Nick Bolton red-faced? After failing to auction his entire office floor at 2 Queen Street in the Melbourne CBD last week, “greenmailing” wunderkind Nick Bolton (of BrisConnections fame) had the Sheriff’s office pay him a visit on Wednesday over a parking fine. After a very public 15-minute stoush in the hi-tech building’s foyer, with one officer’s blood reaching boiling point, Nick finally settled the account with the swipe of his credit card. The Sheriff had apparently failed to accept a statement from one of Bolton’s old companies nominating him as the driver and had levied an outrageous penalty fee. Bolton’s Australian Style Services went into liquidation in March with tax and superannuation debts exceeding half-a-million dollars. As of last week, a fleet of anxious ex-staff were still believed to be waiting, like the Sheriff, for their delayed payday.

A political comeback for Belinda Neal? Dis-endorsed federal ALP member for Robertson Belinda Neal seems to having trouble dealing with her lurch into political purgatory. With husband John Della Bosca firmly on the outer at Sussex Street, and bitter rival Deb O’Neill preparing to dazzle voters at the polls, Neal has been inexplicably working the room at each and every public event that will let her in. At a Telstra dinner at Terrigal on Wednesday night, Neal was glad-handing with so much fervour that guests were left wondering whether her political spirit had been snuffed out after all. Street stalls at Erina Fair shopping centre have also been regularly blessed with Neal’s saintly visage.

While a tilt as an independent is probably a long bow, Central Coast insiders say Neal could be preparing for a move to the state arena through a challenge to 70-year-old Gosford MP Marie Andrews, who needs the OK from the party to run again as a senior citizen. Others say that if O’Neill dips out in Robertson (a distinct possibility given the similarity between her and her predecessor’s surnames) long-suffering ALP members could be subjected to a repeat of the duo’s unedifying preselection brawl if Andrews receives her marching orders.

A Queensland Liberal love-in. There’s a North Queensland Tory love-in happening over the weekend in the salubrious surroundings of the Shangri La Hotel in Cairns. Under the banner of ‘LNP Latitudes North’, party members and notables will be gathering to discuss a variety of issues, mostly around the LNP’s version of environment policy, which largely seems to be about opposing environmental protection rather than supporting it. Those listed to speak include Tony Abbott, LNP state leader John-Paul Langbroek, Queensland Liberal senator Ian Macdonald, Leichhardt candidate Warren Entsch, LNP environment spokesman Glen Elmes, and member Noel Pearson. No sign of Ron Boswell, but there’s a “surprise guest of honour”. What’s John Howard up to this weekend?

SA election battle heats up. Federal MP for Hindmarsh Steve Georganas must be worried. Jassmine Wood, the feisty young candidate who gave Tom Koutsantonis a scare as candidate for West Torrens during the 2010 SA state election (gaining a swing of 11.7% against him) was preselected as the Liberal candidate for Hindmarsh on Tuesday night, funnily enough within about 150 metres of Steve’s office at Glenelg. The state seat of  West Torrens sits inside the federal electorate of Hindmarsh, so one might say she has a head start on a federal campaign. Hindmarsh is Labor’s second most marginal seat in SA so this should be an interesting one to watch.

More on rodent copulation. The phrase “rat f-cker” is common lingo in ALP factional circles. In both student politics and the real ALP, a rat f-cker is someone who “rats” on you (i.e. rats you out to the other faction) in a particularly nasty way, generally one that has personally consequences. It also leads to the wonderful expression to rat f-ck someone, which basically means being friendly to your face, while undermining you from behind.

Some questions for the Panthers. The Penrith Panthers have anounced a joint ING/Panthers group $800 million development which covers everything from nursing homes to  retail outlets. It raises some important questions. What portion of the profits from this business is not-for-profit as is the club industry? Should a licenced club compete directly with the struggling retail businesses in the town? Are they legally allowed to? Will this be rushed through for rezonzing and approval via the current state government, with its history of associations with the construction industry? Will all politicians and local media remain quite on anything that the Panthers group plan to do?

What’s going on with the Australian Tax Office? When I called last week to ask a simple question over which parts of a plumber’s bill avoids GST, I was initially told, after a 10-minute wait, that phone lines were busy and I would have to wait 90 minutes to talk to a human. They suggested I call back later. I did, but was greeted with another recorded message that “we will answer your question and attend to it personally”, but that was transferred back to the business section, resulting in another 15-minute wait before the line went dead. I then tried directory assistance and called the ATO’s Canberra bureaucracy. After being flipped around through four different sets of hands, I finally asked the receptionist if the ATO has a complaints number. “Yes,” they said, “but it isn’t in the phone book.” The transferred call went to voice mail.

A bigger Deal for better ratings? What are the chances of people actually now winning money on Deal Or No Deal, as they are, when for most of its history people typically win only enough for their bus fare home? Could it be that sagging ratings and a tired old formula have prompted Seven to stick some winning episodes together? Will it last or will it be back to Vegemite money-style wins next week?

Peter Fray

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