From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Gaming the economy in Greece. The person with arguably the toughest job in Greece’s new government is its 53-year-old finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis. And he’s not the kind of person you might expect a socialist party in a time of national crisis to be putting forward. He’s a dual Australian-Greek citizen (Varoufakis was an economics professor at the University of Sydney for a while and has family here), and there’s been no shortage of primers on what he might do. Varoufakis is a prolific blogger and has basically declared a blueprint for European revival (his “modest proposal” — which pairs debt and banking reform in the eurozone while embarking on a large-scale investment program to halt the recession — has achieved some measure of fame). But most of the profiles have missed what is in Ms Tips’ view the most fascinating aspect of Varoufakis’ history — he was once employed by a video game company to advise on economies that only exist in virtual realities. Three years ago he was hired by Valve to reform the in-game economics within some of its largest titles, such as Dota, which were suffering a range of economic woes in their virtual worlds. Varoufakis sorted out their problems and stuck around because he was fascinated by Valve’s lack of hierarchy — the company operates on a market-based system where individual employees decide what they work on, and no one has any titles. Becoming something of an advocate for the system, Varoufakis declared the modern company the last feudal institution left in the world, in the sense that it’s the last preserve of top-down decision-making freed from market forces.

In short, Varoufakis is an unorthodox and highly inventive economist who’s always stressed the proper functioning of markets rather than their abolition. It’ll be interesting to see just what he does in his new job. He’s already declared he’ll be keeping up his blogging.


Nosebleed section. We hear from a tipster that Cricket Australia could be undertaking some cost-cutting, after last night’s Allan Border medal looked like it took place in a small-time local theatre:

“After being accustomed to watching the award meander through the night from the cavern that is the Crown Ballroom in Melbourne, it was something of a surprise to see last night’s effort based at the much smaller and less glam function at the CarriageWorks in Sydney’s Redfern (next door to the Seven network’s production facilities). The awards ceremony looked like it was done in a small TV studio with the cricketers and their partners sitting on very functional tiered seating, much like the audience in a TV game show. The players and their partners also arrived to a red carpet that looked like it was in an industrial estate on the edge of the city. Not a good look for the country’s national game and very downmarket compared to the AFL’s Brownlow medal awards (which are joined to Crown at the hip).”

Time to learn. The Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance has invited its followers to an event this Thursday titled “Lessons from the Victorian Election”. It will seek to answer questions such as “What are the lessons for the Liberal Party from the Victorian Government’s historic loss in the 2014 state election? What message should Tony Abbott and the Federal Liberal Party take away from this stunning defeat?”. As the event is advertised as two-and-a-half hours long, there are clearly many lessons to be learnt. Including panellists Christian Kerr, John Roskam, Sinclair Davidson, Jess Wilson and Helen Kroger, the event promises “there will be significant opportunities for attendees to share their views with the panel, and for an interactive discussion to take place”. We may bring popcorn and watch the sparks fly.

Other Australia Day honours. It seems to have come to the point in some corners that every decision the PM makes must be a sign of his eminent demise, says one tipster:

“It didn’t go unnoticed in some quarters that a preponderance of gongs went to one University, for which the PM has some no doubt fond memories, or is perhaps preparing for a job application.”

And it’s gone … After a week of furious silent bidding, we are happy to announce that the bottle of red wine signed by Victoria’s five minor party upper house MPs has been sold to Matthew Hingerty for the price of $400 — all of which is going to Camp Quality. Hingerty is the CEO and managing director of Barton Deakin Government Relations in Sydney and told Crikey this morning that he was pleased to be donating to Camp Quality, which he says is an “outstanding organisation”. Hingerty says the bottle is an “outstanding but obscure piece of memorabilia” but doesn’t quite know what his plans for the bottle are. “God knows what I’m going to do with it, I’m sure it will have some value some day.” He also told us that he would be quite happy to re-sell the bottle for a higher price to raise even more money for Camp Quality, “if anyone wants to make me an offer — that’s a direct challenge to my competitors in the lobbying space”. While it seems that the bottle of red’s time is done on Ms Tips’ desk, its ability to raise money for a good charity might not be.

Queensland curiosities. We’re on the final straight in the Queensland election campaign, and we’ve heard from quite a few tipsters who are keeping an ear to the ground for us:

“Alan Jones is really starting to cut through in the campaign — his show was all the talk in my local rural supermarket today. The area is the subject of exploratory mining activity at present and nobody wants it to happen — it is the water catchment region for SEQ containing the Somerset and Wivenhoe Dams — with a total water volume nine times larger than that of Sydney Harbour.”

Many of our tipsters have been receiving both snail mail and email correspondence from candidates, including one household of two that received a total of five flyers from the LNP alone. Another tipster received this letter from MP Saxon Rice, with this charming postscript:

We’re not sure if anyone has told the LNP that the “Greenies” aren’t really a party, but we’ll let that slide. We’ve been hearing a bit of murmuring that preference deals in Queensland, where there is no upper house and preferential voting is optional, won’t be as much of a factor as they were in the 2013 federal election. Although Crikey had previously heard that egos were obstructing the paths to preference deals for the minors, One Nation is now telling its voters it’s done a preference swap for the Katter Party in the seat of Lockyer, where Pauline Hanson is running. Katter’s Australia Party hasn’t told its voters about the deals, just that it won’t be preferencing the LNP or Labor. We haven’t been given any goss on the Palmer United Party’s preferences, but we do know they are reaching far and wide when it come to targeting voters. This tipster doesn’t even live in Queensland but is still getting told how to vote.

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