From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Facebook still looks fishy. Last week the Facebook page of the Prime Minister gained much more attention than usual, when he was accused of buying Facebook “likes” to seem more popular. The page had experienced a sharp jump in “likes” — up to 395,000 — and it seemed he was most popular in New Dehli in India. After reports in BuzzFeed and Junkee, the PMO said it hadn’t bought likes and that the spike had come when Abbott was tagged in a photo with his new BFF, Indian PM Narendra Modi. Modi is an avid Facebooker and has more than 25 million Facebook followers — more than 700,000 people liked the selfie he took with Abbott. For most of us, this seemed like a plausible explanation, India’s population is much bigger than ours, so perhaps likes from the country could cause Abbott’s sudden popularity. But for one tipster with a background in IT, this explanation didn’t pass muster. Our source tells us that other international leaders who also featured in photos with Modi didn’t receive the same spike. Abbott’s team has used Facebook advertising before, most recently in last year’s election campaign. Buying Facebook “likes” can happen both through Facebook promotion paid for through the site and through external click farms, which allow people who are not site administrators to buy “likes”. We asked the Prime Minister’s Office if they had investigated this possibility but didn’t hear back by deadline.

“Robbed!” rings out at the Walkleys.  It was journalism’s night of nights in Sydney yesterday, with the Walkleys recognising the best in the business. Fairfax’s Adele Ferguson won this year’s Gold Walkley for her investigation into “unconscionable” banking practices at the Commonwealth Bank, but she didn’t win it alone. The award was shared with Four Corners producer Deb Masters and researcher Mario Christodoulou, who made the story accessible for TV audiences — stories about banking don’t often make compelling viewing like “Banking Bad” did. But some of the Fairfax contingent last night thought Masters and Christodoulou didn’t deserve the glory. The way they saw it, the myriad scandals in financial planning Ferguson has uncovered have been largely the result of her drive, hard work and contacts, and while she’s frequently worked with other journalists (including some at Fairfax with whom she’s shared awards in the past), it’s her pet topic. For the record, Ms Tips thinks it sets a good precedent to recognise everyone involved in big stories.

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When Sharri met Mark. Oz media editor Sharri Markson has often complained about how ABC managing director Mark Scott won’t give her an interview, but last night she had the perfect opportunity. She was seated almost back-to-back with Scott (he on an ABC table, she on Sky), but alas, Crikey‘s informers say the two seemed to stay well away from each other the whole night, with Scott going outside several times. Oh well — we’re sure there’ll be other opportunities …

Defence in an awkward position. It’s never a good feeling to be sitting in a toilet cubicle and realise just too late that there is no toilet paper to use, and we hear that this could be an increasingly common occurrence for some employees in Defence:

“At Defence Science Technology Organisation, Salisbury, SA, toilet paper has been cut to one roll per cubicle per day and one roll of hand towel per dispenser per day. In one section, 4 cubicles for 70 workers. Hundreds of workers in total. As trades people and technicians, frequent hand washing is required. Workers are now using torn up newspaper in the cubicles. How does this sit with the Minister’s $190 bottles of wine?”

We put this to Defence media and were told:

“There is no directed limitation on toiletries at DSTO. There has been a change in cleaning contractor and if there has been a shortage of toiletries in any location it is an oversight and will be resolved promptly.”

Glad we could help.

Carmody gets another promotion in QLD. Governor-General Peter Cosgrove is on holiday at the moment, and we’re sure he deserves the break. But while the Governor-General is off duty, a whole host of other people get promoted to fill his role and others. Queensland Governor Paul de Jersey has stepped up to the role of Governor-General, and with de Jersey representing the Queen at the federal level, that has left Queensland Chief Justice Tim Carmody as acting Governor. Carmody was controversially named Chief Justice of the Sunshine State earlier this year, causing resignations and ructions among silks. We’re sure this new promotion (while temporary) will no doubt stick in the craw of many in Queensland’s legal community.

Abbott back in town. There was anger in DFAT earlier this year over Tony Abbott’s oldest daughter, Louise Abbott, securing a job in the Australian embassy in Switzerland. Now we hear that Louise will be returning to Canberra to take up a place in the 2015 DFAT grad program. We hope that Abbott Sr’s policies don’t make it hard for Louise to fit in.

Iron(-clad) maiden. Senator Ricky Muir spoke in the Senate last night before voting in favour of the government’s Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill 2014, saying he was “backed into a corner” and forced to choose between a “bad option and a worse option”. Muir has been somewhat shy at the mic; it’s only the second time he’s spoken on a bill. However, he is yet to deliver his “maiden speech” to Parliament, reportedly due next year. Now that has Ms Tips wondering — can it really be called a maiden speech now?

Walkleys loser. Clive Palmer’s put his photoshopping skills to good use again …

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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