From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Who’s writing the Coalition’s policies? There’s been a couple of Coalition policies leaked of late — a plan to develop the Top End, and to build more dams — a down payment on more than a year of work led by MPs Andrew Robb and Tony Smith to come up with a suite of election policies. An eagle-eyed tipster has pointed out the similarity between those leaked policies and the wish-list from our friends at the IPA. The IPA issued 75 policy commands; here are just some of them taken up by Tony Abbott so far:

2. Abolish the Department of Climate Change

3. Abolish the Clean Energy Fund

42. Introduce a special economic zone in the north of Australia including:
a) Lower personal income tax for residents
b) Significantly expanded 457 Visa programs for workers
c) Encourage the construction of dams

43. Repeal the mining tax

44. Devolve environmental approvals for major projects to the states

Goodness, if Abbott keeps following the IPA commands, he’ll end up scrapping family tax benefits, breaking up the ABC and privatising the CSIRO. Bring it on!

Pakula in Lyndhurst hunt. Prominent Victorian Labor upper house MP Martin Pakula may shift from his seat of Western Metropolitan to contest the safe lower house seat of Lyndhurst at a by-election. Sitting Lyndhurst MP (and failed mountaineer) Tim Holding today announced he was quitting politics for good, possibly because his path to the premier’s office was being blocked by leader Daniel Andrews. Holding and Pakula’s National Union of Workers (NUW) faction, locked out of the dominant Labor Unity-Socialist Left stability pact, are unlikely to command enough support on the central public office selection committee that determines half the weight of preselection votes. But a chop-out for Pakula, an impressive media performer with leadership ambitions, should be able to be negotiated. One senior NUW-aligned source told Crikey “it wouldn’t surprise him” if the NUW fought hard to maintain its foothold.

Meat industry check. Crikey is champing at the bit to find evidence of dodgy practices in the meat industry, following on from the UK “horse lasagna” scandal. A meat mole reminded us of this little issue:

“I had seven years in the industry at a senior level. Worst I ever heard about was Primo Smallgoods getting fined a pittance in NSW courts a few years ago for labelling imported meat as Australian. They only had to pay $250k in fines.”

Our tipster reckons the company may have been making a pretty penny — much more than $250,000 — in extra margins from the breach. You can read the judgment here — the company pleaded guilty in a NSW court in 2010 to selling imported meat as Australian, following on from an anonymous tip from the public and a sting involving food authority staff and some packets of bacon bought from a retail outlet. If you know of more dodgy practices in Australian abattoirs or butcheries, let us know.

Meanwhile, a few readers want to say that they find horse meat quite tasty and can’t understand what the fuss is about. Here’s one:

“I had a colleague who was from Tajikistan when we were both living in Bangkok — when I asked what she missed the most from home she said horse meat — her mum used to smuggle some into Thailand when she came for a visit. OK mislabelling packaging is wrong, but we shouldn’t get too hung up about the horse meat, it is a delicacy for many.”

Horse from Tajikistan! It will probably be the next big thing on menus on Smith Street, Collingwood or Crown Street, Surry Hills.

Born-again union official. Which union secretary in Victoria apparently has an “interesting history” — in a previous career they were not a member of the relevant union, and were heard to say “I don’t believe in unions”? Our mole reckons everything changed when the person realised the union movement could facilitate their political aspirations …

Crikey’s pick for pope. There’s a vacancy in the top job of Australia’s largest religion, and Crikey is interested in your thoughts on who would suit the role. Catholic Action Australia reminds us that Malcolm Turnbull converted to Catholicism — and he’d have the gravitas and presence, and carry off those robes. Paul Keating is another Catholic who would make a memorable pope (and sometimes he seems to yearn for the spotlight), while Kristina Keneally would probably do a good job — she’s navigated the waters of NSW Labor so she should be able to cope with the Vatican. Yes yes, you might point out that Catholicism likes its popes to be male and unmarried. But it also likes its popes to die in office, so clearly some traditions can evolve. If you’ve got a suggestion for who would make a good pope, drop us a line.

Rundle mall excitement. A tipster raised concerns about an article in Crikey’s sister publication InDaily, which runs out of Adelaide. In the story, Rundle Mall Management Authority chairman Theo Maras said an Apple store would open in the mall, as a result of extensive lobbying from Maras and his son.  Our source said:

“The Rundle Mall Management Authority have asked InDaily to provide the tape where this was said as Theo Maras has denied such a statement. No tape has been produced in the last 14 days. Could it be that InDaily fabricated the quote? In the interest of fair journalism, I’d expect this to be followed up, even if InDaily is a sister publication of Crikey.”

We put this to InDaily’s editor David Washington, who said:

“Theo Maras has not asked InDaily for a tape of the interview. Last week — not 14 days ago — he did raise some concerns about the report. The journalist and I reviewed the tape and we stand by our report. The quotes contained in it are accurate.”

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