With all sorts of things happening in Canberra, Crikey’s political insider Hillary Bray and cartoonist Mark Cornwall have fired up with a bumper column leading into the calling of the federal election.

Bugger the CHOGM cancellation. Damned wartime contingencies. Election preparations have been moved forward and Hillary missed a weekend in Sydney.

Not only did it mean being unable to turn up to the Crikey subscribers night so rudely gatecrashed by Lachlan Murdoch, but Hillary and Dan had to cancel their big night out at the Sleaze Ball – after putting so much time and effort into getting their John and Jeanette outfits just right.

The dating game

So, when’s the big day? Everything seems to be pointing towards November 10 at the moment. Rushing off to see the GG on a public holiday seems to smack of desperation, and it would mean missing Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting.

All sorts of fun decisions on the Rodent’s favourite new themes – expanding the intelligence agencies, airport security, measures against terrorism and keeping out them nasty foreign types and their spicy tucker – are expected, and they should play well with the punters.

And who will win? Well, everyone’s a little excitable at the moment, especially after all those polls. Reports indicate that shooting could start in Afghanistan at any moment. Let’s wait until the poll is actually called before we start making predictions.

A few observations, however, are quite appropriate. The Rodent has been a pure reactionary on cultural issues such as a republic. His refusal to meet the challenge of genuine reconciliation has left the debate open to control by the left.

The Government bungled the GST implementation. It forgot the brilliant simplicity of Fightback! – and the New Zealand BAS model – and irritated a key constituency that remains angry. The Rodent responded with a whole series of backflips on this then had to give in on a range of other populist issues, trashing his own Government’s record on economic management.

The Prime Miniature pinched a lot from the Pauline book of economic management – but that still wasn’t enough. He had to engineer the Tampa crisis before the polls really turned. So much for a country that’s comfortable and relaxed and at ease with itself and its engagement with the world. It’s a fairly ordinary record.

Then, there’s the Opposition. Fart Boy Slim stands for, 05 well, we’ll just have to trust him on that. He seems to have taken to quite a few Hansonite ideas of late, too.

There are a whole raft of key issues – health, education, job security – that Labor can run on, but the only policy we’ve seen anything like detail on , Knowledge Nation, was nothing but comic relief.

Setting the tone

How would these be for some ads to screen in the phoney war before the election is formally called. They’re subliminals that neutralise the negatives for the Government while getting its key values across. Naturally, everyone in them is very white and middle class.

The first ad is called “Late Night”. We start with a night-time exterior shot of a dinkum Aussie small business, then cut to the back office. The harassed proprietor is dealing with a mound of paperwork under a desk lamp. The phone rings. It is his wife. “Yes, dear, I’m still here. It takes forever.” We hear her voice down the line saying “but you what know it could be like.” We switch to an exterior daytime shot. All of this part moves quickly, shot with a hand-held camera. Next to the dinkum Aussie small business is a garish mobile phone shop. A bunch of either Asian or Middle Eastern youths are gathered around outside in gang-banger gear. Their hotted up cars are everywhere. Techno booms from them. We cut to across the street. A similar car with a group of people from the same ethnic background screeches to a halt. Guns appear. It is a drive by shooting. Bullets fly. The dinkum Aussie small business’ windows shatter. We see the proprietor lying in a pool of blood on the floor. Cut back to him in the back office on the phone. “I suppose so, darling. I’ll see you soon.” “Love you, she replies”. He puts the phone down with a smile.

The next one is “Butcher shop”. It opens with an interior, a high ceilinged older style room. An elderly woman is sitting in a tin tub labelled “kero”. She is talking to a younger woman sitting near her holding her hand, her daughter. Every now and then a chunk of plaster falls from the ceiling or walls. The old woman speaks “Do you know what I want to do when my new teeth come from the government in five years time, if the Lord preserves me?”. “What’s that, Mum”, her daughter says with a smile. “Well, you know the way we only get two bowls of gruel a day here in the nursing home, with a piece of bread on Sundays. I’m going to get you to go down the butcher shop and buy me a nice mutton chop.” The daughter smiles back and says “Well Mum, it’s lucky things are going the way they are ‘cos otherwise in five years time if you went down to the butcher’s all you find is sheep’s eyes and few cuts of camel.” They laugh together as a few more chunks of plaster fall to the floor.

The final spot is going to be controversial – but it’s short and hard hitting. Again we open with an interior – a squalid room at night, dimly lit. The only furniture is a double bed. A middle aged man is getting dressed. A young naked girl lies on the bed. He asks “How did you get into the game”. We have a close up on the girl. She is bored, somewhere else – even drugged – and replies “To pay for uni”. The man says “Consider yourself lucky. If they kept on letting in all them Arabs they’d change the law and make it like their own country and not let women get an education”, before walking out the door.

All bloody brilliant, hey?

Lest we forget

If we’re discussing the election, we cannot – of course – ignore the Australian Democrats and their babelicious leader, Ah Satan.

The Dems as a whole now seem to have Satan’s problem dealing with this awkward matter called “reality”.

A newspaper report in the Canberra Times last week carried a denial by a Satan spokesperson that the Democrats have any association with the porn lobbyists at the Eros Foundation. Satan’s spinner, Alison Rogers, was never considered much at the ABC, but surely even she knows that Eros boss John Davey is considered by many to have been the engineer of Satan’s soar to the dizzy heights she now occupies.

She must also know that rumours persist that Davey threatened to release over the top Eros material supporting the Dems during the Ryan campaign if the Queensland national executive members refused to support the spill against Mystic Meg.

The Democrats election preparations are said to be in a sorry state. The party’s financial reserves continue to be plundered by National Executive in a way that wasn’t even considered before the Stott Despoja fan club took over. The few people left who remember when the grown ups were in charge are in quiet despair. Many older members have left the party and many of the people who thought Stott Despoja was going to reverse what they thought were the party’s sliding fortunes are now openly questioning their decision.

It’s been said that Satan tried to call a party room meeting for early September to discuss the campaign but only a minority of senators (guess which ones?) said they were free to attend, so it was cancelled. Under Mystic Meg’s leadership, Senators always made party room meetings a priority. To have the majority of senators ‘unable’ to attend a party room meeting so close to an election cannot speak well of the Leader’s ability to marshal the troops.

Satan’s colleagues, very concerned that the election campaign is in poor shape, have been assured by Satan that departed campaign director Mark Baird only stepped in, under pressure, to help out. But the executive minutes apparently show that he actively lobbied for the position against former president John McLaren who has since been pre-selected for Mayo.

It is said that Stott Despoja also told the party room that McLaren had been approached to take over the campaign but had declined. Others say that he was not approached by anyone – and the Satanists are not impressed.

McLaren has been described by the Stott Despoja fan club as being a supporter of Mystic Meg’s camp but other, more sensible members see him as a man who plays with a straight bat – and that his poor standing with Satan and her cabal proves that as far as the fan club are concerned, you are either a fervent supporter or a died-in-the-wool enemy. There is no middle ground.

The polls are returning to levels of the Mystic Meg period and party members who have been bombarded by Stott Despoja’s self-congratulatory mail-outs regarding the ratings are pleased to see that they seem to be dropping off

Democrats who can remember what it was like under Haines, Kernot and Lees (most have left) can only hope that Kerry and James offer Satan a well-paid job where she can do what she does so well – smile at the camera.

Some have reached such a state of despair that they see an almighty conspiracy theory behind Satan’s rise. News Limited, Laurie Oakes, the Bulletin’s Tony Wright and the ALP actively backed Satan during the leadership campaign. Now, some wonder if they wanted to weaken the Democrats and oversee the demise of the third force. Only time will tell.

Charitable gesture

After all that, Hillary better make one kind gesture to the Dems. Immigration spokesperson Gary Numan led a brave battle against the Government’s new refugee laws that deserves to be acknowledged.

At one stage he compared them to the White Australia policy, which was swiftly rebutted by the Cadaver. He mustn’t have realised Gazza was being kind, as the new laws are worse.

At least one of them nasty towelhead types could have been let in under the White Australia policy if they could pass a dictation test in a modern Europe language such as, say, Basque or Gaelic.

No, Minister

Tourism Minister Kacky Jelly was at it again last week with her remarkably optimistic predictions on Ansett’s return to the skies. The unfortunate Transport Minister, The Cowardly Lion, had to pop down to the Chamber with the actual facts.

Kacky is seen as some sort of talisman by the Prime Miniature – but even if he keeps his jobs, she will have to lose hers.

The Buff’s bluff

South Australian Premier Buffy Olsen has repeatedly said that his government will not go to the polls until next March – despite the fact that the fourth anniversary of the last election where he just fell over the line comes in the middle of this month.

Now, with the Rodent rocketing off on racism in the polls, he’s feeling braver.

In a radio interview on Friday he refused to rule out holding an election this year. When Adelaide’s chattering classes got together in the Universal Wine Bar that evening there was much excitement, or so Hillary hears.

Talk is now that South Australians might go to the polls on December 1. Getting rid of a government that squandered so much good will with nothing to show would be a wonderful early Christmas present for South Australians to give themselves.

Mr Smith goes to Canberra

Certain international events overshadowed the news of Michael Wooldridge’s departure, but the Casey preselection battle was a clean contest – and Costello confidante and adviser Tony Smith bought it to an emphatic end when he trounced opponent Louise Staley 32 votes to nine.

Casey is scarcely a safe seat – Wooldridge won it with a margin of 4.87 per cent back in 1998 – but Smith’s strong local links as a Box Hill boy should stand him in good stead.

Smith visited Crikey HQ earlier this year when the Crikey Monaro was for sale – the only interest party to go that far. Take it from an old hand, mate – the hoon vote is vital in Casey. If you want to tie it up, 05

Operation Infinite Justice

Louise Staley, Joy Howley and David Davis are in massive retreat right across Victoria as a new coalition against stacking sweeps across the State.

The alliance of many old Kennett supporters with the Costello/Kroger forces against the stackers has radically changed the dynamics of every level of the Victorian party.

Louise Staley’s performance in Casey was a double humiliation. First, Joy Howley and Fiona Sneddon lost their attempt to get the Admin Committee to intervene in the preselection to stop local Casey branches having a vote in the preselection. Even with Ian “The Cardboard Cut-out” Carson abstaining from the vote, the middle ground made it clear that Howley and Sneddon had gone too far.

Having been forced into the humiliating position of actually having to appeal to local branch members to get preselection, Louise had the problem of visiting branch members in a suburb on the other side of town to where she lives, during one of her regular six month “holidays” from driving. Fortunately, she was able to call upon the services of her father to drive her around to meet delegates. While some of the older delegates thought it was strange that the poor man had to sit outside in the car, Louise told them not to worry, because she had wound down the window a few inches.

Louise luckily also had her able assistant Daryl Williams as her appointed “hand bag holder” and scrutineer on the night — despite some fuddy-duddies complaining that his position on the constitutional committee would prohibit such behaviour.

After the final vote, Staley should hang her head in shame for having treated branches with contempt – not just in Casey, but in all the other electorates where she has sought preselection and lost.

The middle ground have turned decisively against the stackers who have treated the Victorian Division as their personal fiefdom for the last four years. They have made it clear that they will draw no distinction between stackers and those that harbour them. There will be infinite justice.

Meanwhile, the training camps where junior stackers are being trained in their destructive ways are being surrounded by the Coalition. Kate Richards – assisted by her stalking horse Cr Ben Clissold (he hates it if you leave off the “Councillor” bit) – is within a handful of votes of beating Conrad bin Xanthos at next Sunday’s AGM. Win or lose, the Conrad myth is already tarnished. The united forces that stand against him have taken their first scalp, with Dave Phillips a no-show at the Federal Executive meeting even though he was in Queensland where the meeting was being held, then handing over the reigns to Brett Billett as acting President. Billett is Conrad’s numbers man – an important position since Conrad started work as a waiter in a cafe where he is not allowed to make personal phone calls during his shift.

By not running her own office bearer positions against the ticket, Kate has ensured that the path is clear for the defectors from Conrad’s camp to jump ship. While next Sunday’s vote is too close to call, a secret ballot may just provide the environment for the Young Liberals to deal Conrad a fatal blow.

Party fears two

Strange stories emerged from a drinkies do given by top spinmeisters Gavin Anderson on Wednesday. Jonathan Shier turned up with his head of TV, Sandra Levy – although no-one was quite sure if he had been invited. Shier and Levy drank and danced together, but few would go near them.

Richard Alston’s chief of staff, David Quility, must have been relieved he left the function before Shier arrived but was spotted doing as his boss would want him to – talking to former Howard Government staffer turned Packer minder Creina Chapman.

Odd one

A recent episode of Australia Talks featured a call on why the Constitution doesn’t apply to dairy farmers from a remarkably well informed individual named “Bob”.

More than a few folk are prepared to bet their white 10 gallon hats that this caller is better known as Mad Bob and that the call came deep from the heart of Katter country.

Just fancy that!

Premier Steve Bracks’ most senior adviser is considering entering parliament at the next Victorian election, contesting the new lower house seat of Kororoit.

Senior ALP figures revealed yesterday that Tim Pallas, chief of staff to Mr Bracks, had discussed with colleagues the prospect of seeking preselection for the western suburbs seat.

One key ALP source said Mr Pallas had privately expressed interest in standing for Kororoit.

—- The Age, 26 September 2001

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.

— Crikey, 19 August 2001

False alarm

Perhaps we’re not going to have an election after all. Have a look at the Queensland Libs bright new website – http://www.qld.liberal.org.au/.

When you click on the “Liberal’s in Parliament” button, you first get a list of Liberal Brisbane City Councillors, then their three state pollies and finally the Federal MPs. There is no mention of candidates.

Hillary Bray can be contacted at [email protected]

* Crikey has 1720 subscribers who for $55 get a tee-shirt, 5 sealed section emails a week and access to our 800,000 word searchable archive so why not join the Crikey army by clicking here to read Hillary’s weekly email updates.


Now, let’s take a look at last week’s Hillary column:

Enemy nationals

There’s an Afghan boat

In your neighbourhood

Who you’re gonna call?

John Howard!

As Dubya Dubya III looms, a reader writes in to remind us of the enemy within. Weren’t Mad Bob Katter’s folks camel drovers? Or were they Lebanese?

Is he going to be placed in a detention centre for subversive enemy nationals – or will the Rodent even try to ship him off to Nauru?

“The times will suit me”

Remember those lines from the eighties? John Howard must not be able to believe his luck. Looming war. Overt racism. Fear. Envy. These are the sort of things John Howard thrives on, and these are dangerous times, strange times – and unpredictable times.

It is crystal clear that we are not going to see the video game war of Desert Storm – let alone the predictably priapic firing off of cruise missiles that Clinton was so fond of. This is a very different type of war. When Dubya came out with “I’m not just gonna fire a $2 million missile at a $10 empty tent and hit a camel in the butt” he not only gave the quote of a lifetime, he also offered a neat synopsis of America’s strategy.

There will probably be a major strike soon – but the real war will be a long, dirty war on the ground. The ugly mood will continue, but will that be enough to see the Prime Miniature back in the job? Probably not.

The favourite rumour for the last few days is that CHOGM will be cancelled – letting the Rodent rush to an early poll. There are two problems with this. Firstly – let’s remember that there is no candidate in Michael Wooldridge’s marginal seat of Casey. Secondly – and more importantly – Howard needs CHOGM. He needs the mindless S11, M1 or whatever they’re called this week out running riot in the streets. He needs some real crisis close to home to guarantee that he can capitalise on the ugly mood he has created.

Labor isn’t a real threat anymore. Fart Boy Slim has failed miserably to capitalise on the Ansett collapse. Thundering from Olympus – or at least the lounge bar of the Kingo – Alan Ramsey denounced Slim on Saturday as the worst Labor leader since Evatt. Not Calwell, note – Evatt – and Evatt was mad.

The Lounge Bar Bore says Slim doesn’t have a leadership bone in his body. Funnily, he is backed up by that semi-housetrained pet of the ALP, Bob Ellis, and Goodbye Jerusalem.

Ellis tells how he was filming a doco at the old House back in 1987 with pantomime Tory Jim Killen in the office he had while defence minister. Slim, the current incumbent, happily vacated it. He reappeared a considerable time later and interrupted proceedings – most apologetically – saying that a coup had occurred in Fiji several hours ago and he really should make a couple of phone calls.

Unless Labor runs an unprecedented campaign, Slim is done. The real threat to the Rodent is where we started – off in RARA land with Mad Bob and his friends.

Tony Windsor has joined the fray today, running in Sinker’s old seat of New England. Turn on Australia Talks any Thursday and all you hear are complaints about “economic rationalism”, competition policy and calls for featherbedding.

These people could easily destroy the Prime Miniature’s wafer thin majority. It won’t matter how much braid he has on his Commander in Chief’s uniform. Knowing their mood, they’ll want to know why they don’t have fancy epaulettes in the bus.

PS And if the Rodent wins, think back to 1993. The gleam soon wore off – and this time round there will be a leadership challenge to deal with, too.

Quelle coincidence!

OK, so there were other things happening that day, but Hillary is amazed that no-one noticed this rather amusing item that appeared on the wire just as Ansett was going down:

“PM to address intelligent transport systems congress

Friday 14 September, 2001 08:33 GMT+10:00

By Staff reporter

“The Prime Minister, John Howard, will address the World Congress on Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) to be held in Sydney at the end of the month?”

Boom, boom!

How to win friends and influence people

Tourism Minister Kacky Jelly – just a blip in the history of the Australian Parliament – hasn’t just been impressing former Ansett staff and their families. Two of her colleagues have been feeling her charm.

The peculiar combination of the Cadaver and Senator Marise Payne got together recently to hold a fundraiser for Kacky.

She has reportedly made some charming remarks to friends in response – comments supposedly along the lines that Marise was “worth her weight in gold – I’d better rephrase that” and that the Cadaver “isn’t as old as he looks”.

OK, who’s profiteering on the lentils?

Dr Bob Brown – despite his refusal to shut up about his preferences – is a caring a sharing guy, so long as you aren’t looking for a job in Tasmania.

In recognition of his contribution to the state constantly having the highest unemployment rate in Australia, a group of similarly caring and sharing types are getting together a do to honour Bob – in the safety of Melbourne – on October 5.

Readers will recall that the Greens have been setting up soup kitchens outside the recent Dem functions where Satan has been making eyes at the top end of town, but Bob’s do costs almost a week’s dole – a very unegalitarian $145.

Then, one always pays a premium for organic produce, doesn’t one.

From the Nats to the NCC?

Mad Bob Katter is speaking at a “current affairs forum” in Melbourne on Friday 5 October being held “under the auspices of Council for the National Interest”, the shadowy group who are keen to see the return of the economic policies that gave us worldwide stagflation in the seventies.

RSVPs can be sent to the Secretary, Rick Brown. Hillary recalls a Rick Brown who was a journalist for the National Civic Council rag News Weekly. Brown fell out with Santa’s helpers, but is apparently back on the inside again. Could these be the one and the same – and the Council yet another NCC front?

Oddly enough, a Rick Brown has also worked for Victorian country independent Russell Savage. Can one man get around so?

Savage himself has spoken at these dinners, along with Pauline’s ex-helper and former Mad Bob staffer, John “Kojak” Pasquarelli.

All in all, it sounds like fascinating – if incestuous – company.

PS Ho Chi Minchin is another good friend of the Council for the National Interest. Strange.

Satanist spits, skips

Back in August Crikey readers were introduced to Bill Spragg, Satanist and contender for preselection in Lex Loser’s seat of Mayo after battling balladeer John Schumann withdrew.

At the time, we said “Spragg enjoys the confidence of absolutely nobody” – and didn’t that prove to be right. The Dems chose former national president John McLaren as candidate earlier this week.

In sign of the divisions destroying the Dems, Spragg has accused McLaren of being an economic rationalist. In Democrat terms, this is much worse that saying someone is a necrophilic paedophile who practices coprophagia every now and then because a change is as good as a holiday.

Spragg will now run as an independent – but most interesting of all his reasons to quit was his claim that McLaren was a supporter of Mystic Meg. The SA Dems still remain loyal to the Mystic one – and Satan’s numbers aren’t helped if her followers quit the party.

Sitting duck

There was much amusement last Wednesday as Bronny launched the Digital Dunny Directory, an on-line guide to the location of Australia’s 13,000 plus public lavatories.

Now, with just a few clicks of a mouse, the Terror of the Northern Beaches will be able to log on and see where her career has gone.

Hillary Bray can be contacted at [email protected]

* Crikey has 1700 subscribers who for $55 get a tee-shirt, 5 sealed section emails a week and access to our 700,000 word searchable archive so why not join the Crikey army by clicking here to read Hillary’s weekly email updates.