From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Culture wars episode 3865. It’s just over a year since Attorney-General George Brandis forced Insiders host Barrie Cassidy to resign from his role on the Old Parliament House advisory board, which Cassidy said was because:

”The minister explained to me that he has a high regard for me personally, but nevertheless has (a) concerns about the process leading up to the appointment; and (b) a strong view that it is not appropriate to have anybody currently involved in the political process, whether they be politicians or journalists, sitting on boards such as these.

”He prefers people retired from any involvement in politics, and I respect that view.”

Oh how times change. Last night Brandis announced that The Australian columnist Janet Albrechtsen would receive another government appointment — this time to the council of the National Museum of Australia, a role that brings in $20,480 a year. It seems the preference for people to be retired in politics only applies to lefties.

NUS wheeling and dealing. The National Union of Students National Conference wrapped up yesterday, and in between motions on feminism and Freya Newman, the student union was forced to face the fact that its finances are “up shit creek”. As reported in The Australian, the NUS has an almost $100,000 debt and ongoing issues with spending and and revenue. We spoke to NUS President Deanna Taylor this morning, who said “the union has taken a lot of good steps to try and address issues and structures and process and procedures, and when I came to office we sought advice about how to address problems that we have”.

“We had to wait for national convention to implement the recommendations. We have had some success on getting sign off to implement the recommendations,” she said. The steps taken include looking at money spent on campaigns and honoraria paid to student office bearers — some honoraria have controversially been cut. Taylor said “every organisation has its financial struggles”, and that she was confident that NUS was “heading in the right direction”. When asked about accusations that the national executive often passed budgets without seeing them, Taylor said: “I can’t speak for previous years, but this year the nat exec does receive monthly financial reports and those are noted by nat exec and it’s assured that we have accountability.”

In other NUS news, members of Labor Left are outraged over the election of Liberal student Matthew Lesh to the role of General Secretary of the Victorian branch of the NUS. A preference deal between Student Unity (Labor Right) and the National Labor Students (Labor Left) ended with Lesh elected to the role unanimously, but we hear that members of the NLS didn’t realise that’s where their votes were going. Crikey spoke to the man himself this morning, and Lesh told us he was  looking forward to the role, for which he has three main plans — abolishing the Student Services and Amenities Fee, supporting the government’s higher education reform, and trying to “reform if not abolish” the NUS itself. Lesh admits that it’s a “different perspective to what what you’d normally expect” but seems optimistic about his chances of achieving his goals. If the union’s financial position doesn’t improve, Lesh might get his chance.

Progress, make it quick. If you’re a political strategist thinking of emailing people who haven’t actually signed up to receive news from your party, how do you get their attention? We hear from a tipster in Queensland that the LNP is contacting voters with the shortest survey we’ve ever heard of:

“By taking this short 15 second survey, you can let us know what your priorities are for Queensland so we can make this state even stronger. Take the survey here. We’ve got to keep building on the progress we’ve made to keep Queensland moving in the right direction.”

We know a short survey is a good survey, but what can we possibly answer in just 15 seconds? Unfortunately our tipster didn’t send us the link to said survey so our imagination is running wild with possibilities. Our tipster tells us that he didn’t give his details to the party, so he was not keen at all to take part. Guess they’ll try a shorter survey next time.

Up for a challenge? The last few weeks have been bumpy for disability service provider Yooralla, after a damning report by Four Corners and Fairfax airing allegations of sexual assault and mismanagement at the organisation led to the resignation of CEO Sanjib Roy. Yooralla is advertising for the role, with this appearing in the AFR this morning. The ad calls for “transformational leadership”, but that seems like a bit of an understatement for an organisation for which a Supreme Court case is just the start of its problems.

Dr Karl — ladies’ man. Melbourne’s literati turned out in droves last night at Melbourne’s Atheneum Theatre for The Wheeler Centre’s annual (OK, it started last year, but they seem pot committed now) Show of the Year. Writer and muso Casey Bennetto hosted the proceedings,  bookending the 12 acts with lively musical numbers and backing up several of the singers on a variety of instruments. Ms Tips was particularly impressed with the double act who covered May — our very own Bernard Keane and Helen Razer (did you know they have a book out?) were affable, engaging and funny in their discussions of the disastrous budget and the Fin’s infamous “World is Fukt” headline. For November, singer-songwriter Lior sang a hauntingly beautiful a capella Hebrew prayer that seemed to capture the sorrow of the world in his remembrance of the Gaza war and plea for compassion on both sides. And there were few dry eyes in the house when the stage went dark for December and a warm, familiar voice filled the theatre. It was a recording of one of Stella Young’s fiercely funny shows. But we hear the real star of the show was Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, whose discourses on dinosaurs and space ended on a note of hopeful optimism. Fans mobbed Dr Karl afterwards, with women of all ages wanting a selfie with the affable scientist.

Christmas party watch. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, Christmas party time — the free drinks, scarce canapes and bonding moments with coworkers are what festive dreams are made of. Ms Tips is still waiting with bated breath to hear how your office Christmas party was, and in the spirit of true transparency, brings you all the gossip from last night’s Private Media shindig, held at Melbourne’s Carlton Club (we hear it’s popular with hip young things). Past and present Crikey editors Jason Whittaker and Marni Cordell were in perfect harmony in a rousing karaoke session, and the dance moves on show by Crikey staff in the igloo room were second to none. We’d love to hear from you about your festivities — you can drop us a line here or stay anonymous if you wish.

Joke falls flat. If you move in certain circles you have no doubt heard about “Serial”, the blockbuster podcast that is turning us all into Nancy Drew. For those who don’t know, “Serial” is a spin-off of “This American Life”, where radio producer Sarah Koenig attempts to solve the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee, for which Adnan Syed says he has been wrongly convicted. Whether or not there is a payphone at a local franchise of electronics chain Best Buy is one of the pivotal questions of the series, and the chain posted this tweet this morning — just hours after the latest episode was released. It was deleted within two hours after a huge backlash — turns out joking about murder doesn’t go down too well.

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

Peter Fray

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