From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Deaths on site quiet at Leighton. Leighton Contracting has had two deaths on its building sites in the last month, one in Sydney and one in Adelaide. We hear from an insider that the building giant is keeping the deaths on site quiet among staff, even though they have been reported in the media:

“There have been two fatalities at Leighton in the past fortnight. One person was lost on the North Sydney HQ construction project. Another died in an incident at the Adelaide hospital project. No disclosure of either incident has been made, indeed discussion has been actively suppressed. A far cry from the previous focus of Leighton on worker safety. What has changed? Ownership only? Perhaps this is the Spanish construction culture. Everyone’s heart goes out to the families of the two people lost. For shame Leighton — you owe them more.”

We asked Leighton what it was telling staff about deaths on site and after being referred to a statement on the man’s death in Adelaide, we were told the company had no further comment.

Photios presides over preselection. We hear this from a NSW-based tipster:

“PremierState’s Michael Photios has replaced a NSW Liberal Party executive member to be a selector this Saturday of three candidates for the NSW Legislative Council. This is contrary to the Prime Minister and previous premier’s position on lobbyist influencing internal party matters. This is factionalism at its worst. This last-minute change is setting up the Left, controlled by Photios, to obtain more power.”

The powerful lobbyist was forced to quit the Liberal Party state executive last year after PM Tony Abbott said “you can either be a powerbroker or a lobbyist — but you can’t be both”. Photios wields a great deal of power over the Left faction of the party, even though he’s no longer on the executive. If our tipster is correct, it’s not the first time Photios has been involved in preselection for next year’s election. The Tele reported in October that he had been given a proxy state executive vote in the preselection for the safe Liberal seat of Epping. We put the call in to ask Photios if he would be involved in preselection this Saturday, and he told us that he would be sitting in as a proxy, just as any member of the Liberal party could. It obviously hasn’t stopped people talking though.

Christmas cards. Ex-British prime minister Tony Blair is much more organised than Ms Tips — he’s already sent out his Christmas cards, featuring a frankly alarming picture of Blair with wife Cherie:

One tipster has also received a card from Labor MP Andrew Leigh, which features a much less scary family photo and this picture of Canberra, apparently drawn by some local grade 1 students. We’re not sure when Australia became a communist state with a red flag, but maybe it’s wishful thinking on Leigh’s part?

Macquarie invests in cluster bombs. The latest report on cluster munitions by international religious watchdog group Pax has revealed Macquarie Bank as an investor in a producer of the internationally banned weapons. There’s been an international treaty outlawing the weapons since 2010, although the US, China and Russia haven’t signed up to it. The report identifies Mac Bank as a small investor in South Korean defence manufacturer Poongsan, which produced and marketed several kinds of cluster munitions, such as bomblets. The report concludes:

“Poongsan is included on the red flag list because there is evidence that the company produced DPICM K308 and K310 cluster munitions and marketed the K305 after May 2008. No evidence was found that these types of cluster munitions were no longer produced since then. The company has not publicly stated that it will end its involvement within the coming 12 months.”

As Crikey has previously pointed out, Mac Bank has nearly $1 billion invested in the biggest US defence contractors. The report also notes that the Future Fund has policies in place to prevent cluster munition investments, given Australia is a signatory to the ban. Included on the list of companies in which the Future Fund refuses to invest for involvement in cluster munitions and anti-personnel mines are Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, in which Macquarie has around half a billion dollars invested.

Freebie watch. So far Ms Tips has counted a significant number of free papers at gyms and airports around the country, showing how many of our major dailies are actually unread. One tipster also tells us that family and friends of staff at The Courier-Mail can get annual subscriptions for $20 — that barely covers the cost of delivery. From our calculations, there are about 2000 copies of the Oz given away at Melbourne airport on a weekday — is it the same at your airport? Let us know.

“So there are 30 copies of the Weekend Oz and say 20 of the Herald Sun on every stand at the Virgin Terminal at Melbourne Airport. There are 10 gates — so 10 stands. They seem pretty popular with travelers — expect most will get picked up by noon. I’m here at 9am — who knows how many copies there were earlier.”

“There are always around 20-odd copies of the Herald Sun up for grabs at every Fitness First. Often I’ll turn up to the gym after 6pm and at least half — if not two-thirds — of the stack of newspapers are still there.”

Neighbours from hell. Why are young Libs so obsessed with Margaret Thatcher? Ms Tips isn’t sure — is it some kind of political Oedipus complex? We’ve been sent this photo from a tipster at Adelaide Uni, where the new editors of student magazine On Dit have just moved in. The new editors were backed by the campus Liberals into power in a surprise win in September. We notice that Christopher Pyne — Adelaide Uni alum and current education minister — doesn’t rate a poster. Maybe he’s somewhere the editors can actually see him.

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

Peter Fray

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