ISSUE – NO. 620

27 January 2023

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In the aftermath of Australia Day and all that, the word from Matt Thistlethwaite – the Assistant Minister for the Republic in the Albanese Labor government – is that Australia Day might change from 26 January if Australia becomes a republic.  The new date would reflect the day on which a majority of Australian voters in a majority of states voted “Yes” to Australia becoming a republic with an Australian head of state. For the record, Media Watch Dog  supports Australia becoming a republic provided the change reflects Australia’s current system of representative government.

Yesterday, the Sydney Morning Herald carried a report by its chief political correspondent David Crowe which commenced as follows:

Australians have increased their support for a republic at a time of intense publicity over Prince Harry and his falling out with the royal family, with some voters saying his revelations have influenced their shift towards breaking ties with the monarchy. Support for the republic increased from 36 to 39 per cent among eligible voters over the four months since the death of Queen Elizabeth, while the number of voters against the change fell from 37 to 31 per cent.

Sandy Biar, the national director of the Australian Republic Movement, had this to say:

We knew that once the reality of having King Charles set in, support would swing back towards a republic with a vengeance. The royals are too busy fighting among themselves to represent Australia or stand up for our interests.

What a load of absolute tosh.  For starters, Australia does not look to the Royal Family to “stand up for our interests”.  They preside over a constitutional monarchy, that’s all.

Moreover, an increase in support for a republic of a mere 3 per cent four months after the death of Queen Elizabeth II is of no consequence.  After all, the secularist leftist Peter FitzSimons – until recently the chair of the ARM – was reported as saying on 31 October that support for a republic was growing by the day since the Queen’s death.

Not so. It’s possible that the meagre increase in support for the republic as measured in its Resolve Political Monitor poll reflects the ascent to the throne of King Charles. But it is more than likely that it has been caused by the exit of Comrade FitzSimons – aka The Red Bandannaed One – from his position as head of the Australian Republic Movement.

Fitz’s position has been taken by another fashionable and well-off left-of-centre comrade – to wit former Socceroo Craig Foster.  Sure, your man Foster is unlikely to alienate as many Australians as the guy who wore a red rag on his head for a decade.  But he is not the answer to a moderate republican’s prayer.

If the ARM wants to succeed, it needs to attract and maintain conservative votes. The ideal ARM chair is likely to be a conservative woman of no great wealth who lives in the suburbs or regional areas.

It would seem that the likes of Comrade FitzSimons, Biar and Foster – all of whom are Sydney-based blokes – do not understand the limits of their appeal to the voters whose support they need to attain before Australia becomes a republic.


On 25 January, the Sydney Morning Herald marked the day before Australia Day by running a column by Englishman Nick Bryant – who told readers he has “English eyes” – titled “Divisive day should be history”.  It commenced as follows:

A conversation five years ago with my super-patriotic mother-in-law brought home the gradual decline of Australia Day, which now appears to be gathering pace. To celebrate the 1988 bicentenary, she had hosted a colonial-themed costume party whose guests included her then-neighbour, John Howard, who came dressed dandily in 18th-century garb.

Do we need to know this (allegedly) personal detail of what (allegedly) happened some 35 years ago?  Sure your man Bryant went on to state his mother-in-law does now not celebrate Australia Day.  But, who cares?

All Jackie’s (male) co-owner can say is that if he found out that his mother-in-law hosted a themed costume party on any occasion – divorce proceedings would have been initiated immediately. And he certainly would not regard it as need-to-know information for readers of his column.

Can You Bear It?


There is no downside to the return of Patricia (“Please call me PK”) Karvelas as presenter of        ABC Radio National Breakfast – after her summer holiday (aka Well Earned Break in the journalist lexicon).  Except for the fact that she has replaced Hamish Macdonald.  Your man Macdonald – who seems to work for both the ABC and Network Ten’s The Project – provided Media Watch Dog with some great copy while in Breakfast’s presenter’s chair. So, he will be missed.

In the current terminology, Jackie’s (male) co-owner was excited by the return of PK.  But not as excited as the comrade herself who on the morning of Monday 23 January put out – or, rather shared – this exciting tweet:

There was a time when someone advised someone else about something or other. But today the verbal fashion is to share – rather than to tell.

So now, to MWD, it’s no longer Comrade Karvelas – but Professor Comrade Karvelas.  Indeed, Professor Lisa French, Dean of RMIT University’s School of Media and Communication, declared that PK is not only an honorary professor – but joins RMIT as one of its “distinguished Honorary Professors”.

For her part, the distinguished Professor Patricia Karvelas – or PPK – declared: “Returning to my alma mater to take up this honorary professorial role gives me great pride.”  She added: “I believe journalism has never been more important and I hope to be able to provide leadership for the country’s future journalists.”

PPK is a key player among the activist leftist journalists at the taxpayer funded public broadcaster. As avid readers are aware, the ABC is a Conservative Free Zone without one conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets.

It would seem that RMIT University is also a conservative free zone when it comes to visiting professors. MWD understands that Barrie Cassidy, ex-ABC, still holds the position of one of RMIT’s Junk Professors [Don’t you mean Adjunct Professor? – MWD Editor.]  So the leftist Karvelas joins the leftist Cassidy at the taxpayer subsidised university apparently to churn out more leftist activist journalism sludge to media students – not balanced by the presence of any conservative honorary or adjunct professors. Can You Bear It?


While on the issue of the return of the learned professor to RN Breakfast, wasn’t it great to see the re-consummation of The Guardian/ABC Axis on Thursday 26 January in the RN Breakfast’s “Politics with…” slot.  This is how Katharine Murphy was introduced:

Patricia Karvelas: Katharine Murphy is the political editor of The Guardian and our regular Thursday commentator.

The Guardian Australia is a small avowedly left-wing newspaper which commenced operations in Manchester in the 19th Century with the financial assistance of money made per courtesy of the slave trade, a fact that in Britain what are called “Guardian readers” don’t like to talk about –  including, it seems, Katharine (“Malcolm calls me Murpharoo”) Murphy and The Guardian Australia’s editor Lenore Taylor.

But MWD digresses.  Towards the end of the left-wing media love-in, discussion turned on Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe’s apparent opposition to the Indigenous Voice to Parliament. Earlier in the program, Tom Calma – one of the leading proponents of The Voice – had told Professor Karvelas that he felt “a bit offended” by Thorpe’s comments. This is how Murpharoo responded:

Katharine Murphy: Yeah, well, look, Lidia Thorpe, as we know, has sort of been equivocal regularly for some time about whether or not she’d support this proposition or not. There was a Greens party room meeting yesterday and essentially that party room meeting formalised her equivocation. Which is, sort of, preparing the potential, I suppose, that in the Greens party room or a bulk of people in the Greens party room will support The Voice and that Thorpe may not in terms of the referendum campaign and legislation following it. I must say, I did – when Tom Calma said to you a minute ago “I feel a bit offended about that” –  I did put my hand on my heart for a moment. I thought “Oh dear.”

It’s fair enough that Comrade Murphy reported on Tom Calma’s disagreement with the radical Greens senator. But the fact that Murpharoo reacted by putting her hand on her heart in “Oh dear” mode provides further evidence that she is a committed activist journalist.  It’s fine for RN Breakfast to have an activist journalist in its weekly political commentary slot. It’s just that no political conservative has a regular political commentary slot on the program. Can You Bear It?


There was enormous interest in Gerard Henderson’s speech, via video-link, at David Marr’s (fake) wake held to coincide with Comrade Marr’s 75th birthday party – as covered in Media Watch  Dog on 16 December 2022.

An avid reader has drawn attention to one part of Hendo’s speech concerning your man Marr’s behaviour in the ABC TV’s Southbank green room circa May 2015 and compared it with the same comrade’s reported behaviour at the State Library of NSW circa May 2012.

Here’s what Gerard Henderson had to say about the 2015 occasion in this section of his (brief) speech to the mainly inebriated comrades assembled in an inner-city soviet somewhere in Sydney:

When people ask me about my somewhat peculiar relationship with David – which attained visual form due to our occasional appearances in years past on the ABC Insiders program –  I refer to his following virtues.

    • On Monday 1 June 2015, I opened my emails only to read a message from David Marr which commenced as follows: “On Sunday before Insiders, while I was giving you a rich and full account of what a weird sh_t I think you are….” Now that’s frankness.
    • On another occasion in the Insiders green room, an animated David berated me about a criticism I had made of his book on George Pell. While doing so, he jumped up and down on one spot with both hands on this chest. It was like a boy on a pogo-stick. Except that David wasn’t a boy and he didn’t have a pogo-stick. That’s passionate.

And this is what Dr Paul Loughnan, who presents as a swing voter, wrote in his monograph titled Sir Robert Askin (Connor Court, 2020) – the former NSW Liberal Party premier – concerning David Marr (who was editor of The National Times which proclaimed that Askin was a corrupt friend of organised crime on the day of his state funeral in September 1981). Paul Loughnan has challenged the undocumented assertion as have Michael Duffy and Nick Hordern in their book Sydney Noir: The Golden Years (New South, 2017):

On 29 May 2012, during one of my regular visits to the research desk at the NSW State Library I had a chance encounter with David Marr. Upon introducing myself as the person who had contacted him via email regarding the PhD project on the Askin Government, Marr became very agitated.  He said, “you people, if I gave an interview to every PhD student on request, I wouldn’t have time to do my own work.  It’s a big project. You can’t do that.”

His histrionics escalated when he then stated, “I can’t help you because I wasn’t there”.  [The reference is to Marr’s time at the National Times in 1981 which led to the media campaign against Askin].  My immediate response was “but you were” to which he retorted, “but only a year”. He started kicking the carpet, turning circles, and saying in a sotto-voce voice, “f-ck, f-ck, f-ck”….

Well, fancy that. When in private argument, David Marr – the Australian left’s fave intellectual – is into vertical pogo-jumping and horizontal carpet kicking. Can You Bear It?


ABC TV’s 7:30 went on a mini-W.E.B. (Well-Earned Break) this week, with the show not airing on Wednesday or Thursday. The ABC’s primary current affairs program has yet to cover the crime wave in Alice Springs and the Prime Minister’s subsequent visit to the town, despite the story already dominating political coverage on Monday and Tuesday.

Instead, on Monday, 7:30 –  where Laura Tingle currently sits in the presenter’s chair – chose to feature a 14 minute panel discussion concerning Australia’s ongoing response to COVID-19. Invited on were Professor Brendan Crabb from the Burnet Institute, haematologist Nada Hamad and Richard Denniss from The Australia Institute.

Professor Crabb and Dr Hamad plus the presenter seemed to agree that Australia is currently doing too little to fight the virus. The segment featured two members of OzSAGE (Crabb & Hamad), an advocacy group formed in August 2021. The only membership requirements for OzSAGE appears to be a belief that the government must do more to stop the spread of COVID, and a predilection for tweeting.

OzSAGE is the Australian knock-off of a similar British group named Independent SAGE started in May 2020. Independent SAGE styles itself as an alternative to SAGE, the British government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (not to be confused with SAGE, the World Health Organization’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization).

Richard Denniss from the left-wing Australia Institute, contributed to the discussion by speculating about the damage done to the economy by COVID sick leave and Long COVID. He did not appear to have anything more to go on than vague estimates but offered up a suitably gloomy picture.

During the introduction for the segment, Tingle quoted statistics about the number of COVID deaths in 2022, attributing those figures to OzSAGE. It’s a little odd that 7:30 relies on OzSAGE for these numbers, especially since some of them, like “how many Australians died of COVID in 2022 compared to 2021” are incredibly easy to calculate.

A few days before the 7:30 segment aired, on Thursday 20 January Tingle devoted her Australian Financial Review column to COVID. There she offered up a similar opinion to those expressed by Crabb and Hamad a few days later. Other views were not offered in the column or the 7:30 segment. This is odd given the Tingle-OzSAGE view is not shared by those in charge of Australia’s public health response and would appear to be at odds with the public health measures being taken in most countries.

In fact, in her column, Tingle is quite open about the fact that she now considers Australia’s public health bodies to be the problem. While discussing an interview she had conducted with Health Minister Mark Butler, Tingle had this to say about ATAGI (the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation):

This is one of those areas where the virtues of listening to the experts come into question under the weight of the history of an advisory body that has been notoriously slow to adapt to the challenges of a pandemic. The impression gained was that Butler sounded, at the very least, like a prisoner of the same channels of official advice that had proved less than ideal under the former government.

It seems the public servants advising Australia’s state and federal governments are not providing the answers La Tingle wants, and so can be safely dismissed. After all, can you really be an expert if you disagree with Laura Tingle?

Media Fool Of The Week


Lotsa thanks to the avid Darwin reader who forwarded Jackie’s (male) co-owner this tweet by a certain Bruce Haigh – which was sent out from an iPhone at round Post-Dinner Drinks Time on Saturday 21 January:

Bollocks. Gerard Henderson has never lobbied the ABC to replace or sack anyone.  Moreover, if he did, it’s impossible to imagine that anyone at the taxpayer funded public broadcaster would have taken the slightest notice.  Unless someone suffers from a Bruce Haigh form of delusion, that is.

For starters, Hendo has never appeared on The Drum.  Moreover, it is so boring that he rarely watches it.  In fact, Jackie’s male co-owner is surprised that your man Sheridan goes on the program – which invariably involves the avoidance of argument as guests seek to follow the Give-Love-A-Chance ethos of co-presenters Julia Baird and Ellen Fanning.

As avid readers will be aware, ABC TV The Drum’s co-presenters Julia Baird and Ellen Fanning gave an interview to Nine newspapers’ Michael Gallo on 27 January 2019 in which they announced their intention to preside over a kinder/gentler Drum. Dr Baird (for a doctor she is) said that guests who bludgeon their ideological foes into submission will not be invited back. And Ms Fanning declared that the best shows occurred when someone says to another guest: “Say that again, that’s interesting.” How frightfully nice – in a wellness consciousness kind of way – of which Jackie (Dip Wellness, The Gunnedah Institute) would be proud. But MWD digresses.

Gerard Henderson last spoke to Bruce (“Have I told you more than two dozen times that I once worked as a diplomat in some postings?”) Haigh around Christmas 2015.  The superannuated diplomat was all over Jackie’s (male) co-owner like a cheap suit (as the saying goes – or went) and told him how he had recently sold his farm up the Hunter Valley way to base himself in Sydney – presumably to be close to The Drum at the ABC’s Ultimo studio.  Frightfully interesting, don’t you think?

Not long after the Christmas encounter – on 11 July 2016 to be precise – at around Dinner Drinks Time your man Haigh tweeted about “that whining rodent Gerard Henderson”.  How discourteous can a garrulous former diplomat get?

And now Comrade Haigh alleges that Hendo – who has been cancelled by the ABC – decides who will and who will not appear on ABC TV’s The Drum.  Really.

Bruce Haigh – Media Fool of the Week.

[Great choice.  I note that the oh-so-foolish Bruce Haigh tweeted on 23 January that Peter Dutton “is a clown and a racist” and that the man he calls “Albo” (i.e. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese) should take the Opposition leader “by the throat, shake him and read the riot act”. He continued: “Albo is not selling the case for the Voice; Keating should have the job”.  That was at 11.25 am. At 2.55 pm he tweeted: “Maybe I will emigrate”.   Bruce Haigh – don’t do it. Media Watch Dog needs you. – MWD Editor.]



As avid Media Watch Dog readers are aware, Morry Schwartz’s left-wing The Saturday Paper is not really a newspaper, since it contains scant news.  After all, The Saturday Paper goes to print on a Thursday. So, when it rocks-up at inner-city coffee shops on a Saturday morning its “news” is close to two days old.  MWD reads the publication on Mondays at Gin & Tonic Time – what’s the hurry?

It would seem that the paper’s editor-in-chief Erik Jensen is aware of this reality – which is why he puts old news on the front page that will appeal to the secularist/leftist Sandalista Class who identify as Saturday Paper readers and quite like opinion dressed up as news which re-enforces their prejudices.

On 14 January, the Schwartz/Jensen tome led with a story by the ABC’s Louise Milligan titled “The child abuse cases for which George Pell was never tried”.  The reference was to the late Cardinal Pell who died in Rome on 10 January 2023.  Milligan’s story took up the whole of pages one and four. It contained no news.

What the Saturday Paper  did not mention is that the reason why Pell was never tried on these cases turned on the fact that, variously, Victoria Police or the Victorian Director of Public Prosecutions or the Victorian Magistrates’ Court or the County Court of Victoria held that there was insufficient evidence to bring about a conviction. It’s called the legal system. Ms Milligan appears to share the view of the Victorian socialist left premier Daniel Andrews that every accusation of historical sexual abuse should lead to a conviction – irrespective of the evidence, including exculpatory evidence (i.e. evidence which supports the defence).

Milligan’s ignorant article was subjected to a devastating critique in a Twitter feed by Melbourne University Law School Professor Jeremy Gans – who came to the conclusion:  “Milligan’s a gifted writer.  But I don’t think she is a good court reporter”. The Saturday Paper’s contributor did not respond to Professor Gans’ criticism – instead, she blocked him as is her wont with virtually all critics.  Milligan rarely, if ever, defends her own positions with argument supported by evidence.

Then, on 21 January, The Saturday Paper ran another page one story on the late cardinal by another Pell antagonist.  Namely, Richard Ackland – once of the ABC, now TSP’s legal affairs editor.  It was titled “How Cardinal George Pell seduced News Corp” – which, when it spilled to page four, became “Media blessings”.

Ackland reported the old news that a number of journalists/contributors at The Australian opposed the media pile-on against Pell. They maintained that he should receive justice (including a fair trial) concerning the allegations of historical child sexual abuse made against him.  To Ackland, however, they had engaged in what he called the operations of a “Catholic mafia” – even though many are not practising Catholics. A Catholic conspiracy, apparently.

Richard Ackland’s point focused only on News Corp’s The Australian – not any of its other newspapers and not Sky News.  He overlooked the fact that there was more diversity concerning the Pell Case in News Corp outlets than there was at the ABC.  Ackland failed to mention that prominent ABC presenter Noel Debien said, after Pell’s convictions were quashed by a unanimous High Court decision, that he felt a “pariah” within the ABC – merely for not having declared that “George Pell was guilty as charged”.  In other words, Debien felt unable to express his opinion on Pell within the ABC – even in private.  Noel Debien is not a theological conservative in the Pell tradition.

Needless to say, Ackland also did not tell his readers (if readers there were) that all the coverage in Nine Entertainment newspapers after Pell’s death was critical of him to a greater or lesser extent. See today’s Correspondence segment.

It speaks volumes for The [Boring] Saturday Paper that it devoted two successive lead stories to essentially non-stories – when there was much to comment about in Australia and overseas.  Including the apparent breakdown of law and order in Alice Springs, the ongoing debate on The Voice, the forthcoming Australia Day controversy, interest rates and more besides.

[Interesting. I note that both Richard Ackland and Erik Jensen are cited in the Pell Pile-On list in Gerard Henderson’s Cardinal Pell, The Media Pile-On & Collective Guilt (Connor Court, 2021) which remains censored by the ABC even though it is a considered and documented account of the Pell Case. I understand that the censorship also applies to Frank Brennan’s considered and documented Observations on the Pell Proceedings (Connor Court, 2021). – MWD Editor]



On 20 January 2023, the Sydney Morning Herald published an obituary written by Malcolm Brown concerning the late Shirley Shackleton (1931-2023). In May 1966, Shirley Doreen Venn married Greg Sugar (later Shackleton) in the Church of England at Glenelg, Adelaide. At the time of his death Greg was estranged from Shirley and is understood to have re-partnered.

Greg Shackleton was one of five journalists killed in Balibo in East Timor, now Timor-Leste, when reporting what Brown described as “the civil war in East Timor between the left-leaning front for an independent East Timor (Fretilin) and factions supported by Indonesia”.

The Balibo Five, as they came to be called, were killed on 16 October 1975 – Australians Greg Shackleton (age 29) and Tony Stewart (21), Britons Brian Peters (24) and Malcolm Rennie (29) and New Zealander Gary Cunningham (27).  Shackleton, Stewart and Cunningham worked for Channel 7 and Peters and Rennie for Channel 9.

Shirley Shackleton devoted her life, from the killings in 1975 to her death on 15 January 2023 (after a long illness), to the memory of Greg and other members of the Balibo Five. She and her supporters contended that the five journalists were murdered by forces controlled by Indonesia.  However, successive Australian governments – Coalition and Labor alike – were of the view that the Balibo Five were caught in crossfire between pro and anti-Fretilin forces in a civil war in what was then part of Indonesia. The independent Timor-Leste came into existence in 2002.

In his obituary, Malcolm Brown referred to the fact that in 2007 a NSW coroner’s finding into the death of Brian Peters held that the five journalists had been deliberately killed by Indonesian special forces. However, the Australian Federal Police – following a lengthy investigation – concluded some years later that there was insufficient evidence to prove that any offence had taken place.

In his obituary, Brown reported that Gough Whitlam, who was the Labor Party prime minister of Australia in October 1975, told the NSW coroner that he had advised Greg Shackleton that the Australian government could not protect him or his journalist colleagues if they went to East Timor.

Mr Whitlam’s evidence included these sentences: “I assumed Greg Shackleton would have taken notice of my warnings.  I assumed he would have warned his colleagues.  It would have been very irresponsible if he didn’t – then he would be culpable”.  Ms Shackleton, in response, declared: “My husband has been virtually slandered by the [former] prime minister…this was bloody murder.”

Malcolm Brown referred to Shirley Shackleton’s book The Circle of Silence: A personal testimony before, during and after Balibo (Murdoch Books, 2010).  However, Brown made no reference to Tony Maniaty’s Shooting Balibo: Blood and Memory in East Timor (Viking, 2009) where the following comment appears:

The enigma of [Greg] Shackleton keeps troubling me. Even now I am no closer to understanding why he left himself, and perhaps the others, so exposed to the near-certainty of death at the hands of the Indonesians. My thoughts run up alleys with labels ranging from bravery and the quest for truth to mild suicidal tendencies and blatant stupidity, but in none can I really find an answer, or even the beginnings of one. These guys weren’t dumb, they were bright and savvy young Australians with exciting careers and lives ahead of them. We know … that the newsmen placed themselves at great risk and were part-responsible for their terrible fate. But we know little about their real motivations for staying here, or why they ignored the obvious: that under the circumstances that existed and were known by them to exist, remaining in Balibo as Fretilin pulled out bordered on a form of madness.

Tony Maniaty was of the view that the Balibo Five were deliberately murdered. But, as pointed out previously, the Australian Federal Police – after a long investigation – did not find evidence to support such a conclusion.

Tony Maniaty points out that Greg Shackleton was born Gregory Hogg and then changed his name to  Gregory Smith and then Gregory Sugar before he became Greg Shackleton. In his obituary in Green Left  on 17 January 2023, Stephen Langford  refers to Shirley Venn having “married Greg Sugar (later Shackleton)”.

Maniaty has suggested that Greg may have wanted to follow the deeds of the explorer Ernest Shackleton (1874-1922) who led expeditions to Antarctica where his life and that of his team were sometimes in danger – and that this probably explains Greg’s final surname change.

Malcolm Brown did not mention the status of the Greg/Shirley relationship.  In the published Volume 16 of the Australian Dictionary of Biography (MUP, 2002), Peter Gifford referred to the fact that “Greg…changed his surname three times by deed poll from Hogg to Smith and finally to Shackleton”. Shirley is referred to as both Greg’s “wife” and “widow”.  However, the ADB’s Online edition (dated 2006) referred to Shirley as “Shackleton’s estranged wife”.  It is understood that, at the time of his death, Greg had a partner – she is rarely referred to in media accounts of his life and death – and was not named in the SMH or Green Left obituaries.

The ADB Online entry (dated 2006) contains this account of Greg Shackleton’s journalism and death in East Timor:

The five young newsmen had found little time to familiarise themselves with local conditions and only Cunningham had previously worked in a war zone.  Yet their initial reports indicated sufficient competence to gainsay one newspaper colleague who dismissed them as having “come straight from chasing fire engines” in Australia.  Shackleton may have been carrying documents on behalf of Fretilin; if so, this action may have contributed to his death. The question as to whether he and his four companions were killed in the battle or subsequently murdered remained unresolved for more than twenty-five years.



There is invariably an activist journalist in our midst, of the self-proclaimed progressive (aka leftist) genre.  But rarely is there anyone who admits to this.  There are, however, occasional exceptions.

On 13 March 2017, the Sydney Morning Herald  published a profile on ABC “star” Fran Kelly by Tim Elliott.  It contained this paragraph:

Radio is actually [Fran] Kelly’s second career.  She came late into journalism, at 29, and cheerily admits to having had no training, apart from volunteering at the community radio station Triple R. “What I am really am [sic] is an activist”, she says.

Comrade Kelly has been known to complain about this quote being used by her critics.  However, she has not denied having made the comment to Tim Elliott.

Thanks to the avid reader who drew Media Watch Dog’s attention to the chapter by former ABC “star” Sophie McNeill in the book Through Her Eyes: Australia’s Women Correspondents from Hiroshima to Ukraine (Hardie Grant, 2022) which is edited by Melissa Roberts and Trevor Watson.

Currently a researcher for Human Rights Watch, Comrade McNeill was an investigative reporter with ABC TV’s Four Corners and was posted to the Middle East as ABC’s correspondent based in Jerusalem.   She held this position from 2015 to 2018 – and was criticised for what some saw as her hostile reporting with respect to Israel.

After describing her support for a Syrian family fleeing persecution in Syria, McNeill had this to say in Through Her Eyes:

The firm belief that reporters must be dispassionate, neutral observers is built on a fallacy.  While I’d never pick a military “side” in  conflict, I was always firmly on one side – that of the civilians, the women and children, the victims of the violence of the war crimes, the ones caught in the middle without the power of guns or the warplanes.  It doesn’t impact my commitment to the truth, to verifying the evidence, or getting it right, I just believe that centring ethical decision-making at the heart of what you do makes better journalism…

I’ve been told my approach is unique (and mostly not a compliment) and I wonder if it’s because I didn’t do any formal journalism training.  I didn’t really know how you were supposed to do it. I didn’t really know what the rules were.  I just did what felt right, what I could live with, my heart and gut leading the way….

Sophie McNeill’s chapter is fascinating in its honesty – albeit somewhat narcissistic.  Honest in that she admits, when an ABC reporter, to not being interested in conventional notions of journalistic balance. But also somewhat into narcissism –  in that McNeill claims to be unique in her approach.

Not so.  There are many activist journalists like Sophie McNeill and Fran Kelly.  It’s just that their fellow activists are invariably into denial.

Sophie McNeill was given the job at the taxpayer funded public broadcaster of covering the Middle East, perhaps the world’s most contested space at the time –  where she saw it her role to be an activist.  This provides a unique insight into how many ABC journalists see themselves.


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.


Gerard Henderson’s Weekend Australian column on 21 January 2023 examined the unbalanced media coverage of the death of Cardinal George Pell – particularly in such outlets as the ABC, Nine Entertainment’s newspapers, The Saturday Paper, The New Daily, Crikey and so on. This matter was also referred to in MWD on 20 January. For example, Nine’s The Age and Sydney Morning Herald ran only criticism of Pell – comprising both an obituary and an article written by Pell antagonist Barney Schwartz plus a critical editorial each, plus letters which were all hostile to Pell (SMH) or primarily so (The Age).

There was also a column in both newspapers by Miles Pattenden – currently a visiting fellow at the Australian National University. Dr Pattenden’s article was not only primarily critical of the late Cardinal but also contained a number of factual errors which – if not corrected in Nine’s online edition – are sure to be repeated by someone or other over the years.

On Monday 23 January 2023, Henderson sent a (courteous) email to Tory Maguire – executive editor of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald concerning the Pattenden howlers.

Sure, Ms Maguire is a busy person. In any event, she neither responded to the letter nor got someone to do so on her behalf. So, here – for the record – is the one sided correspondence.

[I look forward to reading it. Maybe you should consider commencing a “Howler Watch” segment in MWD. I’m sure you would have no trouble filling it with a little help from Dr Pattenden (for a doctor he is) and friends. Just a thought. – MWD Editor]

Gerard Henderson to Tory Maguire – 23 January 2023

Good afternoon Tory

When I was a Sydney Morning Herald  columnist for over two decades, I understood that Fairfax regarded its newspapers as publications of record – among other things.  I assume that the same ethos applies under the management of Nine Entertainment.

As you know, the late Cardinal George Pell was one of the best known Australians – both at home and abroad.  I assume, then, that Nine would wish to correct online some of the errors in the article by Miles Pattenden which was published in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald  on 12 January 2023 – and remains on the Nine website.

I briefly covered this matter in my Weekend Australian column last Saturday.  Dr Pattenden has not taken issue with anything I wrote then.  Nor did he respond to an email I sent to him on the same topic on 16 January.

Contrary to what readers of Nine Entertainment’s newspapers were informed by Miles Pattenden:

  • George Pell was not a schoolboy heavyweight boxing champion.  It appears that Pattenden misinterpreted Wikipedia’s reference to George’s father – George Arthur Pell – who was a heavyweight boxer.
  • Pell was not “a fan of monarchy”. He was a republican who sat as a republican at the Australian Constitutional Convention in 1998 and believed that Australia should have an Australian head of state.
  • Pell did not go to “lengths” to support fellow priest and convicted pedophile Gerald Ridsdale.  At the request of the curia of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, Pell escorted Ridsdale to the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court in 1993 when Ridsdale was about to plead guilty, for the first time, to historical child sexual abuse.

Pell, who did not enter the court, declined to give a character reference for Ridsdale which was in line with what the defence lawyers wanted. Ridsdale was given a prison term and was jailed again on a number of charges the following year – he has been in prison since then. Pell was never Ridsdale’s bishop or archbishop and was never in a position of authority with respect to him.

There are other misjudgements and misinterpretations in Pattenden’s article. The fact is that Pattenden arrived in Australia in 2019 and is an expert on the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages and the Counter-Reformation. He is not an expert on the contemporary Catholic Church in Australia and appears to have relied on Wikipedia when writing about Cardinal Pell for Nine newspapers – ignoring, in the process, Tess Livingstone’s biography George Pell (2002) and other substantial writings on Pell.

It would be unfortunate if Miles Pattenden’s errors remain uncorrected on The Age/SMH website.

Best wishes




Until next time.