From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Have you stopped beating your wife? It was a rather bizarre day in Victorian parliament yesterday after a sacked Liberal advisor made claims there was a USB-powered pornography ring — involving Liberal staffers and at least one minister — operating out of the office of the (former) Victorian Premier.

With fodder such as this in the lead-up to a state election, well, the state Labor party made the best of it they could. Ms Tips has spent a mirthful morning counting how many times Labor MPs could get the term “pornographic ring” into their speeches during questions without notice. Meanwhile, not a single Liberal member used the term once! Premier Denis Napthine preferred the term “material” instead.

The Labor party’s main spokesman on this has been deputy leader James Merlino, who waded into the grubbiness while leader Daniel Andrews stayed above it all (Andrews’ only question in parliament yesterday was about hospital waiting times). Thankfully Merlino did a fine job, getting nine mentions of the phrase “pornographic ring” or “animal pornography” into his three questions yesterday. He also hit the airwaves — during a three-minute interview with Neil Mitchell on 3AW he mentioned the phrase a further seven times. Even when asked whether he was sure there weren’t any Labor party members involved, he responded with the stock-standard “we’re talking about an organised pornographic ring in the premier’s office”. Well it’s good to know anyone tuning in halfway wouldn’t have missed anything.

Mind you, Mitchell did his best to pull Merlino off-script, asking the 42-year-old MP whether he’d ever watched a “pornographic film” himself. “I’ve got 3 young kids, I’m a pretty conservative guy,” Merlino answered. “The answer is no.”

Pollie watch. Yesterday we had a tip on a pollie backgrounding a journo in an airport, and today we received this from a Melbourne-based tipster:

“Last Saturday I was walking by the cemetery in Ferntree Gully, near a roundabout where the cars need to almost come to a stop is a large sign for Ferntree Gully MP Nick Wakeling. I walk past it a lot and have noticed it keeps getting covered in stickers supporting the ambulance guys. Anyway, this time I noticed the stickers were being scraped off by none other that Nick himself. A trady’s ute slowed down to come around the corner and yelled at him ‘If only you looked after TAFE as well as that sign’ Poor Nick looked a bit shell shocked and went quickly back to repairing his image.”

It almost seems too good to be true …

HSU elections. The New South Wales branch of the Health Services Union announced yesterday that Gerard Hayes scored almost 90% of members’ votes in this year’s election to become secretary of the scandal-plagued union. But as in all elections, of course, someone isn’t happy, as it seems it was a lot easier to vote for the incumbent than it was his opposition.

“The incumbents only require a simple x in a box above the line but to vote for the opposition you are expected to tick over 50 boxes,” our tipster said. He plans to lodge a complaint with the electoral office and says he’s complained to the ACTU. “A new free and fair election needs to be called and for the members given a true chance to reform corruption in this union.”

We put the claims about the ballot papers to the HSU and they provided a copy of the ballot paper for Crikey readers to make up their own minds. Here’s an excerpt of the contentious bit:

Supervising the spies. The office of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security is looking for up to five investigation and review officers, and the job ad makes for interesting reading — there are 12 people already employed in the department, and duties include:

“Conducting inspections of the operational activities of the Australian intelligence and security agencies. Inspections are largely focused on the use of intrusive powers. This includes ASIO search warrants and telecommunications interception powers. Inspection activities seek to provide assurance that agencies comply with the relevant legislative and policy frameworks and to identify issues before there is a need for major remedial action.”

It doesn’t list what qualifications are required. Maybe Ms Tips will apply …

Ebola photo op. Health Minister Peter Dutton, who’s been looking somewhat besieged as he defends the government’s lack of interest in trying to stop Ebola in Africa, appeared at Brisbane Hospital yesterday to show how prepared Australia is for a possible Ebola outbreak. Except, we’re not prepared at all, as News.com.au’s Sue Dunlevy reported today. Crikey understands that the Dutton appearance was organised at the last minute and sprung suddenly on both the hospital and media outlets — which might explain why, as one tipster noted, the gear displayed is demonstrably inadequate for Ebola, given the substantial areas of skin exposed:

The suit pictured is what was previously considered adequate by the Centers for Disease Control in the US, but has recently been updated since nurses became infected there:

Well done — to everyone? Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham sent this email to his parliamentary colleagues yesterday, informing them that an amendment to the Meteorology Act had been passed into law — not particularly unusual. What our tipster did find amusing was the “reply all” that was sent by environment minister Greg Hunt, a simple “well done”. Our tipster is not from Hunt’s side of politics and says, “Not sure we’ve done anything that would have him congratulating us!”

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

Peter Fray

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