Can the Melbourne Press Club decorate an unidentified columnist writing under the psuedonym Hillary Bray. We think she’s the best political columnist in Australia and should be rewarded for this. Afterall, you try holding down a full time job and filing more than 2000 intriguing words for Crikey each week.

Dear Judges,

Hillary Bray is a pseudonym for a former journalist and political insider. Using the anonymity of the internet she has become Australia’s most prolific and hard-hitting political commentator writing each week on www.crikey.com.au.

She has filed in all but two of the past 52 weeks and her columns average more than 2000 words and cover politics across the nation.

The three columns we have entered in the Quills are her insights on the various shenanigans at the Parliamentary mid-winter ball in Canberra, a scoop on government whip Michael Ronaldson admonishing several Liberal members for not attending a division and a special column on the Queensland election.

Hillary operates in difficult circumstances because she holds down a full time job and must produce the column secretly each week. Very few people know who Hillary is yet she continues to break stories and provide remarkable political insights.

For instance, Senator Faulkner told a Senate Estimates committee last year that Hillary Bray “does appear from time to time to be quite well informed about certain matters”.

We know that most of the Federal Cabinet read her columns as John Moore’s former chief of staff Brian Loughnane has told friends that he would print it out for the Defence Minister and the Cabinet would pass it down the line during Question Time.

If there is a problem about giving an award to someone who can’t be identified then I am more than happy to represent Hillary and accept any award on her behalf.

If you think this a more appropriate entry for the online category that would be fine by Hillary. Afterall, Hillary is using the web very well with an anonymous hotmail account her principle means of communicating with people.

Yours Sincerely

Stephen Mayne

Publisher of www.crikey.com.au on behalf of Hillary Bray

WHAT A SWELLEGANT, ELEGANT PARTY THIS IS

Published August 2000 on www.crikey.com.au

By Hillary Bray

Crikey’s Political Insider

Balls Up Wrap Up

You may have already read just how much the Press Gallery Mid-winter Ball raised for charity. What you haven’t read is just how pissed everyone was.

There’s been a terrible cover up. When members of the Government, the Opposition and the Press Gallery get legless, an unearthly silence descends. Thank God for brave, honest, independent media like Crikey!

The only problem is that to keep his/her cover intact, Hillary had to get legless too – but that can’t get in the way of the story.

So here is a national exclusive – Hillary’s partial recollections of the Mid-winter Ball

Party Leader

Just how relaxed and comfortable was the Prime Minister on Wednesday night? It’s scarcely far from Parliament House to the Lodge – but let’s just say it’s lucky the little fella has a driver.

The consensus from the night is that the Hon John Winston Howard, MP, Prime Minister, was extremely comfortable and relaxed. Hillary, of course, can’t possibly comment on that – but

When he took to the stage, the PM greeted Gallery president Malcolm Farr with a high five. He then told the assembled hacks that they looked beautiful, before launching into the shortest Prime Ministerial speech in living memory.

If these allegations are actually true, then Hillary welcomes the return of a drinking Prime Minister. It’s been a long, long time since John Gorton was caught climbing the fence of the American Embassy late at night with a bottle under one arm and a bimbo under the other. Way to go, Johnny H!

PS The Dragon Lady was cold stone sober – and not particularly impressed at the video presentation that seemed to spend a little too long covering the 89 “Lazarus with a triple bypass” leadership spill and contained very few flattering shots of her dear hubby.

PPS Interestingly, another prominent parliamentary shorty, Glenn “The Black Dwarf” Milne, seemed to attach himself to the PM for most of the night. What gives?

Public Eye

Hosts for the evening, HG Nelson and “Rampaging” Roy Slaven, turned poor Veterans’ Affairs Minister Bruce Scott into a constant point of reference for the evening – although he wasn’t complaining. Hillary understands that he got more mentions from the pair than he has got from everyone else in the media in four years as a minister.

A less happy point of reference for HG and Roy was the Mad Monk and his staff. Hillary believes that if Bob Brown had seen the amount of steam rising from the Monk’s equally zealous press sec, Simone Holzapfel, he would have declared it an alternative energy source and used it to run a turbine.

Black Mark

The Man in Black, Ian Kortlang, was furious with HG and Roy – the one thing they had nothing to say about all night was gold sponsor Gavin Anderson.

Glass Slip-Ups

Princess Natasha got to wear glass slippers to the Ball – although they were a little different from the originals.

Enjoying the pre-ball drinks in Parliament House’s Marble Hall, Adelaide Advertiser hack Phil Coorey became so relaxed and comfortable that, during a particularly energetic indicative point, his wine glass flew out of his hand and smashed to pieces on the floor.

The remains were promptly stepped on by poor Natty, and so her dance card remained unmarked for the entire night – other than by the odd blood stain.

Ugly Sisters

Poor Cinderella Beazley couldn’t go to the Ball. He was kept at home by the Ugly Sisters – or, anyway, stuck at Centenary House with ALP National Executive.

Happy Snaps

The Mid-winter Ball, alas, was spoilt for many by the obtrusive behaviour of a certain paparazzo.

Joe “Hindenburg” Hockey was in a merry mood – again – and commandeered a Fairfax photographer’s camera and went round taking his own shots.

PS Hillary hears that Sydney Morning Herald Canberra Chief of Staff Margo Kingston is keen to publish the Hindenburg’s efforts on her website. Keep an eye on http://www.smh.com.au/news/webdiary/.

Belle Of The BALL

Margo herself cannot go without mention. In fact, Hillary votes her Belle of the Ball. No, Margo wasn’t wearing a Balenciaga classic. In fact, she turned up in a man’s dinner suit and proceeded to terrorise most of the ministry – but that is where her beauty truly lies.

Not content with a long spell dancing with Attorney General Dazzling Darryl Williams (what DOES she see in these Sandgroper ministers – it used to be Judi Moylan before), Margo went bounding up to Peter and Tanya Costello and asked for the next dance.

When Cossie pointed out he was dancing with his wife, Margo declared that that didn’t matter and suggested they could turn it into a threesome.

We’re not going to get another Bob Ellis case, are we?

Probity Audit

The Sydney Morning Herald’s no freebies spirit is spreading. Journos at the Ball were all very careful, paying for their own tickets.

Olympic Warm Up

Various corporates, however, had a different attitude towards ethics. The Ball was a great night for ambush marketing, with non-sponsoring companies putting on drinks beforehand – much to the chagrin of the actual sponsors.

Baby Loves To Boogie

Twinkle toed terror Bronwyn Bishop spent the evening working the room maniacally and asking everyone to dance – with few takers.

Getting The Exclusive

As far as Hillary can recall, only one person got so drunk that they were asked to leave – Age journo Jason Koutsoukis. (Editor’s note: JK is an ex of the soon-to-be Mrs Crikey but this is no cheap shot as we have no say over Hillary and his/her drunken recollections).

Grand Entrance

MPs Marise Payne, Christine Gallus and the Teenage Toecutter made a grand entrance, swanning down the steps of the Marble Hall fashionably late – prompting Malcolm Farr to remark “Oh look. There are still three moderates in the Liberal Party”.

Musical Interludes

Ball guests were entertained by the Press Gallery Choir performing a cute little number about Labor’s current woes to the tune of “Yesterday”.

Cuter still was their paean to the PM – a quick re-write of “When I’m 64”.

Lesse Majeste

The night wasn’t filled with continuous drinking. Indeed, waiters were told off if they were still served drinks once the PM had got up to speak.

Reality Bites

Republicans are dancing in the street at the news that Malcolm Turnbull – the man who with David Elliott, Kerry Jones, the Monk, Ho and the Rodent himself has won so much support for the great cause – is not running for the presidency of the ARM.

Now, though, the question still remains – can the ARM find a president who won’t actually turn people off.

Baptist bleeding heart Tim Costello is tipped for the job, but Hillary understands that he is a very reluctant candidate – and that his candidacy might have more to do with good old Sydney-Melbourne rivalry than actually winning any votes.

There is also the danger that the Reverend Tim will send a signal to prominent Liberal republicans such as his brother and John Fahey that direct election will be the way of the future and scare them away.

The republican cause already has support from people who think Michael Leunig is a great humanitarian and thinker. Can the ARM show they have the brains to elect a doer, someone who will work long and hard – rather than a latte belt superstar.

The Evils of Economic Rationalism

Thirty-three dollar interstate airfares. Cheaper milk. What privations will deregulation and competition inflict on the poor Aussie battler next?

From The Bearpit To The Sandpit

Aprs Jeff, les pygmies! Yes, the Victorian Parliament has managed to become even more pathetic.

Last week, Liberal backbencher Andrea McCall rose in parliament to complain someone in a dark blue Falcon had reversed into her prized “little red rocket” in the parliamentary carpark – leaving the government-issue Corolla with a scratched rear bumper. Gasp!

But that wasn’t all to the scandal: “They had not stopped, they did not get out of the car, put a business card or a love note on the back window of my car to say: ‘Terribly sorry I’ve damaged your car’,” McCall continued. “They hit and they ran.”

The mortified member even showed reporters the damage – a small graze in the paintwork but no dent.

McCall estimates the massive sum of $600 will be needed to right the tragic consequences of this outrage. The cost will be met by taxpayers.

No Ticket, No Education

To further reinforce this decline, the Bracks Government is about to revisit one of the least significant issues of this or any other time – student unionism and the closed shop on campus.

Steps are underway to roll back the Liberal legislation preventing idiot zealots from forcing other students to fund their pet obsessions.

Oh, puh-leaze!

Ming Gets Merciless

Melbourne media have finally woken up to the fact that DLP Member for Menzies Kevin Andrews is facing a challenge.

The Hun reports – as Crikey readers would know – former party official Louise Staley is running for the seat, along with former aide to Lex Looser Greg Hunt, famed throughout Canberra for only ever wearing frayed or torn shirts – and jogging through the corridors in lycra bike shorts during the cooler months. Hillary understands that the pair have actually both nominated.

Some Victorian Liberals have been surprised by the Hun’s description of Staley as a “businesswoman”. They claim she has been largely twiddling her thumbs since being restructured out of Axa several months ago.

These uncharitable souls query her role as a telecommunications consultant, and suspect the only consulting she has done has been around 104 and the coffee shop at Parliament House – on the subject of how to knock Andrews off.

Luckily, it appears that Richard Alston has been taking pity on poor little Louise, appointing her to a number of boards to keep her off the streets.

And young Mr Hunt? Well, Greg works as a consultant at McKinsey’s – and their most prominent political alumni is currently one William Hague. Nuff said?

On the late breaking reports that the Jeffster himself will run for Menzies, Hillary hears than JGK may well be a starter.

There has been no love lost between Kennett and Andrews since the Christ-like Kev introduced the legislation overturning state and territory based euthanasia law.

Jeff has got more involved in Liberal affairs of late, taking a senior position with his old mate John Elliott at the fundraising body the 500 Club. Flikka – who strayed away from party involvement – is also getting involved, too, joining the Ad Lib club.

Kennett believes his election loss was an aberration, the result of a protest vote that got out of hand – and that the Burwood and Benalla results were just further manifestations of this mood. It will be fascinating to know if Menzies Liberals feel the same way.

Jeff’s old ethnic affairs adviser, Nick Kotsiras, the member for the local state seat of Bulleen, had signalled recently that his block vote would fall in behind Andrews, to the surprise of many observers. What happens with these votes now is anyone’s guess.

Melbourne moles say Kennett’s calls started Thursday night. Since then, Louise Staley has been panic stricken. As a loyal Kennett number for so long, the news has been terrifying – but Hillary hears she intends to stand and fight.

There Are Questions That Have To Be Answered

First – why is Jeff taking a punt on a preselection for a not all that safe seat now? The answer is simple. He’s bored. The job offers haven’t come through in the way that he expected, and Jeff has learned just how ex an ex-premier really is.

If Jeff is indeed making a bid for Canberra, there will be many people asking why. He obviously wouldn’t settle for a minor role. Hillary understands that the PM’s recent musings left Jeffrey inspired. But what will his pal Cozza have to say – let alone his putative colleagues?

What, too, is Shane Stone’s role in all of this? He and Kennett go back a long, long way in the Surrey Hills branch – but the PM doesn’t even want a challenge, and isn’t Stone supposed to be the PM’s loyal follower?

Helping Hand

All political observers know what a shy and private person Brendan Nelson is – and it seems his staff share these attributes and never, ever read the nasty stuff that horrible Hillary Bray person writes.

That seems to be the only justification for the recent behaviour of staffer Yaron Finkelstein. A few weeks ago, Hillary reported how Nelson’s constant self-promotion is doing his chances of that other promotion no good at all.

Still, young Yaron continues to walk the corridors telling everyone he meets to expect his boss’ elevation to the Aboriginal Affairs portfolio at any moment. It must be great to have loyal and helpful staff.

Bearded

As South Australia slips further into stagnation, it’s good to know that the Premier’s staff had they eye on the ball game while he was recently off overseas.

With John “Buffy” Olsen away for a fortnight, the lads held a “beard off” – a competition to see who could grow the best beard in that time, judged by the office sheilas.

The South Australian government is plagued by leaking – and Hillary understands that the guys were left feeling a little worried when details of the competition and the winner were announced some 30 minutes later on the ABC.

Home Is Not Home For Ho

Ho Chi Minchin, leader of the dreaded National Right, suffered an embarrassing blow when his candidate for the presidency of his home division of the Liberal Party in South Australia failed to get up on Friday night.

The vote was yet another failure for the perpetually embattled Buffy too, who had put aside his differences with Ho to back the same candidate.

Running In Ryan

The fallout continues from last weekend’s Ryan electorate committee AGM and the disputed ballot for the chairman’s spot between Penny Behan and Bob Tucker.

Throughout the week, lawyers’ letters have been flying around and party state director Graham Jaeschke has finally decided if the suspect ballot papers have been destroyed or not – and some fairly interesting theories have been developed.

Some Queensland Libs are alleging that the ballots were changed by the wannabe MP, Michael Johnson. Its subscribers claim that Johnson thought Behan’s margin was larger than it was, and tried to deal himself a little bit of kudos by telling Tucker that some of his followers had voted for him.

What there can be no doubt over is that the Ryan election was a complete shambles. Hillary hears that there are at least 13 suspect votes from the election for chairman. Oddly, state president Con Galtos has declined calls to convene a state executive meeting.

Sources say, however, that when executive finally meets its is likely to declare Behan the winner. Tucker only won by one vote, so if all the suspect votes are declared informal, a win for Behan will follow – although there have been murmurings that the Tucker crowd will take the matter to court.

More funny stories continue to trickle out about Johnson. Locals claim that in the lead up to the meeting, Tucker actually wrote to Johnson’s Chinese friends telling them that Behan was the candidate of the people who backed One Nation in the ’98 state election. This tactic is said to worked so well that young Michael realised he would not be able to control his numbers.

The story goes on to claim that, in a magnificent exercise in spin, Johnson rang Tucker and told him that he’d been taking some soundings around the community and thought that he could deliver him a solid bag of votes – despite the fact that he was running on Behan’ ticket. It’s even been alleged by some that he spoke to Tucker in the lead up to the ballot.

All the ballot papers are under lock and key, but it has been indicated they will be destroyed at close of business on Tuesday. However, if Jaeschke or anyone else acts to get rid of the papers before all the constitutional process have been followed, things will get even hotter.

Hillary, of course, cannot comment on the veracity of any of these yarns – but it’s all pretty hilarious stuff.

Salvage Operation

Legal aid beneficiary and flower girl Carmen Lawrence attempted yet another relaunch last week with a caring, sharing – but little noticed – speech calling for a new approach to political donations, advertising and community involvement in policy-making.

An apology over Penny Easton might carry more weight, Carmen.

Hillary can be contacted at [email protected] ends

Now, let’s take a look at the second column Hillary has chosen for her Quill entry under the columnist category.

THE WHIP CRACKS

Published September 2000 on www.crikey.com.au

By Hillary Bray

Crikey’s Political Insider

The pen may be mightier than the sword – but never underestimate the strategic value of the fax machine.

On Tuesday night, six Coalition MPs missed a vote in the House of Representatives on an amendment to the Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Amendment Bill (No. 2), in cognate debate with the Telecommunications (Universal Service Levy) Amendment Bill 2000.

You yawn? Yeah – but remember if a government can’t get its troops out on the floor, then it becomes vulnerable to no confidence motions and God knows what.

On this occasion, the Government only just scraped through by one vote. Chief Government Whip Michael Ronaldson wasn’t amused – and fired off the following fax to all Coalition MPs:

“A number of colleagues have expressed deep concern regarding the close vote this evening. I have been asked who it was that let their colleagues down.

In no particular order they are:

Wooldridge, Kemp, Stone, Entsch, Wakelin, Katter

Michael Ronaldson MP

Chief Government Whip

On Wednesday morning, one chastened Cabinet Minister sent the following apology to his colleagues:

To: Coalition Members and Senators

I am writing to apologise to my colleagues for missing the division last night. I was at the Science Award Dinner and did not hear the division bells.

I will ensure that a mistake of this kind does not occur again.

David Kemp

But Parly Sec Warren Entsch wasn’t going to lunch on humble pie. At around midday, Coalition MPs found the following message on their fax machines:

Dear Michael

Thank you for your facsimile, which expressed deep concern regarding the failure of members to attend last night’s division. Since I made you aware immediately after the event that those of us who attended the Prime Ministers Inaugural Science Awards in the Great Hall neither heard the division bells nor saw the flashing lights and being aware of those facts, I trust you advised those members who contacted you with concerns of the legitimate reasons for our non-attendance.

The members who attended that dinner were Drs Wooldridge, Stone and Kemp, and myself and, as you are aware, all of us are conscientious in performance of our parliamentary responsibilities. None of the members would have intentionally avoided the division. The simple fact is none of us were aware that a division was in progress.

Speaking for myself and knowing the importance of being in contact at all times during parliamentary sitting times, I had my beeper with me. There was no notification via that system that a division was in progress. It is therefore reasonable to assume that I took all the necessary precautions to ensure that I was available to answer calls in the chamber.

It appears therefore that the technology failed – perhaps the bells and lights did not work or perhaps they worked so poorly that no one noticed them. I would suggest that an investigation take place to see why this has happened. While in this case there were only 4 members involved, in other cases it may be a lot more which could lead to an even greater embarrassment for our Government.

The fact is that I do not miss divisions intentionally. More importantly, I have always done all that I can to support my colleagues both in the chamber and elsewhere as is the case, I am sure, with my other colleagues who attended this awards function.

Thank you for your patience and hopefully your understanding and I look forward to your comments.

Warren Entsch

Well, by late afternoon he’d sure felt the crack of the whip:

Dear Warren

Thank you for your letter regarding last night’s division.

I confirm that last evening was the fifth division you have missed this term, Whether you meant to miss last night’s division or previous divisions is not the issue. The only issues is that you did (underlined).

The Shadow Minster was at the dinner and managed to get himself to the Chamber (although he was paired he was not required to stay). The Shadow Minster was able to ascertain there was a division and out of interest, I also briefly attended the dinner and had my office page me, I was anxious to ensure that if indeed there was a technical problem, that it be addressed immediately. Remarkably, my pager beeped quite clearly.

Your letter also gave the impression that all colleagues at the dinner had their pagers with them. This is not correct.

Our colleagues have seen your letter and that of David Kemp. The difference could not be more stark – one genuinely apologising for missing his first divisions, the other still making excused after missing his fifth.

As you chose to distribute your letter to colleague, I have taken the liberty of doing likewise. I am sure this letter now finalises this matter.

MICHAEL RONALDSON MP

CHIEF GOVERNMENT WHIP

Ouch!

Will we hear from Messr Wooldridge, Wakelin and Katter and Ms Stone?

Well, Hillary will bring you more as and when events unfold – but, just like Mr Entsch, hopes they do not bring even greater embarrassment for our Government.

Disclosure: Hillary got a severe bollocking from the then whip very early on in his/her career for letting the boss miss a division.

ends

And in the third column Hillary has chosen to enter, this is her wrap of the issues shortly after the latest Queensland state election was called.

HILLARY’S QUEENSLAND ELECTION SPECIAL

Published January 20, 2001 on www.crikey.com.au

By Hillary Bray

Crikey’s Political Insider

Jesus, not another bloody election! Yesterday Hillary was in Perth enjoying the John Curtin Historical Experience – lying in a drunken stupor in the sandhills at Cottesloe Beach – when the Mayne Man called the mobile demanding that your correspondent get on the next plane to Brisbane.

Now, fortified by a quick trip out to Ipswich to Pauline’s fish and chippery, Hillary is perched comfortably on a pile of plain brown envelopes left over from the Bjelke-Peterson era bashing away at the laptop.

It’s delightful to have found such a congenial spot – as Hillary has the feeling political groupies will be back Queensland before too long.

The punditocracy have already made their calls. Malcolm Macboringoldfart says Labor will win in their own right. Antony Green says to get ready for a hung parliament. Hillary, always the peacemaker, agrees with them both – largely. Labor will win the most seats, but whether or not it can form a Government is an entirely different matter.

Queensland politics has been unstable since Wayne Goss blew the 1995 state election. He was returned with a majority of just one that fell early the next year when independent Liz Cuningham decided to back the Coalition after the Liberal win in the Mundingburra by-election ordered by the Court of Disputed Returns.

Borbidge and the boys settled in – and then came One Nation. At the start of the 98 poll, the Coalition awarded One Nation their preferences and spent the rest of the campaign trying to avoid even thinking about them – let alone answering questions on whether a minority Borbidge Government would accept One Nation votes in Parliament.

In the end, Pauline and her band of bigots polled 23 per cent and took 11 seats from the Coalition and Labor. Urban Liberal voters, disgusted by the preference deals, turned to Labor. The non-Labor vote disintegrated. Peter Beattie was left one seat short of a majority. Ol’ Redneck Rob got busy and just days after the poll said he would be prepared to accept independent and One Nation votes in a motion of confidence on the floor of the House. Beattie, however, was able to win the support of independent Peter Wellington and gain government in his own right when Labor won the seat of Mulgrave back from One Nation in a by-election.

Things are different now. That old saying that the parties of the lunar right split because everyone wants to be Fuhrer has once again proved true. Of the 11 One Nation MPs elected in 98, six sit as the City-Country Alliance, four as independents and one went mad and topped himself – and the last Newspoll had One Nation sitting on just three per cent.

Earlier this month, Borbidge did the tough guy act and announced that he would not accept One Nation or CCA votes. His message was clear. If voters wanted to toss Labor out, they would have to back the Coalition. Supporting One Nation or the CCA in the hopes that they would hold the balance of power was a risky waste of a vote. There was, however, one vital – and little reported – qualification. Borbidge indicated a willingness to accept the votes of any former One Nation members turned independents returned at the poll. This has lead to two fascinating questions – what is the difference between a former Hanson zealot turned independent and a former Hanson zealot turned CCA member and – perhaps more significantly – is Borbidge talking sh*t?

His announcement was met with scepticism from a range of groups that was repeated when the election was called on Tuesday. And rightly so. The future of Borbidge and Beattie depends on the almost one-in-four Queenslanders who voted One Nation back in 98. Whether they like or not, both leaders need these votes.

Just to complicate matters further, Queensland has an optional preferential voting system. Banana Benders can either back just one candidate, give preferences to a couple of others or fill in the whole entire ballot paper. That means that B1 and B2 won’t necessarily benefit from any preference flow from the ratbag brigade.

Add this all up and it’s scarcely a recipe for majority government, let alone political stability.

So roll on the Pineapple Poll – an election which Hillary predicts will have a very rough end. ends

Check out www.pressclubonline.com and send emails backing Hillary to [email protected]