From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Launching stupidity in St Kilda. Crikey luminaries Bernard Keane and Helen Razer trundled down to Readings St Kilda last night to launch their new book, A Short History of Stupid, which Razer called “the perfect Christmas gift for the depressed pessimist in your life”. Throughout the evening Keane and Razer proved an erudite and charming double act – Keane: “The system is flawed …” Razer, interjecting: “I know that, I’m a fucking Marxist!” — covering everything from the Herald Sun’s ridiculous overreach on grog to the medicalisation of depression and the cost (human and capital) of the Iraq War.

When the floor opened to questions, one audience member asked whether their book spent much time covering the decline of common sense, saying she thought the situation was so dire it might be worth launching a TAFE course designed to teach common sense to young people. “Well, a lack of common sense is more small ‘S’ stupid,” Keane said. “In the book we mostly discuss big ‘S’ Stupid — systemic Stupid.” Though Helen did endorse the woman’s TAFE course.

There were more than a few lefties in the rapt audience, and one notable libertarian — Dr Peter Phelps, NSW upper house MP, who was at uni with the authors. Phelps challenged Razer’s condemnation of “the Oprahfication of news” — “isn’t that the fault of the Left? The primacy of the personal narrative, doesn’t that come out of the cultural Left?” Razer conceded: “I’m sorry for postmodernism! The Right has won, absolutely. The Left has become the Right.” Sad words for a Marxist.

In other book launch news, John Howard appeared at Hill of Content bookshop in Melbourne this morning to promote his creatively titled book The Menzies Era. Howard was introduced by Hawke-era minister Barry Jones, and Liberal Party president Brian Loughnane and ex-MP Stewart McArthur were also in attendance.

Adani’s loan that wasn’t. A billion-dollar loan agreement from the State Bank of India to part-fund miner Adani’s giant Carmichael thermal coal mine in the Galilee Basin — announced during the recent G20 visit to Australia Prime Minister Narendra Modi — has caused a stink back home. Adani’s founder, billionaire Gautam Adani, supported the PM, a close friend, during the national election earlier this year. Now London’s Financial Times is reporting a “firestorm of criticism” from opposition parties over the loan agreement from the majority-government-owned State Bank of India. State Bank chairman Arundhati Bhattacharya told FT the criticism was “totally uncalled for” and she felt like “a sitting duck with the press having lots of pot shots at me”. Bhattacharya said the US$1 billion agreement with Adani was not yet a loan at all: “It is a goodwill gesture on our part that we said we might look at this opportunity, but it is just an MOU [memorandum of understanding], this merely says that I will have a look at it, and gives me access to the details of the project. Nothing more than that.” In reports overnight, Trinamool state politician Derek O’Brien took up the cudgels, asking why the State Bank had decided to lend to Adani given a number of international banks had refused to fund the Carmichael project, coal prices had halved and Coal Minister Piyush Goyal had stated that coal imports to India would end in two to three years. O’Brien said while his party had no problem with government being business-friendly, “we have problem regarding crony capitalism”.

Hillary is well watered. The Washington Post has got hold of a copy of Hillary Clinton’s contract for speaking engagements, including her speaker’s fee and demands for her green room and off-stage supplies. The list isn’t too crazy, but it does feature an inordinate amount of water. Why does she need so much water? And so many different types?

  • $300,000;
  • Long, flat pillows for back support;
  • A lavalier mic so she can give TED-like lectures;
  • “A case of still water, room temperature, to be deposited stage right”;
  • “A carafe of warm/hot water, coffee cup and saucer, pitcher of room temperature water, water glass, and lemon wedges” both onstage and in the green room;
  • “Coffee, tea, room temp sparkling and still water, diet ginger ale, crudite, hummus and sliced fruit” in the green room; and
  • A “computer, mouse and printer, as well as a scanner”.

Christmas Party Watch. Christmas, we’re sorry to inform you, is less than a month away. That means that we have a close eye on the many Christmas parties around the country, and we hear this from a tipster at Coles:

“Rumour has it that the Coles Staff Christmas party will feature Redfoo — much to the consternation of said staff, especially the female staff. As if ‘Down down’ hadn’t become enough of a misogynistic anthem within Coles, now … I can’t even …”

Redfoo has been particularly controversial this year after releasing the song Literally I Can’t, which has been criticised as the most offensive song of 2014. We asked Coles about the appearance of Redfoo but were told that the rumour is not true. We’re sure that Coles employees are breathing a sigh of relief that they won’t have Redfoo spoiling their party. We guess Coles won’t be his “new thang”.

Freebie watch. Here at Tips and Rumours we make a habit of pointing out newspaper giveaways — and not just because Ms Tips is a cheapskate. While newspaper circulation numbers are already frighteningly low, we often wonder if they are propped up by give-aways and freebies, many of which remain unread. We hear this from one of our tipsters with a few frequent flyer points:

“I’m at the Melbourne airport and I notice that News Corp now has free newspaper boxes at every Virgin gate lounge (never had it at Virgin before, but always at Qantas). I was in Cairns a few months ago and there were hundreds of Australians given away. Are these numbers declared on the audit (where the numbers are horrific)? Why are they doing it now? There are 22 gate lounges here, each one must be 100 each — at least 2000, of which I reckon half are Australians. Might add up to 10% of the Oz weekday circulation being given away at airports alone.”

So jet-setting tipsters, what newspapers do you pick up for free and where from? While in the past we’ve been a bit haphazard with monitoring freebies, we challenge our tipsters to make the best quantitative analysis of the free papers available at airports and report back. How much of newspapers’ declining circulation is made up of papers that no one is actually buying?

Movember concludes. As we wind down to the end of November, it comes time to mourn (or celebrate) the end of Movember. This year federal Parliament has watched as the “Mo-alition” of Darren Chester, Graham Perrett and John Alexander sprouted some truly magnificent moustaches to raise money for men’s health initiatives. We were starting to think that Chester looked like he belonged in Chopper Reed’s posse, and by the look of this tweet, Parliament’s security is thinking the same thing.

Victorian election nears the finish line. By next week Victoria could have a new government, or at least a Parliament that will look markedly different to this one. Minor parties have made a concerted push to get a foothold in Spring Street, and Ms Tips has particularly enjoyed this release from Andrew Cunningham, the Rise Up Australia candidate in the seat of Keysborough:

“He is one of those fortunate people who do not appear to age. He looks like a 55 year old guy and walks faster than most 40 year olds. His brain works amazingly quickly, his comprehension of situations and decision making is fast and he can swiftly take appropriate action. However he is in fact 79 years old. A few weeks ago he saved the life of a small baby at the Dandenong Market car park.”
Cunningham goes on to describe how his sharp reactions saved the baby’s life, and that he wants to help more people in Parliament. The south-east of Melbourne has already provided Victoria with rogue independent (and self-proclaimed protector of babies) Geoff Shaw, and Ms Tips thinks that’s quite enough really. Also in the list of terrible campaign ads, this one from the Animal Justice Party manages to includes multiple cute animals and still be completely uninspiring:

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

Peter Fray

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