Diary

Gadfly
Stricken in the Fox house

What a pleasure it is that HBO’s Succession is being streamed by Fox Drama, even if you do have to creep past the After Dark Monsters from the Sky News lagoon to get there. This is a blistering satire of a media mogul family, so closely reminiscent of the Molochs as to be entirely recognisable. The ancient, desiccated media tsar, Logan Roy, played by Brian Cox, is surrounded by offspring squabbling over the trust and who will take the reins of his junk-laden empire. 

The plotting and scheming escalates as Roy is carted off to hospital with some sort of brain explosion, in an episode called “Shit Show at the Fuck Factory”. 

One of the memorable lines early in the piece comes from a smart young entrepreneur who is resisting the takeover of his business by the Evil Empire. He says to son No. 1 and heir apparent Kendall Roy: “What have you got – track marks from shooting junk?” In one breath he elides media content with a hallucinatory history. 

The daughter, Siobhan, is played by Australia’s Sarah Snook, while the other sons are rendered as hapless dills, so much so that you can’t but feel empathy for the tragic Kendall.

The cynicism, ruthlessness, greed and petty jealousies of Roy’s rancid court are all there. The corporate-speak about eyeballs, disruption, lifeboats and shaking the trees sounds like a ra-ra speech Hugh Marks might give to stunned hacks at The Sydney Morning Herald or The Age

You’ll come away thoroughly repulsed.

Power plays

That was a bit of a train-crash interview that Energy Minister “Carbon Gus” Taylor had with the ABC’s Elysse Morgan

The government is critical of the profits made by power companies and wants to bring down prices. How much profit should they be making and by how much should prices come down, Elysse asked the coal-worshipping, “fair-dinkum-power” man. 

He didn’t have a proper answer to those direct questions, instead insisting he was in favour of competition – even though there’s plenty of competition already and the government’s own company, Red Energy, is going against the grain with eye-watering profits. 

Round and round it went, with The Business host wanting answers about what constitutes an “excessive profit” and the minister ducking and weaving. 

On Facebook, the minister’s wife, Louise Clegg, had some no-nonsense solutions. “Recession, rolling blackouts, youth unemployment all necessary for people to realise left popularism/culture, unrestrained spending, outlawing offensive speech, etc. not the answer.” 

Lights out for lefties. The Fin Review picked it up and gave it a good tickle. Ms Clegg, enjoying the moment, wondered what all the fuss was about: “Energy minister’s wife has crack at labor’s energy policy and backs ‘sensible centre right’ government on FB. Scandalous.” 

Ms Clegg herself shares platforms with other “sensible centre right” celebrities such as One Nation’s Mark Latham, Alan “Chaff Bag” Jones and serial plagiarist Tanveer Ahmed. They were all together at a Possum Hollow gathering in the New South Wales Southern Highlands where, for good measure, Jones said “Welcome to country” was a “pretentious and indulgent practice” – pretension and indulgence being special areas of concern for The Parrot. 

Latham went on to excite the crowd of ancient white males with news that he would abolish SBS and the Human Rights Commission if he returned to politics. This sensible centre-right gymkhana gave birth to the idea that Latham’s Outsiders would be the basis of a crowd-funded outfit to rival the activists at GetUp!. 

As is the case with the Morry “Sweep-Over” Newman’s Advance Australia outfit, its “grassroots” activism is significantly subterranean.

Moderate wind

By the way, Harry Stutchbury, son of Fin Review uber-editor Michael Stutchbury, was one of the party “moderates” who rolled over to save the backside of former furniture salesman Craig Kelly, MP for Hughes. 

Young Stutch was the bright spark who got the NSW Liberal Party council to pass a motion that the ABC should be privatised. He waxed about it in an op-ed for Fairfax, insisting the national broadcaster “crowds out its private competitors and is an indulgence we can no longer afford”. 

It’s fascinating that flat-earth policies such as this are regarded as “moderate” within the “broad church” of the Nasty Party.

Dan Bushed  

After reading former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s autobiography, Madam Secretary, one of our field agents has been in touch to report her story about George H. W. Bush (RIP).

In Moscow, President George Bush Sr asked Mikhail Gorbachev how he chose Eduard Shevardnadze as his No. 2. Gorbachev said he chose him because he had correctly answered the riddle: Who is the son of your father who is not your brother? 

Shevardnadze had said: “I am, of course.” So he was hired. 

Back in Washington, Bush called in vice-president Dan Quayle and asked him the same question. Quayle said without hesitation that he would think about it. 

Outside the Oval Office he asked Dick Cheney, who said, “I am, of course.” 

Quayle went back to Bush and said, “Mr President, ask me the riddle again.” Bush did so and Quayle replied, “It’s Dick Cheney.” Bush said, “No, you idiot, it’s Eduard Shevardnadze.”

Banked up

In the midst of all the Brexit woes, the Poms are looking enviously at the work of Kenny Hayne and the banking, superannuation and financial services royal commission. 

The Old Dart has also suffered from the bonus-fuelled excesses of the banks, with scandals including fraud cover-ups at Lloyds over its HBOS Reading unit and at RBS over global restructuring. Banks on the continent also have distinguished themselves – Danske Bank laundering €200 billion of dirty Russian money, dividend tax fraud at Santander, and the Giant Goldman Squid sucking $US2.7 billion out of Malaysia’s 1MDB sovereign wealth fund. 

Of course, banks such as NAB had operations in Britain and in the process exported its toxic culture. 

The British Banking Standards Board has tried to lift the game, but progress has been slow and small. That was the cue for Private Eye’s “Slicker”, one of the sharpest commentators in the business, to observe the clean-up operation under way Down Under.  

It was noted that three years ago the Financial Conduct Authority, aka the Fundamentally Complicit Authority, thought that the City of London regulators had failed to properly investigate those responsible for the near collapse of HBOS, aka the Bank of Scotland, in 2008. A further investigation was launched and in February last year it was extended to include the HBOS Reading fraud scandal. 

Years later, everyone is still waiting for the findings of these FCA investigations, while Slicker noted with some awe that it took Ken only 10 months to produce the royal commission’s scathing interim report. 

Planet defence

It’s with some relief we report that the celebrated hacks at The Catholic Boys Daily have dodged an 18C bullet. Yes, legal affairs writer Chris Merritt, thinker and opinion scribbler Janet “The Planet” Albrechtsen and award-winning investigator Headless Thomas had been hauled into the Federal Circus Court with a complaint that they had offended, insulted, humiliated or intimidated a Cambodian woman who had been emailing them about their support for amendments to the Racial Discrimination Act

She called them “white abolitionists [writing for a] desperate rag”. Albrechtsen, she said, was “riding with deadly Merritt and Thomas [in a] white racist posse”. She posted this on the Daily’s Facebook page, along with other insights, and kept up a flow of missives to the three hacks. 

Eventually, they could stand it no longer. Headless snapped, telling her to “fuck off”. Planet echoed Hedley’s sentiments and told the complainant “best take off now”, while Merritt emailed and published a longish explanation that he was offended to be referred to as white as his forebears were Tamils from southern India. Nonetheless, he had toughened up and was not going to refer her to the Human Rights Commission. 

The Cambodian woman thought their replies were offensive, derisory and mocking, but the court did not agree, which is just as well: the martyrdom issuing from Moloch’s Holt Street Lubyanka would be endless and deafening had the complaint held.

Trumpette #99

It’s unsurprising that the Pussy Grabber wants unqualified people on the bench. After all, he had a long-term lawyer who was so bereft of skill, finesse and fitness that his “own weakness and a blind loyalty” led him “to choose a path of darkness over light”.

When it comes to the judiciary, the Grabber is equally louche about depth and quality. For instance, the senate has just confirmed, narrowly, Jonathan Kobes as a federal appeals judge. He was previously an aide to a Republican senator from South Dakota, and the American Bar Association questioned his understanding of “complex legal analysis and knowledge of the law”. The ABA rated him as “unqualified” for the job.

On Twitter, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the leading Democrat on the judiciary committee, laid out Kobes’s résumé: “He’s never been a judge, has tried only SIX cases, and has argued only ONE appeal – 15 years ago.”

Nonetheless, Kobes is sufficiently conservative and that’s all that matters to the Republican senators who want to stack the federal bench with “lawyers” from the lunar, God-bothering edge of the spectrum.

Another of Trump’s nominees said in an online forum that a commitment to diversity was equivalent to “accepting lower standards”.

Some of the administration’s selections were too awful, even for the senate. Thomas Farr, Ryan W. Bounds and Brett Talley were thought to be racially divisive. Farr defended a North Carolina voter identification law and a gerrymander designed to suppress black voters “with surgical precision”.

Talley defended an early leader of the Ku Klux Klan and “dabbled” in ghost-hunting. Another nominee for the District Court had to be sidelined after he described transgender children as part of “Satan’s plan”.

Trump likes judges who think the same as him, which takes us into choppy constitutional waters.

 

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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Dec 15, 2018 as "Gadfly: Stricken in the Fox house". Subscribe here.

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