It’s probably best if po-faced PC types skip this Hillary Bray column and re-read Adele Horin’s column from Saturday’s SMH.

Have any readers ever noticed the resemblance between Winnie the Pooh and the Australian Democrats interim leader Brian Greig.

Could they, by any chance, be related?

Dream team

Spare a moment for poor Lyn Allison. Britney called so many times last week asking her to take the second slot on a leadership ticket with Andrew Bartlett that the lost leader made the late Princess of Wales look like a paragon of telephonic rectitude.

Pattern of behaviour

Conspiracy theorists, take note. Andrew Murray and Meg Lees were spotted leaving the Senate in the same car on Tuesday night.

The story so far

Now that the Democrat leadership nominations have closed, it may be a good time to survey the state of the party and hear what the insiders as opposed to the no-lifers who populate the ADnet are saying.

Rather than take up space here, the Mayne Man has kindly posted it for your reading pleasure here.

For God’s sake check the foundations

Just before we leave the Dems Out in the burbs of the Gloomy City, at 21 Wilson Road, Glen Waverley, to be precise, stands the latest “Don Chipp Project” a property development. Could it be the same man?

It is indeed. You can get the detail here. The contact name given is Idun Chipp Don’s missus and the property valuation business belonging to Don’s son John (a chip off the old block) is listed as the agent.

Only one matter now remains unanswered. In 25 years, will it suddenly collapse?

Simon Crean man or myth?

Is there a Leader of the Opposition? It’s hard to tell.

A quick check through the ABC News weekly archive found just two mentions. Perhaps some expert in strange phenomena may be persuaded to leave the shores of Loch Ness for Lake Burley Griffin to help us in our search.

De51ja vu?

Take away the bungles of “L-Plate Larry” Antony although they’re related and it’s plain to see that the Government really only has trouble on one front at the moment. That’s the heavy handed way it’s trying to recover incorrect family allowance benefit.

It’s not exactly an issue that resonates in the Press Gallery, so it hasn’t got the attention it deserves but it’s hitting thousands.

The Minister in charge is the Incredible Bulk, Amanda Vanstone but boy, has she got form on this sort of issue. The Bulk has decided that branding people as potential welfare cheats is the way to go on this one.

“Out of 2 million families, are there any who would deliberately underestimate? The answer is yes,” she said last week.

All this from the person who in the first months of the Howard Government sparked off an uproar when her Austudy rorting family turned out to be fictitious? The person who then provoked a RARA revolt over a bungled means test?

Last week, the Prime Miniature was contradicting her in Question Time and seemed to be unilaterally changing policy.

That’s not a good sign.

Oh no! Ho to go?

Is Ho Chi Minchin, Federal Finance Minister and warrior of the right, on the way out? There’s some speculation in the corridors of the House on the Hill that he might be planning such a move.

Ho definitely wants to spend more time with his family and in more comfortable circumstances. He has bought a new place in Adelaide and giving it a renovation that involves stripping it back to the bone.

The days when Ho used to travel with the PM during campaigns are long gone. He no longer has the Short Man’s ear. Some say he has lost his clout. His candidate for the Senate Presidency, Alan Ferguson, failed and at the South Australian Liberal Party AGM a week ago he lost numbers. Ho’s factional allies now only hold three of the 15 party executive slots.

Ho is also failing to make an impact in the finance portfolio. Compared to John Fahey, his profile is non-existent.

To top it off, rumours are beginning to seep out that Ho has told friends he may well make a move to industry within the next couple of years. Watch this space.

Tampa anniversary quiz

Here’s a special quiz for Crikey readers to mark the anniversary of the Tampa’s arrival not on our shores.

Pencils harp? Sitting up straight? Right. Here goes:

Who said “People should listen to us when we say, again and again: we determine the order at our border! And we ensure that it is maintained, for good reasons. Whoever wants to traverse [our] border needs permission. Otherwise, stay away from our border! I know, ladies and gentlemen, it sounds hard. And will perhaps even be interpreted by some of you as ‘inhumane’. But what is ‘humane’ and what is ‘inhumane’?”

Was it:

(a) The Cadaver, Phillip Ruddock?

(b) The Rodent, John Howard?

(c) Karl-Eduard von Schnitzler, chief propagandist for the East German secret police, the Stasi, in a television broadcast made in 1965 after East German border guards had shot two people trying to escape over the Berlin Wall?

The correct answer is “c”. Hard, isn’t it. Although pedants might point out the East Germans were trying to get out rather than in.

Just walkin’ the dog

The residents of leafy Northbridge are used to seeing toiler’s friend Bob Hawke and the missus walking their Rhodesian Ridgeback.

They’re also used to seeing Bob ‘n’ Blanche getting in and out of Comcars.

What they’re finding it hard to deal with, however, is seeing the Comcar drivers getting the job of taking the dog for a walk.

Robbie Swan, threats, BLANK and BLANK

Here’s one out of the files for you. Who can remember the Four Corners interview with Eros Foundation hard man Robbie Swan where he threatened to name names. It went like this:

“ROBBIE SWAN: Well, we’ve had a letter from BLANK’s constituency you know, that he’s been having an affair with BLANK you know, the member for BLANK. I mean, this letter was pretty well documented. If that’s the case I mean, BLANK’s no longer a member of Parliament, but he made a big deal about X-rated videos as a National Party member, and I think that the National Party you know, constituents of his electorate have a right to know that he had a different agenda going on.”

We’re not interested in Eros’ tired old threats that they never act on but BLANK and BLANK didn’t recently get married by any chance, did they?

Stick to the shrubhugging

Bob Brown managed to escape unscathed back at the beginning of June when the Greens national council rejected his comments on making an environmental trade off over the sale of Telstra and voted that Trotsky is more important than trees it was a certain other party that seems to have been hit hardest.

Still, he’d be advised to make sure his foot soldiers stick to the shrubhugging, if the remarks on their Kiwi comrades are anything to go by.

The New Zealand Parliament only recently resumed after the election and one of the first people to their feet in Question Time was Green MP Keith Locke, with his comments on “the historically successful liberation movement in Zimbabwe”.

Greens put Sydney Labor on red alert

The Greens are getting away with it so far. Indeed, market research company Insight has produced polling for the inner-Sydney Leichhardt Council that should have Bob Carr worried.

Insight looked at voting intention in the local seat of Port Jackson, held by minister Sandra Nori, where the Greens have high hopes.

They put Labor on around 30 per cent and Green Jamie Parker on 22, with the Libs on 15 per cent and the Dems (who?) on just two. March might just be an interesting month.

Mango Madness strikes the Queensland Libs

That strange tropical ailment, Mango Madness, has struck down swathes of the Queensland Liberal Party as they prepare to debate vital constitutional changes.

It is manifesting itself in fevers of frenzied finger pointing over who paid what for whose mailout and the factional heavies try to sway the undecided that is verging on open conflict.

And how are the punters reacting? Well, read on.

Iffy on the Liffey

John Herron and his super are off to Dublin and, no doubt, a few Guinesses on the banks of the Liffey but what do the punters in Queensland think of him leaving six weeks into a six year term.

Oddly enough, they’re furious.

Remember, Queensland is the state where the Libs only have three state MPs. The party is scarcely in listening mode. They’re more concerned about who paid for party president Michael Caltibiano’s mail-out over constitutional change or who said state leader Bob Quinn could make the remarks he’s made on the matter.

The general view is that Herron is showing utter and complete contempt for the punters by walking off now, that the PM is showing utter and complete contempt by appointing him to a cushy overseas job and that the Liberal Party will be showing utter and complete contempt if they put Santo Santoro in to fill the casual vacancy, imposing him on the very same voters who threw him out of the State Parliament last year.

Most Queenslanders wonder if the Liberals will ever learn.

Frontier spirit

Ah, that frontier spirit! That sense of competition! Yep. The boys from the West aren’t going to let the new white shoe brigade outdo them in branch stacking.

Up to 500 new members have appeared on the books of the Western Australian Liberal Party over recent weeks. Most seem to be aligned with Senators Campbell and Ellison, although Lord Voldemort, AKA Noel Crichton-Browne, seems to still be making an effort.

The new members appeared in the southern suburbs of Perth, in the seats of Tangney, Swan, Fremantle and Brand. Lord Voldemort’s forces have virtually surrendered in the north, and some of the new members seem to be fleeing refugees, seeking to find a land they can shelter in (and shore up state preselections for a few Voldemort-allied NCB miscreants, let alone help get rid of Dazzling Dazza Williams).

There is another big reason for all the activity, for on September 14 a critical ballot will be taking place for various party committee positions. Most of these slots on the committee are sinecures designed to keep the lay party members happy. However, the Chairmen sit on the State Executive and therefore exercise considerable influence.

At present, Marketing, Finance, Membership Services and Constitutional & Drafting are all run by figures identified with Campbell and Ellison or the Tsarina Julie. The key committee they don’t control is Candidate Selection. It is currently chaired by Julie Ray from the right, who is being challenged by Susie Plummer from the moderates sub-faction of the centre right, but has the support of our old friend, corporal punishment enthusiast Ross Lightfoot.

Lightfoot declared a fatwah on Campbell the day after the Federal election, and his sole ambition appears to be to defeat the unfaithful prote51ge51 who turned on Voldemort. Both Campbell and Ellison are up for preselection towards the end of next year. Ellison should be safe, but Campbell has a habit of agitating people and his career seems to have stalled.

If Plummer wins, the centre right will gain control over the dates, times and venues of all preselections and also have warning of who the candidates for preselection are. This will offer a significant tactical advantage. If she doesn’t, Peter Costello won’t be able to become leader quick enough for Campbell.

Preselection follies

Super Saturday, with it’s four safe seat preselections, has come and gone for the New South Wales Liberal Party.

While Chika might say that she has had no involvement in the preselections and that Crikey’s comments to the contrary are wrong what, you don’t subscribe? Too bad! the contests have all been viewed through the leadership prism, with all the distortions that entails.

The Hawkesbury results has been the big news, with the defeat of veteran Kevin Rozzoli a Chika man by Hornsby Mayor Stephen Pringle. While Rozzoli was expected to lose, no one thought he would score only 10 votes.

In North Shore, Shadow Health Minister and Brogden mentor, Jillian Skinner, thumped Mosman Mayor James Reid, who was forced to back-down from a threat to run as an independent at the state election next March. However, Mrs Skinner will face stiff opposition from North Sydney Mayor Genia McCaffrey, a protege of Ted Mack.

Michael “Frank Spencer” Richardson, a J-Bro fan, has celebrated his expected win in The Hills by calling for shadow ministers to be automatically endorsed. His colleagues can’t wait until he tries to move that sort of resolution from the floor of State Council. But as they say in The Hills, some mothers do ‘ave ’em.

In Davidson, another fan of the Boy Wonder, Andrew Humpherson, was elected on the first ballot against O’Farrell supporter and former Labor Party member Mark Darras, with Chika supporter Steven Bowers coming second last with just six votes.

If OK, if if if if if if there were any people thinking that Chika could stage a comeback, they’ll have to go back to the drawing board.

How to avoid branch stacking

Liberals in Queensland, Western Australia and New South Wales and indeed, the whole nation who are concerned by branch stacking may like to examine a radical new technique being employed at Annual General Meetings by the Young Liberals in Victoria,

Rather than relying on the crude force of numbers, a recent branch presidency was supposedly settled by sex in a car with a wannabe powerbroker.

It opens whole new perspectives on make love, not war.

Hillary Bray can be contacted at [email protected]