As a good moderate, Hillary is delighted to see the back of Denis Burke and the CLP in the Northern Territory.

Territorians have let the CLP govern for 25 years, knowing that black kids will be locked away for stealing biscuits leaving it safe for them to follow their traditional pursuits such as hooning round outback roads that have no speed limits in their utes kidnapping British backpackers.

Now, things seem to have changed. Territorians tired of the overwhelming arrogance the CLP developed during its long rule – an arrogance epitomised by his contempt of court case, the dumping of Senator Grant Tambling, the splits that saw former CLP minister Lorain Braham returned as an independent and the former Liberal MP for the Territory Nick Dondas contest Shane Stone’s old seat as an independent, plus the forthcoming legal stoush over the appointment of the Chief Magistrate.

Claire Martin was the first local Labor leader of any ability since Bob Collins, who went on to represent the Territory in the Senate and serve as a minister.

At the same time, too, one has to remember that at a purely local level the small size of territory electorates mean fewer votes have to shift for seats to change hands.

Still, out of the three people in the famous “The end of the line” shot, who would have thought that the Berk would be the first to go. Buffy and the Rodent must be packing it.

Fart Boy Slim, brilliantly briefed as usual, said the result continued a move away from the Coalition in regional Australia. The real damaged occurred in the CLP strongholds in Darwin’s northern suburbs – as close as it gets to civilisation in the Territory. That can’t be good for Liberals down south.

And what about Pauline and her little band of bigots? Darwin’s intelligentsia – or the people who can write, anyway – spent the last few days of the campaign debating whether the Berk’s promise to run nude down Smith Street Mall if One Nation won a seat represented a “threat” or an “inducement” under the terms of the Electoral Act.

Territorians have been saved this sight, so the debate is now academic. But the fact remains that, following their poor performance in Aston, that One Nation failed to get a hold in what should be fertile ground. The Berk has also admitted that his decision to preference One Nation ahead of Labor damaged the CLP. Some of the knuckle-draggers in the West might care to turn their tiny minds to that inconvenient fact.

Date with destiny

The Territory election is out of the way – so now it’s time for speculation on the date of the federal poll.

Our Gracious Sovereign Lady the Queen is in Australia for the CHOGM conference at the beginning of October – and crude colonial campaigning could compromise her composure.

But once Her Maj is out of the way, it will be on for young and old alike. Hillary will be brave and suggest that you jot November 17 in your diary now.

November 17 means the footy finals are well and over and the PM can maximise his position as an international statesperson of stature – well, maybe of renown – at CHOGM. This isn’t so hard, because once you exclude Tony Blair, all you’re left with as leaders of the Commonwealth is Helen Cluck, a Canadian called Cretin, a few African despots and the King of the Cannibal Islands.

The Prime Miniature will need every bit of leverage he can get. Hopefully, the Northern Territory result may sober up a few pundits.

When Wednesday’s AgePoll showed the Government had clawed back ground, there was much excitement – despite the fact that it still had Labor clearly in front. Even colourful commentator Malcolm McGregor – who’d written off the Coalition a few weeks ago – was talking about the turnaround in Friday’s Australian.

The Rodent has 21 seats – count ’em – that need a swing of less than three per cent to go to Labor. His majority is only five. Along with the Berk, he’s at the end of the line.

Will Buffy brave it?

That leaves just one of the three – South Australian Premier Buffy Olsen.

Technically, the Buffed One is due to go in October, but can hang on to March next year. The threat of summer electricity shortages – not nice on a dry, hot Adelaide summer day of 40 degrees – plus the air of illegitimacy and desperation sticking around will create provide an important incentive not to wait.

He already has a minority government. The state’s sole National Party MP – the Libs and Nats in South Australia have a relationship rather like North and South Korea – has said he can’t rely on her vote after October, and scandals are looming over incentives to lure Motorola to Adelaide and the massive blow outs in the construction costs of a new soccer stadium.

The Adelaide rumour mill says that September 22 is worth watching out for. It would certainly be best for Buffy if Parliament didn’t sit again and he just tried his luck.

The Adelaide Sunday Mail has an interesting poll today that gives Buffy 29 per cent, Labor leader “Media Mike” Rann 30, 20 to the Dems and 11 for others, with 10 per cent undecided. This turns into a two party preferred vote of 52.5 per cent for Labor and 47.5 for the Libs – not enough, according to the Mail, for Labor to govern in its own right.

Hillary, however, would tend to take a poll in the Dubbo Daily Liberal more seriously than the Sunday Mail. The Libs are terrified of losing the lower house seats of Blackwood, Waite and Heysen to the Dems. Waite was briefly Democrat, after a by-election in the late seventies. Tight tactical voting and preference exchanges could give these seats to the Dems, cut a real hole in Liberal heartland and let Labor in.

Then Buffy, the Berk and the Rodent can all pose again under that famous sign.

Peter’s friends

The Treasurer has been out there drawing attention to himself again – and hasn’t the response been curious.

First there were John Stones ramblings in The Fin. The Treasurer, according to Stone, is “a young man whose cultural views appear more in line with those of Beazley than of Howard”.

The Treas has just turned 44, which would more make him middle-aged in Hillary’s views, but that’s just quibbling. Otherwise it was quite a compliment. While Stone meant the opposite, he actually said that Costello shares the views of the vast majority of Australians, as opposed to those of arch-conservatives.

Then there was the statement that a Costello leadership would split the Coalition. Stone is well qualified to talk about this. After all, he joined up with a very weird band to flog decidedly dodgy snake oil under the Joh for PM banner. Surely the Treasurer wouldn’t do anything like that.

Then, there was Au Gratin’s strange piece in Friday’s Herald on the mystery of the kinder, gentler Peter Costello

Au Gratin is one of the longest serving journos in the Gallery. You would have thought she may have noticed that there haven’t been any Wets in the Liberal Party since Chris Puplick and the Michael Baume departed.

Just like the ALP came to terms with privatisation under Hawke and Keating, the moderate faction of the Liberal Party support the general economic direction of the Government and concentrate on the social agenda and issues such as reconciliation.

Is it really so strange then that given his stance on the republic and his support for a sensible apology to the stolen generation that recognises that much of wrongs they suffered were a product of ignorance and flawed good intentions, rather than malice – when compared to the Prime Miniature’s inflexible conservatism – have won the Treasurer support from the party’s moderates.

Pallas coup

Things are not all smooth in Victoria, with trouble reaching all the way up to Saint Steve’s office.

When Tom Hogg’s review of the Premier’s Office was produced everyone knew that the biggest problem would go unmentioned – chief of staff Tim Pallas.

The failed pre-selection candidate for Melbourne Ports has failed again, not even meeting the lowest expectations and presiding over an office that has managed to piss off everyone from Ministers and their staff to backbenchers and rank and file Labor members.

Now, in an attempt to shift him away from the office and replace him with someone competent, some are looking to put Tim in the exclusive Spring Street retirement village.

With the redistribution almost complete, Pallas has been mooted as a possibility for the newly created safe Labor seat of Kororoit. His primary backers are Labor state secretary David Feeney and the local fed Bob Sercombe. However, ALP national president Greg Sword, Pallas’ old boss at the National Union of Workers and up-and-coming head kicker and Crikey fan Stephen Conroy are said to be unhappy with the proposal as it will not only bolster Feeney’s power base but waste a safe seat on a someone who has not performed well in the Bracks office.

The local party faithful are said to be absolutely furious about the prospect of having an outsider take over the seat. They’re well aware of Pallas’ work ethic and general competence and are heavily lobbying factional heavies to keep him away from their turf.

Pallas is said to be looking for a “redundancy package” (his words) to move into Parliament so that he doesn’t lose his influence. He wants to go straight into the Ministry as well a getting a seat with a notional Labor two party preferred vote of 70 per cent.

Unsurprisingly, backbenchers have ridiculed his demands and are in open revolt, telling Saint Steve that shouldn’t be putting nails in his coffin this early in the game.

The girl’s gotta have it – in cash

The battlers’ friends the Australian Democrats – or maybe just their leader – are out there again, chasing the top end of town. Visit the humbly named http://www.natasha2001.com and you can learn how you can get your very own $280 ticket for dinner with Natasha Stott-Despoja or, if you want to take a few friends, book a table for 10 for only $2,500.

Two and a half grand? How many student share houses could you feed on that, Natasha.

Mystery candidate

Battling balladeer John Schumann turned it down after Natasha took the reins, but sources say the Dems have got a gee-whiz, you beaut candidate ready to run against Foreign Minister Alexander Downer in his seat of Mayo – though they’re staying coy on who it is.

Can we at least have a hint – please.

How low can Ho go?

Ho Chi Minchin hasn’t rated a mention in Crikey for a long time. His diminishing profile seems to reflect a declining career.

At the South Australia Liberal Party AGM on Saturday, Ho’s friends in the right lost yet another position to the moderates.

Ho remains Industry Minister and notional leader of what remains of the national right – alas, poor Santo, I knew him, Tony – but is virtually invisible. Bill “The Hitman” Heffernan has taken over his position at the PM’s right hand. How can Ho go so low?

Double booked?

A glittering crowd turned out to toast John Fahey at a special do in Sydney on Thursday night. The Rodent was there, along with other ministerial colleagues from New South Wales like the Hindenburg and Phillip “The Cadaver” Ruddock, the Treasurer, a bunch of backbenchers and former state colleagues and predecessor as Premier Nick Griener.

Labor figures Barrie Unsworth and John Brown came along for the fun, and even poor old John “Dr Who?” Hewson crept in from exile to join the show.

Indeed, only one senior Liberal from New South Wales, a certain Mad Monk called Tony Abbott, seemed to miss the big night. How unfortunate. Perhaps he was double booked.

Yet more bloody Ryan

Poor old Bob Tucker. He’s won his plebiscite preselection of all Liberal Party members in Ryan – and appears to have been shafted by a factional deal.

Matt Boland – the candidate the right hoped to select with a limited ballot – has admitted defeat and swung his numbers behind the keen recruiter Michael Johnson.

Many of Johnson’s supporters have been knocked out, due to the inconvenient fact that they lived in Hong Kong rather than suburban Brisbane, but Boland’s support should get him over the line.

The loser out of all this will be the Rodent himself, who has made it very clear all along that Tucker has been his preferred candidate – and that he is not all impressed with Johnson’s antics over the past few years.

Behind the Ballarat defection

The Liberal Party suffered an almighty blow to their chances of holding Ballarat on Tuesday when candidate and Olympic gold medallist Russell Mark suddenly pulled the pin.

He pulled no punches by issuing statement citing “irreconcilable differences of opinion” with key local Liberals about his campaign as his reason for withdrawing, and did not contact party officials.

Fingers are now pointing in the direction of local Liberal powerbroker Ruth de Fegley, who is said to be keen to see her son in the seat. De Fegley has already supposedly exercised considerable influence in recent local state preselections. Strangely, the area has lost four Liberal members in the Legislative Assembly plus one MLC during this time. One other strange reason for the Russell Mark withdrawal mentioned in Liberal Party circles is that the current member Michael Ronaldson is hogging all the local media attention as he tries to lay the ground for a tilt at a state seat. Ronaldson spat the dummy and announced he was quitting because the Rodent promised him a Cabinet position in a one on one meeting but then broke the promise after the 1998 election victory.

PS The Victorian Parliament met in Ballarat and Bendigo during the week – but one member seems to have been missing. Reports claim that up-and-coming young Liberal MLC Cameron “Would like to be James Bond but is more like Dirty Harry” Broadman stayed in Melbourne studying towards his MBA. This, of course, is no reflection on Cameron’s career opportunities.

In the doghouse?

Is “Slimy Simey” Crean in the doghouse? The Lounge Bar Bore of the Gallery wheeled out the official spin in his column in the Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday, but Hillary hears that his efforts to promote Rollback have created an even more confusing picture for punters than the Knowledge Nation diagram.

Polling shows that Simey is as popular with the electorate as the Talmud with the Taliban. Meanwhile, Bob McMullan, the key Labor strategist and former national secretary who started talking about Rollback this week is seen to be somewhat under-utilised as Shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.

Tassie’s lacklustre Labor

The Tasmanian Labor Party is getting worried by its lack of membership. At the recent state conference, delegates were outnumbered by Green protestors.

Dark forces

Australians, be warned! Graeme Campbell has told the Manjimup Bridgetown Times of nefarious threats that face us all.

According to Campbell, the environment is not a major concern for the Greens, but rather the pursuit of power. He, of course, should know all about that, given that he has been thrown out of the ALP, failed to set up his own political movement before he realised One Nation was an apple ripe for the picking.

What we should be really scared off is Campbell’s links with the League of Rights – a group that is apparently too embarrassing even for poor Pauline. The Australia-Israel Review, a good source for info on the lunar right – has a nice rundown of his links with the League right here.

How very strange

A copy of the Victorian Young Liberal magazine has made its way to Hillary – who is intrigued by the beauty tips. Just have a read:

“The Late Night Bug Eyes: So, you have a meeting tonight with David Davis, one of our more handsome politicians and you’ve spent last night out partying late with your friends. You’ve woken up in the early afternoon to discover that your eyes are so puffy, they look like somebody has stuck cotton balls inside them! You certainly don’t want him to think you’re an irresponsible youth who loves to party- What do you do?

“Solution: Using two cold chamomile tea bags (one for each eye) is a great relief for those bug eyes. After steeping the bags in cold water, cool them in the fridge while you take a long hot shower (about ten minutes). Place the tea bags over your eyes for another ten minutes and feel the puffiness floating away. Of course, if anyone should ask you if you’d like milk with your tea, you should bop them fair and square on the nose.”

Is there a subtext here that Hillary has missed?

PS The editor is speaking to the Melbourne chapter of the Victorian Young Liberals at the Elephant and Wheelbarrow hotel from 7pm . Contact Lawrence Elice on (0402) 590 869 if you want to come along.

Hillary Bray can be contacted at [email protected]

Peter Fray

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