Archive for July, 2018

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.

Where’s Lyall?

July 25, 2018

My former English teacher and fellow-Dulwich-Hill gangster Lx first tipped me off a few weeks ago. The ABC Young Performers Awards (revived this year after a two-year hiatus)[non apostrophe sic] were being held in Sydney. The semi-finals would be at Angel Place and tickets were just $50 for 6 sessions over 2 days. One of the semi-finalists was Tony Lee, whom we both liked (and who was awarded the prize for best Australian competitor) at the 2016 Sydney International Piano Competition.

Lx, who is retired, planned to go. Work commitments precluded my getting to all 6 sessions, but I thought I might get to some of it. Individual sessions were $15 so I wouldn’t be risking much.

In the end, I made it to two sessions. I could have saved $15 and flashed my ticket for the first session at the second – it was general admission and far from a full house.

I caught bits of other sessions whilst beavering away at my day (or, as often happens, night) job.

There were 109 entrants (so I heard), who submitted “digital” (video) auditions. The semifinalists, as announced back in April, were:

• Anna Da Silva Chen, Violin, 21
• Stefanie Farrands, Viola, 29
• Waynne (Woo Seok) Kwon, Cello, 22
• Andrew Lebedev, Guitar, 26
• Shaun Hern Lee, Piano, 16
• Tony Lee, Piano, 26
• Robbin Reza, Piano, 23
• Oliver Shermacher, Clarinet, 22
• Riley Skevington, Violin, 25
• Emily Sun, Violin, 29
• Benett Tsai, Cello, 14
• Victoria Wong, Violin, 19

Anna Da Silva Chen injured her hand and had to withdraw. She was replaced by Perth-born (more recently studying in Melbourne) pianist Kevin Chow, 21.

That’s a pretty strong North- or East- Asian background tendency which seems to be the future for classical music, and not only in Australia. It’s a bit like the makeup of academically selective highs schools and though the reasons are complicated some of them must be similar so far as youthful diligence, discipline and parental support/direction are involved. The tendency is less marked for blowing instruments which tend to be started later than bowed strings and the piano.

The two recitals I went to (at this stage still online) were:

Reza and Tony Lee; and
Shaun Hern Lee and Skevington.

Lx and I both made special contributions. Lx got involved in a concert-rage incident with a relative of a performer videoing it with her phone right in front of him which then led to a more specific warning about turning off devices being made at subsequent sessions. I managed to drop an apple from my lap which rolled all the way down to the front of the hall (at least it wasn’t Jaffas.) More mysteriously, a tennis ball landed just near me at about the time of the concert rage incident.

None of those I heard got through to the finals. Lx, who had heard everyone, favoured Reza. I was sorry that Tony Lee didn’t get through. There was a terrible buzz in the piano when he was playing (on E an octave and a bit above middle C) and I am surprised he didn’t rush off stage and ask for it to be fixed after the first piece. I particularly enjoyed his first two Schubert-Liszt transcriptions, though the third Waltz one went on a bit.

The finalists were Sun, Chow and Schermacher. There was little doubt that Sun should go through – she was the string category winner in 2011 after all (but apparently still eligible to enter again, which I doubt would have been the case in the days of the old “Concerto Competition”). Lx had included Schermacher in his top 4 and I was pleased to see him go through as he seems a nice young man and I met him on the train one night on the way home from a performance of The Nose.

The Young Performers Awards as they are now known have had various incarnations. In my youth they were known as the “Concerto Competition” even though they included vocal entrants. Each ABC state orchestra held its own finals before by some inscrutable process a Commonwealth final was convened.

The onstage and on-air commentary made much reference to numerous past winners.

In the audience I spotted a familiar figure – doyenne or at least veteran of the Sydney piano scene, Lyall Duke. No Sydney pianistic occasion is complete without her presence. Lx told me that she had been to all the semi-finals.

Home from the last semi-final I went through the list of past winners online and saw that Lyall Duke (from Tasmania) had been a Commonwealth finalist in 1949. I shot off an sms to ABC Classic FM’s number:

You do realise that Lyall Duke 1949 piano finalist was at the ypa, at least at the 2 sessions I attended?

On Tuesday to the finals at the Sydney Opera House with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra conducted by Nicholas Milton. These were better attended than the semi-finals. The respective concerti were:

Schermacher – Weber 1.
Chow – Prokofiev 2
Sun – Beethoven

Predictably, Emily Sun won. Nicholas Milton, a violinist, knew the Beethoven concerto the best of the three and the orchestra played it the best. Neither of the others disgraced themselves. I thought Ollie could have taken half a step forward – literally and figuratively.

But where was Lyall Duke? In vain I scanned the Concert Hall for her distinctive senior-pianist hairdo.

Lx and I did not stay for the announcement of the results. And then, in the car on the way home, I found out where Lyall had been: in the broadcast box with Margaret Throsby giving commentary.

Not that she got to give much – she was a bit long-winded and too nice to make good copy. Throbbers obviously felt a need to move things along. (I especially like the ten seconds from about 1:16:50 in the broadcast).

I know this could have been planned all along [PS: turns out it was – see comment below], but I like to think my SMS might have set a ball rolling, figuratively speaking.


July 24, 2018

Last Wednesday with D to the first night of Aida.

This was touted by Lyndon T as a foretaste of the future: enormous LED panels lumber around the stage providing backdrop and music-video-esque commentary on the action.  Next year we are to have three such productions.  Amongst other things, this will save on changing sets.

Despite a little blue glitch (a flickering panel) the screens were dazzling. When sheer splendour was required, they were terrific. The back-drop for the scene by the waters of the Nile was also very evocative.

There is also the risk though, as with all background business to which directors tend to resort to liven up what one suspects they dread as a long aria which they see as holding up the action, that they will be a distraction. For me, lightning flashes against a stormy cloudscape fell into this category.  Can’t we trust the singer and the music?  Right at the start, Radames’ vision of “Celeste Aida” was for me cheapened by the stereotypical black but comely video-maiden on the panels behind him.

The modest Opera Theatre stage poses a particular challenge. In Act II scene 2 the Egyptians seemed stuck in a rut to the back of the stage.

Without a set, Radames’ trial took place on stage (the libretto envisages it taking place off-stage, leaving more focus on Amneris in this scene).

Singing was very strong though close up it felt a bit unremittingly loud. I suppose I would feel differently if sitting further back, but something is wrong if a tenor as fine as Riccardo Massi as Radames is overpowered by Amneris and Aida. Massi was still able to act with his vowels within his dynamic range but A and A didn’t leave much scope for that.

Does Aida really join Radames in the tomb, or is this just his dream? It’s not as if they embrace, and at the end she just wanders away from him. Perhaps a twist was intended.

Gold star for finally spotting the obvious but all of a sudden similarities between Nabucco and Aida sprung to mind. Where have I been?

I’ve been more moved by the human drama in other, daggier productions. The wonderful thing about Aida is that after all the big stuff at the start it ends very intimately. This production paid tribute to that as one must but somehow didn’t quite deliver for me.

So, a brilliant production, good time had by all, but leaving with me with reservations as also a minority of reviewers (1, 2).

It was a relief to have the woodwind up in the front of the pit.

Nights at the opera

July 17, 2018

The Sydney winter season of Opera Australia is upon us, advertised this year as running from Jun 28 to September 1. After that, Evita.

I have been so far to Lucia and Rigoletto.

The big story about Lucia was the homecoming of Jessica Pratt in the title role. It wasn’t such a bad thing to have Michael Fabiano as Edgardo and Opera Australia took advantage of the presence of a strong Enrico, Giorgio Caoduro, to reinstate the “Wolf Creek” (Dulwich-Hill-gangster joke) scene. That wasn’t included on this production’s first outing in 2012.

In my recollection, Emma Matthews (the 2012 Lucia) was more affecting than JP, even while I’m sure Jessica was more vocally spectacular. It could be that in 2012 I had a better seat (my old music teacher, E, who had s better seat, thought JP was terrific): when you perch up on the side you are as good as in the wings and some ways and you (well, I) become a bit more conscious of the mechanics and the way in which any opera performance is an incredibly intricate and scripted colour-by-numbers operation. This tends to drag down the necessary suspension of disbelief.

By the end, however, possibly because he had the advantage of singing so much of the last act, it was Fabiano’s night.

Not that it is a competition. Really.

Reading over my 2012 post it seems that the chorus has had a little cutback from 24 to 18 each gender .

Perched up high and on the side the one thing I missed was the woodwind. With the newly configured pit the orchestra has reverted to its longtime configuration which has them at the back (only the percussion are further back), right under the lip of the stage. When the mad scene began, I wondered at how faint and distant the flute was – it was so distant I didn’t even think to listen more carefully to ascertain whethr (as in 2012) we were being treated to some simulacum of the glass harmonica.

I thought about this some more when I went to Rigoletto. Burying the woodwind so far back obliges singers to rely on the conductor almost entirely for their ensemble with any wind obbligati.

For example, whilst all ears were on the complicated cello part in Rigoletto’s Act II aria, you could hardly hear the cor anglais line and there was reason to doubt that either the c.a. player couldn’t hear Dalibor Jenis or vice versa. If it wasn’t this spot it was one like it:

Rig cello n ca

Something similar happened in the famous quartet, with Maddalena’s offbeat figure, (though not only there and not only her – I have heard tidier quartets):


By then I’d moved opportunistically down to an empty seat at the end of the front row, so the issue with the woodwind being so deeply buried was no longer one of their being obscured to me. But they still seemed further away than they were even when placed at the back in the past. I’d like to see and hear them brought back up to the front. And I think they’d be happier there too. I guess then the violas and celli will be stuck back into the depths but I think it would be worth it all the same.

Meanwhile, from my new vantage point I was blown away by leader (for the night) Huy-Nguyen Bui’s rendition of this lick in the subsequent storm scene trio:

rig scale

He dashed this off with such a dazzling sprezzatura (I’m dodging the right technical term as I have no idea if it was spiccato or sautillee or just plain staccato) that I thought (but surely imagined) that he was playing demisemiquavers on each note.

My friend Ub came to Rigoletto. I told her that there was a surprise in the last act. I meant the Fiat bambino that Rigoletto “drives” on to the stage. Unfortunately, at least with the first-night crowd, that has by now (the production first aired in 1991) lost any surprise value. I suppose that’s the thing about old productions becoming, as they say “tired” – it’s the audience which can tire rather than anything shabby on the stage.

I still like this production, and I remain a sucker for any vehicle on stage (the tram was a highlight of Golem). I still laughed at Gilda hurriedly putting out her cigarette when her father came home and fanning the smoke out the window, and the beauty of that (as well as her magazines) is that it is a foretaste of the trouble she is going to give her father.

Mind you, not all the business makes sense, at least to me. Rigoletto seems to lock Gilda in when he goes out. So why do the seducers (who come in an upstairs window with the ladder that Rigoletto is tricked into holding) then simply come down the stairs and open the door from within? If they had the key, why the ladder? And couldn’t Rigoletto smell the cigarette on Gilda’s breath? Maybe he didn’t want to notice it.

PS 19 vii: At Aida last night the woodwind were back up the front.

Saving the ABC

July 8, 2018

For anyone missing the context: despite promises made before it was first elected in 2013, our Liberal/National (ie, conservative) government has been cutting the funding of our national broadcaster, the ABC. The Liberal Party national council has voted in favour of privatising it. It is subject to constant sniping from the governmnent minister responsible for it who belongs to a mysteriously-funded right-wing think-tank which has just published a book advocating the removal of any state support for it, ie its sell off.

The minister in question denies that the Liberal party resolution is government policy, but on current projections, it’s not so hard to see a not so distant future where the ABC has been so deprived of funding that it will be in such a poor state that people will be ready to see it put out of its misery or no longer bothered to defend it.

I’ve previously written about how the cracks are starting to show at our national public music broadcaster, ABC “Classic” FM.

If you value public broadcasting in Australia, now’s the time to make a noise about it.


Today with D to the Teachers Federation Auditorium in Surry Hills for what was advertised as a “rally” convened by the Friends of the ABC.

I sold the rally to D as a demonstration. That was probably false advertising given that it was billed to take place in an auditorium, and they even asked you to RSVP.

I RSVP’d on Friday. On Sunday morning I saw in my email inbox a message sent on Saturday asking me not to come!

Due to the overwhelming response received we have filled our capacity three times over.
Unfortunately your RSVP arrived well after we had reached our capacity.
Thank you for your concern and willingness to give up your time in support of the ABC.
Please write or contact your Federal member and voice your concern and inform your MP that you were going to go the rally only to find it three times or more oversubscribed.

Blow that for a lark! Surely for any kind of political demonstration the numbers are the point. D and I resolved to go. Even if we were turned away that in itself could make a point.

“There’ll be a lot of older gents with beards,” I joked to D. I was thinking of the late Walter Bass and that kind of beard without a moustache which tend to be favoured by sixties-plus men of a left-wing or scientific/technological persuasion. I spotted the first on the front steps.

They had set up a second room with a video feed but D and I managed to squeeze in and stand right at the back. When we left, it became clear that the foyers also had been packed with sound piped out to them.

It seemed to me the model was more one of a public meeting. We had some musical items (violin and electric keyboard), speeches and the meeting culminated with a resolution. As you can see from the picture, the ABC Friends are a bit of a “grey army.” A real rally might have been a bit tough for them.

The speakers were:

Philip Adams (has a beard but with a moustache)
Sinddy Ealy (CPSU)
Kerry O’Brien (speaking in the picture – text of his speech is here)
Katelin MacInerney (MEAA)
Ebony Bennett (Australia Institute)
Tom Kenneally (who has one of those beards)
Julian Morrow (most recently EP of the just-axed ABC TV program “The Checkout”)
Magda Szubanski.

You can see the whole thing here.

Generalising a bit here, I’d say there were three strands.

First, the old-fashioned advocates of the public good, hearkening back to a possibly semi-mythical golden age of the Argonauts and before the Commonwealth Bank (and other public assets) had been privatised. I’d put Adams and Keneally in here. Whilst they got a warm welcome and both made some good points eloquently, I suspect their message would be largely water off a duck’s back for the anti-ABC agitators in the IPA and the Liberal Party. If it’s just about privatisation, they may well think, we’ve won that battle before and we will win it again.

The next strand, embodied by union reps Ealy and MacInerney. was about the effect and magnitude of the cuts on the ABC since the LNP were returned to power in 2013. It was good that E and M were there, but there are no surpises in employees of a government organisation speaking up in support of its funding.

Julian Morrow was in a strand of his own and for my money – a bit too specific to the recent fate of his particular program.

The third main strand first emerged as the audience began, in a pantomimish manner, to hiss some a reference to Malcolm Turnbull announcing cuts to the ABC. KO’B stopped them (it’s at about 51:50 into the video; his speech, which was the best and most tightly argued, starts at about 50:30). “I don’t like hissing.” he said. His point was that if the ABC was to gain the benefit of its broad support it had to reach out to those who value the ABC across the political spectrum, including people who would normally vote for the Liberal or National parties.

To me that was the real take-out lesson of the rally/meeting. That was why Magda was there (starting at 2.10 – they saved her til last) and it was the moral she drew from the Gay Marriage “survey” victory.

As they both put it, in their own ways, you have to distinguish between the hard-core antis (in this case, the Liberal Party and the IPA, say) and the reasonable people who look as though they are their supporters (ie, people who vote for those parties).

After all (this is my thought; nobody said this) if you thought (as the audience in the TF auditorium noisily demonstrated they mostly thought) the yes result in the gay marriage “survey” was a great result, not to say a resounding victory, there’s a good chance that the ABC could rustle up a better number than the “survey”‘s 62%.

Ebony Bennett from the Australia Institute made a similar point.

It’s just a simple practicality that if you value something from, in broad terms “the left,” you’ll need to speak towards the middle and even the right to muster the support you need. Maybe it’s not so different from the way that the right wing corrals the left into supporting (sometimes grudgingly) more conservatively favoured institutions such as the military, police and prisons.

At last the meeting ended, the resolution was passed and we streamed out. The poor young violinist was drowned out in the hubbub in the way that people talk over the organ when they leave a church. This was a pity because ‘Peter & the Wolf’ was livelier than the Rhachmaninov Vocalise and the Meditation from Thais she played earlier.

D was ready to march and disappointed that there was no sign of it. “You need the visibility” he said.

I don’t think we were the crowd for that. For one thing we were too conspicuously old and middle class. For another, the turnout obviously exceeded the organisers’ expectations. But I wouldn’t rule it out further down the track.

Projected behind the speakers from time to time was this image:


My first bemused thought was that someone was intending to invoke “The Argonauts.” Surely that would be a bit obscure? There cannot be many former Argonauts younger than 60. (I am, though not by much; most children of my age cohort had switched their allegiance to TV and the program dwindled to an end in 1972.)

In fact it’s the logo for an online campaign that the Friends of the ABC are mounting called “ABC Defenders“. So I suppose it’s a nod to video-gaming aesthetics and a reach-out to the younger generation.

Which is probably not a bad thing.

(As one person commented on the facebook video feed of the meeting: “Great rally. But such a pity that very few younger people attended. You really need to reach out to them if you want to be seen as fully representative voice. Go the ABC!”)

Just the ticket

July 3, 2018


My house, and my front room in particular, is still crowded to obstruction point with objects retrieved from my late father’s house. There is more in the garage.

It’s not as if I don’t have plenty of stuff myself.

And then there are the things which you won’t be able to get any more. I had a late rush of enthusiasm at Woolworths, despite years of taking my own bag there, to stock up on those “single use” plastic bags before they stop giving them away. D spent a couple of hours folding and tidying them away – perhaps we have a year’s supply now of bin liners.

Unsurprising then perhaps that I misconstrued this when I first spotted it in a shop window the other day.