GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG – ISSUE NO. 91   

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“Before going further can you write to confirm that these emails are private correspondence and not for publication”   

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

Media Watch Dog – “disgraceful”, “sick” – Professor Robert Manne, April Fool’s Day 2011   

● Stop Press: Liberty Sanger Goes Over the Top on ABC TV   

    

● Vale Peter Ruehl   

    

●  Nancy’s Pick-of-the-Week: Margot Saville’s Crikey Fudge   

    

● Exclusive: What Catherine Deveny Told Nancy   

    

● John Barron Tries to Get Prof Behrendt Off-the-Hook   

    

● Five Paws Award: Bob Carr Picks Flaw in John Pilger’s SBS Doco    

    

● History Corner: Phil Kafcaloudes’ Petrov Affair Howlers   

    

    

STOP PRESS   

    

Liberty’s Race Clanger   

    

What a stunning performance by Liberty Sanger – she of Maurice Blackburn Lawyers – in the newspapers section on ABC TV News Breakfast this morning.  The sassy Ms Sanger invariably barracks for Labor on her slot – which is okay since the program also uses Tim Smith, who invariably barracks for the Coalition.   

It’s just that this morning Ms Sanger went over the top.  Commenting on a story in The Age concerning a visit to Malaysia by Scott Morrison, the Opposition’s Shadow Minister for Immigration, the Melbourne solicitor declared :   

I don’t know if anyone’s told Scott Morrison there are people with different coloured skin over there in Malaysia.   

Ms Sanger acknowledged that her comment was “gratuitous”. Sure was – although insulting and inaccurate are more appropriate.  So what did presenters Michael Rowland and Beverley O’Connor say when a regular News Breakfast commentator depicted Mr Morrison as an ignorant racist?  Answer –  Zip.   

Then at the end of her slot, Liberty Sayer threw the switch to self-indulgence, declaring:   

Liberty Sanger: I couldn’t help but mention this. My friend and colleague Bernard Murphy has been appointed to the Federal Court. He’s the first Victorian solicitor to be appointed and we’re very proud of him. I’m personally very proud of him. But the firm’s very proud of his achievement. He’s really pioneered class action litigation in Australia. So it’s a terrific appointment for him, it’s a terrific appointment for the country. And I think we can see some great things coming as a result of this with respect to the processing and advancement of class action claims.   

What a plug for Maurice Blackburn Lawyers.  However, for a qualified solicitor, Ms Sanger has a peculiar understanding of the role of the judiciary.  She seems to believe that M’learned friends – once appointed to the bench – advance claims.  How about that?  Neither presenter commented on this. But, earlier in the segment, Beverly O’Connor accused Tony Abbott of engaging in a “scare campaign” on carbon tax.  How frightfully Aunty.   

VALE PETER RUEHL   

The American born Australian Financial Review columnist Peter Ruehl, who died earlier this week, will be missed.  His column was always readable and invariably irreverent – and it packed a punch.   

Peter Ruehl believed in free markets and opposed the cant of the Greens.  Indeed, his last column – published on 5 April – was a put-down of the left’s obsession with regulation. It led to a serious rebuttal by leftist John Passant, who accused Ruehl of engaging in “a classic Stalinist tactic”.  This overlooked the fact that the author was a humourist.   

Peter Ruehl was no right-winger. He was very much in the tradition of the social democratic and anti-totalitarian wing of the Democratic Party in the United States. In his final column, Peter Ruehl bagged the Greens’ Lee Rhiannon and Fiona Byrne, distanced himself from the Tea Party, defended Israel and explained why families needed cars and roads to drive them on.  It was too early an exit – but a fine one, nevertheless.   

NANCY’S PICK-OF-THE-WEEK   

    

CRIKEY’S MARGOT SAVILLE – GREAT ON FROCKS: NOT SO MUCH ON FACTS   

What a stunning piece of journalism in Crikey yesterday by the inner-city type Margot Saville, who reported on Julia Gillard’s speech at The Sydney Institute’s 2011 Annual Lecture.  It was titled “Sydney’s sparkling elite gather to hear Julia kick the bludgers”.   

Great theory.  Pity about the facts. No one knew what the PM was going to talk about until she got to the podium [Don’t tell me that Crikey still can’t afford a fact-checker. Ed].  According to Ms Saville, the Prime Minister’s speech was “along the lines of ‘Let’s get those horrible dole-bludgers back to work and no ranting shock jocks can stop me from giving you your medicine’”.  Thankfully, Ms Gillard’s speech contained more appropriate words than the Crikey depiction.   

Ms Saville referred to businesswoman Gail Kelly as “wearing a rather glam pink and green Diane von Furstenberg [What the hell is this? – Ed]. She also depicted the Prime Minister as “clad in a great bronze-coloured jacket”. [Can you remember what that Margot woman was wearing? – Ed].  Alas, Ms Saville did not describe the attire of any of the male guests in the 840 strong audience.  Perhaps next year.   

Margot Saville, who bought her own ticket, advised Crikey readers about the (alleged) collective view of her table which, she claimed, “was admittedly heavy on bankers and miners”. This worked well in her piece – which claimed to depict Sydney’s “business and political elite”.  It’s just that it was not true.  That’s all.   

Margot Saville was on Table 62.  Her co-diners comprised (i) the UNIFEM representative in Australia and her spouse, (ii) a female academic, (iii) the female principal of a government high school in Western Sydney, (iv) a male small-business consultant, (v) a female writer and (vi) a male astronomer – in addition to a mining executive and a banker and his spouse.  So there was just one banker and one miner on Margot Saville’s table.   

Still at least Crikey readers were spared yet another account of how Ms Saville travels from inner-city Rozelle such-a-long-way-to-the-Penrith-River so her female off-spring can go rowing with her school chums.  It’s almost another country out there and there’s barely a DVF dress in sight.   

THE DRUM UNLEASHED TO THE DRUM OPINION   

Nancy has noticed that The Drum Unleashed has been re-branded The Drum Opinion.  How daring – and what a good use of taxpayers’ money.  On Wednesday The Drum editor Jonathan Green published a piece by the stand-up comedian Catherine Deveny. She became a sit-down comedian for a time when she was employed by The Age’s editor Andrew Jaspan to write columns mocking Age readers who were (i) Christians, (ii) lived in the suburbs and (iii) had some teeth missing.  See MWD passim.  Mr Jaspan and Ms Deveny have since been sacked by The Age.   

In recent times, Catherine Deveny has reverted to stand-up comedy along with some paid gigs at the ABC.  On Wednesday 13 April The Drum published Ms Deveny’s rant about the decision of organisers at the Logies to stop Twitter feeds during this year’s award.  The opus magnum was titled “No Twitter at the Logies?  Desperate, typical, boring” and can be accessed here.   

   

CATHERINE DEVENY GIVES NANCY THE DRUM   

    

Early this morning, just after the pubs closed, MWD was fortunate to obtain the following piece by Catherine Deveny as told to Nancy.  It’s a scoop.   

No Twitter at the Logies? Crap, Crap, Crap    

This morning I was woken up at 7 am by a call from ABC Radio.  The f-ckers at the public broadcaster usually call me at 7.10 am if they want me to mock the Christian consumers tripe who live in the suburbs (as I used to do), believe in Christianity (ditto) and shop at Westfield (as I once did).   

I am always happy to slip off my slut-nightie and whack on my media-whore hat. Then I sit starkers – except for a hat, of course – and tell the f-ckwits of Melbourne that they’re all mother f-ckers.  ABC producers love it and always ask me back.  Only problem is that the call today was 10 minutes early.  But I still managed to do a rant about the old blokes who want to stop twits like me bagging 11 year olds at the Logies.  Pretty fascist, yeah?   

For a moment, I thought I would keep my slut-nightie on and give Red Symons a miss.  He can look after himself (wink, wink).   But then I thought about my show God is Bullshit. It’s going really well and is as full as a f-cking brothel on f-cking pay day. But it might get another season since, so far, the audience has not contained any of the toothless-in-Reservoir suburban types, those obese track-suit-clad  Herald-Sun readers, who are so mind-f-cked that they go to the football in winter and drink beer in summer and believe in God and private education and private health and all that non-government crap.  God. I have studied theology and know that he’s just a boring old (male) fart with dandruff.   

You know, the lot that I used to write about in my Age column when Mr Jaspan was in the editor’s chair. Perhaps the fat, hopless pricks might turn up to see me if, by chance, they hear me naked on the ABC while parking their cars on their front laws and scratching their lice-ridden hair along with their arses early in the morning.   

I have decided to re-name my gig at the Melbourne Comedy Festival “God is Bullshit But Allah is Great”. I would not want to give the wrong impression.  As I said to sexy Tony Jones on Q&A on 7 February, I am focusing on bagging the Catholic Church right now.  I used to be a Mick and I know they turn the other cheek.  This is quite different to some members of the Muslim Brotherhood who I’m told are known to cut the cheek of comedians who make a living out of mocking Allah.  I rather like my neck.  And, hey, have you ever laughed at a neckless comedy chick?  Know what I mean?   

I was badly treated by The Age who just didn’t get my joke about how I hoped 11 year old Bindi Irwin would get laid and gave me the sack.  It was a joke taken out of context. I don’t know what the context was but I know that the joke was taken out of it.   

As for this ban on tweeting at the Logies – whataloadofcrap.  I have never been offensive on Twitter – not even to those toothless, track-suit clad, obese consumers who were not only born in Reservoir but still live there. Can you believe it?   

I went to Melb. Uni, just up Sydney Road from Brunswick, for four years.  I used to deliver the meat on Tuesdays, do stand-ups on Wednesdays and fall-downs-pissed on Fridays. It’s what I call a full, very full, education.  Look at me now. Catherine Deveny AC, BA (as in Anti-Christ and Bullshit-Artiste).   

Here’s a flash for you.  There is a lot to be said for alcohol.  I learnt the alphabet at Melb Uni while throwing up one night in the dunny near the Optometry School, where they used to place all those letters on the back of the dunny door.  Or was it the front?  Or the side?  I was so pissed I can’t remember.  But it worked. I didn’t learn every letter.  But I learnt enough with the help of Age sub-editors to sneer at the less educated types and God-botherers of the Christian dimension.   

Before that, I thought that all that A to Z bullshit was for wankers. But ever since I have been able to use my literary skills, with the help of a sub-editor or six, to write about the-toothless-Christian-fat-football-fans who don’t live in the Socialist Republic of Moreland and don’t attend my God is Bullshit gig (now showing at the Melbourne Comedy Festival – a few tickets available at the door this evening).   

Tonight in my God is Bullshit gig there is a special discount for bloggers on The Drum.  Just avoid the “Retarded Queue” – it’s for residents of the Reservoir Ghetto who have to bring their Centrelink papers and who will be encouraged to partake of warm bowls of sick at the Interval.  Laugh!  I’m a comedian remember.  Bring your own whore hat.  Slut-nighties optional.   

Catherine Deveny’s thoughts – as told to Nancy – appear every now and then in MWD.   

JOHN BARRON RATIONALISES ATTACK ON BESS PRICE   

    

It was not long ago that ABC presenters were advised not to state their own views – lest this detract from their perceived ability to engage in fair and balanced interviews.  Not any more.  Under nice Mr Mark Scott, ABC personalities are encouraged to state their positions and advocate their causes – especially on The Drum TV program and on The Drum website.   

Last Wednesday, Radio National Breakfast presenter Fran Kelly used an appearance on The Drum to accuse Opposition leader Tony Abbott of conducting a scare campaign on climate change and to direct such terms as “nonsense” and “ridiculous” at fellow panellist John Roskam from the Institute of Public Affairs.  It was a remarkably partisan performance.   

Then last night discussion on The Drum turned on the revelation in The Australian yesterday morning that indigenous Sydney based academic Larissa Behrendt had criticised Darwin-based Aboriginal leader Bess Price, who supported the Commonwealth Government’s intervention in the Northern Territory on Q&A the previous Monday.  Professor Behrendt is one of nine self-identifying indigenous Australians who have taken action against News Limited columnist Andrew Bolt. Professor Behrendt and her co-plaintiffs allege that Bolt vilified them in newspaper columns where he focused on their non-Aboriginal heritage.   

On Thursday, The Australian ran a Page One story that Larissa Behrendt had sent out the following tweet on Monday night, following Q&A, viz:   

I watched the show where a guy had sex with a horse and I’m sure it was less offensive than Bess Price.   

Now imagine what would have been the reaction if Andrew Bolt had made such a comment about Professor Behrendt.  Just imagine.  But on The Drum last night John – with the support of presenter Tim Palmer – worked so hard to rationalise Behrendt’s attack on Price.   

John Barron : Well, when the words are repeated to her [Larissa Behrendt] and taken out of their context, of course they’re offensive. But if you simply have an individual expressing a view to another individual…who is a friend, saying, you know: … “Frankly I was more offended by what Bess was saying than the other thing that I was watching which was pretty offensive” . Now in that context … You lose subtlety in a 140 characters or less.   

Tim Palmer : Quite. Quite.   

John Barron : – and certainly lose context when it gets put on the front page of The Australian…   

Tim Palmer: John Barron, would it usually warrant its position on the front page of The Australian, do you think?   

John Barron : Oh I think it’d be too cynical to suggest that it’s only there because of the case involving Andrew Bolt…   

Tim Palmer : Yep, quite.   

John Barron: –  and Larissa Behrendt. I’m sure there’s no square up.   

    

John Barron’s final comment was laced with sarcasm.  His pitch on The Drum was that Professor Behrendt’s comment was not really offensive if read in context and in view of the fact that there is an 140 character limit on Twitter. What’s more, The Australian should not have run the story on the front page and only did so to assist News Limited in its defence of Andrew Bolt.   

But would John Barron have said this, say, if Mr Bolt had directed the same insult at Professor Behrendt? Not on your nelly.   

FIVE PAWS AWARD   

    

Bob Carr Nails John Pilger on the Stalinist Wilfred Burchett   

MWD knew what to expect before turning on SBS on Sunday to watch yet another John Pilger documentary featuring John Pilger. You see, The-Guardian-on-the-Yarra had given The War You Don’t See five stars before it went to air.   

In The Age’s “Green Guide” on 7 April 2011, Paul Kalina declared that your man Pilger “is used to getting under the skins of warmongers, imperialists and those who wield and abuse power”. [Sounds like Nancy and her mates – Ed].  However, this time around, he is directing “tough criticism” at his own profession who engage in embedded journalism and who report wars while embedded with its military forces in such places as Iraq and Afghanistan. In the same edition of the “Green Guide”, Briget McManus described Pilger’s The War You Don’t See as not only “truly life-changing” but also “brilliant and brave”. [We’ve got the message – Ed].   

In fact, The War You Don’t See was more of the (pilgerised) same. There was lotsa Pilger talking to camera and giving soft interviews to his mates while climbing into any junior official of the United States government who was silly enough to submit to a recorded interview.   

MWD was about to doze off when – lo and behold – Pilger played part of a 1983 interview he did with Wilfred Burchett, whom he described simply as “an Australian reporter”. What Pilger did not say is that Burchett lived  outside Australia for most of his life and was in the pay of various communist totalitarian regimes from Moscow to Beijing to Hanoi.  Burchett’s communist past was documented by Robert Manne in his essay “The Fortunes of Wilfred Burchett”, which was published in the August 1985 edition of Quadrant.   

Many of his contemporaries believed that Burchett was a traitor who collaborated with North Korean forces who tortured Australian POWs during the Korean War – including the late Brigadier Phillip Greville who died last month.   

In 1951 Wilfred Burchett wrote People’s Democracies: A Factual Survey (see below) in which he defended every Stalinist regime from Moscow to Warsaw to Sofia to Budapest to Prague and on to East Berlin.  The book’s focus was on Bulgaria and Hungary.  In People’s Democracies, Burchett defended the Stalinist show trials – including that of Cardinal Mindszenty in Budapest – and supported the persecution of the intelligentsia and the suppression of human rights in communist controlled Eastern Europe.   

In his blog last Tuesday, former NSW Labor premier Bob Carr drew attention to the fact that Pilger declined to tell his viewers that Wilfred Burchett himself was an embedded journalist during the Korean War and the Vietnam War.  As Bob Carr commented:   

It is Pilger’s total absence of self-awareness that stands out. Here he is, delivering cutting criticisms of embedded journalists in the Western cause. So far so good. But he resurrects an old interview with Wilfred Burchett. This veteran he treated uncritically, not for a moment touching on the irony: Wilfred Burchett, an Australian born, Soviet-line propagandist, was embedded in the armies of North Korea and North Vietnam, and produced slobbering praise of their wartime exploits. Burchett was the most embedded journalist in 20th century history, excluding perhaps the German Nazi newsreel teams that gave us footage of the Fuhrer on the steps of the Paris Opera in June 1940.   

Quite right.  Wilfred Burchett was embedded with the North Korean and North Vietnamese armies when they engaged the Australian Defence Force on the field of battle.   

Bob Carr – Five Paws.   

   

HISTORY CORNER   

    

PHIL KAFCALOUDES STUFFS UP ON THE PETROV AFFAIR    

The Petrov Affair is part of Australian political history.  On 3 April 1954, Vladimir Petrov (the Third Secretary at the Soviet Union embassy in Canberra) defected.  On 19 April 1954, Evdokia Petrov (Vladimir’s wife) also defected.  Like Vladimir, Evdokia was an employee at the Soviet Embassy in Canberra – she was highly skilled in coding and became one of the most important Soviet defectors during the Cold War. At the time of his defection, Vladimir Petrov was a colonel in the KGB, the Soviet secret police, and in charge of the USSR’s spy activities in Australia.   

The defection of Vladimir Petrov was announced by Prime Minister Robert Menzies in the House of Representatives on 14 April 1954. He set up the Royal Commission on Espionage (sometimes referred to as the Petrov Royal Commission). The Menzies Government was returned at the Federal election held on 29 May 1954.   

On Monday 4 April The Australian, the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age reported that The National Archives in Britain had released thousands of pages of MI5 documents relating to the Petrov Affair.  The Australian gave this story the largest coverage and followed up with a further coverage in The Weekend Australian last Saturday.   

On 4 April ABC Radio Australia’s Phil Kafcaloudes joined Virginia Trioli and Michael Rowland on the ABC TV News Breakfast program to discuss the morning’s newspapers.  Discussion soon focused on The Australian’s coverage.   

Inaccurate Assertion   

Let go to the video tape:   

Phil Kafcaloudes: This…. takes us back to 1954-1955, the Petrov defection. Now it’s probably basically the only time we’ve had some real spy intrigue in this country and the papers talk about what the truth was behind the scenes with Petrov – because we’ve only known a little bit.  And the story at the time, if you know, was that Petrov was a Russian Embassy worker. He and his wife defected, they got on a plane to – or they were basically forced on a plane – I think it was at Darwin that they were, that  Russian Embassy security officers tried to force them back to Russia after they defected.   

Fact Check   

    

▪ The Petrov Affair was not “the only time we’ve had some real spy intrigue in this country”. In 1963 the First Secretary at the Soviet Embassy in Canberra Ivan Skripov, was expelled from Australia.  In 1983 another Soviet diplomat, Valeriy Ivanov was expelled from Australia.   

▪ Vladimir Petrov defected in Sydney – it was Evdokia Petrov who broke free from her Soviet guards and then formally defected at Darwin Airport.   

▪ Russia was not an entity in 1954-1955.  The Soviet Union, comprising Russia and many other nations, existed between 1922 and 1991.   

    

Inaccurate Assertion   

Let’s go back to the video tape:   

Virginia Trioli : The other side of the story is really fascinating – which is the suggestion  that Britain should seriously consider withholding intelligence from the Australian government if Labor won that year’s Federal election because of fears that Labor was not only infiltrated by, but maybe captive to, the views and philosophies of the Communists.   

    

Phil Kafcaloudes : Because Doc Evatt, who was the Opposition leader at that time, fought really hard against Robert Menzies’ referendum that the Communist Party be outlawed. He said that it should not be outlawed   

    

Virginia Trioli : No. He went on a stump tour around Australia and you know, from every man woman and their dogs, he just individually persuaded them. It was one of the most remarkable acts of advocacy you’ve ever seen.   

    

Phil Kafcaloudes : And he was a great advocate, he was a strong advocate. He was the Chief Justice of New South Wales and he managed to do it – so he won the referendum on that one.   

Fact Check   

▪ There was no relationship between the Menzies Government’s failed attempt to ban the Communist Party of Australia in 1951 and the fact that Sir Charles Spry, the director-general of ASIO, decided that Evatt could not be trusted with documents relating to the Petrov Affair if he became prime minister in 1954.   

In 1951 Dr Evatt led the “No” campaign in response to Menzies’ attempt to pass a referendum banning the Communist Party.  There was a plausible case for and against banning the CPA and Evatt was entitled to take the position he did.   

By 1954, however, it had become clear that Evatt was compromised by his association with the pro-communist left. As the Royal Commission on Espionage revealed, two members of Evatt’s office had close contacts with the Soviet Embassy in Canberra. Moreover it was known that, when Evatt was Minister for External Affairs in the late 1940s, there was an active spy ring operating in the Department of External Affairs. The spies included Ian Milner, Jack Hill and Ric Throssel (the son of communist writer Katherine Susannah Pritchard). Also John Burton, the onetime head of External Affairs who was close to Evatt, was suspected of being a Soviet agent.   

By the mid 1950s it was evident that Evatt had a serious mental illness and subjected to wild mood swings.  In view of Evatt’s mental condition – and his association with Australians who were spying for the Soviet Union in Australia or who were close to the Soviet Embassy – it is understandable why ASIO did not trust him with documents.   

▪ Evatt was a High Court justice between 1930 and 1940 when he went into politics.  He led the “No” case against the Communist Party Referendum Bill in 1951 in his capacity as ALP leader.  Evatt did not become  Chief Justice of New South Wales until 1960 – by which time his mental illness was severe. He stepped down from the court in 1962.   

Inaccurate Assertion   

Here we go to the video tape again:   

Phil Kafcaloudes : Australia was such a small country in those days. And, you know, what power do we have? We don’t have a lot now but we had even less back in those days. But it’s interesting. Who made the warning? Who said to British MI5 that, if Evatt gets in power, don’t give him the stuff? It was Charles Spry. Now Charles Spry was the head of our security services at that stage. So here we have an Australian saying to the British “Don’t give us information”…. Poor Evatt couldn’t take a trick could he? You know, he should have been the prime minister back in ‘55.   

Michael Rowland: He would have been a great prime minister.   

Phil Kafcaloudes : He would’ve been an interesting prime minister. But then Labor split in half and that was it for him.   

Fact Check   

▪ Australia’s population in the mid 1950s was around 10 million. But this did not make Australia an unimportant country.  Australia was part of the Western Alliance during the Cold War and shared top-secret intelligence with the United States and Britain.  That’s why the Soviet Union infiltrated the Department of External Affairs in the 1940s and 1950s. In other words, Australia was a crucial part of the Western alliance. As head of ASIO during the midst of the Cold War, Charles Spry was entitled to give priority to the security of the West and to warn the US and UK governments – if such a warning was necessary – that Bert Evatt could not be trusted.   

▪ Bert Evatt was the principal reason why the Labor Party split in late 1954/early 1955. As Labor leader, Evatt launched an attack on the ALP’s Victoria Branch in 1954, which set in train what became the Labor Split – which ran from 1955 to 1957.  Evatt led the ALP to defeat in 1954, 1955 and 1958.  Bert Evatt would in all probability have been a disastrous prime minister and many Labor identities now concede this. In any event, Dr Evatt was the principal reason why he never became prime minister.   

+ + + +   

Until after Easter when the long promised critique of Alan Ramsey might, just might, eventuate.