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“Before going further can you write to confirm that these emails are private correspondence and not for publication”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

Stop Press : Thanks To David Marr And Thom Woodroofe

● Chris Johnson’s Beat-Up On The Labor Leadership

● Nancy’s Pick-of-the-Week : Deborah Cameron On How to Mine

● Can You Bear It: Nick Harmsen, Tim Soutphommasane and James Carleton

● Nancy’s Old Bones: Mark Latham vs The Taxi Driver

● Five Paws Award: Ross Peake, Melissa Fyfe and Zoe Daniel Step Up

● Correspondence : “Deluded in Bundoora” (aka Robert Manne) Writes to MWD – Yet Again



Nancy did not sleep well last night after watching The Nation with David Speers on Sky News.  It was just seven minutes past the 8 o’clock hour when panellist David Marr said that if Australia introduced a carbon tax this would “stop the globe frying”.  For a nation which produces around 1.5 per cent of global emissions, this would be a significant achievement. [Is this what folks mean about Australia punching above its weight? – Ed].  Especially since, as the Productivity Commission’s research report titled Carbon Emissions Policies in Key Economies indicates, “no country currently imposes an economy-wide tax on greenhouse gas emissions or has in place an economy-wide ETS”.  In view of this, Nancy believes Australia cannot stop the world from frying – nor can Australia fry the world. But then, perhaps, Mr Marr knows best.

To Nancy, Mr Marr’s ecological warning sounded a bit like: “The end of the world is fry.”  Scary stuff – even from inside a heated kennel where Nancy goes each evening at the moment to escape the unseasonal cold of this Sydney winter.  As David Marr was depicting the world as being in about-to-fry mode, word from Darwin is that the locals are buying winter clothing to ward-off the effects of a cold snap.


Then on ABC News Breakfast this morning young Thom Woodruff – a foreign policy writer, no less – rolled up to discuss this morning’s newspapers. Let’s go to the transcript.

Virginia Trioli : Let’s take a look at the Friday papers, we’re joined now by foreign policy writer Thom Woodroofe. Thom, good morning.

Thom Woodroofe: How are you?

Virginia Trioli : And you’re starting off with that photograph?

Thom Woodroofe : Yeah

Virginia Trioli : Which is yet another example of what seemed to be continuing tensions at the top. Let’s have a look at the Herald Sun – they’ve got that shot of Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd making the long, long walk in silence.

Thom Woodroofe : In fact, we’re going to do all photos today – which is a bit different. But this Friday you’ve been doing the rounds, obviously. You’ve interviewed Rudd just before the half hour. But, I don’t think this story – which is probably part of some of the News Limited campaign about, that we’ve seen in recent weeks about Rudd’s travel, we’ve seen it about – yesterday about, in the Canberra Times, about his ambition to come back and so forth. It fuels into that, but really it’s a non-story. I mean, it’s a photo of two people walking in a corridor.

Interesting theory about News Limited’s (alleged) campaign against Kevin Rudd.  Pity about the facts.  The Herald-Sun is a News Limited publication. But the Canberra Times is in the Fairfax Media’s stable.  Pity no one told nice Mr Woodruff.



While on the topic of the former Labor leader, what about the lead-story in yesterday’s Canberra Times headed “Rudd plotting to return: insiders”?  Intrepid Parliamentary  Press Gallery reporter Chris Johnson wrote that “Kevin Rudd has a plan to get back in the Lodge even if it means a stint in opposition first…”.

Big Story.  Pity about the sources.  This is what the Canberra Times’ chief political correspondent came up with to back his Big Story: (i) “Labor sources”, (ii) “a small group of backbenchers”, (iii) “some backbenchers”, (iv) “another MP”, (v) “a number of Labor MPs and some senators”, (vi) “one”, and (vii) “another Labor backbencher”. [Worth a Walkley Award, surely – Ed].



There was many A Deborah Cameron Moment on Mornings with Deborah Cameron on Metropolitan Radio 702 this week.  The working week commenced with the ABC’s very own “Green-Left-Daily” presenter opining on the value of rail over air travel.

So, on Tuesday, Ms Cameron had this to say about the volcanic ash which was interrupting air travel in southern Australia and across the Tasman. Here we go:

Deborah Cameron: Were you caught up in the huge air transport bottleneck at the weekend? How did Australia get itself into a situation where as demand for weekend and short run interstate travel rocketed the only alternatives are the lap of the gods at the airport or a long drive down the road? In no other wealthy, internationally competitive, happy or planned economy has so little progress been made on high-speed rail. Now a feasibility study is now on track.

But what you saw on the weekend makes up a big part of the emotional case as well as a fair part of the economic case. You take the frustration out, take the waiting out, take out the uncertainty and unpredictability, add a bit of calm, frequent timetables, walk-on capacity, a three hour point-to-point journey from Melbourne. Imagine the impact of that.

Yes, it’s easy to imagine – particularly if someone has never worked in business in their life.  The problem with very-fast trains between the major state capital cities in Australia is a combination of a relatively small population and a very large land mass.

Ms Cameron gave the impression that air travel disruption caused by volcanic ash is a common occurrence in Australia.  In fact, the last time this happened was some two decades ago.

ABC management should remind the ABC’s in-house greenie that trains are more often disrupted by derailments than planes are grounded by ash from South America.

That was Tuesday.  Then on Wednesday Ms Cameron interviewed Rod Sims of the NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal – about the increasing cost of power – without dwelling on the fact that at least one third of the increase in electricity prices is due to the high cost of such alternative energy sources as solar and wind which Ms Cameron barracks for.

Then on Friday Ms Cameron devoted much of the first half hour of her program to discussing traffic congestion in Sydney on weekends. Sydney greenie Lord Mayor Clover Moore was interviewed just before the 9 am News.  Deborah Cameron referred to traffic – but failed to ask about congestion in the inner-city due to the Lord Mayor’s decision to turn parts of once busy roads into bicycle tracks which are rarely used.

However the highlight – so much so that it is Nancy’s Pick-of-the-Weekturned on Deborah Cameron’s description of mining, one of Australia’s most important export earners:

It sounds like quite a primitive business really, but most mining is.  You take a very big shovel and you start digging.

It seems that Deborah Cameron learnt all she knows about mining from a discarded copy of Mao Zedong’s Little Red Book.


Nick Harmsen

On News Breakfast on Thursday, Nick Harmsen declared that the Parliamentary Press Gallery’s Mid Winter Ball “is the one night…that everyone in Canberra can let their hair down”.  Everyone – including the fire fighters, nurses and garbage collectors.  Can you bear it?

▪ Tim Soutphommasane

In his “Ask the Philosopher” column in last Saturday’s Weekend Australian, academic  Dr Soutphommasane made some meaningless criticism of Kevin Rudd and continued:

If the political execution of Rudd contained elements verging on dishonourable, it was partly because many Labor MPs believed their leader had lost his claim to honour. Many are likely to regard Rudd’s recent self-aggrandisement in this vein. Admittedly, there are worse offences politicians can commit, as the likes of Silvio Berlusconi, Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Anthony Weiner demonstrate.

What a  load of tripe.  Kevin Rudd may, or may not, have upset someone.  Silvio Berlusconi may or may not have transgressed Italian law in a technical sense. And Anthony Weiner seems to have flashed online.  But how has any  of this lot acted like Dominique Strauss-Kahn – who is accused of sexual assault of a hotel maid?

There is no point in asking – Dr Soutphommasane does not reply to correspondence to which he cannot answer. See MWD passim. Can you bear it? [You must return to this matter next week – Ed].

James Carleton

▪ Yesterday James Carleton (standing in for Fran Kelly who had attended the Mid Winter Ball) interviewed NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell on Radio National Breakfast.

At times it was difficult to determine who was the journalist and who was the premier as Mr Carleton banged on about what he and his trade union mates expected from the NSW government.  James Carleton (i) told Mr O’Farrell that wages and conditions was “not a matter for parliamentarians”, (ii) addressed the Premier in “what I’m saying is” mode, (iii) advised Barry O’Farrell “no, that’s not the case” and so on.

Perhaps Mr Carleton should run for the NSW Parliament himself.  Can you bear it?



This segment was held over from last week to enable Nancy to get over her trauma.  You see, MWD’s co-owner and faithful canine wept and wept after reading Mark Latham’s recent piece in Crikey (8 June 2011).  The superannuated Mr Latham advised Crikey readers that his taxpayer-funded and fully-indexed superannuation policy is currently running at a mere $78,000 per annum and that he requires “other sources of income” in order to support his “wife and our three dependent children”.  Shucks.

Nancy grew up in Sydney’s west and knows that many people who live not far from the former Labor leader do not even earn half of this income – and they go to work each day, rather than sit at home and write for the Crikey’s fact-checker free website [Didn’t the very same Mr Latham manage to stop the generous superannuation handouts for MPs who arrived in Parliament just after he left? – Ed].

In any event, Nancy was so distressed at the concept of Mark Latham being down and (almost) out in outer Sydney – save for a little help from the taxpayer – that she did not take up the issue of one Bachir Mustafa last week. Remember him?  This was the taxi driver, a father of four with a dependent wife, whose arm Mr Latham broke in July 2001 – following an argument about the way to go home.  It was the morning after the night before’s tribute dinner to Gough Whitlam on the occasion of his 85th birthday. According to Mr Mustafa, the (then) Labor MP had been somewhat thirsty the previous evening.  Mark Latham subsequently boasted on the Sunday program on 30 June 2002 that he floored Bachir Mustafa with a “beautiful copybook cover defending tackle that brought him to the ground”.

This week Nancy has recovered from her (emotional) pain and decided to dig up what Mr Latham had said about Bachir Mustafa – father of four with a dependent wife.  [We get the picture. Ed].  Here we go.

On 26 August 2002 Mark Latham decided to tip a bucket on people he did not like under the protection of parliamentary privilege during a Grievance Debate in the House of Representatives.  It so happened that Mr Latham underestimated the time available and he was terminated by the Speaker after his allocated 10 minutes expired.  The problem was that Mark Latham had previously  released the entire speech to the Parliamentary Press Gallery – despite the fact that he only got around to delivering half of it.

Believe it or not, Mark Latham stopped speaking just before the “Henderson” section of his planned speech – this part ran for three pages.  In his Sydney Morning Herald column on 23 July 2002, Gerard Henderson had pointed to Mark Latham’s double standards – in that he proclaimed the aspirations of lower income groups and yet had denied Bachir Mustafa his aspirations by breaking his arm.  This seems to have upset the (then) Werriwa MP – and he sought revenge during the Grievance Debate.

This is what Latham said about Bachir Mustafa, in the speech which he released to the Parliamentary Press Gallery on 26 August 2002:

Henderson claims that I have denied the Bone Collector, Bachir Mustafa, his aspirations.  Far from it, Mr Mustafa aspired to worker’s compensation and that’s what he’s now got.  Henderson also claims that Mustafa lives in the outer suburbs of Sydney. In fact, he lives in the inner west. [Gee, that’s an important correction. – Ed].

How about that?  In 2011 Mark Latham complains that life is tough – as a father of three with a wife – on a $78,000 per annum taxpayer-funded pension.  Yet he maintained in 2002 that a taxi driver, a father of four with a dependent wife, was happy living in the suburbs on worker’s compensation – after having his arm broken by a former passenger.  And Latham called a working class migrant, whose arm he had broken, “Bone Collector”. Pretty funny, eh?

Now, what to do about Mark Latham’s plight – the Australian Financial Review columnist with a wife and three children?  Next April Fool’s Day Nancy plans to do her howling act (learnt at the RSPCA kennel at Yagoona) outside the AFR office.  Supporters of the AFR’s down-and-out columnist, who is down to a mere $78,000 taxpayer funded annual pension at age 50, can drop a coin or two into Nancy’s bowl – which will be emptied for the occasion.  Give generously.  No bones – broken or otherwise – by request.


This week’s (most prestigious) gong is shared between the Canberra Times’ Ross Peake and the Sunday Age’s Melissa Fyfe for stories published last weekend.

– Ross Peake

Writing about the Australian Conservative Foundation’s hopeless pro-carbon tax campaign – which was fronted by Cate Blanchett – of recent memory, Mr Peake went on to discuss the recent climate change street marches:

…thousands of Australians were galvanised to participate in last weekend’s “say yes” rallies and marches in capital cities. Like the ad, the aim of the exercise was not clear. Presumably the marchers want all politicians to say yes to some action on climate change, but which one – Julia Gillard’s carbon tax or Tony Abbott’s “direct action”.

Interestingly, four of Australia’s biggest environmental groups spent more than $70 million in 2008-09, with 60 per cent going to lobbying, fundraising, membership and office expenses. But clearly the Government can’t count on ham-fisted efforts by the green-union coalition for help against Abbott’s withering attack that the carbon tax is just a tax that will not save the Great Barrier reef.

How about that?  Give money to an environment group and they spend much of it paying lobbyists and fundraising.

What a revelation.  Ross Peake – Five Paws.

– Melissa Fyfe

In last weekend’s Sunday Age, Melissa Fyfe wrote about the Greens – with a focus on Senator-elect Lee Rhiannon.  As if to disapprove Lindsay Tanner’s telling comment that The Age is the mouth-piece of the Greens, Ms Fyfe mentioned that “Lee Rhiannon is the only child of two significant Australian communists and activists, Bill and Freda Brown”.  She added that “Rhiannon would later join the pro-Soviet Socialist Party of Australia even after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia” in 1968.  Melissa Fyfe continued:

The consensus is that Rhiannon is quick to be combative, as The Sunday Age learnt while asking about her mother’s frequent travels overseas for work. When this matter was raised, Rhiannon finished the question: ”Was she my mother? Was she there for me? You can cut to the chase. Totally, she was my mum … She was an ordinary woman who loved us absolutely.”

Two days later, Rhiannon called The Sunday Age to say that she thought our question amounted to an assumption that women cannot work and be good mothers. She wanted to reject that assumption and its ”undertones of sexism”. She added: ”Coming from a young woman I just found it extraordinary.”

MWD believes that Ms Rhiannon’s sensitivity to Ms Fyfe’s questions turns not on how often her mother travelled – but the destination of her journeys.  For the fact is that Freda Brown spent lotsa time travelling in Eastern Europe and sucking up to communist dictators from Moscow to East Berlin.  She also spent time sucking up to Fidel Castro and his fellow homophobic totalitarian dictators in Cuba.

As Tony Stephen pointed out in his obituary on Freda Brown (published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 27 May 2009), in Moscow in 1977 “she was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize”. In 1977, when Ms Brown was gonged in the Kremlin, the Leninist/Stalinist gulags were still in existence and dissenting intellectuals were still incarcerated in psychiatric prisons.  In 1977 the dictator Leonid Brezhnev ran the Soviet Union which gonged Freda Brown.

The problem was not that Freda Brown travelled when Lee (born 1951) was young. No.  The problem was that Lee’s mum willingly paid homage to the oppressors. [You must do more on Mrs Brown and her lovely daughter – Ed].

Melissa Fyfe – Five Paws

Zoe Daniel

Then on the ABC PM and Lateline programs, reporter Zoe Daniel interviewed Thailand’s prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. When interviewing the prime minister about his decision to deploy the military against Red Shirts demonstrators, Ms Daniel declared:

I don’t speak Thai but I’m told you never said sorry.

How remarkable.  Zoe Daniel was honest enough to declare that she did not speak the local language and that her understanding of what had been said in Thai was not exact.   She received a polite response – and the prime minister answered her question.

Zoe Daniel. Five Paws.



On 29 May 2011 Robert Manne initiated correspondence with Gerard Henderson [Not again, surely? – Ed] concerning a comment in Media Watch Dog Issue 96, in which he was not mentioned.  Some of this was published in MWD Issue 97.  The correspondence continued.  This included Professor Manne’s (odd) request that Nancy’s co-owner assess the professor’s time at La Trobe University, Bundoora, teaching history and politics.  Gerard Henderson is still contemplating whether he can be bothered responding to this proposal. Stay tuned.

For those MWD readers who are interested in conspiracies [Isn’t that all of them? – Ed], the part of the continuing Manne/Henderson which is published below covers Mr Manne’s extraordinary claim that Gerard Henderson once attempted to have him dumped as a columnist by The Age.

This correspondence gives a good idea of what currently passes for scholarship in the Politics Department at La Trobe University.

Robert Manne to Gerard Henderson – 5 June 2011

For publication

Dear Gerard,

…I am waiting with eager anticipation your promised attack on my period at La Trobe University. When you publish it perhaps you could include as an appendix the dossier you sent to Paul Austin, the opinion editor at The Age, as part of your attempt to dissuade the paper from employing me as a columnist.

Please note that this reply was first written on a Sunday. No taxpayer funds were involved.

As always, best wishes,

Robert Manne

Gerard Henderson to Robert Manne – 9 June 2011

Dear Robert

I refer to your note….

In your penultimate paragraph you make the serious allegation that I once sent a “dossier” to Paul Austin, the opinion page editor of The Age, which was part of an “attempt to dissuade the paper from employing” you as “a columnist”.

To make such a serious charge, presumably you must have evidence. So I ask:

▪ When was such a dossier sent to Paul Austin? – just the year would do.

▪ Have you read such a dossier – or have you relied on hearsay?

▪ Do you have a copy of such a dossier?

In conclusion, I should state that you seem confused about how the private sector works – including the concept of niche marketing.  Over the past two decades or so, I have built a side-career in media criticism.  To be a media critic, it helps to have people to criticise.  Over the years I have found the work of the likes of John Pilger, Phillip Adams, Catherine Deveny and yourself most helpful in providing copy.  The fact is that I have never called for anyone to be sacked as a columnist, presenter, journalist or producer.  As far as I am concerned, the more like Pilger and Adams the better.  I even called for Ms Deveny to be re-instated as an Age columnist – and I regretted your decision to cease writing for The Age.

When – and if – you reply, just the evidence will do.  Or an acknowledgement that no evidence exists.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

Robert Manne to Gerard Henderson – 9 June 2011

Dear Gerard,

Do you deny sending the dossier to Paul Austin (and also Morag Fraser) ?

Best wishes,

Robert Manne

Gerard Henderson to Robert Manne – 9 June 2011


You are a taxpayer funded academic who has made a serious allegation about me – asserting, without evidence, that I once sent a “dossier” to Paul Austin, the Opinion Page editor of The Age, which was part of an “attempt to dissuade the paper from employing” you “as a columnist”.

It’s up to you to produce the evidence in support of your assertion.  It’s not up to me to dismiss a claim when I do not know what the precise claim is.

So I ask again:

▪ When was such a dossier sent to Paul Austin? – just the year would do.

▪ Have you read such a dossier – or have you relied on hearsay?

▪ Do you have a copy of such a dossier?

Moreover, in view of your latest email, I ask:

▪ When was such a dossier sent to Morag Fraser?  – just the year would do.

▪ Have you read such a dossier – or have you relied on hearsay?

▪ Do you have a copy of such a dossier?

▪ Have you checked your assertion recently with Morag Fraser?

Just provide the evidence please.  There is not much point in asking me questions about your (undocumented) assertion.  If you have evidence, there is no need to ask me questions.

Gerard Henderson

Robert Manne to Gerard Henderson – 9 June 2011

And re the dossier you are the only person who has seen the allegation. If you think it false just deny it – either to me or in your Media Watchdog,

best wishes, as always,

Robert  Manne

Gerard Henderson to Robert Manne – 9 June 2011

Clearly you have no evidence.  It is grossly unprofessional to make allegations, which were specifically intended for publication, when you have no evidence of any kind to support them.

If a student tried to do this in first year politics, he/she would be marked down or failed.  And yet the professor of Politics at La Trobe University thinks that making allegations without evidence is quite okay and that the onus should be on the accused to disprove an assertion.

Anyrate, if you can find any evidence of any kind to support your assertion – from yourself or Paul Austin or Morag Fraser – I look forward to receiving it.

All I can say is that academic standards seem to have dramatically declined at La Trobe University since the likes of Hugo Wolfsohn and Joan Rydon were professors in the Politics Department.

Best wishes


Robert Manne to Gerard Henderson – 9 June 2011

you seem to be suffering not only from corresponditis but also dyslexia and amnesia

if you didn’t send your dossier to Paul Austin and Morag Fraser just deny it – it’s really simple

Gerard Henderson to Robert Manne – 9 June 2011


This is a new low – you are now accusing me of suffering from mental illness as in “dyslexia” and “amnesia”.

Since it is now clear that you have no evidence for your serious assertion, I shall respond to your question. I never sent a dossier to Paul Austin as part of any attempt to dissuade The Age from employing you as a columnist. I never said that The Age should sack you at any time.

When you wrote columns in The Age declaring that I had a conflict of interest – which were intended to have me dismissed as a columnist in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald – I wrote to both Paul Austin and Greg Lenthen denying your defamatory allegation. The letter did not make any reference to you as a Fairfax columnist. I attached to the letter a lengthy memo defending myself and drawing attention to your double standards. This was no secret “dossier”. If you had done even a Google search you would be aware that my memo was published, in full, in the December 1999 issue of The Sydney Institute Quarterly – and has been online for many years.

In other words, the allegations for which you have no evidence are completely unfounded.

Gerard Henderson

Robert Manne to Gerard Henderson – 9 June 2011

can’t you take a joke; you can certainly dish it out to others – do you remember the Koestler definition of the mimophant?

this was not the dossier Paul showed me; check your famous filing cabinets

Gerard Henderson to Robert Manne – 10 June 2011


I note that you think it’s funny to write that someone is suffering from “dyslexia” and “amnesia”. Fancy that.

You emailed me at 5.15 pm yesterday as follows:  “If you didn’t send your dossier to Paul Austin and Morag Fraser just deny it – it’s really simple”. When I denied your (undocumented) assertion at 5.36 pm, you wrote back at 5.43 pm saying you did not believe me.  So it was not so simple, after all.

The fact is that (i) there was only one memo to Paul Austin and Greg Lenthen, (ii) the memo has been on the net for years and (iii) the memo did not call for you to be sacked as an Age columnist.

I have a good memory and a very good filing system and I always check my memory against the written record.  The document to which you refer does not exist – and never has existed.  Moreover, I would hardly deny the existence of a document when you claim that I sent copies of it to both Paul Austin and Morag Fraser.  If such a document was forwarded to Mr Austin and Ms Fraser around a decade ago, then it is most likely that one or both would still have a copy of it.  Also it is most likely that someone would have quoted from it – especially after my falling-out with The Age when Andrew Jaspan was appointed editor.  As you may or may not know, I always assume that anything I write may be reported.

From your last email it is clear that you are relying on your memory of what Paul Austin “showed” you over a decade ago.  As Malcolm Fraser’s error-ridden memoirs indicate, memory is very fallible.  You should be aware of this since I presume you warn your students about the fallibility of memory.

Here, you are relying on your memory to make an allegation in 2011 about something which Paul Austin allegedly “showed” you circa 1999.

I know that you will believe what you want to believe.  But the fact is that I never called for you to be dismissed by The Age.  Never.  It is quite defamatory for you to suggest otherwise.  As the record shows, around this time I even gave an academic reference in support of a promotion you (successfully) sought at La Trobe University.

As far as I am concerned, this correspondence is concluded.  I note that you claim that I am suffering from “corresponditis”. In which case you might care to remember that you initiated this correspondence – with respect to an item in my MWD blog (Issue 96) which did not even refer to you.

Here’s truce.  If you don’t write to me, I won’t write to you.  How about that?

Over and out.

Gerard Henderson

Robert Manne to Gerard Henderson – 10 June 2011

on what basis do you say circa 1999?

Gerard Henderson to Robert Manne – 10 June 2011

My memo to Paul Austin and Greg Lenthen was sent on 5 November 1999. Otherwise I have no idea what you are talking about – nor , I suspect, do you.

Robert Manne to Gerard Henderson – 10 June 2011

I’ll try to jog your failing memory.

The year was, I think, 1993. I’d begun as a columnist for The Age and was on the radio (3LO still I think ) with Morag Fraser. Ranald MacDonald was the host.

Paul Austin told me he’d received an unpleasant dossier from you. So separately did Morag. Eventually Paul gave me a photocopy which I kept. I showed it of course to Anne. We were both shocked by it. I hadn’t yet grasped the level of your hostility to me.

Some years later when your Anne invited us to write a chaper in a book on couples (something I also know only from memory) we declined. One of the reasons was the dossier.

My advice: check your files for 1993.

And it’s over and out from me.

Gerard Henderson to Robert Manne – 17 June 2011


I refer to your email of 10 June 2011 in which you attempted to jog what you alleged was my “failing memory”.  I note that, after some time, you have finally come up with your allegation against me.  It is as follows:

Robert Manne’s allegation against Gerard Henderson

In 1993 – when Robert Manne had begun as a columnist with The Age and had a slot (along with Morag Fraser) on the ABC Metropolitan Radio program which was presented by Ranald MacDonald – The Age’s Paul Austin gave Robert Manne a copy of an “unpleasant dossier” which had been sent to him by Gerard Henderson.  A copy of this “unpleasant dossier” was also sent by Gerard Henderson to Morag Fraser. The “unpleasant dossier” was part of an attempt by Gerard Henderson to dissuade The Age from employing Robert Manne as a columnist.

That’s your allegation – and it is a most serious charge.

Robert Manne’s Delusion: Fuelled by Reckless Undocumented Accusations

Unlike you, I am not in the habit of branding people as liars.  However, this exchange of correspondence demonstrates that you are seriously deluded.  Moreover, you make allegations about people in a reckless manner without engaging in any fact-checking of any kind. For a tenured academic at a taxpayer funded university, this is grossly unprofessional.

If you had bothered to do even a cursory fact-check, you would not have sent your email last Friday evening.  Here are the facts:

▪ In 1993, Paul Austin was a journalist working for The Australian. He did not join The Age until late 1995.  In other words, your allegation against me collapses at the first hurdle.  If you had bothered to give even a cursory glance at The Age’s website, you would know that Paul Austin did not work for the newspaper in 1993.  In response to my query, Paul Austin has advised that he commenced as The Age’s Opinion Page editor in 1998.

I also checked with Marco Bass, the senior figure in the ABC’s Melbourne headquarters for many years.  He confirmed that Ranald MacDonald’s program on the ABC in Melbourne ran from 1990 until 1995.

In other words, Paul Austin did not become The Age’s Opinion Page editor until some three years after Ranald MacDonald’s program ended.

▪ Also, according to your entry in Who’s Who in Australia – which you personally authorised – you were not an Age columnist in 1993.  According to your Who’s Who entry, your column in The Age ran from 1997 to 2005.

So, obviously, I could not have sent an “unpleasant dossier” to Paul Austin in 1993 seeking your sacking as an Age columnist – since he was not working for The Age. Moreover, according to your account, you were not a regular Age columnist at the time.  Some confusion, surely.

So, every so-called “fact” in your email last Friday is false.  Wilfully false.

Then there are the unsupportable assertions.  According to your account, I sent a copy of the “unpleasant dossier” to both Paul Austin and Morag Fraser – and Paul subsequently gave a copy to you. So, on your own analysis, there are three copies of this document – Paul’s, Morag’s and yours.  So, where is it?  Why not produce it? And why has no one quoted from it – or even mentioned it – over the past 18 years?  Especially since you claim Morag Fraser received the “unpleasant dossier” in 1993 when she was a journalist editing Eureka Street magazine and looking for news and stories.

Then you have to answer this question.  Why would I give a copy of an allegedly “unpleasant dossier” about you to Morag Fraser?  As I recall, by 1993 I had only met Morag once, at a conference in Sydney. She was not a friend of mine – but she was a friend of yours.  Again, why would I send an “unpleasant dossier” about you to one of your friends?

This allegation is just mad. Barking mad.

Following your suggestion, I checked my files for 1993. They reveal that I did not write to either Paul Austin or Morag Fraser in that year.  This is just another reckless invention on your behalf.

I will not ask for an apology from you concerning your false accusations about me.  It would be just a waste of time.  So deluded is your current state of mind, that you will probably go into denial and then come up with yet another set of reckless (undocumented) allegations.

Robert Manne’s Projection Problem

Apart from your evident state of delusion, you are into the psychological phenomenon of projection.  The fact is that I never called – either privately or publicly – for you to be sacked as an Age columnist.  Never.  Yet in your article in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald on 19 June 1999, you asserted that both Ron Brunton and myself had a conflict of interest as columnists and – presumably – should not be able to write for The Age or The Sydney Morning Herald. Needless to say, no one agreed with your argument at the time – except for leftist activist John Pilger in the left-wing New Statesman magazine.

Later on, you campaigned for me to be sacked from my (then) role as a weekly commentator on the ABC Radio National Breakfast program.  The reference is to your article in The Monthly in December 2007 where you complained that I had been on this program for too long and that I had become “difficult to remove”.

Your projection condition leads you to assume that people behave the way you behave.  This is not the case – certainly not in so far as I am concerned.

As I have mentioned previously, in October 1994 I was asked by La Trobe University to write a report on your application to be promoted to the position of Associate Professor. I was not one of your listed referees – but the late Allan Martin recommended to La Trobe University that I provide an  independent report with respect to your application.

On 10 November 1994, I wrote a letter to Ms Joy Parry, Secretary – Standing Committee on Readers and Associate Professors at La Trobe University – in support of your application.  The final sentence of my response read as follows:

I know, and have known, a number of associate professors.  I have no doubt that as an academic Robert Manne is as good as – or better than – all of them.  Consequently I believe his promotion to the position of Associate Professor is warranted.

In my report I (i) described your 1987 book The Petrov Affair: Politics and Espionage as “a work of outstanding scholarship”, (ii) praised your essays on Wilfred Burchett and the Western intellectuals who supported Pol Pot as “first class” and (iii) said that from my knowledge of you during the time we were both academics you were “an excellent teacher – conscientious, well informed and interesting”.  I did, however, express reservations about your 1992 edited collection Shutdown: The Failure of Economic Patriotism And How To Rescue Australia which I described as of “indifferent quality”.  At the time of writing my report, I assumed that you would continue to write academic work including contemporary history along the lines of your Petrov book.

I doubt that I could have penned a stronger recommendation than this. Especially since it was known that I was critical of your opposition to the economic reform program initiated by the Hawke/Keating Labor government with the support of John Howard and the  Coalition.

I understand that your application was successful and that you were promoted to the position of Associate Professor in the Politics Department in late 1994.

The further question is this: Why would I seek to have you sacked by The Age in 1993 and yet strongly support your academic promotion in 1994?  As indicated earlier, you are simply deluded.

I am capable of appreciating your skills as a historian and teacher while criticising your interventions in the public debate on economics and politics.  Moreover, unlike you, I do not carry personal grudges and I am happy to provide platforms to people who disagree with me. As documented in my email to you dated 30 July 2010, when Quadrant editor in 1992 you successfully sought Patrick Morgan’s exclusion from the Quadrant board.  Around this time you did the same with Ray Evans.  Both Patrick and Ray committed the sackable “sin” of disagreeing with you on economic policy.


I work in the private sector and am pressed for time.  It is quite time-consuming responding to your undocumented, reckless and false allegations about me.  You, on the other hand, are paid by the taxpayer and seem to have plenty of time to write seriously deluded notes to me which are replete with factual errors and undocumented allegations. I would suggest that you do some fact-checking before making new allegations.

You might even attempt to repair your disturbing double standard.  Can you really ask your students at La Trobe University to provide evidence to support their assertions in essays/assignments when you are so wilfully reckless with respect to your own claims?

Gerard Henderson

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Until next time.

This page was last modified Monday 20 June 2011 @ 11:14am