ISSUE – NO. 528

5 February 2021

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MWD Exclusive


Recent times have seen ABC personalities speaking out in defence of the taxpayer funded public broadcaster. Here’s one example.

Following an article  from RMIT University’s Professor Sinclair Davidson in the Australian Financial Review  on 15 January 2021 – titled “The ABC no longer has a purpose, apart from pleasing itself” – Nick Leys (ABC Head of Communications) put out a statement.  Now your man Davidson has been known to criticise The Sydney Institute as well as the ABC.  So MWD has no particular brief for the learned RMIT University professor.  However, MWD was fascinated by Comrade Leys’ case for the ABC’s defence – which contains the following proud boast:

In 2020 Australians turned to the ABC in record numbers, highlighting its role as Australia’s most trusted and valued media organisation. Among the audience data:

  • ABC News was the nation’s #1 digital news brand every month for the past 12 months.
  • ABC News’s average daily digital audience is up 79% on 2019 to 2.2 million people and its average monthly audience is 38% higher at 12.5 million.
  • ABC TV was the #3 network in 2020, for the first time since 2013….

Hang on a minute.  In his statement, Nick Leys declared that the ABC is “Australia’s most trusted and valued media organisation”.  His evidence? Well, it includes the statistic that ABC TV, for the first time since 2013, finished third in the Network News stakes.  Behind Network 7 and Network 9 but, for the first time in a decade, ahead of Network 10.

In short, ABC TV News finished second last in a four horse race.  And yet the ABC’s Head of Communications maintains that the ABC is Australia’s most trusted and valued news organisation.  But not trusted or valued enough, apparently, to top the ratings or even finish second for TV evening news bulletins.

So, according to Nick Leys, a clear majority of Australians watch TV news bulletins which they trust and value less than the ABC.  How about that?

[Perhaps this item should have been included in your hugely popular Can You Bear It? segment.  Just a thought. – MWD Editor.]

Can You Bear It?


Did anyone watch the inaugural edition of ABC TV’s Insiders (presenter David Speers, executive producer Sam Clark) which aired on Sunday?  If so, viewers would have learnt something new about China. Surprisingly “new”, indeed.

According to established historians, the Chinese Communist Party – under the leadership of dictator  Mao Zedong – came to power in Beijing in October 1949 following victory in its war against Chiang Kaishek’s Kuomintang (KMT). The CCP has ruled the Republic of China ever since.  Or has it?

Here’s what Peter Hartcher, the international editor of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, had to say during the “Final Observations” segment on Insiders on Sunday:

Peter Hartcher: We’ve seen clearly this year what we didn’t see the same time last year. We’ve seen the fragility of democracy exposed in the US. And we see the determined rise of a fascist great power, China, which Kevin Rudd describes as the enemy of liberal democracy. We, I think, in Australia and all democracies need now to understand – that what we thought was inevitable, permanent and fixed, is actually a vulnerable, endangered, and sacred trust, democracy survival, and we need to treat it like that.

What a load of absolute tosh. China is not a “fascist great power”.  It is what China’s leaders say it is – namely a substantial communist power in which the Chinese Communist Party is in control. Unless Comrade Hartcher uses the term “fascist” to mean some people or organisation which you do not like – the term is meaningless with respect to the Chinese Communist Party’s rule of China.

Italy, under Mussolini, was fascist.  Germany, under Hitler, was Nazi.  And China under Xi Jinping is communist – as was the Soviet Union under Lenin and Stalin.  And Nine Newspapers’ international specialist does not understand this. Can You Bear It?


While on the topic of Insiders last Sunday, what a great performance by Katharine (“I predicted that Christmas would be a super-spreader COVID-19 event – but I’m not apologising for my own contribution to Fake News”) Murphy.

Murpharoo was one of the three Guardian types on the program last week. Along with photographer-at-large Mike Bowers and political reporter Amy Remeikis. Ms Murphy is The Guardian Australia’s political editor. There were also two ABC types – Speersy and Triple J’s Hack’s Shalailah Medhora plus Nine’s Peter Hartcher.  It was no surprise, then, that essentially everyone agreed with everyone else on essentially everything.

But MWD digresses.  MWD just loves it when Comrade Murphy is on the Insiders couch – real or “virtual” – since she invariably provides great copy for MWD.  Last Sunday, Murpharoo – who is expected to make considered comment on Insiders – threw the switch to a Fawn Again moment as she praised Labor’s left-wing frontbencher Mark Butler – who was moved in a reshuffle last week from shadow minister for climate change to shadow minister for health.  Let’s go to the transcript – of Comrade Murphy’s contribution in the “Final Observations” segment:

Katharine Murphy: Well said [Peter Hartcher]. A couple of things very quickly. Very interesting pre-selection in the Liberal Party this afternoon, Kevin Andrews. Let’s see what happens with that. The other one, just quickly. I want to say as a citizen – I want to thank Mark Butler for his service over a couple of terms, at least. He has been relentlessly on the side of the climate science. He has tried to do the right thing by the planet and by the country. And I think anybody in politics who you can say that about is worthy of our thanks.

So there you have it.  Half the Insiders  team last Sunday work for the proudly left-wing Guardian Australia three out of six. And Comrade Murphy ended the program with an embarrassing load of flattery directed towards Labor’s left-wing minister Mark Butler. No other view was heard. Can You Bear It?


Yeah, sure. Murpharoo’s paean on Insiders for Comrade Butler and all his works and all his pomps was quite a suck-up.  But, perhaps, not of the quality exhibited by former Los Angeles Times journalist Dan Morain who was interviewed by Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly on ABC Radio National Breakfast  on 26 January.  To wit, Australia Day or perhaps “Invasion Day” or perhaps “Let’s Have a Holiday at the End of January” Day.

Your man Morain is the author of the recent biography of United States vice-president Kamala Harris titled Kamala’s Way: An American Life (Simon & Schuster). Reviewing Morain’s biography in The Wall Street Journal , the British-Indian writer and journalist Tunku Varadarajan commented that Morain is “a writer deferential to Harris”.  You can say that again.  Let’s go to the transcript of the RN Breakfast discussion where Morain threw the switch to the fawn button – with the apparent endorsement of Comrade Kelly:

Fran Kelly: California has produced some high level and interesting, to say the least, politicians over the years. Arnold Schwarzenegger comes to mind, Nancy Pelosi is from California, former Governor Jerry Brown. You’ve been reporting on California politics since 1991. You describe Kamala Harris as one of the most fascinating politicians you’ve ever covered. Why is that?

Dan Morain: Well, she is, she’s charismatic, she’s tough, she’s demanding on her staff. She’s walks into a room and lights it up. She’s the sort of person your listeners may have seen grilling Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, and sort of leaving him tongue tied. And the same with Jeff Sessions. But she’s also the charming person who appears on Oprah and other television shows. She’s quite a character study.

Wow.  It seems that the former LA Times journalist is in love, sort of, with Vice President Kamala Harris. In spite of the fact that he did not talk to her or any of her family about the book.

It was one of those leftist-luvvie interviews.  Fran Kelly’s reference to “high level and interesting” Californian politicians over the years did not include the most famous – President Ronald Reagan, a Republican.  And Dan Morain’s reference to Kamala Harris leaving the likes of Brett Kavanagh and Jeff Sessions tongue-tied did not mention that Harris also left Joe Biden tongue tied on one occasion.  Remember the US Democratic Party presidential candidate debate on 27 June 2019 when Harris accused Biden of siding with the white supremacists in opposing the school busing of black children in the 1970s and 1980s?  A somewhat unfair charge, it seems.

Well, Morain didn’t remember this.  And nor did Kelly.  It was as if Kamala Harris just walked into the room and lit up the lights.  So much so that Dan Morain, stunned by her entry, got blinded to reality – without challenge from Kelly.  Can You Bear It?


While on the topic of books, MWD has been inundated with requests for intel about how ABC journo Louise Milligan’s book Witness (Hachette, 2020) went in the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards.  As avid readers will recall, Issue 527 revealed that Comrade Milligan had gone on Twitter on 12 January to urge her followers to vote for Witness in this award and advised that voting closed on 19 January.  She conceded that this was a “shameless request” – but made it without shame.

Guess what?  Witness won – providing further evidence for the proposition that advertising works.  On Tuesday it was announced that “the 2020 People’s Choice Award went to Louise Milligan for Witness”.

As MWD understands it, you don’t have to be a Victorian to vote in the Victorian Premier’s Literary People’s Choice Award.  Nor, apparently, does any person have to demonstrate that they have read their “choice” book.  It would seem to be all about “the vibe” – as they say.

Jackie’s (male) co-owner did not vote for any of the short-listed books in these awards.  Hendo regards himself as disqualified as he has actually read Witness.  It’s tough work at 373 pages without sub-headings, without photographs and without an index and replete with somewhat dull prose.  Needless to say, Louise Milligan appears to be the star of her own book – as anyone who makes it to Pages 372-373 will discover.

Still, well done Ms Milligan – above all, for demonstrating that shameless self-promotion works.  Can You Bear It?

[Er, no. Not really.  But this is really good news, surely, for Louise Adler’s team at Hachette.  In August 2020 Hachette published Peter Fox’s book Walking Towards Thunder which contains a front cover endorsement by ABC TV journalist Paul Kennedy. He declared that Peter Fox’s “honesty will blow you away”.  Alas, Walking Towards Thunder was withdrawn from sale by Louise Adler and the Hachette team in October 2020 – and a grovelling apology was issued to Detective Inspector Jeff Little.  Peter Fox is something of an ABC Fave.  MWD cannot find any evidence that the ABC in general, or Paul Kennedy in particular, reported the immediate fate of Peter Fox’s tome. Quelle Surprise! – MWD Editor.]


It’s just on two years since Michael Gallo reported in Nine’s Sunday papers that ABC TV’s The Drum’s co-presenters, Julia Baird and Ellen Fanning, were intent on presiding over a kinder/gentler program. As Ellen Fanning put it:

The best shows are when someone leans around me and says to another guest, “Say that again, that’s interesting.” They’re having a genuine dialogue and actively considering other points of view.

And so it came to pass that the campaign of Dr Baird (for a  doctor she is) and Ms Fanning for a kinder/gentler The Drum has produced many a dull show as panellists were invariably nice to each other and/or agree with each other or both.  That plus the fact that some conservatives have been de-platformed by The Drum – while some others will not go on the program. So there’s not much debate on The Drum which was commenced to promote discussion at the ABC.

Here’s the story of two of Australia’s leading economic journalists – both of whom are well informed, lively and considered – who have been cancelled by The Drum.  First up, the Australian Financial Review’s Aaron Patrick and then The Australian’s Adam Creighton.

Let’s hear from Aaron Patrick on Sky News’ Sharri program – presented by Sharri Markson – on Sunday 14 December 2020 – when discussion turned on the lack of political diversity on ABC programs:

Aaron Patrick: Sharri, this is such a perennial and also important issue, because the ABC just has such huge reach. And so many people watch it, and read its material online, listen to it on radio. It’s a really powerful and important institution in Australian life. And politically it’s incredibly powerful too. And you know, clearly, it caters towards, in general in its news and current affairs, a more inner-city sensibility.

Now, I’ve got a personal experience here which I want to share with you. I used to be a regular appearee on The Drum, which is their nightly, sort of, current affairs talk-fest, which has been, which was talked about in this review, from this BBC ex-advisor. Now I was banned from The Drum after getting into an argument with a fellow panellist, a woman, about corporate tax. And, I’m a big believer that we’ve got to lower corporate tax and get companies employing people and it’s not a big conspiracy to rip people off from companies. But, you know, after that, I was not welcome anymore…. I used to be on every month or so. And two years now, that’s it. Now look, The Drum‘s got a complete right to invite whoever it wants on there. And absolutely, I completely respect that….

Now Aaron Patrick is not a conservative – more like an economics-aware social democrat.  But, it appears that he was too conservative for The Drum and disagreed with a fellow panellist in a lively kind of way. You see, he supported cuts to company tax.

By the way, Aaron Patrick’s reference to the “BBC ex-advisor” turned on the report commissioned by the ABC conducted by one-time BBC journalist Kerry Blackburn titled ABC Editorial Review No 19: Impartiality of the Federal Election 2019. See MWD Issue 526. Ms Blackburn’s report criticised certain Drum and Insiders  programs in the lead-up to the May 2019 election for lack of political diversity.

And now let’s hear from Adam Creighton. This is what he wrote in The Australian on 29 December 2020:

I wasn’t planning on becoming a “right-wing” extremist this year. And you wouldn’t have seen it coming. Criticising banks, advocating modest land and inheritance taxes — even being open to junking refundable franking credits if it meant cutting income tax — have been hallmarks of my writing over the years. Old “DLP” Labor sprinkled with a bit of libertarianism I thought summed me up best.

Forget all that. Now Wikipedia declares me an “arch neoliberal”. It started suddenly in April [2020] when I wrote we “might be overreacting to an unremarkable virus”, eliciting an extraordinary backlash of bile. My fate was sealed around May when I admitted on ABC’s The Drum, when pressed, that I had recently shaken someone’s hand at a private party in Sydney. The revelation proved too much for audience and panel alike, and I haven’t been asked back since. Nine years of regular appearances on the national broadcaster gone because I thought clinking elbows was almost as silly as imploring people to “stay safe”….

Now Adam Creighton is not a conservative – more like a libertarian with a social justice tinge (the latter relating to the economic policy of the late Democratic Labor Party).

But both Aaron Patrick and Adam Creighton seem to have been banished from The Drum for being controversial – in a political kind of way.  No wonder The Drum  has become so boring – in a kinder/gentler way.


As avid readers will recall, in MWD Issue 57 (11 June 2010) Matt Canavan drew attention to that part of Evelyn Waugh’s novel Scoop in which the snobbery of the leftie journalist Pappenhacker was revealed.

Waugh’s line was that a wealthy communist, university-educated chap named Pappenhacker believed that the best way to undermine the capitalist system was to be rude to the members of the proletariat.  This would make them angry and help to bring about a revolution. Your man Pappenhacker specialised in being rude to waiters. Others, it seems, target taxi drivers (as did Margaret Throsby – See MWD Issue 500). And then there is Julian (“I just love flashing my post-nominals”) Burnside AO AC and Virginia Trioli – See MWD Issue 504.

Isn’t it interesting that many a self-proclaimed progressive – or leftist – journalist looks down on the poor and the oppressed and the not-so-well-educated.  Here are two recent examples.

  • Andrew Hornery – the Sydney Morning Herald and Sun-Herald gossip columnist writes the “Private Sydney” column for both Nine newspapers. It’s a must-read for anyone who feels that they must-read about the private lives of Sydney personalities. Jackie’s (male) co-owner reads “Private Sydney” every Sunday morning and, later in the day, provides it as a plate for Jackie’s evening meal.  It’s called (gossip) recycling of a different kind.

This is how the Sun-Herald’s gossip columnist commenced his piece on 31 January:

When I wrote about Samantha Armytage in this column a month ago, the Sunrise co-host, who had ignored my overtures to pick up the phone and talk, opted for her usual response: a dummy spit on social media and a bit of name calling, labelling me “a grot”.

My crime? Reporting that – given Armytage’s supposedly happier new life with her millionaire husband and home in the country – a question mark hung over her future at the helm of Sunrise and the unrelenting daily grind of breakfast TV, which she partially stepped back from last year.

Armytage was incensed. So much so she emboldened many of her hundreds of thousands of fans to chime-in. The mostly anti-masker, anti-lock-down Trumpianesque whack-jobs with shabby grammar threatened all manner of ill-will. No doubt they will be barking at the shadows of Twitter yet again today after reading this. Woof, woof.

Yeah – “woof, woof”, whatever that means. What’s important here is the contempt which Comrade Hornery demonstrates for those he describes as “whack-jobs with shabby grammar”. How snobbish can a gossip columnist get about the educational standards of his critics?

  • And then there is The [Boring] Saturday Paper’s boring Paul Bongiorno who writes a boring column each week in Morry Schwartz’s vanity publishing effort. The Saturday Paper is based in the inner-city Melbourne suburb of Carlton – having moved recently from inner-city Collingwood. Or is it the other way around?

As a rule, Hendo does not read Bonge’s column.  Life is too short to wade through such sludge at Hangover-Time on Saturday.  However, Hendo does read Bonge’s Twitter feed.  They are somewhat livelier – posted, frequently, after Gin & Tonic Time. Like this one, issued on 20 January:

Wow, some 74 million Americans voted for Donald J. Trump in last November’s US presidential election. Apparently, Bonge regards them all as “gun toting, intellectually challenged white trash followers”.

How snobbish can you get?  The [Boring] Saturday Paper’s most boring columnist looks down on those whom he dismisses as “intellectually challenged”.  This is all very well for  Paul (“I once shared digs with Gerald Ridsdale but I don’t talk about it much”) Bongiorno whose education was provided free of charge by the good Catholic people of Ballarat in the 1960s and 1970s.  After all, it was Ronald Mulkearns, the Catholic Bishop of Ballarat, who sent the (then) Fr Bongiorno to study at Propaganda College in Rome.  It’s reasonable to expect that some Church-going Catholics in Ballarat at the time, who put money on the plate each Sunday, were “intellectually challenged”.  But Bonge apparently did not reject such folk at the time and was happy to accept the largesse of Ballarat micks to head off to the Vatican for some years.

But now Paul Bongiorno B. Sacred Theol, STL (Pontifical Urban) – as he presents himself in Who’s Who in Australia – looks down on those whom he regards as intellectually challenged.  Especially around 7 pm on a Wednesday night.

[I note that Deborah Richards tweeted in response to Bonge: “You mean the insecure disaffected working class the Democrats forgot while they embrace Wall Street.” A somewhat different view of Trump’s supporters. Bonge responded: “Hmm – think that through.”  A somewhat intellectually challenged response by Bonge don’t you think? – MWD Editor.]


Following last week’s issue, lotsa MWD’s avid readers have requested that – from time to time – this year Jackie’s (male) co-owner looks back on the highlights of The Year of the Rat.  And so it will be done.  Commencing with a highlight in 2020 in the “Great Media U-Turns of Our Time” segment.


The ABC’s Dr Norman Swan is not a specialist in disease control.  Indeed, as far as MWD is aware, Dr Swan (for a medical doctor he is) is not currently a practising medical practitioner.  Even so, throughout most of 2020, the ABC presented Comrade Swan as a go-to person for expert opinion concerning COVID-19 and all that.

So, no doubt, ABC viewers were interested in the view of the Doctor in the (ABC) House  in 2020 about the wearing of masks at a time of pandemic.  Here they are:

  • Norman Swan on why Masks Do Not Work

Norman Swan:  Masks are pointless. Your chances of walking past a person with

the illness or being on the same train or bus as them are not much higher than

winning the lottery. So by wearing masks, you are unnecessarily using a resource

that is needed for health workers who will be directly exposed to infected patients,

and need it for people with the illness to cut the chances of them spreading it.

– Norman Swan on ABC’s 7.30, Wednesday 4 March 2020.

  • Norman Swan on why Masks Do Work

Norman Swan:   Masks work – they can reduce transmission by around 70 per cent,

and have been under-utilised in Australia largely because the group advising the

National Cabinet has in the past offered qualified support for their use.

– Norman Swan on ABC’s 7.30, Monday 20 July 2020

So there you have it.  Or not – as the case may be.

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.


As readers will be aware, the ABC TV’s three-part Revelation series was discussed in MWD last year. A book of the same name by Sarah Ferguson and Tony Jones was due to be published by Hachette in late September 2020 but has been put back to a date in the second half of 2021.  Gerard Henderson had intended to raise issues about Revelation  when the book was published.  In view of the delay in publication, he decided to write to the pair in mid-December 2020 about the TV program.  The former had the courtesy to respond – the latter did not.  Now read on, if you wish.


Gerard Henderson to Sarah Ferguson – 14 December 2020 [also written to Tony Jones]


I am writing to you in your capacity as the presenter and director of Episode 3 of Revelation. As you will recall, you described the testimony of “Bernie”, whom you interviewed on camera, as compelling with respect to his allegations of historical child sexual abuse in the 1970s and 1980s by Cardinal George Pell.

My questions are as follows:

  • Were you aware that when Cardinal Pell was interviewed in Rome by Victoria Police on 19 October 2016 he strongly denied the allegations made by “Bernie” which were put to him by Detective Sergeant Chris Reed?
  • If so, why was this not mentioned in Revelation Episode 3?
  • If not, did you attempt to ask anyone close to Cardinal Pell or Victoria Police as to whether the “Bernie” allegations had been raised during the Rome interview?
  • Towards the end of Revelation, you did not challenge Viv Waller’s statement (of Waller Legal) that there were eight civil claims to be made against Cardinal Pell. Did you fact-check this statement?  If so – are you aware of the details of these alleged civil claims?

I know you are busy – but I would appreciate a brief response by the close of business on Wednesday.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson


Sarah Ferguson to Gerard Henderson – 15 December 2020

Hi Gerard,

Just saw this. Wont make your wed deadline but I will do my best to get back to you by the end of the week.




Gerard Henderson to Sarah Ferguson – 15 December 2020


Thanks for responding.

I can see why you might not be able to answer the final question in my email re Viv Waller and the (alleged) eight civil claims made against Cardinal Pell.

However, I would have thought that someone who won a Walkley Award for a program which was shown only about nine months ago should be able to reply promptly to the first three questions which relate specifically to Episode 3 of Revelation viz:

  • Were you aware that when Cardinal Pell was interviewed in Rome by Victoria Police on 19 October 2016 he strongly denied the allegations made by “Bernie” which were put to him by Detective Sergeant Chris Reed?
  • If so, why was this not mentioned in Revelation Episode 3?
  • If not, did you attempt to ask anyone close to Cardinal Pell or Victoria Police as to whether the “Bernie” allegations had been raised during the Rome interview?

Certainly, Questions 1 and 3 above only require “Yes” or “No” responses.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson


Sarah Ferguson to Gerard Henderson – 19 December 2020


The program featured the fact of the questions put to Cardinal Pell in Rome by Victoria police about Bernie’s experiences. Those denials were furnished late in production by Cardinal Pell’s spokesperson and were included at the end of the program.

We had previously asked Victoria police about the interview but they declined to provide any response to questions about the content regarding Bernie.

I did question Ms Waller’s references to further complaints and they were satisfactorily fact checked.

It is entirely reasonable for questions to be posed. It is also reasonable for me to expect that Bernie and all the participants in the series be treated with respect and where appropriate, compassion. Cardinal Pell himself urged us to listen to complaints of heinous sex crimes committed by adults on children.

Bernie was prepared to put his face and name on camera. He is Bernie – not “Bernie”.



Gerard Henderson to Sarah Ferguson – 21 December 2020


In your email of 19 December 2020, you write:

The program featured the fact of the questions put to Cardinal Pell in Rome by Victoria police about Bernie’s experiences. Those denials were furnished late in production by Cardinal Pell’s spokesperson and were included at the end of the program. We had previously asked Victoria police about the interview but they declined to provide any response to questions about the content regarding Bernie.

I have watched Episode 3 of Revelation – which aired on ABC TV – twice.  I do not recall any reference in Episode 3 to Cardinal Pell being interviewed by Victoria Police in Rome – in spite of the fact that I watched it twice.

It would be appreciated if you could send me, in due course, the script of Revelation, Episode 3 and I will quote the reference in due course.  As a one-time presenter of a Four Corners program (believe it or not), I understand that ABC TV programs come with an accurate script for presenters, producers, writers etc.  I would like to receive this by the end of January.

In conclusion, I make the following points:

  • I referred to Bernie as “Bernie” because, as you know, his full name was not mentioned on Revelation.  It was not an attempted insult.
  • It is true that Cardinal Pell has urged us to listen to complainants about heinous sex crimes committed by adults on children.  It is also true that it is unwise to regard all complainants as victims.  Most are. But not all – as was demonstrated most forcefully in the Carl Beech (aka “Nick”) case in England which was quoted by the dissenting judge (Justice Mark Weinberg)  in the Victorian Court of Appeal in George Pell v The Queen.
  • It’s true that Bernie warrants respect.  However, it’s also true that he made allegations that Pell had committed vile criminal acts on him without independent evidence.  The Victorian Police’s interview with Pell demonstrates that Bernie’s claims were contested vigorously by Pell who pointed out that they could not have happened.

Bernie was not queried by you on Revelation – since you regarded him as an “astonishingly compelling” witness.

Such an approach with respect to the demeanour of complainants has been ruled out by the High Court in M v The Queen (1994) and now again in Pell v The Queen (2020). It would be expected that senior ABC TV reporters take note of High Court judgments and check claims against other available evidence. It’s called professional journalism – which is somewhat different from believing what you want to believe.

Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.



Gerard Henderson to Sarah Ferguson – 5 February 2021


I note that you did not send me the script of ABC TV’s Revelation Episode 3 titled “Goliath” – which I requested that you do by end of January. My email of 21 December 2020 refers.

I believe that this was a reasonable request – from a taxpayer to a taxpayer funded journalist concerning a taxpayer funded program which was shown on the taxpayer funded public broadcaster. But apparently not.

In view of your decision not to send me the Revelation script, I got someone to do a script for me concerning the program which aired on Thursday 2 April 2020 –  and the revised version which came out after the High Court quashed Cardinal Pell’s conviction – which is on ABC iview.

Having read the original and revised scripts of Revelation Episode 3, I make the following comments:

  • In your email of 19 December 2020, you wrote: “The [original] program featured the fact of the questions put to Cardinal Pell in Rome by Victoria police about Bernie’s experiences. Those denials were furnished late in production by Cardinal Pell’s spokesperson and were included at the end of the program.”

This is somewhat ambiguous.  In fact, this is the comment that appeared in written form after the program ended and before the credits:

A spokesperson for Cardinal Pell told the ABC that the allegations raised in the program were put to Cardinal Pell in 2016 by Victoria Police. He denied them emphatically and has denied all allegations of child sexual abuse.

This statement could have been referred by you in your original episode story – and not after it concluded.  It wasn’t.  Also, it would have been fair and professional to state that Cardinal Pell voluntarily agreed to be interviewed by Victoria Police in Rome on 19 October 2016 about Bernie.  Pell was not compelled to do the interview – but viewers would not know this by reading the reference on screen after Revelation concluded.

More seriously, you did not even refer to the statement that Pell had emphatically denied Bernie’s claim, when interviewed by Victoria Police, in the body of the iview version of Revelation.  You had plenty of time to do this – but you and Tony Jones (as the writer) obviously chose not to. Why?

Instead, early in the iview version of Revelation you had this to say:

Sarah Ferguson: The story you’re about to see is that of a new witness, who claims George Pell sexually abused him when he was a young boy in the 1970s. He is a compelling witness. We’ve done our best to part the mists of time to assess his story, and we believe it passes the Cardinal’s own test of being valid and plausible. It also has implications that stretch all the way to the Church’s citadel in Rome

If you have read Justice Weinberg’s dissenting judgment in the Victoria Court of Appeal – and followed the High Court hearings in Pell v The Queen – you would be aware that Australia’s leading judges have warned against believing the testimony of a witness on the basis of their demeanour – “compelling” or otherwise.  You say nothing about the High Court’s warning in the iview version of Revelation, produced after the High Court’s unanimous decision.  Instead you imply that Bernie’s allegations (unsupported by any witness or forensic evidence) meet Cardinal Pell’s position as to what amounts to a valid and plausible complaint.  This is intellectually dishonest.

Yet, on the basis of your belief that Bernie is an “extraordinarily compelling witness” – you effectively accept all his allegations.

  • Elsewhere in the iview version of Revelation, you make this claim:

Sarah Ferguson: Cardinal Pell would spend more than 12 months in jail before his conviction was overturned. His ordeal before the courts could have been longer. A planned second trial was abandoned as unlikely to succeed. Our story is about a key witness in that trial….

What is your evidence to support your assertion that Bernie was to have been “a key witness” in what was termed the Swimmers Trial? – which, was abandoned by the Victoria Director of Public Prosecutions due to lack of evidence. You have provided no evidence that Bernie was on the prosecution’s witness list.

As Revelation revealed, Bernie declined to give evidence against Pell at the committal proceedings in the Magistrates’ Court on matters unrelated to the charges about the Eureka Pool  in Ballarat.  There is no evidence that he would have been called by the prosecution to give evidence in what was called the Swimmers Trial.  I assume that you just made this up.

  • I note that the statement by Vivian Waller to which I referred in our correspondence does not appear in the iview version of Revelation – no explanation is given for this.

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In conclusion, I note that you continue to maintain that Bernie is a “new” witness against Pell discovered by the Revelation documentary This is not true.  Bernie was interviewed by Victoria Police and scheduled to give evidence in the Victorian Magistrates’ Court.  He is in no sense a “new witness” discovered by Revelation  as you imply in the iview version of Revelation Episode 3 and elsewhere.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson


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Until next time


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