From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Talk around Melbourne media merger. Any truth to the rumour that Victorian media players Metro Media Publishing (the part-Fairfax-owned, ex-Antony Catalano-run outfit) and the Star News Group (the “largest independent Australian family-owned newspaper company”) might be talking about a merger? Not according to an MMP spokesperson: “If you publish that MMP and Star News Group are merging, you’d be wrong — it ain’t happening.” But we reckon something’s going on. Stay tuned.

Journos break news, duck government. It’s worth noting that the journalists behind the latest Edward Snowden story, which has embarrassed Australian intelligence services — published in The New York Times over the weekend — have been the subject of harassment by the United States government. James Risen is on the front line of the Obama administration’s war on whistleblowers and the media; he has appealed to the US Supreme Court to overturn an order that he be forced to testify in the US government’s prosecution of Jeffrey Sterling, a CIA whistleblower who revealed a badly bungled operation against Iran. And Laura Poitras, as Crikey has reported, was the subject of extensive harassment by US authorities before she relocated to Germany. Stand firm, folks.

‘Rainmaker’ Abbott ends the drought. “PM brings rain to desperate farmers” was the headline yesterday about the Prime Minister’s drought tour. Rather than focus on the embarrassment that a media tour designed to highlight how bad the drought is had been ruined by widespread rain, subeditors preferred to see it as an example of Tony Abbott’s supernatural powers. By today, however, the headline on the story had been changed to “PM brings help to desperate farmers …”. The funny thing is, of course, News Corp’s outlets persistently reject anthropogenic climate change, making Abbott the only human on earth capable of influencing the weather.

The not-so-privileged life in Dhaka. From diplomatic circles in Asia, an unnamed Crikey correspondent pitches in this:

“Once upon a time the Aussie Club (AHCRC) in Dhaka was the place to be (especially on Thursday nights). But it’s been in terminal decline. Different high commissioners bring different values to the scene and this is reflected in the manner in which the club operates. The latest move in Dhaka has been to rescind all but a few memberships and make it open to all Australian passport holders. Sounds fine until you sign in — when you find yourself categorised as either ‘privileged’ or ‘non-privileged’. Few Australians now bother to go to the club; it’s a such a dreary place. Instead they’ve become members of the Dutch Club, German Club, Nordic Club or even the Bargha Club. Why is this important? Well in Dhaka it’s hard to get a drink, and the clubs are havens from an unrelentingly chaotic Dhaka. Or maybe we’re just jealous and resent being ‘non-privileged’. What happens elsewhere we ask? It can’t be as bad as Dhaka.”

What happens, indeed. Are you roaming Australian diplomatic circles? Give us the subsidised-bar gossip: on email or use the anonymous form on the website.

Credit where it’s not due. And finally, more tales from the road, from an anonymous traveller with a credit card dilemma worth hanging up on:

“Commonwealth Bank follies, part 3491. Credit card blocked, because — as it would eventually turn out — I had not told them I would be in the Netherlands as well as Germany prior to travelling. Rang the 24-hour number. Got a ‘number not recognised’ from three different carriers over three days. Fourth day — number connected! To say: ‘Optus regrets that this number of no longer connected.’ Has the entire Commonwealth bank not paid its bill? Fifth day. Finally connected — to be told that ‘all our systems are down for maintenance’. Six days to get a credit card unblocked, which never should have been blocked in the first place. Is the Commonwealth Bank the best choice for travellers?”

Perhaps not …

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

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey