From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Ashby defended Slipper until the end. James Ashby — who has levelled a s-xual harassment suit against Peter Slipper — was working diligently for his boss right to the very end. Four days before filing his allegations, Ashby was corresponding with our journalist Andrew Crook over the Sunshine Coast Daily and its campaign against the local member. “Their relentless barrage of distasteful stories continue to harm his chances of running at the next federal elections in the seat of Fisher,” Ashby wrote.

Liberals to preselect a future PM. Liberal Party wunderkind Alexander Butterworth is apparently a monty to receive the nod from State Council for the safe seat of Pearce at the preselection on June 15. “The talented Butterworth has the backing from key factional power brokers,” says our source. “Such is the level of support for Butterworth within the party that most members of State Council are already spruiking the popular 24-year-old as a future prime minister of Australia.” Big call.

Audit into Craig Thompson expenses. Want to do your own investigation on Craig Thomson and just what he was up to at the Health Services Union? The independent audit by BDO Kendall — which identified cash advances from Thomson’s credit card totalling $101,533 — recently fell off the back of a truck. For your reading pleasure …

MP says ‘auf wiedersehen’ to F1 race. Federal Labor MP Michael Danby doesn’t like the formula one grand prix tearing up Albert Park each year. He’s ranted about the race in parliament, and now he’s dispatched thousands of letters to local residents urging them to sign a petition against Bernie Ecclestone’s motorsport circus …

Danby writes: “If you feel as frustrated and fed up as I am, please fill out the enclosed petition, return it and lend your support to my campaign to rid our area of the expensive, polluting inconvenience that is the Albert Park Formula One Grand Prix.” The MP has helpfully enclosed his speech to parliament on March 1, and a Herald Sun op-ed from Alan Howe on the economic losses. He concludes: “Let’s say ‘Auf Wiedersehen Mr Ecclestone!'”

Victorian voc-ed bleeding money, students. Is Victoria’s vocational education and training system in a state of chaos? That’s the word from one player, who says private operators are capitalising on the “shambolic” public sector:

“The so-called competitive demand driven system is pauperising public training institutions like TAFEs and community colleges. One large community college had to be bailed out to the tune of $2 million dollars because of the liquidity problems caused by the new funding system. Coalition politicians are in a state of denial as is Skills Victoria. However, the big winners are the private training providers who have captured 40% of the training market, or $750 million of public money. The situation is scandalous and no one is listening.”

The list: people airlines must stop. “You might be surprised to discover who else is on the list,” says one deep-throat on the mysterious security screening applied to human rights and WikiLeaks lawyer Jennifer Robinson. “The list is huge. Our government knows all this and chooses to remain ignorant.”

Sticky situation for journo pair. News Limited hack Steve Lewis and ABC presenter Chris Uhlmann are writing a “spicy political thriller”, The Australian‘s media diary teased on Monday. Intrigued, we were thrilled ourselves to receive more information yesterday from publisher HarperCollins. The Marmalade Files is, apparently, “a rollicking romp through the dark underbelly of Australian politics, an uncomfortable close-to-the-bone thriller described as a ‘contemporary tale of political bastardry and scheming on a vast scale, committed by a group of politicians whose sole aim is to hold onto power’.”

So many questions spring to mind. Why fiction? How do two people write a fiction book? And how will the pollies depicted “close-to-the-bone” react to being interviewed by Ulhmann on 7.30? As the blurb states: “Is this really a work of fiction or a modern political fable rooted in reality?” Find out when the book is released in August. We look forward to Leigh Sales returning to grill her co-host on which pollies the fantasy is based on …

Women can’t hack it, says Hun story. Did the Herald Sun really run the headline “Women can’t cut it, and that’s no joke” yesterday? Our readers spotted it but it’s now disappeared entirely from the internet …

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