From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

It’s a bird, it’s a plane … Plane watchers tell us that two planes known to take asylum seekers to Nauru and Manus Island have been blocked from viewing on flight-tracking website FlightAware:

“The aged Air Nauru Boeing 737 VH-INU headed back to its Brisbane base yesterday afternoon after its two trips between Cocos Island (code CCK) and Curtin Detention Centre (code DCN). This plane, with its fellow aircraft VH-NLK (Air Norfolk), has become quite well known to plane spotters at Darwin Airport while on the Christmas Island to Nauru or Manus Island camps routes pulling in at all hours of the day for a tank of fuel. According to FlightAware their flight tracker service has been blocked for these aircraft along with the famous Skytraders Airbus A319 VH-VHD.”

Crikey aviation blogger Ben Sandilands wrote two years ago about the Skytraders Airbus being blocked by its owners, and a quick check shows both VH-INU and VH-NLK are blocked from being viewed on the site by their owners. FlightAware tells us these requests are made by the owners of the planes, but couldn’t tell us if they were recent requests. The two planes in question are owned by Our Airline (formerly Air Nauru) and run commercial flights regularly. So why would two commercial planes be blocked from the site? Has the Australian government (a formidable customer, we’re sure) made the request of the airline? We put the question to Our Airline but didn’t hear back before deadline.

Telstra doesn’t quite fit the bill. Was something strange going on in Telstra’s Mobile division in the June quarter? Quite independently, several Telstra customers noticed unusual, unexplained, one-off blowouts in their mobile phone bills in the last few months — no overseas trips or obvious change in usage — leading to long arguments with the Telstra call centre and plenty of threats to go elsewhere. Here’s the rolling bar chart from three bills, all on $80 post-paid plans:

As research by Citi telco analyst Justin Diddams shows, Telstra Mobile has been massively undercut in post-paid services in recent months in a growing discount war with resurgent Optus and Vodafone. Optus and Vodafone have doubled their data allowances and are now pricing unlimited voice/text as low as $60 a month. Telstra charges $130 a month. Could it be customers are switching off Telstra already? Surely the telco giant would never window-dress its accounts, overcharging in the final quarter ahead of full-year profit results, due out in a fortnight? Telstra’s spokesperson said there had been no change in billing practices in the mobile division during the quarter and, after analysing four bills we provided, said there did not appear to be any billing inaccuracy. The charges were genuine — but Telstra would double- double-check. Competition in mobiles was always fierce, she said, and “there’s no bigger picture here … There’s no systemic issue around the increase in charges.”

Have you noticed anything fishy with your Telstra bill lately? Let us know (and you can stay anonymous).

Who’s attacking the AFP? Ms Tips noticed that the Australian Federal Police website was down for quite a while yesterday, so we put a call in to see what was going on. We got this response from an AFP spokesperson:

“The AFP can confirm that its website suffered a DDOS (Distributed denial-of-service) attack this morning (Tuesday 29 July). As a precaution, the AFP has blocked traffic access to the website while the activity is monitored.”

“The AFP takes any attack on its, or any other government website very seriously. All information on the AFP website is publically available. No sensitive information is hosted on the AFP website. The AFP website is not connected to AFP IT systems. The AFP website is not hosted by AFP ICT infrastructure.”

“These attacks are irresponsible (and will not influence government policy). Activities such as hacking, creating or propagating malicious viruses or participating in DDOS attacks are not harmless fun. They can result in serious long-term consequences for individuals, such as criminal convictions or jail time.”

The AFP didn’t fill us in on who the attackers could be, but drop us a line if you know.

Odd couples and online dating. The list of former speakers at the Sydney Institute features some of the biggest names in politics and economics, but tonight’s topic seems like another that is not to be missed. Sex therapist Bettina Arndt will speak at the institute tonight on the topic of “The Sociology of Online Dating” (according to the advertisement she is also Australia’s first online dating coach). The tagline reads “Online Dating 2014: Why, who and why not?” and Arndt will answer questions such as “where are all the men?” and “how do men behave in a buyer’s market?”. The answer we’ll be hanging out for is, of course: “How can older women come to terms with their declining market value?”. Unfortunately Ms Tips can’t attend, but if you do, you can send us tips (dating or otherwise) here.

Memepeace? Greenpeace has started a new campaign to inform Environment Minister Greg Hunt that the environmental lobby isn’t unfairly targetting the Liberal government. In a press release yesterday, Greenpeace said “Claims by Environment Minister Greg Hunt suggesting Greenpeace has has been too hard on the Liberal government can be disproved with a simple Google search”. To prove how much better they are at the internet, Greenpeace attached seven memes, all at varying levels of cringeworthiness, including this one:

Situations vacant — but are they? It was only a matter of time before some enterprising folk found ways around the government’s plan to make job seekers apply for 40 jobs a month to receive the Newstart Allowance. Even though it seems like the government is already on to job seekers who try to bump up their numbers, the Taking Applications page appeared on Facebook yesterday with the aim of giving people avenues to “apply” for more jobs. Creator and Fairfax columnist Clementine Ford told Tips: “The added bonus is that (hopefully) many of the people listing businesses will be in need of employees. It may just be for a one-off job here or there, but it’s an extra way to connect people with employment while offering them community support.”

*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
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