“Media Watch Dog on Fridays…is a sort of popular read in the Crikey office”

Crikey’s Andrew Crook on ABC 2 News Breakfast, 24 September 2010.

“Gerard Henderson is big enough to take care of himself, but that doesn’t stop us worrying about him from time to time.  Lately it’s Hendo’s tendency to self-harm that has us losing sleep. For example, peruse the correspondence he’s published in his latest Media Watch Dog blog…..There’s a part of us that just wants to ask: “Hendo, are you OK?”

– James Jeffrey’s “Strewth!” column, The Australian, 8 November 2010.

  • A Head’s Up On Prestigious “The Best of the (Media) Worst in the 2010 Election”

  • Kirsten Garrett’s Hyperbolic Posse

  • Nancy’s Picks-of-the-Week : P. Adams and L.Tingle Foresee the End of Julia Gillard; Tim Vollmer Takes It Off Again; Boris Johnson’s Constitutional Confusion

  • Yet More On Julian Burnside QC’s Teenage Injustice

  • The Sunday Age Enriches Tony Abbott (Falsely)

  • Marieke Hardy – Have Tat Will Go Vegan

  • Julian Morrow Seduced By Kim Philby

  • History Corner : John Hewson Forgets That He Once Opposed Financial & Industrial Relations Deregulation

  • Debtor’s Prism : In the Matter of the Prophet Ellis


Media Watch Dog is back on the prowl for its third year. MWD commences 2011 with much material collected over the Silly Season and with the expectation that the usual suspects will provide much fresh material.  Here’s hoping. [Why not encourage The Age to take Catherine Deveny back – that would surely help. – Ed]

And now for an announcement. The much awaited “Best of the (Media) Worst in the 2010 Election Campaign” Awards – originally scheduled in Media Watch Dog – found their way into Issue 38 of The Sydney Institute Quarterly, which has just been distributed in print form.  It will go up on the Institute’s website after a decent (or perhaps indecent) interval

Here’s a teaser.  The winners of these prestigious gongs include –  Mark Scott (with a little help from Laura Tingle), Laura Tingle (with a little help from Mark Scott), Mark Latham, Peter Van Onselen, Hugh Rimington, Fran Kelly, The Age, Ross Cameron, Kerry O’Brien, Jenna Price, Simon Kearney, Deborah Cameron (of course), Jill Singer and Nikki Savva.

Congratulations, hugs, air-kisses and so on.


Did anyone hear Kirsten Garrett’s promo for next Sunday’s Background Briefing on Radio National this morning?

According to Ms Garrett, “Julian Assange has replaced Osama bin Laden on the US Most Wanted List” and “Hillary Clinton has vowed to bring him in”.  Ms Garrett concluded her promo by inviting RN listeners to “Join the posse on Background Briefing, Sunday morning after the news at 9”.

It could be quite a show.  Especially since Mr Assange has not been charged by US authorities with any offence and there is no US extradition warrant out for his arrest.  This suggests that Ms Garrett’s posse is of the hyperbolic kind. Just another leftist year at Radio National, it seems.


By the way, due to being inundated with Deborah Cameron Moments, this increasingly popular section of MWD has been held over until next week.


In a highly competitive field – perhaps due to the reality of the Silly Season – Nancy could not choose between the following stunning performances:

▪ Adams/Tingle Speculate on Labor Leadership Change – At Last

Late Night Live resumed on 24 January with Phillip Adams in the chair interviewing the Australian Financial Review political editor Laura Tingle about Canberra politics and all that.

Can you believe it? The discussion was barely a minute old before ABC Radio National’s Man-In-Black introduced the topic of a leadership change.  Let’s go to the audio tape:

Phillip Adams : Well, if she [Julia Gillard] doesn’t [show that she can do things] they’ll do her because there’s already a lot of scuttlebutt around the corridor of power that she may be replaced in the not too distant.

Laura Tingle : Well, eh. I think. There is, I suppose the expectation that that could happen has now been planted in Federal politics. But this was not an idea that was really taken seriously until Kevin Rudd was done over by his colleagues last year, while he was still in office. Now this idea that the New South Wales disease, the getting rid of the leader when they’re not performing, is sort of implanted there. And it creates this new instability in politics which is profoundly depressing, frankly. …[Julia Gillard’s] really got to have bedded down this sense in the public that it’s a government getting on and doing things very competently, by the budget.  Or she’s,  I think, in a lot of trouble.

Phillip Adams : Laura, that’s why I stuck with Late Night Live. I could have been prime minister, as you know. But I turned down all the offers and I’ve just stuck around here quietly – I’ve got 20 years up…. Whereas prime ministers have the shelf life of yoghurt, really.

How about that?  When the Labor leadership changed in June 2010, both Phillip Adams and Laura Tingle missed the story (See MWD Issue 60).  However, both Mr Adams and Ms Tingle are now canvassing the possibility of Julia Gillard being replaced as prime minister by the middle of 2011.  Still, such leadership speculation sure beats discussing policy.

▪  Tim Vollmer Channels Nancy in Kitless Pose

On 1 January 2011, Daily Telegraph ran a feature story titled “The worst job you ever had: Why staying still life is a bum deal”.

What happened is that DT journalist Tim Vollmer took off his kit, once again,, for a story. He  has form in this regard – see MWD Issue 45.  This time Mr Vollmer went naked to write about his life as a “life model”.

Here is the Daily Telegraph photo of Tim Vollmer going about his (now) familiar habit of disrobing for a good cause or, really, any cause:

And here is the exclusive shot of Nancy, in Tim Vollmer mode:

▪ Boris Johnson’s Confusion

On Tuesday The Age ran London mayor Boris Johnson’s column from The Telegraph in London. This seemed an odd choice for The Guardian-on-the-Yarra, which invariably carries London columnists from The Guardian in London – in other words, the real thing.

In his “Land of Hope and Glory” style piece, Mr Johnson opined:

We are now some way into 2011, and Her Maj occupies the same position in Oz (and Canada and New Zealand) as her father.  That’s incredible.

Sure is.  During the reign of George VI (1936-1952), Australian governments usually appointed English gentlemen to take the post of Governor-General and represent the Queen (Australia’s Head of State) in Australia.  Not anymore. Also, Boris Johnson seems blissfully unaware of the passing of the Australia Act which was passed in 1986.  It confirmed the status of the Commonwealth of Australia as a sovereign, independent and Federal nation.

Then, in praise of monarchy, Mr Johnson continued:

In a way that is both irrational and astonishing, human beings still seem to respond to, and respect, the concept of hereditary transfer of authority.  I don’t just mean in African tribal systems.  Look at the supposedly socialist and egalitarian systems of Korea (father to son) or Cuba (brother to brother).

Look at Syria (father to son).  Look at Egypt, where the crowds have just woken to interrupt what would have otherwise been the narcotic transition from Mubarak the elder to Mubarak the younger.  Look at America – revolutionary, republican America – where for the last 20 years politics has been dominated by two families, the Bushes and Clintons, and where there is now talk of Jeb Bush succeeding his father and brother.

What a load of absolute tosh.  North Korea and Cuba are not true hereditary systems – just communist dictatorships.  Likewise, Syria and Egypt are military dictatorships.  And, in case Boris Johnson is unaware of this, Barack Obama defeated Hillary Clinton to win the Democratic Party nomination for the 2008 US presidential election. As for Egypt, well…


The colour pics occupied over two pages of the up-market glossy The Australian Financial Review Magazine There was Julian Burnside QC – in bespoke suit, bespoke shirt, bespoke tie and bespoke spectacles – on the cover of the Summer 2010 edition.  The heading told the story: “One human’s fight for rights: Julian Burnside’s midlife awakening”.

Turn to Page 3 and there is another photograph of JB QC, this one a head-and-shoulders shot.

Then turn to Page 18, which features yet another photo of the Melbourne QC, along with the commencement of Tony Walker’s profile titled “The Late Education Of Julian Burnside”.

It turns out that there was more space devoted to photos of JB QC [since this chap’s an avowed republican, why doesn’t he junk his “QC” gong for a less pretentious “SC” title? Ed.] than to Tony Walker’s text. The sub-editor’s introductory paragraph gave an inkling of what was to come:

One of Australia’s high-profile and most successful barristers had a personal brush with injustice in his youth, but it took the Tampa incident in midlife to provoke his real awakening to human rights abuses.

This was a warning that we were about to hear, yet again, Julian Burnside’s story about how he had suffered grevious injustice while a student at Melbourne Grammar School (MGS) eons ago.  Tony Walker’s piece got off to a bad start:

Julian Burnside is sitting in his office with its floor-to-ceiling windows that afford a view toward Port Philip [sic] Bay to the south and a tangled cityscape to the west. The ornate rotunda that houses the Victorian law courts sits in the foreground, dwarfed by surrounding high-rise buildings. On shelves to Burnside’s left are busts of the Greek orator, Demosthenes, and the Roman lawyer and statesma [sic], Cicero. Both were notable for their many accomplishments, both fought against what they regarded as tyranny – and both came to a bad end.

Demosthenes took his own life to avoid arrest by the successors to Alexander the Great whom he had opposed, and Cicero was murdered in 43BC after being proclaimed an “enemy of the state” for his opposition to Mark Antony. Burnside may not find the comparison compelling but in the post-Tampa period he received the odd threatening message.

Go on. So according to Mr Walker – and, presumably, to Mr Burnside – JB QC is a bit like that Roman statesma [sic] Cicero except that he lives in a different age, not far from Port Phillip Bay.  Cicero was murdered. But our Julian has “received the odd threatening message”.  Pretty similar, eh?

Then it got worse.  JB QC offered Tony Walker a “nerve-steadying whisky”. Nerves steady, JB QC then commenced re-telling the story about how he’s not a do-gooder.  He just does good. Much good.  And so the discussion went on until “the tumblers of whisky are depleted”. [How many tumblers was that? Ed.]

In the meantime, JB QC told the AFR’s Tony Walker how he had become politicised after he took a brief in 1998 from the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) in its legal battle with the Howard Government over industrial relations reform on the Australian docks.

Julian Burnside said – and Tony Walker reported – that “the Howard government was up to its ears in an illegal conspiracy” with respect to waterside reform. But Mr Burnside QC provided no evidence to support his assertion.  Certainly no court made any finding that the Howard Government had ever been involved in an illegal conspiracy. [Does the AFR employ a fact-checker? – Ed].

Then Tony Walker told – or, rather, retold – The Life-and-Times-of-Julian-Burnside. He was once a Liberal Party voter.  Yawn.  Then he turned against the Liberal Party. Yawn.  Up until his change of (political) heart, JB QC’s preoccupations – as Tony Walker put it:

…had revolved around making heaps of money at the bar, collecting art and wine, and indulging his interest in motor vehicles and rugby, which he had played at Melbourne Grammar School.

A “late developer” by his own admission, the seeds of his later activism may have been sown in his school days.  The most interesting chapter in his book – Watching Brief: Reflections on Human Rights, Law and Justice (Scribe, 2010) – is the skimpy chapter titled “School Days”, which tells of a particular episode that left an impression.  This was the award of prizes on his last day at school, when he received “second colours” for representing the school in lesser sports such as swimming, diving and rugby.

“I still remember the stinging injustice of it, that a good Australian Rules footballer received the ultimate accolade of first colours for playing a season for the school; yet, after representing the school for years as a swimmer, and in diving and rugby, I got second best. If I were to speculate on the origin of my concern about justice, I would settle for that day,” he writes.

So there you have it. Young Julian only got a “half-blue” at MGS for his involvement in the rugger and the swimming.  Whereas other chaps who played in the First XVIII and the First XI for the Melbourne Grammar School got full-blues.  Mr Burnside has not revealed whether he received a full-blue for pomposity while at MGS.  He certainly deserved it.

Little wonder that, having suffered with such injustice in his school days, it took Julian Burnside a mere three decades to become radicalised and to campaign against injustice.  Everywhere.  [That’s enough.  I need to replenish my tumbler – I just can’t bear it any more. – Ed].


On 30 January 2011 “The Heckler” column in The Sunday Age – aka “The-Observer-on-the-Yarra” – led with an item titled “Did The Oz pay Abbott $250,000?”.  The answer to the question should have been a resounding “No”.  Anyone familiar with publishing would know that a newspaper (The Australian) would not pay an author (Tony Abbott) $250,000 for extract rights for his book (in this instance Tony Abbott’s Battlelines).  For starters, the amount is way too high.  And, in any event, extract rights are paid to publishers – not authors – and are calculated as part of royalties (including any advance already paid).

“The Heckler” allegation was based on that ubiquitous source – i.e. Anonymous.  The “Strewth!” column in The Australian corrected the matter on Wednesday. MUP, the publisher of Battlelines, was paid around $7500 (including GST) – which is a long way south of $250,000.  The Australian made no payment to Mr Abbott.  On Nancy’s calculations, “The Heckler” calculation was out by around 97 per cent. Still it was only a rumour about the Liberal Party leader – so that’s probably okay by The-Observer-on-the-Yarra’s standards.

The rest of “The Heckler” was of a similar quality.  There was a reference to “bogans” – meaning, presumably, less educated types who don’t live in inner-city Brunswick.  The Herald-Sun was criticised for not checking facts.  How about that?  And it was claimed that the 7.30 Report won’t return “to the screens of the taxpayer-funded national broadcaster until March”.  In fact, the 7.30 Report has never gone off air.  It will be replaced by the new 7.30 program in March.

Whoever writes “The Heckler” would not get a guernsey in Nancy’s kennel – where even fleas are checked.


How wonderful for Marieke Hardy to substantially unrobe for the cover pic of the Sunday Life which comes with the Sun-Herald and The Sunday Age. And what a great tat she has on her left shoulder.  Ms Hardy is invariably referred to as Frank Hardy’s granddaughter. [Interesting. I thought she might have had two grandfathers.- Ed].

In her interview with Alyssa McDonald for Sunday Life, Ms Hardy expressed her passion for drunk men – but only literary type alcoholics, like Ernest Hemingway.  And she spoke – movingly – about her conversion to veganism, declaring:

I’m an incredibly unlikely vegan. I’m quite a lazy person.  I love food.  I hate making a fuss in restaurants.  I just didn’t want to connect what was on my plate with how it got there.

How twee can you get?  Reading this gush, it’s no surprise that Marieke Hardy – who appears on ABC TV’s First Tuesday Book Club program – has been signed up by the ABC, which will soon commence running her sitcom Laid.  One of Nancy’s correspondents wrote recently advising her to turn on the taxpayer funded broadcaster for Laid in the expectation of “plenty of jokes at the expense of suburban prols and owners of McMansions”.  Here’s hoping.  MWD needs inner-city sandal-wearing material like this.

When Marieke Hardy is discussed in the media and reference is made to her paternal writer grandfather, it is rarely mentioned that, for much of his life, Frank Hardy (1917-1994) was a member of the Communist Party and supported every communist crime around. From Josef Stalin’s forced famine in the Ukraine in the 1930s, to the Nazi-Soviet Pact of August 1939, to the anti-semetic Slansky trials in Czechoslovakia in the early 1950s, to the crushing of the Hungarian Revolution in 1956 and on to Mao Zedong’s forced famine in China, which was called the “Great Leap Forward”. Frank Hardy finally gave up his addiction to communism circa 1968 – by which time its victims numbered tens of millions dead.

These days it’s not fashionable to mention Frank Hardy’s communist past and his appalling pro-Stalinist apologia A Journey Into The Future (1952) is almost forgotten.  [I’ve still got my copy – Ed].


It’s much the same with that other dreadful Stalinist Kim Philby (1912-1988) the Brit who spied for the Soviet Union in Josef Stalin’s time and was a member of the KGB.

During the summer break, Julian Morrow (of “The Chaser” fame) stood in for Fran Kelly on the Radio National Breakfast program.  It was a move to the right for the ABC from Ms Kelly’s green agenda – but not too much.  Soon after his (summer) gig was up, Mr Morrow joined with the Labor Left faction in New South Wales to co-host an ALP fundraiser – which was held in Sydney last Saturday.  It was a fancy dress occasion and the dress was designated as “Espionage”.  How cool.

Last Monday’s Daily Telegraph carried a photo of various guests at the Labor Left knees-up in various stages of dress (and undress).  Fair enough.  It was Saturday night in Sydney, after all.

The Daily Telegraph also carried a reproduction of the invitation for the occasion.  It depicted a head pic of Kim Philby.  It’s hard to imagine Mr Morrow and his leftist mates putting out an invitation to a fancy-dress gig containing a photo of a Nazi collaborator – say William Joyce (aka Lord Haw Haw). Yet Philby was responsible for many more deaths of innocent victims than Joyce, who was a miserable alienated fascist propagandist but was never a member of the Nazi SS.


What a stunning performance by John (call me “Doctor”) Hewson on The Nation with David Speers on Sky News last night where he appeared with Craig Emerson, Peter Dutton and Lee Rhiannon.  The learned Doctor referred to the Prime Minister’s address of earlier in the week where she compared the decision of Bob Hawke, (which was supported by his treasurer Paul Keating) to float the  Australian dollar in 1983 with her carbon price agenda.

In commenting on Julia Gillard’s speech, John Hewson was none too complimentary about the role of Messrs Hawke and Keating in financial deregulation nearly three decades ago.  His position was that Labor’s prime minister and treasurer at the time were forced into the currency float. Let’s pick up the discussion, where Dr Hewson was making this very point – namely that Bob Hawke and Paul Keating only acted:

John Hewson:  ….in a crisis, almost by default, with the Treasury and Keating opposing it. But they did, they did do that.

Craig Emerson:  I don’t think Keating did oppose it to the end.

John Hewson:  Well, I’d talk to Bob Hawke.

Craig Emerson:  And I’d talk to Paul Keating – and Bob Hawke.

Labor politics aside, John Hewson was running the line that he was a brave reformer who has learnt that economic bravery  can have its cost.  Fair enough.

However, Dr Hewson did not let on that that he – yep, Dr Hewson himself – opposed floating the Australian currency around the time it was first proposed when John Howard was treasurer during the final years of Malcolm Fraser’s government.  Hewson was an adviser to Howard at the time.

In researching her book Hewson: A Portrait (1993), Christine Wallace unearthed (by means of Freedom of Information access) a letter written on 24 June 1981 by Dr Hewson to Fred Argy (then secretary of the Australian Financial System Inquiry). Ms Wallace received this letter too late for inclusion in her biography.  So she handed it to Gerard Henderson, who quoted it in his book Menzies Child: The Liberal Party of Australia (1994) – see Chapter 11.

In his June 1981 letter, Hewson queried whether it was “real life” for Australia to float the currency circa 1981 and asked why politicians and bureaucrats, who were satisfied with the “present arrangements”, should “risk a new system”. That was then.  These days Dr Hewson presents himself as someone who was always supportive of the currency float – unlike the likes of Hawke and Keating, whom he claims were dragged kicking and screaming to currency reform.  By the way, in the mid-1980s John Hewson also opposed deregulation of the labour market.  Really.


As readers of MWD will be aware, almost from the creation of this blog in 2009 Nancy has been banging on obsessively about how the (False) Prophet Ellis still owes her co-owner $500 for failed punditry. See MWD passim. The first half of Bob Ellis’ $1000 debt to Gerard Henderson – which fell due in May 2003 – was finally paid in November 2007.  This left $500 on the slab, so to speak.

On May Day 2009 (Issue 8), MWD raised the matter of Bob Ellis’ extant debt – and MWD promised readers that they would be kept-in-the-loop about whether a cheque was in the mail. It was – or, rather, they were.  In May 2009 and June 2009, two cheques were forwarded (to the value of $250 each). However, by the time Nancy’s co-owner got around to banking them – they bounced.  Really high.

In view of the fact that the False Prophet is being paid for contributions to The Drum, Gerard Henderson has renewed his campaign for (fiscal) justice – as the following letter documents:

Dear False Prophet

I refer to your letter to the Sydney Morning Herald – which was published on 12 January 2011 – which you concluded in the following terms:

For the 17th year, I challenge him [Gerard Henderson] to debate me any time, anywhere, on a topic of his choosing.

As you will be aware from previous correspondence, I have expressed doubt as to whether anyone would turn up to hear us discuss anything.  However, as you also know, I have said that I would agree to such a debate if you organised it – provided you pay the remaining $500 of the $1000 you owe me for false punditry.

You did forward cheques of $250 each in May 2009 and June 2009.  Alas, when I finally got around to banking them, they bounced and were returned in a dishonoured state. I was inclined to let this matter die. But your decision to challenge me to a debate reminded me of your debtor status in this instance.

Once I receive payment – now close to a decade overdue – I will be back in touch about what you have in mind for a debate.  As previously advised, all payments in this matter either have been, or will be, forwarded to Anne Henderson for use in her fund-raising efforts for refugees who have been approved for settlement in Australia.  A good cause, I’m sure you will agree.

Best wishes

Yours sincerely

Gerard Henderson

MWD will have a regular update about whether Bob (“My cheque bounces higher than your cheque”) Ellis pays up.  Stay tuned.

* * * *

Until next time.