ISSUE – NO. 680

10 May 2024

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The “Politics” segment on ABC Radio National Breakfast on Friday 10 May saw Patricia (“Please call me PK”) Karvelas in the presenter’s chair with panellists David Speers (ABC TV) and Media Watch Dog fave Samantha Louise (or it is Therese?) Maiden.  Let’s go to the transcript where discussion turned on reports that some Labor MPs are upset with the Albanese government’s recent focus on gas with regard to Australia’s energy security. Let’s go to the transcript:

Patricia Karvelas:… the government’s about to deliver its budget on Tuesday next week. But Sam Maiden, they’re dealing with a pretty significant backbench revolt on the gas policy they announced yesterday. And it’s, you know, it’s not small. There’s quite a few people putting their hands up. It’s significant.

Samantha Maiden: It is and you’ve also got Ged Kearney involved which is a bit naughty, given she’s an assistant minister. There’s meant to be rules about that.

Patricia Karvelas: But, but let’s just talk about her seat, because that matters.

Samantha Maiden: You will know this the answer to this question because you’re a Melburnian. Is Northcote in her seat or not?

David Speers: Yes.

Patricia Karvelas: Yes, I do know.

Samantha Maiden: Well, I was gonna say, I was gonna say the rules don’t apply in Northcote.

Yep. Northcote is part of the Sandalista Circle – which embraces Carlton, Brunswick, Coburg, Preston, Thornbury and Northcote.  It’s replete with sandal-wearing, Saturday Paper reading and ABC Radio National listening leftists.  As PK said to Ms Maiden: “We’re well listened to in Northcote. Hi everyone.” To which Maiden replied with laughter: “I bet you are.”

Isn’t that nice?  A cheerio from one leftist presenter to the early-rising leftists in Melbourne’s Sandalista Central where the Greens are hoping to win the seat of Cooper from Labor’s Ged Kearney.

It was at this stage that David (“Please call me Speersy”) Speers rushed to judgment by stating the Albanese government’s approach to gas was not a problem for Labor. Let’s go to the transcript:

David Speers: But just to throw in a counter…I don’t know if I’d call this a big backbench revolt to be honest.

Samantha Maiden: Come on…

David Speers: But listen to what they’re saying. Ged Kearney, for example. “We cannot draw out our reliance on fossil fuels any longer than is necessary”. That’s not – I mean, sure. We know what she’s saying. She has a concern here, but she’s technically not saying “I’m against this gas strategy”. The quote, the strongest has been Michelle Ananda-Rajah in Higgins.

Samantha Maiden: She’s still putting her head above the parapet.

David Speers: Yeah, but I mean, you guys have been around for decades in this place. This is not a big backbench revolt, is it?

It was at this stage that Hendo wondered if Comrade Speers was doing a pitch to fellow former Insiders star and go from the Insiders couch to the Prime Minister’s Office.  A là one time Inisders panellist Katharine (“Malcolm calls me Murpharoo”) Murphy.

Ms Maiden suggested that Comrade Speers should “pipe down”.  But he continued:

David Speers: This government’s been remarkably – this is not like a Bridget Archer every five minutes throwing a hand grenade at Peter Dutton’s latest comment.

Samantha Maiden: Yeah, I mean, it is kind of the usual suspects but I mean, look, I think it does underline the really existential threat the Labor Party has.

Quite so. This is nothing like the Liberal Party’s Bridget Archer in Bass. For starters, the Coalition is in opposition. And Ged Kearney is in the outer ministry. Moreover, Ms Archer is a political loner. But the Labor Party’s anti-fossil fuel faction is strong.

But Speersy insisted that, viewed from an historical perspective, the Albanese Government does not face significant problems with respect to getting support from the Labor Party caucus on energy policy. We shall see.

[Interesting re your man Speers. I note that in interviewing Finance Minister Katy Gallagher on Sunday 5 May he did not ask even one question about her claim that Senator Linda Reynolds and her chief-of-staff Fiona Brown were involved in a cover-up. Namely that they had covered up what occurred in the minister’s Parliament House office at around 2 am on a Saturday morning where a rape took place.

Justice Michael Lee in the Federal Court recently found that no such cover-up occurred and he praised Ms Brown for her testimony. It would be expected that Mr Speers would raise this issue at least once with Senator Gallagher. But no. Interesting. MWD Editor.]


Media Watch Dog readers expressed considerable interest in the previous issue concerning the news that the ABC TV Compass program would run an entire program on Sunday 5 May to be titled “Not In My Name” and featuring the anti-Zionist Australian Jew Antony Loewenstein.

The fact is that the left-of-centre media just loves Jews who are critical of Israel.  So it came as no surprise that Comrade Loewenstein has received numerous media approaches since the Israel-Hamas war commenced last October.

There are around 100,000 Jewish Australians. But Compass decided to devote a whole program to Loewenstein – whom the scholar Suzanne Rutland has described as expressing an “extreme left-wing voice…highly destructive to the wellbeing of the Jews and particularly to the well-being of over seven million Jews living in Israel”.

Here’s how the program was introduced by Indira Naidoo:

Hello. Antony Loewenstein is a Jewish Australian. He’s also a journalist and a best-selling author. He’s garnered worldwide acclaim for speaking out against Israel’s military campaign in Gaza.  Yet, in his own community, he’s been labelled a traitor.

No evidence was provided for either claim.

In the Compass program, Comrade Loewenstein spent a lot of time talking about himself, even to the extent of inserting himself into the Israel-Hamas War.

Antony Loewenstein: Seeing what has happened to Gaza since October 7 has been heartbreaking, honestly. And I’m so ashamed. I’m so ashamed because it’s been done in my name.

How’s that for narcissism? Loewenstein reckons that, following Hamas’ terrorist attack on Southern Israel on 7 October 2023, Israel retaliated in Loewenstein’s “name”. Really.

All up, Loewenstein spoke 1830 words in a 30-minute program. His very supportive father Jeffrey spoke 442 words and his partner Allison 167 words. His Palestinian supporter Miriam spoke 278 words. The only critic interviewed for the program, the historian Suzanne Rutland, spoke a mere 170 words.

In total, Loewenstein and his team spoke for 2717 words to Rutland’s 170 words.  In other words, the pro-Israel side got about 5 per cent of the time on the taxpayer funded public broadcaster. How’s that for “balance” and viewpoint diversity ABC style?  Can You Bear It?

[Good point.  Why doesn’t Compass do a Compass  program on, say, Suzanne Rutland or Colin Rubenstein?  But don’t hold your breath. – MWD Editor.]


Lotsa thanks to the Melbourne Media Watch Dog reader who drew attention that Geoffrey Robertson KC is back Down Under to tell us how to fix the world’s problems. This is the pitch of the flyer for this event in Melbourne:

Lateral Events Presents

How Do We Fix a Turbulent World?

Geoffrey Robertson KC

Saturday 25 May 2024 @MECC Plenary


Ellie’s (male) co-owner can barely wait.  In only two weeks, he can head down to the city of his birth and hear the Australian-born barrister, with the Epping Accent, tell us how to fix the world’s problems.  As avid readers know, the Epping Accent is the kind of accent an Australian barrister develops when he moves to London and mixes with the English upper class.

What’s Epping got to do with it? MWD hears avid readers cry.  Well, it’s the accent some Australian-born North London-dwelling expatriates develop when speaking to the English upper class while subconsciously attempting to disguise the fact that they went to a school in Epping, Sydney, no less.  How does one acquire an Epping Accent?  It’s easy. Travel to London. Find a game of Polo. And, when riders and their horses are not looking during a chukka, grab and eat a polo ball to get the plum-in-the-mouth effect.  Sure, plums are more pleasant for this purpose. But polo balls get the job done.

But MWD digresses.  Hendo remembers (or does he?) that during high inflation at the time of the Whitlam Labor government half a century ago, the left-wing Nation Review – under the leadership of Richard Walsh – advertised a price increase with this pitch: “Get One for the Price of Two”.  The weekly newspaper died some time later.  No surprise, really.

Believe it or not, the organisers of Geoffrey Robertson’s Melbourne gig are advertising this deal “Admit 4 for the Price of 3”. So, there you have it. You can purchase three tickets to hear Geoffrey Robertson KC talk about how to solve the world’s problems – and bring someone extra for “free”.

Which raises the question. If your (boring) man Robertson can fix this turbulent world in which we live, what’s he doing discounting tickets for his Melbourne Sermon? And there is another question: Can You Bear It?



Media Watch Dog likes nothing better than a good media punch-up, of the verbal kind.  Particularly one between the Sydney Morning Herald  columnist and author Peter FitzSimons (aka the Red Bandannaed One) in the red corner and the SMH’s chief sports writer Andrew Webster in the blue corner.

Your man Fitz threw the first punch in an article on 2 May in which he criticised a Webster column without naming the author. To which your man Webster responded on 3 May with this set of combination punches:

There is nothing quite as boring as columnists trading barbs in their allocated space in their own newspaper over a particular issue. Media writing about media: such self-indulgent gibber. But when colleague Peter FitzSimons writes a piece as condescending and personal as the one published online by the Herald on Thursday, well, you’ve got to fight, for your right, to party.

FitzSimons took exception to my column on Monday about the debate kicking around in the NRL [National Rugby League] concerning the kick-off and how it should be banned to avoid concussions…

FitzSimons decided to ridicule the column….  As his long-time colleague, it hurt but didn’t surprise. He does these things to most people who offer a contrary or slightly different position to him on concussion. He has been relentless. He lectures players… about retiring. He’s slammed clubs, coaches, and commentators.

Your man Webster seems a mild-mannered bloke.  His response to FitzSimons suggests that he is fed up with the assertive self-righteousness of the man who wore a red rag on his head for a decade until, at long last, he sent it to the dry cleaners where it was lost.

What the SMH’s  chief sports writer seems to have overlooked is that – like so many journalists – Fitz cannot take criticism.  So, the Red Bandannaed One had this to say at the top of his column on 9 May:

Yes, thank you for your many texts, emails and calls. I did see my colleague Andrew Webster’s piece on me last week. And I, too – waking on the Friday morning to myriad text messages and DMs from concerned friends, readers and former editors, along the lines of “Are you OK?” – was as staggered by his piece as I was that the Herald ran it in the first place, and under such a headline, but there you go.

New regime, and all that. In my 38 years at this beloved paper, I don’t recall such criticism from one colleague on another being published – only occasionally clashing columns where we have had divergent views on ideas. So, without fear or favour, and with malice towards some – those on high who ran it, did I mention? – let me be personal, in reply.

Turn it up.  Fitz, who is always telling others what to do, cannot accept criticism. So much so that Fitz let it be known that his followers were sending “Are you ok?” messages to him following Webster’s critique. Fitz was even of the view that Webster’s column should not have been published because they both write for the Sydney Morning Herald.  How sensitive and precious can a bombastic columnist get?  Can You Bear It?

[An avid reader who follows American Football and, in particular, the National Football League (NFL), wrote in to say the following about Fitz:

In his 2 May column, Fitz had this to say about a recent change to NFL kickoff return rules: “Under enormous legal pressure to make the game safer – or face billions of dollars in payouts – the new NFL rules start next season”. This is a bizarre misunderstanding of the rule change and recent NFL history.

The NFL has already made rules changes to decrease the number of dangerous (but exciting) kickoff return plays in 2011, 2016 and 2023. This led to a massive decline in the number of kickoff returns in recent seasons. The new rules being implemented for the 2024 season are designed to increase the number of kickoff returns, while hopefully still resulting in less injuries than the pre-2011 rules. Read any reporting on the rules changes in the American press and it is clear that they are motivated by a desire to make the game more exciting, not player safety.

I believe that MWD and other readers would like to know this. – MWD Editor.]


Dan Ziffer is something of a MWD fave – since he invariably provides good copy when doing the “Newspapers” gig on the ABC TV News Breakfast program.

The last occasion was on Wednesday 8 May. One of your man Ziffer’s chosen topics was the report in the Sydney Morning Herald that very morning by Jessica McSweeney titled “Council bans same sex parent books”.  The reference was to the decision by Cumberland City Council in Sydney, New South Wales, to remove books on same sex parents from the local library.

News Breakfast put a pic of SMH’s front page on the screen.  But co-presenter Lisa Millar – who spends lots of time proclaiming the value of her employer the taxpayer funded public broadcaster – wanted to give credit to her colleague.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Lisa Millar: Let’s have a look at this story we’ve been reporting on with our reporter in Sydney, Jess Rendall, in regards to the Cumberland City Council banning same-sex parents books. Talk us through this.

Dan Ziffer: Yeah, so the Cumberland City Council, they’re in South Texas. No, hold on. No, they’re in Sydney. It’s here. We’re here in Australia.

Michael Rowland: We’ll take that as a comment.

Dan Ziffer: Yeah, this is a really strange thing that we have seen in lots of other parts of the world….

In a way this was helpful. After all, some of us need to know what country we are in at around Hangover Time on a Wednesday.

But, yeah, it was a really strange thing that your man Ziffer tried so bad a joke so early in the morning.  Michael Rowland chose to take the “South Texas” reference as “a comment” – which was another way of saying it was a bad joke.  [I note that  Comrade Ziffer was narrowly defeated by Laura Tingle when he recently sought election to the position of staff member of the ABC Board.  I also note that Comrade Rowland backed Comrade Tingle for this position.  I thought you might like to know this – MWD Editor.]

Then your man Ziffer addressed the REALLY BIG STORY OF THE WEEK. Here we go:

Michael Rowland:  Let’s talk about the brouhaha surrounding the Ladies Lounge of MONA [the Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart, Tasmania].

Dan Ziffer: That’s an amazing story and it does seem to crop up every time I’m on….

Maybe. But your man Ziffer does not have to discuss the matter. There was some real news around. In any event, he regards the fact that MONA does not allow blokes into its Ladies Lounge where some important artworks are exhibited as a work of art in itself. Yes, a male ban is a work of art in Comrade Ziffer’s view.  Groan. See Media Watch Dog, 19 April 2024.

Comrade Ziffer went on to suggest that, in order to overcome anti-discrimination, the MONA Ladies Lounge might have to be moved to the female toilets. “Hold the Front Page” news, surely. By the way, Tasmania is south west of Texas.  Can You Bear It?



Mark Humphries who, to borrow a phrase from the late Barry Humphries, identifies as a comedian, has been largely absent from MWD in recent times. Comrade Humphries sketches for ABC TV’s 7.30 were axed in August 2023 and, unusually for an ABC leftie in good standing, he was not immediately shunted to another regular taxpayer-funded gig at Aunty. This is a shame as Humphries’ attempts at comedy always made for good MWD copy.

For this reason Ellie’s (male) co-owner was thrilled to read in the Friday 10 May edition of The Daily Telegraph that Humphries is trying to make a comedic documentary about the struggles of Sydney’s renters. The proposed doco also numbers amongst its crew Humphries’ 7.­30 co-writer Evan Williams and one of the ex-Chaser boys (average age 48 ½) Craig Reucassel as executive producer.

As The Daily Telegraph noted in its “Sydney Confidential Unleashed” column, Humphries and co are putting out the begging bowl, asking the public to crowdfund part of the production budget. They are looking for $100,000 in donations but so far have only secured $1,010 from 15 supporters.

Not to worry though. According to a budget breakdown online they have confirmed $180,000 from Screen Australia (federal taxpayer money) and $109,000 from Create NSW (state taxpayer money). They also claim to have confirmed $180,000 from Binge/Foxtel. Apparently, Humphries and Reucassel number among the ABC comrades whose Murdochphobia is cured when it comes time to pay the rent. They are also hoping to bring in yet more taxpayer funds and $50,000 in “philanthropy”.

So, despite the massive lack of interest shown by the public towards this crowdfunding campaign, the documentary may yet go ahead. Largely because ABC types with leftie politics can invariably rely on the taxpayer to fund their projects.


“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 – and have (sometimes conveniently) forgotten.


Media Watch Dog  readers have asked – what’s happened to Mike (“I used to pour the Gin”) Carlton?  As far as Ellie’s (male) co-owner knows, Comrade Carlton was last seen – in fact, quite a lot of him – walking with nothing much on at all at Whale Beach on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.  Not all the locals liked, er, the view. This was reported by Sydney’s Daily Telegraph and covered in MWD on 11 August 2023.

Apart from this, little has been heard of the one-time Sydney Morning Herald columnist. Except for the posts on Twitter – now X.  Trawling through this last week, MWD discovered this four-year-old attempt at crystal-ball-gazing from the Sage of Avalon Beach:

MWD acts in accordance with the teaching – or, in modern (dreadful) parlance –  “learning” – that it is unwise to make predictions, especially about the future.

Dan Andrews stepped down as the socialist left Labor premier of Victoria in September 2023 and retired from politics.  He had overseen the longest lockdowns in the world during the COVID-19 pandemic. On 7 May, Victoria brought down the 2024 budget.  It revealed that the state is in massive debt which will take eons to pay off.  Also, Comrade Andrews promised, when premier, to issue an apology to those who had been sexually abused by teachers when in Victorian State Government Schools. He quit politics before doing so.

Now, as indicated above, MWD is not wont to make predictions.  But Mike Carlton’s post-dinner tweet of 16 June 2020 – during the pandemic – that Andrews will be the “next Labor Prime Minister of Australia” looks somewhat remote some four years later. Don’t you think?

But the Prophet Carlton made the prediction. You Must Remember This.


Media Watch Dog just loves it when ABC journalists interview ABC journalists about the ABC.  And also, when ABC journos interview ABC management about the taxpayer funded public broadcaster. It gives media incest a bad name – but it’s great for Ellie’s (male) co-owner.

The latest such event occurred on Monday 6 May when Sarah Macdonald, presenter of the ABC Sydney Radio Mornings program, interviewed her boss David Anderson (ABC managing director) and his boss Kim Williams (who recently took up the position of ABC chair).

The occasion was the opening of the new ABC studios in Parramatta on the outskirts of Greater Western Sydney. ABC Sydney Radio’s Mornings, Afternoons and Drive programs will be broadcast from Parramatta and, ABC Radio National will rock up at Parramatta on occasion, and according to Anderson, will “rotate through different weeks” – whatever that means.  The ratings-challenged  Breakfast program in Sydney, presented by Craig Reucassel, will continue to be broadcast from inner-city Ultimo.

The interview had not gone on for long when Comrade Macdonald threw the switch to denial when talking about the ABC. Let’s go to the transcript:

Sarah Macdonald: Kim Williams, you’ve been in this job for a few months now.

Kim Williams: I’ve been here exactly seven weeks.

Sarah Macdonald: Seven weeks. Well, so a month and a half. What are you noticing about the ABC – in particular perhaps our coverage, say, out of Canberra? We’re constantly being accused of bias, including from papers you used to work for. What are you noticing, what are you thinking? Do you think we are biased?

Kim Williams: I think the ABC has a very rigorous approach to all of its editorial coverage, and that it aims genuinely to aspire to a standard of objectivity in contemporary journalism. It also aims in being an impartial broadcaster to reflect the plurality of views in Australian society. Which means you’ll hear things you don’t like and you’ll hear things that you resonantly agree with.

Quelle Surprise!  The ABC Sydney Mornings presenter asks a leading question as to whether the ABC is biased – and the ABC chair replies in the negative.  What else was your man Williams to do?

Moreover, Macdonald’s comment was false.  The ABC is not constantly “accused of bias” for its coverage out of Canberra. Criticism of the ABC’s lack of political balance does not focus on reports by the ABC Parliament House bureau.   But, rather, on such programs as 7.30 (which is broadcast from Sydney), Q+A (Sydney and Melbourne), News Breakfast (Melbourne), Four Corners (Sydney), AM (Hobart), PM (Sydney), Radio National Breakfast (Melbourne) and Insiders (which recently relocated from Melbourne to Canberra bringing its Melbourne format along with its presenter and executive producer with it).

It’s too early to judge Mr Williams’ performance as ABC chair. As he himself stated when his position was announced, the ABC chair is not the managing director and is not responsible for managing the taxpayer funded public broadcaster on a daily basis.

However, this can be said about Kim Williams’ first two months into his job.  Contrary to his claim, the ABC does not “reflect the plurality of views in Australian society”.  The fact is that the taxpayer funded public broadcaster is a conservative free zone without one conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent news and current affairs programs.  That’s not a reflection of Australian plurality – quite the opposite.

In his Weekend Australian column on 4 May, Gerard Henderson quoted from the article by Uri Berliner, (then) a senior business editor at National Public Radio (based in Washington DC) in the 14 April 2024 edition of The Free Press.  He was suspended shortly after his article was published and subsequently resigned from NPR.

Berliner is a liberal (in the American sense of the term) but became disillusioned with what he regards as NPR’s increasing turn to the left which has seen it lose many conservative listeners.  This is what he had to say:

It’s true NPR has always had a liberal bent, but during most of my tenure here, an open-minded, curious culture prevailed. We were nerdy, but not knee-jerk, activist, or scolding…. In recent years, however, that has changed. Today, those who listen to NPR or read its coverage online find something different: the distilled worldview of a very small segment of the U.S. population…. Back in 2011, although NPR’s audience tilted a bit to the left, it still bore a resemblance to America at large. Twenty-six per cent of listeners described themselves as conservative…. By 2023, the picture was completely different: only 11 per cent described themselves as very or somewhat conservative….

Sounds familiar?  NPR in the United States has lost a large number of its one-time conservative audience.  It’s much the same with the ABC – for much the same reasons.  ABC’s audience does not reflect Australia.

MWD has criticised the lack of political diversity within the organisation and on its programs.  Berliner uses a different term – with much the same meaning.  He refers to the lack of “viewpoint diversity” at NPR.  This is how his The Free Press  article concluded:

Conflicts between workers and bosses, between labor and management, are common in workplaces. NPR has had its share. But what’s notable is the extent to which people at every level of NPR have comfortably coalesced around the progressive worldview.  And this, I believe, is the most damaging development at NPR: the absence of viewpoint diversity.

There is another point here with reference to the interview between Comrade Macdonald and her bosses:

Sarah Macdonald: It’s an interesting time for the media isn’t it though? Because a lot of people are just now watching, reading or listening to media that they do agree with, that reinforces their worldview. And the ABC is trying to be everything to everybody. So how do you steer this ship through those muddy waters?

Kim Williams: Well I think one has to navigate in a way that doesn’t degenerate into being perpetually bland. So that you need to seek out views and interrogate views and allow the public to make its own informed judgments on the basis of reliable information. I would see the ABC as having an aspiration always to be the partner in life for news and information and comment.

Sarah Macdonald: Right. Not bland, we’ll get in more trouble though. Are you ready for that?

Kim Williams: Oh, I think trouble’s good. Trouble’s always healthy.

Sarah Macdonald: [Laughs]

Once again, Comrade Macdonald is in denial.  The ABC is already bland in one sense – it lacks political and viewpoint diversity.  It’s not merely bland, it is boring.

This is how the bland/boring Macdonald interview with her bosses concluded:

Sarah Macdonald: …I’ve got to ask – every time we talk about the ABC I get people texting in on my text line about The Drum. It’s gone. People are still mourning it. What is going to happen in that slot on TV? Could that be something at Parramatta?

David Anderson: Sarah, so, I mean at the moment we are running repeats of Hard Quiz into the news. We do have some plans. We haven’t commissioned anything as yet, Sarah. So I don’t want to say too much ahead of time, but it is something that we do, we do take seriously….. 7pm bulletin is still incredibly important. It is important to have audience and numbers going into the 7pm bulletin and something that is relevant to people as well. So we are looking at commissioning again for that time slot.

Sarah Macdonald receives complaints from her listeners mourning that The Drum was scrapped late last year. The fall of The Drum was analysed in Media Watch Dog Issue 670, 23 February 2024. The Drum was invariably a leftist stack where essentially everyone agreed with essentially everyone else on essentially everything.  Especially since its panels were frequently chosen for their left-wing views rather than for their knowledge. It was bland and boring. And its ratings were dreadful.

So much so that even repeats of Hard Quiz get more viewers than The Drum, which went live to air for ABC TV leading into the 7pm News slot.

The ABC in Australia and NPR in the United States seem to be suffering from the same problem – losing their one-time conservative audience without replacing them.  Restoring The Drum would only make matters worse. As with NPR programs, The Drum appealed to a minority of Australians.

The opening of the new ABC studio at Parramatta will not solve the problem of the ABC’s lack of political or viewpoint diversity.  Until the ABC recognises the need to engage with an audience that, in Uri Berliner’s terminology, resembles Australia at large – and that includes about half the nation who vote for political conservatives at election time.

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.


Today’s Correspondence segment provides a case study about how the ABC protects the errors of its own staff and those of its “besties”.

On 4 May 2023, Michael Rowland, co-presenter of ABC TV News Breakfast, quoted Peter McClellan KC as writing that George Pell did not regard clerical child sexual assault as a “crime”.  Mr McClellan who chaired the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse got it wrong.

Cardinal Pell declared in writing, and also when giving evidence before Peter McClellan, that clerical child sexual abuse was a crime – he said this without any qualification.  Michael Rowland did not make the original error – but he repeated this false claim without any fact-checking of his own.

Gerard Henderson thought it would be a good idea if Michael Rowland did an on-air correction around Friday 3 May 2024 – on the first anniversary of the error. He wrote to him on 30 April but Rowland went under the bed and declined to reply.

Gerard Henderson then took up the matter with senior ABC management. In the end, contrary to Henderson’s wishes, the ABC put up a message on its “Corrections” web page which did not mention Michael Rowland by name.  It also got Peter McClellan off the hook by implying that what he wrote about Pell was completely accurate.  It wasn’t.  By the way, Mr McClellan himself has not denied the error.  It’s a matter of the ABC protecting the former Royal Commissioner even though he has not been prepared to defend himself. Now read on, s’il vous plait.


Gerard Henderson to Michael Rowland – 30 April 2024

Good afternoon Michael

As you may – or may not – recall, on 4 May 2023 you interviewed Chrissie Foster who was promoting her book Still Standing (Viking, 2023) which she co-wrote with your ABC colleague Paul Kennedy.   The following exchange took place:

Michael Rowland: Peter McClellan, who of course chaired the Royal Commission [into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse], has written a lovely foreword to the book. And he says, he writes in particular about George Pell – and other senior Catholics – giving evidence to the fact that they saw the rape of a child as a moral failing, not a crime. And Peter McClellan writes how he still can’t get his head around that – and lots of people still can’t, right?

Chrissie Foster: And I can’t either….

The reason why Mr McClellan KC could not get his “head” around this is that the late Cardinal George Pell did not make such a claim – as the former royal commissioner should have known.

As I document in the new updated edition of my book Cardinal Pell, The Media Pile-On & Collective Guilt (which the ABC has “censored” along with Frank Brennan’s Observations of the Pell Proceedings), Peter McClellan clearly did not do any fact-checking before writing the Foreword.  These are the facts.

On 24 February 2014, Cardinal Pell filed a 28-page long witness statement with the Royal Commission consisting of 173 paragraphs. Paragraphs 13 and 14 contained the following comments:

I have apologised a number of times for these terrible crimes and I apologise to the victims again with all my heart….The crimes that were committed….by priests and others in the community should never have occurred. The Catholic community should be one of the safest places for children and young people and it is a completely unacceptable failure whenever a child has been hurt by a sexual predator in the church. There is always more to be done and better ways of doing things. I am serious about preventing crimes and our efforts have already had a good measure of success. [Emphasis added].

On 24 March 2014, Cardinal Pell gave evidence to the Royal Commission where the following exchange took place between counsel assisting the Royal Commission Gail Furness KC and Cardinal Pell.  The official transcript of the proceedings documents that Peter McClellan was presiding at the time of this exchange:

Gail Furness SC: At paragraph 16 of your statement, you refer to having been regularly involved as the bishops of Australia worked to deal with “this scandal, these crimes”. Do you see that in paragraph 16?

George Pell: Yes.

Gail Furness SC: By “this scandal, these crimes”, are you referring to sexual abuse of children by clergy?

George Pell: Clergy and teachers and Catholic personnel. [Emphasis added]

I emailed Mr McClellan KC on 13 September 2023 (via his associate) on a number of matters – including this incorrect claim about Cardinal Pell. He did not reply.

I am not sure how many people would have read the Foreword to Still Standing.  But a large number of Australians would have watched your comment on ABC TV’s News Breakfast. They would not be aware that you and your production team had not fact-checked your serious claim re the deceased cardinal.

In my view, it’s unprofessional journalism to verbal anyone.  This is all the more so when the person is dead and cannot defend themselves.

You have it within your remit to make an on-air correction.  Friday 3 May would be an appropriate date – since it is close to the first anniversary of your on-air error.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

cc:  David Anderson, Managing Director, ABC

Mark Maley, ABC News Editorial Policies Manager


Gerard Henderson to Justin Stevens – 2 May 2024

Good afternoon Justin

I know you are busy and I do not expect an acknowledgement or a response.  However, in view of your important position at the ABC, I believe I should direct your attention to this issue – since it is yet another example of the reluctance of the public broadcaster to acknowledge errors or make corrections.

As you are probably aware, this matter has been addressed by National Public Radio’s Uri Berliner in a recent article in The Free Press which I quoted in my Weekend Australian column last Saturday.

A long time NPR editor, Berliner believes that the broadcaster in recent years has lost many of its one-time conservative listeners who object to its lack of viewpoint diversity and reluctance to acknowledge and correct errors.  Sounds familiar?

I have set out below a self-explanatory email which I forwarded to Michael Rowland on Tuesday 30 April concerning his verballing of the late Cardinal  George Pell at this time last year.  Sure, the original error was not his. But Michael Rowland believed what he wanted to believe and quoted Peter McClellan KC’s (undocumented) incorrect statement on George Pell without doing any fact-checking.

I have suggested to Michael that he should do a correction.  He has not replied.  No surprise here – since he has refused to correct his serious error about the Covington Catholic High School student who was falsely accused of racism.  This is documented in the 1 February 2019 issue of my Media  Watch Dog blog.

If Michael Rowland replies to me – I will let you know.  But this is unlikely since, like so many of his colleagues, Michael believes what he wants to believe – even when it is objectively false.

Best wishes


Gerard Henderson


Justin Stevens to Gerard Henderson – 2 May 2024

Dear Gerard

I have brought your email to the attention of EP of News Breakfast, @Tyson Shine and he will reply to you in due course.

Regards, Justin.

Justin Stevens

Director of News

cc: Tyson Shine


Gerard Henderson to Justin Stevens – 2 May 2024

Dear Justin,

Thanks for your prompt response. I look forward to hearing from Tyson Shine in due course.

In view of this, I will not publish my letter to Michael Rowland in my Media Watch Dog blog tomorrow.

Best wishes



Tyson Shine to Gerard Henderson – 3 May 2024

Hi Gerard, and thanks for passing this on Justin.

Michael was quoting from Peter McClellan. The Royal Commissioner, having heard all the evidence, went on to find Pell not only knew about sexual abuse by priests but failed to take proper action against the offenders. Unfortunately, Michael misspoke when he said “giving evidence to the fact that they saw the rape of a child as a moral failing, not a crime”. What Peter McClellan actually said was “Cardinal George Pell, the most senior Australian Catholic of his generation…and other senior clerics gave evidence to the Royal Commission to the effect that the Church did not understand that the rape of a child was a crime, seeing it as a ‘moral failing’.”

I agree there is a difference in saying that it was fact that George Pell and others gave evidence that sexual abuse of a child was not a crime, rather than an interpretation by Peter McClellan of the whole body of evidence by George Pell and other clerics.

The ABC will publish a note on the Corrections and Clarifications page clarifying the statement.

Thanks heaps,

Tyson Shine

Executive Producer, News Breakfast

cc:     Justin Stevens,

Michael Rowlands

Mark Maley


Mark Maley to Tyson Shine and Michael Rowland – 3 May 2024

Hi Tyson and Michael, proposed clarification. It’s wordy but I think we need a bit of context to explain it. Also, I haven’t checked the quotes myself, I’m taking it that Gerard is accurate. Is he?

George Pell evidence

News Breakfast: On May 4, 2023 in an introduction to an interview with Chrissie Foster discussing her book Still Standing, the presenter said that Peter McClellan the Chief Commissioner of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse had written in a forward to the book that George Pell and other senior clerics had given “evidence to the fact that they saw the rape of a child as a moral failing, not a crime”. In fact, Mr McClellan wrote “Cardinal George Pell, the most senior Australian Catholic of his generation…and other senior clerics gave evidence to the Royal Commission to the effect that the Church did not understand that the rape of a child was a crime, seeing it as a ‘moral failing’”


cc:     Gerard Henderson

Justin Stevens


Gerard Henderson to Mark Maley – 3 May 2024


Since I have been included in this exchange, I make a few points re the proposed clarification – in haste:

۰ Yes, my account is accurate. It has not been challenged by Peter McClellan KC. Moreover, all the Royal Commission material is on the web and can be checked by anyone. It’s a pity that Michael Rowland and his production team did not check the facts before the false claim was made.

۰ The proposed clarification on the ABC Correction page is a waste of time. Few people read it and it is not easy to locate on the website. Also, it’s getting Michael Rowland off-the-hook by referring to “the presenter”. Which presenter?

۰ The problem with Michael and so many journalists is they believe what they want to believe without fact checking. Pell never gave evidence to the Royal Commission “to the effect that the Church did not understand that the rape of a child was a crime, seeing it as a ‘moral failing’”.

۰ Mr McClellan simply got it wrong. Cardinal Pell wrote to – and said at – the Royal Commission that clerical pedophilia was “a crime”. I documented these quotes in my email to Michael Rowland.

What’s requested here is an on-air correction by Michael Rowland. Anything less is inadequate and intellectual cowardice.



Mark Maley to Gerard Henderson – 3 May 2024



I assumed your account of what Michael said was accurate but I was just checking – no harm in that. They have easier access to the off-air recording than I do.

I don’t agree that the online correction is a waste of time. You will no doubt amplify it, which is your right, and so will others. And it stays there in perpetuity unlike an on-air statement. It’s extremely rare for us to do an on-air correction or clarification one year after the event when the original content has long been forgotten by the audience. But we will discuss that.

It’s a matter of interpretation whether McClellan got it wrong. His statement reflected his perception of the import of the evidence – it wasn’t a statement of fact. The error was that the introduction presented it as a statement of fact.



Gerard Henderson to Justin Stevens – 6 May 2024

Good afternoon Justin

I am writing to withdraw my request that Michael Rowland correct the error he made with respect to verballing the late Cardinal George Pell.  Clearly, ABC TV News Breakfast is in denial – and its proposed “correction” will only compound the error.

As you know, in the afternoon of Friday 3 May, Mark Maley forwarded to me correspondence between himself and NB producer Tyson Shine and presenter Michael Rowland – to which I replied. [See Mark Maley’s email to Tyson Shine; Gerard Henderson’s email to Mark Maley and his reply cited above].

In relation to Mark’s reply, I make the following comments:

  • I am surprised that a highly remunerated manager at the taxpayer funded public broadcaster would classify routine correspondence as “Confidential”. Especially since the ABC is a proud member of the Right to Know Coalition.
  • I do not understand why Mark Maley, Tyson Shine and Michael Rowland have chosen to become apologists for Peter McClellan KC in this instance. What Mr McClellan wrote in his foreword to Still Standing was simply wrong. George Pell did say to the Royal Commission that clerical pedophilia was “a crime”. He did not qualify this comment in any way or use such phrases as “to the effect”.

I wrote to Mr McClellan about this on 13 September 2023.  He did not challenge my comment that the reference to Cardinal Pell in his foreword in the book Still Standing is false. My criticism of Michael Rowland is that he repeated the McClellan claim without doing any fact-checking.  Michael Rowland is a Pell antagonist of long standing. It would seem that he believed what he wanted to believe in this instance.

  • It is not the role of ABC journalists like Michael and Tyson to interpret what Mr McClellan wrote with reference to his (alleged) “perception” of the evidence. Neither Michael nor Tyson know this. However, I know what McClellan actually wrote – and it is incorrect. Pell did say that pedophilia was a crime.  I am not interested in “perceptions” – I am interested in evidential facts.

* * * *

Since Michael Rowland is not willing to properly correct his error I request that no “correction” be made at all.  It would only perpetuate the falsehood. It’s best to leave it alone.

In any event, I have fully documented Peter McClellan’s error – and Michael Rowland’s repeat of the error –  in the new updated edition of my book Cardinal Pell, The Media Pile-On & Collective Guilt ( now in its third edition) which was published in November 2023.  This book  has been “censored” by the ABC – as has Frank Brennan’s Observations on the Pell Proceedings (now in its second edition).  However, both works will live on.

By the way, in my book I name some 140 journalists who were involved in the Pell media pile-on. Michael Rowland is one of some 40 ABC journalists in this group.  Not one of the 140 antagonists contacted me complaining that what I had written about this was in any way false.  Little wonder, then, that Michael Rowland and the News Breakfast team did not have the courage to invite me on their (taxpayer funded) program to discuss my book.

Best wishes


cc:     Michael Rowland

Mark Maley

Tyson Shine



* * * *

Until next time.

* * * *