Diary

Gadfly
Taking a punt on political football

At my insistence, the Westpac chopper has been hovering above remote parts of Tasmania in an attempt to discover the whereabouts of suspected Eric Abetz kidnapping victim Richard Ackland. They are yet to track him down, so you’re stuck with me as your Gadfly again.

This week, the story that combines Australia’s favourite pastimes – brutal team sport and painful culture wars – continued, after sacked rugby player Israel Folau was booted from fundraising site GoFundMe.

Folau, one of the few multimillionaires resorting to the crowdfunding platform, was found to have violated the site’s terms of service in his attempt to fund his court case against Rugby Australia over his homophobic social media posts.

“We are absolutely committed to the fight for equality for LGBTIQ+ people and fostering an environment of inclusivity,” said GoFundMe’s Australian regional director, Nicola Britton, in a statement that was both perfectly normal and also red meat for the right.

“I think someone should set up a GoFundMe page now to take legal action against GoFundMe for pulling down Folau’s GoFundMe,” Chris Kenny said on Sky News shortly after the page was taken down. Kenny’s landing at the ending of that logic gymnastics routine was so heavy he triggered a 7.2 magnitude tremor in Darwin.

And that concluded day one of the GoFundMe story.

On the second day, the Lord rose, and He said, “It’s a game of two halves, isn’t it? And lo, there was a new fundraising page, launched by the Australian Christian Lobby.”

The new ACL page for Folau, who has a property portfolio worth at least $7 million, raised more than a million dollars in its first 24 hours.

Meanwhile, Rugby Australia’s coffers aren’t in great shape. According to The Daily Telegraph’s Jamie Pandaram, the sports body is looking down the barrel of a $12 million loss next year, and a defeat in this court case could push it dangerously close to insolvency.

Let’s hope it’s the better team on the day, eh.

So, how will it all end for Folau? It could take months to find out, but if you’re feeling lucky, The Saturday Paper has odds on this rugby culture war thanks to our betting partners at SchwartzBet.

Folau contests a byelection as a One Nation candidate – $6.25.

Folau begins hosting Sky News show IZZY – $4.80.

Scott Morrison launches a national postal survey to decide the outcome, which will undoubtedly be that Folau can play again, as long as it’s for the Sharkies – $2.50.

Gamble responsibly.

Oh, the humanities

On the subject of bizarre ideological funding, the University of Wollongong has a new bachelor of arts in Western civilisation degree. After using executive powers to bypass the academics’ union, the university has fast-tracked the degree and it will be available next year.

It is funded by The Ramsay Centre, which won’t need a GoFundMe page anytime soon – the late Paul Ramsay left it $3.3 billion to play with. Wollongong Uni is marketing the degree as being “for the intellectually fearless”. Hard to imagine anything more intellectually fearless than strictly limiting your education to Western civilisation.

Australian goneservatives

Speaking of the intellectually fearless, Senator Cory Bernardi has decided to deregister his Australian Conservatives party, to the disappointment of the tens of Australians occupying the comment section of Andrew Bolt’s blog.

While many will sneer at this news, you can’t deny the party leaves a strong legacy. This year the Australian Conservatives failed to get its candidate Lyle Shelton elected as a Queensland senator, an achievement for which many Australians will remember the party fondly.

Following the news, Bernardi has been on Sky News doing some soul searching, a difficult task for obvious reasons. Bernardi told Sky that by next year he will be 50 and will have been in parliament for 14 years.

“I think that is a pretty good time to consider what contribution you want to make going forward,” he said.

Some would say the time to consider your contribution is when you find yourself on the senate floor linking homosexuality to bestiality, but better late than never.

Given the state of debate right now, it’s probably a good time to reflect on the fact that if Bernardi leaves parliament, that could mean the Big Three of the anti-same-sex marriage campaign – Tony Abbott, Shelton and Bernardi – could be well and truly out of the political eye.

That is, until they join Folau on Sky News’s new line-up.

Bonfire of the TV realities

In Queensland news, the original Big Brother house on the Gold Coast was burned down this week. In a way, it’s reassuring to see that despite the federal election result, Queenslanders do still have some views that are in touch with the rest of Australia.

“The former home of reality TV, reduced to a smouldering pile of rubble,” reporter Kathryn Foran told Nine News, a melancholic lilt to her voice, acknowledging that something of deep cultural value had been lost.

Big Brother first aired in the early 2000s, before citizens had the ability to themselves record and broadcast every pointless detail of their life to the public. But there is always a silver lining – at least Scott Cam has his next renovation project for The Block sorted.

Click rate

And finally, recognising that the state of modern media isn’t dispiriting enough, News Corp tabloid the Herald Sun has decided to pay journalists financial bonuses if their articles generate traffic or subscriptions. According to Guardian Australia’s Amanda Meade, journalists for News Corp were told the scheme is meant to “encourage reporters to think about ‘selling’ their stories to readers and being more ‘proactive’ across the website and social media”. Of course, feeling this extra squeeze from the invisible hand of the market, there’s a chance the calm and balanced tone of the Herald Sun could be lost, and the paper could become – dare I utter the unthinkable – sensationalist. It’s hard to tell what is a more damning indictment on journalism today – that such a financial bonus scheme exists, or that it only pays between $10 and $50.

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jun 29, 2019 as "Gadfly: Taking a punt on political football". Subscribe here.

Evan Williams
co-writes satirical sketches for the ABC’s 7.30 with Mark Humphries. He has also written for The New Yorker, McSweeney’s and The Sydney Morning Herald.