From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Publishing on ethical investment. Ethical Investor — the online publication for discerning market players — has a new owner. And it’s a fund manager. Australian Ethical will now jointly produce the publication, we’re told (though nobody was ready to speak about it when we asked this morning). Will loyal readers worry about the conflict …?

AFR entourage off to China. The Boao Forum is a high-profile economic gabfest that attracts leaders and dignitaries to China each year. Prime Minister Tony Abbott will attend next month, and an entourage of business types and journalists will be following. The Australian Financial Review, in particular, will be there in force; we hear columnist and “page 2” girl Jennifer Hewett, political correspondent Phil Coorey and China correspondent Angus Grigg will all be there — along with AFR editor-in-chief Michael Stutchbury.

So much for penny-pinching at Fairfax. Unless someone else is footing the bill? Billionaire businessman Andrew Forrest has been known to ferry journos, including Hewett, to these things. We asked a spokesperson for Forrest’s Fortescue Metals Group, but he didn’t have any information for us; Stutchbury was unavailable before deadline. We’ll let you know …

Gym fight turns to NSW. We’ve been covering with great interest the saga at Parliament House’s gym, with some MPs (primarily Labor) wanting the TVs tuned to the ABC and others (mostly Coalition) requesting Sky News. In the end our fit pollies managed to find a peace and common ground in the gym that they never would in the chamber: alternate days. But that’s not the end of fitness strife for elected members. A mole deep inside New South Wales state Parliament reports:

“The NSW Parliament has its own gym based controversy with parliamentary employees (cleaners, security, staffers, etc) having recently been banned from using it on sitting days …

“My boss reckons if MPs are meant to govern for the people they should feel comfortable exercising with them. Besides, given Barry O’Farrell’s impressive weight loss he probably has some pretty good advice to give us lowly civilians.”

The fear campaign on boozy violence. It only seems like five minutes ago that Crikey debunked the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education’s annual “alcohol poll” in 2013 … but here it is again. And the 2014 version is a disaster for the nanny state hysterics of FARE. In their favour, the number of Australians who say they drink has gone up — from 77% to 79%, though it’s still below the levels of a few years ago. But the number of people drinking two days a week or less has increased significantly, from 73% to 77%, while 23% said they drank three or more days a week, down 4 points.

Compare that to the 2010 results, when the split was 69% to 31%. The number of people drinking only one or two standards drinks on each “drinking occasion” has also lifted significantly — up 8 points to 55% — while those consuming three to five drinks has fallen by 5 points to 28%. The number of people who say they drink to get drunk often or occasionally has also fallen 4 points to 36%. And the number of people saying they are comfortable with the amount they drink has gone up to 73%.

But of course FARE didn’t trumpet those results — that would contradict its line that the costs of alcohol are getting worse and we urgently need to tax and regulate alcohol more. So instead, it emphasised what people thought about the problems of alcohol. And you’ll never guess, but after months of relentless media hype about coward punches, late-night drinking and binge drinking, FARE is proud to reveal people think problems associated with alcohol are getting worse and governments aren’t doing enough to address it. A funny outcome when so many people are drinking less, eh?

Sinodinos Wiki goes to Water. All anyone wants to talk about to former government frontbencher Arthur Sinodinos is his time in the boardroom of Australian Water Holdings. And yet, as we noted in Tips recently, there’s absolutely no mention of the highly scrutinised three years on his Wikipedia page. But now the entry does reveal a little hint of the fracas, saying Sinodinos …

“… was Assistant Treasurer in the Abbott Ministry from 18 September 2013 but stepped aside on 19 March 2014 during an investigation by the New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption.”

Baby steps.

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Peter Fray

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