It was bopping at Sydney’s Cockle Bay Wharf Friday week ago. A couple of hundred true believers jammed in for a dinner that paid tribute to Norman Graham Freudenberg, AM, speech-weaver extraordinaire to Gough Whitlam, Neville Wran, Bob Carr and, I’d almost forgotten, Barrie Unsworth and Arthur “Cocky” Calwell. By Richard Ackland.

Gadfly: Uncommon figure of speech

It was bopping at Sydney’s Cockle Bay Wharf Friday week ago. 

A couple of hundred true believers jammed in for a dinner that paid tribute to Norman Graham Freudenberg, AM, speech-weaver extraordinaire to Gough Whitlam, Neville Wran, Bob Carr and, I’d almost forgotten, Barrie Unsworth and Arthur “Cocky” Calwell

Assembled adornments included Bob and Blanche Hawke, Bob and Helena Carr, a trimmed-down Kimbo Beazley, Wayne Swan, Greg Combet, Tanya Plibersek, a cadaverous David Coombe and a brace of towering Whitlams

Reptiles included Mike Carlton, Laurie Oakes, Laura Tingle, Barrie Cassidy, Heather Ewart and Ken Begg

Little Pattie kicked off the whole show with a reworked version of “It’s Time”, written by James Carleton (son of Susie and the late Richard), which included a scurrilous line or two about
E. Obeid (retd). 

Bill Shorten arrived late, as great men are wont. He was greeted not with a standing ovation but polite, yet perfunctory, applause. Albo wasn’t sighted. 

Freudenberg, 83, spoke for a blistering 75 minutes, delivering a tour d’horizon of civilisation since Cicero. Clad in black he looked like a magnificent old magpie, the crowd in awe of this testament to the beneficial health effects of smoking 40 Rothmans a day. 

Oddly enough, the official invitation asked people buying a ticket to declare whether they had connections to the tobacco industry. 

Casing the room for someone to greet, Hawkie spied a short, glamorous blonde. “Little Pattie,” he cried. “No, it’s Little Susie,” replied Mrs Carleton.

Sacrilegious intolerance

Invitations are pouring into Gadfly’s chambers. I’ve one here to a Liberal Party event to celebrate the parliamentary career of The Hon Bill Heffernan, who spent a lightning 20 years in the senate.  

Bill, who did so much for gay rights and the work of the Commonwealth car pool, has Little Winston Howard delivering the tribute oration, while the Parrot will perform his duties as master of ceremonies. 

It’s a snip at $500 a head or $4500 a table of 10, which shows that the Freudenberg event was seriously underpriced at $150 a ticket. 

Meanwhile, religious man Peter Kurti has spoiled us for choice for the launch of his exciting new work The Tyranny of Tolerance: Threats to Religious Liberty in Australia. He’s a “research fellow” at the think tank The Centre for Independent Studies, and his book comes with a foreword from that busy bee Little Winston. 

Nick “Goosebumps” Cater has already given the work a handy leg-up: “Kurti exposes a grand deception: the tolerance and diversity brigade cannot tolerate diversity of thought.” 

The theme seems to be that tolerant people are critical of religion and they jolly well shouldn’t be. There’s nothing worse than being intolerant of intolerance. I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy to check if this could possibly be right. 

There are to be three launches. In Sydney with The Hon J. Dyson Heydon, in Brisbane with Professor James Allan and in Melbourne with Doc Jennifer Oriel.  

With endorsement from Winnie and Goosebumps and launchers such as Dyse, Prof Allan and Doc Oriel, who is acclaimed as one of the top nine “brightest people in higher education”, this has got to be a challenging work.

Ooh, aah, Carla McGrath

Tolerance has been a tiny bit wanting from the hacks at News Corpse as they set about bashing their latest female target, Carla McGrath

McGrath is an Indigenous woman, the deputy chairperson of the activist organisation GetUp! and simultaneously a public member of the newspaper industry watchdog the Australian Press Council. According to the hacks, she is conflicted if she gets anywhere near adjudicating on their peerless copy. 

Moloch’s rags have been calling for her head with an editorial in The Catholic Boys Daily declaring that the council has just two assets, “its credibility and its independence” – the very assets in short supply at the Daily

Peter Blunden, the managing director of Melbourne’s Hun, says the appointment is “an outrageous insult to journalism in this country” – a remark that had citizens choking and wheezing over their breakfast cereal. 

The truth is Moloch & Co doesn’t much like press regulators of any description and has long bleated about the APC as well as those infernal meddlers that investigated The Sun’s regime of hacking. 

Another hack, Chris “The Tamil” Merritt, was apoplectic, saying that journalists will be “subject to the tender mercies of the deputy chairwoman of an organisation best known for partisan ratbaggery”. A bit of pot and kettle there, one might think. 

Press Council chairman Professor David Weisbrot had to patiently point out to The Tamil and others that, as is invariably the case with all public members of the APC, Ms McGrath would not be sitting on any adjudications that give rise to a real or perceived conflict of interest.  

The right Joyce 

Following the War Against Gillian Triggs, the other recent female victim of News reptiles was Anzac Day tweeter Yassmin Abdel-Magied

Yassmin must be sacked from the ABC, they shrieked, and soon after her show was axed. However, it seems she has emerged unscathed and I notice that she’s one of the drawcards at next week’s Dalkey Book Festival in Ireland. 

Fellow festival speakers include Bernie Sanders, Marlon James, Sebastian Barry, Colm Tóibín, Billy Bragg, John Banville and A. N. Wilson

This seaside suburb of Dublin is the birthplace of George Bernard Shaw, the schoolhouse of James Joyce, the playground of Samuel Beckett and, according to Salman Rushdie, home to the “best little festival in the world”. 

Life for Yassmin seems quite splendid after being pilloried by Barnaby Joyce, Tony Abbott, Eric Abetz, Peter Dutton, George Christensen, Pauline Hanson, Andrew Bolt and Graham Richardson.

Clive of in denial

Move over Maurice Newman, we’ve now got Clive James, the new bright light of the climate denial movement. His piece last week in The Catholic Boys Daily was a triumph of windy prose that sadly showed the old poet has gone dotty. 

He assured his readers that the Arctic has a “miraculous capacity to go on producing ice”. Further, there’s no tipping point for the Great Barrier Reef and that contrary to predictions that go way back to 1971, the reef is still fine. 

No doubt, to Clive’s way of thinking, the Adani coalmine will only improve things despite releasing 4.7 billion tonnes of carbon pollution over its life span. 

What happened to this old fossil? Maybe it’s a case of unreliable memoirs. We will see whether he continues to appear in The Guardian now that he’s found a home at the Daily.

Trumpette #25 

Disturbing news from Scotland, where the Aberdeenshire Council has rolled over to have its tummy tickled by the Pussy Grabber

When the Grabber put in his Trump International Golf Links at Balmedie he agreed to an independent environmental assessment about the management of the dunes. That has now been ditched, according to Private Eye

TIGCS lodged an application to vary the condition, claiming that “it is not necessary, proportionate or reasonable to manage or regulate the development and use of the planning unit consisting of the championship golf course, the proposed second golf course, which is adjacent to a bad neighbour development (scrapyard) or other parts of the site”.  

Locals are puzzled as to which resident has a scrapyard. 

It was reported that long-suffering neighbours include farmer Michael Forbes, whom Trump has called “a pig”; David Milne, who got a bill for an unwanted fence built on his land, Mexican wall-style; and Susan Munro, whose coastal views were blotted by another wall, or bund. 

Flagpoles, walls and new buildings have all been whacked up without council permission but were retrospectively approved by the obliging alderpersons. 

As if we needed reminding: environment and planning approvals are for pussies.


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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on June 10, 2017 as "Gadfly: Uncommon figure of speech".

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