From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Nice work if you can get it. The West Australian’s former political editor and now lobbyist Robert Taylor has been contracted by the Barnett government to help spin WA’s next budget. Pressured to release details of the contract in Parliament on Monday, it was confirmed Taylor will be paid over $100,000 for the period December 2013 to May 15, 2014. That’s just shy of $5000 a week. As top-notch WA political blog The Good Oil notes, questions are being asked not just about the amount, but about the appointment process — Taylor’s was the only submission (read the tender here).

WA’s Procurement Practice Guide states that a public authority must actively “request sufficient written quotations” for any tender worth more than $20,001. So did the Department of the Premier and Cabinet adhere to Department of Finance policy? The government has been dodging questions about Taylor’s appointment since mid-November.

Abbott hits the road. Of course our Prime Minister doesn’t have time to, say, read an Economics 101 textbook. He’s too busy doing things like this:

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Is there something a little pretentious in a person who tweets their run to the metre? And political insiders now know that if you want access to the PM you’ll need to lace up your Nikes before 6am. This puts Tips in mind of the days of John Howard, when reporters were forced to follow him on his brisk early morning power walk (in patriotic tracksuit). This was a horror assignment for those reporters who didn’t like a dawn march.

Shock, horror: Fairfax hires! The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age are relaunching their esteemed journalism cadetship program. The scheme, which has produced some of the country’s top journos, was shelved in 2008 then revived then shelved again. Here’s the email to staff sent yesterday by SMH editor-in-chief Darren Goodsir:

“Andrew Holden [editor-in-chief of The Age] and I are thrilled to announce that Fairfax will have an editorial trainee program next year. We will welcome 10 excellent young journalists, who will receive training and experience with the news and life teams. The Business team will also have its own trainee program. We will be working on the recruitment and training program over January, with a public launch in early February.

We all know the importance of rejuvenating our newsrooms, and this is a really positive note to end the year on. It also shows that all the hard work we have done together during the past 18 months has given us the financial strength to keep offering traineeships at Fairfax.

I will keep you updated on the details of the program in the New Year.”

Dogs in politics … On Tuesday we brought you the tale of Scruffy Hawkins, the dog seeking to run in next year’s Tasmanian upper house elections. Crikey readers warmed to Scruffy, whose Facebook likes have surged from 94 to 136. But we have some bad news for the self-described “politician in waiting”. Reader @_robcorr alerted us to Tasmanian law, which states that only “a person” can nominate for election (or to be put on the electoral roll). Crikey’s preliminary legal advice would be for her to argue that dogs are the best people. But one must also be 18, and Scruffy looks more youthful (although she would be over 18 in dog years, presumably. On that point the Tasmanian law is silent).

Concerned, Ms Tips lodged a media enquiry with Scruffy. Her press officer responded:

“Scruffy is aware that the laws have not been drafted with important dogs in mind but she is not deterred and has worked out a solution. She is currently unavailable for interviews as she is in the middle of a video YouTube shoot to be released as part of her campaign in the New Year. Rest assured she is on the campaign trail and scents a canine victory of splendid proportions.”

 … and not for the first time. Reader John Newton can go one better than Scruffy. Here’s a dog who actually got a vote.

“My family has a small brown dog called Banjo, well known and loved/hated in the neighbourhood for barking, loudly when someone comes to the door door and tail wagging and smiling at all and sundry in the park. While scrutineering at the last council elections, we turned up a ballot which had put Banjo in the number one spot. Alas, he was not standing so the vote was declared invalid.”

So Banjo probably got more votes than Rise Up Australia, then.

Guess who’s coming to dinner. A tipster was at the Asialink Chairman’s Dinner in Melbourne last Thursday, where the keynote speaker was one Anthony John Abbott. Apparently the PM’s speech did not go down well with those concerned about AusAID cuts. Our mole reports:

“His speech was humorless and almost inappropriately cruel for many of the audience when he tried to explain that our national aid program was sadly mistargeted and that we should be looking to trade with developing nations instead …”

A new nickname. We’ve heard a rumour that staff at the federal Department of the Environment have renamed their boss, Greg Hunt (of Wikipedia fame), as “Gag Halfrunt”. He’s the minor character in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Our mole suggests this (admittedly obscure, and frankly a bit geeky) reference is due to Hunt’s less-than-towering height. Kids can be so cruel …

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