From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Thanks for the tax dollars, part one. Commonwealth Solicitor-General Stephen Donaghue QC’s work history makes for impressive reading — double degree in arts and law at the University of Melbourne, did his PhD at Oxford, joined the bar in 2001 and became a QC in 2011. His services wouldn’t come cheap. Lucky for Human Services Minister Alan Tudge, Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar and Health Minister Greg Hunt, they don’t have to pick up the bill for Donaghue representing them in a Melbourne court today. Who does? The taxpayer, of course.

Tudge, Sukkar and Hunt apologised through Donaghue for comments made in The Australian last week in which they criticised the judiciary. The trio withdrew their remarks but refused to apologise earlier in the week.

Why are taxpayers picking up the bill for the defence of three government ministers in their fight with Victorian judges? The controversial comments were all made outside their portfolios and therefore do not involve federal government affairs.

They knowingly added to the cost to taxpayers by refusing a week ago to apologise — unlike The Australian: the paper’s counsel withdrew the comments and apologised to the court a week ago.

In the meantime the trio realised the potential cost of their stupidity could be a conviction on an offence with a penalty of a year or more in jail — which would disqualify them from sitting in Parliament. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull failed to understand the stupidity of his ministers’ comments and the political danger to his government until well after last Friday’s court hearing (otherwise he would have forced them to apologise, or so you would have thought). 

Thanks for the tax dollars, part two. Speaking of spending taxpayer money, it’s that time of year again, when we find out just how much we are paying in flights, other travel and office costs for our MPs. Former health minister Sussan Ley’s flights are again under the microscope, but Ms Tips always has fun with the reading material purchased by our elected representatives. Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce bought Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, among other children’s books, which are often purchased and given as prizes to schoolchildren. Labor Senator Lisa Singh bought five copies of sequel Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (not as magical as the original series) and 12 copies of Karen Middleton’s biography of her colleague Anthony Albanese, Albanese: Telling It Straight. George “Bookshelves” Brandis also bought Albo’s book, as well as Planet Jackson: Power, Greed and Unions and The Turnbull’s Gamble: Snatching Victory From the Jaws of Defeat. Former PM Tony Abbott acquired a range of books about the Anzacs and Australia’s military history. 

Record that in Hansard. There’s no doubt we have seen some stinkers in the Australian Senate over the past few years, but Larissa Waters revealed yesterday that while she was moving a very worthwhile motion on black lung disease in Queensland, her daughter Alia Joy had some other important business to do. “First time I’ve had to move a Senate motion while breastfeeding!” she tweeted. “And my partner in crime moved her own motion just before mine, bless her.”

While Waters and her daughter have made quite a few parliamentary firsts, we hope this one is also marked in the history books.


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