From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Big bucks at stake in Timor deal. Resources Minister Martin (“Marn”) Ferguson is in East Timor today, working on the vexed issue of sharing highly lucrative oil and gas reserves under the ocean between the two nations. As Crikey wrote recently, the pact between East Timor and Australia over sharing undersea resources could lapse, as a deadline for Timor and Woodside to strike a deal on developing a gas project falls tomorrow. No deal may mean the sea border between Timor and Australia is redrawn.

There are rumours that Timor may be willing to hold fire on its threat to walk away from the Woodside negotiations, although Timor’s Resources Minister upped the ante yesterday, saying the fledgling nation may develop its gas project without Woodside. We hear the Timorese PM is not in town for the talks with Ferguson — he’s just left for South Korea.

In a media release yesterday, Ferguson said:

“This visit reaffirms Australia’s commitment to continue to work in a positive and cooperative manner with Timor-Leste in facilitating development of the Greater Sunrise gas-fields to ensure continuing economic development.”

Watch this space. We’ll bring you more next week. And if you’re in the inside, drop us a line on what’s going on.

Rumbling those R&D perks. Crikey has been nosing around on the R&D tax breaks big business is set to lose to fund Labor’s manufacturing policy (read previous entries here, here and here). This from a mole who used to work with a firm trying to break into the energy field with a new process:

“Virtually all of the machining work done was actually expended for marketing purposes but was written off as R&D. The chemical engineering and validating work commissioned was done to attract investors but was written off as R&D, and the CEO bought an expensive new engine for his boat and had it fitted. It was written off as R&D — ‘testing the new fuel’ in an engine that only ever had conventional fuel in it. I am aware someone reported this little rort to the tax man but nothing was ever done.”

Your tax dollars at work, people — allowing brave businesses like this to forge new research frontiers and get a tasty tax break for doing it. It would seem this type of firm would not lose the R&D tax breaks as only large firms will. Maybe the whole program should be more closely scrutinised? If you know of more rorting of the system, let us know.

Unfollow. Oh dear. Might not be worth following these guys on the Twitter — not after they sacked 648 people yesterday.

A recent tweet is “10 steps to happiness at work” (don’t get sacked?).

Abbott Clan Watch. Inspired by Tony Abbott’s habit of rolling out his daughters for the media (one has even spoken at his press conferences), Tips is keeping track via the new Abbott Clan Watch, launched yesterday in homage to this pic of Abbott holding hands with his 20-year-old daughter Bridget. We asked what you thought about Abbott’s use of his family in the media. Most of you disapproved:

“Nice girls, presumably, but his use of them is pathetic”

“Abbott is simply an exhibitionist of the macho variety. Once it was the hairy chest and red speedos, but these were howled down and made into laughing stock (thankfully!). So what’s left to the macho bloke? What’s left is to flash his genitals by proxy by showing off the results, in this case some not-bad-looking daughters. But the underlying message is simply ‘aren’t I great; I’ve shagged my wife’ … I expect something more than such trivia from an aspirant to the exalted position of head of government”

“Holding hands with his daughter? I don’t think so. There is something so cynical and creepy about it that it out-creeps and out-cynics even the usual level of Abbott behaviour”

“One can’t help feeling that displaying the fruits of his loins is an ‘up you to Julia’ moment. Look at me, he’s saying. I’ve had children unlike the barren Ms Gillard who isn’t even married so how the hell would she know how to bring up a family. Personally, seeing the pictures of him with a grown-up daughter holding hands makes me want to vomit!”

“I think he uses them for a range of purposes including as human shields to prevent detailed scrutiny”

But we did find one reader who had no problem with the photos:

“It’s an opportunity for him to actually spend some time with them, something he hasn’t done much of over the years, judging by his comment that his wife brought their daughters up and judging by the media coverage of him all over Australia on weekdays and weekends when Parliament isn’t sitting”.

This reader raises a good point — is Abbott supposed to leave his daughters at home to avoid being photographed with them? We’ve certainly stirred a hornet’s nest with Abbott Clan Watch; help us update it by emailing us media photographs of Abbott with his family.

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