From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Euthanasia and emails. The death of euthanasia advocate Max Bromson in an Adelaide motel room last weekend has led to the police investigation of his family and Dr Philip Nitschke over the possibility that a crime was committed when Bromson took his own life. Bromson had long been an advocate for euthanasia, having run as a candidate for the Voluntary Euthanasia Party for the Senate in last year’s election. After News Corp columnist David Penberthy wrote a column titled “A holiday to die for with Dr Phil” in June last year, Bromson emailed Penberthy, defending euthanasia and attacking the column:

“You appear to be one of the approximately 20% of those opposed to euthanasia. I on the other hand am one of the 80% who respect your point of view but do not understand why you will not respect the majority’s point of view. You or your scientist father do not know what chronic pain is, try living with it, even with the very best of medical help. Palliative care reaches a point where the line between adequate pain relief and any quality of life becomes blurred. You can’t have known or loved anyone with chronic pain. You are not faced with the future collapse of your bodily functions and becoming totally reliant on others to tend your most basic needs. I DON’T THINK SO. You would not have approached the subject so flippantly, if you had truly experienced any of the above.”

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Penberthy’s reply was as fiery as his columns and was seen as quite upsetting to those close to Bromson, who saw its contents:

“How the hell would you know if we know pain or not you impertinent dill? Anyway I don’t know if you’ve been euthanased yet but you do appear to be brain dead as the column quite clearly says I support it but that Nitschke is an abomination.”

When asked about the exchange by Crikey, Penberthy said he didn’t know Bromson was sick at the time of the exchange and that they patched things up after a rocky start:

“Yeah we did have a blue because he made disparaging remarks about my family in an earlier email and said that we clearly didn’t know anyone who had suffered chronic pain or illness, which certainly isn’t true. But we spoke again afterwards by email and over the phone and from memory he said that we had got off on the wrong foot and it was all sweet. He seemed like a nice guy and we ended up having a good chat and I said on air last week that I believed that cases such as his were an example of why people supported euthanasia.”

NSW election funding authority gone. Questions are being asked about NSW Premier Mike Baird’s move to abolish the Election Funding Authority and merge its functions into the Electoral Commission, which went through Parliament in June but is not yet law. The authority, which oversees distribution of taxpayer funds to parties and candidates during state elections, was the same body that — acting on a referral from then-premier Barry O’Farrell — investigated discrepancies in disclosure of donations to the Liberal Party and ultimately led to a referral to the Independent Commission Against Corruption. The subsequent explosive inquiry led to the downfall of O’Farrell and ministerial colleagues including Mike Gallacher and Chris Hartcher, and also dragged in the Liberal Party’s honorary state treasurer and onetime president Arthur Sinodinos, who had to resign his assistant treasurer position. Now the functions of the three-person authority, traditionally comprised of the electoral commissioner and two independent nominees (one from each major party), will be exorcised by the commission. Retribution? Baird’s office flatly denies it, saying merging the functions of the authority and the commission simply implements the recommendations of Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, and had bipartisan support. “In fact, the powers and independence of the commission are enhanced — there will now be two independent commissioners, and the commission will be given power to regulate lobbyists,” a spokesperson said.

Safety first from the Daily TeleToday Sydney’s Daily Telegraph “exclusively” revealed that a union official had allegedly “shoulder-charged” a Fair Work Australia officer, while a female FWA officer had been subjected to misogynistic insults. Serious stuff, and public servants should be able to perform their lawful duties free of an atmosphere of verbal or physical intimidation.

But the Telegraph didn’t always feel that way. On Friday, in one of the more nauseating pieces to appear in Australia’s least-trusted metropolitan newspaper in some time, journalist Ben Pike gave us an “exclusive” on wealthy land owner Ian Turnbull, who is alleged to have shot NSW Office of Environment and Heritage officer Glen Turner dead while Turner was serving a notice on Turnbull. Consider the language from Pike about the accused murderer from anonymous family members: “Meals on Wheels volunteer”, “patriarch of a well-respected wheat farming dynasty”, a man who “was helping to build old people’s homes, he was collecting trampolines at school fetes” who crumbled under the “devastating impact the court struggles and the aggressive stance taken by government officials”. It seems that if you’re a “hardworking man of the land”, the Tele will give you plenty of sympathy if you’re alleged to have murdered a public servant trying to enforce the law.

ALP women against conscience votes? The National Labor Women’s Conference was held in Canberra this weekend, and although the headline takeaway was the unanimous vote to raise the affirmative action target to 50%, we hear some other interesting motions were passed. Among motions to be taken to next year’s national conference are those in favour of a jobs guarantee as an alternative to unemployment benefits, the return to democratic socialist economics and the removal of the conscience vote on any ALP parliamentary votes.

The motion called for an end to “a practice which undermines the strength of the party, the platform and the caucus”. It’s an interesting turn for the women’s caucus to vote for the removal of the conscience vote when many votes that relate to women’s rights are decided by conscience votes, but some conference delegates who voted in favour of the motion told Crikey that the conscience votes were being misused as a “get-out-of-jail free” card for MPs who wanted to vote differently to the party platform. We can add it to the list of things to watch for at next year’s national Labor conference.

PIN changeover headaches. Australians have survived the first weekend of paying for goods without signatures as an option for paying on credit, but one tipster tells us there another group of big spenders that missed the PIN-only memo:

“The change to PINs as opposed to signatures may cause Australian businesses to lose substantial amounts in tourist dollars. A friend vacationing here from the US rang her provider who advised that there were no plans to issue PINs for cardholders visiting Australia, so the only way to pay would be slide and sign.”

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