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

Gadfly: Fudge of honour

First, some housekeeping. Since when has Freedom Boy been “The Hon. Tim Wilson MP”? The Victorian Bar seems to think he is, boldly tweeting: “Guest speaker at our Pro Bono awards last night, The Hon. Tim Wilson MP, representing the Attorney-General The Hon. George Brandis QC”. 

I thought “The Hon” was reserved for members who are ministers or former ministers. Of course, inside the house MPs are addressed as an honourable member for Bullamakanka, or whatever, regardless of indications to the contrary, but to a pile of pro bono barristers he should simply remain for present purposes, Mr Wilson, or at a pinch, the Hon. Freedom Boy.

1 . Mediocre one day...

The Hon. Bookshelves Brandis “QC” must have delegated this sensitive task to his protégé while he was busy preparing for his appearance last weekend at the Victorian state council of the Nasty Party.  

True to form the attorney-general put in a performance worthy of a Christmas panto. Sitting in front of two prominent microphones he waxed to Fabergé egg enthusiast Michael Kroger that the people in the Queensland Liberal National Party who place him top of the senate ticket are “very, very mediocre”. 

Ain’t that true? But never did it enter Bookshelves’ chrome-like skull that the microphones were live and his banter with the egg-man would be scrambled all over the media. 

The “very, very mediocre” leader of the Queensland opposition, poor Mr Tim Nicholls, had to put out a statement, saying: “My team is on the ground, listening to Queenslanders across the state.”  

Increasingly I find members of the Canberra administration lying on the ground muttering, “Bookshelves, Bookshelves, what can we do with him?”

2 . Everything is loathsome

So nice to see Danish plastic brick maker Lego pull its advertising and sponsorship from British junk paper The Daily Mail

Lego had run giveaways in the rag, but as a result of public unhappiness about the paper’s hate-based agenda on immigration and minorities, it announced: “We have finished the agreement with The Daily Mail and are not planning any future promotional activity with the newspaper.” 

This gesture has been encouraged by an organisation called Stop Funding Hate, which campaigns to dissuade advertisers financing Fleet Street bigotry. 

Actually, what fired Lego’s withdrawal from the Mail was its front-page screamer “Enemies of the people”, directed at the appeal judges’ decision that the royal prerogative (i.e. ministerial actions) did not supplant parliamentary sovereignty in invoking article 50 – the official process for Britain to depart the EU. 

The Lord Chancellor, Liz Truss, who is now regarded as Britain’s version of George Brandis, said she wasn’t perturbed by this attack on the judiciary: “It’s not the job of the government ... to police headlines.” 

One of the tabloids suggested the appeal court decision might somehow be connected to the fact that the Master of the Rolls is gay. 

If the wretched politicians weren’t going to defend the judges’ right to interpret the constitution, then the public rallied to the cause. Such was the outcry about “Enemies of the people” that Lego took fright and said it would stop giving money to the newspaper operation of Jonathan Harmsworth, son of “Bubbles” Rothermere

If only more companies would respond in a similar fashion to the hate media here.

3 . MK ultra

Talking of gay judges, Gadfly was seated one along from The Hon. Michael Kirby at a lawyers’ banquet on Tuesday night, atop Sydney Tower, from where we could look down on everything. 

He hasn’t drawn breath since leaving the High Court in 2009. This week he’s off overseas to attend an international body on AIDS and law reform. He chaired a UN commission of inquiry on North Korea and most recently he’s served on the UN secretary-general’s panel on access to essential healthcare. 

He’s an honorary professor at 12 Australian and overseas universities and is in constant demand as an international arbitrator. He looked dismayed when I suggested he stand still and smell the roses.

4 . Netflix and Phil

I hope everyone has been watching Netflix’s sumptuous series The Crown, a drama about the tensions within the House of Windsor/Battenberg. 

There was a telling moment in about episode eight, when preparations are being made for the 1954 royal tour of the Commonwealth. Prince Philip, played by Matt Smith, is getting his military wardrobe fitted and complains that it is nothing more than a “costume”. 

The young Greek declares that the tour is an attempt to put a shiny, smiling face on a dying empire. In words with which few today would disagree, Phil says: 

“Nobody wants to face it or deal with it, so they send us out on the Commonwealth roadshow. If the costumes are grand enough, if the tiaras sparkle enough, if the titles are preposterous enough, the mythology incomprehensible enough, then we’ll still be fine.”

For God’s sake, David Flint, where are you?

5 . Ming the Merciful

While Drongo Dutton is laying about any ethnic group that comes into view it might be worth remembering what “Pig Iron” Bob Menzies said about the subject. 

Menzies was the PM who signed us up to the 1951 Refugee Convention, which luminaries such as Scott Morrison and Dutton would dearly like to shred. 

Professor Bill Maley from the ANU, in his book What is a Refugee?, reminded us of a speech from 1949 by Ming, who said that policy with respect to refugees “must be applied by a sensible administration, neither rigid nor peremptory but wise, exercising judgement on individual cases, always remembering the basic principle but always understanding that harsh administration never yet improved any law but only impaired it, and that notoriously harsh administration raises up to any law hostilities that may some day destroy it”. 

You’d scarcely credit that Drongo has found a prominent place in the party of Menzies. Actually, in 1949 Australia resettled 75,486 displaced persons from the International Refugee Organisation. Last year we accepted 13,756 people under our “humanitarian program”. 

6 . Mirabella vista

Gadfly loves a good sighting and there were two this week. Our man on the Bourke Street tram said he saw the comfortably upholstered figure of Sophie Mirabella boarding the iron horse laden with shopping from Myer and a large handbag, then clinging to a strap for a jerky ride across town. 

Oh, for a Commonwealth car. 

Some stops later the new personal assistant to Gina Rinehart alighted from the tram and sat herself in a cafe on a side-street filled with Asian eating houses and watch repairers. She lit up a ciggie to contemplate how a once safe Liberal seat was stolen from her by a cartel of activists, unionists and “Melbourne-based feminists”. 

And then there was Peta Credlin on Monday evening seen with a bunch of other dames going through the door of Potts Point noshery The Apollo, no doubt to get stuck into plates of taramasalata and grilled octopus.

7 . Trumpette #1

It might be uplifting if we had a weekly item about Donald Trump, just so we can all be up to speed with interesting morsels of new information. 

One that has come to hand from the past few days is that Donald’s grandfather, Friedrich Trump, was a draft dodger in Germany and was refused permission to stay in his homeland. 

Historian Roland Paul found a document in the Rhineland-Palatinate archives showing that Friedrich went to the United States in 1885, where he ran a brothel in Alaska for people seeking their fortunes on the goldfields. 

Friedrich made a fortune from the sex trade, with customers paying him in gold nuggets. He returned to Kallstadt in 1901 where he met and fell in love with the intriguingly named Elizabeth Christ

The authorities refused him permission to stay in Germany because quite apart from avoiding military service he had illegally left the country in the first place. All of this has now been reported in the German tabloid Bild.

Friedrich returned to the US, which is the reason that grandson Donald is today the US president-elect. I had no idea that he had a grandmother called Christ or that his grandfather ran a knock-shop. This explains a lot.


Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on November 26, 2016 as "Gadfly: Fudge of honour".

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