Hillary Bray = great columnist. Nuff said.

God help us. Last week it was Earth Summit II the eco-weenies spouting all the lies they’ve been trying to scare us with for the last 30 years yet again (no-one can fault them in their commitment to recycling) and the usual third world mob asking for more money (their must be a new model armoured Mercedes out that or Swiss banks are as bad with their fees as the local boys).

This week promises wall-to-wall commemorative mawkishness.

It’s time to turn off the TV, ignore the radio and settle down with a good book.

Hell no, we won’t go yet

Oh to be a fly on the wall of the Prime Miniature’s office. Or Lex Loser’s. Or, perhaps, more accurately, Mark Textor’s.

For what else, other than bad polling, can explain the way Lex has gone so quiet on whuppin’ raghead butt and the Short Man become so measured in his approach to war with Iraq?

War by other means

It’s early days yet in the Democrat leadership campaign, but Brian Greig is attracting some positive comments.

Members have been impressed by the way he has handled media since his surprise elevation to the Interim Leader’s position. Indeed, comments like “if it weren’t for his one issue focus he might just be good” are coming Crikey’s way.

His mentor and chief cheerleader John Davey, alas, is not attracting similar praise. Davey has circulated an email to the Democrat National Executive claiming Queensland Senator John Cherry intends to use his resources to support one candidate presumably Andrew Bartlett sparking off angry demands for Davey to produce his evidence.

The Gang of Four has got on the front foot with a bit of spinning. Their fans have re-christened them “the Fab Four”.

A little more of their thinking on the Deputy Leader’s position has emerged, too. An email from Lyn Allison is drifting through the ether. In it, she says her position regarding the role is to wait and see which candidate for the top job shows an ability to work through the issues in a spirit of co-operation. If this can be achieved, she says in true Democrat style, then there should be shortage of Senators wanting to be deputy.

More brutal hacks might claim the subtext is “what about our 10 point plan”.

Aden writes

And speaking of that 10 point plan, almost a fortnight after he was spurned by the Democrat National Executive, Aden Ridgeway penned an e-mail to party members which, natch, quickly made its way to Crikey.

Poor old Aden clearly had a few things to get off his chest. He says that “over the past 16 months” or, in other words, after Britney became leader “the Party Room has sought to resolve a range of issues relating to our internal workings as well as our relationship with the Party”. He goes on “had these issues been addressed, a majority of the Party Room believe that Senator Lees’ departure could have been avoided”. Would that be four out of seven members?

That’s just for starters. He says “the fact that we had lost Senator Bourne’s seat at the 2001 election, followed by Senator Lees’ resignation and then Senator Murray’s near resignation, was the cause for genuine concern that the Party Room was in need of immediate and fundamental reforms” and proceeds to give a strong defence of the 10 point plan.

Most interesting, however, is this comment: “I had prepared an article for the national journal, however for one reason or another it was not included”. What exactly were those reasons? It doesn’t appear as if Ridgeway withdrew the letter. Was it censored by National Executive? Osama? The editor? Who? Why?

At this rate Dubya and Saddam will be swapping friendly hints on how to run elections before there’s peace in the Dems.

The power behind the other throne

Crikey has taken an active interest in John Davey, mentor and adviser to Democrat Leadership aspirant Brian Greig. But who is behind Andrew Bartlett? his most trusted adviser is his long time staffer and former Queensland divisional president Marianne Dickie.

While Bartlett has been making noises about reform and the need to work with the “gang of four”, Dickie is well and truly on the record as wanting at least two of them out of the party.

She is also understood to be planning a preselection challenge against a third, John Cherry, from her home state of Queensland.

This little gem appeared on the ABC’s World Today on July 24 just two days before Meg Lees resigned:

HACK: Is expulsion from the Democrats an option when it comes to Andrew Murray?

DICKIE: That’s up to the national exec and national compliance, that’s not up to me.

HACK: What’s your view though?

DICKIE: My view is he doesn’t belong in the party and neither does Meg Lees.

HACK: What may be more worrying for the party is that Aden Ridgeway is now perceived by Stott Despoja supporters like Marianne Dickie to be playing on the other team.

DICKIE: Well I think its a wonderful strategy that Meg, Andrew Murray, and to a certain extent Aden Ridgeway have undertaken, because they’ve undertaken a strategy of we’ll all speak out now, and let’s see you drag us all off to compliance committee. Knowing that will make the party look foolish in their eyes, that the strategy they’ve undertaken. And she’s gone out of her way to elevate this, and the reason she’s done that, is because she’s attacking our leader. And their coming on-side with their deliberate continued attacks to do the same thing. I didn’t believe this could happen but I’ve been in contact with Andrew Murray, Senator Ridgeway and Meg’s staff and up until last week, I didn’t believe they could do this, but now I do, from the answers they’re giving me and from their continued public attacks.

HACK: You’re saying in no uncertain terms that Aden Ridgeway is part of this?

DICKIE: Aden Ridgeway is assisting this, yes. I have no doubt in my mind that Aden is part of this.

And what an extraordinarily conspiratorial mind it seems to be too!

Yes, she was showing loyal support for her boss when he was off in Europe making his famous “pathetic politically stupid and disgracefully gutless” comments but with backers like Dickie, Bartlett could have serious problems trying to put the party back together again.

Blessed are the peacemakers

The constant leaks from the ADnet to Crikey, alas, are making people wary of posting anything interesting and rumour has it that a certain member of the National Executive has been sending private emails to forum members brave and free-thinking enough to post something sensitive or critical.

Still, that hasn’t stopped Andrew Bartlett going out there with this pitch to Britney fans on a touchy topic.

From: Bartlett, Andrew (Senator)
Sent: Friday, 6 September 2002 10:30 AM
To: ‘[email protected]
Subject: RE: [AD] Natasha on the Tampa issue

I have heard this myth of Natasha allegedly running dead on Tampa a number of times. Unfortunately it continues to be repeated despite plenty of evidence to the contrary.

As the person who was (and is) the party’s spokesperson on the issue, I can guarantee that there was NO decision or even desire on Natasha’s part to go soft on the issue at all. As people know, I have spoken repeatedly on the issue and was never encouraged or asked to go soft on the issue (except by a few individual members who either disagreed with the policy or were worried that it was unpopular with the electorate).

Natasha launched our policy on the issue and spoke repeatedly on it during the campaign. She took the lead nationally on the Woomera situation during the peak of the hunger strikes there, being the only politician (apart from me) to visit the camp. In my view our running so prominantly on this issue leading up to the SA election probably cost us some votes, but we still ran hard on it anyway.

The mistake I think we made during the federal election was to run on so many different issues and policies rather than focus on a few key ones. This is very different to running dead or going soft. The allegation that Natasha did this is so far from the truth and so far from what I know she believes that it borders on the defamatory.

Andrew B

Career opportunities

News reaches Crikey that the phones have been running hot between Britney’s press sec Alison Rogers and her old gal pals at the ABC in Adelaide.

Back in her broadcasting days Rogers, as readers will recall, had the bright idea that there would be no probs if she stayed on air for a few weeks despite giving notice that she would be leaving to join a fine defender of the independence of the ABC.

Still, despite this, a parachute seems to have been packed for her by her most senior friend in management and she will be parked comfortably but not exactly discreetly.

One of her former colleagues in South Australia says it was a miracle she hung on as long as she did before moving to handle Britney. However, Crikey hears it was not miracle, but rather an eastern state management contact. Indeed, all her last year at the ABC involved was the arduous task of preparing a 50 minute-a-day program with the help of a producer.

Fighting the Fenian menace?

Do any Crikey readers also take The Watchman, the “Official Organ of the Loyal Orange Institution of New South Wales”?

If so, can they tell us if on page eight of the September 2002 issue (Volume 10, No 3) that’s really Lord Flint pictured as part of the “New South Wales contingent” visiting Melbourne for the Lodge’s July 12 orgy of sectarian bigotry.

Iron Mark’s testy speech

P P McGuinness gave “Iron Mark” Latham a shellacking in the Sydney Yawning Herald last Tuesday over his testy speech in the Reps last week where he gave a short list of who he hates and why.

PP, alas, missed the fact that the effort seemed to be an antipodean version of the Reverend Blair’s “forces of conservatism” speech the speech that finally destroyed any hope the Vicar might be prepared to think the unthinkable on policy and instead proved he was a sanctimonious and platitudinous windbag but his column has got people talking.

Indeed, there are now claims that “Iron Mark” circulated an uncut and unexpurgated version of the speech with some even more exquisite details on his hit list beforehand. We’d love to see it if anyone can oblige.

The Steve Bracks talent school

Labor’s new sporting MP-wannabe Kirstie Marshall is set to improve the knowledge base of the Labor backbench, if last Wednesday’s Hun is anything to go by:

Readers were breathlessly told Marshall is “a former world champion freestyle skier who defied the odds, beating northern hemisphere opponents who grew up with snow on their doorsteps”.

“She only recently joined the Labor Party after officials approached her about running for Parliament,” the Hun gushes. ” ‘I have no idea, really, about anything,’ she said. ‘And the whole job for me is just to be in here and look and learn.”

No idea about anything? No probs. That didn’t stop Justin Madden joining the frontbench.

Do unto others

The faintest of whispers can be heard as speculation starts over Senator Nick Bolkus’ long term plans.

His current term is due to expire in June 2005. If he stays, it means he will be in the Senate until 2011.

Back last year, when Chris Schacht got done over, we observed how Bolkus’ said Schacht had been round too long despite the fact that he had been a Senator for three years longer. Rumours say that it’s an argument that might just come back to haunt him.

Cogitate, don’t litigate

Which Parliamentary Secretary who has already been taken to task here over his activities in the pants department must thank the Lord every day that the meeja hasn’t considered them newsworthy yet?

Alan Ramsey’s moment of self-realisation

You’ve got to love the Lounge Bar Bore of the Gallery. There he was, in his column on Wednesday, dissecting Kate “Whoops, I did it again” Carnell’s hopes to fill La Stupenda’s ACT Liberal Senate spot with a finesse not seen since the Texas Chainsaw Massacre when he talked about “curmudgeonly old media farts”.

He’s got nothing to apologise for. Indeed, unless he’s saying that Question Time hasn’t been the same since Artie Fadden was in the chair, we think he’s at his best in full cantankerous old fart mode.

PS Speaking of that Senate spot, Gerry Wheeler shouldn’t be too cocky.

Labor punters scratched?

Subscribers will remember the tale of the Victorian Labor Arthur Daleys who ran the “Labor Renewal Betting” ring and sent out tips for the gee-gees with the idea that the profits could pay for memberships.

It’s only a couple of weeks since we drew attention to their little rort but the Friday tips they used to send round appear to have vanished. Here’s hoping they’ve been scratched.

The pollies’ friend

Do our pollies have any greater friend than Laura Norder?

First the Malthus of Maroubra, Bob Carr, waved his truncheon and set things rolling with his not mandatory sentencing mandatory sentences for killing teachers, judges and doctors. The following day, Saint Steve had jumped on the bandwagon. Twenty four hours later and it was rolling through Adelaide and Media Mike had climbed on board.

Is there any better partner in government?

The Queensland Liberal multimedia spectacular

Forget the fireworks on the floor of the Queensland Liberal Party state conference this weekend. The real spectacular came with the CD-ROM sent to delegates by party president Michael Caltabiano.

It’s hard to know where to begin when talking about this multimedia marvel.

There was great amusement at the choice of backing music. It’s the hymn I Vow to Thee my Country, part of The Planets by Gustav Holst the suite of music that provided the opening theme for the TV series Labor in Power and the soundtrack to many magic moments with Paul Keating when he switched to full Captain Wacky mode.

The hymn, too, provided the name and the soundtrack to one of Rupert Everett’s first films, Another Country, where he played a nascent Kim Philby type at Eton in the early 1930s the other country, of course, being Stalin’s Russia.

Indeed, such was the emotion unleashed by the disc that one Queensland Lib felt obliged to pen this letter to the Bowen Hills Advocate:

Letters to Editor, Courier Mail.

Dear Sir/Madam,

Lib President M. Caltabiano has apparently sent a video computer disc to all party members extolling his leadership and other qualities.

Most of the images look like they should be saved for next year’s Guide Dogs for the Blind week. For me they sort of took me back to how we spent a lot of time in the early sixties lots of blurred images and little clear definition.

But the message was clear. Joy to the world a new Messiah is born amongst us. What hope has Quinn against this formidable testament to prophesy. Apart from some grammatical errors I did have some problem conceptualising how one ‘challenges the past’. Doesn’t one rather challenge the future? Although when one of the rare focussed images on disc showed the new Messiah with defeated Lord Mayor and international social butterfly extraordinaire, Sallyanne Atkinson I found forcing myself to remember the past was just a bit too challenging.

The background music was nice though – Gustave Holst’s The Planets I realised. Someone said he opted for Jupiter, King of the Gods, but I thought more likely it was Uranus. Is there an international constipation week?

Colin Lamont

Preselection sweep

With the Boy Wonder’s supporters in the NSW Libs still on a high after their emphatic victories last weekend, the focus is now turning to Willoughby and the preselection to find a replacement for Peter Collins.

While the early favourite appeared to be popularly elected Mayor of Willoughby Pat Reilly, the landscape appears to have changed significantly with a number of high quality candidates stepping forward.

Former Young Liberal president Gladys Berejiklian, a member of the NSW Liberal State Executive and a close friend of J-Bro’s, appears to be leading the field. Berejiklian has some inside running as a former Collins’ staffer she knows the local party members well and comes with solid factional support.

While Reilly has the support of former Willoughby Mayor and Chika’s father, Greg Bartels, he appears to have lost significant ground with the party rank-and-file due to a belief that he will resign from the Party and run as an independent candidate if he doesn’t win pre-selection. Even a number of conservative members of the party who are not necessarily friends of Berejiklian have been concerned by this.

Willoughby Councillor Stuart Coppock, a former candidate for the NSW Liberal state executive and solicitor, is another who is likely to enter the field. Other rumoured candidates include former ACM campaign director and staffer to the Monk and the Rodent David Elliott one of those many strange monarchists who tells us you can’t trust politicians yet wants to be one and former National Party state minister Robert Webster.

A win in Willoughby will put the icing on the cake for J-Bro fans after their spectacular success in this round of pre-selections. It will also sound the death knell for the Chika/Bartels/O’Farrell factions who have failed to arouse any sympathy over the successful leadership challenge.

Indeed, rumour has it that the right may throw in the towel now in return for a front-bench position for David Clarke after the March election.

Fame!

Kalgoorlie MP Barry Haase hasn’t got the highest profile although being won by one of the town’s famous madams in a slave auction last week gave him an unlikely fillip. He made it onto a Russian website – click here for details

Hillary Bray can be contacted at [email protected]

Peter Fray

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