ISSUE – NO. 465

23 August 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 – 7:30’s (not so) current affairs; Chris Smith’s Pell rant doesn’t add up

  • Vale Tim Fischer (1946-2019)

  • Editorial – The 80th Anniversary of the Nazi-Soviet Pact

  • Can You Bear It? Shaun Micallef silent on the Chunder Down Under & is ignorant re Donald Trump’s Aluminum; Age-Shy Richard Ackland’s Age-Shaming; Tony Jones’ desperate pitch for the PM to come on Q&A

  • Media Fool of the Week – Bonge holds Justice in contempt

  • New Feature: Worst (Media) Joke of the Month – Malcolm Farr amuses himself

  • The Kinder/Gentler Drum Bangs On – Ellen Fanning fails to find the humour in Patrick Condren’s juiced-up Viagra jokes

  • Documentation – Hinch Spins a Yarn about his favourite celebrity- Derryn Hinch (with a walk-on part from Bette Midler)

  • Correspondence – Paul Barry & Timothy Latham on Benjamin Law’s “acclaim”; PVO on the unintellectual and pig-headed

* * * *


There was enormous interest in last week’s comment that 7.30 – the ABC TV’s premier current affairs program which runs from Monday to Thursday but never on Friday – is no longer providing much real news or up-to-date current affairs.

Take last night’s program, for example. There was one segment on traffic congestion in some Australian capital cities. An important topic – but hardly fresh.  Then there were three segments on the death of former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer. This included (i) a pre-prepared segment on Mr Fischer (ii) an interview with former prime minister John Howard and (iii) an interview with a father whose wife and children were murdered at Port Arthur in 1996 prior to the gun laws being tightened by the Howard/Fischer government.

A special on Tim Fischer would have worked well later in the evening.  But two segments on the late Mr Fischer would have been enough for 7.30 last night.

Finally there was another episode of “It Takes Two” – about partners.  This time ANU vice chancellor Brian Schmidt and his wife, the economist Jenny Gordon.  A nice story, to be sure, and suitable for – say – a slot somewhere on Sunday. But not for 7.30.

Right now, there are numerous international and national stories.  But most are not showing on 7.30 which explains why John Howard has said that he no longer finds ABC TV’s News or 7.30 essential viewing.


For journalistic ignorance in motion, there’s no reason to look any further than former 2GB presenter Chris Smith who stood in for Peta Credlin on Sky News’ Credlin last night.

At the top of the program, the presenter decided to do a monologue on the Victoria Court of Appeal’s majority decision to uphold George Pell’s conviction on five counts of historic child sexual abuse. This is Mr Smith’s ill-informed rant in full:

Chris Smith: We’ve had another day of headlines surrounding George Pell’s failed appeal from yesterday. Even the Melbourne Archbishop has suggested that it was a simple case of mistaken identity, now at least that’s original. And there will be more to come as the jailed paedophile continues his pleas of innocence. But this program tonight won’t be trawling over the case again except to say this – many of Pell’s supporters keep harking back to the fact that there was a split decision within that three-member appeals panel yesterday. A split decision, split decision to me in sporting parlance refers to, I guess, overtures of a kind of draw – maybe an equal result. It wasn’t an equal result, it wasn’t a draw.

My reaction is to do some proper counting. If you’re starting to count who’s on whose side, the first jury was split, that’s a split decision. The second jury was unanimous about Pell. So let’s score that accurately – that’s twelve-nil. Plus Judge Peter Kidd, if you recall, was totally scathing of Pell. That’s thirteen-nil. And then the three Appeals [sic] Court judges. What’s that equal? Fifteen to one, not two to one.

Give me a break, the bloke deserves his punishment because he’s been found guilty by a jury and then at an appeal. Only the well-heeled or very well-connected could ever contemplate going on to roll the last dice, which is the High Court. The commoner would have to accept the overwhelming decisions that have been handed down to Pell but not him. He’ll be supported by the Vatican and the Church until the very end and I can’t help but think that this blind loyalty is what got the Catholic Church in trouble in the first place.

 Virtually everything Chris Smith said in his introduction to Credlin last night was wrong. Here’s why:

▪ Like any defendant who loses an appeal in a State or Territory court, George Pell has a right to make an application for leave to appeal to the High Court of Australia. Consequently, until the High Court (i) refuses the application, (ii) hears the appeal and dismisses it or (iii) hears the appeal and upholds it – the case remains unresolved.

▪ In George Pell v The Queen there was a split decision. But it is unprofessional for Mr Smith – who has no obvious legal standing – to dismiss the dissenting judgment of Justice Mark Weinberg – who is regarded as one of Australia’s most talented and most experienced judges in the criminal jurisdiction.

▪ In view of the fact that the jury could not reach a decision at the first trial, at the very least three jurors did not believe that Pell was guilty beyond reasonable doubt.  Mr Smith should know that, in Victoria, a defendant can be convicted on a 10-2 verdict.  Obviously there were not 10 jurors for conviction in the first trial. It is simply false for Smith to claim that none of the jurors in the first trial supported an acquittal.

▪ If Mr Smith read Chief Judge Peter Kidd’s sentencing remarks in the Victorian County Court, he would know that the judge stated on two occasions that he was bound to accept the jury’s decision and that it was not his role to second-guess what the jurors had found.  So it is nonsense to say the judge believed in the jury’s decision. We simply do not know.

▪ Consequently, Mr Smith’s “15 to 1” figure is just ridiculous – and is of no legal consequence.

▪ Mr Smith’s statement that “only the well-heeled or very well connected could ever contemplate” going to the High Court is simply false. Quite a few of what Mr Smith calls – in a demeaning sense – commoners, go to the High Court.

Lindy Chamberlain’s appeal to the High Court was heard and dismissed.  One of the dissenting judges in Chamberlain v The Queen (No. 2) was Justice William Deane. Ms Chamberlain was not a wealthy woman.

▪ If Mr Smith has read the judgment of the Victorian Court of Appeal in George Pell v The Queen he would know that Justice Weinberg identified himself with Justice Deane’s dissenting judgment in Chamberlain v The Queen (No 2).

Justice Weinberg had this to say at Paragraphs 1101-1111:

…He [Justice Deane] concluded that, doing the best he could, he had finally come to a firm view that notwithstanding the jury’s verdict of guilty, the evidence did not establish, beyond reasonable doubt, Mrs Chamberlain’s guilt. I find myself in a position quite similar to that which confronted Deane J. To borrow his Honour’s language, there is, to my mind, a ‘significant possibility’ that the applicant in this case may not have committed these offences.  That means that, in my respectful opinion, these convictions cannot be permitted to stand.  The only order that can properly be made is that the applicant be acquitted on each charge.

In short, Chris Smith’s legal rant on Credlin last night gets an A+ for ignorance. Peta Credlin returns on Monday – almost certainly to the relief of Sky News viewers.

VALE TIM FISCHER (1946-2019)

I was at primary and secondary school with Tim Fischer – at Burke Hall in late 1950s and at Xavier College in the early 1960s. We kept in touch over the years.  We were not close at school since I was a day boy and he was a boarder. Outside of sport, the two groups did not fraternise much.

Tim was a top-rank student.  However, in his younger years, Tim was not well co-ordinated physically. Which explains his apparent lack of interest in sport.  Obviously things changed in the late teens.  I was surprised that, when conscripted for national service, Tim passed the medical test.  He went on to serve with distinction during Australia’s Vietnam commitment where he was wounded in action and rose to the rank of lieutenant.

Not many know that, while a conscript, Tim wanted to serve in the Vietnam War.  Towards the end of his two years of compulsory service, he volunteered for another nine months in the Australian Army so he could experience a tour of duty in a war zone.  It was a brave and selfless act.

After Tim left school and went on to the family farm at Boree, one of his friends told me that he had been approached by various political types to join the (then) Country Party, the Liberal Party, the Australian Labor Party and the Democratic Labor Party.  At school, Tim had leaned towards the ALP.  But after school he settled for the Country Party – now the Nationals – and was a member of the NSW Parliament and the Commonwealth Parliament.  It is well known that he became leader of the Nationals and became deputy prime minister.

At school, Tim had an obsession with Melbourne’s trams.  He later graduated to international trains. It was not uncommon to be met by Tim on a Monday morning with the advice that Tram Number 47 had passed Tram Number 68 at the intersection of Cotham Road and Glenferrie Road at 4:17 pm the previous Sunday. This was part of his obsessive charm.  Like virtually all successful politicians, Tim enjoyed meeting people – albeit often only for a short time. Hence the nickname “Two Minute Tim”.

Like all of us, Tim was affected by The Fall, and, consequently, not without stain.  But he was a generous man and made few enemies.

Tim Fischer spoke on a number of occasions at The Sydney Institute. And he was of great assistance to Anne and myself when we visited Rome at the time when he was Australia’s Ambassador to the Holy See.  It was somewhat of a surprise appointment to which he adapted remarkably well.  Tim used his well-known Akubra hat as a brand. It helped him gain ready access within the Vatican since everyone knew that he was the Australian Ambassador with the hat.

Tim lived and died with courage.  A good life indeed.  Requiescat in Pace.

Gerard Henderson (Not yet RIP)

* * * * *

Gerard Henderson’s chapter titled “Tim Fischer of Boree Creek” can be found in his book A Howard Government? Inside the Coalition (HarperCollins, 1995).



Sunday 1 September 2019 marks the 80th Anniversary of the commencement of the Second World War. It was on 1 September 1939 that Germany invaded Poland, this was followed by Britain’s declaration of war on Germany on 3 September 1939.  Australia’s prime minister Robert Menzies declared that, in view of Britain’s decision, Australia was also at war.  Since Australia did not have an independent foreign policy until at least 1931, this was a logical decision.

However, the Second World War really started 80 years ago today – Friday 23 August 1939.  For this was the very day of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact – sometimes known as the Hitler-Stalin Pact or Nazi-Soviet Pact – by which Nazi Germany and communist Soviet Union divided Eastern Europe between themselves. Germany was to invade and conquer Poland – while the Soviet Union was to invade and conquer the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania). This meant that there would be no war in Germany’s eastern front – which made it possible for Germany to invade and conquer France on its western front.  The Nazi Soviet Pact ended on 22 June 1941 when Germany invaded the Soviet Union, opening up the war for Germany on two fronts.

Without the Nazi-Soviet Pact, World War II would not have commenced in September 1939 and it is far from clear as to how events in Europe eight decades ago would have worked out.

We don’t know as much about the Nazi Soviet Pact as we should. Why? Well, take, for example, members of the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) – and their fellow travellers – supported the Nazi Soviet Pact since they took their orders from Moscow.  All opposed the war effort, and some tried to undermine it.

Come mid-1941, and few on the left – apart from those who had quit the CPA in protest in August 1939 – wanted to remember that they once supported Nazi Germany – on the instruction of Josef Stalin and communist Soviet Union.

From time to time, MWD refers to the Nazi-Soviet Pact. Most recently, in Issue 463, when it was revealed that Carolyn Rasmussen’s biography of the leftist Maurice Blackburn and Doris Blackburn contained virtually no reference to the Nazi Soviet Pact – despite the fact that Maurice Blackburn was expelled from the Australian Labor Party in 1941 due to his support for Josef Stalin and his totalitarian regime in Moscow.

Over the next couple of months, MWD will analyse in some detail the edited collection by Sheila Fitzpatrick and Carolyn Rasmussen titled Political Tourists: Travellers from Australia to the Soviet Union in the 1920s-1940s.  It’s not a work which dwells upon the most embarrassing moment for the pro-communist left in Australian history. Quelle Surprise!

Can You Bear It


There has been enormous interest in MWD’s coverage of this year’s biggest Chunder Down Under story – so far, at least. The Australian’s “Media” section has reported that – following a piss-up at the Melbourne Southbank studio on 6 August after the filming of Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell – someone threw up in the Women’s Changing Room close to the Green Room.  The incident was so severe, MWD understands – that the location was temporarily re-named “The (Green) Women’s Changing Room”.

The event occurred after the taping of  Shaun Micallef’s Mad as Hell program.   This is pre-recorded on a Tuesday and goes to air the following night. The technicolour yawn was discovered by ABC TV News Breakfast presenter Virginia Trioli.  The teetotaller Shaun Micallef, who was not present when the incident occurred, has apologised to Ms Trioli – as Nick Tabakoff reported in The Australian on Monday.

However, certain questions remain.  Who paid for the clean-up – Mad as Hell or the taxpayer funded public broadcaster?  And why has your man Micallef got into “no comment” mode and declined to make, say, a “Mad as Chunder” segment in his show which aired on 14 August and 21 August?  MWD will keep you posted.

Meanwhile, thanks to the avid reader who drew MWD’s attention to this segment of Mad as Hell on 14 August – where the presenter attempted to mock President Donald J. Trump by sneering at his (alleged) inability to pronounce the word “aluminium”.

Let’s go to the transcript:

Shaun Micallef: …Donald [Trump] likes our aluminium, he calls it “aluminum”. Ha ha – it’s so cute when he says it. Have a listen.

Donald Trump [compilation of clips]: Aluminum. Aluminum. Aluminum. Aluminum.

Shaun Micallef: Ha ha it’s adorbs. [audience laughs]. It’s like a child saying “hostible” or that Santa Claus is coming down the “chimley”…

Pretty funny eh? Well, alas, not really.  Shaun Micallef seems unaware that Brits and Aussies say “” while the Yanks says “a.LU.mi.num”. It’s the same word but pronounced and spelt differently in the US/Canada compared with Australia/Britain.

This is the story – according to MWD’s  avid reader:

The British chemist Sir Humphry Davy is credited with naming the element whose chemical symbol is Al. In 1808 he initially suggested the name alumium, a name which was criticized by contemporary chemists. Later he suggested the name aluminum but this too was criticized by his British contemporaries who preferred the more “classical sounding” aluminium. Davy eventually adopted the British spelling aluminium himself. However, by then aluminum had become established in America. In 1828, aluminum was offered as the only spelling in the first edition of the American Dictionary of the English Language by Noah Webster which established the spelling as the American standard. Today aluminum is used in America and Canada while aluminium is used in Britain, Australia and much of the rest of the world. The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) accepts both variants.

So, there you have it.  President Trump used the American pronunciation for an American word.  And your man Micallef does not appreciate that if he went to the United States and spoke about aluminium – he might be mocked by an American comedian. In short, a joke backfired – due to lack of cultural awareness. Can You Bear It?


Perhaps it’s Richard Ackland’s use of school-boy nicknames that makes him feel young. Take your man Ackland’s “Gadfly” column in The [Boring] Saturday Paper last weekend, for example. There were references to “The Rev. Christian Porter”, “Grassgate Gus” (Angus Taylor), “Lord Molock” (Rupert Murdoch), “Pussy Grabber Trump” (Donald J. Trump), “Phil the Greek” (The Duke of Edinburgh) and so on. Funny, eh? – in a juvenile kind of way.

But here’s a theory.  Could it be that Gadfly uses school-boy nicknames to give the impression of eternal youth and thus disguise his age?  You see, Richard Ackland AM has one of the few entries in Who’s Who in Australia 2019 which does not contain a date of birth.  He is happy to refer to the date when he received his AM gong (2016) but not to the date when he was born. How about that?

In his “Gadfly” column last week, Richard Ackland AM referred to Jackie’s (male) co-owner as an “old codger” and an “old nitpicker”. Which raises the question – how old is your man Ackland? This seems to be one of the few remaining secrets in Australian journalism.

According to his Wikipedia entry, Gadfly graduated in Arts and Law from the University of Sydney in the 1970s.  That is, somewhere between 1970 and 1979. Since MWD recalls that he was reporting Australian politics in the first half of the 1970s – this suggests that Richard Ackland would be around 70 today, possibly a bit more (but MWD is willing to correct this if wrong).  In other words, Gadfly is around 5 years north of being eligible for the aged pension.  And yet he bags others as “old”. Can You Bear It?


As avid readers are aware (see Issues 450 and 457), ABC TV Q&A presenter Tony Jones warned Prime Minister Scott Morrison that he needed to appear on the program before the 18 May election – in order to get an idea of what Australians were thinking. The PM had the sense to say: “Thanks, but no thanks.” – or words to that effect.

It is a matter of record that the Coalition won the May 2019 election – increasing its number of seats and votes. All without the PM appearing before the Q&A audience and listening to your man Jones and his predominantly Green/Left audience.  Quelle surprise!

But now, believe it or not, Tony Jones is at it again. As Nick Tabakoff pointed out in his “The Diary” column in Monday’s Australian, the Q&A presenter is desperate to get Coalition ministers on to the program. Since the 18 May election, only two have fronted up (Dan Tehan on 24 June 2019 and Alan Tudge on 12 August 2019). This compares with eight Labor frontbenchers in the same period.

This suggests that the Coalition seems to have worked out that there is no upside, but plenty of downside, involved in appearing on Q&A.  The presenter is invariably unfriendly to the Coalition as is much of the baying mob that passes as a “balanced” Q&A audience.

It seems that your man Jones is also attempting to coax the Prime Minister to make a post-election appearance on Q&A.  This is what he told The Australian.

“It’s not hugely surprising that a new government feeling its way is trying to control the agenda very cautiously, and I hope over time they have the confidence to participate in a public debate.”…. “He (Morrison) has had the most extraordinary success in the election campaign and it’s largely down to his own efforts. With his ability to carry an argument, he would do very well in the Q&A’s forum. It will give the people a better chance to know their PM.”

Talk about a desperate pitch. Before the election, Tony Jones said that the Prime Minister should appear on Q&A to find out what Australians really think.  Now, after the election, Tony Jones reckons that the Prime Minister should appear on Q&A so that Australians can find out what they really think of him. And, as to the suggestion that the Morrison government ministers lack the confidence to participate in the public debate, well – all MWD can say is Can You Bear It?

[Er, no. Not really.  I could be proven wrong. It’s likely that Mr Jones will be into his move to China well before Scott Morrison appears again on Q&A – if, indeed, this ever comes to pass – MWD Editor.]

Media Fool Of The Week


Did anyone see the tweet by Paul (“I used to share digs with Gerald Ridsdale, but I don’t talk about it much”) Bongiorno – which went out at 10.22 am on Wednesday – just after the Victorian Court of Appeal brought down its decision in George Pell v The Queen.

Paul Bongiorno‏ @PaulBongiorno Aug 20

I would hate to see Andrew Bolt on Sky charged with contempt of court for his refusal to accept the Appeal Court’s 2-1 rejection of Pell appeal. He [Bolt] infers [sic] the 2 majority judges are part of the Pell vilification.

At 10.22 on Wednesday 21 August, Bonge would not have had time to read either the majority (120 pages) or minority (204 pages) in George Pell v The Queen.  In his blog, Sky News presenter and Herald-Sun columnist Andrew Bolt had expressed disagreement with the majority decision (Chief Justice Anne Ferguson and Justice Chris Maxwell – President of the Court of the Appeal). That’s all he did.

It’s perfectly legitimate for individuals to criticise judgements – provided they engage in respectful mode. That’s why the convicted can appeal – on occasions all the way to the High Court.  Andrew Bolt merely happened to agree with the dissenting judgement of the highly experienced criminal jurist Mark Weinberg.  What’s wrong with that?

According to Mr Bongiorno’s logic – for want of a better word – a disagreement with the majority judgment entails contempt of court. In his rage and confusion, your man Bonge overlooked the fact that if his thesis is correct – then Justice Weinberg should be put before the beak on a contempt of court charge. What a load of absolute tosh.

Paul Bongiorno: Media Fool of the Week.

[I note that Paul Bongiorno STB, STI (Pontifical Urban University) does not know the difference between the words “infer” and “imply”.  And this in spite of a good Catholic education. – MWD Editor.]


Due to popular request, this week MWD has set up a new segment titled “Worst (Media) Joke of the Month”. Already this has proved to be a be a big field – with Derryn (“The Human Mumble”) Hinch making a late, albeit unsuccessful, pitch last night – see the “Documentation” segment today.

However, after much consideration, and quite a few Gin & Tonics, Jackie’s (male) co-owner is delighted to declare News Corp’s Malcolm Farr as the inaugural winner of what is destined to become an MWD highlight on the Last Friday of the Month.

Malcolm (“Do you like the $5 shirts I wear on Insiders”) Farr scored for his comments on on the ABC TV Insiders program on 4 August.  He was “on the couch” with Andrew Probyn and Annika Smethurst.  Annabel Crabb was in the presenter’s chair.

When discussion turned on the (alleged) political scandal of Energy Minister Angus Taylor (remote) involvement with Jam Land Pty Ltd, your man Farr had this to say:

Malcolm Farr: It wasn’t until Thursday that he [Angus Taylor] started issuing that last statement we saw along the lines of:  “I’ve made all declarations as required of me”. It was a bit too late because there are now hovering questions over how he’s run his private affairs as opposed to his public obligations. And I am, in a way, disappointed that there hasn’t been any actual cash going to his family property – because I would like to see a headline “Money for Jam Land”.

Annabel Crabb: Well, you might be waiting a while for that one.

How funny was that? And did anyone laugh?  – MWD hears you cry.  The answer is – Yes.  Malcolm Farr laughed loud and heartedly at his own joke. And he laughed alone.



As avid readers will be aware, ABC TV The Drum’s co-presenters Julia Baird and Ellen Fanning gave an interview to Nine newspapers’ Michael Gallo on 27 January 2019 in which they announced their intention to preside over a kinder/gentler Drum. Dr Baird (for a doctor she is) said that guests who bludgeon their ideological foes into submission will not be invited back. And Ms Fanning declared that the best shows occurred when someone says to another guest: “Say that again, that’s interesting.” How frightfully nice – in a wellness consciousness kind of way. So how’s the kinder/gentler Drum going?  Not so well – if last Friday’s program is any indication.

Here are The Drum’s program notes for Friday 16 August 2019:

Ellen Fanning, Margy Osmond, Tony Windsor, Ashlee Kearney and Patrick Condren discuss whether fears of a looming recession are founded and how Australia would weather the storm. Plus the wash-up from the Pacific Islands Forum.

Ellen Fanning was the presenter. The panel comprised Margy Osmond (chief executive officer of the Tourism and Transport Forum), Tony Windsor (the former Independent MP for New England), Ashlee Kearney (a partner at Kearney/Harnett and former Labor Party advisor) and Patrick Condren (a former Walkley Award winning journalist based in Brisbane).

For some reason, Ms Fanning thought it was a you-beaut idea to discuss the news that inhabitants of the Land of the Long White Cloud have been warned not to eat lichen that grows on pavements.   Let’s go to the transcripts to see what Ellen Fanning and Patrick Condren had to say about this issue at around 6.45 pm- i.e. Gin & Tonic time for Jackie’s (male) co-owner:

Ellen Fanning: Well here’s a doozy. Over in New Zealand botanists are warning the public not to eat lichen that grows on the pavements. Here it is, doesn’t look very appetising, why would anyone want to eat that. Patrick?

Patrick Condren: Well if you liken the lichen, there’s no stopping you. Why would you have to warn someone not to lick lichen on the footpath: “Excuse me sir, I see your licking some lichen on the footpath, I’m here to tell you that’s not a good idea.” Now apparently, a botanist over there, a lichenologist if you can believe it, coined the expression “sexy footpath lichen.”  This has prompted people to investigate it a little further and some of this lichen has the properties of Viagra. So they’re all going around licking the lichen to perform better in the bedroom. Unfortunately, it [lichen] also has the properties of anti-Viagra. So it’s not going to perform as well in the bedroom as you might have liked.  But doing some research for this particular segment, I came across some other stuff. Apparently, people drink ancient mummy juice. Now this is juice out of Egyptian mummies [sic]. If you could bear with me, I’m trying to get a gag out here. So if it came in a bottle, the message would be: “beware. [sic]” Nothing? What a tough crowd, thanks Tony you’re a champion.

Ellen Fanning: Tony can explain it to us later. The girls all missed it.

So there you have it.  Only Tony Windsor laughed at your man Condren’s “joke”. And Ms Fanning described herself, Ms Osmond and Ms Kearney as “girls”. [Perhaps The Drum’s co-presenter should attend Nancy’s Courtesy Classes where adult females are described as women – not girls. MWD Editor.]

Believe it or not, Ms Fanning allowed Patrick Condren to bang on – and he attempted another “joke”.

Patrick Condren: To go back to the lichen, they are selling ground-up lichen as a natural alternative to Viagra. They’re selling it for $300 a bottle, I’m not sure how big the bottle is. Now some clever clog – I was going to say clever dick – but some clever clog has gone off and tested it. And this powder for $300 a bottle is 80 percent Viagra and 20 percent dust. So people are crushing up inexpensive Viagra pills, putting it into a bottle, telling other people that it’s dried Viagra lichen and they’re guzzling it down in New Zealand.

Tony Windsor: I’m shocked. I paid $350.

Patrick Condren: Call me, Tony.

Ellen Fanning: I just think the risk of dog urine and excrement would put me right off.

Patrick Condren: Say you’re hosing the front lawn, you saw a bit of lichen, quick nibble on the lichen and then – [gestures backwards]

Ellen Fanning: I can’t wait to hear about the consumer research on this one.

Patrick Condren: I’ll be back next week, I’m off to New Zealand.

So there you have it.  After the ABC axed Lateline, The Drum is the only ABC TV current affairs program that runs from Mondays to Fridays. And yet it spends time discussing the growth of lichen on New Zealand’s pavements – setting up bad joke opportunities for Patrick Condren and his side-kick Tony Windsor.  The former told The Drum he’s off to New Zealand to purchase some dried-up Viagra lichen – and the latter complained he had paid $350 for a bottle of the stuff when the proper price was $300.

That’s the standard of The Drum under the kinder/gentler new administration.

By the way, if any avid reader has any idea of the meaning of Patrick Condren’s “beware” joke – please let MWD know.  MWD suspects that it might be a Gin & Tonic joke about werewolves.  But, then, it might not. Over to you.


There has been overwhelming demand for more news on the “Spin a Yarn” segment – presented by Derryn (“I got a whopping 2.8% of the primary vote in the Victorian senate election”) Hinch on Sky News every Thursday. Towards the end of the program, a turn table determines what (boring) story The Human Mumble will tell about famous people who have had the privilege of meeting the even more famous Hinch.

Last night, wait for it, the arrow landed on the celebrity Bette Midler.  Here’s what The Human Mumble had to mumble:

Derryn Hinch: Okay Bette Midler, Bette Midler okay. Umm Bette Midler – she came to Australia back in the 80’s. I was just opening a restaurant in Little Bourke Street in Melbourne and I called it Sardi’s after the theatre show business restaurant in New York in the theatre district and through – I think she [Bette Midler] must have been promoting a movie as well as anything else because, through Alan Finney at Village Roadshow, he introduced me Mery- [sic] to um Bette Midler and Bette Midler agreed to come and open my restaurant for me, open Sardi’s.

And she came for half an hour and she stayed for about four hours and she had a very good time I think. Or she seemed to enjoy herself and the wine flowed and uh and things got a bit woolly and the arguments started. And two of the guests in the opening uh were um Molly Meldrum and John-Michael Howson umm and they got very bitter and angry with each other at some stage. I remember at one stage, I don’t which one said to the other one, one said- “listen don’t you say that you bloody old queen!”. And the other one said “you can’t say that to me you bloody f**got!” [Hinch laughs at his own story]

Rob Harris: Oh, Derryn.

Derryn Hinch: And Bette Midler turned to me and she said “um will they ever talk to each other again?”. And I said “they’ll be fine in the morning, they’ll be fine in the morning”. She said “oh okay”. And she was a lovely guest- she was a great guest so we really enjoyed it. Okay that’s Spin a Yarn.

Rob Harris: Did she- [he is cut off by the outro music]

What a terrific yarn, to be sure. Hinch’s story was not really about Bette Midler at all. But about how she came to Hinch’s restaurant in Melbourne when some of Hinch’s besties were on the juice. Yawn.

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).


It was a somewhat normal program at the Conservative Free Zone on Monday. Since its inauguration in 1989, ABC TV’s Media Watch has only had leftist or left-of-centre or social democratic presenters – providing yet another example of the taxpayer funded broadcaster as a Conservative Free Zone.

Last Monday, presenter Paul Barry (i) criticised 2GB and Sky News presenter Alan Jones for his (unwise) comments about New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern, (ii) criticised the Morrison government with respect to media freedom and (iii) criticised The Australian for its coverage of transgender issues. Pretty predictable, to be sure.

In his criticism of The Australian, Paul Barry praised Benjamin Law, a long-time critic of Rupert Murdoch, News Corp and The Australian.  This is what your man Barry had to say:

…last week, former Courier-Mail columnist and Australian [book] reviewer, Benjamin Law, who’s now an ABC regular, was…offering to donate $36 of his hard-earned cash for anyone who cancelled their Australian subscription.

And why did he do that? To protest at this: The Australian’s newly-created “gender” page, which gathers all its stories on the subject — and there are many — and which, surprise, surprise, are almost all negative….

Law, who wrote an acclaimed Quarterly Essay in 2017 called “Moral Panic 101” that focused on The Australian’s campaign against Safe Schools, tweeted…

Gerard Henderson has read Moral Panic 101 along with the reviews of Benjamin Law’s essay. While acknowledging that it had received some positive reviews, Hendo did not really recall that Moral Panic 101 had been “acclaimed”. Now read on.

[I note that Comrade Barry objects when The Australian runs a page which “almost” always runs the same line. But he does not criticise his employer when the ABC runs programs where everyone agrees with everyone else in a leftist kind of way. See MWD et al ad nauseam.  MWD Editor.]

Gerard Henderson to Paul Barry – 20 August 2019


I refer to your comment on Media Watch last night that Benjamin Law “wrote an acclaimed Quarterly Essay in 2017 called Moral Panic 101”.

I would be grateful if you could advise by whom this essay was acclaimed.  Over to you.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

cc: Timothy Latham

Timothy Latham to Gerard Henderson – 20 August 2019

Hi Gerard,

Law’s essay was well received in the mainstream media, including a positive review in The Australian.

See below for references/reviews.



Australian Book Review by Dan Dixon

December 2017

“It is a meticulously researched piece of writing, clear-eyed and forceful”

The Australian review by Suzanne Leal

8 December 2017

“thoughtful, clear and carefully researched essay….”

“…the success of Law’s essay lies in his ability to distil the fear that surrounds the Safe Schools debate”

“Law’s skill is in his careful consideration of both views, and in a world of increasing division, this is not to be underestimated”.

 SMH Review by Steven Carroll

21 September 2017

“passionate but measured plea for tolerance”

“A timely and important work”


4.53/5 community rating from 381 reviews

Amazon audio book reviews give it 4.9/5 from 35 reviews.

Gerard Henderson to Timothy Latham – 20 August 2019


Thanks for your prompt response.  I note that Paul Barry (despite Media Watch’s large staff) gets you (Media Watch’s executive producer) to reply to his correspondence. Whereas I reply to my own correspondence – with a little help from a canine. But there you go.

In response, I make the following comments:

▪ You seem to take special note of the “positive review” of Benjamin Law’s essay in The Australian. You overlook one fact. The ABC is a Conservative Free Zone. The Australian is not a Socialist Free Zone – indeed it runs Phillip Adams’ columns weekly. So it is hardly news that Suzanne Leal gave Moral Panic 101 a positive review – since The Australian publishes a range of views, in its book review section and elsewhere.

▪ It is hyperbolic for Paul Barry to assert that Dan Dixon (Australian Book Review) or Suzanne Leal (The Australian) or Steven Carroll (Sydney Morning Herald) acclaimed Benjamin Law’s essay.  Sure their reviews were positive – but no more than that.

▪ Moreover, Suzanne Leal, Dan Dixon and Steven Carroll are all on the left of Australian politics – like your man Law.  It’s hardly surprising that they liked Benjamin Law’s Moral Panic 101.

As you should be aware, Dan Dixon is as strong a critic of The Australian as Benjamin Law. Sure, Mr Law has offered to donate $36 to anyone who cancels their subscription to The Australian.  However, Dan Dixon has gone further with this comment:

The Australian is the target [of Honi Soit] both because its hysterical boomer self-righteousness lends itself to satire and because the newspaper is the mouthpiece of those who have bequeathed an increasingly unlivable world to the generation who writes and edits HoniThe Australian has led the charge against what it characterises as the insidious evils of housing affordability, identity politics, and political correctness.

– The Lifted Brow, Issue 42, 21 November 2016.

In view of this, it’s hardly surprising that Comrade Dixon would praise Comrade Law – and that Comrade Barry would concur.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson AC [aka Always Courteous]

Whose courtesy has been widely ACCLAIMED


Gerard Henderson to Peter Van Onselen – 22 August 2019


My attention has been drawn to this tweet which you put out at 12.51 pm yesterday – following the majority verdict of the Victorian Court of Appeal in George Pell v The Queen.

Yep sure, juries and judges make mistakes. But it’s the certainty of some of Pell’s supporters that he didn’t do it that gets me. They weren’t there, they didn’t see the whole trial or appeal process. Yet they are certain. It’s just so unintellectual and pig headed ignorant…

I know that, at times, you throw the switch to hyperbole.  But this is over the top – especially in view of the legal importance of this case.  As you know – George Pell was convicted on the basis of an allegation without a witness or forensic evidence or a confession and despite the fact that none of the witnesses called by the prosecution supported the prosecution’s case.

Justice Weinberg is one of the most highly qualified judges in Australia in criminal law.  In his minority judgment, Justice Weinberg said that he was not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Pell committed the crimes with which he was charged.

I doubt that you had time to read the minority judgment (of around 200 pages) when you sent out your tweet at 12.51 pm yesterday.

If you had read Justice Weinberg’s judgement, you would know that he saw most of the trial – on video – and read all of the transcripts.  Sure Justice Weinberg and his fellow judges did not see the complainant in person. But nor did the jury in the second trial which convicted him.  Both the appeal judges and the two juries only saw the complainant on video.

In other words, Judge Weinberg was there – and he saw and read all the important evidence.   You would know this if you have read his judgement (see paragraphs 1043-1051, Pages 292-293).

Also you state that Pell’s supporters did not see the appeal process.  This is inaccurate. It was live-streamed and shown on the ABC and Sky News. Also, a transcript was published shortly after each session. You should know this if you write about the case.

Yet – despite your own howlers – you accuse Pell supporters of being “unintellectual” and “pig-headed”. If this is so, then Judge Weinberg must also be “unintellectual” and “pig-headed”.  It’s a big call with respect to one of Australia’s most respected judges – from someone like you who proclaims his professorship at two universities.

Best wishes



Hi Gerard

There is little in your email I disagree with. Respectfully I think you need to read my tweet again. I said SOME of Pell’s supporters, which I don’t classify any of the judges as. And for what it’s worth (I’m not sure whether you’re a Pell supporter or not, I believe you operate that why) I wasn’t referring to you. Apart from anything else, I know how deeply you dig into the detail of topics. If I had to guess I would say you would be one of the few people who probably has read and seen much or even most of what has been produced by the courts. But as I say, having re-read it I entirely stand by the tweet. If anything, I’d extend it to the similar certainly SOME Pell opponents seem to sing to.



Gerard Henderson to Peter van Onselen – 22 August 2019


With respect (to use a legal term), who are the SOME to whom you refer?  Your allegation about “some Pell supporters” could include anyone.  The use of this term is a cop-out which you might fail in your role as a university professor if presented as evidence in a student’s essay.

In any event, the anonymous SOME to whom you refer came to the same conclusion as Justice Mark Weinberg – who was across all the evidence.  So why are these SOME “unintellectual” and “pig-headed” – but Justice Weinberg is not?

Also you falsely accused the SOME Pell supporters of not seeing the “whole” appeal process when it was live-streamed and shown on TV. Perhaps this deserves a correction.



Peter Van Onselen to Gerard Henderson – 22 August 2019

Because he’s read it all and they haven’t?

Gerard Henderson to Peter van Onselen – 23 August 2019

That’s a pretty weak response. Are you suggesting that no-one should comment on, say, the Lindy Chamberlain case in the High Court- Chamberlain v The Queen (No. 2)- unless they have read all the evidence presented? The fact is that most people- including academics like yourself – talk about legal cases on the basis of media reports. This doesn’t make them “unintellectual” or “pig-headed”.

By the way, you still have not identified even one of the “some Pell supporters” to whom you referred in your tweet.

Over and out. I’m off for an early G&T. Keep Morale High.


 * * * *

 Until next time

* * * *