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

Bar legends set to hang

Gadfly hopes that there’s no looming constitutional crisis. One minute, Attorney-General Bookshelves Brandis is set down to snip the ribbon for the opening of the Victorian Bar’s new portrait gallery. 

Three days later, dismayed members learn the official task has been allocated to local attorney-general Robert Clark

What is going on? Maybe there was foreshadowed concern about Bookshelves’ hyperventilation over the PUP-inspired senate inquiry into the suspected dodgy activities of the Queensland government. 

Or possibly he couldn’t face a room that is so unsuitable for shelving. 

Anyhow, Wednesday has been set as the day the bar’s portrait collection will be launched. 

This is a hanging of old warhorses of the bar, including patron saints Pig Iron Bob, a life-sized Sir Owen Dixon and Sir Henry Winneke. William Dargie’s painting of Winneke includes important judicial props – a plastic rotary dial telephone and a Melway.

There will also be a naming ceremony for the Peter O’Callaghan, QC, Gallery, which will be home to the collection. Peter O’Callaghan is the most senior member of the Vic Bar and since 1996 has been the Catholic Church’s independent commissioner handling sex abuse claims against the clergy. 

Rumours swirled of a petition being prepared by bolshie members to insist that the picture of Richard McGarvie, barrister, judge and governor, be included in the display. Happily that has happened. 

Bar chairman Willy Alstergren says he would like the collection to visit the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra. 

This is far too modest a proposal. The whole show should tour the continent so that citizens can marvel at the fear-inducing visages of Yarraside’s greatest briefs in their full-bottomed wigs.  

1 . Spelling disaster

You can imagine the pressure Bookshelves and his people have been under in the past few weeks as they frantically draft and introduce ever more draconian measures to fight terror and throttle freedoms. 

A sign of the stress could be seen in an email on September 23 from his office announcing the introduction of something called “CT Legislatoin Amendment (Foreign Fighterse) Bill [sic and sic]” . 

Those foreign fighterse are in a category of their own and need all the legislation we can muster. 

Not to be outdone, earlier in the month, Jeremy Rockliff, the Apple Isle’s minister for education, sent an email with the subject: “Letter from the Minister for Education and Training – Review of the Educction Act.” 

Schoolteachers throughout the Isle are now describing themselves as “Educcters”. 

2 . Corbys cash in media money pot

The Lawyers Full Employment Act is an important cornerstone of our polity and I’m pleased to say that Bali resident Schapelle Corby has inspired more than her fair share of heavy lifting towards its fulfilment. 

In August, the publishing house Allen & Unwin settled two defamation actions over Eamonn Duff’s book Sins of the Father: The Untold Story Behind Schapelle Corby’s Ill-Fated Drug Run

For implying they were part of a drug syndicate, the payout to Mercedes Corby was $175,000 and to brother Michael Corby jnr $150,000. 

This came about because Justice Ruth McColl in the Court of Appeal reinstated a bunch of defamatory imputations that had been struck out by Justice Christine Adamson

The action brought by Schapelle’s mum, Roseleigh, is continuing. 

In April 2013, Justice Robert Buchanan in the Federal Court ordered unsold copies of the book to be pulped after he found five of the 37 photos in the work had breached the copyright of Mercedes, Roseleigh and Michael. 

There was another $54,000 in damages for that excursion. 

Channel Ten is facing actions from clan members Mercedes, Roseleigh, Michael jnr, and half-brother James Kisina, all suing over not so carefully chosen words from Steve Price on The Project

In 2008, Mercedes also cleaned up big-time in a defamation settlement with Channel Seven. 

Tabloid media – it’s the gift that keeps on giving. 

3 . Carlton not so blue

Citizens stop me in the street and ask about the famous former newspaper columnist Mike Carlton – whose services are no longer retained by The Sydney Morning Herald

“Is he alright?” … “Will he return to writing opinion pieces?” … “Does he have a blog?” 

The truth is that he’s turned his talents to other things. He’s just done a handsome, serious six-figure deal with Random House for two more books. 

One on the history of the naval war in the Pacific, 1942-1945, to be followed by a juicy volume of memoirs, which should provide some flighty distractions for the hacks down at News Corpse. 

4 . Animal magnetism

As animals quietly but firmly elbow us aside and take a more pivotal role in society, it’s little wonder that animal law is speeding up the charts as a law faculty favourite. 

So much so that October 18-19 will see the nation’s first animal law moot, to be held at Bond University on the Gold Coast. It’s billed as the Voiceless Australian-New Zealand Intervarsity Moot on Animal Law, or Animal 2014 for short. 

A voiceless moot does seem a fetching idea, but here we are talking about Voiceless, the Brian and Ondine Sherman animal think tank set up to improve the lot of creatures sacrificed by other animals who like to see something dead and meaty on their plates. 

Anyway, this event will be the biggest animal talkfest we’ve had the pleasure to talk about. Eleven universities are sending their fodder into the moot, with judges drawn from the Queensland bench and bar. 

There’s even a session for cocktails and canapés, but presumably no devils on horseback. 

I see that among the patrons of Voiceless are Michael Kirby, Jane Goodall, Richard Flanagan, Charlie Teo and wombat fancier Ken Henry

5 . Seeking next sext

What is wrong with this country? The Brits are constantly delivering top-quality Tory scandals, which makes us look like a pathetic cultural backwater. 

The latest is the Sunday Mirror sting that caught the hapless minister for civil society, Brooks Newmark

Posing on Twitter as a Tory PR girl, “Sophie Wittans”, reporter Alex Wickham snared the minister into sending him a graphic image of his nether regions. The photographic identity of two pulchritudinous young women was recruited for the exercise, much to their amazement. 

One of them, Charlene Tyler of Lincolnshire, said it was wrong for the paper to use her sunbaking selfie in this unfortunate way, and she will tell her side of the story in this week’s … Sunday Mirror

As a result of this brilliant piece of investigative journalism, Newmark is now out of civil society and back home with the wife and five kiddies. 

Ever since, the Mirror has been saying his entrapment was in “the public interest” so there’s nothing to worry about. 

In America, the aptly named congressman Anthony Weiner tweeted his penis to a 21-year-old female college student – a celebrated event that sadly saw the end of him in the house of representatives. 

Where are we in the political sexting rankings? Nowhere. Surely some saucy Liberal PR poppet could lure Senator Erich Abetz into doing something in the public interest. 

6 . Bonus for Brandis

Gadfly is taking two weeks off, buzzing around India, leaving you with some extra book reviews for a fortnight. Bookshelves, if you are reading this, dig in.

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on October 4, 2014 as "Gadfly: Bar legends set to hang".

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

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