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

Gadfly: Three characters in search of an author

Can we get enough politics jammed down our throats for the next 70 days?

Let’s kick off with that important sector of the electorate that can’t vote – citizens aged between seven and 14, just the demographic at which former Sydney Morning Herald journalist Saffron Howden is aiming her new newspaper, Crinkling News.

Howden tells Gadfly the print title will cover all the news adults consume “without the boring or scary bits”, so it’s a little bit amazing that the inaugural issue kicks off with a 2016 election special where we find interviews with PM Prince Malcolm, Bill Shorten and Richard Di Natale conducted by two sprightly teens, Diya Mehta and Madeleine Murphy.

They asked each of the pollies what is their favourite book character and why? The answers are illuminating and might help determine the outcome on July 2.

Turnbull: Frodo from The Lord of the Rings. “From nine till 15 or 16 I read Lord of the Rings at least once a year and often several times a year.” Basically, it’s a fantasy about the long-running war of the ring, from which Frodo never recovered, physically and emotionally. A most interesting favourite character for Mal.

Shorten: Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. “Atticus Finch – he was the lawyer, he was the father – and he would stand up for what he believed, even sometimes when it wasn’t popular.” Not a great choice, Bill. In Go Set a Watchman, Atticus has become an old segregationist.

Di Natale: Grandpa Joe from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. “Because he’s old and I hope to be old one day because the alternative’s not very good. And he was generous and adventurous and he got to eat lots of chocolate.” All of which is boilerplate Greens policy.

1 . Civil Warringah

Which gets us straight into the infantile end of politics. Bronwyn Bishop last Saturday had 59 per cent of the Mackellar preselectors voting against her in the first round and 57 per cent in the second round.

Alan Jones’s favourite candidate, Bill Calcraft, scored two votes and dropped out after round one. Apparently, these Liberal machine people are no longer listening to the Parrot, who described the former Wallabies star as a “class act”.

But what of Tony Abbott next door in Warringah? Andrew Clark in The Australian Financial Review this week had Abbott’s numbers, which I have not seen published elsewhere.

Amazingly, the former PM only secured the support of 60 per cent of his 99 preselecting delegates. In other words, 40 per cent either voted against him or abstained.

The meeting went on for four hours and, as Clark quotes one of the delegates: “It was not a happy place.”

2 . Hanson unshackled

Since Liberals are no longer on the Parrot’s wavelength it’s understandable the radio demagogue is becoming more hysterical about his old party, which he described this week as “bedwetters in Canberra”.

He also waxed lyrical about the fragrant Pauline Hanson’s work on behalf of truckies and, according to Pauline’s “Please Explain” Facebook page, the Ipswich fish-batterer will be leader of the One Nation Queensland senate ticket for the forthcoming election.

Once more this entails getting her paw into the electoral commission’s jar of cash goodies – conditional on getting 4 per cent or more of the first-preference vote.

After Hanson’s 2003 jury conviction for electoral fraud, with a sentence of three years in the slammer, later quashed by the Queensland Court of Appeal, Bronwyn Bishop announced that Hanson was a political prisoner, similar to those who had been banged up by Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe.

God bless Australia.

3 . Bureaucratic trans mission

I’m not sure what Pauline thinks of transgenderism, but it probably isn’t too far from the wilder dreams of Otto Abetz, Cory the Tory and Kev “Grecian 2000” Andrews.

There’s a gem of an idea from North Carolina legislators who have just passed a law that requires transgender people to use public toilets based on the gender printed on their birth certificates.

It’s such a good idea that Tennessee, Kansas, South Carolina and Minnesota are contemplating similar measures. It’s certainly something that the loopy end of the Liberals or Nationals could bowl up at a party conference.

Leon Lott, the sheriff of Richland County in South Carolina, was puzzled about how he was going to enforce this law, adding: “In the 41 years I have been in law enforcement in South Carolina, I have never heard of a transgender person attacking or otherwise bothering someone in a restroom.”

Some of the corporations also are not so keen. PayPal has pulled out of planning a global hub in Charlotte and Deutsche Bank has suspended expansion plans in the state. Other corporations have complained to the governor, Pat McCrory, who is seeking re-election.

What they need is the strong voice of Telstra to make a difference.

4 . Matter of degrees

Where’s Tony Abbott’s business adviser Maurice “Sweep-over” Newman when you need him?

This week came reports that each of the past 11 months have broken global temperature records, according to the communists at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In March, the combined global land and sea surface temperatures were 1.22 degrees above the 20th-century average – the most unusually warm month in history, according to one report.

The Barrier Reef is being bleached a ghastly white, yet all of this is met with silence from the “global cooling” expert.

We have been lied to over a long period by politicians such as Abbott and the Moloch empire. The most effective way of reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and switching to renewables is to put a tax on carbon emissions – opposed by the geniuses who at one stage wanted a royal commission, or something similar, into the new world order being perpetrated by the Bureau of Meteorology.

5 . Sacrifice for Moloch

Talking of Moloch, his global army of hacks are in disarray now that they are not getting their instructions via Twitter. On March 5 his wizened paws tapped out this message: “No more tweets for 10 days or ever! Feel like the luckiest AND happiest man in world.”

The luck must be lingering for there have been no more tweets and we’re missing his fearless predictions such as, “Watch Hillary’s candidacy sink and sink. Nobody buying and more big trouble coming on emails. Dems looking for replacement. John Kerry?”

Or his promise that Marco Rubio could win a general presidential election.

Anyway, it’s nice to know it’s bliss for Jerry and her Pacemaker.

6 . Thick blue line

It will be a marvellous get-together on June 7 at Circular Quay’s Sydney Rugby Club.

It’s a reunion of former police attached to the Darlinghurst and Kings Cross police stations, along with current officers from the Cross.

What a night, where the ghosts of Graham “Chook” Fowler, of crotch-cam fame, and his team of fraudsters can mingle with the current-day lot who had a hand in the Facebook flaming of Greens MP Jenny Leong. She had the temerity to propose repealing NSW’s sniffer-dog drug detection program and has been made to suffer the consequences. 

The insults, not all of which came from the Kings Cross coppers, were of a particularly charming variety, referring to the MP’s father as a “swamp monkey”. There was another post that modified Ms Leong’s own Facebook profile and added, “One condom could have prevented this from happening”. 

Among others this was “liked” by Detective Inspector Denby-Lea Eardley from police human resources.

The Darlinghurst cop shop was once home to detectives who specialised in the phonebook-to-the-head method of extracting confessions.

There’ll be much to celebrate at the rugby club in June. It’ll be a huge “laugh” remembering the good old days when “laugh” referred to bribe payments by drug dealers to coppers. 

7 . Telegation guide

Gadfly has just got his hands on a document that many will have overlooked on the grounds that it is too eye-glazing. It is the “delegation manual” issued by the secretary of the NSW Department of Finance, Services and Innovation.

It deals with how public servants are to delegate things and item two is actually quite striking because it advises that when assessing risk factors it is a good idea for officials to think about how The Daily Telegraph would scrutinise delegated expenditure decisions.

“The ability to withstand scrutiny can be tested using the ‘front page of the Telegraph’ test.”

It’s the gold standard of assessments that the Baird government is likely to roll out and apply across all sections of public administration.


Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on April 23, 2016 as "Gadfly: Three characters in search of an author".

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