From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Centrelink leak. A concerned Centrelink customer was shocked to find another person’s private details stapled to their documents after they left the Corio office near Geelong. The information included stranger’s address, mortgage information, date of birth, bank account details, bank account balance, and Centrelink client number. In the wrong hands, this amount of information could easily be used to defraud the person and gain access to their bank accounts.

We contacted Centrelink to ask how often these privacy breaches occur. A Department of Human Services spokesperson replied that the department has a strong commitment to maintaining the privacy and confidentiality of our customers’ personal information. It has notified the customer of the information breach.

We don’t know if this is an isolated stuff-up or more widespread. Has anyone had a similar Centrelink experience? Let us know.

Will Newman silence the opera too? The long knives are still out in Queensland, and we hear opera types are nervous. Opera Australia took two shows to Brisbane for the first time this year thanks to state government funds. Arty moles tell us the company has scheduled a couple more for 2013 — but are waiting for an answer from Campbell Newman’s government on funding. Nobody is confident.

EXCLUSIVE: The Australian is desperate! Crikey is greatly enjoying the ongoing war of “exclusives” between The Australian and The Australian Financial Review as they battle for a shrinking pool of readers. It used to be that The Oz won hands down, with the paper peppered with jaunty red “exclusive” tags, seemingly bestowed at random. But the Fin under Stutch is taking up the fight to them on some days.

Yesterday The Oz won with nine “exclusive” tags in the paper to two at the Fin. However, today The Oz is aiming for a record, leaving the AFR in the dust by 11 “exclusives” to two. The Oz had to stretch all the way back to this story on page 8 to make its target.

And The Oz has raised the stakes today by including different coloured “exclusive” tags. They come in red, black or maroon for your viewing pleasure. We could point out that some of the stories are not quite as exclusive as they are made out to be, but why be churlish?

Here at Tip and Rumours we are reminiscing fondly about the time we wrote for a metro daily, and sometimes wrote “PLEASE DO NOT PUT EXCLUSIVE ON THIS STORY” at the top of our stories, to dissuade over-enthusiastic editors from adding the lame “exclusive” tag.

Big pharma looking for healthy support. Seems that the pharmaceutical industry may be the next corporate giant to embark on a campaign to win over public sympathy with an eye to government policy (think miners, clubs, etc). Apparently there’s a PR campaign brewing:

“The campaign is currently in research phase and members of the public are being asked what they think about the pharma industry (whether they think it employs many people, is strategically important or just imports medicines and makes profits). The questions are incredibly leading and specific, even asking whether participants have signed a petition, attended a rally and would they do so if they needed to defend the Australian medicine industry. Which makes me ask, is something about to happen to our pharma industry here? Is the renegotiation of the PBS up again? Is there a factory or two about to close and the industry is looking for a diversion? I’d love to know the truth and I’m sure Australians deserve to know.”

Sex with the professor? Crikey has received a deluge of complaints about standards at Australia’s universities, following on from a story run earlier in the week. You can read some of the tips here. Most complaints refer to universities focusing on research, while teaching standards plummet; there are plenty of beefs about students who should fail being passed for financial reasons.

But here’s a new tip — and most people involved in a university over any considerable period of time will have heard rumours of this nature — we’ve heard about a lecturer who has apparently had a number of sexual relationships with his female students, while he “writes their PhDs”. We’re not naming the lecturer or the uni, except to note that it relates to an institution not yet outed in Crikey for concerns over academic standards. Alleged behaviour of this nature at Melbourne University in 1992 was famously covered by Helen Garner’s The First Stone. So you think it’s a thing of the past? Think again.

So are Australian universities the world-class teaching and learning academies they claim to be in their extensive, glossy PR materials? Drop us a line on your experiences.

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