From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Donations watch. Today is kind of like Christmas for political journalists, with the release of political donations information from the Electoral Commission showing just what donations were received by political parties in 2013-14. While Bernard Keane has the rundown of which parties received the most and Stephen Mayne looks at which companies have spent up big for the federal Liberals, there are a few gems to be found in donations to the minor parties. The Palmer United Party received $28 million in donations in the 12-month period, and the short list of donors has one major thing in common — they are companies owned by Palmer himself (apart from the $101,833 donation made in his own name). Funnily enough, when we asked Palmer in mid-2013 if he would be donating to his eponymous party, he chastised us for being obsessed with money. A quick look at the donations to minor parties doesn’t have a lot of surprises, with the Liberal Democrats receiving $35,000 from tobacco giant Philip Morris and the Sex Party receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars from sex industry lobby group the Eros Association. The Electrical Trades Union donated $20,000 to the Socialist Alliance in the lead-up to the 2013 federal election. Also interesting are the donations from Chinese billionaire Chau Chak Wing, who donated $635,000 to the ALP and $200,000 to the Liberals. We’ll be combing through the disclosures for a while longer, let us know what you find.

The naked truth isn’t easy to face. At exactly 6.17pm on Saturday a significant portion of the Crikey bunker started to hope for the LNP to win the Queensland election. Why? It wasn’t because they suddenly developed a love for privatising assets or a hatred for bikies. It was this tweet:

At that point it seemed an unlikely possibility, but as the night wore on, Crikey staffers (and Keane, we presume) started to get a bit worried. Especially when we saw this:

At this point Ms Tips is thinking that it’s probably unwise to bet either wine or nudity on election results.

Some certainty for TEQSA. On Friday we were tipped off about the uncertainty surrounding the brain drain at the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency, the regulatory body responsible for ensuring the quality of higher education providers, with Chief Commissioner Nicholas Saunders in the role in an acting capacity since September last year and other roles left unfilled. On Friday afternoon Education Minister Christopher Pyne announced that Saunders would continue in the role in an ongoing part-time basis, with Linley Martin also announced as a part-time commissioner. The role of CEO is yet to be filled, but if the sector is deregulated soon, TEQSA may need one quick smart.

Higher education whispers. Independent MP Cathy McGowan is hosting a higher education forum in her local electorate today to canvas the opinions of locals on deregulation of the higher education sector ahead of the government’s push to get the legislation through the Senate before March. While McGowan’s vote won’t stop the legislation passing the lower house, we hear from a tipster that she has been spending a lot of time with Motoring Enthusiast Senator Ricky Muir lately discussing the reforms. McGowan has already expressed her concerns about how the reforms would affect regional unis, while Muir’s most recent position is that he “remains open” to deregulating fees. Can McGowan have more influence than the PM? We’ll have to wait and see.

 Why march when you can scoot? Yesterday marked the 20th year of the Pride March in Melbourne, with Premier Dan Andrews leading the 140 groups in the march in an unusually cloudy St Kilda. As has been the case for a few years, all the major political parties were represented in the march, including strong representation from the ALP and the Greens. One tipster pointed out to Ms Tips that Greens senator Janet Rice wasn’t marching but scooting, with one of her legs in a moonboot. We hear that the adventurous Senator broke her ankle while bushwalking in Tasmania and that the scooter will be making an appearance when Parliament resumes this month.

Queensland election coverage. Throughout the Queensland election campaign we received many tips on who was likely to take over from Campbell Newman in the event that the premier lost his seat of Ashgrove and the LNP retained government. The standard LNP response throughout all the speculation was that they didn’t need to tell us about an alternate premier, because according to Newman, “My strong belief is the government and Ashgrove go together”. Turns out he was more correct than we thought at the time.

When it comes to the election night specials, we  saw that they really do things differently in Queensland, apart from at the ABC, where as we have come to expect, Antony Green’s high quality analysis was let down by dodgy touchscreen technology. Channel Seven, perhaps wary of such issues, decided to forego fancy visual effects by putting actual physical pictures of MPs that lost their seats in a woodchipper. We actually felt a little bad for Newman while watching this:

Channel Seven also pioneered “election taxi”, where MPs and candidates were ferried around in a taxi while answering questions.

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

Peter Fray

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