Diary

Gadfly
The Mitch trials begin

If you take out all the pages from The Sydney Morning Herald reporting on allegations of inappropriate touching there wouldn’t be enough newsprint to wrap a flounder.

The latest revelation is that while the ABC board was at Billy Kwong’s, tucking into the saltbush cakes and crispy skin duck with Davidson’s plums, the then managing director’s back allegedly got rubbed, ickily.

Litigation regarding this sort of thing is rampant. The latest entrant is Wendy Dent, who has issued proceedings against gardening guru Don Burke, after he denied on TV that he’d asked her to audition topless for a role on Burke’s Backyard.

Lawyers all over town are smacking their chops with delight at this turn of events.

Meanwhile, applications for the chairperson position at the ABC closed on Friday. The advertising spiel is couched in the most beguiling terms. The government is looking for someone with “high-level leadership and vision, as well as a commitment to the highest standards of governance and personal and professional integrity”. To top it off they must demonstrate an understanding of the media environment and the ABC charter.

What superhuman could possibly fit the bill? An independent nomination panel has the task of finding out, in a merit-based manner, and then sending a shortlist of three names to the Human Toilet Brush, Communications Minister Mitch Fifield.

According to previous independent panellist Neil Brown, QC, the process is farcical. The Toilet Brush ignores the shortlist and selects those with the Coalition’s seal of good housekeeping. Half the members of the ABC board were appointed without backing from the independent panel.

Justin Milne and Michelle Guthrie both were foisted onto the ABC on the personal urging of the immediate past prime minister. Thank you, Trumble, another job well done.

Come again?

What is it with the current, temporary prime minister’s thing about moving the Australian embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem? While Indonesia is not impressed with this idea, straight from the handbook of right-wing derangement, it does find support among SloMo’s prayerful clappers.

God has told Pentecostals that Jesus will come again to Jerusalem and the end days are at hand. There are a few steps to this: first, after the Jews build a temple in Jerusalem there will be Armageddon, humanity’s last great war, then we’ll see 1000 years of peace; soon followed by the Jews converting to Christianity; and, finally, the Second Coming.

It’s all centred on Jerusalem, so it’s best our embassy is there to roll out the red carpet for the Saviour. Forget the idea that this was a Wentworth byelection thought bubble – it’s actually all about “dispensational pre-millennialism”.

Little wonder that 80 per cent of evangelicals voted for Trump, while he found support among only 28 per cent of confused Jews.

Hallelujah.  

Behind the desk

Auction bids are open for silverware and furniture from the estate of the late Dr John Flynn, heir to the Tattersall’s fortune, coin smuggler, philanthropist and suspected paedophile.

Police in Canberra were investigating various allegations against Flynn that never seemed to be followed up. The then ACT attorney-general, Bernard Collaery, who brought to light Australia’s clandestine bugging operations in Timor-Leste, pursued Flynn for damages in a case that went to the High Court, but fell over because time had run out.

Gadfly has his eye on Flynn’s Queensland maple and walnut pedestal desk, crafted by furniture maker Francis de Groot, the same de Groot who, on behalf of the right-wing New Guard, beat Jack Lang to the ribbon at the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

This piece of furniture is laden with historical resonance. Little Winston Howard’s father, Lyall Howard, was a supporter of the New Guard, according to another of his children, the academic Bob Howard. Among a whole lot of creeds and beliefs, this crypto-military outfit stood for “unswerving loyalty to the throne; all for the British Empire and suppression of any disloyal and immoral elements in government, industrial and social circles”.

You can see where Winston got a lot of his ideas. It looks as though fierce bidding for this gem will be down to Lyall’s lad and Gadfly.

Cater aids

It’s touching that Queensland floods expert Nick “Goosebumps” Cater still sends Gadfly missives from his Menzies “Research” Centre. The latest to arrive is a questionnaire to assist in the cause of freedom.

There are 26 exhaustive questions, including the extent of MRC members’ associations with outfits such as the Australian Christian Lobby, the Institute of Paid Advocacy, the Samuel Griffith Society, the Crusader Union of Australia, the Young Liberals, the Australian Monarchist League and the Katoomba Christian Convention et cetera.

Also, what sort of event would members like to attend: a rally, breakfast, pub evening or none of these? Would you like to hear “new ideas”, hang out with “like-minded people”, “reaffirm existing views”, or buy a book and get it signed?

There is also a multiple-choice question about the issues that concern you most, including: religious freedom, trade unionism, the National Party, political correctness and other?

What news outlets do members rely on, what’s their income, their religion, their education, marital status, and are they “male” or “female” (no option for “other”)?

With all this information onboard, Goosebumps can start “setting priorities for the future”. Poor Pig Iron must be writhing in his crypt at Melbourne General Cemetery.

Fox heir abhorrent

Lord Moloch’s face is a terrible thing. The dead lizard eyes, the crevices of ancient flesh, the gash where there should be a mouth. Decades of grasping, manipulating and meddling give you a face like that.

National security and political news site The Intercept points out that while Steve Bannon is ostracised from polite society for his white supremacist views, the Murdochs are welcomed with open arms, even though Fox News is “injecting racist, anti-Semitic and anti-liberal tropes into the American mainstream (remember the war on Christmas?)”.

Fox News is the place where conspiracy theories from the darkest corners of the internet are picked up, massaged for Moloch’s viewers, who then become “converts willing to go further than Fox & Friends dares”.

There are small, yet encouraging, signs of a backlash. New York mayor Bill de Blasio got a huge general endorsement at a progressive conference in New Orleans when he said: “If you could remove News Corp from the last 25 years of American history, we would be in an entirely different place … We would be a more unified country. We would not be suffering a lot of the negativity and divisiveness we’re going through right now.”

Edward Luce, the US editor of the Financial Times, has called for a boycott of companies that advertise on Fox. “They bankroll the poison that goes from the studio into Trump’s head.”

At a recent Trump rally for hillbillies, Fox’s shameless Sean “Insannity” Hannity leapt onto the stage and gave the Tiny Toadstool a hug, repeated some distortions and then high fived Bill Shine, a former Moloch flunky who is now in charge of White House communications.

Rusticated James Moloch has told friends he is “embarrassed by much of what appears on Fox News” while Lachlan says he’s “not embarrassed by what they do at all”.

Often we find the hapless sons of billionaires aping their father’s view in an even more committed and venomous  fashion. Things could get even nastier when Lachlan takes the wheel.

Trumpette #95

Has Graham Richardson given us a scoop on his Fox News show Down Under? Richo was chatting with Stephen Loosley – United States politics aficionado and fellow former Labor senator – about Trump and the midterms and asked why he thought the president was so soft on Vlad Putin, particularly during the Helsinki talks earlier this year.

Loosley told the pie-eyed viewers that Trump received “such a fearful pummelling” at home, including from Fox News, after his softball chat with Putin that he learnt his lesson.

He went on to add: “I suspect that Putin at one stage saved his company, in terms perhaps of the global financial meltdown or on another occasion there was Russian money injected into the Trump company or companies. And that may provide us the answer … So I think Donald Trump owes the Russians, for years previous. That’s the answer.”

The Trump companies were financially rescued with Russian money, via Putin – you heard it first on Richo & Friends.

Our host was all ears: “That’s a huge call. I wonder where we take that? Surely that’ll be part of an investigation.”

Loosley: “Well, I think it is part of Mueller’s investigation.”

Richo: “Well if that was revealed it would be absolute dynamite, even for Trump.”

Loosley: “Well, why won’t Trump release his tax returns?”

Richo: “Well, I think that has bothered everybody because he’s the first president not to, isn’t he? They all have.”

Loosley: “He’s the first presidential candidate of a major party who has not done that in living memory. Maybe that’s because he’s not as wealthy as he claims to be, too.”

Loosley is a leading light in the Australian-based US political studies group the Chester A. Arthur Society, so he’s on top of these things.

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Nov 17, 2018 as "Gadfly: The Mitch trials begin". Subscribe here.

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