From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Christmas party watch: Fairfax’s execs get their groove on. Fairfax’s movers and shakers (minus a few journos) headed across the harbour to the Home Nightclub last night for the first of what will be several Christmas bashes at Pyrmont. A Wednesday night party seems rough, but Ms Tips hears it was very nonetheless very loud. The theme was heroes and villains. Notable costumes included SMH editor-in-chief Sean Aylmer in a Buzz Lightyear costume and, in what we can assume was the highlight of the “villains” catagory, one journo decked out as The Australian media editor Sharri Markson undercover (Ms Tips’ informers suspect it was the Fin‘s Mercedes Ruehl, but weren’t really sure — the costume was very, very good). But the event as a whole was light on journos. They get their own journos-only party on December 13, so quite a few gave last night’s corporate do a miss. Ms Tips has also been checking in with her spies at News Corp, most of whom have told her they also get two Christmas parties — one for their section and and the company one as well. So maybe the media industry’s not going down the toilet after all …

Fluffy senator on the way? Labor’s Kate Lundy announced at the annual dinner of the ACT Labor Party last night that she would be leaving politics next year, after almost 20 years representing the ACT in the Senate. Lundy was the youngest woman in the federal Labor caucus when she was first elected in 1996 and says that she will be looking for a career in technology. Lundy says she won’t be anointing a successor to her safe Senate seat, but tongues are already wagging in Canberra that it could go to one of the party’s newest recruits. Brianna Heseltine has been making headlines in Canberra this year as the founder of the Mr Fluffy Owners and Residents Action Group, which was set up to advocate for Canberrans whose houses were found to have high amounts of asbestos (built by the unfortunately named company Mr Fluffy). The ACT government has since committed to buy back and bulldoze around 1000 affected homes. Heseltine joined the ALP in September on the quiet. While it has been rumoured that she would run for the ALP in the 2016 ACT elections, we hear from locals that she is a strong candidate for Lundy’s seat. We called Heseltine this morning but did not hear back before deadline.

#Setinstone. Crikey founder Stephen Mayne held court on the steps of the State Library in Melbourne today, accompanied by 16 stone tablets in the service of keeping ’em honest. The Set in Stone project, a Crikey initiative, has inscribed eight pre-election promises each from Labor and the Liberals onto 16 limestone and marble tablets. We invited politicians from both sides to accept their tablets, but although the presentation drew quite a crowd, pollies and party apparatchiks were notable by their absence. Follow the conversation on Twitter at #setinstone.

Our favourite suggestions as to what to do with the tablets came from one Twitter wit, who said:

It could be a last roll of the dice. Eccentric but brilliant expat investor Peter Hall, chairman of the battling ethical fund manager Hunter Hall, will put his own cash into a new “go anywhere” fund he will manage personally, according to this presentation to the company’s annual meeting in Sydney today.  Hunter Hall, run by ex-Perpetual boss David Deverall since 2012, has had an exceedingly tough time of it since the GFC, which wreaked havoc on its investment portfolio, now worth just under a billion dollars. The company’s shares were trading above $16 before the crisis and are now below $2. Deverall has cut costs but revenues and profits are still falling and investors continue to pull money out Hunter Hall’s relatively high-fee funds — albeit at half the rate of a year ago, as one of today’s slides shows. Investors need to see again the outsize returns of old: Hunter Hall’s original Value Growth Trust is still the best-performing Australian fund over 20 years from 1994 to 2014, outperforming both global and domestic benchmarks. Beating the All Ordinaries by almost 4% a year compound for two decades is nothing to sneeze at.

Fizz and pop at Coca-Cola Amatil.  There’s a new spinner at Coca-Cola Amatil to replace the long time flack Sally Loane, who has gone to replace John Brogden at the Finance Services Council (he’s off to the Australian Institute of Company Directors). The new flack at CCA is Helen Karlis the long-time head of  corporate affairs, investor relations and communications at retailer David Jones, which is now being revamped after being bought by Woolworths of South Africa. This is one of the plum jobs in corporate flackery, but one of the terms of the appointment is odd — it is a short-term contract of four months, which means Karlis will have to go through a trial by fire in the first quarter of 2015, when CCA will report a very poor profit as newish CEO Alison Watkins cleans up the mess left behind by long-time CEO Terry Davis.

The “trial” period has raised eyebrows among Sydney’s spinners and flacks. But Karlis has a good track record — in 11 years at DJs she handled sexual harassment allegations against DJs’ ex-CEO Mark McInnes, the controversy over director trading in David Jones shares when they shouldn’t, and then the resignation of Paul Zahra, which wasn’t technically a resignation — he quit, then withdrew the resignation after board changes and the appointment of a new chairman. After those issues, dealing with the fizz going out of sales of Coke and other sugar-based products should be a cinch. The four-month “trial” is said to be an idea of CCA’s senior management — Watkins has already put the cleaners through CCA’s operations, with well over 100 people going and more on the way. But another clean-out is coming in the Coke empire at the local outpost of the Coca-Cola Company in Australia. It’s a 29% shareholder in CCA and recently did a deal to take a 29% stake in CCA’s Indonesian business by injecting US$500 million.

Journalism academics fight back. Once again the spectre of Chris Mitchell loomed over the latest Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia (or pithily, JERAA) conference held at UTS this week (his threat to sue then Canberra uni academic Julie Posetti spawned #twitdef in 2010). Mitchell was meant to be part of an industry panel discussion on journalism education but cancelled at the 11th  hour. In his place? Editor of The Australian Clive Mathieson, Victorian bureau chief Patricia Karvelas and … Chris Kenny. All three sat alongside former Private Media CEO and now Bauer Media GM Marina Go, Daily Mail editor Luke McIlveen, Junkee’s Steph Harmon, Private Media’s Sophie Black, the ABC’s Paula Kruger and the head of JERAA Matthew Ricketson. The conversation kicked off with the usual lines about what the industry looked for in graduates, until Chris Kenny mentioned the elephant in the room: leftist journalism educators and activists imposing their views on students. Ah yes, the Sharri scoop. The Oz’s media editor was nowhere to be seen in the crowd, but fake moustaches may have been employed, so we can’t say for sure.

A large chunk of the question time was spent talking about her, though, with visibly angry academics demanding to know why Markson felt she had to go “undercover” to produce her “scoop”. Mathieson replied that the paper believed that Markson needed to go undercover “to get the story”. Why? asked one academic. Mathieson said that the class probably would’ve been taught differently had Sharri identified herself. Much (angry) laughter ensued, with academics chortling at the idea that Murdoch, and the influence he wields in Australia’s concentrated media market, would not have been mentioned had Sharri put her hand up. Kenny marvelled at all the hurt feelings in the room, asking why it was such a big deal that Sharri had simply walked into an open classroom and reported on what she heard. Margo Kingston then yelled from the floor that Markson herself had dubbed the investigation “undercover”. Predictably, no minds were changed by the end of the panel, but from the looks of this photo on Twitter, the conversation kicked along well after the lights had dimmed …

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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