From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …
Head of the ABS adds up. We hear that David Gruen, the executive director of the macroeconomic group at Treasury, has a new gig — as the Australian Statistician. It’s a big title and a big job — the Australian Statistician is the head of the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and only 14 others have held the position so far. After seven years in the role, Brian Pink announced his retirement as Australian Statistician at the end of last year, and the job was advertised in February. Gruen has been head of the macroeconomic group since 2008, one of Treasury’s most senior positions. When asked about the new job, Gruen and Treasury had no comment, and the ABS referred questions to parliamentary secretary to the Treasurer Steven Ciobo’s office. A spokesperson wouldn’t confirm the appointment, saying only that “the government will be appointing a new Australian Statistician in the coming weeks”.
Inquiry mum on Macquarie. Much media ado today about the Senate inquiry into ASIC’s regulation of financial services and Macquarie Bank, including reports MacBank in effect told the committee to get stuffed when it sought a response about issues relating to its internal compliance processes for financial planners. MacBank currently has an enforceable undertaking (EU) in place under ASIC about financial planning — like the Commonwealth Bank. Except, curiously, the millionaires factory was never actually called by the Senate committee to give evidence — possibly because not one of hundreds of publicly available submissions made to the committee raised concerns about Macquarie’s financial planning arm. In evidence to the committee about MacBank, ASIC told the inquiry “it is unlikely that many clients are worse off financially because of what happened. This is more a case of a lot of poor record keeping” — although ASIC said it was still working to check that for certain. And the committee only wrote to MacBank in early May, just three weeks before its then reporting deadline, asking if the bank wanted to tell the committee anything. Crikey understands the bank replied referring to the EU currently in place with ASIC. The last-minute letter to Macquarie looks more like an effort by the committee to cover off an issue that it studiously ignored for most of the inquiry, which had been running since June last year. The sudden focus on Macquarie is something of a mystery — especially from former senator Mark Bishop. He chaired the inquiry, after all, so he could have called Macquarie at any time to appear.
Whose side are you on? A doorstop by Environment Minister Greg Hunt in his local electorate caught the eye of one of our tipsters — and not because he said anything unusual:
“Interesting ‘doorstop’ by Greg Hunt on Saturday. It seems like an eager journo went out of their way at short notice to go to Mount Martha, but then asked only Dorothy Dixers. It would have to be a real journalist, wouldn’t it?”
It can be hard for both pollies and journos working on weekends, but when Tips followed up the transcript, we were equally disappointed. The four questions asked didn’t get much more difficult than “So you can guarantee that if the carbon tax is repealed the everyday Australian will feel the benefit in their hip pocket?”. Although the comments haven’t appeared in reports from any major news organisations, there’s no evidence that it wasn’t a real journo. It’s pretty understandable that the comments haven’t been reported — they blandly followed the party line on the carbon tax repeal. We asked the local papers if they had sent anyone along and were told it wasn’t them. Do you know who the journo was? Let us know.
Mitchell wanted time to smell the roses. The Australian will celebrate its 50th birthday next week, and Tips wishes the paper many happy returns for the big 5-0. It’s been hard to miss the paper’s milestone, with the Oz trotting out highlights in the lead up to the big day. The birthday has also been marked by Radio National’s The Media Report, and Tips was shocked to hear from editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell that we almost missed out on him taking the helm of Rupert Murdoch’s favourite paper:
“I was at lunch in Brisbane with ‘Harto’ [former News Corp CEO John Hartigan], and he asked me to come back to Sydney, and I’d just bought a farm at Byron Bay and was working on turning it into a flower growing property so I said no.”
Perhaps now and again you get a glimpse of what might have been through the Oz‘s florid prose?
Wayne Swan’s birthday suit. Here at Tips we love seeing pollies let their hair down, and these photos that appeared on Wayne Swan’s Facebook page yesterday are some of the best. The former treasurer celebrated his 60th birthday in style, rocking both a red bandanna and ripped denim vest. We wish we could have heard Swanny belt out Born in the USA with the Springsteen tribute band, but our invite must have been lost in the post …