Hillary Bray = great political gossip. Nuff said.

July 1 and a new financial year and this isn’t any July, either. Later in the month we’ll be celebrating Milton Friedman’s ninetieth birthday Hillary plans to spend the special day enjoying freedom in Chile and Cheryl’s exciting new book “It’s All Their Fault” has already got us grinning ear to ear.

Happy new year, everyone.

Unsolicited testimonial

Before get into the detail, here’s an unsolicited testimonial this humble site received last week.

“I recommend crikey.com.” Who’s the happy customer? Why, it’s none other than the Treasurer and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, Peter Costello, in Question Time, responding to our old friend Mumbles Ferguson. Here’s the whole quote:

“The Deputy Prime Minister has adverted to the fact that the Labor Party, back to its old tricks, has had the member for Batman (Mumbles) already calling for some of this money to be spent on some of his pet projects, at the same time as he was calling for it to be used to reduce debt. Those of your who follow crikey.com as closely as I do will see that the member has been recycling a few things in his electorate recently including tips, in a leaflet mailed out to his electorate in Melbourne, on how to recycle Perth waste, with the phone number of the member for Swan on his leaflet.

“I recommend crikey.com. It includes very good reading about Delia Delegate this week and the internal machinations of the Victorian ALP. So we have the member for Batman, the recycling king – stop laughing, member for Swan – calling for some debt to be recycled and the money simultaneously to be spent.”

He wasn’t the only big name to climb on the Crikey bandwagon last week and it was an almighty week for Crikey. Here’s the Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the National Party, John Anderson, talking about Mumbles’ recycling guide too:

“Mr Speaker, I just conclude by saying that the member for Batman’s number is on the inside cover. But it says inside, call my office on a different number. And when we call that number – as Crikey.com will tell you – the member for Swan’s office comes on the line.”

But why didn’t the Prime Miniature complete the trifecta and get aboard too? Perhaps he doesn’t have a sense of humour. We can’t think of any other reason why the Rodent/Short Man/Little Fella/Runt/Dwarf/Mendacious Midget or whatever we’re calling him this week wouldn’t want to get involved.

Canberra sensation

Thank God the winter recess has come along. Canberra just couldn’t stand any more excitement.

“Iron Mike” Latham’s comments were just symptomatic of the way everyone felt. Bizarre behaviour was everywhere. First, we had the Uptown Girl Sophie P all tired and emotional from the long sitting hours and her strong feelings over the International Criminal Court indeed, so tired and emotional that she was ejected from the Chamber.

Then we saw Deputy Speaker and One National Party MP Ian Causley do his celebrated Max Willis impersonation there was a loud chorus of “Show me the way to go home, I’m tired and I want to go to bed” from the Opposition Whip’s office when he left the chair and weaved his way back to his office, courtesy of Lindsay Tanner and Gavin O’Connor with Kelvin Thompson on guitar.

Finally, there has been a suggestion that one time Goth turned Beardo the Weirdo Andrew Bartlett was in the Chamber after one too many organic cowslip wines.

All this reached a peak with speculation that the Short Man wants to call a double dissolution election early next year so he can tell Cozzie to piss off and beat Hawke’s record as the second longest serving PM.

People flogging that theory might like to recall where we were at this time last year. Remember. Y-e-s! There was every chance that the Libs would lose and look how they turned things away. Next year is still a long, long time away and a few people could do with a long walk in the bracing winter air.

Party time

Riotous behaviour was the order of the day on Wednesday night with the Press Gallery Ball where it seemed to be a case of best chest.

News Ltd hackette Sam Maiden set the tone with a sparkly Alannah Hill boob dress. Deputy PM John Anderson put in an excellent performance taking photos of Kate Fischer and then getting his photo taken mid breast with Kate and her sister Penny, but was upstaged when a nameless health minister’s chief of staff erupted from a bandeau top on the dancefloor.

Breakout

A staff member to a senior Democrat and a relative of a Democrat Senate candidate wasn’t involved in last week’s Woomera breakout, were they? The rumour mill is buzzing.

Those letters

The Democrats letters that Crikey exclusively revealed last week are still making news. You can read the latest here.

And with Barns coming into the Dems and some noises that Meg Lees and Andrew Murray might well be thrown out we’ve detailed some of the movements through the Dems revolving door here.

Brown’s Tassie tactic

The antics of Greg Barns are proving to be much more interesting than Tasmania’s state election campaign already written off my most observers as a Labor cert.

The news that he wants to run for the Senate as a Democrat has brought as fascinating yarn from the Apple Isle to the fore.

Green Bob Brown is not up for election next time round, but a says he may retire from the Senate before the next election and let another Green fill the casual vacancy then come back to contest the position freed up by Brian Harradine’s retirement. Full details are available here.

High standards

As Hillary has previously observed, many of the occupants of Parliament House worry about Mark Latham, the Enoch Powell of the Greater West. They do not so much worry about him going mad as how they can tell when he finally flips.

Last week he shaved his head into a mohawk and wandered the corridors muttering “You lookin’ at me” when he glimpsed his reflection. At Ronald Reagan’s sanatorium they laid on extra guards just in case he tried to shoot the poor old Prez in an attempt to impress Jodie Foster.

However, we should also worry about the Prime Miniature, and his gross hypocrisy. He refused to be drawn into the a row about the standard of political debate in Australia, sparked by Latham referring to him as an “arse-licker”. Instead, he let the Mad Monk defend his honour.

As a number of Labor figures rightly remarked, the Monk isn’t exactly renowned for being a shrinking violet or gentle in tongue. This didn’t matter to the Rodent, who simply spoke of “the integrity, the ability, the decency and the good character of the Leader of the House”.

Yecch!

Forward into the past, backwards into the future

Comrade Kim Il Carr he of the socialist realist whiskers was much taken aback when Queensland Labor MP Kevin Rudd pointed out that the continued presence of the famous “socialisation clause” in the Labor Party constitution made as much sense as the party having a policy to extend Medicare benefits to phrenology.

Rudd suggested that the Party “modernise” it’s language, but Kim Il was having nothing of it. He was horrified at the thought of omitting the name of the ideology that gave us the Ukrainian famine of the thirties, the Gulags, the deaths of millions in the Great Leap Forward, the persecution of as many in the Cultural revolution, the Killing Fields of Cambodia, the persecution of homosexuals in Cuba because they upset Fidel’s ideas of manliness you get my drift and warned against becoming “a pale imitation of some sort of Blairite model which has frankly not worked well for Labor”.

If Kim Il can stop purging the kulaks for a moment he might like to look up some recent opinion polls. Last week’s Newspoll of federal voting intention would be a good start. It has the ALP four points behind the Coalition. He then might like to turn to the NOP poll released in the UK at the same time showing Blairite Labour, in its fifth year of government, 10 points ahead of the Conservatives despite a series of disasters 41 points to 31.

Soutcott’s thank you

Jeez, some blokes are ingrates. Foreign Minister Lex Loser thinks so, anyway, after the ICC vote.

He found this kid Andrew Southcott in the gutter or the Young Libs, anyway helped him see off Robert Hill in a preselection tussle, got him onto loads of overseas junkets and he repaid him by being difficult over the International Criminal Court.

Lex is not impressed at all with this so-called mate on the federal backbench.

Compromised

While talking of the ICC, Hillary is left wondering how the Uptown Girl and Brunhilde Bishop express concerns about the erosion of our sovereignty while they are both strident supporters of a foreign Head of State for Australia? The hypocrisy is breathtaking.

PS The unpleasant subject on Brunhilde came up when Cabinet discussed the International Criminal Court 10 days ago but only briefly. Why? Well, Cabinet agreed with one Minister’s description of Bronny as “irredeemable and irrelevant”.

From the backbench

Poor old Fart Boy Slim, now exiled to the most distant backbench, made a speech on the ICC that deserves a mentioned.

While Brunhilde and Co warned that Australian troops could be tried for war crimes by the ICC, Slim had greater faith in them: “Our service personnel do not commit mass murder, our service personnel do not commit mass rape, our service personnel do not commit genocide. Our Australian governments do not instruct them to do anything about any of these in that way at all, except to resist it. Our service personnel deal with others who try to do these things.”

Onya, Kimbo!

Grattan going before she’s gone

Michelle Grattan may have quit the Sydney Morning Herald to write columns for the Age but Hillary hears that before she goes she’ll be joining the PM for his European jaunt, on the Herald’s tab.

Herald political reporter Tom Allard was set to go but will now be staying at home scratching his head as he tries to work quite what benefit the Herald will gain out of the arrangement.

Victorian Libs at it again

More faction rows are brewing in Victoria, with rumours that MLC David Davis is priming one of his staff to challenge Fran Bailey in McEwen.

Bailey is notorious for sucking up to the leader her brownnosing of John Hewson got her a job in the Shadow Ministry but cost her her seat at the 1993 poll and is a strong Howard supporter, but she may be mellowing. Davis’ factional opponents, the Kroger/Costello people seem prepared to defend Bailey and these days she might just take a helping hand.

Shardey bitten by her pit bull

Helen “Chardonnay” Shardey, member for the seat of Caulfield in the very heart of Melbourne’s matzos ball belt, has had a very public falling out with her erstwhile ally, Adrian Jackson.

Chardonnay worked hard to get the numbers to have Jackson elected to the party’s policy assembly as a delegate from Melbourne Ports despite his fondness for writing anti-Israeli letters to newspapers.

After a month of incredibly bad publicity in the Australian Jewish News nicely drummed up by the Labor MP for Melbourne Ports, Michael Danby, and a letter writing campaign by rank and file Libs, Chardonnay finally admitted her mistake and cut Jackson loose.

Now, has Jackson retaliated. He has called every single Victorian Liberal MP, state and federal, demanding that Chardonnay be sacked from the shadow ministry. And the reason why? Well, Hillary hears that it’s something along the lines of “Because she supports the terrorist Jewish-Israeli State against the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people” which leaves everyone wondering why Chardonnay ever backed him in the first place.

Somylay gets a scare

Fairfax MHR and prolific golfer Alex Somylay has had a few problems of late. He is defending an unfair dismissal claim from a former staffer who may well claim that they were paid overtime for arty political work outside office hours, and the Federal Police are looking at all the details his family’s actual living arrangements and what was on the electoral roll. Now there are claims that Liberal faction boss Bob Carroll has told Somylay that he will be replaced by young warrior Matt Boland at the next election.

Somylay only hung onto his preselection by one vote, despite being the only candidate (it’s a complication constitutional thing, OK) and has looked wobbly for a while. All eyes are now on Boland and as a graduate of the Michael Kroger charm school, there’s no doubt how he would vote in a leadership contest.

Khemlani special

The stories about our old friend Michael “Khemlani” Johnson just won’t go away and here are just a few of this week’s highlights.

First, after Crikey pointed out to him last week that headbutting the waiting staff in the Members Dining Room was bad table manners, we now hear that Khemlani is suddenly all smiles.

Then, there’s the matter of his government supplied car. Khemlani just doesn’t like it.

Leonie Short, the short lived Labor Ryan MP, campaigned in red and got a red car from Finance and Admin Services. As it was less then six months old, Khemlani was forced to take it over but he hates the colour and is battling to get it replaced. In the meantime, it’s being claimed he is getting staff to chauffer him about in it rather than drive it himself.

We also hear that Short ordered a red executive chair but don’t know if he’s refusing to use that.

Finally, Khemlani’s electorate committee held its AGM on Sunday, and sitting on each seat was a lovely package containing reports and the like from representatives such as Senators Brandis and Mason and the local star.

The material from Brandis and Mason was pretty standard stuff but a brochure from Khemlani caught my eye. It was entitled “What Howard Government Ministers have to say about Michael Johnson MP”. Here are just some of them:

“I thank the Member for Ryan for his maiden question in this House. I should express my confidence that, under his stewardship, the electorate of Ryan will once more be one of the brightest jewels in the coalition crown in the great state of Queensland.”

— Tony Abbott, Question Time.

“I thank the member for Ryan for his question. I know that he values and supports the veterans in his community, especially the veterans at the Kenmore-Moggill RSL and the Sherwood RSL sub-branches.”

— Danna Vale, Question Time.

“I was thinking only on Friday, when he (Michael Khemlani Johnson) was speaking to me about the University of Queensland, that the only more vigorous and constructive advocate for the University of Queensland than its Vice-Chancellor, Professor John Hay, is of course the Member for Ryan”

— Brendan Nelson, Question Time

Poor old Khemlani obviously hasn’t been around long enough or even paid enough attention to politics to know that Ministers virtually always preface Dixers with leads like these. After all, why wouldn’t they thank people who are setting up a free kick for them.

And Khemlani hasn’t been around long enough to know when someone’s taking the piss. Just look at this glowing recommendation from fellow Queenslander Gary Hardgrave:

“I thank the Member for Ryan and take the opportunity to also congratulate him on his very well based citizenship ceremony that he conducted last Saturday in his electorate and the way in which he involved local community groups in a very effective way …. the member for Ryan and all those on this side take very seriously the importance of Australian citizenship and, for that matter, the fact that ceremonies should be conducted in a very non-political environment.”

Geddit? Citizenship! Remember who couldn’t contest the Ryan by-election because he still had British citizenship. Yep Michael “The Whingeing Pom” Johnson.

Clueless then and clueless now.

John Faulkner’s X-File

Even in a sombre debate, there can still be lighter moments… Labor Senate leader John Faulkner was talking on the anti-terrorism bills when he unwittingly referred to extra-territorial activities as “extra-terrestrial”.

Given the subject under discussion, Senators on all sides seemed to appreciate the moment of comedy relief.

Another candidate for Senate President

Senate President La Stupenda faces yet another contender for he job when the new Senate sits. Queensland Lib and former minister John Herron is now planning to throw his hat into the ring.

Herron certainly looks right for the job his looks and bearing and that thick white hair make him the Senator from central casting and probably wouldn’t be all that bad. He was a capable enough Indigenous affairs minister not exactly the Liberal Party’s strongest area and much of the criticism he received was because he came across as a Tory paternalist rather than a PC clone.

leads to fall out in Queensland

If Herron gets the President’s job, Santo Santoro, the former wonder boy of the Queensland Parliamentary Libs until his electorate thought otherwise will not be a happy man.

To the surprise and astonishment of many Hillary included Santo has abandoned his long cherished goal of becoming the most right wing Queensland premier ever for a Senate career. He needs a seat first, but that’s no problem for Santo. He’d decided he can take Herron’s. Indeed, the rumour mill claims that Santo has told Herron he will “destroy” him if he doesn’t hand it over.

Funnily enough, Santo was spotted dining in Canberra last week with our old friend Ho Chi Minchin, the titular leader of the sinister national right faction who is working hard to install a puppet of his own in the President’s job. If he pulls it off, life will be much easier for Santo.

Santo isn’t the only one with ambitions in the Queensland Libs at the moment. There’s Matt Boland, as previously mention and Employment Services Minister Mal Brough has also been busy and his target is that distinguished parliamentarian Slippery Pete Slipper.

His seat of Fisher is much well padded by about 10 per cent in two party preferred terms than Brough’s marginal electorate of Longman. The members feel it’s nicer too, with several leaving Longman to sign up next door in Fisher branches.

So, farewell then

Valedictory time in the Senate, and Hillary’s fellow Liberal staffers were moist at the eye (after laughing too much) at the departure of Senator Winston Crane, better known as Winnie the Shit.

Hillary’s reflections on Winnie and his other departed colleagues is here.

Pollies who don’t read Crikey

It’s been a big, big week for Crikey, but still not all pollies read us. We received this sad e-mail on Thursday: “Following on from Costello admitting to reading Crikey, I ran into our local member, Sussan Ley about a month ago. I mentioned that I read Crikey and she said ‘I’m a serious person so I don’t read Crikey. What have they got to say?’ I hope she can now admit to keeping an eye on Crikey.”

And to think that we’ve only ever been positive about her!

Hillary Bray can be contacted at [email protected]

Peter Fray

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