From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Controversial new drug tsar appointment. The appointment of former Nationals MP Kay Hull as the new head of the Australian National Council on Drugs (ANCD) has raised some eyebrows in the drug and alcohol treatment sector. Hull is known for her anti harm-minimisation stance — a view not supported by many others in the sector, according to a tipster:

“This news is extremely worrying for the drug and alcohol sector and is an indicator of a shift away from evidence-based practice towards ideology-driven drug policy. We’ve been following evidence-based practice in Australia for over 25 years and have been recognised as a world leader in developing effective responses to alcohol and other drug use. Australia’s establishment of harm reduction programs has been a key factor in reducing the spread of HIV and blood-borne viruses. We know harm reduction is not a vote winner for politicians, but it is effective, particularly as part of a comprehensive approach. Australia has many internationally recognised drug policy researchers and treatment providers. These are the voices we would like to see on the ANCD, not those driven by a moral agenda.”

Hull was appointed by Assistant Minister for Health Fiona Nash, and we hear that Liberal MPs are not at all keen on the news. Nash has not had a quiet time as Assistant Minister for Health, after the controversy surrounding her adviser’s connection to the junk food industry and the delay to launching the healthy food star rating system. Could she be another staring at a demotion come reshuffle time? We also hear that this will be just the first of five new appointments to a new-look ANCD. Under the influence of Nash and Hull, it could take on a very different look. Watch this space, and if you know more, drop us a line.

Top job at Guardian up for grabs. The Guardian is down an editor-in-chief, after the long-serving Alan Rusbridger announced his retirement, of sorts, overnight (he’ll be helping pick his successor at The Guardian in his new role as chairman of the Scott Trust).

The topic of who’ll succeed Rusbridger has long been a topic of media gossip, and now that his retirement is assured (in mid-2015), the punters are already placing money on front-runners Janine Gibson (odds 2-1) and Katharine Viner (odds 3-1). The charismatic Viner is well-known to Australian readers for her whirlwind year heading up the founding of Guardian Oz — for her success she was promoted to head up Guardian US, which was, until that point, headed up by Gibson. Gibson has returned to London’s by-all-accounts crowded head office. Given Viner has just been appointed editor-in-chief of Guardian US, it does seem like the unattached Gibson is the more likely candidate. But the process will be hard-fought — and as the media release says, “announced in due course”. The vacancy comes a day after Economist editor-in-chief John Micklethwait was nabbed by Bloomberg. The Economist is expected to move quickly to fill its vacancy — it says it’ll name a new editor-in-chief in January.

A Santos wipeout on the TV? Embattled oil and gas company Santos wheeled out the big guns at a breakfast at Sydney’s MCA this morning with former trade minister Craig Emerson spruiking against domestic gas reservation to solve NSW looming gas shortage (it’s unconstitutional, apparently) and former Wallaby Tim Horan (whose farming family quickly embraced coal seam gas in Queenland’s Roma) appealing for calm. The bigger question was whether Santos will be available to fund development of anything given the oil price drop has seen its shares almost halved in recent weeks and many are tipping a capital raising. With BG Group moving to write down its giant QCLNG project there is now the real propsect that Santos’ GLNG project and Origins APLNG project might need to follow suit. Interesting times.

No silly season at the SMH. The defamation case between Treasurer Joe Hockey and Fairfax is getting extremely personal, and we hear this from someone at the Sydney Morning Herald:

“You’d be amused to know that with the Joe Hockey court case, Aylmer’s PA came down to the newsroom today and removed a joke hit list from one of the hot desks — Gina Rinehart, The Abbott daughters, Eddie Obeid. It no longer exists!”

The Aylmer in the tip is Fairfax publisher Sean Aylmer. Guess it can’t be subpoenaed then — Hockey’s legal team has been getting their hands on all sorts of text messages and emails revealing editor-in-chief Darren Goodsir was not a fan of Hockey.

Damn young people. When advertising to students, the best place to get them is at their place of education, right? That must have been the thought process in Education Minister Christopher Pyne’s office as they made the decision to promote the government’s higher education reform package on bus stops at Melbourne’s Monash University. Only problem, is the National Union of Students’ National Convention is being held at the Clayton campus this week, and it didn’t take long at all until this happened:

They’re not the wittiest messages, which is disappointing considering Nat Con is considering the motions “Freya Newman is a hero < 3 xoxo” and “You’re a feminist Harry!”. The leadership of the NUS will be interesting as it may influence the way the student body fights the higher education reform package — Ms Tips sincerely hopes they can think of better slogans than the ones above.

The Guardian makes a funny. It seems that a subeditor at The Guardian has quite the sense of humour, in a piece by former Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella on the future of the Nationals in Victoria, which includes this stellar advice:

“Having lost party status at this state election, they have a choice. They can build on their core ideals, grow and consolidate their base or they can try to shift ground and become a different party altogether.”

So the Nats can either change, or not. Thanks for the strategic insights. Meanwhile here’s the article headline:

“Sophie Mirabella’s message to the National party: no seat belongs to you”

Funny, that’s exactly what the voters of Indi said to Sophie.

Presents that move you. What do you get for that special someone in your life this Christmas? Apart from a Crikey subscription of course, how about these thoughtful gifts from NSW Transport? Ms Tips is particularly keen on the transport-themed cufflinks, very sharp. Just hope they arrive in time…

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

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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