29 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“Before going further can you write to confirm that these emails are private correspondence and not for publication”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: The Chaser Boys’ Prince Phillip/Adolf Hitler “Joke” plus Philip Luker’s Biography of Phillip Adams


● Geoffrey Robertson and Kathy Lette Do Homophobic Humour About Queens


● Scoop: John Pilger on Anzac Day 2012 as Told to Nancy


●  Can You Bear It: Featuring Livinia Nixon from Melbourne and Charles Manson from Corcoran State Prison (California)


● Nancy’s Five Paws Award: Step Forward Andrew Taylor on the Sulman Prize


● Nancy’s Old Bones: Digging up Dr Abjorensen’s Petrov Affair Conspiracy Theory





Nancy’s co-owners are dedicated republicans.  Even so, it is difficult to put up with the howls of outrage by The Chaser Boys (Average Age 38) that they have not been able to sneer at tonight’s wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton.  What a travesty.  Some of The Chaser Boys are married with children and managed to conduct their own nuptials without having to put up with commentary by (court) jesters.  But they thought that the Australian taxpayer should fund their mockery of the Royal Wedding – a Christian ceremony in Westminster Abbey – which was scheduled to be shown on ABC 2 this evening.  The likes of Julian Morrow, Chas Licciardello and Craig Reucassel have been banging on about their plight on such significant programs as Radio National Breakfast, Lateline, ABC News Breakfast and Q&A and more besides. Still, why give priority to such issues as the civil war in Lebanon, the US economy and Japan when our very own Chaser “Boys” have been slighted by The Palace?  Or was it Clarence House?

Last night on a special Q&A program, Tony Jones showed one of the clips which was to be inserted into The Chaser’s Royal wedding coverage.  It was not very funny – despite the soft target.  A Chaser “boy”, Andrew Hansen, depicted the Duke of Edinburgh as a vicious, anti-women racist.  The grossly offensive part of the piece (funded by the Australian taxpayer) is as follows:

Queen Elizabeth II: [Watching a black-and-white newsreel of Adolf Hitler – the Queen addresses Prince Phillip and asks] “What’s he [i.e. Hitler] saying?”

Prince Phillip:  “Oh, I’m not sure.  But if it’s about Jews, I agree with all of it.”

The Chaser’s “humour” depicted the Duke of Edinburgh as a supporter of Nazi Germany’s mass murder of European Jewry.  This is a Chaser “joke” in the worst of taste but one which ABC management wanted to put to air.

Sure, the Duke of Edinburgh has made a few indiscreet comments over his nine decades. But he has never supported Hitler or fascism.

Moreover, Prince Phillip’s idea of humour has not descended to the level entered into by The Chaser Boys – in that he has never sought to make fun of young children with terminal illnesses. See MWD Issues 13 and 14.  And when Britain went to war against Nazi Germany in 1939, Phillip put on the King’s uniform and served in the Royal Navy.  Which is more than can be said of the Communist Party at the time, which supported the Nazi- Soviet Pact.

MWD is quite willing to help out The Chaser Boys.  If “The Boys” (Average Age 38) are looking for some monarchical and/or religious ceremony to sneer at, why not focus on a royal wedding in Saudi Arabia?  Or why not make fun on the first day of the Haj in Mecca?  That would be fun. Lotsa fun. [In such an instance, the ABC might need to self-insure to cover instances of throat cutting, perhaps even beheading. – Ed].



The first reviews of Philip Luker’s Phillip Adams The Ideas Man: A Life Revealed (JoJo Publishing) will appear in newspapers this weekend.  MWD has obtained an early copy of the book and is surprised by Phillip Adams’ oh-so-sensitive reaction to the first biography about him.

Try this for size.  First up, PA threw the switch to ego and agreed to have a full scale biography written about him by Philip Luker. As Sally Jackson revealed in The Australian yesterday, Luker taped about 40 hours of interviews with Adams. Also PA gave his biographer the names of some 20 people he could contact.  But when the biography was in final form, PA spat the dummy and reneged on a commitment to attend a launch function advising the author: “Sorry, Philip, the families have vetoed my attendance.”

According The Australian, PA objected to the personal details contained about him in Chapter 12 which is titled “Phillip Adams’ Seven Women”. The seven women in question are his mother, his two wives and four daughters. That’s it, folks.

Also, the author obtained much of his material on PA’s personal life from a lengthy interview Adams did with Margaret Chalker for the National Library of Australia’s Oral History Collection in 1994 and from the 2001 ABC TV Australian Story program on PA and his second wife Patrice Newell.  As listeners of PA’s Late Night Live program or readers of his column in The Weekend Australian Magazine well know, Phillip Adams spends a lot of time talking and writing about himself and telling his version of his story.

MWD’s view is that Philip Luker’s most perceptive observation about Phillip Adams can be found on Page 61, when the author makes the following comment:

In spite of getting to know him [Phillip Adams] quite well, I didn’t once feel I could take the mickey out of him or crack a joke at his expense.  He doesn’t react well to criticism or jokes about himself, which I believe is a large reason why he has refused many other biographers’ requests for co-operation – he fears what they might write.  Maybe he thought I was too nice or straight a person to write uncomplimentary things about him.  I have just tried to paint an honest picture.

It seems that Phillip Adams actually expected that a biography about him would contain no references to his private life. Pretty naive, don’t you think?  Especially since PA just loves gossiping about the private lives of others. MWD will continue to plough though the inaugural biography on The Man In Black – and will keep you posted about any developments.




MWD just can’t wait for the end of the Royal Wedding.  At least this will stop London-based husband and wife team Kathy Lette and Geoffrey Robertson QC writing about the occasion.

Both Robertson and Lette are Australians who just love to move in London’s fashionable circles, among the British upper-class, while professing – prepare for the shock – republican views.  Geoffrey Robertson QC has an oh-so-toffy Epping accent – which is the type of accent one can acquire if one sublimely wishes to disguise the fact that one grew up in the Sydney suburb of Epping.

Ms Lette still sounds like a sheila from what in Sydney is termed The Shire (read Cronulla) but she has become the world’s leading punster.  You know, the type who talks about the optician’s daughter who drank two bottles of red and made a spectacle of herself.  That sort of thing. [God. Spare us. – Ed].

On 17 April 2011 Kathy Lette wrote an article for the Sunday Age which was titled “Where there’s a Wills” (pun intended). This was a predicable pun-laden republican rant which concluded that “it’s time for Australia” to have “a Windsor-ectomy”. Get it? [I’m sure they do – Ed].  Ms Lette commenced her piece: “Mention ‘the Queen’ to most Aussie kids and they presume you’re talking about Elton John.”  Funny eh?

Then, on 27 April 2011, the Canberra Times ran a similar rant by Geoffrey Robertson QC which depicted the Windsors as comprising a “White Anglo-German Protestant monarch”.  There were other references to the Windsors as a German family. This overlooks the fact that William’s mother (Diana), grandfather (Phillip) and great grandmother (Elizabeth, Queen Mother) are not of German stock.

They must recycle homophobic jokes in the Lette/Robertson household.  Robertson’s piece contained a reference to the possibility that an elected head of state in Britain might be Stephen Fry – following a “‘Stephen Fry for Queen’ campaign”.  Get it?

In his Canberra Times piece, which was published originally in The Independent, Robertson also referred to the 1701 Act of Settlement as “a blood-curdling anti-Catholic rant”. Maybe. But no more than Mr Robertson’s very own tome titled The Case of the Pope.


What a stunning piece on The Drum Opinion (15 April 2011) by ageing leftist John Pilger – who, amazingly, seems to look browner and blonder every year.  Titled “Anzac marching in the 51st state” (see here) it comprised Mr Pilger’s annual Anzac Day rant.  MWD was so impressed by this most recent Pilgerism that it commissioned John Pilger to talk to Nancy about Anzac Day 2012.  Sure it’s a bit early, but since John Pilger pilgers on in exactly the same way every time 25 April comes around, it will do.



The street where I grew up in Sydney was a war street.  Meaning a war bonds street. Meaning that the residents had committed money to the war effort. It was a long street.  And there were long silences followed by rifle fire, artillery shelling, aerial bombing, then the smashing of glass and the screams.  It was a war street. Or perhaps a war bonds street.  It was a long-time ago.  And it was (supposedly) peace-time.

Pete and I used to play Aussies versus Japs.  Being both blonde and patriotic (naturally, in those days) – we took the Aussie side.  And we beat the Japs every time. But we could not eliminate the sounds of war as Pete’s father, demented by military service, went over the top – so to speak – against his missus every Saturday night.  Then there was Wally, whose father had been “killed by the Japs”.  It’s bad enough when your old man has been killed in war – but much, much worse when this is depicted in inverted commas.  I know I’ve written about this in my much admired A Secret Country but repetition never did anyone any harm – especially when you are a freelance journalist and the ABC is paying.

The insidious, merciless, life-long damage of war taught many of us (including Pete and Wally) to recognise the difference between the empty symbolism of war and the actual meaning. That’s why we should have allowed the Kaiser to take what he wanted in 1914 and the Japanese in 1941 and so on.  I am sure this would have occurred but for war-lovers like Rupert Murdoch.

Anzac Day has become the preserve of those who manipulate the cult of state violence and rapacious power.  War-mongers like Robert Menzies, Rupert Murdoch, John Howard, Rupert Murdoch, Julia Gillard, Rupert Murdoch, Kevin Rudd and even Rupert Murdoch.

Rupert Murdoch controls 70 per cent of the capital city press.  If it was not for the ABC (which runs my commentary on The Drum Opinion) and SBS (which shows my documentaries) and the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age and the Canberra Times and the Australian Financial Review and commercial radio and commercial television and the internet no other voice would be heard in Australia. Not one.  All that stands between Australia and fascism are myself and my books and my documentaries and a few of my Murdoch-hating mates.  These days – on my new long street – Pete and I play Pilgers versus Murdochs.

This coming July, the Murdoch press has made it possible for Australia to be invaded – in a so-called training session – by a joint US-Australia military force firing laser-guided missiles, dropping bombs and blasting the environment.  It sounds like a contemporary version of the street where I grew up in Sydney.  It was a war street – or perhaps, a war bonds street.  At anyrate, it was a long street.  There were long silences, then loud noises. None of the men in the street would ever have got drunk or attacked their women if it was not for militarism.  Without Anzac Day, they would have drunk only tap water.

I am still upset about the “coup” against  the war-lover Kevin Rudd by the even greater war-lover Julia Gillard. It was all engineered by the US Embassy in Canberra.  On 6 April Gillard intoned: “We live in a free country…only because Australia answered the call when the decision came”. She was talking about the Sudan in 1885 and neglected to say that, in this far-away conflict, Sydney horses also “answered the call” and “paid the eternal price” – this equine sacrifice being all the greater for it having being depicted in inverted commas.

Israel.  I just thought I should mention this lawless state while I have the chance.  Likewise, The Greens – they are being set upon for criticising Israel.  The last time I saw Bob Brown he was as quiet as my (war) street in between hostilities.  It was a long street which seems to grow longer as I grow older.  I sometimes wonder whether the US military industrial complex is lengthening the street to turn it into a runway for the Joint Strike Fighter.  It’s the sort of thing the Yanks have done in the past.

Put out more flags for next year’s Anzac Day, boys.  I’ll be back from London to drag them down.



▪ Livinia Nixon: Inner-City Snob

In the March 2011 issue of the age (melbourne) magazine, [I just love the no caps style, Ed], the following exchange took place between interviewer Peter Barrett and the Channel Nine television personality Livinia Nixon.

Peter Barrett:  What is the one thing you always show to overseas visitors?

Livinia Nixon: Degraves Street in the city.  Even the graffiti adds an artistic touch to your morning coffee. [Go on – Ed].

Peter Barrett:  What is the one thing you never show to overseas visitors?

Livinia Nixon:  Melbourne’s sprawling suburbs. It takes an hour to get to the fringe of our city.

Peter Barrett:  Where do you get your coffee?

Livinia NixonKanteen, by the river in South Yarra.

Enough said. Presumably some of Channel Nine viewers live in the (dreaded) suburbs.  But Ms Nixon would never show their abodes to overseas visitors. Rather, there is the graffiti in Degraves Street, coffee at Kanteen by the Yarra River in South Yarra and an occasional meal of Pandanus Leaf Dumplings at Easy Tiger in Collingwood. How inner-city can you get? Can you bear it?

▪ Charles Manson – Not a Sceptic

Support for a carbon tax or emissions trading scheme may be declining in the suburbs.  But at least consciousness-raising remains high in the Californian prison system.  The Daily Telegraph in London reports that serial murderer  Charles Manson has given an interview to the Spanish issue of Vanity Fair in which he spoke out, in the following words, about climate change and all that:

Everyone’s god and if we don’t wake up to that there’s going to be no weather because our polar caps are melting because we’re doing bad things to the atmosphere. The automobiles and fossil fuels are destroying the atmosphere and we won’t have air to breathe. If we don’t change that as rapidly as I’m speaking to you now, if we don’t put the green back on the planet, and put the trees back that we’ve butchered, if we don’t go to war against the problem…

So there you have it.  Manson, who was the head of the cult called the Manson Family which butchered the very pregnant actress Sharon Tate in 1969, is accusing society of butchering the planet. Can you bear it?  Still at least he’s not a climate change sceptic or even a denier.  So it could be worse.




In a highly competitive field, this week’s prestigious gong goes to the Sun-Herald’s Andrew Taylor for his article last Sunday titled “Confessions of an art judge: I tossed a coin to decide”.

The story so far.  Edmund Capon, the director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, chose artist Richard Bell to decide the winner of this year’s (also) prestigious Sulman Prize.  Each year, the Sulman Prize is awarded for the best subject painting, genre painting or mural project by an Australian artist, in oil, acrylic, watercolour or mixed media.

Mr Taylor interviewed Mr Black and discovered the judging method of the 2011 Sulman Prize. Richard Bell used his own criteria to choose the short-list of 29 (out of 633 entries).  More than 20 of the 29 finalists depict animals.  Why animals?  Well, Mr Bell likes animals.  That’s why.  He also likes his friends.  So he had to accommodate both his mates and artists who had depicted animals.  Any problems? Not at all.  This is, after all, the Art Gallery of NSW.

And what about picking the winner?  Bell told Taylor that he wrote down the names of four artists whose work he liked along with four artists whose work he didn’t like.  He then scattered the names on a table and tossed a coin. It landed on Peter Smeeth – painter of The Artist’s Fate, winner of the 2011 Sulman Prize.

Andrew Taylor asked Edmund Capon what he thought about the judging process.  The director of the Art Gallery of NSW replied: “He’s [Bell’s] a stirrer by nature and I’ve no problem with that at all.”  [Was a similar selection process in place when Mr Capon got his job? – Ed].

Five Paws to Andrew Taylor – for his scoop on how art is judged at the Art Gallery of NSW.






The publication of Mark Aarons’ The Family File and the on-going release of ASIO and MI5 documents have reawakened interest in the Soviet Union’s espionage in Australia in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s and, in particular, the defection of Soviet diplomat Vladimir Petrov and his wife Evdokia Petrov to Australia in April 1954. Vladimir was the third secretary in the Soviet Embassy in Canberra and Evdokia was an Embassy staffer who was highly proficient in code-making and code-breaking.  The Petrovs were the most significant Soviet defectors of their generation.

For decades, the left in Australia maintained that what was termed the Petrov Affair was a set-up by Liberal Party Prime Minister Robert Menzies, who (allegedly) manipulated Vladimir Petrov’s defection in order to embarrass Labor leader Bert Evatt on the eve of the May 1954 Federal election.  This myth has been demolished by evidence but, since many believe what they want to believe, many leftists still believe that Dr Evatt was dudded by a gigantic conspiracy initiated by Robert Menzies with the support of ASIO director-general Sir Charles Spry and the compliance of Mr Petrov.

The current revival of the Petrov Affair has led to Nancy digging away in her numerous files. She recently came up with this old bone.

Writing in the Canberra Times on 5 September 1998, Norman Abjorensen reviewed the highly important book Breaking the Codes : Australia’s KGB Network 1944-1950 by Desmond Ball and David Horner (Allen & Unwin, 1998).  In this article, Abjorensen made a number of extraordinary claims:

Abjorensen’s Claim – Number 1

On the basis of what we now know, it would be perfectly reasonable to argue the following:

▪ That effective Soviet espionage ceased long before the Petrovs even arrived in Australia.

▪ That Vladimir Petrov was “fitted up” with information gathered from the Venona decrypts years before.

▪ And that the KGB was tipped off as early as 1948 that its secret diplomatic message traffic was being intercepted and decoded.

Reality Check

Norman Abjorensen’s claim was mad – barking mad.

▪ The Petrovs were involved in espionage up to their defection in 1954 and Soviet espionage in Australia continued well beyond 1954.  We know the names of some Australians who were involved in espionage on behalf of the Soviet Union – namely one- time Department of External Affairs operatives Ian Milner (who defected to Czechoslovakia in 1951), Jim Hill, Ric Throssell and probably John Burton. Almost certainly there were others in other areas of Australian society.

▪  There is no evidence that Vladimir Petrov was “fitted-up” with information gathered from the Venona decrypts.  The Venona decrypts resulted from the United States breaking of the Soviet Union’s codes in the 1940s. There was no way anyone in the US would have given sensitive material to a member of the Soviet Union’s Embassy staff in Australia or anywhere else. Information about the Venona Operation was only revealed in 1995 when the US began to release copies of the Venona transcripts. By then the Soviet Union was no more.

▪ There is no evidence that the USSR was tipped off in 1948 that its diplomatic messages were being intercepted and decoded.

Abjorensen’s Claim – Number 2

Less certain, but still well within the area of probability, is the likelihood that:

▪ Petrov was a “plant”.

▪ The three major arms of Australia’s espionage and counter-espionage effort – ASIO, ASIS, and DSD – were compromised from the outset given that they were established with the hands-on help of suspected Soviet “moles”.

▪ And ASIO and Liberal prime minister Robert Menzies used the information from the Venona sources to wage war on left-wing individuals and organisations.

Reality Check

On 23 September 1998, Michael Thwaites (the one-time director of ASIO’s counter-espionage branch) wrote to the Canberra Times as follows:

The suggestions in Norman Abjorensen’s article that the Petrovs’ identity was questionable, and that Petrov could have been a plant, are lunatic. They were permanent KGB officers with more than 20 years’ experience. I myself lived with them for many months in the safe house near Palm Beach, helping them to write their life story, Empire of Fear. Their accounts were scrupulous and were confirmed at many points. The Royal commissioners found the Petrovs to be truthful and accurate witnesses, submitting, as no other defectors have done, to cross-questioning in open court by hostile counsel.

Norman Abjorensen’s flirtation with the conspiracy that Vladimir Petrov was planted in the Soviet Union is crazy.  Absolutely crazy.  It is one of the great conspiracy theories of our time and would have involved the West “planting” Vladimir Petrov in Stalin’s Soviet Union in the early 1930s.

There are allegations that some Australian intelligence agencies were infiltrated in the 1940s.  However, there is no evidence that Robert Menzies used material obtained from the Venona intercepts to “wage war” on the Australian left.  Quite the contrary.  The fact is that, due to the West’s concern that the Soviet Union did not learn that its codes had been broken, none of the Venona material was used against either members of the Communist Party and/or Australians who were spying for the Soviet Union.  Not even the Royal Commission on Espionage, which first sat in 1954, was provided with information about the Venona transcripts.

Abjorensen’s Claim – Number 3

It remains a matter of record that Menzies was trailing in the polls leading up to the 1954 election, and a win for Labor then would have meant the end for Menzies, the end for ASIO and good night Charlie Spry.

Reality Check

If Abjorensen had done any research at all, he would have known that Menzies and the Coalition was not behind Evatt and Labor in the lead-up to the 1954 election.  As Robert Manne documented in his book The Petrov Affair: Politics and Espionage (Pergamon, 1987), the last Gallup Poll before the 1954 election, was taken in late March 1954. It had the Coalition and Labor equal at 49 per cent with 2 per cent of voters supporting Independent candidates.  So what Abjorensen claimed was a “matter of record” was anything but.

Dr Abjorensen – Academic

So whatever became of Norman Abjorensen?  Well, he became an academic at the Australian National University, that’s what, and is now teaching students public policy.  Dr Abjorensen also writes a column for the Canberra Times.  Which demonstrates that a one-time commitment to leftist conspiracy theories has seldom interrupted academic preferment Down Under.

* * * * *

Until next time.