Diary

Gadfly
Get thee behind I

Others have had the stomach to carefully ingest the statements of Immigration Minister Peter “Benito” Dutton, so I’m grateful to them for pointing out that the man who will set the university-level English exams for aspiring citizens has a special way with the language of Shakespeare, Shelley and Enid Blyton.  

Take these pronouncements made last week to his avid listeners on 2GB.  

“You won’t be happy with us on every issue, but I can promise you that myself, Mathias Cormann and others do work closely with the prime minister...”  

This was soon to be followed by: “We do offer advice. I mean he’s accused of being captured by the right because he listens to Mathias or I, or he hasn’t changed the boats policy.”  

Being a reflexive pronoun one should be careful when using “myself”. Of course, the Queensland police language manual, which Benito studied closely as a young copper, gave him phrases such as: “A male person who was absconding was apprehended by I, whereupon the felon proceeded to connect his head repeatedly to a hard surface.”  

And Fowler and other authorities would send to indefinite offshore detention anyone who misused their pronouns. 

Do the time

We know that Benito has to fork out $70 million, plus costs, after the settlement of the Manus Island class action.  

But, according to evidence to a senate committee earlier this year, there is little concern that his department, its senior officers or the service providers would face criminal proceedings for breaches of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Cth) in relation to failures to adequately protect the health and wellbeing of immigration detainees.

Regrettably, Benito himself is also in the clear because as a minister he is not an “officer”.  

The legislation has “extended geographical jurisdiction” so it could apply offshore. Unlike the Crimes Act, the WHS Act has a two-year time limit for bringing prosecutions.  

When the investigating authority, Comcare, was asked by the senate committee five-and-a-half months after the time limit had expired whether it had obtained from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection incident reports, including those of 15 reported child sexual assaults at the Nauru centre, acting Comcare chief Lynette MacLean replied: “No, but we will.”  

No rush, of course. 

Forward passé

The Royal Ballet’s The Winter’s Tale and Woolf Works has taken Brisbane by storm. Next stop for the Brit terpsichoreans is Cairns to “collaborate with community groups” and then a gig with the National Aboriginal and Islander Skills Development Association.

A note on the Brisbane program included important information: “Following the conclusion of this performance the State of Origin will be relayed on the park screens. Patrons are welcome to remain in the park to watch the game and continue to enjoy the Parklands.”

You don’t get that kind of cultural diversity elsewhere in the country.

Good Graces

To the Art Galley of NSW for the opening night of Making Modernism – paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe and our own Margaret Preston and Grace Cossington Smith.   

Gadfly’s favourite is Grace C. S., who painted in seclusion on Sydney’s leafy upper north shore, yet whose work is bursting with life. Like Gadfly, she was a late developer, not being widely known until towards the end of her career. She died at age 92.  

The gallery has a new bounce in its step after the government slipped a cheque for $244 million under the pillow of director Michael Brand. It’s a contribution towards the gallery extension designed by Japanese architects SANAA.  

The crowd hummed with celebs and the soulful voice of singer Jade MacRae. A gleaming art gallery president, David Gonski, was on hand, as was the minister for resources, energy, utilities and the yarts, the Hon. Don Harwin, BEc (Hons) MLC – both enthusing about returning the gallery to the status of premier art museum in Australia.  

Despite the extra $244 million, Gadfly only managed to quaff a solitary drink, a tiny roasted tomato and a small deep-fried lamb ball. 

Treasured Hunt

Gadfly feels completely remiss not to have reported earlier that both Freedom Boy Wilson and Health Minister Greg Hunt have been inducted into The Old Peninsula School Association Hall of Fame, for “services to the community”.  

Peninsula Grammar nestles in the Mornington area outside Melbourne and produces some of the finest stock in the area. The core values of the school include integrity, personal excellence and Christian faith. Of course, Freedom Boy has excelled at all of those values, while Hunt has made
a late entry with his announcement that the Victorian courts “should not be places for ideological experiments”. He complained that the Court of Appeal was “endorsing and embracing shorter sentences for terrorism offences” – except that it wasn’t. In the two cases under consideration the appeal judges increased the sentences, and to avoid the prospect of being kicked out of parliament, the minister apologised to the court at the 11th hour because he didn’t have a clue what he was talking about.   

Top marks for personal excellence, Hunty.

Line call

Dr Chau Chak Wing, the Australian-Chinese businessman who has been sprinkling money on both the Liberal and Labor parties, has also stumped up some loose cash for the Chau Chak Wing Museum at the University of Sydney.  

The ABC and Fairfax reported last month that Dr Chau’s generosity to politicians had been the subject of briefings by ASIO about the dangers of acceptation foreign-linked donations.  

This is not nearly as distressing as discovering that the development application to the minister for planning specifies that the university museum will occupy the tennis courts below the Great Hall. They are known as the Fisher Tennis Centre and the proposal is that it be occupied by 7740 square metres of gallery space, education areas, storage facilities, workshops, offices, study rooms, a 130-seat auditorium, cafe, museum shop, terrace, loading dock and plant rooms.  

The university blurb breathlessly explains that this project “is the creation of a forward-thinking, innovative and much-needed cultural and intellectual space at the University of Sydney”. 

Objections from tennis players should be lodged with the department of planning by July 21. 

Stump up

The latest Bagehot column in The Economist provides a glorious analogy with modern-day Britain.  

In May 1942, Evelyn Waugh recounted a true story of military derring-do in a letter to his wife. Bagehot reports it like this: 

“A British commando unit offered to blow up an old tree-stump on Lord Glasgow’s estate, promising him that they could dynamite the tree so that it ‘falls on a sixpence’. After a boozy lunch they all went down to witness the explosion. But instead of falling on a sixpence the tree-stump rose 50 feet in the air, taking with it half an acre of soil and a beloved plantation of young trees. A tearful Lord Glasgow fled to his castle only to discover that every pane of glass had been shattered. He then ran to his lavatory to hide his emotions, but when he pulled the plug out of his washbasin ‘the entire ceiling, loosened by the explosion, fell on his head’.” 

As the columnist says, “a year on from the Brexit referendum Britain feels like Lord Glasgow’s castle”.

Trumpette #29

Newt Gingrich is back, with a book called Understanding Trump. It’s one great, slathering, hagiography about the Pussy Grabber. Newt compares Trump to Abraham Lincoln and says that the Grabber’s “ideological opponents continue to be viciously dishonest ... They are either clueless or lying. Ignore them.”   

The foreword is written by Eric Trump, who says: “As to my father, there is no greater man. He is compassionate and caring. He is brilliant and strong. More than anything else, he loves our great country.”  

August Kleinzahler must have been feeling sick after reading that, because in a piece for the London Review of Books he said of Newt: “Like a dormant virus, he was always somewhere out there, threatening to bloom when the nation’s immune system was challenged.”  

It gets better. August’s father used to describe a successful kind of Southern chancer, who brings to mind Newt’s character: “A shit-kicker in a Brooks Brothers suit who, if while driving down the road, saw an alligator sunning itself on the verge would slam on the brakes, jump out of the car, and try to fuck it.”  

Newt worked tirelessly for Trump during the campaign, hoping to be vice-president or secretary of state. Instead, his third wife, Callista, has been appointed ambassador to the Holy See. A particularly pious appointment for someone who was sleeping with the Newt while he was still married to the second Mrs Gingrich.

 

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jul 8, 2017 as "Gadfly: Get thee behind I". 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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