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

Assisting themselves with their inquiries

At last we’ve got a non-answer from Senior Sergeant Plod, aka NSW Police Minister Troy-Boy Grant. He’s also the deputy premier, minister for the yarts, minister for gaming and racing, and minister for what is known as the “justice cluster”.  

Is there a word missing there?  

But it’s policing that concerns us. You’ll remember the assault case brought by Senior Constable John Wasko against an anti-Reclaim protester, Simone White.  

Wasko alleged that White had struck him with her elbow. The magistrate threw it out saying the coppers had been “unreasonable and improper”.  

They had tampered with photographic evidence that showed another officer indecently assaulting Ms White while Wasko’s charge was a concoction. At the time there was a thundering editorial in this organ denouncing the police misconduct.  

Gadfly asked the police PR muffins what action was under way by the sleuths at professional standards. They reached into the duffle bag of non-responsive answers and said: “The outcome of the case is noted; the circumstances surrounding the incident will be reviewed.”  

Exhausted by such a fulsome response they went silent when further pressed about when the review might be finished and the outcome known.  

That was in early June and here we are in late September and the situation doesn’t seem to have progressed very far. In answer to a question put on the notice paper more than a month earlier by the shadow attorney-general, Paul Lynch, Troy-Boy said: “The complaint referred to is currently under investigation.” Also, privacy principles meant that “complaint outcomes are not publicly revealed”.  

Looks like another sleazy episode slipping under the carpet.

1 . ACT out of step with Canberra

What has got into those Liberals in Canberra? I’m not talking about members of the federal parliamentary Nasty Party. No, this is the toy-town parliament of the Australian Capital Territory where we find the local Liberal leader, who rejoices in the name of Jeremy Hanson, promising to support, if elected, Labor’s target of 100 per cent renewables by 2020 and zero net emissions by 2050.  

The ACT Conservation Council and the climate action group are beside themselves with glee. 

Why the little Canberra Libs are out of step with the big Canberra Libs is a mystery that only Hedless Thomas could unravel in four million words. The federal Nasties have set a renewables target of a lousy 23 per cent for the country’s electricity by 2020. 

Surely the local Libs would come to their senses if someone discovered a vast coal deposit in Canberra, right underneath Parliament House, or The Lodge.  

2 . Ice-cream scoop

The other night your diarist arrived at The Royal Motor Yacht Club, Point Piper, for a friend’s 70th birthday party. 

It’s just up the road from Mal Turnbull’s faux Tuscan pile at Captain Piper’s pointy end where the street is now riddled with bomb experts and spooks looking at your numberplates. 

It was a huge night, a great collection of codgers and codgerettes, looking out on a dreamy moonlit harbour.  

Paul Akon, the birthday boy, a lawyer and academic of Greek heritage, told the story of his father and mother arriving here from the depressed town of Akrata with little formal education and no money. Eventually, the old man prospered with a milk bar on Wynyard ramp, making a fortune selling more than 1500 litres of shakes a day in the 1950s and 1960s – vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, caramel and malt. 

The children were packed off to independent schools on the strength of the milkshake cash cow. The business was so successful that Peters couldn’t keep up the supply of ice-cream, a scoop of which was a vital ingredient in the milky cocktail. 

When old Mr Akon turned to Streets to fill his orders, Peters told him this was a breach of contract and the whole ice-cream drama ended up in the High Court with G. Barwick, KC, fighting for the little fellow’s right to source iced confection from wherever in a free market. 

Barwick, as attorney-general, went on to introduce Australia’s first restrictive trade practices law, inspired by the Wynyard ramp ice-cream capers.

3 . Non-trad law grads

A trip to a law graduation ceremony amid the verdant pastures and rustling gums of Macquarie University, where a hundred or so bright buttons were awarded their degrees.  

So many more lawyers cranked into society could be seen as a problem, but Chancellor Michael Egan put it well, saying that the more people who have an understanding of the rule of law (as opposed to the rule of lawyers) the better.  

Today, concepts such as the presumption of innocence have taken a tumble in the popularity stakes, and this is not helped by people such as Trump or the president of the Philippines, who shoot first and ask questions later.  

What is so striking is the great mix of graduands: Anglo-Celts, Asians, Arabs, Jews, Africans, East Europeans. All incredibly bushy-tailed about their futures.  

Such a blessing that it’s not boring old 1969, when just about everyone receiving a degree was white and male.  

There were a few oldies getting scrolls, including David Barker who, at 82, carried off a PhD.

4 . One notion

I suppose this gets us right back to Pauline Hanson’s turf and her pressing desire to stamp out multiculturalism, because “it has failed everywhere” and we “are at risk of being swamped” by whichever ethnic or religious group might be haunting her waking dreams.  

Numerologists find that people with the surname Hanson have the number 7 as their “soul urge”. They have a “deep inner need for quiet, and a desire to understand and analyse the world they live in, and to learn the deeper truths”.  

That’s our Pauline.  

I keep wondering what can be done about her flummery of bile and distortions that, apparently, goes down a treat in the boondocks.  

Inspiration might be had from the famous stoush between writers Mary McCarthy and Lillian Hellman. McCarthy tagged Hellman as an unrepentant Stalinist and on The Dick Cavett Show in 1979 she said that, “every word that [Hellman] writes is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the’ ”.  

Hellman sued McCarthy, Cavett and PBS, which got McCarthy to produce evidence that Hellman had lied about aspects of her life. The case was still grinding on when Hellman died in 1984.  

But the public scrutiny of Hellman’s “facts” greatly damaged her reputation. If someone said that “every word of Pauline Hanson’s is a lie, including ‘umm’ and ‘err’,” we can only hope she sues so that the falsities on which her opinions are based can be publicly chopped down, one by one.

5 . Bondi Pavilionaires

The other night Senator Lee Rhiannon (Greens, NSW) was using the privilege of the plum chamber for a double-barrel blast at the mayor of Waverley Council, Sally Betts

Ms Betts is also a part-time member of Mal Turnbull’s electorate staff. At the heart of Sen. Rhiannon’s concerns was the future of the pavilion at Bondi Beach, which is in a run-down condition but used for community activities such as Latin American festivals, Rock Against Racism concerts and International Women’s Day celebrations.  

Betts and the Waverley Liberals seem keen to redevelop the pavilion for restaurants and functions and commercial-type activities.  

Rhiannon’s speech took no prisoners, with mention of the mayor providing a character reference to a man found guilty of a “horrendously violent rape”. The senator alleged that this man’s family owned two hotels in Bondi Junkyard and were supporters of the Liberal Party and in turn received council support for extended trading hours.  

Rhiannon also told the senate that the mayor and the Liberal councillors  voted to abolish the 156-year-old Waverley Council and amalgamate with Randwick.  

“The reward for Betts for pulling this off is said to be a promise from [the premier] Mr Baird of a seat in the NSW upper house.”  

Waverley Council received a $1 million grant from Greg Hunt’s Department of the Environment for the design phase of the Bondi Pavilion’s upgrade. Betts later announced a $38 million redevelopment proposal. 

The senator managed to get hold of the design phase funding application to the department and discovered that the plan was for a more modest $14 million upgrade, not the touted $38 million program to commercialise the beachfront property that would involve the music, art and pottery studios being demolished, along with the theatre on the top floor.   

Rhiannon added, as if we needed reminding, that there is “growing public concern about the unhealthily close relationship between senior Waverley Liberals, developers and hotel companies”.  

The battle for Bondi Pavilion rages.

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on September 24, 2016 as "Gadfly: Assisting themselves with their inquiries".

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

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