From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Not his best work. We heard a rumour that a column by Fairfax columnist Sam De Brito was spiked recently. The topic? None other than the Gaza war, coverage of which got the Sydney Morning Herald in a spot of bother recently after some took exception to what they saw as its anti-Semitism. The SMH apologised about a cartoon on the topic last week, and had suspended the columnist whose writing it accompanied by the time the week was out. So is De Brito’s column spike a sign Fairfax has lost its nerve on the issue? Not at all, news director Judith Whelan told Crikey this morning:

“We spike pieces from time to time when they’re not up to the quality we want. In this case, it wasn’t his best work. The situation in the Middle East is a very serious one. We treat columns about it very seriously — and want them to be informed and to take the debate further. I’m not sure this column met the criteria.”

De Brito agreed with Whelan’s assessment, telling Crikey this morning he was “perhaps being a little too glib about a serious situation”.

A new player in the Essendon v ASADA affair? It seems like The Guardian has found the answer to all of James Hird’s problems. The Essendon AFL legend — and now suspended coach — can blame his alleged cheating/negligence/bad hairstyles on his evil twin “John Hird” if The Guardian‘s homepage this morning is to be believed.

Dirt files get high-tech. As predicted in Tips last week, another Liberal has been boned for offensive Facebook comments. Tim Dark, vice president of Swinburne Uni Libs, and of the Keysborough branch of the party has now resigned, and resigned himself to having no political career. The material is the usual swill about hairy lesbians, gay men, blah blah — but what’s interesting about this latest episode is that the posts are from the same period as the bilge that finished off  the two Liberal candidates, and all the material was collected last year. We’re told — and perhaps we are being punked — that young operatives from the Greens did a massive trawl of social media after the federal election last year, saving as-yet unscrubbed social media accounts. Our informant tells us that the info — known as “The Vault” — is kept on two offline laptops held in safes at separate locations, with access strictly controlled. We are told they’re not planning to “over-use it” — “but it’s a weapon in the armoury”. Will we see any revelations from down Prahran way?

Jobs to go at Caltex? It is rumoured that Caltex Australia will soon reveal a massive restructure of its business, the outcome of which will be the retrenching of 25% of its staff. The Courier-Mail is reporting this morning that jobs will be lost at the oil refinery in Lytton from mostly white-collar sectors to improve efficiency. The predicted losses follow a review of the company by the management consultancy McKinsey and Co. Caltex, which is 50% owned by US supermajor Chevron (which is building two huge LNG projects in WA), is in the final part of a change from being a fully integrated oil company in Australia to an importer, distributor and retailer through its own service stations and around 600 Woolies petrol outlets. It will still own the Lytton refinery in Brisbane, but the huge Kurnell refinery in Sydney is being dismantled and rebuilt as a huge terminal, designed to hold tens of millions of litres of petrol, diesel, jet fuel and other products. Caltex has quietly set up a subsidiary in Singapore (called Ampol Singapore), which will buy all the oil and associated products and then sell them to Caltex in Australia (where will the profit be taken and the tax paid?). Many of the staff cuts predicted to be announced are believed to be across the distribution, marketing and head office parts of the company. Six hundred jobs are already going as part of the Kurnell restructure, but on any job cuts associated with the McKinsey review, a Caltex spokesperson told us:

“Caltex announced in February an organisational review. This work is not yet complete, so I cannot provide any further comment at this stage.”

Tim Tam expose continued. After last week’s important news on the addition of cochineal (crushed bugs) to standard and double coat Tim Tam varieties, we hear from a tipster that strange additives extend as far as the new peanut butter range of the chocolate biscuit. According to Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia, peanut butter Tim Tams don’t actually contain any peanuts, but soy flour and flavouring to create the flavour and texture of peanut butter, meaning those with peanut allergies can enjoy the treat. Now don’t say we don’t bring you the big scoops.

Kevern crash website. We don’t know what it says about the Australian political landscape and Twittersphere when we can now buy a real, physical book of a Twitter account that started with the premise “#imagen Kevin Rudd never fired and still PM today?”. For those who have been missing the tweets of @Rudd2000 since “Ablo eat Kevern”, the creators of the account have moved on to publishing a book of the tweets, which crashed their publishers’ website last night. Now we have to ask, have we finally jumped the shark?

*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
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