GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG

ISSUE – NO. 622

10 February 2023

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  • NORMAN SWAN RETURNS FOR HIS FOURTH YEAR AS THE ABC’s LEAD COVID DOOMSAYER

It was comforting to see Dr Norman Swan, the ABC’s resident COVID expert, return to 7:30 on Thursday 9 February. Dr Swan, and his frequently gloomy and infrequently accurate COVID pronouncements have been a staple of ABC TV and Radio throughout the pandemic. Swan, who is often described (by himself) as “Australia’s Most Trusted Doctor” despite not practising medicine for decades, has provided regular copy for Media Watch Dog. So another year with him at the helm of the ABC’s COVID coverage can only be a good thing.

This latest appearance was in keeping with your man Swan’s style throughout the pandemic. That is, pessimism with a touch of condescension. According to the former resident doctor for the Channel 10 reality show The Biggest Loser, Australia is “a seriously undervaccinated country”. Swan claims even those who are fully vaccinated have a 4-5 per cent chance of getting Long COVID. Meaning “they’ll get chronic lung problems, they’ll get cerebral problems, they’re at risk of a heart attack or stroke”. For those undervaccinated the Long COVID rate rises, if Swan is to believed, to 10-30 per cent.

These gloomy pronouncements, which would suggest that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Australians are already experiencing severe health problems following COVID infections, were not challenged by presenter Sarah Ferguson – and, as is often the case at the ABC, no other voice was heard. At the end of the segment Comrade Swan offered up the following lecture:

Norman Swan: We have been obsessed during this pandemic with the size of the peak [number of daily cases or deaths]. And people who are arguing that the pandemic is over have been saying “well look at the size of the peak, the peaks are going down and we don’t have a problem anymore”.

Sarah Ferguson: So we don’t need to worry anymore.

Norman Swan: The problem is, and this is maths. If you get a shallow curve but it goes on for longer, more people are infected. So, you might not get the drama of the high peak and the headlines. But, in fact, you get a much more serious outbreak.

Contrary to Dr Swan’s attempt to rewrite history, Australia was not “obsessed” with peak cases and deaths because of “drama” or “headlines” – but because a large caseload over a short period of time threatened to overwhelm the healthcare system. This argument was articulated by Swan himself many times, back when the term “bend the curve” was in vogue and he wanted to scare people about the imminent collapse of the hospital system. But now that threat may have passed, Dr Swan seems to have forgotten it ever existed.

Thankfully it appears Dr Swan will still be available in 2023 to condescendingly explain the “maths” to ABC viewers and give lectures on why nobody but Dr Swan takes COVID seriously.

  • SARAH FERGUSON’S ATTEMPT TO DOMINATE HER INTERVIEW WITH SENATOR PRICE

While on the topic of Sarah Ferguson, did anyone see her 7.30 interview with Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price on 2 February?

When discussion turned to the proposed Voice to Parliament enshrined in the Constitution, Ms Ferguson asked seven leading questions aimed at getting Senator Price to agree with her. Moreover, in this part of the interview, Price got 60 per cent of the airtime to Ferguson’s 40 per cent. Perhaps, next time, Price could interview Ferguson.  Better still, perhaps Ferguson could interview herself.

In spite of the importance of the interview, 7.30 has not done a transcript of the Ferguson/Price interview. However, the exchange can be watched on iView.  You be the judge about this latest example of activist journalism on the taxpayer funded public broadcaster.


Can You Bear It?

  • YET ANOTHER TAXPAYER FUNDED LEFTIST STACK AT THE 2023 ADELAIDE WRITERS’ WEEK

Good news for Media Watch Dog.  The literary festival/writers’ festival season is upon us again.  As avid readers well know, such occasions are times where leftist organisers get bucket-loads of taxpayers’ money and invite their leftist comrades to a literary event. On such occasions, essentially everyone essentially agrees with essentially everyone else on essentially everything in a left-wing (aka progressive) kind of way.

At Gin & Tonic Time yesterday, Jackie’s male co-owner ran a Gin-stained coaster under each line of the cast of the 2023 Adelaide Writers’ Week to carefully check out the taxpayer funded talent.  Here’s a list of the Australian “talent” who will be performing – primarily in the non-fiction area. [Are you sure this is the correct terminology?  After all, a lot of the leftist luvvies listed below write lotsa fiction in the guise of non-fiction. – MWD Editor.]

Michael Bradley, Inala Cooper, James Curran, Paul Daley, Brigid Delaney, Jon Faine, Sarah Ferguson, Richard Fidler, Peter FitzSimons, Simon Holmes à Court, Tony Jones, Bernard Keane, Jack Latimore, Raina MacIntyre, Paddy Manning, Maxine McKew, Shaun Micallef, Louise Milligan, Rick Morton, Katharine Murphy, Alison Pennington, Margot Saville, Margaret Simons, David Speers, Lenore Taylor, Brook Turner.

This lot will be assisted by the American leftist Bruce Shapiro who is a regular guest on Phillip Adams’ little wireless program Late Night Live  and Marina Hyde from the avowedly leftist The Guardian in London. Ideological re-enforcements both, it seems.

Can anyone identify anyone on this list who is a political or social conservative?  Anyone?  It’s a Conservative-Free-Zone like the ABC, except that the taxpayer funded public broadcaster at least has one or two conservative presenters on low-rating, non-prominent programs for the sake of keeping-up-appearances.

In 2022, the director of Adelaide Writers’ Week was Jo Dyer. As far as MWD can work it out, she was last heard of running as a so-called Teal Independent intent on defeating the sitting Liberal Party MP Nicolle Flint in the Adelaide-based seat of Boothby.  Ms Flint lost the seat to the Labor Party’s Louise Miller-Frost with lotsa help from Greens’ preferences.  Comrade Dyer, who gave up her British citizenship to contest the May 2022 election, finished fourth in the race – behind the Liberals, Labor and the Greens – scoring 6.6 per cent of the primary vote.

Jo Dyer has been succeeded as director of the Adelaide Writers’ Week by another avowed leftist – to wit, Louise Adler.  And so, it has come to pass that Comrade Dyer was replaced by Comrade Adler – but the taxpayer funded Adelaide Writers’ Week leftist stack remained in situ. Can You Bear It?

  • IN WHICH JANE CARO PROVIDES PROOF THAT YOUNG FOOLS CAN GROW INTO OLD FOOLS

While on the topic of leftist luvvies who gave up their British citizenship in order to contest the May 2022 Australian federal election – consider the case of Jane Caro. As avid readers will recall, Comrade Caro ran for the Senate in NSW for the Reason Party (formerly the Australian Sex Party) in order to save Australia’s soul – or something like that.  Alas, the Reason Party finished in 11th place – behind Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party and even Legalise Cannabis Australia – scoring 0.6 per cent of the vote. Which means according to the reasoning of the Reason Party, Australia’s soul still seems destined to be lost. Or something like that.

But MWD digresses. Comrade Caro wrote the “Life Matters” column in Nine’s Sunday Life magazine on 5 February. It was titled “Age-old story” – and contained this sub-heading: “It’s ageism that wearies us, not our years”.  Here’s how the column started:

My 68-year-old husband is affable by nature, so he moves fairly easily through the world. He can strike up a conversation with just about anyone and knows most of our local shopkeepers by name. That’s why I was surprised when he returned from running some errands recently not just flustered, but upset. “I was queuing at the bakers, minding my own business,” he told me, “Then, when it was my turn, the bloke behind the counter said, ‘And what can we do for you, young man?’” Being 65 myself, I knew exactly why he felt so outraged and humiliated….

And so it went on – and on.  No surprise, really – since the columnist had another 720 words to go to finish her 800-word column.

What to do?  Answer: Fill up the column with clichés like these about the unnamed baker’s shop assistant who had been “particularly offensive” to the man around the Caro House:

  • “there is sod-all any of us can do about the passage of time”.
  • “unless you are young, all of us will get old”.
  • “As Amy Poehler said…`a lot of people who are dead wish they were still alive’”.
  • “having been alive for a long time does not turn us into children”.

Brilliant, eh?  After downloading at length about just how “particularly offensive” the shop assistant had been to her husband – Comrade Caro opined: “Young fools often grow up to be old fools”. Quite so.  Has Ms Caro no self-perception?  More importantly: Can You Bear It?

[No. Not really – now that you ask.  I wonder, however, whether you have been too tough on The Jane’s knowledge about what the dead wish for.  Perhaps she is in touch with the American psychic medium John Edward who communicates with the recently departed and helps out, via the late Media Watch Dog canine Nancy (2002-2017), with respect to MWD’s “Nancy’s Courtesy Classes” segment. – MWD Editor.]

  • FAREWELL TO ALL THAT – NO JANUARY LUVVIES GET-TOGETHER AT THE FITZ/LISA SYDNEY HARBOUR PILE THIS YEAR

While on the topic of leftist luvvies, MWD was saddened to learn – via the “Media” section in The Australian on Monday 6 February – that Australia’s leading leftist luvvies had cancelled their annual January bash this year.  The reference is to Mr and Mrs Red Bandanna – aka Nine’s Peter FitzSimons and Network 10’s Lisa Wilkinson.

According to Nick Tabakoff’s “The Diary”, one friend of the couple said they were bruised by the events of 2022 and added: “They feel they’ve had the worst year of their lives”. Consequently, they did not have a party. So there.  As MWD recalls, Comrade Fitz was criticised for giving a hard time to Senator Nampijinpa Price  in a Sun-Herald interview while Comrade Lisa got into some kind of bother with the ACT Supreme Court.

What a shame – especially for MWD.  Jackie’s (male) co-owner has never received an invite to the FitzSimons/Wilkinson gig.  But the arrival of a couple of (small) boat loads of Sydney’s finest inner-city leftists at the couple’s Neutral Bay pile on Sydney Harbour provided great copy for MWD.  Re which see the photo of a previous Red Bandanna function which MWD likes to run from time to time.

As Stan Grant pointed out in a piece he wrote in The Australian in early 2021, the Neutral Bay get-together (which commenced on Australia Day but was moved to take account of the emerging Invasion Day concept and all that) consisted of lotsa leftist luvvies agreeing with each other in a leftist luvvie kind of way. Your man Grant should know – after all he has spent lotsa time at the conservative-free-zone that is the ABC.

Needless to say, Mr Grant was not invited back in 2022. And the get-together was not held in 2023. MWD is not sure about the plausibility of the suggested reason for the cancellation.  MWD’s understanding is that there may be a deeper cause – which could involve a de-radicalisation of Nine’s star Fitz.  For starters, Fitz abandoned the red rag he had worn on his head for a decade not so long ago. And now this.

Could it be that the Fitz/Lisa duo are worried about the implications of the Invasion Day cause they embraced not so long ago?  Especially the demand of some radicals that the “invaders” give back their land to the likes of (former Greens parliamentarian) Senator Lidia Thorpe (despite her white father).

It may be that the multi-millionaire comrades believe that it is no longer wise to draw attention to their pile on Sydney Harbour by parading their wealth – even to their (inner-city) besties. After all, even the wealthy in our midst need to set limits on the many implications of Invasion Day with respect to property ownership. Which raises the question: Can You Bear It?


MWD EXCLUSIVE

  • NIKI SAVVA FAILS TO SUPPORT HER CLAIM ABOUT PAUL FLETCHER IN HER BOOK BULLDOZED

As avid Media Watch Dog readers know only too well, Niki Savva is one of MWD’s fave journalists.  If only for the fact that, as far as Jackie’s (male) co-owner can recall, she is the only journo to have expressed some pride in boasting that journalists lie.

Doubters in MWD’s ranks can check out  Pages 94 to 95 of Niki Savva’s So Greek: Confessions of a Conservative Leftie  where the following comment appears:

As a journalist I lied often, usually about my sources, but about other things too… Journalists can, and do, get away with lying; politicians and staff can’t. Nor should they….

[Hang on a minute. There is no such thing as a “conservative leftie”.  Could this be (yet) another Savva whopper? – MWD Editor.]

On 5 February, Paul Fletcher (the shadow minister for Government Services and the Digital Economy and manager of Opposition Business in the House of Representatives) appeared on Sky News’ Sunday Agenda. Towards the end of the interview, the following exchange took place:

Andrew Clennell: Alright, while I have got you here, Niki Savva’s book on Scott Morrison alleges you were the Minister who sent the [text] message to the former NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian describing Scott Morrison as “a complete psycho”. Is that you?

Paul Fletcher : No.

Andrew Clennell : Okay.

Paul Fletcher : I might say Niki Savva never spoke to me, she never put that to me. I haven’t read Nikki’s book and I am not going to but that is not true.

Andrew Clennell : Well she wrote “…one senior NSW Liberal claiming he had seen a screenshot of the exchange later told me that the Minister was Paul Fletcher”. You are saying it wasn’t you?

Paul Fletcher : It was not me.

Well, that’s pretty clear. Comrade Savva quoted someone who made an allegation about Paul Fletcher in her book Bulldozed: Scott Morrison’s fall and Anthony Albanese’s rise (Scribe, 2022) without checking with him. And Mr Fletcher has said the allegation was not true.

It would seem that Comrade Savva was watching Sunday Agenda on 5 February.  At the end of the program, Andrew Clennell made this comment:

Andrew Clennell:  Nikki Savva tells me –  the journalist involved in alleging it was Fletcher in her book –  she did speak to Paul Fletcher and he hung up on her after a couple of minutes of conversation. But it is unclear. I don’t think she spoke to him or put that particular text message allegation to him.

So there you have it.  Ms Savva told Sky News’ Andrew Clennell that she did talk to Paul Fletcher – but, according to Clennell, did not claim to have raised the text comment about Scott Morrison with him.  You wonder, then, as to what was the purpose of the call.

For its part, MWD checked the matter with Paul Fletcher – who provided the forthcoming comment:

She [Niki Savva] did not ask me about it – in the very brief period after she called me before I (politely) ended the conversation.

So, there you have it.  In Bulldozed, Comrade Savva effectively accused Paul Fletcher of disloyalty to his (then) prime minister Scott Morrison.  But she did not check out the allegation with Mr Fletcher before going to print. Somewhat unprofessional, don’t you think?


A LITTLE KNOWLEDGE IS A DANGEROUS THING

Due to overwhelming popular demand, Jackie’s (male) co-owner has created this segment – devoted to demonstrating that wise blokes and sheilas know what they do not know – while foolish ones do not know what they do not know. Hence the saying – a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

  • FOUR CORNERS’  FLAWED ACCOUNT OF THE ATTEMPTED RAPE AND THE MURDER OF MARIA GORETTI

The NSW State election will be held on Saturday 25 March. So it came as no surprise that the first ABC TV Four Corners program for 2023 (which aired on 30 January) was essentially a hatchet job on NSW Coalition premier Dominic Perrottet – disguised as an attack on the Opus Dei. This is a religious organisation which is a theologically conservative part of the Catholic Church in Australia. It runs some schools for boys and girls in North West Sydney – including Redfield College and Tangara School For Girls.

Sure, Dominic Perrottet attended Opus Dei schools in Sydney – as do some of his children.  But beyond that, as far as MWD is aware, he has no continuing attachment to Redfield – the Opus Dei school from which he graduated around a quarter of century ago.  Even so, Four Corners fanged the NSW premier at the beginning and end of the program titled “Purity: An Education in Opus Dei”.

Thanks to the avid regional NSW reader who drew attention to the part of “Purity” which referred to Maria Teresa Goretti (1890-1902) who is one of the Catholic Church’s canonised saints.  This is how she is described in Michael Walsh’s edited collection Dictionary of Christian Biography (Continuum):

Goretti, Maria Teresa  Martyr and saint, born Corinaldo, Italy, 16 October 1890, died there, 6 July 1902. A peasant girl, responsible for the care of her family following the death of her father.  On 5 July 1902 she was mortally wounded by Alessandro Serenelli, a young man who stabbed her with a stiletto while attempting to rape her.  She died the next day after forgiving him. Canonized in the presence of her killer in 1950.  Feast day 6 July.

This is how Maria Goretti was referred to in Four Corners’  “Purity” program.  Louise Milligan was the reporter, Mary Fallon the producer and Matthew Carney the executive producer.  Let’s go to the official transcript:

Louise Milligan, Reporter: One of the stories Tangara graduates are most disturbed by is about a young martyred saint… Maria Goretti … who was stabbed 14 times rather than allow her neighbour to rape her.

Claire Harris: I feel sick when I think about my education [at Opus Dei’s Tangara College]. Maria Goretti is one of the things I always think about.

Louise Milligan, Reporter: Maria Goretti was only 11 years old.

Isabella Kershaw: She made the decision that she would rather die than go to hell for being a victim of rape. And we were taught to glorify her and revere her as a symbol of chastity and purity and virginity and a teen saint that we should aspire to be like in our daily lives. The message that we got was definitely that once your virginity was gone, you were worthless.

Louise Milligan: Even if you’re raped.

Isabella Kershaw: Exactly. Yeah.

Louise Milligan, Reporter: Consent is frequently raised by Tangara and Redfield alumni… students say the message was women were partially responsible for sexual assault by men.

[Excuse me – but this sounds odd.  If Opus Dei wants all women  to remain virgins – how is it that Opus Dei types have children which they send to Opus Dei schools?  Just a thought.  MWD Editor.]

Now here are some facts:

  • Maria Goretti died in 1902 at age 11 and was canonised in 1950.  Opus Dei arrived in Australia in 1963, well after Maria Goretti was initially honoured in Australian Catholic schools.  Indeed, there were Maria Goretti societies in existence in some Catholic parishes in Australia in which Opus Dei  did not have a presence.  In short, there is no special link between Opus Dei and the memory of Maria Goretti.
  • Maria Goretti  died a day after attempting to fight her male rapist whom she knew and who was a nearby neighbour. She resisted Serenelli’s attempts and, in a fit of rage, he stabbed her 14 times.
  • According to reports, the victim did not tell her attacker that it was a mortal sin to surrender to a rapist – as Four Corners implied. Rather, she told Serenelli  that he would commit a mortal sin if he raped her.  The Catholic Church has never taught that victims of rape commit a mortal sin. Four Corners produced no evidence to the contrary.
  • Goretti forgave Serenelli – a Christian act – on her death bed. He was sentenced to a prison term of 30 years and served 27 years.
  • As Catholic Online puts it: “Saint Maria…fought against Alessandro’s attempts at sexual sin. However, the most important aspects of her story are how she forgave her attacker….”.

All this is quite different from the Maria Goretti story as told to Four Corners viewers.  And there is another point here.  Was the Four Corners program really suggesting that Maria Goretti should have surrendered willingly and/or should not have resisted Serenelli and allowed him to rape her?  Really?

By the way, perhaps unknown to the Four Corners team, the traditional Catholic opposition to sex before marriage is no different from that promoted by Islam which, from MWD’s memory, the program has not condemned. The ABC prefers such soft targets as the Catholic Church.

As the saying goes:  A Little Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing.


DOCUMENTATION

  • ABC’S DAN BOURCHIER NOT ONLY CONFUSED ABOUT THE PROPOSED 1967 REFERENDUM BUT ALSO THE 1999 REFERENDUM

As Gerard Henderson documented in his Weekend Australian  column on 4 February, some ABC journalists do not appear to have understood the 1967 referendum – which among other things (successfully) sought to alter the Constitution to give the Commonwealth government powers to make laws with respect to Aboriginal people wherever they lived in Australia.

Contrary to the prevailing myths, the 1967 referendum had nothing to do with voting rights (all indigenous Australians were free to vote in federal elections from no later than 1962) or citizenship (all Indigenous Australians were citizens from no later than 1948).

Presenting The Drum on Friday 27 January, Dan Bourchier ran the citizenship howler about the 1967 referendum.  This would not matter all that much except for the fact that he holds the position of the ABC’s reporter on The Voice and the referendum (which will be held before the end of 2023).  Also, your man Bourchier co-presents ABC TV’s The Drum  and is an occasional panellist on ABC TV’s Insiders.

And so it came to pass that Dan Bourchier appeared on the first Insiders  program for 2023 (on 5 February, in fact). When discussion turned on the forthcoming referendum, the ABC’s designated reporter on constitutional change matters had this to say – following a comment from the well-informed Jennifer Hewett about the proposed Voice.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Jennifer Hewett: …people will still say: “Yeah but exactly what are we voting for it?”.  And although they don’t need to be told exactly, I think they do…need to have a bit more of an idea of what the architecture is likely to be. Not to have every single detail, and certainly not to even be put in the referendum. But a clear idea of what the government’s thinking of this.

Dan Bourchier: This is the challenge, isn’t it? It’s how much does the government outline beforehand that won’t be weaponised. Compared to giving all the details and then seeing what happened in 1999, where every piece of information that comes out, is weaponised as part of that election process.

What a load of absolute tosh. For the record, Jackie’s (male) co-owner voted “Yes”- in the 1967 referendum on Aboriginal rights and in the 1999 referendum on whether Australia should become a republic.

Sure, some supporters of an Australian republic claimed that the question was somehow rigged to favour the “No” vote. But this was not the case.  Here is the question that was asked as set out in the Commonwealth of Australia Parliamentary Handbook:

6 November 1999

Establishment of Republic:

Question 1

A proposed law: To alter the Constitution to establish the Commonwealth of Australia as a republic with the Queen and Governor-General being replaced by a President appointed by a two-thirds majority of the members of the Commonwealth Parliament.

Do you approve this proposed alteration?

Contrary to what Bourchier told Insiders’ viewers, the government provided only the basic information in 1999 and no weaponisation was involved by opponents of the proposal who were led by prime minister John Howard.

In November 1999, Australians were asked a simple question – as to whether or not they agreed with the Queen and the Governor-General being replaced by a President chosen by two thirds of the members of the Commonwealth Parliament (i.e. House of Representatives and senators).

Sure, the republican side was divided –  with some supporters of Australia having an Australian head of state maintaining that the president should be chosen by all electors and not by parliamentarians alone.  However, there was no doubt about what a “Yes” vote would lead to. In Jennifer Hewett’s terminology, voters had a clear idea of what the architecture of the constitutional change would amount to.

The “No” vote prevailed in November 1999 because a majority of Australians in a majority of states voted “No” to a simple proposal.  There was no weaponisation involved with respect to detail – since it was known what would be the consequence of a “Yes” or “No” vote before the referendum was held.

It would now seem that Dan Bourchier is confused about the referendums of both 1967 and 1999. Yet he is the ABC’s designated reporter on the 2023 referendum.  The essential problem here is that ABC management – all the way up to David Anderson (the taxpayer funded public broadcaster’s editor-in-chief) – has not ensured that Dan Bourchier has a solid grounding in contemporary Australian history before appointing him as the ABC’s reporter on The Voice.


THE [BORING] SATURDAY PAPER

  • GEORGE PELL’S “FRIEND” DES CAHILL THROWS THE SWITCH TO LEGAL IGNORANCE IN ATTACK ON THE LATE CARDINAL

As avid MWD readers know, Morry Schwartz’s The Saturday Paper is not really a newspaper.  It goes to print on Thursday and arrives in inner-city coffee shops on a Saturday morning.  In view of this, it contains no news – mainly opinion.  And often ill-informed opinion.

Gerard Henderson reads The Saturday Paper – or is it, as one avid reader suggests, really “The Thursday Paper” – on Monday afternoons.  It was then that he came across an article on the late Cardinal George Pell titled “Bye George”. How funny is that?

The piece was written by Des Cahill – who was presented as “a former priest and fellow student of George Pell”.  Cahill claimed to have maintained a “friendship through the years, although we knew which areas of ecclesiastical terrain to avoid”.

You would not know about this friendship from reading Cahill’s somewhat petty piece.  He claimed that while bright, Pell did not have “a fine mind” – pointing out that “Pell never topped his class at the Melbourne seminary, nor at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome”. How about that? And he wrote that it “isn’t quite true” that Pell would have played Australian Rules football for Richmond had he not entered a Catholic seminary immediately after leaving school.

As Cahill would know if he had done sufficient research, Pell never claimed that he would have played for Richmond at the top level in what was then called the Victorian Football League.  However, Richmond did invite him to train with the team in 1959 and offered to assist with his university expenses if he signed up to the club.

According to Cahill, Pell was “slow and lumbering”.  This suggests that Cahill circa 1959 knew more about football than the powers that be at the Richmond Football Club in Melbourne.  Really.

And then there is the law.  Cahill, who worked for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse for a while, reflects the commission’s evident hostility to Pell.  Cahill cites the reporting of Louise Milligan and Lucie Morris-Marr without pointing out that they were Pell antagonists who led the media pile-on against the cardinal. His article continued:

I worked on preparations for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Of the 4444 claimants who alleged sexual abuse by priests and religious brothers, about 10 concerned George Pell. Whether these allegations were credible or not, it is impossible to say. Allegations made to the six commissioners by alleged victims in the so-called “private sessions” were not treated as “evidence” and so were not inquired into. Some would have concerned assaults in swimming pools and other places. The commission would have referred the Pell allegations to the police, along with all the others…. Not the Southwell inquiry in 2002, which examined incidents at a church summer camp in 1961, nor the royal commission, nor the High Court, has ever completely exonerated George Pell, saying only that the available evidence had not surmounted the legal hurdle of reasonable doubt.

How ignorant can a Saturday Paper contributor get?  No court of law in the whole of Australia can completely exonerate someone who has been accused of a crime.  After Pell’s conviction was quashed by all seven judges of the High Court of Australia in April 2020, The Saturday Paper (editor Erik Jensen) ran a 25 word editorial which stated “George Pell has not been found innocent. It is wrong to say so.  The High Court accepted his appeal on the basis of reasonable doubt”.

Like his contributor Cahill, Jensen seems totally unaware that there is no available finding of innocence in criminal law – only guilty or not guilty. Also, like the Royal Commission itself, he (Cahill) uses vague words like “would” to support his case.

The embittered Cahill seems unaware that Victoria Police – which was not friendly to Pell – investigated all complaints against him.  In time, all complaints failed to succeed because they were discontinued by Victoria Police, dropped by the Victorian Director of Public Prosecutions, ruled out by the Victorian Magistrates’ Court or by the County Court of Victoria or quashed by the High Court for one simple reason. There was insufficient evidence to sustain the, sometimes fanciful, complaints.

Clearly an understanding of the law and a commitment to justice is not a required quality for those who want to rail against the late George Pell in The Saturday Paper.


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 AND BOB CARR RE THE LATE CARDINAL GEORGE PELL

Bob Carr the one-time journalist became a successful Labor premier of NSW and later, as a senator, served as Foreign Minister in the Gillard and Rudd Labor governments. In his life after politics, Mr Carr, among other things, is a compulsive follower of Twitter.  This tweet (concerning Tony Abbott’s eulogy at Cardinal George Pell’s requiem mass at St Mary’s Cathedral) commenced an email exchange between Gerard Henderson and Bob Carr:

Now read on.

 

Gerard Henderson to Bob Carr – 6 February 2023

Bob

Your tweet on Friday 3 February about the late Cardinal George Pell was both vicious and untrue.  It’s somewhat cowardly to defame the dead.

What is your evidence that Pell was “a fond protector of the criminal Ridsdale”. This is totally false.  It follows the original media pile-on by Richard Carleton on 60 Minutes in June 2002 – where it was falsely claimed that George Pell and Gerald Ridsdale were mates at school and at the Corpus Christi seminary in Werribee.  Ridsdale was born in 1934, Pell in 1941 – they were never classmates in any sense of the term. Any web search would have revealed this.

The Ridsdale and Pell families were well known in the Catholic community in Ballarat.  Ridsdale and Pell were associates – no more than that.  They never worked together.  Sure, Ridsdale and Pell each had a room at the Catholic presbytery at Ballarat East for around a year.  At around the same time, Paul Bongiorno and Ridsdale each had a room in a presbytery in Warrnambool for about a year.  Paul said that he was totally unaware that Ridsdale was a pedophile – so did George.

Pell said as long ago as 2002 that he and Ridsdale were never close friends. At the request of Archbishop Little, Pell accompanied Ridsdale to the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court in 1993 where Ridsdale was about to plead guilty to child sexual abuse.  Pell declined to give a character reference for Ridsdale which was suitable to the defence lawyers.

Ridsdale went to prison again in 1994 and has been in jail since then.  Pell never met nor, as I understand it, contacted Ridsdale after 1993 – three decades ago. If you have any evidence to support your assertion that Pell was either “fond” of or a “protector” of Ridsdale you should provide it.

I have discussed all this in my book Cardinal Pell, The Media Pile-On & Collective Guilt – which the ABC has censored along with Frank Brennan’s book on the Pell Case. I assume you have not read either.  I am willing to send you a copy of my book if you are interested. Let me know.

Best wishes

Gerard

PS: I am surprised that so prominent a member of the NSW Labor Party now regards Archbishop Daniel Mannix – Bob Santamaria’s leading supporter in the Catholic Hierarchy in the 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s – as one of “the greatest” Australian Catholics.

 

Bob Carr to Gerard Henderson – 6 February 2023

Hi Gerard,

Three foundations for my comments on “fond protector”:

1) Pell’s absolutely fond remark about Ridsdale in his Bolt interview on this release from prison. Just a warm and friendly comment about how well Ridsdale was repenting in gaol. No disavowal. No word for his numerous victims.

2) his Royal Commission answer when asked about the reports on Ridsdale, “Oh, that would have been of no interest to me.” Or words to that effect. In other words, take no interest. Leave him be.

3) above all, his accompanying him to court and saying about this that he went because he thought it would help him get a lower sentence! Help a child rapist get a lower sentence? Fond protector conclusively! What was the case for pursuing a lower sentence for someone with Ridsdale’s record? He was most assuredly protecting him- that is, from an appropriately heavy sentence.

Cheers

Bob

PS My views on Mannix might be inferred from a piece I wrote for The Spectator when Tom Switzer edited it. I think reviewing a book on Alan Reid, I attacked Evatt and blamed him for The Split. But look at the growth in church attendance and the numbers of religious under Mannix. The indicators point to a boom time for Catholicism. Churches, monasteries, convents, seminaries packed to the rafters. Pell’s unpopularity has helped bring about a decisive fall in church attendance. One factor among others, of course.

 

Gerard Henderson to Bob Carr – 7 February 2023

Bob

I refer to your email listing the “three foundations” for your assertion that the late Cardinal George Pell was a “fond protector” of Gerald Ridsdale.

  1. All you have been able to come up with is a comment Pell made to Andrew Bolt – shortly after he was released from prison in April 2020 – following the unanimous High Court judgment that quashed his convictions.  Ridsdale has been in prison since 1994 – overwhelmingly for crimes he confessed to after his first conviction in 1993.  I have the transcript of the Bolt interview. Where is your evidence that Pell made any “fond” remarks about Ridsdale? He said nothing whatsoever that was kind about Ridsdale.

This is what George Pell said to Andrew Bolt in the interview which aired on 14 April 2020:

George Pell: I totally condemn those sorts of activities (of Ridsdale) and the damage that it’s done to people. And I’ve seen the damage that it’s done to people. I’ve read horrific accounts of these. One of the things that grieves me is the suggestion that I’m anti-victim or not sufficiently sympathetic. I devoted a lot of time and energy to trying to get them, to get justice and to get help and to get compensation. A lot of them are tragic. I mean, when there were there are suicides, of course, that’s what brings a whole other terrible, terrible, sad dimension to it.

This is not consistent with your assertion that Pell was “fond” of Ridsdale.

  1. Your comments about what you term Pell’s response about reports of Ridsdale’s crimes at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (you seem unaware that the reference was to crimes committed by Ridsdale in 1975) indicates that you have not read the relevant transcripts of the Royal Commission and/or my book Cardinal Pell, The Media Pile-On & Collective Guilt.  I have attached a copy [see here] of the section of my book titled “Cardinal Pell’s ‘It Wasn’t of Much Interest Moment’” which explains the situation.
  2. The fact is that – contrary to your assertion – Ridsdale did not as yet have a “record” for child sexual abuse in 1993.  This was the first occasion on which he had been charged (even though Victoria Police had known of his offending for some years). This has been pointed out, among other places, in one of Jack the Insider’s (aka Peter Hoysted) columns in The Australian Online dated 12 January 2023  – which I have attached. [see here]

As you should be aware, when deciding sentences judges take into account character references for individuals who plead, or are found, guilty.  Pell refused to provide a character reference for Ridsdale that was considered suitable by Ridsdale’s defence counsel.  It is unlikely that a magistrate would be aware as to who escorted Ridsdale to the court.  In any event, Pell was not well known in Melbourne in 1993 and he did not provide character reference for Ridsdale.

There’s nothing in your three points to warrant your allegation that Pell had a fond affection for Ridsdale.

* * * * *

On another matter. As you may, or may not be aware, there is increasing evidence of widescale acts of pedophilia engaged in by teachers against children/students in government schools in Tasmania and Victoria. As you may or may not know, government schools were ignored by the Royal Commission headed by Peter McClellan KC. In view of the evidence of such crimes in two states – it is most likely that there were similar crimes in other States, including NSW.

George Pell set up the Melbourne Response shortly after he became Archbishop of Melbourne in mid-1996.  Whatever criticism may be made of the scheme, there was virtually no clerical abuse of children in Catholic institutions in the archdiocese of Melbourne after 1996.

Since you have set yourself up as one capable of judging the actions and inactions of a dead cardinal – the following questions are relevant:

  • What did you do when NSW premier between 1995 and 2005 to inquire about the possibility of historical and/or current child sexual abuse in NSW government schools?

For example, it has been known for some time that some teachers of The Forest High School were having sex with female students in the 1980s and 1990s.  Moreover, in 2014 a male teacher at Cromer High was convicted of molesting five boys in the mid-1980s.

If the Carr government had followed the lead of the Melbourne Response set up by Cardinal Pell and announced a process for handling sexual abuse of students in government schools in, say, 1996 – it could well have had an impact.  If the Carr government took any action in this area – please advise what it was.

  • On a second point.  Have you ever publicly condemned the late Bob Ellis (a former employee of yours) for sexually abusing the children of Dorothy Hewett and Merv Lilley when they were schoolgirls and he had some responsibility for caring for them? Both Kate Lilley and Rozanna Lilley have spoken publicly about this.  If so – I would like to put your comment in my Ellis file in case I write about his case sometime in the future.

I covered the matter in my Weekend Australian column on 29 June 2018.  Ellis’ acts of pedophilia were reported in the Guardian Australia, The Saturday Paper, the SMH and The Australian – but ignored by the ABC.  When Ellis had underage sex with the Lilley sisters, he was twice their age.

* * * *

Best wishes

Gerard

 

Bob Carr to Gerard Henderson  – 7 February 2023

Dear Gerard,

But you are not denying that Pell said he was attending trial with Ridsdale to help him get a reduced sentence?

On its own that proves my case. It shows a fondness, going into court with a colleague. It shows protection, by definition.

And, by the way, if the transcript of the Bolt interview does not recall Pell speaking about Ridsdale’s sincere repentance then I would challenge its reliability.

I’m proud in 1994 to have amended John Hatton’s motion to set up a Royal Commission into police corruption to add a reference about the police handling of child sexual abuse. My government implemented every subsequent recommendation. It represented the greatest overhaul of the law on this subject. This is widely recognised by child welfare specialists. It is the reason anyone working with young people in sporting or Scouts or church organisations, for example, has to fill in forms giving any record of abuse.

Your comments on the late Bob Ellis defame the dead, something you accuse me of doing in respect of someone you seem to believe is indeed Australia’s greatest Catholic.

Cheers

Bob

 

Gerard Henderson to Bob Carr – 8 February 2023

Dear Bob

Re your latest missive of 7 February, my responses are as follows:

  • Pell walked Gerald Ridsdale to the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court in 1993 when Ridsdale first faced trial on child sexual abuse cases – on the instruction of Archbishop Frank Little. Since Ridsdale was to plead guilty, Pell probably would not have known the details of the charges.

Pell did not give a character reference for Ridsdale which a magistrate could use in determining the length of Ridsdale’s sentence.   In any event, this is a long way from your assertion that Pell was a “fond protector” of Ridsdale.  They were acquaintances for around a decade about half a century ago.  Pell was never in charge of Ridsdale when Pell was a priest, bishop, archbishop or cardinal.

  • I do not know why I have to do your research – since you are making the allegations and the Bolt/Pell interview of April 2020 is available online. Moreover, you have (taxpayer funded) staff at your disposal in your capacity as a former NSW premier.

But here we go. This was what was said about repentance:

Andrew Bolt: Just to explain, Ridsdale is Gerald Ridsdale, who was a notorious paedophile, thankfully rotting in jail as we speak.

George Pell: Yes. And he’s done an immense amount of harm, and I believe that he now realises that he acknowledges that and regrets it….

Andrew Bolt: To take you back – he regrets it. It sounded like you’re asking for forgiveness for him.

George Pell: Well, the Christians are told to forgive. I know how very, very difficult that would be. And I don’t run around saying to people that they should forgive. But I’m called to forgive what might have happened to me that should be a little bit unjust. And then there’s this heroic Christian call to forgiveness in the most appalling circumstances.

Andrew Bolt: Some people maybe not hearing you condemn sufficiently, I think. May well hear you making excuses for him saying, “Well, look, forgive him”. Where’s the condemnation of what he actually did?

George Pell: I totally condemn those sorts of activities and the damage that it’s done to people….

If you do not accept the validity of the transcript – you can always get one of your taxpayer funded staff to check it. None of the above exchanges between Bolt and Pell support your initial claim that Pell was a “fond protector” of Ridsdale. If he were, the very least Pell could have done was to provide a reference for Ridsdale – which Pell refused to do.  You should be aware that Christians are expected to forgive those who have admitted to their sins and repented.  This applies to Catholic cardinals and Salvation Army majors alike.

  • I accept your point about the amendment made to the terms of reference to the Royal Commission into the NSW Police Service (aka Wood Royal Commission). However, I would be surprised if, in view of the Chris Dawson Case and more besides, you still maintain that NSW Police did a good job with respect to child sexual abuse in NSW government schools.  Time will tell whether NSW finds it has similar problems as have been revealed in Tasmania and Victoria – which were ignored by Peter McClellan’s Royal Commission.  I note that, last Tuesday, ABC 7.30 ran a strong story alleging sexual abuses of young offenders in NSW youth detention centres in the 1980s and 1990s.  NSW Police appear not to have noticed despite the Wood Royal Commission and all that.

The fact is that, when Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996, Pell set up the Melbourne Response in conjunction with Victoria Police to deal with child sexual abuse in Catholic institutions – including schools and other institutions.  As premier of NSW, you did not take such a public initiative with respect to government schools and institutions.

  • As to your claim that I defamed the dead Bob Ellis for his alleged underage sex with the Lilley sisters – this has been documented, without rebuttal in such places as The Guardian Australia, The Saturday Paper and The Project, hardly the embodiment of right-wing media. As you well know, when I believed that Pell had been falsely accused, I publicly defended him. As far as I am aware, you have neither defended nor criticised the late Bob Ellis – in spite of your high profile and your role as his one-time employer. This exhibits a lack of courage – especially for someone who implicitly claims a higher morality with respect to such matters.
  • As to your comment that I believe that Pell is Australia’s greatest Catholic. You just made this up. I have never said or written this. For the record, I regard Australia’s greatest Catholics as the men and women who, over the centuries, have done charitable work for no, or little, money.  Like the Sisters of Charity nuns who nursed the men dying of HIV AIDS at St Vincent’s Hospital in the 1980s and 1990s.  In return, such nuns were ridiculed and mocked by men dressed in nuns’ habits during the Annual Mardi Gras procession in Sydney. I don’t recall you ever objecting to such sneering-secularist behaviour directed at selfless and sometimes heroic women.
  • You were a successful, respected and considered journalist and politician. Now you have become an online tweeter in the tradition of Mike Carlton, Jane Caro and, yes, Donald J. Trump.

* * * *

Best wishes

Gerard


MWD Editor’s Note

Gerard Henderson’s email to Bob Carr of 8 February was sent around the same time as an additional note from Mr Carr at 3.45 pm, followed soon after by another email from him at 4.17 pm. Due to space reasons this latest correspondence will be held over until the next issue.

* * * * *

Until next time.

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