GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG

ISSUE – NO. 612

4 November 2022

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  • TREASURER CHALMERS RECEIVES IN-THE-STOCKS TREATMENT ON Q+A

As avid Media Watch Dog readers know, MWD abides by the rule that it’s unwise to make political predictions – especially about the future.  However, from time to time, MWD suggests what might happen in the short to medium term, based on precedents.

For example, MWD has always held the view that the ABC criticises both the Coalition and Labor governments – from a left-of-centre or Green/left perspective. This was evident on Q+A  last night when the Albanese government’s treasurer Jim Chalmers appeared alone in the ABC’s Sydney studio.  Stan Grant was the presenter.

The Treasurer put in a good performance in a difficult environment where he had to take unrelenting criticism from both the presenter and the live and online audience.  Dr Chalmers only found support on such issues as the proposed Indigenous Voice to Parliament and his support for Australia becoming a republic.  Otherwise it was virtually wall-to-wall criticism in a situation where it is all but impossible for a senior politician to take on an audience member – whatever they might say.  In such an environment there is no opportunity for debate and discussion. Which accounts, in part, for the fact that Q+A is increasingly boring as witnessed by its declining audiences.

  • SPEERSY PILES ON THE INTERRUPTIONS IN 7.30 INTERVIEW

What a stunning performance by David (“Oh yes, I’m a great interrupter”) Speers in presenting 7.30 on ABC TV last night.

Your man Speers interviewed Samantha McCulloch, the chief executive of the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association.  She did well to explain her association’s position with respect to energy prices, gas supply and the like.

However, Speersy (as he likes to be known) did not appreciate Ms McCulloch’s message. He interrupted her on no fewer than 26 occasions during an interview which ran for seven and a half minutes.  At the time MWD went out today, 7.30 had not put up a transcript on the ABC’s website.  So MWD, in its ongoing campaign to be helpful, has done a transcript for readers – see here.

Now here’s a modest proposal.  Perhaps the next time Speersy presents 7.30 it might be best if he interviews himself.  At least it would reduce, if not eliminate, the interruptions.

  • YAWN AGAIN AS SARAH FERGUSON INTERVIEWED GRETA THUNBERG ABOUT NOT VERY MUCH AT ALL

The taxpayer funded public broadcaster may have dispatched the Speers/McCulloch interview to the dustbin of history (to use the phrase allegedly popularised by Leon Trotsky – whose grave Jackie’s co-owners visited some time ago).

Likewise there is no transcript for last night’s interview conducted by Sarah Ferguson (from somewhere or other) with climate activist Greta Thunberg (who was in Sweden). Ms Thunberg has just written a (carbon dioxide emitting) book titled The Climate Book.

As might be expected, Greta Thunberg said little to 7.30’s regular presenter that she had not said previously.  Comrade Ferguson asked Ms Thunberg questions on science and engineering that she was not qualified to answer.  And there was a question about Australia which the young Swede had the good sense to avoid. Let’s go to the transcript:

Sarah Ferguson: The view of successive governments here [in Australia] has been that it’s up to the countries we export to be responsible for the emissions that the coal and gas produces. Do you accept that argument?

Greta Thunberg: I mean it’s – emissions accounting is very, very complicated. And there will always be someone who blames someone else. And of course, it’s, then it’s difficult to hold anyone to account. I do think that what we need to do is to take collective responsibility, that everyone takes responsibility for their bit, for everything that they can do. Of course, everybody cannot do everything, but if you have an opportunity to do something, to stop doing certain things, I think that that is a moral obligation to do so. Even though some people might use that opportunity to blame someone else. Unless someone is willing and able to give up that mindset no one else is going to do it too. And if countries like Australia, and my own country Sweden of course, too, unless we are able to give that up and start taking responsibility, then who are we to expect anyone else to do so.

Yawn.  MWD would like to tell you more about the Ferguson/Thunberg exchange. But at this stage Hendo headed off for some boredom-reducing post-dinner drinks.


Can You Bear It?

  • SMH’S ROSS GITTINS CHANNELS KARL MARX’S CRITIQUE OF THE CAPITALISTS WHO PAY HIS SALARY

It was Hangover Time on All Souls’ Day (2 November) when the print newspapers landed with a bang on Jackie’s kennel. In time, Jackie’s (male) co-owner got around to opening the Sydney Morning Herald  and eventually came across Ross Gittins’ column. Comrade Gittins, the SMH’s economics editor, seems to have been writing much the same column since Karl Marx was in short pants.  Except for the fact that his opinions tend to be more left as the decades pass.

On 2 November, the SMH’s economics editor’s column was headed “Fixing flat wages is a tough ask”.  The sub-heading was as follows: “Australia’s capitalism is broken and Labor’s widest wage changes, described by the bosses, won’t do the job”.

Comrade Gittins wrote that economists prefer to depict the Australian economy as a market system. But he prefers the terms “capitalist” and “capitalism”.  As Meghnad Desai points out in A Dictionary of Marxist Thought (Blackwell, 1991), the term “capitalism is rarely used by non-Marxist schools of economics”.  But it’s just right for the SMH – which boasts that it is “Independent. Always”.   It’s not clear precisely what the SMH is always “Independent” of – except that it is not a left-wing economics editor.

Your man Gittins wondered why “capitalism has survived for several centuries in advanced economies”.  If you thought that the answer is that individuals living in advanced economies enjoy wealth and living conditions (including health care) as never experienced before – this would be a reasonable response.

But not according to Ross (“Let’s give Marxism a chance”) Gittins. He reckons “it’s because capitalists, counselled and coerced by politicians anxious to keep the peace, have made sure that the plebs, punters and ordinary working families have been given enough of the spoils to keep them remarkably content”. Written like a Marxist undergraduate, don’t you think?  It is the view that the hoi polloi are too stupid to know that they are oppressed by the likes of Gittins’ boss.

Comrade Gittins then supported the Labor government’s proposed changes to the industrial relations laws, bagged employer groups and predicted that the IR legislation will pass the Senate (this, in fact, will be dependent on how some crossbenchers vote).

In the event, Gittins doubted whether wages will increase.  And he concluded by saying that if he is correct on this, “Australian capitalism will remain broken”.  But not broken enough, apparently, for the “capitalist” Nine company to stop paying  Comrade Gittins a large salary. Can You Bear It?

  • MICHAEL ROWLAND & SARA (“I’M AN AMERICAN IN ULTIMO”) JAMES BLAME THE RIGHT FOR AMERICAN POLITICAL VIOLENCE

As avid Media Watch Dog readers know only too well, the ABC is a Conservative Free Zone without a conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets.

So it is of no surprise that, when the United States elections come around, the taxpayer funded public broadcaster’s reflex response is to engage an American who presents as a Democratic Party voter rather than a Republican Party voter.

In the lead-up to the US mid-term elections on 8 November (US time), the American Sara James (who is based in Australia) and the American Bruce Shapiro (who is based in New York) appeared on 2 November on ABC News Breakfast and ABC Radio National’s Late Night Live on 1 November, respectively.

Sara James led off by talking about “questions of violence surrounding the US’s midterm elections” – with special attention to the alleged attempted murder of Paul Pelosi – the husband of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Sara James:  …that story made huge news in the United States with concern among lawmakers that they or members of their family might be attacked.  And this is, you know, just – it’s troubling, deeply troubling.

Michael Rowland:  It is troubling. We know the situation in politics in the States has been so divisive, so volatile, for so long.  But this is, this is the next level. Isn’t it?

Well, sadly, the attack on Mr Pelosi is not taking matters to “the next level” as Comrade Rowland believes.  It’s just that your man Rowland seems to believe that political evil in the US is invariably located on the political right.  MWD will recall that Michael Rowland was hopelessly wrong in accusing a conservative Covington High School student of racially confronting a Native American man in Washington DC on 18 January 2019 when, in fact, it was the other way round.  Your man Rowland neither apologised for nor corrected his error. See MWD  1 February 2019.

On News Breakfast, neither Michael Rowland nor Sara James saw fit to mention that on 14 June 2017, James Hodgkinson – a volunteer for leftist Bernie Sanders in the 2016 US presidential primaries campaign – shot at a group of Republican politicians who were training for an annual charity baseball game.  Steve Scalise, the Republican majority whip, was critically wounded.  He survived. Hodgkinson was shot and killed by Capitol Police. It is probable that he was suffering from a mental illness. Certainly, the left of the Democratic Party was not blamed by the republicans for the attack.

Also, neither Rowland nor James mentioned that on 8 June 2022 Nicholas Roske was arrested close to the home of US Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and charged with attempted murder.

MWD is not suggesting that the men involved in the attacks on Scalise and Kavanaugh were of sound mind.  MWD’s point is that Comrades Rowland and James spoke of political violence in the US as if it is violence only by Republicans against Democrats. Neither mentioned that the accused in the Pelosi case may be of unsound mind. Rather, as if the Pelosi attack was the responsibility of the American right. Talk about a rush to judgement. Can You Bear It?

  • BRUCE SHAPIRO CUT OFF BY ABC’s MAN-IN-BLACK WHEN ABOUT TO WARN OF BIPARTISAN THREATS OF POLITICAL VIOLENCE IN THE US

It was much the same when Bruce Shapiro spoke to Phillip Adams on Late Night Live on All Saints Day (1 November). Comrade Shapiro – he of the Dart Centre for Journalism and Trauma at Columbia University – did his usual bagging of American political conservatives in general and the Republican Party in particular.

At this stage, it is not clear as to the motive, or motives, of the person who has been charged with the attack on Paul Pelosi – or the person’s mental state at the time of the alleged crime.  However, your man Shapiro was certain that the accused “was clearly propelled by the conspiracy theories – by the calls to insurrection and violence over the internet in the last ten years”. He added that “the incident occurred amid a campaign in which we are seeing armed and threatening [right wing] militia in several states; Arizona and elsewhere”.

Comrade Shapiro went on to suggest that the threat of violence has never been as great in a US election since the end of Segregation in the 1960s. We shall see.  To be fair, your man Shapiro did attempt to point out that there was also a mood for violence on the extreme left of American politics – but he was thwarted in the process.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Bruce Shapiro: Indeed, Nancy Pelosi, we now know is the  top receiver of threats in Congress. But there are dozens of other members – members of Congress who routinely now deal with threats of violence. And it’s – it’s bipartisan. Right? We’ve had a man –

Phillip Adams: [interjecting] Look, I –

Bruce Shapiro: – arrested –

Phillip Adams: – [interjecting] have to mention –

Bruce Shapiro: – outside of Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh’s house.

Phillip Adams: Sorry, I have to mention that the chief twit, the equally surreal, Elon Musk, also perpetrated a conspiracy theory in regard to this attack [on Paul Pelosi].

So there you have it.  Just when Bruce Shapiro wanted to talk about the alleged attempted murder of the conservative Justice Kavanaugh, the ABC’s Man-in-Black wanted to talk about the comments of “chief twit” Elon Musk. No evidence of balance on this little wireless program. Can You Bear It?

  • LISA MILLAR & MICHAEL ROWLAND ADOPT A POLLY-TURN-THE-KETTLE-OFF SOLUTION TO PREVENTING WESTERN AUSTRALIAN BLACKOUTS

Lotsa thanks to the avid Perth reader who drew MWD’s attention to the discussion on ABC TV’s News Breakfast on 1 November about forthcoming substantial increases in energy prices in that fair city.

That very morning, the matter was addressed on News Breakfast’s “Newspapers” segment. Catherine Liddle was in the commentary slot when discussion turned on a report in The West Australian that authorities in Perth intend to send out text messages – presumably only to those who possess a smartphone – advising of any forthcoming blackouts.  Which, come to think of it, would be handy to, say, someone intent on taking a lift in an office or apartment building.

Let’s go to the transcript as the matter is discussed:

Michael Rowland: Hey, let’s go to The West Australian – energy front and centre there. It’s clearly a topic of conversation for a fair while.

Catherine Liddle: Absolutely. And, you know, energy prices are tipped to hit an increase of 56 per cent. That’s a lot of money. And certainly when energy, when blackouts hit in the middle of summer –  it’s really, really uncomfortable. So the idea of having a text message that says: “Hey, let’s drop your usage, there’s a blackout imminent” is a really good idea.

Michael Rowland: How’s that gonna go down on a Perth day? When it’s say 42 degrees?

Lisa Millar: How do you reckon that’ll go down?

Michael Rowland: People have to otherwise, you know, this is a serious issue with blackouts. So it won’t, as you say Catherine, it would be far from comfortable. Yeah, this is the world we live in at the moment.

Catherine Liddle: Oh, absolutely. And look it might mean turning off your kettle for a bit….

The Rowland/Millar co-presenters said nothing at the prospect of the good people of Perth preventing blackouts, when it’s 42 degrees Celsius in the shade, by turning off the kettle for a bit. Which suggests that the duo are of the view that there are lotsa kettle-boilers in Perth.  Can You Bear It?


DOCUMENTATION

  • ABC NEW BREAKFAST PONDERS TWITTER UNDER MUSK AND DREAMS OF A GOVERNMENT CONTROLLED ALTERNATIVE

The recent purchase of social media company Twitter by billionaire Elon Musk is a topic of great interest to members of the media and little interest to everyone else. This is because journalists tend to spend altogether too much time on Twitter and as a result overrate its importance.

This tendency was in evidence during the Friday 4 November edition of ABC TV’s News Breakfast, when Musk’s purchase was a repeated topic of conversation. First came an interview between News Breakfast presenter Madeleine Morris and Deepti Doshi, a former Facebook executive and currently co-director of New_ Public, an organisation focused on social media reform. Let’s go to the transcript:

Madeleine Morris: So, he’s [Musk] done all of that there’s a whole lot of discussion as well about setting up a new type of board to let, about whether to let people back in such as Donald Trump. He’s talking about charging for a premium experience on Twitter, how much do you think he is going to change the company?

Deepti Doshi: I think we can expect a lot of change. I think that the challenge, though, with someone like Musk at the head of Twitter is that we don’t know what that, we don’t know what to expect to happen. So, he started with $19.99 as the charge for verification and is now at $8.

Shock horror. Not only might Elon Musk let former President Trump back onto Twitter, he’s also considering charging a whopping $8 US per month for journos and the like to maintain their coveted blue checkmark, which separates them from the unverified hoi-polloi. That’s around $150 per year in Australian dollars, surely affordable for those with comfortable taxpayer-funded jobs like News Breakfast presenters.

So what alternative is on offer to the ordeal of a Musk owner Twitter?

Madeleine Morris: And for that you want to have an alternative vision, a place where as you said earlier, multibillionaires aren’t in charge of it. What is your vision for that?

Deepti Doshi: Well, our belief is that, you know, one of the reasons why we’re in this predicament is because we’ve allowed venture backed innovation to be driving what is creating the public square. And in fact, we think that just like in our offline lives, we really build a lot of inspiration from real town squares that all of us may participate in. These are likely publicly-funded, without necessarily needing to maximise for growth and engagement in the way it is that these digital platforms have to, to be able to serve their real customer, which is not us the people, but advertisers.

Madeleine Morris and her fellow presenter Michael Rowland both seemed impressed with this idea. So, the suggestion seems to be that the public (meaning taxpayers) should pay for some sort of Twitter alternative, on which journos and the like could engage in what Rowland later referred to as “decent civilised conversation”.

Only a few minutes later on News Breakfast the topic returned to the Musk Twitter takeover, during a discussion with lawyer and activist Lizzie O’Shea:

Madeleine Morris: How are you viewing what’s going on with Twitter at the moment? How much do you think about that?

Lizzie O’Shea: Look, I don’t think Elon Musk is the best person to be in charge of Twitter, I’m not sure he’s actually as good a businessperson as he thinks he is. But also, he’s clearly committed to free speech, which I think is, you know, is problematic in the sense that it can mean that we tolerate or are forced to tolerate hateful speech in some of these platforms.

Well, there you go, according to Michael, Madeleine, Deepti and Lizzie, Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter is bad news indeed. Instead, we need a taxpayer-funded replacement, without Musk’s “problematic” commitment to free speech. It does not seem to have occurred to anyone on News Breakfast that perhaps the government should not be in the business of restricting speech.

Should US taxpayers foot the bill for a social media platform that bans former President Trump, given that over 74 million of those taxpayers voted for him in 2020? Would the moderation policies of this taxpayer-funded social media platform be subject to the results of elections? What happens when, God forbid, a Republican President and Republican-controlled Congress are elected? None of these questions seem to have occurred to anyone on News Breakfast.

The fantasy here seems to be the establishment of a taxpayer-funded echo chamber, where leftie journos can all sit around and talk to each other without ever having to hear a view they find objectionable.

Remind you of anything?


  • DOCTOR LIVINGSTONE’S DOCTORAL CERTIFICATE – MWD PRESUMES

Avid readers very much respect Media Watch Dog’s oh-so-courteous practice of referring to the likes of The [Boring] Saturday Paper’s columnist John Hewson as “Dr Hewson (for a doctor he is)”.  Here’s hoping that Hendo’s dog Jackie (Dip. Wellness, Gunnedah Institute) will one day upgrade to become a doctor in the (Gunnedah Institute) house. But that’s in the future – it would seem.

Meanwhile Jackie’s (male) co-owner was oh-so-impressed with Charles Livingstone, an associate professor in the School of Public Health at Monash University, who appeared on News Breakfast on Wednesday 2 November.  As illustrated below, Dr Livingstone (for a doctor he is) presented in his office with his Doctor of Philosophy degree on the wall in a frame over his left shoulder.  Impressive, eh?

 

 

The previous day, MWD fave Joe Aston had done a job on John Pollaers, who is being supported by entrepreneur and renewables advocate Mike Cannon-Brookes (he of what Paul Keating was wont to call the Hyphenated-Name-Set of Sydney’s eastern suburbs) for a position on the AGL Energy board.  Your man Aston had this to say in this Rear Window column:

…[John Pollaers’]  transformation accomplishments at the highest level are negligible. Yet, we’re to believe that every trivial gig he’s ever held was equivalent to a corporate revolution. Universities fell for it, all right.  Don’t just pity the poor students at Melbourne’s business faculty being force-fed this self-aggrandisement – now he’s even strutting around as chancellor of Swinburne, where he hands out honorary doctorates like they’re hairdressing diplomas from Sunshine TAFE. Which, we suppose, they basically are! Is it really any wonder that Mike Cannon-Brookes took one look at this blowhard and liked what he saw?

All very amusing, to be sure.  Except for one central fact.  Hairdressers who graduate from Sunshine TAFE with their diplomas can cut and style hair.  It’s not clear what skills are required to get an (honorary) gong from Swinburne University.


OUTSIDE INSIDERS

As avid readers are well aware, a certain William (Bill) Thompson – a Melburnian who identifies as the ABC’s Southbank Correspondent – set up the “Outside Insiders” video segment some years ago.  This is a print edition of the Bill Thompson initiative to report on the ABC TV Insiders program.

  • PK DOMINATES THE PANEL AND URGES FELLOW JOURNALISTS TO SUPPORT LABOR’S BUDGET

As usual there was scant disagreement on the ABC TV Insiders program on 30 October when panellists David Crowe (Nine), Patricia Karvelas (ABC Radio National) and Rosie Lewis (The Australian) essentially agreed with each other.  At one stage PK even declared:  “Crowie’s nailed it…right?”.  Yeah – right.

However, it is not clear as to the extent of Ms Lewis’ agreement – since she struggled to get a word in edgeways during the panel discussions. Look at the evidence.   Patricia (“Please call me PK”) Karvelas dominated the panel discussion, proclaiming for almost 10 minutes compared with Rosie Lewis’ almost 5 minutes and David Crowe’s 7 minutes. In other words, PK had almost as much time talking as Crowe-Lewis combined.

It was not as if the ABC Radio National Breakfast  presenter was expressing what used to be called – in toxic masculinity days – the Wisdom of Solomon.  Indeed, at times PK insisted on speaking the obvious.

During the discussion on energy prices, she declared: “Full disclaimer I think…people on fixed incomes, lower incomes, working poor in this country are desperately in need of help…they won’t be able to pay their [energy] bills.”  It was certainly worth getting up at Hangover Time on a Sunday to be the recipient of such wisdom.  The discussion continued:

Patricia Karvelas: …They’ll [people on lower incomes] have to make some pretty difficult decisions – like, to not turning on that heating. And there are actually real health consequences to not being able to heat your own home when you are, you know – when it’s incredibly cold. Like, it’s not some sort of trivial thing. It’s very serious….

Like – go on. Without PK’s wisdom, who would have known that there are real health consequences to being “incredibly cold”? No doubt next time around, Comrade Karvelas will advise viewers that there are also real health consequences of being incredibly hot.

Soon after, PK declared her support for Treasurer Jim Chalmers’ budget:

Patricia Karvelas: Um, I think, personally, the budget was a really good – good, honest appraisal of where we’re at with the Australian people. To be honest, at huge political risk to the government. And so, as journalists, I think we should really, um, encourage that honesty. I think we need that kind of honesty from our governments. To not just be only thinking about the – the positive marketing spin for them when they hand down a budget, but actually being really frank with us. So, I actually think the approach they’ve taken is – is a good one. But when it comes to solutions, they will pay a price – boom, boom [laughing].

Yes – boom, boom indeed.  The ABC RN Breakfast presenter urged fellow panellists to rejoice in the October 2022 Budget’s honesty and “encourage that honesty”.  It’s impossible to imagine Comrade Karvelas urging fellow journalists to support a Coalition budget.  But there you go.  PK is part of the taxpayer funded Conservative Free Zone and that’s what you get for your (taxpayer) dollars.


  • PAUL BARRY THROWS THE SWITCH TO ABUSE re R v LEHRMANN

Paul Barry, the somewhat pompous presenter of the ABC TV Media Watch program (established 1989), sometimes comes to the attention of Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch Dog (established 1988).  Unlike MediaBuzz on Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News in the United States (presenter Howard Kurtz), the Australian taxpayer funded public broadcaster’s Media Watch program does not allow for a diversity of views. Instead Comrade Barry lays down the (media) law according to Comrade Barry week after week.

And so it came to pass that on 31 October Media Watch ran a segment titled “Lehrmann Trial Discharged”. The jury had been out for just over five days when the ACT Chief Justice Lucy McCallum terminated the trial on account of the fact that one juror had taken extraneous material into the jury room.  A re-trial has been scheduled for February 2023 in which Bruce Lehrmann will stand trial again for an alleged rape in Parliament House in early 2019.

Paul Barry told viewers that Justice McCallum had made the following comment on 28 October:  “I would expect that, after reporting the outcome of the trial today, that reporting of this matter should fall silent, so that the accused should have a fair trial…”

This admonition, however, did not stop your man Barry from commenting on the case of R v Lehrmann on Monday 31 October – where he criticised The Australian’s  columnist Janet Albrechtsen for her comments in The Australian  on Friday 28 October.

Unlike Barry, Albrechtsen has practised law and in her 28 October article made important points on the presumption of innocence, the right to a fair trial, due process and the rule of law. Rather than address Janet Albrechtsen’s comments, Paul Barry threw the switch to abuse and accused her of “ranting about the rule of law”. Which is a lot easier than discussing Albrechtsen’s argument.

Believe it or not, the taxpayer funded broadcaster’s media program has a staff of around ten.  Yet its presenter engages in mere abuse – knowing that those whom he criticises have no right of reply on the program.


JACKIE’S OLD BONES

Due to overwhelming popular demand, this segment has made a return to Media Watch Dog after what journalists like to call a Well Earned Break – or WEB.  “Jackie’s Old Bones” reflects the obsessive interest of Gerard Henderson – Jackie’s (male) co-owner – about what certain individuals said or wrote or did in the not too distant past.  And, on occasions, in the distant past.  It all depends on the nature of the old bones.  Now read on.

  • ANDREW CLARK’S HOWLER ABOUT THE DISMISSAL OF THE WHITLAM GOVERNMENT & SIR LAURENCE STREET’S (ALLEGED) INVOLVEMENT

As avid readers will be aware, on 23 September 2022 the Australian Financial Review’s senior writer Andrew Clark won MWD’s Media Fool of the Week gong.  In his error-ridden obituary of Jim Bain (1929-2022), Comrade Clark wrote, inter alia, that Gerard Henderson was “a former senior figure in Bartholomew Augustine Santamaria’s National Civic Council”.  By the way, B.A. Santamaria went by the name Bob Santamaria.

In his lazy journalism, Clark did not check with Henderson before making his claim. As Henderson has said on a number of occasions, he worked part-time for the National Civic Council in 1970 and 1971 while completing his second degree. When offered a job by Jim Bain at what became The Sydney Institute in late 1986, Henderson was chief of staff to John Howard – then Opposition leader.

Gerard Henderson wrote to the AFR correcting Comrade Clark’s howlers on 20 September 2022.  At the end of Henderson’s letter, the AFR allowed Clark a right of reply.  This led to another howler. Clark wrote: Henderson “has confirmed the link [with Santamaria] but, more than 50 years later, downgraded its significance”.

Clark just made this up – since Henderson had neither “confirmed” nor “downgraded” anything.   Henderson was never a “senior figure” in Santamaria’s NCC and never had a full-time role at the NCC.  Henderson did not talk to Santamaria (who died in 1998) after 1975.  All this is pointed out in Gerard Henderson’s  Santamaria: A Most Unusual Man (MUP, 2022) – which it would appear Clark has not read.  The AFR published a second (brief) letter by Henderson on 22 September 2022.  There the matter rested.

While on the topic of Australian national politics in the 1970s, does anyone remember the book Kerr’s King Hit! by Clem Lloyd and Andrew Clark (Cassell Australia, 1976)?  By the way, MWD just loves book titles that contain an exclamation mark!!!!  The book covered the dismissal of Gough Whitlam’s Labor government by Governor-General Sir John Kerr on 11 November 1975.

The SCOOP of Kerr’s King Hit! can be found in Chapter 23 where the following appears:

[Sir Garfield] Barwick was not the only distinguished jurist Kerr sought out for advice which would fortify his inclination to dismiss the Whitlam Government.  He approached the Chief Justice of NSW, Mr Justice [Laurence] Street, who had succeeded Kerr at the head of the NSW bench.  If Kerr was looking for support or a favourable legal opinion from Street, he was badly disappointed

. Street rejected the proposal to use the reserve powers out of hand.  He advised Kerr in the strongest terms that such a course of action was not on….

The Clem Lloyd/Andrew Clark claim is hopelessly wrong.  There is no evidence that Kerr talked to Street before he dismissed the Whitlam government.  None whatsoever.  Sir Laurence Street spoke to Paul Kelly, the co-author (with Troy Bramston) of The Dismissal: In the Queen’s Name (Viking, 2015). Sir Laurence made some comments on Kerr’s personality. But that was it.  There was no suggestion by Street or the authors that Kerr discussed the constitutional crisis before the dismissal took place on 11 November 1975.  Nearly 50 years after the event, no one other than Clem Lloyd and Andrew Clark have made such a claim.  MWD is not clear whether the co-authors ever corrected their howler.

Jackie’s Old Bones – A MWD Special.


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.

  • GEORGE BRANDIS & GERARD HENDERSON ON ROBERT MENZIES & THE LIBERAL PARTY OF AUSTRALIA

Gerard Henderson’s column in The Weekend Australian on 29 October 2022 titled “What would Menzies think? No one really knows” addressed comments made by former Coalition attorney-general George Brandis in his article in Nine’s Sydney Morning Herald on 24 October 2022 titled “Taking liberties with Menzies’ politics betrays his life and legacy”. Henderson essentially supported John Howard’s view that in 1944 Robert Menzies formed the Liberal Party of Australia that was consciously both liberal (in the J.S. Mill sense of the term) and politically conservative (in the Edmund Burke sense of the term).  He contested the view that (unnamed) conservatives were appropriating Menzies for their political ends. George Brandis is currently at the Australian National University.

On 1 November, The Australian published George Brandis’ response to the Henderson column.  The debate continued. Now read on:

Gerard Henderson to George Brandis – 1 November 2022

Dear George

Thanks for responding to my article in last Saturday’s Weekend Australian titled “What would Menzies think? No one knows”. It’s always good to see debate and discussion alive and well in Australia – there’s not enough of it around.  Sadly, there is so little genuine political diversity on the ABC these days.

In response, I make a couple of points:

  • In my column, I quoted you as writing in your Nine Newspapers’ column on 24 October 2022:  “Recently, we have seen right-wing elements attempt to conscript [Robert] Menzies’ name and memory to justify positions which are actually antithetical to his beliefs and to the purposes for which the Liberal Party was founded”.

In this context, you mentioned the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) meeting in Sydney, Nigel Farage, Matt Canavan, “an obscure South Australian backbencher” (presumably Alex Antic) and “a federal vice-president of the Liberal Party” (presumably Teena McQueen).  But you do not cite any speech or article in which any of the above mentioned Sir Robert Menzies in support of their views.  So it was not clear who you had in mind.

  • I did not criticise you for failing to cite “Menzies’ own words”.  Rather, I criticised your failure to cite anyone who was using Menzies’ words to distort his views – as claimed in your Nine column.
  • As documented in my column, my views on Robert Menzies are very similar to those expressed by John Howard in his recent book A Sense of Balance.  Howard pointed out that “in recent years there has been a constant refrain for small ‘l’ Liberals that theirs is the true Menzies position”.  Perhaps he had you in mind, among others.  Howard’s position is that “Menzies governed in very different times and in many specific ways was both an economic and social conservative”.  I concur.
  • I agree with you concerning Teena McQueen’s comments – made after the election – at the recent CPAC meeting where she said that she rejoiced at the loss of some Liberal Party seats to the Teals and Labor.  In fact, I have criticised Teena McQueen for this statement.

However, I am not aware that you have ever criticised Malcolm Turnbull’s intervention, before the May 2022 election, in the Australian political debate.  As documented by Aaron Patrick in his book Ego: Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberal Party’s Civil War – intentionally or otherwise – Turnbull did considerable damage to the Liberal Party and its leader Scott Morrison.  This adversely affected the campaign of the self-declared “modern” or “moderate” Liberals who were the prime casualties of Labor’s victory and the success of the Teals.  Virtually all the Liberals who lost their seats voted for Turnbull in the August 2018 leadership ballot.

  • I accept your view that Robert Menzies would not have agreed with Teena McQueen’s comment.  But I also believe that Menzies would not have approved of Malcolm Turnbull’s intervention in the 2022 election campaign as a critic of the incumbent Coalition government.  I note that you are willing to criticise Ms McQueen but not Mr Turnbull.  A disturbing double standard, in my view.

Congratulations on a successful term as Australia’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.

Best wishes

Gerard

Gerard Henderson

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MWD will let avid readers know of George Brandis’ response.

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Until Next Time.

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