Diary

Gadfly
Intensive prayer

One of Gadfly’s field agents who looks after dustbins close to Horizon Church in the Sutherland Shire discovered a prayer scribbled on some prime ministerial letterhead. In the interests of religious freedom, we’ve decided to share it with you:

O God, how good are you? You have cleared our land of pestilence and plague and like Canaan, the son of Ham, we rose up to smite those wanting to rid you, O Lord, of your imputations that you gave us when you cleansed the money changers from the temple. It may have been your only begotten son who did that, but you knowest from where I come.

Some members of our Liberal Party are in the money changing business – so I beseech thee to look softly on them, O God, as you did with Jonah when you got him out of that giant fish.

Let our rivers run with water that may be sold to whomsoever, with their mammon kept in your name, offshore away from Joab, the son of Zeruiah, and the auditors-general.

Keep from our shores the tribes from far beyond – the Islamites who have other gods but thee. Confine them to their quarters on islands you have given them, O Lord, where asps and beetles rule.

Finally, dear God, you may have heard me say to my people, who are also Your People, that every day I would “burn for them”. I have a vision of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego when you had King Nebuchadnezzar fling them into a fiery furnace and not a hair on their heads was singed nor did they smell of smoke.

We have a long and winding path ahead of us, in your name, for ever and ever and ever and ever.

Go Sharkies. Amen.

Give and take

On Monday, Gadfly headed to a fish restaurant in Sydney’s Rocks for an election post-mortem with some political pundits. At another table near the window were huddled a couple of figures from the Jurassic era, former Labor pollie Laurie Brereton with fabled newspaper man and Packer honcho Trevor Kennedy, workshopping the same issue.

The Gadfly table went around and around in circles for several hours without clarifying what happened last Saturday. More refreshments were called for and still there was no certainty.

Maybe there was insufficient attention by the Labor Party to climate change, or “climate ideology”, as Winston Howard calls it. Then there was the factor of Bill Shorten himself and his insistence on jogging and running everywhere. There was also the idea that took hold that the Adani coal project is a thing of beauty that will bring jobs and more jobs to people who love working with coal.

The upshot is that for at least the next three years the rest of Australia will march to the heartbeat of the boondocks with an accompanying chorus from Alan “The Parrot” Jones, Moloch’s newspapers and After Dark experts.

Elections are usually occasions where politicians promise to give things to people, and there was an abundance of that. But here we had the challenger also promising to take things away from some people – a strategy that invariably gets attacked by spin and misinformation.

The proponent of a change in the name of fairness is exhausted trying to explain the virtues of the policy while at the same time fending off the distortions and lies.

Schmo Morrison leapt around the country like an enthusiastic vacuum cleaner salesman while Labor was trapped by what the Italian programmer Alberto Brandolini identified in 2013 as Brandolini’s Law. It states: “The amount of energy necessary to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.”

Eyes water

Where were we with #Watergate before we got sidetracked by the election?

Most recently it emerged that one of the beneficiaries of the government’s $80 million water buyback was a rowing chum of Energy Minister Angus “Fantastic” Taylor from his Oxford university days – Chris Gradel, the founder and chief investment officer of Hong Kong-based PAG, formerly Pacific Alliance Group.

Gradel’s outfit was reported by The Guardian to be the lead investor in Eastern Australian Agriculture (EAA), which sold the overland flow rights in 2017.

Fantastic Angus was a co-founder of the Caymans-based holding company Eastern Australia Irrigation (EAI) – the parent company of EAA – and a director of both EAA and EAI, and he received consultancy fees for his work. He assured an anxious nation he concluded his relationship with the companies before he entered parliament.

He said he didn’t know about the water buybacks at the time – his boating pal must have neglected to tell him. We learnt that a colleague from Taylor’s days at McKinsey, Tony Reid, got consultancy fees from EAA of $600,000. Reid has agricultural interests in conjunction with Taylor and his brothers. He worked on the modelling on the water flows, which helped determine the money paid to EAA by the government.

Investigative reporter Michael West says the people who now control the two farms, Kia Ora and Clyde, are from Canada and Switzerland.

One of the investors said the buyback was the highest price paid for water in Australia. For the holding company it yielded a 200 per cent return on investment with, as we know, most of the money ending up in the tax-free Cayman Islands.

Channel Ten’s The Project also sent reporter Hamish Macdonald over the Kia Ora property in a plane to discover a large quantity of water was still trapped behind levees and had not been released into the river system for the benefit of the environment. In fact, there had only been a couple of breaches put into the levees.

The whole thing is a bit too cute for words. Now the Schmo government has been returned, there will not be a commission of inquiry into this, as Labor urged. But no need to worry, the whole enterprise was conducted under the watchful and prudent eye of Barnaby Joyce.

The Otto Isle

Five minutes after the election was over Otto Abetz, who seems to have been caged for weeks, sprang into the spotlight with a pitch that suggests he should be returned to the cabinet.

The Nasties, at the time of writing, have picked up Braddon in the Isle of Apples and are close to winning in Bass, which would propel the “proven mother” Bridget Archer into parliament. As the senior Nasty in the state, Otto was making his intentions clear to the ABC:

“Ultimately, the frontbench has to be determined based on capacity and delivering for all Australia, and Tasmania has now delivered. On that basis, I’m sure the prime minister will put that into his mix of considerations in determining his frontbench.”

While millions of Australians think climate change and global warming is the most pressing issue, for Otto it is not a priority. Using an unfortunate metaphor, he said: “This was allegedly the climate change election and people did not warm to that from Bill Shorten.”

It’s so good to have him out of lock-up.

In other developments from the island state, a field agent brings news of a range of tasty treats for sale at a primary school polling booth in Hobart:

Pollie Waffles, Bob Brownies, Jacqui Lambingtons, Bananaby Bread, Melting Scomoments, Bill Shortenbreads, Tanya Plibiscuits, Praline Hanson and Wilkie Wonka Bars.

The Wilkie Wonkas sold out quickly.

Pardon parcel

Schmo Morrison and the Pussy-Grabber-in-Chief have bonded fiercely. And why wouldn’t they? Both are hustlers with a good knowledge of how Brandolini’s Law works.

Schmo is teaching the Grabber about border control, and the American commander also is keen to get immigrants into detention camps.

Trump, with his bone spurs that got him out of military service, is arranging presidential pardons for servicemen convicted or charged with war crimes. Already this month he pardoned Matthew Behenna, a soldier who was convicted in 2009 of murdering an Iraqi prisoner.

Others are slated for executive clemency on Monday, which is Memorial Day, including Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher, whose trial is due shortly on charges related to the shooting of unarmed Iraqi civilians and killing an enemy prisoner with a knife. Also understood to be on the list is Major Mathew Golsteyn, a Green Beret accused of killing an unarmed Afghan in 2010.

Among those already pardoned by Trump is Conrad Black, the former newspaper proprietor and convicted fraudster and obstructer of justice, who wrote a hagiography of the Bone Spur president.

He also pardoned Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Dick Cheney’s office boy when he was vice-president, who was convicted in 2007 of perjury and obstruction of justice. Conservative activist Pat Nolan, who did almost three years in prison for racketeering, also was forgiven his crimes.

Then there were the Hammonds – Dwight and Steven – ranchers who set fires on federal land in protest against authorities preventing them running their cattle on a wildlife refuge. They, too, are pardoned.

Steven’s nephew Dusty Hammond told the court that his uncle told him to “light the whole countryside on fire”.

You couldn’t hope for a finer list of deserving criminals.

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on May 25, 2019 as "Gadfly: Intensive prayer". Subscribe here.

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