Gerard Henderson shows why he should never be on TV

One of Australia’s self-styled conservatives, Gerard Henderson, is always whining about how people from his side of politics do not get a fair run on the government-funded Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

On April 16, Henderson demonstrated clearly why he should be kept as far as possible from television. Appearing on a current affairs programme, Lateline, as a guest to talk about the resignation of the premier of NSW, Barry O’Farrell, Henderson displayed the churlishness and cant for which he is known, berating the other guest, journalist Kate McClymont of the Sydney Morning Herald, and trying to force his views on those present. He was obnoxious, rude, boorish, uncivilised, and intemperate.

Henderson is a former chief of staff to John Howard, and the self-styled executive director of The Sydney Institute – formerly known as the Institute of Public Affairs. This is an organisation that seeks to make money off corporations and individuals by championing certain right-wing causes and plugging them in the media. Strangely, Henderson has managed to get many lucrative media gigs and currently writes a column for The Australian.

One thing that Henderson refuses to do is disclose from where he gets his funding to run what he describes as a think-tank. It is one of these many factories for massaging public opinion and lobbying for conservative causes. Henderson has an obsession about a couple of things – Catholicism and the alleged lack of conservative presenters on the ABC – and he repeats himself ad infinitum about these any chance he gets. Information has leaked out that he is funded by the tobacco giant Philip Morris, the asbestos seller James Hardie and the Adler group.

O’Farrell resigned because he had been caught lying to the state’s Independent Commission Against Corruption – inadvertently, by his claims – over receiving a gift of a $3000 bottle of wine from the chief executive of a company that was looking to obtain business from a state-owned company. O’Farrell denied knowing anything about the wine and an associated telephone call on the 15th; the next day, when a note of thanks in his own handwriting for said bottle surfaced, he had no option but to wind up his term in office abruptly.

Henderson stoutly tried to defend O’Farrell; he did not wish to even hear what McClymont had to say – she had, by the way, been attending the ICAC hearings and was thus that bit better informed – but kept interrupting her and hectoring her to keep quiet. It showed everyone why Henderson should visit a psychiatrist to be treated for what my late father called the Sultan Complex – a mental disease.

Henderson averred that this was not the reason why the ICAC was set up; it was not meant to entrap politicians who had hardly put a foot wrong. But the ICAC has also entrapped a number of politicians like Eddie Obeid of the NSW Labor Party, who have been involved in large-scale corruption. Henderson’s claim was that the party itself had got rid of Obeid, hence the ICAC was not needed, something that was patently incorrect.

When the Lateline presenter Steve Canane asked Henderson why he had not thought of advancing these arguments about the ICAC in the last six months since the commission started its hearings, the 68-year-old came back with the petulant answer that he had not been invited to appear on the ABC for the last six months.

But this is no argument; Henderson has had a column in the Sydney Morning Herald for a long time and he switched to The Australian in December. He has always had a platform from which to spout his insidious views. Why did he not make these astute observations some time back?

Henderson contributed nothing of any value to this discussion. He was on his usual track – “I am right and the rest of the world must shut up and listen.” Why does the ABC invite idiots like him to participate when he clearly only wants to hear the sound of his own voice?

P.S. When it comes to TV, Henderson is so desperate to display his unsmiling visage, that he even accepts invitations from someone who once called him a smart arse.