From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Strained relations with Indonesia? Sounds like Tony Abbott may have underwhelmed the Indonesians. This from a mole …

“Speaking to a friend who now works in the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Indonesian government wasn’t too impressed with both the Australian PM and Foreign Minister during the recent APEC meeting. My source said that the Indonesians found Julie Bishop ‘a little rude’ and that the Indonesian President SBY gave strict instructions that he did not want to sit next to Tony Abbott at APEC.”

For a new Prime Minister who has vowed to make foreign policy “more Jakarta and less Geneva”, this would be a concerning development indeed. So is it true? We trawled through the media coverage and we couldn’t find much evidence of Abbott and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono sitting or standing next to each other at group events at last week’s APEC summit in Indonesia.

At one official dinner, SBY is next to Vladimir Putin. At this official leaders’ photocall, Abbott is not next to SBY. Nor is he by the Indonesian President’s side in the official photo of leaders and their spouses. The pair are side-by-side in this pic, as they arrive at the gala dinner; but then no other leaders are present.

Abbott certainly did ruffle some diplomatic feathers at APEC. He turned up late at one of the main leaders’ summits, entering the room as SBY had already started giving his address. And he missed a pre-summit gathering where SBY (who has released some albums) sang “Happy Birthday” to Putin.

Crikey spoke to some foreign policy experts about whether this tip is correct. They said it rang true; the Indonesians run a good embassy in Canberra and offer sharp analysis to leaders back home. Officials are well-aware of the difference between what Abbott says in Australia on issues like boat people, and what he says when he’s in Indonesia. Apparently SBY has a strong sense of propriety and is not likely to respond well to someone who does not understand Indonesia’s way of doing things. If you’re a diplomatic type who knows more, please fill us in — and you can stay anonymous.

Resigning from the ‘best job in the world’. Tourism Australia CEO Andrew McEvoy’s Twitter biography says he has “literally the best job in the world”. And it’s no wonder: the gig’s challenging, well-paid, plenty of travel. So why has he upped sticks to run Fairfax’s events division — and how much will he get paid? That’s what more than a few Fairfax journos are wondering today. Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood, who formerly ran Tourism Victoria, has plans to make big money from events leveraged off Fairfax’s iconic print mastheads.

Abbott’s phone bill. A savvy reader gave us this heads up:

“I just checked out what entitlements have been paid out to our esteemed parliamentarians, given the latest hoo-hah. One Hon. Tony Abbott MP stands out for his reimbursements of his telecommunication costs. For the six months July to December 2012, he claimed a paltry $33,524, resulting in a total reimbursement for telecommunications in 2012 of $66,624. No one else even comes close. Time to get a new plan, Tony!”

We’ve checked this and yes, Abbott seems to spend an awful amount of money communicating. His telco tally for that six-month period is indeed $33,523 — although most of that is for office phones, not his mobile calls. Abbott was beaten only by Liberal MP Barry Haase (who?) who managed to spend $42,646 in that six months alone. Haase, if you haven’t heard of him, is a WA MP who retired at the federal election.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the talkative Kevin Rudd (who over that six months was just a backbencher) spent $29,676 on telecoms, while Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young was also chatty ($17,433) and Bob Katter couldn’t keep off the blower ($16,859). As for then-PM Julia Gillard, she spent just $2961 on telecommunications.

The federal Finance Department’s register of what it paid pollies over the last few years certainly makes for interesting reading. If any Crikey reader spots something unusual which the MSM has not picked up on, send us an email.

Landis couldn’t hack Kong. Crikey didn’t think much of expensive stage musical King Kong. And nor did American director John Landis, it seems. Spies at the Regent Theatre in Melbourne report The Blues Brothers auteur didn’t return after interval. For what it’s worth, we didn’t get through National Lampoon’s Animal House either …

I’ll have the Clive Parma. Possible lower-house MP Clive Palmer reckons he’d be quite happy to win the seat of Fairfax, where a recount is still going. He told reporters this today (via ABC reporter Simon Cullen):

Parliament House veterans know this is not really the case. In the non-public section of the House, the food at the bustling canteen known as “the trough” is mixed, with a fair whack of gristle in some dishes — and the stroganoff portions are too small. You can rely on famous cafe Aussies for a sanger or a pie, and see senior pollies whispering at the tables. There is a more expensive in-house restaurant where the food is a bit better. But then the coffee queues around the House on sitting days are hell, especially when all the journos and staffers have been boozing the night before and need a pick-me-up. All in all, we’d advise Clive not to fight for Fairfax just for the cuisine up on Capital Hill.

*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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