Diary

Gadfly
St Brutes yearbook

It’s the annual speech day at St Brutes, the very private non-selective school and training ground for future Nasty Party boiler room operatives and their underlings in Cockies Corner at the other end of the dorm. 

The headmaster, Mr Morrison, was hoping for a speech day built around the theme of “fair dinkum” – to reflect the authenticity of Australia and its values. 

A cat was set among the pigeons, though, when it came to light that “fair dinkum” was actually an authentic Chinese expression from the goldfields of the 1890s. 

That’s enough of that. There’ll be no Chinese influence at St Brutes, insisted the English master and deputy head, Mr McCormack. The fair dinkum theme was scrapped in favour of a more nuanced message suggested by the classics master, Mr Pyne, around the school motto, “Have a go” or “ἔχετε ἴξιν”.

All a-Broad

The headmaster announced that as of the end of term the locker room monitor, Master Broad, will be leaving. He had flown all the way to Hong Kong to represent the school at a regular horizontal folk dancing festival, only to be told to go home straight after his dinner. A lot of boys have made sniggering remarks about this, but Mr McCormack said at least Broad tried his best and we should all wish him well as we see him out the door.

Blight spark

The school electrician, Mr Taylor, has made a right mess of the fuse box near the front gates. There is no guarantee the lights will stay on in the assembly hall and he says the only way the school can have reliable electricity is to tear the solar panels off the roof of the Malcolm B. Turnbull Design and Crafts Centre and toss them into the old coal-fired burner to keep it going.

Peter, Peter, dysfunction eater

Among the prizewinners this year, and really there are too many to mention, is young Peter Dutton for his composition on constitutional government. He was invited by a television brains trust on Sky News to outline his refreshing ideas, which included: “I’ve always seen parliament as a disadvantage, frankly, for sitting governments.” 

Peter, as we all know, had trouble counting beyond 35 in his campaign to lead a rebellion in the prefects’ study, but in view of his academic work on democracy it’s fitting that we let bygones be bygones. 

Little Kris Kenny, in the Lower Remove, also handed in some interesting homework making dizzying predictions on the then forthcoming elections in Victoria. This on March 22 from Kenny Minor: “Daniel Andrews is finished. Soft on crime. Paid a billion dollars not to build a tunnel. Siphoned taxpayers’ money to get elected. A drover’s dog could beat him.” 

Unfortunately, the drover’s dog was busy enjoying lobster dinners with some colourful Italian businessmen. Mr Frydenberg, the relief economics teacher, thought this was a pretty good effort by young Kenny and gave him an A+ for neatness. Never before has anyone at St Brutes got an A+ for anything.

Knight Porter

One of the charming traditions at the school is that prizes are also awarded to the staff and other retainers. The rapidly ageing Christian Porter – who helps the boys with their bags, shows them to the dorm at the beginning of term and rings the bell at lunchtime – has been secretly working on a plan to keep confidential any wrongdoing on the part of the school’s management team in the interests of cohesion, morale and integrity. 

He selected a talented lawyer, Margaret Cunneen, to help him with this groundbreaking work. Her efforts follow a friendly meet-and-greet with Mr Obeid, the unfortunate bursar who has been removed to our Cooma campus after he was caught with his fingers in the school chequebook. 

Then there was that trouble with Mr Joyce, the groundsman, who got one of the girls from the career opportunities unit up the duff and took her on a trip to the Gold Coast, or somewhere, using money tickled from the headmaster’s imprest account. 

Anyway, Mr Porter has things under control. As he says: “An investigative body necessarily investigates in a non-public way, which is very different from operating in secret.” 

Kelly gong

The school chaplain, Father Paul Kelly, has also had a good year and deserves a special speech day salute. Long may the boys remember his healing words when former headmistress Miss Gillard announced an inquiry into allegations that some of the younger pupils had been abused behind the bicycle shed. 

Fr Kelly gave a sermon in chapel, saying that rarely has the school “embarked on such a sensitive and vast project in profound ignorance of what it was doing, with virtually no serious policy consideration and driven entirely by politics ... [This] was a serial exercise in populist politics and policy ignorance.” 

I see that the retiring media studies master, Mr Stephen Brook, has recorded in the school magazine, The Brutalist, that Fr Kelly once told him: “Predictions are cheap. If you get them wrong then the value of any predictions you make becomes devalued pretty quickly.” 

Next term the media studies stream will be entirely taken over by Mr Murdoch, 103.

Rush to judgement

St Brutes, this year, has had more than its fair share of talented members of staff resign or take long-service leave. Mr Rush, the drama teacher, has stood aside after Miss Stone and Miss Norvill complained that he was hanging around the female showers and even dancing naked. 

He explained that he regrets any misunderstanding and that this was all down to “the spirited enthusiasm I generally bring to my work”.  

Quite so, Mr Rush, and well done on the school’s operatic production of A Rake’s Progress

Mr Milne from the communications team has left the staff, permanently, after a misunderstanding with Ms Alberici from the typing pool. He wishes everyone well and says he is searching for “external career development opportunities”. 

Fortunately, a message of glad tidings was received by the school’s former bursar, Mr Hockey. He left the academy after making a frightful mess of the accounts but has been in Washington from where he reports his backhand has improved greatly. 

Patron taint

One note of regret is that St Brutes patron, Donald J. Trump, can’t be there for speech day and to hand out the prizes. He says he has to stay put to attend to issues piling up in his lap, including the jailing of his personal assistants and accusations that he has engaged, as “Individual-1”, as the leader of a criminal conspiracy involving
“dirty deeds”. 

He says this is a full-time “Witch Hunt”, even “the single greatest witch hunt in history”. It will occupy all his energy and savvy to deal with these witches. Or hunters. The analogy is confusing.

His charitable organisation, which prosecutors said has been used as a “personal piggy bank”, has been closed because it technically had no reason to exist other than washing some spare cash and engaging in “persistently illegal conduct”. Fortunately, students can still enjoy the Trump Indoor Gaming and Recreation Pavilion, a standing testament to the charity’s vision. 

Headmaster Morrison has privately told the common room that he doesn’t think Mr Trump will be patron for much longer. Sad.

Yuletide blessings

Speech day ended with the school hymn, “All Things Bright and Beautiful”. Everything was pitch-perfect under the baton of the choir master, Mr Abbott.

The boys love singing the third verse with gusto:

The rich man in his castle,

The poor man at his gate,

God made them high and lowly,

And ordered their estate.

All things bright and beautiful,

All creatures great and small …

It remains for Gadfly to thank everyone for everything. All the tips, the scribbled confidences, the briefings in underground car parks, the encrypted messages. You’ve been marvellous. I’m sure Ms Connaughton and Mr Jensen, in charge of the school newspaper, will be making some improvements next year.

 

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Dec 22, 2018 as "Gadfly: St Brutes yearbook". Subscribe here.

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