From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Melbourne arts lovers in the freezer. It’s Melbourne Festival time, which means of course that on cue the temperature plummets and Antarctic winds sweep in rain, hail and hints of sleet. Festival chairman and Myer family scion Carrillo Gantner might be saying “I told you so” to Spring Street and the Arts Victoria mandarins who scuttled his plans to have the annual arts shindig moved to a temperate February more suited to al fresco arts performances and a party atmosphere leavened by the occasional waft of smoke from regional bushfires.

The festival has been issuing press releases this week about various shows that are on track to meet the box office targets it has set itself. This must offer some solace from this week’s wintry conditions and might also lift the spirits of festival organisers. This is the first year of the festival’s new management structure of creative director Josephine Ridge and executive director Katie McLeish. We hear a chill wind has been blowing through their offices at times …

They know your business. Earlier this week we raised concerns from a reader about accountants leveraging clients’ data to make money. Another reader added this:

“Accounting software provider Xero’s CEO Rod Drury said last year that with their single database he knows more about the state of the NZ economy than their Bureau of Statistics. Recent growth in Australia would add to that I’m sure. Perhaps the value of the data is more interesting to some than the value of the accounting software itself.”

Coalition debt strategy. One individual strangely silent on Joe Hockey lifting the debt limit by a whopping 66% is the Coalition’s one-time finance spokesman Barnaby Joyce, who during his brief but amusing stint in that portfolio declared that both the US and Australia were in danger of defaulting (the Right likes to claim Barnaby has since been vindicated by the Tea Party’s lunacy). “We’re going into hock to our eyeballs to people overseas,” Joyce said in 2010. (The bit about overseas debt is wrong, but never mind). “And you’ve got to ask the question how far in debt do you want to go? We are getting to a point where we can’t repay it.”

That was when debt was at $125 billion. Now Joe Hockey says debt will be heading over $400 billion and wants the credit card limit extended to $500 billion. It seems debt is OK by Barnaby when the Coalition racks it up, but evil when Labor does so.

Hockey sneakily justified increasing the debt limit on the basis that “the outlook for the previous government’s last budget has deteriorated further”. Er, it’s not the previous government’s budget any more, Joe — it’s yours. You could have a mini-budget at any time to slash spending. If you decide to do that, make sure you hit up Barnaby for some budget ideas. Shouldn’t take long; the only thing Barnaby ever supports is more spending and tax cuts.

Important election. So you found the recent federal election dispiriting, didn’t like the candidates and didn’t really want any of them to win? Here’s an alternative election where the candidates are much smarter and have better personalities. It’s “Australia’s Favourite Bird“, and you have 52 candidates to choose from. The comp has led to some heated debate among twitchers about the relative merits of those birds shortlisted. Bird guru Sean Dooley is disappointed his personal pick is not polling well (and isn’t it appropriate that he’s “tweeting” about it) …

… but Ms Tips is pleased to report her choice, the Hooded Plover, is well-placed in third spot (perhaps because funnyman John Clarke is managing the plover’s election campaign). And no — we’re not talking about the Masked Lapwing, which some ignoramuses call the plover. Tips has raised concerns with the comp that the Orange-Bellied Parrot is not a candidate; the response was “this year’s vote is for birds people could actually see”. Huh. Go to Melaleuca in south-west Tasmania. And we can’t believe anyone would vote for the Noisy Miner or the Silver Gull (that’s a plain old seagull to you). As for the Spangled Drongo — we can think of a few federal pollies who fit that description.

We’ll keep you posted on the winner. You can cast your ballot here.

In other news for twitchers, there’s a great pic out today of nesting Peregrine Falcons in a remote Tasmanian location, courtesy of well-known wildlife biologist and go-to media man Nick Mooney.

Palin’s keeping up the fight. If you’re ever feeling bored, Tips suggests you check in with Sarah Palin’s Facebook and Twitter accounts (she has just short of 1 million followers). Here’s her latest FB rant; she can’t sleep apparently, tossing and turning due to recent evidence of government corruption. So the Tea Party forcing the Republicans to freeze the government and push the US economy to the brink hasn’t bothered you then, Sarah?

Story idea. Here at the Crikey bunker we receive many interesting story pitches, as you can imagine. Here’s one from yesterday:

“I was wondering if Crikey were interested in publishing a story about Exergaming, which is a combination of video gaming and exercise. It is incredibly popular in both the States and the U.K. In Australia, however, in Australia there’s only one exergaming gym in Hobart. The stories angle is from the perspective of exergaming contributing to decreasing obesity. Let me know if you are interested.”


*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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