Crikey’s best known asset and best kept secret has churned out another great column.

His opponent, Rob Borbidge, has not been so successful. B2’s attempt at a good media event ended in grief when he was thrown out of the Willows shopping centre just next to the North Queensland Cowboys ground, under, Hillary gathers, a provision of Queensland’s public health and hygiene code.

Liberal leader Dr David Whatisname has also made his first appearance – or, rather, by standing on a number of crates people have been able to see him for the first time. Is he actually be shorter than the Prime Miniature himself ? Can any Queensland natives help? A source told Hillary Whatisname was even shorter than the Black Dwarf, Glenn Milne, but that must be physically impossible.

Hillary has also attended the launch of the City Country Alliance’s law and order platform, where party leader Bill “Marty” Feldman outlined their plans for summary execution for crimes such as jay-walking. The gig went wrong, however, after they had to abandon attempts to show the folding execution device the CCA wants to see carried in the boot of every police car when Marty could not pronounce “guillotine”. In a follow up call the CCA HQ, Hillary was told that it was “a woggy word, anyway” and asked if the surname Bray was Jewish.

Little has been heard from the former One Nation MPs who now sit as independents or One Nation members other than Pauline. Presumably we will have to wait for the full moon or they are remembering to take their medication.

The lost weekends

On the other side of the continent in WA, a kind reader has alerted Hillary to a missing chapter in the life of Dodgy Doug Shave, Minister for Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.

There’s a remarkable CV on Doug’s own ministerial site. Not only does it contain some peculiar grammar and no information posted after 1996, but it also offers this tantalising tale:

“In 1993 Mr Shave was appointed Minister for Tourism, Sport & Recreation and Housing. He resigned as Minister in 1994 to take care of his two daughters.

“Following the recent State election, Mr Shave was re-appointed to the Cabinet as Minister for Lands, Fair Trading and Parliamentary and Electoral Affairs.”

What caused this resignation? What was going on? Hillary has been offered one explanation – but if it was published Doug would no doubt feel obliged to visit his solicitor, and Hillary is much too kind to want to distract him from the campaign in Alfred Cove.

Can any other readers help?

Election sweepstakes

Numbers of people read Crikey, so let’s have a competition – make that two competitions – just for them.

At the moment, the make up of the Queensland Parliament is Labor – 42, disgraced ex-Labor – three, Nationals – 23, Liberals – nine, CCA – six, ex-One Nation independents – four and genuine independents – two.

In Western Australia, the make up of the Legislative Assembly is Liberals – 29, Nationals – six, Labor – 18, independents – two and independent Liberals – two.

Submit what you think the likely outcome of the WA election before February 10 and the Queensland poll by February 17 to [email protected] and the most accurate predictions will get subscriptions to Crikey and a Paul Barry book if they’re really close.

National Day

The Rodent has said that January 26 should remain our national day, while Kim Beazley favours Anzac Day, April 25. He must identify with disasters.

King’s five pounds each way on the queen

Old Tory Peter King, he of Wentworth fame, is now scaling new heights in his desperate bid to unseat sitting member Andrew “Greenhouse is all bullshit” Thompson.

King tells any preselectors who are republicans that he is a supporter, but that vhopping off the Queen’s head will not happen for a decade or two. But to monarchist preselectors he’s a rock solid blueblood and savages the republicans.

King also has his troops out and about saying that “Wentworth needs a candidate who is ministerial material.” Fine Peter, but surely that’s not you given that you have failed to win preselection three times already and your tenure as Mayor of Woollara was undistinguished to say the least!

On the monarchist front Kerry Jones is now applying the Moran family business principles to the ACM itself – she’s employed her son there! Jones sits in her Macquarie St eyrie bemoaning the fact that no one in the business community will give her a job.

Overheard

New South Wales Liberal Senator Helen Coonan “The Barbarian” will stop at nothing to win preselection over her colleague Marise Payne – but Hillary hears of a rather embarrassing episode that struck the Senator just before Christmas.

It’s well known that the PM has hearing problems – to everyone but a bright young spark on the Barbarian’s staff. He put in a helpful call to Tony Nutt, the PM’s principal private secretary, saying he’d noticed the PM sometimes seemed a little deaf and suggested a hearing aid – adding that it would be a nice sign of fallibility that would endear the little fella to voters.

Nutt thanked him for his suggestion, turned puce, leapt on the phone to Coonan and the bright spark has since decided on a career change. For the record, the PM has a very small Siemens-designed hearing aid that is never picked up on TV.

Saving Ryan

Life’s tough enough for the Queensland state Libs without the raging storms of the Ryan preselection. Former state leader Denver Beanland’s seat of Indooroopilly is slap bang in the middle of Ryan – and held by just 0.5 per cent.

Fingers have been pointing after a remarkably frank Fin Review feature by Tony Walker appeared last week. One faction says former party president Bob Tucker backgrounded Walker. Another points to the fact that no-hope candidate Astrid Vallati seem to get a very generous run. (Hillary would also like readers to note that some of Walker’s revelations appeared on this site as far back as September.)

The Coalition seems set to spend the entire Queensland campaign telling the punters that Labor cannot be rewarded for rorting and corruption. Ryan is creating just the teeniest credibility problems.

Mystery train

It may be impertinent of Hillary to ask, but has anyone else wondered when the great Alice Springs to Darwin railroad is actually going to start being built?

On Tuesday, Territory Chief Minister Denis Burke dropped hints of an announcement in the coming week. The announcement came, alright – a $70 million backer pulled out. For Yankee outfit Hancock Insurance, losing all that money sponsoring the Olympics was obviously the last Aussie black hole they were going to send their greenbacks down.

It’s bad news for Burke and Buffy Olsen. Both face elections this year but have nothing to show for all their talk on the rail link and precious little cash to spare – and the PM seems to have gone soft on his steel Snowy.

Well, Crikey has brought together some of the best policy minds in the country, and have developed a great idea that will let Denis Burke piss more money up against the wall for the great railroad, while at the same time pandering to the law and order vote.

All these people he is locking up under mandatory sentencing. They are getting it too easy. Jails are like motels. Make ’em work for the community while locked up. What a great idea! Bring back prison rail gangs. A cheap subsidised work force for the railway. After all, convict labour was how Australia was built. And if we don’t have enough labour, well, let’s increase prison sentences.

The CLP’s supporters would vote for that. The blacks wouldn’t like it, but whose country is it anyway? They can always go live somewhere else if they don’t like it. And who cares about what they think down south. Just cos they pay taxes to subsidise the Northern Territory doesn’t give them a right to tell us what to do with their money.

The worst thing about the Alice Springs to Darwin railway has always been the accompanying snorting and grunting of politicians. The problem is trying to work out if the noise is the sound of snouts in the trough or pigs on the wing.

Probably both really.

By the way, we have it on good authority that Serial Pest Peter Hoare is planning to stand against Denis Burke as an independent. Hillary will have to think long and hard about who to back in that contest.

Sandwiches for the Senator

Ever since Hillary alerted the nation to Natasha Stott-Despoja’s malnutrition, the donations have been flooding in. However, an expert in international aid and Crikey reader has criticised Hillary’s approach. Just read this letter:

“Hillary is showing her liberal leanings by recommending a band-aid solution to the problem of the Incredible Shrinking Media-Stunt Woman.

“Offerings of food? Hey, that dog won’t hunt! Give her food and she’ll eat for a day. No, perhaps it’s time to employ that old Freedom from Hunger adage – teach her to grow food and she’ll eat for a lifetime.

“Leave plants outside her door!”

Wise words indeed – and Hillary has the perfect solution. Back in the eighties, when the pollies finally moved from the temporary Parliament to the House on the Hill, Finance Minister Peter Walsh refused to have the Ministerial Wing gardens landscaped as a protest against the costs of the new pleasure dome. Twelve years later work is finally taking place – but Hillary has a plan to make the gardens lush and verdant without costing the taxpayer a cent.

They can be turned over to Natasha, the rest of the Dems, Bob Brown and even the odd Nat. Natasha can plant non GM soy beans, carob and – within ACT regulations – some other more exotic species. Bob Brown can start a forest, bring in some leeches, ticks and lice, and pretend he’s at home. Lonely Nats could build a pen and take their favourite sheep on trips to Canberra. If he’s lucky, Secco might even be able to sublet a spot and put a few plants in.

The gardens can be landscaped – but it won’t cost the taxpayer a cent. What a triumph of economic rationalism! Walshie would be glad.

Hillary Bray can be contacted at [email protected]

ends

And if you enjoyed that, check out Hillary’s previous column for the year.

Hillary hears that Victorian Deputy Premier, Minister for Health and Minister for Planning John Thwaites, is suffering from the redistribution rattles and is off seat shopping.

Thwaites’ inner city seat of Albert Park is changing rapidly as workers and migrants are replaced by yuppies and the real estate prices soar. A review of electoral boundaries is due later this year, and Thwaites is afraid his seat could be lost to the Libs.

There’s another problem, too – Thwaites does not belong to any of the major factions. While he has good links with the Left, the bosses on either side are none to keen to hand over a safe seat to an outsider.

Thwaites may have no choice but to stay and fight in Albert Park – but as well as the risks, this strategy also comes with a few attendant ironies.

At the time of the last redistribution, there was a strong move to abolish the seat, but it was finally retained because of its potential for future growth. The local MP is doing his bit for urban consolidation with the mysterious lodger that shares his house with him and his wife – but many of the voters aren’t that keen on the idea. Poor Thwaites needs growth to save his seat, but it will piss off the locals if, as Planning Minister, he relaxes the rules.

Wits are saying that he should dump that portfolio and just concentrate on Health – the health of his political future, that is.

The old in and outsourcing

Fin political correspondent Tony Walker speculated last week on what kind of “personal alchemy” was behind the John Fahey’s thinking on IT outsourcing.

Fahey’s former Chief of Staff, Greg Barns, might have more knowledge of that.

Thomson and Turnbull talking?

The Wentworth preselection saga keeps rolling on. Claims are now being made that incumbent member Andrew Thomson is trying to do a deal with Malcolm Turnbull, saying he’ll stand down at the end of his next turn to let Turnbull have a clean run for the seat and avoid any nastiness over eligibility rules.

At least Thomson seems to recognise his own appeal to the local Libs.

Scott Emerson or Michelle Grattan – short of a story?

Who needs the Oz and the SMH when you can get the inside running first – and free – in Crikey? There’s been a late change to the Queensland preselection form – Michael Yarwood has resigned from the Liberal Party to join the Nats.

It’s a great yardstick of state president Con Galtos’ judgement. Last week, we told you how Con and his property development partner, John Mason (the Tucker point man in Moncrieff) were strongly backing Gold Coast solicitor, Yarwood. Galtos had even persuaded Liberal federal director Lynton Crosby to get on the bandwagon and put Yarwood on the Liberal Party’s summer campaign school for up and coming Liberals. Alas, their scheme has now hit a little snag.

The slugfest in Ryan continues unabated with nine nominations for the prized seat. Just who will be left standing after the preselection on February 4 is one of the biggest talking points in Liberal circles.

Nominations include the eight that Hillary listed last week with the surprise late addition of Peter Mackenzie – a former Nat who ran as a Conservative Independent against John Moore in the 98 federal election who lists baying at the moon as a hobby.

The field of serious contenders is down to a three way tussle between deposed Party President Bob Tucker, current Party VP Matt Boland and branch stacking supremo and international man of mystery (or should that be man of international mystery?) Michael Johnson.

There are over 800 delegates who are eligible to vote in Ryan. Party insiders claim numbers are split fairly evenly between the three major blocks, making no candidate able to win without a strong preference flow.

Michael Johnson’s preference flow is unpredictable. Johnson has around 280 members – around 80 of whom are believed to be under threat of being knocked out in the membership audit for wrongly paying discounted membership fees. If Johnson is going to win Ryan on the back of preferences then he is going to need to be nice to more than a couple of people. Telling delegates that they will “boil in hot oil” if they don’t vote for him isn’t quite the right strategy to run in the circumstances.

Meanwhile, John Moore is said to be hell bent on exacting revenge on Johnson. Apparently, Moore is a little touchy about Johnson’s aborted run for preselection during the East Timor crisis and the consequent humiliating media portrayal of a Minister under siege from his own members. Word has it that Moore’s office has been very busy doing “research” for the Minister – strangely busy for the office of a Minister about to step down, in fact. Perhaps Moore wants more as a legacy than just the defence White Paper.

Bob Tucker seems to be playing a high stakes strategy of attacking the credibility of both Johnson and Boland (“thank you, Michelle”) to maximise the vote from his own quarters. Of course, if Tucker fails to get over the line with primaries, it is difficult to see either Johnson or Boland’s supporters rushing to help him with their preferences.

The Tucker camp is increasingly concerned about leakages from his support base to Boland. Indeed, Tucker may as well be working for and supporting Johnson, with his attacks on Boland turning the tide of sentiment against him.Within Tucker’s own ranks, some are starting to realise backing Boland is their best chance of stopping Johnson.

At 58, Tucker is only five years younger than the man he wants to replace. And while Johnson faces official scrutiny over the residency of many of his members, Johnson’s supporters claim Tucker spends most of his time living and working on the Sunshine Coast – a short two hour drive from the heart of Ryan.

Boland, some insiders claim, is only running to ensure Johnson beats Tucker if they are the last two candidates standing, and is using the Ryan preselection as an opportunity to raise his profile for a tilt at the next Senate preselection. Other Liberals claim Boland is biding his time waiting for Queensland to gain another federal seat after the next election.

Whatever the case may be, there is no doubt that all this intrigue – against the backdrop of looming a state election – has turned the jewel in the Queensland Liberal crown into an almighty thorn in the Party’s side.

Stupid filler of the season

Congratulations to Mark Ludlow of the Sunday Telegraph for writing the stupidest political filler of the slow summer season.

The Rodent was rotten to journos, reshuffling his ministry just before the break. There’s only been a trickle of stories out of the Gallery and no room for spec pieces at all – but Mark has triumphed against the odds.

His piece from Sunday, “Taxpayers foot $120m election bill”, is a masterpiece of the summer story genre – i.e. bullsh*t.

Here are a few select quotes: “Australian taxpayers will pay almost $120 million to hold a spate of elections this year. Voters are expected to become even more sick of politics, with five definite polls and a possible sixth set down for 2001 the election bonanza will come at a cost, with estimates of up to $120 million for Australians to participate in democracy”. You get the drift.

It’s much cheaper to do it downtown Kinshasa style, isn’t it, Mark?

Emphatic

What’s with the Australian Monarchist League? Yes, we know they’re true believers, but very few people acknowledge the divine right of kings nowadays.

Still, they presume the peasants will jump at their commands and keep barking orders.

Last year, when they held their shindig to mark the republic referendum anniversary at Lady Mary Fairfax’s humble home, the statement barked “Media has been requested to televise the Reception both as a news as well as a cultural event.” Unfortunately, the journos couldn’t even find a comedy relief angle, and so the do went unreported.

That hasn’t left the Monarchist League disheartened. Here’s the latest missive:

“On the 21st April 2001 Her Majesty The Queen will celebrate Her 75th Birthday.

“We have been lobbying the Government for formal recognition of this occasion and have now been advised that the Australian Defence Forces will hold a 21 Gun Royal Salute on the lawn of Parliament House, Canberra in honour of Her Majesty’s birthday.

“The Australian Monarchist League is also hosting functions in several States. In Sydney a Reception will be held on the evening of the 21st April in the distinguished presence of The Earl and Countess of Dunmore. The following day, Sunday the 22nd April, a Service of Morning Prayer will be held at St. Andrew’s Cathedral. Churches throughout Australia are also being requested to ring their bells.”

What? Even the Papist ones?

Hillary Bray can be contacted at [email protected]

Peter Fray

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