From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Stressed mandarins. Some federal bureaucrats are feeling so anxious about looming EBA negotiations with the Abbott government they’ve been urged to get counselling. According to The Canberra Times, Employment Minister Eric Abetz (aka Erica Betz) wants to give bureaucrats tiny pay increases (or none at all), or cut carers’ / sick leave. This prompted an email to staff from a chief at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs saying “if you are feeling anxious as a result of the media reports, I encourage you to talk to your manager or utilise the services of our EAP provider …”. We had to google the APS-speak, it turns out that’s an “Employee Assistance Program” –basically a work counselling service.

Mind you, Ms Tips keeps hearing talk of inefficiency and waste at state-level bureaucracies. Sounds like some public servants can be loath to make a decision for fear of getting it wrong, so there are chronic delays. This is a huge area and of course many public servants are hard-working and highly efficient. But if you know of examples waste and inefficiency, drop us a line. Are the days of long tea breaks and 4.30pm knock-offs over?

Nicht so gut fur Qantas? This from a financial type: “Which investment bank recommended last week that its clients sell credit default swap insurance on a certain Australian airline? Hint: It’s a German bank.” For the banking novices out there, a credit default swap is essentially a bet on a financial event occurring, where the buyer and seller don’t have to be actually disadvantaged by this event (I could take out a CDS on my neighbour having twins this year). The seller of the swap will compensate the buyer should this event happen — presumably in this instance, the “event” would be some sort of further trouble for Qantas.

Packer’s boat in the clear. James Packer’s pleasure craft, the Arctic P, journeyed to Macquarie Island — a windswept, wild Australian territory between Tasmania and Antarctica — last month, and a mole reckoned it might have got into a spot of bother. No, it didn’t. A spokesman for the Tasmanian government, which is involved with managing the isle, said the operators of the Arctic P had complied with all environmental requirements during the visit. And for the record James Packer was not on board the ship, which is an 88-metre former icebreaker.

The Arctic P took a tourist visit to Macquarie Island on January 14-15, and Crikey used ship-tracking software (which is rather fun) to work out that the boat passed just to the east of the island again on February 4, on its way from Antarctica to New Zealand. Bon voyage to Captain Packer.

Got some spare time? Senate estimates hearings, where the government is grilled over budgets and policies, have kicked off in Parliament House today. If you’re at a loose end, tune in live and listen for anything interesting. There are too many hearings and not enough journalists; you can help bridge the gap. Email us if you hear anything and be sure to tell us which hearing it was, who was speaking and the time of day. Some hearings stretch until 11pm when there are almost no journalists left, so night owls are particularly welcome to help keep the government to account.

Tattoo trouble. Ms Tips loved this story from Le Courrier des Echos about a French woman who wanted a tattoo of the face of Belgian singer Maurane on her back. Due to an unfortunate misunderstanding, the tattoist “Scritch” inked the face of politician Nadine Morano instead. Morano was a minister in the UMP government (that’s Sarkozy’s centre-Right mob), whereas the inked woman is a militant Socialist. Awkward all round. The motto of the story? Get your tatt on the front of your body so you can watch it being done. If you have any tales of truly terrible tattoos, you know what to do (and please send a photo).

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

Peter Fray

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