Diary

Gadfly
A Greek comedy duo

The dazzling Athenian sunshine caught the highlights of Kevin Andrews’ luxuriant crop of Grecian 2000-enhanced hair as he took coffee at a footpath cafe in Skoufa, close to the Greek capital’s embassy district.

But hold on, there was an even bigger distraction. Pauline Hanson, that heart-throb of menopausal males from the boondocks, was perched close by.

Quite the strange pairing to spot on holiday together in the Mediterranean.

Maybe they were investigating Greek influences on family law reform. Kev, we know, is Mr Morals, while Hanson is keen to import aspects of sharia to the project, handing to panels of rustic codgers the power to determine divorce, property division, childcare, and the terrible plague that sees fathers beaten up by women.

All became clear when Andrews’ office told us this junket was concerned with other pressing duties: “The primary purpose of the delegation was to attend the 40th yearly Australia–EU Inter-Parliamentary Meeting in Brussels. The meeting is held alternately at the Australian and European parliaments. The delegation also visited the Hellenic Parliament for bilateral meetings and discussions.”

καλό ταξίδι!

Better believe it

Day by day, the Reverend Christian Porter’s religious freedoms package is becoming more and more unglued. If you attempted to design something that causes unhappiness and disharmony, and at the same time is a feast for lawyers, you couldn’t do better than his Right to Be a Bigot Bill.

Among its many disturbing initiatives is that it gives “statements of belief” priority over anti-discrimination protections on race, colour, gender, age, disability and other areas of social justice.

The Australian Financial Review reported that one of the submissions on the proposed law came from human rights researcher Misty Farquhar and workplace consultant Conrad Liveris, who studied what happened in Indiana when Bible-bashing nutter and then governor Mike Pence ushered in laws that let religious zealots off the leash.

There was backlash in the Hoosier state from corporations, which led to sports and entertainment events being cancelled in protest. The laws eventually had to be amended when the penny dropped that they were having an adverse effect on Indiana’s economy.

It’s no surprise then that business organisations here are protesting at the Morrison–Porter proposal. The Australian Industry Group says the bill would “impede the ability of employers … to protect employees from harassment and discrimination”. Ahead lie endless mediations and test cases to find out the boundaries between anti-discrimination laws and the winged freedoms of God’s earthly messengers.

The churches and their followers have enough freedom – indeed too much – already. The legislation should be turned into a pillar of salt.

Lowy Schmo-ey

Can anyone make sense of Schmo Morrison’s Lowy Lecture to a town hall packed with eminences and Nasty Party careerists? It was called “In Our Interest” and focused on how Australia is not going to be bossed about by “unaccountable international bureaucracies”. This is shorthand for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

In a complex straddle, Schmo somehow or other remains a committed globalist on other matters, including the Commonwealth Secretariat, the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, bilateral trade deals that hand over dispute settlements to supranational arbitral processes, maybe even the World Council of Churches.

What Schmo is trying to do is inject a bit of Trumpist–Pfeffelism into his vacant agenda. It’s straight out of Bone Spurs’ “America First” speech at his inauguration, described by George W. Bush as “weird shit”.

Naturally, Lord Moloch’s organs were ecstatic and congratulated Morrison on his great and unmatched wisdom.

Court of Moloch

In the Old Dart, Moloch’s fish-wraps had hysterics over the British Supreme Court’s finding that de Pfeffel’s prorogation of parliament in pursuit of his Little England plan was null and void.

“Unelected judges” were staging a “staggering legal coup … an unprecedented act of constitutional vandalism,” said The Sun. Another Sun article called the president of the court, Baroness Hale, a “beady-eyed old nanny goat”, while the non-Murdoch Mail said she was an “ex-barmaid”.

In a piece where “Sun readers reacted with fury” to the court’s ruling, Dave from Sheffield wrote, “The elite have shafted us again”, while others said, “I’m ashamed to be British.”

It has unleashed a rabid call for British Supreme Court judges to be selected by an American-style committee process whereby their pasts and futures are hashed over by politicians looking for ideological commitment but not necessarily personal probity.

Further, since the judges have now, allegedly, trespassed onto hallowed political ground, they would be “fair game for public scrutiny” – that is, beat-ups and personal attacks.

The idea that judges should be elected is one of the fallback positions of enraged alt-right types when they disapprove of court decisions. Plenty of components of the democratic state are unelected, including journalists who spew bilious opinions.

The weird thing is that of the 11 judges who unanimously decided that Boris’s prorogation was illegal, nine were appointed to the court by Tory governments.

Cash for climate

We know things are tough in the media business. If it’s not alarmist nonsense being peddled to attract customers, it’s dressing up paid advertising as editorial content – lipstick on the pig.

Nine Publishing, the old Fairfax mastheads, has taken advertorial plans to a new level, with The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age looking to publish a feature on “Climate Change Awareness”.

Various non-profit organisations were invited to participate, including the Climate and Health Alliance, an organisation that promotes health by evidence-based responses to global warming.

The alliance was gobsmacked to be asked by the Nine salesforce for $5500, plus GST, to take part in the feature – that’s just for one newspaper; there’d be a special rate for two. It would cover topics such as the science of climate change, the climate change reality, and climate change: how you can help. It would also include a “one-on-one interview” with a Herald journalist and “exclusive mention” in the editorial.

By Friday, the feature had been scrapped. A Nine spokesman told Guardian Australia: “A third-party company we work with pitched this advertorial with no involvement from editorial. We chose to revoke the proposal after reviewing it and finding it did not meet the standards that apply to sponsored content within our publications. Our journalists are not involved in sponsored content.”

Asking a non-profit organisation to stump up money to buy coverage on the existential crisis of the moment is a bit rich, while other media organisations are putting their shoulders to the wheel, investing in journalism and reporting on how the planet is being degraded by carbon emissions. Interviewees paying to be interviewed would have come as an exciting new twist on the traditional model of chequebook journalism.

Environment reporter Peter Hannam does a wonderful job for The SMH and The Age, yet those papers are not part of the Covering Climate Now network, which consists of up to 250 newsrooms worldwide reporting on climate in-depth without asking for bundles of cash from those struggling to do something about it.

Covering Climate Now was founded this year with The Guardian, Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation at the forefront. It now includes CBS News, Al Jazeera, El País, the Toronto Star, BuzzFeed, HuffPost, Vox, Getty Images, Bloomberg, Nature, Scientific American, and dozens of podcasts, local publishers, and radio and TV stations worldwide.

Devine intervention

Things are closing in on Covfefe Trump. He’s now reduced to having his lawyers say that, along with his family and his companies, he is not subject to criminal investigation. He’s appealing a federal court decision that says no one is above the law.

This also involves an appeal against orders that he hand over eight years of his subpoenaed tax returns to New York state prosecutors who are investigating whether the payoff to “adult film performer” Stormy Daniels violated election laws.

Then there’s the standoff over the impeachment crisis, with the White House refusing to co-operate with the house of representatives inquiry – a constitutional crisis that will surely head to the courts. With the United States Supremes in the grip of Republican Party enablers, the outcome may be different from the Nixon-era impeachment process, where the court ordered the president to hand over tapes and other material.

Next up we had the presidential edict to withdraw from Syria and hand the Kurds over to the Turks. Most of the old white Republican senators didn’t think much of this decision.

Wobble-jowled senator Mitch McConnell said: “A precipitous withdrawal of US forces from Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime. And it would increase the risk that ISIS and other terrorist groups regroup.”

It’s another muddle, which leaves observers convinced the Bone Spurs has forgotten to take his pills.

Fortunately, he has Miranda Devine in his corner, scribbling at the New York Post. As this satellite to Uranus writes approvingly and confusingly: “The American people chose a barbarian for president because they knew only a barbarian could drain the Washington swamp … They see him implementing his agenda against all odds.”

There’s nothing like replacing one swamp with an even more fetid one.

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Oct 12, 2019 as "Gadfly: A Greek comedy duo". Subscribe here.

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