Diary

Gadfly
My friend (insert name)

Trump’s bone spurs must be giving him hell. Standing for hours on end to smother Schmo Morrison in effusions at a welcome ceremony, at a press conference, at a state dinner and then at Anthony Pratt’s cardboard factory. Agony for the Radge Orange Bampot, and for everyone else in earshot.

“He’s really something special, we had a special day … Australia is a great country, beautiful place … I have a lot of friends from Australia. A very strong, great people … He’s a man of titanium, believe me, I have to deal with this guy … You might think he’s a nice guy, okay, he’s a man of real, real strength and a great guy.”

By this stage, the Pussy Grabber’s gush-athon ran clean out of gas.

At the welcome ceremony on the White House lawn, Morrison looked like a vacuum cleaner salesman about to get an employee-of-the-month certificate. Trump just looked impeachable. And there was Joe Hockey, hosting a barbecue at the embassy – as a rural friend of Gadfly’s describes his cattle after a stint in the top paddock, looking “fat and shiny”.

Then it was all forgotten. The scraps of shaved vegetables, fennel Mussolini and Lady apple tarts were swept away with the detritus in the rose garden and the next day in came Narendra Modi. It was as though Schmo and his travelling caravan had never existed.

Bone Spurs cranked up the same ol’ spiel: “One of America’s greatest friends, Prime Minister Modi, is doing an exceptional job for India …

“You have never had a better friend as president than President Donald Trump,” said Donald Trump.

Modi’s adventurism in Kashmir was the cause of some contention during his visit. Three Nobel peace prize winners and 100,000 signatories to a petition were cross with Bill Gates for giving Modi an award for installing low-cost toilets in his country.

Now Morrison has to get back to the freak show that is his government.

High and Low

Mark O’Brien’s defamation shop has been issuing disturbing letters to booksellers, demanding they cease distributing the book Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World.

This is the book about the alleged theft of more than $US4.5 billion from the Malaysian state development fund – the 1MDB affair – written by Wall Street Journal reporters Tom Wright and Bradley Hope.

A former Malaysian prime minister, Hollywood celebs and Goldman Sachs are among those who have been entangled in the scam.

The Economist described it as “an impeccably researched book on the scandal”. A bit too impeccable for Low Taek Jho, aka Jho Low, a Malaysian playboy who allegedly planned the fraud.

His lawyers, including Mark O’Brien Legal in Sydney and Schillings in London, have been peppering bookshops with threats of dire consequences if they continue to retail Billion Dollar Whale.

Low’s lawyers claim the book is false, misleading, inaccurate and defamatory, and for good measure breaches his privacy. These claims seem to coincide with a new paperback version, which is due for imminent release.

Last year in Britain there were interruptions to the book’s distribution because of the threats, but now it is widely available online and at your favourite bookshop.

Still, Low and his Australian lawyers want confirmation from bookshops that sales will cease. What has not been made clear in these letters is that Mr Low is currently a fugitive from justice, believed to be somewhere in China.

There’s an Interpol Red Notice out for his arrest and he has been charged with money-laundering-related offences in the United States and Malaysia. He is also under investigation in Singapore, Switzerland and Luxembourg.

As yet, this greatly aggrieved client has not brought any legal action about the book.

Last year, the book’s publisher, Hachette, told distributors that it has “full confidence in the authors’ account in Billion Dollar Whale, including its depiction of Mr Low. Billion Dollar Whale is an important work of journalism from authors of the highest calibre.”

Black ops

In other developments from the sleepy world of books, news on the vine has it that Morry Schwartz’s Black Inc has persuaded Paddy Manning to write a biography of Lachlan Murdoch. Schwartz Media is, of course, publisher of this organ.

Paddy has produced masterful works on Nathan Tinkler (Boganaire), Malcolm Turnbull (Born to Rule) and the Greens (Inside the Greens). Currently, he’s writing Body Count: How Climate Change Is Killing Us. Soon it will be the turn of climate-change denier and death penalty devotee Lachlan, the 48-year-old who somehow or other arrived at the top of his father’s gruesome media machine.

Lachie is well overdue for close examination. In March this year, The Intercept published a long piece about how the heir apparent had changed from a fresh-faced student at Princeton, studying philosophy, to a hard-bitten corporatist spear carrier for “far-right sludge”.

The piece’s author, Peter Maass, said: “Lachlan Murdoch represents an archetype of extremism that often escapes scrutiny …” He examines Lachlan’s college thesis, “A Study of Freedom and Morality in Kant’s Practical Philosophy”. Even though German philosophers were the focus, Murdoch started with a quote from Byron:

Between two worlds life hovers like a star,

’Twixt night and morn, upon the horizon’s verge.

How little do we know that which we are!

How less what we may be!

Adding numbers to coal deposits

Meanwhile, on this distant shore of Lord Moloch’s empire, The Daily Smellograph was incandescent over the decision by the New South Wales Independent Planning Commission to block the development of the South Korean-managed coal deposit in the Bylong Valley, near Mudgee – not far from the troublesome coal on the Obeids’ spread at Mount Penny.

The Smello said the whole thing was unjust. To prove it, the paper claimed that locals who work at the nearby hardware shop at Rylstone are paid $900 a week, while the IPC commissioners collect $2000 a day.

Opinion scribbler Tim Blair went further, saying median weekly incomes in Sydney’s Lane Cove are 74 per cent higher than in Mudgee.

Timbo added that the 300,000 or so people who marched for the environment last week represent only 1.2 per cent of our total population, whereas more than 8.5 per cent of the population signed up for duty in World War I.

Get a grip of that information, if you can.

The Tele man’s complaint was that latte sippers with petitions and form letters were spoiling all the fun for coal workers, yet the IPC makes it clear that public opinion was not part of the reasons for its decision.

In February, the Land and Environment Court in NSW set off another bout of conniptions when it included climate change impacts among the reasons for finding the Rocky Hill coalmine near Gloucester should not proceed.

Planning Minister Rob Stokes wisely warned that political interference in mining matters landed former Labor ministers in the clink, “so we will not interfere in what is rightly now an independent process”.

Pell melee

Is Cardinal Pell’s special leave application to the High Court causing confusion among citizens? Is this a change of tack – can the choirboy be believed and Pell still be innocent? What’s happened to the presumption of innocence? How much voodoo do you need to get the old wretch out of the can?

It’s all designed to do our heads in, so that only the most refined minds are allowed to dance on the head of a pin.

As the case has progressed through various stages of the judicial food chain, the focus has changed. The trial involved herculean efforts to unstitch the choirboy. The appeal to the three Supreme Court judges concentrated on unstitching the jury’s version of the facts. Now the application to the High Court is all about unstitching the majority of the appeal judges downstairs.

For Pell two lines are now advanced, both involving issues of legal principle. The majority failed to consider the “compounding improbabilities” of the 13 obstacles to Pell’s guilt. This goes to minority judge Mark Weinberg’s observation about the chances of “all the planets aligning” being doubtful.

The second line is that the majority judges applied a test to the “opportunity evidence” in such a way that it reversed the onus of proof, requiring Pell to prove that it was logically impossible for him to rape the complainant.

Pell’s application to the court says: “The majority erred by finding that their belief in the complainant required the applicant to establish that the offending was impossible.”

The majority appeal judges’ detailed analysis did not confirm the opportunity witnesses’ account, even those witnesses who claimed to have been with Pell at all relevant times.

Ben Mathews, a law professor at Queensland University of Technology, has pulled out some figures from a 2019 study that found only 23 out of 161 special leave applications in the criminal jurisdiction were successful over two years (14.29 per cent).

Yet it’s all dreadfully unfair, according to The Catholic Boys Daily’s legal affairs scribbler, Chris (The Tamil) Merritt. He insists the High Court should give special leave and hear the appeal because the “scales of justice have been rigged”. The Tamil suggests that Victorian statute law gives too much protection to those “who claim to be victims of sexual assault”.

With foam-flecked lips, he adds that Pell’s accuser suffered from “psychological issues” and that access to these records was denied at trial.

Even if this were so, a jury of 12 and two appeal judges found his evidence sound.

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Sep 28, 2019 as "Gadfly: My friend (insert name)". Subscribe here.

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