Alan Reid (no relation) has ably assisted Crikey whilst Hillary is tied up working hard winning marginal seats and produced this fascinating column.

However, if you want your Hillary fix, subscribers will have access to Hillary’s exclusive analysis of key marginal seats and all 150 spots up for grabs in the House of Representatives over the poll. If you want the real inside information, click here: https://subscribe.crikey.com.au

News from the front

Operation Token Presence is going great guns. In a brilliant tactic, Our Boys seem to be departing in lots of about 15, enabling the PM to have a huge number of photo-ops. However, morale on the home front isn’t that good in Britain or even in the US of A.

Everyone wanted to strike back naturally after September 11. Now they’re beginning to realise that it won’t all be over by Christmas. Everyone is in a state of heightened paranoia and little things like anthrax scares don’t help.

Tony Blair rallied the nations at the Labor Party conference a few weeks ago by reciting “I’d Love to Teach the World to Sing in Perfect Harmony” but according to the Guardian (a Commie rag, true) and other British media, that hasn’t left the crowds satisfied. Read on:

“Tony Blair moved last night to head off growing unease about the direction of the war in Afghanistan by making an unprecedented plea to the British public not to show any weakening of ‘moral purpose’.

“In the clearest indication yet of growing nervousness over the battle to win ‘hearts and minds’ for the action against the Taliban and Osama bin Laden, the Prime Minister urged the public to invoke traditional British resolve for the war against terrorism.

“As both Britain and the United States warned last night that the war would take much longer and would be more difficult than had been predicted just days ago, Downing Street authorised the release of a statement from Blair at his weekend retreat at Chequers.

“‘Whatever faults we have, Britain is a very moral nation with a strong sense of right and wrong,’ the Prime Minister said. ‘That moral fibre will defeat the fanaticism of these terrorists and their supporters.’

“In a major speech on Tuesday, he will say it is important that Britain ‘stays the course’ in backing the American-led action.”

The tide turning?

So, what’s it all mean back here in the Godzone? No-one is taking Newspoll seriously, but Wednesday’s Morgan poll showing Labor ahead of the Coalition 51.5 to 48.5 per cent on a two party preferred basis provoked a few murmurings.

What is clear at this stage of the campaign is that the Government’s popularity has slipped and that voters are staying away from the minor parties.

Is Labor’s strategy agreeing with the Government on the boat people and Afghanistan neutralising those issues matters and returning the focus to domestic concerns like employment, the GST, health and education? Quite possibly but we still don’t clearly know if the message is getting through where it matters, in the marginals.

John Howard held his launch on the weekend and only had a few runt rabbits in his hat. The flashy venue a far cry from Parramatta Civic Centre in 1996 didn’t compensate.

His third term agenda only consists of getting re-elected and will be over when the booths in the West close at 6:00 pm WA time and it looks as it the public are wising up.

Meanwhile, a smartarse writes: “I noticed last week that a Manly ferry is moored down by the Garden Island Naval Base. Is this our latest contribution to the war against terror?”.

Plan B

Of course, we can all look forward to days of wine and roses and a land of milk and honey if we sell a certain Telco and why the hell not, Mr Beazley? Surely Qantas and the Commonwealth Bank had a “nation building” role, too.

More heartless by the minute

Phillip Ruddock, the man who seems to have sold his soul to Satan for a spot on the frontbench, gets harder to tolerate by the minute. Here’s hoping his “they were asking for it” response to the refugee drownings means the infernal flames will be turned up notch.

Hold the font page for the hypocrites

Boat People An Apology from News Limited Editors and Certain Talk Radio Hosts:

Over recent weeks, readers may have gained the impression that we consider boat people to be self-serving, middle class, queue jumping scumbags who throw sh*t at our sailors and only want to come here to bludge off Aussie taxpayers and plant all the bombs they are carrying for Osama bin Laden.

Nothing could be further from the truth and, in fact, we realised that they are daddy’s cute ickle innocent princesses who (continue with gross hypocrisy as long as it sells).

Boat People An Apology from News Limited Editors and Certain Talk Radio Hosts for the Previous Apology:

We would like to apologise for the previous apology. Boat people, in fact, are mutinous scum and pirates who seize control of vessels from innocent people smugglers and (continue until schizophrenia medication kicks in).

Boxing damages the brain

Boxing clearly damages the brain as the Tony Mundine saga shows. Any reporter who considers sportsmen as sages and authorities on world affairs has clearly gone soft in the head.

The West Wing?

Who saw the Liberal campaign as featuring the PM’s popular press sec Tony O’Leary in a key supporting role Howard striding in full presidential mode through a Min Wing corridor to a press conference with his faithful factotum in tow.

Various ill-mannered and disrespectful hacks have asked if O’Leary was market tested but have decided that even “the worm” has its limits.

A career change for the Minister?

Lucky Sydney business heavies have been receiving an invite from another heavyweight, Financial Services Minister Joe Hockey asking them to a fundraiser with a difference:

“On the 5th November I am hosting a dinner with a difference. I will don my David Frost hat and do my best to impersonate Kerry O’Brien and Ray Martin with a boots and all interview with John Fahey. Of course we will talk policy and politics but it’s also a chance to discover in a frank way, the best and worst of people and public service.”

Presumably by the worst he means Philip Ruddock, the weak Daryl Williams, and Howard himself for their continued abhorrent conduct over refugees and any citizen who dares to challenge their decisions in the Courts.

Still, after a few of Joe’s more celebrated performances like interviews on HIH and those pre-GST stumbles, he’ll probably be glad to be at the other end of the mike.

Best defence

A subscriber writes: “I have an idea for a new Crikey contest. How about ‘Name the new Defence Minister and reasons why.’ However, we should make it clear we will not accept suggestions that imply someone would make a good defence minister because they have always liked boys in uniforms because it is defamatory.

“My suggestion is Bronny, because we can just imagine her with a silk scarf covering her topiary-like hairdo doing a Margaret Thatcher impersonation in a tank.”

The subscriber has clearly forgotten that Bronny used to make her (male) ADC carry her handbag when she was Minister for Defence Personnel. At this sensitive time, we cannot risk a mutiny by troops.

However, given that Peter Reith is going and our sovereignty is under threat from women and children in leaking fishing boats, Defence is a vital portfolio that whoever wins on November 10 will need to fill it urgently.

Send your suggestion for defence minister from either the Government or Opposition (or even the Democrats, just in case those polls are really wrong) through to [email protected] by election day for analysis by Crikey’s defence correspondent Bertie Bunker-Buster. We’ll pass on the best suggestion to whoever becomes PM, and the winner will get a free subscription, as well as the pride of knowing that they are helping to safeguard their nation.

Change politics?

It was another interesting week for the Dems although backroom prefernce deals and a leader out kissing babies seems as “change politics” as Bill Ludwig.

The most interesting change for the Democrats seemed to be the radical increase in the size of Natasha Stott-Despoja’s eyes. They appear to have suddenly become much bigger. From close examination during her appearance on 7.30 Report on Thursday I suspect that she is using white eyeliner on the inside of her eye. This has never been an issue in an election before, and half the zoo planes have stopped off to do vox pops of the make up counters on the ground floor of David Jones.

The amazing vanishing Rick Farley

There is one story in this election which seems to have been missed the disappearance of Rick Farley from the Democrats NSW senate ticket. Last time around, Farley ran for preselection against Vicki Bourne and lost. However, he then took up the second spot on the ticket.

In the Democrats, when a senator resigns, the positions usually goes to the person who was second on the ticket. This made Farley the heir apparent. Given that Bourne is now the second longest serving Democrat senator in history, it would seem likely that if she is re-elected she will not serve out a full term, so the second spot is quite important.

The NSW Democrats website made much play of Farley’s candidature. In fact for a long time he had a more prominent spot than Bourne herself. Even after the national website was listing their senate ticket without him the state website had a prominent photograph of Farley as the second candidate. Yet when the nominations closed he was not there.

It is possible the media has covered this, and the reasons why, but I have certainly not seen anything. Did he jump or was he pushed? Was it to do with a low opinion of a certain leader, or were there other forces at play?

The question is significant. The former NFF boss was considered a prime catch when Cheryl wooed him over. Last time, besides the sitting senate candidates, the Democrats had four high profile figures, Downey from the ACF, Ridgeway from aboriginal groups, Farley from the farmers, and Schumann the musician. This time they had only Farley, and now he is gone. They have received a bit of coverage over their candidates for Mayo and Boothby, but both have failed to inspire. The sitting senators have done a bit, but basically it has been a one woman show.

This may not affect their vote in the election, but it certainly must be worrying those who think in the longer term. Even if those who think Natasha is fantastic must wonder a little what will happen if she falls under a bus. Ridgeway is the obvious successor, but presumably they will be looking for new talent on the senate benches, and Farley stood out as the obvious figure. If he’s gone they’ve got a problem.

ADEN alive and well

Democrats, of course, believe in Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy, but Andrew Bartlett has cast doubt over the existence of ADEN not the deputy leader, we hastened to add (although he had ideas in that direction himself, but ADEN, the Adult Democrats E-mail Network, the cyberspace haunt of dissident Dems.

A Crikey subscriber emailed Natasha supporter, Senator Andrew Bartlett, with the following: “I’ve heard of the Adult Democrat Email Network (ADEN), how can I subscribe?”

And the good senator replied: “Hello – I don’t know anything about this list, other than having heard it exists through Crikey. Mind you, virtually everything else I read through there about the Democrats is wildly wrong, so maybe that list is too.”

Well, with an election on and all that, the following comes from the ADEN and, so, Senator, you can save your time and ignore it.

One member of the ADEN seems to remember that Stott Despoja claimed to have consulted Mr Beazley very shortly after her election and reported back to her inner circle colleagues that she and Mr Beazley had come to an arrangement. Now the preference deals are out, they feel fairly sure what the arrangement was.

Another claims that when Stott Despoja was busy undermining Lees she used to say that Lees and Murray had far too cosy a relationship with the Liberals. It was one of the lines she constantly peddled to members. Now, they ask, who precisely has the cosy relationship?

Indeed, word on the ADEN is that even some of the people who assisted Stott Despoja’s elevation are mightily pissed off with the preference arrangements. There are rumblings that Stott Despoja is doing a much better job for the ALP than Cheryl.

Two staffers made the point that should Stott Despoja get enough of her colleagues back to retain party status, it is unlikely that a returned Coalition government will give her an inch in terms of resources, leave from parliament, staff or anything. She’d better hope that the ALP wins and, if they do, that they remember who their friends and collaborators are.

Meanwhile, Thursday’s photo of Stott Despoja with the baby Bartlett’ gave rise to one or two suggestions for a caption competition. The best was “If I give you the kid, can I rethink the preference deal?”.

Change of heart

This isn’t from the ADEN, but instead fell off the back of the usual solar-powered bicycle and found its way to Crikey. Names have been omitted to protect the innocent.

Our source claims that Stott Despoja’s original strategy of having no policy launches was hastily changed following Crikey’s revelations. The chronology is as follows:

– Key and competent Lees adviser sacked in April after the leadership change because she wasn’t one of the ‘children’. No phone call, no reason, just the sack delivered by one of Stott Despoja’s hand-maidens.

– Her replacement lasts only 3 months before resigning in disappointment

– Boothby candidate and ‘dear friend’ of Stott Despoja given the job for one month prior to resigning to contest the seat – despite her own admission that she has no knowledge or expertise in the policy area. Jobs for the girls? No. Couldn’t be.

– Boothby candidate resigns as soon as election is called leaving the key research position vacant once again.

– The key policy area emerges in campaign. Stott Despoja’s team wants a briefing on Government policy in this area so they can tear it to shreds. Who do they call? The adviser they sacked in April! (Interestingly, Stott-Despoja and team did not indicate any wish to tear apart the ALP policy in this area.)

– Last week Stott Despoja’s office called the same ex-staffer asking about lines on GST exemptions in this area. Ex staffer, not surprisingly, said to be annoyed and tired of being taken for granted. “Outrageous” was the response quoted.

– A number of Democrats getting sick and tired of Stott Despoja’s endless ability to use up people and get away with it.

Great staffwork of our time

In case you missed PM on Friday, 05

MARK COLVIN: When it comes to maternity leave, women in Afghanistan are better off than Australian women.

That idea comes from a speech by Democrat leader, Natasha Stott Despoja, during the launch of her party’s women’s policy in Adelaide today.

An intriguing proposition, given that, under the Taliban regime, women aren’t even allowed to work.

Lachlan Parker reports from Adelaide.

LACHLAN PARKER: For Democrats leader, Natasha Stott Despoja, it’s been a somewhat difficult week. First there was criticism over preference deals with the major parties. Then, in what should’ve been a routine exercise for a politician, kissing a baby, she was photographed looking utterly horrified while holding a senate colleague’s week old daughter.

A matter she eluded to today, as she launched her party’s women’s policy in Adelaide.

NATASHA STOTT DESPOJA: While a growing number of the population of women are deciding not to have children and, based on yesterday’s photo in The Australian people might suggest that that’s probably something I should be looking into.

LACHLAN PARKER: But it was this comment during today’s launch that raised a few eyebrows.

NATASHA STOTT DESPOJA: Paid maternity leave is an important issue for all women. All over the world, it is recognised that women need part-time, or time off work, and paid time off work when they have a baby. And look at the countries that’ve done it. Indonesia, the Philippines, Germany, much of Africa and, wait for it, even in Afghanistan, women have around three months paid maternity leave.

LACHLAN PARKER: Shortly after the launch, she was asked to explain her comments about Afghanistan.

QUESTION: You drew a link between the conditions of women in Afghanistan compared to the conditions of women in Australia. Can you elaborate on that for us?

NATASHA STOTT DESPOJA: In Australia we don’t even have Third World conditions when it comes to access for paid maternity leave for Australian women. Roughly a third of Australian female workers have access to some form of maternity leave.

In countries like Afghanistan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Germany, women there have access to some form of paid maternity leave for up to and around three months. It’s time for Australia to catch up. We’ve been saying that for decades. It’s now time for us, not simply to get to Third World, but First World conditions in terms of rights for women in their workplaces.

QUESTION: Is this under the Taliban you’re talking about, or .?

NATASHA STOTT DESPOJA: In terms of Afghanistan I don’t think it’s the Taliban’s regime, in relation to maternity leave, but we’ll get some checks on that. The Afghani Government is the official information that we have.

LACHLAN PARKER: One of her staffers later explained the list of countries was listed from an International Labor Organisation brochure from the 1990s.

Ends

And, presumably, another staffer got their arse booted from here to the back of Bourke.

Splits and misses

If anyone is counting on romping home on the back of Dem preferences, they might want to first take a look at the how to votes.

In one seat volunteers handling pre-poll voting discovered the Democrat split ticket HTV was the same on both sides and had to swiftly change them all by hand.

Sorry, wrong election

Some wag must have a few old signs in their shed, as “John Schumann for Mayo” coreflutes are turning up around Adelaide.

Director of the Democrats federal campaign in South Australia, Mike Elliott, says a prosecution will be pursued if the “childish” culprits can be found.

Kero bath

As predicted by Hillary helper Mungo McCallum (no relation) the turkeys of the South Australian Liberal Party have indeed voted for Christmas and installed slow talking former tractor salesman Rob Kerin as Premier over Dean Brown. The vote was Kerin 13, Brown 9. Opposition Leader Mike Rann was spotted shortly after doing a tango down the Parliament House corridors with his senior adviser, Lance Worrall. Brown wisely ran for the deputy’s job to scare off the right’s Ian Evans and succeeded in fighting off ministers Mark Brindal and Robert Brokenshire over a few rounds.

Kerin was supposed to go over King William Street to Government House with the disgraced former premier John Olsen. The idea was that Olsen could tender his resignation and then Kerin could immediately be sworn in. Instead, Kerin told Olsen to go over an hour early and resign and he followed later. Ouch!

Fond farewell

Olsen’s former chief of staff Vicki Thomson also made a spectacular exit last week. The ABC has reported that she declined to accept an offer in the new Premier’s office, but several senior Liberal sources in South Australia are not aware that any such an offer was made.

Their report went on to say “She stresses she has not resigned because of the Motorola report by Dean Clayton QC. The report investigated an allegation she was involved in destroying Motorola documents. Ms Thomson has denied the allegation. The report found there was not sufficient evidence to determine if any document was destroyed.”

Her departure was marked by touching scenes, according to insiders. Olsen’s staff were gathered together for an address by their departing leader. She supposedly told them how nasty it was that politics has to get dirty and preached how politics is all about loyalty and then denounced the lot of them bar two who she named as the only ones who had remained loyal to her over recent days. She then beamed at Olsen and allegedly announced “there’s only one premier for me” as staff rushed to vomit out the windows.

The same sources claim that earlier two of the more senior staff being kept on went and told incoming Premier Rob Kerin that if Thomson stayed, they would be going in very blunt words.

There is some talk that she might end up with the right’s great white hope, Ian Evans. That will not impressed his chief of staff, former Victorian MP Craig Bildstein. Bildstein worked with Thomson in Olsen’s office, and the two are said to loathe each other.

Meanwhile, Clayton reportedly intends to have a quiet little chat with the Director of Public Prosecutions over the next few days, so we can expect more news from Adelaide.

Assiduous readers of the Clayton document that lead to all this unpleasantness have noted that the three people who copped the most flak one time Olsen chief of staff Alex Kennedy, former industry department head John Cambridge and Olsen himself all used the same lawyers. How very interesting.

Strange company

Steve Mav, Tasmania’s firmest monarchist, Glenorchy City Councillor, would be Liberal Party MP and former Campaign Director for the Monarchists, and darling of the Hobart Women’s’ Branch of the Liberal Party, is a regular luncher at the NooBar in the Elizabeth St Mall in Hobart with guess who?

Surely not anyone from the Labor Party given Mav’s extrem right wing views. But yes, the Parliamentary Secretary to Premier Jim Bacon, Steve Kons, has been spotted with him. Presumably they discuss Greek community affairs, because Mav berates anyone in the Party who even looks like they might talk to the ALP.

Tying up the ethnic vote

Steve Georganas, the Labor candidate the marginal Liberal seat of Hindmarsh, reckons he can deliver it to the Labor Party on the Greek vote but he wasn’t taking any chances on Saturday night.

He went off chasing the Japanese vote, too, on Saturday night, and in the wee small hours was seen in a leading karaoke bar with one of the state Labor leader’s minders in a state of great enthusiasm

MARK LATHAM TRUMPS HILLARY

No doubt a few of you would have seen the following joke e-mail that’s doing the rounds:

Subject: This looks serious – check it out

Kabul, Afghanistan—October 23, 2001. A shocking development took place today as the ruling members of the Taliban held a press conference threatening Australia if its territory is invaded. Immigration Czar Mohammed Ali Momaluke stated that the Afghan authorities “would not hesitate for a moment” to cut off Australia’s supply of cab drivers.

Well, my good mate and absent columnist Hillary Bray thought it would be amusing to forward it to Mark Latham after his encounter with a cabbie and got this reply: “I was ahead of the political agenda, tackling Mr Mustafa in July.”

Hillary is well and truly trumped and may have to do a few hours on a polling booth in Werriwa to assuage the shame, or so I understand.

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