Can you bear it?  A never-ending list of Hendi-howlers?  It’s been a bumper fortnight here at Henderson Watch.

The day after our last edition, Gerard Henderson (ex-Age, ex-Spectator) slipped up (again) in his Sydney Morning Herald column (July 5), claiming that:

More than 85 per cent of Australian electors voted for a party other than the Greens (at the 2010 Federal election).

Really?  In presenting its results for the 2010 House of Representatives election, the Australian Electoral Commission website lists 14,086,869 electors (that is, people on the electoral roll) and 12,402,363 formal voters (electors who attended a polling booth and lodged a formal vote). Of these formal voters, 1,458,998 supported the Greens and a further 315,004 voted for non-party candidates.  Therefore, the number of primary votes lodged for parties other than the Greens was 10,628,361.

As a proportion of electors, this represents 75.4% — nearly 10% less than Henderson’s 85% benchmark. It is said that figures don’t lie. In Gerard’s case, however, they rarely stand up to scrutiny.

More Confusion (of the Electoral Kind)

Hendo (aged 65) was off his game (again) when appearing on the ABC Insiders program three Sundays ago. Once more, he struggled with an understanding of electoral facts and figures, declaring:

How many of those Greens in Canberra were put there by Liberal Party preferences … I think Lee Rhiannon was in New South Wales.

Think again Gerard. Rhiannon was elected, achieving her Senate quota, before the distribution of Coalition preferences. Perhaps sensing the decline in his powers, the muddied confusion of his mind, Hendo started to back away in his SMH column two days later:

If Rhiannon’s vote had been only 4000 votes lower when she needed a quota, she would have been elected on Coalition preferences.

When they make a mistake, normal people usually apologise and get on with their lives. The Hendi, however, look for a way of rationalising their error, a mind-trick by which they can pretend it did not happen. In this case, Gerard knows that Rhiannon was not “put there by Liberal Party preferences”, so he is playing a game of pretend: if she received 4000 fewer votes “she would have been elected on Coalition preferences”.

It’s like Anne Henderson’s mindset in her argument with Michael Kroger re the electoral superiority of Joe Lyons and Malcolm Fraser. If only something had not happened, I would have been right in saying it had.

Lyons of Attack

Speaking of which, Anne was at it again on July 5.  In (another) letter to the editor of The Australian, she reasserted her fantasy that in the early 1930s the Lyons government achieved a bigger parliamentary majority than the Fraser government in 1975. Having failed in two earlier letters to prove her delusion true, she tried this argument:

The forces Lyons led to the 1931 election included an informal coalition with the Country Party and the South Australian Emergency Committee … The SAEC was an electoral ploy. UAP forces in South Australia wanted to maximise their support from disaffected Laborites.

That is, Lyons should be given credit for leading an “electoral ploy”, a group of South Australian candidates who campaigned on the basis that they were not part of his United Australia Party. The SAEC, apparently, wanted to trick “disaffected Laborites” into voting for Lyons.  This was not only an “informal coalition” (whatever that might mean) but, in Anne-land, a coalition by stealth.  And she expected readers of The Australian to accept this as a valid piece of political history. Ponder the absurdity of it: candidates who won their seats by dissociating themselves from Joe Lyons should be counted as part of a “Lyons landslide”.

Moreover, in her letter dated June 28, Anne Henderson admitted that “the UAP and the Country Party did not form a coalition government after the 1931 election”.  The so-called Lyons forces, in effect, were UAP candidates and nobody else. This episode of corresponditis is another example of why the Hendi-coalition itself is a discredited force in Australian politics.  Psychologically, they are incapable of accepting they have made a mistake.

Michael Kroger, who has had to endure the bombardment of Henderson letters, deserves the last word:

“(Anne) Henderson uses the debating trick that many in the political game use, being that in answer to one direct question, you provide a series of answers, none of which directly respond to the question. In the book Australian Prime Ministers edited by Michelle Grattan, it was Anne Henderson herself who wrote the chapter on Joseph Aloysius Lyons. Describing the 1931 result, Henderson states (P.155) “When the UAP toppled the Scullin Government in December 1931 it won an absolute majority, governing without the Country Party until 1934″ (my emphasis).  Yes Anne, you are correct, it did govern without the Country Party. It was not in coalition with the Country Party and it was never in coalition with the South Australian Emergency Committee.”

In publishing this letter on July 7, even The Australian showed signs of corresponditis fatigue, an editor’s note declaring that “this correspondence is now closed”.

Kroger certainly deserved the last word. In Hendi-land, however, there is no such possibility. On July 8, Gerard Henderson published a 1300-word essay in his Media Watch Dog on the matter.  He started with the curious argument that:

“Kroger’s claim that Malcolm Fraser won a bigger parliamentary margin than Joe Lyons turns on his analysis of what took place after the 1931 election.”

Given that parliamentary margins are determined after elections (as governments are commissioned to take office) and not before them, what else could Kroger do?

Then the strangest thing happened. Gerard started to make points against Anne’s position and in favour of Kroger’s — the greatest spilt in the Henderson family since Norman Henderson defected from the ALP to the DLP in the mid-1950s. (The family was not reconciled, in fact, until one of Norman’s grand-daughters worked as an adviser to the leader of the Labor Party in 2004).

Now a new split beckons.  Consider Gerard’s words:

“Before the formation of the Liberal Party of Australia in 1944, the non-Labor parties were a diverse lot.  This remained the case in some states even after the Liberal Party was formed at the federal level.  Robert Menzies made this clear in his 1967 book Afternoon Light: Some Memories of Men and Events, where he wrote: ‘The United Australia Party … had behind it (more or less) a whole series of unrelated organisations, without cohesion or common purpose.'”

This is precisely the point Kroger is making. How can Lyons be given credit for the electoral performance of organisations that were “unrelated” to the UAP, which did not share a “common purpose” with Lyons’ party? Gerard has torpedoed Anne’s position by using the words of no less an authority that Menzies. Worse then followed:

“If Joe Lyons was not leading a united Opposition in 1931, precisely what was he doing campaigning in South Australia during the 1931 campaign? … Lyons campaigned on behalf of all Emergency Committee candidates in South Australia.”

This contradicts Anne Henderson’s assertion that “the SAEC was an election ploy”, a subterfuge to trick “disaffected Laborites” into voting for Lyons. Surely it would have blown their cover if Lyons had campaigned openly for these candidates. The Hendi cannot have it both ways, either Gerard or Anne is wrong about the role of the SA Emergency Committee.

An Iron Law of Life

As sure as night follows day, if someone disagrees with one of the Hendersons, a flurry of correspondence follows. There is no reason to believe the Hendi coalition itself is immune to this natural phenomenon. One can imagine the burst of corresponditis now under way:

Dear Gerard,

I’m the Lyons expert in this family, so lay off.  Please stick to what you do best, your Deborah Cameron moments and all that. If I say the SA Emergency Committee was an electoral ploy then it must be true.

When it comes to understanding Lyons’ campaign tactics, you are no more credible than Phillip Adams, Mike Carlton, Laura Tingle, Alan Ramsey, Paul Barry, Julian Burnside, Robert Manne, Mark Latham, Doc Evatt, BA Santamaria, Arthur Calwell, Bob Ellis, John Quiggin, Saul Eslake, Tony Jones, John Hewson, Malcolm Fraser, Margaret Simons, John Pilger, David Marr, Cate Blanchett, Tim Flannery, Tim Costello, Kathy Lette, Geoffrey Robertson, Guy Rundle, Kerry O’Brien, Jonathan Holmes, Andrew Jaspan, Catherine Deveny, Deborah Cameron, the Chaser Boys or any of the other names on our enemies list.

Yours, Anne Henderson


Dear Anne,

Can you bear it?  This is nothing more than barracking from a Henderson-funded sinecure, opining about the sassy Deb Cameron. It must be jealousy — driven by the fact that I talk about her more than I talk about you. Gosh, now I’m having an Anne Henderson moment.

Just because we appeared together years ago in a wedding ceremony at an obscure Catholic church, it doesn’t mean you are exempt from my pedantry. I will be publishing this correspondence in the next edition of MWD to set the record straight.

That’s all for now. Must go, I’m only halfway through my 14 hours of media monitoring for today and only onto my third replay of Q&A. I’ve caught Tony Jones talking about the Star Hotel again. Now he reckons that “anyone who remembers the Star Hotel wasn’t really there”. Really? And what exactly is a Cold Chisel?

Cheers, Gerard.


Dear Gerard,

Joe Lyons had a chisel (of the cold variety) in his Devonport toolshed. He was quite a tool man, in fact, with 12 kids and all that. But what would you know? Quoting Menzies as a source on conservative politics in Australia! What would he know? He only sent Lyons to an early grave. He never wrote a book about him.

As for the unspeakable … Deb, Deb, Deb … that’s all you talk about. Do you write anything these days without mentioning that woman? If she’s so interesting, why didn’t you marry her instead of me? (good question, Ed.)  Be warned: I wrote a book called Getting Even (1999) and most people thought it was my autobiography.

You reckon you’re busy.  I’ve just finished my 13th letter to Chris Mitchell telling him to get rid of his letters editor (the one who said “this correspondence is now closed”) so I can have another go at correcting Kroger.  Now that we’re in revisionist mode, shouldn’t we add him to our list?

Yours, Anne.

And on it goes.

Fascist Follies

Remember the days (and there were plenty of them) when Gerard Henderson objected to the pejorative use of the term “fascist”?  Now the gamekeeper has turned poacher.  Last week’s Media Watch Dog described the editor of the Spectator Australia, the talented Tom Switzer, as a “neo-con fascist” — not once, not twice, but three times.  Gosh.

Switzer’s only sin was to accept Gerard’s resignation as a Spectator columnist.  Henderson threw one of his hissy-fits after I gently ribbed him in one of my columns — as per the playful Speccie style.  In truth, Switzer watered down my words and manfully defended Henderson.  It just goes to show: it’s not only those who have contradicted the Hendi who are subject to lifelong grudges, their defenders also cop it.

Let’s dig deeper into the Hendi psyche.  Here’s Gerard in rhetorical mode in The Australian on 11 July:

I thought do I need this, for $200 a week?  To be in the same magazine as Mark Latham?

By this standard, Gerard should not be appearing, as he often does, on the pay-TV channel Sky News, where for the past 12 months I have been a panellist and commentator.  Or perhaps they are paying him $200 plus a box of Jatz crackers.

Censorship Central

Few things irritate the Hendersons more than media outlets that refuse to publish their correspondence (perhaps this is why they started writing to each other).  In fact, their Media Watch Dog tries to give the impression of being an open house for public feedback.  Behind the scenes, however, there is a culture of censorship.  Not even Australia’s leading public intellectual, Robert Manne, can get his material published. Let’s go to the emails:

From: Robert Manne [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Monday, 4 July 2011 2:39 PM
To: [email protected]
Subject: Letter to the Editor of Media Watch Dog

One of Gerard Henderson’s many delusions is that he understands other people’s histories better than they understand them themselves.

On several occasions (for example in the Sydney Institute Quarterly, Issue 32, 2008) Dr Henderson claimed that I was a member of the Melbourne University Labor Club in July 1967 when it decided to give aid to the National Liberation Front, popularly known as the Viet Cong. This was an outright falsehood, calculated to damage me. Given that Henderson was claiming I was in favour of aiding the enemy at time of war, that is that I was arguably involved in treason, eventually I felt obliged to answer him in detail. I did so in his own Sydney Institute Quarterly. Through gritted teeth, Henderson was now obliged to concede that he had persistently not told the truth. “For the record I accept Manne’s assurance that he was not a member of the Labor Club … when it attempted to give aid to the NLF.” (Sydney Institute Quarterly, Issue 34 2008, pp.41-44)

Recently Dr Henderson has been at it again. In the course of a spirited email controversy (Media Watch Dog, June 17 2011) Henderson claimed: “As I documented in my email to you dated 30 July 2010, when Quadrant editor in 1992, you successfully sought Patrick Morgan’s exclusion from the Quadrant board. Around this time you did the same with Ray Evans. Both Patrick and Ray committed the sackable “sin” of disagreeing with you on economic policy.”

Everything about this statement is false. Patrick Morgan was not a member of Quadrant’s board but its editorial advisory committee (appointed by me). In late 2002 he took offence at couple of paragraphs on neo-liberalism in an article of mine, “Writers and Communism”. Morgan demanded a meeting of the advisory committee in the hope of replacing or at least censuring me. The advisory committee, which held an emergency phone meeting, with the exception of Morgan unanimously supported me. Both Morgan and I understood that someone who wanted me censured or sacked could not remain on the advisory committee I had appointed.

Later in 1992 I co-edited with John Carroll a book called Shutdown. As the book was inconsistent with the views of some Quadrant supporters, as a matter of honour I offered the board my resignation as editor. The board duly met. At the meeting I was asked to leave the room. I later learnt that Ray Evans and Heinz Arndt demanded that my resignation be accepted. The majority of the board however wanted me to stay on. Evans and Arndt then resigned.

As for the false and indeed ludicrous claim that I would not tolerate those who differed with my critique of neo-liberal economic policy, here is a list of some of the authors on economics whose contributions I solicited and published in Quadrant between 1990 and 1992: Kenneth Minogue (May 1990); Andrew Norton (May 1990); Rafe Champion (May 1990); John Stone (June 1990); Ray Evans (November 1990); John Fogarty (April 1991); John Stone (May 1991); Peter Costello (May 1991); Terry McCrann (May1991); Heinz Arndt (July/August 1991); Bert Kelly (September 1991); Alan Lloyd (December 1991); John Stone (January/February 1992); Chandran Kukathas (April 1992); John Stone (July/August 1992); Heinz Arndt (November 1992).

In the same edition of Media Watch Dog, Henderson claimed with confidence that I was wrong when I claimed that I wrote columns for The Age in 1993 and that in fact I only began writing columns for The Age in 1997. Again, he clearly believed he knew the details of my life better than I did myself. In fact, I wrote for The Age from 1993 before switching briefly to The Australian in 1996 and then moving back to The Age and also The Sydney Morning Herald in 1997. To discover the facts, Henderson had merely to check any newspaper data base, to which I assume the director of the Sydney Institute he has access. It would have taken less than five minutes.

Every week Henderson pompously deplores the absence of fact-checking in others. He should do a bit more of it himself.

Cheers, Rob

Dr Henderson replied to Professor Manne the following day:

You seem to have forgotten that I have already indicated that I will not run any more of your material in Media Watch Dog until you provide evidence that in 1993 or 1995 I wrote an “unpleasant dossier” about you and forwarded it to Paul Austin and Morag Fraser — or until you withdraw the allegation. You claim that there are at least three copies of this document in existence — Paul’s, Morag’s and yours.  However, you have not produced the document or even quoted from it.

Your annual leave should provide an opportunity for you to conclude your search for this (non-existent) document and then withdraw your assertion.  While on annual leave, you may also find time to amend your entry in Who’s Who in Australia. I never claimed that you did not write columns for The Age in 1993.  All I ever said was that, according to your entry in Who’s Who, you were a columnist for The Age between 1997 and 2005.

As far as I am concerned, this correspondence is concluded.  (Gerard Henderson).

Hendo is well-known for his sneaky supply of material to media outlets. Reaching into his comprehensive filing system (a technique he learnt from his mentor, BA Santamaria — that is, before they fell out) Gerard is the master of  “the drop”. For many years, for instance, he has collaborated with The Australian’s Cut and Paste section, feeding his poison into the system.

One wonders how Fairfax feels about this, given their payment of Hendo to write for The Sydney Morning Herald. But that’s Gerard Henderson for you: taking money off one media outlet but assisting its competitor behind-the-scenes.

The email exchange with Professor Manne shows Henderson at his schoolyard worst: the immaturity of an “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” game. All in the name of censorship, the totalitarian technique that Santamaria and Norman Henderson so vigorously opposed.

At Henderson Watch, however, Professor Manne can have his say, plus anyone else whose views have been suppressed by the Henderson coalition of forces. Please email me on [email protected].

Usually columnists have to scratch around for material with which to fill their column inches. Not here at Henderson Watch. There are so many errors and inconsistencies that the challenge is to decide which ones to include and which ones to leave out.  But rest assured, I will always find space for Hendi-censored material.

As the great man himself declared in Media Watch Dog Issue 99:

(People) in Sydney’s west … go to work each day, rather than sit at home and write for Crikey.

How true.  It’s a tough gig but somebody’s got to do it.

Peter Fray

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