3AW general manager Shane Healy’s
mealy-mouthed defence of Derryn Hinch last week has moved us to
rekindle the incident that Hinch described as “the biggest kick in the
gut that I have ever had” – his dumping this month as patron of a
children’s charity.

The Cerebral Palsy Education Centre dropped
Derryn in the wake of his bizarre Graham Kennedy outburst. While the
centre thanked him for his “extraordinary financial support,” it
appears that tensions between Hinch and the children’s charity go back
years, providing an insight into the Hinch modus operandi.

first received word of trouble between Hinch and the charity several
years ago, soon after Derryn conducted an on-air fundraiser for CPEC
while hosting drive at 3AK in 2001.

“He launched into it with a
flurry of enthusiasm,” said an insider. “He soon racked up pledges of
$90,000 – not bad for a struggling station that was barely rating
asterisks.” Then came the trouble. “There was no follow-up. Cheques
from listeners were stuffed in drawers and not sent on to the charity.
Derryn promised follow up action to pursue the good cause – but the
charity soon found that was like pulling teeth.”

When we first
received news of trouble between Hinch and CPEC, we called the
organisation and got a blunt denial about any problems. Reluctant to
impugn a charity, we didn’t run the story. But after the Kennedy
kerfuffle, and 3AW’s lame attempt to justify Hinch’s actions, we
decided to check the story out again. This time, it was confirmed by
another contemporary 3AK staffer, who remembers the fundraising
schemozzle well.

“Months later, donors were calling the station
wondering why the money hadn’t come out of their bank accounts,” said
the insider. “Given the time lapse, I would find it hard to imagine
that the amount that was announced on air was the amount cashed.”

not talking about fraud here – just incompetence,” says our source. The
relationship soured when Hinch promised to attend an open day at the
centre, to meet parents and their children.

“The event was
promoted heavily,” says a station source. “Typical Hinch stuff, he went
full steam into it, talked about it on air for a week. And then slowly
lost interest.” The big day dawned: “But Derryn obviously didn’t fancy
taking a cab all the way to Nunawading. So he and his producer went out
to lunch instead – leaving the kids, their parents and the organisers
standing there like a bunch of half-sucked Twisties.”

Shane Healy wants us to remember Derryn’s “considerable” commitment to
the community, and how he “staunchly defended the rights of those in
the community who were otherwise defenceless.”

And it’s true
that Hinch has shown his heart’s in the right place, with a personal
commitment and public advocacy for a number of good causes throughout
his career. And he has his supporters who appreciate his work for CPEC
and other organisations. Check out his website here. But in this case, however, the trouble started once the commitments had been made.

former colleague says: “Derryn means well. But he just doesn’t always
follow through. He might have had the energy and the drive when, as a
younger man, he was 3AW’s unbeatable morning shock jock. But maybe you
can’t bluff your way through forever…”

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey