From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Chisholm on the line in Abbott-slide. “I’ve heard internal Labor polling,” writes one political insider, “has put the heartland seat of Chisholm on the line for Labor as well as the high chance of Labor losing Batman to the Greens.” As our operative notes: “Being crushed from both sides.”

Back to basics for Qld department. According to a whisper from George Street, a Queensland government department has had a revision of departmental priorities imposed by a new fearless leader. The priorities have been circulated and presented in what we’re told is an attractive and colourful diagram, including one that stands out: “Return to the Westminster system of government.” As our spy says: “What the hell were we doing before?”

How to turn Cabcharges into cash. The Peter Slipper affair might have businesses looking more closely at how staff are using Cabcharge vouchers. A former manager remembers the biggest scams:

“I used to run a 24-hour shift business for a major Australian company. After 8pm, we provided Cabcharge vouchers to staff to get home safely. There were a number of fraud issues associated with them: two people in one cab, and they would use the second Cabcharge to get home from the city (say) on a Saturday night; people would take two at a time. But the largest frauds were ‘conversion’ — writing a larger fare than metered, then splitting the difference with the driver in return for a cash refund (i.e. a $40 fare would be charged as $80 — person would go to ‘boyfriend’s/girlfriend’s’ house, always Penrith/Liverpool (further) from the city than normal, then the driver would give them $20 cash back, keep the other $20 for ‘converting’ the voucher to cash, plus (of course) the $40 fare). We had a fairly widespread abuse at one point, caused by people using ‘their favourite’ driver, rather than the next in queue. Also, two people on one night would use the same cab to go to nearly the same place. Both would pay (say) $50 for a $40 metered fare, $20 each plus $20 for the driver in addition to the metered fare. Again ‘conversion’ because the voucher was being converted to cash.”

Which raises a good question, according to our correspondent: are vouchers still being converted into “cash back” to the passenger, effectively as a form of spending money for the night? “It was pretty common 10 years ago; I am sure nothing has changed,” they say.

Rudd’s return? A push this week. From the 3AW Rumour File this morning: “Caller Rudd’s Return says he overheard that Kevin Rudd is going to make a return, but another minister will put up the challenge by the end of this week.” Believe it or not …

Olympic security: snipers on your roof. AFP reported yesterday that residents of a London apartment block have been told that surface-to-air missiles will be installed on their building to combat terrorist threats to the Olympic Games. One Sydney resident wasn’t surprised:

“During the Sydney Olympics, we had army snipers placed on our roof in Pyrmont every evening. Because we lived in a shop-top flat, they might have thought no one was there because they were never too fussed about making heaps of noise climbing up the ladder from the courtyard below and positioning themselves with what would have been a solid view of the city.”

Freelance rates: who asks for what? Last week Andrew Crook revealed for Crikey that freelance journalists are being pressured into signing dodgy contracts nearly two years after the union won the right to represent them in wage negotiations. There’s been some interesting reaction from freelancers and employers since, including this one from a writer who has worked for most of the companies we mentioned: “In every case the companies have agreed to all the many changes I asked for in their contracts. The standard contract is perhaps a lawyer’s wish list, rather than a reflection of what freelancers agree to.” True?

Centrelink bullying retirees on overpay? A pertinent question from a Crikey reader: “Why can Centrelink track back overpayments for any period back in time, yet when they underpay an entitled retiree — with them admitting their clerical error — one has to face a tribunal of professionals to justify this underpayment? The payment entitled and claimed is minuscule compared with the costs involved by this engagement of independent professionals I must be a little man they feel comfortable to intimidate.” Have you faced a similar experience?

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