From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

OzFest struggling because of grant freeze? OzFest, a government-backed four-month festival promoting Australia in India, launches in a fortnight. Prime Minister Julia Gillard will attend the opening-night performance in New Delhi on October 16. Aussie artists and organisations will star in more than 100 arts and culture events, and have mostly been sponsored by government grants to get there.

However, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has frozen grants to the Australia India Council (AIC) — which several artists involved in OzFest apparently applied for — as part of a government-wide freeze to review the grants system. This freeze is “leaving dozens of programs in limbo, compromising the entire festival”,  one tipster tells Crikey.

A DFAT spokesperson told Crikey: “The government is currently in the process of collecting information on how grants programs, including the AIC, are being rolled out … The AIC’s general grant round which opened in June is affected by this pause. All applicants have been notified of this. Some of these are part of OzFest, however funding comes from a variety of sources for most applications … While the OzFest program has been launched, some OzFest-related activities are the subject of grants applications still to be considered.”

Crikey‘s been in touch with several OzFest artists, but none of them had applied for AIC grants. Did you apply for one and are currently struggling to take part in the festival? Let us know

Cutting edge or cutting access? NAB is pushing its new online trading platform “nabtrade” as cutting-edge technology that will simplify banking for its customers. But one Crikey reader claims the hyped platform has had the opposite effect since its August launch. Our insider reckons problems with creating invalid customer details and blocking internet access have been kept very quiet by NAB, and our reader suspects it’s not an isolated glitch. Have you had similar problems? Drop us a line.

News of the world. In our quest to find the world’s most expensive newspaper, Switzerland’s Neue Zürcher Zeitung hasn’t been outpriced, still sitting at the top of the dailies at four francs ($A4.16). Crikey readers tell us that closer to home, West Australians can fork out $10.80 for WA Business News, a weekly “newspaper” of sorts. Imports also cost a premium; the weekend edition of Britain’s Financial Tines can be picked up in Sydney for $A7.

Nepal’s English language Republica and Kathmandu Post have pipped Malaysia’s Oriental Daily News at the post for title of world’s cheapest daily. At five and three rupees respectively (about four cents and six cents) they both come in well below the Oriental Daily News at one ringgit (31 cents).

Can you beat that? If you know of a more expensive — or cheaper — daily paper, get in touch.

We can bag anything! Alan Jones’ interest in chaff bags (he often suggests politicians he doesn’t like should be put in one, and apparently he’s bought a jacket made out of the things) prompted an eagle-eyed Crikey tipster to look into their availability. The Bundaberg Bag Company, with the tagline “we can bag anything!”, advises that chaff bags are ideal for chaff, rags, cans, paper, rubbish and lawn clippings. No mention of prime ministers or other political figures though.

Young Libs urged to bring “a friend” to Alan Jones talk. Today’s Australian reports that the Facebook event plugging Alan Jones’ address to the Sydney University Liberal Club was “public”. But further down the page there’s a comment urging acolytes to “reserve a spot for you and a friend” and plugging a contact email address. Jones, of course, has repeatedly maintained the event was “private” and shouldn’t have been reported. Now we know the true truth.

University of Queensland Student Union slaps down dissidents. The UQ Union Council meeting last night voted not to act on a petition singed by 3,000 students to demand a new election after the recent poll returned the union’s ruling Tory clique amid fierce opposition. The Young LNP-linked “Fresh” were accused of lifting their progressive rivals’ name to effectively prevent them from running, causing a Pineapple State media storm. One mole reports that Council voted based on “impartial” advice from Andrew Stirling, a close associate of Young LNP president and “Fresh” acolyte Ben Riley. Working beautifully.

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

Peter Fray

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