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

Les Patterson serves the world

The other night Gadfly was tucking into crispy saltbush cakes and some steamed fish with ginger, spring onions and shiro shoyu at Billy Kwong’s Chinese eating house in the heart of bo-bo Potts Point when through the steam I noticed a well-proportioned gentleman with dyed hair in a red velvet suit, orange socks and a red and white spotted scarf. 

It was Bazza Humphries, dining with a table of celebrities, including the film director Bruce Beresford

People soon approached to kneel and kiss the ready paw of the great satirist, including an ecstatic local member of parliament, Alex Greenwich, and a table of his swooning chums. 

Staff were particularly attentive and a handsome cake appeared piled with raspberries and one candle. The buzz went around that it was Lizzie Spender’s birthday, aka Mrs Humphries. We even got a glimpse of the glamorous Ms Spender as she sashayed towards the powder room. 

Other information came to hand that it was a cardamom and rose petal cake, an adventurous taste treat for alter-ego Sir Les Patterson.

The satiated birthday party eventually prepared to depart and, with royal waves to the adoring diners, inched their way out the door and onto the street. Ms Kwong kindly offered the Gadfly table some leftover remnants of the scrumptious birthday confection. 

“Let him eat cake,” must have been the parting instruction from the celebs.

1 . Surely joshing

Raoul Wallenberg was the Swedish architect, businessman and diplomat who, during WWII, saved the lives of tens of thousands of Jews in Nazi-occupied Hungary by issuing special passports and giving shelter in the embassy.

In the pantheon of celebrated humanitarians, Raoul is right up there. In 2013 the humanitarian Abbott government anointed him as the first posthumous honorary Australian citizen. 

Professor Frank Vajda, a neurologist at the University of Melbourne, was one of those rescued by Wallenberg’s actions and has written a book about his wartime survival among the Budapest Magyars, called Saved to Remember.  

And who has been slated to launch his work at Readings in Hawthorn but Peter “Outstanding” Dutton’s cabinet colleague, Tony Abbott supporter and cheer squaddie for our offshore program of refugee imprisonment Josh Frydenberg MP. 

Some sort of cognitive dissonance must be occurring.

2 . Tactical retreat

Emotions are running high in the seat of Bass, held uncomfortably by former army PR man, Field Marshal Andrew Nikolic

Gadfly’s agents in sandbagged Launceston report the Field Marshal is looking unwell and a bit porky as he marches around the electorate. The Chamber of Commerce is wondering whether he might fail to turn up to a public debate, leaving the field wide open for the Greens and Labor.

GetUp! commissioned a poll from ReachTEL that put Labor ahead in Bass on a two-party-preferred basis of 51-49. The Field Marshal dismissed this, saying GetUp! is an extreme left-wing group that “reflects a fundamental lack of honesty”. 

Other citizens from a group called We Will Be Heard met underground (i.e., at the City Baptist Church) this week to workshop elements of the local MP’s glass jaw, which has seen constituents blocked from his Facebook page, the deletion of comments that correct misstatements, and even the refusal to meet electors who have expressed disagreement.

One of the We Will Be Heard people commented that because the MP is ex-military “he’s got a top-down paradigm happening”. 

3 . Courtside announcers

Gadfly had the melancholy duty recently to report that Bookshelves Brandis was doing his level best to spruik the abilities of the member for Bass at a farewell ceremony for retiring Launceston-based Federal Circuit Court judge Stuart Roberts

This left observers of protocol and proper procedure profoundly gobsmacked because it had always been understood that the courts should not be used as political platforms by those lower down the food chain, such as politicians.

However, I’m told this is not the only occasion when good ole ’Shelves has trashed convention. Earlier this year at the special ceremony to mark Judge Anne Demack adding the Federal Circuit Court at Rockhampton to her roster, the local MP for Capricornia, Michelle Landry (Nat), was not only at the bar table alongside the attorney-general, but made a speech welcoming Judge “Denmack” [sic] and referring to the bar’s representative Dr Jacoba Brasch as “Judge Jackaba” Brasch. 

Ms Landry is not a lawyer and as lawyers like to say she has “no right of appearance”.  She does, however, hold a marginal seat for the Coalition, so every political stunt counts.

Needless to say, there was a political speech from Bookshelves and after the event he and Ms Landry held a presser for the local reptiles. 

And here I was lamely thinking that the Tories were the upholders of form and traditional values. 

4 . Rort to remain silent

Last week’s editorial in The Saturday Paper captured the disgust people felt at the actions of Senior Constable John Wasko of the NSW Police, whose allegation of assault against Simone White was thrown out of court, with costs to the accused. 

Assault with an elbow was alleged by Wasko to have happened at an anti-Reclaim rally in Martin Place last July. 

Magistrate Geoffrey Bradd said the police handling of the case had been “unreasonable and improper”. Photographic evidence identifying another officer who had indecently assaulted the accused had been tampered with and destroyed and the charge brought by Wasko was a concoction.

It is known that some police are supporters of the Reclaim movement. This is the same police force that the government of Mike “Pepsodent Kid” Baird is loading up with extraordinary powers that will allow the restriction of citizens’ liberties without due process in a manner that subverts the normal criminal justice procedure. 

This is precisely the aim of new legislation that creates crime prevention and public safety orders. 

But back to Wasko. What action is under way by police professional standards in relation to this officer, we ask the police information people? “The outcome of the case is noted; the circumstances surrounding the incident will be reviewed.” 

This is the same template response that was issued over a week ago by the flack merchants when the magistrate’s findings were first published. In other words, nothing has moved forward. 

Gadfly fearlessly pressed on with a further inquiry: “When might this review be finished and will the outcome be known to the public?” 

This was too much for the well-padded rote machine and the PR muffins switched to radio silence. It probably means that when all the fuss dies down the constable will be in line for a promotion and a glittering career. 

5 . Hockey pluck

His Excellency Joe Hockey is a role model for many. There he is, safely installed at 1601 Massachusetts Avenue, Washington, leaving behind a large pile of taxi and car hire bills that the poor sods in the finance department have had to sort out.

He has busied himself scribbling letters to The New York Times explaining how sensible it is for the CSIRO to shred its team of scientists doing research on global warming – that’s after Joe the Treasurer cut the organisation’s budget by $111 million over four years.

Back home, Hockeys Property, the family real estate firm, is doing its best to hold its own in the gruelling market of Sydney’s lower north shore. It has a stack of nice little two-bedder apartments on its books on the Kowloon side of St Leonards, and what with things getting shaky because of fears of an apartment glut there are bound to be some bargains in there.

The firm has produced a splendid video starring wise owl Colin Hockey, the principal, and young Karl Hockey. Colin is excited about Karl and the way he’s moving forward.

As the younger Hockey puts it, “You’re not just a number when you’re with Hockeys ... you’re actually a person”.


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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on June 11, 2016 as "Gadfly: Les Patterson serves the world".

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

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