The inaugural issue of “Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch” was published in April 1988 – over a year before the first edition of the ABC TV Media Watch program went to air. Since November 1997 “Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch” has been published as part of The Sydney Institute Quarterly. In 2009 Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch Dog blog commenced publication.

Last Friday it was announced that Media Watch Dog was going on what journalists – particularly those employed by the taxpayer funded public broadcaster – like to call a Well Earned Break (or WEB) However, after hearing Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly holding forth on ABC Radio National Breakfast this morning, Nancy’s (male) co-owner decided he just could not bear it and decided to put out an abbreviated MWD Special. The real thing MWD blog resumes on 31 January 2014.



Nancy’s change of mind occurred while lying in her kennel this morning. The time shortly after 7.30 am. The dial was set to ABC Radio National Breakfast. As usual, Fran Kelly was in the presenter’s chair. Nancy’s mind flashed back to the days when Ms Kelly had a gig on some leftist community radio station somewhere or other. It was as if RN Breakfast had morphed into “Green Left Breakfast”. Here’s a glimpse of Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly on active duty this morning. [Are you sure you should go on with this? Little wonder that you never get invited on RN Breakfast these days – Ed]


Fran Kelly : Michelle, Operation Sovereign Borders seems to have failed. An asylum-seeker boat made it undetected to Christmas Island, some of the people aboard it are still wandering through some bush on Christmas Island. This is a major embarrassment for the Minister and the military, isn’t it?

So rather than ask Michelle Grattan, from the taxpayer subsidised The Conversation website, what she thought about the issue, Fran Kelly unilaterally declared that Operation Sovereign Borders has failed on the basis that one boat made it to Christmas Island undetected. Just one.

● FRAN KELLY DECLARES THAT THE COALITION IS WRONG ON GAMBLING AND SAME-SEX MARRIAGE Then it was time for Fran Kelly to interview Kevin Andrews, the Minister for Social Services. She commenced by endorsing the views on gambling expressed by Greens Senator Richard Di Natale and leading luvvie Tim Costello. It’s only the Greens who get soft interviews on RN Breakfast. So it came as no surprise that Fran Kelly lectured Kevin Andrews about the evils of gambling and what the Commonwealth government should do about it. There was even a suggestion of impropriety on the Abbott government’s part.

Fran Kelly: Well there are suggestions from some, and I’m just repeating them, I’m not making the accusation that you’re doing grubby deals with the clubs and pubs because they donated over one million dollars to the Coalition Government ahead of the last election.

Kevin Andrews: Look our policy on this has been fairly clear from the outset, this is one of those areas where throughout the last probably two years, we’ve had a fairly clear line, our policy hasn’t changed, it was there in our discussion paper that we put out I think about two years ago now, so that’s been clear.

Fran Kelly: Yes but Minister just because that’s your policy in Opposition doesn’t mean it’s right….

And so it went on. And on. Towards the end of the interview, Fran Kelly changed the topic to Radio National’s favourite topic. Same sex marriage. Let’s go to the transcript where, as is her wont, Fran Kelly insisted on the last word:

Fran Kelly: And Minister, tomorrow gay couples in the ACT will marry under the ACT marriage equality bill. That’s despite the High Court reserving its decision on the Commonwealth challenge to the laws later in the week. Do you support this move by people to marry?

Kevin Andrews: I support marriage in the way it’s been traditionally defined in Australia – both under the common law for a long time now and in the Commonwealth Marriage Act and that is a marriage between a man and a woman. And I think that’s been an approach that’s been taken for many, many centuries. I suppose over a lot of civilisations and cultures and that’s one that I continue to support.

Fran Kelly: So you support marriage. But if a gay couple says “We want to declare our love and commitment in the same way”, you don’t support that?

Kevin Andrews: It comes down, Fran, to what marriage is. Now there are two competing views about marriage today. One is the traditional view and that is that marriage is an essentially protective institution for children and women and it’s between a man and a woman. And there is a new version, a new view if you put it that way, that says that marriage is essentially an affectionate relationship between adults. Now there are many affectionate relationships between adults that the law has no part in. Brothers and sisters, members of family, just good friends have affectionate relationships. I don’t think that is marriage. I don’t think that the law should step into those sorts of arrangements and that’s why I continue to support the long held definition.

Fran Kelly: I guess I’m pretty sure some of those couples, all those couples getting married in the rose garden tomorrow will think there is more than an affectionate relationship too but Minister, thanks very much for joining us.

Kevin Andrews: Thank you Fran

Yes. Thank you Fran for telling us your view. [Next time, perhaps Mr Andrews should interview Ms Kelly. Just a thought – Ed].

● FRAN KELLY DECLARES THAT THE ABC’S CRITICS ARE WRONG ON THE ABC – WITH A SURPRISE DISSENT FROM ANDREW PROBYN Then, after the 8 o’clock News, there came the Friday Political Panel – with Lyndal Curtis (ABC News 24’s political editor), Lenore Taylor (The Guardian Australia’s political editor) and Andrew Probyn (The West Australian’s political editor) talking with Fran Kelly. It was a typical in-house conversation where long-time journalists – many of whom have never worked in politics or the public service or business – tell politicians what they should be doing. For a while there was much agreement that, on most matters, Tony Abbott and his government was going bad. Real bad. And then, Andrew Probyn injected a sense of reality in response to the suggestion of Fran Kelly who agreed with Lenore Taylor who agreed with Lyndal Curtis who agreed with Fran Kelly that criticism of the ABC’s growth by some Coalition politicians was unreasonable. Here’s what Mr Probyn –who works for a newspaper which is not controlled by either News Corp or Fairfax Media – had to say:

Andrew Probyn: But look, there is a very live issue and there has been a live issue ever since the ABC’s charter was expanded and it was allowed into online. I mean, speaking from someone who writes for a newspaper, we’re being told that newspapers [are] going to die. You know, online is going to be crucial. Now, if the ABC can cannibalise other peoples’ news and stick it on their online site, which is trusted and well read, then that’s a problem for the commercial interests of my newspaper, the newspapers belonging to Fairfax and News. So this is a very sensitive issue, not just for certain sections of the Coalition. But they probably reflect broader issues of sensitivities being brought to them by people in the news industry where you [the ABC] have got the ability, through this enormous platform, to take news from other sites and stick it up [on ABC online].

Needless to say, Fran Kelly could not allow Andrew Probyn’s criticism of the ABC’s move into online media – where it is dumping news for free, much of which is re-cycled from commercial newspapers – go unanswered. Ms Kelly, ever the leftist activist, had to have the last (active) word:

Fran Kelly: We’re gotta leave it there. I think this might be headed for an inquiry at some point down the track. Because, as Andrew mentions there, yes it’s immediate pressure on the newspapers and their online sites. But, of course, the ABC generates lots of news ourselves too and there’s more up there than just the written word. There’s radio reports and television reports. So it’s a big issue.

So it’s all okay then. The ABC’s Fran Kelly editorialises in support of the ABC and criticises the Coalition. Fancy that. No wonder there was little peace in Nancy’s kennel this morning.




While on the topic of the ABC, consider the performance of ABC managing director Mark Scott on ABC News 24 last Wednesday. Following criticism of the ABC’s handling – in association with The Guardian Australia – of the documents stolen by Edward Snowden, Nice Mr Scott decided it was time to say something. So, once again, the ABC managing director appeared on the ABC and used an interview with one of his ABC employees to defend the ABC. It was the kind of self-serving interview which tends to give self-serving interviews a bad name. Nice Mr Scott declared that the ABC had acted “in the public interest”, dismissed the criticism by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull and whinged that the ABC is “under concerted attack from News Corporation”. It’s Blame Rupert Murdoch time, apparently. Mark Scott boasted that “the Australian people overwhelmingly feel that the ABC is doing a great job”. But the ABC News 24 interviewer Joe O’Brien did not ask his boss how it is that the ABC is a Conservative Free Zone which does not employ one conservative presenter or producer or editor for any of its main television or radio or online outlets. Can you bear it?



Due to unprecedented demand, the Maurice Newman Segment gets another run. As MWD readers will know, this (hugely popular) segment is devoted to former ABC chairman Maurice Newman’s suggestion that a certain “group think” might be prevalent at the ABC – and to ABC 1 former Media Watch presenter Jonathan Holmes’ certainty that no such phenomenon is extant within the public broadcaster. See MWD passim.


On ABC1 News Breakfast last Monday, Monash University’s Greg Barton was the guest on the “Newspapers” segment. It soon became apparent that he was willing to play along with ABC co-presenters Michael Rowland and Virginia Trioli and bag News Corp while supporting the taxpayer funded broadcaster. It all started when Michael Rowland alleged that Greg Sheridan’s story in last Monday’s Australian – on how it is believed that Edward Snowden is expected to release material concerning Australian espionage against China – amounted to a fundamental breach of national security. It wasn’t. For the simple reason that Mr Sheridan did not release one document. But Dr Barton (for a doctor he is) agreed with Michael Rowland who agreed with Virginia Trioli who agreed with Michael Rowland who agreed with Greg Barton. Or something like that. No other view was heard as the self-satisfied trio sneered and laughed at Greg Sheridan and The Australian. Here’s a flavour:

Greg Barton: You might have seen Greg Sheridan’s op-ed from The Weekend Australian where he got most up in umbrage. But today he’s on the front page, he’s on page four, there’s an editorial inside as well, saying that we can expect this to get much, much worse before it gets any better. And in fact – this is the suggestion that this is the biggest security crisis since World War II, which is saying something.

Michael Rowland : And in the process he [Greg Sheridan] reveals –

Virginia Trioli : Reveals new leaks.

Greg Barton: That’s right.

Michael Rowland: Points to possible revelations potentially regarding leaks spying on China [and] other countries in the South Pacific.

Greg Barton: He [Sheridan] of course is not being irresponsible here – this is responsible journalism.

[All laugh together]

Virginia Trioli: Thanks for pointing that out. I wasn’t sure.

Michael Rowland: I am not sure either.

Greg Barton: There is a conversation to be had about redaction and when you hold back. But, you know, I think he [Sheridan] has got himself worked up into such a head of steam that he’s lost perspective.

Virginia Trioli: Alright.

Michael Rowland : Right.

Yeah. Right, alright. Greg Barton agreed with Michael Rowland who agreed with Virginia Trioli who agreed with Greg Barton that Greg Sheridan was foolish to criticise the ABC (which pays La Trioli and young Mr Rowland) and which hosts Dr Barton. Score: Maurice Newman: 5 Jonathan Holmes: Zip


correspondence header caps


This highly popular segment of Media Watch Dog usually works like this. Someone or other thinks it would be a you-beaut idea to write to Gerard Henderson – occasionally in abusive mode. And Hendo, being the kind of guy he is, replies. Then the correspondence is published in full in MWD. How about that?

In his Sydney Morning Herald column on Tuesday (see here), Gerard Henderson referred to the infantile abuse directed at the Abbott government and John Howard by The Monthly’s editor John Van Tiggelen. Mr Van Tiggelen got mighty upset about a column which he claimed not to know existed and sent a few sneering dispatches – to which Gerard Henderson responded (in polite mode). Then, lo and behold, Crikey’s Matthew Knott bought into the correspondence. It’s all set out below. Here we go:

John Van Tiggelen to Gerard Henderson – 3 December 2013

Dear Gerard

thanks so much for today’s ad. Much appreciated. Also nice to know you’re still appearing in print. I had no idea.


Gerard Henderson to John Van Tiggelen – 3 December 2013

Dear John

It’s a pleasure. And also a surprise to receive a response to my newspaper column today from someone who claims to have had “no idea” that I appear “in print”. Fancy that.


John Van Tiggelen to Gerard Henderson – 3 December 2013

Dear Gerard

I know you used to have a column but I wasn’t aware that someone other than yourself still published your thinky-tanky occupational therapy. Be sure to continue to look after yourself, Gerard.

Warm wishes, John

Gerard Henderson to John Van Tiggelen – 3 December 2013

Dear John

Since you did not know that I still have a column, I have no idea why you read it or bothered about what was in it. Here’s some gratuitous advice. Why not give criticism – rather than abuse – a go?

Over and out


John Van Tiggelen to Gerard Henderson – 3 December 2013

The link was forwarded to me, Gerard. People do that.



btw, what abuse?

Gerard Henderson to John Van Tiggelen – 4 December 2013


You send a lot of emails for someone who is dismissive of my views. I don’t know why you bother.

In relation to your most recent missives – which I read in Canberra yesterday – I make the following comments: –

1. People send me links as well. However, you are asking me to believe that The Monthly’s editor is totally unaware of the columns run by the Sydney Morning Herald on Tuesday and of what is carried on the Fairfax Media website that day. This suggests that you don’t do much research across the main media and online outlets.

2. Perhaps you have been influenced by what passes for debate on social media. But you seem to be unaware that dismissing my column as ‘thinky tanky occupational therapy’ is abuse devoid of argument. For the record, the Sydney Institute is not a think tank. It is a forum for debate and discussion – recent speakers at the Institute include Tony Abbott, Christine Milne and Bill Shorten. There is no such diversity at The Monthly – one of your predecessors got into trouble for attempting to commission an article by Peter Costello. Likewise references to the Liberal Party as a “frat party of Young Liberals” and to the “onanistic reverence for John Howard” is mere abuse devoid of critique. Invariably abuse is a sign of intellectual laziness.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

John Van Tiggelen to Gerard Henderson – 4 December 2013

Oh, you’re THAT guy! The inner city Fairfax type Gerard! And all this time I thought you were the ranting thinky-tanky Rupert-hugging blather-blogging nut job. I’m sorry.

No, really, I am. That I bothered, again.

PS Thanks ever so much for the lesson re distinguishing abuse from argument. Note from Gerry: John, be less “infantile”. Consider it done.

Gerard Henderson to John Van Tiggelen – 5 December 2013


How wonderful that you bothered, once again, with a social-media style, abuse-laden missive which is neither funny nor clever.

You seem confused about the chronology. I used the term “infantile” to describe your original abuse on The Monthly’s website concerning the Abbott government and John Howard. It was a completely appropriate (non-abusive) adjective to describe your writing-style on this occasion.

As far as I am concerned, this correspondence is concluded.

Keep morale high.

Gerard Henderson

* * * * *


Matthew Knott to Gerard Henderson – 5 December 2013 –

Forwarding an Excerpt From That Very Day’s Crikey

FYI Gerard. Hope all is well.

Van Tiggelen v Hendo (and The Oz). As Good Weekend editor Ben Naparstek discovered earlier this year, The Monthly editor John van Tiggelen sure knows how to fire off an acerbic email. This time he’s got conservative commentator Gerard Henderson and The Australian in his sights.

It all kicked off on Tuesday when Henderson took aim at JVT in his regular Sydney Morning Herald column. Hendo was incensed at the use of “frattish, undergraduate language” in the latest Monthly editorial (van Tiggelen called the Abbott government a “frat party of Young Liberals who refuse to grow up” and decried the party’s “onanistic reverence for John Howard”). He was also unimpressed by The Monthly‘s Cut & Paste spoof lampooning The Australian‘s foreign editor Greg Sheridan for his commentary on close mate Tony Abbott. In response, van Tiggelen fired off an email to Henderson, which led to a delightful e-stoush we’re more than happy to republish. After all, why should you have to wait until Friday’s Media Watch Dog?

Not content to duel with Henderson, van Tiggelen also launched a missive at the Oz‘s editor-in-chief, Chris Mitchell, after the Oz bagged him in yesterday’s editorial. “I love it when you get all worked up and righteous,” he wrote. “In fact, I confess to feeling a bit like Christopher Pyne in the Leak cartoon on the same page, being flailed by his PM-cum-headmaster, only to smile and say, ‘More Please’.” No response as of yet, but we’ll keep you posted.

Matthew Knott: Media reporter

Gerard Henderson to Matthew Knott – 5 December 2013

Young Mr Knott

Thanks for your missive. It seems that John Van Tiggelen has sent you some of our recent exchanges. In view of this, it occurred to me that you may wish to see the uncut correspondence – it is attached.

As I have said before, Morry Schwartz’s The Monthly is a secular version of The Holy Name Monthly of my (Catholic) youth. Same intensity of preaching – different theological motivation.

I don’t really know why Mr Van Tiggelen and his multi-millionaire property-developer employer (the Conscience of Melbourne High-Rise) care about what I write. But there you go – and it keeps me entertained and out of the pub at evensong time.

By the way, I announced last week that Media Watch Dog will be going on what your profession invariably describes as a Well Earned Break. I have a few other projects to deal with until Australia Day.

Have a happy (and holy) Christmas.


“[Gerard Henderson is] a sclerotic warhorse, unhelpful to debate, unwilling to think…a wonderful study in delusion…ideologically-constipated.”

– Erik Jensen, editor of Morry Schwartz’s The Saturday Paper [forthcoming], 23 November 2013

“The last time Gerard Henderson smiled was in 1978, when he saw a university student being mauled by a pitbull.”

– Ben Pobjie, via Twitter, 13 October 2013 [Editor’s Note: Mr “Why Can’t I Score an

Invite on Q&A?” Pobjie is wrong. In fact, the year was 1977 and the dog was a blue-heeler – like Nancy]

“I think Henderson is seriously ill. There’s enough there for an entire convention of psychiatrists.”

– Mike (“I’ll pour the gin”) Carlton (after Pre-Dinner Drinks tweet to Jeff Sparrow), 8 October 2013

“Wrong, you got caught out, off to Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch Dog for you!”

– Tim Wilson tweet to Jonathan Green and Virginia Trioli, 8 October 2013.

“Nancy as ever will be the judge”

– Jonathan Green to Tim Wilson and Virginia Trioli (conceding to the arbitral authority of Nancy), 8 October 2013

[Gerard Henderson’s analysis of the ABC] is absolutely simplistic.”

– ABC managing director Mark Scott talking to ABC presenter Jonathan Green on ABC Radio National Drive, 2 May 2013.

“Oh my God; you’re as bad as Gerard Henderson.”

– Dr Peter Van Onselen (for a doctor he is), The Contrarians, Sky News, 20 September 2013.

“The nation mourns Gerard Henderson. He’s in perfect health.”

– Phillip Adams, via Twitter, 2 July 2013 (favourited by Virginia Trioli)

“Old Australian saying. ‘He wouldn’t know a tram was up him unless the bell rang’. Wholly appropriate to Gerard Henderson”

– Phillip Adams, via Twitter, 7 May 2013

“I said publicly once that I thought that Gerard’s views on the ABC came not from his brain but from his spinal cord”

– Tim Bowden as told to Phillip (“I was a teenage Stalinist”) Adams, Late Night Live, 11 June 2013 – Queen’s Birthday Public Holiday.

“Gerard Henderson is a crank”

– David Marr at the 2013 Sydney Writers’ Festival (as reported by Mike Carlton)

“The great Australian media nutter Gerard [Henderson is an] ungrateful bastard”.

– Mark Latham, Q&A, 10 June 2013.

“[Gerard Henderson] is a moral dwarf …Gerard, pull your head in”

– Professor Sinclair Davidson, 24 April 2013.

“[Henderson] You are mad. In the 18th century you would have been caged, with the mob invited to poke you with sticks.”

– Mike Carlton, 5.23 pm (Gin & Tonic Time) 25 March 2013

“I like to think of Gerard [Henderson] as the Inspector Clouseau of forensic journalism”

– David Marr, ABC News 24 The Drum, 21 March 2013.

“[Media Watch Dog is] not a moan, more of a miserable dribble”

– Peter Munro, 21 March 2013

“You are a fool, Henderson, a malicious and mendacious piece of shit… Now F_ck off”

– Mike Carlton, 11 March 2013 (Hangover Time).

“[Gerard Henderson is] an internet pest”

– Dr (for a doctor he is) Jeff Sparrow, 26 February 2013.

Jonathan Green: “Nancy, will be taking notes, I suspect”

Michael Rowland: “Nancy…yes. We’ll get a nice write-up on Friday. Good morning as well, Gerard. Thanks for watching, by the way.”

– ABC 1 News Breakfast, 18 October 2012

“Gerard [Henderson] is a complete f-ckwit”

– Malcolm Farr, via Twitter, 29 June 2012 (circa pre-dinner drinks)

“What a haughty flapping half-arsed buffoon he [Henderson] is”

– Bob Ellis on his Table Talk blog, 8 May 2012 (before breakfast)

“We’d better be careful what we say, just in case Gerard’s offsider pooch Nancy is keeping an eye on us for his delightfully earnest Media Watch Dog”

– Tom Cowie of The Power Index, Crikey 20 January 2012

“Henderson…What a pompous, pretentious turd you are.”

– Mike Carlton, Saturday 13 August 2011 (after lunch)

“Go to the Sydney Institute Media Watch Dog website to marvel at [its] work”

– Mark Latham The Spectator Australia 11 June 2011.

Media Watch Dog – “disgraceful”, “sick”

– Professor Robert Manne, April Fool’s Day 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.

“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

“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.

“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.

Until next time, keep morale high.