Diary

Gadfly
Taylor-made socialism

The nation’s chief electrician, Gus Taylor, has had a frightful time trying to get his hard-baked socialist policies up and running.

It was late last year that the free enterprise Greens blocked his bright plan to subsidise coal-fired power plants. For the Greens, steeped in the wealth-creating force of free markets, smaller government and lower spending, handing over taxpayers’ money to underwrite power from coal was anathema to their Ayn Rand-based philosophy.

Undeterred, Red Gus is now bludgeoning electricity suppliers with price controls. You have to go back to the Labor days of 1941-45 to get a sense of what the terrifying Taylor is up to with his attempts to control production, distribution and exchange.

He wants to take more than $100 million from the revenue of the energy retailers. With a dog-eared copy of Das Kapital under his arm, he announced that these suppliers were intent on putting “massive” profits ahead of their customers. Of course, this is a thinly disguised step towards nationalisation, socialism and, sure as eggs, Mao-style communism.

We can only pray the Greens step up again and stop this dangerous creature who is trying to fool us with his flag pin.

Rupert snare

Security is tight at London Bridge’s News UK Lubyanka.

Word from sources close to Private Eye say a “hapless elderly visitor” failed to make it through the quick-closing security doors. The ancient fellow shakily scanned his pass but he became trapped between the lifts and the editorial floor.

A group of executives from The Times watched on with amusement at the plight of the poor old duffer, until the penny dropped that it was Lord Moloch himself.

 “I’ve never moved so fast in my life,” one of the lackeys was quoted as saying.

Suppress gang

Let’s hope those reptiles of the media follow the advice of Judge Angelo Vasta and bring their toothbrushes to court when they face charges of sub judice contempt and scandalising the judge.

This is the fallout from George Pell’s trial and conviction, surrounded as it was until Tuesday by an armour-plated wall of suppression orders. Maybe these media executives, scribes and alleged associated editorial offenders will join George at Barwon’s supermax.

The Victorian DPP, the ever-vigilant Kerri Judd, has written to media outlets saying she has “determined to lay charges” of contempt and scandalising the court. What would these media organisation like to say about that, she asks.

Her missive follows those headlines in December when the cardinal was secretly convicted of child rape and several newspapers ran front pages screaming, “Censored … Secret Scandal … It’s the nation’s biggest story” – except you had to guess what the story was.

On December 13, in an unreported session in the County Court with the trial judge Peter Kidd, the DPP and Pell’s barrister, Robert Richter, all agreed that those headlines gave the game away and that Pell’s name would be “immediately linked” to the suggestive front-page splashes.

Kidd told Richter the newspapers “seem to be operating on a misinformed basis that it’s okay to print everything and anything apart from the name of your client”.

Further, the judge, who is the chief judge of the County Court, thought the headlines sought to bring “improper pressure on me to vary or revoke my suppression order”. This takes us into the twilight zone of “scandalising the court”.

Glory days return

Scandalising the courts kicked off big time in 1765 when a judge, Sir John Eardley-Wilmot, observed that people who said disagreeable things about the judiciary should be locked up, and this would keep “a blaze of glory around the courts”.

It’s nice that the blaze of glory is making an overdue comeback. The last time we heard of this brand of contempt was in 2017 when that adorable trio of ministers, the unfortunately named Tudge, Sukkar and Hunt, started to complain about “weak” terms of imprisonment in Victoria for terrorism-related cases, at the very moment the Court of Appeal was considering sentences for two offenders who were guilty of planning acts of public violence.

The Catholic Boys Daily ably provided the politicians with a platform, with front-page froth about life on easy street for terrorists and lax judges.

At first there were no apologies from the ministers, but later Sukkar, through the solicitor-general Stephen Donaghue, said he was “content to expressly withdraw one statement attributed to him in the article about ‘hard-left activist judges’ ”. Still, there was no apology.

Donaghue then told a visibly upset court that two further statements would be withdrawn: Hunt’s statement in the newspaper about “ideological experiments” and Tudge’s on “judges being divorced from reality”.

It was like pulling teeth. Only later, when the three frontbenchers realised that if they were found in contempt it would be the end of the Turnbull government with its slender grip on the treasury leather, did they apologise to the court.

A grateful nation would have cheered if these three adornments of the Nasty Party had been given a long hard dose of porridge.

At least we have a precedent. The appeal judges described this as “appalling behaviour”, adding: “This court will not hesitate to uphold the rights of citizens who are protected by the sub judice rule.”

Yet it was the late grovels that saved the Scandalous Three from conviction and chokey, something the media hacks will have to consider as the hour approaches.

Deliver Jordan

The Jordan Peterson Show has rolled into town with a bag full of nostrums about how to cope with life – stand up straight, clean your teeth, make your bed, don’t pinch the milk money et cetera.

What he’s peddling could be a mixture of Dale Carnegie and Billy Graham with a sprinkle of Miss Piggy. A lot of it feels like wading through suet. He’s also a bit scratchy, getting into a huff with a young woman on Q&A who thought his ideas were “banal”.

Naturally, there was the obligatory buttery interview with him in The Catholic Boys Daily.

No doubt about it, the man is popular and that could be the problem. Popular remedies for complex problems. For instance, he gave a little lecture to the Q&A audience about individual identity and group identity.

“If you’re a proponent, for example, of equality of outcome, of quotas, then you de facto accept the proposition that it’s the group identity that is primary, and there’s all sorts of dangers that are associated with that, that far outweigh whatever good you’re likely to do.”

Hang about. Doesn’t this obscure the complexity of the human experience, that we’re all capable of several iterations, that humans are complex and fluid, within groups and as individuals, and that de facto we aren’t necessarily wedded to the acceptance of anything?

Still, if you’re buying magic potions, complexity is not what you want to hear.

Everything old…

It’s been a major oversight in life but you’ll be chuffed to learn that Gadfly finally caught up with Angels in America, the TV mini-series directed by Mike Nichols and based on the play of the same name by Tony Kushner.

Could he be related to the Ken and Barbie Kushners who hang around the Oval Office? I think not.

The series is a spellbinding reflection of gay New York in the 1980s and gives a leading role to the country’s worst person, Roy Cohn, the closeted gay lawyer and Senator Joseph McCarthy’s chief counsel, the man who sent the Rosenbergs to the chair. Cohn was also the Pussy Grabber’s mentor, as well as lawyer and fixer for Rupert Murdoch. In fact, he is said to have introduced Trump to Murdoch – a marriage made in hell.

Needless to say, there are lots of complex and shifting relationships; an angel in the form of Emma Thompson, evil Republicans plotting to take over the judiciary (hasn’t that come to pass?), as well as every other organ of state; plus a good broth of Mormons, Jews and Wasps.

The production is built around intense two-way conversations and Gadfly’s favourite is an outburst from Belize, a former drag queen, who is Roy Cohn’s nurse in the hospital where he is dying of AIDS, or as the old monster puts it, “liver cancer”. Belize puts it this way:

“I hate this country. It’s nothing but a bunch of big ideas and stories and people dying and the white crank who wrote the national anthem knew what he was doing – he set the word ‘free’ to a note so high nobody could reach it.

“That’s deliberate. Nothing sounds less like freedom to me. Come over to the hospital, room 1013, and I’ll show you America. It’s terminal, crazy and mean...”

That was in 1985.

 

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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Mar 2, 2019 as "Gadfly: Taylor-made socialism". Subscribe here.

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