Diary

Gadfly
Mr Humphreys, are you free?

Doug Humphreys, president of the Law Society of New South Wales, had a frightful time on his recent Law Association for Asia and the Pacific (LAWASIA) fact-finding mission to the Maldives.

The delegation thought they had all the proper authority to conduct their investigation into the independence of the Maldives’ judiciary and crumbling rule of law under the strongman Abdulla Yameen, only to be taken into custody “in a closed detention facility under guarded surveillance” as soon as they arrived.

Doug and the other delegates spent 24 hours in captivity before they were whisked out of the island paradise on a plane to Colombo, where they could recover their spirits.

Law Society chief Michael Tidball wrote to members of the society’s council, advising that he had been in contact with President Humphreys during his incarceration. “The decision was made to not communicate widely about this incident until all members of the LAWASIA delegation had left the Maldives.”

Politzer prized

Many would not have known or heard of John Politzer, but he was one of the great quiet strengths of the Australian film industry.

He died a few weeks ago, at 83, and his life was celebrated last week by a packed crowd at the Chauvel Cinema in Paddington. These days Gadfly doesn’t do funerals or memorial services – it’s “celebrations”.

And what a celebrated life he had. John started at Hoyts and later moved to Greater Union, where he ran the Pitt Street cinema, which he turned into a sort of fabulous art house venue. He was also at Village Roadshow and an adviser to Dendy Films.

John was always pushing for the distribution and exhibition of Australian films and was a great mentor to local producers and directors. He loved a chat, so much so that it would take him two hours to get 150 metres up the street for a cup of coffee after shooting the breeze with his many friends. 

Margaret Pomeranz recalled going to industry functions in the old days where there were always bees buzzing around this little grey-haired fellow as if he were a honeypot.

Former News and Foxtel boss Kim Williams was a family friend and recalls John finding him a print of Citizen Kane for his 30th birthday.

Warm, kind, funny, decent and a lover of desserts. They don’t make them like that anymore.

Kenny’s party hat

What could possibly go wrong? It should have to be a sure thing, what with L’il Kris Kenny looking overfed in his Liberal Party cap and T-shirt on the campaign trail for his sister Therese in the South Australian elections. 

Yet when the votes were counted not even the allure of L’il Kris could persuade the burghers of Torrens to take Therese as their local MP. People can’t see quality when it’s staring them in the face. Maybe they were still scratching themselves over the audacity of a newspaperman actually pulling on the party jersey and waddling onto the field. 

It’s one thing to scribble Liberal-inspired gibberish for readers but to drop all pretence and parade around in costume is quite another. Maybe it comes from a misconception – Kris thinks that, as an employee of commercial media, he is free to peddle his wares in any way he likes. 

If so, he forgets that just like a journalist at the ABC, he is largely funded by the community and owes a duty to fairness and a modicum of decency.

The hypocrisy is compounded when we remember that Li’l Kris earlier this month was accusing The Financial Review’s Laura Tingle of a “conflict of interest” because she hosted a few discussions at the ASEAN jamboree. 

You wouldn’t read about it.

Beemers rebadged

Following Gadfly’s item about sponsored police cars parked outside the Rose Bay cop shop in the shire of Trumble’s Point Piper, the NSW shadow attorney-general, Paul Lynch, asked police minister Troy Boy Grant what’s going on. 

Confusion seems to be what’s going on. The minister’s first answer was along the lines that the eastern suburbs police area command “does not currently have a sponsored vehicle” but that the former Rose Bay area command had a “standard sponsorship agreement with BMW”. 

Hold on a minute: that answer was wrong, as a breathless parliamentary official explained to the shadow AG. The answer needs to be replaced with a “revised” version. 

“The eastern suburbs police area command has a Toyota Camry hybrid, supplied by Waverley Council.”

Can you catch any crooks in a hybrid? And isn’t that a bit too cosy, with local councils getting into bed with the cops? 

No mention of the Jag in police decal that was spotted tooling around New South Head Road.

Voltaire aways

Having sent the trolls into a foam-flecked fury last year by giving a free speech gong to Gillian Triggs of the Human Rights Commission, the pranksters at Liberty Victoria have done it again. 

This time they awarded mechanical engineer and broadcaster Yassmin Abdel-Magied the Young Voltaire award. Within a few hours, there were 24,000 hits on Liberty’s sites as the news was flicked to outraged citizens. Liberty president Jessie Taylor, QC, conducted a doughty defence of the decision for the poor person’s parrot, Neil Mitchell

Yassmin discovered that if you are female and Muslim you have to leave the country should you suggest we ought to remember Manus, Nauru, Syria and Palestine on Anzac Day – which was nothing more or less than Alan Seymour’s critique of the boozy sentiment of the great day.

Facebook lived up to its reputation as the repository of odious, ignorant comments: “This disrespectful, racist ingrate is getting an award?? For what?? Being a stupid self absorbed bigot?? … Let’s give Osama bin Laden a peace prize while we’re at it hey? … How can you give someone this award when she criticises the veterans who protected this country from being invaded …”

Actor Magda Szubanski also got a top gong for her work for marriage equality, while journalist Behrouz Boochani, a writer for this paper, who is detained on Manus without charge or trial, may be modestly uplifted by receiving the Empty Chair Award.

Bulwark Lynton

Gadfly is grateful to Lord Gnome’s organ for pointing out that “right-wing election strategist” Sir Lynton Crosby has turned up with an opinion piece in the Abu Dhabi newspaper The National

“Sir” Lynton deplores the “aura of negativity” affecting Western politics. Private Eye puts it so crisply: “Strewth! Aussie attack-dingo Crosby isn’t exactly allergic to negativity himself.”  

When it comes to his campaigns against Ken Livingstone, Ed Miliband, Alex Salmond, Sadiq Khan and Jeremy Corbyn, “Sir” Lynton was master of the negatives. His bio at the foot of the article announced that he used to advise Little Winston Howard, Boris Johnson, and the Conservative Party in the 2015 election. No mention of his excitingly negative 2017 election advice for Theresa May.

Trumpette #61

To Washington, where the Trump apparatus is at its most wobbly, venal and crude. The president is hiring more celebrity TV lawyers to wrangle with the Mueller investigation, with women who claim to have been groped by him, and with models with whom he engaged in trysts of various varieties and who now want to be free of the hush clauses in their “contracts”. 

Back here, pundits and gurus are going into overdrive to sing the praises of Barking Dog. Chuckles Henderson in last weekend’s Catholic Boys Daily ignores the industrial-scale lying and insists that the orange thug is “clever and cunning. He does not read much but he is highly intelligent”. Anyway, disruption is good for us. 

Writing in the same organ, Grouper Greg expended a large amount of space to tell us very little, only that the president’s “unorthodox methodology has so far yielded more results than would have come from alternative means”. 

Maddy Devine told her spellbound Sky News audience that she met Trump as part of the great Malvolio Trumble caravanserai to Washington. 

“In the flesh he’s taller, slimmer and better looking, normal looking, in real life ... He didn’t look orange and his hair looked a normal colour, it was silvery-goldy, but it wasn’t orange and his face wasn’t orange ... He did still have little hands. He looks formidable.” 

I’m only quoting these authorities to save you the bother of having to plough through this stuff yourself. 

The alternative view is that Trump is more than a devious dealmaker who takes extreme positions as a negotiating ploy; rather, he is a psychopath whose unhinged outrages are indulged by a largely supine Republican Party, with the result that the world is a dangerously unpredictable place. 

Further, he has surrounded himself with a bunch of incompetent third-raters as cabinet secretaries, gougers on the public teat, while his family does sly deals for their personal enrichment. 

All of this will be sorted at a talkfest on April 3, sponsored by the Menzies “Research” Centre, with the topic “Does Australia Need a Donald Trump?” described on the program as a “Though [sic] Network Debate”. 

Those for the proposition are Maddy Devine and another Telegraph hack, James Morrow. They are up against Tom “Tiddly-Winks” Switzer and the late Paddy McGuinness’s daughter Parnell, who is described as a “Thought Broker”. 

The thing is that no matter how much you try to polish a turd, it is still a turd.

 

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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Mar 24, 2018 as "Gadfly: Mr Humphreys, are you free?". Subscribe here.

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