A Royal visit and the Hollingsworth affair are just distractions from the looming full scale inquiry into kids-in-the-watergate, writes Hillary Bray.

Irony, irony

Now might be a rather delicious moment to make the observation that Peter Hollingsworth was appointed Governor-General because, unlike his predecessor, he wouldn’t actually say anything controversial with the emphasis on say.

Welcome to Australia, Ma’am

Yes, it’s been a wonderful week it has been in our whingey and wimpy nation and things can only get better. When Her Maj arrives in Australia on Wednesday she’ll land in a state with two Premiers, be greeted by her Vice-Regal representative (whoever has the job that day) and a Prime Minister who is either a liar or an incompetent or both.

Let’s start with the state with two Premiers. The South Australian Liberals’ campaign to convince the masses that they are the legitimate government is going just swimmingly. The second renegade Lib, Bob Such, has been coyly making moves at the ALP all week and Nat Karlene Maywald and independent independent Rory McEwen have said that they won’t block supply to a Labor government.

They dropped a bucket on Peter “Lithium” Lewis in the Canberra Coward’s Castle during the week but, interestingly, the job went to South Australia’s most junior Fed, Patrick Secker. The South Australian Libs being the South Australian Libs, there’s also talk of a leadership challenge. Gos has it that the newly elected Member for Bragg, Vickie Chapman, has the numbers but it’s all gratuitous rumour-mongering. In contrast, it’s been business as usual for Labor leader Mike Rann, who announced his ministry on Sunday morning.

Next, the Vice Regal representative and who’s heard of the Hon Sir Guy Green, AC, KBE, CVO? Well, get ready to. Sir Guy is the Governor of Tasmania, and has been in the job since 1995. Why is this all relevant? Well, if the GG goes and the rumours are flying thick and fast that he’ll be gone before our Gracious Sovereign Lady touches down then the longest serving State Governor fills the gap as Administrator until a new GG is appointed, and Sir Guy is our man.

Finally, there’s the little matter of the Rodent himself. Wreathie’s belated confession hasn’t left him or the Cadaver or the government looking good. Instead, it’s left them looking like stinking liars or incompetents or both.

Remember, the Senate inquiry hasn’t even begun yet and by the time it does the GG will be out of the news.

The inquiry prepared by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet was written in the best light for the Government and the Short Man and they still ended up looking smelly and it’s only been Estimates Committee hearings this week.

Costello! Stop smirking!

From the hill

Not that hill the other hill on the other side of the lake, Russell Hill, where they’re not happy chappies.

The ADF is up in arms figuratively over the way Chris Barrie followed the government line in his evidence over kids-in-the-watergate last week and not so much the pencil pushers, but the officer corps themselves.

Barrie has been considered a little too anxious to please the pols since John Moore gave Defence head Paul Barratt the boot and there is now a steadily growing rumble that he is not only selling out the forces, but their principals, too.

Too good to be true?

Michael Johnson, the much mentioned Member for Ryan, hasn’t employed an MP’s daughter, has he?

Chikka’s last stand?

The Liberal Party has claimed victory in the Hornsby by-election but Chikka and co have only managed to pick up a swing of five per cent on primary votes, despite Labor not fielding a candidate.

On two party preferred terms, the result isn’t brilliant at all 52 per cent to the Libs and 48 per cent to independent and former local mayor John Muirhead. By the time you reach Hornsby, the poshest parts of the Nor Shore have been left behind but the Libs should do better than that.

With lachrymose boy wonder John Brogden waiting in the wings, the poll was being seen as a test for lagging leader Kerry Chikarovski. Now, all fingers are pointing firmly in the direction of Canberra.

Curiouser and curiouser

Since no-one from the Liberal Party seems to have emerged from Hornsby as a winner, it looks likely that a letter attacking Muirhead circulated in the electorate by former Liberal branch member Clive Troy will become the focus of attention.

Troy was successfully sued by a leading member of the Cadaver’s electorate conference, Rick Forbes, over a letter in the Hornsby Advocate alleging dirty deals on the local council and making curious claims about Forbes and Hawkesbury MP Kevin Rozzoli. Readers might recall Forbes’ evocative comment during the case that he felt like a butterfly on a pin when he read the letter.

It’s claimed that Forbes has not yet received any damages from Troy leading to speculation about where Troy got the money to get a three colour letter printed up and dropped across the Hornsby electorate. Extraordinarily, the words Barry, state, O’Farrell and secretariat have been heard in all the murmuring.

Excuses, excuses

The Greens won 14 per cent of the primary vote in Hornsby double that of the Australian Democrats.

The Dem candidate, Joanna Wong, has been reported as saying said she is happy with the outcome as she was down with glandular fever for much of the campaign.

It’s a fair enough excuse, but it begs the question if you’re a failing party and your candidate has a serious and debilitating illness, why not replace them. Muddling on isn’t the hallmark of a major party, a minor party or even a major minor party. It’s the mark of amateurs.

Thank you, now piss off

Labor’s decision not to run a candidate in Hornsby has not gone down well with all the faithful. Bob Carr, the Malthus of Maroubra, has referred to northern Sydney as “irrelevant” on several occasions, leading locals to speculate if he’s every heard of a place called the Upper House and the need to win seats there as well. However, anyone moved enough to raise concerns about the Premier’s arrogance has received a peremptory response:


“The Premier has received your correspondence concerning the Hornsby by-election.

“Mr Carr greatly appreciates the efforts of members in the Hornsby area and your efforts in particular in the 2001 Federal election. It is Mr Carr’s view, however, that the interests of the ALP are best served by not running a candidate at this time in a safe Liberal seat. He also believes that his public acknowledgment of this position should not discourage local members or lead them to believe that their excellent work in both the Federal and State electorates has gone unrecognised.

“You may be sure that Mr Carr looks forward to hearing of the further successes of your local branches at the 2003 general election.

“Yours sincerely

Graeme Wedderburn

Chief of Staff”

Subs for mentions

It’s a scandal more invidious than Cash for Comment ever was, but Crikey continues to bribe politicians for plugging this site. The deal is simple give Crikey a mention in either of the Houses or in a Committee and, hey presto, you’ve won a free sub.

Michael Danby, the mild mannered Labor member for Melbourne Ports, has become our first lucky winner for 2002 with this effort on the Howard Government Ministry in the Grievance Debate on Monday:

“It is also very interesting that there has been a very unfortunate leaking of details of the residence of the member for Fairfaxwhere he does and does not live. It is very odd to me that the new Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, the member for Moreton, seems to have on his staff the person who received an unfair dismissal from the staff of the member for Fairfax. Crikey.com’s view of this was that the new Fairfax homeowner, Lynton Crosby, the Federal Director of the Liberal Party, is said to be very happy with proceedings to date.”

The Mayne Man will be in touch to confirm the address Michael wants to receive his daily Crikey e-mails on.

Hillary Bray can be contacted at [email protected]