From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Where’s Mal? A spy from north of the border has been keeping tabs on Bill Gissane, the federal Labor candidate for the colourful seat of Fisher, currently occupied by Peter Slipper (those voters must have a lot to talk about!).

“The Labor Party candidate for Fisher has been having a field day of late, he has been seen out and about with the PM Julia Gillard, the Treasurer Wayne Swan and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese, and not a sign of [preselected LNP candidate] Mal Brough who has gone to ground since the decision by Justice Steven Rares in December. It seems someone in the LNP is in damage control mode.”

We found this classic recent quote from Bill: “Mal Brough’s heart is in Canberra, mine’s in Caloundra.” We’re not quite sure where Mal’s heart is at the moment.

Tony Abbott heartily endorsed Brough after the Rares judgement contained damning findings on Brough’s role in the case against Slipper (naturally Abbott didn’t read it; he’s a busy man). Tips is wondering how things are going in the Brough bunker, and what Liberal types think about him winning the seat and perhaps coasting back on to the front bench. Or do the powers-that-be think he’s tainted goods? Pass on your gossip here.

UNSW hacked. The University of NSW’s computer system has been hacked. Following up a tip, UNSW confirmed to Crikey that there has been “quite a concerted effort to hack our systems” since about (or slightly after) December 19. The university became aware of the hacking on Christmas day and took action, shutting down 25 servers, disabling some accounts, and telling people to change their email passwords (about 89 accounts were hacked). A university spokeswoman said it appeared the hackers had not accessed people’s bank details.

The spokeswoman said if appeared more than one hacker was at work, and their motivation was not clear. The hacking attempts are still going on. The spokeswoman said people who should change their email passwords had been alerted, and there was no other action required from students or staff at this stage.

Today Tonight strategy takes shape. Eyebrows were raised in TV land on confirmation over the weekend that boned Channel Ten newsreader Helen Kapalos would replace Matthew White as the host of Seven’s Today Tonight — in Melbourne and Sydney. While speculation had her fronting a local Melbourne version, news she will be beamed into Sydney — where she’s little-known — shocked some industry types, particularly given the desperation in Seven ranks to turn around its losing 6-7pm position nationally.

It also confirms Seven plans a Brisbane-only edition, which hasn’t been attempted since 2002. Another boned Ten reader, Bill McDonald, is rumoured to have signed up to host. Seven is promising harder stories this year, something both it and A Current Affair have promised — and failed to deliver — many times before. We’ll believe it when we see it.

Pollie spotting. Tips can’t help being nosey and has asked for your help in passing on gossip about what our pollies are getting up to on their holidays.

“Not sure if Barry O’Farrell was actually on holiday but we did see him at the Terrey Hills Golfer’s Paradise driving range a few days ago. Surprised to see he’s a lefty!”

“Campbell Newman has been nowhere to be seen or heard for ages.”

The unchecked media riot of Bob Katter and Clive Palmer in recent weeks is testament to what happens when Newman goes away. Come back, Campbell, your state needs you! We can assure our concerned tipster that Newman has been on holiday (where do you go on holiday when you live in Queensland?) and returns to work this week. Spotted a pollie having some holiday fun? Tell Crikey

Don’t blow in here. A caller to 3AW reckons you can no longer walk into a police station and ask to be breath tested. Anyone tried it lately (or indeed ever?).

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

Peter Fray

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