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“Before going further can you write to confirm that these emails are private correspondence and not for publication”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

“Go to the Sydney Institute Media Watch Dog website to marvel at [its] work” – Mark Latham The Spectator Australia 11 June 2011

Ian McPhedran on Janette Howard

● Nancy’s Pick-of-the-Week: Anne Maria Nicholson’s Carbon Cate Silence

● Five Paws Award: Guy Pearse on Dick Smith and Joe Hildebrand on Cate Blanchett – with a Little Help from Robert Manne and Mark Latham

● Malcolm Fraser’s “No Water” Prediction Goes down the Plug Hole

● A Deborah Cameron Moment: Who Cares About the Cattle Industry? And Does Anyone Know who Judith Sloan Is?

● Can You Bear It? : The Herald-Sun Hot and Cold on The Lodge; The Drum Promo Bags the Libs Again; UNSW Academic Looks at Abbott and Sees Lenin (What a McKnight)

● History Corner: Looking Back on Labor Leader Bert Evatt’s Mental Instability – With a Little Help From Peter Crockett

● Correspondence: Arguing the Toss About Liberal Rule As Shown on SBS


Ian McPhedran Looks At Janette Howard – Sees Lady McBeth

Did you hear “The Journos’ Forum” on Richard Glover 702 Drive program last night?  News Limited journalist Ian McPhedran made quite a few sensible points, including on Afghanistan.  However, towards the end of the program he threw the switch to hyperbole.  There was a discussion about the Anthony Weiner scandal in the United States, focusing on the response of women who have to put up with, well, Weiners. It was at this point that Ian McPhedran declared that Janette Howard had a solution to this (potential) problem – namely “she never let John Howard out of her sight”.

What nonsense.  It is true that, when John Howard was prime minister, the Howards spent a lot of time together. Even so, especially in the early years of his prime ministership, she spent more time at Kirribilli House in Sydney and he spent more time at The Lodge in Canberra.  Moreover, for much of their marriage the Howards did not see each other for days, sometimes weeks, at a time.

There are so many myths about the John Howard/Janette Howard relationship. Last night Ian McPhedran provided another one.


Anne Maria Nicholson’s Carbon Cate Moment

While on the topic of myths, what a stunning report by ABC journalist Anne Maria Nicholson on ABC TV News Breakfast on Thursday.  This was the morning after the night before when Ms Nicholson had interviewed the gorgeous Cate Blanchett at the State Theatre in Sydney on the occasion of the opening night of Hanna.

Ms Nicholson’s questions on Hanna – which is set in spy-land, were of the: “You’ve played many roles – this one a spy – do you ever fancy being a spy?”  Good one, eh?  This would be like asking Ms Blanchett whether she ever fancied being a queen or being a junkie following the opening nights of Elizabeth or Little Fish respectively.

However, the highlight of the interview occurred when the journalist asked the Academy Award actor about the controversy following her decision to take part in a television advertising campaign in support of a carbon tax. This is how the ABC journalist popped the question:

Were you surprised that some politicians suggested that you spend most of your time in Hollywood and you really have no right to be, you know, talking about these Australian political issues?

It is true that Cate Blanchett was criticised for lecturing others about the need for action on climate change while having one of the largest personal carbon footprints Down Under.  And  it is true that some politicians drew attention to the fact that Ms Blanchett was advocating a carbon tax for Australia while spending much time in Hollywood in the United States (which does not have either a carbon tax or an emissions trading scheme).  But MWD is not aware of any politician who said that Cate Blanchett had no right to express her views.

Perplexed about the source of the ABC reporter’s question yesterday, MWD wrote to Anne Maria Nicholson, in the following terms:

I would be grateful if you could advise whom you had in mind when asking this question.  In other words, who are the politicians who said that Cate Blanchett had “no right to be talking about” climate change?

Alas, there has been no reply. [Strange that. I thought that nice Mr Scott encourages ABC journalists to respond to such queries – Ed]. Could it be that Anne Maria Nicholson simply made up the claim that some (unnamed) politician said that Ms Blanchett had no right to be talking about a carbon tax?  We’ll keep you posted if Ms Nicholson comes up with any evidence to support her (undocumented) assertion on national television.


Believe it or not, in recent times Robert Manne (in private correspondence initiated by him) and Mark Latham (in the look-we-have-no-fact-checker Crikey newsletter) have both suggested that it’s hypocritical for anyone who lives like Nancy’s co-owners to criticise Ms Blanchett for burning up carbon emissions while calling for a carbon tax.  However, MWD believes that those who lecture others on the evils of carbon dioxide should practise what they preach.  For the record, all that Gerard Henderson said on The Nation on 2 June 2011 was this:  “If you’re telling people to reduce their carbon emissions, you should be able to get by living in one modest home and flying economy.”

– Guy Pearse Nails Dick (Frequent Flyer) Smith

In any event, The Monthly (editorial chairman Robert Manne) seems to regard double standards as important.  The June 2011 issue of The Monthly contains an article on Dick Smith by environmental campaigner Guy Pearse.  The article commences with Mr Pearse describing how “it takes nearly two minutes to pass Bowlie – Dick Smith’s well-known rural homestead”. Towards the end of his piece, Guy Pearse criticised  Dick Smith’s “Do as I say, not as I do” philosophy.  He wrote about how Mr Smith became rich out of selling gadgets and property development and continued:

A grandfather of six recommends two kids per family; the environment can’t take it, lectures he with multiple homes, cars, a steam train, private jet and helicopter (in which he sometimes arrives to deliver lectures). After a recent 40,000 kilometre drive across 15 countries in a gas-guzzling Ford F-550 EarthRoamer, Smith joked about the fuel bill. He says finger-pointing is unhelpful but well he might: by his own numbers, if 22 million Aussies lived like Dick Smith, our carbon footprint would be 50% bigger than India’s.

Good point. Five Paws. [If all Aussies lived like Cate Blanchett, Australia’s carbon footprint would also be bigger than India’s.  Does Professor Manne read The Monthly every month? – Ed].

Joe Hildebrand’s Vanuatu Insight

This week’s most prestigious Five Paws gong is shared with Daily Telegraph journalist Joe Hildebrand.  On Tuesday he reported that Cate Blanchett has bought a waterfront property in Vanuatu, in or around the luxury area of Havannah Harbour.  Yet, according to  the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, by 2100 much of Vanuatu’s beachfront property will be under water.

MWD was most impressed by Joe Hildebrand’s report of the comments by a local who reckons that Ms Blanchett has made a good investment: “We’re not low-lying enough to worry about that [rising sea levels].  All we have to worry about is the strong Australian dollar.”


Not all of Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs – co-authored by Malcolm Fraser and Margaret Simons – is about the past.  There is even something about the present and the future.

The heavy rain in Melbourne this week encouraged MWD to check  out how the claim made in Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs that Melbourne “is running out of water”. How’s it travelling?  Not well, it seems.

According to a report in The Age on 29 May 2011, nine out of Melbourne’s ten dams are at least 60 per cent full and two – Maroondah and O’Shannasy – are 100 per cent full.  The Thomson, Melbourne’s largest dam, is only 38 per cent full.  Some experts believe that Thomson’s capacity has been limited by a crack in its foundations. Others say that it has a small catchment area and that it was built for size not speed – meaning that it is less important how quickly it filled and more important that it can hold lots of water.  It was built as Melbourne’s drought reserve.

As at the end of May 2011, Melbourne’s water storages are 55 per cent full – and it’s still raining and just might rain until September.  The equivalent figure for this time last year was 33 per cent.  Yet, according to Mr Fraser and Ms Simons, Melbourne is running out of water.  [Might this be changed in a revised and (much) corrected new edition? – Ed].


Deborah Cameron has never worked outside of journalism.  She was initially employed in the Sydney Morning Herald when classified advertising underwrote the salaries of journalists.  More recently she has been employed at the ABC – when a monthly salary is paid into her bank account per courtesy of the Australian taxpayer.

On Wednesday, the “Mornings with Deborah Cameron” presenter interviewed Finance Minister Penny Wong – the topics for discussion included the Gillard Government’s decision to cease the live cattle trade to Indonesia for at least six months. Let’s go to the transcript where Ms Cameron raises the issue of compensation for the cattle industry with Senator Wong:

Deborah Cameron:  It’s very interesting, though, to think about you in your role as Finance Minister. You’ve got so many things to balance. The Treasurer spoke yesterday about the impact he expects of the carbon tax on the economy and there’s a big sales job still to be done there. But so many interests, um, seem to be swarming all over the budget. I mean… the live-cattle men have said: “Well if this trade has been suspended, we want compensation.” I mean, are we in a time of magic pudding economics here?

Deborah Cameron continued this theme yesterday.  In her “Green-Left-Daily” program Ms Cameron constantly calls for more-and-more subsidies for alternative energy – particularly solar power.  In fact, Mornings with Deborah Cameron has almost become a spruiker for the solar power industry.  But when businesses and workers in the Northern Australia cattle industry hit hard time due to a sudden government decision to temporarily cease the live animal trade, the taxpayer funded Deborah Cameron accuses the live-cattle industry of magic pudding economics. She even opposes support for cattle stations run by Aborigines.  This from someone who enjoys “magic pudding” status as an employee of the taxpayer funded ABC.

Then this morning Mornings with Deborah Cameron commenced as follows:

G’day, now you want impartial, hard-headed thinking around the big issues of public importance, including climate change and a new tax. So you get it from the Productivity Commission.  And then, what do you know, all the parties start to cherry-pick – half a sentence there, half a thought here, Tony Windsor gives it a tick, someone else doesn’t. Does any of that, any of that spin and what they say actually advance public knowledge at all? Does it help you think it through? The ball is firmly in the Productivity Commission’s court, so let’s go back there. This morning Judith Sloan, a conservative economic thinker but public-spirited woman, and a Productivity Commissioner, will be my guest.

Good start. Er, not really. First up, as a glance at Who’s Who in Australia would reveal, Judith Sloan was a part-time member of the Productivity Commission from 1998 to 2010.  She is no longer a member of the Productivity Commission. Then there as the reference to Ms Sloan as a “conservative economic thinker”. Yet when Ms Cameron introduced left-wing activist Simon Sheikh as her independent commentator after the August 2010 election she did not evoke a political label to describe him.

Then it got worse. Clearly, Ms Cameron expected Judith Sloan to bag Tony Abbott’s direct action approach to climate change – from a conservative perspective.  However, instead she got stuck into some of Deborah Cameron’s favourite solar power and wind power projects which are much beloved by the Greens.

The interview did not go for too long. [Fancy that – Ed].

Verily, A Deborah Cameron Moment.


Herald-Sun Favours Cold Baths

Yesterday Herald-Sun led with an exclusive story by Matt Johnston and Phillip Hudson titled “Down the Drain: $66,000 so PM can have a hot shower”.

If Australia is to have official residences they have to be maintained.  According to the Herald-Sun, the money spent on the project is equivalent to replacing the hot water system in about 20 ordinary suburban homes.  The only problem with this analysis is that The Lodge is not an ordinary suburban home and that the work involved more than ensuring that the PM has a hot shower. Can you bear it?

The Drum Drums On

The current (boring) promo for The Drum contains another dig at the Liberal Party (see MWD Issue 97).  Also Peter Lloyd maintains that the Cate Blanchett controversy outraged only two people.  Good news sense, eh?  Can you bear it?

UNSW Academic Looks at Abbott – And Sees Lenin

Meanwhile inThe Age on 2 June David McKnight wrote that “the Liberal Party Under Tony Abbott has become the party of class war, class envy and class hate”. [Is this the same Dr McKnight who, as a young man, said that there was not much to worry about with the Khmer Rouge? – Ed.  See MWD Issues 87 and 88.]

Dr McKnight even accused the Opposition leader of channelling Vladimir Lenin – the mass murderous communist dictator of recent memory.  David McKnight is an academic at the University of New South Wales. Can you bear it?



Mark Aarons (author of The Family File) and Bob Carr (former Labor premier of New South Wales) addressed The Sydney Institute on 24 May 2011 on the topic “Communism and the Labour Movement during the Cold War”. It was a most informative discussion – the podcast of the event can be downloaded from The Sydney Institute’s website and the papers will be published in The Sydney Papers Online shortly.

During the course of his comments, Bob Carr directly blamed Bert Evatt (who led the ALP from June 1951 until February 1960)) for the disastrous Labor Split of 1955-1957.  Bob Carr described the Split as “avoidable” but for Evatt’s “mad leadership”. He continued:

I believe Dr Evatt was a disaster as Australian Labor Party leader. And a nimble-footed Labor Party leader in the 1950s – a somewhat younger version of a Gough Whitlam, or a Joe Cahill at the Federal level – could have saved the Australian Labor Party from an entirely unnecessary split, by declaring that the Australian Labor Party was anti-communist… uniting the centre and presenting it as an anti-communist but social democratic party.

Bob Carr’s assessment of Dr Evatt – who was once one of the Labor Saints – encouraged MWD to re-read Evatt: A Life by Peter Crockett.  This book, which was published by Oxford University Press in 1993, has received less attention than it warranted.  Dr Crockett interviewed contemporaries and near-contemporaries of Evatt and did extensive research in libraries and archives.  His work on the official documents, covering Dr Evatt’s ministerial career, gave an immensely valuable insight into Dr Evatt’s time as Attorney-General and Minister for External Affairs in the Labor government of the 1940s.

The value of Evatt: A Life is that the author was neither a barracker for – nor a critic of – Bert Evatt.  Dr Crockett just reported the facts, in an empirical and non-judgmental way.

Here is a selection of facts from Peter Crockett’s biography relating to Dr Evatt’s erratic behaviour, his rage and his disrespect of those whom he regarded as lesser mortals.

▪ When a judge of the High Court, Evatt “was able to recall all the telephone numbers in the High Court building, but could not remember his own”. (Page 9).

▪ Evatt “took care to ensure that important material was kept from people whom he regarded as enemies, yet was careless enough to leave secret documents in hotel rooms”. (Page 9).

▪ Mary Evatt “destroyed documents considered harmful to her husband’s reputation; she defended his habitual failure to return borrowed books; with his serious mental decline she admonished physicians unable to cure him; refusing to accept his irreversible deterioration”.  (Page 15).

▪ “Evatt’s bad temper often reared, at times against his wife – an unruly release of terrible wrath”. (Page 18).

▪ Evatt’s “parliamentary  colleague Clyde Cameron…. ‘saw him naked several times; he was quite unabashed about undressing in front of people’”. (Page 20).

▪ “Once in Queensland during an election campaign in the 1950s, Evatt received reporters in bed, fully clothed and wearing muddy boots; despite their surprise, he could see nothing unusual in his conduct”. (Page 21).

▪ “Evatt was haunted by the fear of catching a cold…He took extraordinary measures to ward off affliction, wrapping himself in warm clothing and rugs regardless of the temperature….He crumpled newspaper into his shoes and lined his chest with newspapers to shield against the cold, or as protection in the desert heat, swaggering to the accompaniment of crepitating paper”. (Pages 24-25).

▪ “Evatt loathed air travel….when finally at the airport, he delayed entry to the aircraft, dwelling upon his precarious position: he might demand a plane’s replacement, convinced that it was dangerous because too small, equipped with too few engines or faulty tyres, or because he had not seen it refuelled….  When aloft, Evatt’s torment was complete and his florid imagination gathered pace.  On one occasion he offloaded a subordinate to reduce the carrying load, and once carried fishing lines should his aircraft come down in the sea and food be needed before rescuers arrived”. (Page 25-26).

▪ As a young man Evatt was rude to waiters. (Page 37).

▪ Evatt “was prone to tantrums and reliance on his wife’s domesticity”. (Page 40).

▪ Evatt “once refused to travel on a plane with a black crew”. (Page 55).

▪ “At times Evatt regarded with condescension the lower orders of the legal hierarchy, ill-equipped as they were, in his view, to address the philosophy of law”. (Page 80).

▪ “Peter Heydon was once [scheduled] to meet his minister at an English airport in accordance with Evatt’s written instructions.  But as Evatt arrived early, Heydon was not there waiting for him.  Heydon was accused of conspiring with a Labor colleague of Evatt’s, Jack Beasley, to humiliate him”. (Page 159).

▪ “In Washington in 1942 Evatt was aggrieved to notice in Heydon’s office framed photographs of [Robert] Menzies and Sir George Pearce, an ALP apostate who had been the UAP minister for External Affairs from 1934 to 1937, and to whom Heydon had also been private secretary.  As a result Evatt, on his own subsequent admission, transferred Heydon to the Australian External Affairs office in the Soviet Union’s Kuibyshev, then the diplomatic capital and a kind of Coventry: Sir Owen Dixon once said, ‘Heydon is generally intelligent but at one stage was so silly as to hang photographs which caused his separation from his family for eighteen months’”. (Page 172).

Then there is Bert Evatt’s controversial approach to the right-wing Australia First Movement during the Second World War and the Communist Party during the Cold War.

As Attorney-General, Dr Evatt unfairly secured the internment of P.R. “Inky” Stephensen for three and a half years.  This as an example of what Dr Crockett refers to as Evatt’s “frequent tendency when in office to exercise power in an illiberal manner”. It seems that Inky Stephensen’s most serious “crime” was to write a critical review of Evatt’s biography of former NSW premier W.A. Holman titled Australia’s Labour Leader. Stephensen’s review was published in the Publicist on 1 October 1940. Stephensen was interned in March 1942, not long after Evatt became Attorney-General. In his official war history, Paul Hasluck wrote that the Australia First Movement detentions were the “grossest infringement of individual liberty made during the war”.

As Opposition leader, Dr Evatt stood in the House of Representatives on 19 October 1955 and declared that the Soviet Union was not conducting espionage in Australia.  How did he know this?  Well, Evatt told Parliament that he had written to Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov about this and that, in reply, Molotov had assured him that the Soviet Union did not do spying in Australia.  By the way, this was the same Molotov who signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact – or the Nazi-Soviet Pact – in 1939 which commenced the Second World War.  Peter  Crockett relates how Evatt’s staff had tried to talk him out of quoting the letter – but he did so anyway.  As Bob Carr told The Sydney Institute:

Evatt stood up, speaking for the Australian Labor Party, and he declared that there was in fact no Soviet espionage in Australia. He had written a letter to the Soviet foreign minister, Mr Molotov, and he’d received this reply. The reply confirmed – this gave him ample assurance. Apparently you could hear the crash of Labor heads on the desks, as they just beat themselves. They realised what Evatt’s leadership meant.

Quite so.



Garry Sturgess was a co-director of the documentary Liberal Rule which screened on SBS TV in July 2009.  Gerard Henderson was interviewed for the film but little was made of his views and his general advice was rejected.  Gerard Henderson criticised Liberal Rule in his Sydney Morning Herald column on 21 July 2009 (see here) but otherwise made no comment – in public or in private – about the documentary.

There the matter rested until Garry Sturgess wrote to Gerard Henderson requesting that he sign a release form so that his interview for Liberal Rule (which was essentially ignored by the directors) be made available to those who frequent the Museum of Australian Democracy in Canberra.  The proposal was rejected.

This correspondence is published below in the public interest, since taxpayers’ money funded Liberal RuleLiberal Rule provided yet another example of how Liberal governments provide taxpayer funding to their critics who, in turn, criticise Liberal governments.  Another example occurred when Senator Rod Kemp, a minister in the Howard Government, provided taxpayers’ funds for the documentary Menzies & Churchill At War which showed on the ABC in October 2008. This turned out to be a demolition job on the Liberal Party founder Robert Menzies.  See “Menzies and Churchill At War As Told by Aunty” in The Sydney Institute Quarterly Issue 35, June 2009 which is on the Institute’s website.

Garry Sturgess to Gerard Henderson  – 23 March 2011

Dear Gerard,

In October 2007, I interviewed you for the SBS television series Liberal Rule, broadcast in July and August 2009 and subsequently.  It was always the intention that the oral component of the interviews conducted with the various participants would be archived with the Museum of Australian Democracy’s Prime Ministers Centre and the National Library of Australia.

The unedited transcripts and unedited audio of the interviews have now been deposited with the institutions concerned (the PMC and NLA have a joint agreement covering archiving material of this kind).

At the time of the interview concerned I  believe you signed an appearance release assigning the copyright in the interview to Nick Torrens Film Productions Pty Ltd (a copy of which is enclosed).

The pro forma appearance release was subsequently amended upon legal advice to make it clearer and more “rock solid”. Most of the interviewees signed this later agreement but by that time you had already been interviewed and so had signed the earlier agreement.

For reasons of consistency and legal certainty, the Museum of Australian Democracy’s Prime Ministers Centre, as the lead institution in the arrangement with the NLA, has requested me to ask you to kindly sign the later agreement.

The main difference in the two agreements is the payment to you of $1 (enclosed) thus adding the element of valuable consideration to the agreement that the lawyers requested.

From the PMs Centre and NLA’s point of view, that clears the way for the archiving of your unedited audio interview and makes it thus available as a contribution to the public record to be accessed under conditions stipulated by the institutions.

Would you be so kind as to sign the agreement (enclosed) and return it to me,… and I will then provide copies of it to the institutions?

While Liberal Rule has won prestigious awards (AFI Award for Best Documentary Series and Australia Directors Guild for Best Direction in a Documentary Series) it was an interpretive series and not to everyone’s taste and, as you expressed it at the time, certainly not yours.  And like you, some of the interviewees felt their contributions were undervalued or did not feature.

However, the design of the project as archival as well as resulting in a TV series means that everything that was said by interviewees will be available on the record and can be accessed and assessed without the intrusion of the documentary makers’ final cut.

With very best wishes,

Garry Sturgess.

Garry Sturgess to Gerard Henderson – 10 May 2011

Dear Gerard,

I recently sent you a letter concerning a television interview I recorded with you for the SBS television series Liberal Rule.

At the time, I believe you signed a release which, among other things,  meant that we could archive the interview for public access with the National Library under an agreement the NLA has with the Museum of Democracy’s Prime Ministers Centre.

The release, however, didn’t have all of the buckles and braces the lawyers wanted, so I included in my correspondence another agreement and a cheque for $1.00 which makes the agreement more solid.

I am including a copy of the new agreement for your convenience.

Would you mind signing the appropriate release and sending it back to me (address below) as soon as possible?

Gerard, I know you didn’t like the series. However, the archival material collected for the purpose of the series is something quite different.

It is unedited and other, I suppose, than the direction of the questioning (which in the main was open and information seeking, in any event) is not coloured by the interpretive framework of the makers of the series.

I remember your contribution as being of particular historical interest and an important archival contribution.

I think it is a valuable contribution to the collection and would add knowledge, insight and authority to the national record.

I hope all is well with you.

I always take note of (and mostly appreciate) your contributions, whether through the Institute, in newspaper columns or on television.

With very best wishes,


Gerard Henderson to Garry Sturgess – 19 May 2011

Dear Garry

I refer to your letter of 23 March 2011 (enclosing a cheque for $1) and your follow-up email of 10 May 2011.  Apologies for the delay in responding but I have been busy of late.  I understand you phoned my office today.  In response, I make the following comments:

1.    When I was interviewed by Nick Torrens for the SBS television series Liberal Rule in October 2007, I was not asked to sign an appearance release.  Your suggestion that I signed the inaugural Appearance Release is incorrect.

2.    I have decided not to sign the new “rock solid” Appearance Release and I will not be banking the $1 dollar you sent me as “valuable consideration to the agreement” as advised by your lawyer.  I do not know who your lawyer is – but you may choose to tell him/her that it is somewhat demeaning to be forwarded a cheque for $1 which covers an interview which took, from memory, over an hour.

I did not ask for money to do the interview but if you are going to provide what the lawyers term “valuable consideration” then you should be able to do better than $1.  It’s four decades since I studied law, but my legal advice to you (free, of course) is that such valued consideration is not necessary.   After all, who is likely to take legal action against you for want of consideration?  Legal advice should assess risk rather than promote bureaucracy.

3.    It is true that I criticised Liberal Rule – in my Sydney Morning Herald column on 21 July 2009.  But it is not correct for you to assert that I felt that my contribution to the program was “undervalued”.  I have never stated such a view – and, I assume you just made this up.  I do not believe that my contribution was undervalued. I just happen to believe that you did not use much of my interview because you disagreed with my political opinions.  You preferred to run the views of such left-wing academics as Norman Abjorensen, Judith Brett, Mark Davis, Andrew Jakubowicz and James Walter – none of whom has first-hand knowledge of how the Commonwealth Government operates.

4.    As the record demonstrates, I was a critic of aspects of the Howard Government’s social policies in John Howard’s early years as prime minister.  However, I did support the Howard Government’s approach to foreign policy and national security – especially after the attacks on the United States on 11 September 2011.  I broadly supported the economic policy of John Howard and Peter Costello – as I had broadly supported the economic policy of Bob Hawke and Paul Keating.

In view of this, I believe I was in a reasonable position to assess Liberal Rule – which is why I stated my belief that it was (yet another) left-wing critique of political conservatives – funded, once again, by the taxpayers.  I was not really surprised by this.  However, from our conversations before I was interviewed for the program, I was led to believe that Liberal Rule was going to be fair to the Howard Government.  It wasn’t.  As I understood it, you were going to put together a program a bit like Labor to Power on the Hawke Government where Labor personalities were allowed to state their case free from editorial comment and academic criticism. You didn’t.

Following my public disagreement with John Moore over his taxpayer funded documentary Menzies & Churchill At War (which aired on the ABC), the documentary maker Dr Trevor Graham wrote to me in the following terms:

People of conservative persuasion do not venture into documentary filmmaking. Don’t ask me why I don’t know…  I was talking with my wife about this last night. Between us we have about 50 years experience in the media and or filmmaking and between us we could not name one documentary filmmaker that you could say was “right of centre”.

As you will be aware, Trevor Graham’s A Royal Romance screened on the ABC on 28 April 2011.  I do not agree with everything that Dr Graham wrote.  But I do agree with him that the documentary film makers are overwhelmingly on the left.

The challenge for you, and the team which put together Liberal Rule, was to compensate for such imbalance.  You failed to do this.

I note your comment that you regarded my interview for Liberal Rule as “being of particular historical interest”.  In which case, you might have shown more of it in your documentary.

The reason I have chosen not to sign the Appearance Release (or to bank the $1 cheque) is that I do not want to give the impression to those who frequent the Museum of Australian Democracy’s Prime Ministers Centre that I endorse Liberal Rule – when I do not.

In conclusion, I note your advice that “Liberal Rule has won prestigious awards – AFI Award for Best Documentary Series and Australian Directors’ Guild for Best Director in a Documentary Series”. I am not surprised.  I note that Malcolm Fraser and Margaret Simons have just won the NSW Premier’s Literary Award in the “Book of the Year” category for Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs. This despite the fact that Fraser/Simons’ book is littered with errors.

These days, Mr Fraser is a public critic of the Liberal Party and Ms Simons is an inner-city leftie. We live in an age in Australia in which documentaries – and books – which dump on John Howard and his government –  tend to win gongs.  It’s very much a matter of the left judging – and praising – the left.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

Garry Sturgess to Gerard Henderson – 20 May 2011

Dear Gerard,

Thank you for your considered response.

With respect, I would like you to reconsider your position as I feel you will be doing both yourself and the record a disservice.

I understand your issues with Liberal Rule ( I had some of my own and the series in no way lived up to the aspirations I had for it. By the way, I was always against the use of commentators, although I thought of Brett, Abjorensen and you as being a slightly different case in that all of you had made a study of the Liberal Party).

A couple of points before moving to the substance of why I would like you to reconsider.

I may have been incorrect about you signing an earlier release.

In all, I was involved with the following filmed interviews for Liberal Rule besides the one involving you. By the way, I did most of the interviewing, including for your interview.


John Howard, Malcolm Fraser, Peter Costello, Alexander Downer, Peter Reith, John Anderson, Mark Vaile, Tony Staley, David Kemp, John Hewson, Richard Alston, Rod Kemp, Chris Pyne, Greg Hunt, Ron Boswell, Carmen Lawrence, Jackie Kelly, Simon Crean, Judith Troeth, Greg Combet


Grahame Morris, Arthur Sinodinos, Andrew Kirk, Paul Houlihan

Public Service

David Rosalky, Peter Core


Professor Margaret Thornton, Dr Norman Abjorensen, Professor Ann Curthoys, Professor James Walter, Professor Judith Brett, Dr Paul Strangio


Annabel Crabb, George Megalogenis, Paul Daley


Peter Phillips (China Specialist), Patricia Anderson (Co-author Little Children are Sacred Report),  Michael Kroger, Malcolm Mackerras

Nick filmed a small number of additional interviews that he wanted held back from the archive, I’m not really clear about his reasons, save maybe that I was not involved in the selection of the filming.

(I had always stipulated from the outset of the filming that I wanted to be free to place the archive in the relevant institutions.)

Of these interviewees, 10 did not sign the second agreement as at the stage we interviewed them we had not prepared it and thought the earlier form of the agreement was sufficient. Nine of these interviewees definitely signed the earlier release, a copy of which is attached.

I sincerely believed that you had signed an earlier release as that was our practice and it happened on every other occasion. However, I do not have a signed copy of a release from you despite my attempts to track one down and so you may be right in thinking that you hadn’t signed one.

Those that signed the earlier release were:

Arthur Sinodinos

Carmen Lawrence

Simon Crean

Mark Vaile

John Anderson

Jackie Kelly

Ron Boswell

Grahame Morris

John Hewson

Since that time, all have now signed the more binding release with your release being the only one now outstanding.

For your consideration, we interviewed John Howard over a three day period. Without checking exactly, we recorded around 9 hours of interview with him. Peter Reith was interviewed for a whole day, around 8 hours on film. There would be at least three hours with Peter Costello and 6 or 7 with Downer.  Most of the other interviews were in the 2-3 hour category.

There are huge omissions of course. I wanted to interview many more people. I had originally discussed a 6-part series with SBS. This was gradually whittled back.

Nevertheless, the raw archive is substantial.  In due course, it will be available warts and all, for people to access on line.  The course of the questioning will be clearly discernible for anyone taking the trouble. The transcripts will be available too.

Gerard, I think in this mix, it would be a great pity if your interview was not up there too. I am attaching a transcript of your full interview for you to consider it further (There are three pdfs. I seem to have gone through them and indexed them and you might find them useful for your own records. Spelling, literals etc.

are not corrected.)

On reflection, I do not think there would be any problem ( although it is the NLA and OPH Prime Ministers Centre’s call ( I can’t see them having any problems with it ) to have a form of wording attached to your interview saying whatever it is you like about Liberal Rule and the use that was made of your material and that of others.

Maybe, it could be set up as a gateway guarding access until people have read your disclaimer. I think this is a better course than the one you have chosen and I would ask you to reconsider on that basis.

What else? The $ consideration, yes of course it is insulting but it is there to make the release more binding in legal terms.  It is better than a peppercorn and the request for it was made by the NLA and OPH PMC who ultimately have to feel comfortable that the archive comes to them unencumbered by legal issues.

I am a lawyer too and, like you, if money was a driver I would have stayed working as a barrister.

You make many other points in your email that are certainly worthy of discussion and consideration and I would be happy to discuss them with you on another occasion.

Don’t hesitate to ring or email me if you require any further information or if you have any questions.

With best wishes,


Garry Sturgess to Gerard Henderson – 23 May 2011

Hi Gerard,

I heard back from the OPH PM Centre notifying me that, if you wish, you can stipulate any condition, including that people accessing the interview must read a disclaimer.

The important point that I forgot to mention in my last email is that, in my opinion, the Liberal Rule television series will pale into insignificance compared to the archive.

The archive to me is the really important contribution.

With best wishes,


Gerard Henderson to Garry Sturgess – 26 May 2011


I refer to your emails of 20 May 2011 and 23 May 2011.  Apologies for the delay in responding.

I have carefully considered your views. However, I have decided to abide my original position not to sign the Appearance Release.  For the sake of clarity, I make the following points:

1.    Apologies for overlooking the fact that you interviewed me for Liberal Rule at The Sydney Institute’s office in Phillip Street. It was Nick Torrens who I introduced to John Howard, when he addressed The Sydney Institute on 4 November 2010.  I obviously confused the two occasions.

2.    My critique of Liberal Rule (as set out in the Sydney Morning Herald on 21 July 2009) turned on the content of the documentary – not on the talent which was interviewed.  I accept that you interviewed the likes of John Howard, Peter Reith, Peter Costello and Alexander Downer at some length. My conclusion would have been the same even if you had interviewed this lot for 40 days and 40 nights.

I also know that you interviewed such left-wing academics as Norman Abjorensen, Judith Brett, Ann Curthoys, Mark Davis, Paul Strangio and James Walter.  Not only are all six on the record as trenchant critics of the Howard Government but not one has practical experience in national politics.  Your film focused on Liberals and power – and then you gave the key commentary roles to left-wing academics.

3.    When, with some reluctance, I agreed with your proposal that I be interviewed for Liberal Rule – I was led to believe that the film would be similar to Labor in Power about the Hawke Government, which I admired.  As you will know, this documentary interviewed senior Labor figures in the Hawke Government along with some individuals who had a direct association with Bob Hawke and his ministers. Labor in Power did not seek to “balance” the views of senior ministers in the Hawke Government by interviewing a group of right-wing academics who had no first-hand knowledge of national politics.

The fact is that, in the process of making Liberal Rule, you and Nick Torrens changed your approach.  As Nick Torrens explained it in SBS One’s Program Publicity when your film was released :

…being aware that interviews with our “cast” of John Howard and his senior cabinet figures would elicit recollections with an eye to history’s favourable view, the crucial decision was how to present a balanced picture. Journalists sometimes use an aggressive “counter-proposition” interview approach, but Liberal Rule is not journalism. Garry and I sought an atmosphere of cooperative agreement. To this we would add the necessary layers of sub-text.

My objection to Liberal Rule turns on the “layers of sub-text” which you and Nick Torrens placed in your documentary.  This made it possible for left-wing academics to bang on about their particular causes.  As previously mentioned, you did not “balance” Labor in Power in such a manner.  I would never have agreed to be interviewed in the first place if I had known that Liberal Rule would be quite different in format from Labor in Power.

Since you used so little of my interview in Liberal Rule – when compared, for example, with the time given to Norman Abjorensen, Judith Brett and Mark Davis – I do not understand why you are so anxious for my comments to be made available to those who access the National Library and the Museum of Democracy’s Prime Ministers Centre some two years after your documentary went to air.

4.    Like you, I am not in my current position for money.  I agreed to do the Liberal Rule interview for no fee.  All I am saying is that you – and your lawyers – should be aware that is it somewhat demeaning to receive a cheque for $1.  This is a case where more is less. I did not want $500 to do the interview – and I certainly do not want $1.

In conclusion, I was never asked to sign an Appearance Release when I was interviewed and I do not intend to sign such a document now.  To sign the new document would give the impression that I somehow endorse Liberal Rule when this is not the case. This would remain the case even if I present a disclaimer along the lines you suggest.

I am conscious that quite a few Liberal Party types went along with Liberal Rule. However, as the record demonstrates, I have been a long-time critic of the inability of many political conservatives to explain or defend the Liberal Party’s history.  They invariably roll-over before left-wing interviewers and documentary makers. Such is (conservative) life in Australia.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

Garry Sturgess to Gerard Henderson – 30 May 2011

Thanks for your reply Gerard. 

OPH PM Centre may still try where I have failed.

All the very best,


+ + + + +

Until next time.