From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Libs still hold hope for ACT victory. A few Canberra Liberal MLAs and staffers were spotted wandering around the ministerial wing of the Legislative Assembly earlier this week, sticking their heads into several offices and sizing the floor up. As our source reports: “They didn’t have the measuring tapes out but it certainly set tongues wagging throughout the rest of the building that some Libs still think they’re a chance of forming government.” Surely not …?

Over the ditch to cut at Ten. What’s with Channel Ten’s obsession with former staffers from New Zealand public broadcaster TVNZ? First the network hired TVNZ news boss Anthony Flannery to run its news and current affairs division. Then it signed the outlandish Paul Henry to host the Breakfast program. Now we hear a key consultant behind the network’s radical cost-cutting push — which involves the loss of around 100 newsroom jobs — was Michele Romaine.

In a former life, Romaine was director of production and “production modernisation” at the BBC. According to her bio at consulting firm Media Asset Capital: “Michele has designed and implemented news workflows at a number of broadcasters around the world, and she has recently completed an assignment as Interim Head of News and Current Affairs at TVNZ.”

News ailing after $10 million Catalano ad raid. News Limited executives are assessing a gaping revenue gash after Antony Catalano’s MMP group announced plans to launch a new Geelong edition of glossy publication The Weekly Review. Eighteen of the 20 leading agents in Victoria’s second city (population 200,000) are believed to have defected to Catalano’s 50% Fairfax-owned camp before the title’s launch on November 15. The region’s $10 million ad market, traditionally controlled by the News-owned Geelong Advertiser, has effectively been hijacked overnight, prompting panicked phone hook-ups and the dispatching of News real estate advertising director Tom Panos from Sydney for crisis talks. “The market’s lost and the only thing they can do is save the retail revenue now”, one source close to the action said today. Like other Catalano titles, the MMP publication is partly-owned by the agents themselves. The intervention is a severe blow for newly-appointed regional director Mark Gardy who was promoted to run the commercial side of the News Victoria business in July.There are now grave fears the blood sprayed all over the wall may force editorial overlord Peter Blunden to further cut costs at the town’s sole daily newspaper.

Jones rubbed out of concert? Alan Jones is clearly not the drawcard he once was. This flyer landed in a North Sydney letterbox promoting a concert from Roger Woodward. But something had been whited-out by hand. Scratch below the surface and you find what they were hiding: “Guest compare Alan Jones AO”.

Red is the colour of bio-fuel. Is the Australian oil industry about to change the colour of 91 Octane petrol (the one with ethanol in it) from amber to a red colour? That’s the chat from the industry. The reason? So the fuel is more easily recognised by industry staffers when making pipeline tranfers (especially around Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane) and during deliveries to service stations and other outlets. You read it here first.

You’ll have to keep the jewels at home. Melbourne readers, back to the mattresses. We hear there is a massive shortage of safety deposit boxes. According to one Crikey reader:

“I went to Westpac in the city today to stash some cash that my grandmother is hiding from Centrelink as I thought it would be safer than under the mattress. I was told that there was a waiting list of around 170 people for just a small one and it may take up to a year. All the banks are full as are the private firms.”

Is Qantas picking the Aussie team? First it was Olympians, now the Australian cricket team has been roped into appearing in the Qantas safety video before each flight. A Crikey frequent flyer reports Michael Clarke, Ricky Ponting and Peter Siddle all feature in the new video, along with newly-minted wicketkeeper Matthew Wade. “Given that Wade was only officially announced as Brad Haddin’s replacement on Monday,” they ask, “did Qantas know something we didn’t? Or did they just have two versions in the can?” We wonder.

Seeing pink over schoolyard slap. Boo, we say, to the teacher who confiscated fundraising wristbands for breast cancer research. Straight to the back of the class. As our operative reports:

“Yesterday Sydney’s St Augustines College hosted its annual Pink Breakfast to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer research. On sale were pink wrist bands, which students were told by a senior teacher they were free to wear without fear of being in breach of the schools uniform policy. What a shame that one rogue male teacher confiscated wristbands from some students, and later that morning during an excursion instructed all boys to remove their wristbands. I don’t have a First Dog iPrivilege™ , but it sounds like dim-witted faceless manliness. It’s everywhere!”

Bernardi talks the talk — straight from HQ Earlier this year Crikey was repeatedly leaked the Coalition’s daily talking points, a series of dot points dispatched to MPs and staffers to convey what the key message of the day would be and where the opposition’s political tactics were headed. We’ve heard a witchhunt was subsequently launched into the leaks of the talking points, which could be accessed by logging in to the Liberal HQ website (the log-in page is here).

But for those, including many in Labor ranks, who have been missing their daily dose of what the opposition is planning to hammer each day, relax — Cory Bernardi has come to the rescue. It has been pointed out to Crikey that Bernardi’s “audioboos” on his Facebook page, called “Bernardi Bulletins”, are verbatim read-outs of each day’s Coalition talking points, with the Senator for Bestiality making no effort to embroider, disguise or give any originality to what’s been dispatched from Tony Abbott’s office. “Talking points” are traditionally intended to be a guide so that everyone stays on message — not scripts to be delivered with no deviation.

Bernardi, however, either hasn’t got the message or doesn’t care. And by posting the “Bernardi Bulletins” at around 8am, he’s thereby giving us a good guide to where the Coalition will be going each day — assuming you can endure his robotic delivery.

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

Peter Fray

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