Diary

Gadfly
Delicious and de-lovely

Gadfly was there with the rest of them, stomping and screaming for more as the curtain came down on the final performance of Opera Australia’s rendition of Cole Porter’s Anything Goes.

What a blast. What splendid hoofers. What tunes: “You’re the nimble tread/ of the feet of Fred Astaire/ You’re an O’Neill drama/ You’re Whistler’s mama/ You’re Camembert.” 

Gerry Connolly camped it up for his role as Captain of the SS American, the ship aboard which numerous romantic complications unfold.

Broadcaster Alan Jones was to play the role of Captain in the Sydney season. It’s just as well he didn’t, because the Parrot performing as a camp captain might be just too uncomfortable for everyone.

As we trooped out of the Opera House into the night I spotted former High Court celeb Bill Gummow with an attractive dame at his side. Before I could buttonhole him for a chat he was swallowed up in a swarm of Chinese tourists and disappeared.

Connolly, the great mimic and impressionist, tells me he is planning a new one-man show, tentatively called Lulworth, in which he plays a series of demented former prime ministers, chewing their gums and reminiscing on their brilliant pasts, fabricating and fantasising about how they made Australia what it is today.

Still time to do the baroness’s bidding

Tony Abbott should delay his return to Australia and hang about in the Old Dart for the live December 15 auction at Christie’s of Margaret Thatcher’s wardrobe, figurines, handbags, brooches, necklaces, hats, purses (no cash) and assorted knick-knacks.

The remnants of the Iron Lady’s estate would make ideal Christmas presents. I can see former speaker Bronwyn Bishop making a beeline for the online part of the auction, which starts on December 3.

Thatcher’s trademark blue suit and the raincoat she wore while apparently navigating a tank – nothing is spared from the auctioneer’s hammer, not even Denis’s porcelain soldiers, which he insisted appear on the sideboard at dinner parties.

Her personal assistant of 36 years, Cynthia Crawford, adds that the deceased PM was a “big person on buttons”.

Christie’s is expecting Baroness Thatcher’s blue velvet muff to attract furious bidding.

White out

Judith White is leaving her role as executive director of the Art Gallery Society of NSW.

She’s responsible for building the outfit into a membership of 37,000, running special programs and volunteer services for the gallery.

Apparently, “irreconcilable differences” with AGNSW director Michael Brand are at the heart of the problem, as suggestions abound that the executive brass are keen to have a greater say in how the society functions.

Brand’s predecessor, Edmund Capon, was heard muttering that he is “horrified that the AG Society is being bureaucratised”. 

White is not the only departure. Richard Beresford, the well-regarded senior curator of European art, is taking redundancy after orchestrating the current exhibition, The Greats: Masterpieces from the National Galleries of Scotland.

Collaring voters in the Apple Isle

Van Diemen’s Land was back in the headlines as Malcolm the Magnificent toured the island state, spreading ecstasy to all the “dregs, bogans and third-generation morons”, as Leo Schofield famously referred to Taswegians, only later to apologise.

After fashionista Ray Hadley, on Radio 2GB, announced his disapproval of the PM’s preference for raised or “popped” collars, voters throughout the land have been on collar-alert.

The latest sighting of the PM’s neckware in Tassie was an extreme winged affair, with the tips of the collar positioned somewhere under his ears. The whole thing screamed “I’m a merchant banker from Wentworth”.

One of my field agents said it brought new meaning to the phrase Turnbull & Asser.

What was additionally exciting was to see the member for Bass, former Abbott favourite and army PR Andrew Nikolic, buzzing around the PM like a blue-arsed fly.

Only moments ago Nikolic was a camp follower of Young Otto Abetz.

Abetz shows off his soft centre

If reports in the local Tasmanian tissues are anything to go by, Young Otto has been doing his best to overcome a bout of relevance deprivation syndrome.

He told The Mercurial that he will cross the floor to support a “free speech” amendment to the Racial Discrimination Act. This is the Bolt or Bigot amendment and in the darker recesses of the Coalition it is regarded as a vital mission.

It seems as though Otto is taking dictation from Planet Janet in The Australian, who just days earlier scribbled that Turnbull should go where Abbott feared to tread and change the RDA.

Then on Tuesday, while deep among the savages in Jacqui Lambie territory up north, the senator said he didn’t want to leave parliament and “of course” would accept another ministry in a Turnbull government.

There’s a lot of unfinished business in Tasmania, he added, including getting the funds rolling for the mothballed Cadbury chocolate tourism centre.

As Otto said: “You get into parliament to serve, not to succeed.”

Brandis blows hot and cold on bigots

Bookshelves Brandis is “appalled” at Hizb ut-Tahrir’s lack of respect for Australia’s cultural identity.

It’s not certain whether he’s worried about the group’s criticism of ASIO officers as “cockroaches” or the forced assimilation brought on by singing about our golden soil and wealth for toil.

Whatever, the attorney-general is appalled, even though it wasn’t all that long ago he was asserting the right of everyone to be bigots. It’s hard to keep pace with the shifting sentiments inside the Coalition tent.

Boy on a mission

At least Freedom Boy has thrown himself into a worthwhile new mission – reviewing asylum processing on Nauru and Manus Island, if the government helps to open up access.

According to newspaper reports, he’s open to a “conversation about proper inspections”, as long as it’s done in a “calm and measured way so it doesn’t lead to people making false allegations…”

Wading through the Boy’s verbiage on the subject, it seems he’s keen on a bit of border protection, a bit of mandatory detention and a bit of human rights.

A little bit of this and that. He should be able to really move things along brilliantly once he gets a foothold in the camps.

In a gilded cage

It was a pretty dire time in the various marquees during Melbourne Cup season.

It was a struggle to be over-stimulated by the usual gaggle of bizoids, superannuated TV celebs, flack merchants and pie-eyed poltroons who make the cut. Thank God there was an opportunity to hang out with some serious social adornments – Graham Richardson, Eddie McGuire and ex-AWU knee-capper Paul Howes.

Disarming Rupert

No doubt Lord Moloch has his henchmen doing deep due diligence and trawling through the past pronouncements of his new flame, Jerry Hall.

Two of Ms Hall’s observations are personal favourites: “I have absolutely zero interest in politics” and “I think if I weren’t so beautiful, maybe, I’d have more character.”

Absolutely nothing on the beauty of free markets. However, the line that should particularly appeal to Rupey is probably Hall’s most well-worn quote: “My mother said it was simple to keep a man. You must be a maid in the living room, a cook in the kitchen and a whore in the bedroom. I said I’d hire the other two and take care of the bedroom bit.”

I hope she doesn’t wear out the old coot.

Personally, I see potential room for disagreements in the Moloch-Hall relationship. Take this one from Jerry: “Mick Jagger and I just really liked each other a lot. We talked all night. We had the same views on nuclear disarmament.”

Talking disarmament to a warmonger like Rupe could really blow things up.

Meanwhile, traffic from New York has it that the former Mrs Murdoch, Wendi Deng, is still hanging out with people from Google – News Corp’s public enemy number one. What mischief.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Nov 7, 2015 as "Gadfly: Delicious and de-lovely ". Subscribe here.

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