25 FEBRUARY 2011

“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.

“I realise this makes me practically retarded, but until five minutes ago I thought Nancy was Gerard Henderson’s wife, not his dog.”

– Byronbache via Twitter, Monday 7 February 2011

  • Stop Press: Julian Assange as Royalty, Scott Burchill on “They” & Three Cheers for Heather Ewart

  • History Corner at Channel 9 : The Stumbles of Emma Freedman and Peter Harvey

  • A Deborah Cameron (Carbon Tax) Moment

  • Catherine Deveny Update:  New Disability Ambassador Bags “Retards” – Mitch Fifield Wins Five Paws Award for Deveny Outing

  • Nancy’s Pick-of-the-Week: Andrew Jaspan’s Search for Your Money

  • Maurice Newman Segment: Jonathan Holmes Throws in the Towel

  • Can You Bear It? – Forgetting Tariq Ramadan and Peter Cundall

  • Correspondence: Read All About It – Age Cartoonist Dyson’s Double Standard on Christ and the Prophet


▪ Julian Assange on “We” Julian

The big news out of London overnight is that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is now referring to himself by invoking the Royal plural – in much the way the Royal Family was wont to do.  In a long-winded media conference, held after his bid to prevent extradition was unsuccessful, Mr Assange declared:

We have always known that we would appeal.  We have always known that, in all likelihood, we would have to appeal.

Well, now we (as in Us) know what we (as in Him) intends to do.

▪ Scott Burchill  on Julian Assange

The other big news is that Mr Assange now no longer claims that the CIA was involved in the events which led to charges of sexual misconduct made against him by two left-wing women in Sweden. Alas, it seems that this message has not been picked up by all the members of the WikiLeaks founder’s Fan Club in Australia.

Interviewed on ABC TV News Breakfast this morning, Scott (“call me Doctor”) Burchill declared:

But, really, the people who I think are after Assange are essentially getting their way. They’re bogging him down in interminable legal action, lots of legal costs, preventing him from doing what he really wants to do which of course is to redact cables and push them onto the internet.

Interesting theory.  But Dr Burchill does not say who  “the people” in question are – beyond referring to them as “they”.

The Deakin University academic conceded this morning that Julian Assange could just as readily be extradited to the United States from Britain as from Sweden – a point which John Pilger made, perhaps unintentionally, on Q&A on 14 February (See MWD Issue 83). That’s got rid of one conspiracy theory.  All we need to know now is just who the “they” are.

What Scott Burchill overlooked this morning is that the people who have bogged this matter down in interminable legal action are none other than Julian Assange and his defence team – including Geoffrey Robertson QC (he of the Epping accent – see MWD Issue 53) and Jennifer Robinson (she of the Berry accent).

Heather Ewart on Julia Gillard

How about that?  Last night Heather Ewart interviewed Julia Gillard on the 7.30 Report.  Unlike Kerry O’Brien when he presented the program, Ms Ewart was more interested in the Prime Minister’s answers than in stating her own opinion (at considerable length). What resulted was a professional interview in which Ms Gillard was challenged and had to state her case.  The interviewing style worked for both the Prime Minister and 7.30 Report viewers.

Perhaps Heather Ewart should front the newly titled 7.30 program.  There is much to be said for Leigh Sales – including that she has not the faintest idea about Martin Luther. See MWD passim. It’s just that MWD believes that Heather Ewart might be able to do even better.


Nancy is a bit of a history tragic (to re-use a modern cliché). So, she was delighted when the Weekend Today program on Channel 9 last Sunday threw the switch to the past.

First up, there was reporter Emma Freedman. She was all dressed up in the 1920s fashion and having lotsa fun at a Back-To-The-Twenties function in the Blue Mountains.  This is how one of the early crosses went:

Emma Freedman:  We’re spending the morning at the Carrington Hotel in Katoomba this morning as part of their Roaring 20s festival in the Blue Mountains. This was one of the best hotels in the area back in The Twenties. But prior to that, they were paid a royal visit. King George The Sixth and Queen Elizabeth The First, a very beautiful couple, came here – went to the Jenolan Caves first and then came here to the Blue Mountains where they found this – the Royal Balconette – which was perfectly built for them.  So the King and Queen could stand up here and royally greet the masses – all those people who had came [sic] to see them. They would also have found a lot of people dressed in the attire that I am this morning.

Wow.  It must have been quite an occasion – but not quite the occasion Ms Freedman spoke about last Sunday. First, this Royal Visit to Katoomba took place not “prior to” the 1920s but in 1927.  Second, the royals in question were not king and queen at the time but, rather, the Duke and Duchess of York. The Royal couple were in Australia to open Parliament House in Canberra.  Third, George VI (as he became) was never married to Elizabeth I – if only because the (female) monarch in question died in 1603.  When George VI became King in 1936 his wife attained the title of Queen Elizabeth – she commenced life in 1900 as Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon and later became known as the Queen Mother.

Oh well, at least Ms Freedman has the excuse of being young. Not so Mr Harvey who, later on Weekend Today, was let loose on that potential dangerous topic of sex scandals in politics. [Has anyone done a detailed report on sex scandals in the media?  It could be such fun. – Ed].  After trailing through the matters of Mr John Profumo and Miss Christine Keeler in Britain – and President J.F. Kennedy and many a Miss and a Mrs in the United States – Peter Harvey turned his attention to Down Under (so to speak).  Let’s go to the transcript:

Peter Harvey: Australia also has had its fair share of political sex scandals.  In fact, there are rumours that a number of pollies died on the job.

Weekend Today illustrated this point with photos of former Labor leader Ben Chifley (1885-1951) and former Liberal Party leader Billy Snedden (1926-1987).  There is evidence to support Harvey’s theory with respect to Sir Billy Snedden.  But what is the evidence with respect to Mr Chifley?  It seems that Peter Harvey just made this up.  [Perhaps he was attempting some political balance. – Ed].

Then your man Harvey turned his attention to Bob Hawke (1929 – ). Let’s go to the audio tape:

And Australia’s worst kept secret was Bob Hawke’s long running affair with author Blanche d’Alpuget. The romance wasn’t the first time Bob had been accused of infidelity. His 38 year marriage to Hazel was no bed of roses.  In 1991 Bob and Hazel split.  Four years later, the former PM married his long-time lover.

Most things were true about this Peter Harvey piece-to-camera.  Except, alas, for some of the facts.  Bob Hawke and Hazel Hawke formally split in 1994 – shortly after the publication of The Hawke Memoirs.  Bob Hawke married Blanche d’Alpuget in July 1995 – which is not four years after 1994.


The ABC’s very own “Green-Left-Daily” program was in fine form this morning when Deborah Cameron – the presenter of Mornings with Deborah Cameron – embraced the announcement that Australia will have a carbon tax.  This is how Ms Cameron introduced the issue at the top of her ABC Metropolitan Radio 702 at 8.30 am:

Deborah Cameron : Well permission to emit industrial pollution is about to end in Australia if this new policy around carbon trading and a price on carbon emissions goes through. How to regard that? Well, yes it will expensive. The thing is, how do you embrace that as a member of society? Do you get weighed down by the burden of it?  Or do you think to yourself: “Well, I’m a proud eco-warrior. I will stand up and carry it.  I will take my share of the load. I’ll spend less. I’ll explain to the children that life’s fripperies have got to stop; that this is actually something worth spending money on because it actually means, potentially, a safer better world”?

Now, how to get that investment right? How to make those decisions? Alan Pears is an energy and climate policy expert at the RMIT and he joins me this morning…should we regard this as a cost or an investment?

Alan Pears : Well, I think first of all for many of us it won’t even be a cost. But for those of us who do experience a cost, it certainly will be an investment in avoiding climate change and many adverse impacts on future generations.

And so it went on. Adjunct Professor Pears agreed with Deborah Cameron who agreed with the adjunct professor. [What is an adjunct professor? Are these the blokes who used to be classified as retired in my day? – Ed].  It was quite a love-in, of the green genre.

Ms Cameron seems unaware that some residents of capital cities have problems paying their power bills and have never experienced “life’s fripperies”. And Prof. Pears did not mention that he is co-director of Sustainable Solutions – an environmental consultancy.  Meanwhile both the presenter and the adjunct professor advocated the return of such discredited environmental programs as the “Green Start” fiasco of recent memory.

Truly, A Deborah Cameron Moment.


This week’s winner is Liberal Party front bencher Senator Mitch Fifield who, at Senate Estimates yesterday, criticised the appointment of stand-up comedian Catherine Deveny (see MWD passim) as a Government Disability Ambassador.  During the hearing, Jan McLucas (the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers) acknowledged that she was troubled by this appointment.

Senator Fifield drew attention to Ms Deveny’s writings when she was commissioned by Andrew Jaspan to become a sit-down comedian and write a column for The Age.  Here we go – with some help from Nancy’s files. First up, in mocking those who live in the Melbourne suburb of Craigieburn, Deveny wrote:

The reality is that it is impossible to watch these brainless retards belt the crap out of each other without enjoying it just a little. (The Age, 19 April 2008).

Earlier, in a rant about Christmas, Ms Deveny opined:

T’was the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, because mum was chucking her annual Christmas Eve spastic. (The Age, 23 December 2006).

How does she get away with it?  Catherine Deveny was sacked from The Age by Paul Ramadge, who succeeded the hopeless Andrew Jaspan. However, she is still a favourite of ABC management in Melbourne and attains many a gig on the taxpayer funded public broadcaster, especially in Victoria.

Now Catherine Deveny, Disability Ambassador, is on record as referring to “brainless retards” and using the term “spastic” as a term of abuse.

Five Paws to Senator Fifield for raising this matter.



While on the topic of Andrew Jaspan, whatever happened to Andrew Jaspan?  After being dumped by The Age, it was reported that Mr Jaspan applied (unsuccessfully) for the editorship of the Crikey newsletter. The powers-that-be at Crikey had the sense to give the gig to Sophie Black.

Then, on 15 November 2010, Lara Sinclair and Julie Hare reported in The Australian that Andrew Jaspan was attempting to launch a website titled The Conversation which they reported “will aggregate the research and opinions of the country’s leading academics”. Good idea, don’t you think?  Well yes – except that Mr Jaspan is looking for lotsa taxpayers’ money to support his project.  As at November 2010, the venture was going nowhere since money had been promised by the Rudd government but it appeared that “funding had not been bedded down under the Gillard government”.

Then on 22 December 2010 Andrew Crook reported in Crikey that The Conversation would be launched in February 2011. You see, Mr Jaspan has gone to the taxpayers’ teat yet again and succeeded in obtaining heaps of other people’s money to fund his pet project.

According to Mr Crook, as at December 2010, seed money has been sourced from the Group of Eight universities, the CSIRO, the Victorian government and the Commonwealth government. Apparently the Victorian and Commonwealth governments have kicked-in $500,000 a piece – with a hint of more to come following what is termed an “independent review”.  There is some business support, including a contribution from former Yahoo publisher Jack Rejtman. However, Mr Jaspan and friends are overwhelmingly relying on the support of taxpayers – in the form of grants and subsidies from government, universities and public sector utilities.

Interviewed for Crikey on 22 December 2010, Michael Gawenda – the very capable editor of The Age before Mark Scott’s disasterous decision to appoint Andrew Jaspan to the position [Is this the very same Mr Scott who is now managing director of the taxpayer funded ABC? – Ed] made the following perceptive comment. Spoke Gawenda:

The Conversation as far as I understand it will not be a journalism website. Transforming the work of academics into accessible content is challenging and I find it hard to see the readership for this, even among academics. And I find it hard to see where the advertising support will come from. I assume The Conversation will have to break-even some time – the universities and the state and federal government support will not be open-ended. [I would not make this assumption. – Ed]. My experience of academics tells me they won’t be easily persuaded to write for The Conversation – apart from the usual suspects who are already regularly in the media.

The Conversation is just one of a number of organisations which have received a total of (literally) tens of millions of taxpayers’ funds in recent years. The list includes the United States Studies Centre in Sydney (funded by the Howard Coalition government in Canberra), the Grattan Institute in Melbourne (funded by the Rudd Labor government in Canberra and the Brumby Labor government in Victoria) and more besides. MWD will keep you posted. [Does Nancy’s kennel receive any taxpayer funds? – Ed].


This increasingly popular segment is devoted to analysing ABC chairman’s Maurice Newman’s suggestion that there is a “group-think” ethos extant in the public broadcaster – and the ABC Media Watch presenter Jonathan Holmes’ refutation of any such claim.  See MWD passim.

MWD’s scoring of our Maurice Newman segment was put out of kilter this week by what looked like a deliberate Jonathan Holmes own-goal.

Look at it this way.  ABC chairman Maurice Newman has detected a “group think” –of a fashionable leftist kind – within the taxpayer funded public broadcaster. And, up to last Monday, Media Watch presenter Jonathan Holmes has always denied that such a leftie “group think” exists.

Last Monday Media Watch did a thoughtful analysis of some of the extreme language which has accompanied the debate over whether the Gillard Government should have provided funds to fly relatives of asylum seekers (who died when their boat sank) from Christmas Island to the burial service in Sydney.  Holmes was critical of the lack of balance on Sydney commercial radio stations 2UE and 2GB where commercial shock-jocks attacked the decision with a notable lack of empathy.  Then Jonathan Holmes commented about the Mornings with Deborah Cameron program on ABC Metropolitan Radio 702 on Wednesday 16 February and Media Watch ran footage from two of Ms Cameron’s interviews on that day. Let’s go to the transcript:

Sydney’s second-highest-rating talk station is the ABC’s 702, where you got an almost unanimous take the other way…

Deborah Cameron : Does the government have an obligation to allow those family members to attend a funeral and pay for it if necessary?

Rabbi Jackie Ninio : I think absolutely…and I think this situation has been an unbelievably tragic and awful event…

Dr Leslie Cannold : I was so uncomfortable with hearing what was said this morning, it seems so low…

For all the talk about balance, you’ll find precious little disagreement on the ABC about issues like this.

Quite so.  Mr Holmes is correct in finding that on Mornings with Deborah Cameron an “almost unanimous” view is expressed  – which sounds like “group think” to MWD. So, on this occasion at least, the ABC TV Media Watch presenter is in agreement with the ABC chairman.  And now time for the score:

Maurice Newman: 3 – (including one Jonathan Holmes’ own-goal)

Jonathan Holmes: Zip


While on the topic of the public broadcaster, here are a couple of recent examples of ABC occasions which did not pass the “Can you bear it?” test.

▪ On 17 February 2011 Tony Jones interviewed Tariq Ramadan on Lateline.  The Lateline presenter introduced Professor Ramadan as the Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford University. Fair enough.  But Mr Jones did not mention that Tariq Ramadan is a grandson of Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood or that he caused controversy in France by declining to condemn the stoning to death of adulterous women. (See Nick Cohen, “Radical Islam’s fellow-travellers”, Standpoint, September 2010).

▪ Last Monday Phillip Adams did a segment on Late Night Live on Australians who had had ASIO files.  Guests included Canberra Times editor-at-large Jack Waterford [He’s a good bloke – Ed] and former ABC Gardening Australia presenter Peter Cundall.

It was all a lot of fun as Adams joshed with Cundall about his one-time membership of the Communist Party of Australia, how he (allegedly) worked as a gardener at the Soviet Embassy in Canberra and so on.  And go on.

However, Phillip Adams did not mention that Peter Cundall contested the Senate as a Communist Party candidate in 1961.  In 1961 the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) received funds from Moscow and followed the Soviet line – from the Nazi Soviet Pact of 1939 to the crushing of the Hungarian Uprising in 1956.  In 1961 Peter Cundall belonged to a political party which supported repression in the Soviet Union – along with what was left of the Stalinist gulag.

And yet the LNL presenter treated Cundall as if, in 1961, he was an amicable gardener whom ASIO should have left alone. [That’s enough. Let’s continue this obsession next week. – Ed].


The Age’s Dyson On Why It’s Okay To Draw Ironic Cartoons Of Christ But Not Okay To Draw Ironic Cartoons Of The Prophet

On 10 February 2011 The Age published the following cartoon by Dyson on its editorial page.

This led to the following email exchange which is published below in the public interest.  The reference to Denmark refers to the Somali man who was recently convicted of attacking one of the Danish cartoonists who drew an image of the Prophet in 2005.

Email from Gerard Henderson to Andrew Dyson on 23 February 2010 – 10.40 am


I refer to your cartoon in The Age on 10 February 2011 which, as you will recall, was titled “Easter Sunday, 2011” and featured a Christ-like figure carrying a cross which reads “20% off! Redemption Runout! Massive Savings!”.  The setting is an Easter Bargain sale.

My essential question is this: Where do you draw the line in depicting religious figures in your cartooning?

Obviously, you are willing to depict Jesus Christ carrying a cross on the way to crucifixion in order to crack a joke.  But would you depict in a mocking way, say, the Prophet Mohammed or the Hindu God Krishna in one of your cartoons in The Age?  And if you did, would The Age run your mocking images – similar to the way you depicted Christ on 10 February 2011?  If not, why not?

Here’s hoping that you, or the editor of The Age, will answer my questions.  I make this request in the knowledge that The Age has signed up to the Right to Know Coalition and that The Age has run considerable material from WikiLeaks in the interest of the public’s right to know.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

Email from Andrew Dyson to Gerard Henderson on 23 February 2011 – 1.32 pm


1, Context. The cartoon was no mockery of Christ, a person I respect, but of the Melbourne commercial interests who have now deemed Easter Sunday open slather for trading. True Christians (as opposed to fundamentalists) can appreciate the irony of Christ having to hawk his wares in the modern marketplace..2.The portrayal of Christ, usually in a state of excruciating humiliation, is not proscribed by the Christian tradition – in the Islamic tradition, however, portrayal of the Prophet Mohammed is at best an incitement to riot, and at worst a capital offence, as the recent Danish newspaper experience illustrates. While I am prepared, even delighted, to receive hate mail, I have no desire to foment civil unrest. 3. I have in the past depicted Krishna and his colleagues in a number of guises, and have received one highly civilised and well reasoned upbraiding from a Hindu correspondent, which I have taken on board.

Thank you for your thoughtful enquiry, and your interest,

Best wishes,

Andrew Dyson

Email from Gerard Henderson to Andrew Dyson on 23 February 2011 – 4.31 pm


Thanks for your prompt reply to my email.  As I understand it, your position is as follows:

▪ It is proper to depict Jesus Christ in the way you did in your Age cartoon on 10 February 2011 – since “true Christians (as opposed to fundamentalists) can appreciate the irony of Christ having to hawk his wares in the modern marketplace”.

▪ It is not proper to depict the Prophet Mohammed in any cartoons – since “in the Islamic tradition…portrayal of the Prophet Mohammed is at best an incitement to riot, and at worst a capital offence, as the recent Danish experience illustrates”.

▪ It is sometimes proper to depict Krishna in cartoons – but you have “received one highly civilised and well reasoned upbraiding from a Hindu correspondent” concerning a previous cartoon which you “have taken on board”.

This is all very convenient and self-serving.

You maintain that anyone who objects to ironic depictions of Christ is not a “true Christian” but, rather, a “fundamentalist”.   So drawing Christ in an ironic setting is quite okay by you since you are happy to upset what you term Christian “fundamentalists”.

However, those who object to the depiction of Mohammed with a threat to murder (as in the recent Denmark experience) are not divided between “true” Muslims and “fundamentalists”. So you do not draw Mohammed since this would cause “civil unrest”.  And, in so far as depictions of Krishna are concerned, you are prepared to “take on board” criticism – likewise without bothering to distinguish between “true” Hindus and “fundamentalists”.

What if “fundamentalist” Christians and “fundamentalist” Hindus were to threaten to “foment civil unrest” if you continued to depict Christ and Krishna in ironic settings? Would you, and The Age, desist from running such cartoons?

The fact is – as you know but attempt to deny – there are no so-called Christian “fundamentalists” who would attempt to murder you on account of one of your cartoons.  You are able to annoy some Christians because they will turn-the-other-cheek.  But you are not willing to annoy some Islamist extremists because they would cut your throat.

The question remains, is your double-standard with respect to the Prophet an incentive to Christians to threaten cartoonists with what you term “capital” retribution? – by which, I assume, you mean murder.

Over to you.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

Email from Andrew Dyson to Gerard Henderson – 24 February 2011


If a reluctance to expose oneself, one’s kin and one’s society to violence can be descibed as “convenient” and “self-serving”, then mea culpa. I am not however convinced however that Christian fundamentalists, particularly the God-fearing, gun-toting variety, are as meek as you claim. It also intrigues me that you concentrate on castigating my admittedly inept depiction of Christ, while scrupulously avoiding the subject which motivated it – namely the contamination of the holiest day in the Christian calendar by filthy lucre. Could it be that you are representing the interests of those “Christians” who cheerfully conflate wealth and moral virtue?


Andrew Dyson

Email from Gerard Henderson to Andrew Dyson – 24 February 2011


Thanks for your (somewhat angry) note. I understand that errors of logic are sometimes fuelled by illogical rage. However, in view of your important role at the influential Age, I make the following response:

▪ It is you, not me, who posits the view that those whom you classify as “fundamentalist” Christians will not “foment civil unrest” in response to any of your cartoons which depict Christ in an ironic way. This is why you depict Christ in an ironic way – as your email of 23 February makes clear. In other words, you believe you can get away with satire with respect to Christ simply because Christians will turn the other cheek. You do not depict the Prophet in an ironic way because you believe that such a cartoon would be “at best an incitement to riot and at worst a capital offence” – your email of 23 February refers.

▪ I do not claim to be an expert on the alleged commercialisation of Easter Sunday in Victoria which so upsets you. However, as one who grew up in Melbourne during the 1950s and 1960s, I well recall that Easter Sundays were occasions of insufferable (non-commercial) boredom. There were no newspapers and no sport, virtually all shops (including restaurants) were closed, hotels were not allowed to open and so on. As I recall, most Victorians – including the overwhelming majority of Christians – welcomed what you now call “the contamination of the holiest day in the Christian calendar by filthy lucre”.

▪ As to the “contamination” of Easter Sunday by “filthy lucre”, what are you proposing? Are you recommending a return to Melbourne Easter Sundays of the 1950s and 1960s when virtually nothing happened? Moreover, what is your own personal stance? As an Age cartoonist and a columnist for The Sunday Age, do you regard the publication of The Sunday Age on Easter Sunday as an example of the “contamination” of Easter Sunday in the interests of what you quaintly term “filthy lucre”?

Over to you

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

PS: In answer to your question, I do not happen to represent “the interests of those ‘Christians’ who cheerfully conflate wealth and moral virtue”. I am an agnostic of Catholic background. I am not – and have never been – a Calvinist. So help me God.

* * * * *

Until next time – when the held-over critique of Alan Ramsey’s latest book will be addressed. Believe me.