As avid readers are aware, due to technical problems, Issue 532 of Media Watch Dog  did not come out on Friday.  Here it is today. The next issue will go out as normal next Friday.

* * * *

GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG

ISSUE – NO. 532

8 March 2021

* * * *

* * * * *

  • LOUISE MILLIGAN IGNORES HIGH COURT PRECEDENT IN HER CAMPAIGN AGAINST CHRISTIAN PORTER

 Talk about the Cult of Personality. Yesterday Sally Neighbour, the executive producer of ABC TV’s Four Corners, tweeted this message about tonight’s program:

Not to be outdone, Four Corners’ reporter Louise Milligan soon tweeted:

Get the picture?  ABC TV’s latest attack on Attorney-General Christian Porter is not so much a program put together by Four Corners’ staff collective. Rather, is “My Story”- with Louise Milligan as the “my”. [Oh, my – MWD Editor.]

MWD just loves it when journalists interview journalists about their journalism.  Which is what happened on ABC TV News Breakfast this morning when co-presenter Lisa Millar interviewed Louise Milligan about “Bursting The Canberra Bubble”. Or did she?

In fact Comrade Millar, in an extremely soft five-minute interview, asked only two questions totalling 14 words. They were: “What can you tell us about tonight’s episode?” and “So, where does it all go?”  [Worth a Walkley nomination, for sure. – MWD Editor.]

This is Louise Milligan’s final comment on News Breakfast this morning:

But at the base of it is a very, very sad story of a woman who struggled, you know, after this time with lifelong mental illness that no one can know why she had it, like she had bipolar disorder. But according to her friends, and we hear from them at length in the story tonight, she told a clear and compelling story of her allegation. They loved her, and they want that story to be known.

Louise Milligan is from the school of journalists who believe what they want to believe.  She said that “J”, the complainant in the George Pell case, was a “compelling” witness.  But somewhere between ten and two jurors in the first trial (a mistrial) did not agree.  Nor did Justice Mark Weinberg in his dissent in the Victoria Court of Appeal.  Nor did all seven judges in the High Court of Australia in Pell v The Queen.

Louise Milligan is forever referring to the fact that she has an LLB degree. However, the High Court of Australia has warned against placing too much emphasis on the perceived demeanour of a witness.  This was the High Court’s message in the criminal cases Pell v The Queen (2020) and M v The Queen (1994). And also in the civil case of Fox v Percy (1983) where the majority comprised Chief Justice Murray Gleeson and Justices Michael Kirby and William Gummow.

In short, legal precedent in Australia warns against mounting a case against someone (e.g. Christian Porter) on the basis of a view as to whether or not a complainant is “compelling”.  Justice Virginia Bell made this very clear during the hearings in Pell v The Queen.

But don’t expect Louise Milligan to follow the High Court on this in Four Corners tonight – because she believes what she wants to believe. As does much of the Four Corners team – including Sally Neighbour and Sarah Ferguson.

  • INSIDERS’ DOUBLE STANDARD ON FULL DISCLOSURE

MWD will comment on last Sunday’s Insiders next Friday.  But, for now, the focus is on presenter David Speers’ introduction yesterday:

David Speers: We’re joined this week by Katharine Murphy, Annabel Crabb and Peter van Onselen. Welcome to you all. I think it’s important to start this conversation with a quick disclosure. Annabel, you knew the woman at the centre of this allegation against Christian Porter?

Annabel Crabb: Yeah, I knew her, well, probably nearly 30 years ago. And I haven’t spoken to her I would say in 20 years….

 David Speers: …And Peter, you’ve been friends with Christian Porter for a long time?

 Peter van Onselen: Yeah. Since before he entered politics at State or Federal level. And good friends.

 David Speers: Yeah. Okay. Just to get that on the table. So that – and Katharine?

 Katharine Murphy: I have no declarations.

Peter van Onselen: I’m also not, nor have I ever been, a member of the Communist Party. 

David Speers: Right. Why do you say that?

Peter van Onselen: I just feel the need to – full disclosure.

David Speers: You have some reluctance in disclosing?

Peter van Onselen: Oh, not at all. I mean, I’ve tried to disclose my friendship with Christian Porter since the moment he entered politics. I disclosed it in an article I wrote calling for him to resign when he was in State politics because of a policy decision he made. So, I don’t have a problem disclosing it. What I have a problem with is the assumption that because you know somebody, as a commentator, it changes your view. I disagree with him on a number – 

David Speers: I don’t think that. But I think it’s, you know, it’s just important to make sure viewers don’t think there’s anything being hidden in the conversation.

Well, how about that?  MWD does not recall Insiders’ executive producer Sam Clark ever insisting that former Insiders  presenter Barrie Cassidy declare his friendship with Labor Party leader Bill Shorten. Which suggests that, on Insiders, there is one rule for journalists who are friends of Coalition politicians and another rule for journalists who are friends of Labor politicians.

And then there’s Katharine (“My bestie Malcolm Turnbull calls me Murpharoo”) Murphy, The Guardian Australia’s  political editor.  As far as MWD can recall, Ms Murphy never disclosed on Insiders that Malcolm Turnbull was involved in bringing the left-wing Guardian newspaper to Australia and introduced both Lenore Taylor and herself to its (then) editor Alan Rusbridger.  Comrade Taylor, in time, became The Guardian Australia’s  editor and Murpharoo became the online newspaper’s political editor.

For the record, MWD agrees with PVO’s approach to disclosures.  But if Insiders has a policy on this – it should apply to all, not some, panellists.


INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY SPECIAL

As “The Diary” column in today’s Australian reveals, last Thursday, ABC TV Q&A program was pre-recorded.  In other words, it was live-to-tape not live-to-air. This was done, presumably, for legal reasons to avoid the possibility of a defamatory statement.  It would seem that, in the event, only minor cuts were made to what went to air at 8.30 pm.

It’s interesting to note that the ABC management chose not to delete the segment of Q&A where – believe it or not – male presenter Hamish Macdonald queried his all-female panel about their sex lives.  Really.

HAMISH MACDONALD’S PERSONAL QUESTIONS TO ISABEL ALLENDE & ANNE ALY CIRCA INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY 

The Q&A  topic was “All About Women” and the panel comprised Isabel Allende, Susan McDonald, Anne Aly, Samantha Maiden, Dhanya Mani and Kate Crawford – except for presenter Hamish (“I only watch TV when I’m on it”) Macdonald.  As Media Watch Dog recalls, in its old time slot (9.30 pm on Monday), Q&A would acknowledge International Women’s Day with a female presenter.  But this seems to have changed now that the program has moved to 8.30 pm on Thursday in the chase for ratings.

And now a flashback. On ABC Radio National Breakfast  on 4 February 2021, presenter Fran Kelly asked Comrade Macdonald what he wanted Q&A “to deliver this year”. Here is the response:

Hamish Macdonald: Look, I think one of the criticisms this show has had – has been that it fell too much into the kind of rancour of the everyday political debate. And, of course, politics is still going to be central to it. But I think we’re living through times where the questions are much bigger, they’re much more important, they are questions of life and death. Like the vaccine. You know, I heard your interview not that long ago about misinformation. A lot of this stuff really does genuinely impact our life, and I want the show to be a forum for that. We’ll still have the politicians on – they can still squabble if they really need to. But I think we actually want to deliver genuine answers for these big existential questions.

How about that?  Your man Macdonald wants Q&A to focus on the “big existential questions”. Like, er, sex it seems. Believe it or not, towards the end of last Thursday’s program, Mr Macdonald asked questions to panellists Isabel Allende and Labor Party MP Anne Aly – such as:

Hamish Macdonald: So give us an insight into the future Isabel, does the sex get better, more beautiful with age? Or does it get more difficult?

Isabel Allende: Difficult, of course, but you can replace you know, energy, you can replace the energy with laughter, and marijuana….

Hamish Macdonald: On that note, I think we’ll leave it there. Thank you so much for joining us tonight. Please come and say hi in person next time… I want to wrap this up with some questions to all of you. Anne Aly – How important is the physical side of love?

Anne Aly: Really, Hamish? Really?

Hamish Macdonald: Yeah. I told you this was coming.

Anne Aly: Oh, my goodness. I’m blushing and I don’t blush…I mean, Isabel Allende makes me feel like an underperformer now. Yes, it’s incredibly important. But, you know, I’m on my third marriage if you didn’t, if you didn’t know. So, like, I got divorced in my 20s, divorced in my 30s, divorced in my 40s. And I’m on my third marriage….

No wonder Dr Aly got flustered and told the audiences that she’d been divorced three times but now was on her third marriage.  This is what happens when a presenter asks inappropriate questions.

But there was more:

Hamish Macdonald: We did want to get to all of you. We’re running out of time. Kate Crawford. The physical?

Kate Crawford: Look, I have to say one thing, which is can Isabel Allende run for Prime Minister? Yeah, I mean, can we have her. She’s amazing….

Phew.  What a great conversation changer.  Ms Crawford moved your man Macdonald away from his obsession.  And soon Q&A ran out of time.  Much to the delight, it seems, of the remaining panellists. At least we now know what Hamish Macdonald has in mind when he talks about “the big existential questions”.  [You can say that again – MWD Editor.]


Can You Bear It?

  • PETER HARTCHER’S NAÏVE CHARACTER TEST FOR POLITICIANS – NOT JOURNALISTS

 Last Thursday, the Sydney Morning Herald printed what was supposed to pass for analysis on Page 1.  Titled “Porter takes the stage, but PM is director of this craven show”, it was written by Peter Hartcher, the paper’s political and international editor.  This is how the piece commenced:

Say what you like about Christian Porter’s moment on the stage on Wednesday, the production was brought to you by the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison. Morrison is the producer and director of this craven show of political stage management. The Prime Minister alone appoints and discharges the members of his cabinet. He alone decides the standards he will accept and the terms on which his ministers serve.

If he cared about standards, he would require his Attorney-General to be a fit and proper person to be Australia’s first law officer. And while Porter can never be charged over this rape accusation, neither can his name ever be cleared. Because his accuser is dead, there never will be a trial.

For starters, this is ambiguous.  The comment that “because his accuser is dead, there never will be a trial” – implies that if the death had not occurred a trial would probably have been taken place. There is no evidence whatsoever to support this assertion.

As to the suggestion that an attorney-general and, presumably, other senior ministers should undergo “a fit and proper person test”. What form would such a test take?  And who would make the determination?  Moreover, if such a test is necessary for attorneys-general, why not for the prime ministers who appoint them?  If so would – say – Bob Hawke have passed a fit and proper test? Or Lloyd George?

And then there’s Peter Hartcher’s assertion that “Australia’s credibility in the world has been tested” because Australia can be accused of sheltering an accused rapist as Attorney-General. By whom? –  your man Hartcher did not say.

Peter Hartcher wants a tribunal set up to establish the Attorney-General’s “good character”.  Why stop here?  Why not test the “good character” of journalists?  Can You Bear It?

  • WHAT THE ABC WON’T TELL YOU ABOUT JO DYER – CHRISTIAN PORTER CRITIC

Until early 2018, Jo Dyer did not have a high profile. But then the Sydney-based Ms Dyer, who had been appointed as director of Adelaide Writers’ Week, came to notice with, er, a somewhat explosive Facebook comment concerning the outcome of the South Australian State election on 17 March 2018.

It was the occasion where the Liberal Party in opposition defeated the incumbent Labor government.  What did Comrade Dyer have to say about this?  Plenty, as it turned out.

On 21 March 2018 The Advertiser reported that, on her Facebook page late on the previous Saturday night, Jo Dyer described the new Liberal government, led by Steven Marshall, of having “no f–king idea” and predicted “they will flog off everything that’s not nailed down to their corporate mates”.  A tired adjective followed by a cliché.  But it was late on Saturday night and Ms Dyer appears to have been mightily upset at the Liberal Party’s victory.

The Advertiser also reported that Ms Dyer, who was raised in Adelaide, unsuccessfully sought Labor Party pre-selection for the seat of Adelaide in 2001.  By the way, Comrade Dyer’s late Saturday night Facebook rant was soon removed – after consultations.

What’s all this got to do with anything? – MWD hears you ask.  Well, it turned out that Jo Dyer is a Christian Porter antagonist who has been interviewed by the ABC  in its campaign against the Attorney-General in giving credence to the allegation that, when aged 17 in 1988, he raped a 16 year old girl in Sydney.  Mr Porter vehemently denies that he raped the now deceased woman – and NSW Police have dropped the case after the woman withdrew her complaint.

When ABC journalist Louise Milligan reported the “Inside The Canberra Bubble” for Four Corners on 9 November 2020, Jo Dyer was interviewed at the top of the program and had this to say:

Jo Dyer: All political parties need to think about the type of people that they have in positions of power and authority. And Australians need to think about the type of people that they want representing them.

Later on she commented:

Jo Dyer: We met CP in 1986, um, for the first time. He was very charming. He was very confident. Um, we were all quite confident back then. He had that assuredness that’s perhaps born of privilege. But he was, you know, brash, blond and breezy.   Christian was quite slick, in some ways. And he had an air of entitlement around him that I think was born of the privilege from which he came.

All frightfully interesting.  But Four Corners did not report that, in addition to being a critic of “CP” (i.e. Christian Porter), Jo Dyer was also once a political opponent – having sought Labor Party pre-selection in 2001.

Move forward to last week when Jo Dyer was interviewed by the ABC as one of the friends of the complainant who made the rape allegations against Christian Porter.

Ms Dyer appeared on 7.30 last Tuesday – one of the two Porter antagonists interviewed by Laura Tingle who were critical of the Prime Minister and Porter. The other was Malcolm Turnbull. Jo Dyer accepted all the unproven allegations made by her friend against Porter before they were withdrawn and was critical of the Prime Minister’s handling of the matter.

Laura Tingle made no mention of Jo Dyer’s past association with the Labor Party in South Australia.

Then Jo Dyer appeared again on 7.30 on Thursday – this time focusing on why the Porter allegations should be subjected to an inquiry.  As far as MWD is aware, she has no legal qualifications.  Once again, no mention was made of Jo Dyer’s one-time political affiliations with the Labor Party.

MWD is not calling for Jo Dyer to be de-platformed on the ABC.  Moreover, MWD is not suggesting that Ms Dyer’s criticism of Mr Porter is motivated by political considerations. It’s just that the taxpayer funded broadcaster is always banging on about full disclosure and all that.   Yet, Four Corners  and 7.30 have failed to disclose, on no fewer than three occasions on MWD’s count, that Jo Dyer once sought Labor Party pre-selection. Can You Bear It?

  • ABC NEWS ONLINE CONFUSES EMPLOYEE AND EMPLOYER

While on the topic of  Laura Tingle and all that, MWD’s attention has been drawn to the article published in ABC News Online concerning Brittany Higgins (who has alleged that she was raped in Parliament House by a fellow staffer) and Emma Husar (who lost Labor Party pre-selection following allegations made against her while a parliamentarian – the most serious one was demonstrated to be totally false).

This is what Laura Tingle and James Elton wrote about these cases on ABC News on 24 February 2021:

The experiences of both Ms Higgins and Ms Husar are reflective of the employment structures used in federal politics, including the Member of Parliament (Staff) Act, which leaves staff under the control of their masters and at risk of being immediately sacked without a reason being given.

Not so. Sure Ms Higgins, a staffer, was employed under the Member of Parliament (Staff) Act. However, Ms Husar was the Labor MP for Lindsay. As such, Ms Husar was the employer –  not the employee.  And La Tingle, the ABC’s political correspondent was not aware of this. Can You Bear It?

  • CRIKEY’S AMBER SCHULTZ FIRES AT – BUT MISSES – DAN TEHAN

Writing in Crikey last Tuesday, under the heading “Boys Club: Most male cabinet ministers went to private schools; most sexual assault accusations come from private schools”, Amber Schultz reported on a collection of testimonies by young women concerning instances of sexual assaults by young men “that occurred in the past five years”.  Fair enough. Although it’s possible, as Ms Schultz acknowledged, that private school students are more likely to discuss such matters than those attending government and low-fee religious-based schools. We don’t really know.

But MWD digresses.  This is what Amber Schultz had to say about Dan Tehan, the Minister for Trade in the Morrison government:

A former humanities dux at Xavier College, where Education Minister Dan Tehan went, later solicited young girls into prostitution.

Dan Tehan was born in January 1968.  His final year of school at Xavier College was probably 1986 – i.e. around 35 years ago. And Crikey’s Comrade Schultz reckons that there is some co-relation between the culture at Xavier College in 1986 and the fact that a former dux of humanities at the college was convicted of serious prostitution offences over a decade after the “dux” left school. It’s a bit of a stretch to link Tehan’s school days with this low life.  But not, apparently, to Crikey. Can You Bear It?


YOU MUST REMEMBER THIS?

“You Must Remember This” is based on the chorus line in the song As Time Goes By which was popularised by the film Casablanca. It is devoted to reminding the usual suspects of what they and/or those they supported once wrote or said or did.

  • MIKE CARLTON’S FALSE PROPHECY OF A GOOGLE/FACEBOOK VICTORY OVER AUSSIE PUBLISHER

This is what Mike Carlton, the Sage of Avalon Beach, had to say in September 2020 about the Morrison government’s (then) attempt to make United States based tech giants Google and Facebook pay for the journalism content they were using for free:

 

How about that?  Mike (“I’ll pour the Gin”) Carlton reckoned less than six months ago that the managers of media companies are just so hopeless that they had been creamed by Google’s Sundar Pichai and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg over the pay-for-content dispute.

Hopelessly wrong.  In fact, Google folded first – followed by Facebook – in a campaign fronted by Australian leaders (Scott Morrison, Josh Frydenberg, Paul Fletcher) and supported by Australia’s largest media companies.  Has Comrade Carlton conceded that his prophecy was of the false genre?  Not on your nelly. He’s not that kind of guy.

  • CRIKEY’S BERNARD KEANE ON HOW FACEBOOK HELD WHIP HAND OVER THE NEWS MEDIA BARGAINING CODE – UNTIL IT DIDN’T

And then there’s the case of MWD fave Bernard Keane, Crikey’s political editor. This is what you man Keane had to say in Crikey on 18 February 2021.

The mainstream media and the government thought they had achieved victory. That’s all a smoking ruin this morning, as media companies examine bare Facebook pages and blocks on posting content.

All the result of a staggering miscalculation by a government that thought it could run an extortion racket at the behest of the Murdochs on the widely reviled big tech companies. A government that insisted it had had “constructive” talks with Facebook executive chair Mark Zuckerberg – indeed, was still insisting so this morning after the shutdown. Except Facebook now hold the whip hand in any such discussions.

That’s what Bernard Keane told Crikey readers (if readers there were). Here’s a chronology of what happened.

14 February – Google agrees to deal with Seven West

17 February – Google agrees to deal with Nine

18 February – Google agrees to global deal with News Corp

18 February – Facebook announces ban on Australian news effective immediately

18 February – Bernard Keane’s article appears in Crikey

24 February – Changes by the Australian government announced to bargaining code

26 February – Australian news returns to Facebook after Facebook agrees in principle to pay for content.

That’s the problem with predictions. They’re difficult to make about the future – as the saying goes.


  • FRAN KELLY’S SOFT INTERVIEW WITH MALCOLM TURNBULL PLUS A CRITICAL OBSERVATION BY PROF. JEREMY GANS

 Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly was none too active when she interviewed former Coalition prime minister Malcolm Turnbull last Tuesday.  It was the day before Attorney-General Christian Porter named himself as the cabinet minister alleged to have raped a 16 year old girl in Sydney in 1988 when he was 17 years of age.

However, the name of the alleged offender was widely known when Mr Turnbull spoke to Ms Kelly on Radio National Breakfast. As Turnbull put it: “Everybody knows who the minister is – maybe not all your listeners do but it’s widely bruited around.”   It was also known that the complainant died by suicide in June 2020.

In what was an extraordinary interview, the former prime minister seemed to imply on three occasions that the complainant’s death had been due to foul play.  Let’s go to the transcript – where Turnbull’s implication is not engaged with by Kelly in response:

Malcolm Turnbull: So there are two things that – there’s one thing, there’s the alleged rape, that we need to know about, we need to know whether that occurred or not. But there is also a death. Now it said that she suicided. Did she? What led to her, if she did suicide, if she did take her own life, what led to it? Why did she suicide? Why did she pursue this complaint for so long, and then, just at a moment when you think she’d be encouraged, take her own life….

Fran Kelly made no response to the clear implication. Later on, the following exchange took place:

Malcolm Turnbull:  The woman takes allegedly takes her own life, but certainly we don’t, we don’t know for sure that she took her own life. We know for sure that she’s dead. And there needs to be an inquest.

Fran Kelly: In your view, is the inquest the place to explore this?….

So, once again Fran Kelly did not contest Malcolm Turnbull’s contribution that we do not know “for sure” whether the complainant took her own life.  Then, at the end of the interview – presumably at the urging of the producer – the following exchange took place:

Fran Kelly: Malcolm Turnbull, we’re almost at the news. I think it’s important to just point out, you’ve said twice now, you know, “if it was a suicide”. I mean, there is no question mark over that at the moment. You know nothing to suggest otherwise do you?

Malcolm Turnbull: I don’t know – well all I know is that she is dead and it certainly has been reported in the media as a suicide, but the circumstances of it, what led to it? I mean, I have a question mark, in my own mind, about the timing of it. Because it seems – the timing seems, you know, counterintuitive.

Fran Kelly: Malcolm Turnbull, thank you very much for joining us.

So there you have it.  On three occasions Malcolm Turnbull implied that the complainant’s death might have been other than suicide.  On two occasions, Fran Kelly did not query the implication.  And, on the one time she did, she seemed to accept that Turnbull had a point.

Soon after the soft Kelly/Turnbull interview concluded, Professor Jeremy Gans, of the Melbourne Law School, put out this tweet:

Good point.  The complainant was not incarcerated and authorities cannot be blamed for her death.  And there are no reports from family, friends or police that her death was suspicious. Yet in a private interview without interruptions, Fran Kelly allowed Malcolm Turnbull to speculate that the complainant’s death might not have been suicide. As Professor Gans commented – Mr Turnbull and the ABC “have lost the plot” on this issue.

  • WATCHING THE WEEKLY ON BEHALF OF MWD READERS – BY MWD’s TV REVIEWER

In case you’ve missed it, The Weekly with Charlie Pickering is back, attempting to combine news and comedy and doing both badly. For an example of The Weekly’s jarring tonal shift see this line from Charlie Pickering’s news summary in the episode from 17 February 2021:

Charlie Pickering: To Tuesday, more shocking footage of bin bags attempting to escape hotel quarantine, and the country reeled from The Project’s confronting interview with Brittany Higgins, regarding allegations of a sexual assault inside Parliament House – which received this baffling response from the Prime Minister…

From a (poor) joke about bin bags to addressing a serious allegation of sexual assault in one go. Well done.

ABC Comedy has always tended to be lazy – no need to make an effort once you’ve cemented your place in the ABC Soviet and your work is funded by the taxpayer – but The Weekly is taking it to a whole new level.

Many a weekly segment appears to be clips from social media or other television shows, assembled under an attempt at a humorous voiceover. For example, the recurring segment “The Tragic Tales of Millionaire Hotseat”, is a montage of unusual contestant introductions from the Nine Network’s “Millionaire Hotseat”. Really.

One segment compiled clips from reality TV show “Married at First Sight”. And another added a voiceover to social media videos made by tennis player Bernard Tomic and his partner Vanessa Sierra in hotel quarantine prior to the Australian Open. The production team at The Weekly doesn’t seem to understand that these things were already funny, on some level, in their original context – and chucking them together under a mocking voiceover only makes them less funny. But this is what passes for News-Comedy on the ABC these days.

The Weekly also dabbles in an ABC Comedy favourite “Fake Ad for Something”. See below for recent examples of this from both The Weekly and 7.30’s “satirist” Mark Humphries.

In one particularly poor segment, The Weekly cut together clips from an interview with Scott Morrison on Sky News’ Paul Murray Live as a promotion for a show called “Please Explain with Scotty and Paul”. See here. Although it’s hard to tell where the joke is, it appears to be (yet another) mocking Scott Morrison’s speaking style and use of analogies. This makes sense considering The Weekly appears to think the correct way to convey information is through condescending, unfunny comedy.


DOWNLOAD WITH JACKIE (DIP.WELLNESS) ON THE COUCH

PETER FITZSIMONS ABOUT HIMSELF – AS TOLD TO JACKIE

There was overwhelming interest in MWD’s coverage of the verbal punch-up between ABC TV’s Stan Grant and the Sydney Morning Herald’s Peter FitzSimons over the former’s depiction of the latter’s Independence Day (nee Australia Day) knees-up,  held in late January each year at the Neutral Bay pile, overlooking Sydney Harbour, of leftist luvvies Peter Fitz and Lisa Wilkinson.  As avid readers will recall, Stan Grant mocked the FitzSimons/Wilkinson pretension along with the leftist roll-up, where everyone agrees with everyone else in a  fashionable leftist kind of way. This occurred in Grant’s contribution to The Australian’s “Oh Matilda: Who Bloody Killed Her?” crime novel series where different authors wrote different chapters. Apparently, Fitz is no longer talking to Stan. But he is talking to Jackie.

Some readers advised Jackie’s (male) co-owner that they would like to hear from Comrade Fitz at greater length. Following lengthy negotiations, the “Fitz-on-Sunday” columnist declined to do an interview with Hendo.  But consented to one with Jackie – on the couch. Apparently Fitz was impressed by the fact that Jackie has a Dip. Wellness from The Gunnedah Institute and is an occasional red bandanna wearer. Also, Fitz was happy with his previous discussion with Jackie. Here’s the (highly edited) transcript:

Jackie:  Thanks for giving so generously of your time.

Fitz:  It’s okay mate. No prob.

Jackie: First up, a personal question.  Why have you decided to go starkers from the neck up?  I just loved the Red Bandannaed One – you with that red rag on your head. It just – should I say this? – really turned me on. So cool, even in hot weather.

Fitz:  Truth is I decided that, after seven years, my red bandanna needed a spell at the Neutral Bay laundry.  There it lost colour and dyed all my Knox Grammar Rugby Union jock-straps red.  It had a traumatic effect on me. So I’ve gone naked from neck-up.

Jackie:  Any other troubles with your previous head-gear?

Fitz:  Yes. No.  Well, I used to find that the red top on my tall body caused some drivers to stop at the lights.  Even when the lights were green. So that was another reason.  Got another topic?

Jackie:  Okay. I’m not offended. But, despite my Dip. Wellness from The Gunnedah Institute, I’ve never been invited to your Independence Day party – unlike Stan Grant.  Perhaps sometime in the future. Here’s hoping.  As a Queensland Heeler, I usually eat off newspapers – like old editions of The Holy Name Monthly.  I understand that you and Mrs Fitz require guests to bring a plate. Why? Fact is, I don’t have a plate.

Fitz:  Well, some people say we’re multi-millionaires. But it’s not that many millions.  Yeah – we ask guests to bring a plate. We hope they get the hint. But we don’t demand that they put food on the plate – yet it helps if they do. Keeps down the cost, you know. Gee – a bloke’s got to keep a penny for his retirement!

Jackie:  As a Queensland Heeler, I regard myself as belonging to a minority.  I saw a pic of your Independence Day party. Despite the fact that you present as a man of the people, there wasn’t any diversity.  How come?  For the record, as a mongrel I was offended this time.

Fitz:  I disagree. There was Kate McClymont, David Marr, myself in red-bandanna mode,  Tim Minchin, Norman Swan, Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales.  Plenty of diversity there. Some are Green/Left others Left/Green.  Sure there were no Coalition supporters – but us multi-millionaire Neutral Bay types are committed to living in a low-emissions Clerical Fascist Free Zone. And this puts limitations on my choice of guests. Any rate, they’re all good blokes and sheilas. Love this city!

Jackie: Right. But I meant ethnic diversity there.  I mean, there was no one of colour in the pic. In fact, the only striking colour was the red rag on your head.

Fitz: That’s crap.  What about the person who took the photograph?  Have you thought about that? Bugger off!

Jackie: Er, no.  Not really. Who was the photographer?

Fitz: I can’t remember.  But I like to think it was my good friend Waleed Aly.  Or perhaps Yassmin Abdel-Magied. How diverse is that? Fool!

Jackie: But did either person of colour really take the photograph?

Fitz: Turn it up.  The point is that I hope so. Er, it could have been the cook. Except for the fact that we didn’t have a cook because most guests brought a plate.  Does it really matter?  We all believe in diversity – at least in theory.  And that’s better than our clerical fascist opponents, even though some of them are of colour. Fair dinkum!

Jackie: Let’s move on.  You’re still the head of the Australian Republic Movement.  How goes the cause?

Fitz: Bloody terrific.  For starters, we changed our name from the Australian Republican Movement to the Australian Republic Movement. Now, that’s real progress. I have decided to unite Australia to get rid of Mrs King at Buck Palace by attacking the Morrison government and Christians (especially Catholics) plus other believers and social conservatives and people who send their kids to private schools (except for Lisa and me) and fascists (that is, people I don’t like) and more besides.  The rest of the nation is uniting behind me. We’ve got a clear majority.  Up the republic!

Jackie: I don’t want to be unkind. But my (male) co-owner reckons you’re a bit out of touch. Could this be so?

Fitz: Nah.  Sure I used to play Rugby Union (you know the game multi-millionaires play in heaven) and I drive a Tesla electric car (value $80,000) and I spend my working day occupying a table at the Avenue Rd café in Mosman.  Who doesn’t?  I reckon I’m as close to the masses as David Marr (who once visited Western Sydney) and  Lisa Wilkinson (who once worked in a supermarket).  Out of touch? You’ve got to be kidding.  Also I once danced with a woman who danced with a man who voted for John Howard. Or was it Scott Morrison? Who the hell cares?!!

Jackie: You’ve been very generous with your time.  I understand that you have struck Stan Grant off your Independence Day dance-card.  Any chance of me taking his place next year?  I can always borrow a plate.

Fitz: Sure. Bloody oath.  I’ll put you on my (long) short-list.  But don’t get your hopes too high. I’m also considering Kerry O’Brien and Emma Alberici and Laura Tingle and Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly and La Trioli and Jon Faine and Phillip Adams. Come to think of it,  I may ask Waleed to take the pics and Yassmin can hand around plates to those who forgot them. Keep watching the post – you may be lucky.  But for now – piss off. I’m off to engender yet more support for the Australian Republic Movement who are impressed with my vote-winning manner.  Those who don’t support opinion leaders who have a fixation with red rags are just fools!

Fitz and his (all white) Mates.

MWD is running a contest on who took the photo.

Send entries to:

Jackie

C/- The Kennel

The Gunnedah Institute

Gunnedah

(Note Correspondence may be entered into).


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.

THE LATE FRANK KNOPFELMACHER, ROBERT MANNE, GERARD HENDERSON & THE AUSTRALIAN DICTIONARY OF BIOGRAPHY’S MELANIE NOLAN

Frank Knopfelmacher – Franta to his friends – was born in Vienna in 1923 and died in Australia in 1995. He spent his childhood in Czechoslovakia in a Jewish German-speaking family.  He fled Europe in 1939, moved to the British mandate of Palestine, joined the British Army, returned to Czechoslovakia after the war and fled in 1948 to Britain after the communists seized power in Prague. Franta arrived in Australia in 1955 and was an academic at the University of Melbourne until his retirement in 1988.  On the Melbourne campus, Franta was a vehement anti-communist who participated in the public debate. An article on Knopfelmacher – by Robert Manne – appeared in the Dictionary of Australia Biography last year.  Now read on.

Gerard Henderson to Dr Melanie Nolan – 8 February 2021

Dear Dr Nolan

I am a fan of the Australian Dictionary of Biography and possess a set of all the bound editions published so far. I quote from it occasionally – always with acknowledgement.

The other day I had reason to check out when Dr Frank Knopfelmacher died and noticed an entry on Frank by Robert Manne which was published by the ADB online edition in 2020.

In the second last paragraph of the entry, I am cited as “among those” Frank influenced. I have always recognised Frank as a friend and an influence. Indeed, I first met Frank in 1965, which I believe is a couple of years before Robert Manne made his acquaintance. This is what Robert Manne had to say about me and others (including himself):

Among those he [Knopfelmacher] influenced were the politician Michael Danby, the publicist Gerard Henderson, the journalist Greg Sheridan, the ideology-maker Ray Evans, the legal academic Martin Krygier, the philosopher Raimond Gaita, and the political historian and public intellectual Robert Manne.

How about that? This lot includes a politician, a publicist, a journalist, an ideology-maker, a legal academic, a philosopher, along with “a political historian and public intellectual”. Needless to say the last in this group is Robert Manne. Apparently, he is the only intellectual among those mentioned.

I have written an academic history (based on my Ph.D. thesis), a book of interviews, a general history and a biography – as well as numerous essays and articles. I have written a weekly newspaper column for over three decades. I have also worked in government and opposition at the Commonwealth level as well as in the Commonwealth public service and headed The Sydney Institute for thirty plus years.  I also worked for four years as a university academic.

Yet, according to the ADB, I am a “publicist”. Now, I have nothing against publicists. Most of them do a very good job promoting actors, models, authors and the like. It’s just that I have never worked in this profession.

Sure, Robert Manne may regard me as a “publicist”. That does not mean I am. And, surely this howler should have been picked up in the myriad of fact-checkers in the ADB process. After all, the Australian Dictionary of Biography boasts that “few journals have such a thorough editing and refereeing process” as the ADB. Maybe – but it did not work in this case.

I request that this error be corrected immediately.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

cc:      Samuel Furphy, Research Editor

 

Melanie Nolan to Gerard Henderson – 9 February 2021

Dear Dr Gerard Henderson,

Thanks for your email about the Frank Knopfelmacher (1923-1995). It is great to hear that you ‘still’ possess a whole set of the ADB which you use “always with acknowledgement”. Many libraries, and researchers, have ‘got rid’ of the hard copies, now that the ADB is online. The ADB is much used and it is so difficult to ensure that everyone acknowledges it in their publications; thank you for crediting the ADB when you use it.

I am well aware of your public role. I was unaware, however, of the change to the Knopfelmacher article and your description in it. I agree with you about your concern with the oddity of your descriptor as a publicist.  I apologise for this.

The research editor for this article, Dr Sam Furphy, has told me:

Below is bit of background to Robert Manne’s entry on Knopfelmacher, and Gerard Henderson’s objection to it …The passage that Henderson objects to, the list of people K. influenced, was not added until the author review stage, so you have the excuse of not having read that version. Manne had included the list in a footnote in v1. I didn’t promote it to the main text, but then Manne objected to its “removal” so I inserted it in v11. At the time I emailed Manne asking how he would like to describe himself (I’ll forward you that correspondence) …

The ADB is a collaborative process, as you have obviously read from our website. The last stage involves our sending the article to authors to and to seek their approval of the final version. Mostly they approve the final text. We try hard to accommodate authors who raise objections; however, in this case, in accommodating the author, we have introduced an oddity.

There are several ways to correct this, including a collection of descriptions for the whole group. I will discuss this with the Sam and the ADB’s Managing Editor and ask them to let you know what change has been made to the article.

Warm regards,

Melanie

Melanie Nolan

General Editor, Australian Dictionary of Biography

cc:      Samuel Furphy, Research Editor

 

Samuel Furphy to Gerard Henderson – 9 February 2021

Dear Gerard,

Further to Melanie’s email, I’ve discussed the matter with my colleague Malcolm Allbrook, and all that remains is to decide on the best descriptor for you. Would “the columnist and author Gerard Henderson” be appropriate?

I apologise for allowing the error to slip through our usually rigorous process of checking. As I explained in my message to Melanie, which she quoted below, the relevant text was added late in our process, after several others had read the entry, so the fault is mine alone.

We will correct the webpage as soon as I hear from you regarding our proposed change.

Best wishes,

Sam

Dr Samuel Furphy  

Research Editor, Australian Dictionary of Biography

cc:     Melanie Nolan

Malcolm Allbrook

 

Gerard Henderson to Melanie Nolan – 9 February 2021

Dear Melanie

Many thanks for your prompt reply and generous comments.

I now understand that the ADB editors/researchers were not responsible for describing me as a “publicist”- and I accept your apology.  I do not know why Robert Manne insisted on describing me this way.  But there you go.

As to how to describe me.  Since Robert has taken the (impressive) description of “historian and public intellectual” for himself – I could be described as “commentator”, “columnist”, “author” – or something like that.

Best wishes

Gerard

PS: I am not sure whether the ADB is still published in hard copy form. If so, I would appreciate advice about the number of the next volume and the likely publication date.

cc: Sam Furphy

 

Gerard Henderson to Sam Furphy – 9 February 2021

Dear Sam

Thanks for your note which I have just noticed.  Yes – the revised descriptor suits me fine.

No need to apologise.  Just Robert Manne being Robert Manne – I’ve known him for half a century.

Keep up the good work. The ADB is one of my fave publications.

Best wishes

Gerard

cc:      Melanie Nolan

Malcolm Allbrook

 

Sam Furphy to Gerard Henderson – 11 February 2021

Thanks Gerard,

The change will be made to the entry online within the next week or so.

Melanie might have responded already, but in answer to your question about print versions of the ADB: volume 19 (featuring those who died between 1991 and 1995) will be published this year. I’m not sure of the precise date, but I think about mid-year. All the entries in this volume have already been published online.

Best wishes,

Sam

 

Melanie Nolan to Gerard Henderson – 28 February 2021

Dear Gerard,

We have hit a snag. Robert Manne stands by his noun.

In the last instance, the ADB does not unilaterally change an author’s text without their agreement.

Very occasionally an article is published, as per ADB research editing, without the author’s agreement but the authorship is anonymous because the author does not wish it to be attributed to her or himself.  On a rare occasion then, an ADB article is published anonymously, thus; I have had two other cases since I became General Editor of the ADB in 2008.  Usually, an author and I come to a mutual agreement over an amendment in cases such as this.

In this case, however, Robert Manne stands by his text, has defended it, and accepts authorial responsibility.

The article will remain as it has been already been published.

Yours sincerely,

Melanie

 

cc:     Sam Furphy

Malcolm Allbrook

Karen Ciuffetelli

 

Gerard Henderson to Melanie Nolan – 8 March 2021

 Dear Melanie

I refer to your email of 28 February 2021 advising that “the ADB does not unilaterally change an author’s text without their agreement” and that, consequently, Robert Manne’s article on Frank Knopfelmacher (1923-1995) “will remain as it has already been published”. As you put it, “Robert Manne stands by his noun”.

In other words, the ADB is sticking by Mr Manne’s assertion that I am a “publicist”.  Who knows?  Future generations may get the impression that I was a publicist for, say, Russell Crowe or perhaps Elle Macpherson – it could be regarded as my brush with fame.

So ADB  is standing by Robert’s “noun” due to ADB policy of not unilaterally changing an author’s text. This despite the fact that on 9 February 2021 you twice described Robert’s description of me as a publicist as an “oddity” – and apologised to me for the description.  In this letter, you referred to Sam Furphy as stating that the reference to me as a “publicist” was “not added until the author review stage” and that you as the ADB’s general editor did not read Robert Manne’s final version. Nevertheless, you are now standing by it.

What am I to believe?  Do you believe that the reference to me as a publicist is no longer an oddity?  And, if so, have you now withdrawn your apology?

As previously explained, I admire the work of many publicists. It’s just that I have never worked in this profession – despite Robert’s insistence to the contrary.

What surprises me is that, in order for you to act in accordance with the ADB’s rules, you have put to print something about me which both you and Sam Furphy acknowledge is inaccurate.  Yet the ADB proudly states that “few journals have such a thorough editing and refereeing process”. Sounds like false advertising, don’t you think?

By the way, I noticed that Robert Manne’s article on Frank Knopfelmacher in the ADB contains a “Select Biography”- which is very select indeed. He omits at least one of Frank’s key articles and makes no reference to Knopfelmacher’s private papers.  Could it be that Robert was denied access to Frank’s papers?  If so, why would this be the case – and why is there no reference to Frank’s private papers in the ADB entry?  I note that there are some harsh comments in the ADB Knopfelmacher article concerning his final years.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

 

PS: It looks like I missed out on Volume 18 of the ADB hard copy.  Please advise as to the best way I can purchase a copy.

 

cc:     Sam Furphy

Malcolm Allbrook

Karen Ciuffetelli

 

 

* * * *

Until next time.

 

* * * *