Gadfly repaired to Sydney’s Macquarie Street for a mystery event hosted by Macquarie University. The invitation said the occasion is to “pay tribute to the Honourable Michael Kirby AC CMG”. It was to have been held at the Federal Law Courts until the sprinkler system caused havoc to the halls of justice, so it was transferred across the road to the Mint, which was fitting, given we were about to get information on “gifting opportunities”. By Richard Ackland.

Kirby, fully loaded

Gadfly repaired to Sydney’s Macquarie Street for a mystery event hosted by Macquarie University. The invitation said the occasion is to “pay tribute to the Honourable Michael Kirby AC CMG”.

It was to have been held at the Federal Law Courts until the sprinkler system caused havoc to the halls of justice, so it was transferred across the road to the Mint, which was fitting, given we were about to get information on “gifting opportunities”.

Anyway, Vice-Chancellor Bruce Dowton announced that the new premises for the law school will be named the Michael Kirby Building. This comes hard on the heels of the former judge being gonged by the emperor of Japan with an Order of the Rising Sun.

Already many things are named in honour of the “rock star jurist”, including barristers’ chambers, the Kirby Institute for infectious diseases research at the University of NSW, and the yearly Michael Kirby dinner and lecture at  Southern Cross University.

Kirby is weighed down with tributes, including honorary degrees from 24 Australian and overseas universities, and has nine medals and honours ranging from a Companion of the Order of Australia to National Trust Australian Living Treasure.

Basking reptiles

Speaking of honours: Friday night at a vast feast in Sydney more than 50 reptiles were inducted into the Australian Media Hall of Fame. Some were very old; some dead. It was an eclectic mix, including: Vic Carroll, Alan Ramsey, Anne Summers, Richie Benaud, Margaret Jones, Max Suich, Patrick Cook and Kate McClymont. In fact, Kate did the oration on the night. A book of legends of journalism is coming out next year. Veteran reporter Alex Mitchell has written chapters on Murray Sayle, Evan Whitton, Rags Henderson and Tom Fitzgerald. Harry Evans, the former editor of The Sunday Times, has done a chapter on Phillip Knightley.

The whole thing is the brainchild of the Melbourne Press Club. The MPC’s Mike Smith tells Gadfly the idea is to get a historical picture of the sweep of victorious journalistic achievement going back to the 1930s.

Yet, so many great names are missing from the honour board. Where’s Maddy Devine, Janet The Planet, Little Chris Kenny, Gollum Henderson etc etc?

Maybe in decades to come someone will wake up to their brilliance and nominate them as living, or dead, legends.

Late booking

Excitement mounts as the announcement of the winners of the PM’s Literary Awards draws near.

Even though they were appointed in July, the judging panels for each category have at long last been announced. Normally the expectation is that the judges are revealed much earlier in the year so everyone knows who is reading and critiquing the works. But here we are in November, only just now aware of the panels’ membership and still with no news of the shortlist and when the ultimate prizes will be handed out.

It’s a big deal, with $100,000 tax-free cash in each category – nonfiction, Australian history, fiction, poetry, children’s fiction and young adult fiction.

Maybe PM Trumble has his hands full at the moment – in fact, too busy to ignore the judges’ recommendations and come up with his own choice of winner, as happened in 2006’s history prize with Little Winston, 2013 with Kevin from Queensland and 2014 with Ten Flags Tony. In each of these interventions, war stories got the prime ministerial nod of approval.

Half crown

What a shock to wake up and discover our lawmakers are a bunch of Hungarians, Greeks, Brits, hapless New Zealanders and associated foreigners.

This is multiculturalism run amok while Trumble said that questioning the foreignness of his MPs amounts to a “witch-hunt”. Maybe this was one of the many occasions he chose his words unwisely. It’s actually about the legitimacy of his government and whether it is in power constitutionally.

Meanwhile, according to the constitution (section 42), MPs and senators have to swear or affirm allegiance to tax haven devotee HM the Queen. The oath or affirmation says: “I ... do swear/affirm that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to HM QEII, her heirs and successors according to law. [So help me God.]” Yet section 44 says any person who is “under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power” shall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting as an MP or senator.

There seems to be an inconsistency between these provisions. The Queen would surely fall into the category of a “foreign power”, even as the Windsors try to put as much distance as possible between themselves and the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, itself a branch of the House of Wettin.

Maybe s.42 makes the entire parliament ineligible under s.44? What a shemozzle.

Gough’s toffs

It gets worse. Professor Jenny Hocking’s latest edition of The Dismissal Dossier: The Palace Connection brings to light new evidence of the involvement of Buck House in the sacking of the Whitlam government.

The evidence is one of direct meddling by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the palace in the political affairs of Australia. At all costs the Liberals were desperate to stymie Gough Whitlam’s proposed half-senate election, which had the prospect of giving Labor control, at least temporarily, of the upper house. The Brits were in step with the Nasty Party’s position on this, because Whitlam was hell-bent on unstitching the “colonial relics” of the British–Australian relationship.

Hocking has uncovered various crucial backdoor meetings between Tory grovellers such as the father of Fishnets Downer and suspected paedophile prime minister Ted Heath, as well as a schmoozing visit to governor-general Sir John Kerr at Yarralumla by the permanent under-secretary designate of the foreign office, Sir Michael Palliser.

The mission was to avoid the palace being put in the position of receiving conflicting advice about a half-senate election from her prime minister in Canberra and her premiers in the states. Such is the legacy of the colonial conceit of a bifurcated crown.

Hocking uncovered an FCO memo headed “Australian domestic politics: possible intervention of UK government”. The title of that document alone says it all – Whitehall regarded Australia as some sort of client state.

No wonder everyone in parliament, including foreigners, is required to swear or affirm allegiance to Betty Battenberg.

Subside Piper

Meanwhile, things in Point Piper are looking decidedly grim. A recent issue of the real estate bible Domain shows that there are 18 properties in the tiny suburb currently on the market. Of the most expensive top 11 properties up for sale, the cheapest is listed for $2.9 million.

What is going on in the PM’s borough? Is the presence of the overworked federal police crawling all over Wunulla Road and the waterfront getting on everyone’s wick? Or are residents sick of living in a place where there’s no pub, no bottle shop, not even a corner store?

Trumpette #47

Have you noticed the way Barking Dog Trump struggles to read a speech, even when it’s typed in 24-point Helvetica bold with triple spacing?

Among the myriad problems being juggled by the great orange leader, such as his diabolical unpopularity, his delusional views about himself, and his small hands, he has the added burden of not being able to read properly.

Some experts assess his reading skills as comparable to a slow eight-year-old, and all his briefing papers are no more than half a page. He definitely has trouble with words of more than one syllable – for example, the word “Namibia”. The average human being knows between 20,000 and 35,000 words in their native language. An eight-year-old knows about 10,000 words, which is more or less where Trump can be found.

A fine example rests in his recent trip to South Korea, where he proposed a simple toast: “Together, our nations remind the world of the boundless potential of societies that choose freedom over tyranny, and who set the free. And we will free, and we will sacrifice, and we will hope, and we will make things beautiful, especially the aspirations of your people.”

Despite all this, the Pussy Grabber insists he loves to read. Earlier this year, he clarified the issue with one of Moloch’s muffins on Fox News: “Well, you know, I love to read. Actually, I’m looking at a book, I’m reading a book, I’m trying to get started. Every time I do about a half a page, I get a phone call that there’s some emergency, this or that. But we’re going to see the home of Andrew Jackson today in Tennessee and I’m reading a book on Andrew Jackson. I love to read. I don’t get to read very much, Tucker, because I’m working very hard on lots of different things, including getting costs down. The costs of our country are out of control. But we have a lot of great things happening, we have a lot of tremendous things happening.”


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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Nov 11, 2017 as "Gadfly: Kirby: fully loaded".

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

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