Diary

Gadfly
Smoking out a reality check

Citizens of Sydney and nearby parts wake each morning to the smell of their environment going up in smoke. Trees, leaves, animals, fences and homes are ablaze. The sky is a sinister colour, the rivers are empty, the air is dangerous, the oceans are filled with junk, islands are disappearing, the Earth is on its knees and the price of bread has gone up.

Pregnant women are told to stay indoors because of particulate matter from the fires. The danger level is 22 times greater than what’s regarded as safe. According to some sources, breathing the air outdoors for a day is equivalent to smoking 34 cigarettes.

No one can remember this calamitous situation ever before affecting the city for such an extended period. Yet, the career politicians on the Treasury benches advise that everything is normal – carry on regardless, no need to rethink, quiet Australians are at their best when quiet.

They may not have noticed the Ipsos Issues Monitor records that the most pressing concern for Australians is the environment. For the first time, it tops cost of living and concerns about the state of the economy.

This mirrors a recent Essential poll that found 60 per cent of Australians don’t think enough is being done to address climate change. It can be imagined that in a relatively short period 99 per cent of Australians will have arrived at that conclusion. The 1 per cent that persists with peddling denial will be located in the uplands of the Nasty Party and among hacks in dark corners of Lord Moloch’s empire.

Towards dystopia

It appears prayers have been answered and we are in for bigger, wider, deeper religious freedoms.

Following rallies and parades by assortments of the faithful, Schmo Morrison is scrapping Christian Porter’s freedom model mark 1 with a view to legislation that accommodates more of the Old Testament.

The rising belief in magic spells and powerful deities is an accompaniment to the dystopia of our times.

At the same time lawyers are preparing picnic rugs and lavish celebrations as they smack their chops at the opportunities for endless litigation in the new Republic of Gilead. The fine edges of laws impacting employment, discrimination, vilification and cake baking are in for a good hammering.

We know that Grassgate Gussy Taylor took a virtuous stand against heathens and Visigoths at his Oxford college who wanted to tear down the Christmas tree, laden with trinkets and baubles. In Gussy’s spiritual firmament, it doesn’t get more principled than that.

It’s intriguing that Jay Sekulow, one of Mr Trump’s many personal lawyers, made his pile in “religious liberty” litigation. Those who watched the documentary on Margaret Atwood the other night also might be alarmed at her remark that the detailed characteristics of her theonomy in The Handmaid’s Tale were all based on facts – either historical or current.

Cursed be the fruit.

Noam knows

Persistent protester Stephen Langford has been charged, again, for defacing a JCDecaux Jaguar advertisement in Rushcutters Bay with a message in liquid chalk: “Sorry to bully innocent people in concentration camps for six years. But that’s Australia.”

Plod wants him to pay a fine, plus $968 to remove the liquid chalk – which scrubs off anyway.

The court hearing is set for March 10 next year at which Langford proposes to plead not guilty and draw attention to the deaths of 12 people held in offshore detention by Australia.

His cause, all the more poignant without the lifeline of medevac, draws global attention as historian, social critic and political activist Noam Chomsky sends him this message – read at a protest rally this week:

Pope Francis described the ‘refugee crisis’ as, in reality, a moral crisis of the West. He was quite right. There are no words to capture adequately the reaction of the rich and privileged to the plight of miserable people fleeing from disaster, one of the great scandals of modern history, reminiscent of the refusal – particularly on the part of the US – to accept Jews fleeing from Nazi Germany, consigning them to gas chambers. The competition for championship in moral depravity is keen, but Australia ranks high. And we are only witnessing the early stages of the crisis, sure to escalate as the impact of global warming has its sharply increasing impact, thanks in no small measure to the international criminals who are dedicated to bringing on the catastrophe, the US in the lead and Australia trying hard to keep up.”

Happy birthday, Noam – 91 today.

Press fight fire with choir

Karen Middleton, our field agent in Canberra, sends news of Christmas cheer sweeping Parliament House.

The end of year’s physical contests between the press and the politicians saw the pollies carry off most of the sporting trophies. It was the same with the carol-singing contest, where the politicians were pitch perfect against the press.

It was an amazing spectacle as Ged Kearney and Kevin Andrews raised their voices in unison. Julie Owens tinkled the ivories accompanying two carols and a rousing rendition of:

And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon England’s mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?

Et cetera. How else would politicians get stirred without William Blake?

The media singers called themselves the Annika Smethurst Ensemble and offered a politically laden message to the tune of “O Little Town of Bethlehem”. The third verse is worth singing aloud, even if it doesn’t scan perfectly:

O precious thing, democracy
Know all that makes it great
Depends for sure on rule of law,
And on the Fourth Estate.
Go tearing down these pillars –
We’ve seen what that brings on.
So when it’s fraught, just hold this thought.
You’ll miss us when we’re gone.

The politicians, desperate to win, cheated by rehearsing, while the ensemble, described as a “ramshackle bunch of seven chicks”, sang from the heart.

Can Weir turn tide for Herald Sun?

In Greek legend, Damon and Pythias set an example for all of us.

Pythias was accused of plotting against the tyrannical Dionysius and sentenced to death. He was allowed to return home to settle his affairs on condition that Damon take his place and be executed should Pythias not return.

Fortunately, Pythias returned to Syracuse in the nick of time and Damon was spared.

So it was for Damon Johnston who was spared execution at the court of Lord Moloch and instead dispatched from the editorship of the Hun to the backwaters of The Catholic Boys Daily as Victorian editor.

The reasons are many and varied and who really knows the intricacies of Moloch’s politburo.

A few insiders say an email that did the rounds didn’t help. It revealed the hideously embarrassing fact that most stories in the Hun get only 2500 hits. Not the sort of thing advertisers are told.

Taking the reins in Melbourne is Sam Weir, the editor of Brisbane’s Courier-Mail, one of the most comical rags in the country.

On they go, recycling themselves in a vain effort to hold the decay at bay.

The heart of the matter

In the High Court of England and Wales at the end of last month came a delightful, crisp judgement on the repatriation of orphans from Syria – the very thing Jacqui Lambie, One Nation and the Nasty Party would oppose on grounds of border security.

The judge, Sir Michael Keehan, said that in 2015 a family with British citizenship arrived in Syria and “it is understood that the children were orphaned there”.

The judge didn’t spell out what happened, citing privacy rights, but you can join the dots and work it out.

On the application of a relative the judge made the children wards of the court and shortly after ordered they be returned to Britain and placed in the care of their remaining family. He requested the assistance of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. That was in October.

By November 21 they were handed over to Foreign Office officials for repatriation and arrived in London the next day to be met by their family.

Justice Keehan said: “It is apparent that this was a complex and difficult operation in a fragile environment. It involved the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London and across its overseas network. Any other operations will be similarly complex and difficult.”

He went on to describe what happened after the children landed: “They had breakfast together with their relatives and they appeared to be in good spirits. They were then driven to the family home where they are to live. They slept peacefully in the car on the journey from the airport. They immediately recognised the family members and family home on their arrival. They have settled into the home and appear to be as happy as they possibly could be in the difficult circumstances of their return.”

The judgement was 17 paragraphs. It’s enough to make you weep.

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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Dec 7, 2019 as "Gadfly: Smoking out a reality check". Subscribe here.

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