From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Solar eclipse in Queensland government. Is Campbell Newman sending Queensland’s electricity grid into meltdown? A decision to cut the feed-in tariff on solar panels has had unexpected consequences. Our George Street spy reports:

“He dramatically announced a slashing of the feed-in tariff for solar panels from 44 cents per kilowatt-hour to 8 cents, a rate that will mean anyone buying solar panels in future will subsidise the electricity supply industry by selling power at much less than the peak rate the retailers would otherwise pay. Because Newman gave 10 days notice of the intended change, he set off a stampede to buy solar panels while the old rate applied. I have been told that the punters signed up for a staggering 150 megawatts in that period, meaning something like 100,000 people agreed to provide electricity supply equivalent to the peak output of a small power station.”

ABC backs dud dramas, rests others. The ABC has upped its local production slate — but is anyone watching? An insider at Aunty says production schedules aren’t aligning for the dramas that are working:

“Despite an injection of $136 million over three years since the May 2008 budget the ABC has had a constant run of mediocre dramas, unfunny comedies, lightweight documentary series and abject failures such as Randling. Latest rumour is that its crowd pleaser Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries has not gone into production this year ostensibly because of studio availability yet it has commenced production of another ABC drama, Time Of Our Lives, in the same studio. So the ABC has allowed a hiatus of a year for the return of its only crowd-pleasing series.

“Meanwhile, the 22-hour series Crownies which was savaged by critics and deserted by viewers has been surprisingly renewed for a limited eight-part series. However due to ABC procrastination as to its renewal, half the cast have left and the limited second series will now not go into production until 2013 and probably air 2014, another hiatus of two years. ABC drama has fallen well short of Stephen Conroy’s promise in May 2008 of the ABC producing 90 hours of drama a year. This was a big promise and excusable if the material actually produced achieved a generally high level of excellence.”

Academics write on asylum seekers. Some 200 academics across Australia and the globe have signed a letter deploring political attempts to “shift” rather than “share” the asylum seeker burden. Media are beginning to report on the letter; Crikey was sent a copy this morning.

Murdoch University associate professor Anne Pedersen, who wrote the letter, says sending asylum seekers to neighbouring countries “will undermine Australia’s efforts to develop a viable regional framework, as it reinforces regional perceptions that Australia is interested in exporting its refugee ‘problem’ rather than collaborating in a genuine multilateral process”.

Academics proposed Australia immediately increase its yearly humanitarian intake to 25,000 and implement community-based detention. They also want Australia to increase UNHCR funding so refugees have “viable alternatives to jumping on boats” and said the government could process asylum seekers in Indonesia “themselves” before transporting them to Australia.

The letter was signed by prominent Australian academics including the University of Technology Sydney’s Wendy Bacon, Monash University’s Chris Nash and the University of Canberra’s Julie Posetti as well as academics from Germany, Thailand, Malaysia and Spain.

Big Brother BHP? Office workers everywhere were intrigued by a recent story on an internal memo from BHP setting out the rules for office behaviour, including that staff may tuck in to cold soup at communal hubs but hot soup may only be consumed on level 45.

Now we’re hearing claims that a few years ago, BHP chief Marius Kloppers sought to mandate that all work laptops were to have their hard drives removed, with data to be connected by cable or satellite broadband to secure internal servers in staff cars. An insider claims that project failed at the time, but might now be up and running.

Apparently the attempt was about the security of information, but a few staff noted at the time that their movements could be more easily monitored if it came off. Know more? Drop us a line. We do love a good office memo here at Crikey, so don’t be shy about hitting the forward button.

No crest, please. Of all things, Crikey readers have been entering into a debate on whether it is appropriate to eat one’s own national or state crest. The discussion was sparked by the news the Queensland government is to dump its modernistic logo for the old-school coat of arms (which features a red deer, which some hunters want to eat). We’ve received this fascinating claim about a strict no-crest policy at Canberra’s Parliament House:

Re “Eating the Crest”: it might be OK for lay people, but I don’t believe it’s OK in our parliaments. Earlier this year I was speaking with the then-new chef heading up the kitchens at federal Parliament, who was talking about how he wanted to shake up the menu. We discussed options, and I suggested some roo would be a nice addition. He agreed, but said that he’d been told [roo] couldn’t be served up, being as it was on the crest.

Can this be correct? Or is there a nice roo stroganoff on the menu up on the hill? Keep us posted.

Meanwhile, a spy from one of the Queensland government’s large departments has reported that the out-of-favour modernistic logo (which some call the “Beattie Burger”) has indeed been “quietly expunged from master templates for Microsoft Office products such as Word and PowerPoint … no official memo circulated yet to explain this Cultural Revolution-esque tactic”.

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

Peter Fray

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