A Bolt from the future

It’s timely to mention the arrival of young James Bolt at the Institute of Paid Advocacy. 

James, the offspring of Andrew Bolt, is still doing his arts degree at the Uni of Melbourne, but has signed on as an IPA researcher. 

He has a fetching article on the institute’s website, called “The Economics of Food”, in which he critiques the work of an American economist, Tyler Cowen, who wants to start a food revolution “by turning consumers into innovators”. Tyler is onto something when he writes: “Food is a product of supply and demand, so try to figure out where the supplies are fresh, the suppliers are creative and the demanders are informed.” 

The idea when eating out is not to order the standard dishes – the roast chicken and spag bol – because a restaurant doesn’t need to try hard to make money on those items. 

You should order unusual things on the menu, the theory being the chef has to put in more effort in order to sell less familiar culinary creations. 

By the end, a note of disappointment about Cowen had crept into James’s analysis: “Though his critique of environmentalists is refreshing, he is still concerned about how to tackle man-made global warming and limiting our ‘carbon footprint’. Most annoying of all, he spends many pages of the book making the case for a carbon tax …” 

Yes, that is annoying. We wish this promising chip off the old block every success. 

1 . Don’t prosecute the piano player

There was Gadfly the other night as a guest at a prosecutors’ banquet. 

It marked the end of an exhausting two-day corroboree of international and Australian prosecutors, with papers from the counsel conducting the Silk Road online drug vending case in New York, practical lessons in prosecuting genocide trials, and how to deal with judicial bullying in the courtroom. 

NSW senior crown prosecutor Mark Tedeschi, QC, also gave his insights into conducting complex homicide trials. 

All quite spellbinding and grisly, so what a treat it was for Simon Tedeschi, the internationally renowned classical pianist and son of the NSW senior crown, to tickle the ivories for the jaded and juiced dinner attendees. 

Chopin, Gershwin, Percy Grainger, and a boogie-woogie version of Rimsky-Korsakov had them all swooning for more. Sometimes nepotism is the right way to go.  

One curious aspect of the night was the main course. A delicate piece of ocean trout on a bed of greens or a great braised carnivore’s knuckle of some serious sort of meat, with gravy, onions, the lot. The waiters dutifully served the trout to the women and the meaty thing to the blokes. 

How society has been rearranged. Very soon, the women were demanding that everyone swap plates so they could hoe into the knuckles. 

The way those women prosecutors attacked their viands was a reminder, if ever we needed one, to keep well away from the criminal courts. 

Talk about grisly.

2 . Utegatekeepers

A great deal of attention has been given to the appointment of Janet Albrechtsen and Neil Brown as selectors for the ABC and SBS boards. 

Both perfectly reliable choices. 

I remember Brown in the old days as the federal member for Diamond Valley. For some reason, press gallery types got muddled and referred to him as Neil Diamond, member for Brown Valley. 

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull said it was nothing to do with him, the selection of the selectors being done by some faceless bureaucrat from the prime minister’s department who independently divined just what his boss wanted. 

Over the years Albrechtsen has blown hot and cold about Turnbull. Way back she thought it would be a “perishing” idea if the great man was refused admittance to the conservative clan because he is a republican. More recently he’s been ticked off by the disciplinarian for not being a team player. 

However, there is a bit of history here. Albrechtsen’s one-time husband John O’Sullivan is the chief teller at Credit Suisse. He served as president of the federal electorate conference in Malcolm’s seat of Wentworth and is a significant donor to the Wentworth Forum.  

Turnbull and O’Sullivan had also been pally with Treasury mole and fantasist Godwin Grech, who played a pivotal role in the Utegate affair, which helped unravel Malcolm’s Liberal leadership. 

According to a massive flow of emails between O’Sullivan and Grech, released by the senate, Godwin was also a huge fan of Janet. 

JO’S’s inbox was stuffed with endless grovels from Godwin: “Janet’s piece in the Aus today is excellent! ... We need people like JA in the Party Room and on the frontbench!! ... Good piece by JA today ...” and so on. 

With endorsements like that from his nemesis, the communications minister must be overjoyed to have Albrechtsen on board as a selector. 

Footnote: free speech man Senator George “Bookshelves” Brandis tried to stop the emails going onto the public record. 

3 . Talking and talking about free speech 

Talking of free speech, I see that Freedom Boy is organising a massive rally for next month. 

Billed as “Free Speech 2014 – A Road Map for the Future”, he’s drawn a cornucopia of academics, consultants, gurus from the IPA and other bigwigs to speak about the road map. 

The keynote address at the Sydney symposium will be given by Senator Brandis, who is Tim Wilson’s sponsor and patron. 

Freedom Commissioner Tim Wilson wants to turn the road map into a roadshow and take it across the wide, brown land. 

But hold on. Last Monday (Constitution Day) also saw a thinly attended free speech talkfest at the University of New South Wales: “Before you speak your mind, hear eminent speakers debate Australians’ right to free speech.” 

Sir Anthony Mason was there looking cheerful and Freedom Boy turned up in striped socks. 

Wilson has been floundering around on this topic since he opened his mouth, and Constitution Day was no exception. 

He was once anti-bill of rights, but not entirely so now – though he’s sure Australians would not pass a First Amendment-type referendum. 

He said Brandis’s exposure draft for changes to 18C had “deficiencies”. There was “a narrow disagreement about where the line should be drawn”, adding that there needs to be some redrafting. 

However, here have been reports from Canberra that the Racial Discrimination Act project is going onto ice for the time being. 

More exciting things, such as the new national security laws, demand Brandis’s undivided attention.

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jul 12, 2014 as "Gadfly: A Bolt from the future".

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Richard Ackland is The Saturday Paper’s legal affairs editor.