From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

The number two’s club. Tony Abbott was outraged yesterday at the ALP preselecting the faceless factional warlord Don Farrell ahead of Penny Wong in SA, criticising Labor for putting factional deals ahead of merit (that deal was dumped today when Farrell “stood aside” for Wong).

“The only possible explanation for putting an unknown parliamentary secretary at the top of the Senate ticket ahead of one of the government’s most senior ministers is that the faceless men are calling the shots in the Labor party,” Abbott said of the original deal.

Which is very interesting, because who is the head of the Liberals’ Senate ticket? Why, Cory “the Beast” Bernardi of course! Bernardi, a perennial favourite of Tips (and star of his own YouTube channel), could only dream of being an “unknown parliamentary secretary” after he was sacked for likening gay marriage to s-x with animals. And who is in the number two spot? Liberal rising star Simon Birmingham, shadow parliamentary secretary for the environment and the Murray-Darling Basin. Birmingham, an articulate moderate, is tipped by insiders as one to watch, and may well get a promotion if the Libs win government.

Some Liberals (moderates especially) are not happy that Cory is heading up the Liberals’ ticket, but the feeling is that because the deal was done about six months ago, it would be too difficult to unpick it now (we’ve also heard it would only be worth their while if Bernardi could be demoted to third spot, hence could exit politics — but apparently he still has enough numbers to ward off that prospect). On December 7 the party will preselect a candidate to take up the third spot on the ticket (Anne Ruston, who had won the spot, has instead filled the Senate vacancy left by Mary Jo Fisher). We hear Cathie Webb and ex-military figure Joe Barry are running.

Meanwhile, a little Labor bird tells Crikey that Wong and Birmingham have been heard joking about their “number two’s club”. Although Wong is no longer a member …

Friends in high places. Which politician is apparently good friends with a senior figure in a bank — the same bank which has given a scholarship to the MP’s son? Is it true that the son works part-time in the bank? Drop us a line if you know more, and you can stay anonymous

Thumbs up indeed. Long-serving Herald Sun transport reporter Ashley Gardiner recently made the switch from Southbank to a spinner in Liberal education minister Martin Dixon’s office in what must have been a desperate move given Victoria’s TAFE disaster. Now pictorial evidence has emerged that Gardiner might not be the staunch Tory sympathiser he’s sometimes made out to be. Below is a Labor-tastic pic taken of Gardiner taken on November 25, 2007 at 1.17am — Kevin Rudd’s election night — smashing a Kevin 07 t-shirt and giving the thumbs up to then-Brumby government media director Sharon McCrohan. Quite the Damascene conversion.

Birther conspiracy unmasked. Tips noted yesterday the breathless excitement of Australia’s very own birther movement, convinced Alex Greenwich, the newly-elected member for the state seat of Sydney, was born in NZ and remained a dual citizen. But Greenwich has got in touch to say he had renounced his NZ citizenship. No doubt our birthers will want to see some kind of certificate …

More on RN. Seems there’s some support out there for the viewpoint on RN expressed in Crikey yesterday. Another insider writes:

“All I can say is bravo, and friend you are not alone. It’s a crying shame RN management didn’t go further to spruce up the joint because when Tony Abbott becomes PM or Julia holds on (because it probably makes no difference) the really nasty cuts are yet to come. And when that happens you can bet there’ll be an almighty bloodbath at Ultimo HQ, and only the fittest bits of the ABC will survive. But will RN endure and grow? RN management probably thinks it’s done enough to stop the barbarians, but I know I am not alone in thinking they haven’t. I did a quick examination of RN’s age profile in the year 2022 and found that if it continues as business as usual (where staff turnover is currently determined by retirement or the feet first option) then over 50% of RN staff will be over 60 years of age in a decade. Some of these people see no need for new ideas, because they repeatedly refer to the need to protect “traditional” programs. Mention this in some parts of RN and you’re accused of being ageist. Oh God, it really has gone too far … Sadly the children of the revolution are now the status quo. They’ve created an oligarchy and shut the doors to a new generation of content makers. They don’t see it that way — for them it’s an attack on the creatives. I bet they’ll be the first to line up for voluntary redundancies if management decides to really address the structural problems instead of just tinkering around the edges. Go on Mark Scott, do it.”

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