Diary

Gadfly
Nonsense of entitlements

While Fairfax boss Greg Plywood lectured the pollies in Canberra about the new world of media and the evils of the ABC having the temerity to promote its online content, his organisation set about its journalists’ redundancy program in a manner that brought confusion and despair.

First up the hacks were told: “To enable a fast turnaround in providing you with … information, you will see that we have excluded all leave entitlements.”

Consultants would help those who sought voluntary redundancy and, subject to approval, they would get a full estimate of the amount of their payout, including leave entitlements.

However, those who applied were given incorrect figures. “We’ll get back to you next week,” they were advised the other day.

So, 60 Sydney Morning Herald hacks, 40 at The Age and 10 to 15 at The Australian Financial Review (despite editor-in-chief Michael Stutchbury’s denials) await the chop, voluntarily or not, as morale goes through the floor and the vulture funds circle.

Oz, the great and powerful

Gadfly’s man in Europe reports that Australia is having a glamorous moment in the sun – glamorous because it’s a reflection of our creative output, not of our tawdry crop of politicians.

Cate Blanchett is on every second bus shelter in Paris, and looking terrific. “Huge” Jackman is on quite a few hoardings and in window displays, while Nicole Kidman won some special award at Cannes.

In various Spanish markets my man has spotted a lot of black T-shirts with AC/DC logos, while Billabong and other surf labels are also in demand. There is a Bondi Beach bar in the French city of Pau and a production of Priscilla is on stage in Bilbao in northern Spain.

Creatures of Abbot

While visiting the Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao my field agent also made the fascinating discovery of a painting called The Temptations of Saint Anthony Abbot. It was painted by Anonymous in the third quarter of the 15th century and depicts a wretched holy man being set upon by a devil and other deformed creatures.

Maybe this magnificent Renaissance painting is actually the expression of a dream by M. Trumble.

Lick and a promise

The Manly Daily, a production from the House of Moloch, had a scoop last week.

Ben & Jerry’s, Tony Abbott’s local ice-cream shop, is refusing to serve two scoops of the same flavour to customers until two people of the same gender can legally marry. This is a real smack in the eye to the local MP, and the manager of the Manly business, Mel Court, presumably no relation to Margaret, wants customers to write their thoughts on a postcard to be hand-delivered to Saint Anthony.

Cater’s gonna hate

Meanwhile, other Moloch rags are keeping to script.

In The Catholic Boys Daily this week, Nick “Goosebumps” Cater rushes to the aid of Benito Dutton who had been criticised by both the Law Council of Australia and the Judicial Conference for making wide-of-the-mark and ill-informed complaints about the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

In the minister’s sights was Justice Duncan Kerr, a former Labor justice minister, who is stepping down as the tribunal’s president. Benito said of the AAT’s migration determinations: “When you look at some of the judgements that are made, the sentences that are handed down … [it’s] always interesting to go back and look at the appointments of the particular Labor government of the day.”

Would it be unfriendly to mention the heap of Liberal Party hacks that Bookshelves Brandis has plonked on the tribunal and that 80 tribunal members who do migration and refugee work won’t be reappointed? Anyway, it’s intriguing that Benito thinks the tribunal hands down “sentences”.

Goosebumps also got into a muddle, declaring: “In theory the AAT must confine its considerations to errors and injustice in administrative matters; it has no jurisdiction on the merits of the case.”

Que? And this from a man who runs the Menzies “Research” Centre. A small amount of research reveals that the task of the AAT is to conduct “independent merits review of administrative decisions made under Commonwealth laws”.

This means the AAT can take a fresh look at the facts, law and policy relating to an administrative decision and arrive at its own ruling. High school legal studies textbooks say much the same thing.

Cater said Benito’s description of AAT decisions as “infuriating” is an “understatement”. He cites the case of Francesco Madafferi, who has a history of “violence and extortion”. He overstayed his tourist visa and would have been jailed if sent back to Italy. His deportation was overruled by the AAT.

The scribbler’s research failed to reveal that after Madafferi’s associates gave a bundle of money to the Nasty Party’s Millennium Forum, the then immigration minister Amanda Vanstone handed Frank a visa on humanitarian grounds. He went onto to be found guilty and sentenced for his part in a drug-smuggling conspiracy.

Making a Menzies

It is hardly a massive shock that on Monday Benito Dutton will give a “thought leader” address at a Menzies Research Centre event.

According to Goosebumps, the minister will be discussing “the changes required to our immigration system if it is to maintain its reputation as one of the most successful in the world”.

Suitable for a man with five or six investment properties, the evening is “kindly supported” by the real estate management outfit Jones Lang LaSalle, nowadays incorporated as JLL.

Ming would have regarded someone like Dutton to be a complete scrubber and sent him round to wait at the tradesmen’s entrance.

Cardinal numbers

As we mused a couple of weeks ago, a reprint is under way for Louise Milligan’s book Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell, or, as Father Gerard Henderson would have it, The Rise and Rise of George Pell.

The first 10,000 copies of Louise’s work are being eagerly snapped up by a curious public anxious to know about the seven episodes of alleged sexual abuse by George Pell, the current head of the Vatican counting house.The reprint will have to get to market before George is charged with anything, because thereafter it would have to come off the shelves in Victoria for fear of pre-trial prejudice.

The book went on sale on May 15 and the next day the Victorian director of public prosecutions, John Champion, told the police there was sufficient evidence available to sustain charges against the cardinal.

Pell denies the allegations. For some time he has been saying he’s too ill to travel, but then some sleuths sprung him on a flight to Heathrow and posted a pic of him wheeling his luggage through the arrivals hall.

Pell’s lawyers at Corrs Chambers Westgarth have also been busy writing letters to the publisher, Melbourne University Press. Some of the missives are in response to questions from Milligan. Strangely, the firm requests that its letters be destroyed or, failing that, handed back. Maybe it’s part of a document retention policy.

Snakes alive

Gadfly spent part of last Sunday at La Perouse on Botany Bay, looking at the famous snake show. This has been going on since the early 1900s and amazingly still attracts a lot of people to see the herpetologist produce a variety of snakes from bags and let them wriggle around a special pit while he describes how beautiful, clever and venomous they are.

Performing for us were a tiger snake, a red-bellied black snake, a brown snake and a snake that doesn’t wriggle, it pounces.

It’s an odd piece of Australiana in the setting where expeditionary Frenchmen under the command of Jean-François de Galaup, Comte de Lapérouse, first arrived and set up a camp just days after Captain Arthur Phillip. The tricolour still flies near Danny’s fish and chip joint and in the park there’s a splendid grave of Claude-François-Joseph Receveur, the first Frenchman to die in Australia. His tombstone was donated by Hyacinthe de Bougainville, who later became a rear-admiral.

Trumpette #24

We in the Wide Brown Land should not be too smug about the poor septics being lumbered with a dud like their Pussy-Grabber-in-Chief. After all, we are in step, on the same page, in tandem with all the major Trump policies.

The Trumble government and the Pussy administration are both committed to squeezing the daylights out of the less fortunate while dishing up subsidies and tax cuts to their mates, accurately known as “the base”.

Both regimes are populated with some terrifying throwbacks – think Bible-basher Mike Pence, and knuckle-dragger Barnaby Joyce, then work your way down the list. Both governments are environmental vandals – while the United States is positively hostile to the Paris agreement, Australia has the lamest of commitments and the most meagre of targets. Australia has the distinction of implementing policies that will send the Great Barrier Reef to a watery grave while Trump is sending coalminers “back to work”. Both have social policies designed to discriminate against minorities and divide society. Both are committed to regimes of fear and war. Both are aggressively targeting refugees and certain categories of migrants.

Turnbull’s tweets may be a little more anodyne than Trump’s, but a millimetre beneath his woodcut version of urbanity it’s the same old, same old.

 

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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jun 3, 2017 as "Gadfly: Nonsense of entitlements". Subscribe here.

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