From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

ASIO’s million-dollar history. The publishers at Allen and Unwin have a great sense of timing — right when the nation’s spy agency is in the spotlight they released the first of three volumes of the official history of ASIO. Written by ANU academic David Horner, the book is so heavy we thought it was ASIO’s full history, down to every last detail, but turns out the 562-page tome (not including appendix, bibliography, notes and index) only covers 1949 to 1963. It has a steep price tag too at $59.99, but it turns out we’ve already paid for it. Crikey‘s Bernard Keane reported in 2009 when ASIO commissioned the history that the agency had budgeted $1,757,981 for the huge amount of research and writing involved in creating what was then expected to be two volumes. So it’s a very expensive book indeed.

News Corp papers are junk, says News. News Corp is the publisher of a large network of suburban papers that are distributed to letterboxes each week, with the news of the local area. When an avid reader of local news hadn’t received his copy of the Waverley Leader for four weeks, he called the office to ask what had happened. He was advised that to receive his paper he would need to remove the “no junk mail” sign on his mailbox. Says our tipster:

“A Leader switchboard operator advised me this recent directive applied ‘across the board’ — i.e. to all Leader mastheads. This operator said she had received numerous calls from readers about why they no longer receive the Leader newspaper. Until my local Leader paper stopped arriving, I noticed that it often came stuffed with enough junk mail to choke a horse. I told the operator I won’t remove my ‘No junk mail’ sign just to receive a Leader paper that now refuses to deliver to any local reader who objects to junk mail. A weird way to woo more readers.”

We’re not saying News Corp papers are junk — but they seem to think so.

ABC and the gremlins. The ABC’s Ultimo studios had an eventful afternoon yesterday when their computer systems were targeted by crypto-ransomware, meaning that ABC News 24 had to be broadcast out of Melbourne. We hear from a tipster that a similar thing happened in Perth last week. Know more? You can let us know.

Transurban date change windfall. Macquarie analysts have crunched the numbers and say a timeline rejig on the East West extension to Melbourne’s CityLink by Transurban means the toll road giant will snaffle up an extra $40 million from motorists. On Monday Transurban reached financial close on the $850 million CityLink Tulla Widening Project, which includes enhancements to the interchange between CityLink and the $6.8 billion East West Link, to be built by a Lend Lease-led consortium, signed off last week by Victorian Premier Denis Napthine. Macquarie says while broader terms are unchanged, a subtle shift in the start date of the CityLink contract from mid-2015 to October 2015 allows Transurban to “obtain an additional two quarters of price increases … the benefit is an additional $20m of revenue and EBITDA in FY16 and FY17, before a moderate step-down in FY18.” Noting the shift of the start date is also positive for Transurban’s debt ratings, Macquarie lifted its earnings forecasts accordingly, noting “the quality of the upgrade is high”.

AMA for the LDP. There are many things that Ms Tips likes about Australian politics — our myriad minor parties and civic engagement are just two of them. So it was a happy combination when the Victorian branch of the Liberal Democrats’ Leslie Hughes did a Reddit AMA yesterday. For the uninitiated, Reddit is a social networking and news website, and AMAs are an invitation to “Ask Me Anything” — Barack Obama’s has done one, and Kevin Rudd did one during last year’s election campaign.

While the conversation with Hughes was mostly polite and covered issues from the East West Link to the party’s gun control policies, we found a few things more interesting. When pressed on the party’s name — which bears such a close resemblance to the Liberal Party that some say it was responsible for Senator David Leyonhjelm’s election last year — Hughes said that they wouldn’t be changing their name but that the Liberal Party should change its name. Hughes says the Liberal Party’s is not “liberal”, so the name is misleading. The branch hasn’t got enough members for registration yet, but it looks like it could be an interesting campaign with minor parties like this around.

#Fridgemagnetwatch. It’s been almost a month since our terror alert level was increased to “high”, and we’ve quite enjoyed receiving your tips on increased security presence and the lack of bins at train stations. We hear from one tipster that bins have been removed from all Vline stations across Victoria, with these unintended consequences:

“The lady who sells the dim sims at Bendigo Station isn’t happy. She’s being asked to put people’s rubbish in her bin and doesn’t think she should be touching people’s rubbish when handling food. Having eaten the dim sims there fairly often I’m not too sure there’s an issue.”

Although Melbourne’s plastic bins were supposed to be safer than their metal counterparts, they were also removed from train stations last week. One intrepid reporter found them though, and it really is a sad sight:

Canberrans fight back. Sometimes Ms Tips sits here writing, feeling that no one is really paying any attention, but it turns out all that was needed was to make jokes about Canberra to bring readers out of the woodwork. We have received many emails, tweets and comments defending the city, and are quite heartened to see such loyalty. Believe it or not, it was on this day in 1908 that Yass-Canberra was chosen to be the nation’s capital over Dalgety. As always, we love to receive tips from Canberrans — whether it’s the best coffee, nightspot — or something more juicy altogether.

Stuck in the middle with you. What brings personalities from all the TV networks together and even gets them to sing the same tune? Mental health awareness. As part of mental health week, stars from across the board have put their faces and voices to Stuck in the Middle With You to raise awareness and plug the ABC’s Friday Night Crack Up, which will feature stars from across the board and round out their week of coverage. It’s gold.

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

Peter Fray

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