Diary

Gadfly
Kerr’s cursive

The nation has been gripped again by the history wars, with Emeritus Professor Jenny Hocking of The Dismissal Dossier fame in one corner and in the other two scribblers from The Catholic Boys Daily, Father Paul Kelly and Troy-Boy Bramston

Prof. Anne Twomey is in there as well, telling Financial Review readers that she sniffs no sign of a conspiracy that the Brits and HM The Queen were in on Jolly John Kerr’s move to stab the Whitlam government in the back. 

Hocking has been turned down by the Federal Court in her application to get access to National Archives correspondence between Kerr, Brenda and Brenda’s palace courtiers, including that of her official private secretary, Sir Martin Charteris.  

These letters are stamped “personal” and apparently that means we have to wait until hell freezes over before Australians can clap eyes on them. 

Hocking is appealing Justice John Griffiths’ decision and has stellar silk Bret Walker acting for her, pro bono. 

Her thesis is that the palace people had prior knowledge of “at least the possibility of dismissal”. Among other things, she points to a conversation in September 1975 that Jolly John had with Prince Charles while they were both junketing in Papua New Guinea for independence corroborees. 

The GG in his notes says he told Charles that he might have to use the reserve powers – that is, sack the government – and he was anxious to protect his ample backside against Whitlam requesting he be recalled. 

If that is not giving the gypsy’s warning to the Brits about what was going on in Kerr’s addled head, then what is? 

By this stage Jolly was so out of it on the booze and his own personal identity crisis that he probably blabbed a lot more to the notional Welshman. 

You’ll need a bottle of jumbo-strength No Doze to get through the Kelly–Bramston article but the two hacks claim that Kerr’s handwritten notes about “Charteris’s advice to me” was not an indication the GG was signalling his intention to the palace to dismiss Whitlam. 

Hang about a bit. That wasn’t Jolly’s full note at all. He actually wrote: “Charteris’s advice to me on dismissal” – indicating the possibility that Queeney & co were on notice that plans to sack the Australian government were brewing. 

If this is so, then would HM owe a duty to her Australian prime minister to warn him what was cooking? 

It’s strange that Fr Kelly and Troy-Boy would omit such a crucial detail and that they would go in so hard in defence of Brenda and Charteris without having a clue what was in Kerr’s extensive secret correspondence. 

You must remember that even David Flint was disgusted with Jolly, so much so that he walked out of lunch midway through a speech by the viceroy, who was struggling to stay upright.

Arrow root

It is wonderful to know that the Firm is in better shape than ever, what with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at it like rabbits and producing a fifth-in-line. 

Back home the family man’s friend, Barnaby Joyce, has done the same thing and given a grateful nation little Sebastian Joyce

And what an auspicious name for the tiny tot. Saint Sebastian, of course, was a Christian martyr who fell out with the emperor Diocletian who ordered his execution by arrows. 

Except that he didn’t die and instead stood underneath Diocletian’s staircase and harangued him about his cruelty to Christians. The emperor was astonished to be subject to this outburst of free speech by someone he thought dead and ordered that he be killed again. 

This is how Sebastian came to occupy the Christian hall of fame. He is now the patron saint of archers and athletes (touch football), and according to some authorities a heroic figure for gay men. 

Diocletian ultimately retired to his palace on the Dalmatian coast, which is now part of the city of Split. 

There’s got to be a bundle of modern-day parallels there about the perils of free speech, vilifying emperors, surviving slings and arrows, and making a comeback. 

Gadfly has offered incantations to the gods and spirits to watch over little Seb of Armidale.

Court teaser

Lawyers and others are rejoicing that head notes – those short descriptions at the top of court judgements – have finally broken free of their traditional, dry constraints. 

Justice Peter Hamill of the New South Wales Supreme Court delivered a judgement this week in a case called Gladys Hargraves v Susan Eveston, about a mother–daughter dispute over money in which Mrs Hargraves was suing her daughter Mrs Eveston for the return of $1.6 million that had been lent. 

Justice Hamill gave her a verdict in that amount, plus interest, and went into quite a bit of detail describing the family’s squabbles that arose from their involvement in a quarry and concrete business. 

Hence we find catchwords that say:  “Civil law – unpleasant litigation – contract dispute – loans from mother to daughter – internecine family dispute ... dispute as to whether conversation occurred – where neither party presents as a witness of credit – financial shenanigans – palpable personal animosity – dark looks across the public gallery – tsk-tsking ...” 

What an alluring invitation to read a judgement.

Nobody’s business

The NSW Liberal Party has organised a convention for electorates in Sydney’s northern region to drum up interest in whatever’s going on and presumably raise some dosh. 

The chinwag covers topics on how to beat Labor “by making social media our weapon”, how to beat the “groans of infrastructure fatigue”, and how to make member engagement work, all topped off with a keynote address by Aunty Gladys

However, the one session that is the daddy of them all is about how government should “get out of the way to let business work”. The speakers are Tony “Stadiums” Shepherd, former Macquarie Bank bigwig Kevin McCann, and someone called Ben Heap

The timing could not be more exquisite, what with the financial services royal commission demonstrating precisely what happens when the government regulator gets out of the way of business.

Logrollocracy

Blair Paton-Trumble and other Liberals are wringing their hands about how they got it so wrong on the royal commission. What a terrible mistake, if only we’d seen the light earlier et cetera. 

But the pattern of their delusion is evident across the spectrum of public policy. Everywhere you look it is evident they are governing for logrollers and sectional interests, and have little or no concern for the public interest. 

Live sheep exports, climate, a national integrity commission, dramatically worsening income inequality and wage stagnation, negative gearing and housing prices, over-funding of private schools, tackling obesity, tax evasion – all are in need of a decent workable policy response. As with marriage equality and the financial services commission, the government had to be dragged kicking and screaming to get on board, and then it only did so grudgingly. 

What a shameful, hopeless lot of third-raters.

Wild winds

Last week Gadfly referred to getting up at “sparrow’s” to attend the conversation with Mike Seccombe at Sydney’s Carriageworks. The “fart” part was missing, out of decorum and respect, but a reader picked up the reference and put us straight with a few facts. 

“For the record, of the nearly 10,000 species of bird, none of them fart. Snakes do, as do startled zebras. The beaded lacewing farts on termites it feeds on to stun and kill them. 

“If interested, read more in the book entitled Does It Fart?: The Definitive Field Guide to Animal Flatulence, by Nick Caruso and Dani Rabaiotti.”  

It’s now on the top of Gadfly’s reading list.

Trumpette #66

Apart from Alexander “Fishnets” Downer blowing the whistle on a wine bar conversation in London, which led to the special prosecutor investigation into Trump and his campaign, Australia played another fascinating part in the entire Trump-Spivs-Mueller investigation.

We mentioned last week that former trainee Playboy Bunny Judge Kimba Wood, a federal judge in New York, is examining the claims of client privilege made by Barking Dog’s dodgy lawyer, Michael Cohen, following a raid on Cohen’s home and office by federal investigators.

It can’t be too difficult a job because Cohen only had three clients and mostly he was doing Mr Fixit work, not legal work. The clients were Trump; Elliott Broidy, the billionaire who paid off a Playboy Bunny he impregnated; and Sean Hannity, a rabid Trump blowhard who works for Lord Moloch’s Fox network.

When Kimba was born her mother went to the atlas to look for a name and, flipping through the South Pacific and Oceania section, spotted a tiny town on Australia’s Eyre Highway called Kimba. The name is derived from an Aboriginal word for bushfire and the town is halfway between Australia’s east and west coasts.

Today, Kimba celebrates with a large mural on its grain silos and an eight-metre-high galah outside the local gem shop, which sells beverages, emu eggs and souvenirs.

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Apr 28, 2018 as "Gadfly: Kerr’s cursive". Subscribe here.

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