ISSUE – NO. 672

8 March 2024

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John Lyons, the ABC’s Global Affairs Editor, is a strident critic of Israel and Israel’s Jewish supporters in Australia. This is evident in his books Balcony over Jerusalem (Harper Collins, 2016) and Dateline Jerusalem:  Journalism’s Toughest Assignment (Monash University Publishing, 2021).  The latter book was reviewed by Gerard Henderson in The Sydney Institute Review in November 2021.

On 7 March, the ABC’s John Lyons was interviewed about the new edition of Balcony Over Jerusalem on ABC Radio National Breakfast. The interviewer was the ABC’s Patricia Karvelas. It was a soft interview – Quelle Surprise! – in which the author did almost all of the talking, and there were no interruptions.

During the interview, Lyons only specifically criticised one Australian group i.e. the Lawyers for Israel. And he denied that he had ever accused the ABC of pro-Israel bias at the recent trade union meeting which passed a vote of no confidence in ABC managing Director and Editor-in-Chief David Anderson.

It was love-in radio as Karvelas responded to Lyons’ last two comments with “That’s right” and “I think that’s absolutely right”. Karvelas wrapped up the interview by stating that the ABC covered the Israel-Hamas war without “fear or favour”. But not before John Lyons got the opportunity to plug his forthcoming Four Corners program on Israel on Monday 11 March, along with Balcony Over Jerusalem.

Media Watch Dog is not aware of any ABC journalist who is publicly pro-Israel in the current conflict. Moreover, the ABC has totally ignored Michael Gawenda’s recent book My Life As A Jew (Scribe, 2021) in which the former editor-in-chief of The Age strongly supports the right of Israel to exist within secure borders. Except for one interview with Geraldine Doogue, shortly before Hamas’ invasion of Israel on 7 October 2023.


An avid reader has just drawn Media Watch Dog’s attention to an appearance by ex-ABC radio presenter Josh Szeps on the American podcast The Fifth Column on 8 March. It so happens that Gerard Henderson and MWD get quite a mention by ex-Comrade Szeps and Fifth Column host Michael Moynihan. The good news is that your man Moynihan asked Szeps if he is afraid of Hendo and, for his part, Szeps says Hendo is not a “right-wing nutjob”. Attention Mike (“I used to pour the gin”) Carlton. The main discussion on the latest episode of The Fifth Column centres on cancel culture and related issues, Szeps’ contribution and his comments re the ABC and MWD will be covered in MWD’s next issue.

For the record, The Fifth Column is a weekly American podcast on Substack and available on podcast providers (Apple podcasts, Spotify etc). Hosted by Kmele Foster, Michael Moynihan, and Matt Welch.


It was, in Media Watch Dog’s timing terminology, Hangover Time on 6 March when the print copy of the Sydney Morning Herald landed on Ellie’s kennel. Opening the paper, Gerard Henderson turned to Ross Gittins’ column. As avid readers know, your man Gittins is the SMH’s economics editor and has been writing a weekly column since Joan of Arc played a role in the 100 Years’ War.

MWD gave considerable coverage to the SMH of 7 February which devoted some ten pages plus some two dozen illustrations, celebrating the fact that Gittins was experiencing his 50th anniversary at the Herald. [Are you sure about this?  It seems like an eternity. – MWD  Editor.]

It is MWD’s contention that your man Gittins writes much the same column every week.  So, it came as no big surprise on 6 March to learn that his column was headed: “I’ll be dead before the worst of it.”   At first, Hendo was surprised that Comrade Gittins had conceded his mortality.  Then it became evident that the SMH’s economics scribbler had joined “The End is Nigh” Set on his way to personal mortality.  This is how the column commenced:

I keep reading psychologists warning that talking about how terrible climate change will be is counterproductive. Rather than causing the deniers to see the error of their ways, it just makes them close their mind to further argument.  So, this column isn’t for them.

Your man Gittins then proceeded to write about how terrible climate change will be – and provided this piece of information:

I fear for my five grandkids’ future but, to tell the truth, I’m glad I’d be dead and gone before it reaches its worst.  What we must do, like all those who voted teal at the last election, is to press both major parties to speed up our efforts and make Australia a leader rather than a laggard in the global push to limit how bad it gets.

Sounds pretty bad, don’t you think?  However, there is some good news. Ross will depart this mortal coil before the End of the World.  Which will give the SMH editor, Mr Bevan Shields, a chance to employ an economics editor –  who will not write much the same column each week – before the earth boils us all to death.

By the way, the Gittins’ political message is absolute tosh. At the May 2022 election, the Teals, who identify as Independents, did not campaign against both the Coalition and Labor on climate change. Not on your nelly. They only contested some Liberal Party seats and ignored Labor and the Greens. Even an economics editor should know this.

It seems that Gittins has become a disciple of the recently released Water Monitor Survey along with the Australian Climate Council’s heat map – which were analysed in last week’s MWD.  As readers will recall, this latter study will tell us mere mortals what the temperature will be in such Sandalista Set suburbs as Fitzroy North in Melbourne and Newtown in Sydney at Gin & Tonic Time on a Leap Day in 2064.  Really. Moreover, Gittins reckons that it will be so boiling Down Under soon that the Australian Open (which takes place in January) will be moved from Melbourne by 2050. Rather than, er, just shifted to, say, May.

It seems that Mr Gittins believes that climate change is inevitable and cannot be mitigated to any significant extent.  He quoted two academics from Melbourne University as suggesting something or other about thunderstorms and winds – but commented that “more research is needed to confirm this”. Your man Gittins should have been an academic, since they invariably call for more research.

MWD does not advocate yet more research to save the planet.  There are some easier ways to mitigate climate change – or at least Australia’s contribution to global emissions of 1.4 per cent.

For starters, the SMH could promise not to ever again publish a dozen pages praising its economics editor.  And your man Gittins could quit the Herald if it does not forsake its travel pages which entice Gittins’ readers (if readers there are) to burn lotsa emissions – with the moolah from advertising helping to pay Gittins’ salary in the process.

But don’t hold your breath that this will occur.  In the meantime, the question is: Can You Bear It?

[No, not really.  Now that you ask.  I note, to my horror, that the second page of the SMH on 8 March has a photo of your man Gittins in preacher-mode standing behind a pulpit – or is it a lectern? – under the heading “Gittins graces Great Hall for 50th”.  Your man’s extension of his “grace” took place at the University of Sydney Great Hall on 7 March and was organised by the SMH and the university. Will there be no end to such megalomania? – MWD Editor.]

Ross Gittins preaching at the Great Hall as depicted in Sydney Morning Herald 8 March 2024


As avid readers know, Media Watch Dog just loves it when ABC journalists talk to current or former ABC managers and journalists about the ABC. For the truth is that Hendo appreciates these taxpayer funded media incestuous interviews – since it makes great copy for MWD.

On ABC News Breakfast on 26 February, Sally Sara interviewed Sydney University vice chancellor Mark Scott about tertiary education.  As readers know, Nice Mr Scott was a nice but somewhat ineffectual ABC managing director and editor-in-chief from 2006 to 2016.  He inherited a taxpayer funded public broadcaster that was a conservative free zone and left with this condition in-situ.  This is how Comrade Sara wound up the interview:

Sally Sara:  What do you think of the tenure of Ita Buttrose as the chair of the ABC? Has it been a successful one?

Mark Scott:  I’ve made a vow, Sally, not to provide commentary – having left the organisation. But I think you’ve got to say that Ita was a champion of the ABC….

So, having vowed not to talk about the ABC once he left the organisation, Nice Mr Scott did precisely that – and banged on about how the ABC is doing its best to “reflect Australia back to Australia”, whatever that might mean.

Barely a week had passed and – lo and behold – former ABC TV star Kerry O’Brien rocked up to discuss the ABC on the ABC from his base in the Sandalista territory of Byron Bay. Once again, his interviewer on ABC Radio Breakfast was Sally Sara.

In a long, and long-winded discussion, Red Kerry said not very much at all. Over 12 minutes, he did not cite the name of a person, place or organisation – apart from references to himself and the ABC.

The O’Brien message seemed to be that the ABC “is losing its way” and “has drifted more and more close to a commercial model”. And that ABC management should have clamped down earlier and stopped ABC staff from stating their political views on social media.

For what it is worth, MWD does not agree. Social media has provided evidence that ABC staff are overwhelmingly leftist or left-of-centre types. By their political messages, you will know them (to paraphrase a section from The Bible).

Red Kerry told RN listeners (if listeners there were) that he was a senior reporter on ABC TV’s This Day Tonight at the age of 27.  This was in response to a question from Ms Sara which suggested that the ABC needs to “give opportunities to younger staff”.

Comrade O’Brien did not think that age was an issue at the ABC and dismissed the suggestion.  That was the voice of a 78-year-old bloke who managed to get 12 minutes on RN Breakfast to say not very much at all.  Can You Bear It?

[Once again, no. I note that new ABC chair Kim Williams is quoted in Nine newspapers on 8 March as describing Red Kerry’s mini-rant as a “generalised statement”. The ABC chair added: “I don’t know where it [i.e. O’Brien’s statement] comes from or what it’s referring to”. I concur. – MWD Editor.]


Media Watch Dog can never get enough of Hugh White – the Emeritus Professor of Strategic Studies at the Australian National University in Canberra.

The learned professor was back in the news again recently with an article in the Australian Financial Review on 1 March titled “Dissident Keating right about Asia”.  It was yet another statement of the White view of the world that Australia cannot rely on the United States “to keep Asia stable and Australia safe”.  It’s not a new view. The late B.A. Santamaria said much the same in his book The Defence of Australia (The Hawthorn Press, 1970) published over half a century ago.

Your man White focused on China and Taiwan.  He wrote that to win the contest of power in the Asia Pacific “America will have to convince Beijing that it really is willing to fight a war to defend Taiwan”.

This was all very interesting – in a Hugh White kind of way.  The problem is that the emeritus professor is so often wrong in his views on China/Taiwan/United States/Australia.

In The Sydney Morning Herald in March 2005, White wrote that “we may face … a naval battle this year … between the US and Chinese navies, ostensibly over Taiwan’s independence, but in reality over which power would emerge pre-eminent in Asia in the 21st century”.

Then in December 2012, White wrote in The Age that we should “not be too surprised if the US and Japan go to war with China in 2013”.

Then, speaking on the ABC TV Lateline program in November 2014, White was asked: “Are we going to see war in our region?” He replied: “Look, I think that’s a possibility we can’t rule out” since the situation was a “little like what happened in 1914”.

Here’s a question: Since Professor White was so hopelessly wrong in 2005, 2012 and 2014 – why should we take him so seriously in 2024?  Here’s another one:  Can You Bear It?


Are the good folk at the Australian Financial Review’s “Rear Window” running out of stories in the wake of MWD fave Joe Aston’s departure?  As Media Watch Dog readers will recall, your man Aston won quite a few of MWD’s  (most prestigious) Five Paws Awards.

But MWD digresses.  On 6 March, “Rear Window” led with a piece by Mark Di Stefano titled “Peter Dutton’s obscene business loop”. What was the Opposition leader’s obscenity? – MWD hears avid readers cry.

Well, it is this.  Apparently, on Thursday afternoon on 29 February, Mr Dutton flew in business class from Canberra to Perth via Melbourne. Then in the late evening of that very same day, he took the “red-eye” flight out of Perth arriving in Melbourne on the morning of 1 March at 4.30 am – after which he did some media. According to Comrade Di Stefano, this is an “obscene loop”.

Why?  Well, for starters, Peter Dutton accepted an invitation to speak at Gina Rinehart’s 70th birthday party. He financed the trip himself – at an estimated cost of $5,500. Who cares? “Rear Window” does – as indicated in this morality lecture.

…if this did, in fact, cost Dutton more than $5500, it makes a mockery of his message about standing up for battlers being smashed by rising rates and cost-of-living pressures. Households around the country are foregoing family holidays, or timing their weekly trip to petrol pumps, or dumping steak for mince. Food banks are seeing record numbers. Yet, here’s the Liberal party leader seemingly spaffing three weeks of average household earnings on a three-leg joy flight.

What a load of absolute tosh.  Peter Dutton’s flight expenditure does not cut into anyone’s household earnings. Moreover, if high income earners like Dutton stop spending it would do nothing direct to help the lowly-paid or unemployed.

It would seem that Comrade Di Stefano believes that the well-off should go on a spending strike. And that this will help battlers.  In which case he should read Michael Stutchbury’s AFR editorials.  Can You Bear It?



There are comedians.  And then there are those who, in the words of the late Barry Humphries, identify as comedians.  Many of the latter also see themselves as commentators on matters of the day – from international affairs to national politics – who consider that their morality is higher than those with whom they disagree.

One such is Hannah Gadsby – who led the campaign to rename the Barry Award of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in 2019 – because she disagreed with Humphries’ opinions.  In Media Watch Dog’s view, Comrade Gadsby is about as funny as burnt toast.  A young Australian comedian has told Ellie’s (male) co-owner that Comrade Gadsby is a new kind of comedy artist – to wit, a non-funny comedian.

Certainly, this was the case when, for some reason unrelated to news or current affairs, Gadsby was interviewed by Sarah Ferguson on ABC TV’s 7.30.  The date was Thursday 29 February.  She told her interviewer that she was back into “dark material”. It’s a bit like seeing the funny side of serial murders, it seems.  This was the “highlight” of the discussion. [Don’t you mean conversation? – MWD Editor.]  Let’s go to the transcript:

Sarah Ferguson:  Your new show… is called ‘Woof’ which doesn’t sound very dark. What’s it all about?

Hannah Gadsby:  Depends on how you say it, you know. Some dogs say “Woof” and it is very menacing.

Sarah Ferguson:  Yes, so are you saying you are bringing us a menacing show?

Hannah Gadsby:  It is a show that I’m writing that is matching this moment, which is to say: “Oh, there is a lot going on. I don’t understand what is happening in the world and I feel like the apocalypse is approaching. So woof!”

Ellie’s (male) co-owner can hardly wait to buy tickets for himself and Ellie and hopes that Woof commences before the apocalypse cometh. Woof, Woof.

While on the topic of non-funny comedians – consider the case of Tom Ballard. The leftist Ballard presented Tonightly on the ABC TV News Channel some years ago.  It died after a short time – not long after the audience died of boredom.  Ballard has also written a dull book titled I, Millennial: One Snowflake’s Screed Against Boomers, Billionaires & Everything Else (Scribner, 2022). The tome commences with the author “cooked” and slumped on a couch in a friend’s share house on Melbourne (inner-city) Carlton Land.  It doesn’t improve.

Now it seems that Tom Ballard has moved into economics after reading an abridged version of Karl Marx’s Das Kapital.  On 23 February, the leftist newsletter Crikey published an article by your man Ballard titled “Keep talking about stage three tax cuts.  A turd rolled in glitter is still a turd after all!”

Now, as avid MWD readers know, MWD is opposed to exclamation marks­ – except when used in irony.  For the reason that if a point has been made clearly – there’s no need to emphasise it!!!!!!

In any event, the comedian-economist accused the Albanese Labor government of “polishing a turd”.  In short, Ballard believes that all those on higher incomes should pay more tax – and that Labor is too soft.

In somewhat coarse language, Ballard maintained the Labor government has “finally pulled its finger out”.  But not far enough, apparently.  Comrade Ballard wants a marginal tax rate of 60 per cent. It’s currently at 47 per cent.  Paul Keating maintained recently in an interview with the Australian Financial Review that it should not be more than 39 per cent.  But to Ballard – the response is likely to be, what would he know?

Comrade Ballard knows better. He also wants property and land tax to be introduced along with taxes on “massive financial transactions and banks”.  And he believes that we should tax fossil fuel companies at a higher rate “just for fun”.  Overlooking the fact that mineral exports are currently propping up the Australian economy.

In his “Tax the Rich” rant, Tom Ballard managed to use the word “turd” on a further four occasions. How about that?  A comedian’s economic update brought to you by the editorial team at Eric Beecher’s Crikey.


At the request of Media Watch Dog readers that this blog provides even more examples of hyperbole-in-action, it has been decided to introduce this segment on a regular basis.


The first case study is from Graham Nash, of Crosby, Stills and Nash fame, who is in Australia for a national tour promoting his new solo album Now.

Interviewed by Patricia Karvelas on ABC RN Breakfast on 6 March, your man Nash (born 1942) described Donald J. Trump (born 1946) as “destroying the truth”.  According to the singer-songwriter “there’s only one truth” and Nash possesses it and Trump doesn’t. Let’s go to the transcript:

Patricia Karvelas: It looks like he [Trump] might be able to win the next election, according to the polling. How do you reflect on that?

Graham Nash: I think it would be the worst thing that ever happened to America in a couple of 100 years. He’s openly admitted that his next administration will be one of revenge, will be one of attacking his enemies, of assassinating his enemies, of using the Justice Department as a weapon against his enemies. He’s told us what’s going on. He’s told us exactly what what he wants to do….

So, there you have it.  In 2024, Nash reckons that a second Trump administration would be the worst thing that ever happened to the United States in 200 years – including the American Civil War, it seems.  And Nash, who speaks the “only one truth”, claims that Trump has said that, if elected, his administration would assassinate its enemies. No sources were quoted.

Sounds somewhat hyperbolic, don’t you think?

Due to overwhelming popular demand, the Flann O’Brien Gong returns again this week. As avid Media Watch Dog readers will be aware, this occasional segment is inspired by the Irish humorist Brian O’Nolan (1911-1966) – nom de plume Flann O’Brien – and, in particular, his critique of the sometimes incoherent poet Ezra Pound. By the way, your man O’Brien also had the good sense not to take seriously Eamon de Valera (1882-1975), the Fianna Fail politician and dreadful bore who was prime minister and later president of Ireland for far too long.

The Flann O’Brien Gong for Literary or Verbal Sludge is devoted to outing bad writing or incomprehensible prose or incoherent oral expression or the use of pretentious words – or a combination of all of the above.


The March 2024 issue of The Monthly (proprietor Morry Schwartz, editor Nick Feik) contains an interesting profile of new ABC chair Kim Williams. Headed “The interesting Mr Williams”, it is written by Martin McKenzie-Murray. He is a member of what Paul Keating once called “The Hyphenated-Name Set”.

And what was Comrade McKenzie-Murray’s conclusion? – Media Watch Dog hears avid readers cry.  Well, it’s this – your man Williams is interesting. Interesting, eh?

Moreover, your hyphenated-name guy reveals that Phillip Adams has described the new ABC chair as devious and sycophantic and has stated: “I prefer Kim Jong Un to Kim Williams.” Which suggests that Comrade Adams is more likely to interview the North Korean communist dictator than Devious Mr Williams in what remains of PA’s “little wireless program” Late Night Live – before he puts away the microphone sometime in June.

But MWD digresses, yet again.  Nick Feik chose to publish in The Monthly’s current edition an article titled “Whose ABC?: The case for the national broadcaster” by Jonathan (“Proudly the ABC’s Sneerer-in-Chief”) Green.  Now, your man Green presents a program titled Blueprint – which goes to air on ABC Radio National at 1 pm on Saturdays.  It used to air at 9 am on a Saturday.

Comrade Green has advertised the new time on the taxpayer funded public broadcaster by suggesting that his listeners (if listeners there are) could now sleep in until 1 pm. MWD disagrees.  2 pm will do – since there’s nothing much to listen to on Blueprint for Living (aka “Blueprint for Lemon Tarts” when MWD’s fave cook Annie Smithers is being interviewed).  This is how the ABC employee commenced his article supporting the ABC:

It turns out that media might have been the wrong thing to call it. Maybe it was the message all along. It’s been almost 30 years since the second generation of the internet enabled a subtle shift that would transform global interaction: on social media we could talk to numberless strangers while remaining a stranger ourselves. If interpersonal familiarity had been the critical medium that enabled previous human discourse, social media made it possible for messages to make their way between individuals unencumbered by the necessity of introduction.

As networks were refined and multiplied, our awareness of the technology, algorithms and heavily invested corporate and political interests that increasingly swept messages unbidden to our attention diminished. An idea can now girdle the globe attached to no one and coming from nowhere in particular. We have reached a point of seamless ubiquity in which an idea simultaneously is and is everywhere. Some of them terrible ideas.

Brilliant, eh? But what does it mean?  Still, it’s quite an achievement to write two substantial paragraphs without naming a person, organisation or place. Within the literary “highlights”, in a sea of written sludge, were these reflections of Comrade Green:

  • “The ABC is a little bulwark of sense and seriousness… thank heavens for the ABC.”
  • In 1901 Australia was a “new postcolonial federation”.
  • The culture wars were born [Green does not say when], the ABC was among the prominent targets.

Groan.  There is more of this guff.  Green supports a diversity in ABC staff but does not regard this as including political diversity – as befits a conservative free zone. This is how the article concluded:

The ABC is …a respectful town square in an atomised culture of closed doors and apprehensive conversation; a campfire that offers warmth, light and welcome. Belief in its necessity needs to start from within.

How about that?  For over $1 Billion a year, the Australian taxpayer gets the ABC which is both a “town square” and a “campfire”.  In most situations, a burning campfire in a town square would soon be extinguished by the local fire brigade.  But not in Green Land, apparently. MWD will attempt to work out what is the culture of closed doors.

Literary  Criticism

By Flann O’Brien

of Ezra Pound

My grasp of what he wrote and meant

Was only five or six %

The rest was only words and sound —

My reference is to Ezra £


Inspired by your man O’Brien, here is MWD’s response – with a little help from the late Jackie (Dip Wellness, The Gunnedah Institute) along with the American psychic John Edward who gets on well with the dead but not so much with the living:

Literary Criticism

By Jackie

of Jonathan Green

My grasp of what he wrote or meant

Was only five or six per cent

All that Aunty blather – Come, on

The reference is to Comrade Jon



There was enormous interest by Media Watch Dog readers in the coverage in the previous issue about when Phillip Adams quit the Communist Party of Australia.  The account carried one “John-Laws-Style-Deliberate-Mistake” which a few avid readers picked up.  Including Tony Thomas who forwarded an email which sheds some light on the issue. He is a former BRW and Age journalist and author of the forthcoming book Anthem of the Unwoke.

Email from Tony Thomas to MWD:

This is what we know. Comrade Adams joined the Communist Party of Australia circa 1952. You say he was born 1939, that means he joined the CPA when he was 12-13.  As a child of a Communist family, I can assure you that the CPA didn’t enrol 12-13 year olds. Red teenagers joined the Eureka Youth League. In Perth kids my age (born 1940) joined the Junior Eureka Youth League and could later move up to the EYL. I never “graduated” from the JEYL to the EYL, (maybe the JEYL folded and I lived in limbo) but I got my CPA membership card at 18 in 1958. I declined to renew it in 1961-62 hence separated from the CPA.

Obtaining an official party card was quite important as people’s cards were scrutinised for admission to important meetings. One such  meeting was in a Perth inner suburb in I believe 1958 where a big-wig from the Eastern States (not Lance Sharkey but maybe J B Miles) came over to confess to members that the Khrushchev revelations in the New York Times were real and not US fabrications as the Communist Party of Australia had previously claimed (and expelled members who said otherwise). I was at that meeting and can just remember a few details but have been unable to nail down any facts about that Perth meeting — grateful for any historical assistance.

I suspect I am one of a mere handful of persons in Australia alive that attended any of those meetings circa 1958 where the party owned up to lying about the Khrushchev disclosures. I now realise that all such meetings were attended by ASIO agents so the security measures were ineffective. Feel free to use this.

Very interesting to be sure.  According to Mr Thomas, you had to be 18 years old to join the CPA.  Comrade Adams turned 18 in July 1957.  However, he claims that he quit the CPA in late 1956.

This evidence adds weight to Phillip Adams’ alternative claim – namely, that he quit the CPA sometime after 1968 when the Soviet Union crushed the Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia. Prior to that, he belonged to a political movement which was led by such heirs of Lenin and Stalin as Molotov (he of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, i.e. Nazi Soviet Pact), Khrushchev and Brezhnev.

“History Corner” will keep you posted.  In the meantime, Phillip Adams can resolve the issue by releasing his ASIO file of which he speaks frequently.

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 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 June 11, 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.


On Thursday 7 March, it was reported in the Australian that the Eraring coal-fired power station, located near Lake Macquarie in NSW, will likely remain open past its previously scheduled closing date in August 2025. Origin Energy, which owns Eraring, and the NSW Labor government are currently negotiating a deal to keep the plant open. The exact nature of this proposed deal is still under wraps but it seems increasingly unlikely the NSW government can allow Eraring to close, given it supplies more than a quarter of the state’s power.

So, it would appear that the end of coal power in Australia has once again been delayed. Despite the lofty renewable energy and emissions reductions promised by various Australian governments – coal mining, exporting and power generation continue to survive and thrive in Australia. Shane Wright, please note that the Minns Government has not taken the candlesticks option.

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.


The left intelligentsia has run the conspiracy that the Labor Party and its leader Bert (“Please call me Doc”) Evatt was robbed of victory in the May 1954 election. The claim is that Liberal Party Prime Minister Robert Menzies used the defection of Vladimir Petrov from the Soviet Union Embassy in Canberra to associate Labor and its leader Bert Evatt with communism.  Professor Sally Young still runs the conspiracy line – which, presumably, she tells her students about.  The problem is that there is scant evidence to support the claim.  Now read on, s’il vous plait:

Professor Sally Young to Gerard Henderson – 2 March 2024

Dear Gerard,

“Comrade Young” here!

I just came across your claim in the Australian in June last year that “The Petrov Affair was barely mentioned in the 1954 election campaign and the issue of communism was not a feature of the campaign”.

I am not sure if you have heard of TROVE but it’s a very good source for research. The campaign was held across May 1954. As you can see below, there were over 2000 newspaper articles mentioning ‘Petrov’ that month and over 9000 mentioning ‘communism’.

Best wishes, Sally.

Gerard Henderson to Professor Sally Young – 6 March 2024

Dear Sally

Gerard Henderson AC (aka Always Courteous) here!

It’s great to know that you appear to have become an avid (albeit not uncritical) Media Watch Dog reader.  Even if it took you around eight months to read a couple of past issues.

In any event, it’s good to learn that Dr Young (for a  doctor you are) has “just come across” the reference to Dr Young’s book Media Monsters  in the MWD issues of 16 June 2023 and 23 June 2023.  In these editions I also discussed your (soft) interview with Phillip Adams about this very tome on ABC Radio National Late Night Live. The date was 13 June 2023.

On 23 June 2023, I wrote:

In her oh-so-soft interview with Phillip (“I was once a teenage commo”) Adams, Sally Young ran the left-wing interpretation of Australian history line on this issue. Namely, that the Labor Opposition leader Bert Evatt was robbed of victory in the 1954 election because the Liberal Party Prime Minister Robert Menzies manipulated the defection in April 1954 of Vladimir and Evdokia Petrov from the Soviet Union Embassy in Canberra and used the Labor Party’s association with communism as a weapon in the campaign.

This is absolute tosh. In fact, Petrov’s defection was barely mentioned in the 1954 campaign and Menzies’ narrow victory was due substantially to the economic recovery which was underway in early 1954 and to the fact that Evatt could not explain how a Labor government would pay for his extravagant and uncosted election promises. Also, the May 1954 election took place shortly after the Royal Tour of Australia which was hugely popular and provided a “feel good” factor which would have been of benefit to any incumbent government.

Hendo has now read the segment titled “The Petrov Affair and the 1954 election” in Media Monsters. As with her LNL interview, Comrade Young makes no mention whatever of Evatt’s unfunded election promises. Moreover, she asserts – without evidence – that the issue of communism dominated the election campaign. It didn’t – as Anne Henderson documents in her forthcoming Menzies Versus Evatt: The Great Rivalry of Australian Politics (Connor Court, 2023). UNSW Press needs to either employ a fact-checker or replace its existing one.

I stand by everything I wrote in MWD concerning Media Monsters and your interview with Comrade Adams.

I note that you have not challenged my specific criticism of what you wrote or said about the May 1954 election. All you have offered is this (somewhat condescending) paragraph:

I am not sure if you have heard of TROVE but it’s a very good source for research. The campaign was held across May 1954. As you can see below, there were over 2000 newspaper articles mentioning “Petrov” that month and over 9000 mentioning “communism”.

Thanks for the advice.  However, I am well aware of TROVE and understand that “it’s a very good source for research”.

I do not know what passes for “scholarship” at the Melbourne University’s Department of Politics these days – it’s a long time since I studied there under very clever people like Hugo Wolfsohn.  However, your “defence” would have failed if presented as a student essay in my day.

You claim that TROVE tells you that “there were over 2,000 newspaper articles mentioning ‘Petrov’ that month [i.e. May 1954] and over 9,000 mentioning ‘communism’.” Quelle Surprise! as the saying goes.  Of course, there were.

The defection of Vladimir Petrov and Evdokia Petrova was big news.  As was the issue of communism – in view of communist movements internationally (the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, China, the Korean War and so on) in addition to the strong presence of the Communist Party of Australia in the trade union movement.

But there is no evidence that the Petrov Affair or communism was a significant factor in the May 1954 election – which was primarily fought on economic issues.

I took just a random small sample of the TROVE collection to which you drew my attention. Not one of the articles I examined mentioned Prime Minister Robert Menzies, Country Party leader Arthur Fadden or Labor leader Bert Evatt.  They focused on the Royal Commission on Espionage (i.e. the Petrov Royal Commission) which was established on 13 April 1954 and commenced hearings on 17 May 1954.

One of the references on TROVE turned on a railway bridge near Queanbeyan where messages were passed by spies for the Soviet Union in Australia to Petrov – which involved communism since he had worked at the Soviet Embassy in Canberra and had contacts in the Communist Party of Australia. But the goings-on at a bridge in Queanbeyan were not factors in the May 1954 election campaign.

Since you claim to be an “expert” with respect to TROVE , you should know that the only way to research the topic (concerning which you claim such knowledge) would be to put more than one word (eg. “Petrov” or “communism”), into your search engine.  You need to add the word “and” – as in – and “May 1954 election” and “Menzies” and “Fadden” and “Evatt” and “communism”. The reference is to Boolean search operators.  You did not do this.

The fact that the words “Petrov” and “communism” can be found in Australian newspapers mentioned thousands of times in May 1954 does not advance your claim that the Petrov Affair was a significant factor in the May 1954 election.

I have discussed this matter in many places, including in my books Menzies’ Child: The Liberal Party of Australia and Santamaria: A Most Unusual Man. I note that you have not provided a critique of anything I wrote in them concerning the May 1954 election.

In MWD on 23 June 2023, I discussed Anne Henderson’s (then forthcoming) book Menzies Versus Evatt which was published in July 2023.  If you have read Chapters 8 and 9 of this book you would be aware of the evidence cited by Anne.  You would know that Petrov was not a big issue in the 1954 campaign and was only mentioned once by any of the Coalition leaders (i.e. Fadden).

The Petrov Affair only became a burden for Labor after the May 1954 election when some members of Evatt’s personal staff were found to have associations with the Soviet Embassy and/or Communist Party of Australia.  As many Labor Party operatives knew at the time – Evatt’s decision to appear for his staff before the Royal Commission on Espionage was a disaster for him and Labor. But this occurred after the May 1954 election and contributed to the Labor Split of early 1955.

Sure, TROVE is a valuable tool for research. But it should be used properly and not be weaponised to cover a lack of evidence and/or an absence of argument.

Best wishes – and Keep Morale High.

Gerard Henderson

PS: The 23 June issue of Media Watch Dog also dismissed your repetition of the stale rumour that Menzies had an affair with the inaugural Mrs (Warwick) Fairfax.  The last person to peddle this gossip was none other than the late Mungo MacCallum (hardly a reliable source). A Melbourne University professor should be able to do better than this.

Professor Sally Young to Gerard Henderson – 6 March 2024

Dear Gerard,

Thank you for taking the time to write such a comprehensive and amusingly condescending response. It has everything I would expect – and more – and has truly enlivened my day.

Best wishes, Sally.

Gerard Henderson to Professor Sally Young – 6 March 2024

Dear Sally

Thanks for your oh-so-brief response. It’s always a pleasure to enliven a professor’s day by lifting his/her morale.

Here’s hoping you do better with Trove in the future. Once again, I was happy to be of assistance.

Best wishes




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Until next time

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