Compare and contrast. Paul Keating’s infamous Thai teak table – the indulgence that supposedly proved how imperious and out of touch he was – cost just $20,000. John Howard clocked up bills of around $540,000 on the aborted scheme to extend his private dining room in Parliament House. So much for his famed political radar.

Wallflower. John Howard normally does an excellent job of working the room, so this email from a subscriber comes as a surprise:

I almost felt sorry for Howard this week. We were at a cocktail party for the Townsville Commerce Group. He had to approach people to talk to… Maybe things are changing. He seemed friendless there.

If it’s true, it’s yet another bad sign for the Government – and even worse, given that Townsville is in the key marginal of Herbert, held by Peter Lindsay.

Mackellar gets mucky. The right wing of the NSW Liberals has got the party sewn up so tight that no one believes Bronwyn Bishop will lose her preselection – but reports of a dirty tricks campaign are still filtering through. Crikey understand phone calls have been made to referees of one of the challengers with dire threats being made to ensure references are withdrawn. Other phone calls of a similar vein are being made to selectors to ensure they vote for the incumbent. Bishop has long been known for her strong arm approach to her own politics and her ambitions and reality do not sit well together. The dumped former junior minister turns 65 in October but has given an interview to the local newspaper, The Manly Daily , saying that she has three terms left in her. She has told both The Daily and The Australian that her main reason for going again this time is to fulfil her ambition to become Speaker. No one in Canberra believes she even has a prayer in that folly. Still, Bishop is already telling locals she will be lining up again in 2010. The perfumed steamroller is clearly crushing anyone who stands in her way.

Is this a Tim Blair gag that somehow found its way into the paper? From the Daily Tele : “[David Hicks’ defence counsel David] McLeod said Hicks intended to study ecology and zoology when freed.”

Tampa event. Pundits often talk about the possibility of “another Tampa ” before the next federal election – a “Tampa event” that swings the electorate back to Howard. Well, a quick look at the website of Wallenius Wilhelmsen , the Tampa ’s owners, shows the ship in dues back in Australian waters very soon and will visit Brisbane on 1 June, Sydney 3 June and Melbourne 5 June.

End of financial year special. Public servants around the land are preparing for an annual ritual – the “we have to spend left over money or we won’t get it next financial year” dance. Useless courses are being booked. Merchandise that sits gathering dust is being ordered. Worthless PR exercises are under way. Pointless travel is being scheduled. The list goes on. Why is it so? Why is the public service tied to this archaic concept of “use it or lose it”? Because it encourages people to use it when there’s no point in using it. Many public servants are unhappy and frustrated with this. If they want to work off their frustrations, they can contact Crikey – all off the record – with their tales of pointless end of financial year expenditure. There’s the anonymous tip service on our website or we’d be happy to hear from them at [email protected] .

Finally, a budget bounce. Finally, some good news for the government. There’s a budget bounce. The Australian’s Denis Shanahan said so on Kiwi radio this morning. Follow this link down to the 8:40 story and you can hear the great man himself.