From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Abbott pontificates — sometimes. While Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has criticised the publication of emails sent between Senator Nova Peris and athlete Ato Boldon, when Prime Minister Tony Abbott was asked his opinion this morning he said “as a former journalist the last thing I want to do is pontificate on media standards”. Funnily, that hasn’t stopped him in the past — on the ABC and The Guardian‘s Indonesian spying story, he said:

“I think the ABC were guilty of poor judgment in broadcasting that material, which was obviously difficult for Australia’s national security and long-term best interests.”

On the ABC’s decision to defend The Chaser skit featuring Chris Kenny:

“The point I make is that government money should be spent sensibly and defending the indefensible is not a very good way to spend government money.”

To a News Corp journalist asking about the resignation of Barry O’Farrell:

‘‘We need to have decent standards in this country, we need to have decent standards from the media, if I may say so, as well as decent standards from politicians. I’ve asked for questions on Badgerys Creek, we will get onto the other subject.”

So it’s not quite the last thing he wants to do.

No borders here. A tipster sent us this excerpt of the “Blueprint for integration” from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection on the creation of the Australian Border Force. Our tipster called it “a masterpiece of non-speak… George Orwell would be proud”.

Jedi mind tricks. While speaking to reporters yesterday, opposition environment spokesman Mark Butler said controversial MP Clive Palmer had fallen for the Coalition’s Jedi mind tricks. Was it, a journalist asked, because he was a “weak-minded form”? Not at all, Butler insisted. “Jedi mind tricks work on pretty much everyone except Jabba the Hut,” he said. “He was the only one I remember being able to resist Jedi mind tricks, so I pay no disrespect to Clive Palmer being vulnerable to Jedi mind tricks …” Later the reporter congratulated Butler on knowing his Star Wars.

But the accolade came too soon, because Butler got it wrong. As true Jedi Knights know, there is another who could withstand their mind tricks. In Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, Qui-Gon Jinn tries to buy an engine part using Republic money, which Watto the Toydarian won’t accept. So Jinn does his mind tricks, to no avail. “What? You think you’re some kind of Jedi, waving your hand around like that?” Watto says. “I’m a Toydarian. Mind tricks won’t work on me. Only money.” Come to think of it that sounds like something Clive Palmer would say.

No coffee, but heroin is OK. Liberal MP Sarah Henderson got into hot water yesterday for bringing what she assures us was an “extra strong” flat white into the chamber of the House of Representatives in violation of the House’s code of practice. While Henderson was able to scoff down her covert coffee after the division had finished, she might have had more luck trying to pass it off as a prop, which under speaker Harry Jenkins were “not encouraged but tolerated”. Although esteemed MPs have been sent out for taking it too far with toy chickens, petrol cans, a life-sized cutout of Kevin Rudd and — Ms Tips’ personal favourite — scorecards after another member’s speech, a report by the Standing Committee for Procedure grudgingly admits that the line between rhetorical gambit and gimmick are blurred. “There is no precise demarcation between legitimate visual aids and stunts,” the committee wrote.

Items that have been ruled acceptable props include a heroin cap, hemp fibres, a gynaecological instrument, a bionic ear, deactivated land mines and — in what is either Freudian spelling slip or brilliantly exasperated pun — “ugh” boots. Could we soon see a wave of bleary-eyed pollies making early-morning demonstrations showcasing their purchases from Aussies?

Katter’s no fool. After yesterday’s piece on our pollies’ days in student power, we received this from a tipster on Bob Katter’s days at the University of Queensland:

“I seem to remember that Bob Katter was President of the SRC at the University of Queensland while I was there during the late 1960s. He was certainly well ensconced in the power seats of student politics. Being 1960s Queensland, the SRC were very conservative. His father was a politician and he more or less inherited his seat. Not really the uneducated cocky he pretends to be. So why does he relate only the egg throwing incident? Maybe one of your sleuths could check this out.”

As always, if you have memories of politicians before they were famous — let us know.

Remembering Ebola. The issue of how to respond to the tragedy of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has proved difficult not merely for the Australian government but also for the NZ Greens. MP Steffan Browning has drawn derision and criticism even from his own leader for signing a petition calling on the World Health Organization to — wait for it — treat Ebola with homeopathy. “In hindsight it was probably a pretty unwise thing,” Browning admitted, confessing he was “not an expert” and that he’d signed it “pretty late at night”, which might or may not be a reference to having signed it after a few (heavily watered-down) drinks.

But before you start with the Kiwi jokes, the petition itself, which has to be read to be believed, originates with Sydney homeopath Fran Sheffield. So are we going to see homeopaths descending on West Africa clutching bottles of water? Sadly, no — another site, which discusses in detail how homeopathy could be fantastic for treating Ebola, says “consultations will be provided over online methods like Skype, FaceTime or text messaging.  We are not sending homeopaths to Ebola outbreak areas at this time to reduce risk”. Funny that …

A scholar of noble pursuits. Victoria’s 2015 Rhodes Scholar was announced yesterday, and  Ms Tips believes the recipient is quite the pun connoisseur. Investigating the cause of autism, Alexander Eastwood will study neuroscience at Oxford next year and told reporters that he was excited because “[Oxford] is a nexus of neuroscience”. For the uninitiated, in biology “nexus” means “a specialised area of the cell membrane involved in inter-cellular communication and adhesion”. Tony Abbott and former prime minister Bob Hawke were both Rhodes scholars — perhaps this is a name we should also watch out for in the halls of power in the future.

Tony the Carbonator. Energy company Powershop is using a wonderfully photoshopped picture of our Prime Minister to advertise one of its deal to customers:

Too soon in Queensland? This in from a tipster at the University of Queensland:

“The University of Queensland’s Whitlam Club, the recruiting club for the Left faction of UQ’s Student Labor has chosen this week to change its name! Absurdly, they’ve chosen this timing not because of the great man’s passing, but apparently newly elected leadership in the group want to move away from the group’s relatively undesirable reputation on campus. Some think it’s short sighted, others that it’s simply ‘too soon!’”

We tried to get in contact with the Whitlam Club, but didn’t hear back before deadline.

Pizza shop confirmed. After searching high and low for the pizza shop at which treasurer Joe Hockey “exploded” over outdoor furniture regulations, we can confirm that the shop in question was in fact Fedele’s Pizzeria in East Ryde. The owners told us that the incident in question happened quite a while ago, but now we know — if you want to eat your pizza outside, make sure you don’t have more than seven people.

Something to celebrate? A tipster pointed out this tweet from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection this morning — somehow we don’t think all those likes really translate to popularity.

*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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