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Are you hungry ? Well the Hillary Bray soup kitchen has just opened for business and there is plenty for everybody !

Bass And Flinders

The person scarred the most by Victorian MP Greg Wilton’s troubles may well end up being the Prime Minister.

All the speculation says that there will have to be a by election in Wilton’s seat of Isaacs – and the timing couldn’t be worse. Any poll between now and the Olympics will be a referendum on the GST.

There’s no way the Libs could avoid fielding a candidate – Isaacs was held by the Coalition from 1990 until it fell against the trend in 1996. Not running would be just too gutless even for the PM and a huge admission of the mess the Victorian party is in.

Instead, Isaacs looks as if it is going to become one of those landmark by elections. Will it be like Bass in 75 – the prelude to the electoral annihilation of the Whitlam Government. Or will it be like Flinders in 82 – the surprise by election win that spurred Fraser on to his fateful early election in March 83?

With all the major polls showing the government well behind, Hillary thinks the PM is about to get an almighty kick in the Bass.

And what will that mean for his leadership?

Voting With Their Feet

The polls are bad for the Federal Government – and one other interesting indicator looks grim, too. The ALP Federal Conference is still two months away – but all the business observer spots have gone.

Tactics ? What Tactics ?

The suits have clearly not been watching Question Time. Hillary, like most Libs, is more used to opposition than government, and finds Labor’s performance in the House hard to believe.

While Senate Leader John Faulkner and sidekick Robert Ray have been applying the blowtorch to ministers and their senior public servants in Estimates, Labor’s Reps Question Time efforts have been dismal.

The question on the Reconciliation Walk on Monday was well down the list and scarcely a toughie – despite the fact that it had clearly divided the Government frontbench, the backbench, the Liberal leadership team and the two parties that make up the Coalition.

Even worse, there was no question to Lex Loser about why the Foreign Minister seems to be the only person surprised by the Fiji coup.

If it wasn’t for the GST campaign costs revealed by Faulkner and Ray, Labor would have had a dismal week.

Goodness Gracious Me

Victorian Liberal MP John Richardson made a unique contribution to a cultural diversity celebration last weekend organised by the local Indian community.

Richardson, never the preferred choice for speaker at any function, was relegated to raffle duties but still made sure he would be the most memorable part of the evening by speaking in a sub-continental accent – until a party member mounted the stage and stopped him in midstream.

Vote Of Confidence

Another impressive MP is Alex Somlay, member for the Queensland Reps seat of Fairfax.

Hillary reported earlier this year that Somlay might well face a preselection challenge. He’s survived – just – against nobody.

The Queensland Liberal Party has a peculiar preselection system. Where there is only one candidate, delegates can vote for the person or vote “no”. If the “no” votes win, there is another preselection.

Somlay narrowly won – 19 votes to 16. Ironically, he appears to have been saved by a rival who had been talked out of running by the PM, who nobly turned up with a few mates to vote for Somlay. If it had been left to the rest of the locals, Somlay would have been going “no” where.

No Gould At Her Job

Smart Melbourne money is on Monica Gould as the first Bracks Government Minister to get dumped.

The hapless IR and Workcover Minister gave a wonderful demonstration of her competence recently during debate in the upper house over a compo bill

After virtually every question put to her by Chair Peter Katsambanis, she would leave her seat to seek guidance from her advisers – sometimes taking 10 minutes before coming back with an answer.

The next day, the Legislative Council President made the following comments:

“I am extremely concerned at practices that have developed in the committee stages of debates on certain bills whereby the proceedings are constantly being interrupted and delayed through ministers seeking advice from their advisers in the advisers’ box.

“Proceedings of the house are meant to flow continuously, perhaps punctuated by short breaks for references to notes, seeking statutory references or seeking brief advice. Those breaks would not normally exceed a minute; however, ministers are now often delaying the proceedings for more than 5 minutes at a time when seeking advice regarding questions raised by members in committee. This is discourteous to the committee and portrays the chamber in a particularly poor light. Persons in the galleries who may have observed such practices must go away quite puzzled as to why the house operates in such a way.

“The minister is meant to be in command of the bill that he or she is fostering through the house, even if the bill is the primary responsibility of a minister in the Legislative Assembly. Ministers in the past in this house from all sides of politics have shown the capacity to handle legislation in committee competently and to provide answers to queries posed during the committee process….

“I have consulted Hansard and have been informed that the committee stage – excluding supper – occupied five hours and 10 minutes and the estimated actual debating time was a maximum of two hours 30 minutes because of all the pauses that continually occurred.”

Looking good, Monica!

Expenditure Priorities

While we’re talking about the Victorian Parliament, the following e-mail turned up in Hillary’s inbox:

Paul Gallagher

02/06/2000 11:53

To: Parlynet Users

cc:

Subject: New Garden Facility

To increase the range of garden facilities available to Members of Parliament and staff, the bowling green at Parliament will be converted to a putting green from May to mid-September each year.

A maximum of six holes will be available for putting practice at any one time. The turf on the green is exactly the same as that found on a golf course green and will be cut at the same height.

Bookings for this new facility can be made through the booking system (Putting Green) or by phone – (Gardens Unit) 9651 8937 or 0418 833 695.

N.B. This new feature will have no impact on the performance of the bowling green during bowls season. As with any turf facility there may be occasional short periods where the putting green is temporarily unavailable due to maintenance requirements.

Paul Gallagher

Gardens Manager

Good to learn what’s happening with Stockdale’s surplus.

The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

Hillary has devised three wildly original categories to acknowledge various Liberals for their efforts over the Reconciliation Walk last weekend:

* The good -Parliamentary Secretary Trish Worth and the Member for Parramatta Ross Cameron join the list of Federal Liberal MPs who took part in the walk – with a special mention for former MP and minister Warwick Smith.

* The bad – the moronic Minister for Tourism and Howard pet Jackie Kelly for her comments at a trade show that the walk was “a positive message to be sold”. If it was so good for Australia’s international reputation, why weren’t you there, Minister? Scared of rodents? (Hillary has a sneaking feeling that, when Ms Kelly’s career is over, all she’ll be remembered for is wearing a black g-string under white slacks at her swearing in.)

* The ugly – one time moderate Amanda “The Incredible Bulk” Vanstone’s charming doorstop comments hosing down the walk. The most charitable interpretation Hillary can put on her remarks is that The Bulk believes the story about Jocelyn Newman and an impending Cabinet vacancy.

Polite Conversation

Private boardroom lunches are some of the more convivial affairs senior political figures attend, offering a feed with a full – but friendly – exchange of views.

The details of these conversations very rarely seep out, but reports from a leading Labor leaning law firm say a recent guest, Kim Beazley, confessed one of his greatest fears – a Costello ascension to the Liberal leadership in the run up to the next poll.

No NUKES

South Australian Premier John Olsen must be about to run out of friends soon.

In a desperate bid to assuage public opinion, the Olsen Government this week introduced legislation into State Parliament to ban the creation of a nuclear waste dump in SA – following bills from both the Democrats and ALP.

Federal Industry, Science and Resources Minister Nick Minchin – an old factional pal of Olsen’s – is said to be particularly unimpressed by the move. Hillary hears that Olsen had previously agreed not to rock the boat over the dump – and Minchin copped a few days worth of bucketing from Adelaide’s hick town daily, the Advertiser, over the matter.

South Australian Liberal politics make the Balkans situation look calm and easy to explain – so the latest gos says Minchin is now working to dump the hapless premier.

Meanwhile, Adelaide polly watchers have noted the irony that underlines the situation – Olsen seemed very happy to bask in the limelight when the third stage of the giant Beverly uranium mine was opened last year, but doesn’t seem to want the product back after it’s been used.

Wentworth Wiles

The cops have been called in by a hysterical Andrew Thomson to investigate alleged branch stacking in Wentworth, and the name of a certain Paddington Young Lib is popping up all over the place.

At the same time, preselection candidate Jason Falinski has been a target of a campaign claiming he does not live in the electorate.

Hillary has heard it said that at the time of their preselection, the last three members for Wentworth were in exactly the same situation – Thomson lived in Melbourne (but had a Sydney abode near his golf course at Camden and there was a lovely family pied-a-terre at Double Bay), John Hewson lived in a unit in Potts Point (a very nice unit, Hillary believes) and Peter Coleman, Tanya Costello’s dad, lived on the North Shore.

Quote Of The Week

This extract from Wednesday’s Hansard really speaks for itself:

OECD: Trade Figures

Mr TIM FISCHER (2.48 p.m.)-My question is directed to the Treasurer and it relates to different OECD matters. On this day when the Prime Minister, a former OECD delegate, passes the period of service of Paul Keating, I ask: would the Treasurer inform the House of the OECD’s latest report on the world economic outlook. What are the OECD’s projections for the Australian and world economies?

Mr COSTELLO-I thank the honourable member for Farrer for his question and, on behalf of the government, I too add my congratulations to the Prime Minister for passing the period of time of the prime ministership of Mr Keating. May I say that Australia is much better for his prime ministership. Interest rates are lower, the budget is in surplus, unemployment has fallen, and many more Australians have been given an opportunity under the prime ministership of Mr John Howard….

Minister for Health and Aged Care: MRI Scans

Mr BEAZLEY (2.53 p.m.)-It was a very nice valedictory for his leader. Didn’t you think so, Mr Speaker?

Mr SPEAKER-The Leader of the Opposition will come to his question or lose the opportunity…

In The Papers

Queensland Liberal Fed Cameron Thomson was embarrassed last week at reports that he made looking after his children when required a condition of employment for his staff. Of course, you, dear reader, saw the matter raised here back in March.

Meanwhile Michelle Grattan reports in Friday’s Sydney Morning Herald that Jocelyn Newman may step down soon. Funny – Crikey readers have known about that since the beginning of last months.

Identity Crisis

Readers of the Australian’s Media section will have seen the exciting revelation in the Diary column of May 25 that Hillary Bray is actually Gold Council spokesman Greg Barns and lobbyist Andrew Parker.

It came as news to Hillary – and to Barns and Parker too. Especially Parker. He says he had already provided an on the record denial to the column’s author, journalist Amanda Meade.

Parker fired off a fax to the Oz correcting the matter that very day, but nothing has appeared – and Amanda Meade seems to be unable to click on [email protected], as Hillary hasn’t heard from her.

Hillary, however, will happily accept an invitation to do the “My Media” spot as an apology…

Peter Fray

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