From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Victorian election gets some testosterone. Even though the Victorian election is looking increasingly out of the grasp of the Liberal National Coalition, it doesn’t mean all the fun is gone. Sonia Smith, Nationals candidate in the seat of Buninyong, near Ballarat, has announced she will print her own how-to-vote cards that don’t preference the Liberals’ Ben Taylor because of his anti-abortion views. While Smith has told reporters she’s not a maverick, a tipster pointed us towards these tweets from a few weeks ago, in which she said she was funding her own campaign along with the hashtag #mummysgotballs. We’re not sure what testicles have to do with raising money, but Smith seems to think this shows she has strength. If only she had run for a federal seat, we’d love to hear Smith and Jacqui Lambie have a chat.

What’s in a title? Plenty of people in public life have honorifics. Some can’t be bothered using them, while others like to parade them for all to see. In 2012, long before The Australian grew interested in him, we explored Clive Palmer’s interesting use of the title “Professor”. It was around about then that the then-secretary of the Department of Health, Jane “kids overboard” Halton, began styling herself “Professor Jane Halton” in corporate documentation, in the media and at estimates. Being a long-serving head of the Health portfolio, is she a professor of medicine? Not quite: she’s an adjunct professor at Canberra University and the University of Sydney, the Financial Review’s Verona Burgess explained at the time. Since then, Halton — transferred earlier this year to Finance, having missed out on the top spot at PM&C — has barely been mentioned without “Professor” in front of it. Except both Canberra University and Sydney Uni guidelines say that the users of such honorifics can’t shorten them; Halton should always be “Adjunct Professor”. The media is responsible for shortening her title in print, of course, but it’s Halton who tells Parliament what her title is for estimates, and it’s Halton who signs off on internal material like this bio at Department of Finance — which, until we made our enquiries this morning, bore the title “Professor”.

We’d hate to think Adjunct Professor Halton is styling herself “professor” merely because it sounds better, so we asked the Department of Finance why the title was used and were told that it was an administrative error:

“The Department of Finance is aware of the administrative error regarding the Secretary’s title after the issue was raised by a journalist. A very small number of instances have been identified where the department has inadvertently used the shortened form of the title on its website rather than the Secretary’s official signature block, which does not use the title. The Department of Finance has discussed the matter with the University of Canberra and the University of Sydney, and has informed them of the process being undertaken to rectify the error.”

Charley is moving on up. While it is a gloomy day for the SBS Dateline team (see Myriam Robin’s report today), we hear that former executive producer Peter Charley, who jumped ship in the face of the program’s new lighter direction, has landed a plum role overseas at a major international media organisation, in what our tipster describes as a “massive fuck-you to SBS”. We will be watching with interest to see where he ends up.

An ABC petition like no other. Ms Tips received an email this morning asking her to sign a petition to save the ABC’s Adelaide production offices. Nothing unusual, we thought, there are a lot of petitions for the ABC. This one, however, has been started by Education Minister Christopher Pyne (imagine the uproar if this had happened under the previous government) and is directed at the ABC board, saying:

“We, the undersigned, strongly support the ABC staying as a production unit in South Australia and for the ABC to adhere to its charter and continue to tell great stories that contribute to a sense of national identity … and reflect the cultural diversity of the Australian community.”

Maybe tell that to your parliamentary colleagues, minister.

NSW Parliamentary Library selling books. We heard from a tipster that the New South Wales Parliamentary Library had auctioned off between 200 and 300 rare first edition books last week — “must be desperate for cash” — said our book-loving tipster. We have already reported that the federal Environment Department had closed down its library completely, and Ms Tips was worried about the state of parliamentary libraries around the country — surely the NSW government isn’t that strapped for cash? What would it do with the funds raised? Our tipster was on the money; the books were sold through Lawsons auction house last week, and the auction house told us there were 266 lots on offer. We asked the NSW Parliamentary Library about the sale and got this statement from a spokesperson for Don Harwin, president of the Legislative Council, saying that a number of books had been given to other libraries, and those that weren’t were auctioned off:

“Since its foundation, the Parliamentary Library has collected more than 85,000 books. These books represent an enormous and important collection, however, some of the titles now kept are not relevant to the needs of the library and its core role as a research and support resource for the Parliament.  Moreover, the sheer volume of books has also caused significant issues in terms of storage. For the most part, these could be characterised as 19th Century travel guides and travelogues of journeys to other countries by British writers. They were not being used by Parliament, Parliamentarians of their staff. The proceeds from the sale will be used to conserve the high-value rare books in the NSW Parliament’s collection.”

We hope the books have found loving forever homes.

Abbott in traffic. Prime Minister Tony Abbott was in Melbourne yesterday, as well as many other places, as he guided foreign dignitaries around the country. But no matter how busy Abbott is, he always has time to let his social media followers know that he’s stuck in traffic. Ms Tips had a bit of a giggle when she saw the PM complaining about the 75 minutes it took to get from the airport to the city. He used the delay to highlight the need for the state Coalition government’s proposed East West Link on his way to the MCG for dinner with Indian PM Narendra Modi. Even though the Victorian branch of the Liberals has been avoiding being associated with the federal government, Abbott obviously just wants to help. This photo was taken on Victoria Street, right before the Swanston Street intersection. At that point Abbott’s motorcade had barely crossed from west to east, so Ms Tips wonders how much the East West link would have helped. The Coalition is promising that it will widen the Tullarmarine freeway — perhaps he should have been highlighted that policy instead.

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

Peter Fray

Get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for $12.

Without subscribers, Crikey can’t do what it does. Fortunately, our support base is growing.

Every day, Crikey aims to bring new and challenging insights into politics, business, national affairs, media and society. We lift up the rocks that other news media largely ignore. Without your support, more of those rocks – and the secrets beneath them — will remain lodged in the dirt.

Join today and get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12.

 

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW