Diary

Gadfly
Unprincely behaviour

Royal consort and Australian knight Phil the Greek started out life in pretty straitened circumstances. His family underwent an early version of a Greek austerity program prior to young Phil getting hitched to a well-funded royal and living happily ever after on the British civil list and handouts under the Sovereign Grant Act.

Two-and-a-half years before Phil married Princess Elizabeth, Harold Macmillan visited his mum, Princess Andrew, in Athens and said she was living in “humble, not to say squalid conditions”.

So it was disappointing that after
a lifetime of not doing terribly much, there was Phil churlishly snapping at a photographer who was trying to do his job at a Battle of Britain get-together.

It wasn’t so much the instruction to “just take the fucking picture”, it was the accompanying seething and snarling that showed what the ancient limpet must be like at home.

It was actually a nastier display of entitlement than one of his earlier royal flounces: “Bugger the table plan, give me my dinner.”

He’s sounding more and more like Kevin Rudd on a VIP flight.

A costly action

Hockeys, the real estate people on Sydney’s north shore, are having a great season with at least three home units for sale and another eight or so for lease. Sadly, there are no current testimonials from happy customers posted on the site, so we can’t bring you the latest feedback. Marketing man Mitch Hockey better get cracking.

Meanwhile, family member Jolly Joe Hockey Sticks is back in the Federal Court fighting for his costs in the woebegone defamation case he launched against three of the Fairfax companies over their “Treasurer for Sale” story.

The court had before it an affidavit from his lawyers saying that in August last year he offered to settle the case for a total of $385,000, comprising $145,000 for each of the publications by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age and $95,000 for The Canberra Times.

Those kind offers were rejected, which was just as well because Uncle
Joe ended up with damages of $120,000 for an SMH poster and $80,000 for two Age tweets.

Justice Richard White is now cogitating how to apportion costs for a case in which Hockey was unsuccessful on 12 of the 15 matters on which he sued.

The gloating by Lord Moloch’s tissues about the verdict “against” Fairfax has run out of puff, yet it raises an intriguing question as to why a media organisation, with pretensions to some sort of sanity, would think awards of defamation damages to politicians are something about which to be pleased.

What’s in a name?

Last week Gadfly was full of praise for Australian Border Force Commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg and his wonderful new uniform, blessed with three Hail Marys by the Bishop of Forestville and ABF chaplain T. Abbott.

A Dutch expert has been in touch to tell me that Quaedvlieg translates as “angry fly”.

During Napoleon’s occupation of the Netherlands, one of the reforms instituted by the little Corsican was to insist that all locals acquire a surname.

The Dutch do not respond well to being told what to do, so some took up absurd names as a mark of resistance.

One can only imagine what “Bolt” translates to in Dutch.

Double Dutch and a call for Blair

A wonderful piece of analysis in The Catholic Boys Daily by leading sage and “foreign editor” Greg Sheridan, lauding the service to the nation of right-wing shop assistant unionist Joe de Bruyn, another heroic Dutchman.

Joe lies awake at night worrying about gay marriage and other assaults on normality, but importantly he’s in the same camp as the worker’s friend Bill Shorten. Both get generous pats on the back in Greg’s epistle for their “flexibility” in negotiating with industry on workers’ pay and penalties.

Meanwhile, over at Granny Herald, Peter (Children Overboard) Reith was telling us that, “Labor can’t afford another Bill Shorten, it should be looking for someone like former British prime minister Tony Blair.”

We can only assume that on both those scores the terrible scything of sub-editors at mainstream news organs has resulted in important background details being omitted.

For instance, on de Bruyn’s remarkable skills when it comes to “flexibility”, the grocers Coles  was ordered last week to tear up an agreement with the shop assistants’ union because it would have meant that about 75,000 workers would be underpaid.

The Fair Work Commission ordered Coles to increase casual loading and pay for junior staff. The deal with the grocery chain and the “so-called union” was criticised as a “sweetheart deal”, an expression that would be enough to make Joe wince.

As for Labor getting someone closer to Tony Blair, we can only shudder at the thought. Tone was one of the key architects of the fake weapons of mass destruction alarm, in much the same way Reith was the father of the children overboard concoction.

Blair went on to become a global wheeler and dealer, providing advice to oil interest in Saudi Arabia, JPMorgan Chase Bank and kindly regimes in Kazakhstan, Romania, Mongolia and Abu Dhabi.

Recently he turned up at a private dinner in Kiev hosted by Ukrainian oligarch Victor Pinchuk, and two days later he attended a “vanity forum” run by Vlad Putin in St Petersburg.

Pinchuk has been pouring hard-earned cash into the Tony Blair Faith Foundation – more than $US1 million
in three years.  Someone had to top up the £1800 Blair spent on make-up while in office.

Meanwhile, things have been unfortunate for the long-suffering Cherie Blair. Her chain of 11 health clinics called Mee Healthcare (“a new approach to healthcare”) has just gone belly-up with losses in the millions.

In his inimitable way Reith has tapped the mood of the nation – dump Shorten, give us Blair.

Good grief, In Brief

Sydney barristers were distraught at the news, posted on the bar newsletter In Brief on Wednesday, that former Dizzo judge James Conomos had passed.

A funeral was to be held on Friday at the Magnolia Chapel, Macquarie Park Crematorium, and briefs were invited to turn up and pay their last respects to the jurist. While many were still dabbing the moisture from their eyes, a second notice suddenly appeared. Hold the grief.

“An In Brief notice was issued earlier this afternoon regarding the death of James Conomos, former District Court judge and barrister. Mr Conomos’ family has informed In Brief since that time that he is very much alive. In Brief apologises unreservedly for any confusion and distress that may have been caused.”

There’s nothing like your family having to tell people you’re still alive. It seemed so certain that he’d shuffled off the mortal coil, what with precise details of the funeral arrangements being provided.

A sense of disappointment combined with relief has swept over Phillip Street. Perhaps the funeral should go ahead without him.

A matter of trust

While some of the dazzling shine has been taken off Bill Shorten with the exposure before the royal commission of private slush funds for election and union purposes, it should not be forgotten that slush money plays a time-honoured function in our polity.

By now the $100,000 slush account created in 2003 by the then minister for workplace relations, Tony Abbott, may be a dim memory.

It was designed to fund legal challenges to Pauline Hanson and One Nation, principally to stop them getting funding from the electoral commission.

Tyrannosaurus Tony rounded up various Liberal donors and put the money into a trust called Australians for Honest Politics (cough, splutter).

In criminal proceedings Hanson and fellow One Nationist David Ettridge ended up in the clink before their conviction for electoral fraud was reversed a couple of months later.

Most of Abbott’s “honest politics” money was spent haplessly trying to persuade a One Nation defector called Barbara Hazelton to front an action to prevent the payment of $470,000 in public election funding going to One Nation’s coffers.

Barbara decided not to go ahead with the litigation, by which stage most of the trust money was gone and honest politics was wound up, never to be sighted again.

Taken for a ride

Having chalked up $77,000 in flights, hotels and associated expenses, along with $15,000 in taxis, in a year, citizens are scratching their heads wondering what benefit Freedom Boy Tim Wilson’s travel arrangements bring to the nation.

Of course, this is on top of his base salary of $332,000, an amount just a tad above Bronwyn Bishop’s snout-in-trough global jaunts for the first year of her stellar speakership. By comparison, Peter Slipper’s $950 worth of taxi trips is looking like a pretty pathetic effort.

As an observer of Freedom Boy’s at times incoherent ramblings, Gadfly cannot think of one solid, sensible contribution he has made to national affairs in the 18 months he’s been on the taxpayers’ teat.

On the issue de jour, two years’ imprisonment for workers at Australian migration detention centres if they speak out about the treatment of detainees, Freedom Boy has not been seen anywhere leading the protests.

Maybe he’s been travelling.

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jul 18, 2015 as "Gadfly: Unprincely behaviour". Subscribe here.

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