Diary

Gadfly
Bugle’s notes off-key

Banana Benders are off to a state election at the end of this month and you’d have to think Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is in dreadful trouble, what with daily birching from the hacks at The Bowen Hills Bugle.

Yet according to the latest polling, the ALP regime is comfortably ahead – 52 per cent to 48 per cent on a two-party preferred basis. And Palaszczuk is the favoured premier over her Nasty Party rival, Deb Frecklington – 48 per cent to 22 per cent.

Aren’t voters getting the message from the paper’s regular bloviators that it is their duty to discard this leftish government? Only this week there was editorial concern that the majority who think the state is “heading in the right direction” better think again.

Queenslanders “will surely regret” an election result that delivers a leftist Labor government, particularly one that might be in coalition with the Greens.

It didn’t seem so long ago the Bugle was telling its “readers” that Campbell Newman’s government was the best thing since pumpkin scones were invented – only to see his massive majority ground to dust.

Increasingly, we find Lord Moloch’s fish-wraps out of touch with the community.

One thing the government is underplaying is the future of the New Acland coalmine slap-bang in the middle of fertile farming country on the Darling Downs.

This is a proposal for an extra nine million tonnes of coal a year for Japanese electrical companies. So terrified are politicians of the coal industry that groundwater depletion, noise, air quality, soil damage
and social disruption can all take a backseat.

An appeal against a Queensland court decision has been brought to the High Court by mine opponents. There was a hearing on Tuesday, where a field agent says the word “coal” was not mentioned.

Sharkie tanks

That Centre Alliance party has long seemed a dodgy outfit from where Gadfly sits – a pale version of the Nasty Party that will do the necessary bidding when push comes to shove.

So it is we see the party’s support for the government’s university reforms, whereby students wanting to study the humanities will face a hike in fees of 113 per cent.

The Coalition has been the sworn enemy of the humanities since Little Winston Howard was typing up mortgages for Myer Rosenblum’s law shop.

The appropriately named Rebekha Sharkie from Centre Alliance negotiated some flaccid concessions in return for her party sinking the hopes of people who want to study fine arts, classics, law, anthropology, literature, history, sociology, philosophy, languages, archaeology, geography and religion – to mention just a smattering.

The legislation also embodies protections for academics who want to make racist or sexist remarks – a central plank in the policies of One Notion.

Forcing the issue

Just when you thought the government had run out of rotten ideas, up comes the pithily named Defence Legislation Amendment (Enhancement of Defence Force Response to Emergencies) Bill – on the slate to be passed ASAP.

This is a doozy. It will allow the minister for Defence to call up military reservists for “emergencies” with no cabinet consultation required, only a nod and a wink from the prime minister.

Reserves can be called out now, as we’ve seen with the bushfires and Covid-19 management; however, the new legislation removes cabinet and parliamentary oversight and normalises the role of the military in civilian life.

It also delivers a few other trinkets, including immunity from civil and criminal liability for military acts done in “good faith”; authorisation of the use of foreign military and police forces, again with legal immunities; a broad and fuzzy definition of the term “emergency”; no time limit on the deployment of forces, whether domestic or foreign; and nothing to prevent the use of military force in the conduct of disaster relief.

Concern has been raised that with the climate emergency already under way we will see an increased militarised response to environmental issues.

Things were better grounded in colonial times, when it was regarded as improper if soldiers did civilian jobs. Numerous early governors of New South Wales refused to deploy the marines to police Sydney Town.

Instead, well-behaved convicts were conscripted to serve as the night watch. This could explain some of the current peculiarities of NSW policing.

Great barrier Reeves

Meanwhile, in modern-day NSW, the machinery of government is the envy of the civilised world.

Anne Stanley, MP, the federal member for Werriwa, last week received a letter from Eleni Petinos, MP, the NSW parliamentary secretary for Transport and Roads, concerning the issue of the Cambridge Avenue causeway at Georges River.

While Petinos, writing on behalf of Andrew Constance, the state minister for Transport and Roads, appreciates the worries of constituents, she points out that Cambridge Avenue is a regional road “under the care and control” of Campbelltown City Council and Liverpool City Council.

Accordingly, the investigation and consideration of warning signs on various nearby thoroughfares is a matter for those councils.

“As such, I have referred your correspondence to Ms Lindy Deitz, general manager at Campbelltown City Council, and Mr Tony Reeves, chief executive at Liverpool City Council, for consideration,” Petinos wrote.

That’s all very well, except that nobody has heard of Tony Reeves in that area. It turns out there is a Tony Reeves who is CEO at Liverpool City Council in Britain.

Constituents can only hope Mr Reeves is giving urgent consideration to what can be done to the warning signage on roadways approximately 17,000 kilometres distant, as the crow flies.

Slow motion

Modern slavery legislation also has been subjected to the steady hand of governmental paralysis.

It passed the Commonwealth parliament in 2018 and became law at the beginning of last year, setting up requirements for corporations and Commonwealth trading entities to report on whether their operations and supply chains had any risks associated with modern slavery – which embraces child labour, people trafficking, brutality and inhumane working conditions.

The NSW parliament also passed modern slavery legislation in 2018. It was proposed by Paul Green, a Christian Democrat then in the legislative council, and supported by the government, with generous comments from Aunty Gladys.

However, it was not really legislation the government liked, and it has never been proclaimed – i.e. it is not in force, even though both houses voted for it.

The long grass beckoned and so the legislation was sent to a standing committee on social issues, which earlier this year issued a report recommending that the act commence by January 1, 2021.

The government replied to the report six months later. Don Harwin, the government leader in the upper house, recently back from hols at Pearl Beach, said that the legislation needed to be harmonised with the Commonwealth’s act.

Why is not clear. There is no time limit on this process of harmonisation. A bill is passed, and more than two years later, nothing has happened.

House of cardinals

There have been peculiar reports from Italian newspapers alleging that recently demoted cardinal Angelo Becciu arranged for €700,000 ($A1.14 million) to be funnelled from the Vatican into an Australian bank account as inducements to secure the conviction of Big George Pell in the child sexual assault case.

Peculiar indeed, as the articles were short on details. Who was being bribed, how was the scheme meant to work, what arrangements were made and so on?

Nonetheless, Pell’s former brief, Robert Richter, QC, wants a full investigation into the flow of funds.

The Vatican is rife with conspiracies and scandals, reminiscent of the Borgias. Reporting the latest rumour is regarded as enormous fun by Pope watchers, as long as the words “slush fund” are mentioned frequently.

It’s even possible money was squirrelled out of a fund for the poor and the lame to be sent to Melbourne to cover some of Cardinal Pell’s legal costs.

Which prompts the thought about who did pay for Pell’s defence and appeal, and does he have to pay it back?

The truth will rout

Living in the psychiatric melodrama that is Donald Trump’s world is beyond giddying.

In a way, you could feel a bit sorry for Sean Conley, the presidential doctor who told the media his patient might take a turn for the worse if the truth was told about his condition.

This is what happens when the royal court has an allergic reaction to the truth.

It was only moments ago that an article in the London Review of Books referred to the president as an “incompetent scumbag”.

Thomas Friedman followed up in The New York Times, saying that Trump was “the most dishonest, dangerous, mean-spirited, divisive and corrupt person to ever occupy the Oval Office”.

Let’s hope those truths don’t adversely affect the president’s health.

Fortunately, L’il Kris Kenny in The Proud (Catholic) Boys Daily, a man with an overweening self-assurance, was on hand to bring a bit of common sense to the discussion.

Momentarily forgetting Trump’s attempts by various means to delegitimise the election outcome if the Democratic Party is successful, L’il Kris declared it “will send a terrible message to the world about the state of the great Republic, the bastion of open and fair democracy, if Joe Biden is elected president”.

Pass the remdesivir.

Furthermore, he is worried a Biden victory would see the US “once more bow to Paris on climate, to the WHO on the virus and to the so-called elites on border security. Uncertain weakness would replace volatile strength”.

Stand back and stand by. 

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Oct 10, 2020 as "Gadfly: Bugle’s notes off-key".

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