From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Howard immigration man tipped for Hume. In a crowded field to replace retiring Alby Schultz as the Liberals’ pick for the seat of Hume, we’re told Ross Hampton is firming as favourite ahead of the May 12 vote. Which could add to the “stop the boats” chorus led by Tony Abbott, as one insider reminded us:

“Hampton was one of the architects of the Pacific Solution before shooting to prominence as the Howard government stonewaller in the ‘children overboard’ affair. Hampton apparently has the major league backing of Peter Costello, Peter Reith, Brendan Nelson and Ian Campbell. He has the battle scars from front-line political combat and will add serious weight to the Abbott line-up.”

More Rudd rumours … from his driver. Adding to the scuttlebutt here on Wednesday, this from 3AW’s Rumour File this morning: “Caller Sweet Revenge says a rumour was heard by a ministerial car driver, that there are plans for Kevin Rudd to resign just prior to the budget. He says the rumour is that Rudd will then take up a job with the UN.” Believe it or not.

We picked it: new Greens senator. University of Tasmania economist Peter Whish-Wilson was announced as the Greens’ next Tasmanian senator, replacing Bob Brown in the red house, this morning. But then, we told you that the day Brown retired early last month …

Effective super increase for Vic MPs. Did Victorian MPs get a 25% increase in their superannuation in this week’s state budget? A Spring Street watcher explains:

“Baillieu proclaimed fiscal rectitude by confining MP pay rises to 2.5%, but forgot to mention why. There are no appropriate trade-offs similar to those effectively ‘cashed-out’ at the federal level in return for the big pay hike. But he didn’t break the nexus between Victorian MPs’ super as a percentage of a federal government backbenchers salary, hence the massive increase. Federally, Gary Gray introduced legislation to make sure federal pollies pay rises didn’t flow on to the old defined benefit scheme beneficiaries. No such forethought by Baillieu, particularly given most Victorian MPs are under the old scheme.

“I wonder how many Victorian superannuants are going to see a 25% increase in their pensions over the next two years? Haven’t heard a peep out of Daniel Andrews either, mind you. This one’s really slipped under the radar. Do the sums for an existing MP about to retire. It’s massive. I also think it apples to retired MP’s who will get a nice surprise in their bank accounts.”

Do our source’s numbers add up? We’ll investigate; drop us a line if you know more.

Foxtel boss on the way forward with Austar. New Foxtel CEO Richard Freudenstein has addressed his troops about the strategic direction of the pay-TV operator now it’s merged with Austar (and folding in channel operator XYZ), declaring it an “exciting time for our business”. Among the content and customer initiatives outlined in the email forwarded to our inbox, Freudenstein told staff it was about “living our brand”:

“… this will be so important in bringing our businesses together and we are already demonstrating and living our values. We will introduce an enhanced logo on July 1 as part of forming the new Foxtel and will share more details in the coming months …

“While this may be an uncertain time, it is also an exciting time for our business and it is important we remain focused on delivering our vision and priorities as we create the new Foxtel.”

Balmain AFP watch: stalking the post office. The long-running AFP “Great Balmain Surveillance” plot thickens. Another local reports: “They have turned their attention away from the (alleged) Syrian consulate/Irish Echo site and are now staking out the Balmain post office (or offices opposite?).”

Testing your ability to host asylum seekers. Yesterday Crikey examined the new plan to host asylum seekers in Aussie homes, noting that wannabe hosts had to pass an online test and we were still awaiting approval. The 20 questions covered basic asylum seeker facts (“which is a possible resolution to a bridging visa holder’s case?” and “who is a refugee?”) plus tricky questions to clarify you’d read the comprehensive Q&A (“what is the most important thing to do when your guest arrives?” and “why will many guests require a small mat in their room that must not be walked over or used for any other purpose?”). Despite the fact that our journalist doesn’t have a spare bedroom (a non-negotiable criteria to host), she received 90% correct (18/20).

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