ISSUE – NO. 476

8 November 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 – ABC launches another year of conservative free programming

  • Editorial – ABC delays and then bungles response to last Monday’s Q&A

  • Can You Bear It? The Ageopens up its Letters page to Morrison-bashers (and no-one else) plus the SMH and the 11,000 (minus 2) scientists; Osman Faruqi on Australia’s (horse) racism; Gael Jennings breaks the news that she and her family did not watch the Melbourne Cup; Q&A guest Mona Eltahawy goes F happy and tells men to “be more bisexual” 

  • An ABC Update – The time new Q&A presenter Hamish Macdonald grilled a Coalition minister on the financial interests of his ex-wife’s second-cousin once removed

  • MWD Exclusive – Fitz condemns “pile-ons” then piles on Pell

  • Hinchon Hinch – Hinch on Princess Anne and her Mother

  • Continuing Secrets in Australian Journalism – Richard Ackland and an age mystery for the ages (continued)

  • Documentation – The Andrew Olle Media Lecture: Remembering – And Forgetting – Andrew Olle (1947-1995)

  • Correspondence – Terry Barnes helps out on the historiography of The Liberal Party

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Yesterday, the ABC TV launched its 2020 programming slate.  It’s very much a more-of-the-same occasion which does not alter the ABC’s current reality as a Conservative Free Zone without a conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets.

Writing in today’s Sydney Morning Herald and Age, Karl Quinn had this to say:

The ABC’s war with conservative commentators and politicians looks likely to continue with the national broadcaster unveiling on Thursday a 2020 TV programming slate almost guaranteed to fire up the national broadcaster’s critics. Indigenous issues, climate change and clerical abuse spearhead a line-up of original Australian content that Michael Carrington, ABC’s director of entertainment and specialist programming, promised “will speak to and for all Australians, firing their imagination through bold content and creativity”.

“Australians are interested in big issues such as climate change and the treatment of our First Peoples,” Carrington said. “These are important national debates and as the public broadcaster we are charged with bringing these stories to our audiences. We would be letting them down if we chose our content based on the views of a relatively small number of critics.”

Mr Carrington’s statement was of the defensive mode.  MWD is not aware that any particular critic wants to stop the ABC covering indigenous issues, climate change and clergy abuse.  It’s just that there are other issues and other opinions within some of the ABC’s favourite topics.  For example, the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse found that more child sexual abuse took place outside institutions (clerical and secular alike) than within them – and that most clerical child sexual abuse took place between the late 1960s and the mid-1980s.  In other words, clerical child sexual abuse is an historical crime.

The point is that the ABC continually bangs an oh-so-familiar drum on its favourite topics. As former ABC chairman James Spigelman said in 2013, the ABC invariably forgets that some people are more interested in electricity prices than same-sex marriage.

In any event, the ABC TV’s 2020 program looks good for MWD – and should provide lotsa copy for 2020 and beyond.  MWD looks forward, in particular, to Shaun Micallef’s On the Sauce which will examine Australia’s relationship with alcohol. [I’ll drink to that. – MWD Editor.] According to Karl Quinn, on his show “teetotaller Shaun Micallef…promises to get drunk for the first time since his university days”.  Well worth watching, to be sure.

Oh, and there will be a left-wing rant from actor Miriam Margolyes in her documentary on what it means to be Australian – titled Miriam Margolyes: Almost Australian. A task she is well qualified for, having become an Australian in 2014. And the leading luvvie Cate Blanchett gets a go.

MWD also welcomes a new series of Bluey.  Yesterday, MWD fave Michael Rowland took a carbon dioxide-emitting flight from Melbourne to Sydney from where he posted this tweet. Needless to say, MWD responded.

Michael Rowland Pats Bluey: A Fake Blue Heeler

 – with no Academic Qualifications


Jackie’s (male) co-owner Pats Jackie:  A True-Blue Aussie Blue-Heeler – with a Dip. Wellness from the Gunnedah Institute



In today’s Crikey, Stephen Brook concluded his account of yesterday’s ABC launch as follows.

Certainly at the launch the ABC laid it on thick, with commitments to First Australians, diversity and inclusion mentioned continually. In fact, the only place where this commitment to diversity evaporates is at the top of the ABC. The board and executive team are whiter than a loaf of Tip-Top Sunblest. It is easy to chide the ABC for wokeness, and I made passing reference to this to an ABC staffer on the way out, who smiled and said “well this is the national broadcaster”. But if the ABC doesn’t tell these stories, who else will?

Well, if someone else was given $1 billion of taxpayer’s money – MWD reckons that someone would take up the story-telling task.



ABC TV’s Q&A “Broadside” program went to air at around 9.30 pm on Monday 4 November. As discussed elsewhere in this issue, the program contained language which would have been offensive to some viewers along with an advocacy of violence.  It was one of those oh-so-familiar ABC programs where everyone agrees with everyone else in a leftist kind of way. This enhanced the problem with the program – since neither presenter Fran Kelly nor any of the panel disagreed with the proposal by one panellist to engage in arson and “let’s burn stuff”.

Andrew Bolt covered the matter in his blog on the morning after Q&A went to air. The issue was discussed at some length that night when Andrew Bolt spoke to Gerard Henderson during the latter’s regular “News Watch” segment on Sky News’ The Bolt Report.  The controversy continued on The Bolt Report the following night when former ABC chair Maurice Newman called on Communications Minister Paul Fletcher and ABC Chair Ita Buttrose to criticise the program.

Yesterday afternoon ABC managing director and editor-in-chief David Anderson finally said something about the controversy. This was around 65 hours after Q&A concluded on Monday.

In his (belated) brief statement, Mr Anderson said “the ABC acknowledges that the program was provocative in regard to the language used and some of the views presented”. The ABC managing director added that he “can understand why some viewers found elements of this episode confronting or offensive”.

So, what is to be done?  Well, it was not clear yesterday afternoon.  According to David Anderson, the ABC is “assessing the concerns raised and will investigate whether the program met the ABC’s editorial standards”. That’s what.

So there you have it.  Over three days after Q&A went to air, the ABC’s managing director and editor-in-chief said he had no idea whether the program met the ABC’s editorial standards.   So he’s going to have an investigation into this matter – presumably led by the bureaucrats at the taxpayer funded public broadcaster.

This is no way for a managing director and editor-in-chief to manage a media company.  However, to be fair, it has been the kind of management exhibited by many of Mr Anderson’s predecessors – including Mark Scott – who decline to act in their role as editor-in-chief.

So, on Thursday afternoon the ABC managing director and editor-in-chief did not have a clue on whether or not the Q&A “Broadside” program had breached the ABC’s editorial standards.

However, a few hours later, ABC Chair Ita Buttrose told The Australian’s Matthew Denholm that she had spoken with Mr Anderson and a decision had been made not to repeat the program and to take it off iView.  Meanwhile as late as Friday afternoon both the program and the transcript were still on the ABC Q&A website.  Apparently this is the best we can expect from a company which receives over $1 billion in taxpayer funds each year.

Can You Bear It


Has anyone noticed an improvement in Nine Newspapers – a product of Nine, chairman Peter Costello – in recent times? “Not really” – MWD hears you cry.  A glance at the Nine Newspapers Letters Pages of recent times illustrates the problem.

On Monday, The Age’s Letters Page led with a section titled “Climate and Protest” under a cartoon caricature of Prime Minister Scott Morrison holding up a sign that read: “Climate Emergency? Fake News”.

The section contained five letters – every one of which was hostile to Mr Morrison’s address to the Queensland Resources Council in Brisbane last Friday which criticised “radical activism” aimed at closing down the mining and some other industries.  No other view was published.  Which says something about the Age’s editorship.  Or readership. Or both.

And then there was yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald which led its Letters Page with this heading: “Not even 11,000 scientists can make Coalition listen”.

The reference was to Peter Hannam’s report of the previous day (6 November) that “more than 11,000 scientists from around the world have declared a `climate emergency’ warning of `untold suffering’ and calling for action ranging from cutting population to leaving fossil fuels in the ground”.

It turns out – as reported in today’s Australian – that some of the signatories had no qualifications in the hard sciences.  Moreover, one of the “scientists” was a certain “Mickey Mouse from the Mickey Mouse School of the Blind” and another was “Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts”.The Sydney Morning Herald should revise this headline to refer to “10,998 (mainly) scientists”. Can You Bear It?


Jackie’s (male) co-owner is not a man of the track.  Hence he mainly focusses on horse racing around Melbourne Cup time which takes place a short while after All Souls’ Day.

This year Hendo was convinced that The Chosen One would win – even though he is a New Zealander. Alas, it finished 17th out of 24 horses.  It seems that The Chosen One had a bad barrier draw and also had to put up with the fact that the Prime Minister was praying for a victory by Vow and Declare – which came about, alas, so that the prophecy might be fulfilled.

This year the impact of the Melbourne Cup was enough to get Osman Faruqi back on Twitter. Hooray, MWD hears you cry.  This was his contribution on the morning after the race:

Osman Faruqi (@oz_f)

6/11/19, 10:57 am

On Sunrise this morning one of the guests literally said the Melbourne Cup result was good because the winning horse “grew here, not flew here”.

The culture is so racism poisoned we’re being xenophobic about racehorses.

So there you have it.  Those who wanted the true blue Aussie Vow and Declare to win because it was Aussie are nothing but racists and xenophobes.  Mr Faruqi is employed by the ABC.  Can You Bear It?


While on the topic of the Melbourne Cup, did anyone see Gael Jennings (she of Melbourne University’s Centre for Advancing Journalism) during the Newspapers gig on ABC TV’s News Breakfast on Wednesday?

In case you missed it, Gael Jennings has joined the current orthodoxy which regards horse racing as very, very bad.  Here’s how she handled the big story of the day on Wednesday:

Lisa Millar: Good morning Gael. How was your Melbourne Cup day?

Gael Jennings: My Melbourne Cup day was a day of protest. I have three daughters, all adults, and they called it the “Torture Cup” this year because of the 7.30 report. And so, we didn’t watch the Cup. But one member of the family sneakily did put a trifecta on and would have won a squillion dollars had it not been for the –

Michael Rowland: The protest?

Gael Jennings: The protest, yes.

Michael Rowland: Which member of the family?

Gael Jennings: It was a son-in-law, so not genetically related.

So, Dr Jennings’s son-in-law sneakily puts in a trifecta on the first three places in the Melbourne Cup.  Except he didn’t.  And he would have won “a squillion dollars”.  Except he didn’t.  How newsworthy is this? Can You Bear It? [I hear your executive assistant would have won the $10 million Oz Lotto last night and thought of using the same numbers that won.  Except she didn’t because the newsagent was closed.  Perhaps she can do the News Breakfast “Newspapers” segment on Armistice Day. Just a thought. – MWD Editor]


If (as Vladimir Lenin is claimed to have said) “WORSE IS BETTER” – then last Monday’s Q&A was a you-beaut/super event.

Fran Kelly was in the presenter’s chair at the ABC-Southbank studio in socialist Melbourne Town – just a bicycle ride away from Sandalista Central at Fitzroy North.  The guests – for what Comrade Kelly later described as “a panel of outspoken feminists” – were Ashton Applewhite, Hana Assafiri, Mona Eltahawy, Nayuka Gorrie and Jess Hill.  The problem was not that this lot was outspoken.  The problem was that there was not one conservative – outspoken or otherwise – on the panel. Thus confirming the reality of the ABC as a Conservative Free Zone.

By the way, at the ABC it is the executive producer – not the presenter – who is responsible for selecting panels for programs like Q&A and The Drum.  In this instance, Q&A’s executive producer, Peter McEvoy, decided that the program would collaborate with the Melbourne-based Wheeler Centre’s Broadside Festival (which is on this weekend).

The Wheeler Centre is essentially a left-wing outfit run by the fashionable leftist Michael Williams who also does gigs on ABC Radio National. Quelle surprise!  It was originally set up as the Centre of Books, Writing and Ideas with a bucket load of taxpayers’ money provided by the Victorian Labor government. You would only find a conservative at the Wheeler Centre if one got lost on his or her way to somewhere else – perhaps to Gin & Tonic Happy Hour at Young and Jackson’s Hotel.

The “highlights” of Monday’s Q&A occurred when:

▪ Mona Eltahawy set the Australian record for the number of uses of the “F” word in a one hour program. Well done.  All up, a total of 9 times.  After the second f-ck, Comrade Kelly issued a “language warning”.  After the 7th use of the four letter word, the presenter had surrendered and declared – “If you’re offended by the profanity, maybe leave now”. In other words, if you don’t like the use of the “F” word, then F-off.

▪ Comrade Eltahawy called Donald Trump “a fascist f-ck”. No one dissented.

▪ Ms Eltahawy asked the question: “how many rapists must we kill?” She disagreed with the death penalty undertaken by the state but she believed that women must kill men “until men stop raping us”. The suggestion was that capital punishment is bad but extrajudicial killing is cool, until men stop raping women.

▪ Audience member Murray Saunder (after being called into the discussion by Fran Kelly) asked what the alternative is to “smashing and destroying”. No one dissented.

▪ Nayuka Gorrie called out: “Let’s burn stuff”. [I note that there’s a lot of calls for arson-around at the ABC these days. – MWD Editor]   No one dissented.

Soon after, the program concluded with Comrade Eltahawy telling viewers – if viewers there were:

I’m just going to tell you what I’ve learnt as I’ve gotten older, ‘cause I’m 52 years old. The older I get, the queerer I am, and my partner is a bisexual man, and I’m urging the cis-straight men out there, there is something deeply broken in you and in the way that you move through the world. As you get older, learn from people like us, so that this can be a better world. Be queerer. Be more bisexual. Be less cis-gendered in the way that you move through the world. Just f-ck it all up and be free!

No one dissented. Once upon a time left-wing panellists on ABC shows told conservatives to stay out of their bedrooms.  Nowadays ABC presenters encourage left-wing panellists to tell audiences how they should behave in their own bedrooms.  And so it came to pass that Comrade Eltahawy told cis-straight [i.e. non-transgender heterosexual] men that they are “deeply broken” and should be “queerer”.

Imagine the outcry if, say, the Rev Fred Nile told a Q&A audience to be more straight – in other words, to go out and “sin” no more.  However, the Q&A (stacked) audience just loved it when they were told last Monday to be queerer and go out and “sin” more.   Can You Bear It?

[Er, no. Not really.  But here’s a thought.  Perhaps Comrade Eltahawy’s repetitive use of the “F” word is a manifestation of an angry person with a limited vocabulary. – MWD Editor.]



It has been confirmed by ABC management that Hamish Macdonald has joined the public broadcaster full-time and will host Q&A next year.  Avid readers will be familiar with your man Macdonald who, on 28 June 2018, made the ridiculous claim that ABC presenters are “not allowed to express opinions”. Really?  Some seem to do little else.

MWD wishes Mr Macdonald all the best in his new position.  He has filled-in on Q&A on occasions in the past and is familiar with the format.  Q&A will also have a new executive producer in 2020.  Erin Vincent will replace Peter McEvoy – one of the ABC’s house leftists who is heading off to undertake future challenges or some such. It remains to be seen whether the Macdonald/Vincent power play will encourage some conservatives – including some senior Coalition ministers who currently refuse to go on Q&A – back on the program.

In the meantime, an avid reader has reminded MWD of the last time Hamish Macdonald presented Q&A – as recently as 28 October 2019, no less.  The subject was water and David Littleproud, the Minister for Water Resources, was on the panel.  At the direction of his executive producer, the presenter called a certain Ben Horne to ask a question.  It was a set-up, as the transcript demonstrates:

Ben Horne:  My question is, it’s my understanding, when you become a politician – this is particularly addressed to Minister Littleproud – you need to disclose all sorts of things, such as citizenship and financial interests. So, why is it that politicians do not need to disclose if they, or any related entities, such as in-laws, control or own water entitlements or licences?

Hamish Macdonald:  Minister?

David Littleproud: Sadly, Bruce[sic], I’m not married any longer. My marriage broke down some time ago. My in-laws – my father-in-law and mother-in-law – were dryland wheat and sheep growers. They were not irrigators. And sadly, we get a lot of people that hide behind the curtain of Twitter and Facebook, get on a keyboard and say a lot of things that aren’t right. Quite hurtful. You know what? Have the courage to come forward and put your name to it. I’ve put in place an inspector general that will bring integrity. If you’re so confident, go and ring Mick Keelty and raise any allegations you have with him. I find it quite distasteful that you would raise something that has no foundation, that’s predicated by someone that’s too weak to come out from behind Twitter, and tear away at my family, that sadly, has had a break-up. But look, if that floats your boat, mate, good luck to you.

Hamish Macdonald : Can I ask you about the issue, rather than the personal component, which I’m not entirely clear on? But should – should people in politics have to declare an interest in this sort of thing?

David Littleproud: Totally. Totally. No problems –

Hamish Macdonald: So, why don’t they?

David Littleproud: Well, what’s in question, what he [Ben Horne] is trying to raise from behind Twitter, is that someone has tried to say that my ex-wife’s second cousin once removed, who is now facing charges over the misuse of a Queensland state government program, somehow has a link to me. It was created before I was in parliament, and before I was Water Minister. So, you want to dance, let’s put it out on the table.  Let’s go hand in hand to [independent Northern Basin Commissioner] Mick Keelty. Let’s be mature. I want to lead the nation. I’m going to make sure that we get this right. But if we want to get into this petty, grubby situation, good luck to you.

Hamish Macdonald: I think we should say that, Ben, you’re a lawyer involved in a class action at the moment. I think it’s best if you leave the personal bit out of this. But it is a reasonable question, isn’t it? Why shouldn’t politicians declare?

David Littleproud: And they should, and I have nothing to declare, but with all due respect, my ex-wife’s second cousin once removed –  I don’t know how many of your partner’s second cousins once removed you talk to –

Hamish Macdonald: I’ve never met them.

David Littleproud: There is your answer, Ben, with all due respect.

So, there you have it. Hamish Macdonald called Ben Horne – without initially revealing that he was a lawyer engaged in a class action with respect to water.  Hamish Macdonald asked Minister Littleproud as to whether politicians should declare their conflict of interest – and suggested that some did not.  David Littleproud made the obvious point that politicians are required to – and do – declare conflicts of interest.

Then, even after the Minister revealed that the conflict of interest being suggested by the questioner related to the second cousin once removed of his former wife, Hamish Macdonald persisted in asking two more questions of the Minister – both of which seemed to imply that he had an undeclared conflict of interest with respect to water. These were unprofessional questions.

And the ABC hopes that the presence of Hamish Macdonald in the Q&A presenter’s chair will encourage Coalition ministers to accept more invitations to appear on the program than is currently the case.  Presumably to be cross-examined about their (alleged) conflict of interest concerning the ex-partner of their second cousin once removed.


Writing in Crikey on Monday, Stephen Brook captured the atmosphere of the 2019 Andrew Olle Media Lecture – which was held in Sydney last Friday and delivered by Nine Newspapers’ columnist Peter FitzSimons. [Re which see this week’s “Documentation” segment. – MWD Editor.]

In an otherwise positive account of the occasion, Stephen Brook had this to say:

Few, if any, previous speeches have received the standing ovation bestowed on FitzSimons this year.  But the speech was traditional to the point of pedestrian.  Some key takeaways: journalism is great; the old days of the [Sydney Morning] Herald were great; Kate McClymont is great; Waleed Aly is great; Louise Milligan is great; The ABC is great; press freedom is great; the Uluru Statement From the Heart is great; climate change denialism is bad; clickbait and overly partisan attacks are bad; and so are the Australian Federal Police. Here he was preaching to the converted.

You can say that again.  Appearing before an admiring audience, Peter FitzSimons used the occasion to criticise Jana Wendt and Gerard Henderson before he took aim at George Pell.

Halfway through his speech, Peter FitzSimons condemned journalists who demonise individuals before taking part in what he termed “the mass pile-on”. Soon after, he made the following statement:

Since 2016, their [Four Corners’] journalism has seen Royal Commissions called for everything from water theft in the Murray Darling Basin, to the rapacious behaviour of the big banks, to the appalling treatment of the elderly in aged care. All of this while Louise Milligan was doing her ground-breaking work on George Pell, which ultimately not only helped put him where he belongs – in prison – but must, perforce, help change the approach of an entire church towards its victims.

The reference to George Pell was loudly applauded by the audience, which consisted primarily of ABC and Nine Newspapers supporters.  What Peter FitzSimons failed to mention was that he (along with the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age) had been part of a mass pile-on against Pell extending close to a decade.  The mass pile-on was led by the ABC – particularly Four Corners, 7.30 and News Breakfast.  FitzSimons even tweeted against Pell before the jury had retired to consider its verdict in the second trial.  How unprofessional can a pile-on journalist be?

The Andrew Olle lecturer did not remind his audience that George Pell has applied for leave to appeal his conviction for historical child sexual abuse to the High Court of Australia.  Nor that the jury in the first trial could not come to a verdict.  Nor that one of the three judges in the Victorian Court of Appeal said that the verdict of guilty was unsafe and should be dismissed.  Justice Mark Weinberg, the dissenting judge, was the most experienced criminal law jurist among the bench of the Victorian Court of Appeal which heard Pell’s appeal.

Also, FitzSimons did not remind his audience that Louise Milligan’s initial case against George Pell – concerning the allegation that he molested young boys in public at the Eureka Swimming Pool in Ballarat – was dropped by the Director of Public Prosecutions since there was not sufficient evidence to sustain a conviction.  Nor did FitzSimons acknowledge that Ms Milligan has refused to answer questions about her book Cardinal, focusing instead on soft interviews on the public broadcaster with her ABC mates and friendly discussions at leftist dominated literary festivals.

So, Peter FitzSimons told his audience that Pell “belongs in prison” – even before the matter has been considered by the High Court.  And the Andrew Olle Media Lecture audience loudly clapped and cheered FitzSimons’ anti-Pell pile-on, before extending a standing ovation to a speech of what Stephen Brook termed pedestrian quality.


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 2019 Senate election in Victoria”) Hinch on Sky News every Thursday. After Dark, of course. 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.

According to your man Hinch, the idea of the turn-table came from Canberra Press Gallery journalists Annika Smethurst (News Corp) and Rob Harris (Nine Newspapers). MWD does not doubt this. However, MWD believes that the journos were pulling Hinch’s leg in getting him to tell yet more of his oh-so-boring and inconsequential stories about himself. It’s just that The Human Mumble does not understand when people are laughing at him. It’s a narcissistic trait.

Last night, the Hinch media panel comprised Annika Smethurst and the Courier Mail’s Matthew Killoran. Let’s go to the transcript as the turn-table is spun:

[Spin a Yarn intro plays, lands on Princess Anne]

Derryn Hinch: Ahh what’s with all the Royalty you guys? Alright uh, Princess Anne. [Annika Smethurst laughs] This is going to make me old. In 1966 I covered the Commonwealth Games in Kingston, Jamaica and Princess Anne as a teenager and Prince Phillip were there. And I was sharing a hotel room with a photographer called Ray Bellisario and I didn’t understand why he was there because Ray Bellisario didn’t know anything about sport – or about the Games or whatever.

But it turned out he was the world’s first paparazzi [sic] in Britain and America –  he was there to get a picture of Princess Anne in a bikini. He thought if he could get that, it’d pay for his trip, so that was way back then. Alright but the one thing happened, when they, on the opening day, opening ceremony, her jeep came down the Marathon tunnel and as it did a sharp turn to the right Princess Anne fell over and she entered the stadium in Kingston, Jamaica with her skirt up around her waist and her legs in the air. I don’t know if Ray Bellisario got that shot. [Annika Smethurst laughs]

But flick forward decades and decades and I’m in The Sudan, on The Sudan-Mali border to do an interview with Princess Anne for Save The Children, help arrange it. And I got the interview eventually and we’re out by this bloody village in, out in the bush somewhere, out in the desert and she came out of the cottage and she gave me the biggest put-down I’ve ever had in my life. My first question to her I said “Your Highness, as patron of Save The Children” and she said “I am not the patron, mother is”. Apparently –

Annika Smethurst: And I reckon you’ve had a few putdowns in your life Derryn.

Derryn Hinch: Very much so but the funny thing was – she was uh, she wasn’t the patron her mother was because Princess Anne, so okay “as President of Save The Children da-di-da-di-da” and then we went on from there [Annika Semthurst laughs]. So it was quite a thing, she was very, she was good in the interview but fairly standoffish. Anyway let’s leave it at that.

Yeah. Sure. Let’s leave it at that – whatever that is.  Let’s move on with the knowledge about Princess Anne’s experience at the 1966 Commonwealth Games and her attitude to Mother. Yawn.


In recent times, MWD has been inundated with requests to bring back this segment which made its debut in Issue 467 – starring Richard Ackland. Otherwise known as “Gadfly” of The [Boring] Saturday Paper.

As avid readers are aware, this particular Continuing Secret turns on the age of your man Ackland. You see, in his entry in Who’s Who in Australia 2019, Comrade Ackland lists the date when he received his AM gong in the Australian System of Honours and Awards. The year was 2016.  However, Comrade Ackland’s Who’s Who entry does not reveal the date on which Gadfly entered this earth.

It would be of little moment if The [Boring] Saturday Paper’s weekly scribbler did not bang on about the age of others.  For example, he has called Jackie’s (male) co-owner an “old codger”.  [Gee. That must have hurt. MWD Editor].  And then, this very week, a reader of your man Ackland’s Justinian magazine sent MWD an article in the current issue where Mark Latham and Alan Jones are referred to as “ageing dudes”.

How about that?  The hoi polloi does not know when Richard came into this Vale of Tears. But we do know that he graduated with a BEc from the University of Sydney in 1970.  This suggests that he commenced on campus circa 1966 and finished his three-year course circa 1969.

Now – wait for it.  Mark Latham was born in 1961. In other words, Mark Latham was around 5 years old when Comrade Ackland left school.  Which suggest that Gadfly is about 12 years older than the man he called an “old dude”.

[Perhaps this should have gone in your hugely popular Can You Bear It? segment. Just a thought.  By the way, I note that Gadfly’s undergraduate (attempts at) humour have not dissipated.  In his current column in The Saturday Paper there are references to “Bill Barr-Barr” (US Attorney-General William Barr), “Bone Spurs” (President Trump), “Fishnet Bunter Downer” (Alexander Downer), “Rev. Christian Porter” (the very secular Christian Porter), “Uncle Rupe” (Rupert Murdoch) and “Freedom Boy Wilson (Tim Wilson MP). This suggests that Sydney Uni’s student rag Honi Soit – or was it “Hanoi Soit”? – lives on in Gadfly’s “Gadfly” column. A suitable place, to be sure.  – MWD Editor.]


Last Friday, Peter FitzSimons delivered the Andrew Olle Lecture at The Ivy Ballroom in Sydney.  It’s quite an achievement to keep a lecture going for over two decades – even if it has the support of a powerful organisation like the ABC.  So the Andrew Olle Media Lecture is a significant accomplishment.

As would be expected for a function of this kind, once again this year the late Andrew Olle was praised as a brilliant and much admired ABC presenter. For example, this is how the 2019 event was described:

The Andrew Olle Media Lecture is an annual black-tie event that focuses on the role and future of the media.  The lecture is held in honour of one of the ABC’s iconic broadcasters, Andrew Olle.

On Friday, Peter FitzSimons referred to Andrew Olle as “Australia’s most widely respected journalist”.

Andrew Olle died, suddenly, of brain cancer on 12 December 1995.  He had collapsed at home on 8 December 1995.  Andrew Olle had bid farewell as the NSW presenter of ABC TV’s 7.30 Report on Friday 1 December.  It was not a pleasant or professional ending for one of the ABC TV’s iconic broadcasters.

The facts are documented in K.S. Inglis’ semi-official history Whose ABC?: The Australian Broadcasting Corporation 1983-2006 (Black Inc, 2006). In late 1995, the ABC board agreed to the proposal of ABC managing director Brian Johns that the 7.30 Report – which had separate presenters in the States and Territories – become a national program based in Sydney.

ABC management (in particular Penny Chapman and Paul Williams) decided that Kerry O’Brien, then presenting ABC TV’s Lateline, should front the new national program at 7.30 pm.  He was also to have editorial responsibility for the entire program in partnership with an executive producer (initially Ian Carroll and later Jonathan Holmes).

Among the 7.30 Report State-based presenters replaced was Andrew Olle in NSW (who also had a morning radio program on what is now called ABC Radio Sydney 702).  Paul Lyneham (1945-2000) – who spoke on radio with Andrew Olle every morning about what was in the daily newspapers, usually without acknowledging his sources – had done the key political interviews for the 7.30 Report from Canberra. He was replaced by Barrie Cassidy.  K.S. Inglis described the way the news was passed on to Messrs Olle and Lyneham:

Brian Johns had instructed Chapman and Williams to keep secret the negotiations with O’Brien, and in particular not to say anything to Andrew Olle, presenter of the NSW edition of The 7.30 Report, or Paul Lyneham, Canberra Correspondent for the state programs.  He did not want a fuss in the media… before the board endorsed the changes.  That was done on the morning of 21 September [1995]. Paul Williams at once rang to tell Olle that he was to be dropped, and Lyneham that O’Brien would now be doing the major interviews with politicians.  “Our individual responses were true to form”, Lyneham said later. “Andrew buried his hurt and humiliation deep within and put on a brave public face without complaint.  I blazed with anger, thumped tables and yelled down telephones”.

As the senior and best known of the State and Territory 7.30 Report presenters, Andrew Olle was entitled to feel that he should have got the national 7.30 Report presenter’s job.  As Kerry O’Brien acknowledged in Kerry O’Brien: A Memoir (Allen & Unwin, 2018), Annette Olle “later revealed that losing 7.30 had been a kick in the guts” for her husband.

Paul Lyneham soon resigned from the ABC and took a position with Network Nine and 60 Minutes (he died of lung cancer in 2000).  Andrew Olle’s future on ABC TV had not been determined at the time of his death.

At a public memorial at Sydney Town Hall in late December 1995, Brian Johns declared that Andrew Olle represented all that was best about the public broadcaster – but did not mention that he had been overlooked for the national 7.30 Report position. K.S. Inglis provided a more nuanced view of how the ABC regarded Andrew Olle in 1995:

The ABC had nurtured him [Andrew Olle], opened up career paths, made him a household name and face.  Nobody stood more staunchly for the independence and integrity which had been jeopardised by backdoor sponsorship and threatened, so critics believed, by pay television and sponsorship.  Nobody was better at delivering the fruits of intelligent and sceptical journalism with good-humoured wit, entertaining as he enlightened.  At the end, though nobody could know this was the end, the ABC had abruptly removed him from one of the most cherished jobs in its gift, and that blow surely helped to provoke the spasm of lamentation.

It is a matter of opinion as to whether the decision to make the 7.30 Report a national program – which led to Kerry O’Brien replacing Andrew Olle and others – was a good idea or not.  However, there is little doubt that Andrew Olle’s exit from the 7.30 Report was handled poorly.  Certainly, Andrew Olle believed this to be the case – and indicated as much during a conversation with Paul Lyneham in one of his final radio broadcasts before his untimely death.

Yet – year after year – ABC chairs, managing directors, presenters and journalists front up at the annual Andrew Olle Media Lecture to praise Andrew Olle – without saying a word about Andrew Olle’s disillusionment during his final months at the public broadcaster.

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).


Hendo – ever conscious of The Fall, Original Sin and the Vale of Tears in which we reside – encourages his dearly beloved brethren to think before they tweet.  Alas, The Australian’s Troy Bramston fired off a tweet on Thursday 31 October which implied that he alone had been interviewed on ABC Radio National’s Between The Lines on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the Liberal Party of Australia.  This was not the case – since he was on a panel with Hendo that was chaired by Tom Switzer. Then your man Barnes came to the (hasty) conclusion that only the likes of Troy Bramston and John Howard have ever told the Liberal Party history. He was corrected with a leisurely email. Now read on:

Gerard Henderson to Terry Barnes – 4 November 2019


My attention has been drawn to this tweet which you put out at 2.35 pm on 31 October 2019:


Terry Barnes (@TerryBarnes5)

31/10/19, 2:35 pm

‪@TroyBramston @RadioNational ‪@scribepub ‪@ABCaustralia I love your work Troy, including your RGM bio, but still find it sad and frustrating that besides John Howard and his books, there are no real tellers of the Liberal story on our own side. Labor has it all over the Libs on that score.

This was in response to Troy Bramston’s tweet (see below) sent out at 2.06 pm on Thursday 31 October 2019:

Troy Bramston (@TroyBramston)

31/10/19, 2:06 pm

I spoke to Tom Switzer about the Liberal Party’s 75th anniversary – achievements, failures, ideologies, PMs and legacies – on ABC ‪@RadioNational which just went to air. Have a listen! #auspol ‪@scribepub @ABCaustralia…

Troy Bramston neglected to mention that the Radio National event to which he referred to was Between the Lines (presented by Tom Switzer) in which Troy Bramston and myself were interviewed.  Troy was introduced as the author of Robert Menzies: The Art of Politics. And I was introduced as the author of Menzies’ Child: The Liberal Party of Australia.

Your comment that, apart from John Howard, “there are no real tellers of the Liberal story on our own side” is absolute tosh.  There was some truth in this claim a quarter of a century ago when I wrote Menzies’ Child – but is certainly not true today.

Certainly, Troy Bramston’s Robert Menzies: The Art of Politics (Scribe, 2019) is an important contribution to the history of the Liberal Party of Australia.  However, as Dr Judith Brett (no fan of mine) pointed out when reviewing Robert Menzies: The Art of Politics, it covers a lot of ground which I covered in my book Menzies’ Child: The Liberal Party of Australia which was first published in 1994 with an updated edition in 1998.  Judith Brett’s review was published in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age on 10 May 2019.

Your tweet also totally ignores a whole range of books written by conservatives or right-of-centre types or the Liberal Party or Liberal Party politicians.  The Sydney Institute alone has produced a number of such works.

As mentioned, there is my Menzies’ Child (which contained 32 original interviews) – plus A Howard Government? Inside the Coalition (which included a brief biography of John Howard). I wrote a chapter on the Liberal Party prime minister John Gorton in Michelle Grattan’s edited collection Australian Prime Ministers.  This also contains essays by Anne Henderson (on Joseph Lyons) and Ian Hancock (on Harold Holt). I also wrote a chapter on the Coalition in opposition during the Hawke Labor government in the edited collection by Susan Ryan and Troy Bramston titled The Hawke Government: A Critical Retrospective (Pluto Press, 2003). Along with a chapter titled “Whitlam’s Opposition” in Troy Bramston (ed) The Whitlam Legacy (Federation Press, 2013). My book Santamaria: A Most Unusual Man contains much material on Australian politics in the 20th Century, including on the Liberal Party.  And my Australian Answers (1990) contains chapters on seven Liberals.

Anne Henderson is the author of Menzies At War (UNSW Press, 2015) which covers Robert Menzies’ career up to 1949 – it was shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards for Australian History.  Anne Henderson has also written biographies of Dame Enid Lyons (the first woman to hold a cabinet post, having been appointed to the position by Menzies) and Joseph Lyons (sure he was a member of the United Australia Party, but the Liberal Party was created out of the UAP).

And that’s just for starters. Ian Hancock has written John Gorton: He Did It His Way (Hodder, 2002) and Nick Greiner: A Political Biography plus The Liberals: The NSW Division 1945-2000. And Damien Freeman has written Abbott’s Right: The Conservative Tradition from Menzies to Abbott.  Then there are biographies on Malcolm Fraser (Philip Ayers), Harold Holt (Tom Frame) John Howard (David Barnett & Pru Goward), William McMahon (Patrick Mullins) Alan Missen (Anton Hermann) and John Carrick (Graeme Starr).  There are also books by John Bunting, Alexander Downer (Snr), Hal Colebatch, Edgar Holt and Cameron Hazelhurst.

Then there are edited collections by John Nethercote (Menzies: The Shaping of Modern Australia), Keith Windschuttle, David Martin Jones and Ray Evans (The Howard Era), David Furse-Roberts (Menzies: The Forgotten Speeches), Alan Gregory The Menzies Lectures: 1978-1998), Nick Cater (The Howard Factor), Scott Prasser, John Nethercote and John Warhurst (The Menzies Era), Scott Prasser and Graeme Starr (Policy and Change: The Howard Mandate). Nick Cater also edited a new edition of Robert Menzies: The Forgotten People.

It’s true that Allan Martin, the author of the two volume Robert Menzies biography, commenced on the left-of-centre of Australian politics. But it is also true that, in his latter years, Dr Martin moved towards the right-of-centre.

Certainly – as you acknowledged in your tweet – John Howard wrote an important political biography on Robert Menzies along with his own political memoir.  But Robert Menzies wrote three books in his retirement while Malcolm Fraser co-wrote his political biography and Tony Abbott wrote Battlelines before he became prime minister. Also Heather Henderson (Menzies’ daughter) wrote two books on her parents.

Then there are numerous books written by former Liberal politicians at the Commonwealth and State levels.  The authors include Paul Hasluck, Garfield Barwick, Howard Beale, Jim Killen, Billy Snedden, Richard Casey, Percy Joske, Peter Hewson, Charles Court, Percy Spender, Neil Brown, Peter Costello, John Cramer, Henry (Jo) Gullett, Peter Reith and more besides.

Other works by right-of-centre authors include Margaret Fitzherbert Liberal Women: Federation to 1949. Then there is Chris Puplick Is the Party Over? (1994) along with his Liberal Thinking (co-authored with R.J. Southley) plus the book he co-edited with George Brandis.  George Brandis wrote two books in his own right.

I’m sure I have missed some other right-of-centre/conservative types who have written on the Liberal Party of Australia.  Also, I have not included works by the likes of Peter van Onselen, Peter Edwards, David Lee and Norman Abjorensen who, while not Labor Party barrackers, probably do not identify as right-of-centre or conservative. Also, I have not mentioned books about the Country Party/Nationals by right-of-centre authors.

Now back to your demeaning tweet to Troy Bramston. It seems to be that you are unaware of all the above (which I doubt) or feel the need to underestimate the role of the Liberal Party over 75 years due to an (unwarranted) sense of intellectual inferiority.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

cc:               Troy Bramston

Tom Switzer


Terry Barnes to Gerard Henderson – 4 November 2019

Dear Gerard,

Hope all’s well with you, and thanks for your email and the trouble you took to write it.

I’m truly sorry I upset you.  I’m also sorry I forgot I have a copy of Menzies’ Child looking at me from my bookshelf and still effectively in my tweet discounted yours and Anne’s sterling work on Menzies and the Liberal party over many years.

But I respectfully suggest that my tweet would be correct if I had said there are no current tellers of the Liberal story from the Liberal side of the fence.  Troy Bramston may well be standing on your shoulders with his fresh interpretations of Menzies (although I’m sure he might disagree), but for the Liberals’ 75th anniversary the only published commentary I saw of note were by Troy and the excellent intimate memoir published in The Australian by RGM’s former private secretary, Sir William Heseltine.

Obviously from seeing Troy’s tweet I became aware of your Radio National programme with Tom Switzer and Troy, but I have not yet had a chance to listen to the podcast.  I will certainly do so.

I therefore accept your criticism and your detailed rebuttal of my tweet.  You are right to chide me on my sweeping tweeted statement, and I again sincerely apologise.  I certainly wish that Menzies’ Child could have been updated and republished for the 75th anniversary of the Liberal party.

But why is it that there is no new Gerard or Anne Henderson to take up the mantle of current and future centre-right keeper of the Liberal historical flame?  Labor mythologises itself with success, benefiting from either the ignorance or connivance of Labor supporters and fellow travellers in public life and the media.  It can’t be left simply to you, John Howard, David Kemp or any other similarly established and respected centre-right figure to hold the fort for the Liberal side of the nation’s story.  The newer generations of Liberals aren’t stepping up to follow you, and that saddens me.

Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t see that figure obviously emerging from the Liberal political class of today, with the very honourable exceptions of Tony Abbott and, especially, Josh Frydenberg who, to his great credit, tends the Liberal and Menzian flame at every opportunity.  Agree with his interpretations of Liberalism or not, Tim Wilson is probably the next closest.

I think an ignorance of not only Liberal history of too many of the party’s MPs and influential party figures, but of the political, social and economic context of its creation in 1944 and subsequent existence, is one of the reasons why I think the party still has questions over its long-term existential future, notwithstanding May’s stupendous election result.  Perfunctory references in maiden speeches and exhortations to the party faithful to the Forgotten People broadcasts, and citing the passage on page 286 of Afternoon Light where Menzies explains why he chose the name Liberal, don’t cut it with me as proof of anything more than all too many Liberal politicians’ paying lip service to Menzies and betraying their, at best, superficial understanding of how their (and my) party became what it is.

In relation to Troy Bramston’s work generally, I enjoy and value his regular forays into Australian political history and biography, especially when he throws light on little-known or long-forgotten people and events (like his excellent interview with the late Jim Forbes as the last surviving Liberal member of a Menzies cabinet), just as I value yours. I hope these long continue on both your parts.

Best wishes and yours sincerely,


cc:               Troy Bramston

Tom Switzer


Gerard Henderson to Terry Barnes – 8 November 2019

Dear Terry

Thanks for your note.

For the record, I am not upset by your tweet and I do not want – or need – an apology.

The problem is this.  You are an influential commentator and, as I understand it, a member of the Liberal Party.  So when you tweeted praising Troy Bramston’s book on Robert Menzies, whilst at the same time declaring that “besides John Howard and his books there is no real tellers of the Liberal Party story on our side” – it needed to be corrected.  The truth is that there is more work about the Liberal Party from Liberal Party supporters today than was the case in the 1970s and 1980s.

For the record, I wrote about the Liberal Party’s 75th Anniversary in my column in The Weekend Australian – and the Liberal Party held a dinner in Parliament House to celebrate 1944 and all that. Also, in my email I overlooked the important writings on the Liberal Party by John Roskam and his team at the Institute of Public Affairs.

Best wishes – and Keep Morale High.

Gerard Henderson

cc:               Troy Bramston

Tom Switzer


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Until next time.

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