Bet you haven’t seen a Liberal cronyism list as good as the one Hillary has put together this week. It seems a few of Howard’s former flatmates have been paid to go overseas.

Well, Andrew swung into full campaign mode an unprecedented move in AM on Tuesday. Just have a look at this grab:

NEIL ANDREW: Those people who have been named in press speculation have all spoken to me and indicated that at this stage they’ve made no such decision. Of course anyone is free to stand.

MARK WILLACY: And what do you understand the Prime Minister’s position on the whole issue is? Have you got his support?

NEIL ANDREW: Just prior to his re-election as leader I spoke to him. We had a frank discussion, and he indicated his support for my nomination.

MARK WILLACY: So would that suggest to you that he is happy? Did he say he was happy with your performance over the past three years?

NEIL ANDREW: Well, Mark, I’m the umpire. I’m sure there are bound to be people on both teams who are unhappy with the performance. The Prime Minister was only constructive in his criticism.

And how was Andrew rewarded by the Rodent for this chunderous-brown nosing? Here’s what the Short Man had to say:

“I don’t think it’s my role to go out and put my hand on somebody’s shoulder. It’s something that the party room regards as its own decision.

“Anybody can nominate. Neil Andrew has told me he’s going to nominate again. I have not been told that anybody else is nominating but that may change. I just don’t know.”

Ouch. Desperate campaigning two months out from the vote is a little unusual but from the PM’s reaction Andrew is going to be a busy boy. Meanwhile, new names keep getting thrown up as possible contenders, with David Hawker and “Bruce Baby” Baird joining David “The Marlborough Man” Jull on the serious shortlist. And the Bronwyn speculation? Well, some people have cruel senses of humour and start rumours for no apparent reason…

Shotgun marriage

Not again. Hillary is amazed that the idea of a Liberal/National merger has been given yet another dust down.

Any Lib with half a brain should be able to see what the result of letting a whole pile of stroppy agrarian socialists might do to their party.

Even handed approach

After Smarmy Simey announced his wondrously reinvented Shadow Ministry last week, Hillary was a little surprised to see Satan come out last week and say she was looking forward to working with the new Labor team.

Funny. She didn’t say anything like that when the Rodent announced his new Ministry. She’s not going to do a Chezza, is she? Surely not, especially now that she’s dating former Liberal spindoctor turned PR man about town Ian Smith.

SA going in February?

Buffy Olsen made it clear he was going to hang on to power as long as possible. His successor, Captain Mainwaring, said time and time again that South Australians would be going to the polls in early April, after Brenda’s visit was out of the way then Bingo came along.

The retiring “Bingo” Ingersen, the twice disgraced one time deputy premier, dropped an almighty clanger in a smug and, observers say, tired and emotional little speech late on the last day of Parliament for the year when he referred to “the state election here in February”. Oops

The story, naturally, ran big on the local ABC flagship morning news at 7:45. At around 10:30, the newsroom was surprised to get a call from Bingo. He’d heard that talk of a February election was drifting around and being attributed to him. Quick as a flash, the journo who answered the phone played the grab down the line to him. Bingo rang off somewhat abruptly.

February 9 is now the favoured date.

Reshuffle reporting

Hillary frowned at the reporting of the reshuffle in the column last week and in Tuesday’s Sealed Section, so was delighted to get this from a subscriber in the PR game writes:

“Media reporting has been woeful on the reshuffle:

“1. SMH Saturday runs pic of the Reserve Bank Governor instead of the Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane in its reshuffle pic montage;

2. The Australian at various stages has labelled Ian Campbell a Lib moderate (!), Richard Alston a Victorian moderate and Ian Macdonald a Qld hardliner (he is a leading moderate);

3. Brendan Nelson was reported as being a member of the ALP for 30 years – he’s only in his early 40s and has been in Parliament for near six years as a Lib.

“How hard is it to get it right? It’s been pathetic! The Reserve Bank Gov should sue!”

Comedy relief

Nutty Knott mightn’t have got elected, but Hillary can’t wait to see the thrills ‘n’ spills and comic brilliance of the Country Liberal Party’s new member for the new Darwin based Reps seat of Solomon, Dave Tollner.

Dave claimed victory in the seat by a narrow 88 votes but he has greater claims to fame. Firstly, his wasn’t one of the 88. He turned up to vote and discovered he lived in the seat of Lingiari. The returning officer was not impressed by his explanation that he thought he could still vote because he was the candidate. There are some fine print issues involved. You can vote in an electorate you don’t live in if you are the candidate but you have to put your name down on the roll. D’oh!

Tollner contested the Territory seat of Nelson as an independent in 1997 before rejoining the CLP, has said he supported the GST being extended to food, has a conviction for possession of the evil weed and faces a court case over allegations of drink driving and driving an unregistered vehicle. To top it off, he made the wonderful campaign statement: “The CLP is family-focused. Labor is focused on women who have six kids by six different fathers.” When all this was discovered, the CLP heavies, smarting from their loss in the Territory elections, tried to dump him as candidate – until it was discovered that the party rules prevented this.

Funnily enough, the CLP’s web site still contains chapter and verse on how Dave is “Committed to Raising Standards”. What? He’s going to resign?

The Senate settles

The final shape of the Senate is has become clear, with Green Kerry Nettle taken the final New South Wales spot from Democrat Vicki Bourne and Lyn Allison hanging on in Victoria.

For a while last week the battle for the last spot in Victoria was looking interesting as the below the line votes were counted. The Dems lead by 3000 votes, but with Greens picking up a below the line vote of around 23 per cent it looked as if it could have gone either way.

In the new senate, only one seat changes hands (Democrat to Green). There will be 35 Coalition, 28 Labor, one Labor defector (Shane Murphy), Brian Harradine, eight Democrats, two Greens and One Nation’s Loopy Len Harris or possibly even Pauline herself. To get a majority, 39 votes will be needed. This could be made up of the Coalition and Labor voting together, the Coalition and Democrats voting together, the Coalition, two Greens, and two of the three others (Harradine, Murphy, Harris) voting together or Labor, the Democrats, the Greens and either Harradine or Murphy voting together.

When Labor and the Dems vote “no” on issues, it could get interesting. What issues will the Greens, Harradine, Murphy and/or Harris agree with the Government on.

Greens versus Dems

The Greens, meanwhile, are spitting chips (NB not woodchips) over a media release by repentant rorter turned Democrat Senator John Cherry headed “Democrats STILL the third force” that has pride of place on the party’s website.

The release, dated 12 November, puts the Green fifth in vote terms behind the Coalition, Labor, the Dems and One Nation but the shrubhuggers are crying foul. They say that Cherry excluded the Greens WA vote which puts them well ahead of One Nation and breathing down the back of the Democrat’s neck.

Cherry points out that the WA Greens have resisted a merger with the national organisation (see Yoursay), but on a matter like this Hillary thinks it’s the thought that counts.

Dems versus Dems

Meanwhile, the poor old dissident Dems’ despondency has reached such lows that they are even sending around extracts from Lynton Crosby’s Press Club mythmaking session telling them why they performed poorly. Even Hillary thinks that’s self flagellation.

Dirty dealings up North

All year, Crikey has received e-mails on alleged rorting by Queensland Liberal powerbroker Neville Stewart in his role as chairman of the Toowoomba Turf Club, but decided to duck yet another court case by running them. Now, a Stewart has been hit by a very messy audit report. Here’s what the Courier Mail had to say on Saturday:

DAMNING audit documents reveal embattled Toowoomba Turf Club chairman Neville Stewart ran up tens of thousands of dollars of expenses on mobile phone calls, alcohol, meals and luxury hotels without proper justification.

An internal audit report shows the Queensland Liberal Party vice-president failed to appropriately account for up to $70,000 of expenses claimed over the past five years.

The audit documents also state Mr Stewart acts in a “hands-on role not contemplated within the current constitution”. The suspect expenses include international mobile phone calls, luxurious hotel accommodation and fuel with little justifying documentation.

Auditors also were scathing about financial management at the club itself.

Auditors KPMG have questioned the reimbursement of expenses to Mr Stewart, saying the mobile phone for which costs were reimbursed was also recorded as a contact for his private horse stud business.

Expense reimbursement records for accommodation obtained by The Courier-Mail are littered with references like “can’t find source documentation” and “seems a lot for one night. Meals?” and “no reason given for stay”. Audit documents show Mr Stewart organised the purchase of goods from one business without competing quotes, with the supplier yesterday telling The Courier-Mail he “had horses” with Mr Stewart.

Bobcats, buildings and whitegoods also were purchased without three quotes or “goods received” stamped on invoices.

Audit documents also show a $25,000 building was purchased without an invoice and no evidence of the three required quotes. It was approved after date of purchase and has not been used in the four years since.

Auditors also said that the club reported the same gross profit at the bar for two months in a row despite selling twice as much alcohol in one of the months.

The documents show that between 1996 and 2001, Mr Stewart had a total of $70,224.02 in claimed expenses. This included $34,664 in telephone costs, $14,216 in fuel, $18,253 at the Hilton Hotel and $3090.40 for meals at a restaurant.

According to a June 28, 2001 minute, Mr Stewart agreed to repay 40 per cent of the total expenses bill (or $28,090). The documents state the fringe benefits tax liability for the expenses was $19,591.

The Toowoomba Turf Club so far also has failed to tell auditors whether FBT was ever paid on expenses claimed by Mr Stewart.

Racing Minister Merri Rose last night said she had not seen the audit documents and the issue was the responsibility of the Queensland Principal Club.

Mr Stewart refused to comment, hanging up on The Courier-Mail.

QPC chairman Sandy Bredhauer also refused to comment, except for saying the future of the TTC, including possible deregistration, was under consideration. However, QPC correspondence states “the club which has an annual turnover of over $6 million had not implemented fundamental internal controls raised in a 1996 audit”.

Audit documents obtained by The Courier-Mail show the TTC has major financial management failings and ignored key recommendations of the 1996 audit report.

Auditors also witnessed a case of a discrepancy between cash receipt records and bank deposits. The criticisms contained in the 2000 audit include:

– Cheque requisitions in many instances do not bear evidence of authorisation.

– Appropriate supporting documentation for many expenditure transactions was missing or incomplete.

There was also “no evidence of (a) capital expenditure budget”.

Ends

Crikey!

Local colour

A Sydney subscriber was pleasantly pleased for a while on Saturday morning. As she walked through Kings Cross to do her shopping, there was none other than new Police Minister Michael Costa, sans minders, talking to people on the street with only a couple of beat cops for company. She was incredibly impressed with this refreshing hands on approach.

And on her return, there was Costa once again with police brass in the middle of a media scrum announcing yet another clean up of the Cross. He had apparently arrived early for his own photo-op.

The ultimate Liberal nepotism list

Ever heard the saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”? Well, this list of various Howard Government appointments – and their connections to the Howard Government – makes interesting reading. Please send any additions to [email protected]

Howard Friends and Colleagues:

Andrew Peacock, Ambassador to Washington (political colleague)

Donald MacDonald, ABC Chairman, (friend)

John Spender, Ambassador to Washington, (friend)

Carla Zampatti, Chair SBS (friend and wife of Spender)

Tony Messner, Norfolk Island Administrator, (ex flatmate)

Prue Goward, head of Office of Status of Women (friend)

David Barnett, National Museum Board (friend, biographer and husband of Goward)

Peter Nixon, Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme Chair (former Ministerial colleague)

Alan Rocher, Consul General, Los Angeles (friend)

David Connolly, South African High Commissioner (friend and colleague)

Bill Taylor, Administrator Indian Ocean Territories (friend and colleague)

Bob Halverson, Ambassador to Dublin (political colleague)

Jim Short, European Bank for reconstruction and Development (ex flatmate)

Michael Baume, New York C-G, September 10 (friend and colleague)

Pru Goward, PM’s Olympics Media Unit, October 25 1999 (friend)

Tony Staley, National Museum Chair September 23 (friend and Liberal President)

Jim Short, Australian Special Envoy for Cyprus (ex-flatmate)

Bob Mansfield, Telstra Board Director (ex Howard staffer)

Bruce Lloyd, Chair Landcare Council (colleague)

Michael L’Estrange, High Commissioner UK (staffer)

Ex-Senator Brownhill, Chair of Wine and Brandy Corporation (former colleague)

Michael Kroger, ABC board member, (former Victorian Liberal State Director)

Ron Walker, Australia Foundation for Culture (Liberal Treasurer)

Alan Jones, Australian Sports Commission (Howard media confidante)

Sally-Anne Atkinson, National Capital Authority (former Liberal Mayor)

Ray Braithwaite, Productivity Commission (former colleague)

Ian McLachlan, Wool Industry Task Force Chairman (former Howard Govt Minister)

Pru Goward, Sex Discrimination Commissioner (Howard biographer and friend)

Michael Thawley, Ambassador to Washington, former Howard adviser

Other Minister’s friends and colleagues:

Michael Callaghan (Costello COS) to IMF

Kate Carnell, Chair, General Practice Education & Training (Michael Wooldridge’s landlady)

Bill Coote, CEO, General practice Education and Training (former Wooldridge staffer)

Jeff Kennett, Chair, Beyond Blue (former Premier and Wooldridge friend)

Rob Knowles Aged Care Complaints Commissioner AND Food Standards Australia (former Victorian Liberal Health Minister and Wooldridge friend)

Peter Baume, Chair, Cancer treatment review (former Liberal Health Minister and a “mentor to Dr Wooldridge”)

Ron Phillips, Chair, Mid Term review of Doctor training (former NSW Liberal Health Minister)

Ron Miekle Board member Medibank Private (radiologist and family friend of Wooldridge)

Rachel David, National Institute of Clinical Studies, (Former Wooldridge Staffer)

Peter Richards, Industrial Registrar, March 25 (former Reith COS)

John Lang, Aged Care Accreditation Board, (Bishop’s campaign manager and President of her electorate council)

James Longley, Aged Care Accreditation Board, (former State Liberal MP for Pittwater; and James Harrowell, Aged Care Accreditation Board (long-time friend of Bishop).

Rob Knowles, Aged Care Complaints Commissioner (former State Liberal Minister)

Paul Wakim, Migration Review Tribunal – (former Liberal Candidate for the seat of Strathfield)

Ricky Johnston, Migration Review Tribunal (former WA Liberal Member)

Michael Cook, Migration Review Tribunal (former Abbott staffer)

Namoi Dougall, Migration Review Tribunal (former Abbott staffer)

Bruce McCarthy, Refugee Tribunal, (former State Liberal Member for Strathfield)

PS It is interesting to note that the Rodent’s former housemates have all got overseas gigs. Perhaps they have something on him – unsanitary habits, maybe and he has been forced to pay them to stay away.

Hillary Bray can be contacted at [email protected]

Peter Fray

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