ISSUE – NO. 641

30 June 2023

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As avid Media Watch Dog readers will recall, last week’s issue focused on the pathetic “joke” made by Crikey deputy editor Cameron (Cam) Wilson about the five men – one of whom was young – who were destined to perish on the Titan submersible which was exploring the wreck of the Titanic.  When Comrade Wilson sent out his tweet on Tuesday 20 June it appeared likely that all aboard the Titan were already dead – this was confirmed on Friday 23 June.

The story of Comrade Wilson’s appalling indiscretion was broken by Sky News followed by the Daily Mail.  Guess what?  For the second week in a row, ABC TV Media Watch presenter Paul Barry desisted from his usual sneering at Sky News and praised its coverage of – with the Daily Mail – of what he termed Wilson’s disgraceful tweets.

Clearly this was not a view shared by some of Mr Barry’s ABC colleagues.  Cameron – or “Cam”  as he was called – appeared on  The Drum last night.  Kathryn Robinson was in the presenter’s chair.  But she made no mention of Comrade Wilson’s insensitivity of recent memory.  Nor did anyone else.

So there you have it. Cam Wilson put out a disgraceful tweet on one week and was invited into The Drum the following week – where he lectured the audience (if audience there was) on integrity.  Yes, integrity.

By the way, Comrade Wilson has neither apologised nor expressed regret for his Titan “humour”.  Nor has Crikey’s management or editor – in particular Crikey’s proprietor Eric Beecher. In fact, your man Wilson laughed at the issue yesterday when he sent out this tweet:

So the death of the Titan five is still a joke to Crikey’s deputy editor.  Meanwhile he bored viewers with an account of how he was about to become a father for the first time.  Groan.




As far as Media Watch Dog can work it out, the Sydney-born Todd Sampson’s birth date is somewhere around 1970.  By the way, that’s Sydney in Canada’s Nova Scotia province.  It seems that your man Sampson, who presents himself as a documentary maker and television presenter, and appears on ABC’S TV’s Gruen and The Project, is 50-something.

However, you would not know this by watching him on the taxpayer funded public broadcaster.  On 22 June, for example, Sampson wore a t-shirt on which was printed “WTF?” (see below). By the way, for any avid reader over 981/2, that’s short for “What The F_ck?”. Clever eh?

It would seem that the good people at the ABC thought it appropriate to allow the middle-aged man to go all Year 12 and attempt to shock the Gruen audience, on what was the shortest day of the (Southern Hemisphere) year, by confronting them with an oh-so-shocking t-shirt. Really.

By the way, according to Wikipedia, Todd Sampson is the co-creator of the Earth Hour initiative – whereby citizens are encouraged to turn off the lights for one hour once a year around March in order to do the right thing by the environment.  In Sydney (the Australian one) Earth Hour is followed soon after in June by the Vivid Light festival whereby, for a couple of weeks, the CBD businesses are encouraged to put on as many lights as possible to celebrate something or other.  As your man Sampson might put it – this is very much a WTF? moment.

As MWD recalls, Todd Sampson won an award for his science documentary series Redesign My Brain. MWD suggests that his next task should be “Redesign My T-Shirt”.  Can You Bear It?

Todd Sampson’s Year 12 WTF? Moment on ABC TV’s Gruen


Media Watch Dog just loves it when journalists write about the subject they know best.  Namely, the SELF.

Ans so Thomas Mitchell’s column in the Sun-Herald is a welcome arrival at around Hangover Time every Sunday morning.  Here’s how The Thought of Mitchell commenced last Sunday:

It only took me two hours and three glasses of wine to consider uprooting my entire life and starting fresh in Mudgee.

“We could be happy here,” I said to my wife. We were sitting at a winery, and it’s hard to be unhappy at a winery, but I genuinely believed in the dream I was peddling. “Just think about it, I could get a job, you could join the CWA, we could open a bed’n’breakfast!”

It didn’t get much better. Except for the fact that in the next para Comrade Mitchell admitted that he was “delusional”.  And, yes, by now the reference was not to “three glasses of wine” but to “three bottles”. Well done, don’t you think?

And then your man Mitchell went on and on about an escape to the country along with a reference to “too many local Rieslings”.  Until he realises that – you’ve guessed it – the coffee is better in the city as is the Wi-Fi. The column ended with the Sun-Herald columnist declaring that he at least returned home with a case of wine.

Which raises the question:  why does Nine publish such sludge? And, more importantly, Can You Bear It?


One time Labor Party leader Simon Crean (1949-2023), who held ministerial roles in the governments led by Bob Hawke, Paul Keating, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, was a good friend of The Sydney Institute, which he addressed on a number of occasions.  Gerard Henderson and the Media Watch Dog team regret his sudden death and extend sympathies to his family and friends.

On Monday 16 June, the ABC TV 7.30 program ran a report by Adam Harvey – who interviewed three Labor Party figures. Namely, former ministers Greg Combet and Kim Beazley, along with current minister Clare O’Neil. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s comments on Simon Crean’s death were also reported.

All of Simon Crean’s one-time colleagues spoke well of him.  Fair enough.  But 7.30 did not put to air any analysis of why Simon Crean lost the Labor Party leadership after only two years in the job.  Mr Crean was the only Labor leader at the federal level to be replaced before being given a chance to contest an election.  Apart from Billy Hughes who quit/was expelled by Labor on account of his support for conscription for overseas service during the First World War.  This was the occasion of the Australian Labor Party’s first split.

This is how Adam Harvey described the situation with respect to Simon Crean’s brief period as the Labor leader between Kim Beazley and Mark Latham:

Adam Harvey: He [Simon Crean] stood up to George Bush and John Howard, he sparred with Kim Beazley and was eventually replaced as opposition leader by Mark Latham.

This is not quite correct. Simon Crean became Labor leader in November 2001 after the ALP’s defeat at the 2001 election by the John Howard-led Coalition.  It was a difficult time for an Opposition leader.  In June 2003, there was a leadership spill when Crean was challenged by Beazley.  Crean won the ballot by 58 to 34 votes but his leadership was severely damaged.  He stepped down as leader in November 2003.

Kim Beazley and Mark Latham contested the leadership ballot and Latham defeated Beazley by a mere one vote.  It was reported at the time that Latham won on the back of strong support from left-wing feminists – including Julia Gillard, Penny Wong and Nicola Roxon.  How about that?  Anthony Albanese voted for Beazley over Latham.

None of these (difficult) matters were mentioned by Adam Harvey. The fact is that Mark Latham never challenged Simon Crean but Kim Beazley did.  However, Mr Beazley appears not to have been asked about the matter by ABC’s 7.30.  Can You Bear It?


While on the topic of fudging the past, this is what Rowan Dean – presenter of Sky News’ Outsiders program and editor of The Spectator – said on Sky News’ The Bolt Report on 27 June when the discussion turned to women’s rights with respect to trans-women who are born male:

Andrew Bolt:  …and if it’s not for people like [Melbourne University academic, Holly] Lawford-Smith fighting back, who does?  It takes a little bit of courage there – doesn’t it Rowan?

Rowan Dean:  Certainly does.  And you have Moira Deeming fighting back, you had a Katherine Deves fighting back. They were fighting for the same – women’s rights, nothing more, nothing less.  And yet our political leaders Scott Morrison and John Pesutto attacked them, and boycotted them, and silenced them, and shut them down. This is what I say, it is the crazies at the top of the political leadership of the academic world, and the media world – they’re the crazies because they’re allowing this to happen to ordinary everyday Australians.

What a load of absolute tosh.  It’s true that Victorian Liberal Party leader John Pesutto has moved against Liberal, now Independent, parliamentarian Moira Deeming.  But, when prime minister, Scott Morrison supported Katherine Deves – even to the extent of supporting her pre-selection to run as the endorsed Liberal Party candidate in the seat of Warringah against the sitting Teal MP Zali Steggall.

Scott Morrison may – or may not – have been (in Rowan Dean’s terminology)  a “crazy” when prime minister.  But he supported Ms Deves.  So, concerning Rowan Dean’s anti-Morrison rant on this occasion – all MWD can say is:  Can You Bear It?



As avid Media Watch Dog readers will recall, on 20 January 2023 the Melbourne-based academic Miles Pattenden got a run in the (hugely popular) “Can You Bear It?” segment with respect to his article in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald titled “God’s ruckman: Pell played church politics hard” which was published on 12 January. The online headline added the words “but won few fans”.  In fact, the late Cardinal George Pell had many fans in Australia and overseas – along with quite a few enemies.

Dr Pattenden (for a doctor he is) is a recent arrival in Australia from Britain. No surprise, perhaps, that the article contained a number of errors.  Including the claim that Pell was a heavyweight boxing champion at school and a fan of the monarchy.  It seems that your man Pattenden’s first howler turned on a misreading of Wikipedia – and the second turned on, well, abysmal ignorance.  And it would seem that The Age and Sydney Morning Herald had no fact-checkers on the job – probably doubting that so learned a doctor would make such howlers.

Gerard Henderson raised this matter with the executive editor of Nine Newspapers on 23 January but there was no reply – see the Correspondence segment of Issue 620.  He subsequently raised the matter with the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald on 6 June who took appropriate action. The online version of Pattenden’s article now contains the following correction:


This article has been updated from a previous version which stated George Pell’s conviction was in 2019, when it was in fact in December 2018. The reference to Pell being a boxer has been removed, as that was George’s father, George Arthur Pell. A reference to George Pell supporting the monarchy has also been removed.

By the way, a number of errors concerning the late Cardinal – including an additional one by Pattenden – were covered in Gerard Henderson’s Weekend Australian  column on 21 January 2023.

Miles Pattenden further demonstrated his ignorance when he wrote this on the ABC’s Religion & Ethics  website on 7 May 2021 – in a review of the first volume of George Pell’s Prison Journal:

Pell’s acquittal on the narrow technical ground that he did not commit the crimes for which he was charged on the indictment was never going to provide closure or catharsis for the many Catholics and non-Catholics who sympathise with the scores of victims of other priests. For such persons, Pell’s victory is, at best, a pyrrhic one. And how does his acquittal prevent crimes of the nature of the one of which he was accused from happening again?

This comment is clueless. Pell was acquitted because all seven judges of the High Court of Australia found that he was not guilty beyond reasonable doubt – and went on to state that, in this instance, there was a possibility that an innocent man has been convicted, a comment which appeal courts rarely make when quashing convictions.  There was nothing “technical” in Pell’s acquittal.  Also, no one is responsible for the crimes of others – as Pattenden should know.

But there is more.  On 22 May Miles Pattenden and another academic wrote an obituary on the ABC’s Religion & Ethics web page about Fabian John LoSchiavo who died recently.  It was headed “Australian nun, social activist, religious leader”. The author reported that LoSchiavo presented as “Mother Inferior of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence”.

In fact, LoSchiavo was a left-wing gay activist.  Born a Catholic, he later became an Anglican.  Unlike most gay activists of his generation, LoSchiavo dressed up in the traditional habit of women’s religious orders.  Even though few nuns, now commonly called sisters, have worn such habits in recent decades.  In short, LoSchiavo set out to mock religious Christian women – but not religious Christian men.

As Gerard Henderson pointed out in his Weekend Australian column of 24 June, when HIV/AIDS arrived in Australia four decades ago, the young men who primarily contracted the illness were treated in Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital in a special ward. The hospital was run by the Sisters of Charity – who wore a habit similar to the one worn by LoSchiavo in his sneering role of “Mother Inferior of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence”.

David Polson, a former patient of the HIV/AIDS ward at St Vincent’s, told Nine News in Sydney on 22  April about the love and compassion expressed by the sisters to the men who were dying. But LoSchiavo regarded the Sisters of Charity as a target for anti-Christian mockery. Pattenden did not mention this in his obituary on the Religion and Ethics web page.

As to Miles Pattenden’s claim that LoSchiavo was an “Australian nun” and a “religious leader”- this is misleading tosh and unworthy of being carried on the taxpayer funded public broadcaster’s website.  LoSchiavo was a social activist – no more than that.



The usual winner of this prestigious award, David Speers, is taking it easier on the interruptions these days so a new winner has emerged – host of RN Breakfast Patricia (“Call me PK”) Karvelas.

As an ABC employee, PK is supposed to remain impartial on the issues of the day. Something she reminded Peter FitzSimons of, when in his Sun-Herald column on 30 April, he referred to PK as “one of the most prominent supporters of the Voice”. So, it must be pure coincidence that her most frequent interruptions come in interviews with supporters of the No case for the Voice – or Voice undecideds, as in the case of this week’s award-winning interview.

On Wednesday 28 June, Karvelas interviewed Shadow Foreign Minister Simon Birmingham. The interview began with matters of foreign affairs, as you’d expect, but quickly moved to the Voice. Birmingham was interrogated by PK for his decision to not campaign for the Voice, or state his views one way or the other – something apparently unacceptable to Patricia “I am impartial on the Voice” Karvelas. See an excerpt from the transcript below, where Birmingham was interrupted relentlessly – 9 times in the space of a few minutes – while trying to explain his views.

Simon Birmingham: Well, Patricia, I’ve been, I’ve been clear that I don’t intend to actively campaign in the referendum. I have plenty of things, the issues we’ve just been talking about to focus my time on. I wish the country weren’t in a situation where it appears to be having a vote that is so evenly divided and the possibility of a constitutional referendum on this issue failing. I would much have rathered a situation –

Patricia Karvelas: [Interjecting] Wouldn’t there be less of a risk of it failing if leading moderates, like you, were clear about what you really thought?

Simon Birmingham: Well I wish that, I wish my one voice was so powerful, but ultimately my vote will be the same as your vote and the same as each and every other listeners –

Patricia Karvelas: [Interjecting] Sure, and what will your vote be?

Simon Birmingham: – and in context of this referendum, and my vote, I will get to cast the same as everyone else in a secret ballot Patricia, but –

Patricia Karvelas: [Interjecting] Are you gonna keep it private?

Simon Birmingham: Well, it is a secret ballot for every single Australian. I wish that we had a situation where the model that was being put forward was one that could have achieved broader support, that didn’t have the questions about executive government lingering over it, that actually had greater chance of success. And it’s unfortunate to see the debate in the situation that it’s in right now.

Patricia Karvelas: Okay. Why aren’t you taking a position? I mean, you’re making it clear that you want it to be private. If it’s private, that means you are actually sitting on the fence. Why have you decided to do that?

Simon Birmingham: Patricia, I think you can hear from my answer there, that I am in some ways conflicted and think this is a very difficult situation the country has been put in. That, that we have got a question before us, and a proposed change before us that even some of the staunchest supporters, such as Greg Craven, or Julian Leeser who’ve been there at the outset –

Patricia Karvelas: [Interjecting] But they’re, they’re supporting it.

Simon Birmingham: – have expressed their deep reservations –

Patricia Karvelas: [Interjecting] They’re supporting it now.

Simon Birmingham: They are supporting it but they have expressed deep deep reservations –

Patricia Karvelas: [Interjecting] So why aren’t you as a leading moderate?

And so it went on, even after Birmingham pointed out that “we are spending now more time on this issue, as the shadow Foreign Minister, than on the issues we were just talking about with the global ramifications they’re having.”

Karvelas’ love for interruptions was also on display this morning, in the weekly politics discussion with David Speers and Samantha Maiden. Karvelas seemingly went into panic mode when Maiden suggested she might disagree with David Speers concerning the NSW ICAC’s findings with respect to former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian:

David Speers: And I’m not sure what you’re taking issue with me on. So, anyway, I agree with you –

Samantha Maiden: You said, you said that ICAC had not found that it was a criminal –

Patricia Karvelas: [Interjecting] No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. But there is a distinction because they have said that, that Daryl Maguire should be referred to the DPP, and then the DPP makes a judgement.

David Speers is quite capable of explaining himself – and interrupting others – but PK apparently wanted to increase her interruption tally for the week. Karvelas has identified her interruption habit in the past, for example in this interview with Karen Andrews of 20 April 2023:

Karen Andrews: When I talk to people about parliament, they remember question time. And that’s the bit that they don’t like. I mean, if you ask a question, you should get an answer, just like you should Patricia. You ask me a question, I should be answering it.

Patricia Karvelas: You’ve been answering them. So I don’t need to interrupt very much. People often say “why do you interrupt” – you’ve answered all my questions.

So there you have it – if you answer PK’s questions to a satisfactory level, you won’t be interrupted. Unless you get interrupted so much that you’re unable to answer the questions. Although on occasion, evasive answers have been congratulated. Such was the case of an April 2023 interview with Tanya Plibersek, where PK said a vague answer was “deftly handled”, or a May 2023 interview with economist Rod Sims, who was congratulated on “keeping out of the political fray”. Increased interruptions often seem to occur with conservative politicians, but as this is the “impartial” ABC, this is of course completely coincidental.



The 20 June 2023 edition of ABC TV’s The (kinder, gentler) Drum featured the Australia Institute’s Polly Hemming as a panellist. This comes as no surprise, staff from the left-leaning Australia Institute are a fixture on the conservative-free ABC. Even better, Ms Hemming bears the title of Director of Climate & Energy Policy, practically guaranteeing her a standing invitation to appear on the taxpayer-funded public broadcaster.

The other panellists were Dr Kudzai Kanhutu, an infectious disease expert, Tom Crowley, a journalist at The Daily Aus and Ian Henschke, the chief advocate for National Seniors Australia.

The first half of the episode was spent on a discussion of energy policy. Towards the end of that discussion, the following exchange took place:

Ellen Fanning: You were saying before, Polly, what have we got out of all this gas export? Is there a risk we ask in 50 years’ time, what did we get out of all that?

Polly Hemming: Absolutely, gas, coal, the majority of our resources industry – we don’t actually see the benefits in Australia. And I don’t want to come on the show and just argue with everyone. But there is, I think we need to be really cautious about this idea that just because one of our major commodities, i.e. coal, is going to be – demand is going to wane, globally, that’s just a fact. That we therefore have to scramble to replace it with some other kind of resource or commodity, you know, yes, that’s kind of on brand for Australia.

But there is merit in stopping and asking – why? You know, why do we need to be a renewable energy superpower? We export a lot of other things, education, ideas, innovation, food. And the reason I say that is because people like to wave around big dollars in terms of GDP, you know, coal is worth bazillionty dollars to our GDP. But it brings in very little in terms of tax royalties and employment.

Ms Hemming continued in this fashion for some time, after which presenter Ellen Fanning immediately changed the topic without any response from her or the rest of the panel.

For the record, the minerals sector is estimated to have paid around $63 billion in company taxes and royalties in the 2021-22 financial year. Australian governments collected a total of $683 billion in taxes that year, so the minerals sector certainly accounted for a significant chunk of government income.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, around 300,000 people are currently employed in the Australian mining sector. Coal mining alone employs almost 50,000. Compared to other industries, these jobs are very well-paid and more likely to be full-time and permanent. And of course, the income tax paid by these well-off workers further swells government coffers.

But, according to The Australia Institute’s Director of Climate & Energy Policy, Australia has nothing to fear from a potential future decline in coal or other resources. Instead, Australia can merely export more “ideas”, whatever that means.

On The Drum, The Australia Institute’s view that Australia does not see much benefit from its resources industry and that coal contributes very little in terms of tax royalties and employment was allowed to stand as the final word on the topic.


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.  It is the last one – in view of circumstances discussed below. Mr Thompson remains in situ in Melbourne but Insiders has fled Melbourne and, consequently, will now be loosed from the troublesome Bill Thompson.


Alas, the end is already nigh for Bill Thompson – who not so long ago appointed himself as the ABC’s Southbank correspondent.  In this capacity, he sought to interview politicians and journalists entering or exiting the ABC’s Southbank studio in Melbourne on a Sunday morning on their way to and from the ABC TV Insiders program – with some success.

However, your man Thompson had no success in obtaining answers when he vox-popped ABC identities in Melbourne and asked them about the ABC’s very own convicted pedophile – the late Jon Stephens, who pleaded guilty to the sexual assault of a boy while on official duties as a producer for the ABC.

Mr Stephens died in 2019 before he was to stand trial for two other offences with respect to underage males. Bill Thompson has advised MWD that he vox-popped the likes of Kerry O’Brien, Louise Milligan and Zoe Daniel around Melbourne town – all of whom said they were unaware of the Jon Stephens matter. Even though it had been raised on a number of occasions in Senate Estimates. But there you go.  Ignorance can be bliss when issues are raised about journalistic double standards.

Insiders was set up in Victoria in 2001 – in order to put more ABC productions in Melbourne when compared to Sydney.  It was also an attempt to present commentary on Australian national politics away from Canberra – aka the Canberra Bubble.  The first Insiders  presenter, Barrie Cassidy, was Melbourne based.  And David Speers moved to Melbourne from Canberra to present Insiders from 2020.  Your man Speers moved back to Canberra some months ago – and now the program has followed him there.  Who knows.  Perhaps Speersy finds the coffee better in Canberra.

And so it came to pass that the last Insiders was presented from Melbourne on Sunday 25 June.  David (“Please call me Speersy”) Speers was in the presenter’s chair and the panel comprised Jennifer Hewett (Australian Financial Review), Mark Kenny and Dana Morse (ABC Canberra). The one-time political staffer Comrade Kenny commenced life working for a member of Labor’s socialist left and is now a professor at the Australian National University via the ABC and Fairfax Media.

On Sunday 18 June, some 75 per cent of Insiders  was devoted to discussing sexual misconduct in Parliament House.  On 25 June, some 70 per cent of the program turned on the forthcoming referendum on the Indigenous Voice to Parliament and the executive along with the housing crisis.  Only Ms Hewett raised the issue of cost of living, including the rise in energy prices, on her own initiative in the Final Observations segment.  It was not on the Insiders run-sheet – despite the fact that the cost of living is the big issue in contemporary Australian politics.

Early on in the program, Dana Morse – who identifies as Indigenous – had this to say:

Dana Morse: But to speak to the issue of January 26th. I mean, what are people protesting about on January 26th? They’re protesting about the invasion. They’re protesting about the genocide of Aboriginal people that is ongoing today.

David Speers made no attempt to challenge or even query the serious assertion that the genocide of Aboriginal people is “ongoing today”.  It’s understandable if a far-left politician like Senator Lidia Thorpe makes such an assertion – as she has.  That’s politics. However, taxpayer funded journalists like Dana Morse are expected to be held to a different standard and support their claims with considered evidence.

If Ms Morse believes that genocide is taking place in Australia today – she should report the matter to the Australian Federal Police immediately.  For the record, Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price (the Coalition’s Indigenous Affairs spokeswoman) commented: “There is no genocide being perpetrated today and comments saying there is have no place on public airwaves”.  Senator Price added: “Once again an ABC so-called reporter has been allowed to spew divisive and false information without being pulled in by the host.”

Soon after, the learned Professor Mark Kenny described Opposition leader Peter Dutton as the Divider-in-Chief and declared that his view on The Voice “needs to be pulled back”.  This could have led to an interesting discussion about the role of an Opposition leader in contemporary politics.  But no one challenged Kenny’s assertion and the matter rested there.  That’s why Insiders has become so boring – it contains very little debate between panellists.

And that was the last Insiders in Melbourne as the now Canberra-based program becomes completely subsumed into the Canberra Bubble.

[I wonder whether former political editor Andrew Probyn – who is based in Canberra – will continue as an Insiders  panellist now that his position has been terminated by ABC management.  Just a thought. – MWD Editor.]


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 (the late) Jackie’s (male) co-owner decides to write a polite note to someone or other – who, in turn, believes that a reply is in order. Publication in MWD invariably follows. There are, alas, some occasions where Hendo sends a polite missive but does not receive the courtesy of a reply. Nevertheless, publication of this one-sided correspondence still takes place. For the record – and in the public interest, of course.


As mentioned in the previous issue of Media Watch Dog, Gerard Henderson addressed The Sydney Institute on Wednesday 14 June – the topic was “The ABC In Crisis?”.  The talk can be found on the Institute’s website.  On 26 June, a MWD reader (not necessarily of the “avid” category) wrote to Hendo about the occasion.  The email was signed.  However, the correspondence below has been modified to remove any personal information.  As would be expected of Gerard Henderson AC (aka Always Courteous). Now read on:


Reader “Z” to Gerard Henderson – 26 June 2023

Dear Gerard, here I am at last putting “pen to paper” to make a comment or two about the event of June 14 “The ABC in crisis?” at The Institute.  A rare event with you as the speaker Gerard.  I wanted to be there in person because of the topic, the fact that you were going to speak at length Gerard and to observe the nature of the audience on the night.

And I want to say now what I utterly regret not having said at the event. How I wish that I had stood up there and then and spoken up in support of OUR ABC, as we are encouraged to think of it and I have long considered it to be.

From the very beginning you affirmed that we do need the ABC and that it does have a future but from there on much of the talk and then the reaction from many members of the audience were negative, at times even derisory. I will be interested to hear if other attendees have responded in a similar way to me.

I value The Institute and its role but from this event came away disheartened.


Reader “Z”


Gerard Henderson to Reader “Z” – 27 June 2023

Dear Reader “Z”

Thanks for your note.

As you know, The Sydney Institute is a forum for debate and discussion.  I slightly cut my speech “The ABC in Crisis?” on Wednesday 14 June to ensure that there was 30 minutes for a Q&A session following my talk.  Jacquelynne Willcox, who chaired the event, ensured that anyone who wanted to make a supporting, critical or neutral comment could do so.  For whatever reason, you chose not to contribute to the discussion.  As you will recall, Rory Sutton (ex-ABC) was critical of my talk and was given free rein to state his case – which included an interruption on his behalf.

I note that in your email you did not make one specific criticism of anything I said in the talk or discussion period.  So it is difficult to respond in detail to what you have written.

The fact is that I am not the ABC’s problem – since I still follow the taxpayer funded public broadcaster’s output.  The ABC’s current problem – as ABC management has acknowledged – turns on its falling ratings.  The fact is that the ABC has lost so many of its one-time traditional viewers/listeners without replacing them with its sought after younger audience.  At the 14 June event, some four attendees publicly declared that they have given up on the ABC – primarily due to its lack of political diversity and due to it being a conservative-free zone.  The ABC’s problem is that, for the first time, there are many news/current affairs options available other than the ABC (including Sky News) – which in part explains its loss of viewers/listeners.

In response to your question, no one has responded to my talk the way you have. On the contrary, some ABC journalists have told me that they agreed with my analysis – but asked me to regard their comments as confidential and off-the-record.

I do not believe that the cause of the ABC is well-served by ABC viewers/listeners simply portraying their support for what they call “Our ABC” – while declining to address the reasons for the ABC’s declining ratings and occasional unprofessionalism in the news and current affairs area.

Best wishes and thanks for your support over the years. I look forward to seeing – and hearing from – you at some of our forthcoming functions.


PS: I note that last week Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Communications Minister Michelle Rowland publicly criticised the contemporary ABC.



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Until next time.

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