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We’ve barely had a chance to get into the War on Christmas yet, but some of our favourite culture warriors are already warming up for the next big showdown in the calendar – Australia Day.

Advance, the plucky conservative lobby group that hit the big leagues by playing a key role in helping tank the Indigenous Voice to Parliament, is rallying the troops to defend the January 26th holiday, which is increasingly on the nose because the date represents the British occupation of First Nations people’s land.

Lobby group Advance wants to make sure the holiday on January 26 isn’t washed up.Credit: Virginia Star

On Friday, Advance sent around a furious email urging its supporters to get behind the Australia Day Bill introduced by Coalition backbencher Henry Pike, which aims to stop the day being changed without a plebiscite.

The problem is Pike’s bill was removed from the House of Representatives’ notice paper last month, and is currently listed as “not proceeding” on the Parliament House website.

When we asked Advance whether it was aware of this, its spokesperson appeared to shoot the messenger with a crack at the mainstream media.

“It is disappointing but not surprising that post the referendum, mainstream media continues its obsession with ADVANCE and a misplaced focus on process rather than policy.”

They also claimed that “in his heart of hearts” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese wants to abolish Australia Day altogether.

“The only reason this bill hasn’t been rushed through parliament is because politicians like Anthony Albanese know their radical left social agenda is out of touch with mainstream Australians.”

For sure.

PEACE AND GOODWILL BREAK OUT

All eyes this year were on Maurice Blackburn’s now-infamous annual Christmas party, where roughly 400 members of Melbourne’s leftist elite class gathered last week.

Fortunately, the event was fracas-free this time around, the more pugilistic attendees having found a different way to celebrate the silly season.

Readers might recall last year’s dust-up for the union heavyweight title between ALP right-wing plumbing union powerbroker Earl Setches and assistant secretary of the Transport Workers’ Union Victorian branch Mem Suleyman, who was allegedly headbutted by Setches at least twice.

CBD spies tell us that this year’s do was, at least in that way, a more respectful affair, filling up two rooms at Trades Hall in Carlton.

John Setka, Victoria’s CFMEU construction boss, decided to skip the event. Spies noticed his name card was not picked up.

Among those downing free drinks were MB’s employment law head, Josh Bornstein, Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas, Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece, state Labor MPs Sheena Watt and Ryan Batchelor, and Victorian Trades Hall Council secretary Luke Hilakari.

ALBO’S WORK CUT OUT

As federal parliament lurched towards the silly season, deputy Liberal leader Sussan Ley’s media team lined up one last student-politics-grade stunt for the year, delivering a life-sized cardboard cutout of Albanese to the press gallery last week.

“We hope the prime minister comes out of hiding and stops trying to stage manage you in 2024,” was the message pinned to cardboard Albo, who was wearing a Santa hat and had the label “missing in action” stuck to his chest.

Credit: Jozsef Benke

By Thursday night, however, as parliament wound up for the year, cardboard Albo had disappeared, leaving Ley’s office frantically trying to find their prop. We suspected some baby hack in the prime minister’s office, but the real culprit was closer to home – Nine, owner of this masthead, had kept cardboard Albo custody for the night.

BOARD GAMES

The battle for the nation’s pavements has taken yet another twist.

Councils around Australia have been locked in a fight with outdoor advertising behemoths Telstra and JCDecaux, which the councils have accused of using a loophole in telco laws to set up payphones and stick lucrative, and rather invasive, digital billboards on the back.

Councillor Nicholas Reece with one of the digital billboards.

You would have noticed them around town. They’re two metres tall and show up to four ads a minute. When enough are installed they give pedestrian walkways a real Blade Runner dystopia vibe.

In Melbourne, JCDecaux recently withdrew its bid to install a further 69 billboards because, under federal law, Telstra is authorised to install telephone booths without council approval but permission is required when the phone boxes include third-party advertising.

A recent Victorian Supreme Court decision affirmed that the billboards should be treated as signage, not just as phone boxes.

If the council dispute has been a war, then Melbourne Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece has been its general.

He told CBD that the effect of the decision is that new-generation super-sized electronic billboards attached to the back of Telstra phones must be assessed under the City of Melbourne’s planning rules.

“They used a loophole which you could drive a truck through, or better still a large electronic billboard,” Reece said. “We wanted to ensure the loophole wasn’t exploited at the expense of Australia’s busy city pavements.”

The council has so far agreed to allow 11 new billboards in the CBD, but only in areas with wide footpaths, and away from heritage buildings.

JCDecaux declined to comment.

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