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

By this author


Diary August 11, 2018

Gadfly: Legends lost

We’re surrounded by death and the passing of great totems of our time. The death of Fairfax’s independence coincided with the death of one of the era’s standout journalists, Evan Whitton. Then we had news of the death of Clive Evatt, the great Sydney defamation barrister, turf man, art collector and frequent visitor to Wagner at Bayreuth. Whitton and Evatt were polar opposites – one liked to expose wrongdoing while the other liked to sue the backside off newspapers on behalf of punters who were exposed.

Diary July 28, 2018

Gadfly: An abhorrent affair

We now see the shining brilliance of the Liberal–One Nation media reform agenda: the absorption of Fairfax newspapers into Nine Entertainment’s culture of chequebook journalism, hidden cameras, patsy interviews and Eddie McGuire game shows. All under the chairmanship of Peter Costello, one of the smuggest Nasty Party politicians in living memory. The quid pro quo for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation’s support of the “reform” legislation was to do over the ABC. Bingo, two “reforms” in one hit.

Diary August 04, 2018

Gadfly: Homilies of scale

The new new thing is “scale”. We’ve been missing the importance of “scale” for so long, particularly when it relates to such things as the takeover of Fairfax Media by Nine Entertainment, two more culturally antithetical outfits being hard to imagine. Percy Marks jewellery progeny and Nine boss Hugh Marks said “bigger scale” is good because it produces more revenue. Greg Plywood at Fairfax thinks that the fused company’s scale is the way to confront giants such as Google and Facebook. No wonder he’s sold his Maserati if he thinks like that.

Diary July 21, 2018

Gadfly: Watch this face

Bookshelves Brandis signed off on his stellar ministerial career with the observation that he was particularly proud of his espionage, secrecy and foreign interference legislation. Never mind that his original clunky version was significantly reworked and substantially different laws recently passed through the parliament. So what’s next for a country already weighed down with more overwrought security legislation than comparable Western democracies?

Diary July 14, 2018

Gadfly: Oarsome times for Gina

While Theresa May’s government was tottering on the brink of fracture, the toffs were at the Henley Royal Regatta quaffing champagne and Pimm’s from the boots of Range Rovers and Bentleys, rather in the manner of the shickered crowds that gather in Melbourne Cup marquees. Gadfly’s invitation must have been lost in the post, but fortunately our field agent was on hand.

Diary July 07, 2018

Gadfly: Assassin’s creed

Have you noticed the way that Prime Minister Trumble, and others of his ilk, are more frequently mentioning the “Australian dream”? The tax cuts are all about “realising your dreams”. Owning 15 negatively geared houses is part of the Australian dream. A fair go and all that stuff is also part of our dream. The notion is borrowed, like a lot else, from the US of A, where politicians prattle on tirelessly about the “American dream” – backwoodsman becoming president; the Koch brothers controlling all the newspapers, the universities and the Supreme Court. All fair game for dreamers.

Diary June 30, 2018

Gadfly: Diary of a made man

The latest instalment of The Spectator Australia has some absolutely crackerjack items. You’ll probably never buy the magazine, as very few do, so Gadfly is here to do the heavy lifting for you. Bookshelves Brandis has a diary item about his meeting with Brenda, aka HM The Queen. He must have nipped down to Moss Bros for his morning suit, which was two sizes too big. The poor fellow looked as though he was drowning in his finery.

Diary June 23, 2018

Gadfly: The tragic wand

Benito Dutton is doing his level best to make sure visitors to his Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation are not infused with drugs. Even traces of Bex on someone’s sleeve may be enough to have their visitation rights cancelled. So far an ex-mayor, an elderly Catholic priest, a mature aged-care nurse and a Salvation Army pastor have flunked the MITA drug test. This involves blood-curdling Border Force operatives and Serco agents passing a magic wand over visitors’ clothing in the hunt for stashes of heroin and cocaine.

Diary June 16, 2018

Gadfly: Mining for information

Lord Gnome at Private Eye reports that Succession has started on HBO in the United States. It’s a drama series about Logan Roy and his four children, the family that controls the biggest, fattest media and entertainment conglomerate on the planet. What future lies ahead for this cherished bunch as their ageing father continues to grow older? Not that this necessarily reminds you of anyone in particular. The blurb says that Logan’s “eldest son from his second marriage is currently a division president at the firm and the heir apparent”. There is a brother that used to work for the business and they have a high-profile sister into the bargain.

Diary June 09, 2018

Gadfly: The cash of civilisations

Little Winston Howard and Ten Flags Tony, guiding lights of the Ramsay Centre, must be livid that the Australian National University has pulled the pin on their sponsored degree in Western civilisation. While Winston talks glibly of the grand forces that shaped our Western heritage, such as the Judeo-Christian ethic, parliamentary democracy, the rule of law and the Enlightenment, as prime minister he busily set about making Australia as narrow and mean a place as the horizons of his imagination.

Diary June 02, 2018

Gadfly: Scrutiny of the bounty

The chase for The Thorn Birds loot is taking on the hue of Jarndyce v Jarndyce and the presiding judge, Nigel Rein, has already urged the parties to step on it, with lawyers’ costs rapidly gobbling up what’s at stake. In the meantime, citizens have been spellbound by news of a fake will designed to soothe McCullough’s widower, Ric Robinson, a tearful lawyer in the witness box, bedroom shouting scenes, evidence that the couple were getting low on cash, claims of fabrication and instructions that Ric should “take” a mistress.

Diary May 26, 2018

Gadfly: Striking a chord

While in Otto’s extreme and manic world, it’s worth noting his complaints against Justine Keay, the former Labor MP ruled ineligible to hold the federal seat of Braddon because she had not renounced her Britishness. Abetz has been busy compiling the salary and entitlements Keay received between the time she feared she was constitutionally ineligible to stand for parliament and the moment the High Court in the Gallagher case found she was indeed ineligible.

Diary May 19, 2018

Gadfly: Hot off the press council

This week Gadfly thinks it’s high time to unload some festering snipes and snarls. Take the Australian Press Council as a starting point. The press “regulator” is in the process of rissoling the Indigenous woman Carla McGrath as a public member of the council, on the feeble excuse that her position as deputy chair of GetUp! creates a conflict of interest. What on earth are they on about? The Press Council itself is a conflict of interest, riddled with tired hacks representing their paymasters in the media.