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

Biggles buzzes the Levant

Bombs away. Wing Commander Biggles Abbott has scrambled the Sopwith Pups for a Damascus fly-pass and some carefully dropped leaflets about the Canning byelection.

Evil Death Cult Nazis also will be targeted, avoiding any collateral damage to Christians. The aim, according to the PM, is to stop “terrorism against our people”. This is good news, especially as George W. Bush, Tony Blair and John Winston Howard played a handy role in creating the conditions that gave rise to Daesh – let’s call them godfathers to ISIS.

The great seer, Lord Moloch, welcomed the 2003 invasion of Iraq because he said the price of oil would drop to $US20 a barrel. We’re still waiting.

Step by step the skilfully designed policy unfolds like this: declare war and invade Iraq; withdraw from Iraq and create the circumstances for a Sunni uprising that morphs into Daesh; ratchet up the fearmongering; go back and bomb Iraq; slowly realise that the enemy of my enemy in Syria is now my friend, sort of; without an invitation start bombing new friend’s country. This will protect the Australian way of life.

We’re in competent hands, even if those hands are eight points behind in the polls.

1 . Closing the gate behind them

At least some deeply misunderstood figures had the fortitude to stand firm against all the bleeding heart stuff about refugees. This outpouring of kindness threatens to undermine the triumph of “stop the boats”.

Step forward and take bows Andrew Nikolic and Cory the Tory Bernardi. Nikolic, a superannuated military type who now whips for the Nasty Party, warned that some of his parliamentary colleagues were trying to “out-compassion” each other when it came to being kind to fleeing Syrians.

“What we need to do is act on the basis of evidence, not throw figures out there,” the MP for Bass declared, unaware there was evidence on our telly screens every night. Cory was worried about a growing trade in fake Syrian passports, as Pakistanis pretended to be from Aleppo.

Clearly, the message from this quarter is we’ve got to be scrupulous about who we take in, and it’s heartening to know that these spiritual gatekeepers are still on active duty in the Nasty Party.

Which raises the question, who were the gatekeepers when the Nikolics and Bernardis were let in and why did they drop their guard when protecting this precious Anglo jewel in the Pacific?

Historically, I’m advised, maybe unreliably, the Nikolics were a wandering tribe of Siberian-Croatian tinkers, while the Bernardis were carpet salesmen and financial advisers who spread through Italy, Germany, England and on to the wide brown land.

You can never be too careful.

2 . Sneer campaign

I’m thrilled to see that The Saturday Paper actually made it into a headline in The Catholic Boys Daily. There it was atop a splendid column by Father Gerard Henderson: “Christianity and Catholicism are dirty words to the sneering secularist at The Saturday Paper.

Thanks Gerry. The publicity worked wonders and secularists snapped up the organ, which must explain why the Teaspoon had sold out in Kings Cross.

The “sneering secularist” turned out to be Mike Seccombe, who the previous week had critiqued Abbott and the Christian right. Fr Gerard didn’t like that, claiming there is nothing obviously religious about the Abbott government and no evidence the PM is devout. All this stuff about the danger of gay marriage and that God has given us natural things such as coal and global warming must have come from Abbott’s scientific learnings.

Anyway, it’s not as though Fr Gerard is a stranger to sneering. He is tirelessly curling his lip at the ABC, the green-left and those he thinks are scornful of precious things, such as George Pell.

3 . Upright Dyson

Also mentioned in the papers this week was an institution not entirely unfamiliar to Gadfly – Cranbrook School.

The royal commission into child sexual abuse heard that the current headmaster, Nicholas Sampson, while previously headmaster at Geelong Grammar, had paid out the contract of one of the kiddie-fiddling teachers and gave him a kindly note to send him on his way.

Sampson promptly emailed Cranbrook parents this week assuring them that “the safety of children in my care has always been my paramount consideration”.

I’m pleased to say that I’m able to bring Dyson Heydon into the picture at this point, as he’s been languishing off stage for far too long.

In 2002, when Dyse was a judge of the NSW Court of Appeal, he dealt with a case against Cranbrook brought by a student who claimed the school had not protected his safety. He alleged another student had brushed against him in the boarding house showers, in the nude, and then subsequently groped his testicles at night.

The student pleaded that the school had failed to stop these acts of abuse and the issue before Dyse was whether the young man should be able to sue the school out of time, the limitation period for the civil action having expired.

This was so because it took some years before the plaintiff became aware of the psychological impact of this encroachment.

His Honour cited an enormous amount of authority, including suitable precedents from the corporate world, Harris v Commercial Minerals Ltd and CRA Ltd v Martignago, and carefully parsed the relevant provisions of the Limitation Act.

Sadly, he concluded that the extension of time originally granted by Judge Judy Gibson in the District Court should be set aside.

“It would not be just and reasonable to exercise the court’s discretion to extend the limitation period in the manner desired by the opponent.”

In Gadfly’s experience of boarding house behaviour, it was the uber-hetero rugger buggers who together enjoyed certain tension relieving activities after dark, while dedicated little bookworms were invariably called “poofters”.

Such is life.

4 . Gored to death

Talking of poofters, I’m pleased to see a new biography of Gore Vidal has hit the shelves. In the United States the book by Jay Parini has the rather tame title of Empire of Self: A Life of Gore Vidal.

In Britain, it gets down to business with a title lifted from one of Gore’s most memorable lines, Every Time a Friend Succeeds, Something Inside Me Dies: The Life of Gore Vidal.

Quite apart from being a magnificent sentiment and a pretty terrific title, there are numerous other apt sayings of Vidal’s that would have admirably summed up his thesis for life, including I never miss a chance to have sex or appear on television, or, Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.

Truman Capote’s success certainly annoyed him. When he first met Capote, he said, “My impression – as I wasn’t wearing my glasses – was that it was a colourful ottoman. When I sat down on it, it squealed. It was Truman.”

When he heard news of the diminutive southern writer’s death Gore said, after a momentary pause, “A wise career move.”

5 . Dorgi and Bess

It is fitting that we mark the extenuated reign of the greatest queen of all, Queen Elizabeth II, now the longest-serving British (and Australian) monarch.

Surely David Flint & Co will be celebrating in fine style. But, Mrs Kwin, as she is known in her PNG outpost, is not the monarch who has reigned the longest. That honour goes to King Sobhuza II, who sat on the throne of Swaziland for 82 years, until 1982. His first name was Nkhotfotjeni, meaning “stone lizard”.

This royal sprout from the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha has not been idle during her nearly 64 years of British rule. She has had 30 corgis during this time and there are two left. She has also pioneered a breed – corgis crossed with dachshunds – named dorgis. Candy and Vulcan are the Queen’s two dorgis.

QEII’s gift cupboard is groaning with presents from around the world. Some she has given away, including to the London Zoo – sloths, jaguars and two black beavers.

Long may she reign over us.


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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on September 12, 2015 as "Gadfly: Biggles buzzes the Levant".

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

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