From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Packer photo goes missing. The media world was abuzz after Lachlan Murdoch gave the 2014 Keith Murdoch Oration last Thursday, but we hear that it was the presence of one of the guests that sent the staff at the State Library of Victoria into a flurry. The lecture was given in the Cowen Gallery, which is adjacent to the Blue Rotunda, where the finalists of the Nikon-Walkley photojournalism awards are exhibited. If Murdoch had taken the time to peruse the photos, many of which came from his own News Corp mastheads, he might have noticed that one of the most talked-about (and most watermarked) entrants was missing. We hear from a tipster that Brendan Beirne’s photo “Bondi biffo”, of casino boss James Packer’s tussle with Channel Nine boss David Gyngell, was removed from display on Thursday before the lecture and replaced on Friday. Why would such a photo be removed? Surely Murdoch would be glad to see the great work of one of his own? We hear that management at the library was worried about the reaction of Packer himself, who was in attendance at the lecture. Ms Tips hears he is none too pleased with the photos, which aren’t all that flattering. We also hear that it created tension between staff at the library, some of whom thought they shouldn’t be censoring the exhibitions because of the sensitivities of a multimillionaire.

Staffer stiffs cabbie. We hear from a cabdriver they might not be teaching manners round the office of one Liberal federal MP from Melbourne’s outer eastern suburbs. The cabbie picked up one of the MP’s staffers to take her to the airport, but when they got there his Cabcharge machine was on the fritz. Rather than making her miss her plane he let her go — after giving her his phone number and extracting a promise that she would ring him upon her return to Melbourne to fix up the bill. Although it was a two-day trip, our cabbie heard nothing for more than a week. When he tracked her down, she demanded he drive to the electoral office in the outer-Melbourne suburb of Berwick to get his due — and then kept him waiting for half an hour while she was in a meeting. Have you heard of MPs’ staffers behaving badly (or well)? Let us know.

The root (vegetable) of the matter. Today’s Australian brought news of another of the paper’s FOI requests for the ABC — a request by media editor Sharri Markson to find out how many ABC employees work in Canberra was stymied after the ABC’s FOI officer said that information wasn’t contained in one document that could be easily released (the refusal has yet to be placed on the ABC’s FOI log, meaning we’ll have to take the Oz‘s word for that). Perhaps Markson should have been more specific in her request — when she means “Canberra”, is she asking after the press gallery or those also employed at the Canberra Local Radio offices?

But the Crikey bunker’s attention was, naturally, drawn to the more trivial matters in the Oz’s report. Markson spoke to ABC spinner (and her predecessor in the Oz media editor role) Nick Leys, who declined to say whether ABC management had “given an onion” to the FOI office about the request. What could “given an onion” possibly mean? Crikey‘s interest was further piqued once Leys started tweeting about the ABC’s use of onions. But, he told Crikey this morning, he believed it was a typo. “I assume she meant ‘give an opinion’, however, who knows, maybe The Australian now has an ideological problem with root, bulb or other vegetables,” he said.

Meanwhile, on other ABC news, Ms Tips hears that ABC management have decided to axe The Business, as was rumoured some weeks ago. For more on the thinking behind Aunty’s dwindling TV business shows, check out our piece from earlier this month.

Beauty and the ringer. Reality television is a harsh industry, with the apparent axing of Channel Seven’s Beauty and the Geek (see today’s Media Briefs), a show where intelligent men (and therefore assumed as unattractive) are paired with beautiful (and therefore supposedly less intelligent) women. Even before the ratings took a dive from bad to worse, we hear that all was not well on the set:

“There is a disturbance in the Force among Channel 7’s Geeks, with some of the Geeks believing one of their own is an actor. Are we shocked? Probably not. Rumour among the contestants and their families is that ‘the tall one’ is an actor who has Geeked up to get some reality TV experience. But the Geeks have been told he won’t be allowed to win, and that honour will be held for the ‘real’ contestants. We also hear he may be lining up a modelling job once the show runs its course. A reality show that dupes its audience? Surely not.”

Unfortunately for the remaining Geeks, whether really nerdy or just acting, the show is not listed on Channel Seven’s schedule this week, which is a shame, they haven’t even done most of the makeovers yet.

Getting halal labels right. The ongoing trend of anti-halal meat trolls targeting brands that offer halal foods has gained media traction this week, with many praising the way in which Four N’ Twenty deals with online pests. Going halal can unleash a torrent of online abuse, and we hear from a tipster that there are brands that are a bit cagey about how their meat is actually prepared. According to our tipster, all of Coles’ beef is slaughtered according to halal specifications, but it isn’t labelled as such in Australia. We put that to Coles but did not hear back before deadline.

UNSW activates its voice. We’ve been following student elections around the country, as they are the playground of many who end up in the halls of power around the country. We received this over the weekend from a tipster at the University of New South Wales on its student elections:

“Normally relatively uncontroversial, this year all ballots cast in the election have been prohibited from being counted by the Board of the student organisation — Arc. The election ran last week and wrapped up on Friday. No votes have been counted and its unclear when they will be. No one is entirely sure why but the rumour is one of the tickets running, Activate (affiliated to Young Labor), is trying to have the election declared invalid due to the fact that they were prohibited from campaigning for a full day due to a breach of the electoral regulations. The regulation in question requires any ticket that is caught with a non-UNSW student campaigning for them to be immediately disqualified. Activate were caught using a former student, now graduate, to campaign on their behalf. However — the Returning Officer refused to enforce that rule arguing it is too harsh a punishment. He handed out a one day suspension – the same punishment given to the notorious ‘Overseas Students Association’ ticket covered heavily by Crikey last year. The Activate ticket responded by arguing the penalty was too harsh and have taken the issue to the Board of the student organisation, Arc (under which the SRC sits). What they’ve got going for them is the fact that four members of the 13 member board are all candidates or campaigners for Activate — including current SRC President and Activate campaign manager, Joel Wilson. It’s understood that the opposing Voice ticket (made up of un-aligned students) have requested the punishment not be overturned given the flagrancy of the breach.”

We contacted the returning officer Phillip Binns about the counting of the votes, and he confirmed there had been a delay. He said the board would be sitting tonight to consider the appeals from both sides. While Activate is claiming that the punishment was too harsh, Voice is also appealing the decision, saying it isn’t harsh enough. While our tipster claims that Voice is unaligned, student newspaper Tharunka reported last month that it was comprised of “a loose coalition of progressive Independents, Grassroots (Greens), and Socialist Alternative candidates”. Activate is comprised of both Labor Left and Right factions, something which is almost unheard of at the university. It’s one of the more controversial elections to take place this year, and we’ll keep you updated.

Grand sale. Two tipsters sent us photos of the deals and discounts available on their local papers over the weekend, we wonder if these measures will help circulation:

Four seasons in one day. Melbourne’s transport system was brought to its knees this morning by an unusual eight-hour thunderstorm. But these campaigners for Liberal Graham Watt, member for Burwood, were undeterred …

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

Peter Fray

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