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

Thou shalt laugh thyself

The 2014 Wharf Revue got off to a delicious start with a gleeful review in The Sydney Morning Herald

This year’s production is called Open for Business and we see Bronwyn Bishop, Christopher Pyne, Georgie-Porgie Brandis, Tony Abbott, and other frontbench delectables stripped, skewered and satirised beyond the realms of even their own comic output. 

Peta Credlin, Clive Palmer, Bill Shorten, the Catholic Church and Miranda Devine also come in for some priceless debunking.  

Actually, the show had an off-Broadway run at the Glen Street Theatre in Belrose, just up the road from the PM’s Forestville hacienda, and located in the neighbouring electorate of the person in charge of kicking out Labor members from parliament – Bronwyn Bishop.  

It’s Liberal heartland and there they were, enthusiastic seniors, laughing like drains, particularly at the barbs directed at the Abbott government and Drew Forsythe’s scarification of the speaker.   

You’d think the faithful would have more respect.  

1 . Slow boat

Further up the tip of Bronwyn’s electorate of Mackellar we find Palm Beach and the trendsetting noshery The Boathouse, part of a chain of eating and function establishments in which the trust company of the Minister for Trade and Tourism, Andrew Robb, has a 50 per cent interest.  

Serendipitously, Tourism Australia listed The Boathouse as a global foodie destination in its $40 million promotional campaign.  

When the issue was raised at senate estimates, Man-Boy Matty Cormann insisted everything was above board and it was “ridiculous” to suggest otherwise.  

Actually, the senate committee should have pressed for an inquiry into The Boathouse’s charter of customer service.  

Your Gadfly can report having spent the better part of an hour waiting for his modest Boathouse breakfast to arrive, while over on a corner table Robb and his cronies were tucking into steaming piles of eggs Benedict, bacon, toast, three sorts of preserve, coffee, the works.  

The establishment seems to be run on Liberal Party lines: the masses can wait while the inner circle get on with the business of pleasuring themselves.  

2 . A tax on the press

This week we were fortunate to have not one, but two grand contributions to the national conversation: a speech by Rupert Murdoch in Washington and a newspaper article by former stockbroker and the chairman of the PM’s business advisory council Maurice Newman.  

Rupe’s speech was delivered last month to a room full of G20 finance ministers and central bankers, but its full technicolour splendour only emerged on Tuesday courtesy of his official Hansard reporter, Dr Paul Kelly

It’s always amusing to hear the rancid old mogul’s disinterested flat earth nostrums: government should get out of the way, corporations need to pay less tax and the workforce needs to be deregulated.  

One of his biggest complaints is that multinationals such as Google get away with massive tax minimisation by profit-shifting.  

As the finance and banking people quietly absorbed this message they might have wondered whether they were hearing things correctly. Weren’t Rupe’s corporations one of the finest examples of contriving amazingly low tax liabilities? After all, News Corporation has more than 150 subsidiaries in tax havens.  

Certainly, in numerous financial years the official corporate rates in Britain, the US and Australia are regarded as remote fictions by Murdoch’s army of bookkeepers.  

As a true sign of liberty, News has managed to get the ATO to pay it tax – an eye-watering $882 million in 2013, after a battle with the authorities about how to account for $2 billion of foreign exchange losses.  

According to Doc Kelly, the mogul told the G20 masticators that a “massive shift” in their policies has benefited the super-rich, leaving a legacy of social polarisation.  

It’s a worry.  

3 . Spumin’ Newman

And then there was Morry Newman, he of the brilliantined comb-over.  

The PM’s business guru was warning readers of The National Rupert about the pervasive anti-capitalist culture of the United Nations. Worse, it’s a socialist outfit, bent on one-world government, while the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change “is an advocacy group dedicated to wealth distribution ... pander[ing] to gender balance”.   

None of this is terribly original – it’s straight out of the Tea Party handbook – but it makes you wonder what on earth they talk about at meetings of the business advisory council.  

It’s comforting that the bankers, trucking magnates, cheese producers and steel manufacturers on the council sit silently by while Morry does his fruitcake routine.  

Maybe it’s all part of clever Peta Credlin’s strategy, to let Maurice out on the loose with something pretty wild, so that the PM, by comparison, can sound reasonable with comments such as “coal is good for humanity”.  

4 . A right burq

Freedom Boy’s human rights caravan continues to roll across the Wide Brown Land with stops in Cairns and Charters Towers. Brisbanites are anxiously anticipating their turn on November 12.  

Gadfly believes that numbers were quite low for the Rights and Responsibilities show in Perth earlier this month, so we hope North Queensland citizens have been packing the halls to listen to Timbo Wilson unfold his vision on freedoms.  

Actually he did add some cooling balm to the burqa ban debate at the beginning of October. 

On 612 ABC Brisbane, he said that he supported the right of people to wear the burqa, but personally found it “confronting”. 

“I do find people walking around with full-length or burqas, or hijabs, or... I always get the different ones confused... confronting, because it is not something that we are used to seeing in Australia,” he said.  

As always, Freedom Boy has a commanding grip on the topic.  

5 . RIP the whole lot of us

6 .  

If you can’t make it to a freedom forum, standby for a session with evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, who is on his way to Australia for his An Appetite for Wonder shows in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney.  

Dawkins recently suggested that a “cosmic tombstone” be launched into outer space, so that when humanity on earth is extinct, other far-flung creatures could marvel at the wonders of Shakespeare, Bach, Darwin and Einstein.  

The founder of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, and vice-president of the British Humanist Association, will be doing a three-city signing of An Appetite for Wonder: The Making of a Scientist.  

Among his many attributes is his sublime quotability, e.g.: “By all means let’s be open-minded, but not so open-minded that our brains drop out.”  

Any chance he could catch up with Morry Newman?

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on November 1, 2014 as "Gadfly: Thou shalt laugh thyself".

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

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