From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Changes at The SMH. Sydney Morning Herald staffers were invited to attend morning or lunchtime presentations today to unveil the paper’s new branding campaign based around the theme of “know no boundaries”. The Herald, like sister paper The Age, will convert to a tabloid in March. Although many of the paper’s newshounds were too busy to attend the confab, Crikey hears it made quite an impression on those who did with editorial told to be bolder in their reporting. Staff also received this email from management this morning:

“Fairfax has informed newsagents of a rise in cover price for The Sydney Morning Herald from next week. This will be announced to readers next Monday. From that day the retail price will rise to $2 for the weekday paper and from the following Saturday the weekend edition of the SMH will rise to $3. Readers will be pointed to a subscription offer which will provide the paper at $1.40 a day if they take 7-day home delivery. (In northern NSW the weekday price moves from $1.90 to $2.20 and the Saturday price moves from $3 to $3.20).”

Don’t say we didn’t tell you so.

Opera boss leaves chair unfilled. There’s a plum arts administration role still up for grabs, with the country’s richest performing arts company Opera Australia in need of a CEO. Adrian Collette stood down in October for a job at the University of Melbourne and finally walked out of OA’s Surry Hills HQ in December with the seat unfilled. The company announced yesterday it was extending the term of artistic maestro Lyndon Terracini until 2018 but couldn’t tell us when a new CEO would be in place (finance director Narelle Beattie is acting in the role). So who are the big arts honchos eagerly awaiting another interview?

Overseas labour getting the nod? We received a tip that OTOC, an Australian company which has won a $6.2 million contract to build part of Australia’s asylum seeker processing centre on Nauru, was going to use labour from overseas. “They are not going to use any Australian plumbers, electricians, carpenters; they are going only use NZ labour hire,” our tipster reckoned.

Not true, according to a spokesperson for Immigration Minister Chris Bowen. They said the government had contracted Canstruct Pty Ltd, who had hired OTOC as a subcontractor. “Australian-based companies are providing the new buildings and materials, with the majority of the workforce from Australia and supplemented by residents of Nauru,” they said.

Abbott’s terra nullius. Some readers were not impressed to hear Tony Abbott expunge tens of thousands of year of Aboriginal history with this comment, in his Australia Day speech in Adelaide:

“It is a proud people that you are joining. We had inauspicious beginnings. The first lot of Australians were chosen by the finest judges in England, not always for good reasons, and from that rather inauspicious beginning we have become a rich, a free and a fair society …”.

Er, maybe the “first lot of Australians” were indigenous? And maybe Australia had its beginnings well before the convict hulks arrived? Some bloggers and tweeters picked up the comment, but as our tipster wrote, “was it picked up by the media? Where are his speechwriters?”.

Gaming online polls. Last week Tips pondered whether a seemingly rogue online poll by The Age, which found two-thirds of respondents supported the manufacture of semi-automatic weapons in Melbourne, had been gamed. A commenter had this to say:

“Until recently I was involved with Australian Shooters Association. If you could check the IP addresses of most of the ‘yes’ votes, you would see they are members of the SSAA (Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia). They are quite vocal about gun issues, and when anyone sees an online poll on guns, they group email every member, encouraging them to vote, and include the link to make it easy for them. Their aim is to throw every poll that is anti-gun, no matter what it is.”

We took a look at the SSAA’s website (which included highlights like a fact sheet called “Australian duck hunting, Bang … Splash … Yum!”) but we couldn’t see a call to arms on The Age’s poll.

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