A Gus of hot air

Field agents from Wingello in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales bring reports that Schmo turned up in town on a post-bushfire inspection. Only the Rural Fire Service seemed to be aware of his arrival; hence there were no brass bands and drum majorettes to welcome him in the main street.

To cheer everyone up the PM brought Grassgate Gussy Taylor with him, yet residents were kept in the dark about their local member’s movements. He was reportedly expected at the local public school and the nippers excitedly turned up in their best uniforms with their hair brushed and faces scrubbed.

They were ready in the school library with musical instruments to serenade the Minister for Increased Emissions.

Sadly, Gussy failed to show due to pressing duties – this was the second cancellation within a short period. Disappointment turned to anger as citizens took to Facebook to complain. Others who lost their homes and patiently waited to have their arms yanked by the PM for his compulsory handshakes also were crestfallen at the absence of attention.

More recently Gussy completed a monumental session on ABC’s 7.30, where viewers were subjected to him running around in circles. We lost track of the number of times he said how “clear” he had been in his previous announcements about the forged Clover Moore travel details that emerged with his signature from his office and made their way to The Daily Smellograph.

Amazingly, he insisted that two police forces had investigated the mystery and found nothing. Move on. Full stop.

Of course, no such thing happened. The NSW Police flipped it to Constable Plod at the Australian Federal Police, who failed to do any substantial investigating because Gussy had “apologised”. Questions about the fake figures saga remain unanswered thanks to our fearless fuzz.

Reece Kershaw, the AFP commissioner, exuded insouciant lack of interest in this breach of the law when he appeared at senate estimates this week.

Marked Hamill

In its public-interest mission to hunt paedos, this week the Smellograph also managed to strike a partial blow for open justice.

In December, Justice Peter Hamill of the NSW Supremes ordered that a convicted paedophile offender, Brian Bowdidge, be subject to a four-year extended supervision order. This followed a “number of troubling incidents” and the belief that he posed “an unacceptable risk of committing another serious offence”.

Mr Bowdidge also has an intellectual disability and has faced harassment after previous publications in the Smello. Even though the documents were tendered in open court during the high-risk offender proceedings, Hamill ordered that access to the file be restricted.

The newspaper applied to have the restriction lifted, against objections from Bowdidge. After much deliberation the judge this week agreed that some elements of the file should be available to the newspaper, namely written submissions and the transcript of proceedings. Doctors’ reports and a risk assessment were not to be released.

Instead of the usual dry catchwords at the top of his judgement, the judge injected some zhoosh into the process:

“Civil law – high risk offender proceedings – riddled with acronyms … past media coverage – click-bait – open justice – highfalutin observations – exceptional case – middle course steered.”

This is up there with his catchwords in a 2016 judgement dealing with an application to discharge jurors, which read:

“… publication of newspaper article concerning alleged victim of shooting incident – where article followed a television program in which victim and his mother were interviewed – both interviewees witnesses in current trial … presentation of alleged victim – uninspiring performance – self-aggrandising gangster figure – buffoon …”

Hub a dud dub

Aunty ABC’s chief people officer, Rebekah Donaldson, told the rank and file this week that she was “so excited to advise” they should start setting their “People Hub performance and goals” for review and approval by managers.

This has to be completed by April Fools’ Day.

“Moving online will provide you with a more streamlined process and better visibility of your current and previous job plans. You will also be able to use People Hub to record details of your progress and achievements against your job plan throughout the performance cycle.”

Fortunately, for busy staff, a range of training and support options are available when setting their job plans on People Hub, including step-by-step user guides, face-to-face and Zoom sessions throughout March, and an e-learning course.

Rebekah’s excitement may sit oddly with the national broadcaster’s employees, who are looking over their shoulders to see which is the next swath of people to be terminated.

Fanciful motion

The Bob Brown Foundation received a notice from WorkSafe Tasmania that it could be slapped with a $500,000 fine if allegedly unsafe protesting in the Tarkine Forest didn’t stop.

Using safety laws was thought to be a neat backdoor way to stop Brown & Co from upsetting loggers.

It also gave Otto Abetz and a cohort of Liberal senators from Van Diemen’s Land a hot flush and they put forward a senate motion demanding the foundation abide by the “safety” order and allow forestry workers to get on with the secret task of chopping down ancient trees.

The work safety people and Otto’s bunch must have forgotten about the constitution and the earlier High Court decision invalidating a Tasmanian law that sought to impede protests in the island paradise.

Ultimately, WorkSafe Tasmania withdrew its order against Bob’s foundation. Whoopsadaisy, this left Otto looking a bit awkward – almost as awkward as the moment when the auditor-general at senate estimates had to correct his flight of fantasy about the sports rorts affair.

The ancient German backbencher had nowhere to go but withdraw his motion calling on the Bob Brown Foundation to obey the safety regulator.

The lawyer for WorkSafe, Sarah Kay, conceded the grounds of the notice were too wide. Asked how unsafe “activity” was defined, she told the court, “We’re in a bit of a quandary in that regard.”

Vaping holes in Otto’s argument

Several Tasmanians were upset that former Liberal premier Robin Gray has just published a book in which he made a scathing assessment of Otto’s contribution to the party.

Gray, 80, accuses Abetz of alienating “hardworking volunteer supporters”, which resulted in the closure of party branches in regional areas and the emergence of “a much narrower, top-down organisation [that is] less representative and active in the community because of that”.

Countering this assessment and reassuring his base, Otto came out with a column in the Launceston Examiner calling for the legalisation of vaping.

Of all the issues top of the Tasmanian mind, this is it. Otto has struck gold with a populist cause.

He argues that e-cigarettes will help people give up cancer sticks and he can’t understand why it is illegal to sell or buy e-cigarette cartridges containing nicotine.

In Tasmania, it is illegal under the Poisons Act 1971 to sell, buy or use e-cigarette cartridges containing nicotine.

“It’s a bit like refusing to legislate low-alcohol beer because we don’t like the impact of alcohol in society,” Otto told nonplussed Launcestonians.

Send up the clowns

There was no shortage of business outfits keen to have a float in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras last Saturday – including ANZ, Qantas, Vodafone, W Hotels, Instagram, L’Oréal, Woolworths and law firm MinterEllison.

Yet what is crying out for inclusion is some decent witty political satire. In days of yore we got Rev Fred Nile’s head on a platter, marching platoons of Clover Moores in curly wigs and a detachment of Imelda Marcos’s shoes on poles.

This year there was a smattering of dancers in Alan Jones masks and a bit of an awkward reception to the Liberal Party float, which consisted of well-fed youngsters doing white-men dancing routines.

It’s a puzzle why Liberal gays are celebrating while their party in Canberra is plotting legislation to discriminate against them.

Given the political climate in this country, you’d think there’d be ample room for drones such as Benito Dutton, The Mad Monk, Schmo and The Beetrooter to be mercilessly sent up.

Next year, maybe, we hope.

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Mar 7, 2020 as "Gadfly: A Gus of hot air".

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Richard Ackland is The Saturday Paper’s legal affairs editor. He publishes 500Words.com.au.