Diary

Gadfly
Leading from behind

Let’s try to keep a sense of proportion about the recent performances of a few of our most adorable contenders.  

First, The Mad Monk, sportsman and all-round fitness freak, who is raring to have another crack at winning Warringah for the Nasty Party, was in the Palm Beach to Whale Beach 2.8-kilometre swim last Sunday, where he finished 1013th out of 1050. 

This is not the result of the champ for which electors in Warringah are pining. It only draws attention to the real champion, the Monk’s political competitor, Zali Steggall, who was second to none when skiing downhill between flagpoles in 1999 at a world championship event at Vail. 

The Monk is 61 and there were a lot of much younger men and women competing in the Big Swim. Yet even if we bend over backwards to be fair, the outcome looks no better. In the range of male competitors aged between 60 and 69, Abbott came 100th out of 104. Some of Gadfly’s insiders are unkind enough to say that four competitors from the Nasty Party must have been held back so the MP didn’t come last in his category. 

When it comes to gender, things were no better. We know the former PM thinks women should be at home doing the ironing, so it must be horrible for him to know that of the 357 women of all ages who finished the race, 334 beat him.

Media splotch

Second, Nasty Party propagandist L’il Kris Kenny went to air on Sky News with the first edition of his media analysis show – all 46 leaden minutes of it. 

On Monday night, out of the top 20 programs on subscription channels, he came in at No. 14, with about 36,000 viewers – rating lower than the umpteenth rerun of Yes, Prime Minister and about the same number of people watching old episodes of The Simpsons

We mustn’t forget Sky News, with its barking assortment of third-rate minds, is constantly screening at airport lounges, railway platforms, maximum security prisons and institutions for the infirm, and that this helps the dismal numbers. 

Anyway, Li’l Kris was full of his trademark chutzpah, congratulating himself on Twitter for the “great success” of his new show.

Fraser’s edge

The register of politicians’ interests is a valuable guide to the depth to which our elected representatives have their snouts buried in the trough. Some are not even elected. 

Every freebie imaginable can be found, from Foxtel subscriptions, airline upgrades, vats of wine, Qantas lounge memberships, tickets to opening nights and major sporting events, the woiks.  

In the latest update of senators’ interests, tabled out of session, Queensland parliamentary adornment Fraser Anning accepted a bar fridge and more than $1500 worth of beverages donated by the Australian Hoteliers Association; Cory Bernardi received “accommodation and hospitality” from Mrs G. Rinehart; Matteo Canavan was provided with embroidery on Bisley drill shirts bearing the LNP and National Party logos, along with seafood from Koorana Crocodile Farm and the Australian Ocean King Prawn Company at the yearly Nationals seafood feast; Connie Fierravanti-Wells scored a copy of David Kemp’s The Land of Dreams ($59.95) courtesy of the Menzies “Research” Centre; and on it goes. 

Labor senator Kristina Keneally was fortunate enough to be given a dozen bottles of wine from Bleasdale Vineyards and a copy of Grouper Greg Sheridan’s God Is Good for You. She also declared “Carl Scully sent a complimentary copy of his book, Setting the Record Straight”. In her own hand, she appended: “I sent it back.” 

Carl was, of course, a former New South Wales Labor minister and the front cover of his book shows him gazing admiringly at a busy motorway. About the time the book was launched Scully said the Labor Party should apologise for allowing two criminals, Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald, to appoint three Labor premiers – Morris Iemma, Nathan Rees and Kristina Keneally

He thought those three especially needed to apologise for this “tawdry period”.

Mission brown

Fabulous Phil Ruddock, 75, is momentarily out of the national spotlight since the leak of his religious freedoms report, but that doesn’t mean to say he is devoid of exciting initiatives as mayor of Hornsby. 

The local newspaper, The Advocate, reports Phil is concerned about “garish colours” in his borough and proposes to ban their use on commercial buildings. He is particularly anxious about colour schemes that clash with more muted tones in the neighbourhood. 

Hornsby Shire Council is pressing the issue with Planning Minister Anthony Roberts, who has expressed a “willingness to consider” their submission. 

The council conducted a “community consultation” that found 46.94 per cent of 294 respondents were in favour of an approved list of council-ordained colours, while 47.28 per cent objected. 

One pro-colour enthusiast was quoted as saying that building owners should be able to paint their businesses any colour they wanted. 

But no, Phil’s policy is to make Hornsby beige.

Father’s son

Last week it was reported Lachlan Murdoch, Lord Moloch’s son and hand-picked heir, had denied in an interview with The Monthly that the old man had ever said to Channel Seven mogul Kerry Stokes that prime minister Trumble had “got to go”. 

The denial came four months after the allegation first surfaced in The Australian Financial Review and on the ABC. 

“I was the only other person in the meeting and KRM definitely never said ‘Malcolm’s got to go’ or mused on how business would be better under a Labor government,” the capital punishment enthusiast told The Monthly. “His mind doesn’t work like that and I have never heard him say anything like it.” 

We should accept Lachy’s denial in the spirit of other Moloch denials. For instance: that there was ever any sexual harassment at Fox News; that Rupert was in any way accountable or responsible for the phone hacking scandal that closed the News of the Screws and saw a number of his hacks in the nick; that he has influence with the content of his rags or TV networks; that he meddles in politics; that he would ever interfere with the editorial independence of The Times and The Sunday Times; and that vast sums of money were paid to hacking victims to keep them shtum. 

Ginsburg address

A big week for Gadfly, with turns alternatively at the Sydney Opera House and the Palace Cinema. 

The opera Wozzeck by Austrian Alban Berg took us to the devastation of World War I – the destruction, the post-traumatic stress and mental disorder, poverty, rage and murder. The direction by William Kentridge was a thing to behold, with the projection of his mighty dark drawings on the set and the tearing, discordant music. 

Stepping out of the Joan Sutherland Theatre there was a radical ambient change, with a smack in the moosh by a mega-decibel big bash Straya Day rock concert on the forecourt.

At the Palace Cinema, in that great complex on Broadway, with plant life billowing from the side of the building, there was a screening of On the Basis of Sex – a feminist paean to US Supreme Court judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Along with a great love story, it also told of the case that Ruth and her husband, Martin, a tax attorney in New York, brought together during the 1970s in the Tenth Circuit appeals court. 

It was a sex discrimination case and concerned Charles Moritz, a single man in Denver who was refused a tax deduction for the nursing care of his mother. The Internal Revenue Code limited this sort of deductible expense to women, widowers or divorced persons, or husbands whose wives were incapacitated or institutionalised. This law, like scores of others, was framed on the basis that men will go out to work and women will stay at home, looking after the house and the children. 

It was the Ginsburgs’ submissions that overturned the law as unconstitutional, opening the way for the case-by-case dismantling of statutes that discriminated on the basis of sex.  

RBG’s final five-minute submission to the judges, about the change in society and how the law is a century behind the eight ball, is a legal, emotional and poetic tour de force.

Trumpette #101

The latest in the run of scandal-laced books about the Trump maladministration comes from one of his communications muffins, Cliff Sims, in a volume titled Team of Vipers

The president helped put the book, published this week, near the top of the bestseller lists after he tweeted it was all made up, that Sims had been nothing more than a gofer and is “a mess”. 

Anyway, it’s nice to know vipers work as a team rather than in a nest. Among the skin-curling stories is the news that Trump likes to point out to White House visitors the room next to the Oval Office where Bill and Monica ... 

Then there’s the Pussy Grabber’s obsession with TV news channel chyrons, the text that runs underneath the talking heads. Trump told Sims most people watch television chat shows with the sound turned off, so the chyrons are vitally important. Staff are instructed to take screenshots of the chyrons while Trump is speaking on air and bundle them up with headlines and tweets from reporters that are then raced to be printed for Individual #1, as he’s known in various criminal indictments. 

Trump also instructed Sims to draw up an “enemies list”, to get rid of all “the snakes, even the bottom-feeders”. However, unlike Richard Nixon’s enemies list, this was a list of enemies within the administration. 

What is completely transfixing, though, is the part where Sims outs Kellyanne Conway as one of the White House’s biggest leakers, even to outlets Trump derides as purveyors of “fake news”. 

It doesn’t get any better, even if you read the book in the grip of mind-altering substances.

 

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Feb 2, 2019 as "Gadfly: Leading from behind". Subscribe here.

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