Hillary Bray is giving both sides of politics both barrels this week as the election beckons in a climate of economic and security crisis.

This week’s column has to be a little different. The e-mails virtually stopped on Tuesday. There clearly is a time and a place for gossip – but it is always proper to expose manipulation, hypocrisy and incompetence.

Donning uniform

Our political leaders are donning uniform. The Prime Miniature’s is military. Fart Boy Slim is wearing the uniform of an Ansett flight attendant.

These are the uniforms for the two battles that will be fought on Australian soil between now an election. War is hell – and this one will be particularly unpleasant. Not the fight itself, but the territory both sides seek to capture – the xenophobia that still lurks in the hearts of too many Australians.

A month ago, Hillary would have said Labor would definitely win the next election – purely because the Libs huge number of knife edge seats and death wish in Queensland.

The Tampa changed that. The Rodent repulsively exploited a mean spirited piece of the Australian psyche – xenophobia. Tuesday’s tragic events only served to reinforce this. The collapse of Ansett changed things once again. Slim can appeal to another kind of ignorance, less unpleasant but equally damaging – economic nationalism.

Let’s look at what our leaders have on offer.

The Rodent, the Cadaver, Lex Loser and disgraced departing Defence Minister Peter Wraith have essentially appealed to overt racism – and racism is a good old Australian tradition. It’s going down well, as the polls say. It’s going down so well, in fact, that Muslim schools are having to close because of threats and abuse. We are rightly nauseated when we see police in Northern Ireland called in to protect Catholic schoolgirls from violence and abuse from the Orange bigots who live around their school – and are behaving in just the same way ourselves.

The Fart Boy is appealing to economic xenophobia – and that’s another grand old Aussie trait. Ever since the depression of the 1890s we have all known foreigners and their banks and big business are to blame when the corner shop goes broke – let alone an airline. We’re a little more sophisticated though, nowadays, so we don’t blame the Jews. Instead, it’s all the fault of “economic rationalism”.

Some 16,000 people are unemployed as a result of the Ansett collapse – and the flow on could affect up to 60,000. That’s big. According to last Thursday’s ABS figures, there are 668,900 Australians unemployed in seasonally adjusted terms. Do the sums and go figure.

So, which xenophobia will win? It probably depends on the international scene.

America has been shy about committing ground troops since Vietnam. It is likely to remain so – but a shooting war will help the Rodent. The question also remains – if there is international action, what can Australia really do. The most vital defence facility in Australia is probably the car parking space at Russell Hill. The most significant support we offer is moral. The rest is token. Still, the PM will look good down at dockside.

Without a war – or in a phoney war – the Fat Boy has the advantage. He started to talk up his defence experience on the World at Noon on Thursday when asked if he thought events in the US had helped the Government – but went further:

“Well, frankly I can’t think of it like that at the moment. We have got another few weeks of Parliament left. We have got a capacity to put in place some legislation, for example, there are a couple of international conventions on terrorism which have been signed and ratified by the US and the UK which we haven’t got around to now – we can do that in the next couple of weeks of Parliament. There is no doubt at all that when there is a sense of crisis and people feel a need of a sense of security they will often turn and look at the government of the day. But the fact of the matter is: I was Defence Minister of this nation and I have been there before. Been there before in the Gulf War. Been there before when I and another minister reorganised the Australian American relationship under AUSMIN. Been there before when I supported the United States when they flagged Kuwaiti tankers during the Iran Iraq war. I am experienced in these areas and I know this. The election will be about that but it will also be about the economic, education and health issues that mean so much as well to the every day life of Australians.”

That’s a broad pitch. Once upon a time, before the ticker test, he used to be Bomber Beazley, too. As tales of woe emerge in the wake of the Ansett collapse in the papers, radio and on TV from now until election day, it will put Slim well back into the game.

Hard landing

One of Hillary’s identities passed through queues, journos, photographers and camera crews, APS officers and angry hordes at Sydney Airport on Friday morning – holding a Qantas ticket, thank God. The fall of Saigon must have looked much the same.

Was it Edward Gough Wanker or Caesar’s wife who said “what crisis” when an Imperial Progress round Europe was distracted by some trivia like Cyclone Tracey and they finally stepped back on Australian soil? The Malibu pineapples have fried Hillary’s synapses. Anyway, the Rodent reacted to Ansett in a similar way when he flew in on Friday. He definitely wants us to concentrate on the military uniform, not the flight attendant’s.

Mr Fixit?

John “The Cowardly Lion” Anderson will no doubt face an interesting range of questions in Parliament this week – like what he knew when and how his lobbying for the Qantas/Air New Zealand deal went down in Wellington and Singapore – but Fart Boy Slim has to answer a few.

The most difficult one will be “Mr Slim, aren’t the sort of policies you are advocating exactly the same ones that caused Ansett to go down?”. Um.

Ansett’s two greatest hobbles were its ageing fleet – and its very high labour costs. How would a Labor government have tackled that second problem? And what about foreign ownership? OK, that wasn’t an issue here – but it was a bloody big one the Great Helmsperson of the People’s Republic of New Zealand, Hulun Cluck.

Stuff old friendships. Australians should be glaring daggers across the Tasman.

The I Can’t Believe It’s Not Hansonism economic policy that New Zealand’s Labour Party somehow thinks will advance the nation isn’t just destroying the Shaky Isles. It’s affects are now being felt in Australia.

Cluck’s economic nationalism – AKA xenophobia – means that Ansett is now grounded. By refusing to listen to people who deal in reality rather than rhetoric and refusing to lift Singapore Airline investment cap in Air New Zealand, Cluck has caused damage in Australia and her own country.

The New Zealand government will almost certainly have to toss taxpayers’ cash in to keep Air New Zealand afloat – let alone aflight – and they’ve already offered up $NZ550 million in loans as a lender of last resort. It is all their fault for not letting Singapore Airlines buy in and give the company a cash injection.

New Zealand can go to hell in its own caring and sharing hand basket. But what about us poor sods? We’ll be catching the bus next time we want to travel. It will either be the only form of transport available – or the only one we can afford.

Still, as Clarke would no doubt say, that’s the great democratic levelling affect of socialism.

PS The always sympathetic and gentle Chezza Kernot addressed some 4,000 angry and upset Ansett workers in Brisbane’s King George Square on Saturday – but instead of offering practical help went into a big spiel about voting Labor and handed out Labor material. To her great surprise, she was loudly booed, heckled and eventually told to get off the stage.

PPS Ansett briefly appeared for “sale” on eBay on Friday morning – until it was discovered and pulled by the webmasters. Bidding started at $1.00 with a reserve of $2.60, and the item description was an interesting – if black humoured – dissection of everything that had gone wrong.

Those bloody Queenslanders?

Great judges of good candidate material, the Queensland Libs, aren’t they. They gave us Pauline, and other of their brilliant choices was in the news this week. Here’s what the Courier Mail reported.

“A FORMER Liberal candidate who allegedly spiked her flatmate’s drink with a fatal dose of heroin should stand trial for murder, an inquest was told yesterday.

“The Brisbane Coroner’s Court was told there was enough evidence against Mardi McLean – an alleged heroin addict and failed Liberal candidate for Bundamba – to charge her with killing her flatmate and step-uncle Mitch Collins.”

At the same time, a popular revolt is brewing against a revisionist speech given buy George “Washington” Brandis. Washington was invited to present inaugural David Davies lecture, honouring a Queensland Lib and colleague who died of leukaemia in the late 80s.

Washington took the opportunity to rewrite the history of the Liberal Party in Queensland over the last three decades – taking plenty of pot shots at former colleagues along the way. Nice one, mate.

Load of bollocks of the week

CANBERRA, Sept 13 AAP – Boats carrying illegal immigrants to Australia could be a pipeline for terrorists, the federal government said today.

Defence Minister Peter Reith said a string of terrorist attacks in the United States showed Australia needed to properly process and manage people coming into the country.

“Otherwise it can be a pipeline for terrorists to come in and use your country as a staging post for terrorist activities,” Mr Reith told Melbourne radio 3AW.

“If you can’t control who comes into your country then that is a security issue.

“And that is one of the reasons why the government is so determined to ensure that we can within the law.”

Intelligent and compassionate remarks of the week

CANBERRA, Sept 14 AAP – Australian Democrats Senator Andrew Bartlett says it’s irresponsible for the government to link boat people with terrorism.

Defence Minister Peter Reith has warned that a failure to secure Australia’s borders could create a pipeline for terrorists such as those who carried out Tuesday’s attacks in the US.

But Senator Bartlett, the Democrats’ immigration spokesman, says the current debate about asylum seekers should not be inflamed by falsely linking it to the carnage in the US.

He says the cold-bloodedness of the terrorist attacks in the US shows exactly why people flee persecution and tyranny to seek asylum elsewhere.

Senator Bartlett says harassment of Muslims in Australia shows how volatile the situation is and the government must move to allay community concerns and curb further antagonism towards Muslims or refugees.

Extremists organising

Phillip Benwell, National Chairman on the Monarchist League and the Osama bin Laden of Australian royalists, is finding it hard to sleep as the visit of Her Britannic Majesty the Queen approaches.

Benwell continues to wage his fatwah against anyone who suggests the result on the 1999 referendum was a vote against a possible model for a republic, rather than a ringing endorsement of the Monarchy, and has sent the following message rallying his fanatical followers – like Lady Mary Fairfax:

“The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh will be visiting Queensland and South Australia in October. Her Majesty will open the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Brisbane on Saturday 6 October 2001 and together with The Duke of Edinburgh will, after carrying out programmes in Queensland, travel to South Australia and will depart from Adelaide on the 12th October.

“The Queen was greeted with a tremendous enthusiasm during the Royal Visit last year wherever She went and in light of the continued misinformation and lies that are broadcast by republican politicians and media who are arrogantly ignoring the result of the 1999 Referendum, it becomes even more important that the People once again come out into the streets en masse to provide an enthusiastic and joyful welcome to Her Majesty and Prince Philip.

“A copy of the itinerary which includes suggestions for the public to attend and welcome Her Majesty and His Royal Highness will be emailed as a word attachment upon request.

“More detailed information will be available closer to October, but in the meanwhile may I urge you to speak to friends and to Loyalist, Service, youth and other organisations you may have contact with in Queensland, South Australia and the ACT to join together in demonstrating our loyalty and indeed affection for our Queen and Sovereign of Australia.

“Members of the Australian Monarchist League in Queensland will also be receiving an invitation to attend the Loyal Societies Reception in the distinguished presence of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh on the morning of Monday the 8th October. We understand that the cost will be around $100.00 per person.”

Did you get the hint?

Last week, Hillary told how “Ah Satan’s strong hands-on commitment to reconciliation at a personal level must also take up much of her time”.

On Friday, the Tele’s Sydney Confidential reported that Satan and “Huge” Rimington were splitsville. Indeed.

The talk for a while has been that Satan is “dating” a player from the AFL’s Port Power, Che Cockatoo Collins.

Hillary Bray can be contacted at [email protected]

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Peter Fray

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