Diary

Gadfly
The Rupe and Jerry show

Where to start? Tony Abbott’s leadership lectures at $40,000 a pop, Peter Reith dumping on Costello the Leaker, or Rupert’s tryst with Jerry Hall

The tryst sounds by far the most fascinating. London tissues are reporting Randy Rupe, 84, is “very fond” of Jerry, 59. “There’s no question they are a couple,” according to a “close family friend”. 

The authoritative Mail on Sunday quoted another friend: “They could be the perfect couple, both with strong connections to Britain, but foreign roots.”

For good measure the Mail added that Murdoch’s involvement with Mick Jagger’s ex is evidence the old mogul is “as vigorous in his private life as he is in business”. 

It just doesn’t bear contemplation. 

Indefensible Kev

Abbott-era vestige, the luxuriously thatched Kevin Andrews, is clinging onto the defence portfolio as desperately as he is to his amazing hair tone. 

Emails to his office receive an auto reply that insists he is still the defence minister. “In responding to emails, I give priority to my constituents in the electorate of Menzies and to stakeholders from my ministerial portfolio of Defence ... Yours sincerely, The Hon Kevin Andrews MP, federal member for Menzies, Minister for Defence.” 

Wakey, wakey, Kev. 

Security takes cake

I’m deeply concerned about security arrangements for the PM’s pile on Wunulla Road, Point Piper. Facing directly onto the harbourfront with a jetty presents special difficulties for the Australian Federal Police personal protection team.

To secure the premises from the water there would have to be armed officers camped on the jetty, day and night, or bobbing about nearby on a small boat or dinghy. Maybe one of the navy’s air-warfare Hobart class destroyers could be permanently stationed offshore, with proper firepower trained on the property.  

And what about the neighbours? There would undoubtedly be patrols along the side fences while Mal and Lucy were onsite. 

However, the harbour can provide some security advantages, as was ably demonstrated around at Fairwater on Seven Shillings Beach, at a time Lady (Mary) Fairfax was hosting a soirée for Imelda Marcos. When a large creamy cake was wheeled onto the terrace, Filipino security goons swept upon the glistening gateau and raced it down the lawn and heaved it into the harbour, where it bobbed briefly then sank. Apparently, there was an apprehension that the confection might be wired with explosives. 

Mum(m)’s the word

Last weekend Gadfly found himself in the Adelaide Hills at a knees-up organised by the South Australian bar’n’grill, a loose organisation of local barristers. 

The gathering was at Hahndorf, a tourist town with a big German flavour. One of her majesty’s counsel, learned in the law, even fell over in the main street before the drinking commenced. 

The occasion was made all the more meaningful by the presence of Chester Osborn from d’Arenberg wines, who was conducting a tasting of some of his potations. At one stage the Osborns produced a sparkling called Dadd. The label had an eerily familiar diagonal red stripe and the Pernod Ricard people, who produce Mumm, didn’t like the attitude. 

Proceedings were about to get under way, but to avert a major intellectual property tussle the Osborns changed the name on the label to Polly, who was really Chester’s Mum(m). The diagonal red stripe stayed. 

Chester is now contemplating a new, agreeable elixir, and he’s toying with the name The Strangled Cat. On the nose it is something akin to roadkill.  

Hanging with the heathens

There was Freedom Boy Tim Wilson with a snap on Twitter, alongside AG Bookshelves Brandis, both grinning like Cheshire cats at a function to mark the 70th birthday of the United Nations. 

And why wouldn’t they be grinning. Bookshelves had just lauded the Boy at a DFAT function, saying that his appointment had helped “enlarge the scope and focus” of the Australian Human Rights Commission. 

There was another Twitter pic with the Boy and Malcolm Turnbull, the PM not looking particularly overjoyed at this photo op. 

But why the merriment on the United Nations’ birthday, given that it is one of the Coalition’s bête noire outfits? In March, a UN report found that Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers had breached the international convention against torture. This was greeted by brotherly love expert, T. Abbott, with the response that “we’re sick of being lectured” by the international organisation. 

That caused no problems with the first law officer. 

Now Freedom Boy is on a new make-work mission with a religious roundtable scheduled for November 5. Once again, he is infusing himself into an issue that would be far better off without him. 

The main aim of some of the religious outfits at this Arthurian event is to secure exemptions from the law so they don’t have to marry gay people. 

In Freedom Boy’s tangled literature on the issue he seems to be saying that the freedom to boycott weddings is something “to be accommodated in the rights and freedoms of all”. 

When it came to the numbers invited to the roundtable he managed to skewer himself. He said 200 invitations was wrong, but he couldn’t tell Adam Shand on Perth’s 6PR what was right. Instead he accused Shand of being “childish and irresponsible”.

Four groups of godless heathens have been invited, ones with whom Commissioner Wilson has previously engaged. Shand signed off: “Have a great roundtable, Tim.” 

Pell in a handbasket

While pontificating on religious freedom, attention should be drawn to a little essay from Father Michael Kelly SJ, writing about Cardinal George Pell in John Menadue’s samizdat newsletter, Pearls and Irritations

Kelly was discussing Pell’s abortive move at the recent synod in Rome to get Pope Francis to change gears and cut the trendy stuff. 

The move by the reactionaries didn’t cut the mustard because some of the people denied having signed the letter and, in any event, synods can’t change policy. 

Kelly described this as a “masterful own goal” by Pell, adding: “He’s never been much noted for his intelligent approach to issues. He’s demonstrated very visibly in his appearance before the royal commission into sex abuse that he’s short on compassion. His approach to theology and scripture leaves those of us who know a bit about them simply gobsmacked for his virtual illiteracy beyond his capacity to recite catechism answers and the Ten Commandments.” 

Pell is due to return to the royal commission before Christmas. 

Publishing those Kenny dreadfuls

By all accounts love was in the air at the Transfield Services annual general meeting on Wednesday. Chairperson Diane Smith-Gander had previously told the public that she has had a good gander at Manus and Nauru and apart from a bit of mould everything seemed peachy. “When I was there, the strongest emotion I had was a real sense of pride in the work that we’re doing.” 

You can’t get more emotional than that. 

Now rebadged as Broadspectrum, the company has generated an entirely different set of emotions from a group called No Business in Abuse. It released a 115-page report just in time for the AGM in which it details the company’s violations of international law in inflicting human rights abuses on asylum seekers and refugees. 

The company says it’s just implementing government policy – where have we heard that before? – and anyway, profiting from the vulnerable and dispossessed is not a new free enterprise concept. 

Thank goodness we’ve had Chris Kenny from The Catholic Boys Daily on Nauru to bring us up to speed. He seems pretty much in step with the Gander: “There is no longer any detention on the island; refugees and asylum seekers either live in the community or in centres from which they can come and go as they please,” he reported. 

This early release scheme was not prompted by anything too compassionate, but by a High Court hearing earlier this month that challenged the funding and operations of the detention camps on the rock. It’s believed that allowing movement on Nauru might cut the ground from under the applicant’s case. 

Anyway, trust the bleeding hearts at The Sydney Morning Herald to spoil the fun with a story on Wednesday quoting an Iranian detainee on the island as saying: “The detention [centre has a] very high fence ... but the Nauruan detention has very deep ocean. So what’s the difference?”

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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Oct 31, 2015 as "Gadfly: The Rupe and Jerry show". Subscribe here.

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