From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Conbank. Was a certain person moved on from ANZ for the same reasons the Commonwealth Bank is in such trouble? Guess who, don’t sue!

Getting on with the Thai military. ANU researchers are doing a study on how to influence the Thai military — yes that’s right, the one that declared martial law, staged a coup, suppressed dissent, jailed protesters, and is not moving to elections any time soon.

The study has been funded by the US Defense Department via the Minerva Initiative. Here’s what the boffins are studing:

” Thailand’s response to the models of influence of China and the United States provides a valuable test case for wider application. The key questions are: to what extent are local military elites and political figures amenable to great power influence over strategic security choices and what are the key determinants of such influence? The project will include interviews with senior Thai military and political leaders, secondary and primary archival research, and a detailed survey of serving and former staff officers and junior to mid-level commanders.”

The “key determinants of influence”? Sounds like an awkward question. The reader who alerted us to this project asked this:

“The timing of this ‘study’ seems rather coincidental to the Thai military taking over the country and in layman’s terms it seems the ANU is being tasked with finding out [how to get Thailand] to remain loyal to US interests.”

The lead researcher, John Blaxland, from the ANU’s Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, said the project was not about that at all. He said the project was arranged and funding secured before May’s military coup, with findings due in late 2016 (by which time, according to the military’s claimed timeline, elections will have happened). “It’s not at all related to what’s going on at the moment [the coup],” Blaxland told Crikey. He said the research was “about understanding the dynamics of the great powers that work in South-East Asia,” and was a “genuine, warranted piece of academic research”.

Sloan v Stiglitz. We’re sure that Nobel-prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz enjoyed being lectured by Judy Sloan from The Australian on Q&A last night. Sloan was keen to get her message across, and the other panellists (three eminent economists) trying to talk certainly didn’t stop her from hogging the mic. One of our fave tweeters captured it well:

Meanwhile we’re enjoying some of the tweets listed on the ABC’s official Q&A homepage. It’s probably fair to say this feed is not moderated …

Christian event. Crikey is excited about the launch of Silvana Nero’s campaign for next year’s NSW election. Her hubby Fred Nile, a fellow candidate with the Christian Democrats, will be present — so it’s two for the price of one (plus a roast dinner buffet!).

Miss Nero hopes that “as a mother and as a Christian … I see that as part of being able to rebuild the faith of Australians in the leadership.” She quotes the Bible on her campaign Facebook page, and her mission is “know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

Now, the event will be MCed by John Caputo. Is that the same John Caputo who, as head of fundraising for Tony Abbott in his Warringah electorate, “agreed that he was in the middle of fraud involving the diversion of cheques from the Liberal Party”? That’s what Caputo told ICAC, anyway. He recalled organising a fundraising event for the Liberals and, at the end of the night, handing over various cheques to the Liberal MP. Caputo acknowledged fraud was involved.

We can only assume Nero, who is such an advocate for the truth, is pleased ICAC got to the bottom of that one.

Pollies and their books … Yesterday Crikey dipped into the vanity world of politicians who write books (there’s a craze on at present), and gave you a list of some of the most memorable reads. We asked for your views on the best in the genre, and it turns out Crikey readers like Mark Latham’s The Latham Diaries and former Labor powerbroker Graham Richardson’s Whatever It Takes (1994). One reader recommended the late Labor minister John Button’s As It Happened. 

But readers didn’t thrill to the upcoming book by John Howard, The Menzies Era, coming out in October (apparently it’s quite long). We even had a suggestion that “chemists sell copies as guaranteed insomnia cures”.

Not all these books by pollies sell well. If you spy any in the bargain bin, be sure to snap a picture and email to Crikey. We’d love to know which are the least-loved books in this genre.

… can still win prizes. The stories prompted one reader to beef about the entry criteria for the controversial Prime Minister’s Literary Awards.

“Crikey today noted low sales of some books by politicians (eg. Kim Carr and Chris Bowen). However both of these books might theoretically be considered for the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards. On the other hand, better-selling books by Australian authors which are not published by mainstream publishers are not eligible. The rules for these awards state ‘self-published books are not eligible. This includes any arrangement whereby an author pays a third party to publish a work.’ This rule should be changed to avoid both authors and the reading public losing.”

Our reader is right about the rule — but should we be giving awards to self-published books? Surely most are pretty turgid?

PMLA judges will soon decide who wins the awards for 2014. Can we expect Kim Carr’s A Letter To Generation Next and Chris Bowen’s Hearts and Minds to win a prize? Both would be eligible, but with judges including Gerard Henderson and Peter Coleman (Peter Costello’s father-in-law, who co-wrote young Peter’s memoirs), perhaps not.

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

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey