Turns out the recent moves by WA’s Liberal pollies to post their media responses to private inquiries by journos isn’t a screw up after all. Colin Barnett apparently reckons transmitting his media minders’ responses and transcripts from his doorstops will help bring “transparency”. Fortunately the Libs are handing this info out after the relevant news agencies have gone to press, but for a Government (any Government) whose members would pack their dacks if journos exposed their private “background” emails, it seems like a pretty loose tactic, especially as they must surely be hit-and-miss about which inquiries they broadcast through the official distro list and which they don’t bother.

I was at Westfield Bondi Junction this morning and the carpark was full. Cars were going round and round several times waiting for spaces to open up. I double parked and waited 10 minutes for my space to open up. The retail level was full of shoppers. The lifts were slow as a result. I think the cheques arrived today, being Thursday, and everyone is out there doing their patriotic duty.

Your rates at work: Inner-suburban Sydney residents might be pleased to know their local councils are flying the West Papuan flag. Literally. Marrickville and Leichhardt Councils have both flown the West Papuan “flag” to show support for West Papuan independence, following motions initiated by Green councillors. Leichhardt’s Greens Mayor Jamie Parker is quoted as saying “we flew the flag because it is important to show solidarity with the West Papuan people”. Under the Lombok Treaty, Australia and Indonesia committed to “the sovereignty, unity, independence and territorial integrity of both Parties, and the importance of the principles of good neighbourliness and non-interference in the internal affairs of one another.” The myth of Balmain basket-weavers dies hard.

ABC MD Mark Scott yesterday announced a deal with the QLD Government to locate the ABC’s new Brisbane headquarters at Southbank. Nice spot. Scott said the ABC would be providing 4000 square meters of space for the new headquarters. Given that the original project was for between 6000 and 8000 square metres, it seems certain that the ABC’s bean counters are planning some pretty dramatic reductions in TV production and staffing in Brisbane.

In fact, to get the whole project down to 4000 sqm, it’s likely the ABC will also have to dump the rest of ABC Online from Brisbane. Brisbane used to be the national HQ for Online News until Scott used the relocation caused by the breast cancer cluster as an excuse to pack up about half the Online operation and send it to Sydney. He did the same thing with News Radio. They used to do up to two live shifts a day out of Brisbane, now it’s just an online presence. ABC Brisbane staff should take Scott’s announcement today as an ominous sign of things to come.

ABC Mobile Portal now online. Without ads … for the time being. “In addition to the content available now in the trial, the final mobile site may also include content from ABC Commercial. This is still being developed and has yet to be approved for publication by the ABC Editorial Policies group, ABC Legal and the ABC’s Executive Leadership Group.”

Just had a chat with someone who has senior contacts at the ANZ. They have recently shed 1000 jobs; either another 2000 or 3000 people are expected to be made redundant.

As if to reinforce to the nation why the Australian National Academy of Music must, at all costs, remain at arm’s length from the control of the University of Melbourne, it has just been announced that the new Dean of the VCA and Music, the “super-school” to which ANAM would have been subsumed, is to be Professor Sharmon Pretty, currently Dean of the National Institute of Creative Arts Industries, NZ. Newspaper reports there have recently described the NICAI during her reign as one generating a “climate of fear”, a “climate of cynicism”, a “climate of asphyxiation” and a “toxic environment”. We wish the Melbourne mob luck…

Mass redundancies at Rio Tinto Alcan. Last Friday, 5 December, termination of employment notices were distributed to a large part of the workforce at Alcan Engineering (the in-house Engineering and Technology arm of the former Alcan, now part of the Rio Tinto group). The management team at its parent company Rio Tinto have over the last year continued to destroy shareholder wealth and minimise value, whilst refusing to take any responsibility for their innate capacity to turn a large company into a small company.

Now they are “moving towards a new organisational structure and service delivery model” that “will require a significant resizing”. What makes the hundreds of affected staff and contractors at the Brisbane head office, and sites at Gladstone and Gove, disappointed about the whole sorry affair, is that Alcan Engineering has always been and still is a viable and profitable company, with work in progress valued at hundreds of million of dollars. Rio Tinto management, having failed in their attempts to grow the business by acquisition, apparently have a new strategy to shrink the business organically.

Crikey/Media Monitors radio rumour watch reports:

  • Caller “Stockpile” says a large company in Australia currently has overseas auditors “going through it”, trying to save money. He claims the auditors have found a warehouse “nobody knew about” that has about $1.5m worth of stock in it, including items that were reported stolen last year. — 7.11am 3AW (Melbourne)
  • Caller George heard “a magnificent rumour” that Ben Cousins is going to sue Collingwood because he had already signed a contract with them before they announced they were not interested in drafting him. — 9.27am SEN (Melbourne)

Meanwhile, on the grassy knoll…

  • Caller “Kuta Kev” claims PM Kevin Rudd has been shopping in Bali, buying fake Louis Vuitton wallets and pirated copies of Underbelly and the movie Australia. — 7.11am 3AW (Melbourne)
  • Caller Jim heard the proposed $1bn loan to Indonesia from Australia coincides with Indonesia being knocked back for a bank loan to buy arms from Russia. Presenter Steve Price guarantees that’s wrong and would ignore that rumour. — 10.14am 2UE (Sydney)

And breaking news on The Age site:

  • Police say a Victorian QC was among 19 men arrested during the global bust of a child p-rn network that allegedly shared “among the worst” abuse images ever seen by investigators.

And tip of the week, courtesy of Gawker:

The fun party game tonight at Michael Wolff’s shindig for his Rupert Murdoch biography, The Man Who Owns the News, is going to be to see if anyone from the News Corp. orbit actually shows up. There must have been some overlap in the guest list if Murdoch had Wolff move his party to tonight so as not to conflict with last night’s 40th birthday party for wife Wendi Deng. Speaking of whom, we’ve heard at least one crazy conspiracy theory about who might be spreading rumors about her sleeping around. …we’re extremely skeptical but the theory is so beautifully convoluted and Machiavellian that it’s worth sharing.

This insane theory, though, goes like this: the true target of the smear isn’t Wendi at all, but rather Wall Street Journal editor Robert Thomson, and one of the rising golden boys of the News Corp. empire and therefore a threat to Roger Ailes, the head of Fox News. Thomson, whose life story is uncannily similar to Rupert’s, also has a Chinese wife, Wang Ping, who happens to be friends with Wendi. Thus, the damaging suggestion about Thomson would be that Ping had aided and abetted Wendi in her dalliance. The only person who’d try to pull off such a crazy scheme?

Naturally, News Corp.’s resident master of dark arts and head of Fox News, Roger Ailes. Which brings us full circle back to Wolff’s book, which has supposedly caused a rift between Ailes and Murdoch because it, as the New York Times reported in October, “suggests that Mr. Murdoch is at times embarrassed by Fox News, which he owns, and its chief executive, Roger Ailes, and that he often shares ‘the general liberal apoplexy,’ as Mr. Wolff writes in the book, toward Fox News and its perceived conservative slant.”

So there you have it. A crazy theory so crazy it could be true (but probably isn’t!).

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW