Twiggy on the grassy knoll? Seething WA mining magnate Andrew Forrest stepped up his assault on Wayne Swan and Julia Gillard last night, accusing them of negotiating with the big miners behind Kevin Rudd’s back in 2010 while he was PM.

“Unlike ourselves, where we were about to go public with it, she in fact called for the head of a democratically elected prime minister, changed him with herself and still sat on the fact that she and the Treasurer had a deal with BHP and Rio Tinto that they were going to keep secret for a very long time,” Forrest told ABC radio last night.

The only problem? The pollies involved deny it, and Twiggy has yet to produce any evidence for the sensational claim.

Forrest, named our No. 2 most powerful rich crusader earlier this year, isn’t the first Rudd booster to spread scuttlebutt about Gillard’s pre-coup dealings with the miners. In a recent edition of The Monthly, Rudd’s friend Rhys Muldoon provided his recollections of the day Rudd was rolled:

“I received an SMS that Gillard and Swan had been ‘given the nod’ by the big three mining companies — Xstrata, Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton — beforehand, letting it be known that the ads attacking the government for its proposed tax on miners’ super profits would be pulled. Could this be true? Might the party backroom boys really have sought tacit approval from the miners for a change at the top to seek an end to the damaging impasse over Rudd’s tax (which was really Swan’s tax), and thus help win over wavering MPs? Could anyone seriously doubt that such a deal was beyond the Labor Party?”

Lots of intriguing questions, but no answers. If Twiggy, Rhys — or anyone else — has evidence of the conspiracy we’d love them to get in touch.

Hockey’s Asian solution to welfare. Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey has made an audacious bid to recast himself as a big-picture economic thinker by calling for Western governments to slash spending on government handouts.

Hockey, profiled by The Power Index yesterday as no. 9 on our Canberra power list, said Australia should look to Asian nations with minimal public safety nets for guidance on how to manage our welfare system.

“Western communities, Western societies are going to have to make some very hard and unpopular decisions to wind back the involvement of the state in people’s lives,” he told the ABC’s Tony Jones after a speech to policymakers in London. “We need to compare ourselves with our Asian neighbours where the entitlements programs of the state are far less than they are in Australia.”

As Bernard Keane noted yesterday, Hockey has previously been willing to think outside the economic policy box despite the perception in the business community that he is something of a “lightweight” and “buffoon”. His 2010 banking reform campaign won the backing of economists and stirred Wayne Swan into policy change. It will be fascinating to see whether his campaign against middle class welfare has similar success.

Opera Australia back in the black. The mass-market programming style of artistic director Lyndon Terracini has paid off for Opera Australia with the company returning to surplus after back-to-back loss-making years.

Terracini, profiled last month as one of the most powerful people in arts and culture, oversaw last year’s production of La Boheme, which took an impressive $6.9 million at the box office. That result helped tip Opera Australia into a $319,000 operating surplus. Next year’s financial results will be watched closely to see if Terracini’s risky decision to stage an outdoor performance of La Traviata at Sydney Harbour pays off.

“I’m sure there will be people who want to closet opera in a conservatorium or in a university music department,” Terracini told The Power Index. “That’s not what it’s about, it was never about that. Opera was a popular art form and it’s now becoming a popular art form again.”

Get Crikey for $1 a week.

Lockdowns are over and BBQs are back! At last, we get to talk to people in real life. But conversation topics outside COVID are so thin on the ground.

Join Crikey and we’ll give you something to talk about. Get your first 12 weeks for $12 to get stories, analysis and BBQ stoppers you won’t see anywhere else.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
12 weeks for just $12.