From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Reshuffle at the PMO. The departure of the gloriously hairy Sean Kelly from the PMO’s media section has led to some movements — Eamonn Fitzpatrick is taking Kelly’s job, while Jenny Macklin’s senior press secretary Keely O’Brien is moving down the corridor to take up Fitzpatrick’s old gig. One mole from inside the beltway was surprised at the move:

“So people who disgrace their bosses get promoted? Keely O’Brien is the press secretary behind the ‘inaudible’ transcript from Jenny Macklin’s biggest political gaffe — McTernan’s poaching needs a bit of refinement.”

It was indeed O’Brien who took the flack for the mistake on that transcript, in which Macklin’s comment that she could live on the dole was erased from history. It’s certainly not worrying McTernan, who told Crikey “Keely’s a gun and I am so pleased to have her on board”.

Tackling a weighty issue. Crikey took aim yesterday at the practice of fast food giants giving free grub to cops, ambos and firies — some police corruption experts reckon it’s a bad idea, and reckon if Macca’s wants security guards, it should pay for them. And society’s ever-vigilant food police aren’t too happy about it either (which should annoy that libertarian Bernard Keane). While the merchants of grease mostly refused to tell Crikey what discounts they give out (“it’s a decision for individual franchisees” etc etc), our readers filled the void:

— In NSW cops and ambos get a free Big Mac and a coke.

— I used to be a McMinion (mid ’90s) and at our store, cops were given their meals for free. When I inquired why ambos didn’t even get staff discounts, the manager said “the ambos don’t come and help us if we get robbed”. I got on well enough with the (fat) manager to say “the cops won’t come if you have a heart attack, though, will they?” and from then on (at least when I was at work) the ambos got the same deal as the cops.

— In Victoria it is true. I can speak only for the store I worked in of course and not for others (I’m not sure if it was a store policy or a state/region policy) but it was our store policy that uniformed police officers received a 50% discount. The reasoning behind this was to have a police presence in the restaurant to deter any bad behaviour.

— I worked in McDonald’s management from 1982-87. The policy of 50% discount to Police in uniform has been consistent since the Company arrived in Australia. The company manual was very clear about the history and reason for this policy, from memory:

  • The policy began in the late ’50s in the US.
  • My understanding is that as a drive-in restaurant Ray Kroc wanted to do everything possible to discourage the then common behaviour of youths in custom and hot rod cars frequenting the carparks of “diners” disuading family business.
  • It recognises the fact that police by the nature of their work are frequent customers.
  • The idea then is that by giving police in uniform a 50% discount they would attend even more regularly.
  • The manual stated very clearly the benefits of this ie. a high visibility police presence, improved security particularly during business hours.

— In Townsville, and I suspect the rest of Queensland, emergency service personnel get a 50% discount at McDonald’s. And then they help out behind the counter for free on McHappy Day because it’s for charity (nothing to do with promoting the restaurant of course).

We’d like to know whether you think it’s a problem that cops get free or discounted fast food. Fill out our survey here (the link wasn’t working first thing after we published yesterday, but it’s up now). And are there any other perks that police can tap into it? Let us know here.

Fooled you! Inspired by anti-coal crusader Jonathan Moylan putting out a fake ANZ press release and imitating an ANZ staffer in a media call (the hoax worked for a while, but then nothing’s going right for Nathan Tinkler), Crikey compiled this list of the greatest environmental pranks.

A reader has sent in this hoax, from last year: Friends of the Earth issued a media release purporting to be from Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu, announcing funding for the wind sector (which Baillieu has killed off by restricting where wind farms can be built to … Darwin). But FoE gave the game away by a line in small print on the release which said it was a “parody”. Eagle-eyed reporters may have detected it was a fake by this poorly written sentence: “Already more than $887 million worth of developments have already be stalled or lost.” Although come to think of it, knowing some press secretaries, maybe that line made the release seem more realistic …

Bowie’s back. With the announcement of a new single and album from David Bowie, it’s left us wondering if the rock idol may have an upcoming tour up his sleeve. There have been rumours of a possible Australian tour in recent years, but none of them have come to pass. If savvy music insiders know what the Thin White Duke is up to, let us know — a certain Crikey scribe is desperate for a ticket.

Kicking back. We’ve heard plenty in the last few days about Tony Abbott delaying his family holiday to help fight fires — and good on him. But what about all those other pollies on holiday? Crikey would love to hear your tales of who has been seen where. Perhaps you’ve seen Peter Slipper at a winery? Drop us a line.

*Heard anything that might interest Crikey? Send your tips to [email protected] or use our guaranteed anonymous form.

Peter Fray

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