After Grouper Greg Sheridan’s great burst of God-bothering in last weekend’s Catholic Boys Daily, it’s only natural to find him listed as the guest speaker at Father Lyle’s Australian Christian Lobby annual dinner on Friday, November 17.

By Richard Ackland.

Total eclipse of the sane

After Grouper Greg Sheridan’s great burst of God-bothering in last weekend’s Catholic Boys Daily, it’s only natural to find him listed as the guest speaker at Father Lyle’s Australian Christian Lobby annual dinner on Friday, November 17.

The following day is the ACL’s national “Embolden” conference, featuring celebrities such as Cory Bernardi, Italian Senator Matthew Canavan, Wendy Francis from the Centre for Human Dignity, and Noel Pearson. The early bird price is an alluring $75 for an unforgettable seven hours of “Christian” jawboning.

The get-in-first rate for Greg’s dinner is a snip at $129. For that price you can hear him elaborate on sentiments he has already expressed: “The eclipse of Christianity will be like the eclipse of the sun. Darkness will be the result.” Greg also told readers who managed to get as far as paragraph seven that if we cut ourselves off from Christianity, “the social and political consequences will be severe, with a crippling loss of civic purpose”.

Almost as great as the loss of civic purpose experienced by those who have been sexually abused by disciples of the faith. God-botherers for ages have tried to hoodwink us into thinking that Christians have a monopoly on the values, ethics and morals that have sustained Western civilisation.

It is sheer nonsense, of course. The great virtues are innately within human beings whether they have subscribed to a religious cult or not.


Letters of the lore

Maybe Grouper Greg’s analysis of whether God is dead was a sales-boosting exercise for the weekend edition of The Catholic Boys Daily, which saw its cover price rise to $3.80 last Saturday.

Editor-in-chief Paul Whittaker, a cardboard cutout of the previous editor-in-chief, wrote to readers explaining that times were tough for the media and to fund this “investment in journalism” he had to jack up the price.

Paul said: “I know that our readers value quality journalism. You have a thirst for a deeper understanding of our nation and world. Readers of The Australian are informed Australians. We see it daily in your robust and thought-provoking letters and commentary.”

This has tempted me to take a peek at the online comments to get a taste of this deeper understanding unique to readers of the paper.

Midweek, Janet the Planet Albrechtsen served up a ratatouille of ideas about the senate, political leadership and Abbott, but it was the readers who really got things rattling.

Someone called “Jean1” commented: “Testosterone does not give one courage, commonsense or any convictions … and why in hell would anyone ‘hate’ coal … it is a NATURAL substance, created by nature … what is there to ‘hate’ about it?”    

“Col” said: “Vote the Australian Conservatives into the senate next time around, instead of the fringe-dwellers, and the problem with the senate is fixed.”

Paul Kelly had a piece on Wednesday about how Indigenous Australians and non-Indigenous Australians need to reconcile. He attracted some doozies, such as “Stuart”, who wrote: “There are many Aboriginal (white) activists that call for retrobution [sic]. This will never work.”

“Logical” added: “If the ALP and the unions had been around in those days [white settlement] there would never have been an Australia, or even the wheel.” Brian of Piccadilly chipped in: “They didn’t have anything vaguely resembling civilisation.”

Queensland’s flat-earth law academic James Allan wrote a column about New Zealand politics and comparisons with Australia. This provoked an online post that said: “Rather than destroying a few statues, what would really make Australia start to hum again would be to raze Canberra to the ground. And start again from a sheep paddock to establish how the nation should be governed.”

Why stop at $3.80? This stuff is priceless.


The arch of the deal

In NSW, Premier Gladys Berejiklian has maintained the tradition of a long line of philistines at the top of the Liberal Party. She doesn’t like the proposed Cloud Arch opposite the Sydney Town Hall, a wonderful, light, modernist, looping steel structure, 58 metres high, under which the trams will pass.

In fact, the whole thing had to be redesigned by Japanese architect Junya Ishigami to accommodate the light rail project underneath. In the process, the price trebled to $11.3 million.

It’s not to Gladys’s taste. She said it’s “not something I would choose ... I don’t find it appealing”.

Much more appealing for the premier is the vast concrete WestConnex roadway blasting its way though heritage suburbs, knocking down hundreds of trees and bringing cars in greater volumes onto local roads. The whole thing is a secretive, polluting horror with the government in bed with private toll-road developers, but it gives ministers the chance to clamber around in fluoro vests. Already, the estimated costs of this botched scheme, which will be choked with traffic in eight to 10 years, are close to $45 billion.

Maybe Ms Berejiklian would prefer some statues of Liberal heroes such as “Sir” Robin “Casinos” Askin or “Sir” Billy McMahon.


Melba history

Gadfly had a rip-roaring night at the Hayes Theatre’s world premiere production of Melba – a musical about the diva written by Nicholas Christo, scored by Johannes Luebbers, directed by Wayne Harrison and starring Emma Matthews, Annie Aitken, Michael Beckley, Caitlin Berry and other brilliant creatures.

It was all about Dame Nellie’s unsuitable marriage to a Queensland bushwhacker, her tuition in Paris, her liaison with the Bourbon pretender Duc d’Orleans, a combative custody trial, the disappearance of her son, and enough other scandal to make for a hugely entertaining night interspersed with arias from Mozart, Verdi, Donizetti, Bizet, Rossini, Puccini, Gounod, et al.

There was even a scene starring some Peach Melba but, sadly, no Melba toast.


Mal bar history

Press gallery hacks in Canberra frequently refer to the PM as a “brilliant barrister”, with the inference that he must know what he is talking about and has a status superior to that of John Howard who was called, on occasion, a “suburban solicitor”.

The PM doesn’t rush to disabuse the scribes and maybe this is why the gallery swallows stuff like: “The deputy prime minister is qualified to sit in this house and the High Court will so hold.”

Trumble was, in fact, a barrister for little over a year from 1982-83, reading with Bruce McWilliam’s friend John Sackar (now HH Justice Sackar), and Peter Hely, on the sixth floor of Selborne Wentworth.

What marked the future PM’s time at the bar was the fact that his bumptiousness got up everyone’s nostrils. He let it be known far and wide that he was a vastly superior talent to anyone around him and this is despite the fact that no one can remember any outstanding success he had as a barrister.

According to Paddy Manning’s book Born to Rule, his most remarkable quality was that, unlike other barristers, he did his own typing.

It was as a solicitor that he had his triumph in the Spycatcher case, acting for former MI5 officer Peter Wright, the publication of whose book the Thatcher government was seeking to prevent in Australia.

Peter Wright had been referred to Turnbull by Geoffrey Robertson in London. But Malcolm also had his legal disasters, including persuading Kerry Packer to sue Doug Meagher, QC, counsel assisting the Costigan royal commission. The defamation case collapsed and Justice David Hunt gave Turnbull a huge flea in his ear.


Trumpette #37

The New York Times did a tasty review of the Trump International Hotel in Washington – a watering hole for conservatives, YouTube celebrities, Fox News types, white nationalists, lobbyists and foreign emissaries keen to curry favour with the “administration”.

The Trump Organisation has earned about $US20 million over 15 months from the hotel, a factor that has brought on an emoluments case whereby it is claimed the president has violated the constitution by accepting payments from foreign governments.

The other attractive feature of this chandelier-laden, marble-clad, blue velvet “cesspool” is that you might run into Eric Trump eating macaroni cheese. Talk about sophistication.

The Times said the whole thing felt like a “Make America Great Again” theme park, and to bring that all home there are vast television screens in the bar spewing out the latest bilge from Fox News.    

Much kinder was a review from Trump himself of a book called The Watchman’s Rattle: A Radical New Theory of Collapse by Rebecca Costa.

Trump, as “real estate developer and entrepreneur”, gives this endorsement: “Rebecca Costa has written a riveting examination of our world’s most dire and complex issues. Her message for mankind is an ultimately hopeful one as she explores her fascinating theory about the brain’s ability to develop advanced problem-solving techniques in times of crisis. A must-read.”

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on September 2, 2017 as "Gadfly: Total eclipse of the sane".

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Richard Ackland is The Saturday Paper’s legal affairs editor. He publishes

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