Turnbulls face a star chamber

Hankies were dabbing at moistened eyes as soprano Nicole Car and the Australian Chamber Orchestra were at their most passionate on Saturday night. 

Mozart, Beethoven and Verdi were on the bill as the Melbourne soprano held everyone in her spell. Hairs on the back of eminent backs were standing on end all over Sydney’s City Recital Hall, and no doubt the ACO’s inaugural outing of the 1726 “Belgiorno” Stradivarius was partly responsible. 

There were so many celebs in the crowd that Gadfly lost count. Judges by the bench-load, playwright David Williamson towering over everyone, former ABC chairman and chief censor Donald McDonald, captains of industry, bizoids and glamourpusses. 

And there in the middle of the stalls was our very own Malvolio Trumble and Mrs Trumble. One citizen whispered at interval, “the evil one is here”. 

As the hooting and applause died down after the final encore, the happy assembly started to file out only to have the Trumbles start waving and cooee-ing from their seats, trying to grab the attention of various notables.

Trumble seemed as pleased as punch with his own presence, evidenced by his rictus smile. For a moment he seemed indistinguishable from Blair Paton-Smythe, the Barry Humphries character – loud, monied, globetrotting and flashy.

Antics roadshow

Only that morning Gadfly was up at sparrow’s to get to Sydney’s Carriageworks to be “in conversation” with The Saturday Paper’s national correspondent, Mike Seccombe. The session marked the 200th issue of this small but perfectly formed organ with the event sponsored by personal care lubricators Aēsop, who turned on the coffee and breakfast pastries. 

We traversed pressing issues, such as the migration debate, journalism, #MeToo, a national integrity commission, Facebook and, needless to say, Trump. It was so successful that we’ve been urged to take the conversation on tour to leagues clubs across the state. It’s expected to rival the popularity of a Stormy Daniels performance, although one attendee said he thought the pastries stole the morning. 

Judging by the feedback, readers seem delighted with this paper and the publisher’s support for journalism, quite apart from meeting the urgent journalistic requirement to put bread and dripping on the table.

Dutton doing

Benito Dutton and his goon squad have set very clear limits on the quality of mercy. 

There are fresh instances at hand that come via a field agent who has been communing with Pamela Curr of the Brigidine Asylum Seekers Project. 

Last year, on the eve of a Victorian Supreme Court trial, the Commonwealth settled for $70 million with asylum seekers at the Manus detention centre. The applicants claimed the government and its contractors had breached their duty of care by holding them in conditions that did not meet basic standards. They experienced physical and psychological harm and were falsely imprisoned after the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea found their detention was illegal. 

Two of the detainees decided to send their portions of the settlement to families back home and asked a refugee friend to make the transfers. It amounted to about $37,000 in each case. 

The amount of money in the refugee’s bank account was much larger than normal and this came to the attention of financial intelligence agency Austrac with the upshot that the woman making these transfers has now lost her welfare benefits, upon which she depended. 

Some banks are avid in reporting the transactions of refugees but not the millions of dollars laundered through “intelligent” ATMs. 

Citizens at a recent Liberty Victoria gathering also heard of the young African woman who walked the length of Sydney Road, Coburg, asking for work. Ultimately, she was taken on by a retailer and promised $10 an hour, which never materialised. The wages were always promised for “next week”.  

After saying she could not continue to work without being paid she was offered a bunch of bananas and again told “next week”. 

Frequently, when an unscrupulous employer sees that a worker is on a bridging visa, this is regarded as an open invitation for exploitation. Yet refugees talk about their desire for a “tax job” – a position where they have a proper wage and can pay proper tax.

Shack jock

Ray Hadley, the sulphurous Sydney shock jock, will be chuffed that the New South Wales government has recognised his historic roots in the life of the state. 

Hadley Park, an early 19th-century estate near Penrith in Western Sydney, has been awarded a covetous nomination on the State Heritage Register, which basically means it will be protected and preserved at taxpayers’ expense. 

The cabinet decision was reached on the recommendation of environment minister and member for Vaucluse Gabrielle Upton

Scholars tell Gadfly that Radio Man Ray is a descendant of Charles Hadley, 1771–1828, who was convicted of shoplifting and sentenced to life at Sydney Cove. He arrived with the Third Fleet aboard the convict ship Matilda

On getting a free pardon the governor gave him a grant of land, without permission from the local Aborigines. Construction of Hadley Park was under way between 1803 and 1812. The assessment of the Heritage Division states: “Hadley Park is of state significance for its historical, aesthetic and representative values, research value and rarity.” 

The timing couldn’t be better, what with a state election in March next year and the Gladys government needing all the help it can get. 

The Hadleys no longer own the estate and there’s no evidence that Ray took time off from his airwave rants to lobby for the state heritage listing, but the former Sydney taxi driver and fervent supporter of the Penrith Panthers surely has every reason to be tickled pink that the government has recognised the importance of his ancestral spread.

Biscuit Tone

Taxpayers have also been generous in stumping up $100 million for the Monash Museum in France. The member for Warringah, T. Abbott, was so excited by this and the fact that, apart from World War I, the Monash name is now associated with a bright future for coal that he letterboxed his electorate with an Anzac commemorative newsletter. 

“From the Boer War, to the present day, Australians have continued to answer the call of democracy and freedom in the defence of our nation,” Ten Flags Tony belched in his bulletin reeking of reminders of the splendours of war. 

There was lots of stuff about Monash, great battles that “turned the tide of war” and, to get electors into a suitably patriotic mood, a recipe for Anzac biscuits: plain flour, sugar, rolled oats, butter, treacle and bicarb of soda. 

Lucky Warringahites. 

Trumpette #65

The New Yorker’s Adam Davidson writes that the FBI raids on the business and home of Barking Dog’s spivvy lawyer Michael Cohen is the beginning of the end of his presidency. 

The fuzz are exploring the business activities of Trump’s fix-it man and that will lead them into the “rampant criminality” of his “small, sad global operation”. 

One of Cohen’s jobs was to pay off people who could embarrass Trump or his friends. This includes paying $US1.6 million in hush money to a Playboy model who was apparently pregnant to large-scale Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy. 

This is quite apart from the $US150,000 to buy the silence of former bunny Karen McDougal, who had a year-long affair with the Dotard, beginning just three months after the birth of little Barron Trump. And, of course, Cohen “facilitated” the $US130,000 in hush money for Stormy, which hasn’t kept her hushed at all. 

It’s all the more fascinating that Judge Kimba Wood, the federal judge in Manhattan handling the litigation between the investigators and Cohen, was herself a former Playboy bunny in London. Admittedly, she spent only five days as a Playboy “trainee” while studying at the London School of Economics. 

She is also known as the “Love Judge”, because in the 1990s she became tabloid fodder for an affair with a wealthy Wall Street financier. Her squeeze, Frank Richardson, wrote in his diary that Kimba was “absolutely wonderful, very intelligent, a complete woman and able to give love wonderfully and freely”. 

Bill Clinton nominated her for attorney-general, but she withdrew because of some disturbance over the fact she had hired an undocumented immigrant as a babysitter. 

Why can’t we have judges like this?  


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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Apr 21, 2018 as "Gadfly: Turnbulls face a star chamber". Subscribe here.

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