It’s user-pays war and John Howard, Brian Greig and Garry Humphries are all firing blanks, as Hillary Bray reports.

There should be an overwhelming case for war. Saddam Hussein is a vicious dictator. He’s only taken time out from brutalising his own people over the last 10 years or so to bare his arse at the United Nations.

Despite all this, Dubya’s struggling to get the Security Council’s backing for action and back here the folks in Puntersville remain firmly unimpressed.

Now, with talk everywhere of a war levy, backbenchers are getting rattled. If Australians don’t want a war in the first place, why start dropping hints that they’re going to get one anyway and pay extra for the privilege.

Baghdad Bill would be happy

While Kevin Rudd enjoys his place in the sun as the government shouts itself hoarse, some nasty undercurrents are gathering strength in the rank and file of the ALP.

Look out for ever increasing mutterings that there are so many branches controlled by Muslim stacks for both factions it is now impossible for the leadership of the party to exercise any control over foreign policy.

So, farewell then, Lynton Crosby

Liberal Party Federal Director Lynton Crosby has announced his decision to leave after six years in the role. He says he plans to pursue a career in the private sector shorthand for setting up shop with Liberal pollster and master of wedge politics, Mark Textor, or so Hillary hears.

Crosby’s time in the top job has been mixed. While the Liberals have enjoyed federal success, his time as the party’s top tactician has seen disaster in the states, although there was naturally no mention of this in his Sunday Telegraph column.

Tony Nutt, the Prime Miniature’s Principal Private Secretary is tipped to replace Crosby a sound, if unglamourous, choice. Corridor gos, however, says that another one time Howard adviser, Grahame Morris would also like the job, too.

And farewell John Howard?

The speculation about Tony Nutt appointment has got the Canberra Kremlinologists beyond themselves. If the PM’s PPS is moving on, they ask, can the PM be far behind.

Brian Greig stumbles

Democrat interim leader Brian Greig has failed in a bid to win certain hearts and minds as the party’s leadership election continues.

A key part of the Ten Point Plan put forward by the Fab Four senators was trying to improve the performance of the Leader’s 16 staff. Greig has gone way beyond that , telling them they would need to apply to get their jobs back if he became leader.

Naturally, they were all mortally offended but the matter raised other concerns.

A queue of Greig cronies have already lined up for jobs headed, of course, by the former porn industry czar John Davey. Another is Norm Kelly, the former Western Australian MLC and current deputy national president, a staunch ally of Greig’s in the WA division internecine war.

Those two names alone are enough to cause doubts over Greig’s ability to unify the party.

Fourth time lucky?

First there was Tracy Chaloner. Then she quit. Damian Meyer filled the role. He was squeezed out and Pat Olver was installed. Then his appointment was ruled unconstitutional after legal advice and now the Western Australian division of the Australian Democrats are looking for their fourth president in as many weeks.

Meyer has said he doesn’t want the job back. That’s understandable. Indeed, the WA Dem are asking if there is anyone brave enough to take it on.

Cross and bothered

Liberals to the left of Attilla the Hun all across the country are unimpressed with the party leader in the ACT’s toytown parliament, Garry Humphries, after the expulsion of MLA Helen Cross.

The ACT electorate is decidedly more liberal with a small “l” than others across the country, and the wisdom of creating the impression that Cross has been expelled for using a conscience vote to support the legalisation of abortion has left many big “L” Liberals scratching their heads.

Canberra Liberal heavies too have been left wondering how Leader Gary Humphries thought that expelling Cross would enhance his campaign to replace Senator Margaret Reid.

Rather than looking like a leader, they believe his actions have lost him votes for Margaret Reid’s Senate position and weakened his grip on the party in the Assembly. Indeed, the events of the last few days have got those Liberals who believe his deputy Brendan Smyth could do better in either role busy again.

At the same time, despite the rounds of preselection meetings over coffee and drinks, some Canberra Libs are finally realising that La Stupenda hasn’t actually resigned yet.

She reportedly told a Senate colleague last week that if she didn’t get a reasonable offer from the PM AKA a diplomatic posting then she might well hang round to the next election, upsetting many ambitions.

Senator Santo?

Queensland Libs with an eye for the numbers say Santo Santoro could well be past the post already to replace John Herron in the Senate even though the preselection won’t be held under October 27. Santo is said to have around 135 out of a total 261 votes, give or take a few.

Nominations do not close until the end of the month, but Santo has already stitched up the critical support of party president Michael Caltabiano and Robyn Fardoulis. And the price for the deal? Santo is said to have given an undertaking that after winning preselection he will turn his attention to wiping out Mal Brough’s growing faction.

Indeed, Santo’s elevation to the Senate will raise the stakes in the Queensland Libs. With the resources of a Senate office behind him, the Queensland division is about to enter a new phase of trench warfare.

PS And what’s that we hear about a few kind souls offering to pay the fares of their country cousins to come to Brissie for the preselection. A case for the Crime and Misconduct Commission, perhaps?

Why MPs need life experience

Ronan Lee a fresh faced broth of a boy from Erin’s Isle and the Labor Member for Indooroopilly in the Queensland Parliament since last year has come to Crikey’s attention as a perfect example of why it’s best that prospective parliamentarians get some experience of life before they put themselves forward.

Young Ronan didn’t own a car before his election, but since then he’s wisely invested in a zippy little Peugeot 206 to get around his constituency. At a recent function, however, he had to approach another attendee and ask if he knew anything about cars as his had stopped. The gentleman, a Mercedes driver, was happy to help.

The pair went off to examine the young MP’s conveyance only to discover the problem was simple. Faith and begob, he’d run out of petrol.

Childcare crisis

The Commonwealth Parliament House needs childcare facilities now! Someone’s going to get badly hurt if Jacinta Collins’ kid keeps hooning round the corridors on that tricycle.

Spurned?

Brogden plotters Chris Hartcher and Mike Gallacher aren’t seriously getting pouty that J-Bro is using Chika supporters Fatty O’Barrel and Greg Pearce in the campaign against Eddie “The Godfather” Obeid?

A story claims that Gallacher, the Liberal Legislative Council Leader, was even caught out talking down the expulsion motion against Obeid amongst the cross bench and independent MLCs last week, while Hartcher continues to mumble dark things about Fatty.

Inside the madhouse

Mad Bob Katter has had a colourful crew working for him over the years John Pasquarelli, later Pauline Hanson’s svengali, is but one. Now, talk round the traps says that some interesting detail might come out on the most colourful of them all, his daughter and chief of staff Caroline.

A short lived staffer supposedly has an unfair dismissal case brewing that will offer all sorts of fascinating insights into what life is like back at the office while Mad Bob’s out jousting with windmills.

Hits and misses

Crikey promised to give free subs and t-shirts to all MPs who mentioned us in the Parliament but we’re not quite sure what to do in the case of New South Wales Labor timeserver Frank Mossfield.

Last Wednesday, Mossfield referred to Crikey during debate on the Government’s media ownership bill:

“There is less diversity on the Net than you might imagine when it comes to news, which places more importance on the traditional forms of media. The independent site crikey.com has only 4,000 subscribers, and they are pretty pleased with themselves if they get 8,000 viewings per week.”

Frank should know that the names on the 4500-strong subscription list are pure rolled gold and that there’s a zero missing from that page view rate.

Hillary Bray can be contacted at [email protected]

Peter Fray

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