From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

DFAT axes postings … Following up on a tip from the public, we’ve confirmed that DFAT has just axed 65 overseas postings — and it seems aid staff will be missing out. A mole told us this:

“Have it on good authority that DFAT canned 65 postings last week at very short notice. People were ready to go in about three weeks. Also, all of the cuts were former AusAID staff.”

Some background; the government’s overseas aid agency, AusAID, used to be separate but the Coalition merged it with DFAT late last year. Against a backdrop of cuts to DFAT and AusAID, that’s led to plenty of redundancies (and complaining from staff).

We put the tip to DFAT, who told us:

“All staff were advised on 28 May that over the course of two years, 2013-14 and 2014-15, there will be a reduction of 65 positions at posts. 797 positions overseas will continue. Decisions on the timing of reductions are being made in consultation with relevant posts.”

The DFAT flunkey didn’t answer our question of whether former AusAID staff had been targeted in the cuts. And it’s not clear if our mole is correct that those postings had already been allotted and people were ready to head to the airport.

We talked to the Community and Public Sector Union, which said about 500 jobs in total were going from DFAT, and there was unhappiness at the news of the overseas postings being cut back. “We are opposed to the cuts; they’re going to make it harder for DFAT to do its job properly,” a CPSU spokesman told us. “We’re seeking more details as to exactly what those positions are.”

So if you plan on stealing a bar mat in Thailand, don’t expect DFAT staff to race to your prison cell. DFAT insiders can fill us in on departmental goss here.

… but this don gets a nice trip. We’ve also heard that DFAT “recently sent one of its senior executives to Oxford for management training”. Sounds like the budget scalpel is not slicing uniformly.

Turnbull v Blot. The Twitterverse is abuzz with Mal Turnbull’s beautiful spray against blogger Andrew Bolt today. Media Watch host Paul Barry wasn’t shy to take sides …

Bolt has fired back, going the message, not the man: “I now look forward to Turnbull disproving me not with this showy abuse but with a vigorous public defence of the most controversial Budget measures …” Ten points to Turnbull.

State by state. With the Victorian state election in November looming as the next key event on the political calendar, Essential Research has released state-based polling taken over the course of May. In Victoria, Labor has pushed out to a clear lead over the government, 53-47% on a two-party preferred basis, based on a 40% Labor primary vote; the Coalition is on 38%, and the Greens are on 10%. That’s up from 50-50 in March.

In NSW the Coalition’s solid lead has ebbed away in the wake of the ICAC scandals, and the government now leads Labor 51-49, down from 54-46 in March before the resignation of Barry O’Farrell. The Coalition’s primary vote is 42%; Labor is on 38%, and the Greens are on 9%. In Queensland (which has a smaller sample size of 700 compared to 1200 in NSW and 1000 in Victoria), the Newman government’s lead of 53-47% has remained intact. The LNP is on 41%, Labor is on 36%, and the Palmer United Party is on 12%.

Muggles and metaphors. In MP Tony Burke’s weekly email to Labor supporters, the Leader of Opposition Business felt the need to explain to the muggles why Speaker Bronwyn Bishop is like Professor Umbridge, one of Harry Potter’s foes. The analogy, first used when Bishop was named Speaker, was brought up again in Parliament last week and seems to have missed its mark. Burke laid out the similarities for the uninitiated, but metaphors are most effective when they need no explanation. To use a Gen Y reference, stop trying to make fetch happen.

“On the Speaker, there’s been a bit of commentary lately over a reference I made to a character in the Harry Potter novels on the day Bronwyn Bishop became Speaker. Some people who are unfamiliar with the novels and films have simplified the reference to the fact that Dolores Umbridge is a witch. Anyone who knows the stories knows that almost every character whether a hero or a villain is either a witch or a wizard. The significance of Dolores Umbridge is this: small stature, impeccably dressed, perfect manners, extremely powerful, and truly terrifying to her enemies. If only she’d compel the Prime Minister to undertake the same punishment given in Order of the Phoenix and write repeatedly “I must not tell lies”.”

#Museumdanceoff. Yes, really. The museums of the world are holding an online dance-off, and you have just a few hours to vote for the lone Aussie entry, from those crazy cats at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra. We love this blend of daggy dancing and librarians cutting loose. They’re in a sudden death dance-off with those duds at NZ’s Otago Museum, so be sure to vote here once you’ve watched the vid. The two museums are neck-and-neck in the voting as of Monday morning, so team Crikey could make all the difference!

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