Diary

Gadfly
Elf care top priority

Johan Wessel Elferink is one of the nation’s deeply misunderstood politicians. He is the Country Liberals’ recently departed Northern Territory correctional services minister, but retains other portfolios including that of attorney-general. 

He’s a copper who has scaled the dizzying heights of the law and order food chain despite a career littered with “colourful incidents”. One of Gadfly’s favourites is his support of an NT magistrate, Peter Maley, who as a judicial officer handed out how-to-vote cards for the CLP. Even better, while a magistrate, Maley sat on the board of the CLP’s slush fund, Foundation 51, and made representations to the minister for mines and energy for two water licences.  

Just to make sure everyone knew from where he was coming, Madge Maley also turned up at a dinner held at the local casino to celebrate the birthday of his favourite political party.   

Chief Minister Adam Giles was blithely unaware of the Guide to Judicial Conduct issued by the Judicial Conference of Australia, telling parliament: “It is fantastic he has rights and freedoms in a democratic society, such as the Northern Territory, to be a member of a political party … Good on him if he wants to make a donation to the member for Port Darwin … Thank you very much, Peter Maley, the magistrate who has shown an interest in the Country Liberals.”  

The AG did his diploma of legal practice at Maley’s law shop and, for good measure, Maley donated $5000 to the Elf’s campaign to get a seat in parliament. 

Elferink said the Guide to Judicial Conduct was just that, a guide.

And the hits just keep on coming…

However, the Elf was distressed when the then shadow AG, Michael Gunner, the member for Fannie Bay, asked him in a roundabout sort of way at an estimates hearing whether it is an offence under NT law to take money in return for a judicial appointment?  

The Elf: “Step outside and say that, mate.”  

Alice Springs legal aid lawyer Russell Goldflam also got into strife and apologised to the AG following an article in a local law journal.  

Russell reported on his holiday in Berlin and a visit to the Topographie des Terrors, a bleak museum on the site of the former headquarters of the SS, near the Concentration Camps Inspectorate. He referred to the case of German jurist Franz Schlegelberger, whose defence at his war crimes trial was that judicial officers are all subject to the will of the supreme judge, i.e. Adolf Schicklgruber, aka Hitler.  

Goldflam returned to the territory on the same day the Supreme Court refused the AG’s first application for the indefinite detention of a prisoner under the Serious Sex Offenders Act. The Elf said he wanted to have the legislation amended so the court’s decisions are “consistent with government expectations”.  

Russell said this “sent a chill” down his spine. His article was accompanied by the famous photo of a mass of Deutschlanders doing their Nazi salutes, with a lone protester resisting the Heil Hitler routine. 

Elferink was incandescent and claimed this associated him with Nazism. Poor Russell felt obliged to say that his jotting, in conjunction with the photo, was “an error of judgement ... for that I unreservedly apologise”.  

Where does it sit on the scale of offensiveness? Can it be somewhere close to the brutalisation of children under Elferink’s care? 

Last year, the Elf was stripped of his role as a White Ribbon ambassador after he told Labor MP Natasha Fyles that he was “really tempted to give her a slap right now, figuratively speaking”. 

Sadly, the Elf is not seeking a return to parliament at next month’s NT election.

A lowly Scullion

Attorney-General Bookshelves Brandis also made a worthy contribution to the children in detention shocker. He rode in to defend the non-piqued and switched-off adornment of the Turnbull ministry, Nigel Scullion, minister for Indigenous affairs.  

Bookshelves was asked on the ABC’s 7.30 whether Scullion was the right man for the job.  

“Well, look,” Bookshelves said. “I haven’t seen Senator Scullion’s remarks but I can assure you, knowing him as I do as both a colleague and a friend, there wouldn’t be a person I can think of with a deeper concern in that portfolio for the wellbeing of Indigenous people, and a really practical commonsense appreciation of the needs of Indigenous communities, than Nigel Scullion.”  

With support like that, Nige is in no need of enemies.  

What a mug

The hottest item at Hobart’s Salamanca Market is a beautiful, crafted mug bearing the face of Eric (Otto) Abetz and the words “I voted for Eric Abetz #58”. 

There were 58 senate candidates in Tasmania and, indeed, more than a third of the electorate put Otto last. The Greens’ Nick McKim has edged out the Liberals’ Richard Colbeck and One Nation by 43 votes, taking the 12th senate seat. 

Colbeck was relegated by Otto to fifth place on the Liberals’ all-male, all-dancing ticket – a brilliant move that has enabled the Greens to snatch Tasmania’s last spot in the claret chamber. Good to see Otto is still weaving his magic and that Eric mugs are now a collector’s item.

Platform diving

Back in the United States of America: now that Donald J. Trump is running for president, citizens are combing the Republican Party platform for clues as to what might lie ahead.  

Some of the party’s commitments might sound unusual to people in this corner of the ANZUS alliance, but apparently it’s all perfectly sound to citizens stateside.  

We all know about the Mexican wall policy, which is spelt out on page 26. On the next page there is a promise to make the federal tax code “so simple and easy to understand that the Internal Revenue Service becomes obsolete and can be abolished”. Presumably this is punishment for tax audits of the Trump Organisation.  

Of course, a Republican president is committed “to rebuilding the US military into the strongest on earth, with vast superiority over any other nation or group of nations in the world”. The party traditionally stands for “enormous power” to be used without “permission”. In this way Republicans will “lead the world into a new century of greater peace and prosperity – another American Century”. 

Needless to say, a Republican regime does not support the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the UN Arms Trade Treaty, or the various declarations from the UN Conference on Environment and Development.  

In fact, the environment is too important to leave to the Environmental Protection Agency. It is best protected by “private ownership” and the EPA will be forbidden to regulate carbon dioxide.  

God also gets a good run in the platform, mentioned six times in one paragraph on page nine. To the relief of everyone, a Republican administration will “destroy ISIS”.  

It’s enough to get Tony Abbott quite excited.

‘False light’ at end of mediation tunnel

Sad to see Gina Rinehart settle her action against Channel Nine and the Cordell Jigsaw Zapruder production people who put the House of Hancock mini-series to air.  

Rinehart was suing for injurious falsehood, misleading and deceptive conduct and a novel claim called “false light” – i.e. she was shown in such a false way as to invade her privacy.  

The statement of claim, accompanied by an affidavit sworn in Paris, claimed an impressive list of falsehoods: that her father, Lang Hancock, once described her as a “slothful, vindictive, devious baby elephant”; that Hancock used profanities in her presence and made crude comments about her husband; that she chose to honeymoon overseas while her mother was dying; that Lang had a propensity to cheat at tennis; that Hope Hancock had blonde hair; that Frank Rinehart and Gina had a “garish wedding”; that Rose Porteous regularly made and delivered Gina’s dinner et cetera et cetera.  

But because last week’s mediation was successful, the public and the courts will be deprived of getting to the truth about the colour of Hope’s hair and what sort of meals Rose was supposed not to have prepared.

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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jul 30, 2016 as "Gadfly: Elf care top priority". Subscribe here.

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