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

Gadfly: Appealing to the masses

Gadfly dashed back from global missions to discover Malcolm Turnbull’s personal popularity languishing at 67 per cent.

The PM, understandably, is taking medication to deal with the distress. 

At least 33 per cent of people polled by Fairfax Ipsos either disapprove of the new prime minister or are uncommitted. 

Who are these people and what has got into them? Let’s hope they get a grip of themselves and start responding properly next time they are asked the entirely uncomplicated question, “Don’t you just adore Malcolm Turnbull?” 

Unless he wants to see things slip entirely from his grasp, he’ll have to stop the Mr Nice Guy stuff and adopt some of the techniques of Cold War Eastern European leaders, who knew how to muster support from ungrateful rumps.

1 . Dogged reporter scores Nauru visa

It’s pleasing that reporter Chris Kenny from The Catholic Boys Daily succeeded in getting a notoriously difficult journalists’ visa to Nauru (non-refundable application fee $8000). He’s a noted border-security, stop-the-boats, offshore-detention wallah and maybe the good offices of Nauru PR man Lyall Mercer helped smooth his path into the island paradise. 

It’s also nice that the ABC’s baseless account of his activities with a pooch did not diminish his good name in the eyes of our island neighbour’s visa department. 

Kenny’s reports from the front line have focused on “Abyan” the pregnant Somalian refugee who came to Australia, apparently seeking a termination, but was whisked back to the detention camp on a charter flight as soon as the government got wind from her lawyers of an application for a temporary injunction preventing her removal from Australia. 

The minister, Pete (Boom Mic) Dutton, says she changed her mind and his mission is to save women being used as political pawns by lawyers and other busybodies. 

Kenny Boy reports that Abyan would still like a termination, anywhere but Australia or Nauru. This seems to contradict the usually reliable assurances of Dutto.

The intrepid reporter followed this up with a story that Abyan declined to report to the local coppers her claim that she had been raped. Miraculously, he was there with a photographer the moment police arrived to get a statement from the refugee. 

But enough of the nitpicking, because the big picture is that both Nauru and Transfield Services are in PR mode. Next week is the AGM of the detention centre operator and, with investors dumping their shares, the company’s chairwoman Diane Smith-Gander thoughtfully made herself available for a chummy lunch with the weekend Australian Financial Review

Ms Smith-Gander says that to visit Nauru or Manus Island is “incredibly powerful”. She likes to feel pride in a job well done, hence her focus on getting rid of “mould” at the detention centres.

2 . Rearranging the furniture

This week saw senate estimates hearings in full swing. The expense of replacing the marble table in the cabinet anteroom that had been “damaged” or “smashed”, at a “party” or “farewell for loyal staff”, depending on whether you’re Penny Wong or Abbott diehard Cory Bernardi, attracted most of the attention.

However, the price of replacing the table paled into insignificance compared with the $1822 spent on moving the bookshelves of Bookshelves Brandis into his new chambers as leader of the government in the senate. 

And a lumpy Chesterfield couch was transferred from the ministerial suite to the backbench den of Grecian 2000 enthusiast Kevin Andrews. What is it with Chesterfields and Tories?

3 . Double Dutch

Dutch tub-thumper Geert Wilders has launched a new anti-Islamic political party, the Australian Liberty Alliance. The alliance is based on Geert’s political operation in Holland, the PVV, which currently is topping the party opinion polls at 34 per cent. 

Holland is the first place in Europe where the far-off far right party is leading in public opinion. 

The ALA launch took place on safe turf in Islamically challenged Perth. 

It’s hoped that Geert can traverse the continent to meet up with fellow Dutchman, the Melbourne-based philosopher Andreas Blot, BA, Adel. (unfinished). 

4 . Gospel on David, according to Paul

David Marr’s Quarterly Essay on Bill Shorten is running off the shelves like crazy. One shopper at the Potts Point Bookshop claims he overheard local resident P. J. Keating give the essay a thumping endorsement as he fingered the pages. “David Marr: bit of a bitch – Gore Vidal without the talent.” 

5 . Tourism be damned

After a hectic session at conferenceville in London, Gadfly did a side trip to Spain for some R&R. 

It turned out to be a battle with the exchange rate and the queues. The Australian peso is doing poorly against the euro and is ruinous against the pound. 

It was a struggle to see Goya’s dwarves, buffoons and men of pleasure at the Prado, and the queues at the Thyssen to see the Munch exhibition were so prohibitive that there was no option but to munch on yet another jamón serrano roll in the courtyard outside. 

It was a good hour in a queue to get a ticket to the Picassos. In fact, tourism has turned into a blight for most of old Europe. A city such as Barcelona, with a population of about 1.6 million, has an annual tourist influx of eight million. 

However, I’m sure many Australian visitors would be struck by the similarity of the buildings of Antoni Gaudí to May Gibbs’s designs and concepts for The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie

If you want to see what mass tourism does to a city visit YouTube and look up “Bye Bye Barcelona”. It’s enough to make you plan your next holiday for Woy Woy. 

On returning it was alarming to read the prescriptions for the future delivered by Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce

“We need to continue to invest in tourism, including infrastructure and marketing,” said the little leprechaun. 

He wants the government to cut the cost of multi-year entry visas for Chinese travellers in an attempt to ginger up the visitor numbers. 

6 . ‘Private’ dances with Wolf

The online organ may have passed your notice, but just recently it posted an attention-grabbing article with the headline, “I watched a prominent Australian barrister molest himself and fart.” 

It was a graphic piece in which the reporter goes on a night-time excursion with the unidentified barrister, called Mr Wolf. She watched him receive a “private” dance from a leggy blonde, visit a “suckatorium”, and then an underground brothel filled with “sad women, crying men and an angry bartender”. 

So far so good for your average Sydney barrister. Somehow the reporter was inveigled into his apartment where he says he has “something upstairs that could be really interesting for the article”. Mr Wolf swallows a handful of pills and “without warning he began grabbing at his belt and pants”. 

There are cockroaches running all over the place and his fridge contained some slices of cheese and an empty bottle of milk. In a poetic paragraph she reports: 

“As Wolfy continued on his pantless trek to the bedroom, each step produced a new noise. The farts seemed to just fall out of him, like hot dogs sliding off a conveyor belt. It sounded like balloons filled with jelly being dropped onto concrete.” 

Since this is a family newspaper, I’ll spare you the darker details, other than there’s a buzzing dildo flopping around on the floor, and the advocate begging the reporter to rub oil onto his chest, stomach, back and legs. 

She says, “You’re a grown man, you can do it yourself.” Not the reply he had in mind. 

Anyway, all’s well as she makes her escape with the observation: “I’d gone into the lair of the Wolf and all I’d found was an oily old chicken, stuffed with pills and farting everywhere.” 

Since most readers would have had no certain idea about whom she was writing, it was surprising to see a comment posted by the barrister Charles Waterstreet: “A sure winner for the fiction award, makes me wonder why you ever came back. Lovers always xxx.”

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on October 24, 2015 as "Gadfly: Appealing to the masses".

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