Crikey’s political insider Hillary Bray has another truckload of great gossip.

Just what was Gavin Anderson & Company – those spinners to the top end of town with a penchant for privatisations – doing helping dear little Ah Satan? Did she forget the first Objective of the Democrats – “To be beholden to no group or groups in the community but to serve the best interests of all Australians”?

True, principal Ian “Rhodesia” Smith, like Satan, comes from England via South Australia – but is better known for his work with various Liberals – Jeff included – than the Democrats.

Just what was the role played in all of this by the mysterious Armand Hicks, hubby to the short lived New South Wales Democrat Senator and Satanist Karin Sowada and former Gavin Anderson staffer – and just how much help did Satan really get and when?

PS Ian Kortlang won a wonderful reputation as a leadership challenge man when he helped Andrew Peacock roll the Rodent back in 89. It did wonders for his client, didn’t it?

Love and money – your money

Hillary hears that there may be some new phone bill embarrassment coming the government’s way.

A strange tale tells that a senior – and politically connected – staffer has run up a very large bill on a taxpayer funded mobile calling their partner – a former ministerial staffer now overseas in another government role.

Saving her from herself

Hillary hears that that scourge of politicians, monarchist manqu Kerry Jones, is hoping to join their number again – this time as a candidate for the New South Wales state seat of Hornsby.

Hillary also hears that, once again, the preselectors are likely to save her from herself.

Pillory Hillary

Hillary gathers from the lynch mobs wandering the corridors that the subscribers’ piece on the seat of Aston went down like the Talmud with a Towelhead. But what’s wrong with writing about the implications of someone’s death when they’ve, er, died?

To show why you should stop being cheap and subscribe, here’s what you could have been offended by last Wednesday:

Well, hasn’t the government’s luck turned. Nothing but bad news for months, and after equivocal headlines about the Woodside decision, suddenly it is into election mode again with the death of Peter Nugent.

Hillary can’t think of anywhere the government would less want to face a by-election than the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. Labor hasn’t been able to win back a federal seat in the eastern suburbs since the city’s middle classes deserted Labor at the 1990 Federal election following the financial disasters of Roby Jolly and John Cain. (For the pedants, Labor’s gains since in Isaacs, Chisholm and Bruce owe more to new electoral boundaries than a major electoral resurgence by Labor.)

Now after 18 months of Bracksie, when the good burghers of Melbourne’s east finally think Labor can be trusted with money again, Peter Nugent goes and dies.

John Howard must be thinking this is just typical of a Liberal moderate. Back in the 1980s, in his first stint as Liberal Oberfuhrer, moderates like Ian McPhee, Phillip Ruddock and Peter Baume kept resigning from the frontbench or crossing the floor at the most inconvenient times. Now a Melbourne eastern suburban liberal moderate drops dead forcing a by-election exactly where the government doesn’t want one, in a mortgage belt seat and in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs. Typical.

Labor failed to win any state seats in the east at the September 1999 state election, apart from holding Mitcham won previously at a by-election. Since then, Bracks led Labor to victory in Jeff’s old seat of Burwood, and polls have shown all the outer eastern federal seats (Casey, Deakin, Aston, La Trobe, Dunkley, Flinders, Menzies) to be at risk. Even Peter Costello’s seat of Higgins has been looking a little wobbly. Not what you want when you lose government on a swing of less than one per cent.

It’s a bit far out from the election to wimp out and cancel the by-election, so it looks like more unsettling electoral tests ahead for the Little Fella.

What’s so bad about that? Hillary is happy to sing the praises of Peter Nugent. His stance on human rights and justice for Indigenous Australians was exemplary – and his (largely unreported) battles in the party room against the people who would like to see the mean-minded spoutings of Ho, Bronny and the Monk as the philosophy of the Liberal Party equally praiseworthy.

However, a by-election is the last thing the Government wants. Ryan was a disaster – but the Government hoped they could reclaim the high ground in the run up to the poll with a sound Budget. Now, they’ll have to be a second by-election – one which will only be seen as a referendum on the Budget and a harbinger of the election result. Erk!

Liberal federal director Lynton Crosby has already said that the party is prepared to spend up big to hang on to poor old Pete’s seat – and that $300,000 might be needed for the job.

For around 90 seconds on Tuesday it was said that the Treasurer’s faithful factotum, Tony “Pup” Smith, might have a go – but dogs are good at sniffing the wind, and nothing has been heard since.

Now, there is serious talk that Nugent’s widow, Carol, might stand. She worked in his electoral office – but has proved herself to be a solid political performer, knows the electorate, has the name and – who knows – might even defy the odds and win.

Watch this space.

Plus ca change

The Queensland Libs – or what’s left of them – are reviewing their rules, and so once again they’ve put old George “Washington” Brandis back in charge of the constitution committee.

Nothing like having a commitment to serious change, is there?

Strange outbreak of sanity

Something is wrong with the Western Australian Liberal Party, according to Ross “The Redneck” Lightfoot and the Annexe the Sudetenland faction. How could a moderate – and a republican – like Alan Eggleston end up in the number one spot on the Senate ticket.

They refused to support outgoing president David Johnson – who still ended up with in the number two position.

Ross ended up in number three, and poor old Winston Crane, the former number one, saw his career vanish as he fell to the fourth place.

What a fascinating change of dynamics. Surely light and reason aren’t prevailing?

What’s in a name?

Peter Costello mania continues to sweep the country as Crikey readers debate a nickname for the Treasurer.

They’re not the only people getting carried away. Louise Dodson, Alan Ramzzzey, the little wifey and the Age’s “Fighting the System from Within” correspondent Stephen Bartholemeusz have all had good things to say about him. The Redneck even wants the Treas to have his babies, or something along those lines.

Bryan Frith, the business commentator for the Australian, has been busy coming up with his own Costello names. In two successive columns after the Woodside decision he talked about “Pusillanimous Pete” then “Powder Puff Pete”. Full marks Bryan!

Crikey’s creative crowd is no nearer to a decision. Instead, the names keep flooding in. We’ve had “Et tu”, as in “Et tu, Brutus”, the “Kmart Keating”, “Cats Bum” and “Rex” – “in honour of the resurrection and embracement via the Woodside decision of the national socialist resource strategy of the late Rex Connor”.

Lex iconographers will be delighted to know that a reader has informed us of the obscure Irish expression “took the soup” being used by a journo of apostate descent on the now defunct Perth Daily News, and name that’s almost as obscure as “The Souper” – “The Scratcher” has been suggested. Here’s the explanation:

“Have you ever watched the Treasurer at Question Time? He is constantly twitching, touching or scratching himself. He has just hypocritically scratched Shell’s bid for Woodside. He gave the Prime Miniature a bit of a touch-up after the Queensland election, and his writing hand has developed a nasty twitch causing massive expenditure (vote buying) on inefficient/unproductive programs to be ticked instead of crossed off. The raison d’etre of his forthcoming buying spree (AKA the Budget) appears to be: ‘scratch everything that I’ve said before – we are now in grovelling mode despite having given you every impression that we couldn’t give a David Kemp whether you like it or lump it’.”

Who knows where this important national debate will end?

To be fair, the Treasurer isn’t the only one attracting comment. It has been observed that if PC is going to be known as “Frank Burns”, then the Prime Miniature should be referred to as “Radar” and Lex as “Corporal Klinger”. Another astute reader has commented on the remarkable similarity between Phillip Ruddock and Montgomery Burns when they smile.

And, in the interests of equal space, Hillary must also list these interesting names sent in for his opposite number, Simon Crean:

Manic Snore

Simon Sneer

Cringing Creen

Snarling Sime

Whiney Simey

Bloody Frank Crean’s son

Keeping the Lords day

Tasmanian Liberal Senate aspirant and owner of IPR Shandwick in Canberra, Guy Barnett, is said to be far too close for comfort to One Nation.

There are claims that a former employee has said that Barnett asked them to make calls to One Nation in Tasmania to get them onside for a client – local Retailers Association head, Sam “You can’t shop on Sundays like the rest of the civilized world” Richardson.

Barnett is a Godly type who also preaches the free enterprise gospel. Strange, then, he should take money to help put further restrictions on the struggling Tasmanian economy – particularly given the importance of tourism to the state.

Helpful suggestions

Hillary is unable to make it to the “Extraordinary General Meeting” of ABC shareholders in Sydney, but passes on a few helpful suggestions to the Mayne Man he may like to use in his speech to the faithful.

Firstly, if the Friends are concerned about political interference with the Board of the ABC, there is an easy solution. They can support its privatisation.

Secondly, if they don’t want to follow that path but still want more funds, then there’s an equally simple way to solve that. They can have paid ads on the ABC. After all, that’s exactly what Australia’s best broadcaster, SBS, does.

PS Hillary would have been fascinated to attend, given that Rod Quantock was on the bill. Until now, scientists thought this strange, ancient and ragged hairy species could only survive within a few hundred metres of the John Curtin Hotel or other inner-Melbourne locations mentioned in Frank Hardy books.

Hairy stuff

Hillary receives representations from a bevy of beauticians from Sydney’s east, traumatised tending the topiary of a well known local columnist.

“You ‘ave no idee, ma chere Hillaire,” their leader says. “Zere eez more zan une petite deefference, ne c’est pas, between makeeng ze Brazeelian wax an’ chopping down ze Amazon forests?”

Hillary promises to publicise their plight.

Preventative medicine

Does Mike Wooldridge deserve his nickname of “The PIMP” – the Pharmaceutical Industry’s Main Pusher? Maybe not, if this week’s leaks are true.

It’s been reported that Woolly wants to limit the time that doctors can prescribe cholesterol-lowering medication. This, of course, would have profound implications on the life expectancy of people with high cholesterol. It’s basic knowledge that high cholesterol levels in your blood for long periods of time increase the risk of a heart attack that can well be fatal.

Perhaps he is pioneering a new form of preventative medicine – letting people die before they become too big a burden on the public health system.

We’re a happy family

More details come in for the Conservative Nepotism List. By the time Parliament resumes, we’ll have a huge document to hand to the Monk.

The father of Member for Corangamite, Stewart “Herman Munster” McArthur, Sir Gordon, served as President of the Victorian Legislative Council.

Grant Chapman does not only have a great-uncle Senator. His cousin Baden Teague also served in the Upper House, while father-in-law Roger Goldsworthy was a Liberal Deputy Premier in South Australia.

And speaking of in-laws, how did Hillary forget this one – Peter Costello and Peter Coleman, former member for Wentworth and leader of the New South Wales Libs and father of Tanya.

Please pull this fencepost out of my arse, someone

Special recognition must be given in closing to Australia’s last living Keynesian, John Quiggan, who is occasionally let out to frolic in the Fin.

John loves to reach into the Keynes Cook Book, the wonderful volume full of recipes for stagflation that great-gran’ma always used as she stood over the old woodstove – but even he was forced to admit that Japan’s massive government spending has done sod all to solve the nation’s economic problems.

So what was his argument? That it was spent the wrong way. Yeah, and communism was never implemented properly, either – hey John?

Hillary Bray can be contacted at [email protected]

And now, check out last week’s column.

Change of address

First things first – Hillary’s e-mail has changed. From now on, you can contact Hillary at [email protected]

For Pete’s sake!

The search to find a name for Treasurer Peter Costello – one that can stand with John “The Prime Miniature” Howard, “Ho Chi” Minchin, Phillip “The Cadaver” Ruddock, “Hindenburg” Hockey and Amanda “The Incredible Bulk” Vanstone in being irritating and not particularly funny – has reached fever pitch. Put it on TV and it would leave Popstars for dead.

Such is the frenzy that Hillary won’t risk making the choice, but instead will turn it over to you, the reader. Here are the options – and to have your say on what will be the official name for the Treasurer in this column simply e-mail your choice through to Hillary’s exciting new e-mail address [email protected] .

Peter Costellot

Frank Burns

The Great Smirk

The C*nt (may be problematic in a family scandal sheet)

The Smug Preacher

PK Lite

The Vulcan

The Smirking Apostle

ATO Creep Stole Lot

Top Closet Leer

Chicken Lips

The final suggestion is a little academic – Souper. The nominee explains:

“I am sure that I am not alone in having been surprised to discover in the mid -eighties when he was a tyro pollie that Peter Costello was not a Roman Catholic. Costello being an Irish Catholic name. I therefore nominate the nickname ‘Souper’ for Peter.

“Souper is a pejorative term used in some parts of Ireland for the descendents of families that converted from Roman Catholicism to Protestantism for one of two reasons – they could take advantage of the inheritance laws before the Catholic Emancipation Acts which precluded property being inherited by Roman Catholics when there was a descendant of Protestant faith or they could get food handouts during the Great Famines from charitable organisations who dispensed welfare to deserving cases.

“I feel the name would be suitable for Pete – the Souper ethos is part of his genetic make up. Clearly he feels that welfare should only go to the deserving and in the past he has been prepared to abandon one set of beliefs (albeit not religious) for another when it has been to his advantage.

“I have only been able to find one reference to Souper on the net. I heard the term being used in Limerick 25 years ago and from this reference it would seem that it was used in Ulster as well.”

Well fancy that! A bit of sectarian violence in Crikey could be interesting.

Sticking with matters religious, you may care to contemplate this note from a reader as you make your choice: “Back in my university days when we only had vinyl and no CDs and Paul VI was Pope, Peter Costello organised a bus trip for committed Christians to see Billy Graham who wasn’t visiting Melbourne but only going to Sin City. At the time it was felt that Tim would be a great pollie and Peter a great preacher. Unfortunately, Peter fell into bad company with Michael Kroger and decided to use his proselytising to destroy communism instead of atheism.” Well I never!

PS The Woodside decision has just come through. Hillary thinks we should call the jerk Pauline.

Keeping the bastards out of the picture

Is Hillary the only person surprised by the fact that Ah Satan didn’t change any of her Deputy’s portfolio responsibilities when she carried out her victory reshuffle?

Aden Ridgeway has responsibility for the arts, industry, reconciliation, tourism, financial services and the centenary of federation – other than reconciliation scarcely areas where the Dems have much of a profile.

She isn’t keeping him busy – and out of the media spotlight?

PS Talking about being busy, key republicans are wondering just how much they can expect from Ah Satan now she has a new role. During the referendum campaign she was happy to appear at functions – if big names were present – but since then there seems to have been little room in her diary for the cause. Despite being a member of the national committee, ah Satan has been unavailable for any meetings or phone hook ups since she dropped by to a meeting at the beginning of November last year.

Productive time

Eyebrows have been raised by Eric “Erica” Abetz’s decree that backbench staff can accompany their bosses to Melbourne next month for all the Federation frolics.

MPs are already concerned that they will have no proper facilities for working themselves during the period – let alone anywhere staff can do anything useful. As one asked Hillary “What are they supposed to do? Go and sit in the State Library?”.

Family business

Bored lawyers at opposite ends of the country have done wonders swelling the Conservative Nepotism list.

In case you’ve just joined us, the list is being drawn up in response to the even more asinine than usual comment of the Mad Monk a couple of weeks ago that “Labor MPs are more inbred than Members of the House of Lords”.

Politics is very much a family affair on both sides of the fence – as these additions show:

The grandson of Earl Page (MHR 1919-1961 and Country Party leader), Earl Bailey, served as a Nat MP in the Queensland Parliament.

Robert “One Tree” Hill’s father Murray was a South Australian MLC from 1970 to 1982.

John Hedley Chapman, the cousin of Senator Grant Chapman’s grandfather, was a Country Party Senator from 1926 to 1931.

Speaker Neil Andrew’s cousin Kent was a Liberal MHA in South Australia between 1993 and 1996. As a completely gratuitous reference, a reader has claimed Julie Bishop MP and Redneck Ross Lightfoot used to be an item and should be included on those grounds – in which case we’d better add the wonderful coalition of Louise Asher and David Davis. (Editor’s note: isn’t it Ron Best?)

Finally, Hillary has managed to delete an amusingly incestuous Tasmanian tale to do with the seat of Lyons. If the source is feeling charitable, could they please pass it on again.

Humble humour

More correspondence comes in on Edward Gough Wanker using naughty words in Parliament – this time quoting a speech from the great man himself.

Back in 98, he told La Trobe University students that he didn’t call Gar Barwick a c*nt – but went on to say: “The nearest I came to doing so was when Sir Winton Turnbull, a member of the cavelleria rusticana, was raving and ranting on the adjournment and shouted ‘I am a Country member’ I interjected ‘I remember’. He could not understand why, for the first time in all the years he had been speaking in the House, there was instant and loud applause from both sides.”

Ah! Such humble humour.

Cahiers du Cinema

It’s all been happening down at the Manuka Multiplex. Everyone wants to know who the young lady seen down there with Lex Loser (aka Alexander Downer) was.

There’s no surprise that Andrew Thomson dropped in to The Exorcist. After his preselection woes, there are clearly a few demons he needs to exorcise.

Finally, it was good to see backbencher Barry Wakelin getting involved in the Government’s new campaign against drugs by seeing Traffic.

And on the third day, he rose

Talk from Queensland says the newly unemployed Santo Santoro has used Easter to plan his own resurrection.

Santo believes that after John “Should I Stay or Should I Go?’ Herron does a stint as party president, he’ll be the perfect unifying force to take over in 2002.

Meanwhile, Hillary hears all sorts of exciting things about transfers to the new Kenmore party branch regarding dodgy signatures and address details. What quaint local customs these banana-benders have.

Dotty com

Not only has Uptown Girl Sophie Panopolous set out to woo the RARAs by having Peter Costello open her campaign office, she is also chasing their votes online.

Hillary dropped by, and was most impressed to see that she has “supported the Government’s decision to allocate several millions of dollars to our local councils to improve our roads in Indi”.

Hillary wasn’t so sure about the bit about campaigning “strongly against Malcolm Turnbull’s Politicians’ Republic”. That seems like overkill. Surely its one or the other – Malcolm Turnbull’s chardonnay sipping elitists’ republic or the politicians’ republic – not both.

Guess who, don’t sue

What Sydney porn st er, columnist, is said to be saddened by her recently accentuated appendages. “They’re them bigger than I wanted. He talked me into it”, she supposedly says.

Hillary calls the rooms of Dr Frankengpengsten to see if he can enlarge on matters (geddit?) – but in deference to the sensibilities of his neighbours they are closed for the Passover.

Short of a story

OK. It’s hard to get a fresh political story over the Easter long weekend – but that doesn’t excuse Fia Cumming’s egregious effort in the Sun-Herald. It runs “A former senior adviser to Federal Finance Minister John Fahey has quit to work for the world’s largest cigarette manufacturer. Mark Connell was lung cancer victim Mr Fahey’s senior adviser from 1999 until late last year, when he took up a position as a senior public relations officer with British American Tobacco Australasia. A few months later his former employer was confirmed to have life-threatening lung cancer, attributed to many years as a heavy smoker Mr Connell declined to comment on the coincidence of his change in jobs.”

Presumably, however, he did comment along the lines of “How do you keep your job?”

The young ones

After Young Liberal president Gerald Paynter received a name check in last week’s column, a zillion e-mails have come in suggested Hillary look at their home page –

It’s well worth it. The first thing that greets you is a picture of young Gerald in Hawaiian gear – clearly smashed out of his head.

Hillary also receives the following fascinating e-mail about Liberal Students’ boss Matthew Ferguson-Stewart:

Dear Hillary

I love your column; but being a gay communist I condemn the capitalism that you support. In any event, I’m particularly interested in your comments regarding the pathetic organisation known as ALSF which you wrote of today.

I think I remember dancing with ALSF President Matthew Ferguson- something at the Mardi Gras. He was on the Liberal Party float along with his other ideologically challenged friends from the Darlinghurst Branch I think he said.

I can’t tell you anymore other than saying he was a total bitch; but I wouldn’t mind his phone number if you had it.

Farewell, Comrade Andre.

Hmm. Matt must be big where it counts in the student body. Can anyone help with that number?

Hillary Bray can be contacted at [email protected]