Diary of a made man
The latest instalment of The Spectator Australia has some absolutely crackerjack items. You’ll probably never buy the magazine, as very few do, so Gadfly is here to do the heavy lifting for you.
Bookshelves Brandis has a diary item about his meeting with Brenda, aka HM The Queen. He must have nipped down to Moss Bros for his morning suit, which was two sizes too big. The poor fellow looked as though he was drowning in his finery. The high commissioner was taken by the “young Captain of the Coldstream Guards gloriously bedecked in Court uniform”, who escorted him to the audience. “He tells me that before he went to Sandhurst he read Classics.”
It turns out that Bookshelves is a “trending” celebrity and has gone viral on social media after he made a surprising appearance in Hello! magazine. The palace released an official photo of the high commissioner with Brenda and in the background was a framed photo of Prince Harry and Meghan that had not previously been seen by the press.
“The presence of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s hitherto unseen portrait makes my photograph with The Queen an object of fascination,” Bookshelves wrote. Journalist Mike Carlton had earlier tweeted the Brandis photo, where he had HM saying: “Do forgive me, Mr Brando. For a moment there I thought you were the new butler with the gin.”
From there, Bookshelves headed off to a Queen’s Birthday knees-up at Lancaster House hosted by senior prefect Boris Johnson, who said the Trump–Kim summit was “the most famous meeting since Buddy Holly met Elvis Presley”.
At the gig, Bookshelves was standing near both the Russian and the Monégasque ambassadors when the foreign secretary rebuked the Russians for the assassination attempt on the Skripals. Alleged, surely.
“Poor Aleksandr,” Bookshelves reports the Monégasque ambassador as whispering to him. “The worst thing I have to worry about is people ringing up to ask if I can arrange to fit their yachts into the harbour at grand prix time.”
There were other hilarities in the mag. Mark Latham on Trump saving Western civilisation, followed by David Flint on how disappointing it was that John Howard didn’t get a Nobel Prize in 2001: “Just as the elites denied Howard his Nobel, it’s difficult to believe they won’t ensure the same result for Trump. He is too great a leader to lose any sleep over this.” Also unmissable was Jonathan Shier Jr complaining that the ABC ran a story on transgender people in Tonga.
All this and worse for only $10.95 a pop.
New South Wales Premier Aunty Gladys Berejiklian is a funny stick.
Go back to 2008 when she was a shadow spokesperson for prickly pear eradication, or some such, and there we find her having a rant about ministers not properly answering her questions on notice.
Hansard reports that on June 18 that year she was incandescent about an inadequate answer from the then minister for health. At the time the portfolio was held by the amazing Reba Meagher.
Gladys told the House: “The minister’s response was simply to refer me to an answer she gave to a member in the other place on another date. I find this to be extremely unsatisfactory ... We should not be asked to look up an answer the minister gave to a member of another party in the other place ...” Blah, blah, blah.
A field agent now points to an answer the premier gave on November 21 last year, after being asked by Labor MP Tim Crakanthorp about why action was not being taken on the banning of plastic bags. Aunty Gladys replied: “I refer to my answers during budget estimates regarding this matter.”
Her representative in the upper house, The Hon Don Harwin seems to have caught the same disease. Asked on notice whether the Australian Multicultural Christian Society returned a $10,000 grant under a community program, Uncle Don replied: “I refer you to my previous answers.”
As Gladys said in 2008: “When members of this place ask a question of a minister they deserve to get an answer.”
Celebrity journalist David Marr has tumbled to the fact that Gadfly’s alter ego has been moonlighting in the burial and internment business.
He forwards a letter from the Northern Suburbs Memorial Gardens and Crematorium: “On behalf of everyone at the Northern Suburbs Memorial Gardens, I would like to offer our condolences ... We realise this is a difficult time and there may be questions and information needed before a final resting place is decided ...
“If you would like further information about our memorials or our park please visit our website. Yours sincerely, Richard Ackland, Family Services Manager.”
For years Gadfly had been trying to keep this little career sideline discreet.
Since circumspection has been cast aside, it should be revealed that Marr himself has been holding down another job as chief financial officer at Woolworths. These are desperate times and we understand the struggle to make ends meet.
Before that, he was supply chain director for non-food products at Tesco in Britain. He also did a stint as “sales director – destination” at Foster’s.
No wonder he’s finding he has less time to write.
Tuesday was the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, and Gadfly found himself part of a panel discussion hosted by STARTTS, the Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors.
Former rock-star judge Michael Kirby was on hand and the discussion drifted to why the High Court doesn’t do something about the indefinitely imprisoned refugees and asylum seekers held by Benito Dutton in his gulags.
Some have served terms of imprisonment of more than five years. When does our beloved Constitution get to work with the separation of powers – namely detention that goes on too long turns into punishment, and punishment is the preserve of judges, not the executive.
You would be forgiven for thinking that “processing” is beyond a joke and Benito’s long-term detainees are by now being punished. After all, that is the boat-deterring purpose of the policy.
So why isn’t the High Court protecting the judges’ turf? Kirby explained, saying that when he first arrived at the court Michael McHugh held up four fingers: “Michael, here the magic number is four – you need four out of seven to make anything happen.”
Kirby told the STARTTS gathering that at the moment we know of only three who have expressed a predisposition for thinking that the executive’s policy of long-term detention has trespassed onto the judicial patch: Justice Virginia Bell, Justice Stephen Gageler and Justice Michelle Gordon. One, two, three.
The prisoners need one more finger.
Free speech is back in the limelight and given a good airing by the usual adorable advocates.
Amanda Stoker, who arrived in the Senate from Queensland to replace Gorgeous George Brandis, was seen on Sky News screens in airports and dementia wards, saying: “Look, I think 18C has got to go. I think 18C is a drag on our society.”
Amanda, who has been desperate to get into parliament, any parliament, for ages treads in the shoes of some big thinkers. Senator Sprog Paterson was saying only the other day that universities should be punished if they don’t say or do things of which he approves – such as embrace the Howard Civilisation degree.
The punishment would take the form of withholding funds. If “an angry minority” at universities want to say ideological things, then Sprog is all for punishing this sort of outrageous free speech. Yeah.
Senator Stoker also showed us her special way with words: “And at a time where people are expressing religious views feel like they aren’t as free to do so as they once were, more than ever, those who express religious or unpopular or traditional views are being called before discrimination boards and commissions to be able to say what they believe and do what they believe, with integrity, to the things that are core to them, I think is really important.”
Where does the Nasty Party find these people?
Jeff Sessions, the micro US attorney-general, has said that it’s quite all right to separate children from their parents at the Mexican border – the Bible says so. Tiny Jeff referred to St Paul’s letter to the Romans, with St Paul giving “clear and wise command” that people should obey the law: “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.”
Right on. Restaurant evictee Sarah Huckabee Sanders thinks so, too. “I can say it is very biblical to enforce the law – that is repeated throughout the Bible,” the poor woman insisted.
Romans chapter 13 also came in handy for those who were keen on slavery.
The Great Orange Pussy Grabber said he doesn’t want all “these people to invade our country ... When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no judges or court cases, bring them back from where they came”.
Ms Sanders again was on hand to help: “Just because you don’t see a judge doesn’t mean you don’t receive due process.”
Where have we heard this before? Of course, it originally came from Little Winston Howard, once more showing Australia punching above its weight.
Back in the day, Winston came up with the plan to thwart the courts meddling in refugee cases, which meant once one of the select functionaries on the old Refugee Review Tribunal had determined the refugee status of an applicant, the decision could not be reviewed by a court.
No natural justice – that’s just too bad. However, Murray Gleeson’s High Court had other ideas in the famous but long forgotten case with the tantalising name of S157/2002 v The Commonwealth, 2003. The High Court flattened Winston in his attempt to squeeze the federal courts out of refugee work.
Phew. But that judge stuff won’t stop Trumpy, who seemed to have taken too much acid when he said last month: “We have thousands of judges. Do you think other countries have judges?”
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jun 30, 2018 as "Gadfly: Diary of a made man". Subscribe here.