Diary

Gadfly
Sharma chameleon

The fate of the nation hangs on the outcome of the Wentworth byelection two Saturdays hence. 

Judging by the sheer volume of corfluting, flyers and associated bumf, the Nasty Party doesn’t regard this as a stroll in the park. Letterboxes are crammed with a blizzard of election excitements and the shopping centres choked with campaigners trying to press screeds of nonsense into the paws of citizens, who themselves are trying to flee the horror. 

And what a magnificent choice for voters in the plot of land that stretches from the harbour to the Pacific Ocean. Dapper Dave Sharma is the pick of the Nasties after they ignored the allure of former member, barrister Peter King, whose private polling claimed he had a name recognition in the electorate of 74 per cent, which would help put the party in a winnable position. 

Only the other day Gadfly received a machine-written personal note from Dapper Dave, recently of Turramurra – although he’s not the only candidate to come from well beyond the boundaries of the electorate. 

“Hi, I’ve really enjoyed listening to local views about how to keep our economy strong and protect the great quality of life here in Wentworth ... My three young girls are looking forward to the school holidays, and if you’re heading away I wish you safe travels. Otherwise, I look forward to meeting you soon. Kind regards, Dave.” 

That pretty well clinches it. 

Wentworth prism

Of course, it would be foolish to say the other candidates don’t deserve consideration. 

Katter’s Australian Party is running Robert Callanan for the seat. In fact, he has drawn top of the ballot paper and makes the claim that “financial services are the foundation to capitalism”. That being so, he wants to “repeal the banking tax”. 

Robert also aims to “cut the cost of groceries by 50 per cent for all Australians” and declares that “$2000, 000 000” would be added to the Australian economy each year if the government only bought Australian-made cars. Rob is an accountant, so “$2000, 000 000” must be correct. 

The Australian Liberty Alliance is fielding orthopaedic surgeon Tony Robinson, who also stood in Perth (2018) and Bennelong (2017). The ALA wants liberty for everyone, as long as you’re not a Muslim. 

Barry Keldoulis is holding the flag for the Arts Party. Years ago Barry, who is now the director of Sydney Contemporary, pulled artworks from the exhibition because they allegedly depicted children in sexualised context. Artists were not happy but Keldoulis was adamant: “Our decision with regard to the installation is about the law of the land and they are on the wrong side of it.”

There’s a well-credentialed ALP candidate, Tim Murray, and for the Greens Dominic Wy Kanak, deputy mayor of Waverley, who in 2004 was declared a vexatious litigant by the Federal Court.

Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party is fielding real estate agent Ben Forsyth, whose property shop has been trading since 1898, and there’s a grab bag of independents and others, including the Voluntary Euthanasia Party, the Liberal Democrats, Animal Justice, the Science Party, the People’s Party and Sustainable Australia. 

Dr Kerryn Phelps has disappointed people, now that the Liberals are no longer last on her how-to-vote card. Independent Licia Heath, the choice of local state independent Alex Greenwich and canny Clover Moore, will pick up many of those who might otherwise have voted for Doc Phelps had it not been for her jiggery-pokery with the preferences. Licia is running on the message “More women in parliament”. 

It makes a nice change from the time the ALP fielded star economist Percy Allan for the seat with the message “Point Percy at parliament”.

Actors’ strife

Meanwhile at the #NotHimToo end of the defamation list, things are moving along at a cracking pace. 

In Geoffrey Rush v The Telegraph the Federal Court has upheld the plaintiff’s subpoena of a slew of documents from the Sydney Theatre Company. Four bundles have already been turned over, one of which the STC says is confidential and another privileged. 

Rush’s lawyers want to discover if the STC’s new sexual harassment policy arose after a production called Disgraced or after Rush’s involvement in King Lear.

There’s to be yet another preliminary hearing next week, with the trial set for October 22. 

In the Supreme Court of New South Wales, wide-ranging subpoenas have also been granted allowing actor Craig McLachlan’s lawyers access to communications by defence witnesses in the case where actor Christie Whelan Browne, the ABC and Fairfax are defendants. 

This arose out of a joint ABC–Fairfax investigation published in January. The subpoena also includes journalist Tracey Spicer, who has figured in the campaign to call out sexual harassment in the media and the arts. 

The court was told last month that it was not certain Spicer should be considered an agent of the media defendants. In any event, Justice Stephen Rothman didn’t think this was a “fishing expedition” and allowed the subpoenas, subject to minor changes, with reasons to come later. After more than three months’ consideration, Justice Lucy McCallum is still to rule on whether the world can read details of the defence case. 

The trial is set down for four weeks from February 4 and for these performances it will be standing room only.

Ermahgerd, Goosebumps

While on the courts beat, it would be remiss not to mention that as a result of another journalistic flourish from Nick “Goosebumps” Cater, The Catholic Boys Daily has to fork out $155,000 after pleading guilty to sub judice contempt of court. Goosebumps, who is also the master of ceremonies at the Menzies “Research” Centre, blundered by reporting that CFMEU state secretary John Setka had “at least 40” prior convictions. At the time Goosebumps filed his story, Setka was facing charges of making demands with menace. 

It’s an error you’d expect might be made by a slow student from the lower remove writing for the junior school paper. 

As it happened, and for unrelated reasons, the DPP later withdrew the menace charges against Setka. Justice Lesley Taylor of the Vic Supremes said it was difficult to imagine a more blatant sub judice contempt by a newspaper. 

There seemed to be confusion about who was responsible for Goosebumps’ handiwork, which was published under the headline, “Shorten’s just a puppet who’ll do what he’s told”. 

John Ferguson, then the Victorian editor of the paper, pointed the finger at Alan Howe, the editor of the opinion page, claiming that Howe failed to identify the risks lurking in Goosebumps’ copy and consequently didn’t send the scribble to the lawyers. 

Alan was overcome with remorse and offered his resignation to the editor.

Last year, the appropriately named Yahoo!7 was fined $300,000 as a result of a contempt that aborted a murder trial. And we can’t forget the Human Headline’s contempt fine of $100,000 in 2013 after he breached a suppression order by revealing the criminal history of Jill Meagher’s killer.

The judge described Derryn as a “self-opinionated person”.  

None of this will deter Gadfly accepting Goosebumps’ invitation to go to Parramatta on Wednesday for a “landmark” speech by right-wing Christian and treasurer of NSW Dominic Perrottet, who will outline his “Manifesto for Middle Australia”. 

It will be a scary night.

Rector window

After Gadfly revived the sainted memory of His Grace Archbishop Hugh Gough, further and better particulars about his frolics are arriving on our desk. One field agent, who used to work at radio station 2GB back in the 1950s, makes startling allegations. 

In those days, 2GB was in Phillip Street, Sydney, opposite the offices of the Anglican diocese, which could readily be observed from atop the 2GB building. The radio station also had a loudspeaker system that could make broadcasts of special events into the street below. 

Jack Davey, the famous quiz show host and inveterate baccarat player, was working back one night at the station with his secretary, Merle Jamison, when they observed through the opposite window His Grace engaged in an elaborate horizontal folk dance with a female person, on top of his desk.

This was quite soon after Gough took up his appointment as Metropolitan of the Province of New South Wales.

Davey switched on the outside broadcast system and his voice boomed across Phillip Street: “Your Lord God is watching you.”

Trumpette #89

The Toadstool-in-Chief and tax fraudster last week reportedly found time to appoint an ambassador to South Africa – a task he hasn’t quite got around to for Australia. 

Lana Marks of Palm Beach, Florida, is said to have been his pick. Lana is South African-born and has all the right credentials for the diplomatic life. Her father was a property developer, she is married to a psychiatrist and she has appeared as a commentator on TV shows such as The Fabulous Life Presents: Red Carpet Excess

Lana has also created an eponymous line of handbags in swamp-draining alligator, crocodile and lizard skins. Retainers have to follow her around with dustpans and brushes to sweep up all the names she constantly drops. 

She also dropped that she played tennis in the French Open but no one can find any evidence of this. Maybe it’s just fake news or, as Business Day put it, she’s “quite a brag lady”.

 

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Oct 6, 2018 as "Gadfly: Sharma chameleon". Subscribe here.

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