Diary

Gadfly
Assassin’s creed

Have you noticed the way that Prime Minister Trumble, and others of his ilk, are more frequently mentioning the “Australian dream”? The tax cuts are all about “realising your dreams”. Owning 15 negatively geared houses is part of the Australian dream. A fair go and all that stuff is also part of our dream. 

The notion is borrowed, like a lot else, from the US of A, where politicians prattle on tirelessly about the “American dream” – backwoodsman becoming president; the Koch brothers controlling all the newspapers, the universities and the Supreme Court. All fair game for dreamers. 

It came home to Gadfly after an evening at the Sydney Opera House watching possibly one of the strangest shows on offer – Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins, a riotous musical about America’s obsession with guns and power, and the nutters who assassinated presidents, or have attempted to do so. 

It was a night of black fun making the point that the most effective way to make a statement is to shoot someone. 

They were all there: Lee Harvey Oswald, John Wilkes Booth, John Hinckley Jr, Samuel Byck, Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, Charles Guiteau, Sara Jane Moore, Giuseppe Zangara.

Byck was particularly delicious. He hijacked a plane intending to fly it into the White House to kill Tricky Dicky Nixon. Byck managed to shoot himself after he realised the plane couldn’t take off because the wheel blocks were still in place. He recorded some memorably insane tapes that he sent to Leonard Bernstein. Yet it was Sondheim, not Leonard, who saw the musical potential. 

As the eponymous number puts it, with the chorus of assassins in full voice: 

Everybody’s got the right to be different

Even though at times they go to extremes

Aim for what you want a lot 

Everybody gets a shot

Everybody’s got a right

To their dreams.

Witness K hole

The hill tribes of Mayo must be wondering what hit them. First up, it appears that $39 billion worth of British frigates ordered by the Royal Australian Navy are to be handcrafted by the hills people themselves, in Mayo. 

Why else would Baby Fishnets Downer have her mug in the shot while Trumble announced the purchase alongside Defence Minister Marise Payne and various military wallahs?  

If that doesn’t bring home the bacon for the Nasty Party in the byelection, then Payne has a back-up plan. She announced a grant of $29,070 to the Woodside Defence Families Association, to assist “ADF families in the Adelaide Hills community”. 

It’s all a bit vague but apparently the money is to assist Defence families to “engage with their local communities ... and build links and support networks”. 

That might buy in a few more votes that never looked uncertain in the first place. However, a fog of mystery has descended over the tribes as they ponder the news that Canberra lawyer Bernard Collaery and his client Witness K have been summonsed to face charges for allegedly conspiring to blow the whistle on the Timor-Leste bugging scandal. 

The office of the prime minister and the cabinet room of the Timor-Leste government were bugged in 2004 by the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, which came under the authority of then foreign minister and member for Mayo Fishnets Downer

The purpose was to get advance notice of what the Timorese were thinking so they could be screwed during negotiations over the Timor Sea treaty that divvied up the oil and gas spoils in the region.

Anti-corruption advocate and former Victorian appeals court judge Stephen Charles said the whole thing stinks and is exactly why we need a national integrity commission with wide powers. 

No doubt, the hills people are puzzled by this late entry into their voting calculations. Then again, if Big Fishnets, Teflon-like, could walk away unharmed from the royal commission into the Australian Wheat Board kickbacks and the wilful breach of Iraq sanctions, what could possibly be wrong with a little bit of eavesdropping on a friendly little neighbour?

Wilson’s security

Adelaide’s Catholic Archbishop Philip Wilson is making a strong stand for religious freedom: the freedom not to have any contrition for hiding the crimes of paedophile priest James Fletcher, the freedom not to say sorry to anyone, and then the freedom to apply to serve the six months of the non-parole part of the sentence at home with his sister, being served tea and scones on nice doilies. 

And he enjoys the freedom to appeal all the way to the High Court, while in the process clinging on as archbishop in the City of Churches. 

With his sense of entitlement and his obdurate lack of humanity he puts Gadfly in mind of slime-bag senator David Leyonhjelm

Wilson is taking religious freedoms to new and exciting places and it’s speculative at this stage whether any Bible-bashing recommendations from Phil “Pacific Solution” Ruddock’s forthcoming report on the topic will be quite as liberating. 

Wilson is submitting to the court that he is potentially suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, and that should be taken into account. In fact, we’re all potentially suffering from the same disease, so let’s not get too carried away. 

One of Fletcher’s victims, Daniel Feenan, said that if Wilson had gone to the police in 1976 his life would have been utterly different. 

With six months non-parole to be served by Wilson, Peter Gogarty, another victim of the priest, said: “My personal opinion is that that is probably letting him off a little bit too lightly.”

The Apostolic Administrator of Adelaide, Bishop Greg O’Kelly, who is filling in for Wilson while the Pope makes up his mind what to do about the demented old crim, said he was “very aware of the impact on survivors, their families and all those who love them” but didn’t think it was appropriate to “make any further comment on the case”.

Street wise

Sir Laurence Street packed out the main part of the Concert Hall at the Sydney Opera House for his state funeral. 

The great, the good and the legal profession were there in force, along with plenty of scrambled eggs and aiguillettes from the Royal Australian Navy, Sir Laurence being an old sea dog himself. 

Prime Minister Trumble spoke movingly, as did the chief justice Tom Bathurst (aka the Shuffling Assassin) and the former chief justice Murray Gleeson (the Smiling Assassin). 

However, it was the “Last Post” from a splendid Navy bugler that brought tears to many an already watery eye. 

Sir Laurence was chief justice when Gadfly was admitted to the great game. He urged your correspondent to come to the bar and enjoy the spoils. “No, Sir Laurence, I’m going to be a journalist.” And here we are, scribbling for a penny a line. 

Honouring Honest John

Gadfly’s London field agent sends through a gushing report from The Torygraph about Little Winston Howard

It’s written by Brexiteer and former Tory member of the European Parliament Daniel Hannan, who is banging the drum for an Anglosphere free-trade zone where Commonwealth countries can sell their cheese and coconuts into Britain in exchange for taking Aquascutums and old Wolseleys. 

Hannan must have been drinking some strange tincture, for this was his opening paragraph: 

“The two greatest living conservative statesmen were coincidentally in Britain this week. As prime minister of Australia between 1996 and 2007, John Howard was the effective leader of the free world. He then passed the baton to Stephen Harper, prime minister of Canada from 2006 to 2015.” 

Why were we never told this earlier? Why do we have to learn from this far-flung Pom that the former budgerigar salesman’s “economic reforms created the greatest boom Down Under since the gold rush”? 

Hannan didn’t go into any detail about these economic reforms, which is just as well, because they largely consisted of sitting tight and being carried along by a resources boom, with the proceeds being funnelled into middle-class welfare, which sent the budget deficit into the hole it’s stuck in today. 

Bravo Winston.

Trumpette #76

A long overdue report in The New York Times comes from Kallstadt in Germany’s south-western wine country. 

This is Trump homeland. Just about everyone here is called Trump, although in the Palatinate dialect, the name is pronounced Droomp. Until now, we’ve had it all wrong. It’s President Droomp

But Kallstadt has been in turmoil since its most famous descendant was elected United States president. Houses won’t sell, local hotels are boycotted, wine orders have been cancelled, emails arrive from all over the place asking the “Trump village” to take a stance against the great orange Droomp. In nearby Freinsheim, Ursula Trump runs the local bakery. When the Grabber-in-Chief was inaugurated she baked sponge cakes covered in stars and stripes and edible pictures of the president. No one ate the sugary Trump face and neighbours started to boycott the bakery. Ursula had to put an end to her line of Trump cakes. 

Trump’s grandfather, Friedrich, had a few things in common with his infamous grandson. Both were teetotallers and avoided military service. Friedrich also ran a brothel when he lived in America, while Donald is a longstanding customer of sex workers. And Friedrich shared an interest in hair, working as a barber in New York before opening the famous brothel in the Yukon.  

Meanwhile, President Droomp said at a meeting with European Union trade negotiators that “the Germans are bad, very bad”. He insists he comes from Sweden and the German connection is fake news.

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jul 7, 2018 as "Gadfly: Assassin’s creed ". Subscribe here.

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

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