From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Not armed? It was an exchange that made headlines on Friday, with Immigration departmental secretary Martin Bowles telling Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs, “we don’t have armed guards, we don’t have armed guards, president. I’d like you to acknowledge that.” While Bowles was correct that there are not armed guards at the detention centres, these photos released by the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre show there are armed Customs officials who first intercept asylum seekers arriving by boat. While under the previous government they operated under the remit of the Attorney-General’s office, Customs has been a part of the Department of Immigration since last year’s election. The photos released also show Serco response teams, which while not armed with guns, carry flexi cuffs and night torches that can be used as batons. So while the camps themselves might not have armed guards, Triggs may be onto something when she says the camps are like prisons.

The car so expensive it doesn’t exist. On Thursday, Crikey informed its readers that Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood — he of the recently increased salary — was driving around in a brand-new Maserati. We asked a Fairfax spokesperson, who told us it was a Maserati Ghibli sedan. “It cost around $140,000. And it’s blue. At least it’s not red”.

So you can imagine our delight when we saw the tip relayed to another audience (or is it the same audience?) in today’s Australian media diary, which went to an unnamed Fairfax source to slam the “insensitivity” of the purchase. But what was the car? A “Ferrari Maserati”? We’re not sure that’s quite right — that’d be like driving a Holden Toyota. Strangely, the mistake appears online but not in print — what’s going on with the rev-heads in the Oz’s subbing department?

Nonetheless, we’re thrilled they read Tips and Rumours down at the Oz.

Book oddities at MWF. With several hundred events spread over a fortnight and a host of A-list guests, the Melbourne Writers’ Festival drew the most attention for … Chris Hadfield, the “singing astronaut”, famous for his version of Space Oddity done from the International Space Station. “Which just goes to prove” quoth one weary local publisher, “that writers’ festivals are for people who don’t like books.”

Caltex job losses confirmed. Our tip earlier this month about more job cuts at Caltex came to pass yesterday when the big oil group confirmed that a “company-wide cost and efficiency review underway (includes headcount reduction of approximately 350 people)”. It’s not because the company is struggling — indeed CEO Julian Segal said in the statement:

“This result is at the upper end of our recent half year profit guidance. Our balance sheet remains strong and, despite operating within a competitive and ever changing environment, the outlook for our business continues to be positive.”

We wonder how his bonus is looking…

NSW govt website hacked. We were alerted yesterday to this webpage hosted by the New South Wales government’s Aboriginal Affairs department — now advertising “the best free porn website for the adults”. The page had been cleared by 9.30 this morning, and when we asked the department about it we were told that the page had been hacked over the weekend, and was discovered this morning by a staff member. The spokesperson said:

“The ‘posted’ date of 1 January 2012 is not genuine, as the Aboriginal Affairs website was still under construction in November 2012, and did not go live until Easter 2013. Aboriginal Affairs is looking for the access points being used by the hacker, and while this work is done the ‘posts’ function on the website has been temporarily disabled.”

Bolt from the blue. The son of one of Australia’s most well-known right-wing commentators is currently performing in the Melbourne University Law Revue (although he is no law student himself). While in the performance he manages to skirt some of the political issues that his father champions, he does do an impression of a Channel Nine newsreader (the ABC might have been too close to the bone). According to our tipster, he’s actually a decent performer who manages to get quite a few laughs out of the crowd. The Melbourne Uni Law Revue is where many comedians got their start in the industry, including Shaun Micallef and the Working Dog team — we wonder if the offspring of the News Corp columnist will follow in their footsteps instead of his father’s?

Redundancy fallout at AGNSW. Following last week’s news that three experienced staff with more than 40 years of experience with the gallery were made redundant in a restructure that has shocked many in the Sydney arts community, we hear that chairman of the trustees, Guido Belgiorno-Nettis, has asked for an explanation of the three sackings and artist Ben Quilty, another trustee, has been on the phone from London, asking “what’s going on?”

Barry Pearce, who was head of Australian art at the gallery for more than 30 years until his retirement in 2011 told Crikey:

“I am in a state of shock re Claire and Susanne, two friends of mine who have been an essential part of the soul of the Gallery and its human face since when I was there. I don’t know about the rationale, whether financial or personnel-driven, but it seems a brutal emptying of a quintessential spirit for no good reason. There is another, Sheona White, head of public programs, under the same gun. Sheona has a quieter profile than the other two, but she has been doing an excellent job as far as I can see, ticking all the boxes, especially re the popular late-night opening events, with competence beyond reproach. I don’t understand why this has happened. As T. S. Eliot said, the world becomes stranger as we get older, because a new logic takes over from the one that once reassured us.”

Imagen beer from @Rudd2000. For those grieving over the demise of @Rudd2000 at the hands of “Ablo”, don’t despair, as Tim Watts has decided to use the parody account to raise funds for charity while keeping beverages cool. The first run of 50 has sold out already, with Watts saying on Twitter that they won’t be as exclusive as first advertised. Ms Tips thinks that her drinks would greatly benefit from the stubby holders that chronicle the exploits of Tim Wat and Wyat Roy — better hop to it.

*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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