Trump. But not excessively so and she did not go into any David Smith-like rants.

However, David Smith was back at the “Trump Tuesday” microphone this week. Let’s go to the transcript for some of what he had to say:

David Smith: …After the killing of more than 50 people in Las Vegas in 2017 by a man who had modified semi-automatic rifles to effectively turn them into automatic rifles, President Trump said that he wanted to ban the bump stocks that made that possible. And he said he wasn’t afraid to take on the NRA [National Rifle Association]. The NRA had one lunch with him and he completely abandoned that attack.

This comment is simply false.  In the wake of Las Vegas mass murder, President Trump directed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to review bump stock regulations. This review resulted in the ban of bump stocks. They remain banned. After the Las Vegas shooting the NRA expressed support for further regulations on bump stocks and have been only mildly critical of the ban. Someone like Mr Smith, who claims to be an expert on all things American, should know this.  It remains to be seen whether he will correct this howler in a future “Trump Tuesday”.

Then the US[eless] Studies Centre staffer went into a rant blaming the President for many of the ills of US Society – without a skerrick of evidence:

David Smith: …So Trump has repeatedly referred to people seeking asylum as “invaders”. He refers to an “invasion” coming from the South. In other words, using military language. There are people out there, including the shooter, who do think it’s an invasion. Who think it has to be repelled by lethal military force. Trump has come out in the wake of the shooting and condemned racism, condemned bigotry and condemned white supremacy. That’s fine, but the problem is that he and his supporters don’t seem to recognise the racism, the bigotry and the white supremacy that they are actually engaging in. Racism and bigotry and white supremacy are not just the most extreme manifestation of it. They seem to just be talking about the white supremacy that actually pulls the trigger. It’s not just that. It’s all of this dehumanising rhetoric that is constantly coming out of Trump’s mouth. The way that he constantly refers to asylum seekers, or even just migrants in general, as animals of various kinds. When he talks about cities being “infested”, this is dehumanising language and dehumanising rhetoric.

Again, this is simply not true.  President Trump has not criticised asylum seekers in general – only those who attempt to enter the US unlawfully. And his “animals” reference was to a particularly violent gang – the MS-13 gang which is based in El Salvador.  Moreover, the “infested” comment was a reference to the prevalence of rodents in parts of the Democratic Party controlled city of Baltimore.  That’s all.

But there was more:

David Smith: These [Trump] rallies turn hatred into a form of entertainment. And they are part of this normalisation of racist hate that has been taking place under the Trump administration. This was around long before Trump came to power. It’s quite possible that the shooter in El Paso had formed his views of immigrants before Trump came to power. But this is a huge contributing factor to the overall environment. There seems to be increasing evidence of more and more hate crime across the US, an environment of impunity for racists.

Following the Smith rant, Richard Glover played an anti-Trump rant by Beto O’Rourke – a candidate for endorsement by the Democratic Party to run against President Trump in the 2020 president election.  O’Rourke accused President Trump of being a racist.  Quelle surprise!

The ABC is a Conservative Free Zone without a conservative presenter, producer, or editor on any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets.  But surely Richard Glover and his producer could find a commentator with a different view for the “Trump Tuesday” gig who is not suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome.


The Nazi Soviet Pact of 23 August 1939 – sometimes called the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact or the Hitler-Stalin Pact – was one of the most important moments of the 20th Century.  The Nazi-Soviet Pact was an arrangement whereby Germany (led by the Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler) and the Soviet Union (led by the communist dictator Josef Stalin) divided Central and Eastern Europe between the two nations.  This made it possible for Germany to wage war on Poland – thus commencing the Second World War.

The Nazi-Soviet Pact lasted until 22 June 1941 when Hitler turned on Stalin and Germany invaded the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union then joined the Allies (Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India and some others) in fighting Germany.  Then, in late December 1941, Germany declared war on the United States, bringing it into the Second World War in Europe.

Carolyn Rasmussen, an honorary fellow at the University of Melbourne, has just completed her book The Blackburns: Private Lives, Public Ambition (MUP, 2019).  It is a biography about the Melbourne left-wing activists Maurice Blackburn (1880-1944) and Doris Blackburn (nee Hordern, 1889-1970).

Maurice Blackburn was the Australian Labor Party MP for the Melbourne-based seat of Bourke from 1934 until 1941. He was expelled from the ALP and held Bourke as an Independent Labor MP until defeated by the official ALP candidate at the 1943 election.

Doris Blackburn won Bourke from the ALP in 1946 as an Independent Labor candidate but lost to the official ALP candidate at the 1949 election. In short, the Blackburns were too left-wing for the ALP.  They were fellow-travellers of the Communist Party of Australia in particular and the Soviet Union in general. There is no evidence that the Blackburns ever criticised the Soviet Union or its leaders – Lenin, Stalin and their heirs.  Maurice Blackburn fell out with the ALP due to his support for such Communist “front” organisations as the Australia-Soviet Friendship League.

In a book of 400 pages covering the period 1886 to the 1970s, Carolyn Rasmussen devotes only one sentence to the Nazi-Soviet Pact. Here it is:

[In the late 1930s] Eloquent arguments in favour of a pact [between Britain, France and the Soviet Union] on grounds of principle and expediency tended to be drowned out by anti-communist and anti-Soviet rhetoric. The rhetoric reached deafening levels when, frustrated by the drawn-out negotiations and fearful for its own security, the Soviet Union signed a non-aggression pact with Germany on 23 August 1939.

What a load of absolute tosh. It has been known for eons that the Hitler-Stalin agreement was in no sense a “non-aggression pact”. Quite the contrary. It was an arrangement whereby the Soviet Union was able to conquer the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) while Germany was able to conquer Poland before advancing to the West.

It seems that some eight decades after the event, news of what the Nazi-Soviet Pact was all about has yet to reach the groves of academe at the University of Melbourne. Fancy that.


As reported in MWD Issues 444 & 445, the ABC did not bother to report the decision of the Victorian Court of Appeal, on 15 March 2019, to quash the conviction of former Christian Brother John Francis Tyrrell for raping a young boy and other offences over half a century ago.  Tyrrell was found guilty by a jury following a trial in which there was no forensic evidence and no witnesses.

Writing in The Guardian on 1 June 2019, David Marr had this to say:

George Pell stands a good chance of winning his appeal…. Not that that would be the end of the matter. Lately the Victorian Court of Appeal has overturned a number of jury verdicts in child abuse cases, only to see those verdicts restored by the High Court. Child abuse cases are hard. The rules of evidence are complex. Witnesses are few. These assaults are inherently outlandish. Victims are frequently damaged. Often at stake is the ruin of old men who have never before been accused of crimes.

A gap has opened up between the Canberra and Melbourne courts in the past few years in child abuse cases. The language of the High Court has been polite but its rebukes have been emphatic. Again and again it has backed trial judges and juries. Offenders set free on appeal in Melbourne find themselves behind bars once again.

The Victorian public prosecutor is feeding the appeals to the High Court and winning. The court is making no secret of what it’s about here: not just to quietly bring the Melbourne court back into line, but to set rules for the whole country on complex issues that are, as they said in a case last year, “as straightforward as possible consistent with the need to ensure that the accused receives a fair trial”.

Critics of the Melbourne judges say that for all their intellectual firepower, they lack experience at the grubby end of the law: the conduct of criminal trials. The complaint has been that the Court of Appeal sets the bar too high for trial judges and prosecutors.

…the key issue in Pell’s appeal: that his conviction is unsafe because, taken as a whole, the evidence could not allow the jury to be satisfied of his guilt beyond reasonable doubt. By an extraordinary coincidence, an ancient Christian Brother was set free by the Court of Appeal on exactly those grounds only a couple of days after Pell was sentenced for abusing a St Patrick’s Cathedral choir boy years ago.

The cardinal’s supporters greeted the release of John Tyrrell, 80, with jubilation. Here they saw a pathway for Pell’s acquittal: the Victorian appeal judges had decided that an uncorroborated and at times improbable story told by one man after years of silence was not enough to condemn Tyrrell to prison.

But that decision is also on its way to the High Court. The office of the director of public prosecutions appears confident the Canberra judges will once again find that the appeal judges have set the bar too high for the prosecution….

David Marr’s apparent endorsement of the Victorian Director of Public Prosecutions’ decision to appeal the Victorian Court of Appeal’s decision in John Francis Tyrrell v The Queen proved to be mistaken.

On Wednesday 7 August 2019, the High Court of Australia dismissed the Victorian DPP’s appeal in The Queen v Tyrrell –without a hearing and simply on the basis of reading the documents. The High Court’s decision, in its entirety, reads as follows:




[2019] HCASL 220


  • This application for special leave to appeal does not give rise to any question of general principle suitable for the grant of special leave to appeal from the decision of the Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Victoria (Kaye, Niall and Weinberg JJA). The application should be dismissed.
  • Pursuant to r 41.08.1 of the High Court Rules 2004 (Cth), we direct the Registrar to draw up, sign and seal an order dismissing the application.

M.M. Gordon                                                                    J.J. Edelman

         7 August 2019

* * * *

David Marr has not commented on the High Court’s decision to uphold the decision of the Victorian Court of Appeal – which demolishes his view of a conflict between the two courts in pedophilia cases. MWD will keep you posted if he does.

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.

On 20 June 2019, ABC TV’s 7.30’s executive producer Justin Stevens wrote to Hendo and stated – with evident irony – “you have a habit of publishing private email correspondence like this”. Quite so – and so it came to pass that his emails were published in Issues 455 and 456.  For his part, Jackie’s (male) co-owner reckons it’s a bit much for journalists who spend a large part of their professional life receiving leaked information – including private correspondence – to lecture others about good manners with respect to the handling of private correspondence.

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, on occasions, Ms Murphy herself (See MWD Issue 297).


Last week’s Correspondence segment carried an exchange – initiated by Amanda Meade – concerning transparency and all that.  In his final email, Gerard Henderson asked The Guardian’s media correspondent about her attitude to transparency as it relates to the personal associations and relationships of journalists.  Ms Meade went under-the-bed and declined to answer the query.  So Hendo wrote again – and again received no reply. Now read on.

Gerard Henderson to Amanda Meade – 7 August 2019


I refer to our correspondence of recent memory along with your article in The Guardian on 2 August 2019 titled “`Unaware’ Gerard Henderson defends Angus Taylor over grasslands saga”.  As you will recall, I responded to your email of 1 August 2019 at 11.17 am the following morning.

I am pleased that you quoted my comment that, when discussion turned to Angus Taylor on Insiders (28 July 2019), Louise Clegg was the last person on my mind.  I am also pleased that you reported that, at the time, I had no knowledge of Ms Clegg’s apparent financial interest in Jam Land Pty Ltd. – and that, consequently, it did not occur to me to declare that Louise Clegg is a member of The Sydney Institute’s board.  However, I note that you did not quote this comment:

As I have explained to Insiders, I believe that it is an old-fashioned view that women should be linked with the commercial activities of their spouse or partner in all instances.    However, I am prepared to go along with this – since this appears to be in accordance with ABC’s best practice. Speaking for myself, I have never mentioned – for example – that The Guardian Australia’s editor Lenore Taylor is married to a journalist or referred to her views in relation to his.

I am surprised, in this day and age, The Guardian seems to hold the view that – on occasions at least – wives should be mentioned when discussing financial interests of their husbands.  But there you go.

As a journalist, you ask lots of questions – to which you expect replies.  I note, however, that you have not responded to the question which I raised in my email of 2 August 2019.  Here it is again:

As to associations, if I am to refer to Ms Clegg every time Mr Taylor is mentioned – then, in my view, all journalists should declare their associations with politicians when talking about politicians. Including those who leak to them and those with whom they have, or have had, relationships or associations of one kind or another.  By the way, what is your view on this in your capacity as The Guardian Australia’s media correspondent?

I am sure that readers of my Media Watch Dog blog would be interested in the view of The Guardian’s media correspondent on whether all associations/relationships between journalists and politicians or former politicians or their staff should be declared. And, if not, why not.

Over to you.  I would be grateful if you could reply by close of business tomorrow.  As you know, I reply promptly to your questions – with evident courtesy.

Gerard Henderson AC (aka Always Courteous)

PS: By the way, my comment on Insiders that the (alleged) scandal about Angus Taylor and Jam Land Pty ltd “won’t go anywhere” has been proven correct – so far at least.

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Until next time

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