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

Caustic Coryspondence

South Australian bestiality expert and United Nations observer Senator Cory Bernardi was in devastating form this week in the letters pages of The Catholic Boys Daily

“My entire political career has adhered to consistent principles that are unashamedly linked to the founding values of the Liberal Party and the long-term interests of our nation,” he wrote in response to something from Amanda Vanstone that got on his wick. 

Fresh from his Safe Schools triumph, in the long-term interests of the nation, Cory was in even more trenchant form slapping down Grant Nowell, an Adelaide photographer and former snapper for the Tiser, who used to drink at the Bernardi pub right next door to the newspaper. He also famously took the photograph of Alexander Downer wearing stockings. 

Nowell thought he’d email Cory his two bob’s worth about the senator’s Safe Schools intervention and the “you’re a fraud, mate” exchange with Bill Shorten

“Hi Cory – You are such a disappointing public figure seething with rudeness, bigotry and ignorance. Your future would be best served pouring beers like the old days.” 

Normally politicians reply to their constituents with comforting blandishments. This is Cory’s version of a comforting blandishment:

“Grant, why waste your time dripping your political poison my way. I don’t care if you agree with me or not as I have little, if any respect for your judgement or opinion on such matters so feel free to keep them to yourself. You speak from a position of amazing ignorance and are so predictable in your responses. Save your breath in future. Kind regards CB.” 

Curiously, Bernardi’s grandfather, on the distaff side, was a trade unionist and staunch Labor man. Cory’s mum assumed her lad joined the Liberal Party to meet girls. 

Instead he met Fishnets Downer and Poodles Pyne

1 . Warming up Otto

Staying with the founding values of the Liberal Party we find a glowing 4000-word profile of Otto Abetz in Lord Moloch’s Hobart Mercurial

Otto slipped out of his bunker, located underneath ground cleared of old-growth forest, to show the electorate his warm and cuddly side.

As a tot, young Otto received some hand-me-down clothes to keep him warm during the bitter Van Diemen’s Land winters. One item caused him a lot of grief in his working-class suburb – a grey woollen pullover with a purplish V-neck. 

Otto didn’t realise that this was part of the uniform from the all-together toffy private Hutchins School on the other side of town. 

“I remember we were given clothing and there was a particular grey jumper with a – I have now learnt – not pink but magenta V-neck. For us kids they were just jumpers but wearing a Hutchins jumper in the northern suburbs of a weekend was not necessarily the fashion statement or message you wanted to send out.”

No doubt a scarring experience that lies at the heart of Otto’s anxieties about gay marriage and Marxism. 

Former Tasmanian Liberal leader Bob Cheek described Abetz as having a “voice like a dripping tap”. Even though the senator downplays his influence on the state’s Liberal machine, it is interesting that last week Bookshelves Brandis gave a five-year, full-time job on the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to Don Morris

Morris has few credentials other than the fact he was a functionary for Liberal Party senators from the Apple Isle, including as a bag-carrier for the Dripping Tap. 

2 . Salmon lands in hot water

To Perth where we find disorder at the University of Western Australia. At the end of last year vice-chancellor Paul Johnson announced that the uni was losing money and 100 academics and 200 professional people would have to be sacked this year. 

It was described by the authorities as a project of “renewal”. However, Perth’s Post newspaper has pointed out that just a few days after that shock, one of UWA’s academics, pro vice-chancellor Gilly Salmon, was undergoing some renewal of her own. 

She posted on Facebook a picture of herself in the business-class bar on an Emirates flight returning from a conference in Berlin – expenses courtesy of the cash-strapped university. 

A spokesmodel for UWA said the trip and expenses were justified as Salmon was a keynote speaker at the Shaping the Future of Learning conference. 

Miraculously, and entirely coincidentally, the renewal/sackings program is now on hold. There are other ways to achieve the savings and senior deputy vice-chancellor Dawn Freshwater says the earlier announcement from Johnson about retrenchments was premature. 

Salmon was listed as a workshop leader at the Berlin conference for a session called, “The future is only impossible until it’s achieved”. 

3 . 100% pure libel

As if Western Australia is not vexing enough, Gadfly zooms across the ditch to the land of the strangled vowel, to discover that New Zealand is now the home of a new form of libel tourism. 

First was the libel case brought by war reporter Jon Stephenson against the NZ defence force and its then top brass, Lieutenant-General Rhys Jones

The journalist sued over a press release General Jones issued in 2011, responding to an article in which Stephenson canvassed whether NZ troops had passed Afghan prisoners to authorities who had a record of torture. 

The defence media statement imputed that Stephenson had concocted a visit to the Afghan police Crisis Response Unit in Kabul to interview the local commander. 

Even ponytail fancier, PM John Key, attacked the poor reptile: “I’ve got no reason for the NZDF to be lying.” 

In defending the case the military flew the Afghan commander to Wellington to give evidence. He testified at a closed hearing and, soon after, the defence people caved in, settling with the journalist for a six-figure amount and expressing “regret”. 

In the process the defendants spent more than $600,000 on 15 lawyers. It all made a nice change from journalists being on the receiving end of libel writs. 

Stephenson’s article went on to win a delicious Bayeux-Calvados Award for war correspondents. 

Now it has emerged, according to the New Zealand Herald, that the Afghan commander never returned home, that he’s still in NZ and has applied for refugee status. 

And there’s more libel tourism in the shape of a couple of Thai military types, who are wanted on charges of lese-majeste, alleged to be living “a life of luxury” in New Zealand. 

Major-General Suchart (Toe) Prommai and Colonel Kachachat (Joe) Boondee are on the lam after being charged in Thailand with allegedly exploiting their ties with the monarchy for personal gain. 

Thai police say they “will track them down and find them”. 

You can understand Toe and Joe might be concerned for their safety and need to get to the furthest point at the end of the world. In the police crackdown on the network that is accused of exploiting their ties to the royals, two have died in custody and, according to a Thai news website, maybe a third.

4 . Schofield goes for baroque

Where better for a soiree to celebrate next month’s Brisbane Baroque festival than the Australian Institute of Architects’ digs in Sydney’s Potts Point. 

The colour theme for the evening was orange – orange Aperol spritzes, orange floral arrangement, orange programs, orange shoelaces on the host and festival director Leo Schofield

Luminaries were there in droves: former PM Paul Keating, Justice Jane Mathews, local thespians Julieanne Newbould and David Wenham, emeritus professor Michael Chesterman, theatre director Rodney Fisher, and other baroque-o-files. 

A couple of years ago the festival moved from the Apple Isle to the Pineapple State and this year’s program is chokka with juicy treats, including the dazzling mezzo-soprano Vivica Genaux, from Fairbanks, Alaska.

Vivica has an unusual technique of wobbling her jaw for the tremulous notes, which one reviewer described as Bugs Bunny eating a carrot. 

Leo, who’s heading towards 81, doesn’t stop. His next gig is to direct Sydney Sings, an international festival of the voice. 

One of the big drawcards for the baroque show is G. F. Handel’s Agrippina, an opera that deals sensitively with megalomania, lust, sadism, incest and matricide – just the ticket for Queensland.

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on March 5, 2016 as "Gadfly: Caustic Coryspondence".

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Richard Ackland is The Saturday Paper’s legal affairs editor. He publishes

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