ISSUE – NO. 506

24 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 – Leigh Sales’ sorry performance; The ABC’s Kathryn Diss on Chicago & Trump; Andrew Probyn reports on Andrew Probyn

  • Can You Bear It? Karen Middleton’s made-up scoop re The Queen & John Kerr; How to not be interviewed by a journalist who hates you – just say no; Professor Mark Kenny on COVID-19 & the energised Joe Biden

  • New Segment: M’Learned Friend Opines – On the matter of Pell v The Queen

  • An ABC Update – On Insiders everyone agrees with everyone else that Kerr got it wrong

  • Howler of the Week – Crikey’s Adam Schwab verbals Dr Nick Coatsworth

  • The US[eless] Studies Centre – Trump-phobic David Smith forgets about Joe Biden

  • History Corner – Jenny Hocking’s other conspiracy theory

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Last night on the ABC 7.30 program, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg got presenter Leigh Sales to ‘fess up that when she says she is “sorry” for interrupting – she is not sorry at all.  In fact, the interjection is done with what lawyers might call malice aforethought.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Leigh Sales: On the tax reform question, is the government planning to go ahead with the second phase of its income tax cuts due in 2020?

Josh Frydenberg: Look we’ll make decisions about that legislated time table in the context of our budget which will be handed down on October the 6th. But I do point out to you –

Leigh Sales: [interjecting] So, sorry to interrupt, there will be a decision about those income tax cuts in that budget?

Josh Frydenberg: Oh look, we’re constantly looking at our options. But when it comes to that tax time table, it was set out very clearly to the Australian people, that was endorsed by the Australian people, we successfully legislated it after the election. And what it will see is a major reform to the tax system where 94 per cent of taxpayers will pay a marginal rate of no more that 30 cents on the dollar. So where they earn –

Leigh Sales: [Interjecting] But Treasurer

Josh Frydenberg: Yep.

Leigh Sales: On that point, sorry to cut you off there.

Josh Frydenberg: You’re not really sorry, but that’s okay.

Leigh Sales: I’m not actually….

 Well done Treasurer Frydenberg.  It’s now official that when ABC presenters say that they are “sorry” for interrupting Coalition or Labor politicians (they’re usually soft on the Greens) it’s not to be taken seriously.  Just a fake attempt at manners. But what an admission.  Josh 3; Leigh: Zip


Increasingly ABC journalists fail to observe the distinction between reporting and opinion.  Take, for example, Kathryn Diss’ report on ABC Radio AM this morning concerning the current unrest in some United States cities.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Kathryn Diss: Chicago’s next. Donald Trump has ordered hundreds of federal agents to the city in response to 67 shootings, 11 fatal, over the weekend. Even though they had nothing to do with the protest movement…It’s part of the President’s new law and order campaign strategy as he seeks to distract from a sinking economy and an out of control pandemic just over three months out from the presidential poll.

For starters, the report is incorrect.  Writing in the Chicago Sun-Times on 20 July 2020, Sam Charles had this to say:

Chicago Police Department leadership on Monday sought to highlight the attacks on officers during a violent confrontation at the Christopher Columbus statue in Grant Park. After showing six minutes of video footage captured during the clash Friday, Supt. David Brown repeatedly stressed violent protests force the department to divert resources from the South and West sides, where shootings are most prevalent.

Seventy people were shot over the weekend, 10 fatally, according to a log maintained by the Chicago Sun-Times. Ten minors were hit by gunfire, keeping with an alarming recent trend in which young children have been shot throughout the city.

Contrary to Kathryn Diss’ claim, the shootings in Chicago are not unrelated to the protest movement – since the riots have diverted police forces away from the areas where the major shootings have taken place.

And then there is the matter of opinion.  Comrade Diss’ statement that President Trump’s law and order focus is a deliberate distraction to take attention away from the pandemic and the economy is just her opinion.  No more; no less. If the AM reporter quoted someone saying this – that would be okay.  But it’s not the role of a reporter to cross the line into comment.


What a stunning performance by ABC TV political editor Andrew Probyn on 7.30 last night. He managed to make himself the story by directing provocative comments to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann. And he arranged for the ABC camera to focus on his efforts.

First up, your man Probyn appeared to suggest that he was breaking the news about the massive deficit in response to COVID-19 pandemic – which somehow deauthorised the Coalition’s commitment to surpluses:

Andrew Probyn: Debt and deficits have long been the Coalition’s political obsession. Trucks, festooned in dedication.

[Debt truck clips]

Andrew Probyn: A trucking good idea? …[Groan. MWD Editor]

Andrew Probyn: Before the pandemic, the surplus was so close, Scott Morrison could even see the future…But last night, the economic gravity of the COVID recession hit home. Treasury finalising the most staggering set of numbers in generations…

Most of this was not news.  Everyone who follows  Australian politics and economics knew that the Treasurer and Finance Minister were about to announce a massive deficit – brought about due to no fault of their own.

And then Andrew Probyn appeared on his own media conference reality show – sitting on a chair – and thought it was worth filming and showing this inept exchange:

Andrew Probyn: To pay off this whacking great record debt –

Mathias Cormann: Lower than most other countries around the world. Just making the point.

Andrew Probyn: Thanks Finance Minister. You have to increase your tax intake or cut government spending. When can the economy afford to do either?

Josh Frydenberg: Well it won’t surprise you that both Mathias and I will challenge the premise of your question. Because what our experience has been is that we’ve grown the economy.

Comrade Probyn was attempting to make something of the fact that the traditionally anti-debt and anti-deficit Coalition was presiding over one of the largest deficits in Australian history.

True. But this is a non-point.  Australia has never experienced a situation where a government has shut down large parts of the economy – not even during the 1919-1920 Spanish Flu pandemic.  If Andrew Probyn reckons he can resolve Australia’s economic problems he should run for politics or apply for a job in the Treasury Department.

Can You Bear It?


What a beat-up. But at least Morry Schwartz’ The [Boring] Saturday Paper is trying to be less boring.  This was at the top of The Saturday Paper when it found its way into the inner-city coffee shops in Melbourne, Sydney and so on last weekend:

Palace Letters:  Archives searching for missing correspondence sent before Whitlam Dismissal. By Karen Middleton

Since The Saturday Paper goes to press on Thursday  and, consequently, contains no news – Jackie’s (male) co-owner reads it on Monday. What’s the hurry?

Certainly Page One this week sparked interest.  The implication is that the Palace Letters, between Australia’s Governor-General Sir John Kerr and the Queen’s private secretary Sir Martin Charteris, are not complete. Could the missing letters tell us something about the Dismissal of 11 November 1975, Hendo wondered. He had reason to – since both Sir John Kerr and Gough Whitlam were featured in The Saturday Paper’s front page – implying that the missing letters had something to do with Kerr’s decision to dismiss Whitlam.

Turn to Page 3 – and it’s a dud.  Sure there are three missing letters in the National Archives of Australia’s collection of Kerr’s three years’ correspondence with the Palace.  It’s just that none of the missing letters relate to the Dismissal. Yawn.

Journalist Karen Middleton allegedly revealed details about what Kerr wrote to the Palace about how he had not been advised of the holding of an important meeting of the executive council in 1974.  The Prime Minister did not inform Kerr of the meeting till after it occurred. Comrade Middleton appears to believe that this is the first we have known of Kerr’s side of the story.  Not so – it is all set out in Kerr’s 1978 book Matters for Judgment: An Autobiography (Macmillan).  See Chapter 15.

Then Comrade Middleton had this to say of the events leading up to 11 November 1975:

As the political climate deteriorated into a full-blown crisis, with Liberal leader Malcolm Fraser refusing to provide Whitlam’s government with supply, Kerr wrote letter after letter to the palace, reporting every detail to a riveted monarch.

A “riveted Monarch”?  How does Karen Middleton know this?  There is no evidence that the Queen ever read the Kerr-Charteris correspondence. Comrade Middleton just made this up about the “riveted” Elizabeth II. Can You Bear It?


Geraldine Doogue, who presents Saturday Extra on ABC Radio National and more besides, is one of the ABC’s best broadcasters.  She is invariably well-informed, balanced and more interested in the answers of others than her own questions. A MWD fave, for sure.

Last Saturday Ms Doogue interviewed the producer and director Blair Foster – who has recently directed The Clinton Affair which chronicles the events leading up to the impeachment trial of US president Bill Clinton.  Among those interviewed is one-time White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

It turned out that Linda Tripp, who broke Monica Lewinsky’s personal story and revealed the Clinton/Lewinsky affair, declined to be interviewed for the documentary.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Geraldine Doogue: …This is what’s so interesting. You’re able to persuade Monica Lewinsky to talk to you for the documentary. You weren’t able to persuade Linda Tripp whom I think I came to actually hate.

Blair Foster: You’re not alone.

Geraldine Doogue: Now, she [Linda Tripp] recorded her friendly conversations with Monica Lewinsky. Really, she becomes chief villain in the saga. You would have spent a lot of time looking into her actions. Before we get to Monica, how do you assess Linda Tripp?

Blair Foster: I will say my biggest regret with the series is that I wasn’t able to persuade her to come on camera to do an interview. I actually spoke with her off camera. And I should say Linda passed away earlier this year, she died of cancer earlier this year. I spent the entirety, really, of the series trying to reach out to her. I finally was able to connect to her and spoke with her over the course of several days and tried to persuade her because I do think whenever you put a name to a face, somebody becomes human in a way….

You have to admire Ms Foster’s chutzpah and Ms Tripp’s judgment.  Blair Foster wanted Linda Tripp to do an interview for The Clinton Affair – in spite of the fact that Ms Foster admitted that, at the time of the Clinton affair, she actually hated her. A smart “no” from Linda Tripp. But a certain lack of self-awareness here on Blair Foster’s behalf, don’t you think?  Can You Bear It?


Once upon a time a young man or woman who aspired to be a professor in a social science department of a university knew what to do. To attain what was termed “a chair”, it was expected that the professorial aspirant would attain an academic position and then work up to be a professor through teaching and research.  Including the publication of significant articles in journals and a book or two.

Not any more.  It seems that a background as a Labor Party staffer followed by working as a journalist for the ABC and (the late) Fairfax Media is good enough.  Oh, yes – and some time on the ABC TV Insiders couch. Step forward Mark (“Call me Professor”) Kenny – who holds a chair of something or other at the Australian National University in Canberra.  Well done Prof.

These days hardly a Sunday morning passes when the learned professor does not give viewers of Insiders or Sky News’ Sunday Agenda the benefits of his thought.  Last Sunday he appeared on Sunday Agenda. Kieran Gilbert was the presenter and the other panellist was the Australian Financial Review’s Phil Coorey – who also sits on the Insiders (currently virtual) couch.

And so it came to pass last Sunday that your man Coorey was critical of the way the Victorian Labor government, led by Premier Daniel Andrews, had handled the COVID-19 response.  Comrade Kenny was much less critical of Mr Andrews and blamed Prime Minister Scott Morrison for not initiating a lockdown that lasted for six months.  Really.  At one point the following discussion took place:

Mark Kenny: Can I just make one quick point. Do you remember the PM used to say when he was arguing against hard lockdowns, he would say “Now remember whatever we do, we have to do for six months”. The truth is we didn’t do it for anything like six months.

Phil Coorey: Yeah because we didn’t have to.

Mark Kenny:  No, true, but maybe we did have to.

Brilliant response don’t you think?  Worthy of a bloke with an ANU chair, to be sure.  Your man Kenny agreed that, before the recent Victorian COVID-19 breakout, Australia did not need a full six months lockdown.  But then he said that “maybe we did”.

Later on, discussion turned to the United States’ 2020 presidential election in November. Needless to say, Professor Kenny bagged President Donald J Trump for his handling of the pandemic – but not any of the State governors or city mayors.  Then Comrade Kenny commented:

Mark Kenny: I still think the energised candidate will be the Democrat here. Simply because this bloke has a very – this is Trump – has a very energised base – but I don’t think there’s much evidence that he’s grown that base. I do think there’s a lot of evidence that he’s grown his opponent’s base.

So Professor Kenny reckons that the Democratic Party candidate Joe Biden – who spends most of his time in a basement in Delaware and has done very few interviews – is the “energised candidate”. Not Donald Trump.  And this from an ANU professor. Can You Bear It?

[Er, no. Not really.  With insight like this, I’m sure the Prof will get an invite to become a visiting professor at the US[eless] Studies Centre. MWD Editor].

In this new occasional segment, Media Watch Dog’s editor will invite an LL.B. type to comment on a legal matter – presumed to be of interest to MWD readers.  Here we go:


According to Michael Bradley, managing partner of the Sydney law firm Marque Lawyers, “Marque exists solely to disprove the theory that all lawyers are boring and overpriced.”  In which case MWD trusts that m’learned friend was not paid by Crikey for the article which was published in the newsletter on 23 June 2020 titled “Dyson Heydon shows how judges aren’t just blind to the abuse of power, they’re complicit”. The article contains the following statement:

It’s instructive to note that recent sexual assault or harassment cases involving prominent men, including George Pell, the judges who ultimately ruled in their favour expressed deep reservations about the likelihood of the alleged offending having ever occurred. The key aspect of Pell’s alleged offences were their brazenness. He was accused of raping two choir boys in the sacristy of a crowded cathedral directly after mass, then molesting one of them again in a busy corridor. The point here isn’t whether he did it or not; the point is that the judges expressed serious doubts about whether he would have been so stupid as to risk his reputation by such extremely risky behaviour.

I want to be very clear about what I’m saying. I am not relitigating that concluded case, or any others. I am pointing to a pattern of comprehensive misunderstanding about the motivation and mechanics of sexual offending by powerful men, which will continue to protect them from consequences until it is corrected. To state the bleedingly obvious: this is not about sex, it is about power.

To use a non-legal term, m’learned friend’s analysis is absolute tosh. If the managing partner of Marque Lawyers has carefully read the High Court’s decision he would know that seven High Court judges did not decide the case on the issue of a reputation risk in Pell v The Queen.  That’s just nonsense.

With respect to the First Incident, the reason for the High Court’s decision can be found in Paragraph 118 – viz:

118 It may be accepted that the Court of Appeal majority did not err in holding that A’s evidence of the first incident did not contain discrepancies, or display inadequacies, of such a character as to require the jury to have entertained a doubt as to guilt. The likelihood of two choirboys in their gowns being able to slip away from the procession without detection; of finding altar wine in an unlocked cupboard; and of the applicant being able to manoeuvre his vestments to expose his penis are considerations that may be put to one side. It remains that the evidence of witnesses, whose honesty was not in question, (i) placed the applicant on the steps of the Cathedral for at least ten minutes after Mass on 15 and 22 December 1996; (ii) placed him in the company of Portelli when he returned to the priests’ sacristy to remove his vestments; and (iii) described continuous traffic into and out of the priests’ sacristy for ten to 15 minutes after the altar servers completed their bows to the crucifix.

In other words, contrary to Michael Bradley’s assertion, the High Court’s unanimous decision did not turn on reputational risk or risky behaviour.

It was the same with respect to the Second Incident – as Paragraphs 124, 125 and 126 indicate.

124 The assumption that a group of choristers, including adults, might have been so preoccupied with making their way to the robing room as to fail to notice the extraordinary sight of the Archbishop of Melbourne dressed “in his full regalia” advancing through the procession and pinning a 13 year old boy to the wall, is a large one. The failure to make any formal report of such an incident, had it occurred, may be another matter.

125 It is unnecessary to decide whether A’s description of the second incident so strains credulity as to necessitate that the jury, who saw and heard him give the evidence, ought to have entertained a reasonable doubt as to its occurrence. The capacity of the evidence to support the verdict on this charge suffers from the same deficiency as the evidence of the assaults involved in the first incident.

126 Portelli gave unchallenged evidence of his recall of being with the applicant at solemn Mass on 23 February 1997. Portelli recalled that this was an unusual occasion because Father Egan was the celebrant. The protocol remained that the applicant as the most senior person was last as the procession processed down the centre aisle of the Cathedral.

In other words, Richard Bradley’s interpretation of the unanimous High Court decision in Pell v The Queen – as told to Crikey readers – is hopelessly wrong.


As avid Media Watch Dog readers are aware (see Issue 505), the ABC TV 7.30 program interviewed two commentators following the release on 14 July of the Palace Letters – between Governor-General Sir John Kerr and the Queen’s private secretary Sir Martin Charteris.  the Palace Letters demonstrated that Sir John did not inform the Queen in advance of his decision to dismiss Gough Whitlam’s Labor government on 11 November 1975.

The 7.30 segment, narrated by presenter Michael Rowland, heard from Kerr-hater Professor Jenny Hocking and Kerr-critic Dr Paul Kelly. No other view was heard. That’s political debate – 7.30 style.

Move on to the ABC TV’s Insiders – which is the taxpayer funded public broadcaster’s most important current affairs program. Last Sunday, David (“Call me Speersy”) Speers was in the presenter’s chair in Melbourne and the panel consisted of three Canberra-based members of the Canberra Press Gallery.  Namely the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age’s David Crowe, The Guardian’s  Katharine Murphy and the Herald-Sun’s Annika Smethurst.  Total Canberra, in fact.

Towards the end of the program, discussion turned on the Palace Letters.   Ms Smethurst took a dispassionate view of the Dismissal – neither supporting nor criticising Kerr’s actions on 11 November 1975.  But Comrades Murphy, Crowe and even Speers bagged Kerr.  No other view was heard.

First up, an angry Murpharoo told viewers that she was “just willing” herself “not to go Full Irish on the program” and, consequently, was just taking a moment to “calm and centre” herself. It didn’t work.  The leftist Guardian’s leftist political editor declared how she had become “enraged…reading these letters”.

According to Comrade Murphy, it was improper for the governor-general to countenance with the Queen’s private secretary the options he might take to resolve the political crisis caused by the Malcolm Fraser led Coalition’s decision to block supply. It seems that The Guardian’s  political editor is unaware that, in the lead-up to 11 November 1975, the possibility of a dismissal was being widely canvassed in Australia – including by Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser.  This was not a dialogue between Sir John and Sir Martin alone.

Then David Crowe weighed in.  He asserted that “there was advice coming from Buckingham Palace” and stated that the argument that the Palace “didn’t play any part” in the Dismissal did not stack up.  Comrade Crowe overlooked the fact that, in a letter dated 4 November 1975, Sir Martin reminded Sir John that the reserve powers to dismiss a government should only be used “at the very end and when there is demonstrably no other course that they should be used”.  This was hardly a green flag.  The leftist Crowe then asserted that The Palace provided the Governor-General with “fundamental advice”.  Not so.  Rightly or wrongly, Sir John got his fundamental advice from Chief Justice Sir Garfield Barwick and High Court Justice Sir Anthony Mason.

The program moved to the “Talking Pictures” segment. Then it was time for “Final Observations”. Comrades Murphy and Crowe returned to the favourite topic of the moment, that is something that happened close to half a century ago. Groan.  Let’s go to the transcript:

David Crowe: I was lucky enough to get a call back from Labor senator Doug McClelland the other day on the Palace Letters. He turns 94 in two weeks’ time. He entered the Senate in 1962, he was there on 11 November, 1975, and he said: “Not only was it a dismissal of the Labor government, a duly elected government, but it was a wanton disregard of the will of the House of Representatives in expressing no confidence in the Fraser government.” Because of course there was a vote of no confidence in Malcolm Fraser on that day. But here’s to all the people of a ripe old age getting through this pandemic, including the ones who are still maintaining the rage.

David Speers: Hear! Hear!

Katharine Murphy: I know we’ve got to be tight, so I’ll just say what I said a minute ago, read the Palace Letters. Understand your history. It’s important.

David Speers: Yep, alright, concise and well said.

So Speersy did a “Hear! Hear!” to Comrade Crowe’s echoing of Gough Whitlam’s call to “Maintain the Rage”. No one supported Sir John Kerr’s decision to dismiss the Whitlam government or said what would have happened, on 12 November 1975 and after when supply to fund the Commonwealth Public Service, the Australian Defence Force and much more besides, was running out and there was no possibility of holding and concluding an election before the end of the year.  But, then, journalists are not in the business of making decisions with respect to government – they are in the business of commentary.

What’s more, none of the Murpharoo-Crowe-Speersy trio criticised the person who initiated the political crisis in the first place.  Namely, the latter day leftist hero Malcolm Fraser.  Yet without Fraser, there would have been no Dismissal because there would have been no blocking of supply.

Instead, Insiders engaged in an update of the “Kerr’s a Bastard” catch-cry of half a century ago as David agreed with Katharine who agreed with the other David who agreed with Katharine who agreed with herself.  That’s what passes for discussion and debate on Insiders  these days.



The Wednesday 22 July edition of Crikey Daily featured a piece by Adam Schwab titled “COVID-19 pronouncements should be taken with a grain of salt”. It included the following claim concerning Australia’s deputy chief medical officer Dr Nick Coatsworth:

Two days ago it was widely reported that Dr Nick Coatsworth, Australia’s deputy chief medical officer, had said Victoria’s intensive care capacity was at 82% and COVID-19 cases accounted for one in 10 intensive care patients. This was despite 31 people currently being in intensive care in Victoria due to COVID-19. Based on this ominous warning, Victoria would have only 400 intensive care beds in total. [emphasis added]

However, a few days earlier modelling performed by the Grattan Institute provided to Nine said: “Victoria would need to record between 960 and 1885 new infections daily for 10 days to fill the state’s existing intensive care beds.” And: “The state has 695 intensive care beds and the capacity to rapidly expand that number if cases surge, according to state Health Minister Jenny Mikakos.”

Has Mr Schwab uncovered an embarrassing mistake by the Deputy CMO? Let’s go to the transcript of Dr Coatsworth’s 20 July press conference:

Nick Coatsworth: Now, at the moment, based on normal capacity in Victoria, only 82 per cent of beds are currently being used… Down in Victoria at the moment, less than one in 10 patients hospitalised in intensive care units actually have COVID-19. [emphasis added]

Well what do you know, the qualifier “less than” didn’t survive the journey from Dr Coatsworth’s lips to Adam Schwab’s ears. And here is a quote from The Age article of 17 July on the Grattan Institute’s modelling referenced by Mr Schwab:

Victoria’s ICU beds were 85 per cent full last Thursday [9 July], with 380 out of 446 staffed beds full.

So according to The Age, Victoria has 695 ICU beds but only 446 beds currently being staffed. Mr Schwab apparently assumed Dr Coatsworth’s 82 per cent usage figure referred to the first total (695) and not the second (446). Based on this assumption and his misquoting of Dr Coatworth’s “less than one in 10” remark, Schwab arrives at the conclusion that Dr Coatsworth was undercounting Victoria’s ICU capacity by around 300 beds. He then blames Dr Coatsworth for his own faulty calculation.

Schwab’s hit on Dr Coatsworth concludes:

While Coatsworth wasn’t technically lying, he doesn’t appear to have been upfront that Victoria has plenty of surge capacity.

Again, let’s go to the transcript of Dr Coatsworth’s press conference:

Nick Coatsworth: Health Minister Mikakos last week mentioned there were 1,000 new beds created since the start of the pandemic for intensive care in Victoria. 1,200 ventilators within their system… Because in the middle of what we would usually term as our flu season, where our intensive care units would often be close to 100 per cent capacity, we still have existing capacity, within our system, without surging…suggesting that we do have significant capacity within our system still before we hit that point where we would actually need to surge. This is great news for those who require intensive care for severe COVID disease.

Adam Schwab apparently came away from this with the impression that Dr Coatsworth was not being upfront with Victoria about a surplus of surge capacity. Perhaps it’s Mr Schwab’s COVID-19 pronouncements that should be taken with a grain of salt?


As avid readers are only too well aware, Professor Simon Jackman (the head of the United States Studies Centre) said in November 2016 that no one at the USSC expected that Donald J. Trump would defeat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.  He also ‘fessed up that no one at the USSC supported Donald Trump. David Smith, who suffers from Trump-phobia, is a USSC staff member who appears regularly on ABC Radio in Sydney as the USSC’s “expert” on the US.  In short, the taxpayer funded USSC is close to being a Republican Free Zone replete with Trump-haters and Clinton/Obama admirers and left-of-centre types. Now read on.

While on the topic of the forthcoming US presidential election – has anyone been listening to the oh-so-predictable “Trump Tuesday” segment on ABC Radio Sydney’s Drive with Richard Glover?   Perhaps not – which would come as no surprise.

Take the last four weeks for example.  On each Tuesday, David Smith – from the taxpayer funded United States Studies Centre at the taxpayer funded University of Sydney – has had the “Trump Tuesday” gig.  And each week on “Trump Tuesday” David Smith has focused on bagging President Trump.  Except for last Tuesday when the Trump-hater Smith also referred in passing to the campaign of the somewhat erratic Kanye West who has no hope of winning in November – even if he does contest the ballot on behalf of, yes, the Birthday Party.

It’s always unwise to make predictions about election outcomes.  But commentators should be able to determine if a candidate has a path to victory.

What’s missing from David Smith’s Trump-obsessed analysis is that he has virtually ignored the campaign of Joe Biden, the Democratic Party candidate. Yet, currently, Biden leads Trump in most polls.  This does not mean that there will arise President Biden next November.  But it does mean that the former vice-president is in with a chance.  But you would never know this if you followed the thought of the US[eless] Studies Centre’s David (“Call me doctor, but not if you need advice re COVID-19”) Smith.




And so it came to pass that Professor Jenny Hocking’s conspiracy theory – that the Queen was directly involved in the Dismissal of Gough Whitlam’s Labor government by Governor-General Sir John Kerr on 11 November 1975, has been debunked.  As MWD readers are aware, the release of the Palace Letters reveal that Sir John wrote to Sir Martin Charteris on 11 November 1975 advising that he had dismissed the Prime Minister without advising Queen Elizabeth II in advance.  This was acknowledged by Sir Martin in a letter to Sir John dated 17 November 1975.  For Gerard Henderson’s most recent take on this issue – see his column in The Weekend Australian last Saturday along with MWD Issue 505.

What was missing from the Palace Letters was any reference to a certain Sir Michael Palliser. Who’s Sir Michael Palliser?  MWD hears avid readers cry.  Well, according to the 2017 edition of Jenny Hocking’s The Dismissal Dossier, Sir Michael – then the permanent under-secretary of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) – arrived in Canberra in October 1974 and held a meeting with the Governor-General.

Er, except perhaps that he didn’t. As readers of Professor Hocking’s tome will be aware (if readers there are), she never established that the two men ever met.  But Dr Hocking (for a doctor she is) did discover a FCO draft itinerary which indicated that such a catch-up was proposed.  That was enough for her to deduce that the meeting had been held to plot the Dismissal.  Clearly Dr Hocking, a lifetime academic, has a limited understanding of how official visits are planned and negotiated.  Draft itineraries are just that – drafts.

Needless to say, there is no record of anything said at any Kerr/Palliser meeting in the FCO files – or, indeed, the Palace Letters.  Which is hardly surprising since, almost certainly, the event never took place.  In short, Jenny Hocking’s conspiracy theory concerning Palliser of the Foreign Office was not even based on hearsay evidence. There was no evidence at all. Not surprisingly, Peter (“Look at me”) FitzSimons believed the Hocking conspiracy theory – see his article in the Sydney Morning Herald on 17 October 2017.  As the Red Bandanna One put it at the time:

The upshot of the meetings appeared to be that Kerr could go ahead to dismiss Whitlam, as the Queen’s position could be protected. Hocking describes it in her book as Kerr getting “the royal green light”.

So there you go.  Your man Fitz knows what happened at a meeting which almost certainly never happened. But MWD digresses. [As usual – MWD Editor].


Jenny Hocking was a researcher on the taxpayer funded documentary Conspiracy which aired (believe it or not) in the “True Stories” series of documentaries on the taxpayer funded ABC on 19 February 1995.  Conspiracy was directed by Daryl Dellora and produced by Sue Maslin. It was written by Daryl Dellora and Ian Wansbrough with Jenny Hocking as research consultant.

Conspiracy turned on the bombing of the Hilton Hotel in Sydney on 13 February 1978 – during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting.  In the event, Evan Pederick, a member of the Ananda Marga sect, pleaded guilty to the offence and served a lengthy prison term for the crime.  The story is well told in The Hilton Bombing: Evan Pederick and Ananda Marga (MUP, 2019) by Imre Salusinszky. Salusinszky’s 2020 talk on the topic can be found on The Sydney Institute’s website or on YouTube.

Put simply, Daryl Dellora’s Conspiracy did not accept that the Hilton Hotel bombing had been carried out by the Ananda Marga – despite all the evidence, including Evan Pederick’s guilty plea.  Instead, Conspiracy presented the event as a massive conspiracy involving one or more Commonwealth and NSW government entities.  Specifically, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), the Australian Defence Force (ADF), the NSW Police Special Branch and more besides – including parts of the New South Wales judicial system. Really.

The Dellora/Wansbrough/Hocking thesis goes something like this.  The Hilton Hotel bombing was a bungled security exercise.  Viewers of Conspiracy were offered several options – provided, of course, the concept of conspiracy was taken as a given.

According to Conspiracy, the bombing was probably an exercise undertaken by ASIO with the assistance of one or more State Special Branch offices.  The aim was to show that terrorism was a real threat in Australia and that ASIO and its State counterparts were deserving of more funds to fight and monitor political terrorism.  In this scenario, someone in or close to ASIO planted the bomb but it exploded accidentally before the sting could be enacted.

Dr Hocking’s preferred conspiracy theory is equally bizarre.  Interviewed for the documentary, she reckoned that the killings “may well have” resulted from a bungled police and security forces “counter terrorist training exercise” – not all that dissimilar from the disastrous exercise at the Melbourne Sheraton Hotel in the early 1980s.  The only problem here is that the Sheraton Hotel debacle was revealed within days and an official enquiry promptly set up.  And no one was killed or injured in the Sheraton Hotel bungle.

According to this version of the conspiracy, the conspirators did not get around to evacuating all the Hilton Hotel guests and forgot to tell the garbage truck drivers not to empty the bomb into their truck.  She argued that “it is not unknown for these exercises, as all human endeavours, to go wrong, to fall into error at some point”. Really.

As Imre Salusinszky puts it in The Hilton Bombing:

Perhaps so; but killing three innocent men is a very significant “error”, and Hocking is unable to cite any others on a similar scale.  And does she think that had the exercise worked as planned, the government would have been happy about its agencies choosing a major international meeting as the venue for a training drill using live explosives?

And what of Evan Pederick in all this – the man who, after all, is sitting in Berrima Gaol [at the time Conspiracy went to air] serving a lengthy prison term for the bombing?  Making his entry forty minutes in [to the program], Evan scores precisely one minute and six seconds in Conspiracy.  His appearance is mainly a platform for Russell Hogg – identified only as a legal academic, not as the former secretary of Academics for Justice – to outline the weak points in his trial testimony without mentioning any of the corroborative or supportive evidence that came to light. It is likewise not mentioned that Evan was convicted of the bombing, or that he is serving a long sentence for it, or that he was a member of the Ananda Marga and represented the sect in Brisbane and Canberra.

So there you have it.  Evan Pederick was doing porridge at Berrima Gaol for the Hilton Hotel bombing and yet this was not mentioned in Conspiracy – where Comrade Hocking blamed ASIO and others.  And the ABC ran this conspiracy sludge in its “True Stories” series.

[Perhaps you should have run this in your hugely popular Can You Bear It? segment – just a thought. – MWD Editor.]

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Until next time.

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