From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Safer roads — for a price. Pictures of what look like police cars covered in corporate logos — including that of notorious fracking giant Santos —  have stirred up fears on social media that Queensland Premier Campbell Newman has finally snapped and sold off the police force to the highest bidder.

The vehicles are part of the Queensland Police Service Stay on Track Outback road safety campaign — despite several of the photos showing the cars roaming around parts of New South Wales.

A Queensland Police spokesperson assures Crikey that the actual cars — a motor home and ute donated by some of the sponsors — aren’t being used to respond to emergencies, but are always first on the scene at truck stops and caravan shows when it comes to promoting road safety:

“At times, the Queensland Police Service engages in sponsorship arrangements with government, corporate and private organisations and companies. The QPS remains committed to reducing trauma and death on Queensland roads. We utilise a suite of measures, including enforcement action, high-visibility patrols and operations, and a range of education and community engagement strategies, to help reduce serious and fatal traffic crashes.

“The project achieved significant results in the reduction of caravanning traffic crashes and provides on-going education to motorists, both in urban and country Queensland, on the hazards and conditions that can be expected in the outback, with particular reference to towing caravans.

“These vehicles have been seen throughout much of country Queensland, including truck stops and caravan parks, as well as at the 2014 Brisbane Caravan and Camping Show and the QPS150 Expo.”

Whether or not you believe it’s appropriate for any kind of police vehicle to be covered in the logos of private companies — brushed off as “Stay on Track Outback graphics” in the police’s response — the message that such a move sends to the public is mixed at best. Protesters against coal-seam gas developments in New South Wales in particular have got to be asking themselves: just what exactly has Santos bought?

The man who wasn’t there. To complete our coverage of the 2014 Walkley Awards, perhaps it’s worth taking a look at who wasn’t in attendance. Missing from the guest list was Oz editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell, along with his editor, Clive Mathieson. The Oz did well at the Walkleys, with five of its journalists picking up awards. So where was the editor-in-chief? Oz staffer told Ms Tips the Walkleys weren’t really his scene. Too many people in the room, we were told. Holding up the torch for the Oz was deputy editor Peter Fray, a former SMH editor who joined the Oz earlier this year. As Crikey has detailed, Fray has quickly become a favoured son at the Oz. Some insiders muse he’s more likely to succeed Mitchell (whenever he deigns to retire) than Mathieson at the moment, but these things are prone to change. Another star is of course Daily Tele editor Paul Whittaker, who picked up his third Walkley last Thursday for his headline writing.

Also in attendance was another one-time insider at the Oz (and current persona non grata), AFR editor-in-chief Michael Stutchbury. Ms Tips didn’t manage to track him down to ask, but apparently Stutchbury does not own a tuxedo. He borrows one five or six times a year, a rather indiscreet tuxedo rental assistant told Mumbrella‘s Nic Christensen last week:

Come to think of it, getting Stutch a tux of his own would make a marvelous Christmas present, if anyone feels like getting on his good side …

Getting a head in the army. Nothing if not patriotic, Crikey has won a victory for all men and women who have sat staring in horror at an empty roll of toilet paper. Having received a tip on Friday that Defence personnel in South Australia were being restricted to one roll per cubicle a day, our professional shit-stirrers launched a charm offensive fighting for our brave soldiers’ right to wipe.

We are very relieved to bring you Defence media’s response to our inquiries:

“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.”

Now that no more men and women will be forced to endure a dishonourable discharge in service of their country, we at Team Australia can finally feel secure in the knowledge that we have, at last, done our duty.

Newman goes south. He hasn’t sold off Queensland’s police force just yet, but it seems like Campbell Newman’s done something worth celebrating. A tipster told us:

“Spotted: Queensland Premier Campbell Newman enjoying the hospitality of the Canberra Hyatt over the weekend, and having a grand old time in the hotel bar at 1am.”

If you see any pollies in their cups or otherwise, let us know. And you can stay anonymous.

Green at heart. Notorious for handing out homemade how-to-vote cards refusing to preference her Liberal allies, Nationals candidate for Buninyong South Sonia Smith has revealed that, whatever her politics, she still has a green thumb. In a move that would have made Ellen Sandell proud, Smith released a statement on Friday announcing her plans to recycle her campaign corflutes to be used to grow vegetables in community gardens.

Recycling has had a patchy tradition in politics since disgraced former speaker Peter Slipper reused a 30-year-old photograph of himself to campaign for the seat of Fisher after carefully slicing away all trace of the LNP logo at last year’s federal election. With some still suspecting a rift between Smith and her erstwhile allies in the Liberals, could she be planting the seeds of a beautiful new friendship?

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

Peter Fray

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