From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

China trip an all-star affair … Who’s going to China with Tony Abbott? BHP Billiton CEO Andrew MacKenzie is. So are banking bosses Mike Smith (ANZ), Gail Kelly (Westpac) and Ian Narev (Commonwealth). James Packer will be there, as Crikey has previously revealed, along with Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest. Seven West tsar Kerry Stokes will join his son Ryan. Plus the bosses of Seek (Andrew Bassat), Orica (Ian Smith), CSL (Paul Perreault) and Murray Goulburn (Gary Helou). And a little corporate birdie tells us Rio Tinto CEO Sam Walsh is trying to clear his diary to tag along, joining his iron ore manager Andrew Harding …

Crikey has obtained the list of attendees for the Prime Minister’s business delegation, and it’s a star-studded list of business leaders, lobbyists (Business Council of Australia chief Jennifer Westacott is there, of course), academic heads (including University of Sydney vice-chancellor Michael Spence) and artistic companies (Queensland Ballet artist director and “Mao’s Last Dancer” Li Cunxin). Plus Abbott is taking all the state and territory leaders (even the two Labor ones, though no one from the Northern Territory) and his parliamentary secretary Josh Frydenberg.

As Michael Sainsbury reported for Crikey, the trip from April 9 will be whirlwind four-day, three-stop tour taking in Beijing, Shanghai and the Boao economic forum. Wouldn’t you love to be a fly on the wall of that plane?

… while Brandis also jets OS. Attorney-General George Brandis is off to the UK and the US today for a week to consult, he says, on national security, cyber security and intellectual property issues. Brandis will be meeting with most of the notable US and UK intelligence agencies, as well as US director of National Intelligence and noted perjurer James Clapper. What’s the bet absent from Brandis’ meeting agendas will be protecting Australians from US and UK mass surveillance and the ever-more rapacious demands of the US copyright industry. Though, at least it’s not a wedding.

So here are some questions for George Brandis to ask his British and American hosts and report back to the Senate on their answers:

  • How much information do you hold on Australian citizens and companies?
  • How much of your mass surveillance is aimed at economic espionage and protecting US companies rather than national security?
  • How secure are your systems containing information on Australians, given a contractor helped himself to whatever he wanted?
  • How many terrorist attacks has mass surveillance actually stopped?

Greens’ love triangle. Awkward. The new-look Tasmanian Greens are finding it a little difficult to select a leader. You see, there are now only three MPs (two others lost their seats at the March state election). And two of the remaining MPs — current leader Nick McKim and deputy leader Cassy O’Connor — are in a long-term relationship. Rather unsurprisingly, the outsider Greens MP, Kim Booth has said this: “I’m quite comfortable actually not having a leader”. Sounds like three is a bit of a crowd in the trimmed-down Greens party room. There’s history there; Booth, famed for wearing colourful footy socks in Parliament, has not always been a huge fan of the McKim/O’Connor dominance in the party room.

The state election was won by the Liberals’ Will Hodgman at a canter. As for Labor, who lost government, power has shifted from former premier Lara Giddings to her heir apparent, Braddon poster boy Bryan Green (just don’t mention those unfortunate criminal charges in 2006 — two juries failed to reach a verdict). But is Green just a nightwatchman for youthful Labor talent Scott Bacon, known as “Baby Bacon” (he’s the son of the popular, late premier Jim Bacon)? And don’t forget Rebecca White, who polled well in Lyons. Of course the O’Byrne sister-brother act will want to lead the party, but will that happen now David lost his seat? The man who wanted to takeover from Lara pre-election must be gnashing his teeth now …

Detainees on the move. Sydney’s Villawood immigration detention centre is being refurbished and some detainees packed off to another centre in remote northern Western Australia (it’s near the town of Derby). That’s a trip of about 4000km.

It’s just so handy that the Australian government has hired a UK-based services behemoth — that would be Serco — to run all onshore immigration detention centres. Makes it easy to shunt the residents from one camp to another (Serco runs Villawood and Curtin, as well as being involved in the UK’s nuclear weapons and many other things).

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

CORRECTION: The original version of this article stated Jennifer Westacott is the “outgoing” CEO of the Business Council of Australia. We were confused; Westacott is not going anywhere.

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