tip off

Tips and rumours

Gold oysters at MONA wedding … Billabong founder in subdivision barney … Clive Palmer infiltrates Newman publication …

From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

MONA high jinks. A decadent party at gambling baron David Walsh’s Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Hobart can undo a career. The art world still talks about the wasted curator at the opening MONA party who blathered what she really thought of her bosses and woke the next morning with a hangover and no job. But Saturday’s party for 220 guests at MONA was far more civilised as they gathered for Walsh’s wedding to long-time partner Kirsha Kaechele.

The couple were married in front of Wim Delvoye’s outdoor filigree sculpture Chapel, and after snacking on oysters served with gold leaf, guests descended into the bowels of MONA to dine at a long table while Paul Kelly and Vika and Linda Bull performed. There were very few artists or museum types at the shindig; it was all family, close friends, MONA architect Nonda Katsalidis and Walsh’s gambling partner Zeljko Ranogajec. Walsh made a point of telling guests that marriage was not just a union of a “man and a woman,”  and that while theirs was a secular ceremony, he still considered marriage an important ceremony. Walsh has been married before.

Billabong founder in subdivision strife? Remember Gordon Merchant, the founder of struggling surf brand Billabong? Well the rich lister is ruffling feathers in another area. He’s proposed a 210-lot subdivision near beautiful Yamba on the NSW north coast. Last week Clarence Valley council resolved to support the proposal  — originally made in 2011 — to rezone 100 hectares from rural to residential, referring it on to the NSW Planning Minister. Of 25 private submissions received, almost all were opposed. An anonymous tipster complained to Tips that 17 rare and endangered species live around the open paddock and Merchant’s proposal would:

… destroy the first ridgeline that does not flood located to the west of Yamba … He is stating that 2500 people will live on his new estate in the middle of nowhere with no shops, services and transport. How much pull does his money hold? When it floods we become isolated for up to five days … won’t the SES love that.”

You’d think Merchant had enough trouble on his hands with Billabong, in which he holds a 15% stake, confirming this month it was facing a class action from law firm Slater and Gordon over poor disclosure in 2011. Last year BRW estimated Merchant’s wealth was $325 million and was “not reliant on his remaining [Billabong] shares”.

Westpac investigates. Here at Tips we hear lots of gossip (and grumbling) about big firms sending jobs offshore. It’s acute in the banking, insurance and IT sectors. Is it true that “Westpac have sent a management team to India to evaluate the transfer of 15% of jobs there”? Perhaps Westpac customers can tell us if they’ve noticed any problems …

Surprise, it’s Clive!  Clive Palmer is known for ignoring rules and regulations he doesn’t agree with, and his latest round of campaign material in Queensland is particularly brazen. A Queensland reader sent us a picture of the latest My Queensland Community Newsletter, a monthly piece of government-sponsored junk mail detailing all the wonderful things the Newman government is doing. “The newsletter came without any kind of envelope, just folded over with this rather cheeky letter from Clive inside, which has somehow made its way into this piece of government puffery,” our reader reported.

In the letter — printed with the Australian coat of arms as the letterhead — Palmer describes the Premier and cabinet as “not honest people” and the government as “itself, a criminal gang”. Piggybacking off the government’s promotional budget to conduct a smear campaign against said government is cheeky, to say the least.

Rupert, foreign affairs expert. There’s no need to worry any more about the alarming situation re the Crimea. Rupert Murdoch is taking an interest and has recommended a solution:

But surely if Rupert says someone “only understands money,” that’s a compliment? The Russians didn’t understand money for a while, being communist and all, so one would think Mr Murdoch would prefer the current plutocracy.

Privacy cons. Crikey has been looking into a raft of new nationwide changes that have been sold to us as “boosting privacy”, but are anything but. We received this enquiry:

In relation to the current series running in relation to the new privacy laws being a bit of an oversell, how does this relate to the very common practice of charities selling their databases of personal details to marketing companies who then on-sell them to other organisations to spam call/email you? Are charities now required to ask you more clearly if they can do this, or required not to do it (doubtful), and how do you stop them doing it?”

We’ll look into it. You certainly don’t want to get on a charity’s mailing database, because you’ll get junk mail from here to eternity. The Salvos and Red Cross seem to be particularly bad, and before you know it your $50 donation has been spent on $50 worth of glossy junk mail. But it may be that charities are exempt from these federal privacy changes. Insiders can fill us in here.

*Heard anything that might interest Crikey? Send your tips to boss@crikey.com.au or use our guaranteed anonymous form

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