Diary

Gadfly
Christian lessons

It was time for a few heads on pikes, or should that be Poles? Sadly, it is those adornments to public life, The Christian and The Tudge, who got piked.

There’s nothing quite so enjoyable as seeing lecherous, hypocritical politicians squirming in the Four Corners spotlight.

Alan Tudge, whose name comes straight out of Dickens, expressed “regret” – most likely he regretted being a family-values man who got sprung. To have a former lover complain of bullying and intimidation also requires special skills.

Christian Porter, the bag vomiter and attorney-general in charge of the stage-two defamation law reforms, said he was “considering legal options”.

Schmo said “these things happen”, the issues were “very important”, but for goodness sake let’s move on.

Since then, there has been a retreat from the litigation option, with The Christian saying it would be a “massive distraction”. Maybe he also had Oscar Wilde and Johnny Depp in mind.

As in so much of life, it’s what’s on the cutting-room floor that tends to turn up in courtrooms. Depp sued Moloch’s rag The Sun for calling him a wife-beater, which the newspaper’s lawyers showed was substantially true.

The result is that Depp is many squillions of dollars down, plus he’s been defenestrated from the latest instalment of the Harry Potter spinoff Fantastic Beasts.

Oscar brought a prosecution in criminal libel against the Marquess of Queensberry over a card left at the Albemarle Club, which said: “To Oscar Wilde, posing as a somdomite [sic].”

In court, barrister Sir Edward Clarke presented Wilde as a poet, so of course he would write flowery letters to young Bosie.

The Anglo-Irish brief Edward Carson, for Queensberry, found lots of material in the cutting room, namely young lads who had been recruited for reasons other than poetry.

It got so bad that Oscar sought to withdraw from the case. Too late, the judge ordered the jury to find for Queensberry and promptly sent the papers to the prosecutor’s office.

After further trials, it was two years’ hard labour for “gross indecency”.

There could be a lesson in this. Don’t stick your neck out and, even if you’re lying down, keep your shirt tucked in.

Kelly flop

All of this made a fine spectacle for the Q&A show on the ABC.

Monsignor Paul Kelly, Lord Moloch’s representative on the program, said that Four Corners took the “public interest” about the lives of politicians into uncharted waters and there needs to be a “debate” about that, particularly if delicate reputations are being upset.

The monsignor found himself in the thick of it. If he wasn’t wading into the dark waters of insisting the Battenbergs were lily-white when it came to the dismissal of the Whitlam government, it was the fair and balanced job The Catholic Boys Daily was doing on climate change.

If there’s to be talk about media bias, he wants a “considered debate” about that, too.

Former PM Malcolm Trumble said the Daily was “undiluted propaganda”: “We had 12 million hectares of our country burnt last summer and your newspapers were saying it was all the consequence of some arsonists.”

Trumble suggested Kelly stand up and say, “It’s enough, I’m out of it ...”

“How dare you ... how dare you,” spluttered the monsignor, who by this stage was looking like a very distressed cane toad.

News Corp quickly got its “fact-checkers” on the job. A spokesmuffin said only 3.4 per cent of articles in various Moloch tissues at the relevant time had mentioned the words “arson” or “arsonists”, and the website news.com.au published more than 300 bushfire stories and only 5 per cent mentioned arson.

So there.

Yet we might also remember there were other non-climate explanations peddled by Rupe’s hacks, such as excess fuel loads, lightning strikes, not enough land-clearing, and God’s will.

How could we ever think these fish-wraps were propaganda sheets, when all they were doing was acting in the “traditional role of a publisher” – providing space to notable crackpots, without relevant scientific credentials, to peddle “identity” issues.

Senate waves white flag

NAIDOC Week, which recognises the history and culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, ends tomorrow.

Labor senators Pat Dodson and Malarndirri McCarthy, with the Greens’ Lidia Thorpe, thought it was a suitable idea to mark the occasion by hanging the Aboriginal and Torres Strait flags in the senate chamber.

They moved a motion to that effect on Tuesday, only to be met with wholesale opposition from the government and One Notion.

The manager of government business, Senator Anne Ruston, said the government’s view was that the Australian flag was the only one that mattered as it “represents all Australians”.

Earlier that day, Ruston at a press conference was asked a question about her experience with the “culture” of parliament, only to be immediately cut off by Schmo Morrison, who wanted journalists to avoid using the term “bonk ban”. Apparently, this detracts from the “serious [sic] of the issue”.

Back on the flags, Lidia Thorpe was allowed to speak briefly and she let everyone have it right between the eyes: “This is not my first speech, but thank you so very much for allowing Black people to speak about the Black flag! I remind you all that we are on stolen land, and the Aboriginal flag represents the oldest continuing living culture in the world. I’m not sure where everyone else comes from, but my people, the Aboriginal people – Wurundjeri, Ngambri, Ngunnawal – have been here for thousands and thousands and thousands of generations. The Aboriginal flag is what we identify with and connect with, just as you connect with the colonial flag that you love and appeal to. You appeal to the colonisers that colonised these lands ...”

The senate divided and the motion to display the flags during NAIDOC Week was denied by a one-vote majority, 29 to 28. There they were in unison – the likes of Abetz, Canavan, Cash, Colbeck, Fierravanti-Wells, Hanson, Hume, McKenzie, Molan, Reynolds, Roberts, Stoker and so on.

Wretchedness knows no end.

Apple bile

We saw much the same at last weekend’s “Liberal” Party conference in Bellerive’s Ricky Ponting Room, Van Diemen’s Land. There were plenty of pictures of a beaming Schmo alongside a grimacing Otto Abetz.

The transfixing issue of the day was a motion to repeal the state’s transgender reform legislation, which was passed by the state parliament last year with the support of the Liberal speaker, Ms Sue Hickey.

This law is particularly upsetting to Otto and co, because it makes gender optional on birth certificates and does away with a requirement for sex reassignment surgery before anyone can change their gender on legal documents.

A motion was carried at the conference that the legislation be scrapped.

Schmo was on his feet with a speech about animals on the Australian coat of arms. He said that the kangaroo and the emu cannot walk backwards, and that’s what Liberals are all about – moving forward. Except they’re quite happy to unstitch transgender reforms.

He also thanked aged-care flop Senator Richard Colbeck for his “amazing work”.

One motion wanted to make it an offence for parents and guardians to take children under 12 to protests. It was unsuccessful, leaving many wondering what has happened to decent Nasty Party values.

The ABC reported that hand sanitiser was available for conference-goers, along with tongs to handle the sandwiches.

Polled bar

Other elections may have momentarily distracted people last week, yet the one that enthralled a small but perfectly formed section of society was the ballot for the council of the NSW bar ’n’ grill.

The outcome for who can occupy the barristers’ senior common room contained no surprises, other than the number of botched ballots.

There are 2434 barristers in the state, of which only 41 per cent, or 988, voted. That is lower than the projected 66.5 per cent of eligible voters who turned out for the United States elections.

As in the US, some tricky legal issues arose, but at this stage there is no sign the courts will be called in to decide – strange for a bunch of litigation enthusiasts.

Of the 988 barrister votes received in the Street of Tongues, 13 were invalid because there was no voter identification. Another five were invalid because votes were cast for more than 21 candidates, and a further one was discarded because it was received after closing time.

Working out how to exercise democratic rights can be difficult, especially for those propped at the bar.

Meanwhile, the Yarraside bar council election has seen the Change ticket stage an electoral putsch against the Reform ticket.

Leaving Fitzgibbon out in the coal

It’s nothing short of distressing for the Labor Party to lose Joel Fitzgibbon from its frontbench.

He took the coal seat of Hunter from his father, Eric, in 1996, apparently unaware that the Brits had scrapped rotten boroughs in the Great Reform Act of 1832.

In the intervening 24 years many are struggling to remember what special contribution Joely has actually made, apart from steadily keeping his bum on the green leather.

Ever since the last election, when One Notion caused him some grief, he has pressed the cause of fossils at the very time when investors, state governments and voters are looking towards alternative sources of energy.

There are only about six or seven federal electorates that could be described as solid “coal seats”. If the ALP decided to be smart, it could pitch itself beyond those constituencies, steal green votes, firm up its position in the regions and suburbs, while at the same time devising a transition plan for coal workers.

It might be possible to work creatively on such a policy, even without input from the Hunter’s parliamentary fossil. 

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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Nov 14, 2020 as "Gadfly: Christian lessons".

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