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

Staff play the waiting game

It’s not altogether surprising, but there’s confusion surrounding Bookshelves Brandis’s bold denials made to senate estimates earlier this month. 

The pressing issue at hand was whether bright young muffins in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s graduate intake program were required to serve cocktails and nibbles at a pre-budget party hosted by Foreign Affairs Minister Julie (Death Stare) Bishop

When pressed about this by Labor senator Sam Dastardly, the head of the department, Peter Varghese, said he was unaware that his brainy cadets had been outsourced to the minister as waiters. 

Bookshelves chimed in. He was at the very same party himself and, “The drinks were being served and the savouries were being handed around by Ms Bishop’s personal staff.” So there. 

In a subsequent letter to the chairman of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee, Varghese set the record straight: “Four DFAT graduates from the 2014 intake were involved in assisting with the function … Their duties included escorting heads of mission to and from the function, serving food and drinks and assisting with the clean-up.” 

It was felt that this was a good opportunity for the “volunteers” to get exposure to the minister’s office and “to observe a networking format which is the staple of diplomatic work abroad”. 

To hand comes recent advice that network training is not confined to DFAT. High Court associates, whose IQs are so big they have to be carried around in separate boxes, are expected to serve cocktails and canapés at the celebrations following the swearing in of a new member of the court. 

In fact, there is evidence that a scholar with a DPhil from Oxford was handing out cucumber sandwiches to freeloaders at a recent judges’ knees-up.

1 . Anna a housemate

Those with good memories may remember James Murdoch (aka Cretin No. 2) and his attack on the “chilling” ambitions of the BBC. Similar attacks are mounted on the ABC by Lord Moloch’s time-servers in his increasingly bonkers local tissues. 

How pleasing, then, to note the taxpayer dollars being shelled out to a slice of the Moloch empire to bring to ABC viewers a revamped version of Count Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, called The Beautiful Lie.

Having dazzled a global audience with shows such as Big Brother, The Biggest Loser and MasterChef, producers turn naturally to the classics in what is delicately called a “re-imagining”.

The Beautiful Lie is being shot for Aunty in six parts around Victoria. For real drama, they could have Anna throw herself under a Ferrari at the grand prix, rather than a boring old train. 

All this marvellous work comes from a mob whose name sounds like something needed to improve one’s bowel movements – Endemol – which is the creature of Moloch’s 21st Century Fox, through Shine, the outfit Moloch bought from daughter Elisabeth (the non-cretin) for $772 million. 

One of Endemol’s more exciting announcements recently was that it licensed Big Brother in the Balkans. If you thought there was action in the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, picture housemates from Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Macedonia. That’ll slay ’em. 

2 . Stream lines

Well-padded executives at Channel 10, which has recently cosied up to Foxtel in more ways than one, were gnashing their teeth at the prospect of Google’s YouTube, Facebook, Netflix, and other possible disrupters, getting their paws on streaming rights for AFL and NRL games, and associated advertising dollars. 

This interruption to traditional cosy arrangements has got to stop. The top banana at Ten, Hamish McLennan, said the shadow of Google over football rights was “10 out of 10 scary”. 

Hamo added: “[Google] has deeper pockets than all of us … They have virtually got unlimited resources and they can afford to lose money to achieve a commercial outcome over time” … much like the way Moloch’s cross-subsidised newspapers are kept afloat. 

Lachlan Moloch still has a hefty stake in Ten so it was inevitable that Darren (Lurch) Davidson, a stenographer at The Australian (aka The Catholic Boys Daily), heard the call of his master’s voice and wrote that Ten, Seven and Nine had “quality” video content, which is more sought after by advertisers who are prepared to pay a premium for it. 

There were lots of quotes from the Ten banana about how clients had been “hoodwinked” to spend so much money on digital advertising. 

There’s nothing quite like the sad drumbeat of a rearguard reaction.

3 . Hockeys stay mum

What can we make of real estate agents who fail to spruik the splendours of property? It’s unheard of, yet this is what we find with St Leonards-based property floggers Hockeys. 

The proprietors have the same ursine characteristics as the federal treasurer, who himself has sprung from the loins of property guru Richard Hokeidonian

We tried Colin Hockey last week for his views on the property bubble and how people without ministerial salaries might get into the real estate market. No reply. 

This week we emailed another principal of the shop, Michael Hockey, to get his take. At time of press – silence. 

Maybe we were overexcited by the company’s enticing blurb: “Our company has thoroughly researched what a client requires from their Agent. What they have told us is that they are craving a ‘professional’ who can ‘listen’ to their individual wants and needs and provide solutions for them! While Hockeys is very much a results-driven agency, these results do not come at the cost of honesty, integrity and exceptional service and customer care.” 

A listening professional who is concerned about customer care and integrity. You can see where Jolly Joe Hockey Sticks got his political training. 

4 . Put up or shut up

Why is Freedom Boy Wilson excused from Bronwyn Bishop’s requirement that those who want to influence public policy should stand for elected office, but Professor Gillian Triggs is not excused?

To add to the bafflement we have Freedom Boy parroting speaker Bishop, saying that those who want to advocate human rights should run for parliament and not sit on independent statutory bodies. It’s doubly odd because Wilson is supposed to be an advocate of human rights, if his job description as Human Rights Commissioner is to make sense. 

So, Triggs as president of the Human Rights Commission should shut up, until she’s in parliament. Wilson agrees, but as we all know parliament is his next step in the onward thrust of his brilliant career. In the interim, he’s not shutting up in an attempt to influence public policy on “property rights” and other pressing faux issues. 

Bookshelves Brandis has lost confidence in Triggs for expressing independent views as a statutory officer, but still has full faith in Freedom Boy and his amazing crotch-chafing straddles than manage to keep his political patron blissfully happy. 

The dotty idea that everyone who advocates political change should run for parliament should see a small army of contestants lining up for the next election. 

5 . The gospel of Paul

The prime minister has announced that long-dead Canberra press gallery hack Alan Reid (aka The Red Fox) was “the Paul Kelly of his day”. Reid, as reporter, was the ultimate political meddler, stooge for Menzies and henchman for his Daily Telegraph proprietor, Sir Frank Packer. So the comparison with Kelly, one of the scribblers with The Catholic Boys Daily, is sobering. 

Citizens have been breathlessly waiting for the Daily’s pronouncement on the Pope’s climate change encyclical on the “care for our common home”. 

Reports in the weekend Daily had Minister Turnbull commending everyone to read the encyclical. Pope Francis also got a rap from that towering political figure, environment minister Greg Hunt: “Personally, I welcome the intervention of the Pope.” However, the Oiled Sweepover, Maurice Newman, cautioned against too much excitement: “We ought to realise when we talk about being kind to the environment, that does not mean carte blanche we shut down our entire civilisation.” 

Another scribbler, Dennis Shanahan, found that he had lost his breath at the “hypocrisy” of people calling for Tony Abbott to act on the Pope’s encyclical on the grounds that he is the “Captain Catholic” of Australian politics.

But it was the modern-day Red Fox who opened a vein. Under the headline, “Green-Left Pope endorses flawed view of progress”, Father Kelly said that the encyclical, Laudato si’, reveals Pope Francis and his advisers “as environmental populists and economic ideologues of a quasi-Marxist bent”.  

It’s possible the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano would be qualified to join the alliance of more than two-dozen newspapers around the world that form part of the Climate Change Network. However, it’s distressing to report that our very own Catholic Boys Daily is now very cranky with Popey.

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on June 27, 2015 as "Gadfly: Staff play the waiting game".

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

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