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

Going to extremes

Since Gadfly last filed the world has gone to hell in a handbasket. That’s what happens when you take your eye off the ball and the summer ennui leaves you too weak to type.

Donald Trump continues to astound with his Goebbels-esque “bigger the lie” approach to alternative facts. Then over the horizon comes Dutch nasty Geert Wilders, whose hair is as scary as Trump’s and who is leading the polls for the March elections in the Netherlands.

Marine Le Pen in France is not far behind and together with the crypto-fascists running the shop in Hungary and Poland large chunks of the world are in a frightful mess.

Thank God we live in a land of milk and honey where sanity and dazzling political leadership prevail.

1 . Frock shock as Markson marries

I was saddened that more coverage wasn’t given to the wedding of ace reporter from the House of Moloch, Sharri Markson – particularly as her wedding gown could not have been more fetching.

Where were the double-page spreads in New Idea or Woman’s Day? They missed a sales opportunity bigger than the adventures of Di and Dodi. It was left to the venerable Daily Mail to do the honours with the catchy headline: “Controversial reporter Sharri Markson wears very daring ‘lingerie-inspired’ gown as she ties the knot with investor Chaz Heitner.”

The nuptials took place in the New South Wales Southern Highlands, with the Mail saying Sharri went for “a very risqué look”. To Gadfly’s untrained eye it looked as though she was wearing a white bikini with floral appliqué attached to some extravagant yards of mosquito netting, allowing for plenty of exposed leg.

As the Mail put it: “The corseted creation featured a sheer and strapless bust with boning and an equally daring skirt.”

If only we were allowed to run photos on this page.

2 . Honourable sighting

Some significant holiday sightings also need to be reported. First of all, what was Bookshelves Brandis doing sitting with some fresh-faced twentysomethings in a cafe amid the car yards, gyms, greyhound tracks and Muscle Marys of Albion, a louche north-eastern borough of Brisneyland?

It seemed so out of place for the star of the Quilpie Show and Save the Bilby Ball.

More apposite was a sighting of Justice Liz Fullerton at the Roslyn Packer Theatre for the Sydney Festival’s offering of Measure for Measure, in Russian, from Moscow’s Pushkin Drama Theatre.

She would have found some light relief in a play about how justice in the hands of the wrong types can be corrupted, particularly as the jury was out in the Robert Xie murder trial, over which she skilfully presided.

Shakespeare in Russian is amazingly theatrical, showing us that movement, looks and sounds are as effective methods of communication as the native tongue.

I’m rather hoping Her Honour delivers the Xie sentencing judgement in Russian.

3 . Centrelink stink over dues diligence

Canberra’s Department of Inhuman Services, under the trusty baton of minister Alan Tudge, is grappling none too superbly with the Centrelink robo-robbery fiasco.

Tudgy insists the debt-recovery system is working splendidly and there’s no need to scrap it, even though experts are now saying that the total incorrect debt notifications is closer to 90 per cent, not the 20 per cent claimed by the mandarins.

To show just how spot-on the debt assessments are, one person in Gadfly’s orbit tells me she received her first notification, sensitively timed to arrive just before Christmas, saying she owed Centrelink $25,000.

Wait a minute, no it wasn’t – on second thoughts she was advised her debt was now $9000. Hold on again, more pressing of buttons and clanking of levers revealed a fresh figure: $3000 due and payable.

What could be fairer than that?

4 . Arts college row back in the frame

The legal battle between students and the University of Sydney is still at the skirmish stage, but things could get lively fairly soon.

Late in 2015 the university told students at the Sydney College of the Arts that it was closing its campus at the old Callan Park asylum in Rozelle.

This magnificent property was gifted to the university in 1991, in the days of Dame Killer Kramer, under a 99-year lease. Now, according to the bean counters, the estate is too expensive to maintain for yarts types: students will be moved from the harbour foreshore to the main campus at Camperdown and some of the degree options will be curtailed.

In response, students want their money back, claiming breach of contract and misleading, deceptive and unconscionable conduct on the part of
the university, with one of their number, Tim Heiderich, running a test case against the varsity in the Civil and Administrative Tribunal.  

His lawyers include Thomas McLoughlin from the Students Representative Council Legal Service and barrister Meher Gaven, who has drafted and settled the pleadings – she is a former SCA student, now a consumer law guru.

It looks as though there’s already been preliminary engagement over the university complying with an order for production of documents. 

There has also been a revised final plan for the college, done in an attempt to sweeten things and head off the consumer claims – yet it’s still a long way from the original promise of a standalone art school on the great heritage Kirkbride complex.

5 . Tome invasions

Meanwhile, books are being tossed out of Sydney University’s Fisher Library at an alarming rate. One snout tells Gadfly truckloads of grey wheelie bins full of discarded hardback volumes have been heading towards landfill sites.

It’s part of a culling designed to get rid of multiple copies, on the basis that one copy of any book is sufficient for 53,000 enrolled students. Of course, ebooks are said to be on hand as replacement.

Old library hands wonder why all these tomes in good condition, including first editions and large and expensive art books, could not be given to charities or shipped to the long-stay residents of Manus Island or Nauru.

One concern is whether the location of duplicate copies is checked before a book is chucked. Staff who question this wholesale book composting have been given the brush-off. As one library staffer said: “It’s like East Germany in here.”

6 . Maurice warms to climate debate

Don’t panic about all that stuff from NASA and the World Meteorological Organisation about 2016 being the hottest year on record and the claim last year is the third conservative year of new record temperatures.

I’m still greatly comforted by the estimations of former stocks and shares commission agent Maurice Newman that we’re entering a period of global cooling.

Maurice has warned us that it is the sun that causes climate change, not humans, and that the sun is becoming more “anaemic”. Far from not coping with global warming, old Comb-over is worried that we are ill equipped to face global cooling, with shorter growing seasons and likely food shortages.

Maurice has not revised his insistence “the global warming pause is now nearly 18 years old”, which makes NASA and the WMO look hopelessly out of step.

7 . Piss-elegant

The wonderful news that Sydney has the second most expensive housing in the world, after Hong Kong, has naturally seen the gentrification of former down-at-heel suburbs.

Take Potts Point, for instance, in the inner east, walking distance to the city, close to the harbour, splendid eateries – the whole nine yards.

One renovated terrace house in the suburb sold last year for $13 million. Thirteen million – for four bedrooms.

I noticed as I was sitting opposite in a well-known eating establishment that just after 10pm two gentlemen stopped outside this most expensive property and urinated on its small front garden.

How’s that for gentrification?

8 . Trumpette #6

While Jared Kushner, aka Mr Ivanka Trump, was doing his consigliore gig at the White House (gutting Obamacare, the environment, the TPP, etc), his little brother, Joshua, was out amid the pink hats in Washington’s Women’s March, protesting against the pussy-grabber for whom his brother works.  

Who said families stick together like merde to a blanket? Maybe they learnt from the school of family bonding perfected by their dear old dad, Charles Kushner.  

Charles got into a lot of bother with the authorities, who charged him with tax offences and financial crimes, for which he did time in the slammer. His brother-in-law was assisting the federal investigators so, to encourage him not to be so helpful, Charles hired a hooker to lure his sister’s husband to a motel, where he had thoughtfully rigged up a secret camera. The sex tape was then sent to his sister, ensuring it arrived on the day of
a family get-together.  

Surely, this must be inspiration for Trump’s fixer and son-in-law.

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on January 28, 2017 as "Gadfly: Going to extremes".

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

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