This Hillary column is even bigger and better than usual.

Official Government advice: To prevent terrorism, vote Liberal

Is Labor really THAT desperate?

If the answer is Wayne Swan, it must be a pretty stupid question. The idea
of him as Labor leader is risible.

True, his father wasn’t a Whitlam minister, he was never boss of the ACTU
and he comes from Queensland instead of Victoria – but other than that Swan
and Sime are both a pair of colourless Labor hacks with no popular appeal.

Indeed, Swan might even have less. He was fed, watered and trained by Bill
Ludwig – and his only real claim to fame is the way he and a few mates in
the Queensland ALP worked so assiduously to keep Peter Beattie out of the
Cabinet during the Goss years.

In fact, he comes from a tribe of factional warriors whose conduct would
make the lads down at Tammany on Sussex blush.

If Swan became leader, we could expect just the same empty rhetoric and
policy blandness that Sime peddles – and equally dismal polls.

What Labor needs is someone capable of articulating a coherent statement of
what the party stands for and offers twenty-first century Australia – and
how this would be better than what the Libs have on offer. If they have
such a person, then he or she should be leader.

Wayne Swan, in contrast, is just another apparatchik who’s beginning to
think that on the slag-heap of opposition the view from the top is the only
view worth having.

And the Gallery should stop its bloodsports. There’s no thrill to the chase
when the quarry is as insignificant as Simon Crean.

A leader emerges

While a desperate Gallery was leaping on news of the Swan “challenge”, down
at the Press Club a Labor leader – a small l leader at the moment – was
speaking.

Yup. Iron Mark. He might be mad, but at least people know who he is and
what he stands for. Even the Tele editorialised saying they liked his Press Club speech and crikey was impressed with his “break down the power” performance on Insiders yesterday.

Iron Mark raises a titter

Mad or not, no-one can tell ’em like Iron Mark. Why the mainstream media
didn’t report these two quotes the Press Club speech on Wednesday is beyond
us:

On the Government’s tendency to put its friends on boards – friends like
Closet McCloset and Michael Kroger: “If Tony Abbott had any mates, he’d
have put them on, too.”

It was so good he used it again on Insiders.

And on how the Government is enjoying the economic fruits of Labor’s
structural reforms: “Peter Costello must wake up every morning thinking a
rainbow’s been shoved up his arse.”

Nice to hear from you, Jenny

Jenny Macklin popped up last week, calling for a directly elected president.
It was nice to hear from her.

Jenny, after all, was made Labor deputy leader because she was a policy whiz
who would turn the party around. She opened her mouth long enough to show
that she was an unreconstructed Whitlamite and has wisely stayed silent
since – but will that be enough to save her job when poor old Simey goes?

Bracks’ stacks

Remember the ruckus from a few weeks back when it was revealed that, thanks
to ethnic branch stacks, the Bracks Government felt obliged to employ two
staffers belonging to the Turkish organisation, UHH, that has been linked
with violence in the squalid war in Cyprus?

The row seems set to open up again. Hillary hears the UHH member on Justin
Madden’s staff enjoyed access to all sorts of high level information –
including security details for the Commonwealth Games.

The maybe seats

The polling looks good for Steve Bracks – but odd things can happen in
elections. Some seats could deliver upset results – and here are a few of
them.

The Victorian ALP has been rattled by the news former party member Tina
Skouzis will run in the seat of Oakleigh against MP Ann Barker.

A photograph of a dolled-up Ms Skouzis with Liberal MP Nick Kotsiras
appears in this week’s Neos Kosmos newspaper, and it appears her preferences
will go to the Libs.

Skouzis ran for Monash Council in 1997 as a Labor dummy, and her preferences
were intended to elect Rosemary Barker, the wife of Bracks staffer and Nick Bolkus mate Garth
Head. Unsurprisingly, because the ward she contested is heavily Greek, she
got about 2000 first preference votes and despite an appalling campaign
ended up with about 40 more votes than Barker but just narrowly missed
election.

The experience seems to have given her a taste for power – and Labor
suspicions she has cut a deal with the Libs seemed confirmed when Liberal
how to votes giving Skouzis their second preferences appeared in newspapers
on Wednesday. With the ethnic mix in Oakleigh counting in Skouzis’ favour,
Labor has been left hoping her candidacy won’t lead to a Greek tragedy for
Ann Barker.

Labor’s Craig Langdon’s been showing some nervous behaviour in Ivanhoe. He
dragged a local Labor mayor, Transport Minister Peter “Nunawading” Bachelor and a
whole squad of minders along to a public meeting at Ivanhoe Town Hall,
looking for reassurance.

And there seems to be wobbles in Melbourne, Brunswick and Richmond, with
locals reporting push-polling against the Greens – or something pretty damn close.

We’re not too sure that Labor has anything to fear from the Liberal Party in
Brunswick. Candidate Rebecca Gauci, the pal of kit-off Katrina the topless
Tory of Big Brother fame, hasn’t been able to come up with anything as
catchy as the motto she used back in her Essendon Young Liberal days – “At
Essendon we get it on”.

Some punters are already saying that the National Party will be all but
wiped out come November 30, although they are guaranteed 2 seats because only 4 of their 6 Upper House seats are up for grabs.

Shepparton may be a Nat seat to watch. Sitting Member Don Kilgour is
retiring, the Libs always struggle there, no-one votes Green in redneck
country – and the local Mayor Chris Hazelman is standing as an independent. Shep is National Party heartland but a 19 per cent margin in 1996 slipped to 12 per cent in 1999 and it looks like it could be all over.

Rodney is another one. Sitting Nat MP Noel Maughan is tipped to lose votes
to a strong Liberal candidate, Simon Frost, while just to complicate things
the Green candidate is a popular former local Campaspe Shire mayor, Peter
Williams.

Finally, a Crikey fan writes:

“Would you or any of your readers know anything about an Abraham Lincoln who
is apparently standing in the seat of Prahran? The VEC candidate site
doesn’t list a party affiliation, just a phone number. Even though I’m
usually a Liberal voter, I’m sorely tempted to put Mr Lincoln first and
Leonie Burke second. I’m sure that will result in my vote going to the
Liberals when Mr Lincoln comes last on the first count. How many living
people can say they voted for Abraham Lincoln?!”

We’ll risk a guess here and say that we’re pretty sure that this candidate
is opposed to slavery – but can anyone help with more info? Don’t go to the theatre with him.

War on terror latest (II)

A bad week for the SA Libs

Last week wasn’t a good one for the South Australian Liberal Party.

The leadership is already on the boil, and on Monday night, the local ABC
News ran an item naming disgraced former minister Joan Hall and leadership
aspirants Iain Evans and Mark Brindal as the figures behind a series of
damaging leaks speculating on the future of leader Rob Kerin.

The same night, party immediate past president Cory Bernardi left the room
before the Liberal state executive discussed and moved a motion backing
Kerin’s leadership.

The following day Premier Media Mike Rann got back from overseas – and
rather than retiring with jetlag he went to straight to a press conference
where he ambushed the opposition with news that Independent Rory McEwen, a
former member of the Liberal Party, joined the Cabinet as Minister for
Trade, Local Government and Regional Development

McEwen’s seat is based around the major south-eastern town of Mount Gambier
– solid Liberal territory. He was a popular mayor who missed out on Liberal
preselection in 1997 when the sitting member retired. He ran as an
independent and took the previously safe Liberal seat in a landslide at the
following election as Buffy Olsen converted a massive majority to minority
government.

With a background like this, the Libs were keen to get McEwen into the
ministry themselves to shore up their shaky government, but he rebuffed
their advances – only to deliver a further slap in the face to his old party
by signing on with Rann.

The moves also shores up the position of the Rann Government in the house.
It was only able to form government when yampy former Lib MP Peter Lewis
agreed to become Speaker. Now, with McEwen’s vote locked in, it has more
room to move. There is already talk in Adelaide that Rann wants to ditch
the constantly embarrassing Lewis and replace him with yet another Liberal
who quit because of Buffy, Deputy Speaker Bob Such.

The timing may well be right for such a move. A fresh rumour about Lewis is
gaining momentum, this time claiming that his former Liberal branch members
gave him a $4,000 donation the day before the state election on condition
that he support the Liberal Party in Parliament.

Hearsay or not, everything in South Australian politics keeps playing into
Labor’s hands.

And a worse week for the South Australian Dems

South Australian Democrats leader Mike Elliott has announced he will leave
Parliament in the next fortnight, sparking an election for new leader and a
search for a new MP in the riven division of the party.

Elliott, a one-time member of the Young Liberals, has been seen as credible
and capable – qualities sadly lacking in the Democrats. He broke down in
Parliament earlier this year during a debate on shop trading hours, saying
long sitting days had destroyed his own marriage. This is one time that a
resignation for “family reasons” does not ring hollow.

The Democrats have three members in the South Australian Legislative
Council, a legacy of their strong showing in the 1997 state election. Their
vote collapsed at the poll held earlier this year.

The deputy leader, Sandra Kanck, is useless. She received a
well-deserved national audience for her “pert breast” comments on the
Democrat federal leadership, although locals fondly remember her performance
in this year’s state poll when she stood in Rundle Mall and sang “The Sounds
of Silence” at a policy launch. Her hubby, however, has run the local
division of the party for years, and the pair are old and dedicated enemies
of the Natasha Stott-Despoja wing.

The third MLC, Ian Gilfillan, is a former leader who resigned from the
Council in 1993 to unsuccessfully contest the lower house seat of Norwood
before returning in 1997. His attempt to move to the House of Assembly not
only misfired, but raised questions of rorting of allowances as his campaign
material said he lived in Norwood – a thirty minute walk from Parliament
House – but he claimed travel allowance, stating his primary place of
residence was Kangaroo Island.

With the Dems looking down the barrel around the country, their performance
in South Australia, traditionally their strongest state, is vital to the
party’s survival. Neither Kanck or Gilfillan are leadership material.

South Australia is home to both Natasha Stott-Despoja and Meg Lees and – to
put it politely – this is reflected in the local Dems.

The party needs to find a credible new face on very short notice. Whether
it can do so is another thing.

J-Bro’s woes

Boy wonder John Brogden is looking more and more like a leader. Why?
Because the blowtorch treatment he’s getting from Labor show that they
consider him as a one – and a leader who’s posing a threat.

The only puzzling thing about J-Bro’s behaviour was his “You are, sir, are a
disgrace” outburst at Deputy Premier and chief Whiteman Andrew Refshaggy.
The lad should learn that it’s no good talking about his Balmain Gran if
he’s suddenly going to sound like a Tory.

Still more wild and Woolly tales

The news from Senate Estimates last week that former health minister Michael
Wooldridge continued to use government equipment for at least six months
after he left office, failed to hand back two fax machines, a mobile phone
and a printer and was forced to repay more than $2,000 to his old department
runs up yet another chapter in a shabby story of sleaze.

This is unparalleled conduct in Australia’s political history.

The New South Wales ALP might have their own little Tammany Hall down there
on Sussex Street, but John Howard’s administration looks more and more like
Warren Harding’s.

War on terror latest (III)

Big week for the ACT Libs

As Margaret Reid ends her unremarkable 20 year plus Senate career, the ACT
Liberals are giving serious thought to the question of her successor.

There are real fears that they will lose the Senate spot if they preselect
Rodent staffer Gerry Wheeler. Arch monarchists don’t go down well in a town
that voted 60 per cent for a republic – and working for a Prime Minister who
refuses to live in the Territory doesn’t impress the locals, either.

Kate Carnell is still seen as a possibility – if Canberra Libs are prepared
to be brave. Carnell could really make herself heard in the Senate –
although that idea may buck the middle-class sensibilities of preselectors.

Instead, they may chose someone less controversial, someone like Gary
Humphries or Brendan Smyth. They better decide which one’s going to run,
though. It won’t look that good if the Liberal leader in the ACT Assembly
and the deputy leader both would rather be somewhere else.

Meanwhile, many ACT Libs are remarking on the decision to turn their
secretariat into a sheltered workshop. There is no other way they can
describe the appointment of “cartoonist” and sometime staffer Daniel Clode
as director.

Finally, a kind ACT Liberal sends Hillary an invite to the Central
Electorate Branch’s Christmas Drinks, featuring our friend Erica Betz and
with a special guest appearance by Bill Heffernan. Hillary takes this to
mean that the right’s in the ascendancy there.

A home away from home for the Dems

The ADnet offerings have been sparse of late – probably because half the
membership of the Australian Democrats have left the party for one reason or
another. But fear not! There’s a new Democrat discussion site – or rather,
a site for all of the members who have walked:

“Due to the recent spate of resignations and lapses of memberships from the
Australian Democrats, concern has been raised over the loss of talent being
faced by the party. As a result, a new Yahoo!Group has been established that
is open to all Democrat-minded people, so that current and former members
might maintain contact and discussion about the activities of the Party.

“To sign up, follow this link.

“Please forward this to people that you know who are current members or may
have left the party, but who would be interested in talking about democratic
reform and bringing the Party back home to the members.”

A home away from home – for lost fundis, anyway. That bit about “bringing
the Party back home to the members” is a giveaway.

Constant readers

John Faulkner and Robert Ray teased Erica Betz once again in Estimates all last
week with quotes from Crikey. It’s all water off a duck’s back to the great
man, however, “Allegations that are raised in Crikey,” he says “you would
not waste your breath on.”

Meanwhile, another Crikey friend, George Washington Brandis got stroppy when
the website was discussed: “Chair, I want to raise a point of order on
relevance at this point. The questions have trespassed far beyond what is
relevant to the estimates.” Poor boy.

Vice-Chancellors split?

Is higher education about to flare up as an issue again? While the bods
down at the Australian Vice Chancellors Committee office in Curtin seem
besotted by Brendan, Hillary hears that across the lake at the ANU,
Vice-Chancellor Ian Chubb is leading a team of dissidents working on
education, science and research and development policy for Labor that
doesn’t involve silly diagrams.

Corruption in high places

Another parliamentarian has succumbed to the Crikey Subs for Mentions bribe.

ACT Government Whip John Hargreaves has used our coverage of the race to
replace Margaret Reid to get stuck into Brendan Smyth.

Crikey’s Marketing Director (AKA Mrs Crikey) will be in touch soon about the
sub, John.

Hillary Bray can be contacted at [email protected]

Peter Fray

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