Diary

Gadfly
A slice of Evan

How good is Australia? Gadfly returns home after three weeks on a global escapade and finds nothing whatsoever has changed.

Schmo Morrison, Fantastic Angus and Benito Dutton are still strutting their half-baked stuff, and on we stagger. The only noticeable excitement on the horizon is that Schmo has his ears back for a good old beano with Iran.

It was intriguing to see management at The Saturday Paper had disinterred Evan Williams to write this column pro tem. He had been a Whitlam government adviser, an arts tsar and then a film critic for The Catholic Boys Daily. He was also recently deceased.

The puzzle was solved when it turned out to be an entirely different Evan Williams, another talented Welshman who made me anxious that he might occupy the chair long term. Eternal thanks to him for allowing me to escape the country at a critical time.

It wasn’t quite 80 days, yet Gadfly felt like Jules Verne’s Phileas Fogg as he traversed Rwanda, Istanbul, the Aegean and Athens.

Rwanda struck

For a visitor, Rwanda comes as an entirely novel experience. Arriving in the capital, Kigali, is like landing in Zurich – the streets are spotless, the parks and gardens meticulously attended, the public buildings impressive and the roads in top nick (thanks, China).

The place seems peaceful, but what would a tourist know? I’m told that even the maids have maids and restaurant menus give the time it takes to prepare a meal – an innovation we should poach. The Economist says it’s “the best-run country in Africa”, due largely to the leadership of President Paul Kagame, a man with whom no one trifles.

Soldiers with fearsome-looking weapons are dotted everywhere, single-use plastics have been banned and protection of the environment is a top priority.

The local media reads like the Government Gazette, which is no different from the padded bloviations in praise of the Coalition to be found plastered all over Lord Moloch’s rags.

I did see in Kigali’s The New Times a curious article by moral philosopher Peter Singer, on Israel Folau’s sacking by the Rugger Buggers, which included the observation that Folau “no more expresses hatred towards homosexuals than cigarette warnings express hatred towards smokers”.

This may not seem entirely strange to Rwandans, who have embraced things British. French has been junked as the language of education in favour of English. Kagame has taken his tiny country into the Commonwealth and there are a number of cricket clubs that play at the “Lord’s of East Africa”, the Gahanga Cricket Stadium.

The Brits run the Goat & Gorilla bar at the British high commission, but it’s so upmarket that to have a cocktail you will have to be accompanied by a wallah from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office or the British Council.

Two things have made an enormous difference to village life in rural Africa – mobile phones and plastic shoes from China.

Talkin’ Turkey, and a bit of Greece

Elections were under way in Istanbul, with blaring music and rallies for the government down near the spice market. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ordered the Istanbul poll to be rerun after the opposition party won the city last time around.

The ruling Justice and Development Party ran an elderly businessman as its candidate, his mug plastered all over the city. The idea seemed to be there would be repeat elections until voters got it right.

Instead, the opposition’s Ekrem İmamoğlu won with an increased majority and now faces the prospect of harassment from Erdoğan’s autocratic machine. He may even be prosecuted for saying something rude about a governor of the Black Sea town of Ordu.

In Greece, visitors would have no idea an election is being held on July 7. The decade-long financial crisis groans on with youth unemployment at nearly 40 per cent and youngsters fleeing the country as quickly as they can.

The current ruling Syriza party is widely tipped to lose to the right-wing New Democracy party, which is offering the usual smorgasbord of lower taxes and more privatisation. It is regarded as being largely responsible for the financial mess with which the country is still saddled.

Gadfly inquired of his Athenian taxi driver why the election was so low-key: “No one is interested. They just tell lies and one bozo replaces another bozo.”

Don’t we know it.

Lieutenant Col

It makes you swell with pride when Australians are doing great things at the centre of the universe. Take the old sink tinkler Col Allan, former editor and now an “adviser” to Moloch’s New York Post. CNN is reporting that Allan spiked the story about the allegation of rape made by writer E. Jean Carroll against President Bone Spurs.

She claims Trump raped her in a fitting room at Bergdorf Goodman when she was trying on lingerie. Allan, a bug-eyed Trump lickspittle, ordered the story be taken down from the rag’s website. Presumably, he believes a man with spurs in his feet could not possibly be agile enough to rape someone, even though a number of other women have attested to Trump’s unwanted and lurid attentions.

During the 2016 primaries Allan waddled around the Post newsroom in a “Make America Great Again” cap. Asked why the editorial adviser would order the removal of the assault story, CNN quoted one of the newspaper’s hacks, saying: “Nobody needs to explain why. We already know.”

Once more unto the breach

Business affairs investigator Michael West has been chatting with Jeff Knapp about the annual account of Chuckles Henderson’s Sydney Institute.

Knapp is a former lecturer in accounting at the University of New South Wales and he told West that for five out of the past six years the institute’s accounts have been filed late, in breach of the Corporations Act.

Gerard is running a shop with a total income of $1,160,090 for the year, down from $1.3 million in 2013. Corporate contributions are $837,664 – if only we knew the names and addresses of those companies.

In 2017 the accounts were 28 days’ late. In 2016 they were one day late. In 2014 they were overdue 27 days, 2013 six days and 2012 in arrears 37 days. In response to questions from West, Chuckles has not explained whether the Sydney Institute has been fined by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.

This doesn’t look good for a man who knows rules are rules and is a stickler about the lapses of others. But wait, it gets worse. PwC’s audit report went missing. The directors authorised the financial report before the audit report and the independence declaration had been signed. Knapp thought this was unusual. Oddly, PwC do the accounts of the $1.2 million-a- year talk shop on a pro bono basis.

Chuckles got back to Michael West with an explanation that the missing independent auditor’s report was refiled on Wednesday, May 29, 2019 “and accepted by ASIC”.

Bunter and Boris

Last week in The Guardian former London Telegraph editor Max (Hitler) Hastings recycled his view that Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is entirely unfit to be Britain’s prime minister.

Hastings was editor of The Torygraph at the time de Pfeffel was its Brussels correspondent. He admits the contender for the top political office is a brilliant entertainer, but a “weak character” who “cares for no interest save his own fame and gratification”. There’s room for debate whether “he is a scoundrel or mere rogue, but not much about his moral bankruptcy, rooted in a contempt for truth”.

For good measure de Pfeffel is a “cavorting charlatan” whose elevation “will signal Britain’s abandonment of any claim to be a serious country”.

Turning to The Australian Financial Review on Monday we find all this couldn’t be further from the truth, with Bunter Downer lavishing emollients on Johnson. Apparently, he exudes boyish charm, he’s highly educated, he loves Australia and he’s the right man to be Britain’s PM.

Johnson is the sort of Tory who’s right up Bunter’s street. At stuffy diplomatic functions the former high commissioner loved “to get into a corner with Boris and have a good gossip, a laugh and transact some serious business”.

There were further endorsements – Johnson had briefly taught at Geelong Grammar and Monash University, “so he knows our country”.

The Fin Review columnist went on to explain that there would be a “bumpy ride” if Britain left the European Union without an agreement, yet Boris “would break the sterile mould of British politics”.

We’ve come to recognise that Bunter Downer’s political assessments are infallibly accurate – if we allow for a wide margin of error.

Clap traps

Not all political Pentecostals are doing well. The happy-clapping Tasmanian minister for health, Michael Ferguson, has been dumped from the portfolio as the state’s hospitals have sunk into despair over the five years of Willy Hodgman’s government.

Ferguson was on the cusp of losing a no-confidence motion in parliament after the speaker, Sue Hickey, was poised to pull the plug on the hapless clapper. All this is further distressing news for Otto Abetz, who has been an ardent Ferguson supporter.

The former health minister’s Pentecostal ways ensured there were no clinics providing surgical abortions in the state since 2017.

He also rejected calls to make terminations available in public hospitals and plans for a private abortion clinic, scheduled to open last October, have not materialised.

Ferguson will be replaced as health minister by Sarah Courtney, who earlier had to be shifted to another portfolio after it was revealed she developed a horizontal relationship with her departmental secretary.

Well, it is Tasmania.

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jul 6, 2019 as "Gadfly: A slice of Evan". Subscribe here.

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