Earlier this year it was revealed Senator Bill Heffernan phoned John Grabbe, the general manager of Cubbie Station, and introduced himself as an ASIO agent.

At the same time, Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce told how, “The other day [Heffernan] he rang one of his constituents, Laurie Nola, and for the first 20 minutes of the conversation he said he was me — Barnaby Joyce, and he was full of questions about himself, as in ‘What do you think of Bill Heffernan?’ ”

Heffernan asked: “Can’t a bloke have any fun any more?”

Crikey now hears of a major sense of humour failure regarding the Senator’s conduct on a Qantas flight to Brisbane yesterday.

While details are sketchy, Crikey is told the Senator was met by a senior Qantas manager when he arrived in Brisbane. There is speculation that a security matter may have been involved, although no comment has been forthcoming from Qantas, who this morning refused to comment on the grounds of “passenger privacy”.

The Senator has form for testing the bounds of security. In June, Heffernan revealed that airport metal detectors had not picked up a favourite pocket knife. The Australian reported:

Senator Heffernan, a close confidant of the Prime Minister who chairs several transport and security committees, alerted security officers to a potential screening failure when he attended Canberra airport on the morning of Monday, June 18.

The knife was handed over to help with the review. He did not catch a plane…

The Department of Transport, which referred the incident to the AFP, and Qantas have inspected the machinery and believe it was properly calibrated.

Qantas group general manager for security Geoff Askew said yesterday that security systems at all Qantas airports are tested and calibrated on a daily basis.

He said it is an automatic offence under Australian aviation transport security regulations to carry a prohibited item into an airport.

After a complaint from Labor about Senator Heffernan carrying his knife through parliamentary security, Speaker David Hawker last year suggested that members and senators should surrender such items for examination before entering the parliament.

In 2006, it was asked “What do Bill Heffernan’s knife and underwire bras have in common?” Neither, it has been alleged, set off the metal detectors at Parliament House.

Department of Parliamentary Services head Hilary Penfold admitted it was possible to bring in a small knife without alerting security.

What went on on the Qantas Brisbane flight?

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey