Diary

Gadfly
Quiet as a church mouth

Gadfly, along with an anxious nation, was looking forward to last weekend’s Catholic Boys Daily. Surely, it would be bursting with explanations from all the favourites on how the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse got it wrong in its unredacted report on the state of Cardinal Pell’s knowledge about the Ballarat Paedophile Club.

Pell declared he was “surprised” by the findings and, anyway, they “are not supported by the evidence”.

Where were his devoted claqueurs to back him up? Citizens were expecting Father Frank Brennan to devote 7000 words on the royal commission’s loose thinking when it comes to Catholic etiquette in the sacristy.

Where was choirboy-at-large Paul Kelly with a searing analysis of why Pell is right and how the commission “retreated from legal reasoning”? Where was Monsignor Chuckles Henderson venting on the anti-papist pile-on and “unconscious bias” of the royal commission?

Where was the weird Dutchman fixing Pell with searing Dorothy Dixers?

The only voice on Saturday was from the paper’s hack in Victoria, John Ferguson, who wrote: “Based on today’s standards, Pell’s position was utterly unacceptable.” Apparently, these standards didn’t apply yesterday.

This was the same John Ferguson who in April 8’s paper dialled the Sunbeam Mixmaster up to speed eight and churned this out:

“There will be those who want to take comfort from the fact that the cathedral allegations passed through three courts. But the manner in which they were excoriated by the High Court suggests this was a function of a triumph of luck – and maybe even prejudice – rather than necessarily evidence of any weight of facts.”

7.30’s story on the commission’s findings was also bereft of interviews with Archbishop of Melbourne Peter Comensoli, Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher, and Archbishop of Brisbane Mark Coleridge, who is also the president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. All declined to comment.

Catholic mouthpieces Greg Craven and Father Brennan, of the Australian Catholic University, also were struck dumb.

It was so flat and disappointing, just at a time when we need cheering up.

Parrot silenced too

A strange hush has descended over the land as citizens ponder the departure from the airwaves of the Voice of the Nation, Alan Jones.

Without the Parrot, who will speak for us? Who can manufacture the same high-quality bullying, nastiness, bitterness and toxicity? Not to mention racism and misinformation. And will we ever get to hear another piece of schmaltz from André Rieu?

Jones knew how to leverage all those qualities into ratings success. There’s a sense that without Little Alan bellowing away in the mornings, Sydney taxi drivers and residents in aged-care facilities will not know whether life is worth living.

There was plenty of back slapping and pocket moistening on hand to send him on his way. Even old John “Tonsils” Laws was laying it on thick: “I’m going to miss you … I’ve nothing but the highest regard for you … You’ve been fantastic … Whatever you do … you’ll continue to make a lot of people happy.” If listeners weren’t feeling a bit queasy in the tum-tum after that, they should be. Anyway, Jones says he is removing himself from behind the microphone on the advice of “experts”, which would be an entirely novel experience for him.

Jones and Laws go back to the dark days of cash for comment at 2UE, when they were both shilling on air for products and services without declaring they were being paid under the counter. They were peddling stuff as disinterested editorial comment that should properly have been upfront advertising.

Some might think this was dishonest behaviour. The Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) thought so and found the Parrot had agreements to spruik for Optus, Qantas, State Bank of New South Wales, Walsh Bay Finance and Walker Corporation.

The day after he signed an agreement with the Walsh Bay development, he started to push its barrow on his show. He said in evidence to an inquiry by the authority that this plugola had nothing to do with his contract; he was just naturally interested in the harbourside project – a payment of between $60,000 and $80,000 had nothing to do with it.

Julian Burnside, QC, counsel for the ABA, put it this way: “The curious thing, Mr Jones, is this: that you seem to be saying that what you have done you weren’t obliged to do, and what you were obliged to do, you didn’t do.”

Jones describes the many regulatory and defamation findings against him as “bumps in the road”.

Livin’ Levido loca

Like the rest of the mail, your diarist’s copy of Private Eye arrived late from London. It’s good that it arrived at all for there was a spicy news item about someone named Isaac Levido. Under the headline “Isaac Haze” it said that this fellow is an Australian who has been appointed by Boris Johnson to clarify the government’s confused coronavirus messaging, among other spinner duties.

The article claims Levido led Johnson’s “less than open and honest general election campaign last year. That featured fake ‘fact-check’ Twitter accounts, a doctored interview with Keir Starmer and a refusal to face tricky debates or difficult interviews.”

Levido is a protégé of Sir Lynton Crosby, “famed for coordinating Australia’s right-wing Liberal party victory in 2019. That delivered the country a PM in Scott Morrison, whose handling of the bush fires makes even Johnson seem statesmanlike.”

It’s so good to see Australians glittering in the corridors of global power.

Snowy forecast

Approval of the environmental impact statement for the Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro scheme is in the wind, as it is now a centrepiece for the Covid-19 infrastructure stimulus package.

As we are all too well aware, this is one of former PM Trumble’s favourite nation-building schemes, bigger than FDR’s Hoover Dam, and judging by an outpouring of concern from a large assembly of experts, it will be up there with the NBN for its disaster-laden qualities.

Thirty engineers, energy experts, lawyers, environmentalists, scientists, professors and public policy gurus have signed an open letter to Schmo Morrison and Aunty Gladys arguing that the merits of Snowy 2.0 are overstated and that there should be a public review of its supposed merits.

The problems associated with the plan are too vast and overwhelming for a family-friendly column such as this. Suffice to say there’s a cost blowout of 500 per cent from the original $2 billion estimate; it will increase rather than reduce average energy prices; it will lose about 40 per cent of the remote source energy that is ultimately delivered to Sydney and Melbourne consumers; it will require emissions of more than 50 million tonnes of CO2 during the construction phase and beyond; it will be largely unused until 2030; and it will convert swaths of the Kosciuszko National Park into rubble involving scars across 30 kilometres of that part of the Australian Alps.

The Australian Financial Review reported last month that the government had to politely decline a request from Trumble to join the board of the Snowy Hydro corporation, apparently because his “prominence and strong personality could be unmanageable on the board”.

There are better, less damaging, cheaper alternative schemes available, which should be considered. Grassgate Gussy Taylor, the minister for higher emissions, is in charge of Snowy 2.0, so hold on tight.

Damning denial

Suddenly we hear the voice of John Roskam on Richard Aedy’s excellent ABC climate change radio show, Hot Mess.

Roskam is the top banana at the Gina Rinohart Institute for Paid Advocacy. Here we are in the midst of a pandemic with science at the forefront of policymaking and Roskam says, “In a democracy it’s not the scientists who decide what should be the public policy answers, it should be the politicians elected by the people.”

Of course, he’s not talking about how science has led the political management of the plague, he was saying that scientists should not drive the debate about climate change and global warming. When it comes to climate, the science is a matter of opinion, according to Roskam.

If anything, though, the Covid-19 crisis has revealed the hollowness of the thesis peddled by the climate criminals.

One by one, their arguments don’t get to first base. For instance, to say that reducing fossil fuels to stop the planet overheating is bad for the economy, ignores the reality that the economy and the climate are one and the same. Also, the idea that Australia is too small an emitter to matter ignores another fact – that together all the smaller emitters account for 40 per cent of global emissions.

To be a climate criminal necessarily involves peddling distortions, but surely the last desperate spin of the wheel is to say that it is undemocratic for politicians to be guided by science. Anyway, who elected John Roskam?

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on May 16, 2020 as "Gadfly: Quiet as a church mouth".

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

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