When will the underdog effect kick in? It was Bleak in The Australian yesterday who started me thinking more sympathetically about Belinda Neal. If the cartoonist portrayed a man in the same way as he did this woman it would at very least produce howls of outrage for the bad taste of laughing at domestic violence. To me, Bleak’s portrayal of Ms Neal is clearly unfair and defamatory but you can judge for yourself:

The idea of John Della Bosca being a henpecked husband just does not resonate with me. The man I know and once worked with might be attracted to strong women but he is quite thuggish enough to look after himself. So too, I would have thought, is former federal Labor Minister John Brown although he has been out spreading the Bleak line about Della being a nice bloke but Belinda is … Now what happened at the Iguana might not have been the most charming way of dealing with staff rudely trying to clear away your table and move you on but Ms Neal would not be the first MP to try and pull rank in a restaurant nor the first to try a bit of strong arming either. The essential difference is that this time it is a woman in the standover role not a man. If the Opposition really does refer this episode to the Privileges Committee of the House of Representatives then let the naming and shaming begin. There will be very few winners when it does.

In case you missed it . It was World Whale Day last Saturday but I must say it passed me by and the effort by Environment Minister Peter Garrett to celebrate it was pretty half-hearted too. Choosing a Saturday to release a glossy report on all the good things Australia is supposedly doing to save the whales guaranteed virtually no coverage. Even that great crusader the Sydney Tele failed to give “The Global Cetacean Snapshot” a mention on its special Stop the Japanese Whaling page – perhaps they thought their readers wouldn’t know what a cetacean was but surely the picture on the cover would have helped at least some of them!

Registering the chief of staff’s wife . Kevin Rudd’s chief of staff David Epstein probably gets advice from his boss about Chinese walls but it will be interesting to see how many of them he needs when Government Relations Australia puts details of its clients on the federal lobbyists register. This morning The Australian reported how Mr Epstein handled a phone call from motor firm Mitsubishi, which wanted to advise the Government of its intention to quit manufacturing n Australia, by calling in a colleague to monitor what was said. The reason for the sensitivity was the position of his wife Sandra Eccles as Canberra boss of GRA which has Mitsubishi as a client. Conversation at the Epstein/Eccles home must be quite unconventional with none of that “what did you do at work today darling” business as conflicts of interest are studiously avoided.

Questions unanswered time. The Senate yesterday provided all the evidence needed to show just what a joke the Government’s $35 million donation to Toyota really is. Innovation Minister Chris Evans was asked the simple question by Liberal Senator Eric Abetz about whether the engine for the supposed Australian hybrid car would be imported from Japan. Minister Evans took 600 words or so to avoid giving the answer “yes”. Then he took just as long not to give an answer to another question asking if it was a fact that, while the Australian government pays $35 million to import and assemble 10-year-old generation hybrid technology from 2010, from the same year Japan, Europe and the United States will be accessing generation two plug-in lithium-ion battery hybrids?

It’s an ill wind . The problems caused by the gas shortage in Western Australia are a blessing in disguise for the rest of the country and may be just what is needed to make a further interest rate rise unnecessary. With the Reserve Bank telling us that consumer demand is too strong and a touch of unemployment is what the country needs, the shut down of WA factories will achieve just that. At least it makes a change for us eastern staters who have been paying the price on our housing loans for the minerals boom those sand gropers have been benefiting from.

Chair sniffer wins again. The fun and games will continue. The West Australian Liberal Party meeting this morning voted against a spill of leadership positions so Troy Buswell keeps the job.

Shameless plug … The Ebay Mid Winter Ball Charity Auction is providing a graphic demonstration of the attractiveness of power. Dinner with Kevin Rudd at the Lodge has currently attracted 21 bids, the latest over $10,000. Dinner with power fox and Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard in a Canberran restaurant has drawn 13 bids (including presumably one from prominent Gillard fan First Dog on the Moon), with the highest currently over $6000. Dinner with the entire shadow Cabinet has drawn a single bid for…. $4,000. Surely Malcolm Turnbull would’ve been worth $5000 alone, if only for the Kerry Packer stories. However, there’s 24 hours to go for Coalition supporters to put their money – or someone else’s money – where their mouths are and bid up. Proceeds go to Mission Australia’s Nightstop program.

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