Diary

Gadfly
Gerard Henderson and the word of George Pell

Cardinal Pell is fortunate, indeed, to have sermons delivered on his behalf by Father Gerard Henderson, the texts of which are published regularly in The Catholic Boys Weekly, aka Lord Moloch’s Weekend Australian

As a result the Cardinal’s public standing could not be in better shape. According to Hendo, Pell has dedicated his life to hunting down clerical paedophiles in his midst and if anyone thinks otherwise it is the fault of the ABC, Mark Scott, and left-wing journalists. 

I couldn’t agree more. In recent sermons Fr Gerard recounted how he wrote to current ABC chairman J. J. Spigelman asking him to “renounce” the comments of one of his long-ago predecessors as chairman of Aunty, Professor Richard Downing, who defended an ABC program in 1975 that discussed “the phenomenon of paederasty”. 

It’s a complete puzzle why Spigsy is not busying himself rummaging through ABC programs of 40 years ago and “renouncing” ones that Fr Gerard says represent a “double standard”.

Such is life in the Spigeltent. 

The Cardinal has now rushed to his lawyers to take a swipe at Peter Saunders, who on Sunday night gave TV viewers the impression that George was the Sepp Blatter of the Vatican – “a dangerous individual” whose position was “untenable”. 

Saunders leads a Holy See commission for the protection of children. 

Which reminds me – what happened to George’s defamation complaint against Twitter? Yes, Twitter. 

In April 2012, the Cardinal was fired up by a Melbourne tweeter, Catherine Deveny, poking fun at him. 

The finest letters rolled off the Corrs Chambers Westgarth computers to a division of Twitter called “Trust and Safety” demanding the internet be scrubbed clean of Ms Deveny’s outrage. 

This is the same law shop that acted for the Roman Catholic Church in the infamous Ellis case. Even though the church had advice that the victim’s case was “arguable beyond a reasonable doubt” Pell nonetheless instructed his lawyers to defend Ellis’s claim “vigorously … strenuously”. 

Gail Furness, counsel assisting the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, asked Pell whether, in these circumstances, the vehement attack on Ellis in the witness box had been appropriate. 

Pell: “I regret that.” 

Furness: “Only regret it, Cardinal?” 

Pell: “What else could I say? It was wrong that it went to such an extent. I was told it was a legally proper tactic, strategy.” 

What a mensch. 

Craig goes to China

What’s that old brothel creeper Craig Thomson doing on the lecture circuit in China? 

There he was last week in Qingdao talking up the lure of bauxite, spruiking for an outfit called Xbauxi, which operates out of premises in Sydney’s Baulkham Hills. 

Craig told disrespectful newspaper hacks that Xbauxi had not given him a credit card for the China excursion. 

Only a couple of months ago he was in the Federal Court unsuccessfully asking that proceedings against him brought by the Fair Work Commission be dismissed, on the ground of his mental health issues. 

Something to do with allegedly misspending $243,000 of the Health Services Union’s money.

Happily there are no mental health problems when it comes to talking about bauxite.

Court calls PwC to account

Justice Paul Brereton in the NSW Supremes gave global accounting shop PricewaterhouseCoopers a frightful tickle-up in his judgment on the Hancock-Rinohart trust tussle. 

You’ll remember he found that PwC was “manipulated” by the Iron Queen into cooking up advice that could scare the living daylights out of her kiddies, along the lines that they’d be made insolvent if the trust vested now, instead of when they were close to senile. 

PricelessWaterhouse “sanitised” a version of its advice on capital gains tax so as to be more helpful for Rinohart

Far from facing bankruptcy, lead plaintiff, John Hancock, received a private binding ruling from the Tax Office that no CGT would be payable on the vesting of the trust. 

It was uplifting to read a day after the Supreme Court judgment that PwC made a submission in response to the tax white paper, in which it said that the Abbott government must stop being pressured by lobby groups. It should reconsider ruling out reforms to negative gearing and superannuation and GST. 

PwC’s submission was critical of the influence of “special interest groups”. 

Sigh. 

Painting the Town Hall burgundy

Lateish on a Friday afternoon distinguished figures of the law and medicine, plus nobler callings, may be seen ascending the steps from The Cellar of the Town Hall Hotel in Johnston Street, Fitzroy. 

The Burgundy Club has just finished another educational session, tasting the grands crus or lesser reds.

Among prominent 25 or so club members is The Embarrister, Colin Lovitt, QC, who famously was fined $10,000, plus costs, for calling a Brisbane magistrate a “cretin”. 

When successfully defending Greg Domaszewicz on a charge of killing infant Jaidyn Leskie, Lovitt told the court: “The accused is a stupid practical joker. But I am defending him for murder, not for being an idiot.”

Lovitt won many cases but, sadly for the Burgundy Club, he has been unable to stop the departure of Harry Lilai, who is selling up after five years of rattling the pans at the Town Hall.

Harry’s phone has been ringing off the hook since his departure was announced, but he tells Gadfly his next stop is unknown.

Whatever – he is likely to be followed by the enthusiastic diners of another Friday lunch club, known as The Gentlemen’s Discussion Group (Females Welcome). 

This comprises a clutch of former foreign correspondents enhancing their memories. Chief among them is former UPI hand (Africa, Hong Kong, Europe, North America and more) Mike Keats, former Moloch and Fairfax scribe Cameron Forbes, Age sage Peter Cole-Adams, with the occasional guest appearance of crime writer Shane Maloney

They descended into The Cellar this week for further discourse about the tragedy of life without expense accounts.

The dark arts of raising money

SANAA, the Tokyo architectural firm led by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, trumped 45 or so other entrants to win the design competition for the Art Gallery of NSW’s $450 million extension, a project being called Sydney Modern. 

At the official announcement, there was toasting and air kissing aplenty but the question left hanging is – “Where’s the money?”

Agreements also will have to be sealed with the Royal Botanic Gardens and Roads and Maritime Services to build giant platforms of sandstone and glass over swaths of public land and the top of the Cahill Expressway. 

Archibald Prize-winning artist Ben Quilty, a member of the gallery’s board of trustees, has described the massive structure as a “stadium for culture”. 

Noticeably absent from the architectural design launch party last week was a ministerial figure from the Baird government, the very people who will have to dig deep to get this project to fly. 

So far there have been a variety of reports about the money, not all of them adding up. The Sydney Morning Herald said: “With $10 million pledged from the NSW government, the next challenge for gallery director Dr Michael Brand is to raise the remaining funds to carry the project through to its 2021 completion…”

The Australian Financial Review: “Now Sydney’s flagship visual arts gallery just needs $450 million to build the thing. President of the gallery’s trust, Guido Belgiorno-Nettis ... [said] his family would do its bit to help. ‘Of course we will ... All the major families who have supported the gallery will be there.’ ” 

The Australian: “Dr Brand will seek funding from the state and federal governments and ‘a very significant private component’.” 

Brand is banking on money for each of the gallery’s “families” – Ros, James and Gretel Packer; Eleonora Triguboff; Geoffrey Ainsworth, son of poker machine jackpot king Len Ainsworth; Steven Lowy, son of Frank; and Sam Meers, daughter of mega-rich hotelier Nelson Meers, a former Sydney lord mayor. 

Various luvvies, skilled in arts management, believe the hoopla surrounding the announcement about SANAA is a way of trying to lock in government support.

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This column was modified on June 11, 2015, to correct the number of entrants in the design competition for the Art Gallery of NSW's extension and make clear that Eleonora Triguboff is not Harry Triguboff's daughter. Fundraising amounts have not be finalised.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jun 6, 2015 as "Gadfly: The word of George". Subscribe here.

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

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