Poliies sleeping in their office, failing to donate to the party and buying sex videos in Kings Cross are just some of the juicy morse our Howard insider has come up with this week.

Sleeping Rough?

Spending the night on the Parliament House office sofas has never been approved of. They might be big and comfy, pollies and staff might work long hours, but crashing down at the office is just not done – especially after the 1997 travel rorts affair.

However, House gossip says Victorian Liberal Senator Tsebin Tchen- elected in 1998 after a bitter preselection battle between the Kennett camp and the Costello/Kroger forces – has become a devotee of the practice.

If you’re reading this, Senator, we’d love to know if the claims are true and, if so, what’s happening to your $145 a day travel allowance.

Sphere Of Influence

Laurie Oakes is big in more than just the waistline department. His Sunday program interviews can be vital agenda setters for the coming week in politics, and his Bulletin column provides the only reason political hacks ever even look at the mag (buying it would be going a bit too far).

His remarks this week have provoked consternation in some senior Liberal circles – Kim Beazley’s tax gaffes have happened because unlike other pols “he is not naturally devious”; “in the view of a growing number of Liberal MPs the rural tail is now wagging the Coalition dog”; “the constant emphasis on the bush… left significant sections of the community out of the picture”; “growing concern among city Liberals about the government’s appease-the bush-at-all costs approach”; “sensitivity about the bush is being exploited to strengthen the position of the conservatives” – let alone the unattributed quote from “a normally reticent Liberal backbencher… ‘by driving the party to the right they’re making it less appealing to many city voters’.”

The PM is already convinced of a Murdoch conspiracy. Now, with Peter Costello and Jamie Packer publicly swapping niceties, another terrible thought must be slowly starting to gnaw away – et tu, Kerry?

Pokemon – The First Photo-Op

Customs Minister Amanda Vanstone took advantage of a slow news day last weekend by calling a Sunday press conference to show her steadfastness in protecting Australian kiddies from the menace of fake Pokemon merchandise.

Amanda loves these show and tell sessions. Federal Police drugs busts now rarely pass without her turning them into a photo-op

In May last year Amanda gave the media a guided tour of a people smuggling boat apprehended off the New South Wales coast. It’s funny now, what with all the boats turning up on the coast, the stunt hasn’t been repeated.

NT Confidential

Last week’s mention of Northern Territory Treasurer Michael Reed brought a couple of interesting e-mails that jogged Hillary’s mind.

A few years back Reed, visiting Sydney on official business, was spotted in a Kings Cross sex shop buying X-rated gay porn videos, one featuring “firemen” – ironic for the then emergency services minister. Even more ironically, sale of the item was – and remains – illegal in New South Wales. The only parts of Australia where such items can be obtained legally are Canberra – and the Northern Territory.

Mr Reed later said the purchase was for research purposes. So why didn’t he just pop down the street in Darwin?

It’s Grim Up North

Staying in the Territory, Chief Minister and Attorney General Dennis Burke’s remarks on the justice system demonstrating a complete misunderstanding of the concept of separation of powers between the parliament and the judiciary has provoked comparison with Joh Bjelke-Peterson

There are vital differences. Joh comes from Kingaroy, while Burke is a native of Townsville.

We must also remember that Burke appears to be highly qualified to make pronouncements on the subtleties of matters of law. A quick glance at his website shows that before entering the Territory Assembly, he served in the army. Oh, yes. He also has an interest in rugby union, and is patron of the Show Dog Handlers Club and the NT Gymnastic Association.

The New Recruit

Christopher Pearson, very occasional speech writer to John Howard, Financial Review columnist and editor of the taxpayer funded right wing monthly freesheet The Adelaide Review, has signed up to a Liberal Party branch in the Adelaide beachside electorate of Morphet.

Curiously, Pearson has not disclosed his newly formalised Liberal Party affiliation to his Fin Review readers. Even more curious is Pearson’s choice of branch, with questions being asked why Pearson, a resident of a Labour marginal state electorate, should offer to lend a hand in safe Liberal territory.

Surely it has nothing to do with preselection maneuverings in the seat being engineered by the right wing of the South Australian Liberal Party. Philosophs such as Pearson are not swayed by such crude considerations.

Laminex Leader?

Is Natasha Stott-Despoja a laminex – cheap and nasty?

According to the recently released Electoral Commission returns of political donations, the generous Democrat deputy leader didn’t make a declarable donation to her own party.

Leader Meg Lees was good for $3,000. WA Senator Andrew Murray gave over $6,000 and Victoria’s Lynn Allison $10,000. Gary Numan look-a-like Senator Andrew Bartlett kicked in just under $10,000, while his fellow Queenslander John Woodley provided almost $14,000.

Even Natasha’s South Australian state parliamentary colleagues, Michael Elliot and Ian Gilfillan were able to donate more than $8,500 between them, while Western Australian Democrat Legislative Councilor Norm Kelly was able to spare five and a bit grand.

Poor Natty. Being fabulous mustn’t come cheap.

Wanna Mess With Big Steve Martin? Fuggedaboutit!

Shadow defence minister Stephen Martin must be confused. Yes, his portfolio is all about protection – but not in the Don Corleone sense.

Still, Big Steve insists on wandering Parliament House in a dark suit, dark shirt and dark tie. Presumably security make him leave the violin case at the door.

Turning In His Grave

Are gremlins sabotaging Hansard or do its staff need a crash course in politics? Last week’s proof Hansard had the seat of Kooyong – home of our longest serving Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, longest serving pretender to the prime ministership, Andrew Peacock, and longest ignored backbench talent in the current government, Petro Georgiou – misspelled as “Cooyong”.

Ming the Merciless would have had the miscreant responsible summarily dismissed.

Hillary Bray can be contacted at

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