Diary

Gadfly
Merritt bastes decision

When palaeoconservatives get tangled in issues of race inevitably their pants catch on fire.

So it was with the High Court decision in Love, Thoms v The Commonwealth – when a majority of the judges stopped Benito Dutton deporting a couple of Aboriginal men who had done time for criminal offences in Australia.

Both Love and Thoms had been born elsewhere – one in New Zealand, the other in Papua New Guinea – and remained citizens of those countries, but also have Aboriginal heritage.

The majority decision of the High Court got a foaming response from the usual suspects at the House of Moloch and at the Liberal Party madrasah, the Institute for Paid Advocacy.

Chris (The Tamil) Merritt, a legal affairs scribbler at The Catholic Boys Daily, was incandescent. These were judges who were perverting the constitution in an “illegitimate exercise of judicial power”, this is a decision that “comes close to giving the Aboriginal community a rival form of sovereignty” and “endangers the community’s confidence in the High Court”, a “new racist concept” has been introduced into the constitution, these Aboriginals are “foreigners” protected by “lunacy”.

Even worse, the majority judges found things in the constitution that weren’t written down. “Judicial activism” – gasp! On and on The Tamil spluttered in a spume-flecked rage. He even dug up the ancient former senator John Stone, who went right off his rocker: Schmo and His Christian Porter “should call on each of the four judicial activists and insist, in the strongest terms, that they resign their High Court positions”. If they don’t, parliament should sack them.

The IPA is calling for more “capital-C Conservatives” to be appointed to the court. Nothing could be clearer. These claqueurs want a political High Court that brings down decisions that fit the far-right agenda. With Schmo and His Christian at the helm they might just get lucky.

Voice recognition

Among the litany of spurious arguments was the idea that the majority decision will set back reconciliation and the Indigenous Voice to Parliament. Apparently, these virtuous proposals will never recover from the Love, Thoms cases. Yet, nowhere was it considered in these infantile tantrums what the effect would be on an Aboriginal voice had the decision gone the other way and found two Aboriginal people to be “aliens”.

The majority judges reasoned that Indigenous people have a “special cultural, historical and spiritual connection with the territory of Australia, which is central to their traditional laws and customs and which is recognised by the common law”.

In other words, Aboriginality goes beyond citizenship, nationality, parentage or being born on Australian soil. Blood, belonging and Country carry more weight than a citizenship certificate from the government.

Justice James Edelman said if you consider the word “alien” as meaning you “do not belong” then it is impossible to hold that Aboriginal people can be aliens.

For this impertinence he and his colleagues have been put in the stocks and pelted with tomatoes hand-picked by The Tamil, John Stone, lobbyists at the IPA madrasah and other cult followers.

Christian soldiers

At the same time, the old Pell brigade of drum-beaters was out in force following the Four Corners story on St Kevin’s College and its treatment of a student who was groomed by a paedophile athletics coach.

Weird Dutch scholar Dr Blot (BA-on-hold) thought the victim, Paris Street, then a year 9 student, was merely being “hit on” by a man in his 50s, who actually wanted the lad to jump into his bed.

Everything was all right because “no sex occurred”. Blot at his finest and of course he had nowhere to go but a subsequent grovel.

Father Henderson thought the story was a “gross exaggeration” with the ABC operating within its “tradition of attacking mainly Catholic institutions, sometimes Christian institutions”.

He then issued a tangled regret, with a tuck followed by a pike, accompanied by a tortured explanation with words parsed and qualified. Blot did similarly.

Sadly, we’ll no longer see Henderson’s miserable dial on the Insiders couch, since he was dropped because the show is looking for fresh and interesting conservative voices.

This seems to be an oxymoron.

Coal front clouds

“Miss Otis regrets she’s unable to lunch today.” That’s the Cole Porter version. The other version is the pro-coal Labor MPs in Canberra who can’t be dragged away from the OTIS Dining Hall in Kingston. No regrets there as they straddle the conundrum of more coal with a cleaner environment over crispy pork belly or ravioli with burnt butter and sage.

It is entirely possible that a major political party, should it be agile enough to start a transition away from fossils, could still form government in Canberra without pro-coal MPs.

Should this be the case, all the kowtowing to Queensland and its neanderthals would not be necessary at all.

In Queensland there are five federal “coal” electorates – four held by the Liberal National Party and one by the Mad Katter Party: Capricornia, Flynn, Dawson, Maranoa and Kennedy. Along with Herbert, based around Townsville, they have a large fly-in fly-out contingent – people who aren’t necessarily registered voters in the electorates. Only two of those electorates will benefit directly if the Adani mine gets developed: Capricornia and Herbert. Jobs in electorates such as Capricornia and Flynn are actually threatened by a new large competitor the size of the Galilee development.

Ben Oquist, of The Australia Institute, thinks there are three coal seats in New South Wales, in the Hunter Valley and on the south coast, and one in Victoria.

All up, the progress on climate is being stymied by nine federal electorates with coal-fired MPs.

Yet, as a study published by The Australia Institute shows, there is the significant FIFO contingent in the Queensland electorates, where some of the coal jobs are also going to be cannibalised by the Adani development.

A party with a large enough majority could start the transition pronto. Would the parliament be any poorer without Joel Fitzgibbon, the Katters, the Member for Manila, Michelle Landry and people you’ve barely heard of, such as Ken O’Dowd from Flynn?

Sacrifices have to be made.

Bunch of bankers

Things are getting positively stimulating at Anna Bligh’s Australian Bankers Association. As is explained in a recruitment advertisement: “The ABA is going through an exciting organisational change, moving towards a more collaborative, cross-team, cross-functional way of working and aiming to establish a dynamic and innovative organisation that works effectively as a whole and in partnership with our member banks.”

Anna is looking for someone who can take charge of the “policy environment” in relation to the emergence of digital banks and “non-bank business models, particularly in the payments eco system”.

Good relations with stakeholders is, needless to say, an essential requirement.

Apart from the glorious corporate babble, this seems like a belated indication that smaller niftier banks are eating the lunch of the four pillars of wisdom. Competition – dangerous stuff.

The touch of Frost

Indelibly printed on your minds will be the Christmas Eve decision of the full Federal Court that found voters were unlikely to be misled by Liberal Party signage in the electorates of Chisholm (Liu) and Kooyong (Frydenberg) that closely replicated the look of official Electoral Commission signs.

These were purple and white Nasty Party corflutes in Chinese that proclaimed, “Correct voting method … Put 1 next to Liberal Party candidate”.

The digital trail showed the design of the corflutes had been labelled “generic AEC-looking corflutes” and PDFs sent for printing were also named “polling day corflute Chinese_AEC_simplified”.

The court thought that not enough voters would have been misled to change the outcomes in these seats.

Anyway, at the centre of this piece of electoral innovation was senior party functionary Simon Frost, who authorised the corflutes. The Victorian division of the Nasty Party also had been recalcitrant in assisting the petitioners in these two disputed return cases.

Frydenberg and Liu were home free but on Christmas Eve the court said it would seek to make a direction that Mr Frost breached the Commonwealth Electoral Act. That led to a decision last week that saw Frosty escape prosecution for misleading and deceptive conduct. Even though he intended the signs to be like those of the AEC, their hons said there was no evidence he had given instructions on the placement of the corflutes up close to the signs from the Electoral Commission.

The court’s Christmas Eve finding was that in at least 16 polling places (of 42) in Chisholm and 11 (of 37) in Kooyong, the corflutes were placed sufficiently adjacent or close to AEC signage to be misleading or deceptive.

The placement must have happened by magic. Frosty is now a senior adviser in Frydenberg’s office.

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Feb 29, 2020 as "Gadfly: Merritt bastes decision".

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