The Daily Telegraph’s political correspondent Malcolm Farr went
out of his way yesterday to make his stable-mate Andrew Bolt squirm a
little on the Insider’s couch when the question of Petro Georgiou’s
forthcoming preselection contest in the blue-ribbon seat of Kooyong was raised.

Farr picked up on item 6 in Friday’s Crikey pointing out that Peter Costello was copping unusually savage criticism from his home town paper, Melbourne’s Herald Sun.

This was a reference to Bolt’s rather odd but interesting column
last week talking up South Australian Alexander Downer as a succession
rival for the keys to The Lodge against Cossie, who is Bolt’s local
member in Higgins.

Whilst boosting Downer, Bolt also backed former Downer staffer Josh
Frydenburg who is contemplating a preselection challenge to Georgiou, when Bolt himself is often mentioned as an
aspiring successor.

Farr described this as “interesting” and when Bolt accused him of
peddling conspiracy theories, he then got an admission out of Bolt that
Frydenberg was a personal friend and that Costello had not been happy
with the Herald Sun
ranter’s behaviour for quite some period of time. Maybe Bolt’s main
chance will be in Higgins if Costello ultimately decided to spit the
dummy and walk.

Does anyone remember the scandal where Bolt was leaked Andrew Wilkie’s ONA report on Iraq? His “close
friend” Josh was working for Downer at the time, although we’re not for
a moment suggesting it was Josh who dunnit.

Another News Ltd stable-mate Glenn Milne weighed in this morning claiming Bolt was “on something” for suggesting a Downer challenge to Costello’s status as Howard’s heir apparent was “on”.

However, Milne then went on to detail more Downer shuffling which would
suggest he’s taking a nationwide approach to boosting his numbers
through the courting of potential backers already in the Parliament and
pushing his mates in various preselection battles.

Bolt, Terry McCrann and Piers Akerman have formed a loose coalition of
like-minded Murdoch tabloid campaigners who have no qualms in attacking
their stable-mates, especially when launching generic attacks on “the
Canberra press gallery”.

Akerman even had a go at former Keating booster Greg Sheridan in The Sunday Telegraph when he was defending the Howard-Costello record:

Those Asian Tiger economies, led by Malaysia’s Dr Mahathir,
Indonesia’s Suharto and the Philippines’ Fidel Ramos, were the subject
of two books by The Australian newspaper’s Greg Sheridan, titled Tigers: Leaders of The New Asia, and Living with Dragons: Australia confronts its Asian Destiny. But they crashed and burned.

Similarly, McCrann dislikes The Australian’s editor Michael
Stutchbury after they took different positions on Paul Keating and he
has also previously ripped into Bryan Frith and Malcolm Farr, the man
who was niggling his mate Andrew Bolt on Sunday. Still, when you
control 70% of Australia’s newspapers, it’s always going to be
difficult to get all those strong-willed commentators agreeing on
everything. The one area of common ground is that Rupert Murdoch is a
great man who should never be criticised.

Peter Fray

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