What’s going on with Dave Sharma’s robo calls? Elsewhere, what the hell are the Katter’s Australian Party even doing in Wentworth, and we are happy to confirm that there is no beef between Tom Ballard and Gina Rinehart.

From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours…

Why, you old Sharma. It’s well known Liberal candidate for Wentworth Dave Sharma was a former diplomat. But what else lurks in his past? Quite possibly, a connection to the most disgraceful spy scandal in recent Australian history and our most immoral foreign policy decision. According to his CV, Sharma was a legal adviser to former foreign affairs minister and stock photo caricature Alexander Downer from 2004-06. This was the period covering Australia’s illegal spying on Timor-Leste and its attempts to blackmail the Timor-Leste government into complying with Australia’s demands around access for Woodside — the beneficiary of Australia’s entire regional foreign policy — to “Timor Gap” petroleum reserves. Did Sharma play any role in either of these shameful events? As legal adviser to Adelaide’s own Boy Mulcaster (and later Woodside consultant) Lex Downer, it’s hard to see how he couldn’t have.

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Of course, who should Sharma have hosted almost immediately on arrival to his gig as ambassador to Jerusalem in 2013? Why, a delegation from Woodside. At least he would have felt at home.

Allergic to pollin’. Speaking of the candidate for Wentworth, what is going on in the Sharma campaign? A tipster got in contact to tell us over the past week they’ve received four separate calls, First a “robo call from Julie Bishop the night before last, and before that, a breathless young girl cooing that she wanted to tell us about Dave Sharma, our Liberal candidate for the seat of Wentworth”, and then “a cheery recorded message ‘Hi, I’m Dave Sharma, your Liberal candidate for Wentworth'”. Then former prime minister John Howard gave his endorsement. 

Well, nothing wrong with that, surely? Except the tipster lives in Kenthurst. In the electorate of Berowra. A long long way from Bondi. “We’ve lived hear for 40 years. Oh, our surname is Rosenberg. Are they ringing everyone in the phone book with a Jewish sounding name?”

We asked Sharma whether he was aware people outside his electorate were being contacted and asked about the process by which people were selected. We were told the Liberal Party doesn’t comment on campaign strategy. Did you get a call from Sharma’s people despite not being in any position to vote for him? Let us know.

Ballard of woe? Did Western Australia’s Parkerville have to change their plans because of pressure from a sponsor? We heard that the child protection charity — supported by Gina Rhinehart — had organised Tom Ballard to perform at their fundraising lunch last week, but that Rinehart had objected to Ballard’s participation because of his sexuality.

Not a bit of it, Parkerville CEO Basil Hanna​ told Ms Tips. 

“Tom has performed at the Parkerville Children and Youth Care charity luncheon in 2017. He was not a performer at the 2018 event, last Friday,” he said.

“The choice of comedians/entertainers is not determined by Gina Rhineheart or Hancock prospecting. This event has been in situ for 14 years, is internally organised,and is not influenced by external supporters or donors in regarding to its arrangement.”

Rinehart did not actually attend the 2017 event, Hanna added.

A spokesperson for Hancock Prospecting told us “Mrs Rinehart and Hancock were not aware of any plans or discussions to have Mr Ballard involved in, or perform at, the 2018 Parkerville charity lunch.”

Kit Katter. Alongside the Sharma and Kerryn Phelps corflutes scattered around Wentworth ahead of Saturday’s byelection was the sight of several bearing the name of one Robert Callanan, representing Katter’s Australia Party. Which is weird, given that last week — after the KAP head honchos discovered Callanan was formerly a director of a company which shared an ABN with a brothel — Callanan was promptly disendorsed, remaining on the ballot as an independent.

Of course, nobody is really sure why the Katterites chose to run in Wentworth in the first place. Tamarama is a long way from Townsville, where the party holds its only seat and retains the bulk of its meagre support base. If anything, an electorate where 12% of voters are Jewish is unlikely to warm to a candidate whose party has adopted the term “final solution”.

Freed from that association, Callanan has announced his own boldly reactionary plan for Wentworth — banning “westies” from Bondi by building a wall down Oxford St. Callanan later admitted this thought bubble was a “a bit of a beat up to get some publicity”. Still, not quite everything has gone pear shaped for Callanan; Katter’s former man did manage to secure top spot on the ballot.

Heard anything that might interest Crikey? Send your tips to boss@crikey.com.au, use our guaranteed anonymous form or other ways to leak to us securely.


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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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