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

The munificent Seven

Publishers and broadcasters around the nation were delighted this week to get a missive from lawyers for Seven West Media, warning them off going anywhere near Amber Harrison, the woman who has so upset the Seven Network and its unimpeachable boss, Tim “Woopsie” Worner

Seven’s current affairs sleuths made such a name for themselves dishing the dirt and uncovering the secret lives of victims that it makes for a special treat to have the company insist that everyone else keep off the patch. 

Lawyers from the TV company’s law shop said they have obtained an interim injunction that prevents Ms Harrison from: “disclosing, copying or reproducing any confidential information belong [sic] to Seven”. 

This includes text messages, email communications, photographs and “all other forms of electronic and physical documents and communications...” 

It gets better, or worse. Amber is prevented from “giving any interviews to any medium or media, or from making, authorising, procuring any public statement, publication, off the record comment, background information, publications, press releases, or from participating in social media, about Seven...” 

Importantly, she can’t make “any adverse statement about, publicly disparaging or otherwise bringing into disrepute” Seven, Woopsie or other employees or officers of the company. 

“In the event that your organisation is considering publishing or otherwise dealing with of [sic] any information (directly or otherwise) by Ms Harrison, we recommend that you consider the potential consequences of frustrating or nullifying the order,” writes lawyer Ruveni Kelleher

While Amber is prevented from dishing it out, Seven isn’t. At Wednesday’s event to unveil the latest company results, chairman Kerry Stokes as good as accused Amber of stealing money, while Seven director and depression campaigner Jeff Kennett went to town on her in the press. “Enough is enough,” declared Jeff as he poured boiling oil down on Harrison’s head from the Seven battlements. 

Invariably, there’s a special level of respect for big corporate gorillas with serried ranks of hired guns who try to crush maidens in their maw.

1 . Acts of Worner

While the legal letter brings clunky construction to fresh heights, it is also apparent that Chairman Stokes has been to the Dame Edna school of language refinement. 

From Wednesday’s meeting we find this from Kerry, making consoling sounds about Woopsie: 

“At the end of the day it has been stressful for he and his family. Of course it has.” 

He got testy when asked about director Sheila McGregor’s departure. “The reason remains between her and I.” 

And there was his special tribute to Whoops: “We appreciate a great deal the diligence he has put in under the circumstances and how he has driven the company to where it is at the moment.” 

Yes, with profits down 90 per cent and the share price galloping south.

2 . National toaster threat advisory

Last week Gillian Tett of the Financial Times referred to a study by the Washington-based Cato Institute on the statistical probability of refugees committing terror attacks. 

The findings are sobering, despite the intoxicating efforts of Donald Trump’s people. Apparently, only three refugees have committed fatal terror attacks on United States soil since 1975. Three in 42 years, and all three were Cubans who came to the US before the Refugee Act of 1980 tightened things up. 

In those four decades the data indicates that the prospect of dying in a terror attack at the hands of a refugee of any religion is one in 3.64 billion, in any given year. 

This is tiny compared with gun violence, which kills more than 13,000 Americans a year (excluding suicides). 

You have more chance of being killed on home soil by an electric toaster on crumpet setting falling into your bathwater than you do by a terrorist refugee. 

Since 1975, there have been no terror-related killings of Americans on US soil committed by nationals of any of the seven countries in Trump’s executive order. 

The president analysed the risk in his own special way, tweeting: “Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril ... People pouring in. Bad!” 

Pouring in to plot another Bowling Green massacre, the non-existent horror Republicans accused the media of not reporting.

3 . Opera cake stall

Soon Sydney will be sinking beneath the weight of function centres alluringly located at major arts venues. 

The yarts community is incandescent with fury about Opera House plans for a function centre and the conversion of a ballet rehearsal room into a kitchen. 

Heritage expert Kylie Winkworth told The Sydney Morning Herald that the Opera House was being turned into a food, beverage and retail destination, with bigger bars and bigger spaces for hire. 

The image is of a sort of harbourside Westfield centre. Corporate “sleepovers” at the Opera House are still being bedded down.  Who knows – you might be lucky enough to find yourself kipping next to Woopsie Worner.

Just so you know who’s in charge, the trustees of what was once a building dedicated to the performing arts are Nicholas Moore (Macquarie Bank); Helen Coonan (a director of Crown Resorts); Matthew Fuller (director of the Taronga Western Plains Zoo); Brenna Hobson (theatre producer and manager); Chris Knoblanche (ex-Citigroup, and boutique investment bank Caliburn); Deborah Mailman (actor); Peter Mason (professional company director); Catherine Powell (Walt Disney Australia); Jillian Segal (ex-law firm partner and ASX director); and Phillip Wolanski (property developer). 

The CEO is Louise Herron, with a career in law and investment banking. Start writing to them all now, expressing your excitement at their dire plans. 

Not to be outdone, the State Library of New South Wales will soon be in competition, with a bar and function centre on the roof of the magnificent old building facing Shakespeare Place. 

In time, the Art Gallery of NSW will also offer even more splendid venues for quaffing and schmoozing once its extensions come on stream. And there’s the Botanic Gardens, with its rolling lawns dotted with marquees pumping out doof music.

4 . Trumpette #9

By now some will have got their peepers onto Sidney Blumenthal’s salivating February 16 article in the London Review of Books, “A Short History of the Trump Family”. 

You’ll need a good long shower after reading this appraisal of the tinsel-encrusted fakery of the US president. “What he represents, above all, is the triumph of an underworld of predators, hustlers, mobsters, clubhouse politicians and tabloid sleaze that festered in a corner of New York City, a vindication of his mentor, the Mafia lawyer Roy Cohn...” 

Quite a bit of acreage is given over to Cohn’s influence on Trump, who offered his highest praise to this godfather-like figure – he was “a total genius... he brutalised for you”. 

Cohn made a name for himself as Senator Joseph McCarthy’s chief counsel in the communist witch-hunts of the 1950s. When the Red-bashing petered out, Cohn turned his skills to the “Lavender Scare”, a campaign against homosexuals in government jobs, even though Cohn himself was a closeted gay. 

Trump and Cohn met at Le Club in 1973, when the property developer was being sued for racial discrimination by the Justice Department. According to Roger Stone, a Cohn protégé, dirty trickster and “ratfucker” for Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign in 1972, the Mafia lawyer would literally dictate pieces for Page Six of the New York Post. After all, Rupert Murdoch was also a client. 

Trump learnt the tabloid trade from Cohn, who ran his law business from a townhouse on 68th Street, filled with “a running crew of attractive young gay men, models, cigar-chomping politicians, gangsters and journalist hangers-on”. Quite the place. 

Blumenthal claims that Cohn “finagled” a federal judgeship for Trump’s sister, Maryanne Trump Barry. Gadfly, of course, makes no such claim. In 1986 Cohn was disbarred for unethical behaviour and a month later he died of AIDS. 

Trump turned away from him when he was dying. Cohn asked whether Donald could find a room in one of his hotels for his former lover and assistant, who was also dying. Trump got him a “tacky” room and sent the bills to Roy, who refused to pay. 

Trump flunkies then called around to evict the dying man. What a mensch.


Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on February 18, 2017 as "Gadfly: The munificent Seven".

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

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