Madame Gash’s history lesson
Go to Tuesday’s Reps Hansard and scroll down to page 10. There you’ll find a speech by deputy government Whip Joanna Gash that re-writes a significant slice of history.

Railing against “so-called refugees,” Gash searches for some context: “I am not certain whether there were too many boat people when the European migrants came over,” she declares. “I think we were first introduced to this phenomenon after the Vietnam War.”

Someone, please, remind the member for Gilmore how the First Fleet arrived in Botany Bay. The words boats and people spring to mind. Send your educational reminders to [email protected] with a cc please to [email protected]

Fractured farewells
Former Coalition staffer Peter Hendy crafted this tribute to John Anderson in his capacity as ACCI chief executive. It’s predictable praise, but what of this paragraph: “He has also been a strong supporter of workplace reform on the Australian waterfront – an initiative that has single-handedly improved Australia’s international competitiveness and been of immense benefit to the business community.”

Now that’s stretching the point. Ando may have pushed waterfront reform, but he’s hardly played a lone hand – and windy waffle claiming events following the Patricks dispute “single-handedly improved Australia’s international competitiveness” just doesn’t stack up.

Rehabilitating the dearly departed
My esteemed colleague Christian Kerr drew your attention on Wednesday to an email doing the rounds allegedly from mild-mannered Victorian Liberal Senator Tsebin Tchen, containing terms like “hogwash”, and addressed to a “snivelling…pinheaded pr*ck.” Christian asked: “Senators don’t speak this way – even dumped Senators, surely?”

We’re glad to report that, at least in Senator Tchen’s case, they don’t. Crikey’s Parliamentary CSI division has analysed the email in detail and reports: “It’s either (a) an unprofessional rogue staffer writing with email privileges or (b) he’s been hacked. Tsebin is quite simply THE MOST UNLIKELY SENATOR in this place (save Harradine probably) to write an email like that. He would never use language like that in his dealings with anyone; and English is his second language and he simply doesn’t use that sort of dialect. His communication is invariably erudite and nothing like the low brow gutter stuff of that email.”

And a staffer weighs in with a character reference: “Once, I sat next to him in business class from Melbourne to Canberra – and he offered me his in-flight meal! No doubt he lost his preselection because he was too nice.”

That’ll do us. Depart now, Senator, vindicated and untarnished.

Harradine’s health fix?
John Howard chose to pay tribute in Parliament yesterday to just three of the 14 departing Senators – his two special dealmakers, Brian Harradine and Meg Lees, and WA Labor Senator Peter Cook.

Two of the three, Harradine and Cook, are suffering major health problems, while Lees wrote herself – and the Democrats – off by doing her GST deal with Howard. As the PM sang their praises, Laurie Ferguson let off steam in his final day as immigration spokesman by providing bite-sized appraisals of Howard’s contribution to their careers. On Harradine: “He got you off the hook!” On Lees: “And you stuffed her up!”

Harradine’s health, since suffering a series of recent strokes, has been a major concern to family and friends. The Wily Old Fox has been reduced to a shadow of his former self, so much that colleagues and staffers have formed an informal “Harradine Watch” around the House to ensure his occasional memory lapses don’t get him into too much trouble.

On occasions, he has been found wandering outside Parliament, apparently oblivious to his surroundings, and seemingly failing to recognise once familiar faces. Friends and colleagues hope that his sad decline, alluded to by Matt Price in The Australian on Wednesday can be halted by his relocation home to Tasmania.

Laurie’s back
On the subject of health, Laurie Oakes is a welcome arrival back to Nine’s press gallery office after a month off for a serious knee operation. And once again, the Sphere of Influence’s timing was impeccable, his return coinciding with yesterday’s dramatic events.

Oakes chimed in immediately: his one-on-one with Sydney newsreader Karl Stefanovic was the lead item on last night’s news. Among his stand-ins have been Victorian Budget-busting state roundsman, David Broadbent, David Turnbull, and former ABC hand Tim Lester.

Oakes is the undisputed Gallery bellwether, and paid accordingly by Nine, who will be hoping his health improves as it faces strong competition from a rejuvenated Seven Network bureau, led by Fairfax import Mark Riley.