25 MARCH 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

“Before going further can you write to confirm that these email are private correspondence and not for publication”

– ABC News Radio’s Marius Benson, 11 March 2011. He did go further – see MWD Issue 86.

Andrew Jaspan Gets a Government Handout

● Exclusive – Robert Manne’s Diary : As Told to Nancy

● Chris Uhlmann’s Veiled Confusion

● Peter FitzSimons on Cardinal Pell (Again)

● Yet Another Look at the Guardian-on-the Yarra

● A Deborah Cameron Moment : On John Howard and Murder

● Nancy’s Old Bones : Where’s Bill Hartley?

● Correspondence: David McKnight Writes to MWD from UNSW on the Tea Party & Murder



Andrew Trounson reports in The Australian this morning that The Conversation website is underway – per courtesy of the Australian taxpayer, of course, to the tune of $2 million.

Andrew Jaspan, the former (failed) editor of The Age, managed to get the Commonwealth and Victorian governments (in Victoria the funding commitment was made by the Brumby Labor government) to stump up $2 million to fund The Conversation.  Mr Jaspan also managed to receive taxpayers’ funds via the likes of Melbourne University, Monash University, the University of Western Australia, the University of Technology – Sydney, the Australian National University and the CSIRO.

The idea of The Conversation website is to publish contributions by academics and researchers.  As Andrew Jaspan put it in The Australian today:

It’s a valid new way of exchanging ideas and encouraging debate, and hopefully out of that we’ll end up with a well-informed citizenry and maybe even better public policy.

[How noble that the British-born Mr Jaspan has plonked himself in the colonies in order to educate the citizenry – Ed].

The fact is that – hopefully or not hopefully – there is nothing new about The Conversation concept.  It’s just a taxpayer funded handout to do what is already being done by numerous organisations – that is, publishing papers on-line.  As the former (very able) editor of The Age Michael Gawenda has pointed out, “it’s up against a digital world full of opinion”.

Still, The Conversation will keep Mr Jaspan away from the Centrelink queues for at least three years – when he can go cap-in-hand again to seek yet another taxpayer funded handout.  Andrew Jaspan is The Conversation’s editor. His team already includes a general manager and a technical director and a managing editor plus ten section editors along with a chief designer and a chief architect and a principal engineer and a head of systems engineering plus a business manager.  This list does not include the board of directors and advisers or the editorial board. [Does The Conversation’s website list a tea-making architect? – Ed].

The leading article in the inaugural issue of The Conversation covers tomorrow’s State election in New South Wales. It contains an article by Sydney University academic Anika Gauja  which commences “all the signs point to a landslide victory for Barry O’Farrell and the Liberal National Coalition tomorrow”.  [Does Ms Jaspan really believe that this is an insight worthy of taxpayer funding? – Ed].

The next article is by leftist academic Rick Kuhn, who is affiliated with the Socialist Alternative.  This is very much a pro-Greens leftist rant which bags Labor and the Liberal Party-National Party Coalition.  Rick Kuhn describes former NSW Labor premier Bob Carr as a “policy thug” and alleges – without any evidence of any kind – that he “stirred up anti-Muslim racism for electoral purposes in the late 1990s and early 2000s”.

Rick Kuhn depicts Labor as a “capitalist workers party”, [Don’t they use apostrophes at the ANU?], bags alleged “scabs” and advocates a challenge to “the logic of production for profits”.  Dr Kuhn (for a doctor he truly is) seems unaware that it is the profits from production that fund his taxpayer funded lifestyle at the Australian National University.  Before he was an academic, Dr Kuhn worked in the public service. When Rick Kuhn is not writing for The Conversation he maintains a website titled “Marxism and bird watchers” which asks readers to provide “examples of the synergy between Marxism and bird watching”. Fair dinkum.


On the way to Canberra last Friday, Nancy turned her mind to the 19 March 2011 edition of The Spectator Australia.  Her eyes moved quickly to Page V titled  “Diary: Robert Manne”. What a hoot.  The word “I” was used on more than two score occasions – in addition to lotsa “me” and “my” and “we” and so on.  This almost beat Professor Manne’s own record, established in 2004, when he used the words “I”, “my”, “me” and “myself” on more than 150 occasions in an article in the Good Weekend (13 November 2004).  Robert Manne even managed to use the first person pronoun on three occasions in the final two sentences – which consisted of a mere 25 words. Well done.

Nancy was much impressed by Professor Manne’s Diary in The Spectator Australia – in which he (i) reported on a speech which he was surprised to find himself giving, (ii) quoted from his daughter’s inaugural political speech on the need to save the planet, (iii) renounced Rupert Murdoch and (iv) stated his regard for Julian Assange.  Oh yes, Robert Manne also diarised against the (alleged) habit of ABC TV to depict necrophilia-motivated murders after dark.

Nancy cannot reproduce the genius of Robert Manne’s “Diary”. The real thing can be read here –  The Diary – Robert Manne.  But Nancy has arranged for Professor Manne to talk to her in his sleep on occasions.  So MWD is proud to produce this inaugural occasional exclusive –  titled “ Robert Manne’s Diary as told to Nancy”. Here we go. Oh yes.

La Trobe University, where I have been on the taxpayer drip since last century.  Or was it the previous one? I blame Rupert Murdoch for my occasional memory deficiency.  I think myself – and my wife Anne agrees with me – that this is due to the electro-magnetic waves from the Fox News Channel in New York.  It was a pleasure to receive a call from that neo-conservative/reactionary/CIA- operative/climate change denier/economic rationalist Tom Switzer – who edits The Spectator Australia.  Young Mr Switzer also works for the United States Studies Centre (which received funding from the reactionary quasi-fascist Howard Government) and is attached to the Australian American Association (with which Rupert’s late father was associated).  Say no more.

It’s a wonder that I take Tom’s call.  But I do. That’s the kind of professor I am.  Tom wants me to write The Spectator Australia “Diary” page for the 19 March issue.  For a while I reflect on the morality of writing for a magazine which is a bit like Fox News without Rupert Fox. But not for long.  After all, it’s not every day that someone rings you up and offers you $800 or thereabouts to write about yourself and your wife and your kids and your latest long-winded article in The Monthly.  So I accept.

Here I am, sitting in my air-conditioned office at La Trobe University (where I have been for 37 years) writing on my computer.  The lights are on.  I have just driven in from my abode at Cottles Bridge where Anne and I have lived for three decades.  We have thought about moving to a solar-panel mud-brick terrace on Merri Creek at inner-city Northcote from where I could row to The Monthly’s office near the Yarra in Collingwood whenever necessary. I am editorial chairman of The Monthly – which is run by my friend Morry Schwartz, an eco-conscious multi-millionaire property developer with a conscience. I kid you not. But we have stayed at Cottles Bridge.  Now it’s time to worry about human-induced global warming.  Mankind is facing an eco-catastrophe. And so is Womankind.  And so is Transgenderkind (we all believe in gender neutral language at La Trobe).  Sometimes I am surprised to hear myself saying:  “Has anyone noticed how the earth only really commenced heating up after Rupert Murdoch started Fox News?”  Moreover, I sometimes hear myself answering: “Yes”.  Nearly four decades at La Trobe does this to you.

Last night, Anne and I were going to watch ABC 1 at 8 pm.  But we decided not to.  I would like to think that we were motivated by a desire to reduce carbon emissions in the lead-up to Earth Day.  But the truth is that we are just sick of all the necrophilia-murder series which the seemingly nice Mr Mark Scott insists on running on the public broadcaster between the end of the 7.30 Report and the beginning of Lateline.  It’s not just the immorality involved.  Anne and I also happen to passionately believe that such depraved one-sided activity leads to unnecessary carbon emissions.  And the planet is cooked enough already.  Leave the recently departed – departed. This we believe.  We now endure the no-complication-nudity which screens regularly on SBS.

Yesterday, Anne and I heard our daughter Lucy deliver her inaugural public oration for the Get Up! set at the Treasury Gardens in Melbourne in support of a carbon tax.  A brilliant speech.  We were just so proud.  Sure it’s a pity that a microphone was needed for the occasion. And that it is too far from Cottles Bridge to the Treasury  Gardens to ride our bikes – if we had bikes.  But I have always thought to myself that there is reason to generate my own personal carbon emissions if the task at hand is to attend demonstrations which urge others to reduce their carbon emissions.  It’s what I call the Sting Principle.

Lucy was wonderful – she is devoting her life to the global warming issue.  We were moved to tears when she said: “We shall fight climate change deniers on the beaches, we shall fight them in vegan restaurants and in second-hand sandal shops, we shall fight them in the dark (to reduce carbon emissions), we shall never surrender.  And we hope for many taxpayer subsidies to help us save the planet from the emissions of taxpayers”.  Wonderful.  Quite Churchillian, when you think about it. Just shows that Lucy has very, very clever parents. I was astonished when Fox News reported that no one was there to hear our Lucy. What a bare-faced lie.   Anne and I were there.  This just shows you the reach of what I call the Fox News Effect – as I said to Anne. Or did Anne say this to me?  It seems a long time ago now.

I am so pleased that Julian Assange has emailed me telling myself that he loved my brilliant piece on him printed in The Monthly – which was extracted in The Weekend Australian.  It was worth all the carbon emissions involved.  I am greatly heartened that Mr Assange, who is also brilliant, took the time to wade-through my 20,000 words without commenting on the turgid repetition.  No one understands Young Julian better than I do.  Also, brilliant Julian shares my view  that the Fox News Effect is the greatest calamity to hit the globe since Moses was a boy. Or a girl. Or a transgender type.

Yet, life has its moral issues.  Should I accept Rupert’s payment for the extract in The Weekend Australian?  Should I? – I ask myself again. And I answer “Yes, I should”. Vladimir Lenin wrote in Left-Wing Communism : An Infantile Disorder that he wanted “to support Henderson [the British Labour politician, Arthur, not the other one] in the same way as the rope supports a hanged man”. I say – and Anne and Lucy agree – that Rupert’s money should support me so that I can rail against him and the Fox News Effect.  I would love to develop this theory further.   Young Mr Switzer, can you give me a call next week?  Perhaps I could write another “Diary” – with the help of Nancy, of course.


MWD regrets the demise of the “Kerry O’Brien Report” on ABC 1.  It used to provide lotsa material.  The new 7.30 is travelling well under the Leigh Sales/Chris Uhlmann team. It’s just that both need to brush up their religious knowledge.  Remember how Ms Sales wrote that Martin Luther, the German clerical firebrand who commenced the Protestant Reformation, was really a doubting type who was unsure of himself?  See MWD passim – ad nauseum.

Last night Chris Uhlmann interviewed Opposition leader Tony Abbott on 7.30.  In a discussion, which the presenter initiated, Mr Abbott was asked about his attitude to the burqa.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Chris Uhlmann : So you have no problem with the burka?

Tony Abbott : Um, like John Howard, I find it confronting. I would prefer that people didn’t wear it, but I don’t believe that it should be banned in this country.

Chris Uhlmann : And were you ever taught by a veiled woman, Tony Abbott?

Tony Abbott : Exactly right. I have written on this subject, Chris. I have gone public and said that given the Christian tradition from which I hail, it would be a bit rich to become too sniffy about Muslim women who would prefer to keep their faces hidden.

Chris Ulhmann, who lets it be known that he trained for a while as a seminarian, should be aware that Catholic nuns in the 1960s and earlier never wore burqas – and never covered their faces.  They covered their heads, in much the same way that a hijab is worn by many Muslim women. That’s all.  Nancy’s co-owners well know that nuns had the peripheral vision required to monitor and control young children in the classroom.   The nuns never could have done so dressed in a burqa (full face covered) or a niqab (half face covered).  Messrs Ulhmann and Abbott should know this.


Did you read that born-again atheist Peter FitzSimons banging on again about Cardinal George Pell in last Sunday’s Sun-Herald? Mr FitzSimons commenced his weekly column with the following disclaimer:  “I seriously try to stop myself, but I just can’t.”  [Did Fitz happen to learn to write about himself from Robert Manne? – Ed].

Seriously addicted, The Fitz Files proceeded (once again) to bag the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney. He depicted Cardinal Pell as believing “that there is an alpha male who lives above the clouds and is watching us all” and “that 2000 years ago a virgin gave birth to a child whose father was God, and when that child was later crucified it rose again”.

Fitz seems unaware that belief in God, in Christ as the Son of God and in the Resurrection is common to most Christian faiths – and is not the preserve of Catholics in general or Cardinal Pell in particular.

It’s just that Peter FitzSimons never mocks such Christians as Archbishop Desmond Tutu or President Barack Obama for their beliefs.  Which suggests that Fitz’s obsessive compulsive critique of Cardinal Pell is driven by anti-Catholic sectarianism rather than broad brush atheism.

So much so that Fitz believes that conservative Catholics – and Catholics virtually alone – are responsible for the increase in world population. This is not the case.  See the correspondence here (Gerard Henderson and Peter FitzSimons correspondence) where Nancy’s co-owner tried to bring Peter FitzSimons’ attention to the fact that the largest number of births occur in Sub-Saharan Africa – where no one much follows the teachings of the Pope in Rome.  But don’t expect any reduction in Fitz’s anti-Catholicism soon – addicts tend to be set in their ways.


Why do the Labor Party and the Greens bother about employing media advisers when they have “The-Guardian-on-the-Yarra” for no cost at all?  Below  is Thursday’s Page One lead in The Age. The heading “To-ny, To-ny: poster boy for a crowd of ‘fine Australians’” mocked the Opposition leader’s comment that the No Carbon Tax Rally – which he addressed outside Parliament House last Wednesday – was attended by “fine Australians”.  The break-out featured The Age’s Michelle Grattan describing the occasion as “unfortunate” and Julia Gillard condemning “radio shock jocks”. There was no break-out reporting Tony Abbott’s views.


Meanwhile yesterday in Sydney on Metropolitan Radio 702 the Mornings with Deborah Cameron program (aka “Green-Left-Daily”) focused on Tony Abbott.  In “The Spin Doctors” segment after the 9am ABC News, Ms Cameron spoke to Sam North and Tim Allerton. First up, Deborah put it to Sam that Tony Abbott “did lose his way” at the demonstration. Sam agreed – declaring that Mr Abbott’s “got a problem”.  All was going smoothly until – lo and behold – Tim did not fully agree with Deborah. Let’s go to the audio tape:

Tim Allerton: The difficulty…with Mr. Abbott’s position is, in regards to this, is he can’t control what’s being said in the crowd and what’s on the signs. So perhaps he put himself into a difficult situation. But I mean this is not new having rude placards. I remember in the Iraqi War protests, for example, there were lots of placards with John Howard described as a “murderer” which is pretty serious stuff as well. So, unfortunately, rallies attract those sort of lunatic fringes – as Sam says.

Deborah Cameron : But is that right, though?

Tim Allerton : Being called a murderer is pretty strong, I would’ve thought.

Deborah Cameron : But any president, prime minister – you know – leader anywhere who commits troops to war might cop that. That’s not about “You’re a bloke who’s a murderer”, it’s not about “You’re a woman who’s a murderer”. That’s just a comment, right?

Tim Allerton : Yeah, but it doesn’t matter whether you’re a man or a woman, you’re still a murderer.

Deborah Cameron : Yeah

Tim Allerton : And that’s pretty strong commentary I would’ve thought.

Deborah Cameron : But it is gender neutral.

Tim Allerton:  Yeah.

Deborah Cameron:  So, it’s not this time, though.

Tim Allerton :  It’s pretty strong language I would have thought.

So there you have it.  First up, Ms Cameron declined to believe that John Howard had been called a murderer during the Iraq War protests circa 2003.  Then she suggests that such word usage would be acceptable – provided it was gender neutral since he committed the Australian Defence Force to war.  Presumably Ms Cameron would also believe it acceptable to depict World War II prime minister John Curtin as a murderer since he also committed the ADF to war.  But circa 1941 it was only the Communist Party which labelled Mr Curtin as a murderer.

Truly, A Deborah Cameron Moment.

By the way, at the top of this segment, Ms Cameron declared that Mr Abbott could not produce “a witness” – preferably a senior Liberal woman – who would support his appearance at the No Carbon Tax Rally. Had the “Mornings With Deborah Cameron” staff listened to the 9am ABC News that very morning, they would have known that Opposition shadow minister Sophie Mirabella did front up to the media to bear witness to Tony Abbott concerning the No Carbon Tax Rally.


Where’s the radical leftist Bill Hartley when you most need him? [I believe he died in 2006. Ed].

Mr Hartley, the one-time secretary of the Victorian branch of the Australian Labor Party, used to be the go-to man Down Under for Colonel Muammar Gaddafi – as head of the Australian Libyan Friendship Society or some such.

Labor finally came to its senses and expelled Hartley in 1986.  As Philip Dorling revealed in the Canberra Times on 8 December 2008 (see below), ASIO files released by the National Archives in 2008 indicated that Mr Hartley was paid $20,000 in the 1970s by Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq – payments which he never declared.  That was a lot of moola.  It is also known that in 1975 Bill Hartley and Gough Whitlam and ALP national secretary David Combe negotiated with Saddam Hussein for Labor to receive a donation of funds from Saddam’s Ba’th Socialist Party. The money never arrived and the trio were disciplined by the ALP national conference.

It is not clear how much money Mr Hartley received for his efforts on behalf of the Gaddafi regime.  Meanwhile there is evidence that some – but only some – of the leftist luvvies who visited Libya in 1989 have had second thoughts. The 1989 delegation to Libya included the likes of Hartley’s mate George Crawford, Joan Coxsedge, Jean McLean, Michael Mansell and Irina Dunn.  Writing in The Australian on 24 February 2011, Milanda Rout reported that Ms Dunn and Mr Mansell had had second thoughts.  But not Ms Coxsedge.



It is very much an article of faith among the left intelligentsia that the Tea Party organisation in the United States – and its alleged imitators in Australia – are fostering a climate which will lead to political violence. The certainty among the left on this issue was illustrated by the Web Poll which ABC News Radio ran on 10 January 2011 – just after the attempted murder of US Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.  It read as follows:

Is American right-wing political “hate-speak” responsible for the Arizona massacre?

Ask a leading question and you will invariably get the sought-after answer.  And so it came to pass – with 72 per cent of those who replied agreeing with the loaded question and 28 per cent disagreeing.

MWD Issue 87 drew attention to the fact that Professor David McKnight had also implied that the Giffords shooting was linked to the Tea Party – without providing any supporting evidence for his assertion.  Dr McKnight’s article originally appeared in the ABC’s on-line publication The Drum Unleashed.  This led to the following correspondence between David McKnight and Gerard Henderson.

David McKnight to Gerard Henderson – 23 March 2011

I’d like to respond to your criticism of me in your Media Watch Dog.

On the attempted assassination of Gabrielle Giffords, you misquote me. You said that I stated that the assault was a “consequence of the Tea Party’s political advocacy”. I never used those words and I don’t know why you put them in quote marks as if I did. Elsewhere you say “there is no evidence whatsoever to support his assertion that Jared Lee Loughner – who is accused of shooting Ms Giffords and murdering six others – had any connection of any kind with the Tea Party.”

But I did not assert that Loughner had a connection with the Tea Party.  What I said was that the Tea Party “has spawned an extremist fervour one consequence of which was the attempted assassination of the US Congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords.”   I believe that the extremist fervour was one driver of the shooter’s behaviour.  This is my assessment, but you disagree. So be it.

I also want to deal with the more serious claim you make when you published an article I wrote 35 years ago in which I was skeptical of claims that the Khmer Rouge regime was conducting a widespread massacre of Cambodians.

On this point I was grievously wrong in my skepticism and the subsequent facts demonstrate this.

At least you published the whole article, rather than selective quotations, since those who read it will see that it was an article written in ignorance, not a defence of genocide. Moreover, it acknowledged that “there does seem grounds for assuming that some reprisals followed the war in Cambodia”. But as, I say, I was deeply wrong on my skepticism of reports which correctly alleged that a far bigger and more brutal program of mass murder was underway.

It hasn’t taken your re-publication of this article to evoke these comments from me. The scales fell from my eyes after Vietnam’s invasion of Cambodia in December 1978 which revealed the horror of murder camps like Tuol Sleng to the world. I later referred publicly to the 1976 article which you published and my embarrassment about it.  For example, in one article I criticised those on the Left who uncritically embrace any movement which seems “anti-imperialist” .  I said that Cambodia was “an early lesson”.

I then wrote: “At first, reports of Pol Pot’s insanity were simply dismissed by the Left (including this writer) as American propaganda. How could it be otherwise? The Americans had predicted a blood bath in Saigon. It did not happen. Now they were claiming it occurred in Phnom Penh. It took an invasion by the communist Vietnamese (subject to Pol Pot’s border raids) to convince us.”  (Arena magazine, Feb-March 2003). I re-iterated the lessons for the Left in my book Beyond Right and Left: New Politics and the Culture War (2005) where I said:

The death of socialism also arises from a long string of fallen idols – Leftist leaders or socialist regimes which have failed to overcome problems such as ethnic conflict with terrible results (Yugoslavia), or have  quickly become party dictatorships of varying degrees of physical repression (Cuba, Vietnam, China, North Korea), or which have imposed barbarities that are unequalled (Cambodia). (p. 113)

Like many people, I have made mistakes . What is important is that I’ve learnt from them.

David McKnight

Gerard Henderson to David McKnight – 24 March 2011


I am happy to run your email of 23 March 2011 in tomorrow’s Media Watch Dog – in full.

However, I believe you protest too much about being misquoted.  It is true that, due to a typographical error, I referred to you saying that the attempted assassination of Gabrielle Giffords was a “consequence of the Tea Party’s political advocacy”. The quotation marks should have been around the word “consequence”. This has been corrected.

But earlier in the piece I ran, in full, your comment about the Giffords shooting in The Drum Unleashed on 11 March 2011. And you did argue that the shooting of Ms Giffords was “one consequence” of the “extremist fervour” which has been generated in the United States by “the Tea Party phenomenon”.

I emailed you on 16 March 2011 asking for any evidence you might have to support your assertion. You did not reply.  In your email of 23 March 2011 you provide no evidence to support your assertion in The Drum Unleashed and simply comment “I believe” and “this is my assessment”.  That’s opinion – not evidence.

If you were still writing polemics for the Communist Party newspaper Tribune, such an evidentiary standard might be acceptable.  But you wrote your “Abbott’s Tea Party on climate fears” article for the taxpayer funded The Drum Unleashed in your taxpayer funded capacity as “associate professor at the Journalism and Media Research Centre, University of New South Wales”.

In my view, an associate professor who uses his academic title on an article should be able to provide evidence for his assertions in such an article.  Belief is just not good enough.

I accept what you say about your attitude to the Khmer Rouge in 1976 and I am aware that you renounced your one-time naivety about communism some years ago.  The late Dick Klugman sent me a copy of your 1976 Tribune article in the late 1980s, when he was Labor MP for Prospect.  I always hoped to give it a run somewhere, for the record.  And your article in The Drum Unleashed, where you made an assertion without supporting evidence, provided a suitable opportunity to display your naivety, which appears to be of an on-going nature.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

* * * * *

Until next time.  When the much promised piece on Alan Ramsey may appear.  God – and Nancy – willing.