From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Qantas cuts come to finance. The Qantas cost-cutting continues — this time within its finance team. An insider reports that each and every finance employee across the business received a “Notice Inviting Expression of Interest” for voluntary redundancies. The employee writes:

“In the past if you were interested in expressing your interest, you would approach HR and they would come back to you sometime after with your payout figure. But yesterday, each finance employee’s letter contained their lump sum figure.”

A Qantas spokesman told us:

“This week, we have asked employees in our corporate finance department if they would like to put their hand up for a voluntary redundancy package. This is part of the accelerated $2 billion cost reduction program over three years that we announced back in December which included a reduction of at least 1000 of the 35,000 employees across the Qantas Group.”

Bureaucrats thrown out of first class. Is it true that an email has gone around all federal government departmental secretaries from a senior figure in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, telling them they can no longer fly first class? “Boo hoo you might say, but this includes removal of entitlements set by the independent Remuneration Tribunal (set up to avoid politicisation), by prime ministerial fiat,” our mole commented. They also wanted to know whether Tony Abbott and his ministers — and government lackies like business adviser Maurice Newman and audit commissioner Tony Shepherd — are flying first class on the taxpayer dime. We’d love to know more, so if you’ve seen a senior government figure on a plane recently, do tell us where they were sitting (here’s an anonymous form for shy types).

You can check out the secretaries’ flying entitlements here — not a bad job if you can get it.

Losers the winners in cricket. Remember the rather awkward cricket game between the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the agency it recently subsumed, AusAID? Well, we found out who won: it was AusAID by five wickets. A morale-boosting victory, we hope. Meanwhile, from a non-cricket-playing AusAID employee: “Have you heard that the popular term now for one of the teams is WasAID?” How clever.

Tim Wilson on human rights. You’ve already read in Crikey today about how euthanasia campaigner Philip Nitschke was targeted by authorities at Melbourne airport, having his laptop etc confiscated and being made to hand over his passwords. Our very own Bernard Keane decided to ask new human rights commissioner Tim Wilson what he thought of it, and this was his response:

Well! Perhaps Institute of Public Affairs darling Wilson won’t be so bad in the new role after all?

When ministers keep mum. We now know that federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt has issued a notice which exempts WA’s proposed shark cull from relevant federal legislation. We didn’t know it when Hunt actually granted the the notice on January 10, because he forgot to mention it publicly. The media first reported the decision yesterday, 11 days after it happened.

Hunt has issued five media releases since January 10 but none are about the shark cull. Nor did he tweet about the decision. “Hunt’s decision to approve it but not announce it, given the huge public interest, is awfully weak,” said our tipster who pointed us to the date discrepancy. Certainly it would be nice if ministers told us about all important decisions and developments, not just the ones that will be popular — but don’t hold your breath.

Hinch in the slammer. Broadcaster Derryn Hinch is in the big house for refusing to pay a fine relating to breaching a suppression order in the Jill Meagher murder case. He was recently taken to jail for 50 days. According to his Twitter account this morning, the prison mattress is not quite to standard (that’s his assistant Annette Philpott tweeting for him) …

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Peter Fray

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