From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Zed’s dead — to the ACT Parliament. Local politics in the ACT just got very interesting, with confirmation of the long-running rumour that local Liberal leader Zed Seselja is to challenge long-time sitting Senator Gary Humphries for preselection for the 2013 election.

Seselja surprised the pundits at last year’s ACT election, winning the same number of seats as Labor, and then going surprisingly quiet in the quest to lure kingmaking Greens MP Shane Rattenbury to form government. Insiders noted Seselja didn’t throw everything he had at Rattenbury (and didn’t offer him a ministry); Rattenbury sided with Labor, leading the ACT Liberals with another four long years in opposition. Perhaps now we know what Seselja’s plan was — and it didn’t include becoming chief minister.

Now Seselja, who is of a conservative bent and seen as an admirer of Tony Abbott, is going head-to-head with Humphries, a stalwart of ACT Liberal politics who is a moderate. The two will face off in front of about 200 Liberal party members at preselection plebiscite on February 23. Some insiders reckon Seselja is likely to win because the Canberra Liberals are quite a conservative bunch. However, others point out that some Liberals won’t be able to cast a ballot because of eligibility requirements.

Humphries made his pitch to Crikey today. “I am standing for preselection as a person with an enormous amount of experience that will be vitally important to the Liberal party in the ACT,” he said. “I believe that that experience is critical to ensuring that the ACT fares well if there’s a change of government, and if there needs to be serious cuts in government spending that would affect Canberra adversely.” Seselja’s office did not return Tips’ call by deadline. He’s holding a press conference as Crikey goes to print.

Whoever wins preselection will go up against ex-Get Up frontman Simon Sheikh, who is running for the Greens. (Labor usually wins the first of the ACT’s two Senate seats easily, with the Liberals and the Greens fighting it out for the second seat). With the polls as they are, Sheikh will have his work cut out to win the seat.

If you know more of the inside story on Seselja vs Humphries, drop us a line.

Back to the future for Costello? We have our doubts about this one, but we have heard a whisper that Peter Costello just might be considering a return to federal Parliament this year. Our source reckons there was a “very private meeting” in Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu’s office in early January at which ways of bringing back Costello were canvassed.

Party powerbroker (and non-Costello fan) Michael Kroger declared last year that Costello had approached him asking to find an MP to give up their seat so the former treasurer could run. Perhaps Costello is still keen on a seat? But if so, which one? If you’re on the inside, tell us more. And you can keep it anonymous.

Nurses get the chop. We’ve heard a rumour that Queensland Health has cut its entire grad nursing program at the Royal Brisbane Hospital — is that right? And how are hospitals going to cope with our ageing population if we stop training nurses?

Modern family for Chris Lilley. Last week Tips reported breathlessly on a rumour that comedian Chris Lilley’s secret project for the ABC this year would include a return of precocious teenager Ja’mie. We’ve got something to add: an on-set source told us the show will focus on various unconventional relationships including, possibly, a gay relationship.

The Angry Boys and Summer Heights High creator has been tight-lipped about the project, as have the ABC who, in a press release announcing the show said: “if we told you any more we’d have to kill you”. Despite the threat Crikey tried to confirm the rumour with an ABC spokesperson, who said they had no comment to make.

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