Diary

Gadfly
Wentworth prism

By now on this Saturday morning citizens would be queueing at polling stations throughout William Charles Wentworth’s electorate.

The question on many lips is what happened to Dave Sharma’s association with the accountancy firm Kelly+Partners? In January 2018 there was fanfare when he came on board to lead the firm’s lobbying and government relations team. Yet click on K+P’s online announcement and you’ll get a firm “Page not found”.

However, Sharma remains non-executive chairman of Shekel Brainweigh Ltd, an Israeli company that makes “4D recognition technology” – software for weighing things in supermarkets. Its headquarters are in Lower Galilee.

The other trinket of information is to be found in former Middle East correspondent John Lyons’ book Balcony Over Jerusalem, where it is reported that when ambassador to Israel, Dave attended a banquet at the King David Hotel with a clutch of junketing Australian politicians and associated Israeli bigwigs.

The feast was sponsored by Elbit Systems, a large arms manufacturer and supplier to the Israeli Defense Forces.

Gadfly previously reported that the Royal Flying Doctor Service withdrew from an arrangement for Elbit to build a flight training simulator in Dubbo. It felt that trying to save lives in distant areas of the country didn’t sit comfortably with an outfit dedicated to blowing people up with “unprecedented tactical mobility, lethality and accuracy”.

Bux parting

There has been no greater devotee of the magnificence of free markets than the long-forgotten former editor-in-chief of The Catholic Boys Daily Chris Mitchell.

Day after glorious day, Mitchell would blast his readers with half-baked neoliberal nostrums, mixed with his unique blend of character assassinations directed at “enemies”.

This makes it doubly distressing that his involvement as a member of the advisory committee of a fintech named Bux Global came to such a sorry end. The committee was also adorned by David Murray, former head teller at CBA and now chairman of the dead person’s money manager AMP, as well as former bean counter at Nine Entertainment, Simon Kelly.

They left the committee 15 months after joining it as the company fought wind-up applications in the Federal Court. Investors had poured $100 million into the business that was launching a “mobile wallet” smartphone app that was supposed to allow users to make international money transfers.

Unfortunately, the invention didn’t work and the last time anyone looked there was only $50,000 left in the till. The West Australian newspaper exposed links between Michael van Rens, a Bux share-spruiker, and the Firepower fuel pill fraud. ASIC is investigating what went so awfully wrong.

Bux’s 2017 accounts reveal that in that year $900,000 was paid to consultants with reports in The Sydney Morning Herald that a “good proportion” found its way to the trio of advisers.

Ain’t free markets glorious?

Fantastic feasts

In Canberra, the pressure of governing reached boiling point on Tuesday night when members of the Nasty Party gathered for the yearly Flavours of Tassie festival.

The event, held in the Great Hall of the People, saw a massive spread of Taswegian produce – fresh oysters, smoked salmon, scrumptious cheeses from King Island, lashings of cream and butter, whisky, wine, apples, even delicious mounds of salt.

Very soon the snouts were in the trough with hacks from the gallery, lobbyists and assorted freeloaders tucking in alongside the pollies.

Labor people had not been invited but when they heard that a free feast was within striking distance they turned up in force.

Otto Abetz was on hand, of course, gently guiding SloMo through plates of truffled duck breasts, jellied eels and pigs’ trotters.

Sachs appeal

While the Basket of Deplorables is fresh on our minds, it was a delight to see the ghostly figure of Senator Sprog Paterson being eaten alive by economist Professor Jeffrey Sachs on Q&A.

There was Sprog sloganeering against the evils of wasting taxpayers’ hard-earned shekels on foreign aid:

“Jeffrey, you should know from your own experience about what some of the limitations of foreign aid are. In fact, a British government review of your recent Millennial [sic] Villages Project in Ghana showed that after five years and the expenditure of £11 million of UK taxpayers’ money, that virtually no progress was made on poverty and hunger.

Sachs: “You read the Daily Mail!”

Paterson: “No, I read the report. I read the report.”

Sachs: “Well…”

Paterson: “I read the report. It’s printed out on my desk.”

Sachs: “Frankly, I read the report also, and it said that multi-dimensional poverty was cut sharply and that incomes went up, so you read a different report.”

Paterson: “No, that’s not what I read.”

Sachs: “You read the Daily Mail.”

If that were not withering enough, we’ve had the uber-right Mathias Cormann’s imploding before our eyes.

Ancient and insightful political observer Richard Farmer said it all in his Political Owl blog:

“After years of media hype [about] Mathias Cormann’s ‘steady pair of hands’, the Owl is now wondering whether the WA numbers man’s backing of an unelectable Dutton to be PM, his incompetence to count during the challenge and now the ‘it’s ok to be white’ total debacle with him as Senate Leader renders him politically naked.

“Maybe time for stress leave… Or to move on like his former cigar smoking colleague.”

Travails with Aunty

Another one down at Aunty ABC as Michael Mason gets ready to depart at the end of the year. Michael is head of something called “Regional and Local” and according to David Anderson, the grey bureaucrat currently serving as acting managing director, “it’s hard to capture the enormous influence Michael has had on the development and success of ABC’s radio and audio services over the past 34 years”.

That is longhand for overseeing the income stripping from Radio National, among other triumphs. Judith Whelan, former Sydney Morning Herald editor, is taking over as acting head of Regional and Local. At the moment she is head of Specialist Content and before that head of Spoken Content. These weird job titles are the result of Michelle Guthrie’s “content restructure” designed to do away with the divisions between radio and TV and create pools of teams managing content areas across “platforms”.

Poor put-upon ABC hacks are wondering what’s worse – Michelle Guthrie’s sacking litigation, management turmoil or the excruciating lingo.

Ray of lite

A message about “career resilience training” to New South Wales parliamentary electorate officers, dispatched last week, gave the distinct impression that Aunty Gladys’s government is not overly confident about being returned at the March election.

The message to EOs asks: “Are you considering a possible change of employment? Do you need a plan going forward? Was the last time you prepared a resume over five years ago? Are you unsure how to activate your networks to find work?”

So many questions, so much uncertainty.

State MPs would also have received a missive from Ray Williams, the very busy minister for Multiculturalism and Disability Services.

He was the character who last year regaled parliament about “Ben Sisulu”, a leader of the African National Congress who was sent to Robben Island for 26 years. MPs were puzzled by this until they realised Ray must have been talking about Walter Sisulu. Ben ... Walter, what’s the difference when it’s okay to be white?

The minister had the difficult job of notifying MPs about people in their electorates who were to be recognised at the Carers Awards dinner on October 11 and suggesting it might be a good idea if they attended the celebration.

One Opposition MP received his invitation from Ray to attend on October 15, four days after the ceremony concluded.

Trumpette #91

As readers appreciate, the Toadstool-in-Chief brings his own special charm to the White House. This quality resurfaced during the week when he referred to Stormy Daniels as “Horseface”.

This should grab people in the midterms, where a large number of women are standing as candidates and a surge of women is expected to come out to vote. Ms Daniels has shed her demure style and responded by calling the president “tiny”.

As a favour to the restless electorate, Lisa Lerer and Julie Hirschfeld Davis from The New York Times assembled a list of Tiny’s public smears directed at women, starting at the time he became a candidate for president.

Here we go:

Megyn Kelly: “Bimbo”; “blood coming out of her wherever.”

Heidi Klum: “Sadly, she’s no longer a 10.”

Heidi Cruz: “A picture is worth a thousand words” (next to an unflattering photo of her).

Carly Fiorina: “Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that?”

Alicia Machado: “Disgusting”; “Miss Piggy.”

Mika Brzezinski: “Bleeding badly from a face-lift.”

Natasha Stoynoff, who accused Trump of sexual assault: “Look at her, look at her words, you tell me what you think. I don’t think so.”

Omarosa Manigault Newman: “That dog.”

Arianna Huffington: “Extremely unattractive (both inside and out).”

Representative Maxine Waters: “An extraordinarily low IQ person.”

Senator Elizabeth Warren: “You find anything nice about her cheekbones? I dunno.”

Hillary Clinton: “When she walked in front of me, believe me, I wasn’t impressed.”

 

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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Oct 20, 2018 as "Gadfly: Wentworth prism". Subscribe here.

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