The river that nearly died of shame

October 16, 2018

That’s the Cook’s River, which I now live quite near.

Historian Ian Tyrrell contemplated this title for his eco-history of the river, published earlier this year under the more encouraging title River Dreams. It’s a fascinating read, though Tyrrell makes an odd reference to the episcopalian church at one point, presumably reaching out to a (surely fairly small) US readership.

Perhaps one reason he rejected the title is that it is equivocal what could constitute life or death for a river which for much of its length remains basically an open stormwater drain with concrete or steel-piled banks and a paved bottom.

When I walk across it on the way to Canterbury Railway Station, I can observe the flow of the tide by the flotsam of plastic drink bottles and other detritus which floats in and out with the tide. The reviving mangrove roots trap more rubbish again.

About six weeks ago someone drove a car off the bridge into the river. I still can’t work out how he did it. Amazingly, he escaped reportedly unscathed.

Not so the car or the bridge.

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Nature notes

October 16, 2018

I believe I was 22 or 23 before I first saw an echidna in the wild.

In fact, they are not so rare, but they are shy. Recently they seem to be popping up all over the place. A few months ago D and I saw one running along the side of the Federal Highway beneath the escarpment at the side of Lake George. We doubled back and it was still cantering along, though when we stopped to take a squizz it disappeared into the shrubby strip between the carriageways.

I spotted this one yesterday afternoon just outside Canberra. When it saw me, it headed to the loose ground by the side of the road to dig in, as they do.

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Once they do that, you can get up close, though they aren’t very interesting to watch:

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It didn’t dig in very deep. It must have been in a hurry to get somewhere – perhaps one of those echidna orgies where a bunch of males follow a female.

I stood back and not long after, it started moving again.

Then a Chinese-Australian family turned up and parked up the hill from it. They had seen it as they drove past just before I came by. The echidna dug in again. The daughter (aged about 9, judging from her teeth) and her mother stood back – not very far. Dad waited with the baby in the car.

I thought we might be in for a long wait, but quite soon the echidna resumed its journey. It found the hole in the fence which it had obviously been aiming for at the start, and headed across a paddock. That was more interesting, but difficult to photograph on my phone.

Afterwards, I followed its well-worn path, but I never found it.

Perhaps it or one of its kind had been here:

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Catching up

October 9, 2018

I maintain my concert-going diary in a “table” in Word format. I have extracted from that nine concerts which have so far gone unremarked on this blog. In a burst of completism, I shall try to say something about each.

1. 21 7 SSO Pictures at an Exhibition

With some of the Dulwich Hill mob to this concert, featuring the incredibly youthful-looking Benjamin Beilmann playing the Higdon violin concerto. I really warmed to this. A few days later I came across it late at night on ABC”Classic” FM (which has taken to repeating its broadcasts much in the way that the TV station repeats its programs) without at first realising what it was other than that it was familiar. At times like this I like to play a little game trying to recognize the composer and work. My first stab at it, more a heuristic device than a definite claim, was Alban Berg – after all, I’ve heard his concerto a few times. Not really a good guess, but a kind of unwitting compliment.

2. 23 7 Musica Viva Joyce Yang

Lx of the DHG persuaded me to pick up a ticket for this, at Angel Place. We sat upstairs on the non-keyboard side which I’m beginning to think gives the best sound. The program was:

RACHMANINOFF Three Preludes
JANÁČEK Piano Sonata 1.X.1905
LISZT Spanish Rhapsody
Elizabeth YOUNAN Piano Sonata
LISZT Sonata in B minor

I would have preferred Schumann’s Carnaval which was the closer for Yang’s other program, but I had a semi-clash (something on that evening). Nor am I really keen on weekend afternoon concerts.

I wish I could say something more definite about the Younan as it was a fresh commission but I have left it too long to say other than that it was effective.

Lx thought the Liszt was terrific but I’m afraid I wasn’t quite in right space for it. I was probably a bit tired (it was a weeknight concert and I came straight from work).

3. 3 8 SSO Spanish Nights

Lx tipped me off that that the SSO had marked down lots of A Reserve seats to C reserve prices. The program also was particularly attractive:

Debussy: Gigues from Images
Julian Anderson: The Imaginary Museum Piano Concerto
Falla: Nights in the Gardens of Spain, for piano and orchestra
Debussy: Ibéria from Images

Not one concerto, but two! Well, maybe the Falla is not a concerto but it is still a concertante work. My seat, in Box C (which is the first upstairs box to the front of the orchestra on the non-keyboard side) gave a very favourable balance to the piano as well as a good vantage point for all orchestral detail.

In my mind’s eye I expected Steve Osborne to be a young Englishman with beautiful eyelashes. I realised straight away that that was Paul Lewis, for that matter, about 20 years ago. Osborne is Scottish. He could be a minor character in Taggart. It’s something to do with the set of his jaw.

I really liked the Julian Anderson. It’s too new for me to be able to listen to it again – you can hear about 2 minutes here..The whole program really hung together well, bookended with the two Debussy numbers. After all, it’s almost proverbial that the best Spanish music is French. (Actually that’s a more complicated question, for another day.)

4. 6 8 SSO Piano – S Osborne

This was the recital at Angel Place.  I don’t need to write much about this because I found myself next to Elizabeth whose blog contains a record of our meeting.  Having “unmasked” myself I felt a little self-conscious, but we have since sat together again (see 9 below [when I get around to it]) and I have got past that.

Despite my non-enthusiasm for spoken introductions, I enjoyed the recital.  As the SSO blurb put it, Osborne made  “a striking juxtaposition between the fragrant, exotic sonorities of Debussy and the propulsive vigour of Prokofiev’s mature sonatas.”  Actually, (he grudgingly admits) part of what Osborne said in his introduction gave an insight to this because he spoke of liking to make the quietest sound possible..  Debussy who famously said he wanted the piano to sound as though it did not have hammers.  In the back of my mind I know that the story about that quote is more complicated than the piano just being quiet. It’s as if  Osborne favours a kind of spikiness  at two ends of the pianistic musolect (my coinage from idiolect) for which Prokofiev and Debussy could well stand as avatars.  He’s not such a one for the – how shall I put it? –  a BMW drive down the Romantic middle of the road.

I enjoyed it.

5. 11 8 AE Hindson, Mozart, Brahms

That’s the Australia Ensemble.   The program was:

Matthew HINDSON | Septet (2009)

Anton REICHA | Wind quintet in E flat Op.88 no. 2 (1818)

Wolfgang MOZART | Piano trio in C K548 (1788)

Johannes BRAHMS | Clarinet Quintet Op. 115 (1891)

Delay has suppressed recollection other than that I remember how jolly the Reicha was.  He is sometimes known as the “father of the wind quintet” and this is his most famous one. I have a soft-spot for this sub-Beethoven/post-Classical/pre-Romantic period in music history – it can be so agreeable without being too demanding – embodying a kind of common practice/received pronunciation of Western music.

Unfortunately my main memory of this concert (other than of almost not making it because I went for a swim in the afternoon and sank into a sleep so deep that P, coming by as arranged to pick me up, was unable to rouse me to the front door) is of during the Brahms, when, at a point where I was brushing away tears in the slow movement, there was some terrible banging (there had already been a bit) from the rear of the hall.

When I looked around at the end of the concert, a couple with a small child, a lot of possessions and a set of crutches seemed to be the perpetrators though at the next concert someone told me it was someone (else) having a fit,  Either way, the musicians’ concentration was obviously affected.  Having made myself vulnerable, I felt bruised and assaulted in a way which is difficult to recover from.

I have survived and am quite recovered by now, but it cast a shadow over the evening.

6. 24 8 SSO Brahms 4

This was a great program, especially Alban Gerhardt playing the new Brett Dean cello concerto from memory.  I wish I’d arranged to see this twice.

I also enjoyed Brahms 4 – last time I heard it I was too tired.  It was a mistake though to try to count the variations in the last movement.  My new resolution for life is not to count the variations: go with the flow!  And you can always tell the end is coming if there is a fugue.  (Not that chaconnes end with fugues.)

As I listened I thought to myself “Robertson is a Brahms the progressive kind of guy.”   Sure enough there was a note in the program which confirmed this.  It’s the lean string sound which is the giveaway.  I still like Brahms the Romantic (fat string sound).  I’m just not so keen on Brahms the German Nationalist and composer of the Triumphlied.

7. 1 9 SSO Brahms

8. 15 9 AE

9. 17 9 SSO Piano

This post has gestated too long so I’ve decided to push it out into the world two-thirds formed.  Shades  of the Red Queen in Alice Through the Looking Glass (which I have always preferred to in Wonderland) expounding the need to run just to stay where you are.  Sometimes I just can’t  catch up.

 

Obsessed 2

October 3, 2018

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Time for some proverbs.

The internet tells me it was Emily Dickinson (though surely hardly the first to have this thought) who once said “If you take care of the small things, the big things take care of themselves.”

I’m not so sure of that.  Sometimes you can just be doing-the-washing-up-when-you-should-be-studying-for-the-HSC.

The hint in the above picture is the central sock.  On the eve of D’s recent return from China, when tidying up really would have been a good idea, I set to darning socks.  I had years’ worth of holey hose.

It’s very cheap entertainment.  The trap is that to start darning some socks is simply to expose how much more they need to be darned.  There is a law-of-diminishing-returns.

 

Keeping up

September 7, 2018

The other day a colleague, Mz, drew me aside: he’d been rung by a mutual old friend Rz with whom we both shared a house when students. Apparently there had been a story in a weekend paper (which we both missed) recounting that one of Rz’s children was in a spot of bother with the law. There was a bit more to it than that and Rz had obviously told Mz more than Mz felt at liberty to pass on to me. It’s a watch and wait situation.

Rz and I were once close but have drifted apart, as you do. At this stage it would be odd for me to get in touch with Rz but I do feel for him and stand ready to offer support when needed. Meanwhile, in the spirit of Mz’s approach to me, I gave a call to PP, who was also close to Rz for some years more recently than I had been though (as PP told me) not so much recently.

I know this all looks like gossiping and all I can say is that it’s not as if any of us is rushing to tell the world. I don’t think this post can really count given my tiny readership.

I have known PP since we were both at school. We see each other maybe once every 4 or 5 years through a mutual friend and last saw each other in February.

My chat with PP was not long, as PP told me PP had to rush to an open house for an apartment PP was selling. I made some remark about PP’s property portfolio. Hardly, said PP – the apartment was PP’s settlement from PP’s 20-year marriage to GG.

Woosh! I hadn’t had a clue about that.

Rondo alla Turca

August 31, 2018

OA Turk In Italy

Opera Australia’s winter season ends tomorrow.

Earlier in the month, I went to the first night of Rossini’s The Turk in Italy. Last night, to celebrate D’s return from China the day before, I went again with D.

Aside from the celebration, I wanted to take D because I enjoyed the first night so much. I thought that D had not seen it in 2014 when this production was first staged.

I should be more careful in my practice of adding “with D” in this blog because in this I was mistaken. Still, no harm done.

Simon Phillips’ production is a slapstick one, set at a ‘fifties beach resort. I don’t think I have given such a high ratio of my attention to the stage business over activity in the orchestra for a long time. When I saw it the first time and again on the first night, there were lots of laugh-out-aloud moments, and not a few beach-themed jokes, such as when all of the gentlemen in the chorus wrestled with their deck chairs in the overture.

I’m not so convinced with the Ockerisms in the surtitles or a few other touches. Surely this is a vein well-mined in Phillips’ previous production of The Elixir of Love where at least it was integral to the whole production. Here it was at odds with the wonderful Italian set.

The problem with a joke can be that once it is told, you’ve heard it. One such joke is in the last act, when there is a masquerade party. In this production, all the men, bar one, turn up (entirely by coincidence) as Elvis Presley and all the women as Marilyn Monroe. The joke does not sustain the scene.

At interval I overheard Robert Gay, lecturer about town (and father of the now more famous Virgina) saying that he enjoyed it more the first time he had seen it and I wouldn’t be surprised if the joke-told factor accounted for that.

One piece of business, involving a phallicly-placed and shaken champagne bottle (far from the only phallic joke of the evening) and popped cork, did not survive the first night. The “cork,” in reality thrown by one or other of Selim (the Turk) and Fiorila landed in the orchestra pit and struck the principal viola. People could have been hurt; more likely, valuable instruments could have been damaged; but it’s also a matter of R.E.S.P.E.C.T. – the musicians hate it when that sort of thing happens. You’d have thought that would have been sorted out in 2014. Instead next time round Stacey Alleume as Fiorila wrenched the cork off and stowed it in her cleavage. A bit lame if you had seen the original and a pity that they couldn’t have mastered throw to the rear of the stage. The problem is I suppose that if it has gone wrong a repetition would be unforgiveable and so a risk not to be taken.

Stacey Alleaume is being touted as the next big thing after her appearance earlier this year in The Merry Widow. Next year she will have a number of prominent roles. I wouldn’t say she yet fills the shoes of Emma Matthews, the 2014 Fiorila.

Last night didn’t get quite such a warm reception as the first night. I guess that’s the first night “home crowd” advantage. Nor was it as full as it deserved to be. Could it be people are less willing to pay top dollar for something so slight and silly?

(picture above Keith Saunders; filched from Fairfax)

Homeless express

August 22, 2018

D has been in China for the past four or so weeks seeing his family.  I have been practising living alone.

I can watch as many Nazi and WWII-themed programs as I wish.

Instead, last week I watched some of SBS’s three-part “special” Filthy Rich and Homeless.  This is devised to expose the predicament of homeless people by sending a group of “celebrities” out on the street for a “Prince and the Pauper”-like experience as a street person/homeless person.  Last year it was filmed in winter in Melbourne; earlier this year in summer in Sydney.

I lack the patience to watch these programs all the way through.  Much of the voice-over narrative is tedious and repetitive; the media-stuntism (not unlike those real estate one-day makeovers) involves a wearyingly synthetic drama.  Even if I am being manipulated for a good cause, I bridle at it.

One luxury which I lazily and too often avail myself of is to get D to drive in to the city and pick me up.  In his absence I’m thrown back on the unreliable and infrequent evening trains.

At about 8.10 pm last  Friday (relatively early for me), I walked out to Martin Place from my place of under-employment dressed in my usual soft-fabrics winter commuting garb: beanie, scarf, jumper, shorts, woollen tights, sneakers. As  I had some library books to return to Fisher Library on the weekend, my bag was humped high and full on my back.

A man  in his own soft-fabric winter ensemble heading in the opposite direction gave me a thumbs-up sign.  I realised straight away that he had come from the collection of vans parked at the Phillip Street end of Martin Place which provide nightly assistance to the homeless, and that he assumed I was headed there.

This is not the first time I have been so recognized.  Once I was offered a cup of coffee by the good folk from St V de P.  For some years I was on chatting terms with a homeless man, P.  I’m sure P only came up to talk to me because he assumed I was in a similar situation

At the time, P was living on the street, sometimes staying in shelters.  His story was that he had moved out of home because he couldn’t agree with his wife on how to treat his teenage son (he wanted to be stricter).  I’m sure it was more complex than that and probably had a mental health element to it as well. Nevertheless  P struck me as pretty resilient and resourceful.  P filled me in on aspects of the street life: the night commutes to the furthest reaches of the public transport system for the sake of a warm sleep; places to have a shower, keep your stuff.  I haven’t remembered all the details.

When P first told me he was going to be assigned a flat I wasn’t sure whether to believe him but eventually that happened.  It’s possible that there were some false starts on the way.  I also saw P move up a kind of social level in the street-sector as he got involved in helping to collect the surplus lunches from cafes for distribution in the evening.  I know it gave him pleasure when, one day, I asked him for and he gave me a cigarette – not that our acquaintance was ever based on him cadging them from me (I don’t think he ever asked me for one).

I haven’t seen P for a year or so now.  Hopefully that’s because he’s settled in his new, housed, life.

Over the years, the provision of assistance on Martin Place has grown.  Whilst the choice of spot is sometimes supposed to be symbolic (the head office of the Reserve Bank is there, Parliament House is just up the hill: this is the “big end of town”) I expect it has more pragmatic origins.  People sleeping on the street gravitate to the city because the city-scape offers shelter; the inner city has a concentration of helping facilities and there is also some safety/amenity in numbers.  Food charity is available from the unsold food from the city lunch trade which is collected from many city outlets and then distributed in the evening.  Phillip Street itself has little through traffic and the area of Martin Place just uphill from it is a convenient spot for people to gather and vans to park.

Judging from the crowd of people and vehicles, Friday is a big night.  This is understandable because the luncheon trade then stops until Monday so it is time to stock up if possible.

I had nothing to eat at home.  I toyed with putting my downmarket garb to account.  I know I would not have been turned away.

That was only toying, of course.  One aspect of the SBS program that I was really uncomfortable with was the celebrities faking indigence and receiving charity as a result.  Did the producers and camera crew ensure that any such falsely-received benefits were returned/repaid?  I went down into the station to catch a train.  Great!  It was due in 3 minutes.

The platform was crowded.  Then I realised that a sizeable part of the crowd was men (it was only men I detected) who had come from collecting whatever they had to collect and were now going to wherever they had to go.

I got into the same carriage as three of them.

Two were together.  They sat upstairs.  I sat downstairs.  I saw them get off at Central.

The third sat in the end compartment, surrounded by chatting groups and couples heading to a night out.  With greasy hair, bulky rough clothing and two bulging carrier bags (a toothbrush and toothpaste kit poking out of one) he seemed a very lonely figure.

We both got off at Sydenham, where he changed for the Bankstown line.

Opera Australia, Sydney, 2019

August 15, 2018

Breaking news.

The brochure for next year’s season thumped into my letterbox today.  Atypically Australia Post excelled itself. According to OA’s plans this was a day early.

There are:

10 mainstage operas.

Of these:

5 are new productions, to Opera Australia at least.

2 of these are brought/bought in:

Wozzeck coproduction with Salzburg et al (6 performances)

Il Viaggio a Rheims –from the Netherlands and Denmark  (5)

The other 3 are running together in July-August using the new digital technology featured this year for Aida:

Butterfly (23)

Anna Bolena (8) and

Whiteley – new work by Kats-Chernin, libretto Justin Fleming (6)

The revivals are:

Boheme (this has been on sale for a while because of the NYE start) (20)

Turandot (22)

Werther (6)

Salome  (7) and

Marriage of Figaro (10)

By my reckoning that means the 3 operas by Puccini account for 65 of 113 mainstage opera performances.

An eleventh opera, Ghost Sonata (Reimann, 1984) billed as a chamber opera, has 4 performances at the Scenery Workshop at the Opera Centre in Surry Hills.

There are 2 concert performances of Andrea Chenier in the Concert Hall in August  featuring Jonas Kauffmann and Eva-Maria Westbroek (if she can make it)

There are 2 different productions of West Side Story – one on the Harbour (26) and the other in the Opera Theatre (56) sandwiched between the main winter season and an October/November coda (Viaggio, Figaro) – together making up 82 of 195 music-theatre performances (stretching things just a bit to include Chenier in that).

There are also some recitals.

Within the constraints that Opera Australia has set itself, it is a reasonable effort by them. That is a pretty big proviso. The long-term trend, especially re musicals and Puccini, is saddening.

Still, I’m particularly looking forward to Wozzeck, Werther, Il Viaggio (a silly yearning) and Salome and welcome Anna Bolena, billed as the first of three in a Donizetti  “Queens” cycle.  I’m not sure if I’ll go to all three video productions though I can see reasons why each of them has been selected for that mode of production.  Andrea Chenier for me will be a question of whether I can accept the price premium.

A crowded week

August 14, 2018

Motivated by a certain necessary frugality I have cut back on my attendance of live performance this year. And that’s after I had already cut back last year.

I ought to spread things out – like spreading jam thinly but evenly – but now and again, like the IXL Apricot Conserve of yore, there are lumps which defy such discipline.

Things started, relatively impromptu, when D and I headed off to a play, Dresden, at the Kings Cross Theatre on Saturday 30 June.

I had never been to the KXT before.  It is a neat, if cramped, theatre squeezed into the Kings Cross Hotel.   I last paid attention to the building during my taxi-driving youth.  Then it was the distinctly unenticing (to me) Oz Rock Cafe.  Now it seems surprisingly civilized, at least early in the night – especially the rooftop bar.

The play, by Justin Fleming, a kind of lapsed-barrister-about-town, develops a premiss which joins Wagner and Hitler via a  moment when the young Hitler obtained a copy of the score of Rienzi from the then rather old Cosima Wagner.

This is surely fictional, though in the tradition of the best historical romance.

According to my own wanderings in Wikipedia, it was not until 1939, some years after Cosima’s death,  that Hitler received this (I’m guessing, from Winifred).  This is presumed to have perished in the bunker or surrounding circumstances in 1945 and has at any event disappeared.  The performing parts from the original performance in Dresden had been kept there and suffered a similar fate the year before.  Together with its non-admission to the Bayreuth canon this means that the text of the opera will be forever unsettled.

The other “hook” for the play is a claim by an early friend of Hitler that Hitler attended a performance of Rienzi in 1906 or so and much later (by now Fuhrer) said “that’s where it all began.”   The unlikely source of Rienzi is a novel by Edward Bulwer-Lytton.  Its titular hero is a popular Roman leader who leads a revolt against the (Holy) Roman Empire.  Ultimately “the mob” turns on him and he dies in a conflagration.

The play was a diverting working out of parallels between Hitler’s and his idea of Rienzi (the character) and parallels or divergences between Wagner and Hitler.

The overture to Rienzi was not played much for many years after WWII because it had a close association with the National Socialists who used it as a kind of anthem.  It featured quite a lot in the play.

By now it seems to have been rehabilitated.  A snippet featured in on-air promotions for this year’s BBC proms.

I’m not a one for visiting all of the sins of the Nazis on Wagner, but I felt that Fleming lets Wagner off a bit lightly.  Nevertheless, I enjoyed the play and admired the way that an awful lot of exposition was so nimbly handled.

Wagner was played by Jeremy Waters.  He has come a long way since he took the title role in a musical version of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole for which I provided the instrumental accompaniment in about 1991.

As we left the punters were lining up for a Keep Sydney Open party.  We were leaving just in time.

The following Monday I went to Angel Place to see/hear Simon Trpčeski in recital (ABC recording at this stage still online.) The program was:

  • Grieg, Holberg Suite
  • Mendelssohn, selected Songs without words; and
  • Rimsky-Korsakov, Scheherezade (transcribed for piano by Paul Gilson).

The last pianist to perform a chunk of Songs without Words in Sydney or at least the last I heard was Alicia de Larrocha in 1995.   There came a point in Trpceski’s selection where the song-like form (always the tune in the treble) began to outwear its welcome; the “Hunting” song felt overplayed.  I was beginning to suspect that these are pieces which are more fun to play than to listen to, when  he finished off with a brilliant performance of Op 67 No 2.  This has a serenadish kind of accompaniment figure which turned out to be a foretaste of some of the effects to come in the Rimsky-Korsakov in the second half.

This was brilliant, and the mystery of why the piano was tuned so brightly at the top was solved by an amazing conclusion.

On Tuesday I went to Lucia, already noted.

On Wednesday, to the SOH to hear the SSO with Stephen Hough playing the Rhapsody on a Theme.  That was the main thing I went for.  This was preceeded by Ross Edwards’ Symphony No 2, and followed in the second half by Mendelssohn’s Reformation symphony.  I think I must have been having a bad Mendelssohn week because others enjoyed that more than I did.

On Friday to Rigoletto .

On Sunday we didn’t go anywhere; looking back through my emails I can see I sent one from the office on Thursday at 11.57 pm so I guess I was fitting in a bit of work somewhere along the way.

 

IPA and Gina Rinehart

July 31, 2018

In an ideal world, IPA would stand for India Pale Ale.

Unfortunately, in Australia it also stands for the right-wing “think-tank” the Institute of Public Affairs.

Like Gerard Henderson’s Sydney Institute, the IPA is coy about its funding sources. The cat is now a little more out of the bag as a by-product of the Rinehart litigation, the subject of my running post (because it just keeps growing) Deep Pockets.

I updated that post on 17/18 July to take account of the latest interlocutory skirmish. It is worth repeating what I wrote:

 

As trustee for The Hope Margaret Hancock Trust (the HMH Trust), pursuant to s 247A of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) Bianca is applying for access to the books of HPPL. That is part of (2) in Justice Ward’s list of applications above. This is an information-gathering prelude to her application for leave to bring proceedings on behalf of HPPL against Gina and others for breach of their duties to HPPL.  One claim is that Gina has been getting HPPL to make substantial donations which are for her own purposes and not for the purposes of HPPL.  Bianca already has obtained information (supposing that to be true) from the HPPL camp about donations which have been made, though not about their purposes.

Bianca applied to the court to issue subpoenas, duly issued, to recipients of such donations – a mysterious foundation called the CEF trust, which looks very much like a vehicle for making donations opaque, the IPA and (joker in the pack) Barnaby Joyce.  Joyce, you may recall, made unwelcome (to John, Bianca and Hope) interventions on Gina’s behalf at the outset of this dispute, and has shown signs of being very much in Gina’s pocket from time to time (even if he realised he had to return that $40K “prize”).

CEF applied to have the subpoena set aside.  HPPL took a more complicated path: obtained first access to the documents produced by IPA and without actually applying for the subpoena to be set aside, applied for access to be withheld from other parties (chiefly, Bianca).  Barnaby Joyce produced one document which the judge inspected and said didn’t ven respond to the subpoena.

In the end her Honour set aside the subpoenas as too broad and speculative.  What in the trade is called “a fishing expedition.”  That is:

51      Rinehart v Rinehart [2018] NSWSC 1102

Thinking of Ward J’s decisions in the Dungowan Manly case, I can’t say that the winds seem favourable for any kind of derivative action – Ward J is not one to jump readily from dark suspicion (even if the plaintiff says it sticks out like dog’s balls) to  dark conclusions against those in control of a company.

However, the judgment does contain this little nugget of information about Gina and the IPA:

  1. Again, by way of background, IPA was founded in 1943 (see its 2017 Annual Report, Exhibit C p 52). It was described in the course of submissions on the present application as a “conservative think tank”. The objective of the Institute is said, in its 2017 annual report, to be to further the individual, social, political and economic freedom of the Australian people. Its 2017 annual report discloses that:

The Institute of Public Affairs relies entirely on the voluntary financial contributions that are freely donated by the members and supporters of the Institute.

86 per cent of the IPA’s revenue is donated by individuals, 12 per cent is received from foundations, 1 per cent from businesses, and 1 per cent from other sources such as interest. The IPA neither seeks nor receives any funding from government. In addition to the membership fees contributed by IPA members, the IPA received 2,913 separate donations during 2016-17.

At the end of 2017 the IPA had over 4,500 members, including more than 1,000 IPA Young Members.

  1. The 2017 Annual Report also discloses that in November 2016 the Board of Directors of IPA bestowed Honorary Life Membership of IPA on three individuals, one of whom was Mrs Gina Rinehart, “in recognition of the commitment these three great Australians have made to the work of the Institute of Public Affairs over many years” (see Exhibit C p 62).
  2. In the schedule of HPPL donations and sponsorships provided to Bianca’s solicitors, it is disclosed that HPPL paid or provided amounts to IPA in a total of $2.3 million for the 2016 financial year and $2.2 million in the 2017 financial year. The annual reports of IPA for those years do not mention HPPL as a donor and the figures set out in the reports record that the vast majority of donations were received from individuals. Bianca submits that the inference to be drawn therefrom is that Gina herself has been credited by IPA for HPPL’s donations.

Just think of who is writing those cheques (or at least at whose direction they are written) the next time an IPA person pops up (as they so often do) on “our” ABC.

However, the mainstream press coverage, I think nearly all sourced from AAP, concentrated entirely on the “Barnaby Joyce” aspect of the subpoena, as per this example from the Guardian on 17 July.  It wasn’t until 20 July that The Guardian twigged to the IPA funding disclosure, followed by The Saturday Paper on its front page last weekend.  Now everyone knows and Ellen Fanning used it as a line of questioning to which Georgina Downer did not entirely satisfactorily respond on The Drum last night.

I guess this just shows how journalism resources are stretched, as well as a ball well and truly dropped at AAP.