Diary

Gadfly
Kiwis flying high

As went to bed on Friday, 649 new Covid-19 cases were confirmed in Australia in the previous 24 hours, bringing the total for the past seven days to 3513. The majority of those were in Victoria, with new hotspots in some restaurants and gyms in Sydney’s Potts Pointless, which looks like the Nile Delta in terms of population density. The total confirmed cases in the Wide Brown Land stood at 16,904, and the death toll at 196.

Over the way in New Zealand, the numbers look miles better. On Friday the number of active cases fell by four, to 20, with the total at 1560 and 22 deaths.

NZ, admittedly, is a much smaller country with fewer densely packed cities. Yet its government adopted the elimination approach rather than the suppression, flatten-the-curve approach, which was the preferred option for the states and territories here.

Elimination meant the implementation of severe stage-four lockdowns in April. Only essential services were functioning – police, ambulances, supermarkets, chemists and petrol stations. Residents were confined to a one-kilometre radius of their homes. As things improved the bubble was widened.

Now Melbourne is restricted in the face of the current wave ravaging nursing homes, and increasingly people are masked up and nervous in Sydney.

Over there, New Zealand is back open. Masks are not required, domestic airlines are going full bore, and it’s kerching! for the shops, restaurants and kasbahs. Social distancing is not required.

The Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra has been playing to full houses and the NZ Symphony Orchestra starts touring the country again on August 7.

No wonder Jacinda Ardern is in a strong position to win the NZ election in September, in which citizens will be allowed to fill out the ballot papers using their own pen, if they want to. Alternatively, the NZ electoral office is presenting voters with a free Covid-19 ballot pen, which they can take home and keep forever and ever.

Mask crusaders

Karen from Bunnings and her brigade of unmasked bandits are not entirely on the fringes of ordered society.

Sydney and Wollongong solicitor Nathan Buckley of the law shop G&B Lawyers also advised Victorians to de-mask:

“Free legal advice to all Victorians. Don’t wear a mask. Get a $200 fine then elect to have it determined in court … The Victorian government won’t fight you in court. It is far too expensive for them to do so.”

This was quickly followed by an ad from the law shop “for a criminal lawyer based in Victoria [with] experience challenging fines in courts”.

The Law Society of NSW asked Nathan to take down his mask-busting message. He explained it was not legal advice, just the “expression of my own personal political beliefs”. “My position remains that any law that attempts to mandate the wearing of a face mask in Australia is unlawful and in breach of the Constitution.”

Scholars are rushing to examine the discussions at the Constitutional Conventions and Commonwealth mask-powers under section 51.

Nathan and his shop have had some success with GoFundMe, raising about $100,000 to challenge the “no jab, no play” laws in South Australia and federally.

He’s also raised another $15,000 from a target of $1 million to get the borders reopened.

A fellow named Graham Lyons chipped in $100 for the anti-vaxx campaign so that kiddies who aren’t inoculated can’t be expelled from daycare in SA.

Graham seemed to have the legal position well in hand, saying:

“Congratulations on this crucial initiative. We all know that mandated vaxx is illegal under both the Australian Constitution and the findings from the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, but ‘our’ government will impose it anyway in the absence of a legal challenge. What will come next? Mandated vaxx for all for the ‘dangerous, novel coronavirus’ that doesn’t even exist? So what will this vaxx include, apart from the usual poisons? The psychopath Gates’s nano ID chip!”

Chuckles’ buried blunder

It’s a weary and thankless duty of Gadfly’s to correct the steady stream of blunders and bloopers from Monsignor Chuckles Henderson, patron saint of the Sydney Institute – the least significant of the palaeo-conservative “think tanks” and talk shops.

In a scribble last week for The Catholic Boys Daily, the monsignor waxed about the shameful outcome of the appeal in the Peter Ridd case and the general decline in “intellectual” freedom at universities.

James Cook University had successfully appealed a decision of Circuit Court judge Salvatore Vasta, who last year awarded Ridd compo of $1.2 million, after finding the university had unlawfully sacked him.

Chuckles and others claimed that the appeal decision was a challenge to Professor Ridd’s free speech – the right to express views that, contrary to overwhelming scientific opinion, the Great Barrier Reef is in rude good health and that if it isn’t then it soon will be.

Ridd had been rude and disrespectful about colleagues; denigrated the university that employed him; had conflicts due to his involvement with the Rhinohart Institute of Paid Advocacy; and disclosed confidential information. So, in truth, the case was really about enterprise agreements and codes of conduct.

Needless to say, Judge Vasta’s misunderstanding of the enterprise agreement was overturned by the Full Federal Court.

Yet, when the story falls into Chuckles’ hands we find him telling his reader that the judge was Circuit Court judge Angelo Vasta and that Roger Derrington was one of the majority appeal judges.

Err, no, Chuckles. This would have been quite some comeback for Angelo Vasta, who ceased being a judge in 1988 after evidence emerged at the Fitzgerald inquiry of his friendship with the corrupt Bjelkiest police commissioner “Sir” Terence Lewis. The following year he was formally removed from office by the Queensland parliament.

Ross Vasta, his son, is a Liberal MP and a former Italian restaurant proprietor. Another son is Judge Sal Vasta.

The appeal judge was Justice Sarah Derrington, yet another Bookshelves Brandis appointment, who also doubles as the president of the Australian Law Reform Commission. Her husband is Roger Derrington, who was nowhere near the Ridd appeal.

Now Ridd is off to the Last Chance Saloon with a special leave application to the High Court.

There was an all-too-late scamper to correct Henderson’s story online, without acknowledging the errors – yet, the print edition retains the scars. At least two blunders in one column. Lord Moloch should dock Chuckles’ pay, if there is any.

Joan can’t see wood for trees

The intrigues of politics in Van Diemen’s Land never cease to fascinate, particularly as Senator Otto Abetz has his hand on the local Nasty Party tiller.

One of Otto’s protégés, Joan Rylah, has just resigned as the member for Braddon in the Tasmanian parliament, saying “now is the right time for me to depart”.

Premier Peter Gutwein talked about “new blood” for the party, an idea that has entirely escaped Otto.

Only days earlier Joan threatened to join the CFMMEU blockade of Bunnings because it had decided not to sell Victorian native timbers.

On Facebook, she announced: “If Bunnings try to pull the same despicable act here in Tas … I will be in the trucks blockading their business.”

That’s odd, because Joan had twice voted to support the island state’s anti-protest laws that provide for mandatory fines and porridge for behaviour that disrupts businesses. The legislation is anticipated to go through the upper house before the end of the year.

Otto himself has long complained about the CFMMEU and its protests. Tasmanian Greens leader Cassy O’Connor said Joan had better be careful otherwise she might end up in the Risdon clink.

Former senator Bob Brown thinks this outburst from the now-departed MP, since scrubbed from Facebook, was the final flame-out in her not-so-brilliant political career.

Otto bade her farewell, saying she will be missed because she was willing “to speak up for the people who earn a living by getting their hands dirty”.

Diving into the cesspool

It’s like an out-of-control game of street craps, but Gadfly is trying to keep track of what’s what with Ghislaine Maxwell, Randy Andy, Bone Spurs and assorted ne’er-do-wells.

It was moving to see that someone dug up an interview with Spurs from 2015, before he entered the presidential playoffs.

Dropping the out-of-work Windsor right in it, Trump said that Jeffrey Epstein’s private Caribbean island, Little St James, was “really a cesspool, there’s no question about it, just ask Prince Andrew … an absolute cesspool”.

This is quite something, coming from a cesspool authority.

Last week, there was the customary back-pedalling, where the president said: “I don’t know the situation with Prince Andrew … I haven’t really been following it too much. I just wish her [Ghislaine] well, frankly.”

Earlier this month the New York Department of Financial Services pinged Deutsche Bank $US150 million for facilitating Epstein’s transactions, such as payments to Russian “models”, hush money, suspicious cash withdrawals and criminal arrangements.

Deutsche Bank was also the lender of last resort to Trump’s various enterprises, when everyone else thought that was very risky and unwise.

Much is yet to unfold while Ghislaine cools her well-shod heels at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, waiting a year or so for her trial on sex-trafficking charges.

More depositions given by Maxwell in the Virginia Giuffre defamation case have been unsealed by the court – although another appeal against the order is pending.

Forbes in the United States says they contain “lurid details” of the accused’s sex life, flight logs of Air Epstein, police reports from Palm Beach, Florida, and witness testimony requests from Giuffre, including one involving Bill (I did not have sexual relations with that woman) Clinton.

Then there are the camera tapes seized from Epstein’s homes in Manhattan and Florida, allegedly showing the transgressions of rich and powerful old goats.

The tapes were Epstein’s insurance policies, although he never got around to collecting.

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Aug 1, 2020 as "Gadfly: Kiwis flying high".

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