From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Tourism Australia knows how to get there. It was revealed earlier this week how much our politicians spend on jetting around the country, but one tipster asks why we don’t scrutinise our public servants as well:

“Somehow it never came out about Tourism Australia’s $500k spend hiring a private jet (rather than scheduled airlines) on their Nothing Like Australia shoot. Not a bad gig if you can get it. TA and ad execs flown around in a private jet to sip bubbles and watch the workers on the set (who had flown scheduled airlines).”

We asked Tourism Australia about the flight and were told by a spokesperson the chartered flight was the most efficient way to transport the cast, crew and equipment to multiple locations for the shoot:

“Yes, we did hire a chartered aircraft to transport the production and film crew (including up to two TA staff members) as part of the film shoot for our global “There’s Nothing Like Australia” TV ad which took place during March and April 2012. This proposed spend was independently audited prior to the shoot.”

Chopper Read: inspiration for freedom fighters. Smorgy-boy Senator David Leyonhjelm is a strong defender of freedom. But is he the best man for the job? In his speech to Big Freedom Day, excerpted in the Oz, the vet — of putting hands up cows, not ‘Nam — says that people opposed to things like 18c should “go hard, like Chopper Read”. Really? That would be the Chopper Read, violent bully and thug, terroriser of weaker men, violent misogynist who beat up girlfriends, girlfriends’ mothers and anyone else in the way? That’s the poster boy for abolishing a measure meant to limit bullying and abuse, is it? Boy, you guys really are the A-team aren’t you?

Ferguson gives as good as she gets. Tonight is Sarah Ferguson’s last in the 7.30 host’s chair after six months filling in for Leigh Sales. She’s been a popular replacement, although some politicians may be breathing a sigh of relief. To say goodbye to viewers yesterday, 7.30 held a Q and A session on its Facebook page, and it turns out Ferguson answers questions as well as she asks them. Chris Uhlmann will take the helm until Sales returns in September, and Ferguson (married to Q&A host and Clive Palmer favourite Tony Jones) will get to work on an ABC doco on the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd years.

Fighting over car parks, but it’s not what you’d expect. The Manly local council is pushing on with plans to build an 800-space car park underneath Manly Oval — despite many in the community wondering why it is necessary, warnings from NSW Premier (and local MP) Mike Baird and studies showing demand isn’t there. Locals are asking why the Liberal-majority council is so keen on the car park, which is set to cost $30 million, and who would actually benefit from the development. One tipster has joined some dots and believes the major beneficiary of the car park would be the local bowling club venue across the road from the oval. The bowling club has limited parking, and some insiders say it would be ripe for development if the car park plan were  approved. At a council meeting on Monday night, a vote to stop the car park was lost 5-4, with the five Liberal councillors keeping the car park dream alive.

Does the Bowling Club have any influence on the council’s decision? It’s a complicated web of connections, according to our tipster. Here it goes: the venue is part of the Mounties Group, which as well as sponsoring the Manly Rugby Club, is a client of lobby group PremierState. Partners at PremierState include former head honchos of the Liberal Party Michael Photios, Nick Campbell and David Begg. Begg is also president of the Manly Rugby Club. PremierState declared $100,000 worth of donations to the Liberals for 2013 only last month — seven months late. Photios gave evidence at ICAC earlier this year as a lobbyist who had been contracted by Australian Water Holdings. So has PremierState been lobbying the local council? We put the question to David Begg, who told us PremierState had “nothing to do with it” and that he didn’t even know what Mounties thought of the development. It’s an unusual controversy for a local government — most build infrastructure years too late, not before there is actual demand.

They’re oh so helpful. A-G George Brandis has gone to ground this morning after yesterday’s car crash interview explaining metadata with David Speers. His office is yet to release the transcript, so Bill Shorten’s office stepped up to help him out.

“The Attorney-General’s office has been a bit busy this morning, so to assist here is a copy of the AG’s interview on Sky yesterday afternoon explaining what metadata is.”

We bet Brandis’ media peeps are very grateful.

Beetling out new Tim Tams. It seems like Arnott’s waited until everyone was in a food coma from the delight of peanut butter Tim Tams to quietly announce that the standard and double coat varieties of the chocolate biscuit will now include cochineal — making the national biccie non-kosher and non-vegetarian. Cochineal is made from crushing cochineal beetles, which aside from bring gross, means people who keep kosher or don’t eat animal products won’t eat it. Many Tim Tam fans have taken to the biscuit’s Facebook page to complain, but so far the company has responded to just one of the comments. Arnott’s already sends kosher versions of the biscuits to Israel but has told the Kashrut Authority (responsible for certifying kosher products) they aren’t available in Australia. Ms Tips finds Tim Tam discrimination about as unpalatable as crushed bugs, but would likely be placated by a few packets of peanut butter Tim Tams, if they were to be sent to Crikey‘s offices …

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

Peter Fray

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