From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

SackWatch: mandarins. This tip comes from Queensland, where Premier Campbell Newman is slashing public service jobs (he’s on the record saying there are 20,000 too many employed).

“Queensland’s public service continues to haemorrhage staff every day in the lead-up to the budget in a couple of weeks. It has got so bad some of us are resorting to using staff toilets on other floors and in the lobby of the building to avoid our weeping colleagues on our own floors. Every day someone is getting sacked and it’s tears all round. On every floor, every day people are crying and consoling friends who’ve been dumped by Newman. What’s worse is many of us voted for him thinking we’d had enough of the previous administration. For so long we looked forward to the election and a change of scenery. Now boxes of tissues are everywhere and people are gravely concerned for their kids and their families. We’re sure Mr Newman hasn’t got a clue about what he’s in for because his ministers never invite department staff to meetings any more. Good luck to them running their own little circus because soon enough Queensland will be run so far into the ground people will be begging Bligh to come back. Nobody is arguing that the public service needed an overhaul but Mr Newman has gone way beyond too far.”

Another tipster has suggested that some public servants who work in provincial cities have been denied bank loans “on the basis that their future employment prospects are too precarious to be worth the risk of loan default”.

“Every last drop of blood”. Which senior figure in a state public service allegedly said, in a recent meeting with executives, that his job was to “put his hand on his heart and tell the premier he had squeezed every last drop of blood out of the department”? Apparently he also said: “It might need a Health Service CEO to be fired to get the message across”. We’d love to hear the recording. Drop us a line.

Mastering Pagemasters. We’ve heard plenty lately about working at Fairfax and News Limited, as the rival media empires shed staff. But what about Pagemasters, the AAP subsidiary and generic job shop, which has picked up much of the subbing work that Fairfax outsourced when it lost its subeditors? Sounds like it’s all noses to the grindstone chez Pagemasters. Crikey would love to hear more on the inside word (and you don’t have to tell us your name).

Pollies’ lit picks. Here in the Crikey bunker we’re not sure how we feel about Tony Abbott’s penchant for reading s-xy books aimed at the female market. He’s enjoyed Fifty Shades of Grey, and as this tweet from February shows, Nikki Gemmell’s With My Body (and from the sounds of it, The Bride Stripped Bare too). Hats off to Abbott for freely admitting to something many middle-aged men might try to keep secret.

This has piqued our curiosity about what other politicians have been reading lately. Perhaps you’ve worked for a politician — what did they read? What does the PM dip into in her leisure time? Drop us a line on pollies’ lit picks, and feel free to stay anonymous. And we’d love to hear directly from the politicians out there (we know you’re reading) on their recent literary habits. Be honest now!

In the spirit of free and frank disclosure, this Crikey correspondent is happy to admit reading Tintin books.

Tantastic. Seems the rumour that you might have to pay to run around the Tan (Melbourne’s popular running track around the Botanic Gardens) could be true. A switched-on athlete tells us that since last year, any “recreation for profit” exercise on public land (e.g. personal trainers) has to pay $1.10 per adult per visit, which will rise to $2.40 next year. The enforcement heavies will have to run fast to catch fare evaders though.

New gutters to buy votes? Tales from Sydney’s east, where a Crikey correspondent writes about the sudden outbreak of civic pride in Paddington:

“In the past month there has been an outbreak of small civil improvement projects. Roads, footpaths and gutters in Hargrave, Moncur, Taylor and Elizabeth streets have been or are being replaced, resurfaced or repaired. Thousands of dollars have suddenly been found by Woollahra Council to pay for these repairs which are fixing small or nagging cracks, holes or worse around parts of the Paddington ward. Why there? The September 8 election, of course. The ward battle has seen a vigorous campaign between the Greens, the Liberals and the Residents First group. The ALP is there but seems to be an afterthought by local enthusiasts.”

One of the current councillors in Paddington ward is very high profile, in ASIC head Greg Medcraft. He’s not standing, but two of the current councillors are (a Green and a Liberal). It’s the third position that’s up for grabs. A win in the ward could deliver control of the council under some scenarios — hence the attention to local works, according to our resident. Meanwhile in the ward of Double Bay, ACP publishing executive and high-profile talking head Deborah Thomas is contesting for the Libs.

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