Being set up for the fall? If – if – the Libs lose later this year, will the party’s federal director,Brian Loughnane,  be the fall-guy? More than a few folk in the party say the chief-of-staff to Alexander Downer during his ill-starred time as leader is out of his depth – and out of the loop.

Sorry but not sorry. Heath Minister Tony Abbott had a real spit at some of Kevin Rudd’s staff during a matter of public importance debate on his portfolio bought on by Labor after Question Time yesterday. “We have had some suggestions that the Government was digging dirt. I have to say that David Epstein is the king of dirt,” he fumed.

“Walt Secord almost destroyed the life of a migrant family in Western Sydney by inventing a story. Why has the Leader of the Opposition got this scum on his staff?”

The Deputy Speaker, agrarian socialist Ian Causley, didn’t pull him up, but later Abbott returned to the dispatch box with an apology. Sorta. “At the close of my contribution to the MPI discussion I referred to two opposition staffers as scum,” he said. “I should not have done that. I apologise. But they are notorious dirt-diggers and I wonder why Saint Kevin has employed them.”

And hard-snoozing Deputy Speaker let him get away with that last bit.

Union community spirit. A state Liberal MP tells Crikey they contacted their local government school to see if they were participating in an Australian Education Union protest against state moves to make public schools pay a section of their own workers compensations cost – a nice clawback that still lets the spindoctors boast about education spending. The MP supported the protest – but was told by the union rep at one school that they would only let Labor MPs know if they were joining in. So much for the community spirit.

Her career died long ago, so why not wear a shroud? Bronwyn Bishop’s attire has always sparked, er, interest. Her wrap certainly did so yesterday in Question Time, provoking this exchange:

Bronwyn Bishop: I rose to raise my point of order, whilst the question was halfway through, to point out that a question … (Michael Danby interjects)

The Speaker: The member for Melbourne Ports is warned!

(Laurie Ferguson interjects)

The Speaker: The member for Reid is warned! 

Bernie Ripoll, member for Oxley: Is that the Shroud of Turin?

Tony Abbott: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I heard from members opposite a reference to the Shroud of Turin. We really should not have that kind of behaviour in the House, especially from this Opposition Leader’s Opposition. I think that reference should be withdrawn and apologised for.

The Speaker: The Leader of the House has raised a point. I note the concern he raises, but I do not believe that that is unparliamentary language. The Honourable Member for Mackellar will be heard.

Bishop’s hope of any further political advancement drowned in a kerosene bath many, may years ago – but she still marches on like the living dead. Perhaps her pre-selectors will finally put her to rest when they choose the Liberal candidate for Mackellar this weekend. Perhaps. Crikey understands many of them are just the zombies of the right.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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