From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Bastardy close to home? Tensions within what’s left of the Australian Democrats have worsened in recent days, and honesty seems to be in short supply among some of those who would “keep the bastards honest”. Since this story ran in Crikey last week, three people have nominated for the vacant role of national president, with a ballot expected late last month. Darren Churchill heads the list — although internal opponents say he has been suspended from the party (despite running for the party in Saturday’s ACT election). According to the party’s Facebook page, Churchill has now resigned, although his supporters say this is a ruse and he has not resigned. The party’s Facebook page is at war with the party’s official webpage (the two warring factions control one each). Here’s a sample of some of the posts on the party’s Facebook page:

According to the official summary of the candidates for national president, Churchill says this: “Getting ourselves back into parliament is my primary goal, and having held the position of National Campaign Director for more than two years and represented the party as a candidate four times, I know what it takes.” But does he? He gleaned 137 votes in the ACT election. The second candidate is Roger Howe, who says he is running “as my first choice for National President being Darren Churchill, may have been excluded from the process by the latest attempt to suspend him, to prevent his nomination.” The third candidate is WA electronics engineer Jason Heeris, who appears to be trying to steer clear of the worst of the factional sh*tfight.

Meanwhile, various people have claimed to Crikey they have been endorsed as Democrats candidates, while other members declare that’s not true and they are fake candidates. And there’s a fight over this letter which one faction sent out to the membership list — opponents say the senders breached privacy norms in using the list. A well-connected tipster to Crikey offered this pithy summary of the party: “My opinion (as a former member) is that both “factions” are the worst of the worst and once again the loyal members of the Democrats (the nicest people I ever met) are getting f*cked over.”

Boffins in the courtroom. This tip relates to Judith Bessant, the former RMIT youth studies professor who is now a visiting fellow at the Australian National University’s Crawford School of Public Policy. Bessant was sacked after being accused by the RMIT Dean of encouraging the student against whom the Dean attempted to take out an intervention order last year (read the background here):

“The Federal Court in Melbourne this morning is being refurbished with wall-to-wall professors, including professor Margaret Gardner and professor David Hayward. The VC of RMIT University and the Dean of the University’s College of Global Studies and Social Sciences are facing a grilling over their decision to sack a pesky professor from the College. This ‘adverse action’ taken by the National Tertiary Education Union should be particularly interesting. It is being heard by Justice Gray, one of the BRIT v Barclay Full Court panel. That panel had its decision on that adverse action case overturned by the High Court just last month.”

Bullying in Victoria Police. Is it true that Victoria Police have outsourced bullying allegations dozens of times, at a cost of up to $50,000 per investigation? An anonymous tipster reckons there have been cases of this at Hastings, Wangaratta and Bendigo — and apparently the bullying claims of Senior Sergeant David Bishop have also been referred to an external company for investigation. “Given that they deny it’s even an issue in Victoria Police, we have to wonder why they are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on these investigations,” our insider says. Know more about how big the bills are? Drop us a line.

Former employee called as witness in $1 million film and television school case. A former employees of the Australian Film, Television and Radio School has been called as witnesses in a case brought against the school by another former employee. Katherine Blashki is suing the AFTRS for $1 million for alleged bullying and harassment by its CEO Sandra Levy. Former Head of Radio Steve O’Hern, who has been called as a witness, has left the School, for reasons unrelated to the Blashki case. Crikey originally reported that former head of Corporate Services Reza Bilimoria had been called as a witness, but we understand that is not the case.

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

Peter Fray

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