GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG – ISSUE NO. 95

20 MAY 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“Before going further can you write to confirm that these emails are private correspondence and not for publication”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 : Margaret Simons – Mr Fraser’s Morally Superior Co-Author

● Alan Kohler’s Amazing Budget U-Turn

● Can You Bear It?  Kerry O’Brien Wonders About the PM’s Hair; Jenna Price Assesses the Cost of Free Love; John Menadue’s Brand New Abbott Conspiracy Theory; Richard Neville : All Dollars No Sense

● Howler of the Week: Lenore Taylor on China and the Surplus

Lateline : Loving Malcolm Turnbull and the Brits/Ignoring Stephen Harper and the Canadians

● Some Deborah Cameron Moments on Tony Abbott, the NBN and Larissa Behrendt

● Five Paws Award : Well done Chris Uhlmann

● Nancy’s Old Bones : When Malcolm Fraser Spoke Well of Mass Murderer Mao Tse Tung (circa 1976)

STOP PRESS – WESTERN MAN AND MORALLY SUPERIOR SHEILA WIN GLITTERING LITERARY PRIZE

Nancy’s co-owner has written about the historical howlers in Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs in today’s  issue of The Spectator Australia. This tome is a political autobiography written in the third person by the Rt. Hon. John Malcolm Fraser PC, CH, MA (Oxon), Hon. LLD (Sth Carolina), Hon. DUniv (Deakin), Hon. LLD (UTS), Hon. LLD (UNSW), Hon. LLD (Murdoch) and journalist Margaret Simons. [Gosh. Your man Fraser seems to parade as many honorary gongs as Phillip Adams – see MWD passim – Ed].

In awarding Mr Fraser and Ms Simons the NSW Premier’s Literary Award in the categories of “Book of the Year” and “Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction”, the judges commented:

The book at once describes a life of privilege – Western District, Melbourne Grammar, Oxford University – but also complicates it, by tracing the way in which values grounded in social justice and the public good have helped shape Fraser’s political vision.

So Malcolm Fraser was Western District, Melbourne Grammar School and Oxford University. But what about Ms Simons?  MWD does not know precisely where Young Margaret was born or educated but we do know that Adult Margaret is a morally superior person. [Thank God – Ed].

How do we know this?  Well, writing in the taxpayer funded Griffith Review in Winter 2005, Margaret Simons reported on her trip to a foreign land – the Fountain Gate Shopping Centre in Melbourne’s Eastern Suburbs, circa Narre Warren.  The graphic story of Ms Simons’ dangerous journey from inner-city, sandal-wearing Flemington to outer-suburban Narre Warren is told in Issue 37 (July 2010) of The Sydney Institute Quarterly.  Read this and marvel at Margaret Simons’ inner-city snobbishness and her apparent contempt for Fountain Gate types who have children, don’t wear hemp or silk and read Dan Brown.

The highlight of Ms Simons’ Griffith Review essay turned on her report of a discussion with a friend after her return from Narre Warren.  Ms Simons and her friend agreed – “over latte in the central city” – that “we are morally superior”.

Good show, then, that Western District/MGS/Oxford Man found a Morally Superior/ Inner-City/Sheila to help draft his political memoirs.

GREAT MEDIA U-TURNS OF OUR TIME (CONTINUED) – ALAN KOHLER STEPS UP

– Alan Kohler On Why Wayne Swan’s Budget Was Really A Dud

On Wednesday 11 May, the morning after the budget-night before, Alan Kohler bagged the 2011 budget. He maintained that the Gillard government is “hoping to get away with using the spin of fiscal prudence rather than the reality of it”.  Here we go:

Any decent CFO would be embarrassed by this budget. There has been an $8 billion blow out in this year’s deficit since the Mid Year Economic and Fiscal Review (MYEFR) last November, and a $10 billion blowout in next year’s deficit.

The return to surplus the year after, requiring a $26 billion turnaround in the bottom line in 12 months, is simply based on ignoring what’s happened and plugging in the same economic parameters for 2012-13 as before. It’s certainly not based on any savings measures by the government, despite all the spin to the contrary. The net effect of decisions made since last November on this year’s budget plus the budgets of the next two years is actually minus $2.5 billion. That’s right, decisions by Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan are worsening the budget position, not improving it….

In other words, it’s a wing and a prayer budget – keep spending, let the deficit blow out, and predict with a straight face that the commodities boom will bail us out eventually.

– Alan Kohler “Budget 2011: Australia on a Wing and a Prayer, The Drum, 11 May 2011.

– Alan Kohler On Why Wayne Swan’s Budget Is Possibly Okay

Then on Monday 16 May, Alan Kohler reviewed his position, praised the Treasurer and conceded that the restraint on spending outlined in the budget is achievable.  Here we go:

Last week’s budget had its faults, no doubt about that, but there’s actually a lot to like about Wayne Swan. If he stays the course that’s been set, history could be very kind to the Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister. There are four things for which he should be remembered well: (1) Australia’s lack of a recession in 2008-09; (2) 1 per cent per year growth in Government spending (if the projections in last week’s budget hold); (3) Not doing anything radical; (4) Not trying to be Prime Minister….

Wayne Swan’s budget projection of 1 per cent annual growth in spending is ambitious, it’s true, but at least that’s where his ambition is directed, not towards getting the top job.

– Alan Kohler “No Surplus of Ambition: Swan’s Biggest Plus”, The Drum, 16 May 2011

So there you have it. Or not.  Mr Kohler is editor of the online Business Spectator.

CAN YOU BEAR IT?

▪ Red Kerry On Ranga PM’s Hair

On 9 May The Australian ran an extract from Kerry O’Brien’s Wallace Wurth Lecture which was delivered at the University of New South Wales.  As would be expected, much of the extract was about “Red Kerry” HIMSELF.  The conclusion to the Four Corners presenter’s piece? Well, just that Kerry O’Brien is fair and balanced and all that. MWD, however, was much taken by the introduction of Red Kerry’s article – which read as follows:

A couple of random news moments caught my eye in recent days that I think are symptomatic of a serious malaise in the state of politics and of the media. A photograph of Julia Gillard at the royal wedding caught my eye and I thought, “Thank God she’s changed that hair”. But then I thought, “”Why do I care about what a political leader does with his or her hair?”. I found myself musing on how the Prime Minister had allowed herself to become so trapped by the media pre-occupation with her appearance. But why do so many of us allow ourselves to be distracted by the same shallow stuff?

So there you have it.  First Red Kerry thought about the Prime Minister’s hair.  Then he came to the view that he should not be caring about Ms Gillard’s hair style.  Then the Four Corners presenter opined – without any evidence, of course – that the Prime Minister has “allowed herself to become….trapped by media preoccupation with her appearance”.  But – has she?  Then Mr O’Brien wondered why so many of us allow ourselves to be distracted by such shallow stuff.

What a load of tripe.  Can you bear it? [Perhaps Red Kerry might choose to write for The Australian just how – at age circa 65 – his red hair remains, well, so red. – Ed].

▪ Jenna Price’s Not So Modest Proposal

Then there was MWD’s friend Jenna Price banging on in her Canberra Times column (17 May) yet again about herself, her husband, her children. There was a time when in her “late teens and early 20s” that La Price evangelised “for free love and zero population growth”. Then she caught the eye – and, apparently, more besides – of a bloke, got married and had children. [Was the love still free? – Ed]. By the end of her column, Ms Price had moved from talking about herself to proffering the following (gratuitous) advice to Julia Gillard:

…while I’d love the romance of a prime ministerial marriage and the endless stories of dress designers, shoe purveyors, floral arrangements (poor woman would probably have to wear a waratah or wattle) and menus, I’m just relieved that Julia Gillard is a model for a different kind of female life. If he asks, Julia, just say no.

Can you bear it?

▪ John Menadue Bags Opposition – Sans Evidence

Then on Radio National Breakfast on Wednesday, stand-in presenter James Carleton said nothing when Liberal Party critic John Menadue alleged that the Opposition is “cynically exploiting” the asylum seeker issue.  According to Mr Menadue, the Coalition has “admitted” that “they’d like to see more boats coming to Australia”.  John Menadue’s evidence for this assertion?  Zip.  Absolutely zip.  The implication was that Tony Abbott wants asylum seekers to arrive in Australia by boat so he can then criticise their arrival.

Can you bear it?

▪ Richard Neville – Generous To A Fault – With Other People’s Money

Then there is the Superannuated Leftie Richard Neville.  On last Monday’s “Drive Time with Richard Glover” program on ABC Metropolitan Radio 702, Richard Neville claimed that Australia was not even spending 5 per cent of Gross National Product on foreign aid when some other Western nations are spending 7 per cent.  When it was pointed out to Mr Neville that the relevant figures were 0.5 per cent and 0.7 per cent respectively, the Superannuated Hippie responded: “Well, my maths was never great.”  So it’s only (other people’s) money.

Can you bear it?

HOWLER OF THE WEEK – LENORE TAYLOR

While on the matter of the surplus – planned for 2012-2013 – the following exchange took place on Insiders last Sunday.

Barrie Cassidy : …Tony Abbott’s had a good line that he’s used during the week – that it’s a surplus made in China.  Is that a problem?  Should we be concerned by that?

Laura Tingle : Well where would he like it to be made?  I mean, that is the reality of things.

Lenore Taylor : Where were  Peter Costello’s surpluses made?

In fact, Peter  Costello brought the budget into surplus in the late 1990s –  and this surplus was made in Australia, essentially by very tough budget cuts.  The China boom for Australian minerals did not really commence until the early 2000s. By then, the Howard Government – which came to office in March 1996 –  was already running budget surpluses.

NANCY’S PICK-OF-THE-WEEK

LATELINE AND CANADA : THE ELECTION THAT DARE NOT SPEAK ITS NAME

Lateline presents itself as Australia’s pre-eminent current affairs program.  Yet it has barely covered the Canadian election, held on 2 May, which saw the return of Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party with a majority in its own right.  Mr Harper campaigned on Canada’s relatively strong economy and in opposition to the implementation of cap-and-trade system (a kind of emissions trading scheme) while the United States does not have a cap-and-trade scheme or a carbon tax.

Since –  of all the G20 nations – the Canadian economy is closest to that of Australia, you would have thought that Mr Harper’s emphatic victory would have encouraged news coverage in Australia. But no. It has all but been ignored – apart from a few pieces by columnists in The Australian and Sydney Morning Herald, a reference on The Bolt Report and coverage by The Spectator Australia.

On 3 May Lateline presenter Ali Moore reported on the election result in Canada in fewer than a hundred words – and without mentioning the fact that the victorious Conservative Party was the only party to oppose a cap-and-trade or an emissions trading scheme.

The Harper Government’s position is that Canada should not introduce a cap-and- trade scheme until, and unless, the United States does the same.

However, the decision of the Conservative Party in Britain to set a target of cutting United Kingdom carbon emissions to 50 per cent of 1990 levels by 2029 excited Lateline’s co-presenter Tony Jones.  Let’s go to the video tape where Tony Jones raised this matter with Liberal Party front bencher Malcolm Turnbull on Wednesday:

Tony Jones : Are you envious of your conservative colleagues in the British government who yesterday signed up to a carbon emissions reduction target of 50 per cent of 1990 levels by 2027? 50 per cent – 10 times what you and the Government have signed up to.

Malcolm Turnbull : Well, it is – the British Conservative Party has got a very different approach to climate change to the Liberal Party of Australia, which of course is its counterpart.

Tony Jones : But how do you account for that basic philosophical difference with two conservative parties?

Malcolm Turnbull : Well, it’s an interesting one. But David Cameron took the view, as did his – you know –  obviously his colleagues, that the Conservative Party had to be seen to take climate change seriously, that they had to be pro-active, that they had to be environmentally responsible.  And indeed, one of David Cameron’s campaign slogans was “Vote blue, go green”, or “Go green, vote blue”. And he in fact was, if anything, greener than the Labour Party in the UK political context.

You would never know this from watching the Tony Jones/Malcolm Turnbull interview.  But the British and Australian economies are quite different.  Australia’s economy is closest to that of Canada.  Tony Jones did not ask Malcolm Turnbull to discuss the basic philosophical similarity between the Stephen Harper led Conservative Party in Canada and the Tony Abbott led Liberal Party in Australia.

MANY A DEBORAH CAMERON MOMENT

▪  In Which DC Depicts Tony Abbott As A Bully

Meanwhile on the ABC Metropolitan Radio 702’s Mornings with Deborah Cameron – which doubles as the public broadcaster’s Green-Left-Daily – the presenter continues her campaign advocating that Opposition leader Tony Abbott change his policies and agree with her and her inner-city sandal-wearing leftie mates.

Take last Monday, for example. Here’s how Ms Cameron commenced her program:

Can an Opposition leader, making no effort at all to talk about the serious challenges that face Australia, take it all the way?  Do you sense a kind of bullying tone creeping into Australian politics, especially when the Opposition leader can have a budget in reply [that] doesn’t deal with anything serious at all?  Will Mr Abbott start to talk about some policy development?  At the moment you could easily cast him as selfish, self-righteous. You know: “Don’t listen to anybody and it’s all about people who are already doing well in the economy.”

This is a familiar Deborah Cameron manta – and the Green-Left-Daily presenter continually bangs on about her theme.  The only way that Mr Abbott could cease the onslaught is if he agrees with the Greens’ position on climate change.

Later, after the 9am News, Deborah Cameron continued her campaign when she introduced that day’s political forum – with guests Ross Cameron (a former Federal Liberal MP) and John Della Bosca (a former NSW Labor minister). Here’s how the Greens-Left-Weekly  presenter led off – with a long, long statement:

Deborah Cameron : Let’s start with this question, I suppose, of whether or not Australian politics and US politics has just got so many echoes at the moment. And you heard there, I don’t know whether you heard, Rob Oakeshott saying that some Tea Party brochures had been nailed to the door at his electorate office in his local electorate at the weekend because of that – with that – rally that was on.

Um, some of the little echoes that I have picked up – that first of all in the US they question the legitimacy of the President. So they say he wasn’t born in America. Here the attack is similar, [they] question the legitimacy of the Prime Minister – she wasn’t properly elected. There’s an attack on budget grounds in the US, it [the Obama administration] would impose tax increases on people earning $250,000 or more and that’s considered to be bad in the US. Here it’s $150,000, anything to hurt those people would be considered bad. In the US it’s called a Tea Party. Here it’s called a people’s revolt. Now what’s going on, are we basically seeing too many coincidences for it to be just lucky? What do you think, Ross?

Ross Cameron: Are you saying it’s a global conspiracy, is that what you’re saying?

Good point.  Ross Cameron picked up Deborah Cameron’s conspiratorial tone and went on to point out that many voters in Rob Oakeshott’s electorate – and elsewhere – were unhappy with Labor’s decision to introduce a carbon tax.

But Deborah Cameron was not letting up.  In her first question to John Della Bosca she voiced her opinion that Tony Abbott is a bully:

Deborah Cameron: John, do you want to talk about whether or not you can sort of sense a kind of a bullying tone that’s emerging in Australian politics. Especially when the Opposition leader can have a budget-in-reply which doesn’t deal with anything serious at all.

It so happened that the former Labor minister did not want to talk about this.  Instead he responded that Mr Abbott’s position on the Gillard Government’s broken carbon tax promise “does deal with something quite serious”.

Then it was time for another question to Ross Cameron.  The Green-Left-Daily presenter again went into lecture mode:

Deborah Cameron : Now, Ross, I suppose what I’m thinking about is – will Mr Abbott start to talk about some policy development? I mean, obviously there must be a lot of thinking going on inside the Liberal Party about what sort of country they want to run when they become government. So at the moment there is a slight tendency – or you could easily cast Mr Abbott as being someone who is looking after his – you could cast him as selfish, self-righteous. You know: “Don’t listen to anybody and it’s all about people who are already doing well in this economy, I’m not worried about anybody else in this economy.”

Now, what’s happening inside the Liberal Party, Ross? Is there a lot more people sort of saying: “Let’s talk about some of the policy stuff, let’s talk about middle-class welfare, in a really serious way” – as Malcolm Turnbull did just a day after the budget came down. So, you know, who’s talking about what?

Once again, Mr Cameron rejected Ms Cameron’s advocacy.  But the Green-Left-Daily presenter kept pursuing her case:

Deborah Cameron : So do you think that inside the Liberal Party, Ross, people are talking about some of these issues around the sustainability of Australia’s budget position? Because Mr Abbott says we will get back into surplus more quickly but “we won’t cut anybody’s extravagant welfare”.  I mean – is anybody saying: “Well, you can’t say that, it can’t be right”?

Perhaps Ms Cameron should go into politics herself.  The Greens might be able to find her a spot in the NSW Parliament within bicycle-riding distance from her inner-city abode.

▪ In Which DC Accuses Businesses Of Unlawful Conduct

There have been oh-so-many A Deborah Cameron Moment of late.  Here’s a sample from Nancy’s file.

On April Fool’s Day 2011 Deborah Cameron interviewed Kevin Brown from the National Broadband Network government monopoly.  The interview took place following the announcement that the NBN had not been able to agree on a price with around a dozen companies which put in a bid to lay out the NBN’s fibre cables to virtually all homes and businesses in Australia.

There were at least two interpretations here. First, all of the 14 bidders were proposing to charge the NBN too much.  Or, second, that the NBN had underestimated the commercial cost of laying out fibre for the network.

Not surprisingly, Ms Cameron, who has never worked outside of journalism and whose years in journalism primarily occurred when newspapers received “rivers of gold” from classified advertisements, went with the government monopoly.  Initially she accused the 14 companies concerned of “fattening up the bid believing that they could get away with it”.  From there it was just a small step to accuse private sector businesses of corruption:

Deborah Cameron: Now among those 14 parties, I imagine that their boards and their shareholders will be very fascinated to hear that they have conducted themselves in this way…of what some people may regard as, you know, like almost unconscionable behaviour by some of them.

So here is Deborah Cameron, who has never worked in business and who has no knowledge of the NBN negotiations, accusing the management of many key Australian companies of “unconscionable behaviour” – merely because they refused to agree to undertake work for the NBN at a certain price.

▪ In Which DC Lets Larissa Behrendt Off The Hook

Then on 20 April Deborah Cameron discussed the tweet sent by Larissa Behrendt concerning indigenous Australian Bess Price which read as follows: “I watched a show where a guy had sex with a horse and I’m sure it was less offensive than Bess Price”. The tweet related to Ms Price’s defence of the Northern Territory Intervention on Q&A on Monday 11 April.

Ms Cameron claimed that the Behrendt message “sounds a particularly shocking tweet out of context”.  Deborah Cameron failed to state in precisely what context such a tweet might be judged acceptable. [Perhaps if it was directed at Tony Abbott – Ed].

Verily, many A Deborah Cameron Moment – or three.

FIVE PAWS AWARD – CHRIS UHLMANN STEPS UP 

The ABC is often falsely accused of being pro-Labor and anti-Coalition.  There is some truth in this analysis some of the time.  However, it is more accurate to describe the public broadcaster as criticising both the Coalition and Labor – from the left.  In his decade or so as ABC 7.30 Report presenter, Kerry O’Brien conducted aggressive interviews with Labor and Liberal politicians.  But can anyone remember a tough interview which he did with Senator Bob Brown or any other Greens MP?

Things seem to have changed on the newly named 7.30. Last Tuesday 7.30 co-presenter Chris Uhlmann interviewed Greens leader Bob Brown and – surprise, surprise – asked him some tough questions. Let’s go to the transcript:

Chris Uhlmann : That $11 billion that you’re talking about is money that he would forego in the mining tax, and I noticed you started your budget and reply speech just there. How would you replace the $50 billion a year in export income which comes by way of coal – an industry that you’d shut down?

Bob Brown : Well, a lot of that money is bouncing straight back out to shareholders overseas. Now what we’re…

Chris Uhlmann : A lot of that money is circulating in the economy. It’s creating jobs, Senator. It’s bouncing through to our cities.

Bob Brown : Yes, Chris, and what we would do is take the advice of the Treasury of this nation and recoup the $145 billion over the next 10 years through a super profits tax. Tony Abbott says…

Chris Uhlmann : But you can’t recoup it if you shut the industry down.

Bob Brown : Treasury…

Chris Uhlmann : If you shut the coal industry down there won’t be that money…

Bob Brown : I’m sorry…

Chris Uhlmann: ..available to you.

Bob Brown: I’m sorry, Chris, Treasury has no intention to shut the industry down. it tends to- it tends…

Chris Uhlmann: No, but you do.

Bob Brown : No, I’m not.

Chris Uhlmann : Didn’t you say back in 2007 that we had to kick the coal habit?

Bob Brown : No, I did not. You’re looking at the Murdoch press, where I said back in 2007 we should look at coal exports with a view to phasing them out down the line.

Chris Uhlmann : It wasn’t the Murdoch press, it was a comment piece that you wrote. So you want to phase out the coal industry?

Bob Brown : The world is going to do that because it is causing massive economic damage down the line through the impact of climate change.

Believe it or not, the leftist community group GetUp!, which campaigned against Tony Abbott in the 2010 election, has commenced a campaign against Mr Uhlmann. GetUp! said nothing when Kerry O’Brien got stuck into Mr Abbott.  But if anyone criticises Saint Bob Brown, Simon Sheikh and his mates throw the switch to outrage.

What was Chris Uhlmann’s alleged error? Well, he had the temerity to remind Senator Brown that he had written an opinion piece in The Australian on 12 February 2007 advocating that Australia “phase out coal exports” – just after the Greens leader suggested that he had been verballed by the “Murdoch press” and denied that he had ever made such a claim. Shocking.  Quite shocking.

Chris Uhlmann – Five Paws.

NANCY’S OLD BONES – WHEN MALCOLM FRASER ADMIRED MASS MURDERER MAO

By popular demand, MWD’s Nancy’s Old Bones segment has been tasked to dig up some matters which you will not read about in Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs, co-authored by former prime minister Malcolm Fraser and journalist Margaret Simons.

Let’s start with Mao Zedong, China’s pre-eminent leader from the victory of the Chinese Communist Party in October 1949 until his death in September 1976.  There is only one reference to Mao in Fraser’s political memoirs – it turns on the fact that he was ill when Fraser visited China in June 1976.  That’s all.

When Malcolm Fraser became prime minister in November 1975, it was well known that Mao was the leader of the totalitarian communist dictatorship which suppressed human rights.  The purges in China had commenced as early as 1951 – and had continued up to Mao’s death.  The worst excesses occurred during what was called the Great Leap Forward (which ran from 1958 to 1962) in which tens of millions of Chinese died – and the Cultural Revolution (which ran from 1966 until Mao’s death in 1976) in which around one hundred million  Chinese were purged and perhaps a couple of million died.

As someone who had attained a reputation as an anti-communist in the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s, Malcolm Fraser knew about Mao’s murderous ways.  Yet, when Mao died on 9 September 1976, Mr Fraser pretended that China had lost an outstanding leader who would be mourned by all Chinese. Really.

▪ On 9 September 1976 Malcolm Fraser issued a press release titled “Death of Mao Tse Tung” (see here) in which he referred to “the sorrow felt in China at his passing”.

▪ On 10 September 1976, the Governor-General Sir John Kerr (acting on the advice of his government) and Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser sent a condolence message to the Chinese government (see here) Mr Fraser referred to Mao’s “unique achievement in many fields”.

▪ Then, on 14 September 1976, Malcolm Fraser moved a condolence motion in the House of Representatives – see the press release titled “Condolence – Mao Tse Tung” here.  Mr Fraser’s remarks were supported by Labor leader Gough Whitlam, Deputy Prime Minister Doug Anthony, Labor deputy leader Tom Uren and Labor front benchers Mick Young and Bill Hayden.  The Liberal MP William Wentworth used the occasion to state that “Mao murdered a thousand times as many of his own countrymen as Mussolini ever did”.  His was the only voice of protest. During his speech in the House of Representatives, Malcolm Fraser made the extraordinary claim that Mao “achieved peace internally…for China”.

Mr Fraser’s condolence motion was passed with members standing in their places.  But not all of them.  Liberals William Wentworth and Kevin Cairns and National Party MP Col Carige walked out of the Parliament before the vote passed.  So did Labor frontbencher Dick Klugman, who condemned the “hypocrisy” of the occasion.  Dr Klugman commented: “Where do we draw the line.  Do I have to pretend I am sorry when Idi Amin dies?” (The Age, 15 September 1976).

The repression that occurred in China under Mao’s rule was widely known at the time – due, in part, to the reports of refugees who had fled China and escaped to Hong Kong.  There were numerous accounts in English of Mao’s tyranny, by Chinese and others. In his recent book Mao’s Great Famine: The History of China’s Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-1962, Frank Dikotter documents that in China “at least 45 million people died unnecessarily between 1958 and 1962”.  According to this estimate, some 2 to 3 million Chinese were “summarily killed” while others died of hunger and disease as a direct consequence of Mao’s policies.  There was a period of respite after 1962 but in 1966 Mao launched the brutal Cultural Revolution which devastated China for close to a decade.

Malcolm Fraser’s praise for the mass murderer is not referred to in Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs.  Nancy will continue her search for other embarrassing facts that cannot be found in the Fraser/Simons tome.

* * * * *

Until next time.