From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Sackwatch: Foxtel cuts (and more to come). Three weeks into the Foxtel acquisition of Austar and 30 people have already left Austar’s old headquarters, which is about 40% of the Ultimo-based head count. As one pay-TV insider claims:

“Of those still left standing, only a small number of them have guernseys at the ‘new’ Foxtel with the rest to be shown the door over the coming weeks and months … It is understood that axe has fallen almost exclusively on former AUSTAR and XYZ Networks employees with the ‘old’ Foxtel workforce completely unscathed.”

We asked Foxtel to confirm the news and it told Crikey that the merger is progressing and that “the majority of Austar and XYZ employees have been offered equivalent positions at Foxtel or redeployment in other areas of the business … However, as in any merger, there will be some redundancies which will affect people at Foxtel, Austar and XYZ. We expect all final staffing decisions to be made by mid July. Several Austar people based in Ultimo announced publicly their decision to move on from the company before the completion of the merger.”

If you hear of more cuts … see Media Briefs today for other casualties (and we’re expecting more by mid-July), drop us an email.

Please tell us if you’re a swinging voter. A constituent of Ross Vasta, Queensland federal MP for the seat of Bonner, was surprised by what was included with his invite to the Bonner Communications and Broadband Forum this Friday with Malcolm Turnbull. Attached was a Have Your Say brochure, where voters can outline what their top politics issues are and what they’d raise in Parliament. Oh, and also who they vote for:

“If he’s so interested in policy then why on earth would a forum like this require you to tick a box which [says who you vote for]? What sort of moronic politician or overpaid secretary thinks it is effective democracy or indeed plain good manners to ask your constituent who they vote for in writing? That’s what a general election is for, mate. You can pretend you care about fixing the internet but never ask me who I vote for because next time it might not be you!” wrote our Bonner tipster.

“It is long-standing Coalition practice to send community surveys out with constituent correspondence,” Vasta told Crikey. “The community survey is completely optional and all information is treated with confidentiality.”

Crikey understands the survey helps MPs know on which swinging voters they should spend their precious postage costs in targeting.

Pollster polls himself in Melbourne. What is voluble pollster and forthcoming Melbourne lord mayor candidate Gary Morgan doing conducting polls on the July 21 byelection in the state seat of Melbourne? With the Liberals vacating the field, Morgan’s telephone poll of 365 voters over the long weekend concluded that the Greens would win their first Victorian lower house seat with a 2PP of 54%.

The Green primary vote was on 48.5%, up from 32% at the 2010 state election, while Labor’s primary vote was 37.5% — a gain of only 2% from 2010 even though the 28% Liberal vote is looking for a home. Crikey founder and independent candidate Stephen Mayne polled 7% with “others” also on 7%. Could Morgan himself be one of those “others”? And what about the S-x Party? It scored 2.3% last time and should be good for more than double that in a Liberal-free contest.

Community participation doesn’t mean community representation in Queensland. The political style of Queensland’s new premier, Campbell Newman, has already angered some residents, with complaints over Newman’s pushing for planning reform without community consultation. As one Queenslander writes:

“Have a look below at what the Newman government refers to as ‘community participation’. No community representation at all and no local government or environmental representatives. All the self-interested development groups, however, are invited to participate and will further ensure that the money is recognised in planning but not the interests of the community or the environment — not even local government who are elected to represent community interests. And Newman calls this reform …”

Have a read and judge for yourself:

From: <[email protected]>
Subject: Planning reform forums begin
Date: 12 June 2012 2:36:12 PM AEST

Deputy Premier, Minister for State Development, Infrastructure and Planning
The Honourable Jeff Seeney

Planning reform forums begin

The Queensland Government has hosted the first of its planning forums as part of the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 reform program.

The half day forums led by Assistant Minister for Planning Reform Ian Walker opened in Brisbane with representatives from the Property Council of Australia last week and will continue throughout June with key groups from the property and construction industry.

“During the election the government made a clear commitment to reform and improve Queensland’s planning regime,” Mr Walker said.

“To assist the government in preparing this reform agenda a number of community and industry groups have been invited to take part in the forums held in May and June.

“The forum discussions are intended to be open to help draw out the key issues and needs of all parties. They will position Queensland, via good planning, as a productive and competitive State with liveable communities.”

Four key areas of Plan Making and Planning Tools, Development Assessment, Referrals and Appeals to third party rights are the focus of the forums.

“We are committed to working with the community and industry and consulting with them to get Queensland back on track,” Mr Walker said.

“Community and industry participation is necessary to ensure success in reforming the planning regime of Queensland.”

External stakeholders invited to the forums are:

  • The Urban Development Institute of Australia
  • Property Council Australia
  • The Planning Institute of Australia
  • The construction sector, represented through the groups of Queensland Master Builders Association, Housing Industry Association, and Australian Institute of Building Surveyors

[ENDS] 12 June 2012

Julia Gillard, temporary Prime Minister. Labor is likely to be in for a walloping come next federal election, but that’s still a while away. So why is the Tourism Industry Council of New South Wales titling Tony Abbott as “Australia’s Prime Minister in waiting” in its June industry newsletter? “I find this partisanship unseemly from a peak body,” notes one member:

A Premier to meet the Queen? And this from the 3AW rumour file:

“Caller Right Royal Occasion says a man with the initials TB has been invited by Buckingham Palace has to join the Queen at Ascot when Black Caviar runs there.”

We’re placing a bet on Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu being the lucky punter.

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