Diary

Gadfly
Driving a hard bargain

With the speed of a sputtering meteor we’ve seen gilded careers disintegrate. So it has been with that magisterial expert on promissory estoppel Dyson Heydon as doors slammed in his face following the High Court’s findings of his inappropriate sexual harassment of young employees.

Then, early this month, Melbourne silk Norman O’Bryan, a chap with plenty of smarts and entrepreneurial flair, hit the ropes.

His transgression involved doctoring fees in the Banksia Securities class action. His junior counsel, Michael Symons, has conceded he did the same thing and has volunteered that his removal from the jam roll would be appropriate.

The idea that lawyers would overcharge clients has left the legal profession shocked and amazed.

Norman has decanted himself, to use a term from the aged-care industry, from chambers and from the bar roll and put his membership of the Order of Australia in the post back to Government House in Canberra.

However, all is not shame and shunning. Last week the Peninsula Kingswood Country Golf Club, a “sandbelt masterpiece” near Frankston, announced that O’Bryan had been part of the club’s working party to refine its handling of disciplinary matters – presumably whether a member moved his ball out of the rough, failed to replace a divot, or did something unimaginable at the 19th hole.

The new scheme involves the creation of a disciplinary committee, with the proviso that members of the committee cannot sit on disciplinary matters involving themselves.

Fore!

Cameo roaches

A business named Cameo has come up with a great wheeze – getting C-listers, retired sports figures, YouTubers or deflowered political operatives to send video greetings to people who stump up the required fee.

It’s an idea whose time has come and shows the sort of creative spirit that combines flatulence with money.

For instance, you could have people from Bone Spurs’ circle of indicted criminals such as Roger Stone or Bunter Downer’s pal from Kensington Wine Rooms, George Papadopoulos, sending birthday greetings or a little pep talk.

It costs $US100 to hear from Papadopoulos and $US300 to get a greeting from Vicente Fox, the right-wing populist former president of Mexico. And only $US75 to get a heartfelt greeting from former Fox News host and Roger Ailes accuser Gretchen Carlson.

Too steep? At $US49, you can hear something incomprehensible from Omarosa, a reality star from The Apprentice who went on to be a senior White House “adviser”. Or from the jailbird former governor of Illinois Rod Blagojevich ($US80).

The Cameo business model could work well in Australia, a land crying out for deeper, richer twaddle from superannuated pollies.

Wouldn’t it be great to send a pal a video message from Poodles Pyne or fellow South Australian Cory Bernardi? Or, even better,
a cheerio call from Senator Malcolm Roberts.

Moving to a new Bolthole

There was plenty of excitement at the news that Dutch thinker and racial affairs expert Dr Andreas Blot is shifting from his gaff in Melbourne to somewhere in “semirural” Victoria.

Melbourne is ghastly, according to Blot, with people ruining the economy by wearing masks.

In preparation for this deracination, Blot was spotted a while back unloading bric-a-brac and heirlooms at the Leonard Joel auction house in South Yarra.

There were rugs and carpets being hauled out of his automobile, along with a bulky chest of drawers, no doubt used to house the great seer’s smalls and hankies.

There were bound to have been other items, such as Dutch ovens, that were being cleared out to make way for his new life.

After a good fumigation these wares would be a glamorous addition to any home. Imagine the vibe for a lucky buyer who would be able to walk on one of Blot’s remaindered rugs.

As luck would have it, on hand at the very moment these treasures were being unloaded for auction was Osman Faruqi, editor of the 7am podcast and a frequent target of foam-flecked tirades from the plethoric Netherlander.

The ever helpful Faruqi leapt forward to see if Blot needed assistance in carrying a sombre-looking Dutch cabinet. Blot firmly declined.

At least he’s kitted himself out to blend into his adopted homeland – blue jeans, R. M. Williams boots and country-boy shirt.

Here he is – Squire Blot.

Cops and dobbers

Poor old Mick Keelty, the former AFP commissioner, whose face these days more and more resembles a dropped pie.

And little wonder. He’s in the frame for leaking sensitive police information to former soldier Ben Roberts-Smith.

According to findings by the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI), and reported in the Nine newspapers, Mick tipped off Roberts-Smith that he was under investigation by the Australian Federal Police.

The investigation was supposed to be covert but, according to Nine’s report, it allowed Roberts-Smith to take precautions against the investigators who have been looking into allegations of war crimes in Afghanistan.

ACLEI thinks the AFP inquiry was compromised.

Mick says he only acted out of his concerns for the “welfare” of the Victoria Cross winner.

BRS, as he is known in dispatches, is employed by the Channel Seven mogul Kerry Stokes, who is understood to be funding the former war hero’s defamation action against the Nine newspapers and an accompanying PR campaign.

To clarify his position Mick told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age: “You are viewing him [BRS] as [an alleged] war criminal. At the times we met, I was viewing him as an eminent Australian who had been publicly vilified.”

That’s all good then but does it help explain the AFP’s decision to tip off the Indonesian police about the Bali Nine when Mick was the top cop?

“I know it’s an emotive issue,” Mick said back then, “… but we can’t apologise for taking the strategy forward the way we have and the outcomes we have achieved.

“While we have some sympathy for the potential outcome, we’ve got to be looking at the bigger picture all the time.”

The picture included the execution of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

Mick was also in the saddle at the time of the arrest of Dr Mohamed Haneef at Brisbane Airport on suspicion of being a terrorist somehow linked to an attack on Glasgow Airport in 2007.

Haneef was detained for 12 days without charge, only to be released once the DPP discovered Mick and the boys were madly barking up the wrong tree. The government later made a “substantial” financial settlement with Haneef.

And who can forget Mick’s appearance on that Sunday in 2004 where he said the bombings in Spain were a warning that terror attacks in Australia were heightened because of our involvement in the invasion of Iraq?

Former budgerigar salesman at Nock and Kirby’s Little Winston Howard, then prime minister, thought at that point Mick’s concern for welfare had gone off the deep end, and helped rearrange his words in a later-prepared contradiction that provided better “context”.

It’s the first time we know of where a senior federal copper has turned into an important whistleblower.

Jolly japes found to be off-colour

Sensitivities are boiling over in curfewed Melbourne and no more so than among starchy judges at the County Court.

The court has issued a large number of Covid-19-related missives to members of the legal caper, such as: “Emergency case management protocol four … Emergency protocol: trial by judge alone … Memorandum: stage 4 directions – criminal division … Top tips and best practices for participating in virtual hearings …” and so on.

The Criminal Bar Association (CBA) sent to members details of the latest protocols, adding a tiny aside: “… we have, of course, approached the court to see if all future protocols might include diagrams and a colouring page to encourage readership.”

Oh dear. Their honours were not amused. Someone higher up the food chain must have said something to the worker bee barristers because next day the chair of the CBA, Daniel Gurvich, QC, and vice-chair Sally Flynn, QC, issued an “Apology”, with an abundant use of capital letters, withdrawing the “ill-judged comment”.

“The Criminal Bar Association unreservedly apologises to the Chief Judge of the County Court, all other County Court Judges and members of the judiciary, for the offence that this remark has caused.”

Far from being unreadable, the protocols are wonderful and incredibly helpful.

“The CBA has the utmost respect for the County Court and highly values the productive professional relationship we have shared with the Court. We unreservedly withdraw the remark.”

Grovel, grovel, grovel. 

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Aug 22, 2020 as "Gadfly: Driving a hard bargain".

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