From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Ferguson on the move? Star Fairfax business columnist and investigative reporter Adele Ferguson could be next to join The Australian. Tips is reliably informed an offer is on the table -– a figure of $300,000 is speculated — but there is a way to go before a deal is done, and a counter-offer might be in the works. Ferguson is a Walkley Award winner whose work on the Commonwealth Financial Planning scandal, including a joint “Banking Bad” investigation with ABC’s Four Corners, led to a Senate inquiry, resulted in a multimillion-dollar CBA compensation plan for victims and earned her a swag of Kennedy Awards last month — including NSW Journalist of the Year. It has been one-way traffic from the SMH/Age to The Australian since editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell poached business editor Eric Johnston, who left Fairfax at the end of July. Johnston has since hired his ex-colleagues Ben Butler, a frequent partner in investigations with Ferguson, and Eli Greenblat, as well as Reuters’ David Rogers. It would be back to the future for Ferguson, who left The Australian five years ago. If the rumoured salary offer is in the ballpark, it would trump the $225,000 plus super recently offered to woo the AFR’s Rear Window columnist Joe Aston and shows that however dire the financial situation, Mitchell is still prepared to splash cash around where it’s warranted.

How to win at stopping the boats. Tony Abbott’s most famous three-word slogan is now an 8 bit arcade-style computer game. To win at the Abbott Simulator, you must reach an approval rating of 100% by stopping as many boats as possible. Pauline Hanson, Joe Hockey and bags of money also make appearances — Hockey in “rampage mode” —  and instead of bonus points, you get scholarships for your daughter, and more money for defence budgets. Ms Tips only managed an approval rating of 8%, but thinks that she could get it up to 50% with a bit of help from Rupert Murdoch.

Korean domestic deadlock delays FTA. After Tuesday’s tip that Korea might delay the free trade agreement with Australia that the beef industry is so relying on, we got this from a tipster in Seoul. The FTA with Korea is touted as one of the Abbott government’s big achievements, but it looks like domestic issues might be holding up ratification:

“Ratifying FTA at the Korean National Assembly seems to be very difficult at the moment. It is largely because the KNA (Korean National Assembly) is a mess. The ruling party and the opposition confront at every issueespecially after the Sewol Ship sinking. The opposition is pressing the ruling party hard to investigate what went wrong, supported by the families of the victims. Meanwhile, the ruling party tries hard to fend off any criticism of the government in handling the accident. The two sides cannot find any point for compromise. The  lawmaking system at the KNA has virtually stopped. Members of national assembly cannot simply sit down to talk. Even auditing of 2014 budget and review of national budget for 2015 proposal are not moving at all. Without a surprising breakthrough, the situation will last until the end of the year and other issues would not be seriously discussed at the KNA, which means the ratification of the FTA would be extremely difficult. It seems to me that any surprising breakthrough should come from the ruling party by accepting the demands of the opposition and the victims’ families since they are in no mood for any step back. Given many domestic agenda items waiting for the Assembly’s touch, the ratification of the FTA is not that high on the list.”

Not Liu again. Earlier this week we shared a Liberal Party pamphlet from a reader who suspected she was targeted with Chinese-language material because of her surname. Now the same candidate, Gladys Liu, is also spruiking non-Chinese Liberal candidates to voters with Chinese surnames. Another tipster sent us a pamphlet addressed to his Taiwanese wife assuring her that Chinese people would be well represented if Liu were elected, and then introducing (the very non-Chinese) Ed Huntingford as the Liberal candidate for Melbourne. As our reader says: “How stupid do these political parties think Chinese- (let alone Taiwanese-) Australians are?” Let us know if you spot any other interesting campaign material in the lead-up to November.

IS flag not the symbol it seems. After yesterday’s tip that police in Sydney’s western suburbs were telling residents not to display the black-and-white flag claimed by the Islamic State, a spokesperson for NSW police tells us it isn’t the case. The spokesperson said “it is currently not an offence to possess or display flags” and directed us to ask the Attorney General’s office about the legality of flying certain flags. We also hear from a tipster that the use of the flag by the terrorist group is not without controversy within the Muslim community. Time magazine has reported that the flag’s colour is highly important because of its relation to the Prophet Muhammad. Several similar-looking black flags are used by several jihadi and non-violent Islamist groups in the Middle East. They’re all black because the Prophet Muhammad’s war banner was black. Several hadiths make reference to a victorious Islamic army that will fly a black flag before the end of the world. Ms Tips has heard of several Facebook users being pinged by Facebook for having Islamic flags similar but not identical to the IS flag up on their pages.

Rupert and the page 3 girls. News Corp boss Rupert Murdoch has taken to Twitter again, this time to vent his feelings about the page 3 girls who grace his British red tops — turns out Rupes isn’t a great fan. He doesn’t go so far as to say that women shouldn’t be objectified in his pages, but that perhaps they should wear fashionable clothes. Maybe he’ll be buying Vogue next…

Find my iPhone DIY job. While the world oohs and aahs over the latest offering from the not-fruit company, a tipster tells Crikey not to get too excited over the gadgets’ “Find my iPhone” app. The app is designed to use the device’s GPS system to find the phone, tablet or laptop when they go missing and to either send out a beacon or make the phone unusable by anyone who finds it. While a useful feature, it turns out that our law enforcement authorities are not fans. Our tipster fell victim to a home invasion that resulted in the theft of expensive electronic equipment — including an Apple laptop — and although he could trace it back to a house a few suburbs away, police said there was nothing they could do. So if you happen to buy an 18-carat gold iWatch, hold onto it tight.

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

Peter Fray

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