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A missive sent by Catherine McCormack last Friday informed PPA members of the leadership change. And while the PPA has traditionally been dominated by the partners of Coalition MPs, this year’s assistant convener is Liesl Centenera. She’s the partner of recently elected Canberra Labor MP David Smith.

The association’s new leadership also includes Judi van Manen (married to Chief Government Whip Bert van Manen) and Charlotte Gillespie (whose husband David Gillespie is in the race to replace McKenzie as the Nationals’ deputy leader).

Next on the calendar? Matisse and Picasso at the National Gallery of Australia.

HARPOON SEASON

Has Labor found a wealthy hedge fund donor prepared to fork out a motza as it waits out its time on the Opposition benches before the next election?

Among the corporate heavies and deep-pocketed business types who had dug deep in the last year – largely for the Liberal Party – was one name long-associated with the secretive investment fund Rockhampton Management: Eric Forday.

Disclosures for the last financial year made to the Australian Electoral Commission, and released yesterday, show an Eric Forday dropping $100,000 to Labor immediately before the May federal election. The address on the disclosure is a Rockhampton suburb.

Forday, a former analyst at investment bank SBC Warburg, now lives in Japan and Rockhampton manages more than $2 billion. Our attempts to contact him failed.

The disclosures also turned up $26,000 in donations to the Liberals from struggling cinema and theme park operator Village Roadshow (and $6000 to Labor), significantly lower than the $163,000 doled out the previous year. To make up the shortfall, deposed chief executive Graham Burke handed over $45,000 to the Libs instead.

Ros Packer, John Gandel and Marcus Blackmore were all generous to Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s re-election efforts, while Anthony Pratt split his $3 million splurge more evenly.

Pacific Blue Capital, the private equity outfit run by Morrison’s close friend Scott Briggs, donated more than $80,000 to the Liberals while Melbourne University chancellor Allan Myers stumped up more than $50,000.

Myers, more than most donors, knows plenty about the inner workings of the party. After all, he represented the party’s wealthy fundraising arm, the Cormack Foundation, in its long-running legal stoush with the party over who ultimately controlled the foundation’s funds.

POLLIES, JUST LIKE US

Spotted at Kingston Italian joint Molto on Sunday, ahead of the return of Parliament in Canberra today: Labor’s energy spokesman Mark Butler and NSW MP Pat Conroy.

Witnesses told CBD Butler appeared unimpressed by the wine (corked). Back it went.

PUT OUT MORE FLAGS

Victorian Liberal officials caved to members demanding a party-wide meeting to discuss preselections with an offer to hold a special state council in early March.

For the members demanding the special state council, the backdown last Friday might be a case of winning the battle but losing the war. They are proposing a vote of no confidence and a spill of the state’s administrative committee, largely as a result of its refusal to delay preselections.

But as readers might remember, their efforts so far have amounted to nought.

After all, preselections for sitting MPs kicked off last month. In other words, that ship has sailed.

It appears that the agitators’ efforts to turf the state’s officials with a spill motion won’t get anywhere either. President Robert Clark told members that the special state council would vote on the no confidence motion, but the spill motion had been thrown out by the party’s constitutional committee.

No wonder Andrew Asten and others who proposed the motion are now considering pulling the pin on the whole ordeal. In any case, members will get to have their say on committee members at an annual general meeting in May.

TIGER COUNTRY

But there are other internal squabbles for Victorian Liberals to contend with.

The state’s disputes panel is currently considering a complaint against upper house veteran Bernie Finn. He is accused of bullying and intimidating a member at a recent branch meeting held inside Senator Scott Ryan’s office in Moonee Ponds.

In a complaint filed to party officials and seen by CBD, long-time member Diane Plim alleges Mr Finn “responded angrily and loudly, ‘Shut up you silly old woman!’ (repeatedly), followed by ‘Why don’t you stick your head up the bum of a bear?’”

Plim says she found the comments to be most “most unparliamentary, bullying and intimidating … misogynistic in the extreme.”

State director Sam McQuestin said party rules precluded him from making any comment on the investigation but said the disputes panel takes all complaints seriously.

Ms Plim did not respond to requests for comment.

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