Another week, another entertaining truckload of policial gossip fom Hillary Bray.

Forget the Budget. The most talked about topic of the week the was Julian McGauran’s new haircut short at the sides and long on top. He looks like something straight out of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Issue #2

Has Mark Latham gone mad? Yes, Hillary knows it’s hard to tell, but that relentless pacing up and down during Question Time on top of everything else is getting people worried.

PS Talking of mad, it was nice to see that the head honchos at Fairfax decided to let Margo out for a few days so she could visit her old stamping grounds.

Relaxed and comfortable and secure

As one clever journo at AAP wrote on Tuesday night, it wasn’t a horror Budget, but a terror Budget. Not that Sydneysiders seemed to feel relaxed and comfortable let alone safe and secure when they had their little bit of S11 style hysteria on Thursday

Hillary’s original reactions to the Budget were published that evening but your columnist has been chewing it over ever since and has a few more problems.

If our economy is “the envy of the world” and going “gangbusters”, why do we have a deficit and why was revenue down on forecasts?

Why is the Government continuing to tip money into non-means tested measures like first home owners’ assistance (the Oz’s editorial on Saturday was very good on this as, indeed, their leader the on the Budget proper was)?

Why did the Government jack up the price of prescription medicines rather than, as the Democrats sensibly suggested (NB Hillary is actually agreeing with the Democrats on something here), means testing the private health insurance rebate? Why is the Government only looking at the medications themselves, rather than prescribing patterns?

With such thoughtful policy making, it should have been no surprise that the Budget was already unraveling by Question Time on Thursday when it was less than 48 hours old. Thank god Peter Costello’s favourite old digger fell off the perch on Thursday to get the budget off the front page.

Take the changes to disability pensions, for example. We all know that the increase in the number of disability pensions has occurred because people in need of income support have been parked there. The Sydney Yawning Herald pointed out on Saturday that they have mainly been women rather than unemployable older males but whatever the case, they are people who have fallen through gaps in the safety net.

The increase in the number of people on disability benefits has been a failure of policy. Rather than fixing this problem, the Government’s Budget proposals also manage to threaten people with a genuine claim to the benefit.

By Question Time on Thursday The Incredible Bulk (Vanstone for first-timers) was up there in the Senate saying that the Government was open to discussion on the matter. On the weekend, after Labor’s Veterans’ Affairs spokesman Mark Bishop pointed out that former service personnel could lose money, the Bulk said she would exempt totally incapacitated ex-service people.

This is not thoughtful and constructive policy making. It’s bad policy to begin with turned into policy on the run.

Friends and colleagues

The days when Hindenburg Hockey entertained guests with a lampshade on his head seem to have been left behind. Joe threw a very tame Budget night party, although he got a good turnout. After his embarrassing demotion last year, he seems to be working his colleagues.

The shy and retiring Brendan Nelson threw the biggest post Budget bash he got the Treas and the Prime Miniature there. The highlight of the night was the recitation of “poetry” from one of his local Lib heavies. Nelson seems to be working his colleagues, too.

Also working the colleagues is Foreign Minister Lex Loser, if Tuesday’s Question Time is anything to go by. He opened a response to a question from Sussan Ley, the Lib who took Tim Fischer’s old seat off the Nats with “First of all, can I just take the opportunity of saying what an excellent job I think the member for Farrer is doing. People speak very highly of her as a local member.”

However, the Hindenburg had set the bar high with an earlier effort after a dixer from Pat Farmer: “I would like to thank the member for Macarthur, who is a renowned tourist himself having traveled right around Australia on foot. He knows many parts of Australia that I think most members in the House would not be aware of. He also has an electorate that has a budding interest in tourism. In fact, we were out there recently for the launch of the Macarthur tourism forum. It was one of the more professional presentations from a community, which was coming together to promote the Macarthur area as a region for weekend tourism or overnight stays just outside Sydney.”

Ah. Ambition’s a wonderful thing, isn’t it.

Horror story

While the pollies partied, a pile of journos headed off to Lobby unaware of the tale of terror that would unfold.

Ken “Puddleglum” Davidson, the Age’s juche enthusiast, got gasp amorous after a tincture or two. The thought’s too ghastly to contemplate.

The Grail mystery

Just what exactly went down between Teenage Toecutter Chris Pyne and Australian cartoonist Bill Leak at the Holy Grail on Budget night? For a moment there, it seemed as if a rematch of the famous bout between the Toecutter v “Iron Mark” Latham and the Labor lads tag team might be on.

Commercial free

Hillary took time out from all the Budget excitement to tune into Backchat on Tuesday and has got all worried about product placement on the ABC. It certainly looked as if Indira Naidoo was wearing the Ian Thorpe designed Autore pearl neckpiece as featured in Sydney Fashion Week. Is it available at retail level yet or was this a piece of positioning?

It was also interesting to see how the ABC blissfully free from the taint of commercials that has so thoroughly corrupted SBS used the program so enthusiastically for a bit of cross promotion. It was very clever to plug the history of popular music currently being run on Sunday nights, Walk on By, under the excuse of letters regarding programming on Rage.

Language!

For a terrible moment there on Saturday it looked as if Alan Ramsey had stolen Hillary’s thunder but thankfully not.

Yes, there was a curious outbreak of colourful language in the Parliament last week, the Senate’s speculation over the literal and colloquial meanings of “Baise Moi” and the correct way to render them in English, “Iron Mike” Latham’s definition of Treasurer Costello, Assistant Treasurer Coonan and Parliamentary Secretary Campbell as “the big C, the middle C and the little C” and best of all Duncan Kerr’s little run-in with the beloved Bronwyn Bishop.

The Lounge Bar Bore, thankfully, didn’t run all the details but Hillary can provide them. Thinks got a bit heated in the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee meeting on Thursday, so Kerr turned to the chair, BB, and exclaimed “F*ck you, Bronwyn!” before storming out.

Shameless cross promotion

Hillary fans! Have you scrolled down to Crikey’s Media section to read Parrot Droppings, the exciting new column dedicated to the phenomenon that is Alan Belford Jones, compiled by Hillary and Crikey’s Bird-watching team

After the last ratings sweep, it has become clear that Alan Jones isn’t just Gloria, but Gloriana, the reigning queen of Sydney shock jocks and Crikey is keeping an ear out on what he says.

Despite having signed up the hottest property in Australian radio, John Singleton has yet to capitalise on the golden opportunity of syndicating the Parrot across the country. From Albany to Cooktown, there are people who are still missing out on the chance to hear Gloriana in full squawk mode.

This at the same time as the left-wing ideologues at the ABC get publicly funded access coast to coast to spread their propaganda. As Michael Kroger rightly exposed last week, the ABC is chock full of people who take every opportunity to cast doubt upon the Prime Minister’s greatness.

Yet this public broadcasting conspiracy denies pensioners, and a few taxpayers, the right to hear the truth as revealed by Gloriana. This shameless denial of an important public service to those who live outside of Sydney should be addressed at once.

For instance, how many people heard this penetrating analysis on Monday, which took aim at the true doubters of the Prime Minister’s greatness. Having worked so hard to repel the Labor Party’s attempt last year to unseat the Prime Minister, now the Parrot has turned on the next enemy, Treasurer Peter Costello.

For those outside of Sydney, Gloriana’s full transcripts can be found at www.2gb.com.au. But here is Monday’s incisive preview of the budget. The spoken words can be a bit flat, missing the full curl and roll of the Parrot’s delivery. So we’ve helpfully added some notes on intonation and pose, as well as some translation of the real intent of the more arcane references.

(Sit up straight, purse lips.) Well Peter Costello has yet another challenge on his plate.

The budget that comes down tomorrow. We will be talking to the Prime Minister. (Why would he slum it anywhere else. No-one else would ask the right questions.)

Apparently the strategy is an action plan to make Australia safe and secure. Well it might make the nation safe and secure. But people walking the streets aren’t safe and secure. (Especially after hearing some of my editorials.)

How safe and secure do people feel who are the parents of disabled children? How safe and secure are parents who have to pay too much to send their kids to university.

(Pursed lips) I am not too sure about all of this.

(Rising outrage) Headlines today telling us that we are going to have to pay more for prescription drugs, up from $5.60 to $28 for general patients, and up to $4.50 for pensioners.

(More outrage) $560 million slashed from subsidies for medicines.

(Shoulders straight, hand through hair, raise voice to a withering crescendo of disdain.) My God. (Pause for effect.)

If we can’t look after our elderly and our disabled and our sick, (my listeners for God sake!) and the brilliant young minds amongst us, why bring down a budget at all.

(Doubt in voice.) I’m not too sure about this sort of strategy, I have to tell you.

I don’t mind money being spent on Defence and securing the nation. By all means. But I’m not too sure that that should have greater priority than making sure that Australians are looked after in their own country.

And there are many Australians who feel that is not the case.

Witness what we have been talking about in the last week on insurance.

(Suitable tone of ‘I know the real story of what’s going on’ in voice.) And I will return to it.

Home owners’ insurance, public liability insurance, medical indemnity insurance.

(Incredulity) What is the answer to all of that?

(Purse lips and inject a tone of withering disrespect.) Not the answers being proposed by Governments, in cutting back the benefits to the battler.

So it will be interesting to see how the public respond to the budget.

But if we don’t look after those can’t look after themselves, then I’m not too sure we are heading in the right direction. (Ha! You’ll have to learn to grovel if you want to be Prime Minister Peter Costello.)

I’m Alan Jones (Squawk!)

Have look at Parrot Droppings now!

Constant reader

Hillary is delighted to hear how much John Quigley MLA, the Member for Innaloo in the Western Australian Parliament best known for being rebuked by his fellow legal eagles for saying nasty things about the profession, appeared to be enjoying Crikey when he was reading it in the Chamber last week.

It’s much better than listening to that garrulous Gallop going on, isn’t it John?

The new boys and girls

Many readers just like Hillary must feel that they’ve known Sophie “Uptown Girl” Panopolous for ever. But what impression is she making on her new colleagues in the House?

Well, it’s generally thought that carrying a handbag everywhere is a unique tribute to make to Lady Thatcher. Bursting into tears after discovering she only has five minutes for a speech rather than 10 hasn’t gone down well and neither have the loud calls on her mobile from Lord Voldemort, AKA NCB.

As for breaching the Parliament’s smoking ban? Well, Hillary hopes she looks at the sad fates of some of the Liberal Party’s greatest offenders: Andrew Peacock gone; John Fahey gone, along with one lung; David “Marlboro Man” Jull still out in the cold after being forced to resign back in the days when the Rodent paid vague tongue service to standards and Petro Georgiou rotting on the backbench.

Meanwhile, in Victoria

Hillary has had a few emails – mostly from states other than Victoria – asking for further background on, D2 D squared, or David Davis. Alas, some of the local Libs fear that D2 is mutating into their own home-grown version of NCB. Just take a squiz at the D2 dossier a list of allegations doing the rounds of the Victorian Party that may well be the most scurrilous document since the Protocols of the Elders of Zion or greatest cry for freedom and liberty since the United States’ Declaration of Independence:

* D2 now makes claims that he is a “moderate” and has started attempting to attend “Black Hand” dinners (not that he has been made welcome). However he consistently backs candidates from the nutty right, and openly says that Tony Abbott should be the next Liberal Leader.

* D2 has systematically engaged in branch stacking across multiple electorates, including Kew, Hawthorn, Burwood, Bulleen, Brighton, Caulfield and Doncaster.

* D2’s stack of choice are Young Liberals – because YL membership is only $20

* D2’s principle lieutenant in his branch-stacking activities is Conrad bin Xanthos. Need one say more on this?

* D2 misleads about his personal lifestyle choices and history (nothing particularly wrong with them in Hillary’s view – why can’t he just be open?)

* D2 consistently fails to deliver on his parliamentary duties because he is too busy playing branch politics

* D2 fails to support his parliamentary leader despite Dynamic Den’s dire desperation

* It is unlikely the Vic Libs can win a State Election until they bite the bullet and purge his pernicious stacks from around the State.

What is the truth? Will we ever know? When will all this be resolved? Does anyone care? These questions and many more face the Victorian Liberal Party.

And the preselections continue

Still more dramas in Victoria but first, a mea culpa. Greg Sugars is no longer a candidate for Hastings, as reported last week although there are interesting stories about him, the Frankston Council and a number of Peninsula based MPs keeping his profile up.

What is really interesting insiders is the decision to rule out one branch from the Hastings preselection the day before it was scheduled to happen. The branch has been declared unconstitutional but had no problem being included in the vote for the Upper House seat of Westernport a few weeks earlier that saw our friend Cameron Boardman so deservedly returned. Will that ballot be revisited?

As Clem Hyphen-Hyphen and Richard Della attempting to kill each other off as they battle for East Yarra, there’s now talk that D2 may be smiling on Ros Clowes, the unsuccessful candidate for Chisholm at the federal poll.

Finally, there’s still anger over the marine parks deal done with the Government. Dynamic Den is being held personally responsible and, yes, you guessed it a whole new wave of leadership speculation is under way.

Only in Victoria!

Is nothing sacred?

There were more antics in the Northern Territory Parliament not of the pants variety, thankfully, in this post-Baise Moi environment when the Network Against Prohibition stormed the chamber last week.

The group’s leader, Gary Meyerhoff, sat in the Speaker’s chair and made the highly significant gesture of spilling water over the desk before security guards dragged him away. Other members stood on the Assembly’s main table carrying banners claiming the Territory is a police state.

All this, apparently, was designed to show opposition to new drug laws the Territory’s Labor Government plans to introduce.

Meyerhoff is a veteran trot who ran as a Socialist Alliance party candidate at the 2001 Territory election and, yes, ever since they lost the right to lock up black kids for stealing packets of biscuits the Territory Police have no doubt been twiddling their thumbs but have they really set up a police state? On the basis of their Falconio performance, could they even begin to put one together?

Unsuitable material

Ever since Big Brother began, Hillary has been receiving e-mails on the life and times of the Topless Tory, Katrina, that are quite unsuitable for a family scandal sheet such as Crikey.

However, Hillary is happy to provide these correspondents with the address of Penthouse magazine’s Forum column, as listed in Hillary’s Margaret Gee. It is PO Box 4455, St Leonards, NSW, 1590 or [email protected]

Blast from the past

Older readers may remember John Lydon or, as he was known, Johnny Rotten the lead singer with seventies novelty act the Sex Pistols.

Lydon is now a successful Los Angles based property investor but on a visit to London last week to mark the Queen’s Golden Jubilee he showed his skills as an impersonator, offering a very convincing imitation of British PM Tony Blair.

Rotten

Hillary is impressed.

Stop press

In a story just in, Hillary hears that the junior divisions of the New South Wales Liberal right the Prime Miniatures very own faction are purging people suspected of developing incorrect thoughts, handing votes to the moderates. More in the sealed sections this week as news comes to hand.

Hillary Bray can be contacted at [email protected]

Peter Fray

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