From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Internal battle at the Greens. There have long been tensions within the Greens around the centralisation and consolidation of power. The Greens function as a loose federation without much power at the national level and a fair degree of autonomy for states and local branches. That might sound nice, but if the Greens want to win more seats in federal Parliament — and to get a consistent message out — should the party be more centralised? This came from a party insider:

“Greens national council in Melbourne over the weekend featured a battle of the titans between Christine Milne and Lee Rhiannon over the future of the Greens constitution. A document proposing a democratic way forward was handed out to all and sundry by the NSW contingent.”

Here’s the brochure, authorised by Hall Greenland, Sylvia Hale and Lee Rhiannon (they’re all NSW Greens identifies. Read the full brochure here):

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At a meeting of about 70 members in Melbourne last weekend, Christine Milne gave a speech and was peppered with questions about party reform, including from Rhiannon. “It was obvious there were differences of opinion,” an attendee told Tips.

The Greens’ constitution is a bit dated, but how to change it? At issue is power (how much should be centralised) and money (which goes to the states, and the national branch has to beg for scraps). “It’s growing pains,” an insider told us. We’re hearing many in the party room would like power to be centralised and think there’s a vacuum at the centre. But NSW — which raises a chunk of the party’s cash — sees that as a power grab and is pushing back. The brochure warns of “an alarming agenda to centralise power … some of the options proposed … are disturbing and so divisive that, if implemented, they could severely damage the party.”

NSW and Victoria are trying to change the system to give themselves a greater say (they have the most members and money), but some smaller states are resisting. It’s all heading for a showdown at national conference in November.

There’s plenty of talk among members about the party’s governance and vision (can it be broadened out to appeal to more people?). Members seem pretty happy with Christine Milne’s leadership, although she lacks the cut-through of predecessor Bob Brown.

Immigration tender gossip. Recently we told you that the tender is out for running Australia’s onshore immigration detention centres (think Villawood, Curtain, etc), raising the possibility Serco could lose the gig. We got this from an anonymous source:

“You can assume Serco’s time is up — Transfield are bidding, especially given close links to other existing contracts. Eurest, UGL, Spotless would also be in the mix.”

That’s Transfield that runs the offshore centres on Nauru and Manus (and copped an arts boycott because of it). We put the claim to Transfield, but the company wouldn’t comment (fair enough given the market-sensitive nature of the information. They’d tell the ASX before they told Crikey. But Ms Tips likes to give these things a try). We’re not sure if the others are a shot. Eurest is a catering company, UGL is a services company, and Spotless does facility management. If you know more, tell Crikey. 

Royal visit bill. Didn’t Kate look lovely in her yellow frock in Sydney yesterday! And isn’t it nice to know that you’re paying for the trip. Crikey has estimated the cost of the royal visit will be at least $2 million, and by custom, Aussie taxpayers fork out. The future monarchs have an entourage of 11 people, including Kate’s hairdresser and a nanny. They’ll be ferried to and around Australia by air force jets; no commercial flights (except for the flight back to London). That means at least seven RAAF flights with a total flying time of 16 hours — at a cost of around $272,000. You can read all about how much of your taxes are going on the royals here. Did you know that you’ll probably pay for the gifts Will and Kate give out to others?

Barry’s new career. He’s moving on, people.

Abbott v “madam”. There’s been a bit of talk about the way Tony Abbott responded to a journalist’s question on Barry O’Farrell’s resignation yesterday (watch it here, from 1:45). The question, from well-liked Australian hack Nicola Berkovic, was out of line — she said the NSW government was “proving to be corrupt”, which is over-egging the O’Farrell situation (odd given Berkovic has a legal background). Abbott was pissed off and showed it, berating and glaring at Berkovic, calling her “madam,” and demanding that she apologise. This will make some Liberal MPs nervous. One of Abbott’s weak spots with the public is the perception that this boxing man can be aggressive. He’s never polled that strongly among women, so the fact that he took on the diminutive Berkovic isn’t great optics for him. Some Liberal MPs were unhappy after Abbott’s infamous response to being ambushed over his “shit happens” remark back in 2011 (he maintained an odd silence for over 20 seconds). Most Liberal MPs think Abbott has generally done a good job at restraining any anger in front of the public, but we’re thinking Peta Credlin had a word after yesterday’s incident …

Leadership on climate change. US President Barack Obama tweeted this today … just wondering where Tony Abbott’s equivalent message is?

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