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The Sydney Institute favours neither side of politics


The Sydney InstituteI refer to Sarah Burnside's article 'The Liberals' hidden intellectual arsenal' which was published in Eureka Street on August 4. In her piece, Ms Burnside asserted that 'conservatives can draw on a plethora of high-profile think-tanks, including The Sydney Institute, to research and enunciate their ideas'.

This statement is false. The Sydney Institute is a forum for debate and discussion and does not do research for any organisation or political party. I would have told Sarah Burnside this if she had bothered to contact me before writing for Eureka Street. Alternatively, she would have come to a similar conclusion had she bothered to check the Institute's website.

Recent speakers at the Institute include Julia Gillard, Wayne Swan, Julie Bishop, Peter Costello and Christine Milne. Each one enunciated their own ideas at The Sydney Institute which were subsequently published in The Sydney Papers. Addressing The Sydney Institute this week, Trade Minister Simon Crean praised the Institute for 'not favouring either side of politics'.

I would suggest — with respect, of course — that Eureka Street do some fact-checking before publishing lazy, undocumented assertions which are both misleading and professionally damaging.

Gerard Henderson
Executive Director
The Sydney Institute

Topic tags: Gerard Henderson, Sarah Burnside, The Sydney Institute, political bias



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Existing comments

C'mon Gerard, stop playing semantics! Why don't you address the substance of Sarah's point? With respect, of course.
Tom Cranitch | 07 August 2009

I can’t not respond to Gerard Henderson’s piece here. For 12 years, he was one of John Howard’s most skilled and ruthless ideological hit-men: on every issue of importance to civil libertarians, he beavered away in defence of Howard. Now – no doubt to the practical mutual benefit of both sides – he and his Institute are quietly moving under the flaps of the Rudd Labor tent.

Gerard did a pretty good job of helping the Howard Government discredit my dissident public voice in the years 2002 to 2006. Now he presents himself and his Institute to Eureka Street readers as politically impartial. What hogwash.

tony kevin | 07 August 2009

If one has any doubts about Gerard Henderson's even-handedness as a political commentator, one has only to monitor a couple of of his welcome appearances on ABC TV's 'Insiders' programme.
Claude Rigney | 07 August 2009

Oh dear oh dear.
I have first hand experience of Mr. Henderson's interpretation of the phrase 'misleading and professionally damaging', involving thousands of dollars of legal fees and a merry dance around the semantics of fact, whatever they are.
Milo Williams | 07 August 2009

Gerard has a fair point, but by labouring the issue he looks a bit precious.
Sean | 07 August 2009

I would like to apologise to Mr. Henderson and his colleagues for any lack of clarity in my original article; I had not intended to suggest that the Sydney Institute or the Centre of Independent Studies actively carried out research at the behest of the Liberal Party or any other organisation.

I also did not intend to imply that think-tanks such as the Institute play a sinister role in public debate; quite the opposite, I consider that think-tanks are not only of great benefit to the partisan interests of political parties but to the public conversation as a whole.

I apologise that these points were not more clearly stated.

Sarah Burnside | 09 August 2009

Henderson is a past master at pretending to neutrality- he always tries to appear balanced andunlike many other conservative pundits will allow that Labour policies may have some merit. His sympathies, however, lay elsewhere. He is a lingering remnant of the DLP who is always looking to defend the Liberals' record, accuse other media outlets of Left-wing bias, and quick to outline any youthful political indiscretions on the part of a politician which might indicate left-wing sympathy and therefore in Henderson's imagination undermine any current credibility.

Those reservations aside, he is an ornament to our national debate.
Jeff Mueller | 11 August 2009

Not sure who put the screen shot of The Sydney Institute's website next to Gerard's letter but it is highly instructive to note that the list of past speakers includes one Rodney Adler - need anything else be said?
Peter Kelaher | 25 August 2009

Everybody knows that Gerard Henderson is the least conservative of the nation's conservatists. While it may be true that the Sydney Institute (according to Henderson) plays an even-handed role in the world of think tanks, everybody I know who's politically savvy has always considered it to be right wing.

The mere fact that Gillard et al appeared on their platforms simply means that the Institure is at least 'opening up' to a wider view of politics in order to attract a broader audience.
Alex Njoo | 25 November 2009

Dear Mr Henderson

Good comeback. Will she take notice and apologise? Perhaps you may be interested to learn that a segment on a new book I have written on Balibo that contains recently unearthed, unknown, secret Defence Department documents and evidence of Australian Government culpability in the deaths of the Balibo Five and the invasion of East Timor has just been published in the East Timor Law & Justice Bulletin. Under the headline “Secret Ally”, Indonesia’s secret ally at Balibo, it can be accessed by typing balibosecret into bing or google. I thought you or the Institute may be interested in doing a piece also. The story is proof of the vindication of Gough Whitlam from the charge of giving Indonesian President Suharto the green light to invade East Timor. As he is reportedly a very sick man he does not need that monstrous charge on his shoulders as he faces the prospect of eternity, and it is a charge which will be exploited to the full in the media frenzy that well follow his eventual passing.
Richard Hornabrook | 09 June 2010

I am sure that Mr Henderson is sincere in saying that the Sydney Institute does not play 'party politics'. However, inviting opponents to present their views into a forum does not mean that you are being even-handed. Mr Henderson's opinion pieces overwhelmingly favour the Coalition and conservative policies.

As an intellectual, however, Mr Henderson makes a meaningful contribution to the public debate. However, he does stand clearly on one side of the fence - I have never seen him sway from his baseline. I do enjoy his contributions, and also very much those of Ms Anne Henderson, but I do not believe that either Mr or Ms Henderson share my view of the world. Perhaps in a better world we might forget what our basic allegiance is, and debate the points for their true value and - the public interest?
Eveline Goy | 17 March 2011

A nicely constructed piece of rhetorical propaganda from a well known right-wing ideologue. I'll bee sure not to waste my time reading here again.
Ben K | 12 July 2011


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