From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Iran away. Which executive at an Australian big four bank previously held a prominent role in the Standard Chartered Bank’s Middle East branch during the time it now stands accused for hiding deals with Iranian banks, in apparent breach of US sanctions? (The Standard Chartered Bank has rejected those claims.)

New goss on Newman. The tips continue to roll in on Crikey readers’ least favourite premier, Campbell Newman. Following on from a union’s annoyance that participants in a Brisbane protest were photographed by a government mole, comes this from the press pack:

“Much mumbling among political reporters gathered outside the executive building on Monday mornings to catch ministers heading into cabinet. A stranger started mingling and recording their conversations between ministerial doorstops. Turns out the interloper is an employee of the government media unit … Journos aren’t sure if he’s there to keep an eye on them or the ministers.”

We’ve previously reported rumours that Newman is keeping dirt files on outspoken critics of his regime. That sparked this reflection from a banana bender: “Of course, back in the day, you weren’t considered to be trying hard enough in Queensland politics unless you had a Special Branch dossier on your activity. Not that it was hard; I’m pretty sure some people got investigated for not being Anglo enough.” Our tipster passed on this interesting link on the shredding of Special Branch files in 1989.

It might come as no surprise that the government of Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s state is keeping dossiers on critics, but is the practice more widespread? Crikey recalls the Tasmanian government kept files on journalists some years ago, and some government staffers spread false rumours about unsympathetic journalists having affairs with opposition politicians (a surprise to some of the “lovers” involved). Got an insider account on the dirty tricks politicians get up to in monitoring their critics? Drop us a line, and feel free to stay anonymous

SackWatch: Public service departures. A tipster has an update on the Victorian government’s axing of 4200 public servants, claiming there will be a significant development on Monday. “Ask how much it has cost for consulting firms to tell management who to sack and how to fill in the forms,” the tipster suggests.

Community and Public Sector Union Victorian system branch secretary Jim Walton expects the decision by the ATO to approve the voluntary redundancy program to land soon, officially opening the redundo process. Walton was not aware of an external contractor handling the departures, but said this could well be the case. The Victorian government is cutting loose at least 4200 staff, announcing in June in which departments 3615 of these jobs would be cut. Walton said many bureaucrats had already left.

PMO stalwarts. With plenty of circulation through Gillard’s PMO, we asked yesterday if it was correct that Tom Bentley was the only staffer to last the distance since Gillard took over the top job, just over two years ago. A tipster from inside the beltway says adviser John Spierings has also gone the distance. The guide to who’s who in the PMO for 2010 lists 57 staff, so it would seem to be a short-lived career choice for many. Meanwhile, over in the Abbott bunker, there’s been relatively strong staff retention — seems they think they’re on to a sure thing. Or perhaps Abbott is easier to work for? Calling all tips from Canberra insiders!

Legal trouble for winemaking scion. We hear that a member of a prominent winemaking family has fallen foul of the law and may face court. Questions are being asked about whether liquor licences are being issued too easily.

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