ISSUE – NO. 509

14 August 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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Just after 7am this morning, RN Breakfast newsreader Matt Bevan took to Twitter to register his disgust with a supposedly offensive cartoon by Johannes Leak in today’s edition of The Australian. Here is the (alleged) offending cartoon and Bevan’s tweets:

While Comrade Bevan was “working hard” to figure out the cartoon, he apparently didn’t think to check former Vice President Joe Biden’s Twitter feed. If he had, he would have seen the following Tweet from a day earlier:

This Tweet is a line from Joe Biden’s remarks introducing Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate and the line was widely quoted in media reports of the speech. In fact, the ABC News website’s report on the event used the line as a pull-quote.

For the benefit of your man Bevan and anybody else struggling to interpret the cartoon, here is a simple explanation. Johannes Leak is using Joe Biden’s line about Kamala Harris inspiring little black and brown girls to point out that while Democrats like Mr Biden rail against President Trump’s supposed racism they are themselves very focused on race.

Matt Bevan may well disagree with the view expressed by the cartoon (assuming he could understand it), but does that mean it should fall outside the realm of public debate?

The RN Breakfast newsreader would apparently prefer Australians took to the streets to demand the firing of cartoonists they find distasteful. He even makes it clear he thinks The Australian should give in to the demands of these imagined protesters and fire Johannes Leak over the cartoon. This is, it should be said, an odd stance for anybody working in journalism to take.

Naturally the Twitter freak-out didn’t stop with Comrade Bevan. Throughout the morning he was joined in his condemnation by various media figures including Karen Middleton, Osman Faruqi, Greg Jericho, Katharine Murphy, Benjamin law, Dom Knight, Van Badham, Derryn Hinch, Michael Rowland, Virginia Trioli, Jonathan Green, Patricia Karvelas, Annabel Crabb, Julia Baird, Mike Carlton and Tim Soutphommasane. A veritable leftist media pile-on, to be sure.

Media Watch presenter Paul Barry also denounced the cartoon as “truly awful” and, in headmaster-style, tweeted that Johannes Leak “should be ashamed of himself”. This apparently based on Matt Bevan’s misunderstanding of the cartoon. It seems unlikely we will see any criticism of this media pile-on on next Monday’s Media Watch.

The pile-on was joined by countless less prominent Twitter denizens, leading to “The Australian”, “Johannes”, “Leak” and “Murdoch” all trending on Twitter throughout the day.


What a stunning performance by Nine Newspapers’ columnist – and MWD fave – Jenna Price on Network 10’s The Project last night.

With the exception of guest commentator Sam Maiden, the panellists (Waleed Aly, Em Rusciano and Gorgi Coghlan), along with guest Jenna Price were critical of those who have spoken up against Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ handling of the COVID-19 emergency in Victoria.  Joel Creasey stuck with jokes.

But no one was more in the Andrews camp than Jenna Price. First up, she declared that the premier has worked 48 days straight – overlooking the fact that many politicians work seven days a week. Here are some highlights:

Jenna Price: I think the treatment of Dan Andrews has definitely not been fair. I think that the Murdoch newspapers are determined to undermine him. I think that some State Liberal politicians are determined to undermine him.

Turn it up.  Comrade Price seems to think it improper that some Victorian Liberal Party opposition politicians are attempting to undermine the Labor premier. How shocking is that?

Then, asked as to when it might be appropriate to scrutinise Premier Andrews, Dr Price (for a doctor she is) had this to say:

Jenna Price: I think we need to wait a few weeks, few months for the intense scrutiny, because I actually don’t think you can scrutinise thoughtfully in the short term. So, let’s give everyone a break, let’s try and work together. And then the endless carping, the endless media attacks, I think have got to stop.

So there you have it. Jenna Price is a newspaper columnist who teaches media at the University of Technology, Sydney – and she wants individuals to stop “carping” and attacking their political rivals. Quite extraordinary, don’t you think?

Can You Bear It?


Did anyone see ABC’s Double J’s  Zan Rowe on the ABC TV News Breakfast program on Wednesday?  Comrade Rowe was talking about a matter she said was “not safe for work”. But added: “But I feel like – as most of us are working from home right now – that’s okay”. This view was not contested by News Breakfast’s  co-presenters.

Turn it up.  What kind of audience does News Breakfast – and for that matter Double J – have?  And where does Ms Rowe get the idea that “most of us are working from home right now”?

According to MWD’s research (i.e. a walk down the street), many people of working age at home are unemployed or are on JobKeeper benefits. Also, according to MWD’s extensive research, the following employees are not working from home.

Here’s a little list, in no particular order – after all, this is being written at Hangover-Time: (i) bus, train and tram drivers, (ii) miners, (iii) cooks, (iv) many teachers (v) many child minders, (vi) bakers, (vii) farmers, (viii) medical professionals, (ix) ambulance drivers, (x) police, (xi) retail staff, (xii) garbage collectors and (xiii) most importantly, liquor store delivery workers. And so on.   All this lot are essential workers – particularly (xiii).

And Double J’s  Zan Rowe reckons that “most of us are working from home right now”.  How out of touch can a taxpayer funded public broadcaster get?  Can You Bear It?

[I’m glad you stopped there. It seemed that you were intent on flashing your knowledge of Roman numerals. – MWD Editor.]


While on the topic of intellectual flashing, thanks to the avid (albeit locked-down) Melbourne reader who drew MWD’s attention to this tweet sent at 10.10 pm on 10 August 2020 by Julian (“I just love flashing my post-nominals”) Burnside AO QC.

Who does JB AO QC think he is fooling?  Your man Burnside – who lives in a pile in the affluent Melbourne suburb of Hawthorn, near the Yarra River – ran for the Greens against Treasurer Josh Frydenberg in the May 2019 election in Kooyong.

JB AO QC voted for himself – no surprise there.  Then he preferenced the Labor Party candidate ahead of the Liberal Party’s Josh Frydenberg. And he reckons he’s not a Labor voter in a political system which, currently at least, brings about a situation where only Labor or the Coalition is in office.  Can You Bear It?


The Australian Financial Review’s political editor Phil Coorey is something of a MWD fave – even though he once called Jackie’s (male) co-owner “a dill”. Yes, a dill. Hendo couldn’t sleep for weeks.  But MWD digresses.  This is the exchange which took place between ABC Radio National Breakfast presenter Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly and your man Coorey on Wednesday – at around 7.45 am:

Fran Kelly: Phil, we spoke earlier with the ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr about the one hundred Canberrans stranded south of the NSW/Victoria border –  banned from crossing the Murray [River] to drive home to the ACT. Now, obviously, the NSW premier has the right to keep her state safe from further infection. But logistically, keeping one hundred people stranded is really not okay is it? Especially with the politicians from Victoria being waved through.

Phil Coorey: Fran, this is an utterly appalling way to treat people….This is just how stupid it’s got. I mean the ACT – I can tell you from experience, the government here has actually done a very good job and we’re as squeaky clean as New Zealand. But we suffer by association with NSW because of our porous borders. So we’re banned from going anywhere basically. Queensland and the rest. So you’d think Berejiklian would cut some slack.

In the event, Gladys Berejiklian’s government did make it possible for ACT residents to pass through NSW to the Australian Capital Territory. Good show – and so on.  But what about Phil Coorey’s claim on Wednesday morning that the ACT is “as squeaky clean as New Zealand” when it comes to COVID-19?

Comrade Coorey seemed unaware that the previous evening New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern announced that there was a COVID-19 cluster in Auckland.  Only a dill could have missed this news. Can You Bear It?


It seems that AFR political editor and occasional Insiders panellist Phil Coorey was not the only one to miss a big story at breakfast time this week.  Take the case of Insiders’  executive producer Sam Clark, for example.

As MWD documented last week, on Sunday 2 August the entire Insiders team did not mention – during the panel discussion – Victorian premier Daniel Andrews’ failure to secure the state’s quarantine system, which allowed COVID-19 to escape into the Victorian community.  Instead, presenter David Speers and panel members Niki Savva, Mark Kenny and Katharine Murphy directed their fire on the handling of COVID-19 at Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Move forward one week. Just before midnight on Saturday 8 August, Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos put out a, well, unusual Twitter thread on, well, something or other. You be the judge.

It started not with a reference to the fact that Melbourne has gone into Stage 4 lockdown due to what appears to be a second surge of COVID-19 – but with the news that there is a “bust of the great Athenian statesman Pericles” that “sits proudly” in her office.  No surprise there.  After all, MWD  understands that your man Pericles was a proud kind of Athenian guy – so he would “sit proudly”, even at an advanced age.

The thread went on. And on. And on.  Sure Ms Mikakos said she was “deeply sorry”  if what she has done to confront the virus “wasn’t enough”.  But added that she could not “single-handedly report on the countless individuals and many agencies in our pandemic response”.  In other words, don’t blame Victoria’s Health Minister for any failures in Victoria’s health system with respect to COVID-19.

Ms Mikakos’ Stream of (Twitter) Consciousness ended with reference to “the plague in ancient Athens”. Really.

At 9 am last Sunday, Jackie’s (male) co-owner waited enthusiastically by his TV screen to see what the Insiders team would make of Jenny Mikakos’ midnight rant. But no one even mentioned it – a whole nine hours after Victoria’s Health Minister pushed the send button. Can You Bear It?

Media Fool Of The Week


MWD understands its readers. Consequently, Jackie’s (male) co-owner understands that there is huge interest in the result of the Twitter poll circulated this week by Sun-Herald columnist and Trump-hater Peter FitzSimons. Here it is:

Well it turns out that some 59,295 self-declared Aussies responded to The Red Bandannaed One’s poll. And just over 75 per cent believe that Donald J Trump will prevail over Joe Biden in the presidential election this November.  Really. It’s probably not what the Trump-hating Fitz anticipated.  But there you go.

Here’s part of the discussion that followed:

What a load of absolute tosh.  Fancy a Sun-Herald columnist imagining that any result in a poll like this would have any validity one way or the other.  He must have nothing much to do.

In any event, your man Fitz is not much of a political tipster – and seems to be following the tradition of the late Failed Prophet Bob Ellis and the (not late at all) Failed Prophet Peter van Onselen.

Here’s what the Sage of Neutral Bay had to say in 2018 about November 2020 and all that concerning Senator Elizabeth Warren:

So it was The Red Bandannaed One’s pound to someone else’s peanut that Elizabeth Warren would be the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate in 2020.  Senator Warren did not even make it to Democratic Party vice-presidential candidate.

Peter FitzSimons: Media Fool of the Week

The Evolution of the Red Bandannaed One at a Time of Pandemic (i) Fitz with Head cover (ii) Fitz with Mouth cover (iii) Fitz with Full cover



Due to overwhelming popular demand, this segment – which first appeared in Media Watch Dog on 6 March 2018 – makes a welcome return.  As avid readers will recall, it is inspired by the “Mutual Admiration Society” song which featured in the Broadway musical Happy Hunting.  Tune by Harold Karr, lyrics by Matt Dubey and sung in 1956 by Teresa Brewer:

We belong to a mutual

admiration society

My baby and me…

Now I do not exaggerate

I think he’s nothing

short of great

He says that kind of flattery

Will get you any place with me…

And so on. Many a mutual admiration society exists within the media. But none more so than within the ABC, a conservative-free-zone where almost everyone agrees with almost everyone else on almost everything and praises each other’s wisdom and so on.

And so it was on ABC TV’s Insiders program last Sunday where everyone admired the work of everyone else.  The Mutual Admiration Society in this instance comprised presenter David Speers (ABC) and panellists Shalailah Medhora (ABC’s triple J Hack), Gareth Parker (6PR) and Peter van Onselen (Network  Ten).

  • On Interstate Hard Border Closures

Shalailah Medhora: I just want to pick up quickly on something Gareth [Parker] said, because I agree that… I think these hard border closures are really popular all across the country.

 Peter Van Onselen: Absolutely.

 Shalailah Medhora:…So I just want to agree with what Gareth says.

  • On a “Virtual” Parliament

Peter Van Onselen: It doesn’t even need to be secure, does it? Because it’s an open forum….it gets broadcast anyway.

Gareth Parker: Exactly right.

Shalailah Medhora: Yeah

David Speers: Yeah that’s right, that’s right.

  • On University Funding & COVID -19

Shalailah Medhora: It’s really interesting to me that we’re putting all these hopes on a vaccine that is developed largely by our university sector and yet not putting any money into the university sector…

David Speers: Very good point….

Peter Van Onselen: Really well said. Absolutely.

David Speers: Indeed, indeed.

  • On Arts Funding

Shalailah Medhora: The fact that artists may have to wait until November to get any kind of support package, I think is just not good enough. We have to recognise that arts are a valuable – not just employer, but a valuable thing for audiences too.

David Speers: Yeah, they are.

Talk about a Mutual Admiration Society.  It’s hard to remember an occasion this year when anyone on Insiders disagreed with anyone else.

[I agree. Absolutely. Exactly right. Yeah. Yeah, that’s right. Very good point.  Really well said.  Absolutely. Indeed, indeed. Yeah. – MWD Editor.]



Melissa Davey’s book A Fair Trial (Scribe) was due to be released in early 2020.  The working title appears to have been based on the assumption that the High Court of Australia would dismiss Cardinal George Pell’s appeal against his conviction by a Victorian County Court jury, in a re-trial, on five charges of historical child sexual abuse.

As it turned out, the High Court overturned the majority decision of the Victorian Court of Appeal to uphold the jury verdict that Pell was guilty. The High Court did so in a unanimous seven to nil decision.  Media Watch Dog’s  learned friend is not able to recall a case where seven judges of the High Court overturned a decision by a State chief justice along with a court of appeal president in a criminal law case and quashed a conviction. If anyone knows of such a case, please let MWD know.

So what to do?  This was the problem which faced The Guardian’s  Melissa Davey and her publisher Henry Rosenbloom at Scribe.  Easy, really.  Change the title to take account of the High Court’s decision that the jury verdict in The Queen v Pell was not safe.  Hence Melissa Davey’s new title: The Case of George Pell.  It has received this endorsement by The Guardian’s  David Marr who, like Melissa Davey, is a Pell-antagonist:

At last, the secret trials of George Pell are revealed in compelling detail by one of the very few who was there throughout.  With unmatched authority, Melissa Davey answers the questions that haven’t gone away: why was the cardinal found guilty, and why was he then set free? – David Marr

In fact, no reporter sat through the whole trial – since no journalist was present when the complainant gave evidence via video-link.  Also, George Pell’s trials were not really “secret” – if they were, then Melissa Davey would not have been able to attend. MWD will cover The Case of George Pell in due course. In the meantime, it is worth analysing David Marr’s very own coverage of the Pell case – both in The Guardian and on the ABC.  Especially since the following comment appears at Page 294 of The Case of George Pell: “Conservative political commentator Gerard Henderson has attacked Marr’s reporting on Pell on numerous occasions.”

Trigger Warning – Comrade Marr was hopelessly wrong. Here’s why:

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On 29 June 2017, (then) Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton called a media conference at which he announced that Cardinal George Pell would be charged with an unspecified number of historical child sexual offences.

The following Sunday, 2 July 2017, the executive producer of the ABC TV Insiders program put the Pell charges on the program’s run-sheet for discussion.   This despite the fact that the Pell case had nothing to do with Australian national politics or with international affairs – the usual broad topics covered by the program.  Barrie Cassidy was in the presenter’s chair and the panel comprised (in alphabetical order) The Australian’s columnist Gerard Henderson, The Guardian’s David Marr and The Guardian’s  Katharine Murphy.  Cassidy and Marr were known Pell-antagonists while Henderson had expressed the view that Cardinal Pell had been the subject of a media pile-on which had affected the legal process.

First up, Barrie Cassidy asked David Marr (the author of The Prince, a hostile book on Pell) a question.  It led to a long answer where Marr professed to know about Victoria’s legal processes.  Let’s go to part of the transcript:

David Marr : ….he [Pell] is charged [with]…multiple historical sexual assault offences involving multiple complainants. Now the usual way in which trials of this kind then proceed is for there to be separate trials for each complaint. And in Victoria, the usual way for those series of trials to proceed is that none can be reported until the final one is resolved.

Barrie Cassidy: Because one might impact on the other?

David Marr: Because one would impact on the other…

Gerard Henderson: Well they’re now—

David Marr: No, just a second Gerard. So, it is highly likely that though these trials won’t be called secret trials, they won’t be held in camera, but it is highly likely that the public will know nothing of what he’s accused of, or the results of any of these trials, for perhaps four or five years.

Gerard Henderson: Well David, you don’t know that. You have no idea.

David: Marr: Well I’m, I’m only going— Gerard

Gerard Henderson: You don’t know.

David Marr went on to defend (then) Victoria Police Commissioner Graham Ashton who said – even before Pell was charged – that the complainants in this case were “victims”.  They were not – they were “complainants”.   In fact, Pell was not convicted on any of the multiple charges of historical child sexual abuse with which he was charged by Victoria Police – since the only conviction was quashed by the High Court.

  • David Marr was wrong. Cardinal Pell faced one trial including a retrial – not a series of trials. And the trials did not take four or five years.

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In December 2018, Cardinal Pell was found guilty by a jury at his re-trial in the Victorian County Court on five charges of historical child abuse. This was not made public until 26 February 2019.

That night, David Marr appeared on ABC TV’s The Drum.  Marr attacked several commentators who had expressed doubt at the jury’s verdict that Pell was guilty beyond reasonable doubt – namely, Andrew Bolt, Frank Brennan and Peter Craven. No panellist supported Pell.

Marr was asked by presenter Craig Reucassel (another Pell-antagonist) about the verdict and he made the following response:

David Marr:  Look, there’s a possibility that the appeal might be successful, but even so it’s curtains.

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On 11 December 2018, Cardinal Pell appealed his conviction to the Supreme Court of Victoria’s Court of Appeal.

Writing in The Guardian on 31 May 2019, David Marr said that “George Pell stands a good chance of winning his appeal next week” but argued that, if he did, any acquittal would be likely to be overturned in an appeal by the Victorian Director of Public Prosecutions to the High Court of Australia.

  • David Marr was wrong. The Victorian Court of Appeal, in a majority decision, upheld the jury’s decision in The Queen v Pell.

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In the same article, David Marr referred to the case of one-time Christian Brother John Tyrrell whose conviction of historical child sexual abuse was quashed by the Victorian Court of Appeal on 15 March 2019.  Marr suggested that the High Court would probably overturn the Victorian Court of Appeal’s decision in the Tyrrell Case.

  • David Marr was wrong. In a majority decision on 15 March 2019, the Victorian Court of Appeal in John Francis Tyrrell v The Queen overturned the jury’s decision. Later, the High Court dismissed the DPP’s application for special leave to appeal in the Tyrrell Case.

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On 17 September 2019, Cardinal Pell appealed against the majority decision of the Victorian  Court of Appeal to the High Court.

On 22 August 2019, David Marr discussed the likelihood of George Pell’s appeal to the High Court succeeding on ABC TV’s The Drum:

Ellen Fanning: Why does this in a way feel more significant than the original verdict? A greater sense, perhaps, of the nation holding its breath on this?

David Marr: Well to a large extent a narrative had grown up that the conviction of Pell by the jury was somehow only provisional and everybody I think is grateful that it was appealed and that it could be looked at again by the court. And the reality – though there are still a lot of commentators around today saying that somehow it remains an open question because it wasn’t a unanimous Court of Appeal – the reality is that George Pell is now a convicted child abuser and he has been convicted in an ordinary way by a unanimous jury upheld by a majority Court of Appeal. It’s final.

The likelihood of an appeal to the High Court being successful is, I think, very low. Because peculiarly the case was not complex. It was really just a fresh assessment of the facts by this court. The Court of Appeal was really working as a third jury. They looked at all the facts again and the Chief Justice [Anne Ferguson] today when she was delivering her summary of the court’s findings, said: “Look, this is an investigation of the facts.” And the High Court I think is most unlikely to want to conduct its own investigation of the facts. I think this is the end of the road for George Pell.

  • Once again, David Marr’s assessment was hopelessly wrong. On 7 April 2020 the High Court did conduct its own investigation of the facts of the case and quashed Cardinal Pell’s conviction in a unanimous seven to nil decision.

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 Sydney’s Drive with Richard Glover in the “Trump Tuesday” slot 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/Biden admirers and left-of-centre types. Now read on.


After much prompting from MWD, the US[eless] Studies Centre’s David Smith has finally woken up that Joe Biden is at least in with a chance to win the November 2020 United States presidential election. And so, in the last couple of weeks, Dr Smith (for a doctor he is) has eased off on his Trump-phobia and looked a bit at Mr Biden and his campaign.

And so it came to pass that, on Tuesday, Comrade Smith finally got around to discussing who might be the vice presidential candidate on the Democratic Party ticket. It happened to be shortly before Joe Biden announced that the favourite, Kamala Harris, had got the gig.

This is how your man Smith (eventually) led into the discussion about the V.P. pick.  Let’s go to the transcript:

David Smith: With an election campaign that is so focused on Trump and the coronavirus and the economy, in some ways Biden’s pick has never mattered less. But in other ways it’s never mattered more. Because Biden is 77 years old and, you know, he appears to be in pretty good shape. We saw him riding a bike around last week. But if you were an actuary you would say that whoever Biden picks as his V.P., if Biden wins, that person has a higher than normal probability of actually becoming the President.

How about that?  The vice presidential position – which your man Smith had not discussed in his earlier appearances on ABC 702’s Drive with Richard Glover – “has never mattered less”.  But, also, “it’s never mattered more”.  Dr Smith is an academic. Oh yes, he reckons that Joe Biden is in “pretty good shape” to become US president because, after all, he can ride a bike.

The US[eless] Studies Centre’s man then discussed Kamala Harris:

David Smith: …Another knock on Harris for a lot of Democrats is she really expanded “tough on crime” policies [when attorney-general] in California. And these are really on the nose in the party at the moment. At a time when, even though Biden is avoiding any suggestion of defunding the police, that’s quite a popular position within the party….

So David Smith told Richard Glover that defunding the police is “quite a popular position with the Democratic Party at the moment”. Really.  All of the Democratic Party, apparently, according to the US[eless] Studies Centre’s American “expert”. What a load of tosh.

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Until next time.

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