It’s official. When the carbon tax commences in Australia on July 1, the nation’s unemployment rate will stand at 5.1%. With the creation of an extra 46,000 full-time jobs in May, the labour market is remarkably robust, especially when compared to the rest of the world.

These figures are of interest to Henderson Watch because of the economic analysis of the False Prophet of the Sydney Institute. In his Sydney Morning Herald column of August 23, 2011, Gerard Henderson declared “that the introduction of the carbon tax, leading to an emissions trading scheme, on 1 July, 2012 (would take) place at a time of rising unemployment at 6 percent or higher”. He opined “this could cause serious problems for the Gillard government just more than a year before the scheduled election date in 2013.”

In fact, with GDP growth high and unemployment low, economic management is the Gillard government’s main (perhaps only) electoral strength.  When it comes to political and economic forecasting, the evidence suggests Henderson should stick to his day job of media monitoring.

Well, perhaps not. In his letter to Crikey on June 5, the False Prophet confessed that his “Media Watch Dog is put together in great haste every Friday”. Given MWD’s high error-rate (Hendo-Howlers and all that) this was hardly news to Henderson Watch. The real surprise is that Gerard persists in writing the Sydney Institute’s flagship publication “in great haste every Friday” without a fact checker (other than himself). Why not publish it, with less haste and greater accuracy, every fortnight or every month?

Over the years, the Sydney Institute has had some fantastic corporate backers (such as the Adlers and Meredith Hellicar from James Hardie). Surely those who are left (that is, not tangled up in court proceedings) must be wondering about the value of sponsoring such a slap-happy, unprofessional outfit.

The story gets worse. Lately our man Henderson has been in confession-mode (of the non-Catholic variety), writing in MWD No.137 (May 18, 2012) that he “goes to bed very late on Thursday evening and arises very early on Friday morning” to (hastily) prepare his publication.  Clearly Hendo is sleep-deprived as he bumbles from one howler to another.  Why not have a good night’s rest and take the time he needs to be accurate? Gerard not only needs a fact checker, he needs a sleep doctor.

In truth, the Henderson method says a lot about the Henderson personality. No rational, professional talk-tank director would hastily prepare and publish a 5000-word document while suffering from the mind-altering impact of sleep deprivation.  For Henderson, however, pedantry of this kind is like heroin. Without his weekly fix, his existence has little meaning or purpose. He cannot slow down because he cannot let go of finding fault in others. He would rather rush out an error-ridden (or is that riddled? — see MWD No.140) publication than go seven days without attacking his (perceived) enemies.  Can you bear it?

State of denial

In an interview with The Australian on May 19, Hendo famously declared “If you’re talking about accountability, to start with you’ve got to be accountable for your own work.”  Clearly three caveats apply: not unless you are Gerard Henderson, not unless you work in great haste and not unless you have three hours sleep on Thursday nights.

Even when he is forced to deal with his (many) errors, Henderson is in a state of denial.  This is evident from his June 5 letter to Crikey, in which he claimed:

“Yesterday (in Henderson Watch) Mr Latham identified one error and one typo and made one pedantic point covering MWD in 2012. Unlike the ABC and Mark Latham, I have a long-standing policy of correcting errors and issuing clarifications. The two mistakes identified yesterday have already been corrected.”

This statement is untrue. As Crikey readers will know, the previous Henderson Watch identified five recent MWD errors:

  • The expert-Henderson (for a Liberal expert he is) did not know the name of Tony Abbott’s electorate of Warringah. He thought it was Mackellar (represented since 1994 by Bronwyn Bishop).
  • Salacious Hendo roped Malcolm Fraser into a rumoured love-triangle with Betty Fairfax and Bob Menzies.
  • In attacking the May 2010 Sydney Writers’ Festival, Henderson did not know that Julia Gillard became Prime Minister in the following month of June.
  • Despite having grown up in Melbourne (Norm Henderson, the DLP and all that), Henderson did not know that Fountain Gate is a Westfield shopping centre, not a suburb.
  • Despite claiming expertise in the system of parliamentary entitlements, Henderson falsely claimed that I am a Gold Travel Pass holder.

Only the first two howlers have been corrected on the Sydney Institute website. One of the other three (unidentified by Hendo) has been dismissed as “pedantic”, while the other two have been ignored altogether. Henderson Watch will not rest until Henderson applies the same standard of accuracy to himself that he expects from others.

Before MWD can credibly demand corrections from the ABC, Malcolm Fraser and others, it needs to correct each of its howlers — not 40% of them, but 100%. Thus the Occupy-Hendi Movement has been created. Our goal is simple: to ensure that when Henderson talks about accountability, he starts with the accountability of his own work.

The False Prophet has said he regards Henderson Watch as “wilfully false and defamatory” (see June 7 corresponditis to Crikey). Gosh, that’s a real Gerard Henderson moment. When he is not blaming his staff, hasty preparation or sleep deprivation, Hendo likes to hide behind Australia’s libel laws.  Indeed, facts often seem wilfully false and defamatory to those who don’t like criticism and/or corrections.

State of delusion

I love it when Hendo gets feisty and issues challenges to Henderson Watch. And so it was with Gerard’s June 5 corresponditis, claiming I had only found a small number of howlers “covering MWD in 2012″. As I said in the last HW, there are many more howlers I could chronicle. It just takes the time and effort to read the turgid MWD. Up until last week, my reading of MWD in 2012 had been sporadic. Fact-checking Hendo is exhausting work (I’m going to sleep very late on Thursday evenings and arise very early on Friday mornings).

So let’s go to the list, covering the other editions in April, May and June:

  • With great haste and little sleep in MWD No.133 (April 20), Henderson described Laura Tingle’s appearance on the ABC Insiders program as follows: “La Tingle overnights in Melbourne. She then takes a taxi to the ABC studio at Ultimo (to appear on Insiders).”  Oops, wrong city.  This is not a typographical error but rather, a significant howler. Instead of claiming to Occupy-Ultimo, Hendo needs to be part of an Occupy-Accuracy Movement.
  • With little sleep and great haste, also in MWD No.133, Henderson mistakenly described Jonathan Green (another ABC Hendo-obsession) as tertiary educated.
  • The expert-Henderson (for a Liberal expert he is) consistently makes errors about the Liberal Party. One would expect him, therefore, to be hopeless in understanding the ALP. And so it was in MWD No.134 (April 27), when he claimed that “Arthur Calwell (was) Labor leader between 1960 and 1966”.  As the Labor caucus historian John Faulkner has recorded, Calwell was Labor leader between March 1960 and February 1967.
  • Why stop at one ALP howler when Hendo can make two?  In the same MWD, our man Henderson claimed that “Bruce Hawker is a product of the NSW Labor Right”.  In fact, Hawker’s factional antecedents in the ALP are with the Left.  When he came to work for Bob Carr in 1988, Hawker was a product of Frank Walker’s Left-wing machine.
  • Hendo is one of the great all-rounders of Australian pedantry. Not only is he expert in making Labor and Liberal Party howlers, he is also error-ridden (or is that riven?) with respect to economists. In MWD No.135, he tried to list the errors in Nicholas Wapshott’s book Keynes/Heyek: the clash that defined modern economics but could not even get the title of the book right.  It is, of course, Hayek.
  • In the history wars, Henderson fancies himself as an expert (no surprise there). For example, in MWD No.136 (May 11), he attacked the Museum of Sydney for “enshrining a left-leaning interpretation of Australian history” in its “current exhibition titled Home Front: Wartime Sydney 1939-45″. And for evidence? He cited a statement from the exhibition that “When Germany invaded Poland the vast majority of Australians supported the decision to join the Allied forces”.  Far from left-leaning, this is the right-wing orthodoxy regarding public opinion at that time. Yet again, Henderson is on the wrong (history) page. Most people go to exhibitions for pleasure. The Hendi, however, go for the miserable task of scribbling down (imagined) howlers in the history wars.
  • In MWD No.136 (infamous for the Mal Fraser/Betty Fairfax rumour), Henderson was again off the page, claiming “The SMH’s economics editor and The Age’s economics columnist (Ross Gittins was) whingeing about the cost of a barber’s hair job rocketing from $8 per head to $12 per head.” As anyone who heard this comment (during a panel discussion on Richard Glover’s ABC 702 Drive program on May 10) will know, Gittins’ comments were made in jest, having been asked about his most memorable hairdressing experience (following the death of the celebrity hairdresser Vidal Sassoon). The Hendi do not do comedy well. Their lifestyle is void of humour, preferring to wander around museum exhibitions recording (imagined) examples of left-wing bias.
  • In MWD No.137 (May 18), Henderson claimed that at the time of the publication of The Latham Diaries (September 2005), the Labor Senator Stephen Conroy and his wife had a child.  In a most-welcome and widely publicised arrival, the Conroys actually had their first child in November 2006.
  • In numerous MWDs, Henderson has got my superannuation entitlement wrong — a repeated example of his ignorance of Australia’s parliamentary system (see Robert Manne’s June 6 letter to Crikey).

Hasty Hendo

In the last Henderson Watch, I offered my services as Hendo’s fact checker.  Imagine my surprise when the great man (in great haste) accepted. There was just one problem: in his mad rush to churn out last Friday’s MWD, he had me checking for errors after its publication date. And so it passed, MWD No.140 (June 8, 2012) carried the sub-heading:

Proudly Proof-Read By Mark Latham – After Publication

This wasn’t just a Gerard Henderson Moment but also a senior moment. Henderson (aged 66) is always banging on about standards in public life (Catholic decency, parish civility and all that). How then to explain his reference in MWD No.140 to “the Turd Way”?  Or, even more bizarrely, his statement in MWD No.133 that: “If a large bomb went off between Readings’ Book Shop and Jimmy Watson’s wine saloon on Lygon Street (Melbourne), it would wipe out the remaining Age readership” — the dangerous words of a true nutter (and embittered ex-Age columnist).

On the proof-reading front on Friday, Hendo was (yet again) in hasty mode when he referred to someone called “Jane Albrechtsen”.  Then another howler: a claim that the above-mentioned Jane Albrechtsen (could this be Janet Albrechtsen of Australian op-ed fame?) and I dined together “at the Rugby League State of Origin match in Melbourne (on May 23)”.  Shame that Janet (or is it Jane?) was not at the match or even in Melbourne on May 23.

But that’s Gerard Henderson for you: making up things as he goes along. He expects evidence from others but just blurts out howlers himself (sans evidence). On recent trends, there is a two in five (40%) chance of these mistakes being corrected on the Sydney Institute website.  For Gerard is, of course, a correction kind of guy.

Note: These two errors bring the number of Hendo-Howlers for the April/May/June editions of MWD to 16 and our overall list to 27.  Henderson is in no position to be highlighting other people’s mistakes when his own standards for research and accuracy are so poor.

More next time …

Peter Fray

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