Diary

Gadfly
Laying it on sick

There’s so much that can make people physically sick.

Army wallah and boonies Nasty Party senator Linda Reynolds told ABC viewers she was “almost physically ill” when the medivac legislation was passed by parliament. After all, it was Muslims who were on the attack in Bali, if you follow her drift. She’ll make a fine addition to Team Schmo.

Other citizens were just as ill with news from New Zealand. And if not, then they were probably feeling dizzy at the speed with which leading Coalition adornments were backtracking from the usual pooch whistling, if not downright clarion blasts, of anti-Islamic fervour.

This retreat has been faster than Schmo’s abolition of the word “coal” from his sideshow barker pronouncements, or the Mad Monk’s whoosh to stay in the Paris accord, or Benito’s heartfelt belief that the government should definitely not build a new coal-fired power station.

Schmo is now talking inclusiveness and respect, as long as the immigration numbers are cut and not too many medically ill refugees take up decent white people’s hospital beds. His crotch will be quite sore if he keeps up with this sort of straddle.

The Mad Monk also extolled the need in the post-Christchurch environment to be kind to Muslims, who are “our neighbours, workmates, friends, family and fellow citizens”. Long forgotten were his Blot-inspired attempts to get rid of section 18C so the spigot could really be opened on some decent racial abuse.

God knows what the increasingly disturbed Benito was on about, declaring the Greens were “just as bad” as Fraser Anning – taking “political advantage” of the Christchurch murders.

Meanwhile, New South Wales opposition leader Michael Daley had most of his hopeful Labor team dry-retching in the bathroom after his concerns surfaced that too many Chinese with PhDs were taking jobs from the rest of us.

Fraser Anning did not manage to make Senator Reynolds “almost physically ill”.

Defence arrests

George Pell’s conviction and imprisonment for paedophile offences has generated a tide of denialism.

Apart from the usual suspects here, there are some distinguished overseas contributors to the cause. George Weigel, writing in the United States for something called First Things, the organ of the Institute of Religion and Public Life, says the conviction has put Australia on trial.

The very fact Pell returned to Australia proves he “knows he is innocent”; after all he could have stayed with immunity in the Vatican. Further, the man is not just a cardinal he’s almost a saint, as Weigel reminds us that Pell was the great reformer, the man who turned around the church’s “pattern of denial and cover-up”.

Clearly, John Ellis or Chrissie Foster weren’t helping with Weigel’s in-depth research.

This “false verdict” indicts the entire legal system. “Australia, or at least the State of Victoria, where this travesty played out, is a place where no one is safe, citizen or visitor”.

As to the safety of children, there is an eerie silence.

And, by the way, Pell tells friends that while in a Victorian jail he’s “on retreat”.

We turn to The Spectator, where we read a contribution from Michael Warren Davis, a former Quad-Rant inmate and now billed elsewhere as the US editor of The Catholic Herald. Davis contests the evidence the jury accepted after Pell’s victim had been cross-examined for days.

He also thinks that a leading imam, in a similar position, would be given more public sympathy and that Melbourne’s leading criminal defence lawyer Robert Richter, QC, “bungled” Pell’s defence.

“Who else will be imprisoned because he fails to conform to fashionable opinion? ... Mark my words: if the third-most senior prelate in the Roman Catholic Church isn’t safe, we don’t stand a chance.”

The convicted felon Baron Black of Crossharbour is a major shareholder in The Catholic Herald.

Oh boy, George

It was like diving into a tub full of warm melted butter to read the lunch interview in the Nine newspapers with our high commissioner to the United Kingdom and former attorney-general, Bookshelves Brandis.

George was at his soapy best talking to London reporter Latika Bourke, dropping names and generally being incredibly pleased with himself.

There they were at Skye Gyngell’s Spring restaurant in Somerset House on the banks of the Thames, one of Soapy’s favourite haunts.

“He’s barely put the menu down before he spots a familiar face,” Bourke recounts. “‘There’s Skye. How are you?’” Bookshelves schmoozes, before telling Latika he’s not going to comment at all on current domestic political issues in Australia, chomping on salt-baked beetroot with chervil and crème fraîche all the while.

“I drew a sharp line under my political career. I’m practising an almost Trappist self-denying ordinance against being a commentator on Australian politics because I am not a politician anymore.”

Of course, that didn’t stop him last November announcing in London, before the government on home turf had released the information, that all the children remaining on Nauru would be moved out of detention by the end of the year.

“There are hardly any children on Nauru and in New Guinea,” Brandis added in a radio interview.

Actually the “hardly any” amounted to 40 children on Nauru, and they weren’t removed until later in February.

Anyway, it’s heartening to know that Bookshelves is on first name terms with Theresa May and that at a Guildhall feast the British PM called His Excellency over to her table to say hello. “And I gave her a big kiss,” he added.

Over his grilled fish with fennel puree and lovage cream, George, who is dearly remembered for his claim that people have a “right to be bigots”, bewailed “the degree of belligerence and actual abusiveness that you see in the Australian parliament … I’m sure I wasn’t one of the worst offenders.”

How sure can you get?

Press pressure

David McCraw is a newsroom lawyer at The New York Times and deals daily with libel and getting articles across the line for publication.

The press, and The Times in particular, are now attacked by the Pussy-Grabber-in-Chief as “the enemy of the people” and even Supreme Court judge Clarence Thomas has suggested that the First Amendment as interpreted in the landmark case of New York Times Co v Sullivan should be wound back.

In one of the interviews McCraw did promoting his new book, Truth in Our Times, he said something that bears repeating:

“… even with Clarence Thomas in the picture, I still believe that the attack on the press is really an attack on the legitimacy of the press, on the idea of a free press, on the value of a free press, and it concerns me. There was a poll last year, which showed that 26 per cent of the respondents believed that the president should have the right to shut down news organisations that misbehave.”

Spa cheque enterprise

Where to start with Trump? More realistically, where to stop?

Cindy Yang is the new name on many lips. She is a Florida businesswoman with purported links to the Chinese government and Communist Party, according to The New York Times. She’s also an enthusiastic Republican and a donor to the cause. She even stumped up $US50,000 for a dinner and photo with the president.

A lot of people would pay $50,000 not to be in a photo with this grease-ball.

Her money comes from a string of “day spas” in Florida that are allegedly linked to happy endings for gentlemen clients. During a raid on “illicit parlours” the cops sprung Robert Kraft, the wealthy owner of the New England Patriots football team, in a parlour previously owned by Trump’s donor. Apparently you can locate these establishments across the US courtesy of a website called rubmaps.com.

There’s something quite circular about these transactions. Alleged parlour madams donate to Trump, who then gives money to sex workers to stay shtum about his exploits.

Tome invasion

Meanwhile, journalists of all stripes are cashing in on the Washington story bonanza. We can expect five or so new books about Brett Kavanaugh, the lovely judge whose confirmation process set off a wave of concern about the sort of people who end up on the Supreme Court.

And there is another batch of volumes on Trump and his regime expected in the shops very soon, with titles such as The Hill to Die On, The Enemy of the People, Border Wars and American Carnage.

Investigative reporter Vicky Ward’s book on the Kushners is out, with the strap line, “Greed. Ambition. Corruption.” Her investigation of Jared and Ivanka was reviewed by Michelle Goldberg this week in The New York Times, where the latter referred to the Dunning-Kruger effect, “a psychological phenomenon that leads incompetent people to overestimate their ability because they can’t grasp how much they don’t know”.

Goldberg also wonders why this pair of fakes don’t have “impostor syndrome”, given that their total lack of qualifications for the jobs they are doing makes them actual impostors.

Gary Cohn, the former director of the National Economic Council, says Ivanka Trump thinks one day she could be president and that her father’s reign in Washington is the beginning of a “great American dynasty”.

Stop already. I want to be almost physically ill. 

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Mar 23, 2019 as "Laying it on sick". Subscribe here.

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