How does she cover so much territory across the country and hold down that job in the Mininsterial Wing in Canberra? Give Hillary 15 minutes of your time and you’ll be more than enlightened on Oz politics.

The Howard Government is all on the rocks. The Nats are in a state of open revolt, with the redneck right lacking the guts or the intellectual honesty to go and join one Nation, backbench Libs are doing the headless chook and the public isn’t being fooled.

The complete overreaction on petrol shows just how nervous John Howard is. But punters aren’t taken in by stunts like that – and in the constant ebb and flow of petrol prices the only thing that will be remembered is the PM’s humiliation.

The biggest thing the Government has going for it is its economic management credentials – but the PM is trashing these in a fit of panicky populism. Doesn’t he want any respect? What about the threat this poses to the dollar and interest rates? Won’t he just create more problems for himself? Isn’t holding the line the best way to expose the complete lack of credibility of the Windbag from the West?

The Howard Government is done for. It has been since the last election. It simply has too many marginals to let it ride out any sort of swing. However, it will be better remembered if its doesn’t vandalise its own memorials.

PS Memo to One Nation types. Drop the Port Arthur conspiracy. Hillary’s got a better one for you. The timing of Don Bradman’s death – just before Parliament resumed – it has to be too good to be true, hasn’t it?

Peter’s friends

One of the more bizarre antics panicking Libs have got up to of late is blaming a “hard-line” Peter Costello for the Government’s woes.

Costello? Have these people been to a party room meeting since 1996? The fundamental thrust of economic policy – any policy – is, was and remains the Dwarf’s domain.

The ramblings of the deranged

During the week Bob Katter bagged the Government for continuing the policies of the Keating government – presumably for pursuing engagement with the rest of the world rather than embracing the vision of Piggy Muldoon or Todor Zuhkov.

PJK himself let loose with a remarkable stream of consciousness piece in the Fin attacking the GST. Hillary can imagine how it was composed. PJ set up a picture of John Hewson on the other side of the desk, stared at it for a while, then flicked on the dictaphone, closed his eyes and pretended to be in Question Time sometime in the second half of 1992 then let rip.

It was great – for nostalgia. Otherwise, it was a crock. Funny how all the great Keating reforms actually happened under Bob Hawke. Even bloody Andrew Murray was able to shoot it full of holes.

Just what was opinion editor Tom Switzer thinking? He’s normally quite sensible.

Spooky stuff

Talk about being prescient! Last week Hillary complained of the intellectual bankruptcy of the old left and Santamaria getting together to deny the rest of the world existed – then comes the piece on Australia One by Laurie “Sphere of Influence” Oakes.

The Sphere gets good stories. So if it’s true, what a god awful mix! Mad Bob Katter, Dougie Cameron and some NCC bods – all skipping round holding hands. And wasn’t it interesting seeing Dick Smith running away at 100 miles an hour. Surely he must have realised just what types he would attract after launching Pauline’s Pantry Foreigner Free Foods. After all, they’re the target market.

Anyway, we know now who their candidate for the leadership of the National Party is. And for the Libs? The Mad Monk is always singing Santa’s praises. To establish his IR credentials in his new portfolio, he keeps on mentioning how much he admired Santamaria. To Hillary, that’s rather like fronting up at your local Labor sub-branch saying you want to join because you’ve always admired Billy Hughes, but we digress. Wouldn’t it be interesting if there were some links there.

PS Hillary was very amused to see the by-line on the Townsville Bulletin’s yarn that broke the same day as the Sphere’s, claiming the state Nats wanted Mad Bob as their leader – John Andersen.

PPS By the way, John Anderson, you should have realised by now that all this broke just 10 says after having Hillary’s Hex placed on you. There’s only one way to lift the curse, John – stand up to the Rodent and don’t treat your staff like dirt.

Keeping the bastards off TV

Can anyone do a good John McEnroe imitation – that incredible “you cannot be serious, man” that he used to fire at poor umpires over line calls? That refrain has been in back of Hillary’s mind since Natasha Stott-Despoja declared her candidacy for the Democrat leadership.

Hillary is harsh on Natty – but for one simple reason only. Natasha is a remarkably talented politician – who has decided to throw all substance out the window in the pursuit of gimmicks and the superficial and – above all – media exposure.

Not serious media, mind you. Natasha says she appears on programs that appeal to a different demographic. They are also the sort of programs where you’re unlikely to be asked any question tougher than “What did you think of Gwyneth Paltrow’s singing in Duets?”. Other than getting her face on Good News Week or in Who Weekly, it’s hard to know what she stands for.

Despite her undeniable abilities, there have also got to be serious questions whether Natasha is psychologically equipped for the job. That isn’t a cheap jibe. Politics is a very odd career choice for someone with Natasha’s mental make-up.

Journalists and Ministers who have got stuck into Natasha have received letters and notes from her mother, Adelaide journo Shirley Stott-Despoja. Can you imagine a party leader fronting up with a note from mummy? “Dear Mr Oakes, Natasha cannot appear on the Sunday program this morning as you might expose her to some serious scrutiny”.

Natasha is incapable of taking criticism. She is incredibly thin skinned. Last year, when the Sydney Morning Herald discussed some of the more curious details of the life story Natasha has created for herself – already largely revealed by her wicked step-mother a couple of months into her Senate career – Natty could barely cope. Friends and disciples – and mum – harried the poor journo and followed the feature with sob story letters. It gets worse. As Fia Cumming observed in the Sun-Herald this week, Natasha “has also deeply upset some Democrats by baseless accusations”.

All Natasha’s comments this week have portrayed her more as a victim than an underdog. This seems to be the only role Natasha can play – and she thinks she can be a leader!

PS The Dems conduct their leadership ballots by giving all party members a postal ballot. Now where have we recently heard about such a system being abused?

Grand pricks

Grand Prix time rolls round again – and once more Victorian Deputy Prem John Thwaites feels the heat in his seat of Albert Park.

Local nimbies feel Thwaites could and should have done more to oppose Ron Walker’s prix, but has traded off their interests for a Cabinet berth. Especially virtuous types point to the tobacco advertising on Grand Prix cars and start hyperventilating.

There’s already been talk that Thwaites would like a new seat, and with the changing demographics in the area there is a real possibility that if locals ran a campaign against him, they could elect an independent or at least unseat the Deputy Prem.

Thwaites has always argued that he has influence while in the cabinet which he would lose if he had to resign his seat to oppose party policy on the GP. The local nimbies say there isn’t much use having influence unless it is used – and that throwing him out would give a very strong message to the government.

Ticket to ride

Thwaites’ boss, Saint Steve, remains immune from all criticism – but can the same be said of his staff? Hillary hears an amusing anecdote about one of the “directors” in the sainted one’s office, as senior staff are grandly named.

Our hero is something of a lad. He is fond of bending the elbow – and fonder still of watching young ladies bend every which way in the popular lap-dancing establishment, the Men’s Gallery. It’s also been claimed that he is a bit free with the Cabcharge card after these late nights at the office.

One invoice in particular has created cause of comment – a bill of $150 for a trip from the Premier’s Office to home in Richmond. Hillary would expect the journey to cost a tenth of that. Could it be that our hero stopped for refreshments several times along the way and told the cabbie to keep the meter running?

Having a bet each way

If his staff don’t undo him, then his two faced approach to gambling could start the decline of Steve Bracks.

Hillary doesn’t care if people pour money into pokies or not. If they do so and go hungry for a few days, so what? It might even teach them a lesson.

However, when governments come to power with a crackdown on gambling as a major part of their platform – then start squealing with delight as soon as the Packers start nibbling their earlobes – Hillary thinks they should cop a lot of flak.

The caps on poker machines announced last week by Labor fall well short of its pre-election pledges. Pokies are being pulled in just four of Victoria’s 78 municipal regions, and their removal will also be delayed for five years.

At the same time, Saint Steve’s government has already expanded its gaming tax revenue by 20 per cent since it came to office.

That’s clearly tough action, boys.

Switched on

More estimates fun! A Senate source says that while public servants were undergoing a long grilling, a bored Erica pulled out his laptop, booted it up and started playing solitaire.

Repeat offender

The SMH’s tired Kooka column ran a yarn on the weekend about Hillary’s friend Slippery Pete Slipper entertaining the bright young things of the Liberal Students Federation – the party’s book-burning faction – at their recent conference by reading highlights from constituent letters.

Hillary hates to disappoint poor old Secco, but there’s nothing new in this behaviour. Hillary heard it at the ALSF gathering in Melbourne back in 99.

Higher profile

Julie Bishop didn’t get the leadership of the Western Australian Liberals – but her profile may well get an indirect lift when a proper inquiry begins into the finance brokers scandal. All sorts of interesting information about the landlord for her posh Nedlands electorate office has come in during the week – and would you be surprised to hear that the property has the inevitable Court family links.

Meanwhile, even The Worst has had a look at the property dealings of Julie’s friend, Perth Mayor and homophobe Peter “Mattress” Nattrass. Here’s what they had to say:

“THE family of Perth Lord Mayor Peter Nattrass are lobbying to derail a big planning scheme for Crawley that could put a stop to further high-rise development.

In January, the Nattrass family won an appeal in the Town Planning Appeal Tribunal to build a $6 million, 11-storey luxury apartment complex on the site of their family home on Mounts Bay Road.

Perth City Council rejected the family’s development application in May last year because it was not consistent with the council’s objectives for the future development of Crawley.

It is unlikely that the family would have won their appeal if the new town planning scheme for the area was in place.

In a letter drop to Crawley residents, Nattrass family members claim to be looking out for the interests of the residents’ children and their grandchildren’s inheritance. The letter specifically outlines the potential losses to owners in the Illinois building on Wingfield Avenue.

According to Department of Land Administration records, Dr Nattrass’ partner, Federal MP Julie Bishop, bought a $625,000 apartment in the Illinois complex in September. This was not mentioned in the letter. The letter said owners of the Illinois building would have nothing to gain from the scheme and everything to lose.

The building was 45 years old and would be redeveloped one day. But the draft scheme would prevent the owners from building a similar-sized building. “The reduction in value to those units is obvious,” the letter said. Dr Nattrass said yesterday it was mischievous to imply the letter was prompted by his links with Ms Bishop.

He said the example could be applied to a number of other older developments in Crawley. The letter simply drew residents’ attention to the fact that with a stroke of a pen their properties could be made to be worthless if the draft scheme was passed.

“We can only imagine that most supporters of the draft scheme have blindly signed the petition (circulating in the community to support the scheme) without weighing up how it will apply to their individual lots,” the letter said.

“In our opinion, the changes will result in broad, squat, residential developments with poor amenity and inevitably lower quality whereas the existing scheme provides for the development of narrower buildings set in a landscaped setting and providing opportunities for views for all.” Residents were urged to complete a pro forma letter against the draft scheme and return it to the council before public submissions on the draft scheme closed tomorrow.

Cr Tess Stroud, a strong supporter of the new scheme, put the comments down to scaremongering that was not likely to succeed.

Perth City Council adopted the draft scheme in July 1997.



Comedy relief

He’s back! Peter “Nutty” Knott, the hapless one term Member for Gilmore, Paul Keating’s “c*nt in the cakeshop” and, when PJ was in kinder mood “the candidate from hell”, has been preselected to contest his old seat once again.

Knott could reduce members of both sides of the House to paroxysms of laughter – without even telling a joke.

It speaks volumes for the quality of Labor’s pool of candidates that they’re putting him up again. Even Belinda Neale would be better.

One all

Up in Queensland, there seems to be a competition on the coast to see if the Libs can be more Nat than the Nats and the Nats more Lib than the Libs. First there was the plan to take Borbidge federal as a Liberal candidate in Moncrieff. Then the Liberals courted Michael Yarwood – who left for the greener pastures of the National Party. Now to even the score the Libs have got a new Nat – prominent superannuant Bill O’Chee.

Yes, the same bunch of in touch people who brought you the Queensland Liberal campaign – Carroll-Santoro, federal director Lynton Crosby, federal president Shane Stone Cold Dead – plus the Prime Miniature – have their star candidate ready to run.

The Queensland Liberal state executive has decided that nominations will open on the March 18 and close on April 6. That means Wild Bill will have been a member of the Liberal Party for less than a month when he puts in his nomination for this prime National, er Liberal, seat.

With the electorate so cynical these days, parachuting in someone like Bill might cause some comment. And if he returns, people are bound to want to know just what will happen with the $1.4 million he’s got in super

Less is better than Moore

It seems that Ryan Liberals and their former member, John Moore, have had an acrimonious parting. At the Liberal Party launch on Friday, John Moore was nowhere to be seen.

Hillary hears he packed his pinstripes and stormed off the day before the launch after some campaign officials let him know what some of the punters have been telling them about his performance as a local member and how they feel about his departure so close to a general election.

Galtos goofs

Village idiot and Queensland Liberal sideshow attraction Con Galtos was in top form at the Ryan Liberal By-election launch. He felt so overcome by it all that in his vote of thanks to the candidate, Bob Tucker, he called him Bob Carroll.

For the uneducated, Bob Carroll is the person who knocked Bob Tucker off as Party President, and set about systematically destroying Tucker’s influence within the Party.

PS Sheppardson and the Teenage Toecutter’s committee seem to have missed a few interesting details. The e-mails keep coming into Hillary about a certain Queensland Liberal Fed and his family – and their peculiar arrangements for electoral enrolment.

Buffy buffeted

The Rodent wasn’t the only party leader shedding tears of relief at the Don’s death. Parliament also resumed in his adopted state of South Australia – and Buffy Olsen only just made it through the week.

Once again he was forced to defend the incompetence of Tourism Minister Joan “Elvira” Hall, the only self proclaimed numbers person in the country who’d fail a course in remedial arithmetic.

Elvira already enjoys the popularity of foot and mouth disease, but its thought that botching the deal for Adelaide’s Le Mans race (no, Hillary hadn’t heard of it either), managing to turn South Australia into international fools and pissing off a billionaire who had previously expressed a liking for investing in the struggling State has taken her to new depths. Word has it that the independents only spared her from a no-confidence motion this time so they could try and get her over that bigger fish of Hindmarsh Stadium.

However, the week has left another damsel in distress, Buffy’s own chief of staff, Vicki Thompson. Many years of pissing off Ministers, backbenchers and staffers is coming back to haunt her – and the knives are well and truly out.

During the week, Labor claimed Thompson withheld documents from the 1998 Crammond inquiry for three months – then alleged that she later boasted of a shred-a-thon over a few chards at lunch with fellow staffers.

Buffy defended Thompson, saying that the documents backed up his story. If he was telling the truth, then why the hell didn’t she hand them over? He would have been off the hook earlier. She should be sacked for incompetence. If he isn’t telling the truth – well, issues of withholding evidence might well emerge. And that’s a sackable offence, too – at the very least.

PS Hillary hears that there is no truth in the rumour that just before Parliament sits again Buffy plans to assassinate South Australia’s second most famous resident – Humphrey B Bear.

Election sweepstakes

The final results from Queensland came during the week, with Labor on 66, Nationals 12, Liberals three, One Nation three and five independents. In the West, Labor scored 32, the Libs 16, the Nats five and there are four independents.

So how did our brave pundits go? The closest we got in Queensland was Labor on 58 and two entries gave Labor 28 seats in the West. One clever soul put the Queensland Libs as low as seven seats, but no-one forecast the Coalition’s wipe out.

There’s clearly a budding psephologist down at the RMIT – their predictions for both elections were the best. And who would have thought a lawyer in Brisbane would have an eye for politics in the West? Subs are on the way to both of you – and thank you to everyone who entered.

Self discovery

A reader has very kindly sent in this eight point indicator to tell if you should vote One Nation:

1. You think the stock market has a fence around it

2. You believe Year 10 was the best six years of your life

3. You stare at an orange-juice container because it says “concentrate”

4. You think Dom Perignon is a Mafia leader

5. You go to a family reunion looking for a date

6. You think the billboard “Say no to crack” means to pull up your jeans

7. You’ve refused to watch the Academy Awards since Smokey and the Bandit was snubbed for best picture

8. You think a Volvo is part of a woman’s anatomy

Just fancy that!

Mr David Barnett, who wrote the Prime Minister’s biography, has lobbied to have the “black armband” view of history – criticised by Mr Howard – censored from exhibits at the National Museum of Australia, say museum staff.

— Sydney Morning Herald, 3 March 2001

The black armband view of history will not prevail at the new National Museum of Australia – if Christopher Pearson and David Barnett have their way.

Talk suggests that the pair have been determined to ensure that the repository of our nation’s heritage tells a tale consistent with the John Howard view of our past – white colonialists civilizing a waste land.

—- Crikey, 7 May 2000

Hillary Bray can be contacted at [email protected]