DIRECTOR of Civil Aviation Peter Lok's extraordinary bravery in deciding to experience at first hand the noise of an aircraft flying overhead on the approach to Kai Tak, will no doubt be rewarded in the Queen's Birthday Honours. A knighthood, at least. But not everyone over at the Government Secretariat Press Office Team is quite as grateful as they should be. Malcontents suggest the whole exercise might have been much more effective if it had been done without 'prior publicity' (code for: TV cameras outside the window of his temporary bedroom keeping him awake). 'Unfair,' countered our mole in one of the other bits of the information service, 'the man's simply bowed to the notion that the Government should be more open and accountable. In fact he's positively prostrated himself before it.' THE nice thing about being a conspiracy theorist (as opposed to a mere paranoid) is that it takes at least 30 years before governments release the secret documents that prove you right - longer still before the really secret stuff comes out and proves you underestimated their Machiavellian wiles. So we know the administration's not going to be believed if it contradicts us on this one: the whole Lau Chin-shek episode was a government set-up. And it was all in aid of the Court of Final Appeal. Not, we hasten to add, that we imagine they planned Mr Lau's resignation. If they did, we're underestimating them by a whole gaggle of Machiavellis. But we do suggest they were looking for an opportunity to withdraw a bill after a Legco amendment to prove to legislators they were indeed a rubber stamp with no power to impose amendments on government. Withdrawing a bill - any bill - would serve as a warning to legislators what would happen if they amended the bill setting up the Court. So when the Employment (Amendment) Bill looked likely to be amended in a way they didn't like, it appears the plan was wheeled into action. Legislators entering the Chamber at the start of the session found a note on their desks reminding them of Standing Order 52. That is the order which allows the 'Member in charge of a Bill' - in this case Secretary for Education and Manpower Michael Leung - to withdraw it before the third reading. It seems the note came from Legco President John Swaine, who'd been approached by the Government in advance. The message had been delivered. All the rest was just icing on the cake. MR Leung has since taken other gratuitous opportunities to remind members of the position. Discussing the new proposal from the Labour Advisory Board this week, trade union legislator Tam Yiu-chung suggested it be backdated by a month to make up for the Government's temporary withdrawal of the Bill. After the Liberals' Henry Tang opposed this on the grounds it would set a bad precedent, up jumped Mr Lau to say the withdrawal was a unique act which would not affect other bills. Mr Leung couldn't let that one pass, could he? Oh no it wasn't unique, he said. He certainly didn't want to see such incidents happen again, but he couldn't guarantee they wouldn't. After all, the Government had only acted according to the procedures of the Council. SOMETHING tells us the message is getting across loud and clear. The Court of Final Appeal may be the main target of the campaign, but it's not the only one. The Sex Discrimination Bill (SDB) may be another. Members of the Bills Committee examining the SDB and Anna Wu's Equal Opportunities Bill are so worried about the implications they've started asking the Government to tell them exactly which amendments they'd be prepared to accept. The last thing legislators want is to stick in an amendment to include, say, ageism alongside sexism as an 'ism' to be outlawed, only to lose the Anti-'ism' Commission which the Government is planning to set up to enforce it. Miss Wu actually asked for a government undertaking not to withdraw the SDB. EVEN old Machiavelli must have had the occasional bout of flu. We are pleased to report that his most recent incarnation, Governor Chris Patten, who was unable to attend the Executive Council on Tuesday and retired to bed with a sniffle, is now recuperating well. He was sufficiently well to work 'at home' on Wednesday. Yesterday, he got out of Government House to visit Maryknoll Convent School in Kowloon. Congratulations on your speedy recovery, Chris. But should you have been spreading your germs among the innocent young ladies of the territory?