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

Woo hoo for who’s who

The latest edition of the ANU’s newsletter of the Australian Dictionary of Biography carries a speech from former High Court justice Michael Kirby to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the launch of volume one of the ADB

In it, Kirbs pays homage to the current chancellor of the Australian National University, Gareth-Gareth Evans, in a way that captures the luminosity of both men:

“I salute the chancellor of the Australian National University, Gareth Evans, an eloquent advocate for the Australian Dictionary of Biography. He has declared that it captures the life and times and culture of Australia in ‘a distinctive and irreplaceable’ way. The Honourable Gareth Evans will in due course (but not too soon we hope) attract a mega entry in the ADB for his huge contributions in diverse positions, held in Australia and overseas. An entry no larger, I trust, than my own. I first met him when he was president of the University of Melbourne Students’ Representative Council in the mid-1960s. I had been elected to the equivalent post at the University of Sydney – twice. When I first laid eyes upon him, I suspected that he was a Welsh revolutionary. Now he is clothed in a chancellor’s gold. However, I have only lately admitted that I also considered him a ‘good looker’.”

1 . Abetz Isle

Senator Stephen Parry (Lib. Tas.), former copper and ex-president of the Australian Funeral Directors Association, now president of the senate and one of Otto Abetz’s chosen choirboys, is disobeying orders from the bunker.

Otto has been poring over a map of Tasmania with members of his Panzertruppen, reallocating the districts of his Reichsstatthalters. 

For instance, Hobart-based senator David Bushby has been packed off to be the consul in Launceston; new boy senator Jonathon Duniam has to shift to the area occupied by the one-toothed, beanie-wearing tribes of rural Lyons, while Otto stays at command central in Hobart.  

The mortuary scientist was ordered to relocate his electorate office from Launceston to Devonport, but says such a move is “unlikely” and it would be “ideal” if one of the others could raise the flag in the Mersey River town. His intransigence is understandable in light of the fact that the Commonwealth has just splashed $320,000 on refitting his office. It means the Department of Finance is now paying an annual rent of $88,505 on the empty Devonport chambers of deposed senator Richard Colbeck.

It turns out that Parry is the most expensive of the Tasmanian senators, knocking up expenses of $620,000 in the six months to last December. 

Fanning Nasty Party senators into far corners of the territory has been necessitated by the obliteration of members of Otto’s lower house Wehrmacht: Andrew Nikolic, Eric Hutchinson and Brett Whiteley. To add to the mystery, there is an S. Parry residing at Dorans Road, Sandford, a suburb of Hobart Town.

2 . Radical clique

Is there a Walkley Award for the Loopiest Newspaper Column of the Year? If there is, step forward former editor-in-chief of The Catholic Boys Daily Chris “Kransky” Mitchell

Parsing Kransky’s media column of Monday requires special skills, but it goes something like this:

Journalists are out of touch and contemptuous of everyday Australians, otherwise they wouldn’t write things in support of same-sex marriage, “ethnic essentialism” and Section 18C. Much of this is the ABC’s fault, because that’s what Chris Kenny says. In fact, the ABC has been culturally captured by the anti-establishment ethos of Triple J – radicals such as Steve Cannane, Angela Catterns, Dr Karl, Wil Anderson, Roy & HG and Robbie Buck, who started life on the youth broadcaster. There are exceptions, such as Tony Jones, but he “affects a Triple J kind of radical chic” and once remarked about a propensity towards violent anti-Vietnam War street protesting and turning over police cars. Cold Chisel chronicled a riot at the Star Hotel in 1979 where police cars were turned over – you have to bear with Chris here – but the riot was about the pub closing down, not about the Vietnam War. This does not fit the views of people at the ABC who wear skinny ties. The children of the revolution are very good at thought control, so why the fear about a free vote on same-sex marriage; why pretend the burqa is anything other than an instrument of oppression? Pete Townshend got it right with The Who’s 1971 single “Won’t Get Fooled Again”. Imagine if a record cover was released today showing four men doing up their flies, having urinated on concrete piling. Twitter, The Drum and The Guardian would be upset. 

It doesn’t get more bonkers than that. I’m looking forward to the release of Kransky’s two books, which we were told would be produced by Melbourne University Press, under the baton of leading opponent of “self-serving revenge” Louise Adler.

3 . Bats girl

While Mitchell’s message was all over the shop, Georgina Downer’s foray into print with the Fairfax papers was more focused. 

The daughter of Fishnets and unsuccessful Goldstein flag-bearer for the Nasty Party, Georgie used the words “politically correct” six times in her 10-paragraph outburst about Target withdrawing the Batgirl T-shirt that bore a to-do list: dry-clean cape, wash Batmobile, fight crime, save the world. 

Apparently, there was a shrill social media outburst about sexism, and the pink clothing item was off the market.  

Georgie is an “adjunct fellow” of the Institute of Paid Advocacy, so it’s no surprise we got a free-market spiel: “The surge of political correctness undermines our freedoms, including in this case the freedom to raise our children in the way we choose.” 

It should be your choice “what you dress your children in, what schools you send them to” etc. Of course, like the doors of the Ritz Hotel, they are open to everyone. 

Now that Freedom Boy has hung up his cape it’s good to see Georgie bursting through the ceiling as Freedom Girl.

4 . Naval piercing

Tuesday was a day of rum, buggery and the lash for those of us who gathered on the flight deck of HMAS Canberra at the eastern fleet base, Garden Island. 

Old Navy salts and a collection of hacks assembled to celebrate the launch of journalist Mike Carlton’s book, Flagship, the story of HMAS Australia II in the Pacific during the war with Japan. 

It’s the third in the trilogy Carlton was commissioned to write by Penguin Random House, and follows First Victory, about HMAS Sydney’s hunt for the Emden in WWI; and Cruiser, the story of HMAS Perth during WWII and its loss off the coast of Java with more than 350 crew. 

All are massive pieces of naval history, at which Carlton excels, and there were lots of brass, aiguillette and scrambled eggs on display at the festivities this week. 

After the formalities, we scampered all over the Navy’s magnificent flagship, HMAS Canberra, the massive helicopter dock vessel designed by the Spanish and hence a descendant of the Armada. 

It’s surely big enough to carry the entire Australian Army for an invasion of Nauru or Manus Island, should we ever think that would be a useful strategy.

5 . Drear diary

I notice that Bookshelves Brandis was trying to persuade Radio National listeners that the FOI case brought by his opposition counterpart Mark Dreyfus was appealed to the Full Federal Court as a matter of principle about the scope and reach of the legislation.

“It is absolutely in the public interest that the interpretation of the Freedom of Information Act be properly understood.” 

Now that three of the top administrative law judges in the land have given us a proper understanding, George is none too happy. He lost his bid to keep the diaries secret.

Also, it didn’t seem that the AG was running the same case before the Full Court that he unsuccessfully ran before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. So much for principle. 

But we’ve probably forgotten what all this is about. Bookshelves repeatedly refused over many months to meet with the community legal centres, their peak bodies, or the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service at the time of the 2014 budget cuts. He has been far too busy and is far too important for these meetings. In fact, we understand that three years into office he has refused all meetings with the national Aboriginal legal aid body. The point of getting hold of the diaries is to check just how busy he has been.

6 . Holy Mary!

You were crazy if you didn’t snap up a Father’s Day copy of Gerard Henderson’s Santamaria: A Most Unusual Man, as recommended by Gadfly last week.

The offer was an unbeatable bargain at $60 because now we find the same book on Amazon for $983.23. 

That must be an edition personally blessed by Gorgeous George Pell, which would explain the $923.23 difference.


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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on September 10, 2016 as "Gadfly: Woo hoo for who’s who".

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

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