We now see the shining brilliance of the Liberal–One Nation media reform agenda: the absorption of Fairfax newspapers into Nine Entertainment’s culture of chequebook journalism, hidden cameras, patsy interviews and Eddie McGuire game shows. All under the chairmanship of Peter Costello, one of the smuggest Nasty Party politicians in living memory. The quid pro quo for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation’s support of the “reform” legislation was to do over the ABC. Bingo, two “reforms” in one hit. By Richard Ackland.

An abhorrent affair

We now see the shining brilliance of the Liberal–One Nation media reform agenda: the absorption of Fairfax newspapers into Nine Entertainment’s culture of chequebook journalism, hidden cameras, patsy interviews and Eddie McGuire game shows. All under the chairmanship of Peter Costello, one of the smuggest Nasty Party politicians in living memory.

The quid pro quo for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation’s support of the “reform” legislation was to do over the ABC. Bingo, two “reforms” in one hit.

Recalling anything that Channel Nine has produced of journalistic consequence is a real test of memory. It certainly isn’t interested in serious time-consuming investigative work or news that rattles the powers that be. To sell out like this the Fairfax board should be put in the stocks in Martin Place and pelted with tomatoes by infuriated citizens.

What about the newspapers? Just as they were recovering, their future is now less certain than ever. Nine Entertainment is not interested in print, it is a volume-traffic business, flogging vacuous glitz to one-toothed citizens munching Twisties.

This is considerably worse than Fairfax’s polluted controlling stake in the Macquarie radio network, with its chorus of foaming Visigoths.

Typically, “Toilet Brush” Fifield came up with his usual half-baked pap: “The whole reason behind changes to media law is because we want to see Australian media organisations be strong ... and still tell Australian stories in Australian voices.”

At least “Independent. Always.” stood for something. Nine Entertainment, on the other hand, is all about nothing much.

Lowering the bar

The New South Wales Bar Association was out of the blocks with a submission to the NSW Law Reform Commission inquiry into the law around “consent” in sexual assault cases.

Its submission contained this tricky bit: “A person may honestly believe that consent is present while harbouring a doubt about it. In some circumstances, taking a risk regarding consent might be regarded by a jury as reasonable or justifiable. Even if not reasonable by the standards of a jury, the accused may have thought he was acting reasonably, so that he may be regarded as negligent or stupid but not in the same league of culpability as the person who knows that consent is absent.”  

The barristers are advocating a new charter for sexual assaulters: those whose honest belief in consent is unreasonable but nonetheless they think it’s okay to proceed. Where’s Pru Goward, the NSW minister for sexual assault, when we need her? 

The bar’s position opens up the opportunity for some creative, yet impressively confusing, jury submissions.  It looks as though it was crafted by some of the fellows at the criminal defence bar.

Maybe there’s a connection with the NSW barristers’ slap-down a few weeks ago of the police minister, Troy Grant, who was incensed that Philip Wilson had refused to resign as archbishop of Adelaide after his conviction and sentence. Wilson, you’ll remember, got 12 months for concealing child sex crimes, with six months’ non-parole. The archbishop wants to spend his prison time at home with his sister having tea and scones. 

Grant was a copper in the Hunter region who worked on child sex cases. He told the ABC that of course Wilson had a right to appeal, but the sentence is “insufficient and insulting”. 

The Bar Association issued an ukase that insisted the minister should not have made these comments because it had not yet been decided whether home detention was appropriate, and an appeal has been foreshadowed. 

This flies in the face of the longstanding principle that comments about an offender after conviction and before sentence are perfectly permissible, even where an appeal has been notified. It seems the bar is trying to extend the zone of silence far beyond accepted boundaries. 

This probably fits in with the association’s submission for reform of the Defamation Act, which would take us back to the Dark Ages: the right of large corporations to sue should be restored, the dead should be allowed to sue, juries should be allowed to determine damages, the truth defence should be qualified by restoring privacy protections and, the daddy of them all, the cap or ceiling on general defamation damages should be removed. 

Of course, all of this is in the public interest and has nothing to do with expanding the field of fertile and remunerative work.

Great Australian bites

Lord Gnome’s Private Eye has launched a fatwa on some of the greatest Australians to call England home. 

In recent issues, the Diary section of the paper, which is a spoof of The Spectator’s Diary, has featured Geoffrey Robertson, QC and Germaine Greer, with entries “as told to Craig Brown”. 

In his diary, Robbo recounted a fitting for his barrister’s gown. He rejected cotton because historically it had been picked by slaves. However, the option of a synthetic gown was unacceptable, so we went back to cotton, which “I will boldly wear in support of the world’s oppressed”. 

Then there was his first case as a barrister – a parking ticket. “In those days, being given a parking ticket was a much more serious matter than it is now. Thankfully, it did not involve the death penalty. I would obviously have been at the forefront of protests if it had. But this was a case that – as a lifelong republican – I was determined to win.” 

It got more engrossing, as Robbo traversed his “success with the fairer sex”, including Nigella Lawson, Princess Diana and Kylie Minogue. Geoffrey, the “legal Lothario”, blames himself for Kylie having been unlucky in love. “I sometimes feel guilty about it and continue to count Kylie as the unintended victim of my lifelong struggle for truth and justice.”  

Germaine’s entry is pretty well indecipherable because the entire thing is one unbroken sentence, which ends with Martin Luther King being “the racist to end all racists”. Apparently, he was 100 per cent white and “spent three hours at the start of each day blacking up to get on television ... and that’s your fucking lot send me my fee by return £2500 for eight minutes plus VAT for Chrissake”. 

Why is it necessary for our English cousins to be so cruel about Australia’s special offerings to global cultural advancement?


One of Gadfly’s field agents has just returned from Zanzibar, from where he brings some useful tips for Home Affairs Minister Benito Dutton

At the airport uniformed officials inspect everyone’s boarding pass after they leave the plane and arrive on the island. It’s a completely useless exercise, other than to remind everyone that they are being watched and would do well not to put a step out of line. 

Zanzibar has been run with a Benito-like firm hand since Abeid Karume led the revolution in 1964, when a lot of Arabs came in for a very bad time. Abeid has passed on but the airport still bears his name, which suggests that it’s high time Dutton had an airport named after him, in honour
of his hard work with boats. 

Kingsford-Smith is such a forgotten historical figure, so maybe it would be fitting if the new airport at Badgerys Creek were to be named the Benito Dutton International Airport and Processing Centre. 

Incidentally, The Mandarin, which covers bureaucratic affairs in and out of Canberra, has a story that among other agencies and departments, Home Affairs has an insecure website, vulnerable to cyber attack by infiltrators. 

The new iteration of the Chrome browser warns users that could transmit unencrypted traffic that is vulnerable to alteration by third parties. Whatever that means.

Trumpette #79

As if Mrs Trump is not in enough trouble getting sprung by the Commander-in-Chief watching CNN on Air Force One.

The commander has issued strict instructions that all televisions on board are to be tuned into Moloch’s fake news factory Fox News.

Then we find that The New York Times sent a reporter to Sevnica, Melania’s hometown in Slovenia. It’s in a wooded valley about a 90-minute drive from the capital Ljubljana, and boasts a population of 5000. The place seems to be swamped by tourists but there’s not an awful lot for them to do. There’s the biggest lingerie factory in Slovenia, a few Soviet-era buildings, an old castle and various Melania-themed products, such as “White House slippers” and “First Lady Wine”.

The locals are interested in woodchopping and the men-only salami festival. At the Rondo restaurant, there’s a Presidential Burger, with a frizzy cheese topping in the style of the Pussy-Grabber’s hair.

A waitress at the restaurant was dismissive of all the Melania-related fuss: “Marrying someone – I don’t think that’s really an accomplishment.”

But we’ve strayed too far from the great man himself, who was met on his recent trip to Britain with an outpouring of public sentiment. In London, there was a huge demonstration and much the same in Edinburgh, where 10,000 turned out in protest. One mother used the occasion to explain to her three-year-old daughter the importance of sharing her toys because Trump was a man who didn’t share things.

Someone in a Spiderman costume held a sign that read: Ya radge orange bampot! Gadfly had to consult a Celtic language expert who advises the following:

Ya: You

Radge: A person who is angry in a delinquent way

Orange: Orange

Bampot: A stupid troublemaker.


Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on July 28, 2018 as "Gadfly: An abhorrent affair".

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Richard Ackland is The Saturday Paper’s legal affairs editor. He publishes

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