How is it that the people of rural and regional Australia moan about European and US subsidies but then constantly have their arms extended for hand-outs.

Treasurer Peter Costello has been off this week feeling the anger and suffering of rural and regional Australia – i.e. gently hinting at the fact that international oil and commodity prices aren’t determined over a few beers at the Goondiwindi RSL – dispatched with these kind words from the short bloke himself “Peter is very understanding of the difficulties of people in country Australia”.

Poor Cozzie has been under attack by the RARA rorters since he mentioned a few facts of life on AM: “Farmers have probably had the best deal out of fuel taxation reform of any group in Australia. Let me say very briefly what it is. There is no excise on diesel they use off-road. They don’t pay any tax at all for their diesel for their tractors and their headers. Secondly, the diesel on-road which transports their goods to and from the farm or to and from the supermarket or the corner store where they buy stuff, the tax was cut 24 cents a litre. Where they use petrol in their business, tax was cut 10 per cent. They get all of the GST back – all of the GST back. So the only place that a farmer will actually face the consumer rate is when they are using a car for private purposes, non business purposes”.

Such callousness! Such wanton brutality! Has the man no feelings?

Let’s tackle another question, instead. Why all this bullshit in the face of the facts? Why all this grovelling to one of the more mollycoddled minorities in the land?

All too many people still seem to suffer a delusion from the days when this country was nothing more than HM Prison Australia that the authorities control everything – flood, fire, sun, sea, wind and rain included. Oddly enough, it ain’t so.

Hillary has no recollection that Australia has ever practised the same policies China favoured during the Cultural Revolution or followed trends set by the Khmer Rouge. To the best of Hillary’s knowledge, we have never forced people to live in rural areas – sent dissidents into internal exile or made the urban bourgeoisie grow feed for the Western Plains Zoo or whatever – all of which makes the wails of our RARA rorters even harder to explain.

Hanrahan’s principle – we’ll all be rooned – has been around for more than a while. The punters have heard it before – and have become immune. So when the hell are our rural rorters going to realise that they live in the same world as the rest of us and have good times and bad? What puts them above everybody else?

Hillary has a quick way to bring them back to earth. RARAs – sell your farms and move to where the jobs in the contemporary economy are. You say you hate the way the European Community subsidises uneconomic units of production and the US protects its farmers? So why are you always clamouring for lurks and perks that will guarantee membership of the Hall of Shame for yourselves?

Sell up to whoever can turn a buck and afford to carry the risk. Or for Christ’s sake, stop your bloody whinging.

PS Very cool sunnies, Mr Treasurer. Quite a fashion statement. And can the little fella vault a fence?

Bob’s bill’s a beauty

What about Mad Bob Katter’s Telecard bill, then! More special funding for rural and regional Australia? And if phone services in the bush are as lousy as Bob and the Nats keep on telling us, how the hell did he even manage run up a 28 grand tab?

Good news, weak sense of humour

Hillary has received more fascinating e-mail on Natasha Stott-Despoja’s media career. We might as well run this one in its entirety:

“Apropos your reference to Natasha Spot Destroyer’s appearances on Good News Week: The story of Daele Healy’s writing for GNW is a little more interesting. When Natasha first went on the show, they realised she wasn’t funny. Healey was already on her staff, and was dragooned into writing Natasha’s “ad Libs” so that she would at least appear to have a sense of humour. The Good News Weak (sic) team thought Healey’s stuff to be pretty funny, so got her to contribute to the show as a writer. Ah well, with GNW on the way out, Healey will be able to look after Natty on a full time basis, so expect side splitting stuff in the Senate once again.”

If this is the case, then it raises yet another pile of questions: Did Daele write material for anyone other than Natasha? Was this material ever political in nature? Was this considered ethical? Was it appropriate? Did Daele receive payment for her work from GNW’s producers? Did this occur when GNW was on the ABC? If so, did anyone consider that it compromised the ABC’s independence?

And – most important of all – are the media apologists for the ABC and Natty going to drop their subjectivity and do their job and actually follow any of this stuff up?

PS Hillary also hears that a quick profile of Daele herself would make fascinating reading – but might save that one for later.

Strange silence

The week before last, Electoral Commissioner Andy “Alfred E Neuman” Becker told the joint Committee on Electoral Matters that our system of voting was in “good shape”.

At the time of writing – despite an amazing week in Queensland – we haven’t heard another peep out from him – not even his trademark “What, me worry?”.

Pushin’, shovin’ and Jocelyn

Wow! The Prime Miniature has a rough few weeks ahead. Over the last week an amazing war for frontbench spots has been fought out under the guise of welfare reform.

It all started off with spec pieces in the Sunday rags over an end of year reshuffle – including one in the Smellie that tipped the Mad Monk as a possible successor to Jocelyn Newman in the Family and Community Services portfolio.

The short bloke has a lot riding on welfare reform. Whoever pulls it off will get big marks – and Jocelyn clearly wants to end her career with a bang.

A proxy war – conducted by “close” or “senior” sources and abetted with the odd strategic leak – continued throughout the week, along with astonishing interventions such as Newman going to air halfway through AM to deny a report at the top of the program.

All this shows that the natives are getting restless – and if the PM thinks he has problems constraining the ambitions of his frontbench, he should have a look at the rest of the mob.

If Jackie Kelly is a Minister, any backbencher is entitled to feel that they’re in with a chance – unless, of course, they regularly get to their feet in the House to sing the Teletubbies theme.

Caring and sharing – and shut out

Making ill-advised comments – loudly and publicly – is a guaranteed way of not becoming a minister.

The publicity shy Brendan Nelson told a seminar a couple of weeks ago that Australians should be prepared to sacrifice economic growth to meet social priorities.

Hillary hears the PM is none to pleased by the good doctor’s comments. He’s afraid they might confuse his beloved “aspirational” classes.

Slave driver?

There are mutterings in the corridors about relations between Victorian Federal MP Phil Baressi and his staff. Hillary hears that the way things are going Peter “The Living Dead” Wreath will soon have to send in the troops.

Value for money

Senate Estimates roll round again – the time Ministers and their senior bureaucrats are grilled to see if they are offering us value for money.

So what the hell was Robert Ray thinking when he grilled the Governor-General’s Secretary Martin Bonsey about stammers and stumbles at the Olympic opening ceremony.

Surely Mr Bonsey has better things to do and – oh the irony of it all – surely Senator Ray can think of better ways to use public time and money?

Bring on the tollroads

Paul Keating’s favourite journo Brian Toohey tells us in this week’s Sun-Herald that the Carr government is set to announce $2-$3 billion worth of tollroad projects this week.

This would no doubt be music to the ears of the world’s biggest tollroad company, Macquarie Bank, which has Alan “Transurban” Stockdale chairing its asset and infrastructure division.

The millionaires at the Labor-connected spin doctoring outfit Hawker-Britten will also doubtless be very pleased. They have a juicy gig lobbying for Macquarie over rail projects in Victoria at the moment.

This decision to go the private rather than the public route on future tollroads is a basic admission that the big spending Carr regime have blown the budget big time on the Olympics and union feather-bedding.

Despite five years of boom time in Sydney complete with surging property values, Carr’s tax and spenders can’t even afford to invest in basic infrastructure such as roads. Joan Kirner would be very proud of their financial performance.

Hawker-Britten will be licking their chops at the prospect of earning more fat Macquarie fees. And how ironic that Carr’s current chief of staff, Graham Wedderburn, has worked for Hawker-Britten in the past.

ICAC will probably never bother to delve into this cosy relationship between the NSW Right and Macquarie Bank because ICAC chairman Irene Moss is the wife of McBank MD Allan Moss.

And it was the powerbrokers at Hawker-Britten who got her this great job.

Paul Lyneham

Paul Lyneham had a fearsome presence on air. He could strike fear into any pol from Prime Ministers down.

Dealing with press secs, he was a perfect gentleman – unlike many other journalists of his stature.

Hillary is sorry Paul is gone, and wishes his family well.

Hillary Bray can be contacted at [email protected]