Crikey pays Hillary $150 a week and feels she has certainly earned her keep with this fine effort.

Ragheads ramming the Rialto? Within minutes, a media release from Saint Steve was churning out of fax machines across the length and breadth of the land: “Not even Jeff Kennett was able to attract world class terrorism to Melbourne”.

OK, so it’s incredibly tenuous, but hey all those local media outlets that were too stingy to send anyone to Afghanistan can now say that they were right all along.

And talking of cheaparse media outfits who have pissed a hell of a lot of people off and may well be the subject of revenge attacks, have Fred the Bungling Beancounter and all those tightwad types down on Sussex Street at Fairfax realised that they are in gasp twin towers?

Home defence

Bet the Rodent and the Cadaver (Ruddock for first timers) are kicking themselves that they made vaguely conciliatory noises on refugees earlier in the week, given how events have panned out.

First the Cadaver admitted that the “Pacific Solution” might not be sustainable. “Pork Chop” Hill then chimed in, admitting that sending in the armed forces to avert the clear and present danger posed by unarmed civilians wasn’t exactly brilliant for the budget bottom line.

The Prime Miniature was happy to adopt the One Nation solution to dealing with refugees but he knows that the old Pauline “print more money solution” doesn’t really work. That meant that a few weeks after turning an asylum seekers’ boat back to sea that His Rodentness said that turning asylum seekers’ boats back to sea was “completely inhumane”.

It was also interesting to note what the top end of town has been saying about the Government’s embrace of Hansonism. Louise Dodson came up with a great piece in the Age on Friday:

“Business leaders are convinced Australia needs higher immigration levels as part of a comprehensive population policy. There are social, foreign policy and cultural reasons for increasing immigration and developing a well-rounded population policy, but most of all there are economic reasons. ‘It makes sense to have a younger growing population than an older shrinking one,’ said one business analyst. ‘And given that we have a rapidly declining birth rate, that means higher immigration.’ As part of developing a comprehensive population policy, higher immigration levels are essential for ensuring economic growth, higher living standards and an effective workforce, business groups argue.”

And amen to that, brother.

Empty seats

News came out during the week that former Liberal federal director Andrew Robb was looking for a federal seat in Sydney’s North Shore. He’ll have to join the queue.

There are persistent rumours that the Rodent, if he actually sticks to his “When I’m Sixty-Four” musings, will give his seat to Chikka as a consolation prize after her inevitable dumping as state leader.

It’s been rumoured that lachrymose boy wonder John Brogden wants Bronny’s seat but despite the fact that her career is dead, nothing will be able to shift her until a stake is driven through her heart, her head severed from her body and her mouth filled with garlic. (Ed – perish the thought.)

Then, of, course, there’s prodigal son Malcolm “Chardonnay” Turnbull. He wants a seat too, now that he’s made $100 million for himself in business and has become a Liberal bagman despite the obvious conflict of interest issues that will create.

What seat will he take? The Cadaver is already Father of the House and, if he hasn’t done so already, certainly will have betrayed every ideal he ever held by the end of this term. He could go.

Or, for once just once the Liberal Party could act like a professional machine and toss out dead wood like Alan Cadman and free his safe seat for people with obvious talent like Robb or Turnbull.

Apocalypse now

Does the Malthus of Maroubra, Bob Carr, belong to some strange apocalyptic cult? Hillary remains concerned.

Your columnist has already reported long ago about ho, when Sydneysiders flocked to the habourside to celebrate the dawning of 2000, they encountered Malthus standing on a soap box down the end of George Street clad in sackcloth and ashes warning that the end of the world was nigh.

Later, he appeared on 60 Minutes warning that the world could not sustain a growing population. Earlier this year he said that Sydney was full to capacity (shame no-one told Andrew Refshuage) and then, when the devastating storms hit on Monday, he attributed it to climate change.

Even the Sydney Yawning Herald, the voice of local nimbyism, said this was a load of bollocks. Already, Hillary hears, chief of staff Graham Wedderburn has to get up at four and sacrifice a goat each morning and then relays the auguries to Carr before he will get out of bed.

What next? A Premier who recoils in fear when people reach for their business cards in case they’re about to hand him something inauspicious from the tarot deck?

Trippy, man

Hillary and Crikey get some bloody weird e-mails but this item we included in a sealed section last week went really over the top:

“yesterday I got a call from a mate of mine who had heard that on Friday night Kero [South Australian Premier Rob Kerin] was at an ABC function – some going away party or the like. Someone slipped an ecstasy tablet into his drink and of course he was very friendly and touchy feely. Apparently he was having a great time, dancing etc. minder was beside themselves as a) kero acting out of character and b) minder didn’t know why/what had happened. Am assured the story is true – 3rd hand from the drug slipper. I must say it is a bit upsetting. People shouldn’t be doing that sort of thing to anyone.”

It produced two interesting responses from Adelaide subscribers:

“Regarding the Kero item, he, a bunch of Govt staffers and a mob of media scum on Friday night attended the annual funny reels show, put on by the tellies.

“Kero is an extroverted country bloke who doesn’t mind the taste of beer, and he tasted one or two during the evening, as did the 200 or so other attendees.

“Think the eccy angle is a tad bizarre, and his minders didn’t appear too stressed. Part of Kero’s appeal is that he will stand at the bar for a drink with the plebs, without waiting for a camera to be there.

“Can’t think of too many Premiers anywhere who do that.”

One person at the gig had this to say although we’ve done a minor edit on a couple of points:

“The event on Friday night was not an ABC specific event. It was the annual funny reels night (this year, hosted by Channel 10) where the three commercial TV stations and the ABC get together to show their blooper tapes for the year. They’re judged, and a winner is announced. This year, among the judges was Premier Rob Kerin, who incidentally featured prominently in the ABC funny reel, from an unfortunate incident at the annual Blessing of the Waters .. when the dove he was meant to release died in his hands before he got to launch it. (The added voice over went something like (I swear, this is how I got it from John Olsen). It’s been said about “The cocky from Crystal Brook” that he’s more at home in the front bar than the board room. Well, on Friday night .. he was making himself right at home. And while the evening is intended as a night for TV journos to get together, it’s broadened out a little bit in recent years. But I’ve never seen as many Political minders at the event as there were on Friday. At least eight of the twelve from the Media unit (the legacy of Vicky Thomson) were there ..probably to keep an eye on the affable Premier.

“I’m not sure about the Ecstasy, (although I had heard unsubstantiated rumours about it after the event but doubt it very much). However, I certainly witnessed some “E-like behaviour” … he was definitely “getting in touch with the electorate” on the night .. at least certain journalistic representatives. One wag referred to the Premier as “The Octopus” on the night but don’t get me wrong, it was all very friendly. I expect it was alcohol and not drug induced and if it was drugs then obviously someone must have spiked his drink. Maybe a worried minder began spreading the E-rumour to cover the “un-parliamentary behaviour”.

“While the Premier’s ability to socialise will no doubt help him in the eyes of the electorate, (and the media, who got used to the wooden and humourless John Olsen), if Mr Kerin doesn’t start pacing himself, and if his minders don’t start giving him water for every second drink … he may find his penchant for a big night out could get him into strife at some point.”

This may well all be of doubtful veracity but it’s good grist for the Crikey mill. If it keeps coming, South Australia may well have it’s only interesting premier since the days of Don Dunstan.

Captain Mainwaring’s staff have already staged a shameless extended photo-op where he dropped by local icons such as Adelaide Oval and the Victoria Square pie cart (purveyor of gourmet delights that makes Harry’s Cafe51 de Wheels look like Level 41) before ending up in a front bar in the Hindley Street nightclub strip for a drink.

Since then, staffers have committed shameless acts of lesse majeste and joked that rather than holding drinks in his office on Friday nights, as Buffy was wont to do, the new Premier may well just stand outside Parliament House with a keg offering beers to passers by on a “one for you and one for me” basis.

For the record

Staying in with SA, the state cabinet was reshuffled on Tuesday. Retiring attorney general Trevor Griffin was returned to the backbench despite his wishes to hang on till the poll. To compensate, he issued a four page press release just to make sure his legacy was not forgotten.

PS Joan “Elvira” Hall was out enthusiastically lobbying for a spot in the new ministry despite being forced to resign in disgrace only a few weeks ago. Sadly, her talents were overlooked.

From the ADEN

The poor old Demmies continue to lick their wounds in the wake of their date with disaster on November 10. Here’s the latest wrap from the dissent Dems bulletin board, the ADEN Adult Democrats E-mail Network:

“National Executive’s post-election analysis left one Leader shaken but not stirred. As is the way of the Dems, criticism was restrained and couched in supportive language but observers say Stott Despoja got the message big time. The front page of the web site is fascinating in that both phases of the Dream Team now appear, though Ridgeway’s image is smaller, lower, in the background and slightly to the left.

“Apparently and unsurprisingly, Lees has decided not to challenge. Her line about leadership changes being ‘destabilising and, as we have seen, not productive’ amused many. She was also heard to remark that in the Democrats, the leader can be challenged at any time. Uh huh. The feeling is that after the election result and the loss of her friend Vicki Bourne, Lees’ status and control of the numbers in the party room has firmed up yet again.

“Numbers in the party remain with Stott Despoja (though people feel her support is markedly reduced and the shine has very definitely gone) as many older hands have let their memberships lapse. The G&L activists and the children are still there in force (though they couldn’t seem to get themselves out to work for their heroine on polling day).

“Sam Hudson, Chief of Staff and National Secretary has resigned as National Secretary and, good sources say, will resign her position as Stott Despoja’s Chief of Staff in the middle of January when she hopes that her departure will go unnoticed. Word is that she has denied that she’s resigning from her staff position but any amount of smart money is on her having lined herself up a cosy spot with one of the ‘corporates’ she’s been wooing, supposedly, on behalf of the Democrats. Whether she does resign or not remains to be seen.

“Hudson was not admired by Lees supporters for scuttling along the rope to the Stott Despoja camp when she sensed the membership tide turning but everyone knows she’s been sidelined by Stott Despoja and has little influence over anything. It’s called ‘the Cheryl Kernot syndrome’ – nowhere to call home.

“People are fair, however, and many acknowledge Hudson’s years and years of hard work for the Democrats. She will be missed if only for the fact that she takes with her the last remaining vestiges of the Democrat corporate memory.

“The Democrats are in for a bumpy ride when the new parliament sits. Howard will go to the ends of the earth to sideline Stott Despoja. Word from wet Liberals in Canberra is that Howard doesn’t like the Democrats one bit but he has genuine respect for a number of them – not including Stott Despoja.

“The preference deal with Labor cemented Stott Despoja into the tomb of parliamentary irrelevance as far as Howard is concerned. With the experienced Whip Vicki Bourne gone in June, and Stott Despoja desperately trying to shoe-horn the charismatic Andrew Bartlett into the Whip’s office, life will be full of interest.”

Surely nut?

Hillary loves yarns about Peter “Nutty” Knott, Paul Keating’s C*nt in the Cakeshop and short lived Labor Member for Gilmour who’s comeback bid last months was somewhat less than successful – but is this e-mail too good to be true?

“You may of heard of Peter Knott, the Labor Member for Gilmour and some of the angst he has caused Labor. In a former life he was an eccentric Librarian at Warilla High School (known as Mr. Nut) famous for not wearing underwear and conversing with stray dogs on recess patrol.”

Another reader has fond memories of a meeting with Nutty:

“In the early 90’s I was part of a group appearance before a caucus committee including Peter Knott – other than the waft of stale beer from an obviously heavy preceding night Peter proceeded to eat a bucket of hot chips extremely liberally smothered/drowned in tomato sauce. Upon finishing the chips Peter promptly fell asleep for the rest of our presentation which was somewhat disconcerting to say the least, as was the pervasive smell of the chips.”

Christmas is a time for giving, and this Holiday Season let’s all share our stories of Nutty Knott. Crikey would love to know more about this rich and complex character and you all know what address to send them to.

Unprecedented behaviour

Uncouth members of the younger generation such as Cozza and the Jeffmeister may have brawled with each other, but Ron Walker’s jibes at Big Mal during the week were entirely unprecedented. Members of the Victorian Liberal establishment criticising each other in public? How common.

More Liberal nepotism

Crikey readers, being such a connected lot, have had further additions to makes to our Liberal nepotism list. Keep ’em coming in.

Rob Knowles, the former Kennett government minister chairs the Board of the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute

Rod Knockles, Jocelyn Newman’s former chief of staff is also on the board.

Crikey favourite Louise Staley is on the board of the Australian Institute of Family Studies and has served on the board of the Australian Film & Television School.

David Connolly — Ex Federal Liberal MP — Appointed Chair of Ministerial Advisory Group Council on Oceans Policy

Virginia Chadwick Ex Liberal member of NSW State Parliament Appointed Chair of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority

Peter King – new Lib member for Wentworth & Former Lib NSW President former Chair of the Australian Heritage Commission

Tom Harley — Victorian Lib Stalwart, BHP heavyweight and great mate of Robert Hill – new Chair of the Australian Heritage Commission (replacing King)

Off to a bad start

Hillary can’t wait for the free Leunig calender with Monday’s Sydney Yawning Herald this week. There may may be an excuse for Leunig in a damp and grey place like Melbourne but does mawkish self-pity translate into great insights into the human condition in the Emerald City?

Hillary Bray can be contacted at [email protected]

Peter Fray

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