GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG
ISSUE – NO. 479
29 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 – Kerry O’Brien’s Historical Confusion
What A Coincidence! or How About That? – Derryn Hinch asks what’s the deal with dogs & aliens; Peter FitzSimons: to Bandanna or not to Bandanna?
Editorial – ‘Your’ ABC says goodbye to ‘Our’ Values
Can You Bear It? Jake Niall overlooks John Funder’s alleged role as a “Posh Boy”; Four Corners takes a (long) well-earned break; Louise Adler’s tosh on the late Frank Knopfelmacher; Mark Kenny overlooks his (false) 2019 prediction
Five Paws Award – Rob Harris scores for rare self-awareness by a journalist
A Jane Caro Moment – Comrade Caro’s god (or is it God?) delusion
MWDExclusive – Senator Abetz sends the ABC into selective quotation mode
Paul Barry’s Sermon on the Mount – Paul Barry bags Scott Morrison and Gladys Berejiklian
Correspondence – Gerard Henderson & Louise Milligan’s March 2019 exchange re collective guilt
KERRY O’BRIEN’S HISTORICAL CONFUSION
Oh groan. Not the “F” word again. But, alas, yes. Kerry O’Brien, chair of the Walkley Foundation, spoke last night at the 2019 Walkley Awards in Sydney. And, needless to say, the retired journalist received much publicity for his usage of the word Fascism. This is what he had to say:
This year, for a brief moment in the history of Australian journalism, every significant news organisation in this country put its competitive instincts and its differences to one side and united as one voice to stand against an unacceptable step down the road to authoritarianism. Authoritarianism unchecked can lead to fascism.
Fortunately in this country, we’re a long way from that yet, but a study of history amply demonstrates how fascism begins. Freedom is usually eroded gradually. It might happen over years, even decades. Its loss is not necessarily felt day by day, but we will certainly know when it’s gone.
The problem with the word fascism, in contemporary usage in the West, is that it tends to be used against someone whom someone else does not like. In history, fascism had a real meaning. It was used to depict Benito Mussolini’s regime in Italy between 1922 and 1943. The fascist movement had a charismatic and dictatorial leader – Mussolini. And it had an official ideology which was enforced by state power. Mussolini’s regime – and those which followed it – was a dictatorship. None of this is relevant to contemporary Australia. Consequently, O’Brien’s use of the term “fascism” is ahistorical hyperbole.
Australia is not an authoritarian society – even if most journalists object to the recent actions of the Australian Federal Police, not the Coalition government, with respect to investigations into some journalists’ sources. Moreover, it’s not true that freedom is “usually eroded gradually”. The various communist, Nazi and fascist regimes which attained totalitarian power did so quite quickly. The likes of Lenin and Stalin, Mussolini, and Hitler did not gain power “over years, even decades”. Not at all. They were revolutionaries who were not prepared to wait to seize power.
The problem with Mr O’Brien’s much publicised address is that it’s intellectually shoddy. Pedestrian in fact.
It is noteworthy that many of the journalists who are today protesting against the Coalition government as part of the “Journalism is Not A Crime” campaign were remarkably quiet when Julia Gillard’s Labor government in 2013 sought to constrict the media by establishing a new government funded body which would ensure that media companies met certain journalistic standards. This applies in particular to journalists at the ABC, Nine Newspapers (formerly Fairfax Media) and The Guardian. Kerry O’Brien: A Memoir runs for over 800 pages but does not focus on the Gillard government’s attempt to constrict the expression of free opinion.
It seems that, in Walkley Foundation Land, any move by the Australian Federal Police which has the consequence of constricting media is a manifestation of creeping fascism. But the (failed) attempt by the Gillard Labor government to constrict media freedom – which was aimed at News Corp – is of no particular moment. An unpleasant double standard, to be sure.
WHAT A COINCIDENCE! – or HOW ABOUT THAT?
DERRYN HINCH ON DOG POO AND ALIENS – NOVEMBER 2019
Derryn Hinch: I reckon that if aliens landed in a park in Melbourne today, they would grab the dog and take the dog. Because they would say “he must be important cause that two-legged one is cleaning up his poo behind him so the four-legged one must be the one who’s in control”, wouldn’t that be fair?
– Derryn Hinch, Sky News’ Hinch, 28 November 2019.
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JERRY SEINFELD ON DOG POO AND ALIENS – OCTOBER 1991
Jerry Seinfeld: On my block there’s always a lot of people walking their dogs and I always see them walking along with their little poop-bags. Which to me is just the lowest function of human life. If aliens are watching this through telescopes they are going to think the dogs are the leaders. If you see two lifeforms, one of them’s making a poop, the other one’s carrying it for him. Who would you assume is in charge?
– Jerry Seinfeld,”The Dog”, 9 October 1991.
What A Coincidence!
PETER FITZSIMONS – TO BANDANNA OR NOT TO BANDANNA?
Peter FitzSimons addressed the Australian Republic Movement dinner in Canberra last Tuesday, along with Malcolm Turnbull, Anthony Albanese and Richard Di Natale. In the presence of the former prime minister, The Red Bandannaed One put his red rag in the wash for the night.
Here’s how Fitz looked on Tuesday at Old Parliament House – naked from the neck up. And here’s how Fitz usually looks when in look-at-me mode. This suggests that Fitz goes red-bandanna-free in the presence of greatness.
How about that?
LIFE AND TIMES AT THE ABC STAFF COLLECTIVE – OR SOVIET – AS “OUR” GETS JUNKED BUT “YOUR” REMAINS OKAY
As readers are aware, ABC chair Ita Buttrose went on ABC Radio in Adelaide’s Mornings with David Bevan program on 20 November and said that the ABC staff initiated climate advisory group – which was to implement what is termed solutions journalism – “is not going to happen”.
This was an unusual announcement coming from the ABC chair. Normally any such statement concerning ABC operations would be expected to come from the ABC management team. In any event, when asked by David Bevan who was responsible for this decision, Ms Buttrose responded: “Because the ABC leadership team and managing director have thought otherwise.”
That was on Wednesday 20 November. Last Friday (22 November), writing in her “Weekly Beast” column in The Guardian – which was titled “ABC journalists’ climate change group survives political heat” – Amanda Meade declared that the staff climate advisory group “has not been stymied at all”. According to Ms Meade: “Staff are free to discuss climate change among themselves and are still planning to go ahead with the advisory group with 77 people expressing an interest already; there has been no edict from above to stop the email chain”.
So there you have it. The ABC chair, on behalf of the ABC management leadership team, has stated that the ABC staff climate advisory group will not happen. But some ABC staff think otherwise. Nothing better illustrates the reality that the ABC is a staff collective which nobody really runs.
Meanwhile on Thursday, the Daily Telegraph reported that the ABC has issued new guidelines to staff instructing them not to talk about “us” or “our values” – since such terms are exclusive and may offend minority groups. The ABC’s Editorial Guidance Note, issued on 26 November, reads as follows:
Advice on inclusiveness
▪ Avoid language that alienates particular religious or ethnic groups. Do not speak of “us” or “our values” in way that exclude minorities….
So, according to the latest edition of the ABC Editorial Polices, ABC staff are not to speak of “our values” – as in Australian values.
But it is quite okay for the ABC Friends – which uses the ABC logo – to campaign for Australians to “Support Our ABC”.
Moreover, it’s okay for the taxpayer funded public broadcaster to present itself as “Your ABC”. So “us” is out but “your” is in. Fancy that.
JAKE NIALL OVERLOOKS JOHN FUNDER’S ALLEGED ROLE AS A “POSH BOY”
There must not have been much news in Melbourne last weekend. How else to explain the Sunday Age’s page one splash on 24 November titled “First Among Equals”. This was the puff:
First Among Equals
The AFL [Australian Football League] had been considered an egalitarian sport but, as Jake Niall discovers, an increasing majority of its players are being drafted from Victoria’s elite private schools. News Pages 8-9.
Turn to Page 8 and there is Jake Niall’s big story titled “How Private Schools Have Taken Over AFL”. In his class analysis, Comrade Niall reported:
According to the APS’ figures, just over a quarter – 25.6 per cent – of the players drafted to AFL clubs in 2017 came from the 11 schools who make up the APS, which also supplied four of the first five picked. That’s just 11 schools from one state, out of 2755 Australian schools that run to year 12 (2018).
The 11 schools are cradles of the country’s owners and decision-makers: Melbourne Grammar, Scotch College, Geelong Grammar, Xavier College, Wesley College, St Kevin’s College, Haileybury College, Caulfield Grammar, Brighton Grammar, Geelong College and Carey Grammar.
In 2018, the percentage drafted from these elite 11 schools was 24.3 per cent and, on the basis of the AFL website’s phantom draft, the APS, AGS and schools with that stature in Adelaide and Perth are forecast to account for at least 17 of the first 30 next week. The definition of “elite” precludes the likes of established and well-regarded Catholic colleges such as St Joseph’s Geelong, St Patrick’s in Ballarat and Whitefriars (Donvale), whose alumni account for 31 current AFL players.
Comrade Niall’s analysis overlooked the fact that none of Australia’s key decision makers – Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann or Foreign Minister Marise Payne went to any of the above schools. Nor did Opposition leader Anthony Albanese. Also, he overlooked the fact that it’s possible that those educated at government and low fee private schools are playing such international sports as football (i.e. soccer) or basketball when they leave school and earning more money than their private school colleagues who are playing Australian Rules.
Jake Niall’s class analysis continued under the leading “Posh Boys”:
Professor John Funder has written more than 600 medical research papers, and chaired a series of international and national organisations, including VicHealth and Sane Australia. Last year, in London with his wife Val, he couldn’t resist a book in Hatchard’s bookstore called Posh Boys by Robert Verkaik. The subtitle more than hints at the author’s thesis: “How English Public Schools Ruin Britain”.
In Posh Boys, the author provides some astonishing breakdowns for the proportion of public school graduates in prestige fields. As in Australia, “public schools” is a misnomer, since the “public school” is utterly private – and male. The English public schools – exemplified by Eton, Harrow and Rugby – cover just 7 per cent of English male schoolboys, yet account for an extraordinary 74 per cent of senior judges in the United Kingdom, 71 per cent of senior officers in the armed forces, 50 per cent of cabinet ministers and, startlingly, 50 per cent of male Olympic athletes.
Funder, a Collingwood supporter, decided to examine the whole AFL for schools of origin. His starting assumption was that, as a code that reflected the diverse breadth of Australian society, schools would be represented along the lines of overall secondary school enrolments for year 12. He based it on Victorian figures: 55 per cent from government schools, 24 per cent from Catholic schools and the remaining 21 per cent from independent schools. But this was not what he found.
Funder, 79, obtained a meeting with AFL boss Gillon McLachlan and two other senior executives, requesting the information on schools of origin for all male players on AFL lists. Eventually, Funder got the AFL’s school breakdown. Of 787 AFL footballers in 2019 – 99.7 per cent of the total – the carve-up was: government schools 29.86 per cent, Catholic schools 31.38 per cent, independent 38.76 per cent. Thus, he concluded, your chances of playing AFL are almost four times higher if you went to an independent school than a state school and almost three times higher if you went to a Catholic school.
What Jake Niall neglected to tell Sunday Age readers – if readers there were – is that Dr John Funder (for a medical doctor he is) was educated at, wait for it, Xavier College – a Catholic private school in Melbourne. So here is a so-called Posh Boy condemning the privilege of Posh Boys, other than himself. Can You Bear It?
FOUR CORNERS ’ MONTH LONG WELL-EARNED BREAK
According to the ABC website, ABC TV’s “Four Corners has served the public interest by exposing scandals, firing debate and confronting taboos”. It seems, then, that those hiding scandals are about to get some relief. And that some taboos will remain unconfronted – for a while at least.
Four Corners, you see, last aired on Monday 11 November 2019 – and will not resume until February 2020. Presumably, Monday 3 February 2020. Mere mortals like us take holidays. But journalists like to depict such activity (or, rather, non-activity) as a Well-Earned Break.
So Four Corners has checked out for around three months – or a quarter of a year. Which is a very long Well-Earned Beak – even for the ABC, which is not shy of closing down before and after what some call the Silly Season – (i.e. the last week of December and most of January).
How come Four Corners’ Well-Earned Break is longer than usual? – MWD hears avid readers cry. There’s little point in asking the ABC – since the taxpayer funded public broadcaster has a reluctance to respond to questions – despite being a member of the Right to Know Coalition.
But MWD has a theory. Perhaps Four Corners needs to cut costs in 2019 because the cost of its mid-2018 special titled “Trump/Russia” and its planned three part series next year on historical child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church titled “Revelation”.
“Trump/Russia” saw Four Corners presenter Sarah Ferguson acting like the much travelled star of the Peter Stuyvesant advertisement of old. Comrade Ferguson travelled from Sydney, to Washington DC, to New York, to London, to Moscow – and back home to Sydney. “Revelation” has also involved Comrade Ferguson in extensive (and costly) international travel.
“Trump/Russia” was reported by the ABC as being “the story of the century”. But it turned out to be a non-story. Despite interviewing many a Trump-Hater and engaging in lotsa speculation, Sarah Ferguson could not find any evidence that President Trump colluded with Vladimir Putin’s Russia in the lead-up to the 2016 election. The ABC could have saved money by waiting for the publication of The Mueller Report – which was a massive disappointment so far as Trump haters are concerned. Moreover, historical child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church has hardly been underreported by the ABC. So far, the ABC has only announced details of two parts of this (alleged) three part series. Meanwhile the ABC has not reported its own home based historical child sexual abuse scandal – see this week’s “Exclusive”.
“Trump/Russia” was a complete dud but a very expensive one. “Revelation” may or may not be a dud – but it will be very expensive. Which is perhaps why Four Corners has had to have a larger Well-Earned Break than usual this year to cut costs. Can You Bear It?
LOUISE ADLER’S TOSH ON THE LATE FRANK KNOPFELMACHER
Unlike Four Corners, ABC TV’s One Plus One interview program has yet to go into hibernation for Australia’s long hot summer. Until recently the show was presented by Jane Hutcheon – she recently stepped down. It is unclear who will replace Ms Hutcheon as the permanent presenter.
As is the case with so many ABC programs, One Plus One is essentially a Conservative Free Zone. Traditionally a left-of-centre presenter asks soft questions to a left-of-centre interviewee. That’s why MWD calls the program “Tosh Plus Tosh”. (See in particular MWD Issue 379). MWD cannot recall many conservatives being interviewed on One Plus One over the years. But guests have included the likes of Jane Hutcheon (really), Jon Faine, Anton Enus, John Howard (the actor), Rosie Batty, Tim Costello, Steve Biddulph, Barrie Cassidy, Yumi Stynes, David Marr, Kerry O’Brien, Jane Caro, Clementine Ford, Robert Manne, Tim Winton and Michael Leunig. Today’s guest is Mark Humphries. You get the picture. Every now and then a right-of-centre type or apolitical type gets a go. But the voices of conservatives are not heard.
On 15 November, Eleanor Hall interviewed another left-of-centre talent. To wit, Melbourne-based publisher Louise Adler. When discussion turned on where Comrade Adler met her husband, the comedian Max Gillies, the following comment was made:
Eleanor Hall: Now speaking of families, your love affair with Max Gillies. You’ve been married to him for many years. He was someone who so expertly skewered politicians on the screens of the ABC for so long – was he a TV name when you met him?
Louise Adler: No, I did not know him. I came back from America, I had never heard of Max because I had been away for eight or nine years. I had never heard of him. I went and saw him perform Squirts and he was dressed up in, I think one would call it in drag now. And as a person called Madame Kransky – who was a combination – she was a conspiracy theorist who did a lot of work on numerology. She had a formidable big black bun and capacious skirts, big black skirts.
Eleanor Hall: And this is what attracted you to him?
Louise Adler: This is what attracted me to Max.
Louise Adler: And he was – she – Madame Kransky, did rely quite a bit on a character Frank Knopfelmacher. If you’re of my generation, in Melbourne, you’ll remember that Frank Knopfelmacher was a very conservative – I think Hungarian, maybe Czech, I’m sure Gerard Henderson will correct this. But he was a political scientist of a conservative ilk. And prone to a conspiracy theory or two. And I thought this character was just divine. [Hang on a minute. Did Louise Adler marry Mr Gillies or Ms Kransky? – MWD Editor.]
Okay, here’s a correction. Frank Knopfelmacher (1923-1995) was born in Vienna to Czech Jewish parents. He fled Austria in November 1939, and moved to the British mandate in Palestine where, after some time, he joined the Czech Brigade of the British Army. He fought initially in North Africa and, after being redeployed in Britain, fought in northern France. He moved to Prague after the Second World War but fled to Paris in 1948 and then London after the communist regime took power in Czechoslovakia.
Knopfelmacher got a job at Bristol University and in 1955 he took up an academic position at the University of Melbourne and taught in the Department of Psychology – finishing his career as what was called a reader (now termed associate professor).
Certainly Franta, as he was called by his friends, was an erratic personality. But he was a brilliant teacher and a great contributor to the public debate within Melbourne University and beyond. Dr Knopfelmacher had a vast knowledge of political philosophy and an acute understanding of totalitarian regimes.
During her soft interview on One Plus One, Louise Adler dismissed Frank Knopfelmacher as “prone to a conspiracy or two”. In fact, Knopfelmacher was vehemently opposed to both Nazi and communist totalitarianism. His anti-communism was not a product of a conspiracy theory. Unlike Comrade Adler, Knopfelmacher spoke out against the communist regimes of Eastern Europe, China, North Korea, North Vietnam and Cambodia when they were at their most repressive.
Max Gillies was – and remains – a fine comedian. Gerard Henderson saw some of his work in Melbourne in the 1960s and 1970s but is not aware of the Madam Kransky character.
Frank Knopfelmacher was right about communism and about the pro-communist left in Australia which sucked up to the likes of initially Stalin followed by Brezhnev and Mao Zedong and Ho Chi Minh and, yes, Pol Pot. But to Comrade Adler, Frank Knopfelmacher was just a conspiracist. Can You Bear It?
MARK KENNY OVERLOOKS HIS 2019 (FALSE) PREDICTION TO SUPPORT MALCOLM TURNBULL
What a stunning performance by Mark Kenny – formerly of Fairfax Limited (now Nine newspapers) and now attached to the Australian National University – on the ABC TV Insiders couch last Sunday. Let’s go to the transcript as presenter Fran Kelly asks the panel – The Guardian’s Lenore Taylor, your man Kenny himself and News Corp’s Annika Smethurst this question:
Fran Kelly: Talking of Malcolm Turnbull, who was out and about this week on another podcast, in which he said he would have no doubt – and others would have no doubt – that he would have won the election. Quick straw poll. Lenore, would he have?
Lenore Taylor: Probably?
Mark Kenny: Yeah, my view is he probably might have, yeah.
Annika Smethurst: I think he would have had a chance because I still think in the places they lost it was a rejection of Labor more than anything.
Of the three (all of whom predicted a Labor victory in the lead-up to the 18 May election), Comrade Kenny was the most confident that Malcolm Turnbull would have led the Coalition to victory if he had not been replaced as Liberal Party leader – and prime minister – on 24 August the previous year. This despite the fact that Mr Turnbull had run a disastrous election campaign in July 2016 – losing some 14 seats which the Coalition (under Tony Abbott’s leadership) had won in 2013.
This year Prime Minister Scott Morrison led the Coalition to victory – essentially due to the fact that he won two seats in northern Tasmania and two seats in Queensland north of Brisbane – namely Bass, Burnie, Longman and Herbert. All four seats had been won by Abbott in 2013 and lost by Turnbull three years later.
The reason why Turnbull was replaced by Scott Morrison turned on the fact that a majority of Liberal Party parliamentarians believed that they could not win with Turnbull. The seat of Longman in south east Queensland demonstrates the point. The Liberal Party won 44.9 per cent of the primary vote in 2013 (under Abbott), 38.6 per cent in 2016 (under Turnbull) and 29.6 per cent in the by-election (under Turnbull). In 2019, the Liberal Party won 38.6 per cent of the primary vote and picked up preferences from Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party and the United Australia Party – achieving a swing of 4.1 per cent and winning the seat that was lost under Malcolm Turnbull’s election in 2016.
The evidence suggests that Scott Morrison was more popular than Malcolm Turnbull in northern Tasmania and Queensland – among other places. However, many present and past Canberra Press Gallery journalists believed that Malcolm Turnbull was the type of person who should lead the Liberal Party – and, consequently, opposed the Peter Dutton leadership challenge along with Scott Morrison replacing their man Turnbull.
Appearing on Insiders on 12 April 2019, your man Kenny volunteered the following prediction:
Mark Kenny: Just on the prediction front – given that I probably won’t be on this couch again between now and the election itself. I think I’d give, I’d put the odds of a Labor win pretty high at this stage. I’d say probably the second possible option is a BIG Labor win. And the third possible option, I would say, is the Coalition surviving but even then that’s probably a hung parliament sort of territory.
So there you have it. In April 2019 Mark Kenny predicted a comfortable to big Labor win. But on 24 November 2019 he said the Coalition would have won under Malcolm Turnbull. Despite the fact that even the Labor Party conceded in its report on the 2019 election that Labor erred in not realising the problem caused to its campaign by Scott Morrison taking over from Malcolm Turnbull. And Mark Kenny teaches politics at the ANU. Can You Bear It?
Media Watch Dog’s Five Paws Award was inaugurated in Issue Number 26 (4 September 2009) during the time of Nancy (2004-2017). The first winner was ABC TV presenter Emma Alberici. Ms Alberici scored for remembering the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 23 August 1939 whereby Hitler and Stalin divided Eastern Europe between Germany and the Soviet Union. And for stating that the Nazi-Soviet Pact had effectively started the Second World War, since it was immediately followed by Germany’s invasion of Poland (at a time when the Soviet Union had become an ally of Germany).
Over the years, the late Nancy’s Five Paws Award has become one of the world’smost prestigious gongs – rating just below the Nobel Prize and Academy Awards. Today’s winner is Nine Newspapers’ Rob Harris.
ROB HARRIS SCORES FOR RARE SELF-AWARENESS BY A JOURNALIST
This is what Rob Harris said on Sky News’ Hinch last night – After Dark, of course:
Derryn Hinch: …I’m glad you guys are actually here doing this program and you are not at The Walkleys where I guess everybody else is tonight. Rob?
Rob Harris: Well yeah, you know journalists love a booze-up, Derryn. And they like patting themselves on the back – so “let’s all fly up somewhere and be self-congratulatory”…I wouldn’t be seen dead there.
And now let’s hear what Young Mr Harris had to say on the Hinch “Spin a Yarn” segment on 14 November:
Derryn Hinch: Now the other thing here is that if – George Pell is in jail now. But if the High Court full bench decides yes he can launch an appeal then that will be the time that they’d say: “Well you can come out on bail while your appeal is being listed”. I think that is a possibility, would you agree?
Rob Harris: No. I’m not an authority so I’m not going to say anything I don’t know. Sorry.
So intrepid reporter Rob Harris cannot stand the self-congratulatory happenings exhibited at the Walkley Awards – where journalists dress up in their finest and give themselves awards. And, believe it or not, Mr Harris is a journalist who does not talk about matters of which he knows nothing. How impressive is that?
Rob Harris: Five Paws.
JANE CARO’S GOD DELUSION IGNORES POPE FRANCIS
Lotsa thanks to the avid reader who drew Jackie’s (male) co-owner’s attention to this tweet sent out by Jane Caro, just after Gin & Tonic Time on Remembrance Day 2019:
Jane Caro @ JaneCaro
11/11/19 7.05 pm
Just met a lovely smart man who believes in god and so doubts that climate change is caused by humans. Is belief in god what will destroy the world? My heart sinks.
As might be expected from the out-and-proud atheist, Comrade Caro refers to God as “god”. [No wonder she gets so many gigs on the ABC – MWD Editor]
Here’s the situation. Jane Caro meets one “lovely, smart man” who, because he is a believer, “doubts that climate change is caused by humans”. Not even a baker’s dozen. Just one bloke. From this, Comrade Caro asks whether “belief in god will destroy the world”. After which Caro’s heart sinks. [How low did it go? MWD Editor.]
What a load of absolute tosh. It seems that Ms Caro is unaware that Pope Francis believes that humans are responsible for climate change. And, yes, the Pope believes in God. Yet Jane Caro reckons that a belief in God will destroy the world. After talking to one lovely, smart man around Gin & Tonic Time.
Verily a Jane Caro Moment.
ABC’S RESPONSE TO SENATOR ABETZ’S QUESTION ON FORMER ABC CHAIR PROFESSOR RICHARD (“IN GENERAL MEN WILL SLEEP WITH YOUNG BOYS”) DOWNING GOES INTO SELECTIVE QUOTATION MODE
There was considerable interest in last week’s “Exclusive” which revealed that the ABC has spent $25,960 on legal representation about how to handle the Jon Stephens’ case – despite having its own internal legal department. This followed the answer to Senator Eric Abetz’s Question on Notice of 24 October 2019.
As MWD readers are aware, Jon Stephens pleaded guilty to the sexual assault of an underage boy in NSW while on official ABC duties in 1981. Jon Stephens’ guilty plea and subsequent jailing was not reported by the ABC – despite its concentration on historical child sexual abuse in religious and secular institutions. Likewise Nine Newspapers did not report Stephens’ guilty plea.
On 24 October 2019, Senator Eric Abetz asked a second question on notice concerning the ABC and historical child sexual abuse. Here it is:
Question No. 915
Senator the Hon Eric Abetz asked the Minister representing the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC, upon notice, on 24 October 2019:
With reference to the comments made in 1975 by the Australian Broadcasting Corporations’ (ABC) former Chairman concerning paedophilia, as noted in the Sydney Morning Herald on 19 July 1975:
Will the ABC publicly repudiate, condemn and dissociate itself from the said former Chairman’s comments, (including “In general, men will sleep with young boys”); if not, why not.
Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC – the answer to the honourable Senator’s question is as follows:
The ABC rejects any statement that is supportive of paedophilia. The ABC notes that in regard to this matter, on 19 July 1975 the Sydney Morning Herald published a letter from Professor Downing stating:
“The ABC does not seek to offend but only to enlighten. To quote from a report to the British Independent Broadcasting Authority “society may remain civilised only if the individual learns to abhor the results of uncivilised behaviour – even though the learning process can be upsetting to him.”
This statement may provide further context to other comments the former Chairman made on the matter.
Like all questions on notice, Senator Reynolds’ answer would have been drafted by the ABC which would have passed it on to the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts. MWD makes the following observations:
▪ The ABC’s response did not address the statement (by then) ABC chair Professor Downing (as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald on 19 July 1975) that “in general, men will sleep with young boys”. This despite the fact that the current ABC chair Ita Buttrose wrote to Gerard Henderson on 15 October 2019 advising that Professor Downing’s 1975 statement is not one that she would make. See MWD Issue 473. So the ABC response to Senator Abetz differs from ABC chair Ita Buttrose’s response to Gerard Henderson.
▪ The reply to Senator Abetz quotes one paragraph from Professor Downing’s letter to the Sydney Morning Herald (which was also published on 19 July 1975).
The response neglected to state that, in this letter, Professor Downing also made the following remark:
…the phenomenon of pederasty seems appropriate for public discussion in a society which, if it is to be open, democratic and responsible, needs also to understand [emphasis added] the diverse natures of the people who compose that society.
It is impossible to imagine that today Ms Buttrose would call on Australians “to understand” the needs of murderers or men who assault women. But in 1975 Professor Downing called on Australians “to understand” pederasts. And in 2019 the ABC still wants to avoid addressing this issue.
As avid readers would expect, MWD will continue to address this issue.
The ABC TV program Media Watch commenced in May 1989 – a month after the publication of Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch (which became, in time, Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch Dog Blog). The inaugural presenter of ABC TV’s Media Watch was Stuart Littlemore – he was followed by Richard Ackland, Paul Barry, David Marr, the late Liz Jackson, Monica Attard, Jonathan Holmes and Paul Barry (again). As is to be expected, all Media Watch presenters have been left-of-centre types. No conservative has had this gig in three decades – confirming the taxpayer funded public broadcaster’s reality as a Conservative Free Zone.
Since Stuart Littlemore QC fronted the inaugural program on May 1989, Media Watch has had the format where the presenter lays down the law. There is no debate and discussion and no one has a right-of-reply on air.
This contrasts with MediaBuzz on Fox News (proprietor Rupert Murdoch). Currently presented by one-time Washington Post columnist and CNN presenter Howard Kurtz, Media Buzz encourages debate and discussion on the program – where different political and social views are heard. Howard Kurtz chairs a media panel and also interviews journalists/commentators on an individual basis. He does not editorialise at length – unlike Paul Barry and all his predecessors back to May 1989.
In recent times, Paul Barry has extended his editorialising on the media to sermonising on Australian politics. Due to popular demand, MWD continues to record your man Barry’s Occasional (political and social) Sermon on the Mount.
PAUL BARRY BAGS SCOTT MORRISON & GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN
Let’s go to the transcript of the start of the ABC TV’s Media Watch program on Monday:
Sally Bowrey: Our top story today is the bushfire emergency unfolding across the state. More than 90 fires are burning right now, a staggering 14 at emergency watch level. Something that has not been seen before …
Chris Reason: … as you say, this is unprecedented stuff — 96 active fire zones around the state at the moment. And I’m being told by RFS that they’re jumping up the number of emergency level fires to 16 now and, as you say, that is unprecedented.
– Seven Afternoon News, 8 November, 2019
Hello, I’m Paul Barry, welcome to Media Watch.
And since that report on the New South Wales bushfires two weeks ago, Australia’s fire emergency has spread to five states and destroyed more than 630 homes.
And in the meantime our political leaders have been doing their best to avoid addressing the role of climate change in making those bushfires more severe:
Scott Morrison : My only thoughts today are with those who’ve lost their lives …
– ABC News, 9 November, 2019
Gladys Berejiklian : … I certainly don’t think it’s appropriate to get into political argument …
– ABC News Breakfast, 11 November, 2019
Spot the problem here? Paul Barry is not engaging in commentary on the media – in particular, the media’s coverage of the recent bush fires in New South Wales and elsewhere. Rather, the Media Watch presenter is criticising political leaders – Scott Morrison and Gladys Berejiklian – for (allegedly) “doing their best to avoid addressing the role of climate change in making those bushfires more severe”. This is a political comment – which goes to the (alleged) political motives of the Prime Minister and NSW Premier.
The role of Media Watch, supposedly, is to critique media personalities and organisations. It is not to score political points against political leaders.
In any event, it would seem that your man Barry, who has not worked in politics, does not know so much about how government works. How else to explain this tweet which he put out on Tuesday about NSW Labor Opposition leader Jodi McKay?
Paul Barry @TheRealBarry
Potential future NSW Premier??? …`Too hot to walk in the park’: Labor leader wants an answer on daylight saving smh.com.au/politics/nsw t…via @smh
12.43 PM – 26 Nov 2019
What a load of absolute tosh. In his (political) ignorance, your man Barry failed to understand that the NSW Opposition leader was making representations (in her capacity as the Member for Strathfield) to the relevant minister in the NSW Coalition government concerning daylight saving. That’s all. The constituent had requested that daylight saving hours be reduced in NSW.
To suggest that Ms McKay is not premier material because she passed a comment from a constituent that daylight saving means that it is too hot to walk in the park at 8 pm suggests that Paul Barry has little idea about how politics works. And yet he wants to use Media Watch to rail at Australia’s political leaders.
[Perhaps this should have gone in your hugely popular Can You Bear It? segment. Just a thought. – MWD Editor.]
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).
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GERARD HENDERSON AND LOUISE MILLIGAN re COLLECTIVE GUILT AND THE PELL CASE
As covered in last week’s “Documentation” segment, on Saturday 16 November 2019 senior ABC journalist Louise Milligan put out a tweet calling Gerard Henderson not only a “vile bully” but also alleging that he was engaged in “pedophile protecting”. No evidence was provided for either allegation. Milligan’s tweet was re-tweeted by Peter FitzSimons and Derryn Hinch. The Milligan tweet came in response to a tweet by Quentin Dempster who attacked Gerard Henderson’s column in The Weekend Australian on 16 November which, in a considered manner, criticised comments made by Ms Milligan and The Guardian’s David Marr on the George Pell case (see here). The article suggested, inter alia, that Louise Milligan held the view that George Pell bears a collective guilt for the child sexual abuse crimes engaged in by Catholic clergy over the decades.
Like at least two jurors in the first trial and one judge (Justice Mark Weinberg) on the Victorian Court of Appeal, Henderson does not believe that the jury’s decision in the second trial was correct in view of the evidence.
According to Milligan’s logic, those who supported convicted pedophile John Francis Tyrrell (after his conviction by a jury in 2018 for historical child sexual assault) would also have been pedophile protectors. Yet on 15 March 2019, the Victorian Court of Appeal (Justice Kaye, Justice Niall and Justice Weinberg) allowed Tyrell’s appeal and he was released from prison. Clearly Tyrrell’s supporters were not pedophile protectors – rather they were correct in their view that Tyrrell should not have been convicted. By the way, the ABC chose not to report the Tyrrell Case at any stage of the proceedings.
To allege, without evidence, that a person is a protector of pedophiles is about as serious a charge that can be made. In view of this, Gerard Henderson has decided to release correspondence which he had with Louise Milligan in March 2019 – since it demonstrates that Ms Milligan holds the view that Cardinal Pell bears a collective guilt. In short, her reaction to Henderson’s column of 16 November was fired by anger rather than by logic.
In her email of 6 March 2019, Louise Milligan asserted that Pell is responsible for the fact that people have “lost lives”. Pell was initially charged by Victoria Police (not by the Director of Public Prosecutions) with 26 counts of historical child sexual abuse. All but five charges were dropped by the DPP or ruled out in the Magistrates’ Court.
The remaining five charges on which Pell was found guilty – and which will be considered by the High Court in early 2020 – do not involve “lost lives”. It was accepted by the Victorian County Court that the death, by drug overdose, of the second man Pell was found guilty of assaulting was not related to sexual abuse as a child. This second man also told his mother before he died that he had not been a victim of child sexual abuse. The first man is alive.
Louise Milligan advised Gerard Henderson that her email of 6 March 2019 was “off the record”. MWD has little time for journalists who seek “off the record” protection from proper scrutiny. However, he decided not to publish this correspondence – until Louise Milligan alleged that he was a pedophile-protector. Henderson believes that he is entitled to protect himself from such vile abuse.
This correspondence demonstrates the emotional anger – and lack of objectivity – in Ms Milligan’s handling of the Pell Case. The correspondence is complete except for a reference to a third party which is of no material interest to the case.
Gerard Henderson to Louise Milligan – 6 March 2019
My attention has been drawn to this tweet which you put out on Saturday:
|Louise Milligan (@Milliganreports)|
|2/3/19, 10:01 pm
@QuentinDempster @PhillipAdams_1 Man yells at cloud. Man transcribes rant at cloud. Rant is endless. Man needs sub. Sub doesn’t know where to start, throws hands up in despair. Sub gives man enough rope. 3 people make it to end of transcribed rant. Man is yesterday’s man. Man is on wrong side of history.
I note that this entire tweet consists only of abuse. I suspect that I am a “yesterday’s man” who is “on the wrong side of history” – whatever that might mean – since your tweet followed Quentin Dempster’s papist conspiracy rant about me. In my view, no thoughtful journalist should believe that contemporary history is a closed entity.
By the way, I note for the record that you never responded to the quite legitimate questions which I raised with you about your book Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell (MUP, 2017). Instead, you sought the protection of MUP – and its (then) managing director Louise Adler emailed me telling me to shut up.
When I published a book with Louise Adler’s MUP in 2015, I never approached her for protection from criticism. Your move showed a complete lack of intellectual courage – in that you are not able to answer straightforward questions about the use of direct quotations, your attitude to memory etc.
I was not the only reader who had problems with the Cardinal. So did such experienced reviewers as Gerard Windsor and Peter Craven. But, no doubt, you regarded their critiques as “yelling at a cloud”.
Here’s some another questions – which I suspect that you will not answer.
▪ Why did you mention on your Four Corners program on Monday that George Pell once shared accommodation with convicted pedophile Gerald Ridsdale (who pleaded guilty to his crimes) – but did not mention that many priests had also shared accommodation with Ridsdale, including your journalistic colleague Paul Bongiorno?
▪ Why did you criticise me for stating that George Pell has a right to appeal a jury decision – but not mention the critique of the decision in R v George Pell by Age crime reporter John Silvester? Is he also yelling at the sky?
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In conclusion, I should state that – unlike you, Peter FitzSimons and Derryn Hinch – I did not refer to George Pell while his (second) trial was underway. The proceedings in the County Court of Victoria on 28 November 2018 concerning MUP’s flyer about Cardinal refers.
Louise Milligan to Gerard Henderson – 6 March 2019
Your ill-informed and factually incorrect comments about my journalism (which continue in your email below) long preceded my book or any questions you ever addressed to me about it.
That is why I made it my policy that I would never dignify your correspondence with a response.
I break that policy for a first and last time to say this: Your continued campaign on behalf of a now-convicted paedophile floors me. Having for the past three years waded through the misery this man has caused, I am speechless. You demonstrate not a single thought for those who have lost lives, who have suffered profound trauma, in your culture war. I have just got off the phone from a grieving mother who is trying to make sense of this all.
That is the first and last thing I will ever say to you. Please do not ever correspond with or contact me again. It will go in the bin.
Gerard Henderson to Louise Milligan – 7 March 2019
I refer to your email of yesterday afternoon. In response, I make the following comments:
▪ You are one of Australia’s best known journalists. You are employed by the taxpayer funded public broadcaster. And you use an ABC email account. I am entitled to email you on occasions – and you are entitled to delete, ignore or answer me.
▪ On Saturday you mocked me on Twitter. All I did was to forward a personal email to you – to which you overreacted, in a hectoring manner.
▪ You have not demonstrated that anything I have written or said about your own work is “ill-informed” or “factually incorrect”. This is just an undocumented assertion.
▪ All I have said about George Pell’s conviction in Victoria is that he is entitled to appeal. That’s why Victoria has a Court of Appeal. Occasionally juries get it wrong. In Victoria in 1921, Colin Campbell Ross was convicted by a unanimous jury decision of the rape and murder of a 12 year old girl. He always said he was innocent – as did his supporters, of which there were many. Ross was hanged the following year. And posthumously pardoned in 2008.
▪ I am not engaging in a culture war and I have empathy for the victims of child sexual abuse. My only point is that defendants also have rights and that some people have false memories. Not every complainant is a victim – although the overwhelming majority are.
▪ If the grieving mother to whom you refer is the mother of one of the men concerning whom Pell was convicted – then I understand your point. But if she is not the mother of one of the two men Pell has been found guilty of assaulting – then there is no causal connection between her grief and Pell. Unless you hold the view that Pell is somehow responsible for the crimes of others….
▪ For the record, I will not publish this correspondence in my Media Watch Dog blog on Friday. I am aware that you are a player in the Pell case and that this matter is yet to be resolved by the judicial system in Victoria. Unlike you, and your publisher MUP, I did not make public comments about George Pell when his recent trial was underway.
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Until next time.
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