A treat is in store for the cavalcade of Australian barristers sweeping through London and Dublin in July on their two-yearly overseas knees-up. It looks like a pretty flatout affair, kicking off with drinks at Scarfes Bar, at the Rosewood London, named because of Gerald Scarfe’s artwork and his inspiration for the cocktails. By Richard Ackland.

Downer and out in Dublin and London

A treat is in store for the cavalcade of Australian barristers sweeping through London and Dublin in July on their two-yearly overseas knees-up. 

It looks like a pretty flatout affair, kicking off with drinks at Scarfes Bar, at the Rosewood London, named because of Gerald Scarfe’s artwork and his inspiration for the cocktails. 

Then there’s one day of talks, including a session after morning tea on the rather tired old topic of 18C. Next day it’s off to Dublin, where after lunch there’s a tour of the Irish bar and courts, visits to the law library and meets and greets with Irish judges. 

More sessions, one on suing Facebook, a junior bar advocacy competition, a hypothetical and then a gala dinner at King’s Inns. 

I nearly forgot, the program includes the twilight race meeting at Bellewstown Racecourse for an eight-race program of “national hunt and flat races”. 

However, the star attraction would surely be the opening address by H.  E. Fishnets Downer, on a topic yet to be written for him. 

It’s got to be worth the tax-deductible $5500 in conference fees, plus $1800 for “accompanying persons”, plus accommodation, plus airfares.


Meanwhile, Georgina “Baby Fishnets” Downer continues to set the world alight as an “adjunct fellow” at the Institute for Paid Advocacy. In a scarifying Good Weekend article on three female wunderkinds of the right-wing talk circus, Jane Cadzow quotes young Fishy as saying that penalty rates for the most poorly paid workers should be abolished, and while we’re about it we should think about getting rid of the minimum wage. 

Both exciting ideas to take to her next Liberal Party preselection contest as she struggles to find a seat on the green leather in Canberra. It gets better, or worse. Young George is set to combat “the zealotry of the climate industry” and her refreshing approach is that we should just get used to global warming. 

“I’m of the view that you’ve got to adjust to a changing climate, regardless of the cause of the change.” 

It just goes to show how a third-class degree not only produces great thinking but can deliver wonderful scholarships for postgraduate study and foreign affairs traineeships in the department where Daddy is the minister.

Skye wail

While in the realm of newspaper celebrity interviews it’s hard to go past the Financial Times lunch with Gina Miller, the investment fund manager who took the Brexit vote to court in Britain. 

Ms Miller turns out to be a high-level seeker of thrills. “We went to South Africa and then jumped out of a helicopter at 14,000 feet. The children were nine and 10 at the time.” 

Other adventures were also in store. Gina took the little ones to see “a tribe of Indians that were really remote in South America ... I wanted them to see a species of giant otter that will probably soon be extinct.” 

Lest you think these children have a cushy life, the Brexit litigant decided they needed to go to Chernobyl “to see babies still being born with deformities”. 

“I think it’s important that they don’t get complacent about the life we have.” 

Somehow, your heart goes out to the Miller kids. 

Then we turn to the interview with Skye “High” Leckie, published in the real estate bible of Sydney’s eastern suburbs, the Wentworth Courier. Skye is the wife of the potty-mouthed former TV executive David Leckie and a leading light in Sydney society, described by Barry Humphries as a contradiction in terms. 

The most enlightening part of the interview, and there weren’t many, was Skye’s observations about her great friend with the popped collars, the prime minister and his poll numbers: 

“I think everyone forgets how difficult it is. He’s always wanted to do this and he is happy doing it. But there’s no point saying ‘do this, do that’, because he just won’t do it. The more you do that, the more I think he won’t. He has a plan. We just have to wait and see.” 

That’s the sort of insight that has been missing from a lot of the political analysis.

After Clarke

God knows there’s precious little political satire in this wretched country and now that John Clarke is dead there’s even less. 

Bryan Dawe said of their TV collaboration: “It was the in-between. It was the space between our work as Clarke and Dawe: the conversations, the phone calls, the emails, the fun, the empathy, the understanding. The friendship. And all that means.” 

Gadfly’s own memory of John Clarke was swimming with him in Bass Strait, of all places. It was at Phillip Island where he had a property and was contributing to the native flora restoration activities of the Western Port Seagrass Partnership. He suggested a dip while we were lunching on roots and berries at Dawe’s nearby hacienda. 

The waves were enormous, yet Clarke bounded into the surf, leaving your diarist thinking we were in for a sort of Harold Holt moment. The wind howling around us he declared that he loved swimming in “George Bass’s personal strait”. 

Often forgotten is Clarke’s contribution to poetry, with two important volumes, The Complete Book of Australian Verse and the later The Even More Complete Book of Australian Verse

Clarke explained in the introduction to the first volume that it was assumed poetry came from England, and that even though English was a relatively new language to Australia, examples of important local verse have been unearthed. 

Some were not included in his anthology because they were entirely in the oral tradition, such as Neville Shelley of Eildon, or Stumpy Byron, VC, who mainly wrote overseas, in Greece and Italy. 

Nor could Shagger Tennyson or Brian Browning be found in either volume, which is a pity. Browning was the great cricket lover and who can forget his immortal poem that commenced: “Oh to be in April now that England’s here”?

School ties

I see that among the elected trustees of Sydney Grammar School are Mr M. Tedeschi, AM, QC, MA, LLB and Ms S. Krieger, LLB, LLM, FAICD, MBA. 

This must give rise to some intriguing moments when the trustees have their meetings because Sibylle Krieger is the wife of Sydney barrister Bruce McClintock, SC, who has been giving senior crown prosecutor Mark Tedeschi a touch-up in the witness box in the Gordon Wood malicious prosecution case. 

Among other bruising moments, McClintock submitted that Tedeschi had illegitimately put little drops of poison in the mind of the jury at the Caroline Byrne murder trial. 

I’m sure Tedeschi understands that this is all part of the duty of Wood’s barrister in the civil case, which has been adjourned for final submissions next month. 

Nonetheless, McClintock has made himself scarce from the various Sydney Grammar events his wife must attend, particularly to mark the retirement of the headmaster Dr John Vallance, MA, PhD.

Trumpette #17

What can we make of Dr Harold Bornstein, MD, a fellow of the American College of Gastroenterology? He’s the Pussy Grabber’s personal physician and wouldn’t you know it from the way he writes his diagnosis of Trump’s health. 

This one from December 2015 when the Grabber was preparing his run: “Over the past 39 years, I am pleased to report that Mr Trump has had no significant medical problems. Mr Trump has had a recent complete medical examination that showed only positive results. Actually, his blood pressure, 110/65, and laboratory test results were astonishingly excellent... His physical strength and stamina are extraordinary... If elected, Mr Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.” 

Trump couldn’t have put it better himself. Anyway, it’s not bad for a man who lived on Lay’s potato chips, Doritos and KFC buckets. 

The treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, explained in an interview last month that the president is so strong and healthy because he has “perfect genes”. Treasury secretaries know these things.

Doc Bornstein also thinks hair is important. It’s as important to him as it is to the president. He prescribes and takes finasteride, sold as Propecia, which not only treats the enlarged prostate but deals with pattern hair loss and in the process does something weird to testosterone. 

Bornstein is proud of his shoulder-length locks and told Esquire magazine that the president “has all his hair; I have all my hair”. 

The doctor doesn’t like interviews and once told a journalist, “I happen to have known [the New York Times publishers] the Sulzbergers for 50 years. I’m going to make sure you don’t ever work again if you do this.”

Bornstein’s business card reads: Dottore molto famoso.


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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on April 15, 2017 as "Gadfly: Downer and out in Dublin and London".

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

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