Diary

Gadfly
The A-Team’s heroes for hire

There’s a sense of relief that the nation is now in caretaker mode – a nice change from the usual arrangement where the affairs of state are conducted with unremitting carelessness.

Gadfly has been asked to advise the Coalition on election strategy and a winning plan has been submitted.

The first thing is to take Morrison away from the cameras. He’s a bore and a goose and no one’s listening. Instead, little-used spear-carriers should be brought to the frontline and among Gadfly’s favourites are Senator Ian Macdonald and the bewitching Senator Michaelia Cash – two heroes who always get people’s attention.

It’s a puzzle that Kevin Andrews is kept so much to himself. He should be dragged out of the shadows and be the first point of call for major announcements. And, please, there should be more of Gus Taylor, a genius at confusion strategy and creating alarming fresh “facts”.

That’s just for starters. Taking a leaf out of the “Sir” Lynton Crosby handbook, the messages should be simple but strong: Shorten is going to steal our savings and our homes and tear babes from the arms of their mothers. Dangerous vegans will wreak havoc, blood will run in the streets and electric cars spell doom. The choice is yours.

Force of Abbott

Meanwhile, the Mad Monk’s campaign in Warringah, under the direction of Crusader Roger Corbett, is going gangbusters.

The old Woolworths shelf-stacker and Fairfax copyboy has decided that the campaign should adopt a “whatever it takes” strategy.

This involved Abbott wandering down the middle of Spit Road at peak hour waving at the traffic, hoping a HiLux ute won’t flatten him.

Meanwhile, tensions in the hitherto sleepy borough have surfaced. Corflutes from his opponent, the skiing barrister Zali Steggall, have been ripped apart and flung “face down” on the ground.

Bags of onions mysteriously have appeared at strategic points across the electorate and now lucky people in Seaforth are getting phone calls from Tony asking them to participate in a “town hall telephone meeting”, where questions can be put and issues discussed.

Other constituents are having their doors knocked by loyalists in blue T-shirts, checking names of occupants on a list and asking for whom they are going to vote.

It’s all a bit sad, really. The MP for the past 20 years has suddenly woken up and found that his heartland thinks he’s, to use a familiar phrase, “a load of crap”.

Molan ruse

A group of citizens has come up with the idea that it would be a wonderful thing if Senator Jim Molan could be re-elected to the senate.

It’s a puzzle why a sovereign borders hero such as General Jim would be dumped down the Nasty Party ballot to an otherwise unwinnable fourth place. The Mad Monk said in 2016 it was a “tragedy for our country” when Molan failed to be elected at his first try.

Eventually, he arrived in parliament courtesy of Fiona Nash’s clash with section 44 of the constitution.

If a man who knows how to invade Iraq can’t invade the senate at the forthcoming elections, then something is seriously rotten in the state of Denmark.

The missives from Re-elect Molan HQ are a tonic: “Jim Molan has been a breath of fresh air in Australian politics ... Australians like him because he says what he means and means what he says.”

Maybe that’s the problem, when you consider the famous anti-Muslim content he posted on Facebook, which came courtesy of the lunar white-power outfit Britain First, some of whose members are partial to a Nazi salute.

Jim’s campaign team are anxious that supporters get to grips with the six-metre senate ballot paper, search for his name below the line and make him No. 1.

Otherwise, “we’ll lose our voice of honesty in the senate”.

Missing Sukkar

The uber-right’s Michael Sukkar is having a quiet campaign for his seat of Deakin.

The Box Hill Town Hall east of Melbourne was brimful on Monday night as locals turned up to a candidates’ forum wanting to hear from all the contenders.

Regrettably, they got to listen to only Labor and the Greens. When the MC announced that Sukkar – and Gladys Liu, the Liberal candidate for Chisholm – had declined to attend, there were boos, cries of “shame” and other derisory catcalls.

The flyer for the town hall meeting asked, “Where do the parties stand on stopping climate change?” No surprises the Nasty Party reps didn’t turn up for that.

Vale Vic Carroll

It was a gathering of hacks, former editors, management types, proprietors, friends and family who assembled at Sydney’s charming Vaucluse House on Tuesday to farewell V. J. Carroll, a legend of postwar newspapers in Australia.

A former editor-in-chief of both The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian Financial Review, Vic died at 94 on April 2 after a brief illness.

He is largely credited with fathering an era of more intelligent, probing journalism in Australia, one which began at The Fin in the mid-’60s, spread for a few years to The Australian, migrated to The National Times, and found its longest iterations at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age up to the ’90s. In fact, he was the founding editor-in-chief of The National Times, which was born in 1971.

Vic was a hardworking taskmaster of few words who inspired many. His four children reminded the gathering about the other side of his character – as an attentive and sage father who loved taking his sons surfing and who over the years developed into a maestro chef. Tom Carroll, of course, later became a world champion surfer.

There were plenty of anecdotes about Vic on the editorial floor, but one story that was not mentioned was the furious senior executive from the insurance industry having a telephone meltdown about reporting by The Fin’s insurance roundsman. “And finally,” the incandescent executive spluttered, “he knows nothing about the insurance industry.”

“We thought we needed a fresh view,” was Vic’s insouciant response.

Arts and minds

There was Gadfly on Sunday evening at the harbourside gaff of photographer Anthony Browell and his writer–sculptor partner Jan Howlin. A warm zephyr riffled across the balcony as 65 of their closest and dearest gathered in the lounge room listening to Roland Peelman on the piano have his way with Bach, Schubert, Debussy and Erik Satie.

Roland, among other things, is the artistic director of the Canberra International Music Festival with concerts across the capital city, including at the Mount Stromlo Observatory, the Margaret Whitlam Pavilion and the Fitters’ Workshop, from May 2 to 12.

And arts dynamo Leo Schofield is back in business with a new Hobart Baroque festival with a teaser next year and the full fest in 2021.

Tasmania’s Hodgman government in 2014 refused to lift funding for the festival because it couldn’t see the future possibilities for this musical event. Soon after, an angry Schofield stormed off the island, observing that Tasmania is a land of “dregs, bogans and third-generation morons”.

All has been forgiven and a new contract inked.

And what of the Coalition’s arts policy? There have been no policy flourishes from the Human Toilet Brush, apart from hastily appointing former Nasty Party president Richard Alston to the council of the National Gallery of Australia. Maybe the Coalition has just given up entirely on attracting support from the yarts community.

Witness X factor

What a pity “Witness X” didn’t give evidence at Geoffrey Rush’s defamation trial about her behind-the-scenes experiences with the great actor.

Justice Michael Wigney suppressed the name of “Witness X” in October 2018 – he said her evidence could not be heard until April because he had a trial in March, but that was subsequently vacated.

As a result of Witness X’s evidence being excluded, everyone was anticipating the Rush judgement in February, and here we are in April with the reasons only arriving on Thursday.

It appears if the mystery witness had been called there would have been no significant extra delay at all.

Nine Publishing (Fairfax) has filed an application to revoke the suppression order, but Wigney has declined to hear it until May 10.

Nielsen poleaxed

The Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has been dropped by the Pussy-Grabber-in-Chief and there are plenty of dry eyes in the house.

Nielsen was variously described as cruel and evil, putting child refugees in cages and separating them from their families.

This was part of a deliberate policy of discouraging refugee arrivals from across the border. Where have we heard before about inhumane policies to discourage refugees?

Nielsen also sought laws that would permit her to evade court-ordered refugee family reunifications. She wanted deportations, including for unaccompanied minors. Did she draw spiritual sustenance for these endeavours from our very own Benito Dutton?

It still wasn’t tough enough for the Grabber. He wants a Homeland Security secretary who will get on with actively breaking the law. 

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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Apr 13, 2019 as "Gadfly: The A-Team’s heroes for hire". Subscribe here.

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