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

Art and a thorny ol’ devil

The death of the Sydney artist Colin Lanceley stirred memories of the little-known art collecting nous of the Immortal Tweeter, Uncle Rupie himself.

Murdoch was an early collector of another great Australian painter, Fred Williams, who caught the beauty of twisted gum horizons, among other triumphs. 

By way of diversion, I’m hearing that the wizened mogul is being described in political circles as “Rupert Moloch”. A Moloch alternatively is defined as a spiny lizard of grotesque appearance that feeds chiefly on ants, found in arid inland Australia, or a Canaanite idol to whom small children and others were sacrificed. 

Currently he is calling for the sacrifice of the nation’s most revered (unconvicted) drink-driving dominatrix, Peta Credlin.

But, I digress. Lanceley, whose work is held in most state galleries and in public collections in the United States, Europe and Britain, including the Tate and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, died at age 77 after two years battling a heart illness. 

Before the microchip replaced hot metal in newspapers, the lead used for type was melted down to be reused. As it dissolved the jumble was known as a “printers’ pie”.

Lanceley, too, jumbled up letters, brilliantly multicoloured and magnificently massed for his version of the pie. News Corp bought the collage, presumably to decorate the Moloch’s office or gaff.

As the imperious tweets ring out from NYC, it is heartening to know that some humanity in the form of a Lanceley might be close by.

Lanceley’s former London neighbour, Germaine Greer, described one of his collages like this: “It was as though all the bits have died and gone to heaven.” 

1 . Weird science

We were fortunate to get not one, but two, nostrums published four days apart in The National Moloch from the man with the awesome plastered sweep over, Maurice Newman

Tony Abbott has survived and so Morry has survived as the chairman of the PM’s Business Advisory Council. If Malcolm had ascended the throne, no doubt by now we’d see some other gilded soothsayer sitting in Morry’s chair.

The latest in Newman’s global cooling thesis cherry picked its way through the data and warned us not to rely on dodgy outfits such as the Bureau of Meteorology or the CSIRO.

He built to a magnificent crescendo. People behind the climate change movement “pose the greatest threat to humanity”. 

There are a lot of scientists behind the climate change movement, people with actual qualifications. Morry not only doesn’t have a science degree, but Gadfly can find no record on any public bio or CV that he possesses any university qualifications at all, apart from an honorary bauble from Macquarie University, where he served as chancellor. 

2 . Set to win Venetian yarts and minds

Arts people are chattering that if Turnbull had got to the top of the greasy pole, then among the reshuffles we would have seen the departure of Senator Bookshelves Brandis from the yarts portfolio. 

That would be a shame, because among the glittering prizes for the minister is cutting the ribbon at the opening of the new Denton Corker Marshall-designed pavilion at the Venice Biennale in May. 

Bookshelves would, we assume, be guaranteed his name chiselled on a Venetian brass plaque for all time. 

Not only that, he could also swoop into London for another feast at Massimo in the Corinthia Hotel on Northumberland Avenue – all expenses paid. 

Life can be such a grind for frontbenchers of the “debt crisis” government. 

3 . Labour stalwarts turn out in force

Last week’s state memorial for fallen Labor hero Tom Uren was a splendid affair. There were choirs from East Timor, the trade union movement, along with treats from Gershwin and Paul Robeson. 

Bob Hawke, John Howard and Paul Keating were among the clutch of professional funeral attendees. Howard supported a frail former pollie and POW Sir John Carrick, which was fair enough because Carrick had propped up Howard for so many years.

One of the speakers, Sister Josephine Mitchell, said Uren admired Pope John XXIII. This is despite his dislike of religion in general and Catholicism in particular. On one occasion Uren quoted, to your Gadfly, George Orwell’s blunt observation: “One can’t really be Catholic and grown up.” 

However, when Sister Josephine offered Tom a cross on his deathbed, he clutched it to his heart. 

Labor stalwarts and friends repaired to the Balmain Bowling Club for a wake where the Newcastle People’s Chorus belted out “Solidarity Forever” and the main topic of conversation was how no one could abide Bill Shorten

Tom, along with Gough Whitlam, had been living in Elizabeth Bay at the aged care outfit, Lulworth House – at one stage the residence of Patrick White and his parents, Victor and Ruth. Mrs White was also known as “the White man’s burden”. 

Gough was 98 when he died and had been receiving a string of visitors just prior to his departure from the mortal coil. One guest inquired, “How many children did you have, Gough?” 

His reply: “Four … (pause) … so far.”

4 . Fat of fiction?

Citizens were transfixed by the first episode of Channel Nine’s House of Hancock although, surely, common decency would dictate that viewers pull the plug when a young Gina mounted Mr Rinehart in the nuptial bed. 

This was after Gina and Mr Rino sat around a camp fire in the Kimberley and agreed as part of the wedding contract that it would be fine if the iron ore queen got fat. 

A Hancock Prospecting executive, Tad Watroba, was wheeled out to close off room for doubt. Some of the scenes, he said, were: “fictitious, unfounded … and simply never occurred”.

Further, the show was a “tacky grab for ratings, damaging the memory of good Australians”.

Someone in the Hancock flack department even released a photo taken in the 1990s of a thin Gina. This masterstroke of PR was meant to prove that Lang always loved her and that any suggestion to the contrary is false. 

Where would we be without media massagers?

5 . Erection anxiety

It’s uplifting to see that James Packer’s Crown Resorts airlifted reptiles of the media to Manila to witness the opening of the latest in its string of gaudy gambling dens. 

Certainly, the ever obliging Australian Financial Review sent along a hackette to witness the ribbon cutting at Melco Crown’s “City of Dreams”. 

In the process she faithfully recorded Jamie’s whinge that everything was not going his way at Barangaroo. There will be delays because the Barangaroo Delivery Authority and Lend Lease have been in court squabbling about money. 

“There’s nothing more important to me than Crown Sydney,” the casino tsar told eager scribes in Manila. He’s impatient that his magnificent erection won’t be ready on time. 

The news story appeared in the “independent – always” Sydney Morning Herald with the footnote: “The journalist travelled to Manila as a guest of Crown Resorts.” 

Packer is planning erections all around the nation. There’s a $1 billion hotel and apartment tower for the Melbourne casino, a new edifice for Las Vegas and even culture-loving Brisneylanders are in for a waterfront treat, although doubt now lingers because the developers’ friend, Major Campbell Newman, has been sent into exile.

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on February 14, 2015 as "Gadfly: Art and a thorny ol’ devil".

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

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