Diary

Gadfly
Hot off the press council

This week Gadfly thinks it’s high time to unload some festering snipes and snarls. Take the Australian Press Council as a starting point.

The press “regulator” is in the process of rissoling the Indigenous woman Carla McGrath as a public member of the council, on the feeble excuse that her position as deputy chair of GetUp! creates a conflict of interest.

What on earth are they on about? The Press Council itself is a conflict of interest, riddled with tired hacks representing their paymasters in the media. Conflict of interest is at the very heart of this outfit and always has been; or as we like to say at Gadfly HQ, it’s the APC’s sine qua non.

The council was designed to be an industry self-regulator with a few independent people in the mix, rather like cherries on top of the compost pit.

The Moloch rags and others would be incandescent if the complaints arbiter was akin to an independent statutory body. Even so, the council itself tries to avoid overt conflicts and industry nominees don’t sit on adjudications affecting their own news organisations.

Similarly, Carla would not have sat on any adjudication involving complaints against News Corp, because the reptiles there kicked up such a stink about her appointment a year ago.

Nonetheless, Paul Whittaker, editor-in-chief of The Catholic Boys Daily, was given space in his own paper to vent against the appointment of someone from a left-wing activist group such as GetUp! Whittaker wrote that he welcomed McGrath being removed as a member of the Press Council.

“How [the council] could have thought this appointment was appropriate in any circumstance is beyond me.”

There’s a lot else that’s beyond him. Presumably it would be much less confronting if a right-wing patsy were appointed. This unattractive episode makes the APC look like a lickspittle and that McGrath’s removal really has been at the behest of the low-rent bovver boys at the House of Moloch.

Cable guy

The electors of the Tasmanian seat of Braddon must be tickled pink that Brett Whiteley has dragged himself out of the Burnie pie shops for another tilt at the House of Representatives following the untimely resignation of Labor’s section 44 victim Justine Keay.

Justine is running again in the byelection and Tasmanian citizens can only be thankful that Labor’s Brian Mitchell in Lyons and Ross Hart in Bass had their section 44 ducks in a row, otherwise we’d see the re-emergence of those other two from the Abbott era, Eric Hutchinson and Field Marshal Andrew Nikolic.

It’s not as though the Three Amigos have been without soft landings since their defeat at the 2016 federal election. Hutchinson was appointed administrator of Norfolk Island after a gruelling stint as an adviser to the undertaker Senator Stephen Parry. He said he had a personal association with Norfolk Island because “I have a relative buried there”.

Butterball Brett had taken a job on the staff of Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt, while the field marshal landed the daddy of them all, a $300,000-a-year gig with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, courtesy of Bookshelves Brandis.

It was from that lofty position the former MP for Bass, perhaps in breach of quasi-judicial guidelines, continued to make political statements on his Facebook page.

Anyway, Butterball is looking mightily pleased with himself after Blair Paton-Trumble announced $30 million of federal money for a Cradle Mountain cable car, described in the blatts as the equivalent of a “MONA of northern Tasmania”.

Mayo news

Talking of Bookshelves, what is the Australian high commissioner in London doing retweeting messages from Baby Fishnets Downer about putting up her jewelled paw for Nasty preselection in the South Australian seat of Mayo?

There were at least three retweets from Brandis’s high commissioner account, relaying Georgina Downer’s messages to the huddled masses of Mayo that she would be returning to their bosom and seeking to serve them by means of a warm seat on the House of Reps leather.

One of her winning lines is that she was “married in Mayo”. Another cracker was her insistence that Labor’s policy of getting rid of the GST on tampons was an attempt to “salami-slice Australian society into different groups”. It’s the politics of “division”, Georgina told amazed Sky News viewers.

Perhaps there’s a chance Big Fishnets still has access to the high commissioner’s Twitter account. Either way, this is an entirely unsatisfactory state of affairs and has Australia House staff shaking their heads in despair.

Oxford commoner

Of course, Gadfly was just as flummoxed by Q&A compere Tony Jones’s introduction last Monday of Nasty Party minister Angus Taylor as an “Oxford-educated economist”.

What an overlarded piece of badging. Maybe Taylor himself asked for this catchline. While it is true that the minister for lawn order did attend New College, Oxford, his master’s thesis was an analysis of the relationship between the brewing industry and the pubs – not exactly in the realm of pressing macro policy.

On the other hand, the infinitely better qualified economist in parliament, Labor’s Dr Andrew Leigh, did a PhD at Harvard, is a fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia and was professor of economics at the Australian National University between 2004 and 2010.

Yet he was introduced on a recent edition of Q&A with a minimum of flourish as “Labor’s assistant shadow treasurer”. Talk about Aunty’s right-wing bias.

Puts a rose in every cheat

Gadfly is as delighted as the next person to hear news there have been discussions to promote former Australian cricket captain Steve Smith as a Vegemite ambassador.

Apparently, “brand experts” have been distressed that companies withdrew their sponsorship too hastily following the recent ball-tampering fiasco.

Gurus have volunteered a range of opinions, including from “crisis management expert” Ian Kortlang, who said there had been a “knee-jerk” reaction from Weet-Bix to dump Smith so quickly after he fessed up to tampering.

It seems corporate barrows are being pushed at a strenuous rate, yet it does make one wonder if reverse swing of the ball could be improved with the application of a touch of the black yeasty substance.

Budget or bust

Drivers on the Hume Highway from Sydney to Canberra on Tuesday last week would have passed a sedate Murrays bus packed to the gills with strange-looking people.

This special omnibus was carrying reptiles of the Fairfax press from Sydney to the budget lock-up.

Senior scribblers from The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian Financial Review were more or less confined to their own seating areas on the vehicle, with minimum cross-pollination or animated chatter.

Most stayed at the Hotel Kurrajong, the old haunt of Labor politicians. The Tories usually stayed at the flasher Hotel Canberra. In fact, Ben Chifley died on June 13, 1951, at the Kurrajong in the arms of his personal secretary and “affectionate companion”, Phyllis Donnelly

After the lock-up, the AFR reptiles retired to the Wild Duck restaurant in Kingston to contemplate their labours. There was no reported sighting of the SMH crew.

Trumpette #69

When Winston Churchill’s odious grandson Nicholas Soames was taken ill, doctors said his condition was benign, giving rise to the observation, “It must be the only part of him that is.”

This comes to mind with the news that the Pussy-Grabber-in-Chief’s wife Melania Trump (the former Ms Knavs) is in dock with a medical issue and she, too, is “benign”, making her probably the only grown-up in the president’s family to merit this description.

It could scarcely be applied to Jared Kushner, the son-in-law-in-chief, “senior adviser” and peace envoy, who has been busy celebrating in Jerusalem, while scores die in Gaza.

Associated Press reported recently that Kushner’s “deep business and personal ties” to Israel may harm his role on Middle East peace efforts. It seems there was a previously undisclosed real estate deal in New Jersey with Kushner companies and a big Israeli insurer, Harel Insurance Investments & Financial Services Ltd.

The Kushner Companies also have a “longstanding relationship” with two major Israeli banks, Bank Hapoalim and Bank Leumi, the same bank the late Rene Rivkin used to squirrel away funds from the Offset Alpine insurance fire.

Kushner’s cosiness with the world of Israeli finance, closeness with Bibi Netanyahu and links to the West Bank settler movement indicate that, in the finest tradition of the Trump White House, making a dollar is a higher priority than actually doing any peace business.

 

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on May 19, 2018 as "Gadfly: Hot off the press council". Subscribe here.

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

Continue reading your one free article for the week