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Another great column from Crikey’s hard-working and underpaid political insider Hillary Bray.

Hillary is forced to sorrowfully surmise that the stressed Senator is highly strung – after harkening back to an episode in Ellison’s first term, where he enjoyed the relatively trouble free life of an opposition backbencher.

Back then, Ellison was asked to leave the old La Grange bar at Manuka one evening – and his colleagues were forced to intervene when he tried to pursue the matter further with the bouncer.

Quality media

OK, it’s a long weekend – but hello, is there anyone up in the Gallery or any journo anywhere who knows anything?

An Australian, Patricia Hewitt, daughter of the legendary Canberra mandarin Sir Lennox Hewitt, has been appointed to Tony Blair’s Cabinet – but at the time of writing none of our media seem to have got the connection.

A cheery soul

Hillary is not an habitue51 of Aussies, the Parliament House cafe51 – the product it serves as coffee appears to contravene the spirit, if not the letter, of the Trade Practices Act – so this is all hearsay, but, 05

On Tuesday, after Question Time, the Treasurer apparently turned up there in a bouncy and beamish mood. He greeted everyone present: “Hello Dom, hello Tony”. He turned and saw the Lounge Bar Bore: “Hello Alan”. Ramsey shot back: “Who are you screwing?”.

Eternal optimist

Hillary was particularly impressed by Fart Boy Slim’s comment last week that despite the figures, many Australians believe the economy is in recession.

What, the recession we didn’t have?

Greed is good

Genuine praise to Michael Gordon and his piece in Saturday’s Age “Just how wet is John Howard?” It’s worth quoting from at some length:

” ‘The only real freedom is a brave acceptance of unclouded individual responsibility’.

“When John Howard quoted these words from Robert Menzies in a speech last year, they so impressed one of his MPs, Ross Cameron, that he had them printed on the back of his business card.

“The Prime Minister was addressing the Melbourne Press Club on the importance of values in political leadership. They allowed him, he said, to deliver certainty to the people.

“Cameron quoted the words back to Howard and his colleagues during a party-room discussion this week on the government’s decision to spend an unprecedented $640 million to bail out victims of the HIH insurance disaster.

“He was not attacking the decision, Cameron made clear, but he was concerned about its implications, particularly the signals it sent to the business community and the electorate at large. He was not alone, at least in the Liberal Party, 05

“Western Australian MP Julie Bishop was the first to raise the issue. She, too, was not attacking the decision. Rather, she was seeking some clarity in the government’s thinking on not only the bail-out, but the calling of a Commonwealth royal commission to investigate a private sector corporate collapse.

“While she accepted the Prime Minister’s assurance that the decision did not set a precedent, she wondered what might be the response if one or more of the other 140 insurance companies in the country fell over.

“Did it depend on how big the disaster? How dramatic? How bad the corporate governance? To underscore the need for clarity, she also raised the government’s varying responses to other failures, including National Textiles, the company chaired by the Prime Minister’s brother, Stanley, 05

“Yesterday, Howard suggested size was, in fact, the key factor, telling reporters: ‘It is not good for capitalism to have hundreds of thousands of battlers hurt by the collapse of the huge insurance company in circumstances where they think they’ve been unfairly treated. That is bad for capitalism, very bad.’

“There was no inference inside the party room that the decision was driven by political considerations, but equally there is no doubt whatsoever among Coalition MPs about Howard’s determination to win the election – or his belief that he can.

“Privately some have pondered over the influence of talkback radio’s Alan Jones, who interviewed Howard on May 14, the very morning before cabinet decided to use taxpayer’s money to bail out victims, rather than introduce a levy on insurance premiums.

“The previous day, Treasurer Peter Costello had described the idea of a 1 per cent levy on all premiums as a ‘positive suggestion’. In the radio interview, Howard seemed sympathetic, too, saying a lot of people would prefer a levy than a rescue funded with taxpayers’ money.

“Jones begged to differ, predicting ‘an awful outcry if you start levying insurance holders’.

“Hours later, the cabinet opted against a levy on the grounds of ‘ordinary equity’. In the party room on Tuesday, there was no discussion of what alternative action could have been taken three weeks earlier, but there was clear concern about the precedent.

David Hawker, from Hamilton in Western Victoria, was among those who reinforced Bishop’s concerns. As he later explained: ‘If we allow an expectation to grow that every time there’s a corporate failure, the most important thing for those involved to do is to go straight off to get a good PR firm and run a high-profile story in the hope that the government will bail them out, then the result will be that responsibility will not be left where it should be’.”

Hmmm. Plenty to think on there.

Hillary is a firm believer in Gordon Gecko’s words “Greed is good. Greed works”. Capitalism is predicated entirely on risk. It is all about weighing up the information then taking a punt. You can’t have one without the other.

Friday’s Fin provided an intriguing snippet from a piece on the subject in this month’s Adelaide Review in its Notebook column:

“So HIH policy holders will be bailed out and the market will be wholly distorted. Moral hazard will be rewarded, 05 and policy holders with other firms will pay twice, once in the form of higher premiums, second in the use of their taxes to bail out those who backed the losing horse.

“Were one to suggest that a publicly owned insurance scheme were the answer, the usual parrots would make the usual squawks. But there’s no need because we now have a publicly owned insurance scheme – the Government has now set the precedent that losing owners of privates insurance will be compensated, i.e. insured – by public funds.”

For once, Hillary would like to have a look at “Piggy” Pearson’s organ.

Queensland Libs rebuild

The Queensland Liberals have been holding their annual conference over the past few days. Once again, the hoary old chestnut – for banana benders – of daylight saving has been on the agenda. Hillary gathers that they think it means they could have an extra hour in the day for infighting.

Party federal director Lynton Crosby was there with words of wisdom. The Queensland Libs didn’t focus enough on Labor rorts during the state election, or so he said. With strategic advice like this, marginal federal Libs might like to spend what’s left of the long weekend packing up their offices.

The Prime Miniature couldn’t risk flying up for the dinner on Saturday because of an ear infection, but arrived on Sunday morning , when he showered praise on former party president Con Galtos for all his hard work. Like running up $400,000 worth of debt, PM?

Meanwhile, it has emerged that Larry Anthony staffer Brendan Cooper will take on the impossible job of acting as campaigner director for the Liberal Party in Queensland. One problem has been solved, however, with the news that the Feds will be providing his paycheque.

Strange

Hillary is mystified by news that the campaign of Peter McMullin, a man with heavy Labor contacts and Saint Steve’s preferred candidate for the Melbourne Mayoralty, is being run by a former Liberal flak, one John Fetter. Very strange.

The piece in Sunday’s Hun on McMullin’s links with major council contractor Spotless is pretty damned interesting, too.

Divine retribution

Hillary doesn’t normally bother to read columns by Kenneth “Puddleglum” Davidson – the man who has not smiled since Khrushchev denounced Stalin – but thinks it’s very kind of the Age to give him space to advocate policies that have been discredited in most cases for at least quarter of a century.

However, Hillary was intrigued by Thursday’s headline “Catholic education: we all pay for it” and just had to press on. Predictably, Puddleglum revisited all the ancient state aid issues and the arguments from the long lost DOGS case – but at the end of it all his usual e-mail address was missing.

Was he afraid of getting spammed in an act of divine retribution?

Erica’s choice

It should come to no surprise that Erica Betz, a leading light in the Liberal Party’s froth at the mouth faction, is friends with the Teeny Taliban of the Australian Liberal Students Federation. Erica, indeed, heads the accreditation committee, who decides just who can vote at the ALSF conference.

A little issue has flared up in relation to the accreditation of the Wollongong club for the next conference.

A few years ago there was a club at Wollongong run by one Wade McInerney. Wade enjoyed fleeting flame when the then New South Wales Liberal Party director ordered him to remove some very peculiar links from a Young Liberal web site that stretched the “broad church” concept well past bursting point. More recently, he has been in the news as assistant returning officer at the Macquarie University student elections that were overturned by the Supreme Court.

The club is now under the charge of a lad named Gareth Ward, and McInerney has moved to the University of New England. However, he wasn’t happy with Ward’s directions and submitted a claim for accreditation for a Wollongong club of his own – which was accepted by Erica’s accreditation committee.

Now, it is said that Ward will take the matter to Lynton Crosby. Will he and Erica agree?

Om

Is there any truth to the rumour that swept Canberra Friday that after being denounced by his own Archbishop, the Rodent rang Matthew Fergusson-Stewart, leader of the Howard Youth, to enquire about the fundamental tenents of Theravada Buddhism?

When he lost the leadership back in 89, the Rodent said that making a comeback would be like “Lazarus with a quadruple bypass”. Events since then have surely given him an interest in reincarnation – and if he is to have any hope in winning a third term, he needs to pull off an equally remarkable reincarnation again.

In the papers

Hillary has been rebuked by a reader for not reporting that Sydney arts queen Leo Schofield used the word “schadenfreude” in his Sunday Telegraph column yet again a few weeks ago. Presumably he hopes that if he repeats it often enough Smellie readers will learn what it means.

Hillary also forgot to comment on how, in an attempt to sound all broadsheet, new SMH columnist Miranda Devine quoted Paul Johnson’s column in the Spectator a few weeks ago. Silly Miranda! Doesn’t she realise that in the eyes of the latte liberals the Herald is pitched at, Johnson is the moral equivalent of David Irving?

Hillary’s mailbag

A great range of goodies this week.

Firstly, Hillary has been advised of a site that proves Pauline Hanson is an alien – http://celeste_moon_1.tripod.com/hansonoralien.html. It’s definitely worth a visit – and Celeste has been added to the list of Hillary’s Heroes. She also points out how if Andrew Bartlett had a beard, he’d look remarkably like Elliot Gobblett.

There also a nice political test at http://www.politicalcompass.org that lets one determine where one stands on a left/right-libertarian/authoritarian axis. The site is apparently associated with Glenys Kinnock, but don’t let that put you off.

There’s more on the subject of lookalikes:

“I saw the news the other day and watched the secretary of the ACTU talk about leave for casuals. Somehow I felt I was watching the Editor of the Australian – Mr Stutchbury – Are they the one and same, related or just go to the same optometrist?”

Some comments on Erica come in:

“Dear Hillary,

“Just a quick note to the effect that Eric Abetz was referred to as ‘Erica Betz’ even before you did so and even before his ‘elevation’ to the Senate.

“Back then, Erica was merely President of the Tasmanian Liberal Party and spent much time defending the indefensible (such as maintaining the Tasmanian anti-gay laws) and waging the unfinished VSU battle which he, together with Michael Kroger and Peter Costello, had undertaken in his undergraduate days.

“The name ‘Erica’ was not used solely in jest. I can recall people who honestly thought, until they were corrected or saw it in writing, that his name was ‘Erica’. I have always reasoned that his must have been a difficult birth.”

Finally, Hillary has received this message:

“Peter sends military aircraft to north, around three. The dance may be cut short by Barrie (and Sarah too, apparently).

“Tony is nutty but right – right about Miles. Customer’s charge on property in ??????????.

“A king who ruled in Camelot or Canberra is one who chooses, whether using his head or not, the choice of death. But the little devil in residence at Blenheim Palace can’t be forced to leave with an empty weapon without care for good or evil.

“Spinning garbage with silver-covered tin is Tony’s business and he’s going to be hard at work. And old Rickety pails Joe made into heaps. The Little Devil, leader of men, has outlined a new role for Europeans, initially. Terrorists found in a Kingston retreat? Dancing feet, dead beat. He puts our clubs into our hands. Donator of books found in bedrooms. Vilest animal houses toured by Richard, fat after tea, we hear? Just the reverse!

“Hillary’s found where one is confused.”

Hillary thinks it means that if one takes peyote then sniffs Tipp-Ex thinner, one ends up really, really, really stoned – but if any reader has another interpretation do please send it in.

Hillary can be contacted at [email protected]

ends

Now, take a look a last week’s column.

Who leaked the Stone memo?

All the talk about Sharon Stone’s indiscretion is becoming just too convoluted for words.

The latest yarn claims that five people knew about the memo originally – Sharon himself, the Prime Miniature and staffers Arthur Sinodinis, Tony Nutt and Gerry Wheeler. The circle then, or so the story goes, expanded fairly quickly to include the PM’s head kicker, Senator Bill Heffernan. Liberal Party director Lynton Crosby was supposedly included as an afterthought.

Hillary just wishes this was an Agatha Christie – that Miss Marple or Poirot could gather all the suspects in one room and then reveal how the crime was committed and who the guilty party is.

Looking after the average Australian

Last week, the very day Kerry Packer’s high powered, high cost legal team got him out of paying $100 million to the ATO, Fart Boy Slim declared income tax was “not too high” and would not immediately be cut by a Labor government.

It’s great to see his commitment to social justice.

Lex lives?

Spontaneous laughter erupted round Canberra on Thursday when it was discovered that the Adelaide Advertiser had lead with a story on how we could expect to see Lex Loser as a deputy under a Costello leadership.

Two theories have been advanced to explain this amusing conceit. The first suggests that Lex is so scared the Dems will take his seat that he’s doing anything he can to look important. The second claims the line is being pushed by his fellow South Australian and right wing zealot Ho Chi Minchin, who is supposedly seeking to get someone malleable for the job.

If the Tiser – or any other paper – wants an exclusive and more accurate story on the deputy leader’s position, they might care to look in the direction of Bruce Baird. You read it here first.

Sharing and caring

We all remember how when poor Greg Wilton topped himself, the entire Parliament joined hands, sang Kum-Bi-Ya and promised to respect each other in the morning. Well, one MP may have really meant it.

Rod “Who?” Sawford, the Member for Port Adelaide recently put out a newsletter with a piece on the back page on a boat launching on the Port River with the caption “Rod Sawford with [slipway owner] Joe Glamocak and other invited guests”.

One glance – and you’ll realise the “other guests” are none other than Environment Minister Ol’ One Tree and fellow SA Liberal Senators Alan Ferguson and “Government” Grant Chapman.

PS Hillary’s source says that Sawford really has his finger on the pulse and that the event occurred on Australia Day – last year.

Put your sweet ear a little closer to the phone

Health Minister Michael Wooldridge – who dedicates much of his time setting an example of the benefits of red wine consumption – marked World No Tobacco day with a putout a suitably worthy but predictable press release.

What really caught Hillary’s attention was the note at the bottom of the page: “Radio Producers please note: Dr Wooldridge has provided four quotes on World No Tobacco Day. These comments can be accessed by calling (02) 6289 3012.”

Hillary hears that Woolly is setting two other quote lines – one where pensioners can ring and be called “f*cking nitwits” and a special abuse de jour service for Kerryn Phelps.

Desperately seeking candidates

AM had a chuckle at the Victorian Liberal Party’s expense last week when the division placed an ad in the Hun inviting “men and women of talent” to be trained to stand for State and Federal Parliament.

Still, state director Brian Loughnane played a straight bat and went on, telling the reporter the local Libs were “keen to have the best candidates possible – people who are in touch with the community”.

By an amazing coincidence, news also broke last week that Victorian party president Ian Carson had joined the Melbourne Club – no doubt with a similar goal in mind.

In yet another coincidence, a planned mass doorknock for the Aston by-election had to be scaled back this weekend when enough of the rank and file refused to turn out.

And in another coincidence still, the Victorian party still remains completely unable to attract a treasurer.

So, all in all, the Victorian Libs seem to be as healthy as Dynamic Dennis Napthine’s approval rate.

The war on drugs

Staying in Melbourne, news broke in the Hun last week that Crikey’s favourite member of the shiny-suit community, Rehame boss Peter Maher “will head Victoria’s new war council on drugs”, the Premier’s Drug Prevention Council.

This is a great achievement indeed – given that Maher used to be fond of a drink or 25 and rarely seen without fag in his mouth.

High standards

The high standards demanded of Minister’s on Macquarie Street is well know – but Gaming and Racing Minister Richard “Dick” Face may have taken them to new standards

In an emergency motion on Impulse Airways, Dick Face got stuck into their flack Simon Westaway – a former New South Wales Liberal wunderkind.

Dick Face said Westaway had worked for Bronny and the Rodent – but really cocked young Simon’s affiliations up. Westaway is a good moderate. He worked for federal MP Bob Baldwin, went to Peter Collins and was kept on by Chikka after her pyrrhic victory, then joined Impulse.

Face got it wrong again when he said the Westaway went straight from the October 98 election to Impulse – which leaves Hillary wonder just how much more of the speech’s contents Face dicked up.

Giving credit where credit is due

New Western Australian Attorney-General Jim McGinty managed to turn the finance brokers scandal into a powerful tool to use against Rich the Runt and his dodgy band. No doubt the 7,000 elderly investors who lost up to $150 million were pleased when Labor won.

They would have been particularly pleased by Labor’s election policy, which stated the government would pay compensation where liability was established and give legal assistance to resolve liability issues.

Unsurprisingly, the victims of the finance broking scandal took that to mean legal aid would be provided to establish who was liable for the losses, including whether the Finance Brokers Supervisory Board was negligent in regulating the industry.

Now Jim has told them they will have to fund legal action against the Government – estimated to cost $1.5 million – themselves.

What a nice way of saying thanks.

Lookalikes

Hillary has often noted the strong similarities between ACTU president Sharran Burrows and a cane toad – but what about this shot of British PM Bambi Blair. A dead ringer for The Joker, no? If readers have any lookalikes they’ve noticed and want to share, Hillary is happy to receive the jpegs.

Nickname dropping

First in was Tony Walker, talking about Hindenburg Hockey. Then, in Wednesday’s Fin, in a brief near the bottom of page six, Jason Koutsoukis, the lad who runs the Gallery’s footy tipping competition, wrote “Finance Department officials were directed by Special Minister of State Senator Erica Betz not to answer questions.”

Isn’t wonderful to see that one of our nation’s few papers of record is adopting Crikey’s names for our leaders.

It was Hillary’s melancholy duty to report that young Jason was legless at the Press Gallery Mid-Winter Ball last year, but if plugs for the column like that continue, Hillary won’t mention anything this time – even if he barfs on the Balenciaga.

PS Hillary commented last week on Steven “Twinkletoes” Conroy’s skills on the dance floor – and was delighted to receive this e-mail: “Conroy is a beautiful dancer. You should really try a two-step with him sometime”. What good timing – just as Hillary draws up the dance card for the Mid-Winter Ball.

NSW Libs pull their socks up

Readers will recall how earlier this year questions were raised about the auctions the Gambino Family – AKA the New South Wales ALP – holds at its fundraising functions. There were claims that they were a way of getting corporate donations that do not be declared – and that the same lots seemed to turn up again and again.

Their counterparts in the Liberal Party have a very different approach – they earn their bread through the honest trade of selling socks.

What? Just log onto www.libgear.com at all will be clear.

As the site says ” Contact us to order a package of 50 socks for $375 ($7.50 per pair). Postage and handling is an extra $10 per 50 socks. They are often sold at $12 each or two for $20. However, being the entrepreneurial Liberal that you are you can sell them for whatever the market dictates.

“There are two types of socks available – business and sport! They are 100% Australian cotton and are of the great quality that you would expect to carry the Liberal logo.”

Hillary knows the New South Wales Libs have been told by many senior figures in the party to pull their socks up – and thinks they should be told these people were being figurative, not literal.

Conspiracy theory

A sharp eyed Crikey reader has told Hillary that there is actually a business called Pauline’s Pantry in Albury.

Albury is the biggest centre in Tim Fischer’s seat of Farrer – which he is vacating at the next election.

Dick “Pauline” Smith and Tim have already exchanged shots over policy issues. Is this humble shop really the hub of a vast conspiracy of Dick’s to get the Nationals?

Hit list

Hillary and Dan were left punch drunk after judging the John Prescott inspired competition “Who would Australia’s politicians most like to punch”.

One contender proved to be unbeatable for the world championship – but there were a few sharp jabs:

Paul Keating – The Australian public, for making him endure the Australian public all those years

Kim Beasley – Nobody at all (and by the way, can he count on your vote?)

Jeff Kennett keeps punching himself (and why wouldn’t he given the last election result)

Peter Beattie has no-one left to punch (again, after the last election).

Brian Harradine – The video shop owner who threatened to sell his customer file to the Oz, including the DVDs of Night Shift Nurses and Goin’ In Deep.

Harold Holt – Rob and Valerie Taylor, for not doing their bloody job a bit better. And Mark Occhilupo for not warning him about that rip off to the right

But the Ali of them all has to be:

Carr, an uppercut to Aquilina for shooting his mouth off.

NSW Libs, a powder puff to Chikka for being such a lightweight.

Fred Nile, a straight jab at gays and lesbians.

Ruddock, another straight jab, this one with arm 15 degrees above horizontal to those not of Aryan appearance.

Hyacinth, a kidney punch to Captain Smerkin for being after the poison dwarf’s job.

Bishop, a rabbit punch to pensioners for buggering up her photo opportunities and having to appear to do something at long last for her salary.

Howard, a king hit to those who believe we’re mature enough to have an Aussie as head of state.

Costello, right & left hook, a knee to his non-existent balls and finally a very slow strangulation to Howard for completely f*cking up his chances of ever leading this country.

Abbott, a short jab to the solar plexus of Agnostics, Animists, Atheists, Buddhists, Hindus, Moslems and Zoroastrians for not being mindlessly indoctrinated into the same religion as himself.

The Aussie public, the mother of all punches to all politicians (people power excepted) for being a pack of shifty, lying, rorting, visionless self-serving incompetents.

Is there anyone left standing after that onslaught? A Crikey sub to our winner, our thanks to all the other entrants.

Hillary can be contacted at [email protected]

Peter Fray

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