From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Liberals honour habitual bomb-thrower. “One of our country’s finest parliamentarians,” Tony Abbott said of Bill Heffernan at a dinner for the former senator in Sydney on Thursday night.

Malcolm Turnbull, Gladys Berejiklian, John Howard and Sussan Ley spoke at the “Testimonial” event for the former senator, who retired at the 2016 election, having never held a ministry. It was an unusual event for someone who is most known for constant controversy during his term. A tipster tells Crikey that curiously absent from the event was any mention of the thing Heffernan is most known for: his false allegations made under parliamentary privilege in 2002 that Justice Michael Kirby had been using Comcars to pick up underage sex workers in King’s Cross. Heffernan unreservedly apologised and withdrew his comments.

He also described former prime minister Julia Gillard as “deliberately barren” and prank called independent MP Rob Oakeshott, pretending to be “the devil”. Heffernan also smuggled into Parliament something that he said was meant to look like a pipe bomb. Former Democrats senator Brian Greig — who was in the Senate at the same time as Heffernan — told Crikey that he often came to verbal blows with Heffernan when speaking on gay rights issues in the Senate. “On more than one occasion after I had some made some speeches in the Senate about treating LGBTI people equally under the law, Heffernan strode over to me, and then poking his bony finger into my chest would say through gritted teeth, ‘What you should be doing, Greig, is exposing the paedophiles.’ This was often his default position to any suggestion of gay law reform.” 

ScoMo digs in at Wombat Hollow. The Wombat Hollow forum, run by former New South Wales Liberal MP and former federal treasurer of the Liberal Party Michael Yabsley at his country property in the Southern Highlands, has in the past attracted the best, the brightest and the Latham of the conservative side of politics. Previous guests have included Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, former Labor leader Mark Latham, broadcaster Alan Jones and Anthony Albanese sparring partner Max Moore-Wilton. The forum, associated with the dominant moderate faction in the NSW Liberals — well, dominant until the weekend just passed, anyway — has managed a good get this coming August in booking a talk from Treasurer Scott Morrison. Wombat Hollow is seen as a place for deal-making and behind-the-scenes intrigue for the Liberal Party — just what might the conservative Morrison be hoping to achieve here?

Remember Andrew Bartlett? After the twin section 44 fails that prised Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters from the Senate, focus has fallen on whether Andrew Bartlett (the most likely candidate to replace Waters) might breach that constitutional section as well. Media outlets have asked whether his work at a university at the time of his nomination disqualifies him from running for the Senate,  but Ms Tips can’t help but remember another issue that might muddy his credentials as a Greens’ Senator. Bartlett is a former leader of the Australian Democrats, and little of the recent coverage mentions just why he stood aside. To jog your memory, back in 2003 Bartlett was forced to resign the Democrats leadership after, apparently having drunk heavily, bruised the arm of Liberal Senator Jeannie Ferris and “yelled abuse at her” in what The Age described as an “extraordinary row on the floor of the Senate”. Then-leader of the Labor opposition Mark Latham said at the time that what Bartlett had done sounded “terrible”. And when Latho (even 2003 Latho) thinks you’ve gone too far, that’s a cause for concern.

The New Zealand Herald‘s spicy take. At a certain point in any oft-imitated public figure’s life, a real persona becomes difficult to separate from impersonators. People who think they are impersonating James Brown are actually impersonating Eddie Murphy, and no one is as good at mimicking David Bowie as they are at mimicking Jermaine Clement. And so it is with the administration of President Donald Trump. Following in the footsteps of his erstwhile employer, former White House press secretary Sean Spicer has been replaced in the public imagination by an iconic impersonation. The New Zealand Herald — linking to a story by the UK’s Daily Telegraph about Spicer’s first post-White House interview — ran the caption “Outgoing White Press Secretary Sean Spicer outside the West Wing of the White House” beneath a picture of comedian Melissa McCarthy, who’s received great acclaim for her portrayal of “Spicey” on Saturday Night Live. 

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Peter Fray

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