Diary

Gadfly
Marriage misguidance

The same-sex marriage debate has been spiralling into some exciting and dark corners. Among the most noteworthy contributions in recent days we find:

Otto Abetz accepting in a BuzzFeed interview that passage of laws legalising same-sex marriage “could lead eventually to people being able to marry objects such as … the Harbour Bridge”.

John Roskam from the Institute of Paid Advocacy, writing in The Australian Financial Review, expresses concern that marriage equality would mean that those who express a view in support of traditional marriage might “be guilty of breaking the law for expressing such an opinion”.

Italian senator Matthew Canavan, writing in The Catholic Boys Daily, says the point of marriage is not love but children. He’s also worried about what happens after the law is changed: “The next step of the activists will be to ban Catholic schools and churches from reading 1 Corinthians 7” – the bit of the Bible about sexual relations between husbands and wives.

And then there’s Kevin “from heaven” Andrews, also writing in the Fin Review, who says the same-sex marriage bills are a threat to Christian religious liberty.

More fruit cake, vicar?

 

All Hart

As if to show how clearly Christian liberty is threatened, Archbishop Denis Hart(less) of Melbourne issued a ukase that says employees of the church face the sack if they don’t “totally” uphold Roman Catholic teachings on marriage. “We shouldn’t be slipping on that,” he added – speaking as though the Catholic Church had a shred of moral authority left.

Kevin Andrews also forgot to point out that under the Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act churches had ample liberty to refuse employment to people whose sexual orientation and other identifying features met with heavenly disapproval.

 

Hard act to follow through

Which brings us to the front door of the not altogether distant issue of racial discrimination and section 20D of the Anti-Discrimination Act, New South Wales.

This section criminalises serious racial vilification involving a threat of violence or inciting others to threaten violence. It was something along these lines that the government of Malcolm “Bollards” Trumble earlier this year sought to narrow s.18C.

The NSW law was introduced in 1989 and, significantly, no one has been prosecuted. That may be because of technical problems and the way in which briefs are prepared for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

A Legislative Council cross-party committee got to grips with the issues and unanimously recommended changes in a 2013 report. Nothing happened.

Then the immediate-past attorney-general, Gabrielle Upton, said in 2015 that the act was not working and must be changed, promising to introduce legislation in 2016. Nothing happened.

The ALP’s shadow A-G, Paul Lynch, introduced a private members’ bill, which among other things included the Legislative Council committee recommendations. The government voted it down in 2016. It was reintroduced in the Legislative Council this year and during debate Damien Tudehope (Liberal and serious Roman Catholic) said the bill threatened “freedom of speech”.

Earlier this year the government commenced another “consultation” headed by former president of the anti-discrim board, Stepan Kerkyasharian. We’re told to hold tight for an announcement.

 

Lyons share

While Kevin Andrews is fresh on our breath, I should mention that Father Gerard Henderson of the Henderson Institute is offering copies of a biographical monograph by Kev on former PM Joseph Lyons.

Copies signed by the Grecian 2000 aficionado are yours for $20 each. There can never be too many bios of Joe. In a sense, the biography by Gerard’s wife, Anne, is in competition with Kev’s work. In The People’s Prime Minister, Anne recounts that when Joe died he had only £344 in the bank, no super or pension and 11 children, still mostly at school.

A few days before he expired, he wrote a cheque for £60 to a Leongatha farmer to buy cattle, on the basis that the fellow needed a break.

In the spirit of such selflessness you’d hope that proceeds from these biographical works would go to the upkeep of Home Hill, Joe and Dame Enid’s family spread in Devonport, Tasmania, now a National Trust property.

  

Nash villain

Senator Fiona Nash, from Cockies Corner, has been one of Gadfly’s bêtes blondes, so I’m hoping the High Court can send her packing to Britain.

Who can forget her time as assistant health minister in the glorious Abbott era, when she and her chief of staff cum PR operative, Alastair Furnival, arranged to delete from cyberspace a government food-rating website that graded the quality and nutritional value of foods.

At the time Furnival’s family PR business was in the pay of the junk food industry. Kathy Dennis, the public servant who resisted the demand from Nash’s office that the website be removed, was mysteriously moved elsewhere in the department.

The assistant minister then went onto other policy initiatives such as axing the funding for the peak drug and alcohol advisory body. If only we’d known earlier that she couldn’t read the Constitution or properly answer questions on her nomination form, some of these horrors might have been avoided.

 

Elbit players

Mention a few weeks back was given in this space to politicians, including Poodles Pyne, Brian Loughnane (aka Mr Credlin), Michael Danby, MP, and others, being wined and dined at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, while on a junket to Israel.

It should have been mentioned that the feast was sponsored by Elbit Systems, a large Israeli arms manufacturer, some of whose products possess “unprecedented lethality”.

This strikes a chord because Elbit has been the subject of notice in the NSW parliament. Specifically, upper house Greens member David Shoebridge asked about $2.5 million of state funding towards a project involving the NSW Royal Flying Doctor Service and Elbit – part of a Restart NSW Funding Deed.

The NSW minister for energy, utilities and the arts, Don Harwin, MP, replied that “the government is proud to be partnering with Elbit and the RFDS to provide a new state-of-the-art flight simulator in Dubbo”.

Shoebridge followed this up with questions earlier this month on whether the government has invested in Elbit’s war business through State Super. The answers are due next month. One requirement of restart funding deeds is that the “project not be brought into disrepute”.

 

Flu brews

Gadfly has been swallowing handfuls of pills in an effort to shake off the vile flu. Among the various witches’ brews on the market is a tablet composed of olive leaf and echinacea. It’s meant to work but when I read the label it helpfully advised to take it before you get the flu.

Hilaire Belloc put it so masterfully:

“Physicians of the utmost fame

were called at once; but when they came

They answered, as they took their fees,

‘There is no cure for this disease’.”

 

Trumpette #36

We are now more than 200 days into the Trump presidency and the truth is clear that the United States president is a person of stunted emotional development and limited intellectual capacity. He’s not up to the job and consequently enormous damage is being done to his country and its allies, who until now have looked to the US as some sort of misty democratic ideal.

Trump’s ugliness is embedded in his DNA. The London Independent reported last week that his father, Fred Trump, was arrested in 1927 for participation at a rally in New York organised by Italian fascists and the KKK.

In the wake of Donald Trump’s tacit support for the Charlottesville fascists, his approval rating is at 39 per cent, down from 44 per cent a week ago, according to a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll.

It’s amazing that his support is as high as that. He blusters and struts yet there’s no whiff of decency or legislative reform to which he can point. Republicans in congress are roiling over the president’s attacks on them and the chaos he has unleashed. The majority leader in the senate, Mitch McConnell, as conservative as they come, cannot bring himself to speak to Trump and has confided to colleagues that the occupant of the White House cannot save his presidency.

The hate-filled rallies, where the president rants Mussolini-like against his enemies in the media and in congress, are fake affairs, if ads placed in Craigslist calling for actors to attend the recent Phoenix event are to be believed.

The applicants were invited to “hold pro-Trump signs, cheer on command, and show diversity” – all for $10 an hour.

Why are we an ally of a nation where nearly 40 per cent of voters support such a toxic president? Trumble’s slathering performances in the company of Trump are nauseating beyond belief. It seems we have never properly understood the US but now that the cataracts have been removed from our eyes we should be working overtime on getting out of a relationship with such a debauched and unprincipled leadership.

It’s not as though everyone is disappointed. The US transportation secretary, Mrs Elaine Chao, was haplessly standing next to the president in the lobby of Trump Tower while he was issuing his racist support for white supremacists. She is married to senator Mitch McConnell who, as we know, has his own issues with Trump.

Asked about Trump and his attacks on her husband, Mrs Chao did one better than Tammy Wynette: “I stand by my man – both of them.”

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Aug 26, 2017 as "Gadfly: Marriage misguidance". 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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