Diary

Gadfly
Brush turkey at biodiversity summit

We’d almost entirely forgotten about Fabulous Mitch Fifield, until there was a brief grab of him on the telly, beamed in from New York, where he has landed softly as our ambassador to the United Nations.

It’s pleasing to see the Human Toilet Brush still maintains his bristling, brush-like qualities, yet it’s to be wondered just what he’ll be doing at the UN Summit on Biodiversity.

Nothing much, it seems.

Taking a lead from Giovanni Barilaro’s pledge to hunt down and bring to justice koalas that are not assisting property developers, the Australian government has refused to sign on to a global plan to reverse the rate of destruction of the planet’s loveable creatures.

After all, what contribution do wombats, squirrel gliders, potoroos, quolls, frogs and the like make to gross national product?

At least we have support in this from other places with autocratic tendencies – Russia, the United States, Brazil, China and India. Boris Johnson has signed the pledge, but it’s not as though badgers and hedgehogs are thwarting Britain’s progress.

The UN biodiversity summit is under way now, and presumably the Toilet Brush will be at the drinks party afterwards.

According to a hapless government flack merchant, the reason we have not made the pledge is because it calls for net zero emissions by 2050 – something intolerable for Schmo and Higher Emissions Minister An‑Gas Taylor and the other government climate crims.

It’s just that every Australian state and territory has a policy of net zero emissions by 2050 – too late and all as that might be.

Shore as hell

Shore, a school for scandal on Sydney’s north shore, was in the news as year 12 students prepared for their annual rampage.

The heroic tasks included spitting on the homeless, whacking a stranger in the testicles, doing a poo on a train and having some sort of sexual adventure with “an Asian chick”.

There were other events as well, each far too upsetting to report in a family newspaper.

Shore’s motto is “They hand on the torch of life”, and you can make of that what you will.

Ladies at Pymble Ladies’ College were also planning a fun program, including running naked across the Pacific Highway and eating “someone else’s vomit”, while lads at St Aloysius College were plotting to engage in something “inappropriate and concerning”.

The Sydney Morning Herald explained what was going on in an editorial: “The teenage brain is a work-in-progress ... It’s also a time of pushing boundaries and the exploration of new experiences.”

If any of the perpetrators at Shore are expelled, they will be in good company. Australian screen idol Errol Flynn was an old Shore boy and was sacked from the academy for what some thought was stealing.

Flynn himself explained that he was asked to leave after he had sex with the school’s laundress.

Old-fashioned Coneyism

The first presidential debate in the US kicked off with lots of back and forth about the replacement of Justice Ginsburg with Amy Coney Barrett.

One judge who opened doors for women being replaced by someone hell-bent on kicking them shut.

“Coney-catching” is a phrase from Elizabethan England understood to describe theft by trickery – and it was surprising neither of the “debaters” took us on a journey into the rich history of the technique.

Dr Blot would understand that “coney” is a relative of the Dutch “konijn” or rabbit, and hence the theft was of tame rabbits raised for the table.

Shakespeare mentioned coney-catchers in The Taming of the Shrew and The Merry Wives of Windsor. And here we are today with all the tricks in the playbook to get the numbers to knock over Roe v Wade – even though the most recent Gallup poll found that only 20 per cent of respondents thought abortion should be illegal in every circumstance.

Coney Barrett is the nominee of the coney-catcher in the White House and she’s the rabbit the religious right needs to ensure that people keep breeding.

Roman scandals

Could we get the name of George Pell’s doctor, please?

It didn’t seem so long ago that the cardinal was too ill to survive a flight from Rome to Sydney; now here he is in tiptop nick and jetting off to Rome to clear out his sock drawer.

He’s arriving just in time to see arch enemy Cardinal Angelo Becciu being frogmarched out of the Vatican’s inner sanctum with allegations of fraud and nepotism ringing in his ears.

Pell had been in charge of cleaning out the Vatican’s Augean money-stables and came up against Becciu, who opposed an audit of the Holy See’s departments by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

It is alleged that Becciu got his fingers caught in the till of a hollow log called Denarii Sancti Petri, which is supposed to dole out money to the poor.

Instead, according to reports, money from St Peter’s fund was earmarked in a $US200 million scheme to invest in a luxury London hotel, a plan “linked” to Becciu and five other senior Vatican insiders.

Pell greeted Becciu’s departure by congratulating Pope Francis for playing a “long game”.

Big George no longer has a job in Rome, so he’ll be able to devote his time to defending numerous civil actions against him and maybe tend his cauliflowers and pumpkins back at the seminary in Homebush.

Christian’s druthers

Day by day we get dreadful news about The Christian Porter, the nation’s first law officer, and the various ways in which he is perverting the rule of law.

Take the latest case of judicial abuse by minister Alan Tudge. Here, the unfortunately named acting minister for Immigration continued to detain an Afghan asylum seeker after the Administrative Appeals Tribunal ordered his release.

A Federal Court judge described Tudge’s behaviour as “criminal”:

“The minister cannot place himself above the law. [He] has acted unlawfully. His actions have unlawfully deprived a person of his liberty.”

Porter, mounted on his high horse tethered conveniently near, rode to Tudge’s defence, saying the minister was simply undertaking government duties “as a matter of policy” and anyway Tudge “rejects [the court’s] conclusions”.

And it’s not as though the AAT is notorious for upsetting the current regime, stacked to the gills as it is with Liberal Party appointments.

Maybe no one should be too shocked, then, that two of Porter’s AAT appointments, Vanessa Plain and Jason Harkess, provided legal services to restaurant proprietor and aspiring Liberal politician Michelle Loielo on her court challenge to the Andrews government’s night curfew.

It beggars belief, but Porter excused this outrage by saying that “representing a client does not in itself suggest endorsement of that client or their particular views or activities”.

We can also remember Porter when Schmo Morrison rang the New South Wales police commissioner, Mick Fuller, at the very time the coppers were “investigating” Gassy Gus Taylor and the forged city council documents that went from his office to The Daily Smellograph.

The call was “totally appropriate”, The Christian declared.

Little wonder Porter’s idea for a national integrity commission is an outfit that is confined to whimpering with bared gums.

Rep on the knuckles

It has long been the belief of the Queen’s men Down Under that the head of state was the governor-general. There’s no need for a republic, the monarchists say, because we already have an Australian as head of state.

Unfortunately, the “palace letters” reveal that the royals have a quite different idea about Australia and its “head of state”. Writing from Balmoral Castle on September 19, 1978, after vetting former governor-general Jolly John Kerr’s autobiography, the Queen’s then private secretary, Sir Philip Moore, in effect ticked off the author for describing himself on page 391 as “Head of State”.

“I think this should read either ‘Queen’s Representative’ or ‘Governor-General’,” Moore told Kerr.

In other words, the palace must think the Queen is Australia’s head of state, regardless of whether this sends local monarchists into a tizz.

Two years earlier, in September 1976, amid the avalanche of bumf passing back and forth, Sir Martin Charteris, the prominent palace cheerleader for the Whitlam government’s dismissal, added a PS to one of his notes to Kerr:

“We have had a letter from an organisation called the ‘Society for Asserting the Constitution over Kerr’. I shall be most grateful for anything you can tell me about it: does it cut any ice?”

Two weeks later Kerr replied, with elaborate details about the society, widely known as SACK. He said it was primarily the “work of a solitary woman – or Ms as she styles herself”.

This must be the work of Ms Harriett Swift, who indeed was the national secretary of SACK. Part of her plan at the time was to raise funds to supplement Kerr’s retirement pension and so encourage him to resign as governor-general.

Contributions to the fund came in the form of stamps and postal orders and were forwarded to the secretary of the federal executive council. A total of $21 was raised in this way, but Kerr told Charteris that he was “not yet ready” to claim the money. 

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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Oct 3, 2020 as "Gadfly: Brush turkey at biodiversity summit".

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