From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Nostra culpa. Contrary to our tip of July 7, it seems Treasury deputy secretary David Gruen won’t be heading to the Australian Bureau of Statistics to become Australian Statistician — at least not for the moment. On Monday, Gruen, hitherto Australia’s senior macroeconomic policy bureaucrat as head of Treasury’s Macroeconomic Group, commenced a new job not in beautiful downtown Belconnen at the ABS but in the altogether more elegant and central Prime Minister and Cabinet offices near Parliament House. Gruen has been appointed deputy secretary, economic and strategy in PM&C, a role until recently filled on an acting basis by David Hazlehurst. What gives? Gruen has long been tipped to be looking for a change, but his appointment as Australian Statistician, while assumed by ourselves and a number of other outlets, was never officially confirmed; according to the ABS, they’re still waiting to hear who will be the permanent replacement for the long-departed Brian Pink (Jonathan Palmer is currently acting).

Is Gruen being vetted by the Prime Minister’s Office for another job? There’s one coming up in December, when Tony Abbott’s inexplicable, widely criticised and long-delayed execution of Gruen’s now former boss Martin Parkinson finally takes effect, but an outsider like former Costello adviser Phil Gaetjens is tipped for that (Gaetjens is currently running NSW Treasury, but it’s assumed he’d be happy to move to Canberra … hmmm). Crikey’s favourite tip for the Treasury gig is a noted critic of Gruen’s, one Judith Sloan, who’d be great for the laughs if nothing else. And by the way, notice we got through this entire tip without making the obvious joke?

Step into my office. While Ms Tips thought that performance reviews for governments were called elections, it turns out Prime Minister Tony Abbott wants to do his own annual reviews of his ministers. We wonder if anyone is sweating on their one-on-one meeting with the Prime Minister — and if anyone’s considering bringing the union rep along. Is Joe Hockey thinking of ways to explain the budget deadlock? Is anyone actually feeling confident? According to Chris Kenny’s report in the Oz, there are more than a few eyes on the job of assistant treasurer — it doesn’t look like Arthur Sinodinos will recover from his ICAC performances to get a guernsey again. Will the role go to one of the women knocking on the door of cabinet? Or will it be the men of merit?

Durham v Henderson continues. Expel-gate takes another twist today as the conservative columnist Gerard Henderson takes receipt of a letter from lawyers Slater and Gordon on behalf of their their client, the offended jeweller Kate Durham. The letter claims Durham has been defamed and demands Henderson’s comments in an article about her being expelled from school 16 times when a schoolgirl in the 1970s be retracted and an apology is made on all platforms where it was published. Henderson has until 4pm to respond. Durham told Crikey she was very offended by Henderson’s comments about her “second-wife” status. “He makes me sound like a Filipino teenage bride,” she said this morning. But neither she nor her husband Julian Burnside appeared too ruffled last night as the couple held a party for about 100 friends and supporters to celebrate her new exhibition of wildly bejewelled neckpieces titled “The Decorated Self”. Burnside met Durham in 1996, and while she has become an activist for refugees’ rights, it is Burnside who has been urging her to take up her tools again. “In the ’80s she was showing in New York, Tokyo and London and her work is held by the V and A but she doesn’t think it’s very good,” he said of his wife in a brief speech at the Melbourne CBD gallery space fortyfivedownstairs. Among the legal, publishing and art crowd admiring the 140 pieces in her show “The Decorated Self” were Stephanie Alexander, Jill Singer, Josh Bornstein, Moira Finucane, Terry Bracks, Bill Henson, and Burnside’s client footballer James Hird and wife Tania. And, for the record, Durham was expelled once when in Year 10 at Toorak College on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula. She then moved down the hill to Frankston Tech from where she launched her jewellery making career.

Caught with their pants down? We’ve been following the cuts to sexual health clinics in Brisbane for quite a few months, and now we hear that the under-funded and under-resourced clinics have another challenge on the radar. According to our tipster, an antibiotic-resistant strain of gonorrhoea is going around Brisbane, and the clinics might not be able to handle the increase in patients. We’ve asked Queensland Health if the infection was going around and if the system was up to treating it, and got this response:

“A multidrug resistant gonococcal strain has been confirmed by the Commonwealth Department of Health. Queensland GPs and health services were alerted to the case last month by an alert issued by the Commonwealth. Queensland Health services have increased their surveillance of gonorrhoea since they were notified but have not found any other strains that are highly resistant. As the Department of Health has not had direct involvement with the case, we cannot provide any more specific information on the case.”

More terror alert info. New South Wales Health’s terror memo proposes some good ol’ common sense to help catch terrorists, we’ve taken careful notes:

And after we asked what safer bins looked like yesterday, our ever-helpful tipsters told us that clear bins with large clear plastic bags are the way to go. Commuters at Melbourne’s major CBD train stations now know why it’s necessary to see the unsightly contents of bins — so we can see anything that shouldn’t be there as well. You learn something new every day …

Volunteers and spirit go at AGNSW. We’ve been covering the disquiet in the Sydney arts community over management at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the redundancies of three senior staff, but now it’s the volunteers who are being shipped out the door. As has been reported, the gallery has told volunteers who usually cover front-of-house ticketing duties that those tasks will now be completed by younger casual workers. We hear from a tipster that volunteers have been meeting and greeting visitors for decades, and the decision hasn’t helped morale in the gallery. When Ms Tips asked the new media contact (who replaced Claire Martin and Susanne Briggs) about the volunteers, we received this statement from deputy director Anne Flanagan:

“The Art Gallery of New South Wales greatly values their volunteer staff and is most appreciative of the time and effort they dedicate to the Gallery. We are currently in the process of engaging volunteers in the expanding activities of the Gallery — education, exhibitions and visitor services. The Gallery is integrating the volunteer contribution more broadly than exhibition ticketing.”

It’s corporate question-avoidance unlike what the community was used to. We also hear from our insider that the move to paid staff out the front is part of a larger redesign and rebrand under director Michael Brand, with a shift to the name “Sydney Modern” on the cards:

“With no funds likely from Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey or State Treasurer Andrew Constance and the Sydney CBD sector crying poor, there is no explanation of where the hundreds of millions of dollars will be found. NSW Arts Minister Troy Grant, the National Party MP for Dubbo and a former police inspector, seems oblivious to the ransacking of Sydney’s prestigious art institutions; when almost a fifth of the staff at the Powerhouse Museum was sacked in May he said nothing. As long as the Liberal Treasurer’s budget cuts, redundancies, outsourcing and performance audits don’t affect country racetracks, Grant, who is also Gaming and Racing Minister, appears to be unconcerned.”

Let it go. Disney has long been the symbol of the copyright lobby — the laws enacted in the United States to extend copyright terms are nicknamed the “Mickey Mouse Protection Act” — but now Disney is facing a more sugary copyright battle. After last year’s blockbuster Frozen took the world’s children by (snow) storm, it has also become a highly requested birthday cake theme. We hear from a cake maker that runs a small business in Victoria that while she can create Frozen-themed cakes, she can’t recreate any of the characters in icing because that would infringe Disney’s copyright. The company sent this letter to another Victorian baker, saying that the only way to get official Frozen cake figurines was to buy them from a single retailer the US:

Still haven’t found what we’re looking for. While iPhone users around the world have been shocked to find that they suddenly have U2’s latest album on their devices, and others have shared tips on how to remove it, it seems the band has been giving its tunes away for free for quite a long time. Even if the device changes, it seems Saint Bono and Co do like to just give their music away.

*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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