From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Laughing about Hicks? News this week that the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecution has abandoned legal action against David Hicks for the proceeds of his book has raised questions about his plea deal and treatment at Guantanamo Bay.

It has also sparked an interesting claim from a Crikey tipster, who says he was at a function with then-attorney-general Philip Ruddock during the zenith of the Hicks issue. Reports from about that time indicated that then-US vice-president Dick Cheney had done a deal with John Howard to release Hicks. Our tipster claims that Ruddock was speaking to NSW MLC David Clarke at the function.

“The deal had just been done with Cheney. Ruddock and Clarke were laughing about Hicks — they found his predicament funny. There was absolutely no concern shown for the blatant abuse of Hicks’ fundamental human rights — and they are both lawyers. I moved away from them (I was behind them) … fearing that I might tackle them about their lack of humanity and cause a scene. I was absolutely disgusted. It must be noted a deal done under duress is not enforceable.”

Does that sound like an accurate depiction of the function? Any other attendees — including Ruddock and Clarke — who want to comment can drop us a line.

Opening to controversy. Will the opening ceremony of the London Olympic Games become a major embarrassment for the Cameron-Clegg government? To date, Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle — head of the opening ceremony — and his team have managed to keep confidentiality, a difficult task when more than 10,000 people at a time are involved in rehearsals.

But today one story started circulating from several sources — that one ceremony sequence will contain a witty, but unmistakable defence of the National Health Service, and especially of its universal and socialised character, as part of the essence of Britain that the ceremony has been designed to express.

If so, it will prove a major problem for the government. It has pushed ahead with hundreds of schemes tendering out NHS services to private contractors (Devon had to choose between Virgin, the erm NHS trust from erm Cornwall, and erm erm Serco (i.e. G4S) to run its children’s services), and tried to turn the internal NHS process into one run by quasi-privatised GP-centred practices. Much of this has been abandoned, due to public opposition, but enough has started to be put in play to seriously screw up the NHS. With a double-dip recession, the fiasco of Olympic crowd and security management, can the government afford a mass roar of approval as the socialist core of the British state is celebrated?

Blue at the Greens. The Greens are playing in the big league now and, just like the other big players, their internal stoushes are coming to our attention. Some members are not happy with what they perceive to be the party softening its stance to be more mainstream and media-friendly. Matters came to a head at the party’s national council meeting in Adelaide earlier this month, when the party decided to drop its controversial death duties policy. An insider had this to report:

“It was the NSW delegation that voted against changes to the death tax further exacerbating the split between [NSW Senator Lee] Rhiannon’s group and the rest of the party. The only arguments presented at conference against the death tax were about winning votes. Milne and Brown presented a talk on the Greens needing to cosy up to progressive businesses to get more funding. So much for campaign finance reform? The conference trimmed down the party platform to avoid public scrutiny after revisions by Milne’s office.

“All reference to Tibet, East Timor and Palestine were dropped from the platform. It’s seems that the party is now more interested in votes than values. Last week, the Victorian Greens walked away from their private schools policies ahead of the byelection.”

Brough in the rough. The serially newsworthy Mal Brough will fight for LNP preselection in Peter Slipper’s seat of Fisher on Sunday. With Brough facing considerable hostility from some within the Coalition over his role in the Slipper/Ashby case, he’ll need to fend off a strong challenge from LNP campaign strategist James McGrath. Here at Crikey we’d love to hear how the weekend goes from anyone with insider LNP knowledge. Please do keep us in the loop, and feel free to use our guaranteed anonymous form.

NT decides. Not everyone seems to be as excited as some of us here at Crikey HQ (and of course the irrepressible Antony Green) about the looming Northern Territory election on August 25. We’d like to change that with this tidbit from a Territorian; apparently Chief Minister Paul Henderson employs three bodyguards “who portray themselves as his drivers” but are actually retired NT police drafted in to look after the chief.

Now, as we all know from that peerless journal of record the NT News, there are plenty of crocs and aliens in the Territory, so bodyguards may well be de rigeur. The PM certainly has lots of tough-faced blokes at her side speaking into their cuffs, and she would rarely see a crocodile. Please keep Crikey in the loop with any more insider gossip from the NT election campaign trail.

Not the NBN. A technological type has passed on this interesting link from the US, where it seems that Google is offering fibre-to-the-home for $US70 a month, “1 GB/s symmetric, no metering or cap”. Our source comments:

“OK, that’s in just one (suitably famous) backwater in one rather backward country, but this is Google not MGM.  Business model: give away the printer so you can make the kill on all that ink. Is the internet really about to change … this time?  Starting in, err, Kansas. And where does this leave our little NBN, and its putative wrecker?  Looking slow and expensive for a start.”

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

Peter Fray

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