A hard day’s night for the toiler’s friend. Revellers at the fortieth birthday bash for sometime saviour of the ALP Bill Shorten on Saturday night are just waking up and piecing together the evening. Labor, union and other names — including Jeannie Pratt, we hear — gargled the bubbles and wolfed the canapés until the wee small hours. Indeed, Crikey understands that the revels continued until well after three, when hardcore party goers ended up in one of those nightclubs where footballers go to, down the less salubrious end of Melbourne.

Rudd repays the favour. “Let it never be said that the Australian bourgeoisie is not a broad church,” MC Charles Firth said at the second birthday bash for The Monthly magazine in Melbourne last night. Indeed. The crowd certainly lapped up the speech by Kevin Rudd. His articles in The Monthly last year cemented his claim to the Labor leadership and he repaid the favour by appearing as the star turn. He made a pitch to traditional Melbourne social liberals. “Historical Australian liberalism prides moderation, seeking to accommodate the individual and the needs of society,” he said. “Just a few weeks ago on Radio National Malcolm Fraser described the leadership of his party under Mr Howard in these terms. Malcolm Fraser said: ‘I don’t think this is a Liberal government. It is in name but it is not a Menzies kind of Liberal’… Intellectual arrogance is creeping across a once great political party. Malcolm Fraser is right. Today’s Liberals are neither the party that was founded in 1944 nor the party of Malcolm Fraser’s in 1983.” And his conclusion? The Prime Minister’s radical right has “gone a bridge too far”. Monthly editor Sally Warhaft observed as she gave a vote of thanks that one of her favourite books is Martin Amis’s The War Against Cliché.

Fierce competition? Just how ferocious is the competition between fellow NSW right-wing Liberals Nick Campbell and Alex Hawke for living fossil Alan Cadman’s seat of Mitchell? Liberal insiders say they have put both their names forward simply to open up the competition.

Never say die. Many Liberals — from the top on down — feel it is time Bronwyn Bishop moved on. That’s why she’s being challenged for preselection. It’s a hint. One that Bishop isn’t taking. She’s telling preselectors she plans to run again at the 2010 poll. Presumably more challengers will come along between now and then — armed with dynamite.

Why should the taxpayer fund the PM’s cricket handouts? Rob Chalmers, Editor of Inside Canberra newsletter and longest serving member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery, writes: “John Howard, as we all know, is a ‘cricket tragic’ — a hopeless player, but a keen watcher. Hence, he turns up at any top cricket function. But why is the taxpayer required to fund his generous gestures to the cricket establishment? The Budget provides for Adelaide Oval redevelopment at a cost of $25 million over three years; the Sydney Cricket Ground upgrade at $25 million over two years; and $10 million for the Melbourne Cricket Ground National Sports Museum — a total of $60 million. Since when is it the responsibility of the Commonwealth to fund cricket ovals? A taxpayer in Perth, Cairns or Darwin, who may never end up setting foot on these hallowed grounds, should not be required to fund such subsidies. The Victorian Government, which gives a bucket of money for car races, air shows and other ‘events’ around Melbourne, should pay for the MCG. If the states won’t pay, then the bite should be put on the TV networks, who make big profits televising sports at these grounds. And the AFL should contribute. (The ARL doesn’t use any of these grounds). Incidentally, when and how did Howard decide the MCG would house the National Sports Museum? Were any other contenders considered?” This extract is taken from the weekly newsletter Inside Canberra.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey