Diary

Gadfly
Yabsley tat’ll do

Hurry. Rush. Lawsons’ online auction of Michael Yabsley’s load of bric-a-brac and tat closes at 7pm on Saturday.

The former Nasty Party New South Wales Prisons minister is clearing out his Wombat Hollow playground in the wake of his lifestyle change and move from the Southern Highlands to Darlinghurst.

Even the tennis court-sized marquee has to go and sadly along with it the fabulous chinwags attended by ancient pressed-linen highlanders who sat spellbound as they listened to the taxi drivers’ friend Mark Latham, Little Winston Howard, Jones the Parrot, and even Louise Clegg (aka Mrs Grassgate Gussy).

There are a few essential items up for grabs, including a set of vintage hand tools, with the exception of the “castration knife” in lot 36, which is not for sale. The vendor doesn’t want to part with this handy household item.

Strangely for a Prisons minister there are no stocks, whips or thumbscrews. However, there is a set of leather blinkers for a Clydesdale, six state ballot boxes (empty we assume), and a delightful electrified wall panel featuring Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus.

There are more than 700 lots of the former minister’s gewgaws, including numerous lamp bases cast in metal by the vendor’s own hands. The prize offering is a large cement four-man urinal – it’s a steal at between $100 and $200.

Simply everything is under the hammer, according to the auctioneers: “kitchenalia, industrial antiques and relics, garagenalia, Australian ceramics, depression pieces, commercial collectables, early surveyors’ equipment… the list goes on”. And on.

Yabsley, as a minister, was an enthusiast of “truth in sentencing”, which involved the abolition of remissions for good behaviour with the result that prisoners were swinging from the rafters.

Lot 642 is destined to draw anxious bidding among Liberal faithful; you could expect Winston to have particular interest in “approximately 10 metres of white picket fencing”.

Correct Fitz

The gloomy windbag Chuckles Henderson (where’s his gong?) has been having a swipe at the bandanaed republican Peter FitzSimons who, in The Sun-Herald, enthusiastically greeted the High Court’s decision in Hocking v Director-General of the National Archives of Australia.

The court held that 211 dismissal letters from 1975 between the palace in London and Sir John Kerr, the old toper at Yarralumla, were not private documents but the property of the Commonwealth and should therefore be released in accordance with the law.

Chuckles is a man with a tedious concern for microscopic details and so with relish he got stuck into FitzSimons for having the gall to suggest that the Queen was the one who blocked the correspondence and Australia had to ask her permission to see it.

“Not so,” said Chuckles. “The restriction was placed on the material by one-time governor-general Sir John Kerr” with a release date in 2027, “50 years after Kerr ceased being governor-general”.

Maybe Henderson’s details detector has deserted him, but it was HM the Queen who, after Kerr had kicked the bucket, reduced the release date from 60 to 50 years and only then could we see the papers with the approval of both her private secretary and the GG’s official secretary.

In other words, there was a permanent embargo by Betty Battenberg if her private secretary did not approve the release of the billets-doux. It’s painful to say it, but FitzSimons was right and Chuckles wrong.

Triple trouble

One blooper in a column is bad enough, but Hendo, temporarily on leave as George Pell’s PR, was to make two more on the same page. He wrote, “According to the High Court’s decision … Professor Hocking first asked for this material on 31 March 2016.”

That was not what the High Court said in its judgement. He added in the word “first” as part of his mission to sneer and swipe at Hocking. In fact, this was not the first time the historian had requested the file.

Moving on to the third granular detail fluffed by the scribbler, he claimed it was unlikely the “taxpayer funded leftist historian” was the first to request the release of the palace letters.

He said that constitutional academic Anne Twomey had applied in October 2012 for a ruling that “these letters” were records of the Commonwealth.

It is understood that Twomey’s application was for a different file, not the one containing the original 211 palace letters ruled on by the High & Mighty. As it happens, Hocking had also applied for the same file well before.

It would be a life of misery to constantly correct Gerard’s mistakes, but for three in one column we would have to award a mark of C minus.

Details, Chuckles, details.

Paper trials

Pity the poor citizens of Queensland. They used to be able to go into their local newsagents and see three of Lord Moloch’s fish-wraps laid out with the same overwrought excitement about coal, dole bludgers, reffos, greenies and climate warmists.

Now Moloch’s decomposing empire has had to close a pile of regional papers in the state, including the Buderim Chronicle, the Caloundra Weekly, The Ipswich Advertiser, the Balonne Beacon, The Herbert River Express, the Innisfail Advocate, the Hervey Bay Independent, The Maryborough Herald and the Central Telegraph.

It’s a blow, to be sure. How will the Cane Toads in the boondocks cope with a diet restricted to The Curious-Snail and The Catholic Boys Daily?

Honour roll

There was an outbreak of joy around the continent as the Queen’s Birthday honours saw gongs for as pluralistic and diverse a group as you could hope to find: Tony Abbott, Bronwyn Bishop, Phil Ruddock, Graham Richardson et al.

It was nice to see the Mad Monk kitted out for photos in his fireman’s costume. He hailed the Abbott government as one of the greatest regimes of the modern era, and in particular he claimed his budget “reforms” set up the country so it could cope with the economic imperatives of the Covid-19 crisis.

This must be bewildering news to the people at the CSIRO, one of the organisations at the forefront of virus vaccine developments. They found themselves with a funding cut of $115 million and a loss of 1400 staff courtesy of the Abbott government.

The barbarians of the Nasty Party have been progressively hacking away at our scientific agencies, public broadcasters and arts organisations.

Richardson’s gong also attracted excitement. Investigative hound Kate McClymont tweeted: “I am still in complete shock over this. Graham ‘Richo’ Richardson, bagman, self-confessed liar, Swiss bank account holder, creator of Eddie Obeid, involved in sex scandals & Offset Alpine, has collected an Order of Australia for his ‘distinguished service.’ #WTAF #Speechless”

The Australian Financial Review refined the situation somewhat by reminding us that Richardson told ASIC and the tax office that in relation to the proceeds of Offset Alpine shares in a couple of Swiss accounts, “I never owned the account, I never owned the shares.”

It was all Rene Rivkin’s doing. He set up an account at EBC Zurich and the Bank Leumi’s Swiss outpost. Richo just did what Rene ordered him to do.

The AFR’s forensic accounting analyst, Neil Chenoweth, claims Richo did send handwritten instructions to Bank Leumi to authorise payments including $1 million to be sent to a “mysterious Beirut account in December 1994”.

Maybe this is the source of Richo’s philanthropic outlays, cited in his award. As the tireless champion of the people said himself: “Dad always said to me you’ve got to look after the little people. You’ll be someone in life, and you remember that. I’ve tried to live up to that.”

Rallying round the economy

What a treat it was to have Finance Minister Mathias Cormann denouncing last weekend’s protests as “incredibly selfish” and “incredibly self-indulgent”.

The Black Lives Matter people were risking the entire nation, claimed the cigar-smoking Cormann, who invariably has the welfare of the community uppermost in his thoughts.

Also, from the right of the soup spoon we see Timbo Wilson, MP, criticising the Andrews government in Victoria for restricting recreational activities but not mass rallies. Again, protecting the public health is Freedom Boy’s pressing priority.

Yet, the real issue at the heart of their angst is not health concerns, but whether the rallies across the country will see a spike in the virus count that will delay the reopening of the economy.

Agitation within the Nasty Party for getting the economy pumping is the main item on the agenda, against all the advice about a “second wave”.

Now that we’re emerging from the lockdown and the streets, bars, cafes and restaurants are starting to get busier, it’s time we said goodbye to some of the worst aspects brought on by the contagion.

Thank god we won’t have to endure any more insufferable Zoom drinks. The sound of someone munching on a cheese cracker invariably drowned out the dialogue, while excruciation reached new heights as conversations tapered off yet no one was brave enough to hang up.

From now on the Covid-inspired language also should be laid to rest. Gadfly’s pet hates are: the new normal, flattening the curve, the dining window, pivot, shuttered, and the fact that simply everything is “unprecedented”.

And goodbye to the “credibility bookcases”, the backdrop to many a Zoom meeting, for those eager to look credible. The contrast is Barack Obama’s credibility bookcase, which has barely a skerrick of a book in sight.

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jun 13, 2020 as "Gadfly: Yabsley tat’ll do".

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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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