ISSUE – NO. 503

3 July 2020

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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 – Mark “I’m a satirist” Humphries returns; The ABC’s Sally Jackson gets vague on cost savings

  • Editorial – Ita Buttrose drinks the ABC kool-aid

  • MWD Exclusive – Former SMH editor bags the careless journalism of the SMH’s Kate McClymont

  • Can You Bear It? – Ellen Fanning elects to stay with people who look like her; The Age’s toiling masses bungle their mini-uprising; Mike Carlton on the ABC quoting Mike Carlton talking about the ABC

  • Legal Ignoramus of the Week – Lucie Morris-Marr fudges High Court’s unanimous decision in Pell v The Queen

  • Rant of the Week – Patricia Karvelas gets ranty on Insiders

  • Media Fool of the Week – Julian Burnside AO QC’s latest conspiracy theory

  • A Jane Caro Moment – Comrade Caro calls for an inequitable licence fee

  • Top Media Interrupter of the Week – Speersy claims the gong

  • Correspondence – La Trobe University’s Professor Clare Wright helps out – On dumbasses and dumbarses

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  • Satire Warning – Mark Humphries returns – with a little help from Evan Williams

Last night Mark (“I’m a satirist”) Humphries returned to 7:30 for yet another sketch poking fun at the Morrison government, with a little help from Evan (“I’m a satirist’s co-writer”) Williams. As per usual, 7:30 presenter Leigh Sales made sure to mention upfront that Mr Humphries is a satirist; lest there be any confusion.

In the latest sketch Humphries plays the “Minister for Anecdotes” Brian Overheard. Mr Overheard (do you get it?) is the latest in a long line of fictional Coalition figures played by Mr Humphries. These characters are all invariably smug and condescending, though it is unclear if this is a comment on the Coalition government or merely a result of the characters being played by Mr Humphries.

Although the sketch was nominally about “typical Coalition dole bludger bashing” your man Humphries didn’t miss an opportunity to bring up the ABC’s favourite subject, itself:

Brian Overheard: Nothing is more important for this Government than keeping Australians in a job unless you work at a government-funded body like the ABC, the CSIRO or the National Gallery, in which case, good luck to you.

The sketch closed with some griping about the government spending money on missiles. How dare the government spend money on national defence when it could be spending it on ABC sketches about how the ABC needs more money for sketches.

After the sketch, 7:30 returned to Ms Sales, who could not even manage her usual forced chuckle.


It used to be a familiar tactic of the public sector to act against the government’s decision to freeze or cut funding by threatening to take the most political damaging outcome if the process goes ahead.

For example – the situation where proposed funding reduction to a department of transport leads to a public service response that can only be addressed if the number of air traffic controllers is significantly reduced.  The tactic, which was common in the 1970s, became a comedy line in the BBC’s successful Yes Minister series.

The main reaction to the ABC management’s response to the Morrison government’s ABC indexation freeze has turned on the ABC’s decision to abolish the popular 7.45 am radio news bulletin.  Since the ABC runs continual news bulletins through the day and night – some as long as 10 minutes – it’s difficult to see how the ABC can save a substantial amount of money by junking its 15 minutes long 7.45 am news bulletin.  Consequently, the decision looks like a tactic to embarrass the Morrison government – particularly in Liberal Party and Nationals seats in rural and regional Australia.

On Tuesday 30 June, Jackie’s (male) co-owner sent this email to Sally Jackson, Communications Lead for ABC News, Analysis and Investigations.


I would be grateful if you could advise the estimated annual financial saving in the ABC’s decision to drop the 7.45 am News Bulletin on its main radio stations.

It would be appreciated if you could provide this information by 4 pm today.

I make this request conscious of the fact that the ABC has signed up to the Right To Know Coalition.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson


Ms Jackson replied almost immediately:


Hi Gerard.

The resources associated with the 0745 bulletin are significant and this proposal represents a substantial part of the overall News cost saving.



Whereupon, Hendo responded:



Thanks.  Since the cost saving is “substantial” – it should be easy to give me an estimated dollar amount. I would appreciate it if you could give me this figure because it will help explain why the decision was made.  It can’t be some kind of national secret.

Best wishes



After this – there was silence.  ABC journalists and presenters invariably complain when a politician does not answer a question in a manner that contains the required information.

However, ABC management invariably declines to answer even simple requests for information.  The question remains:  Why is the ABC management refusing to state how much money will be saved by axing the 7.45 am news bulletin?  It can only be assumed that the amount is minuscule when compared with the ABC annual budget of over $1 billion.

Sally Jackson, on behalf of the taxpayer funded public broadcaster, uses such words as “significant” and “substantial”. But they are meaningless without a dollar figure.

In the absence of information, Media Watch Dog can only conclude that the ABC is attempting to put pressure on the Morrison government by abolishing a popular news bulletin – while retaining less popular and more expensive programs.



ABC chair Ita Buttrose AC OBE is something of a Media Watch Dog fave and MWD did not oppose her appointment to this position in February 2019.  It seems, however, that Ms Buttrose, like quite a few of her predecessors, has been imbued with the public broadcaster’s culture. Either this, or she needs a new drafter for her official ABC statements.

Take, for example, Ita Buttrose’s statement “What would Australia look like without the ABC?” which was issued last Friday afternoon.  Here are some highlights:

There is a reason why the majority of Australians trust the ABC. The ABC has not only helped shape Australia, we are the national voice that unites us. It’s about democracy. Without the ABC we would have a balkanised and parochial bunch of broadcasters that are in danger of being compromised by profit and more intent on dividing than unifying.

Turn it up. Ms Buttrose worked successfully in the commercial media for half a century before becoming ABC chair.  And now she is saying that the commercial media is “balkanised and parochial”, “compromised by profit” and “more intent on dividing than unifying”.  All the commercial media, apparently – including the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age – and Network 10 where Ms Buttrose, until recently, was a panelist.

Moreover, it is a self-serving myth that the ABC is Australia’s most trusted service for news. If this is the case, then most Australians would watch ABC TV news – rather than the commercial networks. They don’t.   Here, for example, is a run down of viewers for the major TV evening news bulletins on Monday 29 June 2020 – taken from Crikey:

Seven News: 1.140 million

Nine News: 1.127 million

ABC News: 868,000

Ten’s The Project: 584,000

In other words, around 2.9 million watched the commercial evening news bulletins on Monday while 868,000 watched ABC News. So, Ms Buttrose and ABC management are asking us to believe that most Australians watch commercial news bulletins despite trusting the ABC more than its commercial rivals. It doesn’t make sense.

The Buttrose/ABC statement continued:

The ABC,  funded by all of us, regardless of our creed – race, age, political beliefs – is us. It’s the way we build cross-cultural understanding, the way we help each other in times of need. It’s who we are collectively. Why would anyone want to diminish that and make us less than who we are?

Sure the ABC is funded by taxpayers of all political beliefs.  But it is a Conservative Free Zone – without a conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets.  In short, the ABC lacks political diversity – and, consequently, it is not all of us. Just some of us.

Then the Buttrose/ABC statement went on to say:

There is no other authority better placed to manage the ABC than the ABC itself.  We know our business and we are determined to honour our commitment to independence.

This is a self-serving statement. It’s akin to claiming that no one is better placed to manage a business or organisation than its current management at any one time.  That’s self-serving nonsense.

The Buttrose/ABC Statement concluded:

The ABC is essential in generating and preserving Australia’s democratic culture. An independent, well-funded national broadcaster allows Australians, wherever they live, to connect. It is how we share our identity, how we tell our stories, how we listen to each other, how we ask for help and how we give it.

This overlooks the fact that Australia had a vibrant democratic culture before the ABC first broadcast in July 1932.  Australian democracy generated and preserved the ABC – not the other way around.  However the ABC management did concede that over three years “the ABC budget does still increase but by a reduced amount” compared with what the public broadcaster expected.

What Ita Buttrose and ABC management fail to understand is that a taxpayer funded public broadcaster will lack widespread support while it lacks political diversity in a politically diverse democracy.

MWD Exclusive


At a time when oh-so-many journalists agree with one another and delight in dressing up in their finest and giving each other gongs at media functions, it’s good to note that the iconoclast journalist is not yet an extinct species.

The Sydney Morning Herald’s  investigative journalist Kate McClymont is a journalist luvvie if ever there was one – much loved by her comrades at the Sydney Morning Herald and elsewhere – particularly in the ABC where she appears regularly.  Comrade McClymont has won many a Walkley award, delivered the Andrew Olle Media Lecture to an enthusiastic audience and so on.

So it was great to see that former Sydney Morning Herald editor Milton Cockburn has written a piece of long-form journalism in the just released July-August issue of Quadrant titled “The Careless Journalism of Kate McClymont”.  Why Quadrant?  Well, among other reasons, it’s one of the few journals around which publishes 5000 word articles.

Ms McClymont is one of those journalists prepared to criticise both conservatives and social democrats in general and the Coalition and the Labor Party in particular – but invariably from a left perspective.

In his essay, Milton Cockburn takes aim at Kate McClymont’s careless journalism concerning Eric Bedford and Paul Landa who were ministers in Neville Wran’s NSW Labor government in the 1970s and 1980s.  Both are dead.  Cockburn introduces his article by quoting McClymont’s 2014 Andrew Olle Media Lecture where she spoke about the “terror” experienced the night before one of her big stories is published – due to the possibility of receiving “that nasty little white envelope” the next day containing the  threat of a defamation writ.

Milton Cockburn’s point is that Kate McClymont should be as concerned about getting her facts right with respect to the dead as she is with the living.   He demonstrates why this is not the case.  Cockburn points to McClymont’s allegation in her 2014 book He Who Must Be Obeid (written with Linton Besser) that the late Eric Bedford (1928-2006) was corrupt, without providing any evidence to support her assertion.  In the process she made false statements about Mrs Bedford, an amateur artist.  Despite making some changes to the second edition (the first edition was withdrawn since it made a false statement with respect to a living person), the allegations about the Bedfords have not been adequately corrected. It’s much the same with the late Paul Landa (1941-1984).

The point is that while the dead cannot sue, they leave behind children who must live “with McClymont’s published accusation against their fathers” and the destruction of the reputation of a father who cannot defend himself.

Milton Cockburn’s Quadrant piece is heavily documented.   It deserves a response – but Ms McClymont is not in the habit of apologising for – or ever correcting – past errors. MWD will keep you posted.

Can You Bear It?


There was enormous interest in last week’s reference to the fact that Ellen Fanning, the co-presenter of ABC TV’s The Drum, had opined that Parramatta was only “a couple of kilometres down the road” from the ABC Ultimo studio in the heart of Sydney’s inner-city Sandalista Land (the correct figure is 23 kms).

So much so that one avid reader advised that Media Watch Dog should continue its coverage of what Comrade Fanning said in this segment of The Drum on 24 June 2020.  Here’s what the avid reader had in mind – when the discussion on diversity continued (as it invariably does on the ABC):

…I’m wondering – there seems to be an emphasis there on geography, right, when thinking about diversity?  So, is geography the marker of diversity?  Because there’s an awful lot of people at the ABC who look just like me and are about my age.

Comrade Fanning did not name names.  It would seem she had in mind the likes of such taxpayer funded public broadcaster stars as Leigh Sales, Julia Baird, Laura Tingle, Lisa Millar, Zoe Daniel, Sarah Ferguson, Fran Kelly, Sally Neighbour, Virginia Trioli, Emma Alberici, Wendy Harmer and Annabel Crabb.  Of this lot, only Ms Daniel appears to have put up her hand to accept a redundancy.  None of the others, including Ellen Fanning, are heading out the door to provide a gig for a young woman of colour. So Ms Fanning wants greater diversity on The Drum etc – but not just yet.  Can You Bear It?

Ellen Fanning’s ABC Colleagues who Look Just Like Her:

All White ABC Presenters

MWD Issue 501 commented that the ABC’s main presenters are so white that they could fulfill the role of a white sight-screen behind a fast bowler in a red ball cricket match. It so happened that a reader noticed that the idea has been taken up.


Morry Schwartz’s The [Boring] Saturday Paper – which goes to press on Thursday evenings – wasn’t as boring as usual last Saturday. It contained an article by Rick Morton, formerly of The Australian, titled “Age of Discontent” – all about the recent departure from The Age of its editor Alex Lavelle.

On 14 June, three score and ten of Age  journalists wrote an unsigned letter to Nine Newspapers’  executive director James Chessell, chief digital and publishing officer Chris Janz and Age editor Alex Lavelle complaining that the newspaper was moving to the right.  This would surprise Media Watch Dog’s Victorian readers – since MWD used to describe The Age as “The Guardian on the Yarra” until, per courtesy of Malcolm Turnbull, the real thing arrived in Australia and the reference became too confusing.

Many a journalist delights in telling others how to run things.  But, according to Rick Morton’s account, the comrades at The Age could not sell umbrellas on a wet Melbourne afternoon – or something like that.

Your man Morton reported one Age journalist as saying “The staff who wrote the letter didn’t want Alex sacked, that’s the irony of it”.  Another Age reporter is quoted as saying “It was never our intention for Alex to lose his job”.

How ironic can you get?  The toiling journalistic masses at The Age rose against their editor – then recoiled in horror when he left the building.

Alas, Comrade Morton did not precisely say why Alex Lavelle stepped down during the staff insurrection. But he does attribute the atmosphere that led to the complaint as influenced by, wait for it,  the fact that Age staff were working from home due to the COVID-19 lockdown. Also, there was a view that “we better do something” without thinking through what they were doing.  It is a reminder of the comment made by the Prince of Wales (aka Edward VIII) some decades ago that “Something must be done”- without indicating precisely what.

According to Mr Morton, it seems some experienced Age journalists warned others that the letter “could backfire and claim one of their own in friendly fire” but the advice went unheeded.

So The Age emerges from The Saturday Paper story as a staff collective where key management decisions are made in response to a group of inexperienced journalists who do not really know what they are doing and who cannot anticipate the consequences of their actions.  And the Age staff collective attempt to tell readers what Australia’s leaders should be doing. Can You Bear It?


It was around Post-Dinner Port Time on Monday when Jackie’s (male) co-owner noticed this tweet on his screen, through many a glass darkly:

Well fancy that.  What excitement that ABC TV Media Watch presenter Paul Barry had favourably quoted one-time 2UE and ABC Radio 702 presenter Mike Carlton as saying that the decision to junk the ABC Radio 7.45 am news bulletin was “an act of stupidity, almost of vandalism”.  Well, your man Carlton would say that – as the saying goes – since he is a huge supporter of the ABC Staff Collective (or Soviet) that effectively runs the taxpayer funded public broadcaster.

It’s hardly surprising that the Conservative Free Zone’s Media Watch program would quote with favour from a self-confessed “latte sipping, Chardonnay-swilling, Green leftie” during one of Comrade Barry’s self-absorbed rants in defence of his employer which pays him around $200,000 a year for a 15 minute weekly program which runs for only 44 weeks a year.

However, the Sage of Avalon Beach AM (aka Always Malicious) reckons this praise was worth tweeting about late at night.  Can You Bear It?



Thanks to the Queensland reader who drew Media Watch Dog’s attention to this tweet sent out by Lucie Morris-Marr – who appears to be still flogging her book Fallen: The inside story of the secret trial and conviction of Cardinal George Pell (Allen & Unwin, 2019) – it is, after all, somewhat out of date:

It seems that Ms Morris-Marr is ignorant of the law. Cardinal Pell is not a “former convicted paedophile” in the legal sense of the term. His conviction was quashed in a unanimous decision by the High Court of Australia.  If a person’s conviction is quashed – the individual is not a convicted person.

As anyone who has read Fallen will know, Lucie Morris-Marr is  a Pell-antagonist who shed tears of relief when he was convicted by a jury in a re-trial in the County Court of Victoria (See Page 265).  The jury verdict in the second trial was upheld by two out of three judges in the Victorian Court of Appeal but quashed by all seven judges of the High Court.

It seems that Ms Morris-Marr is not willing to accept the decision of Australia’s highest court that, under the presumption of innocence which applies to all Australians, Cardinal Pell is innocent.  Consequently, the author of Fallen apparently maintains that Cardinal Pell is not entitled to live his life as he wishes.   In this instance she has objected to the fact that  Cardinal Pell gave an address about church finances to the Global Institute of Church Management in Rome. What’s wrong with that?  For the record, despite Ms Morris-Marr’s claim in her tweet, Cardinal Pell did not mention child sexual abuse in his Rome address – she just made this up.

Journalists who report legal cases are expected to have a basic grasp of legal principles – something which is lacking in Lucie Morris-Marr’s most recent angry tweet.

Lucie Morris-Marr: Legal Ignoramus of the Week.



As avid readers are aware, Media Watch Dog just loves it when journalists and commentators go into rant mode.  In these times of social media and all that – there is a tendency for ranters to play a short game on Twitter.  However, from time to time, a ranter can play a medium or long game.

Like Patricia Karvelas on ABC TV’s Insiders on Sunday – who, in the “Observations” segment at the end of the program, did a medium-sized verbal rant about the (alleged) funding cuts facing the ABC.   Let’s go to the transcript – and watch out for the score for the rant announced by the Insiders’ presenter at the end of the rant:

Patricia Karvelas: I’m a big fan of facts, David. And you asked some great questions to the Minister [Paul Fletcher] earlier about cuts to the ABC. I can read budget papers, so can you, I think the government should fess up and say “yes, this is an effective cut”.  Of course it is – you promise money and then you don’t deliver it. $83.7 million –  it’s real, it’s true, 250 jobs to go. People might say “you’re just arguing for your people”. I think that cuts to the ABC are a bigger problem for the entire media and accountability. And when the government says “but other media is contracting” – that’s devastating. And that’s why it matters. Journalism matters and accountability matters. And our country will be poorer without it.

David Speers: Very good. Thank you all for joining us this morning.

What a wonderful finish to a program in which three ABC journalists railed against the Morrison government and ran the line that the ABC was doing it tough on a budget of merely $1 billion plus each year.

The ABC’s recent recruit David Speers joined in the pro-ABC, anti-Scott Morrison chorus.  His “Very Good” acclamation at the end of PK’s rant was the equivalent of a 101/2 out of 10 score.  Well done PK.

Media Fool Of The Week


For anyone who missed it, here is the tweet that Julian (“I just love flashing my post-nominals”) Burnside AO QC sent out on Monday – just after the ABC TV’s Media Watch concluded:

What a load of absolute tosh. It’s not at all clear how a government could sell the ABC to anyone.  Especially Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.  For starters, there would have to be a tender process – in which case News Corp’s bid, if there was one, could be exceeded.  Moreover it’s difficult to imagine how a Coalition government could get such a proposal through the Liberal Party and Nationals party room and then the Senate – even if it wanted to do so.

In short, MWD’s learned friend JB AO QC is talking through his wig.

Julian Burnside AO QC: Media Fool of the Week.


As far as MWD can work it out, Jane (“Australians are Turds”) Caro tweets or re-tweets every morning, every night and frequently during the day – as the saying goes.

Thanks to the avid Tasmanian reader who drew MWD’s attention to this tweet sent out by Comrade Caro on 24 June:

Turn it up. The BBC licence fee is around £ 160 (around A$300).  Let’s say an ABC licence fee was A$200. It’s doubtful if even the sandle-wearing Friends of the ABC Set would fork out this kind of money – since they like their government services for what they describe as “free”.  Moreover, critics of the ABC would be unlikely to pay up – as would the majority of Australians who prefer commercial media topped up with social media.  Those who are willing to pay a subscription – and can afford to – already have Foxtel.

For Comrade Caro’s licence fee to work, it would have to be imposed by government – like a tax. And this would discriminate against lower-socio economic Australians.  Well-off types like Comrade Caro would pay $200 – as would a family on a medium wage with three young children.  Has Comrade Caro got no self-awareness?

Verily, A Jane Caro Moment.



What ever happened to Media Watch Dog’s “Top Media Interrupter of the Week” gong?  – MWD hears you cry.  The message got through to Jackie’s (male) co-owner.  So, with a little help from ABC TV Insiders’ presenter David Speers, the segment returns this week.

You see, Speersy scored the gong again for a truly stunning performance when interviewing Communications Minister Paul Fletcher on Sunday.

Alas, the interruptions by your man Speers were so consistent that it proved impossible to do a full transcript. A visual/audio count reveals that Comrade Speers interrupted Minister Fletcher on 26 occasions in a 17 minute interview.  That is, more than once a minute.  Surely worth a prize, don’t you think?

And then there was the novel use of the mocking laugh.

First up re efficiency dividends imposed on organisations such as the ABC by the Commonwealth government:

Paul Fletcher: It’s been a long-standing part of how the public finances are managed, so that tax-payers –

David Speers: [mock laughter] Not in recessions though, not in recessions….

Paul Fletcher: You’re not the first ABC journalist to quote that [budget paper] to me this week, in fact you’re about the 4th. While I commend ABC journalists for your passionate commitment to the institution that you work for – and the ABC is very important, and our government backs it strongly, that why –

David Speers: [mock laughter] Maybe the reason you’re being questioned about this is because you’re the Minister responsible, so…

The discussion then turned on NSW Nationals leader John Barilaro’s letter supporting the campaign against the government’s indexation freeze with respect to the ABC.

Paul Fletcher: I’ll say two things. There is no cut, funding is stable –

David Speers: [mock laughter] That’s not how he [John Barilaro] sees it, but anyway.

But anyway, Well Done Speersy.

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 is 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.


Many a reader has expressed concern that MWD’s Correspondence section has gone into mothballs – due to, alas, the lack of correspondence in 2020.  Fortunately Clare (“Call me professor rather than a doctor”) Wright of La Trobe University has helped out this week.

The background is the report by Broede Carmody and Fergus Hunter in Nine Newspapers concerning the Coalition’s decision with respect to the proposed increase in tertiary university fees for such degrees as arts.  Now read on:

Clare Wright to Gerard Henderson – 30 June 2020

Hi Gerard,

Thanks for the shout out in this week’s MWD.

Then Dr Clare Wright (for a doctor she is) weighed in, telling the comrades at Nine Newspapers:

As I know you are a stickler for factual accuracy, I thought it wise to bring my promotion (as of October 2019) to your attention.  See below.



Professor Clare Wright OAM

ARC Future Fellow | Principal Research Fellow | Professor of History

Department of Archaeology and History

School of Humanities and Social Sciences

La Trobe University, Bundoora, Australia 3086


Gerard Henderson to Clare Wright – 30 June 2020

Dear Professor Clare Wright OAM ARC Future Fellow |  Principal Research Fellow | Professor of History (as of October 2019) La Trobe University.

Thanks for your email – which I received around Gin & Tonic time on Saturday afternoon. I have seldom received so welcome a note after half a dozen G&Ts.  I was delighted that you are not only a doctor but also a Professor (as of October 2019).  Congratulations and Well Done!  A well deserved promotion, to be sure.

As to your point about accuracy, I concede that the reference in MWD Issue 502 should have read as follows:

Then Professor Dr Clare Wright OAM (for a doctor she also is) weighed in, telling the comrades at Nine Newspapers:

[The] proposals threaten to turn the study of history, politics, anthropology and philosophy into a vanity practice. An indulgence of the elite rather than promoting the value of liberal arts training as the basis for any professional or creative practice. Aren’t we supposed to be the clever country? Talk about a dumbass country.

My only regret is that your brilliant career has been blighted by living (voluntarily) in what you regard as “a dumbass country”.  As I understand it, the word dumbass applies to someone who aspires to be a smart-arse but is too dumb to achieve this.

For my part, I would never be so rude about my abode – having been well brought up all those years ago in Melbourne.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson A.C. (aka Always Courteous) – male co-owner of Jackie (Dip. Wellness, The Gunnedah Institute, RSPCA Past Fellow).

Clare Wright to Gerard Henderson 30 June 2020

Dear Gerard,

Being at least six cups of English Breakfast tea into my day, it’s charming to receive your reply.

You see, this is what happens when you give phone interviews to journalists.  You say “dumbarse” and they hear “dumbass”.  The BE version is generally defined as “a stupid person”, and indeed I do consider the raising of university fees for the Humanities by 113% a seriously stupid move.

If you are suggesting that I should voluntarily emigrate from this country rather than use any modest platform that I may have to protest against its inanities, then I suspect we have a different definition of participatory democracy.




Gerard Henderson to Clare Wright – 3 July 2020

Dear Clare

Thanks for your English Breakfast tea inspired email of 30 June.

I note that you described Australia as a “dumbarse” not “dumbass” country. So you regard Australia as a “stupid” country not a “dumb” nation.

This will come as enormous relief to we non-professors who spend our days in quiet desperation in this  Vale of Tears while paying our taxes to help fund university professors and the like. We’re not dumb – just stupid. Let’s drink (Gin & Tonic) to that.

For the record, I have never suggested that anyone should voluntarily emigrate.  Not even Julian Burnside AO QC who threatened to do so if John Howard won the 2004 election.  Or was it 2001? For the record, Mr Howard did; Burnside QC didn’t.

The fact is I want all professors to remain in situ. After all, many provide great copy for Media Watch Dog each Friday and it would be difficult to get by without the help of Professor Clare Wright OAM ARC Future Fellow | Principal Research Fellow | Professor of History (as of October 2019) La Trobe University on occasions, at least.

Keep Morale High.



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Until next time.

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