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Who said she wouldn’t see the year out unexposed? Hillary Bray has filed yet another interesting column of political gossip and still no-one is any closer to working out who she is in real life.

If the sainted editor can run for various boards, why shouldn’t Hillary contest a seat in Federal Parliament?

Now that John Moore has resigned, Hillary is thinking more and more about running for the seat of Ryan. Hillary would be the perfect candidate. Hillary’s demographics exactly match those of most rank and file Liberal Party members in the seat. Not only does Hillary not live in the electorate, Hillary doesn’t even live in the state.

Urban myth

Vis-a-vis that previous item, Hillary hears that the famous Hong Kong Ryan branch members might not stick around. Contrary to general opinion, Hillary understand that they were mates of John Moore, not Michael Johnson people.

Hillary’s Holiday Quiz – Part 1

Which prominent conservative candidate from Victoria is a “golden showers” specialist?

New opportunities

Since John Herron has been made redundant, Queensland Lib president Con Galtos’ grip on the job is looking shakier and shakier.

The Queensland Libs are hopelessly divided, but they agree on one thing. Now that he’s got more time on his hands, Herron would make an excellent party president.

Hillary’s Holiday Quiz – Part 2

Who is known in broadcasting circles as Closet McCloset?

Bedazzled

Editors across the nation have clearly been bedazzled by the beauty of Belinda Neal.

Yes, that’s the only explanation of how journos and editors fell for la belle Belinda’s polling showing she would attract a 1.5 per cent higher vote than Trish Moran as the Labor candidate in Robertson, given that any honest pollster would tell you that the margin of error would be at least three per cent.

Naturally, the partner of such a political operative famed for his integrity such as John “Pineapple Face” Della Bosca wouldn’t mistake a random sampling error for fact.

Hillary’s Holiday Quiz – Part 3

Which Senator lives in a different state to the one he represents?

Unfinished business

Before the reshuffle, there was much speculation that Industry, Science and Resources Minister Nick “Ho Chi” Minchin would get a new job.

However, Hillary hears that the Prime Miniature decreed “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” and has left the hapless Ho to deal with the disastrous decision to grant the contract for the new Lucas Heights reactor to a company from that powerhouse of technology, Argentina.

Hillary’s Holiday Quiz – Part 4

Which senior member of the PM’s staff obsessively calls up the Australian’s political reporter Dennis Shanahan to give him an earful any time he reports comments by Malcolm Fraser?

Economic irrationalism

Beacoups of boos to Peter Costello for his decision this week to retain the three per cent tariff of imported business inputs.

Not even One Nation, not even the Dems, no enemy of free enterprise, Christ, not even Bob Katter could support a policy like this whacking a tariff on components of items assembled in Australia but not made locally that actually adds to the costs of the local goods.

This is a bizarre hangover from long gone days that any sensible government should remove even though the tariff fees help top up the Treasury coffers.

Transport policy no longer requires a man with a red flag to walk in front of cars – so why can’t industry policy be updated?

Hillary’s Holiday Quiz Part 5

What do these people have in common Lee Bermingham, Warwick Powell, Joe Felice and Shaun Rohrlach?

Buffy’s toughies

Tough times continue for the perpetually embattled South Australian Premier Buffy Olsen.

Adelaide gos claims that his chief of staff, Vicky Thompson, in a wonderful vote of confidence recently went for a job interview interstate.

He cannot carry out a planned New Year reshuffle as his notional ally, the arch conservative Attorney General Trevor Griffin has not honoured a deal that he would stand down from the ministry when he announced he would retire at the next election.

In a further sign of weakness, he has also been ignored by another Minister, Michael Armitage. Armo is under challenge in his marginal seat of Adelaide from a former Lord Mayor turned Labor candidate, Jane Lomax-Smith, and is panicking. He has now declared he will up stumps and run for the eastern suburbs seat of Bragg, where disgraced former deputy premier Graham “Bingo” Ingerson is retiring much to the chagrin of locals.

Buffy already leads a minority government and is less than impressed with Armo’s chicken act. Understandably, Buffy believes an incumbent minister stands a better chance of beating a strong opponent than a newcomer but he doesn’t have the guts or the authority to block Armitage

Armo, however, believes he has found the perfect candidate in millionaire and current Deputy Lord Mayor, Michael Harbison. Harbison has a high profile. He has grand plans such as damming the River Torrens, redesigning Adelaide’s squares, building a rocket to the moon but there’s always one hitch. None of them come off. Indeed, it is said that his IQ is in inverse relation to his wealth. Harbison has been able to use his money to pay for splashy council campaigns and PR advisers, but will find that the bar is set high when you attempt to jump from local government into the big league.

Finally, Hillary gathers that the two staff Buffy according to his pressie sacked last month over naughty e-mails to a female Labor MP are still on the government payroll. Perhaps local star reporter “Scoop” Kelton can follow that one up over summer.

Hillary’s Holiday Quiz Part 6

Which Federal Minister is so obsessed with portraying a young, dynamic image that he holds meetings in his gym gear?

Kick me

What is it about “Slippery Pete” Slipper that makes him such an inviting target for practical jokes? The tale of the prank call from the PM’s office over a ministerial spot has done the rounds, but Slippery Pete was the victim of an equally delicious trick in the last sitting week.

Slippery always has at least two packages of papers sent into him during Question Time so he can look important and impress his fellow MPs with his diligence.

In one the last Question Time, a package appeared for Slippery but it didn’t seem to make sense. All it contained was a set of random news clips. Then another appeared this time with maps. Slippery, in a rage, rang his office to find out what was going on, only to discover his chief of staff was off at lunch. She was dragged out of the staff caff and claimed ignorance. Still the packages kept coming including one containing some rather risque material.

Slippery summoned the attendants over and asked them what was going on. The blokes looked puzzled and said they was just passing them on as asked, presumably, by Slippery’s staff. Slippery asked them to describe these people but they couldn’t quite recall. One thought they were tall. Another thought they were short. One though they had dark hair, while another though they were blonde.

By now, Slippery was beside himself. He called his office once again and demanded that his staff come down to the Reps chamber and man all the access points to see just what was going on. That was too much for the Government Whip, Michael Ronaldson. He told them to go back to the office and that he’d take care of it but still the packages kept coming.

Finally, towards the end of Question Time, one final package arrived containing a note reading “Merry Christmas from Entschy”. Poor Pete. It was all a joke fellow Queenslander Warren Entsch, Ronaldson and the attendants had thought up.

Hillary’s Holiday Quiz Part 7

Which former teacher in a prominent role in a state government is the subject of claims not a million miles removed from those made against Bill D’arcy?

A Howard Government Christmas

This joint release from Immigration Minister Phillip Ruddock and Customs Minister the Incredible Bulk has just landed in Hillary’s in-tray:

22 December 2000

MR S. CLAUS REPORTED TRAVEL ARRANGEMENTS

The Government wishes to make its position clear in the face of concerted public and media speculation that a Mr Santa Claus will visit Australia at some time over the night of 24/25 December.

Mr Claus is not the holder of a valid Australian visa, nor has he lodged an application. Australia does not have visa free travel arrangements with Mr Claus’ alleged place of residence, the North Pole.

This means that should he attempt to enter Australia, Mr Claus will be an illegal immigrant. When apprehended, he will be placed in the Woomera Detention Centre, pending deportation.

Mr Claus is reportedly travelling in a sleigh driven by reindeer. Again, no quarantine arrangements have been entered into by Mr Claus. To protect Australian livestock, any animals accompanying Mr Claus will be destroyed.

In addition, Mr Claus is said to be travelling with a number of items described as “presents”. No customs declarations have been made or import permits sought by Mr Claus regarding these. Any goods he is travelling with will be impounded and later auctioned by the Commonwealth to meet the fees and charges associating with the processing of this case.

Further information: Steve Ingram (Mr Ruddock’s Office) 02 6277 7860 or Kevin Donnellan (Senator Vanstone’s Office) 02 6277 7260

And if that wasn’t enough, check out last week’s column.

Fia Cumming is a bloody bitch

After last week bagging journos who fill in the slow summer recess by predicting reshuffles, Hillary planned to be a complete hypocrite and open the column by shamelessly suggesting a reshuffle is imminent- then was scooped by Fia Cumming.

So to salvage Hillary’s pride, here are a few forecasts: it’s happening this week, Jocelyn “Three Pensions” Newman is going, the Incredible Bulk will be back in the Cabinet as Immigration Minister and the Government’s new campaign to scare off illegal immigrants will consist of distributing postcards of the Bulk in one of her tasteful ensembles.

Proxy war

Next month’s Young Liberal federal convention is suddenly taking on a whole new significance.

Workplace Relations Minister The Living Dead is pulling out all stops to see that one of his staff, Daniel Clode, is elected as Young Lib federal VP – and therefore gets a place on the national exec of the grown-ups’ Party.

Until now, Clode’s main claim to prominence has been that he once walked from Canberra Airport to the ANU in pouring rain to save a cab fare – but Reithy thinks he’s the man for the job. Why? Well, the other candidate for the VP’s post, Tony Chappell, is suspected of being a Costello supporter.

Reith – his leadership hopes destroyed by Telecard trauma – is playing the dog in the manger and propping up a drooping Dear Leader and wants to extend his influence. But many think that The Living Dead currently has all the representation on the national exec that he deserves – i.e. none.

The votes of the Queensland right are becoming vital. Who will Santo order his young acolytes to support – Costello or the Rodent’s rod of strength, Peter Reith?

Up the Creek

Wow! Hillary said last week that the Prime Miniature’s hedging on Badgerys Creek betrayed what a gutless little runt we have running the show – but even Hillary was amazed at the reaction that greeted the Sydney airport non-decision.

The Daily Telegraph reported the storm in its usual wonderful way. The “Pontius Pilot” front page was a beauty – and more than made amends for Monday’s Kelvin Mackenzie rip-off of “Up Yours Senors”, a blatant copy of The Sun’s famous Up Yours Delors”. Col, you’re welcome to drop round to Hillary’s and piss in the sink anytime.

Farce train

More welcome was Cabinet’s decision not to hand Leighton Construction and Alstom up to $2 billion of public money for the Sydney-Canberra VFT. A VFT from Sydney to Canberra would have only served pols, lobbyists and public servants – and yet we were expected to underwrite it. It’s amazing Speedrail ever thought it could get away with such an ask.

Max Moore-Wilton has been furious since Leightons and Macquarie Bank cooked up some incredibly dodgy figures suggesting that a subsidy of only $500 million might be needed. Even Macquarie is now embarrassed by the stunt – and that’s saying something.

PS: Prospective employers of political staffers might like to note that poaching Ho’s press sec and putting her on the Speedrail team – a practice that would not be allowed under US law – didn’t help Leightons.

With friends like this.

Hillary would love to know what Federal Opposition Leader Humpty Dumpty plans to give power couple John Della Bosca and Belinda Neal for Christmas. Anthrax?

Della, of course, was so useful during the GST debate, and as roll rorts and cash for preferences unfolds, the fragrant Belinda has now made her own useful contribution.

As part of her post-preselection loss tanty, beauty Belinda now claims that ALP internal votes have been subjected to “major breaches of the rules and, in fact, malpractices in the ballot that goes to the heart of what makes a fair ballot”.

The sweetie suggests “over the past years the approach has been, where there is a problem, to cover it up and try to hide it from the public”.

But, Belinda, if this has happened in New South Wales, does that mean that it’s hubby’s henchmen who have let it flourish? Oh dear. Hillary thinks this is clearly a case that requires federal intervention. Poor Tim Gartrell will be run off his feet.

Charity begins at home

Amongst Hillary’s junk mail is an appeal from the Smith Family, “Help give an Aussie kid like Kimberley a smile this Christmas”, featuring an Aryan poppet’s picture.

Smith Family, if you want a cent from Hillary please assure us that the subliminals of this aren’t “help a white kiddie unlike those black bastards World Vision are always trying to make you feel sorry for”.

A little bit pregnant

Would some Friend of the ABC please tell Hillary why it’s not advertising when the ABC promotes its purely commercial venture, the kids’ film Thomas and the Magic Railroad?

Hillary’s seen the spot a few times – and it sure looks like an ad like the ones you’d see on Channels 7, 9, 10 or SBS. But commercials on the ABC? It will be the end of the world as we know it, surely?

Well, Hillary has noticed that the sun is still continuing to rise in the East and that Kerry O’Brien hasn’t hosted the 7:30 Report dressed as the Fat Controller.

True, just like some of the rolling stock in Thomas the Tank Engine the ABC staff are given to whinging – but Hillary thinks that’s just coincidence, not cross promotion.

Bright boy

Readers will recall the case of the gifted and talented Corey Bernardi, immediate past president of the South Australian Libs who, sage like, told a meeting of right wing interferers planning to run conservative independents against Buffy Olsen’s battered brigade that most Liberal MPs were “dills on wheels” and “dead from the neck up”.

Now, the bright boy has given the Adelaide Advertiser some more stupid quotes so they can write another story on his stupid quotes of a fortnight ago. Corey claims that his enemies are now trying to generate “maximum mayhem”.

Gosh! “Maximum mayhem.” Sounds like Charles Manson and his “helter skelter”.

Spoonerisms

Another fan writes: “Regarding ‘Ah, Satan’, I’ve always got a laugh out of spoonerisms of ‘Joe Hockey’ and ‘Jackie Kelly’.”

Hillary will stick with “Hindenburg” for Joe, but has been trying to think up a name for the useless Kelly for ages. “Kackie Jelly”! Is that not inspired, readers?

Hillary Bray can be contacted at [email protected]

Now, if you enjoyed that, check out last week’s column.

Crash landing

The Rodent seems to think he’s ending the year on a high note. He told the Party Room 2000 has been the Government’s most successful year – but the Kurnell Peninsula airport episode this week gave a beautiful example of just how weak the little fella actually is.

Thanks to the Prime Miniature’s indecisiveness over Sydney airport, he has put five of his own seats at risk. By not ruling out Badgery’s Creek, Parramatta, Macquarie and Lindsay remain vulnerable – and the Kurnell craziness has created a furore in two more seats, Cook and Hughes.

Brilliant work by any standards.

Clear and present danger

The defence white paper has created some good opportunities for the Government to enjoy some populist porkbarrelling – and a whole new set of questions to answer.

Firstly, where are they going to get the troops from. Hillary has already revealed that the ADF’s $33 million advertising campaign has only collected 960 recruits – a cost of $34,000 each – yet the white paper lacks any clear recruitment and retention strategy.

Second, with the dollar hovering at the low 50 cent US mark, what’s the package really worth in purchasing terms?

Most crucially, the issue that almost caused the Timor intervention to lapse into disaster hasn’t been tackled. What issue, you say? Hillary is constantly amazed that our useless national media hasn’t touched this story. You’d think the Official Secrets Act had been invoked and dozens of D-Notices issued – but this is how things went.

In Timor, the ADF’s logistics all but collapsed. We were saved by the Americans. The episode proved Australia cannot maintain itself in the field because crucial specialist skills have been allowed to waste away and equipment is poor. A bit of careful reading between the lines shows that Major-General Cosgrove has admitted as such.

Perhaps John Moore and the Rodent should fix this slight problem before picking up a few AWACs.

Berk’s backyard

Labor scored a spectacular own goal last week when they tried to get Senate leader Robert Hill over enrolment fraud based on an exchange on – of all shows – Burke’s Backyard.

According to the Opposition, Hill and wife Di said they were empty nesters – and therefore their son and daughter in law should not be on the electoral roll at their Adelaide address. Labor’s quoting was remarkably selective. The line from Di Hill was “we vary from nesters to empty nesters” – with Robert adding “they come and go”. Great research, guys.

However, if they’re such keen Channel 9 viewers, Hillary is surprised Kim “Humpty Dumpty” Beazley and Co haven’t submitted a few tapes of their woeful performances over the year to Australia’s Funniest Home Videos. That way they might actually win something.

PS It’s understood that the right wing of the fragmenting SA Liberal Party leaked the Hill material to Labor. The PM’s office, Hillary hears, is not impressed.

Roll rorts roundup

The Teenage Toecutter raised Labor and Democrat ire when he used his casting vote as Chair of the Electoral Matters Committee to save the hapless Jackie Kelly from appearing. The lad never struck Hillary as the type who would do such favours for the PM. Wonder what he wants?

All this paled into insignificance, however, when Charlie Lynn rose to his feet in the New South Wales Legislative Council with tales of scandal involving Labor heavy Laurie Ferguson.

It was a wonderful repeat performance. Just like the time the brilliant NSW Libs bucketed Sydney Lord Mayor Frank Sartor on the eve of local government elections, Charlie’s claims were found to be decidedly dubious and blunted the feds attack on real rorts.

Readers will recall that Charlie’s last great idea was putting Chikka in as leader. He’s clearly going places – like an asylum.

Meanwhile, Hillary gathers the Christmas Tree at ALP headquarters, Centenary House, is a beauty this year – covered from top to bottom with baubles, tinsel and other decorations. Indeed, Labor sources say every branch has been stacked. Geddit?

The headmaster ritual

How long into the new year will Mr Speaker, Neil Andrew, keep his position? The dark muttering about his performance on the Government benches is growing to a dull roar.

Andrew’s manner in the chair is schoolmasterish in the extreme – but even backbenchers are beginning to treat him like some dotty old headmaster. They’re polite and respectful to his face – but it’s a different matter when teacher’s back is turned.

The Government feels Andrew has been broken by the Opposition. He warns people – but rarely throws them out. They say Andrew has lost the respect of the ALP and is regularly walked over by “Loathsome Leo” McLeay.

Sources say it’s not a matter of wanting a partisan Speaker – but a matter of one with authority who commands respect.

Party system

The last sitting week is notorious for its parties – but the Coalition staff do had about as much spirit as a Methodist meeting. It was conveniently held away from the House during the evening break, so MPs could pull their staff back to work rather than letting them piss on.

Hospitality flowed freely at the Parker & Partners Christmas bash. The Parliament House latte set was out in force – but unfortunately about the only detail that remains clear from the night is that Labor young gun Steven Conroy was even drunker than Hillary.

The Government Whip’s drinks were another thing. Bronny’s new do could only lure Lou Lieberman into the main room where she was – he is retiring, after all. Everyone else stayed in the foyer.

It isn’t their ABC – despite what they think

Hillary visits the killing fields of Ultimo, where thousands of ABC staff are being lined up and shot and their bodies flung in freshly bulldozed pits.

Oh dear. The ABC staff union – and all their thoroughly objective friends like Simpering Errol – are clearly finding the notion that they do not necessarily have the right to run the taxpayer funded broadcaster – or use it as a means to further their agendas – a very difficult concept indeed.

Every media person knows the ABC is the best resourced outlet in the country. And every media person – ABC folk included – has a dozen horror stories about overstaffing and suffocating bureaucracy. So why the screams of horror?

There are several candidates for the most pathetic ABC story of the week. The bleaters at the Friends of the ABC threatened legal action at the idea of a “Friends” branded credit card or a “Friends” pay section on the ABC’s website. If they are interested in the ABC rather than political ideas left over from the seventies, then they should back the plan.

Then there were the Paul Barry yarns. Barry wasn’t even sacked. His contract simply wasn’t renewed – but the conspiracy theories flowed thick and fast, helped along by a pious piece from Barry himself. Hillary thinks the story behind this shameless, politically driven beat up would be a great piece next year for the opening program of Media Watch.

Finally, there’s the ABC Board’s decision to ask for another 40 million from the feds. Hillary has a great idea about how the ABC could get $40 million – and much, much more. They could introduce advertising. After all, SBS hasn’t fallen apart since commercials began.

Political censorship

The only real attack on the ABC of the week – and, indeed, of recent times – has come from the Media Arts and Entertainment Alliance.

The MEAA commissars have banned ABC staff from applying for the position of Media Watch host – an truly disgusting act and a ghastly precedent MD Jonathan Shier rightly described as “censorship”.

What next? Will they be checking to make sure Mixy carries a union card?

Haunted House

Those dread initials N-C-B are being muttered around Parliament House. Dark and terrible rumours suggest that the dreaded one is out of his grave and haunting WA Libs – and responsible for the stories doing the rounds about dodgy enrolments and membership rorts in Chris Ellison’s and Richard Court’s home branch of Nedlands.

Curious sideline

Pols appearing on Adelaide station 5AA with host Leon Byner are receiving follow up calls from the grand inquisitor asking them if they’d like to buy a tape or transcript of their interview from, er, Leon Byner Media Services.

What a strange sideline. What does his station think of this all?

Ally McMeal?

There’s a lot of comment in the corridors about how Natasha “Ah, Satan” Stott-Despoja seems to be wasting away. Has the Parliament got its very own Calista Flockhart?

There could, of course, be a simple solution. It is well known that Natasha keeps up an arduous schedule representing the dispossessed youth of Australia at first nights, openings, awards ceremonies and other luvvie dos. Perhaps the canapes have little nutritional value.

Whatever the case, Hillary thinks we should start a “Buy a Sandwich for the Senator” campaign. Please send your donations, made payable to Crikey Media, to PO Box 2095, Templestowe Heights 3107. Hillary will then arrange to have the money credited to Natty’s account with Parliamentary Catering.

Rough end of the pineapple

Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Herron is the last person you associate with reconciliation – but that will be his new role in the strife-ridden Queensland Libs.

Despite Premier Peter Beattie’s all too obvious woes with his bent buddies, the party is making no impact in the polls and the donations are scarcely flooding in.

There were different views on how to approach the matter in the lead up to a state exec meeting Saturday. One school said that party president Con Galtos should get the chop. Another wanted to fire a warning shot across the bows of the hapless Parliamentary leader David Watson.

Galtos got wind of the plots – and decided he wasn’t going to get the rough end of the pineapple from anyone. He went in swinging – much to the alarm of his VPs – and now John Herron has been appointed to act as mediator.

Hillary can picture the scene now. Reconciliation. Herron, David Watson, Santo Santoro and Denver Beanland walking arm in arm across the Storey Bridge.

Pigs arse!

Naked ambition

Victorian Upper House Liberal Bruce Atkinson is best known for his inglorious resignation from a parliamentary secretary’s spot in the Kennett Government after it was discovered he was earning a nice extra income as a private consultant.

Now he’s better known for something else. Recently Atkinson attended a debate in his electorate with team mate, Lower House Liberal colleague Andrew Macintosh.

Trying to make an impression on the locals, Atkinson turned up to the event in costume – board shorts, singlet, thongs, zinc cream and a floatation device around his waist. But the zany outfit failed to make his speech any real impression until Macintosh decided to lean over and gently tug Atkinson’s board shorts – which slipped, fell to the ground, and revealed that poor Bruce had chosen to attend sans underwear.

Internationalist

Old Tory and branch “rebuilder” – and would be MP for Wentworth – Peter King, is chuffed about his new Howard government appointed role as head of the UN World Heritage Committee – so chuffed, indeed, that he’s sending the Fin story on his appointment to anyone who might have a stake in his preselection battle with the UN-loathing Andrew Thompson.

Newshounds

The Adelaide Advertiser’s ace political reporter Greg “Scoop” Kelton is staying hard on the job.

Last week, the Canberra bureau – not Scoop – reported the story that former state deputy Opposition Leader Ralph Clarke, dumped and disendorsed after clashing with the bizarre left/right coalition that runs the local party and generally expected to run as an independent, has been summonsed to appear before the local Labor exec to explain a current doorknocking and leafleting campaign.

Then there was the curious spin Scoop decided to put on a broad range of polling conducted by the Advertiser. The voting intentions results showed Labor well in front – on 53.5 per cent compared to 46.5 for the Libs on a two party preferred basis – but Scoop decided to open his report with the fascinating news that voters thought Buffy “had the better vision” for the State.

Still, we should be fair and judge Scoop by the standard of his Adelaide peers, which – as far as Hillary can tell – is bloody awful.

There have been some fascinating e-mails since cash for preferences broke about SA State Minister Ian Evans – already the subject of some interesting speculation over the basis of a certain recent decision of his.

Evans comes from a long line of stackers and rorters. His father, also an MP, once ran as independent when he lost his preselection and knocked off future premier Dean Beige before returning to the Liberal fold.

An independent candidate who stood against Evans at the last election was surprised to discover a good Samaritan had provided how to vote cards for her on polling day that gave preferences to Evans. By an amazing coincidence, the person authorising the how to votes shared the same first name as Evans’ mum Barb and, even more remarkably, had Barb’s maiden name as her surname.

Fascinating stuff – but you won’t hear about it in the Adelaide media.

Crikey, no!

Our sainted editor is behaving almost like Col – but pissing into the wind, rather than the sink.

What the hell does he think he’s doing with his comments in Saturday’s Age about running for the Senate with “a new Liberal-leaning political party”? The political landscape of Australia is littered with the bones of “new” parties and independents.

Stephen, mate, listen to Hillary – if you want to get anywhere in politics, stack an established party and use its resources to get to the top. Name your branch. Hillary will sign up, and Barnsey is probably free. You might even get Gazard if you’re lucky, then you can ask the subscribers. But no more of this new party crap. OK?

Summertime – and the living ain’t easy

We’re all going on a summer holiday

No more Par’ment for a month or two

Fun and laughter on a summer holiday

What the hell will that Hil’ry do

For a month or two.

Yes, the Summer Parliamentary recess has now begun but, apart from taking a short adventure holiday seal clubbing in Newfoundland, Hillary will be keeping the column up. Christ knows how, as sod all happens over summer. Even senior Gallery journos are reduced to begging scraps from pressies – a heart-rending sight.

Way back in Crikey Number 1, Hillary praised the efforts of Paul Cleary from the Fin Review for filling in one of those slow summer afternoons by penning a wonderful spec piece that suggested – amongst other things – that Peter Costello and Lex Loser (Downer, for first timers) were about to swap portfolios.

For that, Paul takes Hillary’s Nostradamus award for 2000 – and if Hillary writes any bullshit like that over the next few weeks, Hillary promises to reveal his/her identity so he/she can be taken out the back and shot.

Hillary Bray can be contacted at [email protected]

And if you enjoyed that, check out last week’s column as well.

Bronwyn Mark II

The phones started ringing early on Saturday morning – and the first line of every conversation was “Have you read the Ramsey piece yet?”.

Yes, it was remarkable. Not only – uniquely- did it not largely consist of quotes from Hansard, an interview transcript or some report, but the lounge bar bore of the Gallery had actually broken a story – that the Mad Monk has declared he wants the top the job.

Now, where have we heard something like this before? A thoroughly obnoxious, hard right winger with a massive ego from the North Shore thinks that they’re the Messiah.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, please rise to welcome the Bronwyn Mark II. Here’s hoping it meets with similar success.

Reshuffle? What reshuffle?

Journos who attended the PM’s Press Gallery Christmas drinks at The Lodge on Monday night were left bemused when the little fella claimed he had never said there would be a reshuffle – and didn’t understand where all the speculation had come from.

Does this mean Newman, Moore and Herron are dug in so well that they’re impregnable? A few of their colleagues – like the Monk and the shy and retiring Brendan Nelson – will be disappointed.

Roll up, roll up

The Queensland rorts saga gets better and better – but the thrills and spills of the Shepherdson inquiry are distracting from a few interesting manoeuvrers at the Canberra end on the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters.

Firstly, hapless Chair Gary Nairn was dumped by the PM in favour of the Teenage Toecutter. Now, the lacklustre Nat John Forrest is also gone, replaced by Sinker’s successor Stuart St Clair.

Who’s next?

Observers are now also asking how much longer Queensland Dem Andrew “Gary Numan” Bartlett can stay on the Committee.

Gaz, you see, was Queensland Democrat campaign director when Wayne Swan came waving wads. Oh dear. Surely he should step aside until everything is sorted out?

Dirty deeds done Dem cheap?

Poor “Mystic” Meg Lees gets shriller and shriller as she denies any knowledge of brown paper bags.

The Dems, of course, are an amateur league party – and their candidates all too often are ratbags who are never heard of again.

But we should also remember a few of the clever stunts they pulled at the 1996 election – like preferencing the oh-so-simpatico Fred Nile candidates over Green Bob Brown in Tasmania in a desperate attempt to save Senator Robert Bell.

Makes you think, doesn’t it?

You can’t always get what you want

Mick ‘n’ Keef have their ups and down – and the same thing seems to be happening to Labor’s Glimmer Twins, Wayne Swan and Steve Smith.

One might have thought that Steve would leap to the defence of his mate. Might have – but he hasn’t.

Wrung out

Why did the bells only ring for one minute before last week’s tied vote of confidence in the Speaker? That doesn’t give people at the ends of the Reps wing enough time to get to the Chamber – let alone Ministers. The bells are only rung for a minute on subsequent votes when the Chamber is full.

So who stuffed up – and given that a stuff up clearly occurred why did Kim and co get so precious and take their bat and ball home when Neil Andrews put the question again?

Loquacious

Despite the events of last week, there were no public remarks from Electoral Commissioner Andy “Alfred E Neuman” Becker – not even his usual “What me worry?” – until Friday.

Hillary, however, understands that throughout the week odd whimpering noises could be heard from where he was curled up under his desk.

Apocalypse not

Queensland is an electorally sensitive state – but we should forget all the hype generated by the volume of whinging from RARA rorters. The next Federal Government won’t just be decided there.

In New South Wales, Larry Anthony and Ross Cameron now occupy seats that are technically Labor – and the Prime Miniature is loyally leaving John Fahey to twist in the wind.

Three metropolitan seats in South Australia – Makin, Hindmarsh and Adelaide are on a knife edge. The slightest swing will give them to the ALP.

That’s six possible gains before we even get onto Victoria – where voters are still bathing in the warm afterglow after plunging into bed with Steve Bracks.

Beattie might go, federal Labor might not pick up a single Queensland seat, but the Rodent shouldn’t be getting cocky. He’s still got a stiff fight on his hands.

Funnily enough, one victim of the fallout could be the Western Australian Labor leader Geoff Gallup. With an election due at any time, the news that federal backbencher Kim Wilkie has fessed up to dodgy travel claims from his office being used to pay the membership fees of phantom party members will not be welcome.

The state election could go any way – but the last thing Gallop needs is any tribal warfare. Disgraced former premier Brian Burke keeps on doing his Colonel Kurtz act – sitting out in the wilderness fat, bald and mad, but still with a loyal army under his control. If they come out fighting, Richard Court could well be returned – despite, ironically, the claims of membership rorts the Nedlands branch, his own branch and the branch of the Minister who oversees the Electoral Commission, Chris Ellison.

Plus ca change!

Things have really changed in Victoria under Steve Bracks. Just have a look at this extract from a leaked memo to the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee chairman Peter Loney from Saint Steve himself:

“In particular, officials are not expected to answer questions…seeking details of matters considered in relation to a Ministerial or Government decision or possible decision, unless those details have already been made public or the giving of evidence on them has been approved.”

Gosh! Who does that remind you of?

If that wasn’t funny enough, take a look at the commitment made under Item 1.4.b on the Independents’ Charter the Holy One signed back in 1999 under the sub-heading of Promoting Open and Accountable Government:

“Adhere to the ideals of freedom of speech by: removing restrictions on the freedom of speech of those employed under government contract or as public servants.” Naughty, naughty!

Aunty Joan would be pleased.

The Bracks Government isn’t just maintaining the worst aspects of the Kennett Government. They’re also beginning to show a Kirner like approach to financial management.

Almost 2000 additional public servants were employed in Victoria the last financial year, and Auditor-General has already warned the Government that its rate of increase in expenditure exceeded the increase in Gross State Product.

How much longer will the honeymoon last?

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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