Gerard Henderson writes:|
Dec 07, 2007 12:00AM |EMAIL|PRINT
The Monthly, published by Morry Schwartz, is one of the few journals of opinion in the democratic world which does not run a letters/correspondence page in its printed edition. This is convenient for contributors to The Monthly who can bag their opponents sure in the knowledge that those they criticise have no adequate right of reply. Hence this note to Crikey – which readily publishes replies and corrections and genuinely believes in debate.
The current issue of The Monthly carries a long article by Robert Manne on the ABC during the time of the Howard government. Professor Manne also happens to be the chairman of The Monthly’s editorial board. In his piece, Manne alleges that “the Howard years saw the rise and rise of an aggressive right-wing commentariat” including myself who “for the past 11 and three quarter years… maintained a consistent rhetorical attack on the supposed left-wing bias of the ABC…”
Manne’s article completely overlooks the fact that the Hawke and Keating Labor governments were highly critical of the ABC before the Howard government came to office. And I was critical of aspects of the ABC well before John Howard entered the public debate on this issue. In Whose ABC? (Black Inc, 2006), historian Ken Inglis refers to my criticism of ABC TV’s coverage of the First Gulf War (Sydney Morning Herald, 22 January 1991) as initiating a “public and domestic conflict as troubling as any in the ABC’s history”. Prime Minister Bob Hawke supported me publicly at the time. John Howard said nothing. The fact is that I had a difficult relationship with Mr Howard between 1986 and 2003.
For the record, I commenced my regular spot on ABC Radio National Breakfast in January 1994 – during the time of Paul Keating’s government. Manne claims that I “moved from Keating fan to Howard lover without so much as a word of explanation”. If Manne had followed my work, he would know that I was broadly supportive of the economic and foreign policies of the Hawke, Keating and Howard governments.
From his comments in The Monthly, it is clear that Manne believes that I should be dropped as a commentator on RN Breakfast. How interesting, then, that John Howard’s Office was a key critic of my RN Breakfast appearances in the second half of the 1990s. How interesting, too, that Manne actually voted for John Howard in 1996 - as he later confessed to readers of his Age column.