From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Come fly with me? Not so much. One for the “I don’t want to sound incredulous but I can’t believe it” files — you’ll never guess, but there’s another, major problem with the F-35, aka the Flying Boondoggle, the piece of military-industrial complex junk that is the longest-delayed and most expensive jet fighter in history. Australia foolishly decided to purchase a bunch of them as its next-generation fighter, despite having to buy some stop-gap Super Hornets because the damn things were delayed so long. We’ve chronicled the various problems with the F-35 before — the somewhat limiting problem of the engine catching fire mid-flight, which led to the US grounding the fleet, the problem with the special fuel used by the jets that required its fuel trucks to be painted a lovely, low-vis white, the fighter’s gun, which doesn’t um, shoot, the test results that were adjusted by moving the performance goalposts and a myriad of software problems that are continuing to push the plane timetable back. The latest problem was revealed by the US Government Accountability Office, which tested the reliability of the engines — which aren’t, to be fair, made by Lockheed but by Pratt & Whitney. The F-35 Marines variant could barely manage half the intended reliability performance. The model we’re getting managed about one-quarter of the intended performance. Pratt & Whitney — here’s another surprise — says the GAO didn’t test the engines properly — although even P&W’s tests have the Marine version well below intended performance. Meantime the Pentagon Inspector-General issued (another) report this week on the plane criticising the overall management of the F-35 engine program, finding a mere 61 problems with it. In the scheme of things, that’s small beer for the next-generation fighter that might not be able to fly or shoot whenever it arrives.

Lunch watch. A Brisbane-based tipster got a good view of a high-powered lunch in the Sunshine state yesterday:

“Spotted in Brisbane. Senator Cory Bernardi and Senate President Stephen Parry enjoying a very early afternoon beer at a new pop-up bar on Brisbane’s George street Miss Kay’s. The two southerners were clearly enjoying themselves in a relaxed drink unawares of the busy public service thoroughfare that is George Street in Queensland’s capital.”

Ms Tips has had a bit of squiz at Miss Kay’s menu and it looks like quite the hipster paradise. Not quite Bernardi and Parry’s normal environment — maybe they are looking at widening their appeal.

All in the family. It’s not just Bernardi and Parry who are getting down with the yoof, but as we told you yesterday, the Institute of Public Affairs is getting in on memes to try to win our support. The meme expects supporters of SBS reporter Scott McIntyre to also be supporters of Andrew Bolt. One tipster asked if the meme could perhaps be the brainchild of James Bolt — son of Andrew, who now works at the IPA as communications co-ordinator. It sounds like something that would be a part of his role, so it could be a bit of family interest.

Free speech consequences. It’s been an interesting week for free speech in Australia, with the fallout from McIntyre’s sacking leading IPA types like Tim Wilson to tell us that “freedom of speech isn’t freedom from consequences”. Wilson’s view is that while the law shouldn’t restrict our speech, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get sacked for what you say, which made it altogether more interesting when the piece was shared on the University of Sydney’s internal social media site Yammer by vice-chancellor Michael Spence. It wasn’t taken well by some staff, considering anti-Israel demonstrator Jake Lynch has been asked to explain his involvement in a protest at the university in March.

Is Crosby still influencing Cameron’s message? UK election watchers were startled by a new tack David Cameron took on the campaign trail this week, shoutily saying he felt “bloody lively … bloody lively” about the election, and attacking Ed Miliband’s interview with Russell Brand. He labelled Brand a “joke” and said “I haven’t got time to hang out with Russell Brand”, sounding for all the world like an accountant trying to fit in with the  tradie mates of his brother-in-law at a family gathering. The Guardian says that new grrrrr Dave is a result of him tearing up the Lynton Crosby rule book, which had advised a cautious personal style. But in an interview with The Spectator Boris Johnson says the “Crosbinator” (Johnson’s nickname for the spinner) is still in there:

“He defends his friend ‘the Crosbinator’, puts on an Australian accent, and says, ‘Jeez mate. They can stick their head up a dead bear’s bum. Don’t come the raw prawn with me.’”

A source tells us that Crosby once told the IPA that much of his “miracle working” in the 2005 election consisted of getting Tory staffers to get to the office by 8am each morning. He’s reportedly getting a million bucks for this gig, but he’s earning it.

Appliance-free zone. Mother’s Day isn’t this weekend but next, which means we all still have just over a week to pick out a present for the mother-figures in our lives. A quick word of advice though, don’t take much notice of this advertisement from Black and Decker, which graced the homepage of 2Day FM’s website this morning. Another tipster also saw an iron at Big W with a “gift idea” tag. A word to the wise: the only way a mum should see home appliances on Mother’s Day is if someone else is using them.

*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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