From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Education at the ABC. Under new ABC director of TV Richard Finlayson, your ABC is getting out to the people — quite literally. Aunty has laid on coach trips to the western suburbs of Sydney from its latte-loving, chardonnay-sipping HQ of Ultimo. The excursions have been organised for writers, producers and general staff working on light entertainment and comedy shows, in an attempt to get Aunty down with the people. Given Sydney house prices and public TV salaries, this brilliant idea may be redundant — at least one participant whizzed past the house he had left that morning to go to work.

Woman of letters. With the Victorian election fast approaching, electoral targeting is getting pretty sharp indeed. A Crikey tipster sent us a pamphlet she received from Gladys Liu, a Liberal candidate in the upper house division of the Northern Metropolitan Region. Nothing unusual about that, except the pamphlet includes a Chinese translation on the back and a flyer wishing a happy Moon Festival, also in Chinese. Our tipster wondered if she’d received the pamphlet because of her Chinese surname — she was the only one in her house of registered voters to receive the letter. Liu confirmed to Crikey that around 12,000 of the pamphlets were sent to residents based on information available on electoral rolls. What the roll wouldn’t have told her is our tipster was born in Canberra. If you receive any interesting correspondence from a local member or candidate, let us know.

Korea deal whispers. There are reports that moves to ratify the free trade agreement with South Korea are speeding up, but we hear from a tipster that there may be a few bumps in the road. Korea is yet to ratify the deal, and we are told that the national assembly may not be too keen on passing it after perceived slights to the president and some key businesses. The beef industry is hoping to have the deal ratified by the end of the year.

To beard or not to beard. Greens Senator Richard Di Natale learnt a hard lesson last week — people care much more about his facial hair than his policies. On Friday the Victorian Senator’s staffers uploaded a photo of his new beard, asking what people thought of the new addition. The response was passionate with more than 400 comments — a far cry from the average five or so that his posts on the GP co-payment and asylum seeker issues usually attract. Di Natale followed it up with a YouTube video yesterday afternoon with a message that the beard would go, because his three-year-old son wasn’t a fan. We thought Di Natale was just trying to fit in with the bearded hipsters of Melbourne’s northern suburbs, but he insists that he just doesn’t like shaving while on holiday. And yes, we understand that we are proving the point even further by reporting on the beard and not Di Natale’s policy positions, but we are part of the fickle beast that is the media.

Qld Health responds. After yesterday’s tip about the Queensland Nurses’ Union’s claim that Health Minister Lawrence Springborg had bypassed the union and emailed nurses’ personal email addresses regarding their enterprise bargaining agreement, we got this response from a Queensland Health spokesperson:

“Some nurse and midwives have supplied private email addresses for payroll purposes to access their own employment records. Qld Health is legally entitled to use these addresses to contact staff on pay matters. If staff now want this address to be removed and changed, it will be in accordance with the Privacy Act. The email was sent directly to employees as the Minister is keen to keep staff informed as soon as possible. The Qld Nurses’ Union had previously called for ‘broad ranging measures that focus on treating the workforce with respect and dignity to restore faith in the employment relationship’. Being upfront with staff and keeping them directly informed does this.”

Newspaper freebies. We hear this from a News insider from the Sunshine State:

The Courier-Mail is ramping up its giveaway papers. Staff were stunned a few days ago to get an email from bosses offering $20 home delivery for a year. And family and friends could also take up the offer. The Courier has been giving away plenty of papers for not much. It’s the only reason its circulation numbers have not been the worst. In the last three months the paper doubled its giveaways.”

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