From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Tributes in Fairfax still fraught. Earlier this year The Age was lambasted across talkback radio and Media Watch for outsourcing its death notices to an office in the Philippines, resulting in tributes posted with spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, and even incorrect names and details. At the time, Age editor Andrew Holden said that Fairfax was working with the call centre and that notices were being printed with 99% accuracy. While accuracy may have improved, we hear from a tipster that the experience has not:

“The treatment of my mother and I by The Age has been appalling. We called The Age on Sunday the 9th to place a tribute for my father, who passed away the previous day. The call was shocking, the woman on the phone sent through a draft of the tribute to my mother’s email, and it was full of grammatical errors and spelling mistakes. It is NOT the job of the grieving widow to be correcting the grammar and spelling of a newspaper. It took four attempts back and forth with this woman to get the tribute correct. By the second time my mum was in tears with heartbreak, and a family friend had to sit there patiently correcting the tribute. At the end of the phone call, the woman said ‘have a nice day’, which we all find extremely insensitive given the circumstances. The call had been outsourced to a call centre in the Philippines. Why would something so sensitive be outsourced?”

Our tipster also says Fairfax refused to provide a refund, as the notice was printed correctly in the end.

We contacted Fairfax this morning to ask about the ongoing issues with the outsourcing of the tribute notices, and received this response from a spokesperson:

“When we are working with a family on the placement of an In Memoriam message we know it has to be hassle-free and simple — certainly not adding to the heartache. Clearly on this occasion we haven’t got it right. One family experiencing further distress at our hands is one family too many when they should be focusing on their loved ones. We have asked Crikey to connect us with the family concerned, and if not, to convey our deepest apologies. We will sort out the problem that led to this situation.”

Abbott and his own policies. “On day one, the Finance Minister will notify the Clean Energy Finance Corporation that it should suspend its operations and instruct the Department of Finance to prepare legislation to permanently shut down the corporation,” Tony Abbott declared before last year’s election about his immediate post-election priorities. In November last year, a bill to abolish the CEFC and its use of “taxpayers’ borrowed money” was introduced. The bill was defeated twice in the Senate, providing the government with a double dissolution trigger, but was re-introduced in June by Greg Hunt and remains before Parliament. But wait, what’s this? Yesterday during his joint press conference with French President Francois Hollande, Abbott appeared to be singing a rather different tune when asked about what the government was doing about climate change: “We’ve also got the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, a $10 billion institution which is in the business of funding various projects which have economic and environmental outcomes.”

We already know Abbott is a climate denialist (“absolute crap”) and a denialist on the economic significance of climate change. Now he appears to be in denial about the fact that it’s still government policy to abolish the CEFC.

Pro-lifers targeting marginals.  We hear from a tipster on Melbourne’s northern outskirts that anti-abortion campaigners are delivering flyers targeting Yan Yean Labor MP Danielle Green again, in the state’s most marginal seat. Flyers with a similar message were distributed in September, but the ones that appeared yesterday included an authorisation from a woman living in the state’s far east (nowhere near Yan Yean), and are connected to the group Abolish Human Abortion. The group participated in the March for the Babies event, which was organised by Liberal MP Bernie Finn. The vote to which they refer to is the one Victorian Parliament passed six years ago, meaning Green was far from the only one to vote for it.

Vote 1 someone else. The Greens’ new pitch in Western Victoria has taken a disturbing and desperate turn, with this video, in which Carl Sudholz asks constituents to vote for anyone other than the Nationals in order to make the seat marginal. We’re not sure if this video really helps his cause, but the tune is definitely an earworm.

Spurr returns — at least his picture does. The controversy surrounding academic Barry Spurr has died down somewhat since his emails were leaked by New Matilda a month ago. Now we hear from a tipster that he may be back at the University of Sydney soon:

“Barry Spurr’s departmental photograph was taken down from the wall after he was suspended by the University of Sydney. The photo has now been put back up. Sign of things to come?”

We’ll keep an eye out.

New title for Bishop? Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop is in New York at the moment, representing Australia at the UN Security Council, where she is presiding over meetings and encouraging a strategic response to terrorism. Australia’s permanent representative to the UN Gary Quinlan tweeted this photo this morning, with the hashtag #ozprez. While we know that the plaque in front of Bishop refers to her role on the Security Council, and not as head of state, the image got us thinking: what if Julie Bishop were our president? She is a republican, after all …

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

Peter Fray

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