Diary

Gadfly
Morris dances to many tunes

Poor Gaven Morris, the man in charge of “news, analysis and investigations” at Your Aunty. No sooner was he having to bat away allegations he closed down a radio current affairs story about the loss-leading economics of Adani’s Carmichael coalmine than he had Constable Plod of the Australian Federal Police at his door, saying, “Ullo, ullo, ullo, wot’s going on here, then?”

With a breathtakingly broad warrant, Plod was hunting for the sources connected to ABC stories published in 2017 about Australia’s clandestine special forces operations in Afghanistan. It was the same mission when News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst had her home searched and her computer and phone confiscated in connection with articles about proposals to expand spying surveillance on the Australian population.

Ministers have been frantically washing their hands of the whole thing. Schmo, speaking from London, said it’s “a matter for the AFP”. Attorney-General The Christian Porter agreed. Yet the AFP is saying it was acting under “referral”; that is, someone in government was doing the referring.

Anyway, these are things about which quiet Australians are not supposed to be bothered.

The story about how the sums don’t add up for Adani’s Carmichael project was good enough for The Australian Financial Review but, after a chat with the PR people at the Indian company, it was quickly decided by Gav & Co it wasn’t good enough for the ABC.

Gaven has experience in dealing with sensitive issues. It will be recalled that in 2018 the government objected to the ABC finding a pile of cabinet documents left in old departmental drawers dispatched to a Canberra second-hand shop. After airing only a few of the available stories, Gav thought the best thing was to give the juicy treasure trove back to the government.

Adani can now get on with the job of filing FOI requests about ABC journalists and harassing its opponents with “attack dog” lawyers.

Meanwhile, on the day Gaven was in the midst of the media storm about pulling the radio current affairs story, he had other priorities – preparing a memo to his team about a “content restructure review and all-staff survey”.

Yes, a review of the arrangements introduced a year ago to structure the organisation along “content lines”. This was “designed to break down the silos and overlaps between teams”. One year on a working group is looking into whether the content lines are working properly. Staff are being asked for feedback.

Why not leave the poor devils alone to get on with some journalism, in the hope that their stories won’t be spiked.

Chequered mate

It has been kept very quiet, maybe for obvious reasons, but it’s Gadfly’s solemn duty to report that My Little Mate has died. In fact, Morgan Ryan was gathered months ago, but there has been no public announcements from the family, no obituaries, no ringing of bells, or flowers from a grief-stricken public.

Ryan was a man known around racetracks and dodgy corners of the law, and was described as a “Mr-Fix-It” for organised crime. However, he was most famous for being the Little Mate of former attorney-general and later High Court justice Lionel Murphy.

Ryan’s death brings down the final curtain on a legal and political drama that transfixed the nation in the 1980s. Ryan had been charged with a conspiracy related to running an immigration racket involving Koreans. The allegation was that Murphy approached several members of the judiciary on behalf of his Little Mate to see if the charges could disappear.

Among those targeted for this dispensation from criminal justice were the then New South Wales chief magistrate, Clarrie Briese, District Court judge Paul Flannery and former senator Diamond Jim McClelland, who was pressed to approach the District Court chief judge, Jim Staunton.

Two senate committees examined whether any of this amounted to “proved misbehaviour” with findings largely along party lines. Murphy was acquitted at his second trial on a charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice, yet rumours persisted and the Hawke government set up a special parliamentary commission of three wise men to explore further allegations.

The commission sat for three months before it was wound up, owing to Murphy’s imminent death from cancer. Half the 40 accusations had been rejected and the others remained unprobed.

The last we heard of My Little Mate was in 2015 when at the age of 95 he was suing Random House over the publication of Kate McClymont and Linton Besser’s book He Who Must Be Obeid. Among the pleaded imputations was that he has “a lot of fingers in very grubby pies”.

In 1983, Ryan was convicted of the conspiracy charge, sentenced to be of good behaviour and fined $400. The Court of Criminal Appeal overturned the conviction and there was never a new trial.

Clutz’s top Mark

Congratulations to Mark Geritz, a Brisbane-based partner of the national law shop Clayton Utz. The firm describes him as the “go-to” energy and resources lawyer for both private and public enterprises.

At the glittering Lawyers Weekly awards held at The Star Sydney last week Mark carried off the prize for “Native Title, Planning and Environment Partner of the Year”.

And why wouldn’t he? According to his profile on the Clutz website he has acted on the Adani Carmichael project, the largest coal seam gas to liquefied natural gas project, and ran the case that overturned the Land Court decision that upheld objections to the Acland coalmine, nestled amid the farmland of the Darling Downs. As Lawyers Weekly put it: “The black tie event was an opportunity to recognise the notable achievements of lawyers at the height of their career who demonstrate leadership, technical expertise, mentorship and business development skills.”

Rapt in the Rapture

Many were relieved that masturbation was not on Israel Folau’s list of degradations that would render people eligible for hell.

Homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves were all nominated, yet masturbators, strangely, are missing from the hit-list. This is odd because Matthew 15:18-20, with its warning about being “defiled” by evil thoughts, as good as puts onanists in a pretty serious category of offenders.

On the other hand, Matthew makes it clear that eating with unwashed hands isn’t an act of defilement. Now that Schmo’s Republic of Gilead is almost upon us we should be paying closer attention to these things.

The Beetrooter has made it clear he is on Folau’s ticket and that employment contracts should not prohibit the expression of religious rants, and a leading light in the CFMMEU agrees. Otto Abetz is of the same mind and has even raced to the Human Rights Commission to complain about Rugby Australia dropkicking the God-botherer from its team.

It’s refreshing to see that human rights is back in fashion and that withered and rusticated members of the Coalition have no respect for commercial contracts. The Catholic Boys Daily also is sending down thunderbolts on Labor MPs, saying they will be shrivelled in a fiery furnace if they do not support religious freedoms.

Others may think that already there is too much religious freedom, including freedom to molest small children without consequences, freedom to not pay taxes, and freedom to peddle mediaeval claptrap.

Oh, the Rapture.

Close the camps

Amazing scenes last Friday outside the Drowning Centre Courts in Sydney. Inveterate campaigner and letter writer Stephen Langford was before the court on a charge relating to writing the words “Close the Camps” in green paint on one of JCDecaux’s billboards.

Outside the court the gathering included members of the Solidarity Choir, Josephite Sister Susan Connelly, Phil Glendenning from the Refugee Council, David Shoebridge, MLC, and Ian Rintoul from the Refugee Action Coalition.

Langford was fined $1000 and another $1000 for damages to the billboard, but not before he had read to the court the 12 names of the political hostages killed while under the care of the Australian state in offshore camps. For the record they are: Reza Barati, Sayed Ibrahim Hussein, Hamid Kehazaei, Omid Masoumali, Rakib Khan, Kamil Hussain, Faysal Ishak Ahmed, Hamed Shamshiripour, Rajeev Rajendran, Jahangir, Salim Kyawning and Fariborz Karami.

Langford’s defence was that he acted under “duress” as the plight of the hostages constantly distresses him. Sister Connelly gave evidence in support and talked about the theories of René Girard. Connelly herself was arrested in 2016 during a refugee protest in Malcolm Trumbull’s electoral office, after refusing police orders to leave.

Langford hopes to stump up the money by crowdfunding, with any spare change going to the Sail 4 Justice flotilla to Manus. Next, he is campaigning for a statue of Behrouz Boochani to be set in Hyde Park.

Thank god someone is raging against the dying of the light.

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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jun 8, 2019 as "Gadfly: Morris dances to many tunes". Subscribe here.

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