From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Milking it at the ABC. Yesterday we joked that Nescafe Blend 43 was too much of a luxury at the public broadcaster, but it seems like we hit a bit too close to home:

“As an ABC News journalist I can tell you coffee is not provided at all. Nor is milk. Putting looming budget cuts aside, one of the biggest issues in the newsroom is milk theft. People hide their stashes from thirsty colleagues, some even stapling their cartons shut or pouring their personal milk supply into an inconspicuous looking tomato sauce bottle. Desperate times indeed.”

Risky business. This morning’s exchange between former parliamentary speaker Anna Burke and Radio National’s Fran Kelly over burqas in Parliament sounded very much like the two people involved were thinking “I can’t believe I’m asking this” and “I can’t believe I’m answering this”, which made it quite entertaining. Burke struggled to hide her exasperation as she explained how metal detectors meant that women wearing burqas couldn’t conceal weapons and weren’t a security risk:

“The only trouble they can cause is to stand up and yell out and people do that now. Very rarely, but it occasionally happens, with or without a burqa. They’re then removed from the gallery. What’s having a burqa behind a screen going to change in that situation? Where’s the security risk?”

Fran Kelly is of course no stranger to exasperated pollies, but admirably moved on to what she dubbed the “heckler risk” as she put forward the arguments of Cory Bernadi as they discussed the possibility that someone removed from Parliament could re-enter under the cover of a burqa. Perhaps the ban should also extend to moustaches and glasses, as they can also conceal the face. Don’t laugh — it’s been tried. Fifteen years ago in the US, Mets manager Bobby Valentine was kicked out of a game for arguing with an umpire but snuck back in wearing glasses and a fake moustache. Surprisingly no one fell for it and he was fined and suspended for two days.

Anti-wind farmers run for council. Crikey has been following with interest the power plays and funding behind the campaign to stop a wind farm being built on King Island in Tasmania, and we hear that the No TasWind Farm Group is getting overtly political. One tipster got in touch to tell us that major donor Michael Crouch has a long-time connection with the Liberal Party — he’s friends with former prime minister John Howard and has donated to the Tasmanian Liberal party (despite living in NSW). We also hear that locals will elect their council this month, and the list of nominees includes many members of the No TasWind Farm Group. President Jim Benn and vice-president Donald Graham are among the 19 candidates, and we hear there are up to seven candidates associated with the group. We’ll be watching to see how the campaign plays out.

Super Stone speaks. Never let it be said that superannuation is boring. The Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia is holding its annual conference next month in Melbourne — you can attend for just $3855, or around a thousand dollars less if you’re an ASFA member — and boasts a fascinating line-up. Former next prime minister of Australia Peter Costello will be there, as will finance industry luminary Mark “you’re fired” Bouris, businessman Phil Ruthven, Ita “needs no description” Buttrose and of course a host of others for a conference jam-packed with “more than 100 speakers across 9 blockbuster keynote sessions and 22 parallel sessions”.

But just in case the line-up isn’t enough for Australia’s accountants, actuaries, fund managers and financial planners, ASFA has a special lunch on the final day of the conference. The guest? “Silver screen legend, Oliver Stone”, who’ll be talking with Jennifer Byrne on “on how to ‘step up’ to leadership through authenticity and trust”. While Stone’s JFK doesn’t fill us with optimism about his capacity for “authenticity” (and which Stone will conference-goers get — the Stone of PlatoonWall Street and Born On The Fourth of July, or the Stone of Any Given Sunday and Alexander?), we think it’s a great choice. Who better to make a compelling, if visually rather overloaded, film vividly portraying the conflict of interest and greed that dogs Australia’s retirement savings industry? The rapacious financial planner, the greedy big bank exec, the hopelessly inept ASIC regulator, the laissez-faire politician stripping away consumer safeguards — we reckon it’s ripe for Stone’s next big-screen effort. And it’s sure to be better than World Trade Center.

Progressives go too fast. We brought you the news that the Australian Progressive Party was attempting to rise from the ashes of the Democrats, but it seems they’ve run into quite a significant speed bump. The group suspended pre-launch membership sign ups on Wednesday, after a technical glitch meant users could gain access to a spreadsheet holding the financial details of others who signed up. The party’s statement reads:

“You may be aware that many of us care very deeply about matters of online security and privacy so it is particularly embarrassing for us, and we have learnt our lesson of trying to cut corners in the push to get this party established as quickly as many of you would like.”

Goes to show sometimes slow progress is a good thing.

Party down. The Victorian Young Liberals will hold their annual ball this weekend, and the guest of honour is none other than Andrew Bolt. We thought he turned up every year, but apparently this is something worth advertising. If anyone managed to get a ticket, we’d love to hear how the night goes.

Bachelor single again? The internet has been abuzz all morning with rumours and denials about what is going on with The Bachelor (the premise of the show is that a dozen women compete for the affections of the Bachelor through a series of contrived dates and challenges — it is traditional for the gentleman to propose to one of his suitors in the season finale). Ten’s second season of the long-running American concept was a ratings hit, so much so that Ten’s been able to milk the attention while saying nothing at all this morning. The network’s publicity department inexplicably cancelled all media appearances with the winning couple yesterday. And as rumours of Bachelor Blake Garvey having impregnated runner-up Lisa Hyde have been firmly denied this morning, the narrative settled instead on winner Sam Frost being dumped by her new beau (and after all that effort!). Naturally all the media’s best minds have been on the case, and the most reliable scoop seemed to have gone to Jackie O from KIIS, who revealed a text message she’d received from someone on set saying Frost and Garvey have broken up after Frost watched the episodes on television and realised her fiance had been saying the same sweet nothings to all the contestants. Finally, Channel 10 confirmed the split, but said it was Blake’s doingBachelor-watchers assure us the relationship between the two was “very sweet”, so we do hope they work it out.

Team Australia uniform. A tipster has asked how we are supposed to know if our fellow Australians are on Team Australia or not, and that’s got Ms Tips thinking — perhaps there needs to be a uniform, or even a secret hand signal. Although the uniforms our Olympic teams wear are almost always an insult to fashion, we’re sure our tipsters could think of a stylish way to show you’re on Team Australia. Got some free time this weekend? Send your designs this way.

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

Peter Fray

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