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Diarist-at-large Richard Ackland flies about the nation. By Richard Ackland.

Gadfly: Grand theft Otto

In Van Diemen’s Land, a rum go is being delivered to Malcolm Turnbull’s minister for tourism, Senator Richard Colbeck

Otto Abetz and his henchmen have arranged for Colbeck to languish at number five on the Liberal Party senate ticket, a reprisal for failing to vote for the party’s weirdest-ever leader, Tony Abbott, in the September spill.  

Otto’s faction has also seen to it that no women are on any ticket, anywhere. 

One of Gadfly’s field agents reports a sticker on a Hobart car that said “Put Eric Last”, which seems a worthy movement to support. 

The new senate voting rules appear to allow a voter to put Eric at number 75, or whatever is the last number on the bed-sheet ballot paper, after voting for the minimum number of candidates to make a valid vote. 

That would provide people with the satisfaction of putting Otto at the very end, without having to be riven with too much doubt whether Jacqui Lambie or Stephen Parry should be 74 or 73. 

Go for baroque

Staying with tourism and Tasmania, Gadfly would have packed his bags for Hobart to take in the city’s baroque music festival, had the Silly Willy Hodgman government not preferred two years ago to give $5 million to a V8 Supercars event rather than $600,000 for another year of music. Instead the fest relocated to Brisneyland, requiring Gadfly’s entire life’s supply of frequent flyer points to attend the world-beating Brisbane Baroque. 

Baroque music and Brisbane may not be traditional bedfellows, but here it is a case of money well spent from the tourism and events people in the Palaszczuk government and a huge batch of patrons including Graeme Wood, a former Suncorp Queenslander of the Year, and supporter of numerous noble journalistic causes. 

Gadfly could only squeeze two performances into his hectic schedule. 

There was G. F. Handel’s opera Agrippina, the storyline of which bears a striking resemblance to Canberra politics but is in fact set in Rome and based around the intrigues of the emperor’s wife to secure the throne for her deranged son Nero, a role that introduces necrophilia to the Brisbane stage. 

Then a night of Bach with the Queensland Symph and the Australian Voices choir, conducted by the British-Australian thriller Jessica Cottis, with solo appearances from Greta Bradman, among other young talents. 

The place was crawling with Sydneysiders: opera scholar and teacher Annie Whealy and her husband, former judge of the NSW Supremes, Tony Whealy, arranged for more than 70 of their nearest and dearest to fly up, and there was another heap of attendees from Sin City organised by a group of touring culture vultures. 

Among the celebs were Queensland governor Daphnis de Jersey, sitting a row in front of the tallest, most awesome, drag queen in the history of Queensland. 

Sighted in the foyer was Attorney-General Bookshelves Brandis, surrounded by a swoon of adorable pink-cheeked youths from the Young Liberal movement. 

Hobartless

Brisbane Baroque is in its second year, having fled Hobart after two. In its final Tassie year, a grant request for $600,000 from festival producers Jarrod Carland and Leo Schofield was met with a meagre $400,000 from the then yarts minister Lara “The Skittle” Giddings, which left no payment for anyone in the Hobart Baroque’s administration. The producers stumped up a pile of their own money to get the show across the line. 

When Carland and Schofield thought they could squeeze by in their third year with government support of $800,000, they were offered just $300,000, after a three-month wait as the application was considered. Left with six months to get the new festival organised, they pressed on, extracting money wherever they could. Bookshelves even offered $100,000 from the Commonwealth. But when Leo was knocked back by Hodgman for a boost, the festival upped stakes and went to Brisbane, where for the past week the hotels, bars, cafes and clip joints have been bursting with visitors stuffing money into the Queensland economy.

Of course, Hobart is still an ideal location for baroque activities. The Theatre Royal is the nation’s earliest surviving theatrical venue, and St David’s Cathedral is also ideal, along with the 1845 Egyptian revival synagogue. 

The MONA-funded Dark MOFO festival is also set for June with the packed schedule including a Gothic gala costume ball at the North Hobart premises of Turnbull Family Funerals. 

Demolition Wran

Decisive NSW Premier Mike Baird, straddling a barbed-wire fence, has backed all three of the main Liberal candidates for the Mackellar preselection: B. Bishop, Walter Villatora and Jason Falinski

All have received endorsement letters from the premier, who declared that Bronwyn was a “trailblazer for women”. Today is expected to be Bye Bye Bronnie Day. 

Reports are flooding in that David Flint(stone) wowed 90 or so at the Mona Vale Golf Club at a fundraiser for Villatora. 

At the same time, Baird is pursuing a manic development program. Securing his legacy as a latter-day Governor Macquarie involves dismantling the legacy of Nifty Neville Wran

Just look at what’s in store under Hollywood Mike: Demolition of the Powerhouse Museum, which was established in the Wran era, and its removal to Parramatta; pulling down the Convention Centre and the Exhibition Centre at Darling Harbour, both creatures of the Wran era; same with the Entertainment Centre; and resculpting the Sydney Football Stadium, which was opened in the last year of the Wran government. 

What’s going on? Is Baird trying to out-bricks-and-mortar Wran by scrapping every temple that Nifty built? Some of these demolition plans were hatched in the Fatty O’Barrel days, but Macquarie Mike is committed to bulldozing them through. 

It makes an interesting change for Liberal governments, which traditionally left their development schemes to the likes of Sir Paul Strasser, after brown paper bags changed hands. 

Fairfax sacks hacks, backs lax contracts

Fairfax hacks are incandescent with fury that grand fromage Greg Hywood has not met with staff to hear the case against sacking 120 journalists. 

Hywood contemplates reality from his $4.1 million apartment on Sydney’s Hyde Park, known to some as the Tower of Power. 

A while ago The Daily Smellograph was having fun pointing out that Hywood was not wearing his $127,000 Panerai watch when he addressed a business lunch at the Shangri-La Hotel, instead turning up in a $8000 Rolex. 

Miserable, I know. 

Greg got a massive pay rise when he was hired from Tourism Victoria and now oversees a program to keep journalists’ pay under the rate of inflation. 

This is how insiders do the sums. There are 520 full-time Fairfax journalists. About 200 who work in the lifestyle, entertainment and property sections are ring-fenced from too much misery. Of the remaining 320, 120 are to leave and on that basis it seems there’ll be 70 journalists left per metro print publication for news, investigations, comment, sport, business, features and so on. 

The number of stories a month is to be cut from 9000 to 6000, a large proportion of which will be sourced from outside – wire services, syndication and lifting from other news websites. 

Actually, redundancies at The Sydney Morning Herald have been deferred so as not to blot the paper’s 185th birthday party on Monday. Once that’s out of the way the axe will reappear. 

Fairfax Canberra bureau chief Bevan Shields breezily announced on Twitter: “Hey guys – the SMH is taking interns. Please share, great opportunity.” 

He added that it was his understanding that these were unpaid positions. “Is that a problem though? I would have happily worked for free to get a start – in fact I did.” 

Others unhelpfully pointed out that not everyone can afford to work free and that not paying people is only lawful if it is a vocational placement or no employment relationship exists. 

Meanwhile, the SMH and Age seem to be getting thinner and thinner each morning. That’s quality, Plywood style.

Errant affairs

Thought for the day: 

Just imagine if a Lebanese TV crew arrived here with a view to snatch an Australian child off the streets of Sydney, Melbourne or Werris Creek. 

Would anyone be listening to the entreaties of the Lebanese minister for foreign affairs to get the journos out of the clink?

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Apr 16, 2016 as "Gadfly: Grand theft Otto". Subscribe here.

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