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Judging by the number of “desparate” mails I received this week demanding hillary’s piece, there should be some happy people out there.

People looking for political exclusives don’t usually go to the Brisbane Courier Mail’s gossip column – but its editor, Brian Williams, scored a beauty this week.

Williams obviously has been talking to the same people as Hillary. He’s also heard that the PM is so interested in the Queensland seat about to be vacated by long serving Liberal MP Kathy Sullivan, Moncrieff, because he wants to see Queensland National Party Leader Rob Borbidge in the seat – as a Liberal.

Borbidge is playing coy, but there is a precedent for such a move – one time Joh for PMer “Slippery Pete” Slipper has followed an identical path into the Commonwealth Parliament.

There’s a big plus in such a move for the PM. He wouldn’t just get another right winger into the Parliament. It would also effectively knee-cap Queensland right powerbroker Santo Santoro.

The PM and Santo have had a big falling out of late – the little fella has recently broken a long standing tradition and no longer stays at Santo’s when he is in Queensland. Last week the Courier Mail reported that PM had barred Federal MP’s from doing fundraisers for Santo because of fears “Santoro was using fund-raisers to push Mr Costello’s cause”.

Santo currently holds the numbers in Moncrieff, but if the PM was to run someone as acceptable to the National Right as Borbidge, he would have little option but to fall in line and support him.

Hume Or Hovel

The PM, however, still seems to have little interest in the fate of his own finance minister in his own state – or should we say little direct interest.

Last weekend the Australian’s political correspondent Dennis Shanahan published an fevered piece on the Hume preselection covered with Tony O’Leary’s fingerprints.

It was quite an extraordinary effort:

“Active support for Fahey, even if behind the scenes, could become as important a symbol of disharmony among the Liberal leadership group as Peter Costello’s refusal to walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge in support of reconciliation.

“Fahey is Costello’s mate and a supporter; there is even the possibility that the Finance Minister could one day be Costello’s running mate.

“Apart from the leadership questions, which some are always ready to exploit, there is a potential impact on the relationship between the National and Liberal Parties and the outcome of the election itself.

“The simple political logic is that Fahey should remain in his own now precarious seat and fight Labor…”

Then, we got this extraordinary sentimental guff:

“Schultz’s financial future is far from certain if he fails to gain Liberal endorsement for Hume. His pension is only that of a state backbencher and he has faced a financial drain from a long-running court case involving his son. Buying a new flat in Goulburn isn’t helping his finances.

“On the other hand, Fahey has the pension of a former premier to fall back on, including the services of a taxpayer-funded car and driver, secretary and office for his use. There is also a far greater likelihood that the Finance Minister and Olympics-winning premier will be able to secure corporate appointments than a former meatworker who has never risen above the level of the backbench.”

What a load of bollocks! As if Alby will be destitute because he only has a backbenchers pension compared to Fahey’s package. As if that should have anything to do with the pre-selection.

Back before the last election the PM tried to block Bruce Baird’s push against Stephen Mutch in Cook – not because Mutch was a talented performer, but because he voted the right way. Exactly the same thing is happening in Hume.

And don’t worry too much about Alby’s finances. His voters don’t. When he won preselection for Hume, wife Gloria contested his old state seat of Burrinjuck. She lost – badly – as constituents wondered just how many parliamentary pensions the family wanted.

Labor’s No Love Lost

Hillary’s not alone in his/her views on Shanahan’s sources. Kim Beazley reportedly told business observers at the recent New South Wales Labor Party state conference that Shanahan draws most of his inspiration from the PM’s office.

Is O’Dreary really bright enough to come up with all those columns?

The Sage Of Moe

Sticking with the Australian, Glenn Milne’s column from last Monday can’t go without comment. The Coalition is falling apart! Well, maybe – but surely Milne could find someone just a little more senior than a rank and file member of the National Party to say so.

His Monday effort that introduced us Brian Handley, president of the local National Party branch in that famed cosmopolitan city of ideas, Moe, and a dissertation he has prepared on the future of his party, the Coalition and the Government. Economics Correspondent Sid Marris breathlessly referred to this incredible exclusive the following day.

In preparing his work, Handley his clearly been influenced by the RARA philosoph Hanrahan and his cogent articulation of the doctrine of “We’ll all be rooned”.

Handley’s work is notable – as an illustration of just how confused the National Party’s core philosophy is (small government, lower taxation and less red tape combined with massive intervention, protection, subsidies, support for special interest groups and state ownership, as far as Hillary can discern). But why should Handley be so special – Milne surely has “Mad Bob” Katter’s phone number, and he advocates an equally schizophrenic range of policies?

Moe, the town that bought us Jaidyn, Bilynda and Breehanna – the town where tossing a pig’s head through the window is a common gesture of endearment – isn’t exactly known as a centre of learning.

All Handley’s contributions do is demonstrate just how confused the National Party is, how its members should show a little intellectual honesty in the face of contemporary economic reality and work out whether they belong with the Libs, the ALP or One Nation – and how stuck for stories even senior members of the Gallery can get.

Taxing Times

Our paranoid PM must have loved the News Limited tabloids’ front pages on GST treatment of food Thursday. The Telegraph’s “Raw prawn” warmed the hearts of all us members of the Cult of Col, while the Advertiser’s “Dog’s breakfast” showed uncharacteristic imagination and flair.

The intensity of News Limited’s campaign against the Government seems set to be yet another thing that will increase after July 1 – Gallery gos says there’s a lot more to come.

Party Man

More journo troubles! Hillary hears that cruel wits in the Gallery have voted the Hindenburg “Minister Most Likely to Wear a Lampshade on His Head”.

Have they no respect?

Wentworth Whitewash ?

The Wentworth saga continues, with letters supposedly going out from the acting New South Wales Liberal state director to over 200 branch members warning if they do not reply stating that they paid for their membership, wanted to join and signed the form themselves, their membership will be cancelled.

Unsurprisingly, the letter has upset a number of people – such as those who have belonged to local branches for over 20 years – and barrister’s letters have started to fly questioning under what provisions the director can make such a threat.

Curiously, Liberal insiders say the letter appears to have been sent to some very strategic branches that are known to not support Andrew Thomson, while those few left supporting him seem to have been left alone.

This so-called special treatment left more than a few people puzzled – until reports began to circulate that former Liberal federal president Tony Staley was overheard to say that men of Andrew Thomson’s connections should be looked after. Some New South Wales Libs now believe that being a member of the Melbourne establishment can also count in Sydney.

These sources say police have refused to interview anyone connected with the fraud allegations, much less investigate Thomson’s claims – but that Staley remains undeterred. However, they wonder why he has not extended his investigation to other equally suspicious events.

There are claims that 23 members of the Lebanese community joined the Manly Young Liberals in one batch a few weeks ago – and, as Hillary has reported before, real fears exist over the Monk’s preselection.

At a state level, there have been claims that unsuccessful candidate Sam Witheridge has been, er, devoting much time to the Greek and Lebanese communities in Cronulla. Some Libs claim that his membership of the party’s administration committee has prevented investigation – despite claims that one woman rang Riley Street to complain she had been joined up without her knowledge.

Party Reform

All this occurs against a frantic background of reform in the New South Wales Liberal Party.

In a brilliant move for party democracy, the administration committee has decided to ignore the motion which established it and extend its operation. Of course, it has a good excuse – it still hasn’t come up with any workable reform proposal.

However, two thirds of the committee agree on a pro-rata state council and other changes. It’s just that Bill Heffernan and his good mates in the lunar right object to any meaningful reform – except for whatever’s needed to allow the new Lyenko Urbanchich, David Clarke, to become a member of the NSW Upper House.

Hillary can’t wait to hear about the admin committee’s latest deliberations.

Give A Chick The Chop

Staying in New South Wales, as Hillary files Kerry Chikarovski is still leader of the state Liberal Party. Fatty O’Barrel wants the job. John Brogden bignotes himself as a future leader. And the party clearly has a death wish.

Bad Timing

It was though Chikka would be safe until after the Olympic Games – but Hillary hears the latest manoeuverings have left the other main contender for the top job, Shadow Olympics spokesperson Chris Hartcher, terribly, terribly torn.

It might look a bit greedy to get the top job and hang onto the Olympics portfolio – but if he lets that go he’ll lose all his freebies for the Games.

On The Ball

And as an aside, Don Harwin, the newest member of the NSW Upper House and wannabe numbers man, was apparently unaware his Leader had been threatened by Peter Debnam and the shadow treasurer sacked – until a journo asked him for a comment a full day and half later.

They do work them hard up there on the red benches!

Positions Vacant II

The New South Wales Libs are finding it tough to fill the state director’s spot – and gossip over who will get the equivalent job in Victoria has got so hot it’s nearly boiling over.

Talk says that none other than the Jeffmeister himself is putting pressure on the head of the recruitment agency charged with filling the gap at 104 Exhibition Street to recommend former health minister Rob Knowles for the position.

Knowles is said to be the hot favourite, given the make-up of the state executive. After all, he was Kennett’s favoured successor – and, of course, his failed bid to move to the lower house clearly shows that he’s just the man the Victorian party needs.

Another name in circulation is that of John Fetter, former chief of staff to Phil Gude. Fetter has recently set up a consultancy with Gude and a few others, so there is speculation he would not be interested in the gig. However, Fetter has a savvy political brain, fresh ideas and has a bit of spark – and he worked at 104 back in the halcyon days of Petro and the guilty party.

Current Exhibition Street worker and former Peacock staffer Brett Barton has also been tipped, but a significant number of Libs say his permanent bad mood and surly nature would crush any existing moral in the people still left in the secretariat.

Barton was closely involved in strategy for the Jeff.com campaign. This doesn’t inspire much hope in members stuck in marginal federal seats that he will be able salvage anything from the GST wreckage. Indeed, one Melbourne mole tells Hillary “promoting Barton would basically be a confirmation that the Lib party is happy to accept more of the same and would prove a failure to accept that the 199 campaign was a disaster.”

Peripatetic political hack from Queensland David Fraser is another favourite for the job – although one school of thought says he is a little shop soiled.

Also said to be running is Richard Allsop, a staffer for Assistant Treasurer Rod Kemp, and a former chief of staff to both Alan Brown and Robin Cooper when they held the transport portfolio.

The final contender appears to be Brian Loughnane, Chief of Staff to the incredibly successful John Moore and a former senior staffer for John Hewson. Loughnane is just the sort of person a party shell shocked by a surprise defeat needs – not. A tube of sparkle gel toothpaste has more personality.

Will Work For Food

Ho Chi Minchin is doing good deeds. Hillary hears he is asking around Canberra if there are any diplomatic vacancies suitable for lacklustre South Australian Senator Grant Chapman.

Of course, his selfless gesture might have something to do with creating a vacancy before Senate preselections in October – and finding a berth for the talentless – but malleable – South Australian Liberal state president Corey Bernardi.

I Love The Night Life, I Love To Boogie…

A Casanova staff member of South Australian Deputy Premier Rob Kerin can apparently often be found entertaining “friends” in his boss’ boardroom – equipped with a well stocked fridge – at around midnight on Friday and Saturday nights.

Gives a whole new meaning to working overtime.

Peter Fray

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