Diary

Gadfly
Abercrombie and filch

What a terrible time for stalwarts of the Victorian Liberal Party Council, Andrew Abercrombie and Caroline Elliott. They have been on the receiving end of party president Michael Kroger’s rebukes over the former state director Damien Mantach’s trick of making
$1.5 million disappear from the coffers. 

Poor Abercrombie has had his own problems, what with $1 million worth of jewels being lifted from his Toorak spread, while Caroline is the daughter of old John “Pig’s Arse” Elliott.  

It seemed the Russian egg fancier and a consort of Janet the Planet was saying these two members of the party’s administrative committee should be shafted because they didn’t have their eyes closely on the balance sheet while Damo was using members’ funds to buy stocks, shares and cafes.

Anyway, all is not lost for Caroline, as one of her factional supporters in the machine, the minister for communications, Senator Mitch Fifield, has plonked her on the board of the National Film and Sound Archive. 

Caroline’s mum, Lorraine Elliott, was also president of the board of Melbourne’s Australian Centre for the Moving Image in the Ted Baillieu days, while Mitch used to be on the staff of Kroger’s bestie Peter Costello

Small ponds.

Remembering the forgotten people

Meanwhile, candlelight celebrations for the legacy of Bob Menzies are under way. May 22 marks the 75th anniversary of Ming’s “forgotten people” speech, now being marketed by the Menzies “Research” Centre as the “greatest oration in Australian political history”. 

Nick Cater, former deputy editor of The Sunday Smellograph and now executive director of the MRC, says that “at 9.15pm, 75 years to the minute after Menzies began speaking, his speech will be delivered again by a distinguished actor [and] broadcast live to the nation via the Macquarie Radio Network”. 

There’s to be a grand feast at Old Parliament House that night, where for $250 members of the public can mingle with Little Winston Howard and Alan “The Parrot” Jones

Pig Iron must be turning in his plot in Melbourne’s General Cemetery.

The Irving end

When all was quiet over Easter, Gadfly repaired to the cinema to see Denial, the Rachel WeiszTom Wilkinson re-creation of the David Irving v Penguin Books and Deborah Lipstadt defamation trial. 

Holocaust denier Irving sued over Lipstadt’s book, which claimed he was a liar and perverter of history. Basically, the defendants had to “prove” the Holocaust and with the assistance of leading libel man of his era Richard Rampton, QC, they did just that. 

For Tom Wilkinson’s Rampton, a Scotch-drinking, sandwich-munching, fly-fishing silk, not to win a case where the Holocaust was on trial was completely unthinkable. 

Anthony Julius, a leading light at top London law shop Mishcon de Reya, was also part of the defence team.

 There was a wonderful scene where the lawyers told a dumbfounded Lipstadt that she would not be giving evidence and Holocaust victims also were not to be put on the stand. This was said with the full expectation by the lawyers that the client would do what she was told. The whole focus was on unstitching Irving and his claim that there were no gas chambers to kill Jews at Auschwitz. To allow the defendant or any survivors near the witness box risked Rampton’s strategy. 

There was a tight moment when, after days of painstaking evidence, Justice Charles Gray popped in the suggestion that Irving could not be a liar if he genuinely believed his claims. 

For a moment the cinema was hushed. But it was not a happy ending for Irving. The court found he was a denier, an anti-Semite and a racist. He couldn’t pay the other side’s enormous costs and was declared bankrupt, losing his home in the process. 

A satisfactory outcome in an era before fake news and alt-facts became the order of the day.

A cup of Joe

Over in the Land of the Free another former defamation plaintiff, Ambassador Joe Hockey, is keeping up his flow of impressive tweets and not letting the North Korean crisis stress him out. This week there was a particular two-part favourite from His Excellency: “... New York has some great Aussie coffee shops, but D.C. is hopeless for good coffee and fresh bread.” 

Two minutes later, he had another thought: “... and btw Americans bake bread to last 17 days on the shelf (but it can last 24-27 days)! It’s not very fresh. So bring on @bakersdelight.” 

Someone noted that it was good to see our man focused on the big issues. Another tweet said: “I could send Joe the tomato I’ve had on my bench for 6 weeks. It scares me. Still red no mould.” 

Meanwhile, back on Sydney’s north shore, there has been no leaning
at Hockeys Property, where the lads have been working their fingers to the bone flogging real estate in a difficult market, with the banks getting increasingly picky. 

It’s a blessed relief that at least the Liberals aren’t tinkering with negative gearing. At the moment Colin, Michael, Karl and Mitch Hockey have listed three lovely apartments at St Leonards-Artarmon and another at Surry Hills, a bit out of their usual zone but showing bold territorial expansion.

Chessell pieces

The Australian Financial Review’s man in London, James Chessell, will soon be heading up editing duties for federal politics, business and the world at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age

It’s part of the latest rejig at the House of Fairfax, announced alongside the $30 million in new “savings” and an exciting new “pro-market” editorial emphasis. 

According to insiders, Chessell is just the man to shift the papers away from their terrible pro-communist stance. Advertisers will be made to feel a lot happier as the metro organs stop picking on banks and the captains of industry. 

Young Chessell has been destined for greatness under Greg “Maserati” Hywood and one of the many former ex-editor executives, Glenn Burge. He also did a spell working in Joe Hockey’s office.

Because of these soothing connections the new national editor has been known as “The Dauphin”.

Trumpette #18

Suddenly Pyongyang is at the centre of the world. Just look at those spooky maps where someone has drawn circles out from the North Korean capital showing how its rockets can reach as far as the United States west coast and even to Wunulla Road, Point Piper. 

As Foreign Minister Julie “Asbestos” Bishop warned us, “Australia is in reach”. Is this the same map drawer that showed Saddam’s rockets reaching for London and its most precious jewel, The River Cafe? 

Which gets us to the people who have their tiny hands close to the buttons – President Trump and hair stylist to the stars Kim Jong-un. Both are endowed with paws that are disproportionately small in relation to their body circumference. 

As the Chinese say, the big hand grasps wood while the small hand catches gold. The acid test for big man stuff is honourable member, with more accompanying self-confidence and a lower incidence of narcissism.

This was confirmed by a study in Korea and was explored by CNN before the US elections, which has resulted in the cable network getting a hard time from the Trump White House. 

Sadly, the ring-to-index-finger ratios of the Pussy Grabber and Kimbo place the world in great danger.

 

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Apr 22, 2017 as "Gadfly: Abercrombie and filch". Subscribe here.

Richard Ackland
is the publisher of Justinian. He is The Saturday Paper’s diarist-at-large and legal affairs editor.

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