From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Your mum did. While many commentators are concerned at the political precedent set by the Palmer United Party’s success in establishing a Senate inquiry into the Newman government in Queensland, it seems like it’s actually a case of history repeating — with the tables turned. As The Australian has noted several times, the idea of a Senate committee inquiring into a state government isn’t exactly unprecedented — “In 1993 the Senate inquired into the ‘Heiner affair’ in Queensland politics. The inquiry was chaired by Jocelyn Newman, Mr Newman’s mother.”

And, indeed, that stout Heinerian Piers Akerman, who has kept the tinfoil wrapped tight on that conspiracy theory (the affair relates to the Goss government allegedly shredding documents related to child abuse) for years, likes to cite Jocelyn Newman’s inquiry when he undertakes his periodic efforts to reanimate the corpse of that scandal. But just to be accurate, Newman’s inquiry was primarily into whistleblowing and was ostensibly in response to a bill introduced by the Australians Greens. It runs to several hundred pages and mainly relates to theory and practice in Australia and around the world in relation to whistleblowing, and it makes a large number of excellent recommendations about protecting whistleblowers, including the establishment of a public interest disclosure agency. The Heiner affair was just one recommendation among dozens — and that was merely that the claims made by Queensland whistleblowers be investigated by the Queensland government. Not exactly up there with what Clive Palmer wants.

Friends of the ABC. The possibility of axing Lateline has some ABC insiders scratching their heads. Lateline produces original, agenda-setting journalism on a nightly basis, but other ABC initiatives that break relatively less news remain untouched. Others wonder why the pain isn’t being shared around more – one tipster asked pointedly how much it cost to have Kerry O’Brien introduce Four Corners for five minutes every week.

Questions have also been asked about who is making the decisions. Bruce Belsham, head of current affairs, was the one who spoke to Lateline staff about their future. Belsham is a Gold Walkley-winning former journalist who’s in the past been both an executive producer and reporter on Four Corners, and some are suggesting it’s no wonder his old stomping ground has been protected. Crikey put this to Belsham, who described the allegations as “laughable” and “somewhat offensive”:

“Decisions are made after  extensive discussion and consultation and by the news executive and ABC senior management, not  by any individual. I have been at the ABC a long time and have long-standing friendships in every program area. Managers do. The idea that is improper to manage areas where you have experience and long-held working friendships is bizarre.”

It’s unarguable that any decisions on programming are not Belsham’s alone to make. The ABC board has final say, and it’s meeting today to discuss the matter, among other things.

Jobs go at Westpac? We hear from a tipster that a thousand jobs are on the way out in Westpac call centres in Perth and Brisbane. We put that to Westpac and were told that after a review jobs would be cut in regional centres in Queensland and Western Australia, but the bank said the number was nowhere near a thousand. About 230 jobs are affected, but the final number to go will be below that:

“After a detailed review of our customer contact centres, we are making some changes to focus these key services at our existing main locations in NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. As a result of this, our smaller regional centres in Queensland and Western Australia will close in March 2015. We are currently discussing with our affected staff what employment opportunities there are within the Westpac Group and we hope therefore to keep any job losses to a minimum. This decision is no reflection on our teams at these two centres who have and continue to provide an excellent service to our customers. No jobs are being outsourced or offshored as a result of our decision.”

Always watching Wyatt. Wyatt Roy is a baby-faced gift to Australian politics watchers, and we couldn’t help but raise our eyebrows at this photo he posted on Twitter last night. While one tipster commented that at least the grid girls have better female representation than cabinet, what we found interesting was the framed photo of our dear leader in the background. While Roy is no doubt having very technical conversations about whether Ford or Holden V8s are better, he must remember that the Prime Minister is always watching to make sure you protect your precious gift …

Lingerie football homeless? In yesterday’s tips we mused that perhaps Channel Nine had signed a deal with the Legends Football League to broadcast the completely legitimate sport that requires players to sign contracts agreeing to accidental nudity. But yesterday afternoon Nine told us that it hadn’t signed a deal either. That means Seven, Nine, Ten and Fox Sports are all denying a deal with the LFL, despite the insistence from chairman and founder Mitch Mortaza that the league had a partner. We thought that the ABC wouldn’t have the funds for a new sports deal — but maybe it would suit SBS? Alas, the multicultural broadcaster told us it hadn’t signed a deal either — so we’re left wondering where we will be able to watch women play gridiron in their underwear next year. If you’re in the know, fill us in.

#Fridgemagnetwatch. As we monitor the country’s alertness as the terror threat level sits at “high,” we have heard from many tipsters revealing security measures at public offices:

“Both DSDBI and DoH (Victorian State Government) have sent a few all-staff emails asking for increased watchfulness, no swiping through of unknowns, etc. Security has increased at both buildings (121 Exhibition and 50 Lonsdale) — one of the four new PSOs at 121 said he didn’t know how long he would be posted to the building and that he had the dreary task of watching out for anyone walking through security gates behind other people without swiping their card. Layout of the building makes this a fool’s errand, and the guard said they’re no asked or allowed to perform any other duty. 8 hours of that! Maddening.”

A few weeks ago we focused on the bins at train stations in Brisbane, and now bins have been removed at train stations across Melbourne, even in the outer suburbs and in the city, where the supposedly safer, clear plastic bins were used. We also hear that security at the State Library of Victoria will no longer be picking up lost property left at the library because of safety concerns. How is the terror threat level affecting your workplace? Let us know.

Embargo schembargo. Australian universities would have been happy to learn this morning where they had landed in the Times Higher Education rankings — the only problem is they would have found out four hours before anyone else in the world, as News.com.au broke the embargo to publish the results. The results were due to be released at 9pm British Standard Time — 6am tomorrow AEST. The article was later removed, but not before a few eyebrows were raised. Ms Tips wonders if university rankings really draw in the numbers to make it worth breaking the embargo, or whether the AAP wire copy was published by mistake. We put that to News.com.au but didn’t hear back before deadline.

*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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