Crikey editor Misha Ketchell writes:

To survive in
politics in times of terror you need to be a pretty handy poker player.
Faced with the unenviable task of trying to critique terror laws
without seeming soft on terror, Bomber Beazley has been played his
cards carefully and has been able to keep his spot at the table.

Democrats leader Lyn Allison, on the other hand, has blundered like a
rank amateur. Her comments yesterday – suggesting that Howard might
have orchestrated the timing of the terror raids – crossed the line
that divides reasonable scepticism from crazy conspiracy theories. The Herald Sun
made merry with the slip this morning and gave plenty of space to
opponents like Victorian Liberal MP Tony Smith (who said the claim was
“despicable”) and fellow Vic Lib backbencher Sophie Panopoulos (Allison
is “nutty”).

Writing in The Australian this morning even Matt Price got in on the act.

A few Labor MPs were left scraping yolk from their
eyelashes – Anthony Albanese’s specs will require a thorough scrubbing
after his berating of Howard for playing politics with national
security – but the Golden Faberge goes to Lyn Allison. Having initially
complained about the Senate being recalled under “false pretences”, the
Democrats leader yesterday wondered if Howard hadn’t personally
contacted the cops and asked: “Is there not a raid that could take
place at this time to justify it?”

We rang Allison this
morning to find out if she stood by her comments and what she was
thinking when she made them. She said she’d been taken out of context
and had actually gone on to say that while people might theorise about
a Howard conspiracy behind the timing of the terror raids “some might
be speculating that way. I’m not. I don’t have any information to
suggest that.” (According to Allison only Michelle Grattan and AAP
reported this important qualification.)

“I do regret making the
comment,” she said. “I probably should’ve been more judicious in my
answer and said nothing, as most people do. If it was read in the
context of the rest of the conversation I don’t think it would be news.”

In
the end it’s not much of a defence because it just begs the question –
if you’ve got no evidence to suggest a conspiracy in the timing, why on
earth would you raise it in the first place? Why leave yourself open to
being pilloried?

We fired a quick email to the other Democrats
Senators – all three of them – but so far we’ve only heard back from
Andrew Bartlett, who said “as happens to all of us from time to time in
responding to a series of questions at a doorstop, I think Lyn could
have chosen a better set of words, but it would be fair if her full
comment were reported, rather than just the segment which suggested it
was an allegation she was making.”

Democrats supporters,
meanwhile, can only scratch their heads and wonder what lemming-like
impulse compelled Allison to waddle headlong for the cliff. Privately
we hear the phones have been running hot with Democrats supporters
wanting to know what the hell is going on. Having lost party status,
and with only four senators left, it’s a fair question.