Eric Abetz, Stephen Parry, Sam McQuestin and Doug Chip­man. Peter Greste and Gareth Evans. Chris Gayle and Lucy Mc­Cal­lum. Fiona Nash.

The Saturday Paper - - Contents The Week - Richard Ack­land

Let’s pause a mo­ment to re­flect on the tor­rid time for Otto Abetz and his is­land king­dom of Tas­ma­nia.

Not only do the polls show a ma­jor­ity of postal re­sponses in favour of same-sex mar­riage, which Otto thinks could lead to peo­ple mar­ry­ing the Syd­ney Har­bour Bridge, but the wheels are fall­ing off his badly oiled state branch of the Nasty Party ma­chine.

One of Otto’s favourites, the pres­i­dent of the se­nate and a for­mer Burnie em­balmer, Stephen Parry, has gone up in a puff of dual-ci­ti­zen smoke, leav­ing Richard Col­beck to take his spot.

Cu­ri­ously, Parry con­sulted the Bri­tish Home Of­fice about his el­i­gi­bil­ity – and the an­swer was the same as if he had read the High Court judge­ment re: Cana­van, Lud­lam, Wa­ters, Roberts, Joyce etc.

Col­beck, loosely de­scribed as a “mod­er­ate” among the Tas­ma­nian hill tribes, is the very man Otto dumped down the Nasties’ se­nate ticket to an un­winnable fifth spot. As if the loss of the Three Ami­gos in 2016 was not bad enough.

On Satur­day there is a by­elec­tion for the leg­isla­tive coun­cil seat of Pem­broke and it seems the Lib­er­als’ state di­rec­tor, Sammy McQuestin, is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion for po­ten­tially run­ning foul of two pieces of leg­is­la­tion: the Elec­toral Act and the Anti-Dis­crim­i­na­tion Act.

The Nasties have been mak­ing fun of the poll’s fron­trun­ner, in­de­pen­dent can­di­date Doug Chip­man, 71, claim­ing he lives in a “life­style vil­lage” and putting to­gether a Pho­to­shopped im­age tak­ing a pot-shot at Doug’s age. The im­age shows a col­lec­tion of what is pur­ported to be on par­lia­ment’s doorstep – golf clubs, slip­pers, a Perry Como al­bum and a fish­ing rod.

Otto’s per­form­ing seals know all the tricks.

In­cor­ri­gi­ble show­man

Jour­nal­ist and for­mer pris­oner of Egypt Peter Greste has his book, The First Ca­su­alty, on the shelves, ex­plor­ing the war against jour­nal­ism from the Mid­dle East to the West.

But be care­ful what you ask for when re­quest­ing the vol­ume from the lo­cal li­brar­ian. There is of course The

First Ca­su­alty, a crime novel by Bri­tish au­thor Ben El­ton, and The First Ca­su­alty, a his­tory of war jour­nal­ism from the saintly Phillip Knight­ley (RIP).

And while you’re pon­der­ing whether book pub­lish­ers have run out of ideas for ti­tles, there’s Gareth Evans’ me­moir, called In­cor­ri­gi­ble Op­ti­mist.

Gad­fly must dip into it to see what’s been left out. Any­way, it should not be con­fused with The In­cor­ri­gi­ble Op­ti­mists Club by Jean-Michel Gue­nas­sia. It won the Prix Gon­court and The Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald said, in 2014, that it was the work of a “ma­jor lit­er­ary tal­ent”.

It’s the story of a 12-year-old boy who dis­cov­ers a group of in­tel­lec­tu­als and émi­grés in the back­room of a Paris bistro and is drawn into their or­bit and their sto­ries about life be­hind the Iron Cur­tain.

It could be quite eas­ily mud­dled with Gareth’s mem­oirs.

Gayle force win

As if the defama­tion courts are not caus­ing enough strife for the Fair­fax news­pa­pers, the judge in the Chris Gayle al­leged semi-ex­po­sure case also laid down the law about seat­ing ar­range­ments for rep­tiles of the me­dia re­port­ing pro­ceed­ings in the court­room.

One re­porter was up­set that school­child­ren out on a lark were tak­ing the seats of work­ing jour­nal­ists and wrote a note to Jus­tice Lucy Mc­Cal­lum to com­plain about this. Af­ter all, it makes life dif­fi­cult if re­porters have to cover a case while stand­ing and at the same time ma­nip­u­lat­ing a com­puter or pen­cil and note­book.

Her hon­our wouldn’t have a bar of it, say­ing it was a mis­con­cep­tion to un­der­stand the prin­ci­ple of open jus­tice “as a right of the press to re­port”. The press had no more right to scru­ti­nise pro­ceed­ings than “any mem­ber of the public who wishes to at­tend court”.

Never mind that the me­dia has the job of re­port­ing the courts to a much wider au­di­ence than the hand­ful of schoolkids es­cap­ing al­ge­bra lessons.

Fur­ther­more, the school stu­dents were be­ing ush­ered around by an out­fit called the Rule of Law In­sti­tute, which does a lot of lob­by­ing in the cor­ri­dors of power for cor­po­rate in­ter­ests. Mc­Cal­lum thought to ex­clude them for the ben­e­fit of jour­nal­ists “would have pro­vided a sorry les­son on the fail­ure of the rule of law”.

Speak­ing of sorry lessons, Fair­fax lost against Gayle and com­plained it didn’t get a fair trial. This ap­par­ently “trou­bled” Mc­Cal­lum, while Gayle’s bar­ris­ter, Bruce McClin­tock, SC, who spent part of the trial us­ing his robes to re-cre­ate the al­leged in­de­cent ex­po­sure, said: “It’s ex­tremely dis­ap­point­ing that a me­dia or­gan­i­sa­tion like Fair­fax … should try to go on and fight like this.”

Fun­nel vi­sion

The Econ­o­mist had an in­ter­est­ing ar­ti­cle last week about how Amer­i­can news­pa­pers, par­tic­u­larly The New York Times and The Wash­ing­ton Post, are get­ting peo­ple to pay for news as dig­i­tal sub­scribers.

Trump’s rants about “The Fail­ing New York Times” have re­sulted in more than two mil­lion dig­i­tal sub­scribers, while the Post has been hir­ing tech­nol­ogy whizzes to im­prove its dig­i­tal foot­print and has built the news­room to more than 750.

The strat­egy is some­thing called fun­nelling, con­vert­ing dig­i­tal vis­i­tors into paid sub­scribers, or lur­ing them from the free end of the fun­nel to the smaller paid end.

Jeff Be­zos, the pro­pri­etor of the Post, made a telling point, which you’d hope Greg Ply­wood and Fair­fax might take on board: “You can’t shrink your way to prof­itabil­ity.”

ROC tip­ster

Gad­fly was chuffed to see Sharri Mark­son from The Daily Smel­lo­graph lead­ing the charge for the main­te­nance of jour­nal­is­tic ethics. While the Michaelia Cash-ROC-AFP raid on the Aus­tralian Work­ers’ Union was in the spot­light, Sharri tweeted: “Shock­ing night for the me­dia. Some journos clearly do not know how to pro­tect sources.”

David Crowe of The Catholic Boys Daily, had ear­lier writ­ten: “Shock­ing night for the gov­ern­ment. Michaelia Cash forced to re­tract, staffer forced to re­sign af­ter ad­mit­ting to tip­ping off me­dia on raid.”

Sharri was re­fer­ring to the fact that, con­trary to the em­ploy­ment min­is­ter’s re­peated de­nials to a se­nate com­mit­tee, Cash’s of­fice was the source of the headsup to at least one me­dia or­gan­i­sa­tion that the wal­lop­ers were go­ing to visit AWU of­fices in Melbourne and Syd­ney.

Shortly af­ter Buz­zFeed broke the story, Cash’s flack mer­chant, David De Garis, re­signed.

De Garis was the source of the tip-off, while the sources of the Buz­zFeed story were other jour­nal­ists. Yet, by tak­ing this stand, Sharri and var­i­ous oth­ers are ef­fec­tively re­quir­ing jour­nal­ists to pro­tect not only their own sources but other peo­ple’s sources for sto­ries pub­lished by en­tirely dif­fer­ent me­dia out­fits.

In any event, the pro­tec­tion of a source who stood by while his min­is­ter re­peat­edly mis­led par­lia­ment is a non­sen­si­cal stretch too far.

Nash is to ashes

A grate­ful na­tion can breathe a sigh of re­lief that the High Court has seen off from our se­nate the Bri­tish ci­ti­zen Fiona Nash.

As read­ers know, she is one of Gad­fly’s bête blon­des. In the Ab­bott era she was as­sis­tant min­is­ter for health with chief of staff Alas­tair Fur­ni­val, whose fam­ily busi­ness was lob­by­ing for the junk food in­dus­try.

To­gether they ar­ranged to re­move from the in­ter­net a gov­ern­ment web­site that rated and graded the nu­tri­tional value of foods. Alas­tair also lob­bied for a $16 mil­lion gov­ern­ment grant to choco­late block man­u­fac­turer Cad­bury. Talk about a glass-and-a-half of full-cream dairy milk.

Then came Nash’s even more en­light­ened de­ci­sion to axe the fund­ing for the peak drug and al­co­hol ad­vi­sory body.

Maybe it’s not al­to­gether a shock to learn that the min­is­ter didn’t think the sci­ence on cli­mate change was set­tled or that there should be any­thing other than “tra­di­tional” mar­riage.

It’s hard to think of one con­struc­tive con­tri­bu­tion she made to the na­tion in all her wasted years as a se­na­tor.

Trum­pette #46

Ma­jor-Gen­eral (ret) Jim Molan is run­ning for pres­i­dent of the New South Wales di­vi­sion of the Nasty Party. He has men­tioned his broad range of skills at man­ag­ing large or­gan­i­sa­tions, or in the case of the NSW Lib­er­als, shrink­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions.

These in­clude staffing, lob­by­ing, po­lit­i­cal af­fairs, ra­tio­nal ar­gu­ments and nu­clear war. Ma­jor- Gen­eral Jim has been a key player in the party’s “demo­cratic re­form move­ment”, whose prin­ci­pal aim is to get as many con­ser­va­tives, evan­gel­i­cals and wing nuts into par­lia­ment as pos­si­ble.

Maybe we need the cau­tion­ary tale of Gen­eral John Kelly’s smarts as White House chief of staff be­fore we get too en­thu­si­as­tic about the po­lit­i­cal skills of mil­i­tary chaps.

In Oc­to­ber, Kelly came to the “res­cue” of Bark­ing Dog Trump, say­ing the pres­i­dent’s phone call to the mil­i­tary widow Myeshia John­son couldn’t have been more lovely. Her hus­band was the man who “knew what he signed up for” and whose name Trump couldn’t re­mem­ber.

Masha Gessen, in The New Yorker, parsed the gen­eral’s press briefing into four es­sen­tial ar­gu­ments:

Those who crit­i­cise the pres­i­dent don’t know what they are talk­ing about be­cause they haven’t served in the mil­i­tary; the pres­i­dent did the right thing be­cause he did ex­actly what his gen­eral told him to do; com­mu­ni­ca­tions be­tween the pres­i­dent and the mil­i­tary widow are no one else’s busi­ness; and cit­i­zens are ranked based on their prox­im­ity to dy­ing for their coun­try.

As if this were not enough, Kelly this week was rewrit­ing the Civil War and blun­der­ing into his­tor­i­cal sen­si­tiv­i­ties, declar­ing that Con­fed­er­ate gen­eral Robert E. Lee was “an hon­ourable man”. Hon­ourable in the sense that his mis­sion was to ex­pand slav­ery and tor­ture.

The more we hear from Gen­eral Kelly the more we should worry about the brand of “or­der and dis­ci­pline” he brings

• to the dotard’s White House.

RICHARD ACK­LAND is the pub­lisher of Jus­tinian. He is The Satur­day Pa­per’s di­ari­s­tat-large and le­gal af­fairs edi­tor.

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