From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Abbott visits Adelaide, no one cares. Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s speech at Adelaide University made headlines this morning because of injuries sustained by protesters who met with the hooves of police horses, but according to a tipster inside the speech venue, the PM said very little of interest. The actual attendees were strictly vetted, with only five current students of the university in attendance. We hear the guest list was closely controlled by the Prime Minister’s office, and guests had to provide photo ID before entering the theatre. Perhaps entry conditions were too strict, because the 400-seat theatre wasn’t full and patrons were asked to move seats to make the venue look better attended, according to our insider. The oration was the second in a series of lectures instated by the descendants of John Downer, who was premier of the colony of South Australia in the 19th century. The first was given two years ago by John Howard, so we can see a pattern emerging there — wonder who will be the next speaker at the biennial event in two years’ time? If they want to stick to Liberal prime ministers, we wonder if the names Malcolm Turnbull or Julie Bishop are being penciled in.

The other deputy. It must be hard for the Oz‘s editor-at-large, Paul Kelly, to remember all the women in the ALP — they have more than one on the frontbench, unlike the government. In today’s column he refers to Anthony Albanese as the “current deputy” of the party, apparently forgetting that Tanya Plibersek was elected to the job by caucus in October last year. Isn’t that what subeditors are for?

Art community reacts to job losses. After yesterday’s tip on the job losses at the Art Gallery of NSW, members of the Sydney Art Community have expressed their disappointment at the redundancies of three long-term staff at the gallery. Anne Maria Nicholson, a former senior arts journalist at the ABC, wrote this open letter on her Facebook page yesterday:


Dear Michael,
I was shocked and outraged today to learn that you have authorised the sacking of two of your expert staff from your media relations unit, Susanne Briggs and Claire Martin. I really wonder what madness has enveloped your administration that you would agree to such an action.

In the 15 years I was the National Arts Reporter for the ABC, I dealt with Susanne and Claire on scores of occasions.

I always found them totally professional, informed, engaged and helpful. There was also no question of their loyalty and dedication to the Gallery. Publicists come and publicists go. Some are excellent, some mediocre and others useless in their dealings with the media, more concerned with ‘spin’ than facts.

Susanne and Claire were first class, always working above and beyond their duties to ensure that journalists had all that was required and were always accessible. I know they were also held in very high regard by artists.
The gallery is a much-loved part of Sydney’s cultural life. Actions like this completely undermine the good will and esteem in which the community holds the gallery.

I have seen no reasons put forward about the performance of Susanne and Claire that justifies such a brutal axing. If this so-called ‘restructuring’ is change for change’s sake, it is seriously misguided.

I urge you to reconsider this action.

Yours sincerely,
Anne Maria Nicholson”

We doubt this is the last you’ll hear on this.

Salvos and schools hurdles. The Salvation Army is one of several large religious charity and outreach organisations battening down the hatches in the wake of the Victorian government’s strict new regulations concerning the activities of religious groups in schools. A document circulated to senior officers, and seen by Crikey over the shoulder of a Salvo major on the train, identifies such new laws as a major potential challenge to the operation of large-scale charity, and the harbinger of a new, more assertively secular environment. Cry war!

Young Labor appreciated chocolate. Police and prosecutors have declared that Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has no case to answer concerning rape allegations against him dating back to the dim, dark years of student and yoof politics. But the accusation reminded one grizzled veteran of those years of the young Labor scene, when the Young Labor party partied hard down on the  Bellarine Coast in the rather expansive holiday homes of some of the less oppressed members of the Labor elite — “there were a few wild parties — and many boring caucuses”. Some of the latter were at the home of Fay Marles, then Victoria’s equal opportunity commissioner, whose son Richard was then climbing the greasy pole of Melbourne University student politics, assisted by the then-powerful Chocolate Appreciation Society. Does anyone know what happened to him?

A News Corp a day … We hear this from a tipster:

“I spent several days in a private hospital in Melbourne last week. When the trolley came around with newspapers there were two choices, The Australian and the Herald Sun, and they were free. No other newspapers available. When questioned the aide told me that News Corp have the contract to supply the newspapers and hundreds were delivered every day, with most of them being thrown out.  How many hospitals, and perhaps other institutions, i.e. nursing homes, have the same arrangements throughout Australia?  That would certainly boost their circulation figures.”

While we no longer have the internal circulation figures for the Oz and the Hun, we’re sure another tipster may have seen them recently …

A house ad? Did anyone notice the oddest sports sponsorship going round on TV last night? It was the first night of the Hancock Prospecting Pan Pacific Swimming competition from the Gold Coast. The telecast was on Ten’s ONE network. Hancock Prospecting — yes, Gina’s Hancock — is now in there battling Holden (NRL) and Toyota (AFL) for air time. But with Rinehart owning shares in Ten, is her company’s sponsorship a form of house ad?

Napthine Premier of where? The Libs haven’t made quite the right impression while raising funds for their election campaign, with a tipster picking up that this advertisement features the Sydney Opera House — not very Victorian at all. Of course the ads are offering prizes for people who donate to the cause, two of which include cruises on Sydney Harbour — explaining the picture. Before seeing the prizes, one could almost think this is a yet-to-be announced policy, that “building a better Victoria” involved re-creating a Sydney icon, which would not have gone down well with voters at all. Many of the other prizes include experiences within Victoria; perhaps they should replace the photo with one of them.

You heard it here first. Two months ago we revealed the murky world of smoke and mirrors that is Cibola Capital — the group that was purported to buy Nathan Tinkler’s horse stud Patinack Farm. Tinkler was relying on the sale to free up funds to pay debts to Gerry Harvey and to provide funds for the Wilkie Creek deal. Today it was reported in The Oz that the sale has in fact fallen over, and that the horses and the property would be sold separately.

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