Diary

Gadfly
Trumble in the Moloch jungle

Lord Moloch’s press is leaving no stone unturned in letting a couple of confirmed Trumble detractors give a vigorous “welcome” to the former PM’s book A Bigger Picture.

Last Thursday, The Daily Smellograph treated us to an analysis by Peter King, a former member for Wentworth, trounced by Trumble in a bitter preselection in 2003, amid accusations of branch stacking and branch stripping.

It was a ghastly business for the poor burghers of the beachside electorate. Now Pete has denounced the former PM for mentioning in his hagiography ASIO’s plan in 2014 to get the IP addresses of the nation’s inhabitants in its ongoing war against terror.

King is pretty incandescent about this alleged breach of cabinet confidentiality and, as part of his disjointed treatise, suggests that Trumble’s arrival on the political scene is an example of the “butterfly effect”, whereby one small event can have far-reaching impact.

Apparently, King warned us in 2004 that Trumble was an “impostor” and he’d like to remind us of that again.

This led the way for The Catholic Boys Daily’s massive partial tell-all by Trumble’s old business partner Nick Whitlam. Together they joined forces in a financial operation chaired by former New South Wales premier Neville Wran – the Nick ’n’ Nifty Bank.

Whitlam also accuses Trumble of being indiscreet, saying he should have kept secret the private views of former governor-general Peter Cosgrove and of Barack Obama.

Worse still, Whitlam says, the book’s author is a name-dropper, he’s “inauthentic”, he “can seem untrustworthy”, he “lacks empathy” and people “come to dislike him”. At the Whitlam Turnbull “bank”, he was apparently all about money-grubbing “transactions”, while Whitlam saw himself as a “trusted adviser”.

Funny that. Gadfly can remember, when the “bank” was born, an enthusiastic young Whitlam rubbing his hands together saying this was a lovely opportunity to make a heap of money.

Global storming

What is Schmo Morrison on about with his call for an independent investigation into the Covid-19 pandemic? Maybe the World Health Organization will do the job, with Schmo and other leaders wanting to arm the organisation with the same powers as weapons inspectors.

It seemed only moments ago when the darker edges of the Nasty Party were blaming WHO for being slow to respond to the plague and saying its funding should be tied to “reform”.

China is in a tizz because an inquiry would “disrupt international co-operation”. Ambassador Cheng Jingye threatened that China would not import Australian stuff, which can be turned into Chinese stuff and sold back to us.

He insists the virus started somewhere else, certainly not China.

A mouthpiece for the Chinese authorities accused Australia of being a “lackey” of the United States, one of the most reliable things Beijing has ever claimed.

It’s clear China will not be co-operating with Schmo’s investigation – who knows what these investigators might find.

The Pussy Grabber wants to do the American thing and sue China, claiming “pandemic damages” from Beijing. He adds that the US is conducting its own “serious investigations”.

There are other reports that US senator Lindsey Graham is suggesting America should default on its $US1 trillion in debt owed to China and institute a pandemic tariff on Chinese goods.

The world is hurtling back to where it was before that glimmer of global co-operation.

Meantime, the bats, numbats and wombats at the Wuhan wet markets are hoping someone will give them a break.

Aid from Abetz

An anxious nation is relieved that Otto Abetz has given his blessing to the coronavirus contact tracing app.

Otto told local hacks that after initial “instinctive reluctance”, he is now satisfied with the privacy safeguards and he has downloaded it himself to help keep the nation safe.

We have all hankered for a green light from someone who has not stood in the way of state-sponsored data collection, anti-encryption laws and increased government secrecy.

Dying arts

What about the yartz? A mixed bag of special interests have been given taxpayer money to help them through the plague, but the arts are languishing.

Maybe it’s some sort of reprisal for artists, performers and musicians, who are not in the habit of voting for conservative governments.

With theatres, galleries, film and TV production all stalled, an industry that contributes more than $110 billion to the economy, and about 6 per cent of gross domestic product, has been given short shrift – no more lights, action or greasepaint.

A targeted arts support package of $650 million requested by Live Performance Australia was instead whittled down to a paltry $27 million.

The JobKeeper scheme does not cover contract-to-contract workers, thus excluding the majority of the worker bees in the arts.

The Australia Council has defunded 49 small-to-medium arts companies, including the Australian Theatre for Young People and La Mama, while screen quotas on local dramas, documentaries and children’s TV have been suspended.

The Carriageworks cultural space in Sydney has stood down essential staff and casuals – the result of cancellations of the city’s writers’ festival, fashion week and design events. Opera Australia is contemplating the sale of its properties, although the market is extremely bleak; the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra announced it was to stand down its musicians without pay; and if things continue the way they are beyond the next six months it is predicted the Australian Chamber Orchestra could close shop.

As Declan Greene, artistic director of the Griffin Theatre Company in Sydney, said: “The arts and entertainment industry in this country is being quietly dismantled by our government.”

The process has been under way for a long time; it’s now just come to a screeching denouement. What the arts needs to get a decent leg-up are the same lizard-eyed supremos who run the rugby league.

Random access memory

What are we going to do with naughty Grassgate Gussy? He was in line to be head boy; now once again he has to stand outside the classroom with his face to the wall.

There’s been more trouble in the doctored-homework department. He originally claimed to have downloaded information from the internet – but it was later discovered that all his numbers and figures were completely wrong. It’s been a puzzle ever since.

Special investigators were called in and found that the documents Gussy said he downloaded never existed on the website he was furiously studying. Maybe, they were never on any website at all.

He’s now told the headmaster that he couldn’t have fiddled with the figures because he didn’t really download the document, he only “accessed” it. This, too, is a puzzle as the website in question refers to any link to the file as a “download”.

Now that things have become even more complicated, Gussy has hired someone else to do the explaining for him. The only sensible thing left to do.

The Daly grind

At least we have some clarity about a pressing question.

If you are a socially progressive person, is it defamatory if someone associates you with homophobic views?

Answer: No.

In a Victorian defamation action brought by a gentleman who considers himself a tolerant and open-minded person, The Catholic Boys Daily published material in its Cut & Paste column that associated the plaintiff with a racist and homophobic Twitter account.

Apparently, it looks like a case of online identity theft – while close in name, it wasn’t his Twitter account at all. The Daily argued that because almost 40 per cent of respondents to the same-sex marriage postal survey opposed amending the Marriage Act, prevailing moral and social mores had not developed to the point where to state opposition to same-sex marriage would lower someone in the estimation of right-thinking members of the community.

Associate Justice Melissa Daly agreed, saying in April that it would be drawing “inferences upon inferences” to conclude that it was defamatory to suggest someone was opposed to gay marriage. She said:

“Many people in the community are opposed to same-sex marriage for reasons which are not motivated by antipathy towards gays and lesbians, such as by reason of their religious conviction.”

Thank god that’s cleared up.

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on May 2, 2020 as "Gadfly: Trumble in the Moloch jungle".

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

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