Eric Abetz, John Roskam, Matthew Cana­van and Kevin An­drews. De­nis Hart. Ger­ard Hen­der­son. Fiona Nash and Alas­tair Fur­ni­val. Richard Ack­land

The Saturday Paper - - The Week Contents -

The same-sex mar­riage de­bate has been spi­ralling into some ex­cit­ing and dark corners. Among the most note­wor­thy con­tri­bu­tions in re­cent days we find:

Otto Abetz ac­cept­ing in a Buz­zFeed in­ter­view that pas­sage of laws le­gal­is­ing same-sex mar­riage “could lead even­tu­ally to peo­ple be­ing able to marry ob­jects such as … the Har­bour Bridge”.

John Roskam from the In­sti­tute of Paid Ad­vo­cacy, writ­ing in The Aus­tralian Fi­nan­cial Re­view, ex­presses con­cern that mar­riage equal­ity would mean that those who ex­press a view in sup­port of tra­di­tional mar­riage might “be guilty of break­ing the law for ex­press­ing such an opin­ion”.

Ital­ian sen­a­tor Matthew Cana­van, writ­ing in The Catholic Boys Daily, says the point of mar­riage is not love but chil­dren. He’s also wor­ried about what hap­pens af­ter the law is changed: “The next step of the ac­tivists will be to ban Catholic schools and churches from read­ing 1 Corinthi­ans 7” – the bit of the Bible about sex­ual re­la­tions be­tween hus­bands and wives.

And then there’s Kevin “from heaven” An­drews, also writ­ing in the Fin Re­view, who says the same-sex mar­riage bills are a threat to Chris­tian re­li­gious lib­erty.

More fruit cake, vicar?

All Hart

As if to show how clearly Chris­tian lib­erty is threat­ened, Arch­bishop De­nis Hart(less) of Mel­bourne is­sued a ukase that says em­ploy­ees of the church face the sack if they don’t “to­tally” up­hold Ro­man Catholic teach­ings on mar­riage. “We shouldn’t be slip­ping on that,” he added – speak­ing as though the Catholic Church had a shred of moral author­ity left.

Kevin An­drews also for­got to point out that un­der the Com­mon­wealth Sex Dis­crim­i­na­tion Act churches had am­ple lib­erty to refuse em­ploy­ment to peo­ple whose sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion and other iden­ti­fy­ing fea­tures met with heav­enly dis­ap­proval.

Hard act to fol­low through

Which brings us to the front door of the not al­to­gether dis­tant is­sue of racial dis­crim­i­na­tion and sec­tion 20D of the An­tiDis­crim­i­na­tion Act, New South Wales.

This sec­tion crim­i­nalises se­ri­ous racial vil­i­fi­ca­tion in­volv­ing a threat of vi­o­lence or in­cit­ing oth­ers to threaten vi­o­lence. It was some­thing along these lines that the gov­ern­ment of Mal­colm “Bol­lards” Trum­ble ear­lier this year sought to nar­row s.18C.

The NSW law was in­tro­duced in 1989 and, sig­nif­i­cantly, no one has been pros­e­cuted. That may be be­cause of tech­ni­cal prob­lems and the way in which briefs are pre­pared for the Of­fice of the Director of Public Pros­e­cu­tions.

A Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil cross-party com­mit­tee got to grips with the is­sues and unan­i­mously rec­om­mended changes in a 2013 re­port. Noth­ing hap­pened.

Then the im­me­di­ate-past at­tor­ney­gen­eral, Gabrielle Up­ton, said in 2015 that the act was not work­ing and must be changed, promis­ing to in­tro­duce leg­is­la­tion in 2016. Noth­ing hap­pened.

The ALP’s shadow A-G, Paul Lynch, in­tro­duced a pri­vate mem­bers’ bill, which among other things in­cluded the Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil com­mit­tee rec­om­men­da­tions. The gov­ern­ment voted it down in 2016. It was rein­tro­duced in the Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil this year and dur­ing de­bate Damien Tude­hope (Lib­eral and se­ri­ous Ro­man Catholic) said the bill threat­ened “free­dom of speech”.

Ear­lier this year the gov­ern­ment com­menced an­other “con­sul­ta­tion” headed by for­mer pres­i­dent of the anti-dis­crim board, Stepan Kerkyashar­ian. We’re told to hold tight for an an­nounce­ment.

Lyons share

While Kevin An­drews is fresh on our breath, I should men­tion that

Fa­ther Ger­ard Hen­der­son of the Hen­der­son In­sti­tute is of­fer­ing copies of a bi­o­graph­i­cal mono­graph by Kev on for­mer PM Joseph Lyons.

Copies signed by the Gre­cian 2000 afi­cionado are yours for $20 each. There

can never be too many bios of Joe. In a sense, the bi­og­ra­phy by Ger­ard’s wife, Anne, is in com­pe­ti­tion with Kev’s work. In The Peo­ple’s Prime Min­is­ter, Anne re­counts that when Joe died he had only £344 in the bank, no su­per or pen­sion and 11 chil­dren, still mostly at school.

A few days be­fore he ex­pired, he wrote a cheque for £60 to a Leon­gatha farmer to buy cat­tle, on the ba­sis that the fel­low needed a break.

In the spirit of such self­less­ness you’d hope that proceeds from these bi­o­graph­i­cal works would go to the up­keep of Home Hill, Joe and Dame Enid’s fam­ily spread in Devon­port, Tas­ma­nia, now a Na­tional Trust prop­erty.

Nash vil­lain

Sen­a­tor Fiona Nash, from Cock­ies Cor­ner, has been one of Gadfly’s bêtes blondes, so I’m hop­ing the High Court can send her pack­ing to Bri­tain.

Who can for­get her time as as­sis­tant health min­is­ter in the glo­ri­ous Ab­bott era, when she and her chief of staff cum PR op­er­a­tive, Alas­tair Fur­ni­val, ar­ranged to delete from cy­berspace a gov­ern­ment food-rat­ing web­site that graded the qual­ity and nu­tri­tional value of foods.

At the time Fur­ni­val’s fam­ily PR busi­ness was in the pay of the junk food in­dus­try. Kathy Den­nis, the public ser­vant who re­sisted the de­mand from Nash’s of­fice that the web­site be re­moved, was mys­te­ri­ously moved else­where in the de­part­ment.

The as­sis­tant min­is­ter then went onto other pol­icy ini­tia­tives such as ax­ing the fund­ing for the peak drug and al­co­hol ad­vi­sory body. If only we’d known ear­lier that she couldn’t read the Con­sti­tu­tion or prop­erly an­swer ques­tions on her nom­i­na­tion form, some of these hor­rors might have been avoided.

El­bit play­ers

Men­tion a few weeks back was given in this space to politi­cians, in­clud­ing Poo­dles Pyne, Brian Lough­nane (aka Mr Credlin), Michael Danby, MP, and oth­ers, be­ing wined and dined at the King David Ho­tel in Jerusalem, while on a jun­ket to Is­rael.

It should have been men­tioned that the feast was spon­sored by El­bit Sys­tems, a large Is­raeli arms man­u­fac­turer, some of whose prod­ucts pos­sess “un­prece­dented lethal­ity”.

This strikes a chord be­cause El­bit has been the sub­ject of no­tice in the NSW par­lia­ment. Specif­i­cally, up­per house Greens mem­ber David Shoe­bridge asked about $2.5 mil­lion of state fund­ing to­wards a project in­volv­ing the NSW Royal Fly­ing Doc­tor Ser­vice and El­bit – part of a Restart NSW Fund­ing Deed.

The NSW min­is­ter for en­ergy, util­i­ties and the arts, Don Har­win, MP, replied that “the gov­ern­ment is proud to be part­ner­ing with El­bit and the RFDS to pro­vide a new state-of-the-art flight sim­u­la­tor in Dubbo”.

Shoe­bridge fol­lowed this up with ques­tions ear­lier this month on whether the gov­ern­ment has in­vested in El­bit’s war busi­ness through State Su­per.

The an­swers are due next month. One re­quire­ment of restart fund­ing deeds is that the “project not be brought into dis­re­pute”.

Flu brews

Gadfly has been swal­low­ing hand­fuls of pills in an ef­fort to shake off the vile flu. Among the var­i­ous witches’ brews on the mar­ket is a tablet com­posed of olive leaf and echi­nacea. It’s meant to work but when I read the la­bel it help­fully ad­vised to take it be­fore you get the flu.

Hi­laire Bel­loc put it so mas­ter­fully: “Physi­cians of the ut­most fame were called at once; but when they

came

They an­swered, as they took their

fees,

‘There is no cure for this dis­ease’.”

Trum­pette #36

We are now more than 200 days into the Trump pres­i­dency and the truth is clear that the United States pres­i­dent is a per­son of stunted emo­tional de­vel­op­ment and lim­ited in­tel­lec­tual ca­pac­ity. He’s not up to the job and con­se­quently enor­mous dam­age is be­ing done to his coun­try and its al­lies, who un­til now have looked to the US as some sort of misty demo­cratic ideal.

Trump’s ug­li­ness is em­bed­ded in his DNA. The Lon­don In­de­pen­dent re­ported last week that his fa­ther,

Fred Trump, was ar­rested in 1927 for par­tic­i­pa­tion at a rally in New York or­gan­ised by Ital­ian fas­cists and the KKK.

In the wake of Don­ald Trump’s tacit sup­port for the Char­lottesville fas­cists, his ap­proval rat­ing is at 39 per cent, down from 44 per cent a week ago, ac­cord­ing to a POLITICO/Morn­ing Con­sult poll.

It’s amaz­ing that his sup­port is as high as that. He blus­ters and struts yet there’s no whiff of de­cency or leg­isla­tive re­form to which he can point. Repub­li­cans in congress are roil­ing over the pres­i­dent’s at­tacks on them and the chaos he has un­leashed. The ma­jor­ity leader in the se­nate, Mitch McCon­nell, as con­ser­va­tive as they come, can­not bring him­self to speak to Trump and has con­fided to col­leagues that the oc­cu­pant of the White House can­not save his pres­i­dency.

The hate-filled ral­lies, where the pres­i­dent rants Mus­solini-like against his en­e­mies in the me­dia and in congress, are fake af­fairs, if ads placed in Craigslist call­ing for ac­tors to at­tend the re­cent Phoenix event are to be be­lieved.

The ap­pli­cants were in­vited to “hold pro-Trump signs, cheer on com­mand, and show di­ver­sity” – all for $10 an hour.

Why are we an ally of a na­tion where nearly 40 per cent of vot­ers sup­port such a toxic pres­i­dent? Trum­ble’s slather­ing per­for­mances in the com­pany of Trump are nau­se­at­ing beyond be­lief. It seems we have never prop­erly un­der­stood the US but now that the cataracts have been re­moved from our eyes we should be work­ing over­time on get­ting out of a re­la­tion­ship with such a de­bauched and un­prin­ci­pled lead­er­ship.

It’s not as though ev­ery­one is dis­ap­pointed. The US trans­porta­tion sec­re­tary, Mrs Elaine Chao, was hap­lessly stand­ing next to the pres­i­dent in the lobby of Trump Tower while he was is­su­ing his racist sup­port for white su­prem­a­cists. She is mar­ried to sen­a­tor Mitch McCon­nell who, as we know, has his own is­sues with Trump.

Asked about Trump and his at­tacks on her hus­band, Mrs Chao did one bet­ter than Tammy Wynette: “I stand by my

• man – both of them.”

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