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

Dynamic duo cry freedom

Hang about. Did Freedom Boy Tim Wilson tell the Q&A audience last Monday that deporting someone like Zaky Mallah “does not silence or censor him”? 

Rewind, replay. Yes, there it is. Brilliant. Freedom Boy gets better with each passing sentence. 

Once Freedom Boy and Paul Kelly, who does a good impersonation of an ancient frill-necked lizard, were in sync on the view that the Mallah outrage was “not a free speech issue”, you knew precisely that it was a free speech issue. 

Not long afterwards the Q&A crowd erupted into mirth when the Boy declared that people are “entitled to their views”. 

He flushed, he glowered, he spun in his chair and hissed: “And once again, Tony Jones, you have used this platform to make a snide remark and aside rather than actually addressing the fundamental issue”. 

Freedom Boy makes a goose of himself with his free speech double flips with pike and puts it down to poor old Jonesy being “snide”. Aunty can’t win. 

It was just as good the day before, on Insiders, where Great White Hope M. Turnbull strutted his stuff. He thought it was a “security issue” allowing Mallah into a live studio audience. 

“This is a high-profile audience, it’s a very high-profile target,” he said. Does it look any higher profile than people at Starbucks? To me the Q&A audience look like Young Liberals or leftovers from a Hillsong congregation. 

There were reports that on the Saturday before Insiders went to air there was a demo outside the ABC’s Southbank studios from a patriotic “front”, waving Oi, Oi, Oi flags and cooking a pig on a spit. 

A pig on a spit represents everything that Freedom Boy, Father Kelly and the whole crazy lot have been trying to say, but haven’t been able to articulate with such clarity. 

1 . Shades of Ray

Carols by Candlelight star and host of the Normie Rowe-Won Casey TV fisticuffs, Ray Martini, is just the man to review the ABC’s Q&A

He’s to be joined by former TV executive Shaun Brown in this pressing task. Ray’s years as a celebrity interviewer on Channel Nine’s Midday Show and persecuting dole bludgers on A Current Affair make him the perfect person to recast Q&A

To start with, the show needs more of a lighter Logies feel to it, a bit more lamé for the guests’ wardrobe, a Tommy Tycho orchestra and an audience that doesn’t ask questions but just claps. 

At the moment it’s all impossibly earnest and there are huge opportunities to zhoosh it up. 

For instance, Lorrae Desmond should sing the questions to panellists who then spin a wheel to locate the answer, which has been provided by scholars at the IPA and Nick Cater at the Menzies Research Centre. 

In short, Ray’s advice will be that Q&A has to be more “entertaining”. 

In the meantime, current executive producer of the quiz show Peter McEvoy has been “warned” by the fearsome board of the ABC. Grrrr

He should have had Zaky Mallah asking his question from a cage or on Skype from Aleppo. 

2 . Nice little earners

I’ve just checked out the latest properties on the market being handled by Hockeys real estate agency on Sydney’s north shore. There’s a very nice red bricker at Naremburn, “set in a quality security building of 12, it ticks all the boxes for immediate lifestyle enjoyment”. 

There are others listed at Mosman and Willoughby. I thought something like this might be a good investment punt for relative Jolly Joe Hockey Sticks, now that he has a lazy $200,000 burning a hole in his trousers after winning with three of the 15 publications he sued on. 

Except, there could be a problem once the costs issue has been sorted and any longwinded appeals have finished grinding their way through the process in about 20 years’ time. 

What’s pleasing , however, is that everyone thinks so much more favourably of Jolly Joe now that he’s been awarded some money.

And isn’t that the point of the reputation restorative powers of defamation actions? 

3 . Into the Knight

Castlemaine in central Victoria has much to recommend it. The retro ’70s garb of many of the inhabitants is an alluring feature, so too the remarkably high incidence of retired schoolteachers and authors of letters to newspapers, such as The Age (they may be one and the same). Adding to the town’s delights are exhortations to latte sippers at a local cafe to refrain from mobile phone use.

Recently texts have been flying through the ether about one of the centres of an almost overweening sense of culture in the town – the local art gallery. Things went into overdrive when the formidable Beverly Knight resigned just five months into her term as gallery treasurer.

Knight made a name for herself in the art world long ago, with Aboriginal works on show at her restaurant at the Budapest end of Collins Street. Those were the times when some tenants arced up about the distressing number of Indigenous people in the foyer of the building.

Knight also challenged another form of bigotry by becoming the first female AFL board member, at Essendon, in 1993. There she found men who turned their backs when she spoke.

Now a review into the running of the century-old Castlemaine gallery is due in the next fortnight. It has a remarkably rich collection thanks to benefactors such as Dame Nellie Melba, with works by Tom Roberts, Percy Lindsay, Arthur Streeton, Brett Whiteley, Charles Blackman, Russell Drysdale and Fred Williams.

The Mount Alexander Shire Council and the gallery has appointed a bevy of investigating reviewers: Neil Anderson Consulting, governance expert David Fishel of Positive Solutions, plus four members of a “control group”, including Fay Chomley of Creative Victoria. We eagerly await the reasons why Beverly resigned and an ensuing flood of readers’ letters. 

4 . The dirty half-dozen

I see queues forming at post offices as unusual-looking people ask for citizenship renouncement forms. 

These forms come emblazoned with hi-res pix of Peter Dutton and comprise hundreds of questions. If you fill in all the answers correctly, Australian citizens can renounce their Syrian, Iraqi or Burkina Faso dual nationalities. 

Tony Abbott should get one of these forms and renounce his British citizenship, unless he has already – but that’s not entirely clear because, unlike Barack Obama, he hasn’t released all his “birther” papers. 

People who renounce their other citizenship presumably then can’t be thrown out of the country if Dutto gets a “reasonable suspicion” they have damaged Commonwealth property etc. 

And for duals who are already out of the country, it’s interesting that counterinsurgency guru David Kilcullen points out that ISIS doesn’t think highly of its Western recruits. They get “wasted” pretty quickly and cheaply and those who try to escape are killed. 

The numbers fluctuate, but it is thought that about 60 Australians are now fighting for the “death cult” overseas. Kilcullen refers to them in Lenin’s words as “useful idiots”. He thinks that no more than 10 per cent of them could get out alive and want to return home. 

In other words, Dutto’s bold new citizenship regime will affect as many as six people currently in the Middle East.

5 . Bookshelves wears art on his sleeve

One of Gadfly’s field agents was walking her pooch near Melbourne’s Royal Park when she noticed renos under way at the Queen Anne-style digs for the Australian Ballet School at Parkville. 

The delightful old property was purchased with the assistance last year of $1 million from Joe Hockey’s first “harsh” budget. The estate agent (not Hockeys) enthused that the building had “exquisite period detail and soaring ceilings, gracious formal rooms and heritage splendour”. 

This grant was within Bookshelves’ remit and was not done through the Australia Council. On the board of the ballet school at the time was Daniele Kemp, wife of a former Liberal pollie and arts minister Rod Kemp. Rod is also chairman of the Institute of Paid Advocacy. 

Under the new 2015 arts funding arrangements there’s already been a gush of money flowing from Bookshelves’ departmental pocket. A grant of $550,000 has been awarded to the Australian World Orchestra, a further $50,000 to the Flying Fruit Fly Circus to perform at a cultural festival in Turkey. The Queensland Show Choir bagged $6000 to send a delegation to Indiana University to listen to the jazz vocalists the Singing Hoosiers. 

As Bookshelves said last year, and it bears repeating – all of this is “another clear indication of the Coalition’s support for the arts even when facing such challenges with the budget”.

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on July 4, 2015 as "Gadfly: Dynamic duo cry freedom".

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

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