From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Artists’ boycott issue. Debate is raging around whether it was a good idea for artists to boycott the Sydney Biennale because of Transfield’s sponsorship (Transfield, under fire for managing overseas detention centres, pulled out — leaving that much less money for the Biennale). Is the issue widening? A mole told us “Transfield-sponsored Australian Chamber Orchestra getting nervous about bad publicity leaking their way”.

The orchestra might be right to be nervous — Transfield is a sponsor of the ACO, and artists are targeting other Transfield-sponsored arts organisations. And in the interests of consistency, have artists considering boycotting anything connected to Serco (e.g. Perth’s new hospital, and Great Southern Rail), transnational security firm G4S (which works for Ambulance Victoria, public hospitals, etc), Save the Children, the Salvation Army, Wilson Security, Decmil Australia, Red Sea Housing Services and Toll? All those companies are, or until recently were, involved in Australia’s immigration detention centres. And don’t forget that Transfield is working on the NBN — should that be boycotted? G4S, which was running the Manus Island centre when an asylum seeker died recently (the company has lost that contract), provides security at many events, including artistic and cultural ones, all around Australia. Are artists up on that connection?

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We’re not saying that the Biennale boycott was wrong, we’re just pointing out it’s a complicated issue and there may be some inconsistency in targeting Transfield alone …

Palmer’s plane. We were intrigued to see this tweet from Clive Palmer MP today:

Now, why does Mr Palmer have an official Commonwealth crest on his plane? Has he hired one from the Commonwealth, or is it his private plane? If the latter, we’re pretty sure you’re not allowed to go appropriating the official national crest like this. And if this is a government-supplied plane, why is he using it to campaign for an election? You can’t use taxpayer money to campaign (not until you get reimbursed for some costs, post-election).

We can’t put this enquiry to the federal government bureaucrat who handles media for Palmer because, er, he doesn’t have one. He’s hired a private PR lobbyist instead. We’ll let you know what he says …

All Kenny wanted was an apology? Last week, the NSW Supreme Court gave Australian columnist and associate editor Chris Kenny the green light to sue the ABC for defamation after The Hamster Decides aired a photoshopped photo of him, *ahem*, mounting a dog. Speaking after the decision to Oz reporter Nicola Berkovic, he reportedly said “a simple apology from the ABC would have avoided the need for litigation”.

That’s not true, according to an anonymous tipster who claims to work for Chris Kenny’s law firm. “It wasn’t just an apology Kenny asked the ABC for. Kenny also asked for money,” our tipster wrote.

Crikey put it to Kenny we’d heard he was initially after money as well as an apology, and asked him to set the record straight. He sent us back the following: “The ABC has refused to apologise so I have launched defamation proceedings against the ABC to obtain an apology, costs and damages.” We asked Kenny how much in damages, but he declined to say.

… and why wasn’t Kenny’s story an “exclusive”? Tips enjoyed seeing no fewer than 13 bright red “EXCLUSIVES” in the first five pages of The Australian today. Some are scoops, but the news that Tony Abbott has “intensified” his calls for the Libs to give members a greater say in preselections is not floating our boat. Ditto that a junior minister has asked a regulator to work faster. How are these tags doled out each day, anyway?

Skywhale rides again. Fans of the flying multi-breasted whale balloon known as Skywhale — and Crikey has many of them — will be delighted to know she’s been sighted again. She’s been sailing over Canberra every day this week, perhaps to mark Canberra Day (which was yesterday). Where will Skywhale go next?

First Dog hits the whisky. Walkley Award-winning cartoonists First Dog on the Moon and Jon Kudelka (of The Australian) will soon be embarking on possibly the greatest adventure known to the human race, or at least people who draw funny pictures for a living. Entitled simply The Greatest Project Ever, First Dog and his dear friend Mr Kudelka will be touring the entire continent of Tasmania on electric bicycles in order to visit each and every whiskey (whisky) distillery on the island (there’s apparently 14 or so). Genius.

That’s it. Whisky, electric bicycles, all around Tasmania. It is such a good idea they were able to convince the internet to fund them (via a Pozible campaign) to the sum of almost $20,000!

Hilarious! What will the money be spent on? Whisky and electric bicycles, of course. But mainly on publishing the book of the adventure. Probably departing in late March, there will no doubt lots of updates on Facebook and Twitter, and it will all be very exciting and stupid. Stay tuned for the further adventures of Dog and Kudelka and find out which one falls off his bike first and which one freezes to death in the snow or more likely the cool room at the Launceston RSL — it will all be very funny.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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