From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Bradfield Oration sponsors. The Daily Telegraph announced with great fanfare yesterday — and a double-page spread — that it would be starting a new project called the “Bradfield Oration” — a speech that would “re-imagine” Sydney.

Editor-at-large John Lehmann wrote:

“As Sydney finds itself struggling to break free from small-time politics and myopic planning systems, the initiative aims to ensure Australia’s premier city remains a global powerhouse by adopting innovative, long-term strategies.”

Of course the man to give the inaugural address is self-proclaimed “infrastructure Prime Minister” Tony Abbott, who promised cranes in the skies and bulldozers on the ground. What our tipster found interesting was the paper’s partners in the address — the University of Sydney and construction company Lend Lease. Lend Lease has been locked in a court battle with the NSW government over millions of dollars’ worth of public works at Barangaroo — the controversial site of James Packer’s new casino, which could result in a huge bill for taxpayers. On the partnership, our tipster says:

” The vast majority of major redevelopment in Sydney is being undertaken by Lend Lease (planned, built, sold). No wonder Lend Lease is keen to keep this momentum going by teaming up with the Tele.”

Is this the “myopic planning system” that Lehmann is talking about?

Serco wins again … maybe. Last week we heard that Spotless was favoured over Serco to win the Immigration Department contract for onshore detention centres, but over the weekend tipsters let us know that Serco had in fact come out on top in the tender process. We put that to Serco and were told that the tender process is ongoing and the company wouldn’t be commenting. The contract is worth millions, so we’re still watching.

Coal future a lot of hot air. India’s newly elected conservative Prime Minister Narendra Modi is moving to underline his clean energy credentials, calling into question the future demand for expensive thermal coal imported from Queensland’s undeveloped Galilee Basin. Two projects in the basin requiring construction of new port capacity and 400 kilometres of new railway lines will cost an estimated $16 billion, according to the Indian proponents, Adani and GVK (in partnership with billionaire Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting). A fortnight ago, in an announcement missed in Australia, Modi promised a five-fold acceleration of India’s wind energy roll-out, to add 10,000 megawatts of new capacity every year for the next five years.

The new wind energy could undercut coal completely, according to Tim Buckley of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, who estimates wind power in India costs about 4.60 rupees/kWh — less than the 5-6 rupees/kWh cost of imported-coal generated electricity. Even assuming a gradual ramp up, the new wind capacity means India could be generating 100TWh per annum of additional electricity from wind by 2020, meaning wind can displace 50 million tonnes per annum of thermal coal demand or 30% of the entire forecast growth in electricity demand in India by 2020. Days after Modi’s election on May 16, officials confirmed the governing BJP would use solar to connect 400 million people to the electricity grid for the first time. Next week Tony Abbott heads over to meet Modi, and sign a long-awaited pact to sell Australian uranium to India to generate electricity. None of this bodes well for the Galilee coal projects. “PM Modi is starting to follow China’s electricity road map,” Buckley told Crikey. “More of everything but coal. Peak coal globally just got a lot closer. The Galilee just got a lot harder.”

Clive has an open mind. Clive Palmer has apologised to the Chinese people after his outburst on Q&A last week, and the open letter makes good reading. He sounds very contrite and says he has an “open mind” four times — a different attitude to the one displayed by four-year-old Clive in this article quoted in Annabel Crabb’s column in the Fairfax papers on Sunday. A bigger version of the correspondence is here.

Q&A guest goes missing. Last night’s episode of Q&A was free of sitting pollies, but Ms Tips was disappointed to see that Zimbabwean author NoViolet Bulawayo, who had been advertised at the end of the previous week’s show, wasn’t on the panel. She was replaced by activist Tasneem Chopra. Bulawayo is in Melbourne for the Melbourne Writers Festival and would have brought an interesting point of view — we wondered what was going on, perhaps Chopra was the only one prepared to sit next to Paul Kelly? Not the case, according to the ABC:  “Noviolet decided she did not want to appear and Tasneem very kindly decided to step in.”

Free papers everywhere. After last week’s tip of free News Corp papers at a private hospital in Melbourne, we’ve received many tidbits about where we could find newspapers without handing over any change. Free News Corp papers (but no Fairfax papers) were reported at the Royal Hobart Hospital, the Epworth in Melbourne, a “Naval establishment in Sydney”, and Fitness First gyms at various locations across the country. Why does this matter? Surely these places can choose which papers they offer? They can, but as was reported years ago when mountains of unread newspapers were found at universities, it affects circulation numbers. If free papers are sitting unread in hospital trolleys, airports and at gyms then they boost circulation figures even if there aren’t more eyeballs on the stories — and the ads.

We heart FTTN. The NBN Co released a new advertisement over the weekend, featuring a user who is very chuffed with his fast NBN internet that means he can do lots of business and fun stuff on the internet. We particularly loved this line: “Fibre to the node, means … I got the NBN quicker than I would have before because they didn’t have to run fibre to every household.” Subtle, guys.

*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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