Issue 155

GERARD HENDERSON’S MEDIA WATCH DOG – ISSUE NO. 155

21 SEPTEMBER 2012

“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are private correspondence and not for publication” – ABC News Radio’s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.

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

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

“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

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

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

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

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

MWD Exclusive : Samantha Maiden Wrong Again re the alleged “Punch”

● Stop Press: David Marr On Why It’s All the Christians” Fault; Chaser “Boy” Craig Reucassel Upsets Nurse and Fudges Truth

● Can You Bear It?  Barbara Ramjan’s Problem With Ikea and “The Bed”; Michelle Grattan Misses Labor Link; The Age’s Anti-Abbott Bias

● Mark Latham Ignorance on Both Lenin and Hitler

● Nancy’s Old Bones: How the Guardian-on-the-Yarra Censored Any Reference to Robert Manne’s time as Bob Santamaria’s Bestie

● Documentation: The Real Guardian’s Financial Disaster

● Correspondence:   Thanks to Samantha Maiden, Andrew West, Robert Curtis, Crikey’s Andrew Crook and Liam Hogan

MWD EXCLUSIVE – ANDREW WEST HAS NO MEMORY OF BEING TOLD OF ABBOTT ALLEGATION

In last Sunday’s News Limited newspapers, Samantha Maiden alleged that there was one journalist to whom Barbara Ramjan spoke about the (alleged) Tony Abbott “punch” before she told David Marr. Maiden claimed that “the punch” had been revealed by Ramjan to journalist Andrew West in Sydney over a decade ago.

MWD has checked the story with Andrew West. Andrew West has advised MWD that he “cannot remember” that Ramjan ever told him that Tony Abbott had punched the wall behind her head in September 1977.  See Correspondence Section in today’s MWD.

In view of Andrew West’s comment, Samantha Maiden’s claim last weekend is worthless. Absolutely worthless.

STOP PRESS

● DAVID MARR BLAMES CHRISTIANS – YET AGAIN

It is almost impossible to turn on ABC TV or ABC Radio these days without seeing/hearing (yet another) soft interview with David Marr – the journalist who declared in 2004 that all journalists should be lefties (See MWD Issue 153 et al).

And so it came to pass on The Drum on ABC News 24 last night – when David Marr declared that all the blame for the defeat of the same sex marriage legislation could be placed on “Christians”. Mr Marr hammed up the word “Christian” delivering a graphic inverted commas in sign-language.  Let’s go to the transcript:

David Marr: …Well, the electorate wants gay marriage. It depends what kind of, what poll you look at – but it goes from sort of low fifties to mid-sixties. One third of the Australian electorate at the moment is actually opposed to gay marriage. So this is not – we’re not talking about the will, the popular will of Australia here. We’re talking about timid politicians up against determined opponents.  All of whom are, of course, “Christians”.

If David Marr really believes that Christians comprise the only force behind opposition to same sex marriage – he might like to consider why Julia Gillard, an atheist, opposed the legislation in the House of Representatives on Wednesday.  He might also want to travel to Sydney’s suburbs, a long way from his inner-city abode, and check out what Muslims think about same sex marriage or even homosexuality.  Or he might check what Hindus think about same sex marriage.  Or Marr might like to ask himself why Labor MP Ed Husic, the only Muslim member of the House of Representatives, voted with the Catholic Tony Abbott and the atheist Julia Gillard and the Christian Kevin Rudd and the atheist Chris Bowen against same sex marriage.

The fact is that David Marr, the author of The High Price of Heaven (Allen & Unwin, 1999), is an obsessive opponent of Christianity and an anti-Catholic sectarian to boot.  Re which see MWD Issue 154. Consequently he tends to blame “all” Christians for life’s disappointments.  And he loves to add inverted commas to the word Christian – suggesting that these Christians are not really Christian at all since they are so intolerant as to oppose gay marriage (according to Marr’s argument).

David Marr is so revered by the ABC that even presenters are disinclined to correct his errors.  During his soft interview with Lateline’s Emma Alberici on Monday 10 September 2012, David Marr was highly critical of Tony Abbott’s behaviour as a Sydney University teenage student.  But Marr was all forgiving when considering Julia Gillard’s behaviour as a 30 something legal partner working for the labour lawyers Slater & Gordon on the Australian Workers Union – or AWU account.

Except that David Marr misspoke on three occasions (see link below) – by referring to AWU as the “AWB” [as in Australian Wheat Board]. However, ABC presenters are just so respectful of the leftie David Marr that Ms Alberici did not correct any of David Marr’s three references to the “AWB” when he meant the “AWU”.

● They’re Back – Chaser “Boy” Reucassel’s Pro-Forma Apology for Upsetting Bali Bombing Nurse

The taxpayer subsidised Chaser “Boys” (average age 37 and a half) are soon to return to the taxpayer funded ABC TV program near you with a new series of The Hamster Wheel.

In the past, the Chaser “Boy” Julian Morrow has fulfilled the role of the ABC trespasser-in-chief. Young Mr Morrow (average age 37 and a half) invariably led the Chaser “Boys” in their acts of trespass on private property – which were cleared in advance by ABC management.  This led to a situation where the ABC managing director – nice Mr Scott – constructed elaborate security at ABC offices to keep out trespassers while authorising acts of trespass on the property of others by Julian Morrow and his boy band.

So far, the Chaser Boys have not re-commenced their acts of trespass – which were scaled back after complaints a couple of years ago.  However, yesterday outside Parliament House Chaser “Boy” Craig Reucassel (average age 37 and a half) was literally in Tony Abbott’s face trying to make a point about freedom of speech shortly after a ceremony in the Bali Memorial Gardens.

It turned out that Reucassel upset Clair Marsh, one of the Australian nurses who assisted victims of the 2002 Bali terrorist attack.  Ms Marsh had attended a press conference where Tony Abbott advocated that the Australian victims of the Bali bombings should receive special compensation. On the way back from the press conference, Reucassel attempted to confront Tony Abbott – and, in doing so, upset an already clearly distressed Clair Marsh. The following exchange took place:

Craig Reucassel [to Tony Abbott] : You said that without causing offence you do not have free speech. Do you agree that we should be able to do that?

Clair Marsh : Do I have free speech to say that you are upsetting me?

Craig Reucassel: I’ll speak to you later – would you like to speak to me afterwards Tony?

Reucassel’s rude and unprofessional comments, which are all but inarticulate, clearly upset Clair Marsh.  Later, in true Chaser style, Reucassel issued a statement to the effect that he had done nothing wrong but he “apologises for any offence or distress caused”.  It’s the pro-forma Chaser defence. Reucassel also claimed –  falsely, as the footage of the event demonstrates – that he did not approach Abbott while at the Bali Memorial Garden.

As a practitioner of in-your-face-taxpayer-funded-journalism, Craig Reucassel does not really care if he upsets anyone. He just wants to get on the telly and get publicity for the Chaser “Boys”.  Clearly the Boys are back.  And Messrs Morrow and Reucassel have clearly graduated from making fun of children with terminal illness to upsetting the victims of terrorist attacks and those who cared for them. What’s next?  [Perhaps a stunt in a sheltered workshop. – Ed].

CAN YOU BEAR IT?

● Forget “The Punch” – Barbara Ramjan’s Complaint About The (Ikea) Bed

Have you ever wondered where the photograph in News Limited newspapers of Barbara Ramjan, Tony Abbott’s accuser, came from?  Especially since she has not spoken to the media other than David Marr about the about the (alleged) punch which (allegedly) took place 35 years ago.

An avid MWD reader has drawn attention to the photograph of Barbara Ramjan which accompanied a story by John Rolfe in the Daily Telegraph on 24 February 2011.

You see, Ms Ramjan went to the Daily Telegraph after becoming just so upset that her son Evan bought a mattress from Ikea’s Rhodes store in October 2010 with a promise that the bed base would be available in early November 2010. Guess what?  The bed base didn’t arrive. Shucks.

So, in February 2011, Barbara Ramjan (mother of the said Evan) took matters into her own (motherly) hands.  A staff member at Ikea in Rhodes told Mother Ramjan by phone that a bed base was in stock. So the intrepid Ramjan jumped in her car and drove all the way from her inner-city abode to Rhodes.  A 40 minutes motor, no less.  [Did the inner-city Ramjan have a valid visa for such an occasion? – Ed].

Do you know what?  On arriving in Rhodes, Barbara Ramjan discovered that the bed base was not in stock.  Shocking.  So she paid by credit card for delivery later.  Ms Ramjan subsequently was advised by phone that delivery could not be made because the base was not in stock. Shockingly shocking.

This is how the Daily Telegraph reported the Ramjan Versus Ikea big fight on 24 February 2011:

Ms Ramjan said this conversation ended with a [Ikea] staff member swearing at her.  Ikea denies this, but admits “voices were raised”.  A spokeswoman said it [Ikea] had made a mistake and apologised.

Whereupon Barbara Ramjan posed for a picture for the Daily Telegraph (see below).  So here is another situation where Barbara Ramjan alleges that someone was nasty to her but the alleged offender claims otherwise.  All on account of the fact that young Evan had to go without a bed base for a couple of months.  Can you bear it?  [Er, no.  Do you have any  other Ramjan stories of real or perceived offence? Ed].

● Michelle Grattan Misses Essential Left-of-Centre Point

The Age made a big splash last Tuesday with a report by Michelle Grattan headed “Poll: Abbott erratic, angry and arrogant”.  Here’s what Ms Grattan had to say:

Tony Abbott is seen as being significantly more arrogant, narrow-minded, intolerant, and aggressive than Julia Gillard, in a new poll underlining the Opposition Leader”s image problem.

After Labor”s vote and the PM”s approval rose and Mr Abbott”s approval rating fell to a personal record low in The Age/Nielsen poll, while Newspoll had a 50-50 two-party vote, Essential Research has found Ms Gillard is viewed less negatively than in April, with a significant fall in perception of her as out of touch with ordinary people and “”superficial””.

Mr Abbott is regarded as arrogant by 63 per cent (Gillard, 46 per cent); superficial by 51 per cent (46 per cent); narrow-minded by 59 per cent (46 per cent); intolerant by 53 per cent (37 per cent); aggressive by 59 per cent (42 per cent) and erratic by 51 per cent (43 per cent).

Well, that’s pretty clear then.  Er, not really.  The Essential Research poll on  Tony Abbott may – or may not – be accurate.  It’s just that Ms Grattan failed to advise Age readers that Peter Lewis, who heads Essential Research, is a Labor Party activist who was until recently a Labor staffer.  At times, when appearing on Sky News’ The Nation program, Peter Lewis has asked to be introduced as a Labor Party activist who heads what he calls a “progressive” research company.

There was no such disclosure in Michelle Grattan’s coverage of the Essential Research report in The Age.  By the way, in his analysis of the latest  Essential report on Tony Abbott, Peter Lewis drew comparisons between Tony Abbott and the famous 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle” boxing match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman.  Can you bear it?

● The Guardian-On-The-Yarra’s Tony Abbott Obsession

While on the topic of “the punch”, clearly The-Guardian-on-the-Yarra has exhibited an unhealthy obsession with the issue.

Here is MWD’s score concerning “the punch” allegation – which first appeared in David Marr’s Quarterly Essay titled Political Animal in the extract which appeared in the “Good Weekend” in The Age on Saturday and the Sydney Morning Herald on 8 September 2012.

▪ Opinion Page.  The Age has run three illustrated leading opinion pieces – all attacking Tony Abbott – from David Patch (13 September), Michelle Grattan (14 September) and Robert Manne (17 September).  The Age has not run one opinion piece even slightly sympathetic to Abbott on this issue.

▪ News Pages.  The Age has run five articles by Michelle Grattan criticising Tony Abbott on this issue – along with two by Tony Wright. No article sympathetic to Abbott has been published.  Abbott was also bagged in The Sunday Age’s “The Heckler” column.

▪ Letters Page.  The Age has run eight letters criticising Tony Abbott on this issue – but only three supporting him. The Age rejected at least three other letters supporting Abbott.

▪ Cartoons.  The Age has run three feature cartoons bagging Tony Abbott – who was depicted in boxing gear on each occasion.

And The Age is supposed to be a newspaper which appeals to conservative readers and advertisers as well as social democratic ones. Can you bear it?

NANCY’S GONG FOR INVINCIBLE HISTORICAL IGNORANCE – STEP FORWARD MARK LATHAM

According to Paul Murray of Sky News’ Paul Murray Live show, Mark Latham is currently on holidays.  Here’s hoping the failed Labor leader is finding some time, while vacationing on his $78,000 annual (fully indexed) taxpayer funded superannuation scheme, to brush up on history. Including reading Tamara Deutscher’s Not By Politics Alone – the other Lenin (Allen & Unwin, 1973) – which Latham claims to have read as a student but obviously did not.  See MWD 2012 passim.  It was Latham’s misreading of this Trotskyist tome which led the taxpayer funded failed Labor leader to assert that Vladimir Lenin – of Bolshevik Revolution fame – was a touchy-feely, hand-holding sort of guy who used to build sand-castles while on his summer hols near the Caspian Sea.

In his “Latham’s Law” piece in The Spectator Australia on 8 September 2012, Mark Latham objected to the fact that Gerard Henderson had ridiculed his claim that Vladimir Lenin really knew how to relax. [Did Latham really believe that Lenin was a great kind of guy to hang out with when he wasn’t killing and incarcerating people? – Ed].

Mark Latham dug deep into his memory and came up with a quote from wait for it, Anonymous, to fire at Henderson.  Let’s go to Mark Latham’s column in Tommie Switzer’s “Aussie Speccie” on 8 September 2012:

It is said of the internet that every online argument ends with the protagonists calling each other Nazis. This is also true of Henderson’s blog. On 10 August he wrote:  Perhaps one day Mark Latham, after reading the work of a deceased fascist, will use his column in the “Aussie Speccie” to proclaim that Adolf Hitler really knew how to relax and loved nothing better than to construct sandcastles on the edge of Berlin’s Lake Wannsee.

Here Mark Latham exhibits invincible historical ignorance.  It is true that an argument concerning Western democracies invariably is lost when a protagonist invokes the “Nazi” tag against an opponent.  In other words, it makes no sense to compare Julia Gillard or Tony Abbott with Adolf Hitler or Josef Goebbels. Indeed, it is a gross offence to the victims of real totalitarianism.

However, it makes considerable sense to compare Nazism with communism.  Indeed numerous books have been written along this theme – including Alan Bullock’s Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives (Vintage Books) and Robert Gellately’s Lenin, Stalin and Hitler: The Age of Social Catastrophe (Vintage Books).  Mark Latham, who knows little history, clearly does not understand this.  This should come as no surprise.  [Remember that, when addressing The Sydney Institute in April 1998 Mark Latham admitted that he did not read any books but  only treated them as a bowerbird would.  It’s on the tape during the question/discussion period.Ed.]

Vladimir Lenin was the founder of communist totalitarianism.  He was succeeded  by Josef Stalin.   Adolf Hitler was the founder of Nazi totalitarianism.  Nazism was defeated before Hitler could be succeeded by a replacement dictator.

Lenin set up the totalitarian police state (along with the concentration camp) around 1917 which was copied by the Nazis when Hitler came to power in 1933.  You would have to be suffering Invincible Historical Ignorance not to understand this. That’s why Nancy’s prestigious gong goes this week to the Lair of Liverpool.

NANCY’S OLD BONES

HOW ROBERT MANNE FAILED TO DISCLOSE HIS PAST ASSOCIATION WITH B.A. SANTAMARIA IN THE AGE

What a stunning opinion piece by Robert Manne on Tony Abbott in The Age last Monday [Is this the very same Professor Manne who was twice voted Australia’s LEADING PUBLIC INTELLECTUAL – according to his very own website? – Ed].

As it turned out, Robert Manne’s article titled “Sparring in the ring of truth” brought up the tail of “The-Guardian-on-the-Yarra”’s conga line of obsessive Abbott-haters who are deeply disturbed about the Liberal Party leader’s (alleged) bad behaviour when he was  a teenager. The Abbott haters believe that attacking the Opposition leader’s character is perhaps the only way to prevent him from becoming prime minister after the next election.

MWD was particularly interested in Robert Manne’s attempt in his Age article to link Tony Abbott’s behaviour at Sydney University in the late 1970s with B.A. Santamaria (1915-1998) and his National Civic Council.  Manne also raised the one-time NCC connections of Gerard Henderson and Greg Sheridan – both of whom defended Tony Abbott against the undocumented allegation that he had punched the wall behind Barbara Ramjan’s head at Sydney University on 7 September 1977.

This is what Robert Manne wrote in The Age on 17 September 2012:

In his new Quarterly Essay on Tony Abbott, “”Political Animal””, journalist David Marr records an alleged incident that took place at Sydney University in 1977. Abbott was at the time a campus operative of a party linked to B.A. Santamaria”s conservative Catholic National Civic Council….  Abbott has already been particularly staunchly defended by two senior journalists, Gerard Henderson and Greg Sheridan. Both were once associates of the National Civic Council….

How frightfully interesting.  But how intellectually dishonest – even for Australia’s leading public intellectual.  It is true that Gerard Henderson had a close association with B.A. Santamaria and the National Civic Council between 1965 and 1974.  It is also true that Henderson fell out with Santamaria around 1975.  Greg Sheridan had an association with Santamaria in the late 1970s and, to a lesser extent, in the 1980s but it was never all that close since Sheridan was never one of Santamaria’s operatives in the NCC.

Where Robert Manne misled The Age’s readers turned on his failure to disclose his own close association with Santamaria and the National Civic Council in the 1980s and 1990s.  If, as Robert Manne implies, there was something improper about Abbott’s Santamaria/NCC association in the late 1970s and 1980s – then there must have been something improper about Manne’s even closer association with Santamaria/NCC in the 1980s and 1990s.  Here it is:

▪ On 7 October 1991 Robert Manne addressed a function in Melbourne to commemorate the Fiftieth Anniversary of the National Civic Council.  Fellow speakers were (then) Bishop George Pell, Archbishop Eric D’Arcy and Bob Santamaria himself (See News Weekly, 26 October 1991).

In his laudatory speech, Robert Manne had this to say about B.A. Santamaria:

Throughout the three phases of its history the Movement has been led by Bob Santamaria. Let me not shilly-shally here. Bob Santamaria is one of the great post-war Australians. In part he proved himself, over fifty years, an unequalled political strategist whose analyses have displayed an almost Cartesian clarity and penetration.

▪ As Patrick Morgan documents in his book B.A. Santamaria: Running The Show (MUP, 2008), in 1992 Robert Manne was involved in a political movement with Santamaria, Malcolm Fraser and some others designed to promote protectionist and economically interventionist policies and to promote Mr Fraser as a possible leader of a new political grouping.  (See B.A. Santamaria to Robert Manne, 25 September 1992 in Patrick Morgan (ed) B.A. Santamaria: Running the Show Selected Documents: 1939-1996, pp 411-415).

▪ Bob Santamaria died on 25 February 1998.  This is how Robert Manne concluded his obituary on B.A. Santamaria, which was published in The Age 28 February 1998:

For 60 years, almost every day, Bob Santamaria gave his life to the service of the public good.  During these years he brought to his work the qualities of intelligence, courage, selflessness, persistence and loyalty.  Many people may disagree with his vision of the good. Few will dispute that he showed in his life, in a manner almost without parallel at his time, the civic virtues vital to its achievement.  With Bob Santamaria’s death we have lost one of our genuinely great public figures.

▪ In an interview with Norman Swan on the ABC Radio National Life Matters program on 27 February 1998, Robert Manne criticised Gerard Henderson and Jim McClelland for having made some critical comments (Henderson) or indiscreet revelations (McClelland) about Santamaria after his death.  In this interview, Manne said that he “got to know” Santamaria “pretty well” in the 1980s and 1990s.

So, there you have it.  Robert Manne had a much closer association with Bob Santamaria in the last two decades of his life than Tony Abbott.  Not only did Manne fail to disclose this in his article in The Age, more seriously, Manne used Abbott’s one-time association with Santamaria to criticise Abbott and two commentators who defended him concerning the undocumented “punch” allegation.

Then The Age censored a letter to the editor which drew attention to Robert Manne’s failure to disclose his Santamaria/NCC past.  [Maybe The Age does not want to diminish the reputation of Australia’s leading public intellectual who is on the taxpayer’s drip at La Trobe University (“Proudly One of Australia’s Top 500 Big Polluters”) – Ed]

DOCUMENTATION

THE GUARDIAN’S FINANCIAL PLIGHT – AS REPORTED BY PRIVATE EYE

While on the topic of “The-Guardian-on-the-Yarra”, how about the REAL THING in London?  As MWD readers will be aware, it was only a couple of years ago that the editor of The Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, delivered the 2010 Andrew Olle Memorial Lecture in Sydney.

There was much fawning aplenty as the primarily ABC audience admired Mr Rusbridger and identified with his opposition to Rupert Murdoch.  So much so that no one at the dinner – or in the coverage before and after the event – mentioned that The Guardian under Alan Rusbridger’s editorship is rapidly going broke.

To borrow an Al Goreism, the inconvenient truth is that The Guardian only survives because Rusbridger keeps raiding the Scott Trust (which was established to sustain The Guardian in perpetuity) to fund the newspaper’s growing losses.  (See MWD, Issues 142 and 150).  ABC types at the Andrew Olle Lecture just loved the fact that The Guardian dumps news for free on-line and that this annoys Rupert Murdoch.  Since ABC types live off the taxpayer, most don’t care much about private sector losses.

Since The Guardian’s precarious financial state is of enormous interest to MWD readers, here is a report from the current issue of Private Eye :

The Guardian released its annual report during the dog days of August, which meant it could bury the news that it had made a pre-tax loss of £75.6m – even worse than the £44.2m operating loss that bosses had told Guardian News and Media staff about at a briefing in July.

While hailing editor Alan Rushbridger’s “digital-first” strategy of giving away everything for free on the web, the report insisted that “print remains critical to GNM.  As part of the news strategy a number of changes have been made to the newspaper to achieve a more streamlined production process and take into account changing patterns of readership.”

Alas there was no room to explain exactly what this “streamlined” approach has meant for Grauniad [sic] readers; the education, media, music and society supplements have been dropped, the separate sports sections has been canned on weekdays, and the entire paper is far smaller.  No wonder the print circulation has fallen 15.9 percent in the last year. A changing pattern of readership indeed!

PS: Guardian Media Group is only able to keep its loss-making newspapers afloat because it has a £225m “cash and investment fund”. And what exactly are these investments?  A footnote in the annual report reveals that GMG has invested more than £60m in hedge funds.  Can this be the same Guardian which published a leader on 1 August describing hedge funds as “socially useless” and “activities that involve someone getting rich by fleecing someone else”?  It surely can!

As to the fate the Guardian, MWD will keep you posted.

CORRESPONDENCE – DAVID MARR, BARBARA RAMJAN, TONY ABBOTT  – ON “THE PUNCH” WHICH NEVER HIT ANYONE AND NO INDEPENDENT WITNESS EVER SAW AND FOR WHICH THERE IS NO CONTEMPORANEOUS EVIDENCE

Nancy’s co-owner has been busy this week attempting to find some evidence in support of David Marr’s belief that Tony Abbott punched the wall behind Barbara Ramjan’s head at Sydney University on 7 September 1977. See MWD Issue 154.  Here’s a selection of some correspondence which was entered into on this matter.

▪ CONCERNING SAMANTHA MAIDEN’S “NEW EVIDENCE” WHICH FALLS OVER AT THE FIRST HURDLE

Gerard Henderson to Samantha Maiden – 19 September 2012

Samantha

I refer to your column in the Sunday Telegraph at the weekend.

I’m pleased that you conceded that you were “wrong” in previously stating that Barbara Ramjan did not speak to the Sun-Herald in 2004.  Our recent email correspondence/phone conversations refer.

In last Sunday’s column, you made a new claim about “the punch” which Ms Ramjan alleges that Tony Abbott delivered to a wall behind her head on 7 September 1977. You wrote:

One of the chief attacks on Ramjan”s credibility this week was why she failed to tell journalists the story earlier. It turns out she did.

Ten years ago she sat for more than an hour in Sydney”s Bar Italia at Leichhardt with journalist Andrew West. She remembers telling West the story and him not even writing it down. West concedes he was far more interested in the mystery woman who had given birth to Abbott”s child.

Both now concede the discussion was at times off the record, with Ramjan reluctant to embarrass her husband Greg James, QC, then a NSW Supreme Court judge, by courting public controversy.

This seems to be an entirely logical reason why Ramjan failed to issue some sort of press release about this ancient history, in keen anticipation of being publicly decried on national television as a liar or a standard bearer for what Julie Bishop described as a “cavalcade of Trots”.

So, in the Sunday Telegraph on 16 September 2012, you said that Barbara Ramjan had told “journalists” about “the punch” well before 2012. However, you named only one such journalist – Andrew West.

Yesterday I emailed Andrew West as follows:

Good afternoon Andrew

I note that in her Sunday Telegraph column on 16 September, Samantha Maiden said that Barbara Ramjan remembers telling you about “the punch story” at Sydney’s Bar Italia “ten years ago”.

Do you recall Barbara Ramjan telling her story to you of the alleged punch which Tony Abbott delivered to a wall behind her head following the SRC election in Sydney University in 1977?  I note that, according to my records, you have not reported such a conversation.

I would be grateful if you would let me know….

Best wishes

Gerard

In the early hours of this morning Andrew West replied as follows:

Dear Gerard,

Sorry about the delay in replying. I was at Sydney Airport waiting to interview someone who had just come off a plane from South Africa.

Now, to your question.

Yes, I did meet Barbara Ramjan about ten years ago – 2001-2002. I”m not sure exactly when but I am sure it was in my old haunt of Bar Italia in Leichhardt.

The meeting with Barbara was strictly off-the-record. She was sensitive because her husband, Dr Greg James QC, had just been appointed to the NSW Supreme Court.

As that meeting was off the record, I have never made it public, which you would appreciate. But since Sam Maiden assured me that Barbara had now placed the fact of our meeting on the record, I was, and am, happy to confirm it.

On the issue of “the punch”, I can put my hand on my heart and tell you that I cannot remember if Barbara mentioned it or not. If she says she did, then I am happy to accept her word for it. But given that I could not attribute anything she told me, I would not have reported such an incident without naming the source.

I hope this clarifies things.

All the best,

Andrew

This is the situation where we are at.

▪ Barbara Ramjan never mentioned the alleged “punch” when she wrote letters complaining about the behaviour of Tony Abbott and his colleagues following the Sydney University SRC elections in September 1977.  See Barbara Ramjan’s letters to Honi Soit dated 13 September 1977  and 3 October 1977 – which were reproduced in last Friday’s Media Watch Dog.

I note that neither you nor Michelle Grattan have referred to this contemporaneous evidence in the various columns/articles which you have written on this issue.  You both seem to prefer hearsay to the contemporaneous record – probably because you prefer Ms Ramjan’s 2012 memory to her 1977 statements.

▪ Barbara Ramjan first went on the record concerning the alleged “punch” when she spoke to David Marr in 2012.  That is, some 35 years after the event.

▪ Barbara Ramjan told you in 2012 that she had told Andrew West about the alleged “punch” at a time which she cannot recall around a decade ago.  In other words, according to Ms Ramjan’s own account, she first raised the issue of the (alleged) punch around 25 years after the event – not 35 years.  It’s still a very long time.

▪ In any event, Andrew West cannot remember such an allegation having been made to him by Barbara Ramjan about Tony Abbott around ten years ago.  So, once again, there is no evidence to support Ms Ramjan’s claim.

So, my question is this. Will you advise the readers of your News Limited column next Sunday that Andrew West has no recollection whatsoever that Barbara Ramjan ever discussed the (alleged) “punch” with him? This is interesting in itself – since I know from experience that Andrew West has a good memory.

Over to you.

Gerard Henderson

CONCERNING ROBERT CURTIS’ VIEW THAT ESTEEMED LAWYERS LIKE DAVID MARR AND DAVID PATCH DO NOT NEED HARD EVIDENCE

Robert Curtis to Gerard Henderson – 13 September 2012

Re: Barbara Ramjan

Why should Barbara Ramjan be “aggrieved” – your description in your Herald column on September 11 – if she was not threatened by Tony Abbott?  She had been elected SRC president, and surely should have been elated.

You wrote that B.A. Santamaria never said or wrote “when you have not got the numbers be vicious”. How can you be so confident about what Santamaria did not say.  A slick assertion I think.

What does the story about Abbott rescuing children from a fire beside the Bald Rock hotel have to do with his “problem-with-women-mantra”?  The story is about rescuing children.  It has nothing to do with women.

David Patch, writing in today’s Herald, seems to answer your snide comment on anonymity.

There is convincing support for Barbara Ramjan”s claim that Abbott threatened her. I’m inclined to accept the account of someone who was nearby, became a barrister and was once an industrial Relations Court and Federal Court registrar.

Yours faithfully

Robert Curtis

13 September 2012

Gerard Henderson to Robert Curtis – 19 September 2012

Mr Curtis

I refer to your letter of 13 September 2012.

Perhaps I am old-fashioned.  However, I happen to be an empiricist who believes in evidence.

If David Marr claims that B.A. Santamaria said that “when you have not got the numbers be vicious” – it is up to David Marr to provide the evidence.  It’s not up to me to disprove Mr Marr’s undocumented assertion.

If you read David Patch’s article in the Sydney Morning Herald you would know that he claimed to be a “witness” to an (alleged) incident which he did not see.  Mr Patch’s account of what Barbara Ramjan said to him in 1977 is hearsay.  Just hearsay.  Moreover, there is no evidence of Mr Ramjan or Mr Patch having spoken or written about the alleged incident in the previous 35 years.

You may be impressed with David Patch’s qualifications and work record – but they are no more substantial than Tony Abbott’s.

In any event, I’m interested in evidence.  The fact remains that there is no witness to the incident and no contemporaneous record of it – despite the fact that Barbara Ramjan complained about Tony Abbott on the night in question in letters to Honi Soit in late 1977.

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

Yours sincerely

Gerard Henderson

▪ CONCERNING CRIKEY’S ANDREW CROOK’S SUGGESTION THAT A WITNESS NEED NOT HAVE WITNESSED AN EVENT

Gerard Henderson to Andrew Crook – 20 September 2012

Andrew

Interesting piece in yesterday’s Crikey – which I have just read.

Except that, in his piece in the Sydney Morning Herald on 13 September 2012, David Patch did not say that “he witnessed ‘the punch’” – as you asserted in Crikey.

This what David Patch wrote:

I did not see the incident, but I was nearby. The count had just finished. Ramjan found me. She is a small woman, and Abbott was (and is) a strong man. She was very shaken, scared and angry. She told me Abbott had come up to her, put his face in her face, and punched the wall on either side of her head. So, I am a witness.

The fact is that no one – including David Patch –  can be a “witness” to an incident which he/she “did not see”.  David Patch’s account is hearsay evidence only – delivered 35 years ago after the event. That’s all.

Here’s a test.  Head up to the Supreme  Court of Victoria and try to run the line that you are “a witness” to an incident which you “did not see”.  You would be laughed out of court.  David’s Patch’s claim deserves similar treatment.  By the way, the anonymous student pollie did not witness the event either – since he did not see the (alleged) “punch” land.

Perhaps Crikey could get Crikey Clarifier to correct Crikey’s most recent howler. Just a thought.

Keep morale high.

Gerard

Andrew Crook to Gerard Henderson – 20 September 2012

Yeah although that”s what Patch is arguing using his own (unique?) interpretation of who counts as a witness to an incident. As I understand it, he”s trying to say that because a court would accept the testimony of someone nearby if, say, a sexual assault had occurred and the victim had relayed the sequence of events immediately afterwards, then in the Abbott case he is a “witness” to the punch even though he didn”t eyeball it.

Not sure I totally agree – I was just summarising his claim to have been a “witness” to the incident in his SMH op-ed.

Anyway, I”m pretty bored of the whole thing, which is what I was trying to convey by employing obviously facetious phrases like “gripping saga”.

I will pitch a Crikey Clarifier on witnesses at conference tomorrow. Not sure it will get up though…unless you want to write it?

AC

Gerard Henderson to Andrew Crook – 20 September 2012

Andrew

What a hoot.  Just love your self-deprecating humour and the joke that Crikey is into fact-checking.

Here’s Crikey which openly publishes rumours – and only last year reported my “behaviour” at a Sydney theatre when I was in fact in Washington DC at that time –  now moving into the fact-checking business.    Wow. For the record, just in case your offer was serious – I decline the invitation to write a “Crikey Clarifier”.

I agree that  the “punch” issue – which The Age is obsessed with – is running out of steam.  The most boring contribution was Robert Manne’s entry into the debate in The Age last Monday – over a week after the (alleged) story broke.

I don’t know about David Patch. But when I studied law, a witness was someone who witnessed an event.  Someone who reported what someone said after the event was conveying hearsay evidence.  That’s all.

David Patch is having a lend.  He well knows that you cannot be a witness to an event which you did not see or hear. I am surprised that so many journalists have fallen for Patch’s quite misleading comment – perhaps they don’t know any law.

Cheers

Gerard

Andrew Crook to Gerard Henderson – 20 September 2012

Yep, although at least we”re giving the fact checking thing a go with next to no resources. I was surprised that none of the big media companies had done it yet –  especially given how big the fact checking movement has become in the US recently.

PolitiFact won a Pulitzer way back in 2009 (fact!) and for three years Fairfax and News didn”t lift a finger. Pretty obvious gap in the market.

Not sure I remember the Sydney theatre rumour but I”ll ask around tomorrow.

Andrew

CONCERNING LIAM HOGAN’S SUGGESTION THAT MINOR ERRORS DIMINISH EVIDENCE BUT BIG ERRORS REALLY DON’T MATTER

Liam Hogan to Gerard Henderson – 17 September 2012

Dear Mr Henderson

I read with keen interest your Media Watch Dog of the 14/9/12. In particular, your claim that:

But neither Marr nor Giggs bothered to travel to Sydney University and read the microfiche copies of Honi Soit which are in the Fisher Library.  This was due to either negligence or laziness.

As I”m sure you”re aware, since you claim to have looked at them, the copies in Fisher Library”s collection of Honi Soit of the 1970s are on microfilm, not microfiche. If you are prepared to accuse others of negligence and laziness, are you also prepared to correct this error?

Sincerely,

Liam Hogan

Gerard Henderson to Liam Hogan – 18 September 2012

Dear Mr Hogan

I refer to your email of last Friday.  It’s great to know that you are keen reader of Media Watch Dog. Nancy will be pleased.

Unlike so many ABC types, I am always happy to acknowledge errors and make corrections.   So I have corrected the reference in last Friday’s MWD from “microfiche” to “microfilm”. By the way, as you may or may not know, “microfiche” and “microfilm” are a part of “microform”.  How about that?

I don’t share your opinion that this minor error amounts to “negligence” and “laziness” on my behalf.  After all, I did get a researcher to travel to the Fisher Library to get these original documents. David Marr had a researcher who worked on his Quarterly Essay and Marr did not bother to send her to Sydney University to check the original documents. In my view, this amounts to laziness and negligence.

Please feel free to get in touch if you locate any other errors in MWD.  Since you are so interested in correcting the factual errors of others, I wonder if you have approached David Marr pointing out any of the numerous howlers in his Quarterly Essay.  Just a thought.

Best wishes

Gerard Henderson

* * * *

Until next time.

'2012