Diarist-at-large Richard Ackland flys about the nation. By Richard Ackland.

There’s something about Marie

There are likely to be a few sobs at the departure of her excellency Professor the Honourable Dame Marie Bashir, who everyone says has done a splendid job as governor of New South Wales.

She sails off into the sunset on October 1, but not before yet another ceremonial farewell. There was one a few weeks ago in Macquarie Street, where she inspected serried ranks of the military, some carrying dangerous looking swords. There was a brass band, lots of saluting and marching, while a heap of the state’s finest politicians surveyed proceedings from the safety of the Parliament House balcony.

Puzzled citizens at street level asked, “What’s going on?”

It’s on again on Wednesday, where, according to a helpful flyer from NSW Community Information, HE will take the vice-regal salute for the last time. There’ll be a police motorcycle escort, coppers on horseback, emergency services brass and an RAAF fly-past “along Macquarie Street”.

“Representatives from her excellency’s patronages are invited to farewell the 37th Governor of New South Wales by lining Government House Drive.”

Lining the driveway? Who thought of that heartwarming gesture? Why not invite them in for a farewell cup of tea and a cucumber sandwich?

Whenever your Gadfly thinks of NSW and its governors, Hilaire Belloc’s Lord Lundy springs to mind. He was the chap who was too freely moved to tears and, as a result, ruined his political career. Ultimately, he was told by his aged grand-sire, the duke:

We had intended you to be

The next Prime Minister but three:

The stocks were sold; the Press was squared:

The Middle Class was quite prepared.

But as it is! … My language fails!

Go out and govern New South Wales!

1 . Misfortune favours the brave

One should never write about one’s children, pets or editors. So here goes.

As the entire nation knows, Erik Jensen is the editor of The Saturday Paper and the author of Acute Misfortune: The Life and Death of Adam Cullen.

The book about the tragic, gifted artist was launched this week by Sydney barrister Charles Waterstreet, a man whose generous application of hair product is an inspiration to everyone, even those without hair. Waterstreet also defended Adam Cullen on charges relating to the possession of weapons.

The book is emblazoned with endorsements from people not entirely unknown to the pages of TSP, including David Marr, who says the work is “Fierce and spellbinding” and Christos Tsiolkas, who labels it “A marvellous, propulsive, intelligent read.”

Jensen seemed to endure more than the usual torments from Cullen, having been shot and then thrown from a speeding motorbike by the Archibald Prize-winning painter.

If those irritations were not enough, the subject of the biography proceeded to fall in love with the author.

The launch at Berkelouw in Paddington saw a concentration of reptiles of the media, arts honchos and other superannuated entertainers.

Waterstreet produced a lawyer’s yellow notepad on which his speech was written and announced that he was trying to preserve his voice as he was currently defending at a jury trial a priest charged with buggery, “of which he is not guilty”.

“Defending priests is God’s work,” he added. The pennies and pounds that his father had put in the church plate on Sundays “are now coming back to me”.

He also gave me an inside tip that his seminal autobiography Precious Bodily Fluids is being re-released in time for Christmas.

Why are we so blessed?

2 . Oz can’t get no satisfaction

The number-crunchers at the Pew Research Centre have been hard at it measuring world disgruntlement.

According to a new 44 country survey conducted among 48,643 respondents in the June quarter, there are just seven nations where 50 per cent or more of the citizens are satisfied with the way things are going: China 87 per cent, Vietnam 86, Malaysia 77, Germany 59, Russia 56, Bangladesh 54 and Nicaragua 50 per cent.

Bangladesh? Nicaragua? Where’s our sun-kissed Utopia in this scale of satisfaction? Exactly nowhere.

Maybe the leaders of Team Australia should be sending experts to the Islamic stronghold of Bangladesh to study the formula for enhancing national pleasure.

3 . Cash for councillors

The brilliance of the NSW government always seems to hit the right note: giant casinos on public land, shooting furry animals in national parks, special diversionary tactics to get around the election funding laws, and schemes to hand control of the enlightened City of Sydney Council to developers and bagmen.

The latest bold initiative that will transform the place is called Fit for the Future – a $1 billion boondoggle to get local councils to save money by merging.

Stage one of the plan to take local out of local government is to offer $260 million to councils that decide to merge. On top of that comes $13 million to support councillors who “lead the transition to a new council”.

Paying cash to councillors to do what the government wants smacks to an untutored mind of a bribe. But, of course, it isn’t. According to an association of professionals working in local government, the $13 million is to “provide some comfort to elected representatives wondering about continuing relevance”.

Already councillors are working out how the loot should be delivered to them: traditional brown paper bags, by means of a slush fund, or dispatched in a Bentley.

All of this at a time when the struggle for independence in Scotland has set off a worldwide move for devolution and succession.

For instance, the present Iraq war might have been avoided if the country had been partitioned into three sovereign states – a Sunni one to the west, a Kurdish one to the north and a Shiite one to the south – rather than insisting the 1920 League of Nations’ boundaries are sacrosanct.

This has long been the cause of freedom fighters in the Sydney suburb of Balmain, who want to split from the oppression of Leichhardt Council. According to one fuming ratepayer, Leichhardt Council has taken its revenge by planting tall trees in a Balmain park to block views of the harbour.

As if we don’t have enough trouble, what with terror on our streets.

4 . Lending a hand

Last week’s item about Melbourne’s East West Link mentioned that citizens in the pathway of this proposed 18-kilometre stretch of bitumen were amazed and tickled to receive unsolicited flyers from the contractor, Lend Lease, inviting them to examine the attractions of one of their retirement homes.

Spend the acquisition money on a serviced apartment where Lend Lease takes care of the cleaning and “heavy laundry”.

A friendly communications person from the company reached out and said she was puzzled, none of her colleagues had heard of such a thing and, anyway, they would never send unsolicited material to distressed residents.

Fortunately, the literature was on hand in Gadfly’s bottom drawer, which we emailed to the mystified flack.

“Join us for a complimentary seminar on positive ageing and the lifestyle benefits of serviced apartment living. There’ll be a delicious fresh meal followed by dessert…”

The free dessert would have dragged in a lot of eager beavers.

We heard nothing back from Lend Lease, so we assume it must have been a case of one corporate hand not knowing what the other one was up to.

5 . Good News for PM

You’ve got to marvel at the way in which The National Daily Rupert so successfully channels the inner spirit of the Abbott government.

Special seances must be held at the Holt Street Lubyanka to capture the pneuma that inhibits the cabinet room in Canberra.

Last weekend’s instalment of the paper was a collectors’ item as headline writers scaled fresh heights of ecstasy.

“Prime Minister pitches to strength and compassion,” got us into one of Paul Kelly’s fascinating emissions.

For Cameron Stewart’s article it was “The tentacles of terror spread.” Chris Kenny had his blistering thoughts emblazoned with: “Engaged management and face-to-face time prove valuable to Abbott & co.”

Dennis Shanahan: “PM calm under pressure.” For Boadicea’s love child, Judith Sloan, it was: “Commission must act to clean up union slush funds.”

To cap it off, there was a fine piece of hagiography about Robert Menzies by none other than his retired footman, John Howard: “The architect of Australia as we know it.”

Is Abbott moonlighting as a subeditor at News Corpse?


Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on September 27, 2014 as "Gadfly: There’s something about Marie".

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

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