Diary

Gadfly
Daily dose of revisionism

The Daily Advertiser in Wagga Wagga has experienced some major rethinking since Michael McCormack, the current deputy prime minister, was the editor of the mighty organ that spreads itself throughout the Riverina.

McCormack’s editorial line in the 1990s – that humanity was in danger of being wiped out by disease-spreading gays – has been starkly revised.

This week, we find the paper carrying a story about the town of Hay hosting a mardi gras parade, to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the big event in Sydney.

One of the organisers, Kerry Aldred, was reported as saying they had been overwhelmed with the number of floats. “We may be in the middle of nowhere, but we are caring, loving, accepting … We are the start of a huge change in the bush.”

Inclusive and all as it is, the Hay Mardi Gras does not want to be branded as a “gay parade” – rather, it is “a parade of people gathering as one to raise money for our cancer patients”.

The paper also had news that members of Rainbow Riverina have wished the deputy PM well in his job. McCormack’s famously crazed editorial about “unnatural acts … disease … and sordid behaviour” was written in 1993 and, according to the LGBTQI group, was “in the context of the times”.

His editorials show it is entirely possible for journalists to be drongos on a scale equalled, if not bettered, by politicians. It was one of several he directed at the “whims of the ‘limp-wristed’ minority”. Defending his bigotry at the time, he wrote, “if homophobic can be taken as an intense fear of homosexuals then that’s fine, call me homophobic”.

Overcoming his intense fear, McCormack eventually shifted his position and ultimately voted “Yes” in parliament to the Marriage Act amendments – which coincided with the clear view of his electorate.

Just to show The Daily Advertiser is a balanced, news-hungry organ willing to criticise a former editor, it gave constituents a story about McCormack’s daughter paying a small amount of rent on a family property in Melbourne and querying whether this should have been disclosed earlier on the register of members’ interests.

Coalition ministers and their property problems. Sigh.

Rags to riches

Wagga’s Daily Advertiser was also home to a keen young newshound named Geoff Dixon, who went on to become the chief pilot at Qantas and later still to pulling ales at pubs with advertising and radio man John Singleton.

The paper was acquired by Rags Henderson in a partnership with Hanne Anderson, who later became Sir Wokka Fairfax’s second wife, and it stayed in the hands of Henderson and his family for 60 years, with ownership successively by his daughter Margaret Jarrett and later her daughter Alicia Jarrett.

Rags was the managing director of Fairfax, with the main task of plugging any holes through which the family fortunes may have leaked.

Alicia unsuccessfully sued Perpetual Trustees, executors of Margaret’s estate, complaining her mother had “impermissibly” paid out about $22.9 million from various trusts rather than retaining the money safely for her.

Rural Press bought The Daily Advertiser from Alicia for $64.5 million in 2007, just five months before Rural Press merged with Fairfax.

In 2003, McCormack sued Riverina Media Group for unfair dismissal, a mishap that was ultimately settled privately, so we don’t know the gory details.

Kenny’s tweet talk not that alluring

Goosebumps Cater of the Menzies “Research” Centre is running an event that will tear members away from their drowsy procrastinations.

In Sydney on March 6 and Melbourne on March 13 you can join Iraq war champion and coal enthusiast L’il Kris Kenny from The Catholic Boys Daily in a “masterclass” on how “to win Twitter”.

By this, it is meant how lunar zealots from the right of the soup spoon can take on the Twitter leftists and win the debates “using the persuasive powers of knowledge, civility, humour and humility”.

L’il Kris has been so boisterous a twitterer that a special award has been named after him and donated by writer Mike Carlton – the Gold Kenny for Right-Wing Fuckwittery.

Goosebumps wants doddery members of the MRC, “schooled in the centuries-old tradition of respectful debate”, to gather a bit of Twitter firepower and “amass a large following”.

A quick look at L’il Kris’s Twitter feed shows his masterful approach: pouring scorn on climate warmists, on Emma Alberici, and of course the rest of the ABC with its “vile sexist attacks on Pauline Hanson, Bronwyn Bishop, Ivanka Trump, Michaelia Cash, Gina Rinehart, Marine Le Pen, et al”.

In Melbourne, he’s joined on the platform by another News Corp hack, Rita Panahi, who writes thunderous proclamations and denunciations and seems to have a bit of a thing about “identity politics”.

Nonetheless, this star-studded collection of thinkers is having trouble luring attendees. In Sydney, at time of writing, there were only 11 people signed up to go. In Melbourne, the number was 12. And it’s only $45 a pop.

Will’s pokie face

Election day on Saturday in the island paradise, the former Van Diemen’s Land.

From this distance, Otto Abetz has been eerily quiet, apart from press releases pouring off his old Gestetner machine, announcing things such as, “ABC’s continued cover-up of child sex abuse claims troubling” and “Devonport City’s decision to back Australia Day welcome”.

If that sort of stuff doesn’t fire up the electorate, nothing will. The main thing about the campaign is the loot flowing into the Nasty Party war chest from poker machine trolls. Premier Willy Hodgman made reassuring noises, saying he had no idea where his party gets its money.

Polling shows Labor’s promise to remove poker machines from pubs and clubs is generally popular, with 57 per cent support. In Denison, 71 per cent support it. However, the electorate does have other concerns, such as education and health, and my field agents report that in riding the popularity of the pokies policy, Labor has dropped its bundle on these issues.

The loot in the Nasties’ cash register has allowed its candidates to go wild with signage. Peter Gutwein in Bass had one of his Liberal placards fortuitously perched on top of a real estate agent’s “For Lease” sign, while in South Launceston the site for an expanded McDonald’s outlet is plastered with messages from Health Minister Michael Ferguson.

Caged Kiwis

We can’t wait for Jacinda Ardern to start making a fuss about the number of her country’s citizens held in Australia’s migration gulags.

Latest figures show that of the 1287 people being held, people from the Land of the Strangled Vowels with “character” issues top the list with 170, compared with 113 Sri Lankans, 99 Iranians, 97 Vietnamese, 67 Chinese and 49 from Britain. Only a third of those held came by boat, a fact not prominent in utterances by Benito Dutton.

About 20 per cent of the detainees have been held for more than two years, with some not even getting a first interview during that period. One inmate has been waiting for four-and-a-half years for a primary decision.

Recommendations for release are regularly ignored, as are decisions by the Ombudsman’s office, which supposedly has oversight of detention. The Human Rights Commission is powerless and not much gets through the High Court’s tortured processes. Visitors are often harassed as attempts are made to silence dissent from Benito’s diktat.

Helpful? Not helpful

Another frustration is the sort of response refugee advocates and others get from what is called the “global feedback unit” at the Department of Home Affairs.

Regardless of the complaint being made – sexual harassment by detention staff, lack of medical care for the seriously ill, rotten food, denial of the right to attend church, mosque or temple – the same guff is pumped out by the department: “Fulfilment of duty of care responsibilities requires a balanced approach towards risk management including considerations of safety, security and welfare issues …” Blah, blah, blah.

Detainees with concerns about their mistreatment are advised to lodge their complaint with detention service provider Serco, the Commonwealth Ombudsman or the Australian Human Rights Commission.

“We hope this information is helpful to you,” says the wallah from the global feedback unit.

Trumpette #58

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, known to White House reptiles as “Suckabee”, was at her garbling finest when she sought to “clarify” what President Trump meant when he said he would have run into the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, during the mass shooting, with his bare hands, without a weapon.

Some saw this as once again showing the president in his role as a “gilded-chair quarterback … a boisterous loudmouth”.

It got confusing, because some of the headlines said Trump would have run into the school with an “active shooter”. But no, all Barking Dog was doing, according to Sanders, was showing leadership.

Edward-Isaac Dovere from Politico explained the clarification as best as possible: “Sarah Huckabee Sanders just clarified that when President Trump said earlier that he’d run into the school with the active shooter, he didn’t really mean that he’d run into a school with an active shooter but rather he’d ‘be a leader’.”

Just what you’d expect from someone who got five deferments during the Vietnam War.

 

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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Mar 3, 2018 as "Gadfly: Daily dose of revisionism". Subscribe here.

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