ISSUE – NO. 678

26 April 2024

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There was enormous interest in last week’s Media Watch Dog which drew attention to the fact that Paul Barry, presenter of the ABC TV Media Watch program, had engaged in fake news.

On 15 April, your man Barry claimed on Media Watch that Sky News’ Laura Jayes had set the media trail in identifying a victim of the Bondi Junction murders, on 13 April, who happened to be a friend. This was not the case and Barry said a grudging “Sorry” in an X post on 16 April. And that was all, folks.

Paul Barry did not correct his error with respect to Ms Jayes on his program on Monday 22 April. Nor is it corrected on the ABC’s official transcript of the program. Nor has a correction been placed on the ABC’s iView. Nor is there one on the ABC’s Corrections/Clarifications page of the taxpayer funded public broadcaster’s website.

Paul Barry is invariably delivering sermons to the Australian media about how journalists should perform in a professional manner. But he is too proud to adequately correct his own howlers.


Guess what?  Former BBC Washington correspondent Nick Bryant, who is currently based in Sydney, has a new book coming out.  How does Media Watch Dog know this?  Simple – he plugged it at the bottom of his Sydney Morning Herald and Age columns on 20 April.

Headed “Civil War is a film. If Trump wins, will it be a reality?”, Comrade Bryant’s column was all about – well, it’s really not clear.  All that is clear is that his The Forever War: America’s Unending Conflict with Itself will be out soon. The publisher is Bloomsbury Publishing.

Your man Bryant has viewed Alex Garland’s movie Civil War which is set in the future and seems implausible to Bryant.  Or does it?  In full hyperbolic best he had this to say:

Some scenes [from the film] come with the jolt of recognition. Troops I have seen amassed on the avenues of Washington – on the day of Joe Biden’s inauguration, when the nation’s capital looked more like Baghdad on the Potomac.

Baghdad on the Potomac? Somewhat hyperbolic, don’t you think?  Especially since the only person killed in Washington DC on 6 January 2021 was an unarmed former service woman who was shot by Capitol Police while inside the Capitol building.

Comrade Bryant went on to make this clear:

Even if the fissile state of politics feels more like the 1860s than the 1960s – the last time the country was such a powder keg – there are obvious differences to the lead-up to Civil War. There is not the same north-south geographic divide.

A pretty obvious point, to be sure.  In 1861 when the Civil War commenced the armies of the Confederacy went to battle with the armies of the North.  It is pointless to compare America in the 1860s with Americans in the 2020s. So pointless, that even Bryant distanced himself from it.

And so it came to pass that Bryant dismissed his own implausible scenario and concluded:

… America has grown used over the centuries to coping with its divisiveness, just as a tropical country becomes proficient at dealing with suffocating heat. Alas, division has long been the default in a country increasingly defined by its disunion.

Yeah. We know that. The only thing we didn’t already know while reading Nick Bryant’s column is the date of publication of his new tome. It’s June 2024. For its part, Media Watch Dog can barely wait. In the meantime – Can You Bear It?


As Media Watch Dog readers will recall, Gerard Henderson was a fan of Geraldine Doogue’s Saturday Extra program which ran on ABC Radio National from 7.30 am to 9 am. Not an uncritical fan, but a fan, nevertheless.  After all, Ms Doogue is one of the ABC’s finest interviewers.

It appears that Geraldine Doogue has been moved sideways in order to give Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly the Saturday Extra gig – which now runs from 7 am to 8.30 am. At which time Doogue co-presents a program called Global Roaming with ABC re Hamish Macdonald. It runs till 9am – and consists of one interview with an international flavour.

It so happened that the Global Roaming guest on Saturday 20 April was Anthony (“Please call me The Mooch”) Scaramucci. Here’s how he was introduced:

As the first-ever criminal trial of a former US president gets underway in New York, we speak to ‘The Mooch’ – Anthony Scaramucci – who famously served as White House Communications Director in the Trump Administration for 11 days. He now warns that Donald Trump is a lunatic and that a second Trump term would be disastrous for America, and the world.

Guest: Anthony Scaramucci – American financier who served as the White House Director of Communications from July 21 to July 31, 2017. He has a new book coming out: From Wall Street to the White House and Back: The Scaramucci Guide to Unbreakable Resilience.

So, there you have it. Anthony Scaramucci received 30 minutes on the taxpayer funded public broadcaster to kick the tripe out of Donald J. Trump while, at the same time, flogging his own forthcoming book.

This is how the program, which was produced by Taryn Priadko, commenced:

Geraldine Doogue: We’re about to meet a man who worked beside Trump in the Oval Office. And who thus brings unique insights into just what might come next.

Hamish Macdonald: I’ve gotta be honest Gerry, I’m excited about this episode. I’m Hamish Macdonald.

Geraldine Doogue: I’m Geraldine Doogue and this is Global Roaming.

[Intro music]

Geraldine Doogue: So, Hamish, why are you excited?

Hamish Macdonald: Cause we’re talking to The Mooch.

Turn it up.  It turned out that Comrade Macdonald was getting JUST SO EXCITED about a pre-recorded interview which was about to be played. He went on to say this about The Mooch:

Hamish Macdonald: …. in many ways [Scaramucci] represents that kind of outsider, “Drain the Swamp” moment that Donald Trump made so politically valuable for himself. But then, in spectacular fashion, this American of Italian heritage from – is it New Jersey? – fell out with Trump. In a massive way. And now he’s joined this list of other characters from the first Trump White House who are saying: “No, no, no, not again. Trump 2.0 is dangerous.”

Geraldine Doogue: “I’m a patriot first and a partisan second”, says Scaramucci. Now, Scaramucci is a character, I’d call him a character. I might call him an artful dodger actually, but there you go.

In fact, your man Scaramucci is from Long Island, New York. At least Ms Doogue noted that The Mooch was all over the place politically and “not the most predictable person in terms of his alliances”. You bet. However, Geraldine Doogue’s reservations about the Mooch did not dull your man Macdonald’s excitement.

The introduction to the segment gave the impression that Scaramucci split with President Trump over policy and management disagreements after a mere 11 days at the White House.  This is a load of absolute tosh.  Rather, The Mooch was so hopeless in the job that he barely made it to morning tea on his first day.  Here’s what happened.

Anthony Scaramucci is a failed investment banker turned political advisor. He was initially meant to be the director of the White House Office of Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs but had to pull out when his confirmation was delayed by concerns over his business interests and opposition from White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.

On 21 July 2017, Scaramucci was appointed as White House Communications Director. Press Secretary and Communications Director Sean Spicer resigned in response. On 26 July Scaramucci revealed, during a call with The New Yorker journalist Ryan Lizza (that he thought was off the record), his unflattering opinions about Priebus and White House Advisor Steve Bannon. On 27 July Priebus resigned and on the same day John Kelly was announced as the new Chief of Staff. On 31 July, on his 11th day in the job, Scaramucci was fired by Trump, at the urging of Kelly.

Within a few days of getting an important job at the White House, The Mooch was downloading to Ryan Lizza, a journalist on the left liberal New Yorker  magazine, about his colleagues.  Moreover, The Mooch was naïve enough to believe that he would not be reported.  As Matt Taibbi wrote in Rolling Stone  on 28 July 2017:

In the space of a week, Trump’s new press expert demonstrated that he a) didn’t know how to hold off-the-record conversations b) didn’t understand that cameras and microphones keep rolling even when the red light is off and c) doesn’t bother to check the other public statements made by administration officials before he makes statements of his own. An alien crashed on earth and given a two-minute tutorial on dealing with reporters would have done a better job.

In short, The Mooch is a fool.  However, RN’s Global Roaming presented The Mooch as some form of Machiavellian political genius – overlooking the fact that he is just an incompetent loudmouth. Can You Bear It?


While on the subject of the revamped Saturday Extra under new presenter Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly – did anyone catch the segment on Saturday 20 April? –  which the ABC described as follows: “Australia’s social cohesion under strain, challenge and solutions”. This is how the ABC depicted the segment:

Australians are being urged to stay united following the horrific events in Sydney last week. Those attacks coupled with anger and division caused by the war in Gaza as well as the polarising impact of the Voice referendum last year and we are seeing our sense of community and social cohesion challenged. We speak to a panel of experts about the solutions to staying united.

The good people at the taxpayer funded public broadcaster did not describe what the “horrific events” in Sydney were.  The reference was to the stabbings at the Bondi Junction Westfield Shopping Centre by a man who was eventually shot dead by NSW Police.  The killer targeted women.  Police believe he was suffering from a mental illness.  The other incident was the knife attack on an Assyrian Christian Bishop by a 16-year-old boy.  NSW Police believe that this was a religiously motivated act of terrorism.

The producer of the Saturday Extra segment was Linda LoPresti. Here is the panel she chose:

Dr Jamal Rifi, Lebanese Muslim Community leader, Sydney. Tim Soutphommasane, Australia’s former race discrimination officer – currently based in Britain. Khairiah Rahman, intercultural communications expert, Auckland University of Technology.

So, there you have it.  The situation in Australia was analysed by an Australian Lebanese community leader based in Sydney plus commentators based in London and Auckland respectively.

What was missing from the discussion was any detailed analysis of the rise of anti-semitism in Australia since Hamas’ brutal attack on southern Israel on 7 October 2023 killing women, men and children.  This is the most serious manifestation of anti-semitism in Australian history.

Early on, Dr Rifi said that in Australia “we have seen rises of anti-semitism” but added “we’ve also seen a lot of Islamophobia campaign”.   Later on, this exchange took place:

Fran Kelly: What about Peter Dutton’s idea that, you know, we should – given the dramatic rise in anti-semitism since October 7 attacks –  school kids should all go to the Holocaust Museum during their, their education, things like that. Is that a good idea?

Jamal Rifi: Well, social contract – not because of the rise of anti-semitism only.

Fran Kelly: No, of course.

Jamal Rifi: Because of the rise of the Islamophobia….

What’s this “of course” from Fran Kelly?  It’s understandable that Dr Rifi wants to draw attention to Islamophobia. But there are no instances of rallies in Australia where the chant of “Where’s the Muslims?” – still less “Kill the Muslims” has been heard. Nor has any group driven vehicles with Israeli flags through suburbs in Sydney or Melbourne where there are large Muslim communities.  However, the reverse of all of this has occurred with respect to Jews.

Put simply, there is no plausible comparison between instances of anti-semitism and Islamophobia in contemporary Australia.

Yet in a 30-minute segment on Saturday Extra presented as a forum on social cohesion – anti-semitism in Australia was barely discussed.  Moreover, there was no Jewish Australian on the panel.  And this is what the taxpayer funded public broadcaster presents as a balanced panel.  Which raises the question – Can You Bear It?

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 Media Watch Dog readers may (or may not) recall – on 22 June 2012 the following comment appeared during the time of Nancy (2004-2017):

MWD’s sympathies go out to the ambassador and staff at the Ecuador Embassy in London who have had to endure Julian Assange as an uninvited sleep-over house guest these recent days (and nights). On Q&A recently (21 May 2012), the London based author Kathy Lette related how Julian Assange had lived for a while in the London abode which she shares with her husband, the oh-so-pompous Geoffrey Robertson QC. [Is he the Robertson QC with the Epping accent?].  Mr Assange, who lived in the Lette/Robertson attic for a while, was – according to Lette – “a terrible house guest”.  Asked by compere Tony Jones just what was the problem with Julian Assange, Lette replied: “He’s not house-trained.”  Enough said.

Alas, it would seem that the Ecuadorian government at the time did not heed Hendo’s warning.

The British foreign secretary Lord Cameron (aka David Cameron) was interviewed by ABC TV 7.30 presenter Sarah Ferguson on 21 March 2024.  Towards the end of the interview, he was asked about Julian Assange – who is being held in Belmarsh Prison in London pending possible extradition to the United States to face espionage charges.  Lord Cameron said that he would like to see the issue resolved.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Sarah Ferguson :  You don’t want to see him extradited to the US?

David Cameron:  I think there are legal processes that need to be gone through. I think, you know, part of this [delay] is because Assange himself decided to camp in the Ecuadorian embassy for years on end. That was unnecessary. He should have faced his accusers earlier, in my view.

Quite so.  This point is frequently overlooked by members of the Julian Assange Fan Club.  In 2010 Sweden sought Assange’s extradition to face sexual assault charges with respect to two women.  Assange, who was living in Britain, was arrested but bailed. Assange skipped bail and obtained entry into the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in August 2012.

Skipping bail is a serious offence – concerning which Assange was sentenced to 50 weeks prison following his expulsion from the Embassy of Ecuador.  He remained there consequent upon the US’s attempt to extradite him to face charges of treachery in the US.

But MWD digresses.  On 20-21 April 2024, The Weekend Australian published an article by Alan Howe titled “Assange’s Sordid Tale of Treachery”.  Howe didn’t miss – as the cliché goes. Here’s how his piece commenced:

Julian Assange is a criminal, a fabulist and an undisciplined, arrogant work-shy fraud who lacks an education while remaining a mannerless vulgarian. In Assange’s fantasy world he is a warrior for justice; the truth is his WikiLeaks was a Trojan horse for hate. Assange did not set out to reveal what he believed to be the immoral, corrupt manner in which our allies in the West seek security in a dangerous world. He wanted to strafe the foundations of the complex, sensitive diplomatic communications that help keep us a step ahead of our enemies.

On occasions, Howe threw the switch to hyperbole.  However, his case against Assange of engaging in espionage is compelling.

Alan Howe traced Assange’s time in Melbourne in the late 1990s as a computer hacker – for which he was found guilty but spared a jail term. Howe also deals with Assange’s less-than-gentlemanly behaviour towards women.

Howe quoted Paul Monk as saying that Assange “wants to make it impossible for the diplomatic and security system to work”. Howe points out that Chelsea Manning, who gave the US intelligence files to Assange at Wikileaks, was charged with, inter alia, aiding the enemy.  Convicted and sentenced to a prison term of 35 years, Manning’s sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama after serving seven years.

But MWD digresses (yet again).  Howe gives a graphic – sometimes too graphic – account of Assange’s appalling behaviour while resident at the Ecuadorian Embassy.  Gerard Henderson AC (aka Always Courteous) is a courteous type and will not describe Assange’s behaviour in this (courteous) blog.

Put it this way.  Kathy Lette warned Ecuador in 2010 that Julian Assange was not house-trained. That was putting it lightly.  Indeed, he was not even outdoor-dunny trained.

Alan Howe:  Five Paws


What was of special interest about the ABC Insiders program – presenter David Speers, executive producer Samuel Clark – on Sunday 20 April turned on what was not said.  Here are a couple of examples:

  • The Higgins Rape and the Alleged Coalition Government Cover-Up

In his introduction discussing the Sunday newspapers, David (“Please call me Speersy”) Speers had this to say concerning the outcome of Bruce Lehrmann’s unsuccessful defamation action against Network Ten and Lisa Wilkinson:

David Speers: And finally, Brittany Higgins has broken her silence with a statement thanking Justice Michael Lee for his judgement that she was raped in Parliament House. As Samantha Maiden reports, the former Liberal staffer has also offered an olive branch to her former boss, Linda Reynolds, and chief of staff Fiona Brown, acknowledging they were also hurt and saying for that, she is sorry.

This was not quite accurate. Sure, Ms Higgins offered what Speers said was an “olive branch” to Senator Linda Reynolds and Ms Fiona Brown. In a statement reported in the media on Sunday 20 April, this is what Ms Higgins said – after commenting that she did not agree with all of Justice Lee’s findings:

Senator Reynolds and Fiona Brown have also been hurt and for that I am also sorry. My perceptions and feelings about what happened in the days and weeks after my rape are different from theirs. I deeply regret that we have not yet found common ground. I hope we can resolve our differences with a better understanding of each other’s experience.

In short, the Higgins statement contained the comment that “perceptions and feelings” about what happened after the rape – with her respect to her employment in Reynolds’ office – differed. There was no reference to an olive branch.  This was far from a full apology and Reynolds’ defamation action against Higgins remains extant at this stage.

Later on, the Insiders’ discussion turned on the decision of Michael Lee in Lehrmann v Network Ten Pty Ltd.  Put simply, the judge found that, on the balance of probabilities, Lehrmann raped Higgins in Reynolds’ Parliament House office at around 2 am on a Saturday morning.  He also found there was no cover-up by Reynolds or Brown.  Reynolds is demanding that Higgins apologise for the suggestion that there was a cover-up.

In view of this, Samuel Clark’s panel section left a lot to be desired.  It consisted of Phil Coorey (Australian Financial Review), Samantha Maiden ( and Lenore Taylor (editor, The Guardian Australia). Now, Coorey and Maiden are among the few lively and unpredictable Insiders’ panellists. However, ideally, neither Maiden nor Taylor should have been on the panel which discussed the matter of an alleged cover-up following the Higgins rape.

One of the principal drivers of the cover-up claim was Katharine Murphy – formerly The Guardian’s political editor, now a media adviser in the Prime Minister’s Office.  Murphy appeared on the ABC TV Four Corners program on 22 March 2021 and was highly critical of how the Higgins’ rape allegations were handled by the Coalition government in general and Reynolds’ office in particular.  Lenore Taylor was Murphy’s editor-in-chief at the time and published her criticism of Scott Morrison’s government with respect to this issue.

Maiden also appeared on the Four Corners program which has the suggestive title “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell”.  Maiden was not as critical of Reynolds’ office as Murphy – but she was very close to Higgins.  Indeed, Maiden won a Walkley Award for her coverage of the Brittany Higgins story.  Wilkinson’s poor performance as a witness in the defamation case was documented in the previous issue of Media Watch Dog.

Now, the likes of Taylor and Maiden do not invite themselves to appear on Insiders – they are invited by the executive producer. Samuel Clark could have found panellists who were not closely associated with one of the most significant cases in Australian defamation law – but did not do so.  As it turned out, Coorey was the only one on Insiders who pointed out that Justice Lee ruled out any suggestion of a cover-up. He also praised Brown’s performance as a witness.  Reynolds was not required to give evidence.

  • Social Media & Fake News re the Bondi Junction Murders

On Sunday 20 April, David Speers also made much of the fact that, immediately following the Bondi Junction murders, there were many false claims about the identity of the killer.  Let’s go to the transcript:

David Speers: …as mentioned, there are growing calls to crackdown on social media companies after the events in Sydney. There were false claims a Jewish man was responsible for the Bondi Junction attack and false claims it was Islamist terrorism….

David Speers neglected to state that the principal offender in this instance was not social media.  But, rather, Network 7.  Matt Shirvington, the co-host of Sunrise program, mentioned the identity of a person with a common Jewish name.  So did Channel 7 reporter Monique Wright.  It took a while for an on-air correction to be made.

Yet viewers of Insiders, who were not up to date with the news, would have come to the conclusion that the most significant offender in this instance of fake news was social media. Not so.

  • The Guardian’s Lenore Taylor Apparently Unaware of the Challenge of China’s Greenhouse Emissions

When discussion turned on Australia’s commitment to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, Comrade Taylor opined the problems involved in Australia moving to nuclear energy by 2050:

Lenore Taylor: …the timing factor [if Australia moved to nuclear energy in 20 years] is a real one.  I mean, from the climate’s point of view, we can’t wait two decades.

This suggests that the editor of The Guardian Australia is of the view that Australia – which produces less than 1.5 per cent of total global emissions – is central to the achievement of net zero emissions and the future of the world depends on Australia.  This would indicate that she is yet to read Andrew Leigh’s latest book The Shortest History of Economics (Black Inc, 2024).  Dr Leigh is the assistant treasurer in Anthony Albanese’s Labor government. At Page 157, the following comment appears:

A central challenge is China’s greenhouse emissions, which account for one-third of the global total and have been steadily rising over recent years.  Encouraging more low-income nations to reduce emissions is now central to addressing the world’s biggest market failure.

Clearly Andrew Leigh regards  China’s greenhouse emissions as a substantial problem.  Whereas Comrade  Taylor is of the view Australia is central to the achievement of global emissions reductions.  Fancy that.

[I note that since Comrade Taylor moved from Canberra to Sydney, after becoming editor of The Guardian Australia, she appears to have firmed up as a member of The-End-of-the-World-is Nigh-if-we-don’t-address-climate-change Club.

As MWD pointed out on 11 and 18 October 2019, when Lenore Taylor lived in Red Hill in the Australian Capital Territory her house had a rating of a mere 1.5 on the ACT’s Energy Efficiency Rating. At the time, the top EER rating was 8.0 and 6.0 was regarded as reasonable.  A 1.5 rating was, well, a contributor to global warming and the end of the world as we know it etc.

I assume that the Taylor Sydney abode is more climate-friendly. All she has to do now to save the world is to convince the Chinese Communist Party that it needs to stop constructing new coal fired power stations.  Over to you Comrade Taylor. – 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 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.


An avid Melbourne-based reader – who is a social democrat type – drew the attention of Ellie’s (male) co-owner to a book written by a Melbourne academic about his leftist family in general and  his communist father in particular. It contained an incorrect claim attributed to Gerard Henderson.  To which Hendo replied and the following correspondence occurred. Now read on, s’il vous plait.

Gerard Henderson to Boris Frankel – 22 April 2024

Dear Honorary Professor Frankel

I read with considerable interest the extract from your book No Country for Idealists: The Making of a Family of Subversives (Greenmeadows, 2023) which was published in The Weekend Australian on 9 March 2024.

I recently bought a copy and planned to commence reading it at the weekend.  However, a few days ago a Melbourne friend drew attention to a reference to me on page 167.  It relates to the defection of Vladimir Petrov from the Embassy of the Soviet Union in Canberra on 3 April 1954 – and his subsequent illness and death. The reference from No Country for Idealists  is as follows:

For most of its history, ASIO’s energy was almost wholly deployed against the Communist and non-Communist Left…. Such was the one-sided perspective of ASIO, that the ALP was very hostile to it and regarded ASIO as a mere tool of Liberal governments since the “Petrov Affair”. It is important to be reminded that at the 1971 ALP Party conference, a proposal to abolish ASIO was only defeated by one vote.  Shadow Attorney-General, Senator Lionel Murphy opposed the abolition of ASIO because it would not look good in the coming election.  Yet, only two years later in March 1973, Murphy, the new Attorney-General in the Whitlam government, ordered Commonwealth police to raid ASIO’s office…Murphy’s raid on ASIO in March 1973 did not cause Petrov to have a severe stroke in 1974 as hyperbolically claimed by Right-wing columnist Gerard Henderson.

This comment with respect to me is totally false – and professionally damaging.  I have never written or said that Petrov’s stroke in 1974 was related to any concern he may have had  about Senator Murphy’s decision to raid ASIO’s offices in Melbourne on the morning of 16 March 1973. By the way, Lionel Murphy himself led the raid on ASIO – the Commonwealth Police did not do so on his behalf.

I have never written or spoken about Petrov’s health two decades after his defection.  I am not a medical doctor and have no knowledge of Petrov’s health during any period of his life. You just made up your claim.

I do not know what passes for scholarship at the University of Melbourne these days. But I do know that you failed to cite any source with respect to me.  Your Select Biography contains no reference to my books/articles/newspaper columns – nor does it indicate that you consulted The Australian  newspaper. Moreover, you did not contact me before making this false claim.

This is shoddy scholarship at best.  More importantly, it is damaging to my professional reputation since it contains the imputation that I write hyperbolic falsehoods and, consequently, am not a considered historian.

My question is this. What do you and your publisher intend to do to remove this false imputation in No Country for Idealists?

Please reply by close of business on Tuesday 23 April 2024.

Yours sincerely

Gerard Henderson

Boris Frankel to Gerard Henderson – 22 April 2024

Dear Gerard Henderson,

I am pleased to hear that you found my article in The Australian of considerable interest and purchased a copy of my book. However, I was disappointed to read your description of my historical work as “shoddy scholarship at best”. I have read your work over the decades and try to maintain a detailed knowledge of Australian and international politics by reading widely across the political spectrum.

Let me try to answer some of the points you make.

  1. You say: “I do not know what passes for scholarship at the University of Melbourne these days. But I do know that you failed to cite any source with respect to me.  Your Select Biography(sic) contains no reference to my books/articles/newspaper columns – nor does it indicate that you consulted The Australian newspaper. Moreover, you did not contact me before making this false claim.”

My book is written for a general audience and deliberately excluded footnotes as an unnecessary distraction, even though I used hundreds of articles, books and official records in a scholarly manner. My source for your reference to the raid on ASIO in March 1973 that supposedly caused Petrov’s severe stroke in 1974 is your article published in February 2016 (which I have attached to refresh your memory). Let me assure you that I am a meticulous scholar and would not have made a false claim as I was merely informing the reader of your account of Murphy’s raid on ASIO and its impact on Petrov’s health.

  1. In your email you claim that: “I have never written or spoken about Petrov’s health two decades after his defection.  I am not a medical doctor and have no knowledge of Petrov’s health during any period of his life. You just made up your claim.”

I did not. You are a very busy person who has written countless articles over the years and has, unsurprisingly, forgotten this particular one. Although you correctly state that you are not a medical doctor and did not know Petrov’s medical condition during his lifetime, yet, your article speaks for itself. Here are your words:

“Following Murphy’s ASIO raid, Vladimir Petrov (who defected from the Soviet Union Embassy in Canberra in 1954 and was living under a new identity in Melbourne) suffered a severe stroke. Vladimir and Evdokia Petrov were among the most significant defectors from the USSR during the Cold War. Vladimir Petrov became stressed after the raid, believing that the Whitlam government would send him and his wife back to the Soviet Union. Petrov required full-time care until his death in 1991.”

Gerard Henderson, John Blaxland’s Moral Equivalence History of ASIO in the 1960s and early 1970s, A review of John Blaxland, The Protest Years – The Official History of ASIO, 1963-1975, The Sydney Institute, 1st February, 2016.

I do hope that you enjoy reading No Country for Idealists.

Yours sincerely

Boris Frankel

Gerard Henderson to Boris Frankel – 26 April 2024

Dear Honorary Professor Frankel

I refer to your email of 22 April 2024.  I delayed responding to you since it took some time to locate my copy of the ASIO official history and I wanted to read the chapter in your book which is titled “Petrov the rat”. Sounds like a “shoddy” heading to me – but there you go.

In response to your letter, I make the following points:

  • It is true that I wrote about Vladimir Petrov’s stroke in 1974.  But it is important to put this in context.  In No Country for Idealists you implied that what you quoted me as saying came from one of my newspaper columns (concerning which you provided no source).

In fact, as you know, it was my review of John Blaxland’s The Protest Years: The Official History of ASIO 1963-1975 Volume II.   In other words, I was reporting what Dr Blaxland had written about Petrov’s health with respect to Attorney-General Lionel Murphy’s raid on the ASIO headquarters on 16 March 1973. Here it is:

One apparent side-effect of the raid was that Vladimir Petrov, who had been living quietly in Melbourne under a new identity, had a stroke.  The ASIO officer who was assigned to care for Petrov and his wife in later life believed that the stroke was caused by the stress of the raid, Mr Petrov believing that Murphy would abolish ASIO and send the Petrovs back to Russia.  This stroke left him needing full-time care for the rest of his  life.

You assert that what I wrote about Petrov when reviewing Blaxland’s book was hyperbolic. Here it is:

Following Murphy’s ASIO raid, Vladimir Petrov (who defected from the Soviet Union Embassy in Canberra in 1954 and was living under a new identity in Melbourne) suffered a severe stroke.  Vladimir and Evdokia Petrov were among the most significant defectors from the USSR during the Cold War. Vladimir Petrov became stressed after the raid, believing that the Whitlam government would send him and his wife back to the Soviet Union. Petrov required full-time care until his death in 1991.

As any objective reader would understand, I did not make a causal connection between Murphy’s raid and Petrov’s stroke.  In fact, I somewhat scaled down Blaxland’s comment and merely wrote in a matter of fact manner that “following Murphy’s ASIO raid, Vladimir Petrov….suffered a severe stroke.”.  This made it clear that Vladimir Petrov was out of action from then until his death in 1991. Unlike, Evdokia Petrov, who gave occasional on and off-the-record interviews before her death in 2002.

I did not state that there was a causal connection between Murphy’s raid and Petrov’s stroke since I do not know.  You, however, claim to know that there was no causal connection whatsoever when you wrote this at Page 167: “Murphy’s raid on ASIO did not cause Petrov to have a severe stroke in 1974.”

How do you know this? And what is the medical evidence to support your (undocumented) claim?

My comments on Murphy/Petrov were restrained and in no sense hyperbolic.

By the way, I should point out that your chapter “Petrov the rat” is disingenuous. Your claim that Petrov “would supposedly reveal all the dastardly secret deals going on in Australia” overlooks the established fact that Mr and Mrs Petrov were among the most important defectors from the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

The release of the Venona papers after the collapse of the Soviet Union reveals that there were communist spy rings in Australia in the 1940s and 1950s which fed valuable security information to Moscow.

This is revealed in, among other places, the official ASIO history and Mark Aarons’ Family File (Black Inc 2010), As you know, Mark – like you – grew up in a communist family.

As Mark Aarons has written, “when he came over to ASIO, Petrov brought a significant collection of Soviet documents which shed light on both [Wally] Clayton’s spy ring and the general nature of KGB espionage in Australia”.

Mark Aarons’ The Family File is not cited in your Select Bibliography. This is an example of scholarship – you appear to be in denial about Soviet espionage in Australia during the time your father was a member of the Moscow funded Communist Party of Australia.

In conclusion, I make the following criticisms of what I have read so far of No Country for Idealists:

  • Virtually none of your sources can be checked.  You do not have to present endnotes.  Sources can be incorporated into the text.  For example, with respect to me you could have written “as claimed by Gerard Henderson in The Sydney Institute Review Onlinein 2016”. This would give the reader a chance to check your claim – but no such opportunity is given.
  • And then there is your “Select Bibliography”. It is certainly select.  For example, you are a severe critic of ASIO. But you do not appear to have read any of the three-volume history of ASIO.  This is unprofessional.  Even if you disagree with the work of David Horner and John Blaxland, you should be able to address what they have written concerning the period covered in your book No Country for Idealists.

  • The lack of an index in a book of history diminishes the product.

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I still expect that the false claim re me will either be removed from your book or re-written.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

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Until next time.

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