Another week, another truckload of great gossip from our Liberal insider, Hillary Bray.

No names but in the wake of the Wooldridge e-mail fiasco it’s fascinating to track the career path of one of his old staffers. Our hero served Wooly loyally and was always on hand to get the red uncorked, but wasn’t taken on by Kay Patterson. Instead, he went off to work for Ageing Minister Kevin Andrews. Now, he’s joined Wooly once again and his former colleagues keep asking each other in the corridors if he’s had anything to do with this all.

Filling the void

The sitting fortnight is over. Around the hill, the dust is slowly settling. The Monk and Iron Mark will soon have the sutures removed (although Mike Tyson looks good compared to the pair of them as Hillary writes). The Prime Miniature has touched down in DC and is settling in for a week of beltway brown-nosing, far away from bolshy backbenchers. The Cadaver has given refugees no specific refugees, mind you, just refugees in general another kicking by excising virtually all Australian territory other than the Mawson base at Antarctica from the nation’s immigration zones.

What does all this mean? What ties it all together? Simple physics that nature abhors a vacuum.

There’s no third term agenda so something’s got to fill the void. Unfortunately, they’re matters that the Short Man would rather not get mentioned like the leadership.

The two contenders, Captain Smirk and the Monk, don’t want to rock the boat but simply prove just how tough they are. The Captain’s the favourite, of course, but just as in the classics number two tries harder so we’re left with a Question Time that looks like it’s been choreographed by Vince McMahon as Iron Mark and the Monk slug it out.

Without a third term agenda to debate, Government backbenchers have become vocal on subjects such as the International Criminal Court (or Industrial Criminal Court, as myopic backbencher Pat Secker called it in the Party Room a couple of weeks ago).

The ICC is Lex Loser’s baby – but just because the Foreign Minister supports it, it doesn’t mean that his factional friends have given it their blessing. Instead, because they’ve got nothing else to talk about and since the moderates (and the Senate) won’t let Dazza “Tailgunner Joe” William’s Un-Australian Acts (Terrorism [Wearing a Towel on Your Head]) Bill (2002) through the Right are making life very difficult on this matter. The Short Man has already set the ground for some spectacular backpedaling and Lex’s long cherished dream of re-joining the leadership team look even less likely than before.

So with Parliamentary standards under the spotlight yet again and the backbench being bolshy, no wonder the Cadaver had to announce a whole new lot of anti-refugee measure on Friday (without any of the usual consultation). And no wonder that the PM’s office are flogging the Rodent’s visit to Washington for everything it’s worth.

Running off to a meeting of the IDU a lacklustre group of a few international centre-right parties would normally be a yawn for even Liberal federal director Lynton Crosby, but as he’s in full coasting mode the Little Fella is trotting off. The fact that it’s held in the US of A helps, of course. And what a wonderful bit of last minute news. Dubya will actually see him. Much more dignified for the nation than standing on Pennsylvania Avenue his face pressed up against the seat grinning inanely and hoping that someone notices him.

Keeping order

As the Right revolt over the ICC, useless Government Whip Jim Lloyd has just the idea about how to keep them occupied during those long sitting days – not.

Lloyd has circulated a Whip’s newsletter that contains a whole lot of useful ideas on how to cope with frequent absences in Canberra – such as reading books aloud onto tape for the folks back home to enjoy.

Hillary can neither confirm nor deny that he is currently arranging to have a complete set of Anthony Trollope’s political novels delivered for every Coalition MP to wade through. Jeffrey Archer might be a bit too much for some.

Tried and tested

Refugee bashing keeps the backbench behaving, so it’s no surprise that the Cadaver and Lex went on the attack over the report by those nasty foreigners in the UN over refugees (as opposed to the good foreigner in the UN who said all sorts of nice things when we finally stepped in to help in what was left of Timor).

The Cadaver devoted special attention to claims suicide rates in detention centres were 10 times higher than the general population. The figure came from a Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists study that found self harm and suicide attempts were endemic throughout the centres, including among children.

Not so, according to the Cadaver. He told Channel 7: “There is no way that suicide can be 10 times the national average I can only describe as a myth that suicide rates in detention are abnormally high.”

He might be right but this is why. A subscriber in regular contact with asylum seekers in detention writes:

“It’s interesting that Phillip Ruddock has asserted that not one boat arrival had committed suicide in detention because of mandatory detention policies. If that is true, it is only because the detainees are looking out for each other. I know of one 16 year old boy at Villawood who has tried, very seriously, to kill himself a number of times and it is only because other detainees have found him in time (breaking into the room and cutting him down from his noose, etc) that he is still alive. I have seen the scars on the arms of many others who have tried to slit their wrists, but who were rescued by other detainees, and know a survivor of Woomera and Port Hedland who has a permanent dent in his skull from bashing his head against the wall. One detainee told me of how another man in Woomera tried to kill himself by lying under his mattress and setting fire to it; smelling smoke, he rushed into the room and dragged the mattress off the man himself. There are too many such stories to write here.

“Ruddock claims that such stories are put about by ‘advocacy groups’ as if it is somehow a tainted concept or bad thing that ordinary citizens are banding together to speak out for those who have been denied a voice, who are powerless and in pain. Then again, it’s this government and its own ‘advocacy groups’ that managed to turn ‘do-gooder’ into a phrase of abuse.

“The crazy thing is, among the detainees I know are some of the most intelligent, lovely, interesting people I’ve ever met in my life; people with incredible inner resources and strength that is tested every day of their indefinite sentences in what is undeniably a prison system that treats traumatised and persecuted people like criminals.”

Do we have your interest?

Interest rates are up again and we have the warning in the most recent ANZ Property Outlook that previous conditions have “encouraged construction levels well above those required to satisfy new household demand”.

Watch out! If property sours, the revenge of the aspirational voters will be terrible to behold.

Balancing act

Hillary thought J-Bro deserved a pat on the back this week for having the guts to stick to his convictions and back the continuation of the Cross injecting room trial last week then at the weekend he trots out plans for mandatory sentencing to please the hanging and flogging brigade. Ah well he might be young, but John-Boy clearly knows politics is a delicate balancing act.

Making Amiel of the lefties

Janet Albrechtsen, the new reactionary glamourpuss of the Oz op-ed pages, has certainly got the “cosmopolitans” talking but being sighted out at lunch at Kingsleys in Sydney with IPA ranter Mike Nahan means it’s for all the wrong reasons.

But credit where credit is due unlike others of the breed (yes Barbara, we’re talking about you) she doesn’t even need to be married to the proprietor to get published.

Westward ho

Speculation has been steadily mounting that Kalgoorlie MLA and self appointed future Liberal leader, Matt Birney, will soon be mounting an assault on a safe city seat. If Labor’s electoral reform goes through, Birney is only too well aware that his marginal regional electorate will be difficult to retain.

It would seem unlikely that a Member who brags of being a “fifth generation goldfielder” on his electorate letterhead should in any way wish to turn his back on the people of the goldfields who elected him as their first ever Liberal representative.

Word, however, is that Birney has already bought a house in leafy Booragoon right in the heart of the blue ribbon electorate of Alfred Cove. Strangely, the nearby Applecross branch of the Liberal Party has been steadily growing as speculation of a move mounts. The newcomers are from further afield than Alfred Cove some, in an amazing coincidence, seem to come from Kalgoorlie itself.

Staying in the West, what is happening with Julie Bishop? With Judi Moylan long since retired hurt from the competition, she is now taking on Daz for the title of the leading Western Australian moderate and pleading for promotion.

Naturally, people like “Bruce Baby” Baird and the Teenage Toecutter Chris Pyne are backing her but support from Brunhilde Bishop? Odd. Very odd.

Still, it should teach the PM what happens when you only promote the Kacky Jellies and Danna Vales of the world.

Mercy flight

Thursday morning, and Hun readers were crying into their cornflakes over over the tale of ageing cancer sufferer Dora Peacock and the Walwa hospital, where “lack of federal and state government financial support has forced the tiny hospital in the state’s far northeast to close all nine of its acute-care beds”.

That afternoon, former Liberal Party treasurer and multi-millionaire Ron Walker was on the Channel 9 chopper heading Walwa way, armed with a promise of more than $500,000 to keep it open over the next five years.

But who was he really interested in helping Mrs Peacock or his fellow Victorian Lib, Federal Health Minister Kay Patterson. Look at Thursday’s Hun again. What’s the problem? That’s right: “Lack of federal and state government support”. But what government seems most involved, according to Friday’s paper? “Federal Health Minister Kay Patterson last night claimed she had ordered her department to ensure Mrs Peacock could stay put. But she confirmed the acute beds would go, saying the hospital was not financially viable.”

Walker’s already saved Menzies House from the repo man. He wasn’t bailing out the federal Libs once again, was he? Ah yes, that $100 million Crown casino profit – a licence dished out by Jeff’s Libs – has gone a long way for Big Red.

Tassie tigers

Tasmanian Liberal MHRs are already extinct and the inspired leadership of Erica, Bob “Buttock” Cheek and their cronies is threatening to put the state party on the endangered list.

With a state election due in the next few months, what have they done? They recently approached an out of work advertising account executive very nice, apparently, but with no interest or involvement in politics to run their ad campaign. Just to top it off, they offered next to nothing in money.

From the sandpit

The little Libs in New South Wales have already got overexcited with all the claims about their Woolhara branch. Now, it looks as if their cousins in the Australian Liberal Students Federation are about to turn the University of Technology, Sydney Liberal Club into the hardest fought for stretch of sandpit since Rommel and Montgomery battled in the Western Desert.

ALSF heavies are already ranting about dodgy membership practices in the club as their conference approaches, and masses of minutes are flying through the ether to Hillary’s inbox.

Ploughing thought the piles of papers one question comes to mind one question that has been the subject of one almighty cover-up how can these people take themselves so seriously.

Crikey classic misteaks

Yeah, yeah we’re never that hot with the prufe reading, but this headline on AAP Sunday deserves a wider audience : “Qld: State opposition says pubic doctors not fully insured”. There was no by-line just the usual AAP code hidden at the bottom of the piece attributing it to “am/jas/wz/pc”.

A stuff up like that in a headline? “AM”, “JAS”, “WZ” and “PC” whoever you are stop sniggering.

Hillary Bray can be contacted at [email protected]

Peter Fray

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