From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Jail break. A mole from the prison system has raised concerns about the privatisation of jails, cautioning that it’s a misguided cost-cutting move by governments that will not reduce recidivism, and will make conditions in prisons tougher. Our mole praised recent comments by Cambridge University academic Alison Liebling that there is no major benefit in privatising prisons, and that inmates feel safer with the public system’s “old school” discipline from officers, because they feel less threatened by other inmates. Our insider continues:

“Liebling’s comments, however, fall on deaf ears, as the government wishes to save money. Commercial-in-confidence rules precludes the public from actually knowing what goes on inside the private jails. It is no secret among officers that there are benefits to the stronger and more powerful inmate within the private jails because they can run drugs with the paucity of supervision provided by the few inexperienced and underpaid officers that the companies employ. That mobile phones, drugs and standovers are rife in that system. That the self-harm and assaults are unreported in the media.”

The mole goes on to discuss the challenge of a small number of officers locking up more than 60 inmates each day:

“We officers are doing a big job that requires a lot of people skills. But this means nothing to the government’s assertion that it will save money. I do not believe for a minute that the private jails will reduce recidivism or protect the vulnerable within the jails. Until the true statistics are released there is no comparison to be made. But then I am sure that quality is not the issue. For all the talk of “best practice” it will boil down to whatever is cheapest.”

The Oz brain drain begins. Crikey has been keeping tabs on the flight from Fairfax, but we haven’t forgotten about News Limited. The Australian’s editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell yesterday called for 20 voluntary redundancies from his rank of reporters, subeditors and artists with a deadline of Friday. Mitchell, as The Australian Financial Review cheekily points out today, previously told his staff there wouldn’t be a need for redundancies at his paper.

Senior subeditor Seumas Phelan has already taken a pay out and will finish at The Oz this Friday. Phelan, who’s well-known to Sydney Morning Herald staffers from his time there as a sub, will soon start part-time work at AAP. Got the insider word on who else is leaving The Oz? Drop us a line.

My boss is pathetic: Hockey. Joe Hockey set us all straight yesterday with this unequivocal tweet on a phrase that should apparently not be part of the political discourse:

The shadow Treasurer may find a chilly reception at the next party room meeting from colleague Senator Mitch Fifield, who is in the record saying this: “The opposition has sought to put an NDIS above partisan politics”, while fellow Coalition MP Mal Washer also used the phrase: “Somewhere in the cloud and smoke of politics of hung parliaments we got screwed up and we couldn’t get the decency above the politics”.

Hockey might want to steer clear from his NSW electorate and Premier Barry O’Farrell for a little while; O’Farrell has said this: “Delivering the national disability insurance scheme should be above politics”.

And perhaps Hockey should set his boss straight on using “pathetic lines”:

Not on the CV. Which former NT police officer who was dismissed from their post has landed a nice government job elsewhere — apparently without disclosing that they had been sacked? We hear that the officer in question was given a glowing reference from another NT officer, which did not mention the sacking. Apparently both governments have been alerted.

The Imelda Marcos of Australian TV? Not everyone is starstruck with Sarah Murdoch’s performance as the host of Ten’s Everybody Dance Now, a dance reality show that debuted on Sunday night and has bombed in the ratings. An armchair critic wonders if it helps her appeal that she’s married to Ten chairman Lachlan Murdoch?

“Is Sarah Murdoch the Imelda Marcos of Australian TV? Would she get a gig on Everybody Dance Now if she wasn’t married to the boss? One of the most excruciating  experiences for VIP’s visiting Manila in the Marcos era was having to listen to Imelda’s performances at official functions.”

This tip inspired us here at Crikey to check out some YouTube clips of La Marcos in action, and we must say, it’s a whole new world. And one that is more entertaining than Everybody Dance Now.

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