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

Turnbullish behaviour

While right-thinking Australians were choking back tears over losing Tony Abbott as our leader, others were letting their despair hang out. The ABC’s Chris Uhlmann, for one, was close to breakdown as he described his adoration for the shunted PM.

Bookshelves Brandis was all over the telly talking about this “very great Australian … very fine man” – yet not great or fine enough to stop him siding with Team Turnbull.

Of all the stupidities and blunders and running around “God blessing” everything, Gadfly thought Tony Abbott’s most catastrophic moment was his elevation of Sophie Mirabella to the board of the Australian Submarine Corporation, now known as the ASC. On the scale of leaving a bad taste in everyone’s mouth that was akin to giving Phil the Greek two gongs. It sealed his fate.

You have to admit that Abbott did a first rate job of hiding his brilliance, yet it’s not as though Malcolm Turnbull is without his special problems.

A recovering narcissist is not easy to live with and it will be a great spectacle as we watch him “seize the future” while concurrently having around his neck the incubus of the Nasty Party’s knuckle draggers and the hayseeds from Cockies’ Corner.

At least the mischievous strangled cat story didn’t get in the way of his ordained destiny. Turnbull told Quarterly Essay writer Annabel Crabb that he thought his former girlfriend’s cat had been run over. The girlfriend thought it had been strangled. It’s often easy to get these modes of death confused.

Oblivious to the vote-winning potential, in some quarters, of getting rid of cats, Malcolm reassured Crabb, “No cat has died at my hands.”

Phew. That resolves that problem.

1 . Life without Abbott

Important questions remain unanswered. What will happen to Mark Simkin? Where will all the flags go? Who will fill masses of airtime on 2GB? What will Rupert do? How much of The Wharf Revue will have to be rewritten? Who is going to eat the bag of onions hanging outside the Warringah electoral office? Does Tony have an employable skill to allow him to resign from parliament?

2 . Whipping away nasty compassion

Andrew Nikolic, one of Tony Abbott’s favourite whips, is a person who deserves more time in the national spotlight. He’s done a terrific job whipping party members into voting for things they were going to vote for anyway.

There he was on the television on Monday night scurrying down a parliamentary corridor towards the party room meeting with a surprisingly small wooden ballot box in hand. Last week we reported Nikolic’s concern that some of his colleagues were trying to “out-compassion” each other when it came to dealing with fleeing refugees.

His previous gig as an army brigadier peaked as head of the 200-strong media liaison office at the Department of Defence – that is, chief flack for our triumphs in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Fortunately, information has come to hand about the brigadier’s effective methods of dealing with the problem of too much compassion.

In 2007, special forces captain Andrew Paljakka, 27, took his own life in a Kings Cross hotel after being told the army was going to confiscate his commission.

He had been the youngest person to graduate from Duntroon and clearly he was struggling with PTSD after his experiences in Afghanistan, where he is said to have killed a man and witnessed a child being raped.

His father, Arvi Paljakka, said the Department of Defence’s claim that the family wanted a closed inquiry into Andrew’s death was false and that the army wanted to cover up how his son had been treated.

Military spin doctor Andrew Nikolic swung into action and insisted that the family had requested the media and the public not be admitted to the inquiry, adding, “We are respecting this request in an effort to avoid unnecessary stress and grief.”

He skilfully managed a situation where, again, there was a danger of an outburst of compassion.

Nikolic is a member of Young Otto Abetz’s tender-hearted team Tasmania.

3 . Hastie hopes to create own history

Election day for the lucky people of Canning and mystery persists whether the Liberal star, Andrew Hastie, believes God created the world flat out in six days a mere 6000 years ago. Nor can we be certain that Andrew wasn’t delivered by the stork and placed under a cabbage.

The candidate’s father, Peter Hastie, is a Presbyterian pastor and is not keen on newfangled evolutionary explanations for the way things are.

On the campaign trail, Andrew has repeatedly dodged the question of whether he’s a paid-up member of the Creationists, responding with lines such as: “There’s plenty of disagreement within Christianity itself about the specifics of creation, of theistic evolution … there’s no religious test in this country for public office … as an SAS officer with active service experience, I have demonstrated a capacity to fight for the Australian way of life.”

Anyway, these are “totally unacceptable” questions from insiders “over east”.

Reverend Hastie was one of the prime movers in a charge of heresy in the early 1990s against Peter Cameron, at that time principal of St Andrew’s College within the University of Sydney.

Cameron had preached at a sermon in which he supported the ordination of women, was critical of the church’s fundamentalism and anti-homosexual views. Pretty shameful stuff and sitting in the front row taking notes was Peter Hastie.

It was the beginning of the end for Cameron, for while his views would have been acceptable to the church in Scotland, in Australia he was a heretic.

Anyway, Indigenous people better start revising their heretical ideas that they were here 40,000 years ago.

4 . Vino Diemen’s Land

Fresh news from Van Diemen’s Land has it that the viceroy has planted a vineyard at Government House, in a patch formerly known as the Golf Paddock.

The paddock had been home to various trees planted by premiers over the years. Maybe they have been untimely ripp’d to make way for the vice-regal grapes.

Governor Kate Warner said the wine would be given to those invited to gubernatorial banquets. She told The Daily Rupert: “Most of what we put on the table is local but this takes it to the next level. Riesling is my favourite but it would be nice to have a sparkling.”

It turns out to have been an initiative of the dearly departed former governor “Hollywood” Pete Underwood and the project is to be named in his honour.

I wonder how Dutch philosopher Andreas Bolt feels about this. Last I heard he had issued a fatwa on Hollywood Pete, declaring him unfit to be governor after he suggested at an Anzac Day ceremony that Australians spend less time paying homage to the Gallipoli legend and more to examining our involvement in war.

Instead of being sacked Underwood died on the job. During the interregnum Justice “Disco Dave” Porter served for a time as acting governor. It was thought he might have got the plum job on Lower Domain Road until it came to light that he had been accused of writing a memo to members of Malthouse Chambers advising barristers to shake their willies properly and not drip on the bathroom floor.

5 . Principal Wilson

I know Freedom Boy Wilson is thinking of Gadfly when he posts some of his best tweets. His aim is to keep me bedazzled.

Last week he tweeted that he “loved getting feedback from Brighton Primary School children about my time as Principal for a Day”.

Yes, Freedom Boy was in charge of the Brighton tiny tots for a day of classes. He attached some supportive missives from the little nippers, in their best handwriting: “I had a fabulous time when Mr Wilson was here he told us how he felt. We were doing circle time when he shared all his thoughts with us …”

Another youngster wrote: “He was a good drawer to and he has great perspective of things. He also sees great things to that I can’t see. I loved him doing cyrcle time with us.”

That kiddie is not alone in being unable to see things that only Timbo can see. An unkindly tweeter suggested that these letters were actually written by Freedom Boy himself and he should have disguised his handwriting a bit better.

Someone named @gippo72 added that if the Boy had delivered his property rights spiel, he would have had a captive audience in Brighton.


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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Sep 19, 2015 as "Gadfly: Turnbullish behaviour".

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

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