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

Dark knight in Camelot

It’s Camelot. We’ve woken from a horrible dream where for two years the kingdom has hurtled backwards, led by a team of marauding dunces. 

Now the nightmare has ended and as Alan Jay Lerner put it: 

In short, there’s simply not

A more congenial spot

For happily-ever-aftering than here

In Camelot. 

Miraculously, we live in a place of potential, waiting to be seized by innovators. In fact, half the government is composed of ministers for innovation, including Poodles Pyne, who until now no one realised knew his RAM from his gigs. 

I find myself wanting to leap out of bed earlier, seize the day with both hands and innovate madly. The only thing slowing me down is the realisation you can’t really have Camelot if Pete (Boom Mic) Dutton is still on the beat.

1 . Studying, Turnbull-style

The thought of Peter Dutton has not stopped the lasses at Kincoppal-Rose Bay getting busy in the computer-enriched Turnbull Centre, which is located within the school’s library. 

Lucy Hughes Turnbull is one of the institution’s notable alumnae, which also numbers Marie Christine Anna Agnes Hedwig Ida von Reibnitz, aka Princess Michael of Kent

A glowing brochure explains the centre is “a flexible space for conferences, classrooms, tutoring and collaborative work”. From there you can step out onto the harbour terrace, where “outdoor seating ... on both levels of the library provide additional choice for reading and study”. 

Sheer Camelot.

2 . Joe’s doppelganger

Why does Joe Hockey want to be an ambassador when there’s a perfectly good job waiting for him at Hockey’s property shop, St Leonards. 

We know Joe has superb diplomatic skills, but the family real estate business could do with an extra hand helping to offload apartments and other bits of real estate – some of which look as though it has been sitting around for some time in the shop’s “featured property” selection. 

To get things cracking he could start writing some testimonials for the firm’s website – of which presently there are none.

My heart actually went out to Joe while I was watching an episode of the Liev Schreiber–Jon Voight TV masterpiece Ray Donovan

Donovan is a Hollywood fixer and standover man and there’s a sequence where Bunchy, Ray’s alcoholic and sexually anorexic younger brother, buys a pretty rotten old house with funds he received as compensation from the Catholic Church, as a consequence of being abused by a priest.  

Bunchy is unhappy with his purchase and sets fire to one of the rooms, while a party is going on downstairs. Ray decides the real estate agent who sold the house should refund the purchase price to his brother, in cash. 

One of the properties the agent has for sale is burned down and then, to hasten the refund process, he is subject to some torture in Ray’s office with a Taser. 

Some of these problems, surely, must be familiar to agents in the St Leonards area.

The incredible, amazing thing in all this is that the Armenian estate agent is the spitting image of ambassador-in-waiting, Joseph Benedict Hockey. It’s uncanny. 

3 . Left on the shelf

What’s Bookshelves Brandis going to do with himself, now that he’s been stripped of the arts portfolio and its associated first-night fun?  

After all, being attorney-general and first law lord is a doddle – speaking at conferences, eviscerating legal aid funding and appointing a few federal judges, here and there. Nothing to it. 

He has even had copyright and IP confiscated from him. The only vestige of his old arts empire that remains in his grasp is the National Archives, where, in the lazy hours he has to fill, he can rootle away in the files.

Then again, come October 13 when the data retention law kicks in, he can busy himself reviewing the national collection of citizens’ text messages, emails and phone calls.

4 . Newman expires

Government is going to find it hard to navigate its way through the corridors of business without Maurice Newman’s advice. Yes, the global cooling expert has gone as head of the PM’s Business Advisory Council. 

While we were distracted by the new ministry and the change of baton at the top, we took our eye off subterranean movements that really matter. 

In May, Maurice warned that global warming is a conspiracy against democracy and part of a “new world order under the control of the UN”. 

The year before he wanted the Bureau of Meteorology investigated for its evil work on climate data. 

Only recently he vented about the dangers associated with a society that is too compassionate and fair – because that equates with “state sponsored confiscation of other people’s money”. 

As we kiss the BAC chairman goodbye, the UN and the bureau must heave a sigh of relief as they resume their conspiracies against humanity and schemes for world domination. 

The trouble is, as Maurice once explained, the rest of us are suffering from “groupthink”. 

5 . Raise the praise

Great piece by Errol Simper in Monday’s Media section of The Catholic Boys Daily

Errol said that in-house PR muffin Sharri Markson had reported that Christine Middap, editor of The Weekend Australian Magazine, was the “best magazine editor in the country”. 

This came about because the editor of The Weekend Australian, Michelle Gunn, has accepted an award for weekend newspaper of the year and she had mentioned, in accepting this magnificent trinket, that Middap was “the best magazine editor in the country”. 

The prize came from an outfit called PANPA – the Pacific Area Newspaper Publishers’ Association. All top notch. 

Peter Blunden, another hero of Errol’s, was the genius who first edited this colour mag and column inches were generously devoted to Blunders’ happy memories of its early days. Further on Errol managed to squeeze in admiration for his editor-in-chief, Chris (Burst Kransky) Mitchell, who brilliantly spotted the talent of the best magazine editor in the country. On and on it went with warm and lubricating compliments being buttered over News Corp luminaries. 

But the PANPA awards were not always so glowingly regarded by News Corp’s bigwigs. Handily, I have on hand a transcript from the trial of Guthrie v News Ltd – Bruce Guthrie being the former editor-in-chief of The Hun, who successfully sued his employer for wrongful dismissal. There was some great cross-examination of the then News boss, John Hartigan, by counsel for Guthrie, Norman O’Bryan, who at one point wanted to know why Harto had delayed offering Guthrie congratulations for winning a PANPA award. 

O’Bryan: “You simply have no recollection of when the PANPA awards were made in 2008, is that—”

Hartigan: “No, they’re not a major industry award, they’re largely a printing award for the process of publishing newspapers rather than the journalism.” 

So what’s all the fuss about? The Weekend Australian must have won a prize for good printing. 

Anyway, we’re looking forward to another self-lubricating event on October 9, the News Corp Awards for Excellence in Editorial, to be conducted at a glittering ceremony commonly called The Wankleys. 

6 . Falling board short

You’ll remember that famed News Corp hack Steve Harris was brought in by Jim Spigeltent’s ABC to review the public broadcaster’s reporting on Poodles’ education reforms, which included allowing universities to jack up their fees. 

Harris made a number of disturbing findings, including that Michael Brissenden’s probing of Young Otto Abetz “risked being seen as having a tone of prosecuting a crisis narrative, i.e. ‘the smell of blood’.” 

ABC Perth radio host Geoff Hutchison also “veered off the neutral script” when he suggested that education should be a government responsibility. 

Having done such a splendid job, Harris put his hand up for a place on the ABC board. It must have been taken as a sign of drowning not waving as his gesture, sadly, has come to naught. 

7 . A little bit of Hope

These are difficult times, so it’s fitting we reach for the Australian poet laureate A. D. Hope, who summed up the contours of life with a cheery little offering titled “Patch and Mend”. 

It first came to light in the 1970s, but resonates still:

Patch and mend, patch and mend;

Borrow and scrape or lavish and spend

As much good fortune as God may send: 

Naught shall avail you; 

All things shall fail you; 

Nothing shall profit you in the end.

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on September 26, 2015 as "Gadfly: Dark knight in Camelot".

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

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