From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …
Abbott’s media HQ. “Abbott’s office takes control of ministers’ media,” the AFR revealed yesterday. The story told us that Abbott’s office had issued an edict that all media requests for interviews be approved by the PM’s staff (via staffer Kate Walshe). Er, except that’s the way the system has worked for some years. It was the deal in opposition, and it’s the deal now; that edict has been regularly reinforced.
Liberal moles tell Crikey there is some grumbling about the system, especially from MPs who are told they must reject media interviews. Some MPs think Abbott’s office has favourites who are often allowed to speak to the media (apparently Chris Pyne is one, although after his surprise revelations about university reforms this week, will that change?). However, overall most MPs think the system worked reasonably well in opposition and accept that it will continue.
Given Abbott liked to portray Kevin Rudd as a control freak, it’s interesting that he exercises this degree of control over senior MPs …
Changes at the Greens. It seems Greens leader Christine Milne is struggling, with her party’s vote down at the election, and now her senior staff quitting. Party insiders can guess the impact of the departures of party kingmaker (and Milne chief of staff) Ben Oquist and Milne’s long-time policy adviser Oliver Woldring (who played a key role last term on the all-important carbon pricing package). And has Milne gone through a few media advisers in recent years?
Some party members are wondering if Milne may quit politics during the coming three years (Greens MPs sometimes quit mid-term, giving a new MP the chance to get some publicity before facing the voters. Milne was not up for election in 2013 so would face the voters in 2016). If she quit, could we see Tasmanian state-level Greens MPs Nick McKim or Cassy O’Connor enter the Senate? There’s a state election early next year and if the federal poll is any indication, the Greens may drop out of the balance-of-power in the lower house. That could inspire McKim or O’Connor to move to the federal level (it’s what Milne and Bob Brown did). Other options for a casual vacancy could include respected former state Greens MP Peg Putt, or recent federal candidate for Denison Anna Reynolds.
Of course Milne — who first became an MP 24 years ago — may stay on. If you have any inside information be sure to email Crikey. By the way, we hear former long-time Milne adviser, the ponytailed Tim Hollo won’t be returning to the team just yet.
Woo hoo, new tuckeroo. Following up a reader’s tip, Crikey is pleased to announce that a new — and as yet formally unnamed — tree species has been found on Queensland’s Curtis Island. It wasn’t easy to find the details (some people were loath to talk about it), but we eventually flushed out the facts from the Queensland science department. The department told us this:
“A new rainforest plant species was discovered on Curtis Island in 2010 during survey work for the environmental impact assessment associated with Arrow Energy’s LNG development on Curtis Island and confirmed by Queensland Herbarium experts. The species was recorded during these surveys at Boatshed Point, Hamilton Point and from an unnamed island in Graham’s Creek. Botanists at the Queensland Herbarium confirmed that this new species was also collected from the northern part of Curtis Island and also from north-east of Mt Larcom.”
The new species is a Cupaniopsis, a member of the soapberry family (Sapindaceae). It’s related to the tuckeroo (Cupaniopsis anacardioides) and duckfoot (Cupaniopsis wadsworthii). Details are being prepared for publication, and when that happens the plant will be formally given its scientific name. Might we suggest Cupaniopsis crikeyacea?
In digging around for this tip, we worked out the species was found by consultants Ecosure during field studies. We contacted Arrow, who described the new arrival as a “vine-like shrub” and said the company was “committed to maintaining a viable population of Cupaniopsis sp. on Curtis Island”. So that’s good news.
Ms Tips asked Chris Weston, lecturer in forest science at the University of Melbourne, if we should be excited about the discovery of a new tree. He said why not; “it doesn’t happen all the time”. If you have any gossip relating to flora or fauna discoveries, please tell Tips.
First Pauline Hanson, now this … We’re enjoying the Twitter contributions from One Nation co-founder turned-MP turned-talkback host David Oldfield. There’s often a surprise in store from Oldfield.