Diary

Gadfly
The scarlet man

Another little beetroot-bundle is a treat for a treat-starved nation. Thank God family values are on the up and up. The odds are great that a Christian politician of the calibre of the deputy prime minister, who enthuses on the sanctity of family values, will have more than one family. Barnaby is doing his best to give a leg-up to the “party” bit of Country Party.

Talking of odds, Sportsbet has the name Kieran for the baby at $6.50, Sparrow at $31 and Flo at $41. Ideally, the new arrival would be called Joyce, with odds at $61. 

The online bookmaker isn’t ruling out even more offspring: twins ($21), triplets ($81) and quadruplets ($251). 

And here we were with misguided thoughts that Joyce was a festering blot on the progress of the nation, who never did anything and always said “no”. 

In other happy news, The Australian Financial Review officially announced that its political editor, Laura Tingle, is stepping out with actor Sam Neill. A more attractive and non-beetroot sort of couple is hard to imagine. Gadfly hopes they have lots of triplets.

Bobby dazzlers

Surely New South Wales shadow A-G Paul Lynch is not trying to spoil the fun of the coppers at Rose Bay. 

He must have picked up our note last week about the Jags and Beemers outside the local cop shop down the end of Mal Trumble’s street, decked in NSW Police livery, and donated by kindly corporate interests, “at no cost to the taxpayer”. 

Lynch has now asked the police minister, Troy-Boy Grant, on notice, whether this practice is “covered by any policy [and] if so, is it available – who approved the practice and is a benefit given to those who are providing the vehicles?”

Drone over

The Australian drone-flying documentary maker James Ricketson is still banged up in the awful Prey Sar jail on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, accused of “foreign spying” in an unspecified manner and for an unspecified country. 

Gadfly has known Ricketson since school days and there is not the remotest possibility he could be or would be a spy for anyone, unless the spooks are doing a very cunning line in bleeding-heart do-gooders. Until his incarceration he was a regular at the Whale Beach cafe where he could be seen furiously bashing away at his laptop. 

Foreign minister Julie Bishop has just made a late entry into the case with a communication to the Cambodian regime that it would be nice if relations were not strained.

Cambodia is the same country that Australia essentially bribed with a $40 million aid package and another $15 million allocated for resettlement of detainees from Nauru. A fraction of the resettlement money was spent because a grand total of two refugees, as of a year ago, were still in the country, and one was saying he’d leave if he could. Another triumph from the failed travel agent Scott Morrison as immigration minister. 

You’d think something could have been done earlier to rescue Ricketson from the grip of the Cambodian “justice” system. After all, he is the grandson of the great stockbroker Staniforth Ricketson, direct descendant of J. B. Were, friend to Pig Iron Bob and financial adviser to Liberals the length and breadth of Collins Street. 

Where are Goosebumps Cater and the Menzies “Research” Centre when you need them?

Corrupting inference

It looks as though those damn subeditors at The Catholic Boys Daily have made a right mess of Gerry “Chuckles” Henderson’s column in the paper last week. 

There he was banging on about what a waste of time and space a national integrity commission would be, without wasting too much time or space on facts.

“So far no one has made a convincing case of why Australia needs an ICAC-like body at the national level,” Chuckles scribbled. 

The subs must have cut out the modest amount of research that might have been enlightening to readers. For instance, in the 2017 Australian Public Service employee census, 5 per cent, or almost 5000 respondents, said they had witnessed what they believed to be corrupt behaviour. 

A majority of respondents in 59 agencies reported to the APS census that they believed they worked in a “high corruption-risk environment”. 

Four years ago, 2.6 per cent of Commonwealth public servants said that they had witnessed corruption. The definitions of corruption have changed but in 2016-17, 89 per cent of the investigations into all alleged violations, including corruption, found that the APS code of conduct had been breached. 

Really.

Bookshelves flat-packed

There has been a dizzying round of farewells for Bookshelves Brandis. The Senate bid bon voyage to the mighty statesman on Wednesday and there were drinks on Thursday night at the Onion Club in Sydney, hosted by the NSW Liberal Forum, as a tribute to the next high commissioner to the Court of St James’s. 

The guests clung to their warm G&Ts in celebration of George’s “strong commitment to the classical liberal pursuits of responsible government and democratic rights and liberties” – such as metadata retention, jailing journalists who report ASIO’s “special operations”, trying to freeze out legal advice from the solicitor-general, appointing a raft of Liberal Party hacks and fellow travellers to administrative tribunals, promoting the cause of bigotry, and seeking to trash the independence of the Human Rights Commission. 

It was $50 all up and most of the attendees managed to avoid getting the devils-on-horseback stuck in their gullets.

Fishnets wax-snapped

No doubt the Poms will be shattered to see the tail of the current high commissioner, his excellency Alexander Downer

At the end of January, fresh from Australia Day celebrations, sponsored by Woolmark, LendLease and Bunnings, Fishnets posted on his Twitter feed, without captions, a couple of snaps with him grinning excitedly at actrines Dame Helen Mirren and our own beloved Nicole Kidman. He even had Nicole by the arm, with a spellbound look on his face.

Further research reveals that his excellency was in the company of waxworks figures – but, hey, that’s no reason not to get excited.

Uni tarred

Professor Peter Ridd, of James Cook University, is a hot favourite on the climate denial/sceptic circuit, with his theory that scientists have it all wrong about the Great Barrier Reef, which apparently is in rude health. His employers at the university are not fans of this theory or his contribution to the Institute for Paid Advocacy book Climate Change: The Facts 2017. They have sought to discipline Professor Ridd, who says his academic freedom is under attack. 

He has filed a claim against the uni in the Federal Circuit Court and launched an appeal on GoFundMe, where he has raised about $95,000 towards his litigation. Naturally, the IPA and The Parrot are right behind him. 

Among the donors to his campaign we find the names Keith Windschuttle, tossing in $500, and Professor Chris Cocklin, with a hefty $10 donation. Coincidentally, there is a Professor Cocklin at James Cook University, as senior deputy vice-chancellor. 

There’s also the name Bryant Macfie, who has provided support to the tune of $2000. Macfie is a Perth doctor who donated $350,000 to the University of Queensland for “climate research” on topics selected in collaboration with the IPA. That is the same university that provides a course called “Making Sense of Climate Denial”, where you can learn how to counter arguments advanced by people such as the king of sweepovers, Morrie Newman

Anyway, in the same year he made the donation Macfie gave a big speech in which he made the interesting point that “the crucifix has been replaced by the wind turbine”. 

Trumpette #55

As if things aren’t bad enough with Democrats committing treason by not clapping more enthusiastically during the State of the Union address, they are now directly responsible for the sharemarket tumble earlier this week. 

Following the Stormy Daniels revelations, there is also heightened speculation that it is not Melania you see trailing around behind Barking Dog but a body double. That must have been the stand-in playing the board game Sorry with small tots at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. She also got a briefing from doctors, who explained the effects of “neonatal abstinence syndrome”, and the doppelgänger said she hoped to “give a voice” to those suffering from addiction. 

The real Melania is by now safely out of the whole mess, no doubt tucked up in Sevnica, Slovenia, with Vlad the Impaler.

 

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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Feb 10, 2018 as "Gadfly: The scarlet man". Subscribe here.

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