ISSUE – NO. 651

8 September 2023

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More fake news, per courtesy of Nine newspapers.  The 8 September edition of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald carries an article by one-time United States Democrat staffer Bruce Wolpe. Titled “Trump’s martyrs or American traitors?  Just imagine it here”,  Wolpe wrote that “five people were killed in the violence” which took place when some supporters of President Donald J. Trump invaded the US Capitol building on 6 January 2021.  As Media Watch Dog readers will be aware, trials are underway or have recently concluded with respect to some of the rioters.

The 6 January 2021 Capitol invasion was a serious riot – even though none of those who entered the Capitol building were armed with rifles or guns.  However, it is false to claim that “five people were killed in the violence”.

Here are the facts.  One of the rioters, Ashli Babbitt (an air force veteran), was shot dead by Capitol police.  Rosanne Boyland died of a drug overdose during the riot. Kevin Greeson died of a heart attack before the riots broke out.  Benjamin Philips also died of a heart attack – it is not evident that he participated in the Capitol riot.  Brian Sicknick, a Capitol police officer, was pepper-sprayed by rioters. He suffered two strokes the following day and died – a medical examiner ruled it to be a natural death.

Two other police officers committed suicide within a couple of weeks of the riot and another two killed themselves in mid-2021.

Since the riot took place on federal property in the national capital, federal law largely prevails. No one who participated in the riots has been charged with first-degree murder, second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter for their actions in the riots – the relevant charges that apply to killings under Federal law. As previously mentioned, the only person killed on the day was an unarmed rioter – and no charges were laid with respect to her death.  It is simply false for Bruce Wolpe to claim that “five people were killed in the violence”.  This claim warrants a correction.

In his article, Mr Wolpe also claims that no such political riot could ever have taken place in Australia.  Wrong again – re which see MWD’s (hugely popular) “You Must Remember This” segment in this issue.


Did anyone hear Rita Panahi’s interview with former Liberal Party MP Nicolle Flint on 4 September 2023? Ms Panahi was standing in for Peta Credlin on the Sky News Credlin program. Discussion turned on Opposition leader Peter Dutton’s comments on Sky News Agenda the previous day that, if elected to office, he would attempt to change the Constitution by a referendum in order to recognise Indigenous Australians.

Rita Panahi did not think that this was a you-beaut idea. Initially, she raised the issue with Keith Pitt. He said that the matter had not been raised in the party room of the Nationals, but implied that he was not too happy with the idea. Then Nicolle Flint was subjected to this (leading) question:

Rita Panahi: … Nicolle, surely Australians do not want to have another costly referendum focused on race? This seems like a bizarre position for Peter Dutton to take. What’s your response to it?

Nicolle Flint: I don’t think it’s bizarre, Rita. Peter Dutton, the leader of the Opposition made it clear for a long time that he does want to see recognition of Indigenous Australians in the Constitution … What I would say is that I think most Australians do support some form of constitutional recognition, sort of the model that John Howard had proposed when he was prime minister …

Rita Panahi: Well, I don’t agree with that, because the Australian people have been considering this proposal and they’re making up their mind. Increasingly they’re saying “No” and I think that decision should be final…

Nicolle Flint: Sure. But he’s not proposing … He’s not proposing another Voice. He [Peter Dutton] has not said – he doesn’t support the Voice. It’s a very different issue. He’s not proposing the Voice. He’s just proposing …

Rita Panahi: [interjecting] I just think this is counter productive, Nicolle. I think it’s counter productive … I just think it is politically fraught with danger. And you know, when you’re winning, just, just stick to what you’re doing. Don’t start proposing referendums.

So, that was that. Rita Panahi invited Nicolle Flint on to her program to ask her questions. And, when the answers were not to Panahi’s liking, the interviewer wound up the segment by telling the interviewee that she was wrong. It would have saved time if Rita Panahi had interviewed herself. Can You Bear It?

There was another stunning performance by Ms Panahi this week, while interviewing The Australian’s Greg Sheridan on Wednesday 6 September. Have a listen to the audio below for another example of Rita Panahi talking to Rita Panahi – with a few interjections from Greg Sheridan.


Did anyone read Tony Wright’s article titled “White supremacy and modern Australia” which was published in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday 2 September 2023?  The sub-heading read: “The visionary Alfred Deakin had dark visions for the nation, writes Tony Wright.”

It would seem that the current editors of The Age in Melbourne (where your man Wright is based) have scant knowledge of 20th century Australian history.  Alfred Deakin, who served as prime minister on three occasions between 1903 and 1910, was perhaps the most prominent politician in the early years after Federation in January 1901.

It is widely known – except, perhaps, in the contemporary offices of The Age – that Mr Deakin, along with the politicians of his time, supported the White Australia Policy which operated from around 1901 until around 1967.  The WAP was backed by both sides of Australian politics and most enthusiastically by the trade union movement. Deakin’s role was well covered in the first volume of James La Nauze’s Alfred Deakin:  A Biography (MUP, 1965) and is also analysed in recent books on Australia’s second prime minister by Judith Brett, among others.

Tony Wright’s piece has been cleverly debunked by Guy Rundle – MWD’s fave Marxist comedian – in the 5 September issue of the Crikey newsletter in an article titled “Freshly demonising everything we’ve done and are is a sure way to kill the “Yes” vote”.

Tony Wright’s story relies on the reflections of a certain Peter Sharp.  According to Wright, “Deakin was Peter Sharp’s great-grandfather” and Peter is Deakin’s great- grandson.  Overlooking the fact that your man Sharp would have had four great-grandfathers – not one.  But there you go.

Apparently, Peter Sharp found out less than a decade ago that Alfred Deakin was a supporter of the White Australia Policy and had a paternalistic attitude to Aboriginal people whom he believed should assimilate into post-1788 Australia.  Both were common attitudes at the time.

Having found out about his old man’s old man’s old man – Peter Sharp is making something of a career apologising for Alfred Deakin at literary festivals, in Age interviews and the like.  Apart from when he is posing for photographs in the bush dressed in a hat, t-shirt and holding a “Y” sign.

Alfred Deakin was an oddity – believing in mysticism.  But he achieved quite a lot. There was nothing new in Tony Wright’s article and Peter Sharp has not produced any information about one of his four great-grandfathers that we did not already know.  The truth is that without Alfred Deakin – who would have ever heard of Peter Sharp?  Little wonder that Sharp keeps banging on about his distant relation Alfred Deakin to the likes of Comrade Wright – who are looking to fill a page in the Nine newspapers on a Saturday morning. Can You Bear It?


While on the subject of Alfred Deakin and all that – on 5 September, no doubt inspired by Tony Wright’s “discovery”, the Sydney Morning Herald published a cartoon by Cathy Wilcox.  It featured John Howard saying in 1999 “We don’t need to teach our kids a ‘black armband’ view of history” – along with a man declaring in 2023, after reading a screen, “Alfred Deakin, founder of our constitution, was a massive white supremacist?! Why wasn’t I told?”

What a load of absolute tosh.  The White Australia Policy was never a secret. Moreover, Alfred Deakin’s view reflected the prevailing views of the time.  Could it be that Comrade Wilcox does not know this?  Moreover, when prime minister in 1999, John Howard made no attempt to determine what was taught in schools – which, in any event, is determined by State and Territory governments. Yet more fake history promoted by the SMH.  Can You Bear It?


Media Watch Dog just loves the recent resurrection of ABC TV’s Kitchen Cabinet – where Annabel Crabb rocks up for a meal at the abode of someone important for a home-cooked meal – and brings along a dessert in a nice little basket.

On 5 September, Ms Crabb visited Independent Senator Lidia Thorpe – who was elected as a Green but quit the party.  Comrade Thorpe has indicated that she will vote “No” at the 14 October referendum about whether an Indigenous Voice to parliament and the executive should be included in the Constitution.  She opposes the referendum from a left-wing perspective.

Early on, while the main course was being prepared, the following exchange took place:

Annabel Crabb: Tell me where you grew up.

Lidia Thorpe: I grew up around Collingwood and Fitzroy, in Clifton Hill, Northcote kind of inner-city suburbs.

Annabel Crabb: Who did you live with?

Lidia Thorpe: I lived with my mum, mainly, as she was a single mum.

Annabel Crabb: And was your dad around?

Lidia Thorpe: Dad was around in my early years. So, mum and dad were married when I was five, they got married. And that didn’t seem to last long after they got married. He played for the Fitzroy Stars, which was an Aboriginal football team. He was captain, coach –

Annabel Crabb: But he’s a white guy, right?

Lidia Thorpe: Yep, he’s a white fella, and he was part of the community. But yeah, he moved to Queensland and the further north he went, he started to change and he became a One Nation supporter….

Then in the lead-up to dessert the following exchange took place:

Annabel Crabb: What do you think the culture of this country is?

Lidia Thorpe: Well, we have the oldest continuing living culture in the world, in the whole world, on the planet.

Annabel Crabb: But is there a problem with Australia’s ability to take pride in that history?

Lidia Thorpe: Absolutely. That’s been blatantly obvious over the last 200 years. This colonial force comes to the shores. They come up with this document in 1901, called the Australian Constitution. They had no regard for First Nations people in there, had no regard for women. Why would First Nations people almost surrender and go into a constitution that we never asked for? We need to go back to that. And say, “Hang on. We haven’t said that you’re allowed here yet. You haven’t conquered us. And you haven’t killed us off. Haven’t wiped us out. There’s been no negotiation”.

When Opposition leader Peter Dutton appeared on Kitchen Cabinet  on 22 August, Annabel Crabb asked some challenging questions. But not so with Senator Thorpe.

The point that was avoided turned on Comrade Crabb’s apparent willingness to accept that Senator Thorpe regards herself as a victim of colonisation – per courtesy of her Indigenous mother.  But she does not see herself as a coloniser – per courtesy of her white father.

Annabel Crabb was prepared to ask Lidia Thorpe about how she found the dessert.  But avoided raising the tough question about how you can be totally colonised – as well as being a coloniser at the same time. Can You Bear It?



In The Australian’s “Media” section on 4 September, Sophie Elsworth reported that ABC management has now begun meetings with on-air radio talent about the corporation’s metropolitan and regional stations.  This has taken place in the wake of a dramatic fall in audience share in the metropolitan markets of Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.

The review is being undertaken by Jeremy Millar (head of corporate strategy) , Steve Ahern (ABC Radio Sydney) and some others.  According to Sophie Elsworth, the review is intent on securing an outcome whereby listeners get both sides of the story on various issues and there is a balance of local, cultural and political topics across the whole country.  Sophie Elsworth continued:

The ABC has received feedback that too often stations fill ­airtime with lengthy conversations and instead should be providing news updates and information. A long-running criticism is that there is a persistent thread of inner-city content aired across both metropolitan and regional stations without focusing on issues connecting with listeners in their own communities.

Well, how about that?  It would seem that ABC management may have woken up to the fact that the ABC is a conservative free zone without one conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets. Moreover, the taxpayer funded public broadcaster is obsessed with issues primarily of interest to inner-city left-of-centre types.

This is hardly news.  Media Watch Dog – along with some other commentators in News Corp publications and on Sky News – has been making this point for eons.

The problem was acknowledged by one-time ABC TV Media Watch presenter Jonathan Holmes almost a decade ago.  Writing in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald  on 5 April 2016 in an article titled “ABC radio personalities need to tune out their left-wing bias”, Holmes – who is no conservative – had this to say:

It’s…undeniable, as the likes of [Andrew] Bolt and [Gerard] Henderson have complained for years, that the ABC’s capital city radio presenters come across, overwhelmingly, as leaning more to the left than the right. I say “undeniably”, but senior ABC managers for decades have chosen, if not to deny it, then to ignore it, and they’ve certainly failed to do anything about it….

The leftiness of ABC radio output is doubly problematic when it comes to Radio National. It may not have a huge audience, but it doesn’t have commercial competition. No other radio channel in the nation tries to cover serious issues in a serious way, for a national audience. And yet, if I were a supporter of Tony Abbott, or even of John Howard, I would feel that the vast bulk of RN’s output was not for me.

For years ABC management denied what even the ABC-friendly Jonathan Holmes could see – namely that the public broadcaster lacked political balance.

In recent years – due to social media in general and Sky News Australia in particular – a lot of traditional conservative ABC viewers/listeners have found other outlets on which to access news and current affairs.

It will be difficult, perhaps impossible, for the ABC to regain what it has lost. However, the taxpayer funded public broadcaster cannot say that it was not warned about losing part of its one-time base.


As avid Media Watch Dog readers know, the term ‘burying the lead’ (sometimes referred to as ‘burying the lede’) is usually used to describe a newspaper report in which the BIG news is located somewhere other than at the top of the story. Due to popular demand – and with a little help from the canine Ellie (a junk professor at the Canberra Bubble Institute with a Bachelor of Catastrophe Studies) – MWD will examine cases of burying the lead. Here we go.


On Saturday 2 September, the Sydney Morning Herald published a seven-paragraph story of some 25 centimetres in length titled “Sacked former principal on ‘not to be employed list’.” The reference was to Annabel Doust, a former head teacher at a NSW government high school. According to the SMH report, the NSW Department of Education’s Professional and Ethical Standards Directorate (PESD) found that in 2013 Ms Doust had engaged in a sexual relationship with Dean Gray, a 17-year-old student.

Mr Gray died of an accidental drowning in 2021. Sometime later, his mother found thousands of text messages on his phone indicating that he had been groomed by Ms Doust when at school.

What was new about the SMH report turned on the name of the offender. Before that, the paper had covered the matter without naming Annabel Doust. The SMH was correct in running the story – previously it had given scant attention to child sexual abuse in government schools. However, what interested MWD was the last of the seven paragraphs which read as follows:

In 2021 – the most recent data available – more than 120 teachers were dismissed from the department or left during the improvement programs. Fourteen of them involved sex-related violations.

This should have been a “Hold the Front Page” moment – not the final sentence of a seven-paragraph report.

Jordan Baker and Toni Ambrogetti reported that, in 2021, 14 government schoolteachers were dismissed “for sex-related violations”. Fourteen such dismissals in one year is a big number. Yet, the SMH reported this as if it was of little moment. Just imagine what the SMH or the ABC (which has not reported the story) would have done if 14 teachers in the Catholic or Protestant education system had been dismissed for sex-related violations in one year.

MWD will keep avid readers advised of additional burying the lead moments.


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


The American-born and Sydney-based Bruce Wolpe is something of a go-to talking head for the ABC when the taxpayer funded broadcaster is looking for, well, a talking head to discuss contemporary politics in the United States. Your man Wolpe worked for the Democrats in the US Congress and for Prime Minister Julia Gillard in Australia.  So, he fits well with the Conservative Free Zone that is the ABC.

The thesis of Bruce Wolpe’s most recent book – Trump’s Australia (Allen & Unwin) –  is that American democracy would not survive a second Donald Trump term and that this has shocking implications for Australia. Presumably because Australian democracy would also be under threat.  Wolpe’s tome suffers from what Media Watch Dog describes as over-the-topism. In that it is long on hyperbole and prediction but short on empirical reflection.

Ellie’s (male) co-owner is currently working his way through Trump’s Australia at Gin & Tonic Time with a freshly poured drink at his elbow to calm his nerves. After all, Wolpe’s Hyperbole has been enthusiastically endorsed by such leftist luvvies as John Barron (ABC), Zoe Daniel (ex-ABC now Teal Independent), Sean Kelly (The Age/Sydney Morning Herald) and Laura Tingle (ABC). You get the picture.

But MWD digresses.  This is Comrade Wolpe’s contribution to the ABC Radio PM program on 7 September during a report on the current trials in the US for those charged with offences during the 6 January 2021 riot in and outside the US Capitol.

Kathleen Ferguson: Senior fellow with the United States Studies Centre, Bruce Wolpe, says Americans should be satisfied seeing justice being meted out.

Bruce Wolpe: Imagine in Canberra, if a mob had gone down on the first sitting day of Parliament, broken into the building, broke into the Senate chambers, drove senators from the chamber, tried to attack the House chamber. The House chamber was defended by armed guards who had guns pointed at the doors in case they [the rioters] came in. Can you imagine what the reaction would be in this country if that happened? That’s exactly what happened at the Capitol.

MWD is always pleased to act in response to a challenge to the imagination.  The answer is Yes, MWD can imagine a similar event happening in Australia – except that the imagination turns to a left-wing, not a right-wing, riot.

Indeed, there was a violent attack on Australia’s Parliament House on 19 August 1996 – concerning which Comrade Wolpe seems totally unaware.  Or maybe it is a case of convenient amnesia since the rioters were members of the Australian Left and included many trade union members.

The Coalition’s John Howard defeated Labor’s Paul Keating at the March 1996 Federal election.  The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) organised a protest to demonstrate against the Howard government’s industrial relations policy which was before the parliament. The date was 19 August 1996 – the day before the budget.

The demonstration was called the Cavalcade to Canberra. Some demonstrators left the main body and took part in a riot which has been described by academic Luke Deer as the most forceful attack on the Federal parliament in Australian history.  It is a moment in history that the Australian Left want to forget.

This is how The Age reported the event on 20 August 1996 – the morning after the previous day’s riot:

Police used batons, dogs and riot shields to turn back hundreds of demonstrators who forced their way into the building in a violent protest against the Government’s industrial relations legislation. Police made 49 arrests and said one officer had acid thrown in his face by demonstrators, who used iron stakes, sledgehammers and metal battering rams to break down two sets of doors in their effort to break through police lines.

Parliament House’s foyer was covered with blood, paint, shattered glass and protest signs after police in riot gear pushed the demonstrators back following a clash lasting almost two hours. About 70 of the 300 police holding back the demonstrators were injured, including two who were treated in hospital for broken ribs. Parliament’s gift shop was trashed when about 50 protesters forced their way in in an effort to outflank police at the front doors.

Fancy that.  This is the very same Parliament House gift shop where Bruce Wolpe’s Trump’s Australia is on sale today.

To the Australian left, the anti-Howard riot of August 1996 has gone down what George Orwell once referred to as the memory hole.  But MWD says:

Bruce Wolpe – You Must Remember This.

Police clash with rioters at Parliament House in 1996

Media Watch Dog’s Five Paws Award was inaugurated in Issue Number 26 (4 September 2009) during the time of Nancy (2004-2017). The first winner was then ABC TV presenter Emma Alberici.  Ms Alberici scored for remembering the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 23 August 1939 whereby Hitler and Stalin divided Eastern Europe between Germany and the Soviet Union.  And for stating that the Nazi-Soviet Pact had effectively started the Second World War, since it was immediately followed by Germany’s invasion of western Poland (at a time when the Soviet Union had become an ally of Germany). Soon after, the USSR invaded eastern Poland in accordance with the protocols of the Nazi-Soviet Pact.

Over the years, the late Nancy’s Five Paws Award has become one of the world’s most prestigious gongs – rating just below the Nobel Prize and Academy Awards.


As avid readers are well aware, Media Watch Dog holds the view that nothing good came from the Covid-19 pandemic along with the excessive lockdowns (especially in Victoria) and all that. With one exception. It did kill off the corporate kiss. And it curtailed hand-holding on public walkways – if only because there were fewer couples engaging in such PDAs (aka Public Displays of Affection) and forcing hand-holding types to move to the verge of footpaths.

So, it was great to read Helen Trinca’s column in The Weekend Australian’s “Business Review” on 2 September – titled “Covid-19 killed the corporate kiss, and maybe just as well”. Here’s how it commenced:

So where are we up to on kissing in the workplace? That might seem a redundant question given #MeToo and the furore over that Spanish soccer boss, but worth thinking about now that we’re back at conferences and even business lunches and dinners.

We’re talking the non-sexual peck on the cheek from male professionals which in recent years became almost a routine form of greeting women in some work contexts. The corporate kiss (as opposed to unwanted approaches at Christmas drinks) was respectful, friendly, even a little cosmopolitan, and a result of there being more women in senior roles. A kiss indicated empathy and collegiality and inclusion….

With infection rather than affection now high on the agenda post the lockdowns, there’s an excuse for steering clear of the kiss and just going with the handshake, and that will be a relief for many women – and men. It certainly takes uncertainty out of the interaction.

Quite so. Ellie’s (male) co-owner rejoices that Helen Trinca recognises that the decline and fall of the corporate kiss is a relief for some blokes as well as some sheilas – Hendo is not concerned about infection in this instance. It’s just that the greeting is, well, awkward – raising many questions. Such as – do I deliver a peck on the cheek, or not? If so, what side? Should I do both sides? If so – which side first? And so on.

As MWD recalls, the late Gough Whitlam would ask ladies coming to greet him whether they wanted a both-cheek greeting and, on occasions, questioned whether a third was appropriate. MWD’s position is – junk the practice in these post-Whitlam times. As Ms Trinca concluded:

A handshake is certainly simpler, signalling a very clear separation between the professional and the personal lives. There’s far less likelihood of gender politics complicating the interaction or of honest misunderstandings, so perhaps we should be grateful if the pandemic finally turns the corporate kiss into simply something that we used to do.

Helen Trinca: Five Paws

[Good point. Here’s hoping that someone takes up the call for banning hand-holding. Along with making sandal-wearing illegal. This (latter) idea would be the best way to ground the Sandalista leftist-luvvies in such redoubts as Fitzroy North, Newtown and so on. MWD Editor]

Nine’s Shane Wright has risen without trace (as the late Kitty Muggeridge once said about the late David Frost) to become the senior economics correspondent for The Age and Sydney Morning Herald – not having published anything of note apart from newspaper articles and columns plus the occasional essay. Even so, you would expect a person in such an elevated position to know about the international energy market.

It’s only been a few years since your man Wright ridiculed anyone who said that coal had any future as a part of energy supply – even in such markets as India, China and Indonesia. He declared on ABC TV Insiders on 11 June 2017 that “coal is like candlesticks” and compared those who said that there is still a demand for Australian coal exports with members of the Candle Makers Union circa 1870 who (allegedly) argued the case for candles over electricity. Now read on.


The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) recently put out its latest Statement of Opportunities, which seeks to forecast the reliability of the Australian energy market. AEMO found that the planned August 2025 early retirement of the Eraring coal plant in the NSW Hunter Valley will create reliability gaps in the NSW grid (meaning potential price spikes and blackouts). It modelled delaying the retirement by two years and found that this kept the reliability risk below the acceptable standard during that time.

On Tuesday 7 September it was announced that the NSW government, which will be facing re-election in 2027, is going to “engage with” Eraring’s owner, Origin Energy, concerning a possible extension of the coal-fired power plant’s lifetime. Quelle Surprise.

Unlike Nine’s senior economics correspondent, the Minns Labor government in NSW has a responsibility to ensure energy supply for individuals and businesses alike. Given the choice between the possibility of extending the Eraring coal power station or the possibility of propping up NSW energy resources by means of fired-up candlesticks, Premier Chris Minns took no notice whatsoever of the economic thought of Comrade Wright.

Perhaps your man Wright could see fit to correct his 2017 prediction the next time he is on the (increasingly boring) Insiders program. But don’t hold your breath.

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 AC (Always Courteous) 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 your man Henderson 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.


There was considerable interest in Gerard Henderson’s column in The Weekend Australian on 2 September titled “Where’s spotlight on government school pedophiles?”. See ­here. The article drew attention to the fact that on 27 August 2023, ABC News Online had carried a 9000-word article by Russell Jackson of ABC Investigations titled “How the Victorian Education Department’s historical child sexual abuse scandal was hidden for decades”.

Henderson pointed out that, despite the importance of the article, Jackson’s report had not been covered by any of the ABC’s main outlets. Namely, ABC TV Evening News, ABC TV News Breakfast, ABC Radio National Breakfast, AM, The World Today, PM, 7.30 and the like. This despite the fact that all these outlets had given extensive coverage over many years to cases of historical child sexual abuse in schools run by the Catholic, Anglican and other Protestant churches.

Gerard Henderson’s column also drew attention to the failure of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse to investigate government schools throughout Australia. The commission – headed by Peter McClellan KC – undertook 57 case studies. Not one of which looked at government schools. This was a massive fail by a royal commission which cost close to $350 million and employed hundreds of staff at any one time.

On 12 July 2023, Gerard Henderson contacted Peter McClellan with reference to the failure of the Royal Commission to examine historical child sexual abuse in government schools. There was a follow-up letter sent by Express Post.

Henderson advised Mr McClellan that he might write about the issue and invited the former royal commissioner to respond to two questions. There was no reply. The one-way correspondence is printed below. If Mr McClellan wants a right of reply – it will be granted.


Gerard Henderson to Peter McClellan KC 12 July 2023


Dear Mr McClellan

As you may or may not know, I am the author of the book Cardinal Pell, The Media Pile-On & Collective Guilt (Connor Court, 2021) which made reference to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

I know that the Royal Commission is not extant in any form. However, I thought it professional to provide you with an opportunity to respond to a couple of questions with respect to your role as chair of that commission.  Here they are:

  • Why is it that the Royal Commission focused on Christian institutions – primarily Catholic and Anglican – especially with respect to schools?  As you know, the Royal Commission conducted 57 case studies – not one of which examined a government school.  Yet, when announcing the establishment of the Royal Commission on 12 November 2012, Prime Minister Julia Gillard responded to the first question at the media conference as follows:

Prime Minister Julia Gillard: I’ll take some questions.

Journalist: Prime Minister, is it right to say that this will look beyond the Catholic Church to all institutions?

Prime Minister Julia Gillard: Absolutely correct. It’s institutional responses to instances and allegations of child abuse in Australia…

Writing in The Catholic Weekly on 7 July 2023, Monica Doumit had this to say:

There were five separate [Royal Commission] public hearings into Catholic schools and another six into schools run by other faith groups. But no government school was considered, other than a couple of special schools no longer in existence. Indeed, the closest the Royal Commission came to publicly looking at normal government schools was hearing from a single witness from the NSW Department of Education about sexual abuse perpetrated by students on other students.

Since the Royal Commission closed down, the Tasmanian government has established commissions of inquiry into government schools, a government hospital and a government-run youth detention centre – all of which were places of historical child sexual abuse. Yet the Royal Commission’s two studies which centred on Tasmania, focused on the Hutchins School (which has a connection with the Anglican Church) and the Church of England Boys’ Society. The Mercury  in Hobart has reported that, in the not so distant past, pedophile teachers were moved from school to school by the Tasmanian Department of Education.  The Royal Commission, apparently, was ignorant of this.

Last month the Andrews Labor Government in Victoria announced the establishment of a Board of Inquiry into Historical Child Sexual Abuse at Beaumaris Primary School in the 1960s and 1970 and abuse by the same employees at other government schools – to be headed by Kathleen Foley SC.

On 29 January 2023, The Guardian Australia reported that, since 2010, 381 claims have been made with respect to alleged sexual abuse that occurred in Victorian government educations settings between 1960 and 2018 – including primary and secondary schools. The Royal Commission, apparently, was ignorant of this.

New South Wales Police has established Strike Force Southwood to follow up allegations of historical child sexual abuse in the 1970s and 1980s in the government run Cromer High School and such nearby institutions as Beacon Hill High School and Forest High School.   It is unlikely that such offending would have been confined to Sydney’s Northern Beaches.

You will be aware that the convicted murderer Christopher Dawson was found guilty in the NSW District Court last month of carnal knowledge of a student, aged between 10 and 17, who was his pupil at Cromer High School in 1979.   Evidence provided at the trial indicated that the NSW Department of Education was aware of the existence of child sexual assault at Cromer High School over four decades ago.  The Royal Commission, apparently, was ignorant of this.

  • My second question is: How is it that a Royal Commission, which cost close to $350 million and employed literally hundreds of staff at any one time, did not hold a case study into even one government school in the whole of Australia? – especially since such an inquiry would have indicated that the Royal Commission was interested in examining allegations of historical child sexual abuse in government schools, in addition to other schools, along the lines that Julia Gillard promised?

Over to you.


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I may write about this issue soon.  The purpose of this letter is to invite you to respond to my questions if you wish to do so.

Yours sincerely

Gerard Henderson

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Until next time

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