From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Lunch with the boss at Telstra. Well, this is nice: Crikey hears Telstra boss David Thodey sets aside one lunch each quarter to meet with a lowly staff member identified as having done a good job. Presumably the chief executive — who took home $8.8 million in 2012-13 — picks up the bill.  Wonder if Sol Trujillo did the same thing …?

Qantas wings it? Is the rumour true that “Qantas management repeatedly told Alan Joyce the Strategy Document would not be completed by February 27 and he responded with the ‘show’ must go on”? February 27 was D-day for Qantas, when Joyce announced the company would cut 5000 jobs and make various other changes. Some critics say the strategy did not go far enough towards giving Qantas a shot at being profitable.

Who me, a demented plutocrat? Malcolm Turnbull has had to hastily explain that he was not thinking of Rupert Murdoch when he made a reference to a “demented plutocrat” loss-making newspaper baron in his speech launching The Saturday Paper on Friday night. Here’s a snippet from his blog:

“In the course of the speech I also noted that Morry Schwartz has said that he operates his publishing ventures – Quarterly Essay, The Monthly and Black Inc at a profit and that he hopes to do the same with The Saturday Paper. I observed that he was therefore not “a demented plutocrat” who establishes and runs newspapers at a loss to peddle his own views.

“Given that earlier in my speech I had referred to William Randolph Hearst  (immortalised by Orson Welles in Citizen Kane) I was surprised that some people have inferred I was referring to Rupert Murdoch.”

We’d just point out that Murdoch’s pet project, The Australian, makes a loss but is undoubtedly influential — please don’t take us to ACMA, Chris Mitchell! Meanwhile, this is what Murdoch tweeted yesterday, to put to bed any suggestion that he is a demented plutocrat who uses his wealth to wield power:

While we’re on The Saturday Paper, the new weekly rag from publisher Morry Schwartz (aka Mr Monthly), we can report that much fun was had at Friday’s launch at Carriageworks at the Eveleigh rail yards in Sydney’s Redfern. Well-known faces included commentator David Marr, Good Weekend editor and former Monthly editor Ben Naparstek, ABC journalists Ian Verrender and Eleanor Hall, The Australian’s Paul Cleary, the SMH’s Jacqueline Maley, author and former communist Mark Aarons, Lucy Turnbull, and Saturday Paper boy wonder editor Erik Jensen (he’s 25).

There was a Tasmanian theme with Lark Distillery whisky being handed out (we hear some attendees stuffed their showbags with three 500ml bottles) and Moo Brew beer. Snacks were “arty”, with bits of melon here and raw fish there. “It was a good vibe,” one spy noted. Drinks ran on for a while after the speeches, with Turnbull’s staffers spotted enjoying the party. TV cameras were filming for an ABC Australian Story on Jensen and the paper. Just one question; if there is nothing tragic and depressing about the paper, how can it make an Australian Story? 

As for the publication itself, seems there might have been a few distribution hiccups; it sold out quickly in hipster Melbourne boroughs, and a Queensland reader complained that in his ‘hood it’s apparently distributed by IPS — which doesn’t deliver on weekends. Oops.

Out the door at Austrade. We’ve heard staff at Austrade, the government’s trade branch, have been called upon for expressions of interested in voluntary redundancies “for non-SES ie: APL 1-5. This after very expensive roadshow by A-based earlier this year” (for those of you who don’t speak mandarin, that’s “non-senior executive level, that is, levels one through five of the Australian public service”). Roadshow a waste of money, then?

Mardi Gras fun. Sounds like a good time was had by all at the weekend’s Sydney mardi gras, despite the now-familiar poor weather. One attendee reported “Tina Arena, Samantha Jade, Marcia Hines and Paula Abdul were at the after-party. Weather was horrible, it rained all night but thankfully after-party was indoors. Highlight was seeing [Aussie singer] Samantha Jade perform. A lot of pyrotechnics and she sounded great.”

Another spy spotted entertainers Pam Ann and Bob Downe, and comedian Josh Thomas. “The convicts gave me life!” was our mole’s response when asked for highlights (make of that what you will). We also heard gossip that US songstress Katy Perry was supposed to play but didn’t show. Labor Senator Penny Wong, who has a female partner, did show — check out her Twitter feed for some good pics.

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Peter Fray

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