Crikey’s Budget team has arrived on Capitol Hill and is haunting the
various lock-up locations, checking who’s in and who’s out of Budget
’05. There was an unconfirmed sighting of David Barnett, John Howard’s
ponderous official biographer, in the Press Gallery this morning.
Barnett, who lost his Fin Review column last year, has since
been making ends meet writing political gossip for a local Yass paper
under the psuedonym “Whiplash.” Hardly “mainstream”.

Rumours abound that Piers Akerman has entered the building. Emergency
supplies of the staff caff’s famous Parliamentary Burger have been
shipped in. Access Economics gets into the lock-up as well because it
has a press box and publishes its Economic Round-up. Again, hardly
mainstream. But it allows Chris Richardson to go round all the detained
media as “Access Economics’ senior economist”.

Meanwhile, the government has started laundering problematic news under
cover of the Budget. Attorney General Philip Ruddock this morning
issued a media release announcing that Peter Reith’s firm Tenix has
delivered the first of ten new “modified armoured limousines to be used
for dignitary protection duties”.

The Holden Caprice limos will be used to “protect visiting foreign
dignitaries and Australian high office holders.” The cost to taxpayers:
a cool $3.9 million. Times have changed since Paul Keating sought to
get Comcars tinted for security purposes, and was howled down for
“elitism” by the then Coalition opposition.