Diary

Gadfly
John’s no in game of Tones

Little Winston Howard was out of the blocks with a piece in The Catholic Boys Daily, “kickstarting” the “No” case.

The diminutive koala is concerned that churches, free speech and children will be threatened if the marriage equality postal survey results in a “Yes” outcome. The strange and anxious fears seem to be that if people acquire rights they didn’t previously have, then the pre-existing rights of others will be taken away.

Presumably he wants anti-discrimination protections watered down so gay-hating cake bakers, florists and event organisers could continue unimpeded.

This sort of grand vision was a hallmark of Little Winston’s “leadership”, and the Nasty Party and Cockies Corner have continued to embrace it.

Winston claims that there is “clear evidence” that the outcomes for children are “superior” if they have a mother and a father, prompting scholars to riffle through their files to locate this mysterious research.

The Catholic Church has also made the pitch that non-gay men and women are the best people to look after children – even though it is a risky business placing a child in the care of this institution.  Researchers at RMIT have come up with the finding that the Roman Catholic Church in Australia has done less to safeguard children in its care than its counterparts in other countries.

Four days after Winston, Ten Flag Tony was in the papers with this bold claim: “Like most, I have tried to be there for friends and family who are gay.”

He then proceeded, in a salmagundi of thoughts, to rail against gender fluidity, political correctness and the virtue signalling of Magnum ice-creams, and to insist “a man is not a woman just because he wants to be”.

Post democracy

Legislation to safeguard the nature and quality of the marriage equality debate whizzed through parliament. No vilification, threats or intimidation allowed, with Bookshelves Brandis, the bigots’ friend, as the litigation gatekeeper. What could be fairer than that?

The one thing missing from the bill is the banning of foreign money in the campaigns. God-bothering evangelicals from the US now have the official green light to pump money into the “No” coffers, while the “Yes” people have a relatively meagre war chest. If foreign money is regarded as odious for general election campaigns, what about for postal opinion polls?

And how are we to read the poll results? Late last week, research conducted for the equality campaign found there would be a postal participation rate of 65 per cent, falling to 58 per cent among 18 to 34 year olds.

Newgate Research went on to say that 58.4 per cent of those surveyed would support the “Yes” case, which was down six percentage points from a couple of weeks earlier. The support for “No” rose two points to 31.4 per cent. Things looked to be remarkably fluid.

Three days later, a Fairfax Ipsos poll found the same level of participants would take part in the postal opinion poll – 65 per cent. However, of those, 70 per cent said “Yes” – and that support was unchanged from a year ago.

It would mean that less than 50 per cent of people who participated in this voluntary postal wheeze could effect a change in the law. Imagine what Father Lyle, Winston and others would make of that blot on the democratic escutcheon.

Riled west

In search of adventure this week, Gadfly sallied to Perth and back and experienced some first-rate hospitality. The local Stokes-owned family newspaper carries bylines from Wilson “Iron Bar” Tuckey, press releases about Justice Minister Michael Keenan’s crackdown on “evil” paedophiles, and columns from Dr Bolt on Abbott’s “winning strategy”.

Much of the conversation is about the GST and how gypped Western Australia is, but no one seems to be able to explain why and how. The council of the local branch of the Nasty Party voted in support of a WAxit motion to “fiscally secede” from Australia and many “over east” think it’s a terrific idea.

On the plane back there was a drunken passenger showing increasing signs of agitation after a few bottles of wine. Despite being fully tanked he wanted more vino but the flight service person said he would have to wait. Ten minutes later, he was handed another bottle and a piece of cheese and advised to drink it slowly.

By now the cabin was filled with his foul-mouthed outbursts. As the plane was about to land he was asking for more, but happily at that point Qantas’s policy for the “responsible service of alcohol” kicked in.

Tyrant slalom

Last week, readers were moved by reports of Gadfly’s trip to Cooma in Snowy country and the Gully Gang’s art exhibition. What we forgot to mention was the amount of roadkill on the Monaro Highway. Every few metres there was a deceased kangaroo, wombat or fox.

Gadfly is told the damage is mostly caused by skiers in their four-wheel-drives, speeding to the alps in the pursuit of late-night glühweins with Heinz and Helmut.

I’ve always hated skiers.

Confessional development

The royal commission has recommended that priests who fail to report information about child sexual abuse should face criminal charges. In other words, the seal of the confessional should not be inviolable.

The New South Wales government is seeking the public’s response and has just issued a discussion paper entitled “Strengthening child sexual abuse laws in NSW”. It’s an interesting paper because not once are the words “confession” or “confessional” mentioned.

The attorney-general, Mark Speakman, said this is a “sensitive issue”. On the one hand, he points out, there is the Catholic Church and its belief that the confession of offending priests is confidential. On the other, there are children who have been criminally abused. This doesn’t seem like much of a contest.

The NSW Crimes Act already makes it a crime to conceal a serious offence. For the prosecution of various classes of people, including the clergy, the approval of the attorney-general is required. Members of the Legislative Council were interested in how Speakman exercised his discretion. He said he had never been called on to approve the prosecution of a priest who had hidden a crime. He added that he had not yet “formulated some guidelines or policies” on this delicate matter.

A departmental mandarin chipped in to say there is no current policy on the exercise of this discretion and he was unaware of previous AGs doing anything along these lines.

After all this intense probing about policies surrounding the attorney’s discretion, Greens MLC David Shoebridge had to point out that the discretion had actually been delegated to the Director of Public Prosecutions and it had been that way for some time.

Here is the case of an attorney-general who had forgotten he had delegated the powers about which he said he had not yet formulated a policy – a policy supposed to be assisted by a discussion paper that doesn’t mention the key elements of the issue to be addressed.

Trumpette #39

This week the Grabber-in-Chief surrounded himself with a lot of religious types and laid down the law: there would be more guns on federal lands, references to LGBTQI people would not appear as part of the federal program to deal with victims of sex trafficking, and there would be no federal money for international groups that advocate abortion.

Policies for guns and God have got a real shot in the arm.

The war on science also continues. The New York Times reports that the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine has been ordered to stop studying the health risks associated with blowing the tops off mountains to get at the coal seams. This activity has been associated with an increased rate of birth defects and other health problems for those unfortunate enough to be living close to coalmining activities.

There has also been a purge of government scientists who work on the connection between human activity and climate change.

In fact, there is an all-out effort at the Environmental Protection Agency to abolish use of the words “climate change”. The preferred term is “weather extremes”.

There have also been some terrific appointments. David Zatezalo is to be assistant secretary of labour at the Mine Safety and Health Administration. He’s a former coal company executive who is unhappy about mine safety regulations.

Then there’s Sam Clovis, who has been nominated to be the Department of Agriculture’s chief scientist. He’s not actually a scientist but a former talkback radio shock jock and “incendiary blogger” who says climate change is “junk science”.

Sounds like Ten Flag Tony and his team from Macquarie Radio are setting the pace for the US.

 

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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Sep 16, 2017 as "Gadfly: John’s no in game of Tones". Subscribe here.

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