ISSUE NO. 19 of Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch Dog



Virginia Trioli Equates Hu with Hicks

Just when Nancy had recovered from the presenter Leigh Sales’ suggestion on Lateline last Friday that Chinese born Australian businessman Stern Hu’s detention in China was not much different from David Hicks’ incarceration in Guantanamo Bay, the theme got another run on the ABC 2 News Breakfast program on Monday 13 July.  It took place in the segment when a leftist or left-of-centre academic – or a journalist usually of fashionable leftwards disposition – is asked to discuss what’s in the newspapers.  For some strange reason, it seems that conservatives in Melbourne don’t rise early enough to get such a gig. [Could it perhaps be that ABC TV does not have their home phone numbers? – Ed]

In any event, Monash University academic Waleed Aly was in the commentator’s chair on Monday and Virginia Trioli was the presenter leading the discussion.  The topic turned to the fact that the Opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull had complained that Prime Minister  Kevin Rudd was not doing enough for Mr Hu.  Ms Trioli took up the Stern-Hu’s-case-is-just-like-David-Hicks’-case line. Here we go:

Virginia Trioli:  Always interesting, I think, to see the Opposition jumping up and down about Australian citizens being held without charge for quite some time.  Where were they during David Hicks?  Where were they?

Waleed Aly:  Well, I guess he’s [i.e. Hu] not accused of terrorism in this case [Laughing].

Virginia Trioli:  Yeah, well.

Waleed Aly:  Espionage, that’s fine [Laughter]

Virginia Trioli: Australian citizens are not all equal, I guess, we’ve concluded – have we?

Waleed Aly:  No. Well, there is certainly that argument recently.

Virginia Trioli:  Yes [More laughter]

Er, no – actually.  Not at all.  It was interesting to note that Ms Trioli asked leading questions positing the Hu-equals-Hicks thesis and Dr Aly went along with the suggestion, somewhat reluctantly.

From the available evidence, Mr Hu is a well regarded businessman who has been incarcerated by China’s communist dictatorship for reasons that the Chinese authorities have yet to explain.

David Hicks, on the other hand, is a self-admitted supporter of terrorism who trained with the Taliban, who attempted to kill non-Muslims on the Indian side of the Kashmir line-of-control and who was captured in Afghanistan just after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States.  Mr Hicks is also on record as condemning Christians and Jews and supporting beheadings for those who do not follow the teaching of Muhammad as interpreted by his (one-time) mates in the Taliban.

For Virginia Trioli and others in the media to link the Hu and Hicks cases does enormous discredit to Mr Hu and lets the dictators in Beijing off the hook.

By the way, if the Taliban ever have their way – the likes of Virginia Trioli will, at best, be decked out in the burqa or, at worst, confined to virtual home imprisonment.  It may be that Taliban News Breakfast or some such would arrange for a burqa-clad Ms Trioli to read the news from a home studio each morning.  But it would be a Taliban first.  In any event, it’s unlikely that the Taliban would tolerate Ms Trioli’s on-air artificial laughter as a tactic for making points. Taliban controlled sheilas don’t laugh.

Clive Williams – Judge and Jury and Legal Reporter As Well

Nancy was also surprised this week with how some other commentators and journalists handled the Hu matter.

On Monday 13 July Alexandra Kirk put a report to air in which intelligence expert Clive Williams – who is a bit of a part-time media tart – virtually said that  Mr Hu had been involved in bribery.  How much evidence did Mr Williams have to support his theory?  Zip.  Absolutely zip.  Here are some excerpts from Mr Kirk’s report which contained takes from her interview with Clive Williams.  Mr Williams’ comments should never have gone to air without a contrasting view being heard:

Alexandra Kirk: Clive Williams, a visiting fellow at the Australian National University in Canberra, says as far as the Chinese authorities are concerned, Mr Hu is a Chinese national.

Clive Williams: Had he been an Australian who had been born in Australia then his situation would be different, he’d probably be expelled from the country instead. The big issue for the Chinese is the fact that he was born in China and he’s been engaged in activities against the state, so therefore they’ll deem that as an issue that should be punished.

Alexandra Kirk: Professor Williams, from the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, says while bribery is common in China, the accusation against Mr Hu of bribery and undermining China’s economic security is very serious.

Clive Williams: You have to bribe people to get business done, but when you go beyond that to purchase information that might give you an advantage against an industry which is state-owned and part of the national security structure, then that obviously is regarded in a different light by the Chinese.

Alexandra Kirk: But Clive Williams suspects a call to Beijing by the Prime Minister or Foreign Minister would lead to frustration and that’s why they’re not keen.

Clive Williams: I think the leverage of the Government here is very small and I think that due process will take its course in China and we won’t be able to do much about it….

Alexandra Kirk: Clive Williams says the Chinese are sending a very clear message back.

Clive Williams: Basically I think what they want to do is to send a message to other Chinese employees of foreign companies in China that their first loyalty is to China and not to the company that employs them. Clearly they regard any bribery of officials to gain information, particularly at this sensitive time when their industries are under some pressure, is simply not acceptable.

What’s not acceptable is for commentators to imply that someone is guilty of a charge, when, literally, they do not know what they are talking about.

Greg Hoy and Australia‘s (Alleged) Offences Against China

And then there was reporter Greg Hoy’s coverage of this issue on the 7.30 Report last Monday.  According to Mr Hoy, Australia and Australians have committed offences against China and Chinese.  This is the story – according to Hoy – told at some considerable length. In fact Greg Hoy’s pieces to camera in his report seemed more like editorials:

Stern Hu is caught, it seems, in the great divide between China’s automatic presumption of guilt and Australia’s traditional presumption of innocence until objectively proven guilty. If it hasn’t already, this diplomatic crisis is fast becoming a very serious test of Australia’s relationship with what is now its largest trading partner. If this is not all about Mr Hu, the question must be asked: how could we have so offended such an important customer?

Those who are familiar with doing business in China have suggested there are possible offences, including the implication arising from Australia’s latest defence White Paper that China may be considered a strategic threat to Australia, plus other offences, with unfortunate timing, which together might provide a substantial test of the diplomatic skills of Australia’s Mandarin speaking Prime Minister.

Though charming Beijing with his fluent Mandarin, some argue the Prime Minister, having once been accused of being too close to the Chinese, was the only national leader in the world to criticise the Chinese on the recent 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.  …..Another possibility, the meeting with the Dalai Lama in Tibet 10 days ago by an Australian parliamentary delegation led by Labor’s Michael Danby.

Then Mr Hoy went on to state that China’s leaders had become upset when Rio Tinto shareholders rejected an investment proposal from the state owned Chinalco company.  Shucks.

It’s quite a new concept in international affairs when – according to Hoy – a nation like Australia which pursues its national interests is engaging in committing “offences” against another nation. Once again, this commentary should not have passed editorial checks.


In response to public demand, MWD is commencing an occasional segment where minor historical errors will be corrected, howlers identified and myths busted.  MWD is not into prophecy – but this segment is unlikely to run short of material anytime soon.

Annabel Crabb‘s Morris Moment

In Annabel Crabb’s entertaining and perceptive Quarterly Essay Issue 34 2009 titled “Stop at Nothing: The Life and Adventures of Malcolm Turnbull” there is a reference to Grahame Morris as “Howard’s first chief-of-staff in government” (Page 17).

In fact, as prime minister, John Howard’s inaugural chief of staff was Nicole Feely.  Ms Feely held the position from March 1996 to mid 1997 when she took up a position with the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG).  Grahame Morris took over from Nicole Feely but he was replaced by Arthur Sinodinos towards the end of 1997.  Viewers of the ABC TV documentary The Howard Years may have obtained the impression that Grahame Morris was Mr Howard’s long-serving chief-of-staff – since the program gave the impression that Mr Morris was a long time senior staffer in the Howard Government.  In fact, he served less than two years in total – and less than one year as chief-of-staff.

Elder – Caught Bradman Bowled Howard

Recognising that everyone makes mistakes MWD has a policy of correcting errors as soon as possible   Last week Bruce Elder made contact to advise that in Issue 18 Gretel Killeen’s name has been misspelt.  It appeared that Mr Elder may have been somewhat upset by MWD‘s critique of Charles Waterstreet’s claim that he had paid for the thespian’s teeth job.  But  a correction is a correction and MWD is grateful to be able to right a wrong. This has been done.

While on the topic of errors and corrections and Bruce Elder, MWD feels the need to draw attention to Bruce Elder’s review of Peter Cochrane’s edited collection Australian Greats which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on 27 December 2008.  MWD was particularly impressed that Mr Elder was able to do the fashionable leftie journalist thing and bag, yes, John Howard in the first half of his short review of a book about other people.  Here is Bruce Elder’s comment:

Talk about politically incorrect – at least from John Howard’s point of view.  A book titled Australian Greats, a series of essays about all those “great” things and people this country has produced – and there’s no entry on Phar Lap or Don Bradman! This is the perfect book for all those people who thought Howard’s inclusion of the Don in the Australian Citizenship Test was a bridge too far.

In fact, this is a myth too far. When John Howard was prime minister, there was no mention of Don Bradman in the Australian Citizenship Test.  None whatsoever.  Consequently, potential citizens who took the test were not required to know anything at all about the late Sir Donald in order to qualify for Australian citizenship.  Bradman was mentioned among others in the sport section of the Becoming an Australian Citizen guide and he appears in the practice test – along with Rod Laver and Hubert Opperman.  That’s all.

Sure, many journalists got this one wrong.  But Bruce Elder is the only one of this journalistic lot to author a book with such a pretentious title as The A-Z of Australian Facts, Myths & Legends.  Come to think of it, Elder might consider placing the Bradman-was-in-Howard’s-citizenship-test myth in the next edition of his tome. By the way, some of Mr Elder’s myths in his books on myths are analysed in Issue 34 of The Sydney Institute Quarterly.

While on the Liberal Party, Bruce Elder and myths, it’s worth correcting an error in his review of Trisha Goddard’s memoir Trish: As I Am, which appeared in the SMH on 3 January 2009.  In fact, the Goddard book was your man’s “Pick of the Week”.  Bruce Elder wrote that Ms Goddard “came to Australia, where she married a Liberal politician who was a control freak and who died from AIDS”. In fact, the man in question was never elected to any parliament – he was just a Liberal Party operative.


It’s an idea whose time arrived – and stayed.  The reference is to the Adelaide Festival of Ideas – which commenced in 1999 and which has now been imitated in other Australian capital cities. The idea is quite simple, really. It goes like this.

First. Go to the government, any government, looking for a handout.  Any handout.

Second.  Collect a bucket-load of taxpayers money – either by means of a direct grant or advertising – from governments or government departments or essentially publicly funded institutions like universities.

Third – Spend the (public) funds acquired to invite your ideological mates to Adelaide (or some other place) and hold festivals of ideas where everyone agrees with everyone else.  If a conservative is to be invited, make sure he or she is from the left-liberal section of the Liberal Party or some such so that those attending do not have to hear the views of someone with whom they disagree.

MWD loves the festival of ideas concept because it provides lotsa copy.  However, MWD is contemplating complaining to the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission about the misleading advertising inherent in the title “The Adelaide Festival of Ideas”.  In fact, the event should be termed “The Adelaide Festival of Idea”.

You get some idea of what was involved in last weekend’s gig in Adelaide from reading the coverage of the Adelaide Now newsletter. On 13 July Clare Peddie summarised the session titled “Climate Change: Beyond the City Limits?” which was held the previous day with panelists Richard Dennis (executive director of the Australia Institute), environmentalist Brendan Mackey and Suzanne Miller (director of the South Australian Museum). Needless to say, everyone agreed with everyone else.  As Dr Peddie enthusiastically reported:

Attempting to balance climate change policy with industry demands is a recipe for disaster says a panel of experts from the Adelaide Festival of Ideas..  Australia Institute executive director Dr Richard Denniss  said the Federal Government’s approach was “fundamentally inadequate”.  “No matter how persuasive Kevin Rudd thinks he is, you can’t negotiate with the atmosphere,” he said.

Well, how about that? The panel had just one view.  Suzanne Miller agreed with Dr Richard Denniss who agreed with Brendan Mackey.  Come to think of it, it all sounded a bit like an ABC 1 Lateline discussion of climate change or a Late Night Live conversation on almost anything.

MWD was particularly touched by Natasha Stott-Despoja’s report of the AFI in Adelaide News on 14 July.  She recounted how South Australian Labor premier Mike Rann had opened the Festival “with a heartfelt and lovely speech in the Art Gallery”.  How lovely – for luvvies.


This edition of MWD commences a new feature.  The “Hi Nancy” segment will publish the occasional letter-to-the-editor along with some correspondence in the Agony Aunt genre.  So start sending those cards, letters and emails – commencing with the quite loathsome salutation “hi”. The first missive arrived this week from a far away place. Here it is:

Hi Nancy

From far away, my attention has been drawn to Miss Leigh Sales’ treatise titled On Doubt (MUP 2009) where she made the claim that Martin Luther, of Wittenberg circa 1517, was heavily into self-doubt.  This is a finding of enormous theological significance and I understand that MWD has covered the story extensively.

Had I known what Miss Sales knows, I would have written Christianae Religionis Institutio somewhat differently all those centuries ago.  Pray tell me.  Has Miss Sales yet come up with the evidence in support of her very own theological breakthrough?  Here’s hoping.

By the way, that Miss Sales. She certainly looks like one of the Elect to me.

John Calvin (Rev.)

Holy City of Geneva



Due to popular demand (and space considerations), the promised coverage of Professor Jake Lynch’s repeat performance on Mornings with Margaret Throsby has been held over until next week – or until Nancy’s fleas pass over – or both.


Those who did not read Charles Waterstreet’s column in last Sunday’s Sun-Herald probably do not want to know that your man Waterstreet (i) finds Sunday a “sad day”, (ii) missed Wake in Fright when it was first shown circa 1971 because he was “too drunk” or “too young”, (iii) once shot at targets with “BB guns” in the late Patrick White’s living room and (iv) recently sat in a “blackened cinema with smatterings of other lonely hearts on a black Sunday night” where he watched Wake in Fright (again).  Well – now you do.  MWD just cannot wait until (much) more of the (very) same next Sunday.


On Late Night Live last Wednesday Phillip Adams AO et al, CPA (ex) announced that his favourite leftist talent Bea Campbell OBE, Stalinist (Retd) has just received (yet another) honorary doctorate.  This one from the University of Luton.  Great news.  Now here’s a question.  Are there any extant former members of the Communist Party who have yet to receive a gong or an honorary doctorate?  If so, let Nancy know and she will put in a recommendation to Government House or the Palace or a compliant university.

Until next time.