From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Ping pong diplomat in top job. It was announced today that former ambassador to Indonesia Greg Moriarty has been appointed as the government’s first anti-terrorism co-ordinator as part of the continued efforts to address the risk of terrorism in Australia. Moriarty has a long history in diplomatic relations to qualify him for the role, but we hear from a tipster that he has other important skills that are being overlooked. According to our source, who encountered Moriarty in his time as ambassador in Jakarta, Moriarty is a highly passionate and skilled table tennis player. He had a ping pong table in the ambassadorial residence, and there was also word that there was a table at the actual embassy as well. It looks like ping pong diplomacy is still alive and well.

No more casual clothes at Immigration. In a brief period of levity this morning the Legal and Constitutional Affairs committee heard that the Immigration and Border Protection department’s secretary Mike Pezzullo had been asked to make a determination on whether “the wearing of onesies” should be acceptable. The organisation is reforming its integrity framework for staff, and a new dress code is part of the process.

“I didn’t even know what a onesie was and I was shown, err, pictures of such garments,” said Pezzullo.

Committee chair Senator Ian MacDonald then interjected wearily asking the secretary to explain what this bizarre garment was, so everyone in the room was clear.

“I had to put it out my head very quickly, Senator, I put it out my head very rapidly, but I guess in the old days we would have called it a boiler suit of some description,” said Pezzullo.

First assistant secretary Jan Dorrington, who is responsible for the integrity, security and assurance branch, confirmed staff had to be told unequivocally that jeans — ripped or otherwise — as well as thongs and Ugg boots were also unacceptable.

“You wouldn’t imagine that many people would be rocking up to work in Ugg boots,” said Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, shocked that any rank-and-file bureaucrats could countenance such an idea.

“Uhh, you’d be surprised, Senator,” came the reply from Dorrington, echoed by Pezzzullo.

Sequinned geopolitics. Not the type to get into sequins, light shows and bad Euro-pop? No worries — the real fun of Eurovision is as much in the voting as it is in the spectacle. And we reckon Eurovision has enough geopolitics to meet the high bar of our discerning readers.

Countries with acts in the song contest aren’t allowed to vote for their own contestant, but must instead give a series of escalating points to another 10 countries. There’s a history of countries voting for those with whom they share cultural affinity, with the UK tending to throw a few votes Ireland’s way regardless of how good Ireland’s song is, and vice versa. Given this, most Europeans might have expected Australia to at least award a few points to the UK, but it wasn’t to be. The UK’s awful act got barely any points all round, but the UK gave Australia, and Guy Sebastian, no fewer than 10 points, the second-highest available. Guy Sebastian put in a good performance, but many British observers were somewhat miffed that we colonials didn’t throw any votes their way.

Australia had some other affiliations that were perhaps less obvious. We were given the maximum allowable points from (winner) Sweden, Austria and Denmark, with the Danish presenter making sure to mention his monarch, Tasmanian Princess Mary, in his presentation. Guess that places us firmly in the Scandinavian bloc (we gave our 12 points to Sweden, too).

The Cyprus/Greece voting bloc appears to have weakened, with Cyprus only awarding Greece eight points instead of the maximum allowable 12. But bloc voting was still going strong in Eastern Europe.

On the subject of voting, it wasn’t entirely smooth in Australia, with plenty of viewers who got up at 5am struggling to have all their votes counted. Ms Tips herself tried to send five votes (of an allowable 20), but only managed to get two of them counted, based on automated text messages acknowledging the votes she got back. Her other three votes resulted in text messages telling her she’d missed the 15-minute voting window, although she swears her votes were in well before the cut-off. It seems the system was struggling under the pressure.

Back to the future at Centrelink. we hear from a tipster that Centrelink’s digital mail service is sending notifications from the past:

“I am under 25, and therefore utterly incapable of dealing with paper mail to manage my affairs. Centrelink sends virtual letters via their websi…uh, the DHS websi…uh, via MyGov. Failure to check these leads to pain. They do at least notify you (via email, like nice normal people use) that you’ve received a letter. Sometimes these notifications display as having been sent in 1970!

I think that the reason behind this is that Centrelink has messed up and doesn’t correctly format the emails they generate, so that the mail client (Mozilla’s popular Thunderbird) can’t make any sense of the date.  So, in what must have seemed eminently logical to the programmers, Thunderbird goes ahead and displays the oldest date today’s computers have heard of, known charmingly as “The Epoch” (01/01/1970).”

Centrelink — where digital letters are dated 45 years old, and you could age 45 years while waiting to get your phone call answered.

Mamamia to Bauer? A caller to 2UE on Friday said Bauer Media has been eyeing Mia Freedman’s Mamamia stable. But when Ms Tips called around, well-placed sources said it was scuttlebutt. Mamamia was involved in discussions with Fairfax and News Corp a few years ago, but it’s not for sale at the moment. Meanwhile, it’s true Bauer Media has been on the lookout for digital acquisitions, having bought Beautyheaven Group beauty and homewards group of websites in February.

Spokes in new gig. The ABC has announced the replacement for veteran Victorian news editor Shane Castleman, who retired from the job early last month. Georgia Spokes will take on the role in November after completing maternity leave. Until then Kathy Swan will be acting news editor, taking over from Erin Vincent, who had been filling the role since April.

*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
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