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

Mayor than bargained for

It was uplifting to watch the Pauline Hanson doco on SBS and be reminded that the Member for Warringah, aka Tony Abbott, pulled together $100,000 from private donors to secretly fund a court case against the One Nation tsarina for allegedly breaching the Electoral Act. 

There were lovely shots of Abbott trying to keep a straight face as he led Tony Jones on a merry waltz of denials in an interview about the anti-Hanson slush fund. 

Maybe Abbo can tap some of his old moneybags pals now he has resumed fundraising duties, this time for his sister Christine Forster’s tilt at the lord mayoralty of Sydney. 

Apart from stopping any more bicycle tracks and car-share spaces, to make way for more traffic, Christine’s new policy is an all-access Sydney tourist card so visitors could get into all Sydney’s “major cultural” attractions with just one ticket. 

As she told The Sydney Morning Herald, “Sydney screams for that. It’s a no-brainer.” 

Ms Forster has been given a useful leg-up by the combined forces of the Liberal government and the Shooters and Elephant Eaters Party, who engineered one of the great modern-era electoral rorts: each city business will have two votes, residents one vote. What could be fairer than that? 

She says that her opponent, Clover Moore, leads a “nest of vipers”, yet the previous leader of the Liberal team on the city council, Edward Mandla, fled to a rival ticket, saying of Forster it’s “been a difficult four years working with someone who isn’t a team player”. 

Mandla, who liked to chow down a greasy hamburger during council meetings, added that the Liberals are a “party of lobbyists in search of a policy”.

1 . Ashby to Ashby

It was also pleasing to see James Ashby, of Peter Slipper sex allegations fame, making a comeback to the TV screen as Pauline’s strategic adviser. As he said, his appointment shows that Ms Hanson “is a pretty good judge of character”. A lot more amusement lies ahead with the James and Pauline team, particularly if the One Nation leader leaves her diary lying around. 

Now that Sonia Kruger is making a determined attempt to knock Pauline off her perch as the nation’s No. 1 xenophobic bigot, maybe the former Dancing with the Stars host could recruit David Oldfield to package her for a political career? 

One bit that was not included in the SBS doco is Lisa Oldfield’s response to the claim that her husband, before his marriage, slept with Pauline: “I have never met her and can’t say too much as it’s all being disputed, but the idea of Pauline Hanson is like masturbating with a cheese grater.” 

Just as well she can’t say “too much”. 

2 . Arts end of Sydney

An all-access ticket for entry into Sydney’s cultural institutions is fine as far as it goes, but it assumes there’ll be something left of cultural life after the Baird government’s policy of artistic obliteration and privatisation runs its tragic course. 

The fabulous Darlinghurst Gaol, home to the National Art School, is to be flogged off, meaning the NAS has to search for a new home or merge with University of NSW’s School of Art and Design, which was also to merge with the Sydney College of the Arts until its parent University of Sydney pulled out of the deal. 

The government is not guaranteeing a future for the NAS as an independent institution. 

In another move that has property developers smacking their chops, the Pepsodent Kid has rejected the unanimous recommendation of the heritage council to list and protect the Sirius building in Sydney’s The Rocks. 

That’s the concrete social housing landmark on the southern approaches to the Sydney Harbour Bridge – as fine a piece of brutalism as you’re likely to find.

A salivating finance minister, Dominic Perrottet, with expectations of a sale price north of $100 million, said: “Frankly, the Sirius building is not at all in harmony with the harbour.”

Presumably, it is government policy that social housing tenants should not have harbour views.

Clive Lucas of the National Trust said the decision not to list Sirius was “damaging to Sydneysiders’ sense of place in pursuit of money”. 

Meanwhile, at the Art Gallery of NSW the head curator of photography, Judy Annear, has departed to pursue independent projects, with no sign of a replacement. Gallery director Michael Brand emailed staff to say Judy was “retiring”.

Annear shot back that she is not retiring – “I’m resigning”.

3 . Club houses

Property developers have seized on the new-new thing: housing schemes on the edge of golf courses. According to the property bible Domain, there are 91 courses in Sydney’s metropolitan area, which means more land devoted to hitting little white balls than any other major city in the civilised world. 

The townhouse development at Strathfield Golf Club is aptly called Parvenu, where the asking price is a very arriviste $1.8 million to $2.5 million per residence. 

4 . Pict a winner 

One of Gadfly’s field agents has just returned from a caber-tossing and whisky-soaked tour of Scotland, only to be caught up in the excitement of wind farms. 

He visited a farm that ran cattle, one of the windiest places in Scotland, where the farmer has leased bits of his land for five big turbines. The Scot decided to stump up several million quid and put in a sixth turbine for himself – a new German model with no gears and a teardrop-shaped nacelle. The noise is no louder than the general sound of the wind, and the birds are not bothered by the turbines. No fatalities have been reported.  

The farmer now receives regular cheques for the sale of power to the British grid, and, as he says, “it’s better than cows”. 

Of course, Joe Hockey would find all this “utterly offensive”. 

5 . Slight to remain silent

Since the NSW Police spinners have been singularly unhelpful, beyond a template response, in relation to the investigation into the conduct of Senior Constable John Wasko, it’s encouraging to see the matter has been taken up in parliament. 

Wasko is the copper whose allegations of assault against Simone White were thrown out of the Local Court. He claimed he was assaulted by her elbow at an anti-Reclaim Australia rally. The police had tampered with photographic evidence and another officer indecently assaulted Ms White. 

Magistrate Geoffrey Bradd said the police handling of the case had been “unreasonable and improper”. The police PR muffins went into overdrive in response to our question about what the professional standards people were going to do about this: “The outcome of the case is noted; the circumstances surrounding the incident will be reviewed.”

Follow-up questions were met with a sullen silence, giving the impression that they want to bury the whole brutal incident. 

Now shadow attorney-general Paul Lynch has stepped out of the shadows and asked Troy-Boy Grant, the minister for police, the yarts, gambling, liquor and racing: 

“What action will be taken by NSW Police in relation to Senior Constable John Wasko following failed local court proceedings against Simone White? When will details of such action be publicly revealed?” 

Let’s see if that takes us into new realms of information. 

6 . Big wigs

A couple of top-flight British legal eagles are heading our way. Professor Philippe Sands of Matrix Chambers and University College London will be here later this month talking about his latest book East West Street, a family memoir that traces the development of human rights law that grew out of the war crimes trials at Nuremberg. 

Then in October we’ll be visited by Amal Clooney, of Doughty Street Chambers, who will talk at a women’s workplace equality conference.

While Sands’s bio rather blows Amal out of the water, there’s no doubt that Sydney Law is queuing for her appearance. Geoffrey Robertson once remarked that in London practitioners can earn an additional continuing professional development point if they can remember Ms Clooney’s maiden name. 

Sands appeared for Australia in the Antarctic whaling case against Japan and recently was counsel for the Philippines in its successful case against China in the International Court of Justice. 

In another of his books, Torture Team, Sands exposed the chilling corruption of the US legal system by Rumsfeld and Cheney in order to give CIA torture contractors and others a free run in Guantanamo and black hole prisons. 

Lawyers already are sleeping outside Ticketek, keen for fresh insights into women’s equality and war crimes.


Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Aug 6, 2016 as "Gadfly: Mayor than bargained for".

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

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