Diary

Gadfly
Detention deficit disorder

Great to see pundits at Lord Moloch’s satirical broadsheet are still blathering away about the evils of Gillian Triggs and the Human Rights Commission.

A few days ago one of the paper’s flappers managed to whisk an attack on the ABC and Prof Triggs into one fluffy omelette.

Tony Abbott and the team have been basting themselves in the glory of their humanity in getting children out of immigration detention. I hate to be the Gadfly in the ointment, but children in the internment camps were only being shipped out in significant numbers when the government sought to get its draconian amendments to the Migration Act and the Maritime Powers Act through parliament.

Then immigration minister Scott Morrison said he would release children on temporary protection visas if the senate passed the amendments. Motoring Enthusiast Ricky Muir was the last one to buckle, saying it was a choice between a “bad decision and a worse decision”.

The government effectively held the children hostage, because Morrison could have released them on bridging visas on the day he was sworn in as a minister.

Instead, the average time children were held in detention blew out under Team Abbott. From the day the team took office on September 18, 2013 until just after the amendments were passed in December last year, the average number of days children were held in detention camps ballooned 280 per cent, from 115 days to 438 days.

Bravo. Give these bleeding hearts a knighthood.

Christos! Where’s that briefcase?

Meanwhile, the hunt goes on for Christos Moraitis’s lost briefcase.

Christos is the secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department in Canberra, the organisation in charge of Australia’s precious secrets and security.

In his lost briefcase were the notes he took of conversations he had with his boss, Senator George (Bookshelves) Brandis, and the president of the Human Rights Commission, Gillian Triggs.

The notes would be of interest to Sgt Plod at the AFP who is investigating whether Brandis and or Moraitis offered Prof Triggs an inducement to stop causing trouble and take another job.

It becomes a tricky tangle when a minister in whom the senate doesn’t have confidence himself doesn’t have confidence in someone in whom the senate has expressed confidence.

Bookshelves explained that he had been told by “numerous sources” within the Human Rights Commission that Triggs was taking counsel about her position.

So who are these “numerous sources”? Difficult to imagine really, since just about the entire commission has lost confidence in the A-G. His only friend there is the lad with whom he steps out to opera under the stars, his very own Freedom Boy Tim Wilson.

Meanwhile, we dread to imagine what else was in Christos’s lost briefcase. Could it be there was material relating to one of ASIO’s “special intelligence operations”. If that sort of stuff was disclosed to anyone there’s a penalty, under the very legislation that Bookshelves and his departmental head recently shepherded through parliament, of five years’ jail, or 10 years’ if things are aggravated.

Moraitis said he lost his briefcase “by mistake” as opposed to the other way of losing it. Let’s hope no one ever finds his wretched valise.

The sum of us

Believe me, it’s no fun harping on about the Team’s lost possessions and other problems.

That said, there is one thing that has worried me and that’s Philip Higginson’s letter to the federal executive of the Liberal Party.

Philip is the troubled honorary federal bagman of the party, having helped raise since 2011 an eye-watering $70 million for the war chest. Now he’s concerned about the party’s direction and contemplating his own resignation. In the course of laying out his despair, he said:

“Asking people for large sums of money is difficult in direct proportion to the amount. I can now quite confidently ask individuals and their advisers for a donation of a million dollars, and even more recently confidently request a million pounds Sterling without vacillating. I was planning to increase that ask to several tens of millions of US dollars within the USA and had laid out my plans to the PM for approval in principal.”

The prospect of the wholesale purchase of the Liberal Party by overseas interests just shows how “open for business” we really are. The Koch brothers would be proud of us.

The United States, Britain, Canada and other democratic backwaters have banned foreign investment in political machines. However, if we looked hard enough we might see the benefits in this “without vacillating” request for offshore cash. It’s much less painful to agree to outsource our sovereignty under the US–Australia Free Trade Agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement if the political machine of the governing party can trouser a healthy dividend.

Trying to terminate abortion bullies

The DLP’s new member in the Victorian upper house found time in her maiden speech last month to praise a fire-and-brimstone preacher who linked theBlack Saturday bushfires with abortion laws. Welcome to the wacky world of minor parties.

Former academic Rachel Carling-Jenkins also channels the ghost of Bob Santamaria as she goes gunning for abortion laws.

Carling-Jenkins, who has a PhD in social sciences, thanked preacher Danny Nalliah and his Rise Up Australia party. Nalliah famously joined about 80 people in Melbourne to listen to one of the weirdest spruikers on the circuit, British climate expert Christopher Monckton. Nalliah’s helpful contribution to proceedings was to say, “ISIS isn’t a death cult, Islam is a death cult.”

Most of the crowd wore the party’s official blue shirts with the slogan, “Keep Australia Australian.”

Earlier, he had become worried “witchcraft covens” on Mount Ainslie were cursing Parliament House with various blood sacrifices, convening a special prayer offensive to combat the evil. He recorded the success in the fetchingly titled blog post “Spiritual warfare prayer mission a great success on Mount Ainslie in Canberra, Australia.” In a lede that would be a warning to most editors, he began: “This article is a bit long, but please take the time to read it, as I am sure the Lord will greatly bless you!”

But we digress. Doc Carling-Jenkins’ plan to rid the state of abortions faces its own counteroffensive, with an upper house ambush from the Sex Party’s Fiona Patten and Colleen Hartland of the Greens.

With the backing of Labor women, and possibly some Liberals, they aim to introduce a bill to prevent fanatics hurling abuse outside abortion clinics in Melbourne.

The legislation will provide for access zones around clinics to be free of intimidation, distress and taunts.

The government holds 14 seats in the legislative council, which means it could need the support of the Greens – with five – and at least two crossbenchers to pass the legislation.

The other crossbenchers are Jeff Bourman and Daniel Young of the Shooters and Fishers and James Purcell of Vote 1 Local Jobs.

It’s a testing moment for those MLCs who oppose abortion, but at the same time don’t approve of women being abused on the street.

NSW Labor powers into the Fun Zone

Nick Butterly, The West Australian’s political affairs hack in Canberra, pointed out on Twitter that NSW Labor is using in its election campaign material a picture that illustrated a recent article in the US satirical online magazine The Onion.

It’s a woman and her two children at the breakfast table and it accompanied an Onion story about “research” that claimed a “majority of American mothers would be willing to drop off their small children at a warehouse with the words ‘Fun Zone’ spray-painted on its side, no questions asked, in exchange for just one uninterrupted hour all to themselves”.

And there’s the same pic being tweeted by NSW Labor as part of its campaign against the sale of electricity poles and wires.

Well spotted, Nick. The synchronicity between American mothers dumping their tots at a Fun Zone and the sale of NSW electricity assets is plain to see.

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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Mar 7, 2015 as "Gadfly: Detention deficit disorder". Subscribe here.

Richard Ackland
is the publisher of Justinian. He is The Saturday Paper’s diarist-at-large and legal affairs editor.