From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

International Deployment Group not as it seems. The Australian Federal Police are in Ukraine at the moment attempting to secure the crash site of downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, but we hear that all is not well with the AFP and the deployed forces:

“The AFP members deployed to Europe are not International Deployment Group (IDG) members as reported. The IDG are not to be used for this deployment, rather members from the wider AFP, even though these members are neither experienced nor trained for overseas deployments. The IDG is falling into disrepair due to budget cuts and can not fulfill its mandate. The IDG is not well thought of by some in the AFP Executive and is being actively undermined.”

We put this to AFP media team, who forwarded our enquiry on to DFAT, but had no response before deadline.

Labor entertains Israel dinner. As federal Labor MPs come to blows over Israel’s assault on Gaza — Victorian MP and Crikey favourite Michael Danby is reported today lashing out at Western Australia MP Melissa Parke for daring to condemn Israel’s onslaught on Gaza — their sections are devoted to something likely to unite all of them: fundraising. The Australia-Israel Labor Dialogue is charging $2500 a head to attend an “exclusive luncheon” with shadow communications minister Jason Clare at a private dining room at the very exclusive ARIA restaurant in Sydney on August 6.

The AILD is committed to “foster dialogue and fraternal links between the Australian and Israeli Labor Parties”, something that might be a little hard given the moribund state of the Israeli Labor Party in recent years, including the mass departure of senior figures for other parties in the Knesset. Contact Ben Maxfield — who works in enthusiastic Israel supporter David Feeney’s office — at AILD if you’ve got a lazy couple of grand and want to get around ARIA’s lengthy waiting list.

Cloud jobs go over the rainbow. Telstra announced last week that it would be moving 671 jobs in cloud computing offshore, but we hear from a tipster that there won’t be a pot of gold at the end of it:

“The Telstra claim that it’s moving 670 jobs offshore to increase its numbers overseas is bullshit. These jobs are some of the most complex IT jobs in Australia, filled by some of the best qualified IT staff in Australia, servicing 100% Australian enterprise customers. Make no mistake, in the IT world, this is on the scale of the shutdown of the car makers. Despite what Telstra CEO David Thodey has been told, this work cannot be done by low paid staff in India.”

Rupert misses own party. At least several hundred journalists and operations staff flocked to Paddington Town Hall on Saturday night to raise their glasses to 50 years of The Australian. It wasn’t a stuffy sit-down affair like the other Oz party — the one where Rupert Murdoch wined and dined the mighty and powerful of the land two weeks ago. Instead, staff were treated to drinks and canapes. The bar was open from 5pm to 10.30pm, and it didn’t take long for journos to hit the dance floor. Saturday’s the only night of the week when there’s not some Oz staffers on duty for the next day’s paper, but the party started and finished early so those journos working on Monday’s paper wouldn’t be too hungover on Sunday. News Corp isn’t always so gracious — at least some staff normally miss the Christmas party due to work, and when News Corp sent over a big cake to celebrate the 50th, scribes in the Perth bureau told us they had gone without. But Saturday night, by contrast, was a generous affair. Hacks from all over the country were flown over (with their partners) to boogie in Sydney, and those Crikey spoke to this morning were appreciative. Even the Perth bureau and the Oz’s sole NT correspondent, Amos Aikman, were there.

Murdoch himself was a no-show. He was scheduled to be there, but got called back to America “on business”, leaving his son Lachlan to make the apology. Perhaps some preferred it that way though — it must be hard to let your hair down when Rupert’s in the room. Not that it was a loose and messy affair. One hack remarked that the waiters were rather pushy with the wine, but even so, everyone was well-behaved.

Crikey CEO Marina Go was there as a plus one and tracked down Australian editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell for a selfie. His legendary hair was well-coiffed for the occasion.

Don’t you know who I am? Speaking of Lachlan Murdoch, the heir apparent  to the family empire (he is now non-executive co-chairman of News Corp and 21st Century Fox) apparently ran into a hurdle getting to work recently. News Corp columnist Monique Bowley was a guest on ABC 891 in Adelaide on Friday afternoon and told host Michael Smyth that Murdoch Jr had been refused entry because security didn’t recognise him. She said:

“That’s like the other day at work when Rupert, um, Lachlan Murdoch came to work and came into the front gate and the security guard wouldn’t let him in. He actually said ‘no, show me your ID, I’m sorry, I’m not going to let you into the building’.

“I don’t know if I’m supposed to tell anyone that, oops. Oh well.”

Religious references required. It was reported last week in Junkee that the World Congress of Families — a virulently homophobic group of evangelicals who believe that Putin is the world’s leading statesman, for saving Christendom from depraved secularism — is now asking people to supply references from a member of the WCF or a minister before being admitted to the “Life, Family and Freedom” conference to be held in Melbourne next month. Are they bearing false witness? The ad says “free admission, all welcome”, but after activist Pauline Pantsdown organised a campaign for people to sign up to the conference and flood it with a bit of critical thinking, all were suddenly not welcome anymore.

The emails asking for referees came from veteran religious right activists Babette Francis, head of the Endeavour Forum. Francis and the WCF are particularly close. For decades she has peddled the lie that the WCF has now adopted — that abortion creates an increased risk for breast cancer. It doesn’t, it’s been comprehensively disproved, and it’s a coward’s way of arguing on a moral and existential issue (attendees: make sure you stick around after lunch to hear a talk on it). But Francis used it for decades, and now the WCF has revived it. This is the conference that will be opened by Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews, with speeches by Victorian MPs Robert Clark and Bernie Finn.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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