Just squawk away, Renee

The Australian Federal Police has sent to the prosecutors its brief of evidence about the ABC’s reporting on the Afghan Files, the big story about alleged killings of unarmed civilians by Australian soldiers.

It looks as though reporter Dan Oakes could be in the frame for bringing us the news, but not so his colleague Sam Clark.

Anyway, it was the first big AFP announcement, following its raid on the ABC’s HQ, since former Bowen Hills Bugle political reporter Renee Viellaris took over as the federal plod’s director of strategic communications.

Judging by her record as a Moloch hack, she’s a perfect pick for the job.

Who can forget Renee’s searing investigations for the Bugle on District Court judges in Queensland reducing on appeal the fines dished out to Adani coalmine protesters by hardworking magistrates in the Bowen courthouse?

Renee eagerly pointed out to her palsied reader that at least one of the fine-reducing judges was a civil libertarian.

The Judicial Conference of Australia (JCA), a sort of trade union for the judiciary, said the article and accompanying editorial were uninformed and ignored “essential facts”.

Then there was her 2008 “scoop” about the Rudd government considering “controversial measures” for “illegal immigrants” to receive dole payments.

Just about every major detail of the story was also uninformed. They were not illegal immigrants, but people on bridging visas. Unemployment benefits were not under consideration, only Medicare benefits for those who could get work.

The Bugle repeated the false claim the next day even though the government had denied the report.

Fly to 2017, and we find Renee still at it with a startling story about detained refugees on Manus having “holidays at an idyllic island”.

She was appalled that one of the detainees had “designer stubble and gold-rimmed, aviator sunglasses and an on-trend white shirt”.

These fun-loving frolickers were “sipping coconut milk from straws” and looked “bronzed”. And a white shirt – my god, how decadent can you get.

We’re looking forward to Renee’s “strategic media advice” as part of the federal wallopers’ crusade against journalists.

Judge’s jury

Last week the Judicial Conference had the melancholy duty to denounce efforts by the Rinohart Institute of Paid Advocacy to fiddle the selection process for High Court judges.

Chris (The Tamil) Merritt, a scribbler at The Catholic Boys Daily, got the ball rolling with an enthusiastic story about how Amanda Stoker, an unelected LNP senator from Queensland, wants the government to adopt American methods for finding suitable “originalists” to stop the left-wing rot on the High Court.

Both The Tamil and The Stoker are incandescent that a majority of the court made a “racist” decision that Aboriginal people cannot be deported as aliens.

Stoker spruiked the idea that we need an Australian version of the United States Federalist Society to filter and vet judicial candidates who can be relied on to follow the vision for Australia held by the founding constitutional fathers at the end of the 19th century.

This will improve “judicial methodology” and avoid the danger of having jurists who can think for themselves. The issue is enlivened because two High Court justices are due, in short order, to retire – Geoffrey Nettle in December and Virginia Bell in March.

The Institute of Paid Advocacy is already on the case, vetting names and drawing up a list of favoured judges who will uphold the constitution “as written”.

With the US federal courts being stacked with political hacks and underqualified lawyers, the JCA called the IPA plan “a self-evidently appalling idea”.

Justice Judith Kelly, president of the JCA, said: “For one thing, it would surely be an invitation to the next Labor government to resort to its own left-wing ‘advisory’ body to vet candidates, leading to the situation which obtains in the United States where appointments to the Supreme Court have become blatantly politically partisan.”

IPA kicks the Dan

The IPA and its fellow travellers are full of amazing ideas, one of which is for “Dictator Dan Andrewstan” to stop the lockdown in Victoria. It’s simply causing too much havoc for businesses, and business is more important than curtailing the ravages of the plague.

The institute’s policy boffin Gideon Rozner has been out on the battlements in his best suit and cufflinks demanding that Victoria reopen. With this he’s in step with local hardline Liberal MP Tim Smith, who wanted a cull of the bats along the Yarra River. Tim is a spawn of the Ferguson’s Cakes family.

Their anti-Dan tirades earned a rebuke on Twitter from Comrade Mike Carlton, who described Rozner and Smith as “pissant, whining … self-oiling little twerps”.

At this Rozner blew a foo-foo valve: “Listen here you drunken, washed-up prick – This has never been about me ‘whining’. It’s been about the thousands of people who’ve been thrown out of work and the hundreds of small business owners who’ve lost everything because of a lockdown which DID NOT WORK.”

That’s right, the Rinotank Institute is always on the side of the little fellow. Nonetheless, you’d think the tank’s boss, John Roskam, would have more carefully vetted his policy people for good manners in the face of mild provocations.

As it turns out, one of Gadfly’s own research fellows brings news that, like the unlettered scholar Andreas Blot, Roskam is of Dutch heritage. Roskam is actually a small village in the Dutch municipality of Roerdalen, between Posterholt and Sint Odiliënberg.

“Roskam” translates as “curry comb”, used for the grooming of horses. What with the gadfly being a creature that buzzes around the backside of horses, the possibilities for a relationship with Mr Curry Comb are exciting.

Public Lynching

Show and Tell in the Bear Pit in Sydney’s Macquarie Street throws up some intriguing morsels of information.

The shadow attorney-general, Paul Lynch (ALP, Liverpool), asked his opposite number on the government side how many people had been charged with an offence under section 25C of the Crimes Act since its introduction in 2018, and how many have been convicted for that offence.

That section of the New South Wales Crimes Act says a person is guilty of an offence if they supply, for financial gain, a prohibited drug that causes, or substantially causes, someone’s death. The offence was introduced by the government in response to drugs at music festivals, and seen by Aunty Gladys as a preferred alternative to pill-testing. The maximum penalty is 20 years’ porridge.

The answer came back from the AG: zero. There has never been a charge under section 25C of the Crimes Act.

It could mean people are supplying less dangerous drugs, or no one has died from taking supplied drugs, or the wallopers are not charging anyone.

Good news all round.

In another question to the attorney-general, Mark Speakman, SC, his shadow asked what has happened to recommendation 13 of the Fabulous Phil Ruddock review of religious freedoms.

That was the recommendation that the crime of blasphemy should be abolished – taking the Lord’s name in vain, disrespecting sacred knick-knacks, being rude about Cardinal Pell et cetera.

On June 30, the AG replied: “The recommendation is under consideration. The only successful prosecution in NSW was in 1871. Since then, there have been no successful prosecutions for the common law offence of blasphemy.”

How much consideration does Phil’s recommendation require? Possibly the go-slow is because the Coalition’s religious rump would still like to stone to death the profane and the ungodly.

Otto’s top of the pops

Gadfly hears your cry – what news of Otto?

Don’t worry, he’s flat out leading the charge against Tasmania’s private member’s bill on voluntary assisted dying, proposed by Mike Gaffney, MLC.

This is a fight against “state-sanctioned suicide”, Otto told a cheering Zoom rally organised by the Australian Christian Lobby.

The godly position is that the legislation, if passed, would be a backdoor way for rapacious relatives to get their hands on the assets of the frail and elderly.

Then we discover more alarming news – that Otto has joined the Wolverines, a pack of parliamentarians opposed to China’s regional swagger and aggressive diplomacy.

Senator Sprog Paterson presented Otto with a sticker showing a wolf’s claw and scratch marks. Otto said: “There is no doubt … foreign interference is becoming a very real issue. And top of the pops, of course, is China.”

Another top of the pops entrant to this parliamentary cell is Freedom Boy Timbo Wilson, which makes him both a Modern Liberal and a Wolverine.

And what of Bookshelves Brandis, our man in London? He’s been quiet for so long and now happily is out of the blocks with a vigorous campaign to export Tim Tams to Poms in Old Blighty.

He also tells us that “we can’t wait until we see the Voyager wing its way down under”. This is not the HMAS Voyager that so many of us remember sadly, but an RAF air-to-air refuelling tanker.

At least Bookshelves is excited.

On July 4 via his @AusHCUK Twitter account he posted an old photo of Pig Iron Bob Menzies and Winston Churchill, aka John Howard’s secret grandfather.

It was a snap taken 79 years ago at Number 10. Anyway, the high commissioner was wistfully thinking about this photo while cogitating about facing “our greatest strategic challenges since the Second World War”.

There’s nothing like looking at Ming and Winston to gird our loins for battle… on the beaches, on the landing grounds, in the fields, in the streets, in the hills.

As Bookshelves got out his old tin helmet he reminded us: “We met the challenges of the time back then. Together, we’ll meet them again.”

Drum roll swells and fades. 

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jul 11, 2020 as "Gadfly: Just squawk away, Renee".

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Richard Ackland is The Saturday Paper’s legal affairs editor.