From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

When Rupert comes to town … The troops at News Corporation’s Courier-Mail were hurriedly dusting and tidying yesterday — the big man is in town. With Rupert Murdoch stalking the halls of Bowen Hills HQ today, journos were ordered to clean the place up. Plenty weren’t impressed — there’s some simmering tension between some hacks and newish editor Chris Dore, who has become a bit sheltered in his office since taking the job after the mysterious departures of David Fagan and Michael Crutcher.

One view is Dore has been too quick to please management by giving Premier Campbell Newman an easier run — look out for a soft feature in tomorrow’s paper, we’re told. And some hacks reckon he hasn’t made enough of an effort to meet senior reporters after almost six months in the job. But one insider who made the effort to introduce himself insisted to us this morning Dore’s a good guy and has made the paper a better product.

… News gives itself some awards. Murdoch is in town, of course, for the annual News Awards tonight — the self-congratulatory booze-up where managers decide which of their journos did the best work. Crikey has uncovered the venue — the shiny new convention centre at the RNA showgrounds, just around the corner from News Queensland HQ. We’re told it’s a strictly black-tie affair, which ticked off some photographers who don’t have a tux hanging in the cupboard.

… while Rupert enjoys this spoof on Lefties. And finally on Rupert: according to his official Tumblr, he’s been finding some amusing videos while working Down Under:

You can watch the spoof here. It’s an hilarious take on the travails of a Leftie — “you’re an outcast straight away”. We can see why Rupert liked the vid … to clarify, it’s a left-handed cameraman from Fox Footy talking about his struggles.

AFR on the telly. Channel Nine and Fairfax’s joint venture Australian Financial Review Sunday will return in 2014 after a solid ratings performance in its debut year. But will Deborah Knight, formerly a newsreader at Channel Ten, be back as host? Knight signed a one-year contract with Nine, and it has not yet been renewed. Other networks — including Channel Seven’s Sunrise — are said to have been impressed by Knight’s performance and are keen to poach her. Knight’s agent is working hard to get a good deal for her client. A Nine source said the network was keen to retain Knight for next year, but noted there is plenty of TV talent around. The debt-heavy network will not engage in an unrealistic bidding war to keep Knight on staff.

Tony Abbott loves science …

… so much so that he scrapped the role of science minister in his new government. It’s a good thing there’s a prize night to showcase the work of our scientists, because there’s no minister to do the job.

Internal Labor tussle over Vic election. The ALP’s Victorian Socialist Left faction is likely to stare down the party’s Right and contest preselection in the newly created Western Suburbs seat of Werribee, at the state election. Werribee is a grassroots graveyard believed to contain just 40 members. The Left is also likely to open talks about the other new winnable seat in the in the region, Sunbury, created by the Victorian Electoral Commission’s recent redistribution round.

The Victorian branch’s powerful administrative committee met last night and passed a motion referring preselections to the elite Party Officers Committee that will set a timetable to ensure all ballots by December 15, months before the Liberal Party is due to consider its lineup, gifting Victorian Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews a significant advantage in the lead-up to the November 2014 Victorian election. If there is an absence of agreement amongst the party officers committee, Admin will meet again on December 12.

Special dispensation was also granted last night for two preselection candidates, the Benalla-based Rowena Allen and perennial contender Emma Walters (the partner of dominant CFMEU state secretary John Setka) to contest the upcoming round. Walters is believed to have her sights set on Melbourne’s west. Current member for Tarneit, NUW-aligned shadow treasurer Tim Pallas, will almost certainly be accommodated, leaving Werribee, St Albans (previously Derrimut held by Stephen Conroy loyalist Telmo Languiller) and Sunbury. Natalie Suleyman, who famously lost out to Marlene Kairouz in the 2008 battle for Kororoit, has been mooted in St Albans.

The Victorian Right remains divided following Conroy’s explosive interventions in federal preselections in Lalor and the Senate and is considered open to a full-frontal factional attack, should the need arise. But early indications are the party will roughly stick with its 2009 stability pact dividing up the state between the broader Right (excluding the NUW) and the Socialist Left, with minor amendments in the Left’s (which includes the CFMEU) favour.

Meanwhile, there are rumblings that Victorian upper house preselections may go to a ballot of members for the first time under the new regional architecture. Upper house preselections have been decided by Labor’s National Executive, but it is believed Exec members, including opposition leader Bill Shorten, are unlikely to want to intervene in democratic processes following the explosion of popular fervour during the grassroots battle with Anthony Albanese for the top job.

Friday sightings. Crikey relies on our astute readers (also known as stringers) to keep us posted if they see pollies or other influential types out and about.

“Paul Howes likes the top end of town clearly. Last week, spotted in business class section of a Melbourne-Sydney flight. One hour and he couldn’t cope at the back of the plane. Suits a man who lunches with Lachlan well.”

“I think I spotted disgraced former NSW Minister Ian Macdonald [found corrupt by ICAC] walking hand in hand with an attractive woman along the Yarra River in Melbourne. Has he moved south to escape his NSW notoriety?”

Has he indeed? There are not so many coal licences to hand out to mates south of the border … send us your sightings here.

*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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