From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

All clear on Malcolm. A jetsetting mole reports being behind Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull in an airport this morning — and he got pulled aside and checked for explosives. “The question is though: when did the pollies start flying Virgin? They used to fly Qantas and supply the national airline,” our source grumbled. As far as Ms Tips knows, federal pollies can fly whichever airline they want on the taxpayer’s dime — although having access to the plushy Qantas invitation-only Chairman’s Lounge (cue free sandwiches, coffee and internet in a pleasant, uncrowded atmosphere) might keep some loyal to the national carrier.

Schapelle a done deal? Celebrity inmate Schapelle Corby was released from prison this morning in a hideous media frenzy, and the battle for who gets the media exclusive with her — which could rake in millions — is apparently already sewn up. Our tipster was in the audience for Channel Ten’s The Project last week, and says that during an ad break, host Carrie Bickmore checked her phone and said: “Oh, the Schapelle deal is done. Not sure who got it, but it wasn’t us!” If you’ve got any insider information about who got the deal, we’re all ears.

ICT jobs to go. On Friday we brought you a tip that staff at the NICTA Victoria Research Lab – an ICT research program funded by the federal and Victorian governments — had lost their jobs. We’ve since heard back from NICTA, which confirmed jobs will go because the Victorian government is cutting its funding for the next two years. NICTA chief executive Hugh Durrant-Whyte told staff on January 22 that the lab’s staff would be halved.

Crikey has now obtained an email Durrant-Whyte sent staff this morning with more details:

… the new plan [effective today] means that NICTA will not continue with research or business programs in Health and Life Sciences, Optics and Nano-electronics,  and Control and Signal Processing. Unfortunately, current NICTA staff working in these areas will be made redundant.”

We hear there are meetings today about the redundancies. A NICTA mole told us that back in January, staff thought the bosses would sack about half the workforce, but now staff have the impression that everyone will lose their jobs and new people will be hired in preferred areas. This will become clearer in the next few days. We’re also hearing rumours of fractious relations between NICTA’s management and the Victorian government — and indeed fractious relations between different levels of NICTA management. NICTA runs labs at the University of Melbourne and Monash University. We’re trying to find out how many people work for NICTA VRL. If you know the inside story, email us.

Demetriou to Crown? For some months now, there’s been chatter that AFL supremo Andrew Demetriou was heading for a gig at Crown casino, with the AFR reporting last September that James Packer had offered him a seat on Crown’s board (he didn’t take it up at the time). We’re heard a fresh rumour that Demetriou is on track for some sort of Crown board or management post, with Tips even hearing he might be appointed the CEO of Crown’s Melbourne operations as senior management focuses on new projects in Sydney and across Asia. One to watch, perhaps?

Rumblings at super fund. Queensland Premier Campbell Newman has earned some ire for cutting public service jobs — is the government’s super fund for public servants next in line? This from a source north of the border …

“I’m hearing the knives are about to come out at QSuper, the Queensland public service superannuation fund. QSuper’s been so-far untouched by Campbell Newman’s cuts regime but this may well change in the next few months. There have been a couple of LNP friendlies appointed to senior positions throughout the organisation over recent months. Their riding instructions are to go through the place with a very large broom. A number of executives are set for the high jump, with the government particularly underwhelmed by the organisation’s direction and strategy.”

Time will tell if the tipster is right.

New face at 7.30. Regular viewers of 7.30 will be in for a shock tonight — no more Leigh Sales, at least for a while. The highly capable Sales filmed her last show on Thursday before going on maternity leave. She tweeted that she won’t be back until at least September. She’ll be replaced by Sarah Ferguson — no, not Princess Fergie; Ferguson is a Four Corners reporter well-regarded for her tough interviews. We’ll be tuning in to see how she goes in the hot seat tonight. Here’s how Sales said goodbye on Thursday:

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

Peter Fray

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