Diary

Gadfly
All fail the Duttard

It was not to be for Benito, then. Gadfly speaks for many when he says that for a long time he has been longing for a saviour of the calibre of Peter Dutton. What he lacks in charm, charisma and intellect, Benito makes up for in negatively geared property accumulation, government-subsidised childcare enterprises and the wafting allure of visas for mystery au pairs.

More than anything he brings the complexity of a banana-bending Const Plod to our sense of a better tomorrow. But ScoMo’s inside run got him the gong.

George Christensen, the heavyweight bachelor MP from somewhere on the equator, summed up the events in Canberra this week with his trademark piquancy: “You can’t put pig on a lipstick and, you know, pretend it’s the homecoming queen; it’s still a pig.”

Alexander “Fishnets” Downer also sought to capture the zeitgeist with a column he scratched for the Financial Review: “... Australia is and has been over the decades a pretty well-run place … On the basis of what we know, the Liberal Party should be able to win the election: the economy is going well, the country’s at peace and urgent social and environmental issues are being addressed.” 

There were setbacks even before we were left to imagine the Morrison government. God knows how the nation will struggle on without the ministerial capacity of Concertina Fierravanti-Wells. How on earth did we cope without her for three days?

Cabinet breakers

Fortunately, the Victorian Bar has some remedies on hand and is proposing a one-day workshop on how to “manage high-conflict personalities”.

A special Californian expert, Bill Eddy Esq from the High Conflict Institute, will be on hand to discuss the skills required to handle the five main personality disorders. Morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea will be provided and all up it only costs $699. And, if you are a lawyer, you can score six continuing professional development points.

It’s an exclusive event, limited to 25 registrants, enough to accommodate the entire cabinet.

Downer time

Fresh examples of Downer nation-building continue to flood Gadfly’s in-tray. One concerns expectations in the Canberra suburb of Downer where the Downer Bicentennial Project group failed to secure donations from Fishnet’s family towards a clock for the community square.

Surely, those obliged to live in a suburb called “Downer” are having a bad enough time, but the failure of the namesake to fund the village clock adds insult to injury. It was left to the local Labor MP to find money for the timepiece, a small blot on an otherwise superb history of nation-building and nest-feathering.

On the defensive

The Catholic Boys Daily continues to pump out stories on decorated war hero Ben Roberts-Smith. There were at least three in last weekend’s paper, where an SAS widow claimed the VC winner was being bullied, an article with the headline “Daring advance marked soldier out for distinction” and an editorial “Lest we forget the SAS’s bravery”.

The previous Saturday The National Rupert had a soft front-page interview with the hero, who is seeking to rebut a Fairfax investigation into allegations of misconduct in Afghanistan. The inspector-general of the ADF is conducting an investigation into the allegations.

Roberts-Smith has launched the obligatory defamation action against the Fairfax investigation and by his side is PR man Ross Coulthart, himself a former investigative journalist with Channel Nine’s TV show 60 Junkets. Indeed Nine, in its traditionally understated way, called him “Australia’s top investigative journalist”.

While the PR article in The Catholic Boys Daily was heading towards the presses, the former soldier’s lawyers were in the Federal Court in an unsuccessful attempt to stop the Fairfax press telling its story.

A recent instalment of Media Watch said Coulthart had been making efforts to “kill or discredit” the Fairfax story, which led reporters Nick McKenzie and Chris Masters to lament about a former journalist stooping to undermine those doing difficult public interest work.

Roberts-Smith himself is a media man, being in charge of the Seven Network in Queensland, while Coulthart works for the flack merchants Cato & Clegg. Intriguingly, Sue Cato handles the corporate PR for Fairfax.

Surely there’s a ready explanation for what appears to be a conflicting situation and Gadfly rang Coulthart for his take on how it all fits together. However, he so busy polishing the ex-soldier’s medals that he hasn’t returned the call.

Where the Sun don’t shine

Meanwhile, preparations are under way in the Old Dart for celebrations to mark the Dirty Digger’s half-century proprietorship of The Sun, one of the nation’s leading organs of affairs.

Helping with the festivities is Cheryl Carter, who for five years was the PA to the flame-haired News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks.

Private Eye reminds us that Cheryl and Rebekah stood together in the dock charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in relation to the hacking activities of News of the Screws. They were both acquitted.

During the trial Cheryl said that she had retrieved seven boxes of files from Rebekah’s office and had eviscerated about 30 notebooks. She claimed to be acting on instructions from the archives department, which just wanted to tidy up loose ends. The archivist disputed this and told the court Cheryl was not asked to remove boxes of company files.

The Eye claimed that after the trial Carter was given a beauty column in the Sun on Sunday and when that ended the kindness didn’t stop – she got the job as an assistant on the golden jubilee knees-up for Uncle Rupe.

Run a good race

Gadfly has been flat-out coping with the refreshments at wakes and farewells.

There was a well-attended au revoir at the Human Rights Commission for Dr Tim Soutphommasane, the outgoing race discrimination commissioner. Family, friends and community groups gathered to toast Dr Tim, who had fought to protect the Racial Discrimination Act against assaults from “free speech” exponents, anxious to practise their bigotry.

Rosalind Croucher, the president of the commission, firmly declared that as a result of Soutphommasane doing his job as an independent public officer, “the Racial Discrimination Act is here to stay”.

We’ll see what Peter Dutton has to say about that.

Soutphommasane, in a dig at former attorney-general Bookshelves Brandis, told the gathering: “If you go and say you have a right to be a bigot, don’t be surprised if you see bigotry.” 

“Christian” Porter, the attorney-general at time of writing, wants to stop this dreadful drift to the left and is bent on scrapping the notion of a race discrimination commissioner. He wants to recast the job as something akin to a community affairs commissioner.

It makes sense. In a country that doesn’t have politicians, media blowhards and others venting about race, why do we need a race discrimination commissioner?

Weeping willows

There was also a last farewell to barrister and nightmare of the media Clive Evatt, who died earlier this month.

The venue was Sir Anthony Mason Chambers in Sydney’s Elizabeth Street and the invitees were soon staggering around the room after consuming something called a French Martini.

There were many fine speakers paying tribute to this wily, brilliant man, and his widow, Elizabeth Evatt, spoke movingly when she said that Clive was a devotee of illustrations for children’s books, none more so than for former secretary for the Bank of England Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows with its anthropomorphised animals, Ratty, Mole, Toad and Badger.

She said that Clive possessed in his character elements of each of these creatures. There was no mention of the weasels and stoats.

Trumpette #83

While Malcolm Turnbull is being impeached by the politicians of his own party, the Orange Bampot is being given a free ride by the congressional Republicans.

A few of the Bampot’s favourite crooks have bit the dust, with his own former lawyer giving evidence that Trump was a co-conspirator in campaign frauds for which Michael Cohen pleaded guilty.

It’s only the Justice Department saying that the president can’t be indicted because the Constitution is silent on that issue. How those originalist supremos get to work on silent bits of the Constitution will be interesting to watch.

In any event, the US House of Representatives is thought unlikely to impeach the president, because they now have him where they want him.

And here’s our beloved Trumble getting done over without any allegation of criminality, at least none that we know of. Politics has a beautiful seismic unfairness all its own.

Of course, these developments may be fake news. According to recent examinations of the mysterious subculture known as QAnon, this is likely to be the case. QAnon was born on the 4chan message board and garners speculative theories so wacky that they make Otto Abetz look utterly normal. It is home to, among other excitements, the Washington pizzagate child porn trollarama.

Anyway, QAnon enthusiasts are now turning up at those Nurembergs for Hillbillies in the firm belief that Trump is actually a genius who has it all sorted.

Others are not so sure, and think that QAnon is a prank by leftists to make the far right look idiotic – not that much effort is required for that outcome. It’s terribly complicated and New Statesman has just spent thousands of words trying to explain it.

Rudy Giuliani has a simpler explanation: “Truth isn’t truth.” Let’s stick with that.

 

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Aug 25, 2018 as "Gadfly: The Duttard the nation needs". Subscribe here.

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