From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Greens’ new leader. Journos were left in the lurch yesterday with a leadership change in a major party without months of backgrounding, leaks and obvious plays for the top job. David Leyonhjelm’s adviser Helen Dale (yes, that one) has come up with a nice conspiracy theory, posting on Facebook: “And a reminder that GREENS RICHARD DI NATALE is an anagram of CHRISTINE ARRANGED DEAL”. Dale/Darville/Demidenko certainly knows a lot about reading into names. Di Natale has often referenced his Italian heritage, and Ms Tips hears that he is well known for having a top-notch espresso machine in his office in Parliament House, and using it every day before sitting in the Senate. The new Greens leader’s Italian fashion sense has already been commented on, with waistcoat Wednesdays being widely approved. While Ms Tips is quite a fan of the three-piece suit, we noticed yesterday that Di Natale can often be sighted in the Senate chamber in an open-collared shirt without a tie. It’s very cosmopolitan, but it hasn’t always gone down well with constituents, who have been known to call his electorate office and complain about the lack of neckwear. Much was made yesterday of Di Natale’s sporting prowess, and that he had played VFA football earlier in career. Almost no one mentioned which clubs he played for, an important detail for Victorians trying to make up their mind about the new leader. Crikey understand that he played for both Coburg and Oakleigh, so make of that what you will. Meanwhile at The Australian, the subeditors are a bit confused about which bespectacled, middle-aged Green from Victoria was chosen as the new leader:

They do look very similar, but the clue might have been in the sentence.

And as we waited with bated breath yesterday to see who would take over from Milne, most of us sat in front of TV screens showing us an empty hallway. We wondered if the “live” feed was on loop, such was the stillness of the image — even staffer David Paris managed to see himself on the “live” feed.

Frangopoulos loses right-hand woman. Sky News’ restructure has hit close to home for CEO Angelos Frangopoulos. He’s made none other than his very own personal assistant redundant, he told us this morning. “Yes, unfortunately it’s true,” he said. “It’s not the first time I’ve operated without a PA … and I’ve done my own diary.” Executives tend to be very, very close to their personal assistants — PAs are part errand-runner, part chief of staff, part sounding-board, part intelligence officer, and they often become utterly irreplaceable. It’s not uncommon for executives to have the same PA their entire career. But not Frangopoulos. He says the decision was “very difficult”. “I wish her all the best. But the nature of the way newsrooms operate is changing — and it’s up to newsroom leaders to lead by example.”

Following up a TV Tonight report, Ms Tips reported yesterday that Sky had cut five newsroom positions. She speculated on whether this was part of prepping Sky for a sale, but Frangopoulos wasn’t having any of that. “To suggest redundancies are part of some effort to lean up the business for a sale is laughable,” he said. “It’s purely operational. Management has had no role in the sale process whatsoever. It’s business as usual here.”

“We’ve always kept a close eye on costs and efficiencies. From time to time, we restructure”.

This particular restructure was in part prompted by Sky in January this year concluding a contract to provide news to Prime News in New Zealand. Those bulletins were produced in Sydney by Sky News Australia, but from March production was moved to MediaWorks’ in Auckland. As a result, there were fewer roles required in Sydney, but that fed through to a number of redundancies through the broader business.

Oh, and on the “five” redundancies we said there were yesterday? Don’t be so sure. “Who said there were five?” Frangopoulos said. Make of that what you will.

Burning the midnight oil. A tipster working on Spring Street in Victoria tells us that changes to sitting hours brought in by the new Labor government are putting the strain of parliamentary officials:

“The Legislative Assembly no longer breaks for lunch or dinner throughout the week. This has had a major impact on the parliamentary staff who support the smooth running of parliament — while politicians can duck out after a contribution and grab a bite, not exactly possible for most staff to do the same. Of even more concern, these ‘family friendly’ changes have also had a significant financial effect on many parliamentary officers’ pay — we’re talking in some cases of staff losing up to $10 000 p/a.”

Bye bye, Anne Flan. Staff of the NSW Art Gallery were shocked to learn this morning that long-standing deputy director Anne Flanagan will quit at the end of this month. Staff were given the news over croissants and coffee by the current director, Michael Brand. Amid the glowing tributes staff learned that Flanagan’s surprise departure was the “right time” for her to leave after 23 years of service.

In the past few years Flanagan has been the gallery’s most passionate advocate of its $400 million makeover and its rebirth as Sydney Modern. Insiders say her exit will make it all the more difficult to raise money from public and private sources. With the winning design to be announced at the end of the month, gallery staff are none the wiser about where the hundreds of millions of dollars will come from. Sydney’s super-rich families are notoriously tight-fisted when it comes to the arts, and federal Treasurer Joe Hockey and NSW Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian are focused on cutting spending rather than splashing out.

Flanagan’s position will be taken by Suhanya Raffel, an accomplished curator and administrator who previously worked at GOMA, Queensland’s Gallery of Modern Art.

Struggling on Holt Street. SBS’s controversial documentary Struggle Street aired last night, and one tipster found the Daily Tele‘s criticism of the head honchos at the public broadcaster a bit hard to bear:

“Yesterday’s Daily Tele launched an all-out attack on the SBS CEO & the producer of Struggle Street. Over multiple articles and an editorial, the Tele divulged where they live, detailed their investment property portfolios and called them ridiculous inner-city snobs and overpaid media executives. This is interesting considering the Tele‘s editor, Paul Whittaker, lives in Paddington, is exceedingly wealthy, has a penchant for overseas jaunts and hanging out on yachts (according to The AFR), and fought like crazy to stop the Tele’s offices from being relocated to the western suburbs. Not that I’d ever accuse the Tele of hypocrisy.”

And nor would we.

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Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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