Diary

Gadfly
Wrangling a Parrot

The week belonged to the Parrot, the hero of Struggle Street. He was up to his old attention-grabbing schtick: vile remarks, followed by public fury, doubling down, a tight-lipped “apology”, then threats from management that this was his “last chance”. There was a special twist on this occasion – Jones complained the ABC’s Media Watch didn’t broadcast all of his comments about Jacinda Ardern.

If there’s anything the Parrot likes, it’s the full context of his unvarnished misogynistic diatribes.

It was George Orwell who said a man gets the face he deserves after the age of 50. Alan Jones’s face is evidence of the truth of that remark. Something terrible must have happened to him when he was a kiddie. Maybe it was a traumatic birth, a lonely neglected childhood, or an over-attentive parent who thought the sun shone out of little Alan’s backside.

All of these things can lead to disturbed behaviour later in life.

What is intriguing is the nature and quality of the advertisers who have departed from his program, and some entirely from 2GB. This includes at least two companies in the bedding industry: Koala Mattress and Snooze. Koala says it’s time for 2GB “to wake up”. There’s also Total Tools, which one would have imagined would be a perfect fit for the Jones show.

ME Bank and Anytime Fitness are also gone. A fitness business does seem an odd advertiser for Jones, whose listeners are over 85 and mostly in nursing homes. If enough companies decamp, only then will Jones be put out to pasture. It’s the money that matters, not the decency.

The Sleeping Giants movement, which aims to dissuade major companies from supporting racism, bigotry and misogyny, is urging citizens to send their old and preferably smelly socks to Peter Costello, the chairman of Nine Entertainment, which holds a majority stake in Macquarie Media.

In a touching aside last week, Jones decided to read messages of support. He claimed a “very prominent female political figure” had said, “Alan, don’t worry. I haven’t met a man more supportive of women.”

You wouldn’t read about it.

Letter bugs

The “palace letters” case is to get the full attention of the High Court. For difficult-to-comprehend reasons, the Federal Court – including the full Federal Court – thinks the letters then Governor-General Jolly John Kerr wrote to the Queen relating to the dismissal of the Whitlam government are “personal” and not records of the Commonwealth. Now, their Highnesses in Canberra are to decide.

The National Archives believes the correspondence is so red hot it must be kept under lock and key, away from the eyes of Australians who would like to know the role fragrant royals played in the sacking of the elected government.

Certainly, HM Brenda Battenberg has given no sign she thinks Kerr’s cosy letters should be released.

Recently, a few more letters between Kerr and the Queen’s private secretaries, Sir Martin Charteris and Sir Philip Moore, were dribbled out by the archives and were reported by Professor Jenny Hocking at least a month ago. In a puffy piece published much later in The Catholic Boys Daily, journalist Troy Bramston reported these revelations as his “exclusive”.

Among the pocket-moistening gushes that passed between Kerr and HM’s private secretaries was an understanding that the former governor-general would delete references in his memoir, Matters for (Mis)Judgment, to liaising with Charteris before he made his surprise move to dismiss Whitlam.

Their purpose was to protect Kerr’s backside in case Whitlam moved against him. If the palace was onside in advance, Whitlam would have far less room to move.

At the same time, the flunkies at the palace were desperate not to have it revealed that the putsch had been secretly blessed by Australia’s absentee monarch.

The backroom briefings were laid out in Professor Hocking’s useful volume The Dismissal Dossier.

Hocking writes that these exchanges “constituted a profound breach of the core relationship between the monarch, the prime minister and the governor-general in a constitutional monarchy”.

Even though in his private papers Kerr mentions “Charteris’ advice to me on dismissal”, this didn’t wash with Troy-Boy at The Catholic Boys Daily. Bizarrely, he says the newly released letters do not support Hocking’s position that Buck House was in on the scam, up to its frilly knickers.

Fitchett spinner

While in Troy Bramston country, it’s worth noting that he wrote a touching tribute last weekend to Jim Forbes, the former Menzies–Holt–Gorton-era minister who died at age 95.

Forbes certainly seems a cut above the dross that now occupies parliament. He was a war veteran, had a PhD from Oxford and was widely read. Nonetheless, he was a supporter of the calamitous war in Vietnam and conscription in Australia – the lottery of death.

Gadfly also has memories of Forbes when, after the election of the Whitlam government in 1972, he toured the parliamentary press gallery, reacquainting himself with old hacks and meeting new ones.

He greeted Ian Fitchett, a legendary political and defence correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald, who was lounging in an office armchair. Fitchett had been a barrister and an associate to High Court justice Sir Hayden Starke before turning to journalism. He also had a healthy disregard for politicians.

Forbes put his head around the door. “Hello, Ian, Jim Forbes, member for Barker.”

“Fuck off, Forbes,” came the lofty reply.

One Pell stoop

At this stage of the appeal business George Pell is stuck with at least three more years of porridge, pending his parole application. The thumping decision of Victoria’s most senior judges means he will need all the fortitude of Jesus himself to endure the disappointment.

But spare a thought, too, for his grieving boosters, the noted scholars Dr Andreas Blot, Chuckles Henderson, Miranda Devine and so on.

Blot, who knows not much about a lot, declared on Wednesday that he is “appalled” by the Court of Appeal’s decision. Clearly, Chief Justice Anne Ferguson and Court of Appeal president Chris Maxwell don’t know what they’re talking about when they say the trial verdict is safe, and the chief witness believable.

Chuckles, no doubt, will be pumping out creepy columns about the evil left-wing media’s intolerable sneers at the soon-to-be-former cardinal and unearthing “howlers” in their reports.

And here’s Pell defended by two of the most illustrious lawyers of the age, Robert Richter and Bret Walker. Not even a reference from Little Winston Howard could save the day.

Something must be wrong when the forces of the establishment can’t get the verdict they demand.

Visiting bellow

Washing up onto our gentle shores this week came James Kirchick, a visiting fellow from the Brookings Institution, a Washington “think tank”.

He delivered thinky pieces for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Catholic Boys Daily and was scheduled to appear at the Chuckles Institute.

In the SMH Kirchick decried Trump’s mean and distasteful racist attacks. But the real fault, apparently, lies with the left and Democratic Party members of congress who have “turned themselves into committed ideologues”.

According to Jimbo, these people talk too much about “white men” with responses that are the “essence” of racism. It’s the lefties who are firing up Trump’s racism.

In the Daily, the visiting fellow wrote about the “cancer” of anti-Semitism as seen in the British Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn. Further, he got stuck into the ALP leader, Anthony Albanese, for meeting with Corbyn and taking selfies. Kirchick said this is “not respectable”.

Odd, then, that the New South Wales shadow treasurer and ALP MP Walt Secord invited Kirchick to the McKell Room at Parliament House in Macquarie Street for a chat with members, accompanied by sandwiches and light refreshments.

Bin there, done that

In other NSW political developments the Department of Parliamentary Services is seeking to improve the “waste services” in MPs’ electoral offices. The facility officer sent around a spreadsheet to assist members answering five leading questions:

– What type of bins are used?

– How many bins are in each office?

– What name is on the bin?

– How frequently is the bin collected?

– What day is the bin collected? (N.B. Not “What day is the bin put out?”)

This sounds like an excellent example of parliamentary “waste services”, the output of which is likely to keep the bins nice and chockers.

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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Aug 24, 2019 as "Gadfly: Wrangling a Parrot". Subscribe here.

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