More than two years on and Hillary Bray’s true identity has still not been revealed and she continues to pump out prodigious amounts of fascinating political gossip. This week is no different from the past 107.

John Howard did not need Hitman Heffernan’s extraordinary attack on Justice Michael Kirby. The timing was execrable. With kids-in-the-watergate running hot and getting hotter, with the comments from the Captain of HMAS Adelaide that he never said anything about children being thrown overboard another scandal that raises the question “what did the PM know and when”.

The morning after Heffernan dropped his bombshell, a column by Michael Gordon clearly penned before Heffernan’s evening speech referred to the Prime Miniature’s “outrageous repeated declaration yesterday that he had not misled the Australian people” before going on to say “Quite clearly, he did. The only issue is whether the deceit was inadvertent, and whether he knew the truth before election day.”

The immediate reaction of most pollies, pundits and punters to Heffernan was to ask if the PM knew, if it was all a drastic distraction from kids-in-the-watergate, the GG and Michael Wooldridge’s largesse.

The Short Man was firm on that subject: “It was a speech that he had made off his own bat”, he said. “They are issues on which he feels very strongly and very deeply.” “I have had earlier discussions with Senator Heffernan about this matter. In those earlier discussions, amongst other things, I counselled him against any improper use of parliamentary privilege.” There are a hell of a lot of people who don’t believe him.

Heffernan’s claims have not just forced the PM and the government onto the defensive. They have also divided it. It is not so significant that a dripping wet like Marise Payne refrained from voting on the Senate motion demanding Heffernan apologise. However, it was remarkable to see such a senior figure as Foreign Minister Lex Loser and such a staunch conservative ally of the Prime Miniature come to the defence of Kirby so swiftly. Even the heir apparent of the right, the Mad Monk, has acknowledged “Michael Kirby is a good and decent man with a fine public record”.

John Howard’s credibility has taken a battering of late and more is to come. The kids-in-the watergate inquiry was always going to be close. Now, he has to deal with questions about his judgement in appointing someone like Heffernan Cabinet Secretary and his authority over the man.

Compounding the error

The Prime Miniature says he had no prior knowledge of Hitman Heffernan’s attack and at the moment we will just have to take his word for it. That does not explain, however, his astounding behaviour since.

The Rodent has made Heffernan ask New South Wales police to examine his claims or, in other words, to investigate his already discredited allegations against Kirby and read the letter he wrote to Commissioner Peter Ryan in Parliament. In doing so, of course, the PM is using the moral authority of his office to add credibility to claims that have remained unsubstantiated in the past and, by his comments in Question Time that Heffernan “enjoys both my affection and my friendship”, to add credibility to the man who has made them.

At the end of the week, the Prime Miniature was saying he would act against Heffernan if the complaints were found to be “completely untrue”. What he means here is vital. New South Wales Police Minister Michael Costa has made it clear that his advice is that there is no substance to Heffernan’s allegations, telling State Parliament he was advised that police “have previously investigated information provided to them by Senator Heffernan,” and that “these investigations did not warrant the laying of any charges in connection with the matters recently raised by the senator.”

However, the Hitman claims he has been told that early allegations against Kirby did not lead to a prosecution because they involved someone who was almost 18, the age of consent for gay sex in New South Wales, and therefore would not meet the State’s Director of Public Prosecutions’ guidelines. The subtext to this is obvious Kirby got off on a technicality.

Throw in the Rodent’s waffle “proved misbehaviour (the grounds on which a High Court judge can be removed by a vote of Parliament under the Constitution) can take many forms and cover a lot of conduct It’s not defined. It doesn’t necessarily have to be behaviour of a criminal kind Obviously the view taken by the NSW police will be relevant, but there may be other matters of which I’m not aware” and it looks as if Heffernan will be given the benefit of the doubt and Kirby’s career is over.

The sleaze factor

Sunday’s Fairfax papers contained the “detail” all two pages worth of the Hitman’s allegations against Kirby. However, a backgrounder by Neil Mercer in Saturday’s Herald probably made some of the most pertinent comments on an aspect of the matter that has gone relatively unexplored.

Referring back to Royal Commission into Police Corruption and the astounding claims floated there, Mercer wrote: “Wood also found that some of the stories that float through Sydney on an almost weekly basis could simply not be substantiated, and he detailed the case of the ‘judicial officer’ who we now know to be Justice Michael Kirby. As the commission’s report makes clear, the allegations date back to 1986 and provide a classic case of how Sydney’s rumour mill works. According to the report, it all started with dinner-party gossip in the mid-1980s which in turn led to formal allegations. Once again, the NSW police failed to properly investigate, which only inflamed suspicions that something was amiss. Had there been a full and professional inquiry then, we might not find ourselves where we are today.”

When is New South Wales going to have a government with the guts to take on the Rum Corps?

Any takers?

Here’s something nice to drop under privilege how would an opposition member or Democrat feel about naming the Parliamentary Secretary caught ministering to a pair of fallen women in his Parliament House office by an Australian Protective Services officer doing the rounds.

Disorderly House

Last week’s romping revelations out of Darwin has put the focus firmly on parliamentary sex so here’s a little guess who, don’t sue: Which Liberal backbencher was caught during his days in a state parliament in his office on top of the youngest daughter of the Legislative Council President by the fellow himself and the state attorney-general?

And in yet another sex scandal

Alan Ramsey abandoned his lounge bar bore of the Gallery persona on Saturday and adopted his other guise that of the prophet shouting from the mountain top to denounce the media morons who decided that the Australian public really, really needed to know what North Melbourne’s number one ticket holder Slimy Simey Crean thought about Wayne “The Bonking Kangaroo” Carey.

And thank God, too. Questions like that should be considered completely idiotic even in Melbourne unless our country is thoroughly infantile.

For those of you who missed it, you can find the piece here. Of course, it’s a great pity that the item was written before Simey made his offer to “mediate” in the matter. Ramsey may have had a few other choice things to say.

Down in the lime tree harbour

Nick Cave played Canberra Tuesday night and in the crowd Hillary spotted Parliamentary hipsters Tanya Plibersek, Anthony Albanese and Andrew Bartlett.

Hillary is very impressed at Plibersek’s and Albo’s dedication they clearly appreciate that their two inner city Sydney electorates contain the highest proportion of Nick Cave fans in the country and, of course, Bartlett faces daily temptation to wear Goth eyeliner in the Chamber.

The funny thing is though that both Houses were still sitting so did our groovers have pairs or were they wagging?

High standards

The Rodent was on Adelaide radio Wednesday morning, telling local shock jock Jeremy Cordeaux that he was reluctant to introduce laws limiting what former minister can do once they leave Parliament.

The mendacious midget had some spectacular spin claiming that former health minister Michael Wooldridge’s appointment as a consultant to the Australian College of General Practitioners was no different to the Jeffmeister’s gig on 3AK.

If that wasn’t enough, the Opposition revealed later in the day that the PM’s great pal, one-time Senator Michael Baume, had got yet another government job, this time on the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal.

The Senate was told that Baume was appointed to the tribunal by Hindenburg Hockey even though he did not apply for the job through formal channels and was not on Treasury’s shortlist of appointments. Such exquisite timing.

PS Efforts to stamp out jobs for the boys can swing too far in the other direction like the Democrat’s self-righteous proposals that provide jail terms and fines of up to quarter of a million dollars if former ministers and staffers take up certain roles. Do they comply with the Dems beloved ILO covenants?

The wisdom of Carmen Lawrence

“I’m in favour of online branches, specialist branches, special interest branches I think we have to do more and more of that.” Carmen Lawrence, Sydney Morning Herald, 14 March 2002.

Hasn’t she learnt anything at all from the “success” of the new look Democrats?

Goofs, God-botherers and Greens

The Liberal Party – the party of business? Not in Tasmania, where along with the Greens the rolled gold ratbags of the anti-business front the Liberal Party is opposing legislation for seven day trading.

As usual, Tasmania clocked up the highest unemployment rate in the country in last week’s ABS figures a full two percentage points above the national average. The state’s economy is heavily dependent on tourism an industry that runs seven days a week but the power of the religious right, along with the small business lobby, in the local Liberal Party prevents reform.

Then, of course, there’s the influence of new Senator Guy Bennet. Bennet is the proprietor of a firm, GBA Communications, that acts for the Tasmanian Independent Wholesalers, a tightly self-interested little group that finds the idea of change and, presumably, customer service deeply distressing.

Barnett is desperately trying to sell his share of the business but what influence has Barnett had on Bob Cheek’s and the Liberals’ decision?

Speaking of Bob Cheek, he owns a commercial gymnasium in Hobart called Club Salamanca which is open on Sundays from 12 till 6pm. We wouldn’t want any of Bob’s potential iron pumping customers going to the supermarket instead on Sundays, would we now?

Nothing but trouble

Gee, she ain’t nuttin’ but trouble, that Kate Carnell – and readers outside Canberra may be missing the story of how yet another one of her photo-ops went wrong.

The former chief minister is being sued for damages for allegedly destroying the career of an international dressage horse. Back in 1996, Carnell was supposed to sit on a horse and be led around as part of the awards ceremony for the Canberra World Cup Showjumping competition. Carnell mounted the horse OK, but then pulled on the reins and dug her heels in – the dressage command for a horse to move backwards – and continued to do so despite being told to stop.

The ACT Supreme Court was told that the horse, Aloha Tamuz, in the prime of his competition years, walked backwards into a grandstand as a result, injuring its leg. Since then it has been dropped from elite competition and suffered a degree of lameness – as well as decreasing in value by around $25,000.

Still, at least no-one was killed this time round.

PS AAP reporting that the former chief minister “took a cavalier attitude in getting on a competition horse without having enough riding experience”. This might be news to the journo, but “cavalier” actually means horseman.

Who’ll fly the flag?

With Brisbane Lord Mayor Jim Soorley retiring early as tipped by Crikey speculation is mounting over who will fly the Liberal Party flag in the fight for the town hall.

One time state-Liberal leader and former deputy premier Denver Beanland has been mooted as a candidate, but according to the Courier Mail he says the campaign would be too long.

Denver is still big amongst the parents and citizens clubs types in his old stamping grounds, but there’s a rapidly developing view in Brissie that the poor old sod is getting way too long in the tooth. One cruel correspondent even claims that he shakes hands five times or so in a single meeting.

The Libs seem to be scraping the barrel in their search for a candidate the Newman and Monsour clans are being mentioned as possible sources. They all meet the key criteria for the Queensland Party they have plenty of cash.

Cameron Newman nephew of Jocelyn “Three Pensions” Newman appears to be the frontrunner, but remains little known. As one Town Hall watcher told Hillary “all I can add at the moment is that the family keeps most of Brisbane’s Range Rover dealers in business”.

Pollies supporting the arts

An e-mail reaches Hillary from cultural Adelaide, where a drag by the name of Barb Wire is wandering the Festival Fringe venues, selling fridge magnets. Customers have a choice of buying one featuring a picture of Barb herself, one with Barb and Satan or one with Barb and former premier Rob Kerin. How nice to see politicians giving themselves over to the arts.

Hillary Bray can be contacted at [email protected]

Peter Fray

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