From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Labor preselection ructions. Opponents of Julia Gillard’s pick to succeed her in the safe Victorian seat of Lalor, Moonee Ponds Primary School principal Joanne Ryan, have noticed some interesting support emerging from local powerbrokers. While Ryan is non-factional, eyebrows have been raised locally over local member for Tarneit Tim Pallas and his staffer Jesse Overton-Skinner doing Ryan’s logistics behind the scenes. Tarneit is within Lalor’s boundaries and Pallas is technically aligned with the National Union of Workers but also has strong sympathies for the Conroy half of Labor Unity — Overton-Skinner is Young Labor Unity’s Women’s and Social Inclusion officer (and is a former president of the Melbourne University Student Union).

Meanwhile, fellow contender, diplomat Lisa Clutterham (as revealed by Crikey yesterday), had an interesting media debut on Jon Faine’s ABC Radio program this morning (listen here and watch here) when she admitted having no connection to either Melbourne or the electorate and conceded she only joined the party last month — which if you take Kevin Rudd’s pledge to remake Labor with cleanskins might be a bonus. On the other hand, an email sent out by Clutterham to members of the press gallery this morning plugging her credentials (read it here) listed “Jeff” as a media contact. But who is Jeff? A quick search reveals the mobile is the personal number of Senator David Feeney’s media adviser Jeffrey Von Drehnen. Both Feeney, who ratted on Gillard in the leadership ballot even after she backed him from preselection in Batman and Trade Minister Richard Marles are included in the to: field, suggesting the close coordination of senior party powerbrokers.

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Another Lalor rival, OzOpera manager Sandra Willis (the daughter of Keating-era Labor treasurer Ralph Willis) at least lives in the region but not in the electorate, while Health Services Union manager Kimberley Kitching, who is yet to nominate, might (but probably won’t) end up running for Simon Crean’s south-eastern suburbs seat of Hotham instead.

Happy birthday, Gough. Many happy returns from the Crikey bunker to Gough Whitlam, who turns 97 today.

Gough is the longest-lived Australian PM. Tips has a theory that Australia’s Labor prime ministers drink from a fount of eternal youth. The last Labor PM to pass away, if Tips’ calculations are correct, is Ben Chifley (PM from 1945 to 1949). That’s if you’re looking at the most recently serving Labor PM to have passed away.

Australian PMs are generally a long-lived bunch (at least in recent times); the most recent to die — in terms of when office was held — is Billy McMahon, who held the top job in 1971-2 and died in 1988. The last seven PMs are still alive; Malcolm Fraser and Bob Hawke are 83, John Howard is 73, Paul Keating is 69, Kevin Rudd is 55 and Julia Gillard is 51. Many happy returns to all our former leaders.

Hunt is on for TV chief. ITV Studios (nee Granada Australia) is in the final throes of interviews for the CEO role in this country, and former Ten head programmer David Mott is seen as the lead contender. Granada has been growing its business here; it has been associated with ABC programs such as Dr Blake and Shaun Micallef’s Mad As Hell with hardy perennials such as Please Marry My Boy on Seven. There’s Come Dine With Me Australia on pay TV and a great new one, Come Date Me, waiting in the wings. Talkin’ Bout Your Generation and Young Talent Time were two former productions for Ten. A late contender for the ITV job is Matt Campbell, the former Shine and SBS executive who was a contender for the head of ABC TV.

Pratt bets smart on Broadway. Cardboard heir and musical theatre lover Jeanne Pratt took to the podium at yesterday’s opening night party for her Production Company’s new revival of Gypsy with a traditional joke and a confession that revealed the Melbourne socialite and philanthropist knows a good show when she sees it: she was an investor in Broadway’s newest smash-hit, the Tony Award-winning musical Kinky Boots. Pratt, who makes regular trips to New York to cram in theatre-going, said she also invested in a revival of Annie, which is doing smart business on the Great White Way too (she also revealed she helped Aussie leading man Anthony Warlow win the part of Daddy Warbucks, making his Broadway debut). Few shows make money on Broadway, but those two almost certainly will.

Crikey chatted to an excitable Debbie Byrne at the Arts Centre soiree (her daughter is among the Gypsy cast) and spotted ex-Nine freelancer Catriona Rowntree, soapie star Hugh Sheridan and the usual gaggle of Melbourne’s arty elite. We can’t get enough of those finger sandwiches …

The Australian‘s climate sceptic of the day. Tips pounced on an op-ed by Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry tzar Greg Evans in The Australian today — we thought we had a winner for our Crikey competition to guess the next climate sceptic to appear on the paper’s opinion pages. In the last week, climate sceptics have included Matt Ridley (who helped steer the UK’s Northern Rock to near collapse), Henry Ergas and Maurice Newman.

Sadly, Tips has ruled Evans’ piece — “No to carbon tax or ETS” — does not qualify as a sceptic article. While the piece argues Australia should scrap the carbon price and “resist the expansion of green programs” (apparently we should address climate change using “technology”), the piece does not argue humans are not affecting the climate. So our competition remains wide open. Entries to date include Bob Carter, Bjorn Lomborg (global warming is overstated but “a benefit” in any case), Dr David Evans, Nick Minchin, William Kininmonth and Lara Bingle (yes, that Lara Bingle). There are a few obvious names missing, so submit your entry today!

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

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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