Diary

Gadfly
Held over a Barilaro

Giovanni (Pork) Barilaro, deputy premier and king of Cockies Corner in the New South Wales parliament, has been busy puffing hot air and positioning himself for a move to Canberra.

He has been making life difficult for Aunty Gladys’s tottering government with fulminations about how the Nationals should stand on their own hind legs and keep their distance from the Liberals.

Now he wants to shift from Macquarie Street to Canberra, seeing himself as replacing Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, one of the parliament’s most charismatic intellects.

This will set up a chain of other excitements, with Grassgate Gussy’s sister-in-law Bronnie Taylor eyeing a move from the upper house into Porko’s seat of Monaro. It’s a win-win for everyone.

If Labor’s Mike Kelly refuses to move from the federal seat of Eden-Monaro, Barilaro’s well-laid scheme is likely to come to naught, so basically, it’s up to Mike to do the right thing for the sake of the nation.

Meanwhile in Queanbeyan, the Australian Taxation Office has applied for a winding-up order for Ryleho Group Pty Ltd, the timber doors-and-windows operation owned by Giovanni’s brother, Tony.

Administrators were appointed to Ryleho on August 27 and there was a creditors’ meeting yesterday, with the ATO’s application to be heard in the Federal Court on September 27.

Promo-phobia

In other Nationals news it was Gadfly’s melancholy duty last week to remind Tim Fischer’s mourners about the former deputy PM’s anti-native title posture. Two Minute Tim’s view was that pastoral leases came first and Indigenous Australians came a long way second, and to that end the High Court should be stacked with legal experts who viewed everything through a right-wing prism.

Now a field agent has forwarded more disturbing news, just as the state funeral in Albury was under way. In keeping with the great traditions of Cockies Corner, Timbo had a touch of the homophobics.

An old copy of Green Left Weekly from February 1998 arrived in the post, reporting Fischer’s awkward straddle that gays and lesbians should be “tolerated”, but that didn’t mean they should be allowed to “promote” their “lifestyle”.

Clocking off

Macquarie Street is ablaze with uncertainty, with members of the Nasty Party trying to wind back the clock by threatening to move to the crossbench if the abortion bill goes through without being defenestrated.

Normal people might say that would be good news, but apparently Aunty Gladys prefers to govern with a majority of two, rather than a majority of none.

The flap about the abortion amendments was growing while the facilities branch of the Department of Parliamentary Services was notifying members and staff that there are “technical difficulties with the Parliament House clocks”.

“The clocks have unexpectedly moved forward by 30 minutes ... We apologise for any inconvenience.”

How inconvenient can you get? For people whose idea of progress stopped in 1965, clocks advancing by half an hour would feel like being hurtled into outer space in a TARDIS.

Deport of gall

We’ve been warned by Simon Benson, Benito Dutton’s personal typist at The Catholic Boys Daily, that the nation should brace itself for a wave of Tamils trying to get into God’s Own.

The impression fed to citizens was that the boats had stopped, except now when there’s a need for the impression to be fine-tuned to existing political exigencies.

Benson should find out how these things work from his colleague on the paper, Chris Merritt, who claims to be of Tamil descent. Did Grandpa Merritt arrive on a boat and later sire little Merritts on Australian soil so that he might stay?

Priya and Nadesalingam’s family from Biloela brings back memories of Australia’s treatment of the Bakhtiaris, dispatched to Pakistan in 2004 by jolly Amanda Vanstone as immigration minister.

Amanda’s people arranged a special RAAF charter flight to deport the Bakhtiaris and their six children from Port Augusta at 3am, with 20 guards forcibly removing the father, Ali Bakhtiari, from the Baxter Detention Centre. Again the courts ultimately were no help with their asylum claims.

Then there was the deserving case of the alleged Mafia figure Francesco Madafferi, who was facing deportation. He had convictions in Italy for “Mafia conspiracy”, attempted murder, kidnapping, extortion, weapons and drug offences. Along with a bunch of his supporters and Calabrian friends, Madafferi raised a bundle of money for the Liberal Party and, hey presto, the deportation order was overturned by Vanstone.

She said her decision was made on “humanitarian grounds”. “Mad Frank” was sentenced to 10 years’ porridge for his role in trafficking 77,000 ecstasy pills. Sergeant Plod at the Australian Federal Police said he could not find enough evidence to implicate any politicians in allegations of visa bribery.

Blue prince brigade

Poor Brenda Battenberg is having to keep a stiff upper lip while Andrew, her gormless second son, is accused of hanging out with paedos and himself is alleged to have had a foot rub and sex with an under-age girl who was part of Jeffrey Epstein’s harem.

Randy Andy’s indiscretions are legendary: dealings with a shady Kazakh billionaire, a Libyan gun smuggler, and Colonel Gaddafi’s son, and then inviting Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell to Sandringham.

The Red Tops in England are having a field day. Last week the Daily Mirror wrote: “Let us be fair to Prince Andrew. In 2000 when he was photographed partying with Donald Trump, Melania Knauss, Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell they had yet to be proven to be some of the world’s worst people. How could he possibly have thought anything was amiss?”

Gadfly’s concern is the effect all of this distressing news is having on Professor David Flint and other leading lights of the Down Under Monarchy Club.

Press fiefdom

By now hacks at The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Australian Financial Review must realise they have been sold down the river by Greg Plywood and the old Fairfax management and board.

To have ended up in the arms of Hugh (Percy) Marks at Nine Entertainment is shocking beyond belief. For Percy to host a $10,000-a-head dinner and pay for the catering to raise at least $700,000 for the Liberal Party is sheer idiocy.

James Chessell, executive editor at Nine newspapers, told his troops the event was “regrettable”. Chessell, as a former flack merchant for Joe Hockey, knows a thing or two about regrettable events. Percy then thought about it and realised the whole thing must be a “mistake”.

As the chief executive of a respectable newspaper company, targeted by the odious Logan Roy, says in Succession: the business synergies are obvious, but “it’s the incompatible cultures that stink up the deal”.

Only weeks earlier Marks presented himself before a joint parliamentary committee into how secrecy and security laws are adversely affecting the media. He also did a Press Club knees-up where he compared the current state of press freedom to that of a boiling frog.

Now he’s pouring money into the pockets of the party who put the frog in the saucepan. Talk about “Independent. Always.”

The captains of industry who turned up for the event didn’t look too happy, some of them covering their faces in embarrassment from the pesky snappers at the front gate.

Another reason not to look delighted is that they would have to spend an evening with the likes of Alan Tudge, Dan Tehan, Simon Birmingham and Paul Fletcher. What fun. Sheer Marks Bros.

Children of the Cohn

Stand by for Matt Tyrnauer’s documentary Where’s My Roy Cohn? It’s about the man who was Donald Trump’s mentor and one of the nastiest pieces of human excrement you’re ever likely to step in.

The doco director told Maureen Dowd of The New York Times that Cohn did the impossible.

“He created a president from beyond the grave. I don’t think there’s any disputing that. The basic lessons that Trump learned from Cohn were: Never apologize. If someone hits you, hit them back a thousand times harder. Any publicity is good publicity. And find an ‘other’.”

Trump “swallowed Roy Cohn whole”, said Tyrnauer. The Pussy Grabber’s former PR man, Anthony Scaramucci, described it this way: it’s “as if Roy Cohn and Joe McCarthy got together and had a baby and it ended up being Donald Trump”.

For Cohn, the “other” was the communists, or Jews, or gays – depending on the season. For Trump, says Tyrnauer, it’s “Mexicans, Latinos, Muslims … fill in the blank”.

Trump’s mentor was more of a barefaced hypocrite than you’re likely to find among the evangelical “Christians” in the Liberal Party. He attacked Jews, although he himself was Jewish. He was a homophobe, even though he was gay.

He was a master of the “big lie”, and as journalist and media critic Ken Auletta says in the film: “What a demagogue does is throw out an untruth or a lie and then stands back and watches as that fills the void.”

One of the best lines came from the equally heinous Roger Stone, who commented on the nose job that Cohn’s mother, Dora Marcus, arranged for her boy. It was botched, leaving a scar. Then he had a face lift that left more scars. Stone said Cohn got a “cut-rate face lift”.

The bone spurs draft dodger dropped Cohn when his mentor was diagnosed with AIDS. “Donald pisses ice water,” Cohn allegedly said as he was dying. 

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro is an owner of Ryleho Group Pty Ltd; he is not. The company is owned by his brother, Tony Barilaro. John Barilaro has no involvement in the company. The article has been amended to reflect this correction.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Sep 7, 2019 as "Gadfly: Held over a Barilaro". Subscribe here.

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