From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

When Sharri met Peter. At lunchtime on Saturday, The Australian media editor Sharri Markson bumped into academic Peter Slezak at a cafe in Double Bay. She introduced herself, then asked him if he was really Jewish.

What prompted the bizarre like of questioning? Well, last week, a local rabbi sent out his regular newsletter, in which he used the story of an allegedly fake Jewish Palestinian sympathiser, whose parents had allegedly converted to Catholicism way back, to make the point that even Jews who had spurned the faith couldn’t quite bring themselves to formally renounce it.

The newsletter didn’t name names, but Markson (and many others) put two and two together and realised the rabbi was probably writing about Slezak, a high-profile Jewish progressive who recently spoke at a pro-Palestinian rally. “[H]e was not circumcised or had a bar mitzvah, and is married to a non-Jewish woman. He claims in his speeches that he is a Jewish son of a Holocaust survivor,” the newsletter stated. Markson tweeted a screenshot of the newsletter and said it was probably about Slezak, prompting condemnation from many who said the newsletter was defamatory and that she shouldn’t be sharing it.

The misunderstanding got cleared up in person, though, when Markson bumped into Slezak at the aforementioned cafe (they were spotted by a tipster who sent us the photo above), introducing herself and telling him a lot of people were upset with him.

“I told her it was bullshit,” Slezak told Crikey about the allegations. “My mother is 89 years old and is a survivor of Auschwitz. Markson took my word when I said I was Jewish.”

Markson couldn’t stick around as she had an appointment to get her nails done, but her companion did stay and chat with Slezak about his activism.

“The guy she was with asked me if I hated Jews. What a stupid question. They assume any criticism of Israel is Jew-hating. The whole business is an excuse not to listen to people.”

Slezak told Crikey he had no plans to sue for defamation.

Friends of deregulation. Liberal MP Josh Frydenberg features in a cushy interview in the latest edition of Gas Today, a quarterly business mag for gassy types. Frydenberg is also the parliamentary secretary responsible for deregulation — a weighty title for a government that hates red tape, green tape, any type of tape. The piece quotes Frydenberg as saying, “Moving to one-stop shops for environmental approvals is a good example where we are already making a difference. There is a long way to go, but we are on our way to a less regulated, more competitive national economy.”

Of course the resources industry is pleased with deregulation that clears the way for more projects and more money. One company that will be pleased is Lakes Oil, a Victorian gas and oil exploration company that has complained about “double standards” in local approval processes. Lakes Oil announced a new board member last month, the replacement for Alexander Downer (who was appointed by Hancock Prospecting after Gina Rinehart extended her share to 19% last year). Kyle Wightman is the latest non-executive director, and turns out he knows Frydenberg. Here he is on the MP’s website at the Camberwell market in Melbourne. We’re not suggesting anything untoward, just pointing out that the connection exists. Know of any other MPs with interesting mates? Let us know.

Oh, Erica. Employment Minister Eric Abetz faced a grilling from Alan Jones on 2GB yesterday, with Jones deciding he wasn’t in the mood to be friendly to Abetz, whom he called “the minister for no-employment”. The final insult came from 2GB’s online team, with the interview listed as “Erica Abetz”. It’s been fixed now, but one tipster snapped this for us.  

Nimbin Museum to rebuild. After a fire destroyed the Rainbow Cafe and Nimbin Museum in NSW’s north, the clean-up of the site started yesterday and is expected to finish up tomorrow. Museum owner Michael Balderstone told Crikey he wasn’t sure what would happen next, as the landlord, who is based in Sydney, is said to want to develop the site into shops and accommodation. Balderstone says locals aren’t keen on the idea and are considering crowdfunding to buy the land and turn it in to a community hub. Police are still looking for information on the fire, which they have labelled as “suspicious”. Balderstone doesn’t think it was deliberate, suggesting it could have been an accident by someone sleeping rough. Balderstone says “there’s a lot of homeless here, it’s the last bus stop for them. They find acceptance here.” He also told Crikey that Nimbin “represents the dreams and enlightenment of the ’60s and ’70s”, and we think that crowdfunding a community hub would fit right in to that idea.

Blackface at Brisbane — but who is it? While the football world is outraged at two Melbourne players who dressed up as Rolf Harris and a young girl as part of their Mad Monday celebrations (basically muck-up day for footballers at the end of the year), this photo of a Brisbane player who thought blackface was a good idea has been relegated to a side note. This seems to be in part because the two Melbourne players are identifiable, while no one has worked out which player decided to go as LeBron James. We’re wondering if any of our detectives can work out who is behind the costume; you can send your guesses here. This photo is quite small, but a bigger one is still on other players’ Instagram accounts.

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