Derryn Hinch

On the lush lakeside lawn at Yarralumla (my first ever visit there, surprisingly) for the Governor-General’s Back to School soiree on Sunday night, the PM asked after my wellbeing.

I said: “It’s Groundhog Day. We left here in December talking about same-sex marriage and Cory Bernardi and here we are back in town talking about … same-sex marriage and Cory Bernardi.”

Game on, again.

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[Rundle: don’t underestimate Cory Bernardi]

***

Speaking of the man, who is trying to be the biggest party-wrecker with that name since Corey Worthington, he was the reason I was cautioned by acting deputy Senate president Peter Whish-Wilson for unseemly language.

We’d only been back for about 35 minutes on our first sitting day for 2017.

I had just said: “To hear him stand there talking about principle, after he stood as a Liberal candidate and was elected by the people of South Australia as a Liberal candidate, is a joke.”

And then I made the mistake of quoting one of LBJ’s famous crudities:

“… it reminds me of the words of President Lyndon Johnson who once said about a critic of his party — and the government knows the ones they have inside their tent — on why he had not fired or tried to expel him: ‘I’d rather have him inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in.'”

Contrary to most commentators and their Another Turnbull Disaster skew, I said:

“Maybe Malcolm Turnbull is well rid of Senator Bernardi, because at least he is now out there pissing all over everybody else, and inside his own party room he has one less …”

The Protocol Police Whish-Wilson cut in with: “Senator Hinch, I draw your attention to the standing orders. You are sailing fairly close to the wind in the use of your language.”

According to Hansard:

Senator HINCH: I will take it back, but I will leave the quote from President Johnson, because he is a President and he said it.

I resisted the schoolboy joke about the best way to get your own back.

***

And back to the Sunday night Welcome Back party thrown for senators and House of Reps pollies by Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove. I had a delightful and informative 10 minutes alone with him before he excused himself by saying, “Sorry, I’m being eye-balled”.

He told me how Yarralumla was meant to be a temporary home for the GG but, when the Depression hit, all thoughts of moving or re-building went out the window.

Weird, isn’t it? Years after federation (and after Parliament moved from Melbourne’s Exhibition Building to Foggy Bottom) the Lodge was temporary. Parliament House was temporary. And now I learn, Yarralumla was meant to be temporary.

I did learn a juicy vice-regal snippet that reminded me of Charlie Bell, who started out as a 19-year-old gofer at McDonald’s in Australia and ended up as their worldwide CEO.

The GG told me he used to be an ADC at Government House back in 1972. And now the much-decorated soldier lives there as Chief Honcho.

(PS: The GG looked very sartorial. After my earlier column, he has obviously sacked Khrushchev’s tailor.)

[Hinch’s Senate Diary: eyes wide shut in the red room]

***

OK. AB bloody CC. “Hinch the flip-flopper”,  “Hinch the weathervane”.  I hope what I did during and after the long summer break actually showed some common sense.

In the final days of Parliament last year, Nick X and I teamed up to push the government on some vital sub-contractor amendments  in the Building Code and ABCC, which passed and which I thought would make us the tradies’ friends (whistleblower protection and invoice protection when a builder was going broke).

Not so. Over the break, I talked to subbies and mid-level and small developers. Their mood — especially over the negotiated two-year delayed starting date – can be summed up by the bloke in overalls in my local post office:

“What the [bleep] are you doing to us? I’ll be broke in two years?”

Emailers complained that even nine months was too long.

I figured if I had voted to pass a law that actually would hurt the people we were supposedly trying to help, then I was wrong.

I called the PM and told him I’d accept the nine months.

***

The Sussan Ley travel rort story prompted a memory about pronouncing people’s names. “Lay” or “Lee”? A lot of newsreaders couldn’t make up their minds. Deborah Kerr (Carr) Graham Kerr (Care).

Actress Janet Leigh (who turned people off taking showers after Psycho) pronounced her name “Lay”.

That prompted a piece of graffiti I saw on the wall of a Hollywood nightclub toilet:

“Janet lay is the best lee in town.”

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief
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