tip off

Tips and rumours: Abbott’s spooky new staffer

Tony Abbott has scored a coup in securing the services of the government’s just-returned senior spy in London. Mark Higgie, who joined Abbott’s office as his foreign affairs adviser this week, was until December the spook-central Office of National Assessments’ man in the UK — which means Australia’s rep to the high-powered Joint Intelligence Committee (of the Iraq war “45 minute” claim).

We imagine it must have been an interesting conversation when Higgie announced his departure to ONA’s new boss, former Paul Keating adviser Allan Gyngell.

A multi-lingual former diplomat armed with a PhD in Kremlin politics, Higgie has form throwing in his lot in with the Libs. He worked for John Howard’s team when he had his first go as Opposition leader and was later rewarded when Alexander Downer gave him the cushy ambassador job in Budapest. Widely seen as a stylish safe pair of hands, with discernible right-wing ideologue tendencies (should we be surprised?). And there’s an interesting connection — Higgie is son-in-law of the legendary late MI6 agent John Colvin and brother-in-law of ABC PM presenter Mark Colvin.

There’s a new commentator on US politics in the Australian media — former Queensland Premier Peter Beattie, whose analysis of the current American political and presidential scene appeared in Saturday’s Weekend Australian. Beattie also happens to be the Queensland Government Commissioner for the Americas, based in Los Angeles, but working for government at the same time as providing personal commentary on another government’s performance doesn’t seem to be a probity issue for the former premier of a state where probity has always been a doubtful concept anyway.

What’s the bet ALP preselections for non-held federal seats in Queensland are delayed again at this week’s Administrative Committee meeting, with some paltry excuse about the National Executive not giving authority to the state branch? State secretary Anthony Chisholm has been busily punting the blame home to his national counterparts, telling anyone who asks that it will be dealt with at the next monthly Admin meeting. Problem is he’s been saying that since at least September.

Now all states and territories bar Queensland have either preselected or are in the process of finalising candidates. Given the ALP National Executive resolved a week ago to put the party on election footing, many party members are starting to speculate about the capacity of the Queensland party office in the 2010 campaign.

Rumours are that Chisholm is trying to avoid a factional bloodbath, which, in the absence of leadership, is looking increasingly probable given the extent of the delay and frustration of all players.

There was an ad on TV this morning with a candidate for the Liberal Party in Tasmania. The ex-policeman had a shot of him dressed as a policeman. Question: was this taken before he left the police force or retaken after he left the police force?

How many times can one organisation collect from the federal government under the insulation scheme? In Griffith there’s a “not for profit” organisation that runs an employment agency and is an RTO: payment one for placing long-term unemployed into jobs; payment two for training them; payment three for installing insulation; payment four assisting for workers affected by the cancellation of the scheme.

CBA seem to have had a clean-out of some Melbourne-based mobile bankers this week. I’m trying to settle on a property purchase and both the vendors and buyers among CBA’s mobile bankers have been terminated in a hurry.

RMIT prides itself on being the university with strongest links to industry and practitioners, especially in areas such as architecture, graphic design, journalism and advertising.

In the Masters of Communication (Advertising) degree, for example, that used to mean RMIT would engage experienced local industry practitioners as lecturers and tutors. In the past, the course has attracted students already employed in Australian advertising and media agencies and others wanting to break into the advertising industry.

Perhaps not surprisingly given this background, some students this semester have been surprised to find that the tutor in the foundation course on Advertising Theory and Practice is a 25-year-old international student who completed the self-same Masters degree just last November and has no industry experience.

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