Coonan the Barbarian should have her followers at their desks – not besieging their fellow Liberals.-

What a bloody depressing end to the political year.

On Tuesday, we hear a report from the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security on intelligence information received in the lead up to the Bali attack. The Prime Miniature tells us “The Inspector-General concludes that even with the benefit of hindsight and knowledge of possible and likely perpetrators the inquiry could not construe any intelligence, even intelligence not mentioning Bali as possibly providing warning of an attack”.

Two days later a British parliamentary committee finds “intelligence chiefs had known the Al Qaeda network was present in Indonesia” and that “the intelligence information to hand should have sent alarm bells ringing but agents seriously misjudged the threat”.

What does our Foreign Minister do? Well, Lex jokes that his wife’s British – but…

It’s “the things that batter” magnified a hundred fold. People died in Bali – and Australian and British intelligence talk, don’t they? Yet the useless bloody opposition lets the clown get away with it.

Then what do we get at the end of the week? Well, the Prime Miniature decides that giving ASIO the right to pick up people, including minor, at any time, hold them in secret, incommunicado, and interrogate them for up to a week is essential to maintaining the Australian way of life. The Government reject opposition amendments designed to bring the ASIO bill into line with what we call the rule of law.

It’s the most shameless hysteria. We were able to maintain a moral superiority in the cold war. Now, it seems we must adopt a brutal fundamentalism of our own to combat terror.

Stand by for a DD trigger that will make us all wonder what on earth we were talking about when we said last year’s poll was a khaki election.

Barbarians at the gate – not at their desks

Assistant Treasurer Helen “Coonan the Barbarian” Coonan might be having a little more luck if her staff were at their desks – not besieging their fellow Liberals.

Last week the New South Wales Liberal right were cock-a-hoop that faction hacks Alex Hawke and Natasha MacLaren had won the top two jobs in the state Young Liberals.

Hawke and MacLaren are both staffers to the Barbarian – and as she seems to have had little success in fighting off an ever widening series of claims that she has breached the Ministerial Code of Conduct, corridor talk over the last fortnight has increasingly been asking if she would be better served if her staff were focussed on looking after her portfolio and personal affairs rather than stacking branches and counting numbers.

Cheeky!

Naughty, naughty! John Faulkner, the leader of Labor’s Senate merry pranksters, had yet another laugh at Erica’s expense on Wednesday.

Erica has been fulminating at the film Rabbit Proof Fence ever since its release – even issuing a pamphlet denouncing it as leftie propaganda (at taxpayers’ expense, natch) – so Faulkner moved this motion:

“That the Senate congratulates:

(a) writer Doris Pilkington, film director Phillip Noyce and producers Christine Olsen and John Winter for their Australian Film Institute (AFI) award for best Australian feature film, in Rabbit Proof Fence;

(b) the actors and the film crew for this achievement;

(c) the makers of the soundtrack which won AFI awards for best score and best sound; and

(d) Senator Abetz for his constant assistance in promoting this powerful film about the tragedy of the children of the Stolen Generations.”

It passed. Naturally.

Big mishtake

Australian hackette Misha Schubert is in what Dubya’s dad would call deep do-do after taking a “plus one” to the Prime Miniature’s Christmas Drinks for the Gallery at the Lodge on Tuesday night.

Plus ones weren’t on the invite – and to make matters worse she took along a staffer to Iron Mark Latham who engaged the Short Man in conversation over his summer reading plans before security realised who he was.

Senior members of News Limited in Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney have been contacted and are not amused. This sense of humour failure has spread to the Australian Protective Services, who are investigating the incident. Schubert is likely to be interviewed by APS officials and the Iron Mark staffer is facing possible trespass charges.

Worse of all, Schubert faces the possible loss of her parliamentary pass – which would mean farewell to Canberra and a major career setback to an ambitious young journo.

Hillary understands a grovelling letter has already reached the Rodent apologising for the incident and after quite a Spanish Inquisition, Misha’s job has been saved after an email campaign from Crikey subscribers to the PM and Oz editor in chief Chris Mitchell telling them all to lighten up.

Not the flavour of the month

Meanwhile, the Press Gallery as a whole seems under a cloud.

The Gallery notice board currently carries an email from the Secretary of the Joint House Department, Michael Bolton, to the Gallery President, Malcolm Farr.

Sources have informed Bolton that members of the Gallery are planning some sort of stunt to embarrass the government. He suggests that it might be a good idea if Farr prevented this, but it all begs the question of what’s being planned – let alone who the mole is.

Glossy Gerry

The ACT Liberal Senate preselection campaign is on in earnest, with delegates dazzled to receive a 24 page full colour brochure on the life and times of Gerry Wheeler.

“I support a new National Constitutional Centre to showcase our democratic history”, glossy Gerry writes. Some preselectors – let alone former colleagues of Gerry’s – wonder if that will include a special little corner showcasing internal democracy in a few groups he’s been linked with.

Steve Bracks’ high hopes

Steve Bracks and the bruvvers of the Victorian ALP gathered in Flagstaff Gardens on Tuesday night to mark their election win.

Hymie made much about Legislative Council reform and how Monica Gould would be the big boss in the Upper House – leaving many of the faithful worried that if her performance as a minister has been anything to go by, even sheer force of numbers mightn’t be able to carry the day in the end.

PS Hillary hears that John Cain left before Bracks began speaking.

Ian Carson tells it like it isn’t

Victorian Liberal Party president Ian Carson seemed in a bullish mood despite all his party’s woes in an interview with AAP last week.

“The Liberals come out when there’s adversity generally and that’s what they’re doing.”, he was quoted as saying. The article went on to add “He also said the Victorian branch’s finances were healthy and business relationships were strong.”

In wake of the news that the Victorian Libs are thinking of selling their CBD secretariat to pay the bills – and the begging letter that appeared in the dying days of the campaign – those comments raised a few eyebrows.

The reaction, however, is nothing compared to that sparked off by his other remarks “One branch reported to me they had 40 people keen to join”. But guess where the branch is.

Nature abhors a vacuum. Robert Dean may be gone in Gembrook – and the bloke who’s filling the gap is even worse.

Yampy former fed Ken Aldred – who won ever-lasting fame for his bizarre allegations surrounding linking Mark Leibler, former DFAT head Michael Costello, the Mossad and the corrupt receipt of some $US640,000 from an official of the Surinam embassy in the Hague – is said to be the, er, brains, behind the 40 new members as part of a move on Bob Charles’ Reps seat of Latrobe.

Hillary’s Victorian mailbag

Despite what Ian might say, it’s all just fun and games – mixed in with a dash of paranoia – in the Victorian Liberal Party at the moment, as this little missive Hillary received last week shows:

“Dear Hillary,

“Your repeated attempts to glorify the Kroger/Costello forces in the Victorian Liberal Party are wearing a little thin!”

“Now, because I am so busy planning a bloody coup, I don’t have much time to talk. But I think people are not giving Doyle enough credit for the loss. If people have just a little memory they will have seen that everytime Napthine did something positive, Doyle and his supporters would raise leadership talk so the media did not concentrate on the few positives that Dynamic did.”

“It wasn’t three years of laziness, it was three years of saboutage.”

“The fact is Dynamic didn’t set the world on fire but he had a profile as an honest, decent bloke from the country who had more than a few brains. He was a part of that growing popular trend of a non-political politician. Compare that to Master Doyle – a Costello yes man whose profile is so low that only 15% of his Malvern electorate knew he was their member in a poll taken DURING the election!”

“Also have an alternative view on Jeff. Has anyone thought that maybe his running last time saved us from this defeat then? I have spoken to a lot of folk in the streets saying they would have voted for Jeff, but not Doyle and hence they marched off and voted Heime because he listens and acts – which is, incidentally, exactly what my dog does.”

“Kroger and Costello may be the darlings of some sections of the media and the upper echelons of the Victorian Division but on the ground Costello and his posse are seen as aloof and elitist. For as long as Costello is seen to be supporting the arrogant and overrated Tony Smith, the charmless Michael O’Brien and the luckless Mitch Fifield, his stocks in the Victorian Division will continue to be low. If you ever wondered where Costello got his trademark smirk from, you should meet this lot!”

“The fact is the average branch members hardly ever sees these guys, and on the few occasions they do, they are huddled together in the shadows sulking about all the preselections their faction have lost. Peter Clark may be handicapped by being an incumbent office bearer tarnished by a dud leader’s campaign, but he has a decade of experience doing the hard yards and being accessible to the grass roots of the party. There are some who are trying to suggest that Clark whould take the rap for Admin’s decision to carry out some much needed maintenance on 104 after years of neglecting our major asset when Michael Kroger was president.”

“Clark may not wear Ralph Lauren and might not have the smarmy attitude of the Smith’s, O’Brien’s and Fifield’s of the Party. He doesn’t pretend to be any more important than he is – all he tries to be is the sort of Liberal Party member that every member can relate to.”

It didn’t have a signature.

J-Bro left feeling green in the guts

Poor old J-Bro’s conciliatory comments towards the Greens in the wake of the Victorian Liberal meltdown have been howled down by Green Trot and MLC Lee Rhiannon.

J-Bro says he wants to discuss preferences with the Greens, saying the party doesn’t carry extremist views. Rhiannon rebuffed him on both counts, saying “it does smack of desperation from Mr Brogden that he is attempting to put a hand out to the party of the left when is so clearly a party of the right that has a job to do for corporate Australia”.

Rhiannon also said the timing of J-Bro’s comments was “opportunistic”. Here’s hoping a few journos remember that “opportunistic” when the Greens start to play their preference blackmail games through the media.

PS Hillary hears that Rhiannon’s fellow Green, nudist Ian Cohen, was seen in the Gallery later in the day wondering aloud what was the point of trying to get policy concessions out of the Liberals if the Greens were just going to attack them as enemies of the workers.

Letting down the side

The Government’s TV ads warning us of the dangers of towelhead terror haven’t even run yet – but already one ministerial staffer seems to be letting the side down.

A bemused reader from the West was surprised to see a minion accompanying the Minister for the Yartz and Sport, Rod “Elmer Fudd” Kemp, tangling with security personnel at Perth Airport. After setting off a metal detector, the elderly female staffer seemed to feel she was much too important to obey a security guard’s insolent request that she remove her shoes.

It has been suggested that the individual in question was Julie Reid, Fudd’s chief of staff.

Fellow staffers who have dealt with her are hoping the souffle she got in business class once the flight was underway wasn’t cold – for the poor flight attendants’ sake.

A Labor laundry

After a recent sealed section on developer donations to the New South Wales ALP, it was suggested that Crikey might like to take a look at the Randwick Labor Club.

According to the Australian Electoral Commission website, the bruvvers down at the club gave the party just over 24 grand in 2000-01.

Things were tough the previous year. No donation was recorded – which was odd, given the bonanza they’d had the year before.

In 1998-99, the Randwick Labor Club handed over just short of $285,000 in donations. So that’s over $284,000 one year, nothing the next and $24,200 the following year.

It would be fascinating to know just what’s behind these fluctuations.

National Museum fears

Crikey readers will recall the brouhaha that surrounded the appointment of John Howard cheerleaders like Piggy Pearson and David Barnett – whose biography of the Prime Miniature continues to fill remainder shops around the country – to the board of the National Museum.

Now, the relevant minister, Richard “Milhous” Nixon, has announced that director Dawn Casey will only have her term extended for 12 months. This is despite the Museum Council chair, Tony Staley – again, no stranger to Howard – congratulating Casey and her staff in the annual report “on the museum’s outstanding success during its first full year of operation as an important contribution to the cultural, social and educational fabric of the nation”.

The tut-tutting about political interference is already underway in PC circles – and stand by for much more.

Separated at birth

We’ve been waiting a long time for this one…

Just in the off chance you missed it, Federal MP, one time Joh for PM-er and Crikey favourite “Slippery Pete” Slipper saw his life flush before his eyes when he got stuck in a lavatory in Parliament House last week.

Slippery slipped out of the chamber to avail himself of a nearby disabled loo (odd, given that whatever you’d make of old Pete’s mental capacities, he seems OK physically), only to have trouble with the door.

He hit the alarm button and sent a mayday SMS to a friend, but was fortunately rescued by four security guards who simply slid the door open – rather than pushing, as Slippery had been trying.

Which leads us to this question:

Dear Readers

Have any of you ever noticed the remarkable resemblance between Slippery Pete and Mr Bean? Could they by any chance be related?

Hillary Bray can be contacted at [email protected]

Peter Fray

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