Why having a controversial view does not make me a racist

Few people on Australian television are willing to express their views for fear of being labelled or considered biased says journalist and televison host Paul Henry

That flies in the face of communication and surely the television industry is all about communication. I like to know the views of the people I’m talking or listening to and I’m surprised that the instant someone has a strong view in Australia, one way or another, they are labelled.

This happens in New Zealand as well but I’m surprised it happens to the extent that it does here. If you have a strong negative view, for instance, about Labor then there will be a section of society who instantly jumps to the conclusion that you hold the view because you’re a coalition supporter – you’re a Liberal.

That may not be the case. It may be a view based on your own education and your ability to understand that it’s a stupid damn idea or it’s something that’s been done badly.

A good example would be the recent eviction of the Aboriginal tent embassy that led to protestors marching on the Queensland parliament. I was appalled at their behavior and was in favour of the police going in with water canons to put out fires.

That doesn’t mean for one moment that I’m racist. It doesn’t mean I don’t have sympathies with their cause because I do. But I won’t tolerate that behaviour in society and surely I should be able to talk about it without instantly being labelled.

This labelling happens in Australia partly because it’s a conservative society and partly because we’ve become so bloody sophisticated.

Our level of social sophistication has got to the point where we can no longer discuss with ease and comfort our own views on different subjects because we’re constantly second guessing what someone might think if we do.

We need more people in the media who are unafraid to come out and say what they think but they need to be people who are doing so because they genuinely hold those views. Someone who shocks people because they say what they genuinely think in the course of what they’re doing should not be labelled a shock jock. They’re not saying it to be entertaining. They’re not saying it for shock value.

The fact that it does shock is a sad indictment of society.


Paul Henry hosts Breakfast 6am weekdays on Ten and was recently a guest on the Mumbrellacast.


  •  This piece first appeared in Encore magazine. Subscribe to the print edition here or download the iPad edition here

Encore Magazine - MoGeneration Pty Ltd


  1. Robbo
    8 Jun 12
    1:14 pm

  2. Hear, hear.
    Well said, Paul. 100% accurate.

    Now that I’ve read your sensible column, I’ll make an effort to watch you in the mornings.

  3. dkn
    8 Jun 12
    1:27 pm

  4. breakfast television is a sad indictment of society.

  5. Peter Pedant
    8 Jun 12
    1:40 pm

  6. Still a Dikshit though.

  7. Ricki
    8 Jun 12
    1:53 pm

  8. Paul, you may not be racist but as you’re keen on people expressing strong opinions, then mine is that you’re rude, ill-informed and boorish.

    Why is it that you think having your say, means patronising and speaking over the top of the other hosts and guests?

    You really should watch the tapes back sometimes. No wonder people aren’t tuning in. It’s not your views. Your hosting skills are terrible.

  9. Offal Spokesperson
    8 Jun 12
    2:00 pm

  10. Perhaps have a word with your friends on, a current affair, today tonight and all of the breakfast shows.

    I am happy to label EVERYONE involved in those programs with any number of “ists”

    The couple of times ive heard Paul speak, he has done little more than chirp some typically offensive and “shock Jock” type commentary in (i assume) the hope of generating some digital interest and thereby add another viewer to his show.

    A large (very large IMO) part of the australian viewing public is sick and tired of the, racist, homophobic, etc etc conservative crap that is peddled out on our TV’s every day that purports to be news or current affairs.

    The younger viewer (im not one of them) is turning off TV because they recognise its bias and stupidity.

    Try saying something “Shocking” that is actually supportive of refugees or supports the greens, or disagrees with the Murdoch line.

    That WOULD shock me.

  11. Adam
    8 Jun 12
    11:19 pm

  12. The purpose of news is to inform and educate. The role of a host is to facilitate discussion with guests and draw out opions from people with authority on a topic one way or another. Maybe a bit much to ask of a morning program? If not it becomes a soap box for people like Paul. I DON’T want to hear your views Paul, you are TV host not an expert. Do your job, keep your personal opinions to yourself and give me the facts so I can decide!

  13. Craig
    9 Jun 12
    9:19 am

  14. Expressing strong views for commercial gain is not the same as expressing strong views because they are your views.

    Anyone fronting a TV or radio program, or writing a regular column in print media who expresses strong views is more likely to be doing so to enhance their ratings with the ‘did they really say that!’ factor of shock and disbelief.

    Dn’t expect us to believe that you are more than a vapid talking head and that you are truly concerned about the issues you express a view about if all you do is talk about them on your program.

    D something real, demonstrate your commitment through action. Or stick to the light and meaningless.

  15. jean cave
    11 Jun 12
    6:45 pm

  16. Not racist? . . just crass then.

  17. monkeytypist
    12 Jun 12
    10:35 am

  18. water cannons? To put out a campfire? That is the least credible excuse for racist comments I have ever heard.

    If your comments were really not racist, you wouldn’t spend an entire post justifying yourself and criticising others for being over-sensitive.

  19. Andrew Malzard
    12 Jun 12
    10:56 am

  20. So you won’t “tolerate”. Your use of the word itself says a lot about your character. I don’t know you and have never seen or listened to your programme but it’s hardly your position to “tolerate” anyone. You sound like a self opinionated boor with an over inflated idea of your own power and importance… whoever you are!

  21. Sylvia
    12 Jun 12
    12:52 pm

  22. I believe that this man Henry was dumped from the TVNZ breakfast programme for racist comments…

  23. Jinga-ling
    12 Jun 12
    5:29 pm

  24. Hey Paul, you proved you were a racist when you were in NZ, and since we ran you out, you’ve been doing the same thing in Australia. You should be working in a check-out, not in broadcast. I wish you anything but the best.

  25. Rushdie
    13 Jun 12
    10:20 am

  26. I don’t mind people expressing strong opinions if they’re open about vested interests. It’s the likes of Ross Greenwood that shit me. He’s one of the obsessive 2GB Gillard bashers. 2GB isn’t talk-back radio it’s talk-down radio – talking down the economy to get their mate Abbot into power. And this talk-down radio star gets on telly in the morning, urged on by Abbott’s other buddie, Karl, and spins every bit of good financial news around to suit his political agenda. “On the surface that sounds like great news for the economy and the government, but when you scratch the surface you see we’re going to be the next Greece! There needs to be a change of something, Karl..”

  27. Anonymous
    14 Jun 12
    12:55 pm

  28. why is that the people who should speak the least are put in front of microphones, on television and radio?
    or become leaders of the opposition (sorry toolbag! does that make me a labor supporter?)

  29. anon_coward
    14 Jun 12
    1:27 pm

  30. OMG! You have to think before you speak! How un-Australian! Our brave boys didn’t storm the beaches of Gallipolli – all proudly wearing the Australian flag tied around their necks – so we would have to be considerate of other peoples views and sensibilities! This is Australia!

    People just don’t get how superior our sense of humour is, as every Australian knows when we vilify and isolate minorities that we’re “just joking”.

  31. Bruno
    14 Jun 12
    1:29 pm

  32. “It may be a view based on your own education and your ability to understand that it’s a stupid damn idea or it’s something that’s been done badly.”

    Paul Henry’s driving force isn’t really racism. It’s arrogance, as revealed by his comment above. Henry puts himself in a class above experts, professionals or anyone with an informed opinion on a subject. He sits above them, and judges, from his “education” and “ability” whether what they say has merit. And when he feels it doesn’t he dismisses it, frequently in an offensive manner.

    Because he knows his opinion to be correct on any subject he cares to name, anything he then says is not racist, or sexist, or offensive in general – it is merely the truth.

    Of course a TV presenter needs ego and confidence to succeed. A good one wouldn’t mistake that for intellectual superiority.

  33. MD @ RDA
    15 Jun 12
    1:45 pm

  34. When you talk about awkwardness – I can’t help but think of Karl Stefanovic sitting through that Sacha Baron Cohen, Dictator interview… His awkwardness was hilarious. He has no personality, but they still get the ratings. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mMPqbqmTg8

  35. Tin
    19 Jun 12
    12:32 pm

  36. I actually find Henry to be a rather interesting and talented interviewer – far better than his rivals on 7 and Nine. But that’s just my opinion!