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

The search for the Nile

Lawyers for The Canberra Times have encountered terrible difficulty serving a subpoena on the Reverend Fred Nile, MLC, of the Christian Democratic Party. They want the Rev to produce documents as part of the defence in a defamation action. The problem is that the subpoena has to be served outside the parliamentary building, and no way was Fred coming out onto the footpath.

Alasdair Doctor, the Sydney solicitor for the newspaper, set out his experience in an affidavit produced in the NSW District Court. He rang Nile’s office at NSW Parliament House and got through to a woman named Kay. She said to email the subpoena to her and she would pass it onto Rev Fred. She agreed that a time could be organised to see the parliamentary Christian and serve it.

Alasdair rang the following day trying to fix an appointment and was told Nile would ring back. Nothing happened. Doctor rang again the next day. Fred was in the chamber and couldn’t be disturbed; he would call back. Again, nothing.

That same day the solicitor had to go serve a subpoena on another Christian, David Clarke, MLC, who is closely aligned to the barbed-wire underpants brigade. Clarke accepted service on the footpath outside Sydney Hospital. Doctor rang Kay, said he was outside and asked if  Nile could come out and be served.

Kay said: “I just need to check where he is.” Alasdair was put on hold for five minutes, then Kay said she would come outside and collect it on Nile’s behalf. When she appeared she told the exasperated lawyer that Fred said she was not allowed to take it as “it’s not part of my job, he doesn’t want to deal with it now and he’s going overseas tomorrow”.

After it was explained that Clarke had just been served, Doctor was again asked to wait. Kay disappeared inside to talk to the Rev. The lawyer lurked around Macquarie Street for half-an-hour, eventually ringing the office to ask what was going on.

Kay said: “I don’t know, you’ll just have to wait. He’s a very busy man. I’ll call you about it, just wait.”

Doctor rang Reverend Nile’s office again at 2.15pm, 2.20pm and 2.25pm but none of his calls were answered. A call at 2.30pm was answered by Kay.

Solicitor: What is happening with Mr Nile?

Kay: He’s gone back to the chamber; he doesn’t want to deal with this, it has nothing to do with him.

Solicitor: So he won’t come and accept service?

Kay: No, he won’t.

Judge Judith Gibson said that attempts to avoid service could be dealt with as a contempt. She ordered that the subpoena to produce “is taken to have been served” on Rev Fred and that the orders of the court also be served on him by email. Amen. 

1 . ASIO tome shines light on Croatian Six

Gadfly’s agent, in the form of The Saturday Paper’s world editor Hamish McDonald, infiltrated the headquarters of ASIO this week for the launch of its official history’s third volume by George Brandis, who noted, “I’m quite a bookish person myself”, and suggested the tome as an ideal Chrissie present.

Most attention was on the book’s acceptance that the KGB indeed had its moles inside ASIO in the 1970s and 1980s, rendering much of its counter-intelligence work futile. But the volume will also be discomfiting reading for NSW Chief Justice Tom Bathurst

From reading the ASIO files, authors John Blaxland and Rhys Crawley, both orthodox military historians, agree that the 1979 “Croatian Six” terrorism case led to “wrongful conviction” of the six accused, who each got 15 years’ jail for plotting to bomb Sydney landmarks. They were “imprisoned on false evidence from probable YIS [Yugoslav Intelligence Service] operative Vico Virkez”.

In 2012, three of the Croatian Six applied for a judicial review. Bathurst, a specialist in commercial law, had been installed by Barry O’Farrell as chief justice with a view to getting speedier decisions for business. The chief justice flicked the question to acting justice Graham Barr, who found a review was not warranted. 

Barr relied in part on the word of former cop Roger Rogerson that it would have been difficult to stitch up the Croatian-Australians with the gelignite, detonators and alarm clocks since so many officers were involved in the raids on the men’s homes, not just mates from the same squad. After earlier serving time for perverting the course of justice, Rogerson was sentenced last month to life for the murder of drug dealer Jamie Gao.

2 . #Dunkin’Timbo

It was wonderful to see Freedom Boy getting dunked in freezing water at the Gardenvale Primary School last Saturday. Yes, for a few dollars and a well-aimed ball citizens lined up at the school in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs for a chance to submerge the member for Goldstein.

The Boy has been missing in action for far too long, so it’s important we get up to speed on his adventures. He even posted on Twitter a slo-mo gif of the moment a lucky contestant hit the right spot, activating the dunking chair supporting a nervy-looking Timbo Wilson in his shorts.

“Angry taxpayers had their #Revenge this morning,” he told his 12,900 followers. Among his agglomeration of hashtags were: 





He also posted on Facebook his recent burst in parliament where he said he is proud to wear the badge “Freedom Boy”. In the process he restated his faith in free speech, carefully aiming at the phoney 18C threat to expression, not the real ones.


3 . Gotta no respect?

I’ve been following the career of Joe Dolce, of “Shaddap You Face” fame. Joe has struck out as a poet, making some useful contributions to the bible of withered conservatives and retired stockbrokers, Quadrant.

In the most recent online edition of the organ he carefully analyses Bob Dylan’s Nobel prize in literature. Joe addresses the complexity of Andrew Bolt supporting the singer-songwriter’s prize while Stephen Wright in Overland “disses Dylan for whining and perpetuating ancient sexualised stereotypes of women”.  

Much fun is to be had with the intrigue that Bolt is from the right and Overland is “a bastion of the left”. As for Dolce himself: well, he liked the early Dylan, but thinks his more recent work is “steeped in tepid Americana. Mark Twainism.”

His recent album Modern Times “is so cliché-ridden and he is so bad at putting language together that I can barely find the energy to make notes”.

Gadfly thinks the Nobel should be confiscated from Dylan and given to Dolce. Who can beat the lyricism of this refrain?

What’s-a matter you? Hey! 

Gotta no respect 

What-a you t’ink you do? 

Why you look-a so sad? 

It’s-a not so bad 

It’s-a nice-a place 

Ah, shaddap-a you face! 

4 . Disparate measures

A big crowd gathered at the Sydney Opera House on Sunday where French economic rock star Thomas Piketty talked about increasing income inequality, which feeds into the rise of populism and demagogues. The professor also bobbed up later in the week at Melbourne Town Hall with the same message.

In Sydney he was in conversation onstage with opposition assistant treasurer and mighty brain Andrew Leigh. There were other Laborites in the crowd, including Jenny Macklin.

But did anyone see a solitary figure from the Coalition? Where was ScoMo or Killer Kelly O’Dwyer?

Inequality is something Tories positively believe in, so you’d think they might want to know the downside. 

Other economists rushed to explain that while income disparities have widened in Australia, this has been accompanied by a rise in overall income growth.

Warwick McKibbin, the hardline man who used to be at the Reserve Bank, insists that “everyone had a share in the pie”. Bank economist Paul Bloxham agreed – “at least the pie is getting bigger” (and Gina Rinehart seems to be eating more of it).

Bigger pie means bigger crumbs after what’s left over. It sounds awfully close to the magic pudding of Bill Barnacle fame. No matter how much you eat the pud never gets smaller. Cleverly, bank economists have adopted Norman Lindsay’s fantasy as economic theory.

5 . Kerr files funding

Historian Jenny Hocking, who is Gough Whitlam’s biographer and author of The Dismissal Dossier, has launched a crowdfunding appeal through to finance a trip to the Federal Court in a bid to unlock Sir John Kerr’s correspondence with the Queen and others at Buck House.

The letters are held in the National Archives of Australia and have been stamped “private”. Hocking says they are the “final missing piece in the puzzle on the most controversial episode in Australia’s political history”.

Oddly, there is an embargo on release of these gems until 2027, and even then Betty Battenberg’s official secretary can decide to block their release.

The fact that important chunks of Australian history can be withheld at the royal pleasure is cringe-worthy beyond belief.

Gough’s son Tony Whitlam and fellow barrister Tom Brennan have saddled up to try and prise open the locked vault containing Kerr’s love letters to London. Law shop Corrs Chambers Westgarth is also involved – all acting pro bono. The argument is that the letters are either “Commonwealth records” and should be released in accordance with the Archives Act; or that access to them is governed by an instrument of deposit from the estate of Lady Kerr, the former Mrs Robson of quickie divorce fame.

The fundraising target is $60,000 and in five days more than a third has been raised.

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on October 29, 2016 as "Gadfly: The search for the Nile".

A free press is one you pay for. Now is the time to subscribe.

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

Sharing credit ×

Share this article, without restrictions.

You’ve shared all of your credits for this month. They will refresh on June 1. If you would like to share more, you can buy a gift subscription for a friend.