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

Annus Mirabellas

Just when you think the name Mirabella has been wiped off the electoral map, up pops Greg Mirabella, husband of Sophie, the twice-trounced Liberal candidate for Indi.

No doubt hoping to bask in some of his wife’s popularity, Greg is one of 10 candidates fighting to fill four spots for the city ward on the Wangaratta Rural City Council. There are currently no councillors for Wangaratta because the previous lot were sacked by the state parliament in September 2013 and the town has been in administration ever since. Voting is by post and ballot papers have to be in the mail by October 21.

The Victorian Electoral Commission asked all the candidates various questions, including: “Have you undertaken training to help prepare you to take on the responsibility of being a councillor?” To which Greg answered: “No.”

Greg’s vision is for a “council that is respected because it makes good governance a priority”. Among his numerous qualifications, he lists directorship of a waste recycling company and running “a small beef property at Wangaratta East”.

Julian Fidge is also running. He’s a local doctor and former councillor who in 2015 was reprimanded by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal over findings of misconduct against him. He described the rap across the knuckles as “a very mild, minor punishment for what were very minor transgressions”. A stickler for numbers, he added: “Of the 200-odd complaints made, I’m relieved only 14 were thought to be misconduct.” In this election, Fidge says he will “care for your rate money as if it were my own”.

1 . Fin circling

News out of Holt Street is arresting. The chatter from field agents within News Corp HQ is that word has come from people on mahogany row to the editors throughout the Empire to pull up the drawbridge on mentions of Chris Mitchell’s adventure book Making Up Headlines.

Even more alarming, Mitchell is putting out the word that he can cobble together a deal to make a cash bid for The Australian Financial Review.

He assures gobsmacked citizens who hear this plan that he has the money. God knows where he is sourcing the loot – in all likelihood from Lord Moloch’s sack of tax-avoided doubloons.

Moloch & Co. have been smacking their chops for years over acquiring the Fin, particularly as the massive investment in The Australian Business Review has failed to have the desired effect on the Daily’s circulation.

2 . Hypo typo

Here we are on Typo Watch. There’s a delicious one in the judgement of Justice Lucy McCallum who, on September 14, granted a temporary injunction to restrain the publication of a defamatory website directed against Dr Munjed Al Muderis, an orthopaedic surgeon in Sydney.

The defendants have been ordered to suspend the domain name used to publish the defamations. At the top of the judgement the decision is described as an “interlocutory injection” – an appropriate form of relief for a medical man.

3 . Shiny copper

Police PR in Victoria must have been over the moon with Tuesday night’s ABC TV doco about Jill Meagher’s murder. It could not have been better if they’d scripted the show themselves.

It was a John Silvester special and the program cut the investigating detectives a lot of slack in explaining how they went about tracking down the murderer, Adrian Bayley. There was a major focus on Bayley’s interview conducted by Acting Detective Sergeant Paul Rowe, which culminated in a confession.

We had explanations from the detective about how he went about the interview, how Bayley’s false story fell apart as more evidence emerged about his movements that night, and ultimately the discovery of Jill Meagher’s damaged SIM card at the murderer’s home.

The coppers in a room adjoining the interview were elated. Acting Senior Sergeant Sharon Darcy, from police media, said, “just everyone was so pleased that we’ve got this bastard”.

Yet, there was no broadcast of the actual footage of the interview with Bayley. To Gadfly’s way of thinking, that’s a puzzle, because that would be the most gripping slice of reality, to have Bayley unravelling before our eyes. Instead, what we got was the coppers’ self-basting version of how brilliant they were.

4 . Freedom of screech

It would not be a Gadfly column without mention of Tasmanian Obergruppenführer Otto Abetz.

Otto may have lost control of some of the levers in Canberra, but there’s still Van Diemen’s Land at his disposal. Last Saturday he was reported as welcoming some decent socially regressive legislation being wheeled into parliament by Silly Willy Hodgman’s government, seeking to give God-botherers more room to be intolerant.

Section 18C may not be moving in Canberra, but in Hobart amendments to the anti-discrimination law will exempt religious bigotry.

The local branch of the Australian Christian Lobby says the amendment doesn’t go far enough because some people object to same-sex marriage on terms other than religious grounds. In other words, the ACL thinks that anyone who objects to marriage equality for any reason should be outside the anti-discrimination law.

The new law is opposed by the opposition, the Greens, the Tasmanian Women’s Legal Service, the Law Society, the Children’s Commissioner and the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner.

No matter. Otto doesn’t see this as letting hate speech off the leash because he has “confidence in my fellow Tasmanians to have free speech and to exercise it responsibly”.

5 . Exclusive club only for the riffraff

Meanwhile in Brisneyland, there’s mounting disquiet about the no-women policy of the Tattersalls Club. The Bowen Hills Bugle reports that big law firms are avoiding the place because of the discriminatory policy that bans non-male people becoming members.

Others are refusing to attend functions, and young blades who would normally be expected to become members are not.

The club boasts that “premiers, chief justices and attorneys-general” are among the well-padded types who are and have been members.

That’s looking decidedly misplaced now that all those positions are held by women.

6 . Flowers in arraign

It was great to see Gennifer Flowers back in the news, after far too long an absence. The speculation that she might distract Hillary Clinton at the presidential candidates debate came to nought.

It might be remembered that ages ago Flowers sued Mrs Clinton, James Carville and George Stephanopoulos.

This followed revelations in the Star newspaper that Bill Clinton had carried on an affair with her, which initially was denied by the Clinton camp.

In 2002, after many years of disputation, a judgement from the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit dismissed her claim that the “Clinton Smear Machine” had painted her as a fraud and a liar after she disclosed her affair with Bill.

Other claims rolled on, including Flowers’ defamation case arising from a Larry King interview and from Stephanopoulos’s book.

As the circuit court said, at first both Clinton and Flowers denied the story, “but a few days later Flowers, doubtless realising that honesty is the best policy after all, sold her story to the Star”.

If only more judges could emulate the style of Judge Alex Kozinski, the world would be a happier place. He wrote: 

“Flowers claims that during the 1992 campaign and in later political memoirs and interviews, Carville and Stephanopoulos defamed her and painted her in a false light by claiming that she had lied in her story to the Star and ‘doctored’ the tape-recorded phone calls. Hillary Clinton, the alleged mastermind of the conspiracy, not only orchestrated the defamatory exploits, but also exposed private information about Flowers and organised break-ins of her residence. Flowers claims that, as a result of all this schemery, her reputation has wilted and her blossoming career as a Las Vegas lounge singer has been nipped in the bud.”

7 . Caught red-panted

Of course, the debate was rigged. Crooked Hillary was manipulating Donald’s microphone and as for that biased moderator, Lester Holt: he’s black. Say no more.

Anyway, Crooked Hillary shouldn’t even be there; she should be in jail. First thing is to take away the guns from her Secret Service protection and let nature take its course.

And why did she wear that bright red pantsuit, as if the whole thing was a pyjama party? It’s beyond shocking.


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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on October 1, 2016 as "Gadfly: Annus Mirabellas".

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

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