From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Liberals at war in FWA farce. Yesterday’s Senate estimates hearing was interrupted after opposition senators, led by Senator Abetz, demanded that witnesses from Fair Work Australia returned to Parliament House yesterday to face further scrutiny by the committee after their scheduled appearance had ended.

Senator Abetz demanded the recall after indicating that an email concerning the Health Services Union investigation provided by FWA to the committee on Monday afternoon constituted a “smoking gun”.

FWA general manager, Bernadette O’Neill and acting director, Alisa Carruthers agreed to reappear before the committee, yet it quickly became apparent that there was no case for them to answer.

Apparently frustrated by the proceedings, Senator Fisher concluded the extraordinary session by questioning the recall of FWA witnesses to Estimates.

In a question to the DEEWR Secretary Lisa Paul, Senator Fisher asked whether it was an appropriate use of government resources to recall the FWA witnesses within 24 hours of their last appearance. “It is hardly efficient, is it?” Senator Fisher remarked. “Many people are going to see that as further evidence of Fair Work Australia’s inability to be efficient.”

QLD energy chiefs nixed. Queensland Premier Campbell Newman’s purge of the public service continues, with four of the five heads of Queensland’s government-owned energy corporations receiving their marching orders in the last week.

Denis Byrne, the chairman of CS Energy, left last week. Ergon Energy Corporation chairman Ralph Craven announced his resignation on Monday. ENERGEX’s head John Dempsey resigned to a board meeting on Monday. The departure of Powerlink Queensland’s chairman David Harrison was reported in yesterday’s Financial Review.

Only Graham Carpenter, the chairman of Stanwell, remains in his role. A Stanwell board meeting is due later this week.

Is there plans for NSW-style “superboards”, where one board overlooks several government owned organisations? Or is it just part of Newman’s plan to clear the decks of ALP-appointed staff? Crikey contacted the Office of Government Owned Corporations, which falls under the Treasurer’s office, but it seems we were breaking the news to them about the energy heads leaving …

Newcastle Herald to be bought by the journos? There’s talk the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance will consider offering a staff management buyout of the Newcastle Herald to Fairfax executives, after news that 41 editorial production positions will go as Fairfax moves its regional sub editing roles to New Zealand. For more on the latest at the Newcastle Herald, check out today’s media briefs.

Goss from the glossies. Apparently News Life Media plans to retrench most of the Vogue team today as incoming editor Edwina McCann wants to bring in her own team of people (McCann was the editor of Harper’s Bazaar until getting the Vogue gig). If true that could be a dozen more retrenchments from News Limited …

Adviser not a fan of his senatorial boss. Which staffer to a senior Queensland Liberal senator doesn’t mind badmouthing his boss in public? (Apparently he called his boss a “dickhead” in the lifts at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices in Brisbane and wasn’t too concerned about who may overhear.)

Telstra spinner spun out of building. Telstra has lost one of its respected spinners in Karina Keisler, who left the building for the last time on Monday. The telco confirmed to us Keisler, who has been at Telstra for more than a decade, is leaving to “pursue other career opportunities”. Staff wondered aloud why she left so suddenly, but Keisler tells Crikey that she “had a heap of leave up my sleeve so decided not to drag it out and am in Port Douglas putting my feet up for a bit.” Seems reasonable to us!

ALP cold calls Sydney residents. The ALP was cold calling landline subscribers in the Glebe area of Sydney’s inner west last night for a “live community” chat involving Federal Health Minister, Tanya Plibersek, as part of a trial of US-style primaries. One Glebe resident wasn’t impressed:

“I wasn’t home when the call came in, so it went to my answering machine, thankfully. I am not an ALP (or Liberal or any other) party member. The impression from the story was that people in the Sydney City area would be able to decide for themselves whether they phoned in, not being cold called by an ALP computerised phone system. And shouldn’t the vote be determined by ALP members anyway?

The call followed a form letter last week from the former ALP state member and NSW Education Minister, Verity Firth (her electorate covered Glebe), extolling the virtues of this primary idea for selecting the ALP’s candidate to take on Lord Mayor Clover Moore. That is the first time I have heard from Firth since her well-deserved defeat in the state poll in March, 2011. To contact me and others, this former state parliamentarian has used the ALP’s data base for the Glebe area. As Crikey pointed out recently political parties data bases are beyond privacy laws. I consider the phone call night and Firth’s letter to have breached my privacy. I did not ask to be contacted. The Greens are just as bad with missives arriving from the new local state member, Jamie Parker.”

*Do you know more? Send your tips to [email protected] or use our guaranteed-anonymous form.

Peter Fray

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