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

Animal crackers

A big night last week at Woolloomooloo’s Ovolo Hotel, as we gathered for the 2017 Voiceless Awards. This is the outfit dedicated to fighting animal cruelty, founded by the father and daughter team of Brian and Ondine Sherman, with additional adornment by Michael Kirby and Jane Goodall as patrons. 

It was standing room only as everyone was vertical for the drinks and vegan dinner – tiny carrots with pesto served in cardboard boxes and cherry tomato tartlets. I could see some of the guests aching to get to Kingsleys further down the wharf for a steak and eggs. 

Talking of eggs, Voiceless has launched a new mission on behalf of the 12 million or so battery caged hens in Australia. There are between five and seven hens to a cage, apparently, each with a space no bigger than an A4 piece of paper. This leads to osteoporosis and chronic pain from bone fractures. 

Chooks experience fear, anxiety and pleasure, along with the pain – a similar range of responses and intelligence to that found among members of the National Party. What happens to tiny male chicks is too horrible to mention. For the first time in 15 years the model code of practice for poultry is under review and Voiceless is worried that it will be used to lock in the continued use of battery cages. 

There were bundles of cash presented during the evening to organisations such as Animal Liberation NSW, Australia for Dolphins, the Animal Law Institute and Let Greyhounds Run Free. 

I could see Percy Allan in the crowd, a former chairman of Greyhounds NSW and a donor to Voiceless, rolling his eyes at that last one. 

1 . Vanda rouge

Hardened court reporters were gasping in amazement during the Lili Chel defamation case against Fairfax Media and journalist Vanda Carson

In December 2010, Carson had reported Land and Environment Court proceedings brought by the city council claiming that a risqué onstage sex performance at Lili’s Kings Cross nightclub, The Rouge, plus other problems such as violent altercations and drink-spiking, were in breach of the licence conditions. 

The jurors at the defamation trial had no sooner settled into their seats than they were subjected to nearly an hour of uninterrupted porn, from CCTV footage taken at The Rouge seven years ago. It starred a stripper, a dildo, a whip and a man with bare buttocks. 

Wily Clive Evatt, appearing for Chel, asked his client to describe the activities on the screen, which clearly was too much for Justice Robert Beech-Jones, who said: “I think we can all do without the editorial commentary, Mr Evatt.” 

Evatt said that his client did not host the onstage party or witness it, and in any event she thought it was not onstage sex but merely “audience participation”. 

Chel also had a different view of The Rouge than the one portrayed in the newspaper. It was not a violent haunt of bikies, rather a “fashionable upmarket place” that hosted poetry readings, art exhibitions, fashion shows, book launches and music nights, attracting “famous people and movie stars” such as Baz Luhrmann, Lachlan Murdoch, Ian Thorpe and Jamie Durie

Her husband, Scott Orrock, a tattoo parlour operator and former president of the Nomads bikie gang who is thought to have defected to the Hells Angels, is in custody while being tried on charges relating to the alleged bashing and “de-gloving” of a man.

One of Chel’s character witnesses was James Saleam, a far-right personality and chairman of the Australia First Party. He said he had known the plaintiff since she was 16, having met her mother at poetry readings, and that what Fairfax had published was “false journalism”. 

The jury must have partially agreed because after four weeks of hearings it found that the publisher’s defence of two of the plaintiff’s defamatory imputations had failed. There’s a damages hearing at the end of this month. You just wouldn’t read about it.

2 . Lizzie the Riveter

Lawyers have embarked on special training to manage their “unconscious bias”. The Law Council has arranged for diversity and inclusion specialists Symmetra to deliver face-to-face workshops, train-the-trainer modules and online courses. The program is designed to overcome the human hardwiring whereby we instinctively prefer those with attributes or experiences similar to our own. This can improve diversity and even boost productivity by helping law shops “to attract and retain top talent”. Importantly, participants can earn all-important continuing professional development points in the process.

Judges are bias free, so they do not have to participate.

This contribution towards women’s equality was only topped during the week by Senator Otto Abetz’s International Women’s Day tweet, featuring HM the Queen, who, like him, has ancestral roots in the Fatherland.

“Queen Elizabeth II has demonstrated that hard work and commitment earn you far more respect than demanding that people make way and artificially promote you simply because of your sex,” Otto tweeted, showing once again how smart you have to be to get to the top of the Liberal senate ticket for Tasmania.

3 . Tim talks

Another tweet from within the Canberra press gallery alerted Gadfly to the news that Freedom Boy Tim Wilson had signed on with Profile Talent Management, which represents “the finest media talent and artists in Australia”. 

He’s in there with Fifi Box, Islam expert Sonia Kruger, bachelorette Georgia Love, Molly Meldrum, Steve Vizard and Dannii Minogue

The gush is intense: “Tim is one of Australia’s most challenging and thought provoking opinion leaders”. He has a “solutions-focused perspective ... that gets people engaging and talking”, because he is “one of Australia’s few researched and credible voices on public policy”. 

You’d scarcely guess that is the same Freedom Boy from the Institute of Paid Advocacy’s school of babble and log-rolling. 

Still, it’s nice that he can be booked for celebrity gigs while serving the poor sods of Goldstein as their MP. 

4 . Peanuts gallery

Cost-cutting at Sydney’s Art Gallery Society hit the headlines last week with the axing of two experienced managers, corporate development director Mark Manton and financial controller John Kamleitner

However, the penny-pinching hasn’t extended to the office of the society’s executive director, Ron Ramsey, who is hiring an assistant executive director on a starting salary of $100,000 plus. Staff were told only that a new executive assistant position was to be created after Manton and Kamleitner were shown the door.

Ramsey took society members on two overseas tours last year – to Britain and the US – and is soon off to Hong Kong for the annual art fair. Society president Brian Ladd has his hands full with a tour of the art treasures of Madrid and Andalusia.

Meanwhile, rumours abound that Dr Christopher Allen, art critic for The Catholic Boys Daily, and John McDonald from The Sydney Morning Herald, have been banned from leading further members’ art expeditions overseas or indeed giving lectures at the gallery.

John McDonald says he has also heard these rumours.

5 . Trumpette #12

I see from my premium horseracing tip sheet that South African trainer Justin Snaith has a horse in his stable called President Trump, an unraced colt that was unfocused and difficult. Snaith said he found President Trump to be “extremely stubborn; I considered blinkers and a tongue-tie but he was so unmanageable that I had no option but to geld him”. 

However, it’s on the squinty-eyed Melania Trump that Gadfly would prefer to focus this week. She’s fresh from reading a Dr Seuss book to sick children on National Read Across America Day. 

The book was Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, which has many uplifting messages, as Mrs Trump told the kiddies, including this one: “You’ll be famous as famous can be, with everyone watching you win on TV...” 

For further cutting-edge stuff, we turn to last year’s New Yorker profile, headed “The Model American”, where we learn more about the former Slovenian model Melanija Knavs, daughter of Viktor and Amalija Knavs, and her upbringing in Sevnica. Her maternal grandfather accidentally crossbred a Ptuj onion and an Egyptian onion, which created the famous Raka red onion. 

In 2002, two years before Donald and Melania became engaged, he visited Slovenia for three hours, landing at Ljubljana’s Brnik Airport in his Boeing and proceeding by limo to dinner at the Grand Hotel Toplice on Lake Bled. Mr and Mrs Knavs were there, but didn’t speak English, so Melania translated. On the way out, after onion escalope with pan-fried potatoes and forest blueberries, Trump asked Mr Knavs, “Is this place for sale?” 

Of course, Melania is an immigrant to the US, something that normally might worry Donald. He’s concerned by “the people that are from all over and they’re killers and rapists and they’re coming into this country”. In view of this, Lauren Collins, who wrote the New Yorker profile, observed that Trump “might consider building a wall around his pants”.


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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on March 11, 2017 as "Gadfly: Animal crackers".

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

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